Thanksgiving 2021

Every year I make a post centered around Thanksgiving, what I’m thankful for, a fun memory, or something along those lines. 

And this year really is no different. Except that it is. Last year I was thankful that I was even able to have my best friend and her family over for thanksgiving. This year we made plans with friends without a second thought to numbers, cases, rules or regulations. Last year I was grateful for the little travel we were able to squeeze in amidst everything 2020; this year, though we’ve traveled, I haven’t had to overthink, over plan, over research every little number and detail, with second and third options just in case and I’ve been grateful for that. Last year I was preparing to pack our lives up, shortly after unpacking them (in the grand scheme of things) and say “see you soon” to some of the closest friends I’ve made; this year we are cultivating an entirely new community for ourselves and our family with some pretty great friends and people. 

So, yes, I’m still grateful for many of the same things, but everything is different. 

I’m grateful for the little family we’ve made between myself, my husband and our two boys. This little family is beyond what I could have ever dreamed of and, while it’s not always perfect, it’s perfect for me. Those little boys are two rays of sunlight in my life, and while there are clouds sometimes, they really do have that power to lift them with the smallest of words or gestures. (Yes- I totally have a new understanding of “You Are My Sunshine”). 

I’m grateful for the friends in my life, both new and old, online and in person, who continue to lift me up, listen to me vent, allow me to be exactly who I am as I am, are willing to try new things with me, understand when I need time to recharge and what that looks like, and ultimately who remind me that I don’t have to go through things by myself. I can reach out and depend on others. I feel like I finally have a really solid circle and that makes a big difference in a person. 

I’m grateful for the travel that we’ve been able to do without a second thought (although all the trips have been carefully planned). We’ve been able to see some new places, have some new experiences, and remind ourselves that while it may not be Europe, the US has some pretty cool/beautiful spots to see.  

I’m grateful for our extended family, who we’ve seen most of over the past 9 months (except for a few- who we’re desperate to see and trying everything to get to) since being back in the US. 

And this year, I kind of want to talk about someone that I’m grateful for, but don’t really highlight much online…my husband. He’s been my rock, my solid ground, my voice of reason of logic, my everything. I know that we wouldn’t have this life without him, and I will forever be grateful for him.

Ultimately, I’m grateful to be alive and living a life that I only dreamed about for a while. Things feel so GOOD right now, not perfect, but perfect. I feel so content with life and that was something I didn’t know would happen a year ago. 

Happy Thanksgiving. 

Visiting Holocaust Sites Part 2: Kaufering and Auschwitz

**A couple disclaimers before we get into this post…

  1. This is obviously going to contain graphic and triggering content. Please proceed with caution. Obviously my hope is that you read this and take something away, but I fully understand that this is a difficult topic to read about.
  2. I am Jewish. That colors everything, I do. Every part of who I am. More so now as I am starting to learn and realize some things from my past and my relationship with Judaism. But I am Jewish.
  3. This post is going to be jumbled. I don’t know how this is going to go, how this is going to get broken down, how it will be received, how much is just going to be a rambling stream of conscious. I don’t care. This is important.
  4. If you are someone who is a holocaust denier, a holocaust minimizer, an antisemite, racist, or want to disagree you may just move on. (It makes me very….grrr angry and heartbroken that I even have to say something like this, but it needs to be said.)
  5. (I’m just now adding these as I am writing this post). I think this is going to be a two-parter as I’ve only just finished the Dachau portion and I’m already pushing past 1500 words. The second part will be up in short time though- you won’t be waiting long for that.
  6. The second part of this two-parter…the second part was written after the incident of Domestic Terrorism on the US Capital, in which the most blatant display of antisemitism was exhibited in my life. I personally saw footage of “heil hitler”, camp Auschwitz sweatshirts, and two congressmen use Hitler’s rhetoric or name. If the tone is off in this second part as opposed to the first, please understand why.
  7. Finally, we are facing drastically rising Jew hatred not only in our country, but across the world. It’s often times hard to voice concerns, content, and information not only about this but also just about being Jewish. In a personal way, I am still learning and trying to figure out how I want to use my voice in regards to this.
  8. This post is going up way later than I intended, but here we are.

