Hiking and Ice Climbing the Catskills: Kaaterskill Falls, New York

Before we went hiking in New York on Christmas, the three of us took a different scenic day trip to The Catskills.

It was my brother-in-law, Dennis’ idea to head that way when planning their trip up here. I didn’t know much about the area, other than the name sounded awfully familiar. If you’re not from this part of the U.S. either, and it sounds familiar to you, it’s because it’s where Woodstock happened. And where Dirty Dancing took place. The area is a pretty big deal as far as pop culture goes.

A day trip there wasn’t near enough time to do all of the things that The Catskills has to offer, but we did a gorgeous hike in, and Dennis got to do a little bit of ice climbing.

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As the marker mentions, the area is historic as well. The Hudson River School was the first homegrown art movement in the United States and Kaaterskill Falls is one of the oldest tourist destinations in America. Continue reading

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Hiking Sam’s Point in Minnewaska State Park, New York

Every Christmas Eve, I stay up extra late either wrapping up a DIY gift with the help of some elves, making sure everything is in its place so some fat guy can eat my delicious cookies and make a mess of my house, then my son can wake up the next morning and thrash through gifts from our family. If you’re a parent, it’s surely a familiar scenario for you. But what to do after the gift-opening frenzy, other than build elaborate toys and carefully place stickers within the guidelines of plastic molds?

I think we have a new tradition, on top of the cookies.

(Everything is on top of cookies. We surely can’t go without cookies.)

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The holidays were extra special this year, because my sister and brother-in-law stayed with us. My brother-in-law is outdoorsy in a way that I feel like mentioning anytime he comes up–“Yeah, he climbs mountains. That’s his thing. He climbs ’em all over the world and ice climbs with picks and all” and my sister, Somer, is a really talented photographer. So they were more than willing to do some day trips and exploration. YAS.

After the hurricane of gift opening, we were lazing about and figuring out how we’d spend the rest of the day. I mentioned a few Connecticut state parks, and wondered aloud if they would be open or not. Next thing I knew, it was decided. We were heading to Sam’s Point in Minnewaska State Park in NY. It’s almost exactly two hours from our home here in CT.

It’s a bit of a drive, but it’s scenic, like most drives here. When we finally get there, this is what we see on a closed gate to the parking area:

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Awkward. Continue reading

Bird Nesting Materials DIY

It started with my first trip to Terrain, which is Anthropologie/Urban Outfitter’s new gardening cousin with built-in coffee shop and restaurant.

It’s pretty heavenly: well stocked with succulents, plants of all kinds, organic beauty products, gorgeous decor and furniture for your home. If you’re worried that the Anthropologie prices being a little out of your league, you can always grab a cup of coffee and bask in its beauty.

Anyway, while a friend and I were ogling at all of the items they have for sale, I stumbled upon a nesting ball (not available online, similar: Birds Choice Cotton Tail Nesting Ball) and gushed at how excited I would be to have some birds nesting in our yard.

Then I suddenly realized, “Wait, I have this stuff at home. This looks like dryer lint!”***

Though I originally considered reusing the plastic netting from a bag of oranges, like this:

orange produce netting

But we have a body of water in our backyard and I couldn’t risk it falling in and doing damage to any of the wildlife. I took to Pinterest, and found out how to make netting with some yarn I already had in my craft collection. I knew it would be easy, but I didn’t realize how easy.

After making the netting, I tied the ends together to make it into a little sack. I filled it with mostly colorful things, in hopes that I’ll be able to spot the nest more easily from my office window.

bird nesting materials

Most birds are beginning to build their nests at this time of year, so I recommend putting your own out soon if you’re an aspiring #crazybirdlady like I’m turning out to be. If you don’t have a hoard of craft supplies, the Amazon version is all natural, great for all nesting birds, and it’s available on prime :).

***Don’t use dryer lint for nesting materials! Use things like cotton, reeds, pet hair, wool, fabric scraps, yarn scraps, etc. Dryer lint doesn’t have the structure that the bird needs for its nest, though it looks like wool or cotton, which does. If you don’t

Are we Yankees yet?

Fun fact: Yankee Doodle Dandy is the state song of Connecticut.

