Monday, October 25, 2010

Adventures of a different sort

We took a break this weekend from our usual outdoor adventures.  I felt behind in lots of things (laundry), and we both agreed that the kids might like a weekend at home.

Saturday, we didn't really stay at home though...  Nick played soccer and the kids and I headed out to go to Trader Joe's.  It's a bit of trip, as it is about 45 minutes away in Hadley.  But, we gotta get the green juice... and the prepackaged Indian food, frozen garlic, edamame, molasses chews, etc.  Oh, and of course, laundry detergent.

Well, we intended to go, but didn't make it.  I was hungry and had a lack-of-caffeine headache, so I thought we could stop in at Wendy's quickly on the way out of town.   After 90 minutes of spilling water (three glasses, we each spilled one) and Willa's epic struggle to decide if a Frosty is worth eating one chicken nugget (it is), we left.  That gave us a half an hour before we were to pick up Nick.   So we defaulted to the craft store. 

Here are some Halloween crafts we have made or are in the process of making:

Our "egg sac".  This is my baby.  (I took picture this through our porch window.  I kind of like the ghostly quality.)

Paper cup bats
Spooky pictures
The last photo is of a project in progress.  We have 4 more pictures to "frame" in spooky ways.  Willa glued the beans on the frame on the left.  I bought different beans (pinto and lima -ewww) and some "creepy" pasta (cavatappi and rigatoni).   I wanted to hang these pictures on the wall around this:

 This is from Martha Stewart's October issue of Living.  I know.  She's evil. But she still has some good ideas, especially for Halloween.  I already have a grape-vine wreath languishing in my basement, but I can't find large size rubber snakes anywhere!  I can find lot of little snakes, but I think the assortment of sizes is key to the creepiness here.  I guess I'll have to order them online...

After the craft store, we found Nick who wanted to stop at the Game Stop.  Some of you may know that I tried to bribe Nick into finishing his dissertation with a gaming system (it didn't work), so we never bought one.  This fall, three years after achieving his Ph.D., he bought an XBOX 360 and with it several games including Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures.  Lego Jones (as Cal call it) is the new favorite pastime of Willa, Cal and Nick (Cal just watches and gives tips).  Occasionally, I have to look up how to solve a level on the internet, or jump in when Willa gets too scared or excited to play, but generally I just stay out of it.  Willa is awesome at finding solutions to these puzzles. She's not so good at killing spiders.

At the Game Stop we bought the Lego Star Wars game, which they started up last night.  Perhaps now we'll add a new song to our repetoire of movie theme songs we sing in the car other than the Indiana Jones theme "Da da da daa, da da daaaa".

Post Game Stop,  Nick took us the back way (which was very lovely and pastoral) into Connecticut for pumpkins.  I'm kind of a pumpkin snob.  I like a variety of colors, types, sizes, textures.  Usually I spend more than I want or I get less than I want due to cost, but this year, Nick found the best pumpkin place yet.  A farm selling their own pumpkins, squash, gourds and super cheap.  Really big Jack-O'-Lanterns for $2!  Willa and I picked out 13 specimens and I have to say, I think we did a great job.  Well, perhaps we overdid it, but it was fun. 

Please never mind the dying flowers.  A couple of the smaller gourds and one of the smallest pumpkins came from our own garden and one of the sugar pumpkins Cal got during his preschool trip to a farm.  The rest are from our new favorite pumpkin people in CT.

Sunday was spent at home doing the aforementioned catching up.  I won't bore you with the details of my day.  Willa and Cal got to play with Emily, our neighbor and Nick did an errand he had been putting off.  Did you know you could return a used fire grate?  Amazing.  

We had a nice weekend, but we missed you, though. 

An original Willa, subject: bats and pumpkins.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Others: Cows and People

Perhaps you all are tired of hearing about our outdoor adventures.  Well, we are not tired of taking them!  Sorry.   Here's a post from a site I just found about another family who, much more intentionally than Nick and I, are doing something similar.

Saturday we re-visited a hike we took much earlier in the fall. Tyringham Cobble is a wonderful hike for kids.  Not very strenuous, different environments, cool sights. Things were so different from early September. You begin the hike by walking through a pasture.   Last time there were flowers with bees and butterflies, warm sun, green, yellow, purple.

 This time, the pasture had been cut, hay bales removed.  The weather was much cooler with clouds and occasional sprinkles.
That's me stepping around cow poop.

The next part of the hike takes you through some woods and clearings that were full of goldenrod at the beginning of September.  

