Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Adventures with the Amish

There was much build up but it finally happened: we had our first over night in Moby the Eurovan!

We left Manhattan on Friday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend.  That was our first mistake.  It took us almost two hours just to get off the island.  We sloughed that off and enjoyed the rest of the ride to Pennsylvania Dutch Country to see the Amish.  We set up camp at Tacquan Family Campground and by "set up camp" I mean we unfolded our chairs around the fire pit and popped the top. Oh so much easier than tent camping.

Saturday we set out in search of Amish.  It didn't take long.  They were out in full force - farming, riding around the countryside in their buggies, whizzing past us on their funny-looking scooters.  And all with a big smile and a wave.  

The most surprising part of the weekend for me was the bucolic rolling hills of farmland.  The greenest green I have ever seen in nature.  Gorgeous farm houses, tall silos, perfectly manicured yards.  My neck hurt at the end of the weekend from having it cranked to the right, starting out the window at the passing landscape.

We spent the day touring an Amish farm, riding in a buggy, and learning a little about the Amish people from Gideon, our tour guide.

As you can see, Ella really got into it.  As she sat knitting by the campfire that night, wearing her bonnet, I realized that my daughter was born a century too late.  She begged to stop at an antiques store we passed that afternoon and the salesclerk was impressed with her appreciation of the cross-stitch work on the walls.  Ella was in her element.

Sundays are very quiet in Lancaster County.  I would recommend that if you're planning to come for a weekend that you look up what is closed on Sundays (which is a lot) and plan to do those things on Saturday.  We did however, find the Strasburg Railroad and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, which took up most of our day.

Afternoons were spent back at the campground, swimming in the pool, playing pinball in the game room, and finding lots and lots of caterpillars.  Holden said he forgot how much he loves camping.

To break up our drive home on Monday, we made a pit stop in Philly to see The Barnes Foundation museum, which was closed on our last trip to the city.  Dr. Barnes was a successful doctor and inventor who used his money to collect post-impressionist and early modern artwork. 

Once again, the museum had a fantastic scavenger hunt for the kids and a fun audio guide which had the subjects of the paintings speaking directly to the children, teaching them about the art.  We spent two hours walking from room to room without a single complaint from the kids.  As a matter of fact, when we walked into one room, Ella (who just read a biography on Vincent Van Gogh), yelled, "It's Van Gogh's postman!"


A great weekend indeed, but I'm not going to lie - Kevin and I were happy to get back to our own bed.  Moby is cute and Moby is convenient.  But Moby is not yet comfortable.  We'll be looking into some more padding for the next adventure.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Get Thee to Innisfree

We're winding down on our Friday nights at the Met, at least for this school year.  The kids only have a couple world mythology classes left.  Luckily, the martini bar on the roof just opened for the season so we'll get a few more weeks of living like the one-percent, sipping Champagne and cocktails overlooking the cityscape while the kids are toured around the museum.

This week the kids and I arrived early and sat on the lawn in the shadow of the museum, reading this book about the Dutch painter Vermeer. 

We're starting a series of art history lessons on a few Dutch painters in preparation for our trip to Holland this summer.  We'll be spending a week in Amsterdam visiting museums such as the Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, and the Rembrandt House Museum so I want the kids to have some background before we go.  Vermeer seemed like the easiest to start with since very little was written about his life and it's believed that he only painted forty paintings.  Lucky for us, several of them are right in our backyard.

In addition to learning about artists, we're also starting to discuss Anne Frank and the Holocaust.  Ella's read a couple books in preparation including a biography of Anne Frank and Number the Stars by Lois Lowry.  The plan is for the three of us to read The Diary of Anne Frank together. 

After the baseball and softball games on Saturday, we spent some time laying around the Great Lawn in Central Park reading and then headed down to Bryant Park where they have started their Shakespeare in the Park series.  Bryant Park is right in midtown and lays in the shadow of the New York City Main Library.  A strange place to relax and watch Shakespeare but it seemed like a very New York thing to do.  The kids loved it so much that once it started raining halfway through The Two Gentlemen of Verona (set in modern day Little Italy, New York), Ella cried all the way home because we had to leave. 


Kevin was determined to get us out of the city on Sunday.  He's had a visit to Innisfree Garden on his Bucket List.  Innisfree is about an hour and a half north near where Kevin went to college in Poughkeepsie.  Kevin visited the garden once while he lived there and remembered it as being magical.  He was right.  Innisfree is over 100 acres and was created in the early 1920s by an avid gardener and his heiress wife who were very influenced by Asian art and gardens.  It is considered one of the ten best gardens in the entire world.


We spent a few hours wandering around the grounds, picnicking, finding centipedes, snakes, frogs, birds (that we were now able to identify thanks to our bird watching walk last weekend) and butterflies.  It isn't a natural garden, but a very staged, purposefully planted piece of art.  You might turn a corner and see a beautiful arch made of stone or a storybook setting with miniature flowers and a stream.  There were lotus flowers in the lake about to bloom and geysers of water spraying from an iron sculpture.  We all were entranced and after complaining the entire drive up, even Ella confessed, "I'm SO glad we came up here!"


As we were heading home Holden said, "Mom, I definitely want to be an ecologist when I grow up."
I said, "Buddy, you already are!"

I will arise and go now,
and go to Innisfree.

W.B. Yeats, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” (1888)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Mom's Here!


No time to blog.  Enjoy the photos.

New York Historical Society

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Little League games
Mothers Day at Wave Hill:

Riding in Moby!

Bird Watching Tour


Blooms and Wildlife Walk

Games in the back yard
School in the Secret Garden
We've tried to keep things slow and easy for her while she's here, but we don't do slow and easy very well.  She seems to be keeping up with Team Skaggs but I'm sure will sleep well on her flight home tomorrow.

Happy Mothers Day, people!