Come Thursday, we’ll have been residents of coastal Connecticut for four months. A third of a year! The time has gone by a lot more quickly than I thought it would, but I guess that’s how things usually go. We’ve settled in pretty well, I’ll say. Looking back, it’s almost hard to believe how much I hated the idea of the move.

Tobias warmed up to our new town quicker than anyone could have guessed. His first day coming home on the school bus, (after calling for him through the doors, “Tobias! It’s your stop!”) a boy that had just gotten off said, “Tobias, this is your stop, too?!” I soon learned the two boys, who are in the same class, had bonded in the bus line over their love of all things science and their passion for making art. In world full of hockey-loving, football-watching, soccer-kicking, all-thing-sports boys, it’s great that Tobias was able to quickly meet a boy that shared his interests–who lives down the street!

One of my favorite things about the new house, other than the backyard and the wildlife I spot in it, is the 5+ acres of open space that we have to explore down our street. An off-the-leash area, it’s Laser’s very favorite thing and right up there in Tobias’ list. On my runs, I’ve stumbled upon other open space areas that vary in topography and size, and it’s been such a pleasure hiking through and exploring. Between the nearby beaches and these open areas, my nature-loving hippie side is satiated.

Open Space law ConnecticutOpen Space Law CTSasco Beach Connecticut

There’s more great things in store for our little corner of coastal Connecticut. This past Sunday, a Michael’s craft store opened it’s doors that is in walking distance to our house. I can see its sign lit up at night from my 2nd story window–it’s that close. Within weeks, a vegetarian restaurant/juice bar is opening nearby, and across the street, a health food market is being built. All in under a 5-10 minute walk! My favorite things!

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One of the things I was most worried about when moving here, was not being able to meet people and that strangers would have the hardness about them that NYC is known for. I had believed, all these years, that Southern Hospitality meant that people up north lacked the kindness and considerateness I took for granted.  Boy, was I wrong.

Now, it’s different in the city. In fact, the closer you get to the city, the more often you’ll come across someone who’s…well, snobby. But all-in-all, I’ve had more conversations with friendly strangers in the grocery line and the like than ever, and I’m slowly but surely finding out how to make friends in a new town.

I knew going in to the move that the worst thing would be Mark’s commute. And it has taken some getting used to for the whole family. The good thing is, we’re really carving out for quality time more than quantity. And, as spring nears and things warm up, we’re getting back into our triathlon training with better scenery than ever.

Sherwood Island State Park Connecticut

All in all, it’s been a great experience. Do I miss my family, and the friends I’ve had for over a decade? Of course. But, despite my sadness upon learning of the move, I always knew that this would be an experience worth having: the kind of out-of-my-comfort-zone, scary-as-hell, learning adventure that I’m made for.

So, Now I’m a Birdwatcher.

Not really.

Last Sunday, before I got crazy sick, Mark decided it was high time I upgrade my Canon Rebel XS to something…that works.

I feel like I wasn’t actually ready to upgrade, because I still–shamefully–haven’t learned all of the features of the camera. I wasn’t intending on getting something new until I believed I was well versed in the terminology & technology of a DSLR, but then when I was on my road trip to Yellowstone National Park from Denver, I started getting some errors at all of the most inopportune moments. Unable to get the shots I wanted at the right times, I resorted to using my iPhone again and again. Kinda silly if I’m hauling around this DSLR, no?

I soon found that if I turned off the camera, took out the battery, replaced it, and turned the camera on again, the error would subside and I would then be able to resume taking photographs.

Jury rigged, I know. But it was something.

After taking it to the repair shop, I learned the fix was at a higher cost than the camera was worth. AKA: it was totalled. I bought it second hand from a neighborhood Facebook group and had seen negative reviews for the long-discontinued model prior to purchasing it, but it was definitely the cheapest way for me to get my feet wet with DSLR photography before diving in to the higher cost models.

Thus, forced upgrade.

Now, I’ve got the Canon EOS 70D. We bought a refurbished model with a warranty, so we ended up with a great deal. This time, I know I’ll be eating up YouTube videos and blog posts so I’ll really be able to hone some skills.

I’ve also been making a habit of “target practice” every morning. I’ve been using my macro lens and practicing using manual focus on the birds that have been showing up in my backyard.

Here are some of the photos I’ve been taking. I know, I’ve got a lot to learn and a lot of practice I need to do. But now, I have a camera I LOVE!

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