We call this Turkey Rock

Parts of the Cobble had been cleared in the past by farmers and Shakers owned the property at one time.  You can see old apple trees, junipers, and lots of wild flowers in this section.  Here it is in mid October.

Then you climb up to the top, which is very rocky and affords fabulous views.


The climb down is through woods which leads to another open area.  You end up back at the pasture you entered through. 

The only blooming goldenrod on our October hike!

Willa watches cows.

Aww. Baby.

When we got back to the pasture, cows had moved in and were all around us eating and drinking (and doing other cow stuff).  The kids were thrilled to be so close them and see lots of babies.  It was cool.  I can proudly say, I am not jaded when it comes to cows.  :)

Sunday, we had different company on our hike.  People.  We went to Purgatory Chasm near Worcester where it was quite crowded.  I can't blame them.  It is a spectacular environment to see and explore and it was such a lovely day.   I was a bit put off at first, as we usually see one to five groups who we pass or pass us quickly on our walks.  But this place was like a mall the week before Christmas!   The amazing surroundings won me over and I decided to be excited that so many families were outside exercising and appreciating nature. 
The Chasm is believed to have its origin in the sudden release of dammed-up glacial melt-water near the end of the last Ice Age, approximately 14,000 years ago.  It is an amazing spot! (I keep using that word, but I can't think of a better one.)  Cal seems to love scrambling and climbing, so he was in his element.  Willa also liked it, but she was enjoying pretending to be scared.  She loves the drama.

Willa and I check out a cave.

Here she is "scared".

You climb down into the chasm over giant boulders.  Caves and crevices are formed by the rocks making tiny spaces where many non-claustrophobic folks were exploring.  Not me.

Looking up you see sheer rock cliffs, popular with climbers.  There are trees grasping on to the rocks with their roots.  Have I mentioned this is an amazing place? 

Once you are out of the Chasm, there are other spots on the property to explore, though the kids were not inclined to do so.  We followed the loop around up to the top of the Chasm, which was just as fun.

Willa, as usual, hamming it up. 
 After leaving the Chasm, Willa and Nick went to the sliding rock: a large expanse of rock at a good incline for sliding.  I was concerned for her pants and her bottom, but she found some cardboard and had fun sliding.
Cal had turned into a big whiner and the only thing keeping him going at this point was the promise of the playground (or gayground as he calls it).  It was a fun playground which included a merry-go-round!  I haven't seen one of those in a long time.  I thought they went the way of the real teeter-totter.  All the kids were attracted to it, but Cal couldn't get the hang of waiting for it to stop spinning before trying to get off.  He had a couple of harrowing moments, then gave it up for other, less frightening areas.

We had a great day, topped off by Mexican food (including a Margarita).  Hard to beat that.

We missed you, though.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Columbus Day Weekend

It was still rainy last week, but it dried out for the weekend.  David, my niece Emily's husband, was in Hartford for business and came up for supper on Thursday.  He was a good sport, taking a dog walk and playing Lego Jones (this is what Cal calls our Lego Indiana Jones video game to which Willa is addicted) with Nick and the kids while I grocery shopped and cooked.  Most of you know, my kids are "active", "spirited", "high-energy" and David coped very well.  We really enjoyed having him and hope he and Em will come out for a visit (hint, hint).  To quote my sister: He's a great guy. 

Saturday, we ventured out to the Granville Harvest Fair.  It was a beautiful day, the kind where you take off your sweatshirt in the sun and then put it on in the shade.  Granville is a small town and their fair is kind of a  town garage sale/craft fair/car show all in one.  We spent our day searching for an old cheese grater (I want to use it to hang my earrings on!), enjoying the food (pulled pork, yum) and looking at the crafts.  Cal and Willa got their faces painted:
Willa is a pink and blue tiger.

Cal got a bat across his face. 

 They also had great time watching a juggler.  Willa kept picking up the stuff he dropped and handing it to him.  He recognized her persistence by picking her up and "juggling" her!  She loved it, of course.
Here she is ready to fetch.

It was a nice day, which ended with pumpkin ice cream, but, alas, no cheese grater.

Sunday was spent at home doing final gardening, making invitations to Cal's birthday party and playing in the "sandbox".  The sandbox is actually a drawer taken from the side of the road and filled with sand.  The kids were using as a habitat for their dinos and one tiger.  Berries were brought into play as food, then squished to be blood.  It wasn't as violent as it sounds.  Well, perhaps it was for the berries. 