Disclaimers over.**

This is the second post in a two part series about how it felt/what it was like to actually visit Concentration Camps and other Holocaust related sites. If you haven’t seen part 1, I would highly recommend reading that HERE. In that post I talk about Dachau, which was the first place I ever visited (beyond the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC) and Lidice, one of the most horrifying places I’ve visited. Today I am going to be talking about visiting Kaufering, a sub camp of Dachau, and Auschwitz.

KZ-Lager Kaufering VII Concentration Camp (HISTORY/FACTS POST– this is included in my Switzerland post as we stopped on our way there)

This was a bit different to visit as there isn’t much in the way of a museum or major landmarks to see. On top of that, when we visited, we were not able to walk within the camp itself, we had to keep to the outer boundaries, on the other side of the fence. No, that sentence is not lost on me. I didn’t know much about the sub camps of Dachau (or any of the major camps), only that they existed. Dachau had a total of 11 sub camps. Each of these camps had a purpose, a job/role to fulfill. Think of what you know of Dachau, of Auschwitz, and then think of something WORSE. The conditions from what we could see were even more cramped, more desolate. In this case, I learned much more after our visit. For example, the fact that they don’t even have an accurate number of dead from this particular subcamp and that these particular subcamps were the WORST in Bavaria. 

When you just look at the tube barracks that they would live in…I couldn’t begin to comprehend that people lived in that, and then the sheer number of people that would be crammed into these too small buildings with very little protection from the elements, very little light, terrified…

Auschwitz I & Auschwitz II-Birkenau Concentration Camps (FACTS/HISTORY POST)

This last camp has taken me longer than a month to write. I’ve had to stop and start multiple times. I’ve struggled with words. I’ve sat at my computer screen crying silent tears, I’ve screamed, I’ve shaken, I’ve seen red…when I tell you that nothing changed me like this visit changed me, that’s the only way I can even begin to describe it. We also had a…unique in our age addition to our visit. Since we visited during the Covid-19 pandemic (in October 2020) we had to walk through a “sanitizing spray”. While I knew that it was safe, that it was normal, it was chilling. Here’s the thing, Zyklon-B was originally used in sanitization purposes (if you don’t know- Zyklon-B was the gas that was used to murder millions of Jews in chambers that the Jews were told would give them a “shower”). So, to say that added a certain chill to our visit, that’s exactly what I mean. 

Nothing about Auschwitz was what I expected. Nothing. I mean I knew we would walk under the infamous gate with its “Arbeit Macht Frei”, that we would see two separate camps, and that it would be one of the hardest visits I would ever make in my life. What I didn’t expect was how…normal Auschwitz I was. From the road, from the outside it would look like any other military barracks. And it played that role for a time. Auschwitz I was home to POW’s, political prisoners, military, and the like. There is one crematoria on the site and one execution site. It was horrifying as a camp, but not the horrifying pictures and stories that we all recognize when we think of Auschwitz. 

Still, walking along the roads between the buildings on a gray Autumn day was a paradox, similar to Dachau. Autumn is my favorite time of year and that weather was my favorite (overcast skies, a little mist, cool temps, leaves gently falling). It didn’t help that we were in the “nice” camp of the two. I know a lot of people wonder; how did the local community not know what was happening? How could they (in a foreign country) be complicit in this? Well, the answer is that there was no local community. The Nazi’s took over the little city nearby and forced all of the residents out. This didn’t immediately happen, when the camp was originally opened, Auschwitz I (which- again resembled military barracks) was not to the level that it became. So, they didn’t need to hide as much. Once it was used to facilitate a killing camp just 5 minutes away, then things needed to change. And at that point, there was NO ONE local to stop them. The Nazi’s wanted to make sure that no one knew what was going on. In fact, it was only a couple of brave women who tried to capture the atrocities on camera and send them off to England for help (which still wasn’t enough, but we don’t need to get into that here). 

