Thursday, June 23, 2011

Happy Father's Day

The weekend of Father's Day, I posted this photo to my facebook page and got a lot of really fun comments. That's my brother Dan, me and my Dad in our Scooby Doo pool ca. 1980. You can also see my brother John's feet in the lower left corner of the photo.

So, Happy Father's Day, Dad and thanks for all the fun times we've had, and all the fun time we continue to have! The pool's a little bit bigger now, but the family still fills it up!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Art All Night, Trenton

On the same day that I got to see Nathaniel get his Jr. Black Belt, Mac and I went into Trenton at around 10pm (I know, not something I usually do!), and went to Art All Night. It's a 24 hour art exhibition, from Saturday afternoon, straight through to Sunday afternoon. There was a lot of art exhibited in a huge old building, The Roebling Wireworks. The artists ranged from professional all the way down to school kids. It was pretty impressive. There was also music and a food court.

One of our favorite exhibitors was Glenn Moore, who makes these awesome metal tikis. He also makes custom kazoos! Pretty amazing.

Not only were their lots of people out and about on a lovely spring evening, but there were LOTS of bugs! I think every bug in Trenton was attracted to the huge lights they had set up. Here's a fun shot with a slow shutter speed showing some of the bugs.

I'm glad we went to check it out. It's always good to see positive things happening in Trenton and I like to support them when I can.

Junior Black Belt

It's been over 2 years since I last posted about Nathaniel's Tae Kwon Do adventures and he's really come a long way! On Saturday, June 18th, I headed up to Montclair to see him test for his Junior Black Belt!

The testing was (obviously) much more involved than the last one I saw and I was super impressed with Nathaniel's skill and concentration.

Here he is after the testing getting his new belt tied on:

We was very proud indeed! As he should be!

Here he is with one of his favorite teachers:

And with the proud parents, John and Jill. It was so fun to see Nathaniel achieve this goal.

Afterwards we went back to their place and I got to see Sebastian and Emerson, too. Jill and I exchanged birthday gifts and since I got her a nice bottle of gin, we promptly made gin and tonics to enjoy in their back yard. It was a lovely way to spend a Saturday!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Birthday in the Hudson Valley

Some people prefer to keep their birthday celebrations low-key, but I like to go all out! This year it was a great excuse for Mac and I to spend a weekend exploring the Hudson Valley. We left Princeton early on Saturday morning, June 11th, and headed straight to the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, which is about a 2 hour drive. We got there a little early for our 11am Insider's Tour, and took the extra time to stop at the Blue Hill Cafe and grab a little breakfast. Blue Hill Cafe is the more casual, less expensive part of the Blue Hill restaurant which is on the property of Stone Barns. They work closely together, but are actually two different entities. I was hoping to do the full Farmer's Lunch at Blue Hill, but it was booked nearly two months in advance. In the end, the Cafe and the tour was the perfect option. Above you can see the amazing brioche that I had for breakfast.

Everything about Stone Barns was really lovely. We were there on a somewhat cloudy day, which made the light very soft and pretty. Zach, the head vegetable farmer, was our tour guide and he started the tour in his vegetable patch:

He talked to us about how he has a 7 year plan for his crop rotation and how he prefers to plant on the full moon to increase the gravitational pull on the seeds. He was very willing to answer all of our questions and did a great job taking us through all of the parts of the farm on our 1.5 hour tour.

This is the view of Stone Barns from the vegetable garden. It was built for the Rockefellers at the end of the 19th century. It has had various uses, from storage facility to cattle farm, throughout it's history and opened to the public as Stone Barns in 2004. It's a beautiful property, both the building and the land and I'm happy it's being used in such a great way now.

The next stop on our tour was to see the egg-laying hens. And boy, were they excited to see us! When our little tour group walked up all of the chickens rushed over to see what was going on. It was really neat. They are free range hens, as you can see there is just a little wire fence keeping them in. And sometimes one or two get out. Zach mentioned that there was one very determined hen who kept escaping and trying to roost next to the front gate.