Monday was Columbus day and everyone had it off.  Nick packed us in the car for a trip to Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire.  We hoped to hike and see a friend of Nick's from college, but we never connected.  The hike was great though, beautiful and challenging.  We did half the climb to the peak, which was 1 mile.  The first 9/10ths of the mile were a slight uphill climb over rocky terrain, the last 1/10th was much more vertical, but fun.  The kids liked scrambling and climbing up the rocks.  We were awarded with an amazing view at a clearing in the trees.  Someone on their way down said "Ah, the last view."  Willa replied, "It's our first!"  After resting and a snack we headed down.  Cal wanted to keep climbing up! 

Willa sketches

Cal and I lag behind.

The view from the clearing.

At the top (our top, not THE top).

The ever-popular artsy shot.

The trail is marked by carins like this.

On our way out of the woods, we saw a barred owl (we'd never seen an owl in the wild before!) and the Frost Free Library.  We couldn't help giggling at that.  :)

One last adventure for the day was supper at the People's Pint in Greenfield, MA.  Good beer, excellent food and interesting atmosphere.  It was decorated with silhouettes of shadow puppets.  We picked up a few new ones! 

The kids were asleep by the time we reached home.  We were all tired, but happy. 
We had a great weekend, though, we missed you!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Last week was very, very wet.  After a dry, but beautiful September, the rain came.  Lots of rain.  Thursday I drove through three puddles that I was kind of afraid to drive through.  Enormous puddles.  During one crossing, a tiny, low Mercedes sports car was coming through the other way.  I felt kind of bad for him, but kind of not.  (A touch of schadenfreude, sorry.)  So I can't say we did much in the way of adventuring.  The one day it was sunny and nice, I proposed an adventure, but was reminded that I promised the kids they could watch Star Wars, which, of course can not be postponed, even for nice weather.

I did get them to compromise (I'm trying to teach Willa about this) and we all went for a dog walk, during which we picked up leaves for a leaf garland.  Here it is:

As you can see, it is 1/2 done.  It has been too wet to collect leaves or we have been otherwise occupied since then.  So, it remains unfinished.  It is raining again today.

The weekend was not rainy. Saturday was even sunny!  Nick proposed we check out Chesterfield Gorge.  The gorge has been described as a "dramatic rock canyon" featuring "70-foot high walls carved by glacial melt," i.e. the Westfield River.   His thinking: It's rained a lot, I bet it's really moving!  And it was.  As we walked along the cliff top protected by a fence (and lots of hand-holding and warnings from parents) we were granted amazing views!  Dramatic is the correct adjective!

Action Cal!  He doesn't walk anymore, but jumps and runs.
Yes, Willa is wearing 2 different socks.

They went a bit sticker crazy before we left.

Should've flipped this. If you tilt your head to the left, this stump looks like a gnome.

An artsy shot.

We finished up our explorations of the gorge with time to spare, so we decided to check out Glendale Falls, touted as one of the longest and most powerful waterfalls in Massachusetts.   This is another short walk, this time down the falls area where you continually get spectacular views.  We did some rock scrambling and tree root climbing, until the kids and I found the marked path with stairs cut into the slope.  It was kind of hidden, so it was sort of like coming upon a fairy path or ancient ruin.  Like we weren't meant to find it.  Kind of magical.  I'm probably over-romanticizing it...
Meanwhile Nick continued on the path of most resistance to the bottom, all the while taking amazing photos!

Willa poses at the top.

Nick said "Janelle, you are blocking Cal's head."  So I moved.  Ugh.

Nick helping Cal cross a tiny stream using stepping stones.
 Everyone's impression was "Wow!"

Sunday was less active, for me at least.
Nick arranged to meet several college friends in Worcester, where my friend, Josephine lives.  Josie and I try to meet up once a month or so to let our kids play and we can talk.  Nick and company arranged to meet at Coney Island Hot Dogs and not being one to pass up a chance to go there, Josie and I met there as well.  The kids usually eat hot dogs, but not this time (a few bites).  They would rather hang out by the jukebox with their friend Harry.

I wish I had taken pictures of Coney Island.  It's a classic old place with an intact (really cool) neon sign.  To check it out click here.

Josie and I escaped to her condo and spent a relaxing afternoon together, interrupted periodically by the needs of our kids.

Snack time

Willa created some awesome art, Cal enjoyed Harry's cool trucks and tools and Harry enlightened us all on his Bakugan and Ben 10 characters.

It was very nice, but we missed you though.