Next we saw the little lambs. Oh my goodness these guys are so cute! Seriously, how can people eat these little guys?! It was a little creepy to know that most of the livestock we'd be seeing would end up on plates eventually.

Then we took a lovely walk through the woods and came to the pig sty. The thing about going to the farm in the spring is that all the baby animals are around. So yes, there were even cute little piggies. The interesting thing about the pigs is that they are moved to different spots in the woods so that they don't completely destroy one particular spot. They do a really nice job of clearing out all of the vegetation and rooting up the soil as they look for food. This works well for the farmer, too, since they are trying to cultivate specific plants in the forest, so once the pigs clear everything out of one spot, the farmer can move in and plant what they want there, in this case rye grass. They also use the pigs in the meadow, if invasive species are overtaking the native plants, they can move the pigs to that area and then re-plant the native plants that they want growing there. It's amazing how everything on the farm works together.

Speaking of working together, the next stop was the compost piles. Everything that can be composted on the farm, is. They not only create enough compost of their own farm, but enough to sell by the truckload for neighboring farms and to sell in bags to the home gardener. This is our tour guide and farmer extraordinaire, Zach, talking about the compost.

We also made a stop at the green houses where they grow the more fragile crops like lettuces and herbs. All the different colors of lettuces made it so pretty.

We also went to see the chickens and turkeys that are raised for meat. It was kind of sad to see the cute, fuzzy, clueless little turkeys that are destined for Thanksgiving tables. Mac made sure to use of the odorless, composting toilet that was on the premises.

We went back to the stone barns to visit the gift shop and grab a delicious lunch from the cafe. They had an amazing bean salad, quinoa salad, stuffed bread and one of the best frittatas I've ever had. We washed it down with fresh brewed iced tea and topped it off with a cupcake! The food really was outstanding:

They have a terrace garden where they hold the farmer's market, which we also stopped to check out. This is how they trellis their peas! It was so pretty, and functional:

We picked up some french breakfast radishes at the market. They were a little too spicy for me, but perfect for Mac:

Then we took some fun photos by the awesome pea trellises:

Our next stop was the Tuthilltown Distillery, which was about an hour drive north. We stopped at a viewpoint to see the Hudson River from above:

It rained for most of the drive up to the distillery, but had let up when we got there. The parking lot was still really muddy, though. In this photo you can see the distillery on the right:

We got there just in time for our 4pm tour and tasting.

This is our tour guide, Cordell, and he was very passionate and knowledgeable about making whiskey. The two stills you see here are the smaller and older stills, but still functioning. The brand-new larger still is next to them and had to be installed with a crane that lowered it through the roof of the barn. They also had to build a cupola on top of the barn to make it fit. They needed the new still because they just signed a deal for worldwide distribution of their whiskeys!

After the awesome tour, we were ready for the tasting. We were only allowed to have 3 tastes per person, and you couldn't share. Mac and I tasted different things and smelled each other's other tastings that we weren't allowed to taste. This is a NY State law, by the way, not just something weird that they came up with.

These folks are running out of space, fast! Here's actual whiskey being aged in barrels in their tasting room and store. They'll be building a new storage facility soon to keep up with the larger demand.

And of course, we couldn't walk away empty handed! We got 2 bottles of whiskey, one bottle of rum, our tasting glasses and some empty glass bottles. It was a great way to spend the afternoon! And these whiskeys are outstanding!

After leaving the Distillery, we headed to our bed and breakfast and checked in. We then headed to the Walkway Over the Hudson, which is a cool pedestrian/biking bridge that used to be a rail bridge. It was a cloudy, drizzly evening, but it was still cool to see. We'll have to come back when it's sunnier.

And this was the perfect chance for Mac to teach me about Froude numbers. What do you mean you don't know what a Froude number is? Look it up here.

After leaving Walkway Over the Hudson we headed into New Paltz for dinner. We stopped first at Guilded Otter Brewery for a tasting flight (I know - we did a lot of tasting that day!) and then headed to Rock Da Pasta for dinner. It was fun to see some of the nightlife in New Paltz. After dinner we headed back to the B&B and rested up for another packed day on Sunday!

Sunday morning we woke up kind of early (for the weekend), enjoyed a nice breakfast at the B&B, checked out and headed down to Beacon Docks for our 10am cruise on The Hudson River Sloop Clearwater! There is so much to say about Clearwater, about how Pete Seeger and some friends built it and launched it in 1969 to draw attention to the horrible pollution that was ruining the Hudson River, about how ship-board education programs the world over and based on this idea of taking people out on the water to see it with their own eyes, and about the mainsail on the sloop that's the third largest sail in the US today. The ship is a historic replica of sloops that frequented the Hudson for trade purposes in the 18th and 19th century.

The crew asked for help in raising the sails and Mac was a willing volunteer. Actually most of the people on board were willing volunteers, so I decided to just take photos.

Here's our Captain, Nick, letting some kids help with the steering. It was so funny to hear him yell "Midships!" (which means to bring the tiller to the center of the boat) and to hear them answer "Midships" in return with their little kid voices. He and the whole crew were wonderful and willing to answer tons of questions.

Mac took a turn steering the ship, too. Here he is with Carlos, another crew member, talking about the wind on the river. There really wasn't much wind that day...

Mac on the tiller:

And I took a turn steering, too. It was a fairly calm day, so it wasn't too hard. Capt. Nick said that in rough waters it sometimes takes the whole crew on the tiller to turn the boat.

But I did it all by myself. It was really neat to learn even a little bit about how such a big boat navigates the river.

We also got to see the downstairs of the boat where the crew sleeps. It was tight quarters, for sure! One thing that caught my eye was the bookshelf full of literature and sea-faring titles, and an entire shelf devoted to "Songs and Shanties". Pete Seeger definitely left his mark here.

Here's a nice shot of Mac and I toward the end of the cruise when the sun actually started to peak out of the clouds for a little bit. Believe it or not, I got a little sunburn on the cruise. It's amazing how, even on a cloudy day, having no shade can still get you.

And right before they took down the sails, we observed a moment of silence to appreciate our surroundings, the sounds of the river and to think our own thoughts. At the end, one of the crew members played a tune on her mandolin. Every cruise that the Clearwater takes includes those two opposite things: silence and music.

As we were pulling into the dock, the Sloop Club's other boat, the Woody Guthrie, was setting out. The Woody Guthrie is a 1/3 size sloop replica, so it has the same shape, but holds fewer people.

And, just for my birthday, Beacon was having it's annual Strawberry Festival! So after saying goodbye to the crew and leaving the Clearwater, we walked over to the festival and had some lunch, topped off with some amazing and generous Strawberry Shortcake! This was totally worth the wait in line!

After stuffing ourselves on shortcake, we walked over to Dia: Beacon, a contemporary art museum. It's housed in a huge old factory and the space is quite amazing. Mac was less impressed with the art, but it was still fun to see, and admission was included in the price of our cruise, so it was worth checking out. We weren't allowed to take photos in the museum, but on the way out we saw this snake in the grass. Looks like he just ate an egg or something. Mac said "That was the most interesting thing I saw at this museum today." Not a huge contemporary art fan...

After the museum we headed back to the car and drove a little out of our way (OK, completely out of our way) to this place we saw advertised in a local paper that claimed to have the World's Largest Garden Gnome AND Farm-themed Mini-Golf. We were only an hour away, and had the time to spare, so we went to check it out.

It did not disappoint! Homegrown Mini-Golf was amazing. The whole course is planted with edible plants and they encourage you to taste as you golf. The best was that the strawberries were ripe! But we also tried lettuces and different herbs, too. It was really cool. Here's the entrance to Mini-Golf, with the gnome behind:

And a photo of me with Chomsky, the World's (formerly) Largest Garden Gnome:

Apparently some overly ambitious people in Iowa have built a larger gnome since this designation was bestowed on Chomsky, but it was still pretty cool to see.

I had an amazing birthday weekend! Even though it was cloudy for most of it, Mac and I managed to have a good time and dance through what raindrops there were. I'm looking forward to an awesome year ahead!