Within the buildings that you can enter, history is set forth. Thing it, unlike Dachau, images are not as present. On a guided tour, your tour guide tells you about each photo and gives the history of each room. At regular intervals, it will be re iterated to you that this camp (Auschwitz I) was never seen by the Jews. This was only seen by political or war prisoners. 

One of the hardest walks to take within Auschwitz I is the exhibit rooms. These rooms contain items confiscated from the Jews when they would come into Auschwitz II-Birkenau on the trains. The windows contain different items starting off with things like glasses, prayer shawls, clothes, and leading to shoes, suitcases, and finally hair. The hair. So much hair. And the exhibit on the gas chambers. The empty cannisters of Zyklon-B. Someone tell me this did not happen. This was exaggerated. I’ll tell you my tale. But this whole part of the visit pales in comparison to what comes. You see, Auschwitz I is what I would call a “precursor”. It tells you the history. It gives you the overview, the paths, the photos, the items. It gives you everything you need to go over to Auschwitz II-Birkenau and just truly take in the horror that occurred. 

The two camps are separated by a 5 minute or so bus ride. The entire ride I was…psyching myself up a bit. Going through Auschwitz I was far more trying than I had expected. I don’t know that I had any “expectations”, but I was feeling rattled. This was beyond what I could comprehend at that moment and I knew that the worst was still to come. I keenly remember the ride over, clinging to my children and their excitement at “being on the bus”. Colton’s somber little face as he could understand some of what we were seeing. 

We’ve all seen the train track, railroad station pictures. We’ve seen the railcars stopped, people piling out, or not if they had died on the way there. The inspection done by the doctors and SS officers of the camps. People walking one way or the other. It pales in comparison. 

The walk that we took is one I will NEVER forget. It is at the forefront of my brain, permanently etched. The tightness of my chest and ever-present feeling when I look at it or the memory is dragged front and center (thank you rioter wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt). Our walk took us up the tracks, the same route the cattle cars would go, stopped at where they would stop, then continued on, in the same fashion as most of the prisoners would walk. To the chambers. It’s impossible not to imagine the prisoners walking this, seeing the other prisoners standing at the fence watching, knowing what was coming. Even just writing about this is difficult, as I’m sure reading about it is. We saw a lot of Auschwitz, but that walk and the one barracks we walked into are what are permanently burned into my brain. 

This camp, this location, it lays bare the horrific atrocities of The Holocaust (though the Nazi’s did try to hide them). In that sense, in the history sense, in the sheer magnitude, this is the camp that was the hardest to visit. But it is also the camp that I recommend to everyone to visit. 

Let me end this two-part post on this final note…

There are a lot of issues with our modern-day comparisons to The Holocaust (and the important ones have to do with survivors and their families) , but it really boils down to this simple concept. You see, when you compare two things (no matter what they are) you lessen the values of what you are comparing. Unless you are comparing The Holocaust to a modern-day systematic extermination or an entire group of people (regardless of any form of origin or current status) there is no comparison. In all honesty we all (short of survivors or on the ground liberators) have an incredibly difficult time grasping the full concept and facts of The Holocaust. Let’s not lessen that with ridiculous comparisons. It almost makes it seem like…oh I don’t know it didn’t happen? It was exaggerated? When we make these Holocaust or Kristallnacht comparisons (which LETS BE CLEAR, Twitter bans and the Capital Riot are not comparisons in any form), we are feeding right into the conspiracy theorist/Holocaust deniers’ pockets. We are giving them ammunition. We are comparing the methodical Murder and extermination of a group of people with…well whatever comparison you are trying to make. So, don’t make that comparison unless it is fully warranted.

Visiting Holocaust Sites Part 1: Dachau and Lidice

**A couple disclaimers before we get into this post…

  1. This is obviously going to contain graphic and triggering content. Please proceed with caution. Obviously my hope is that you read this and take something away, but I fully understand that this is a difficult topic to read about.
  2. I am Jewish. That colors everything, I do. Every part of who I am. More so now as I am starting to learn and realize some things from my past and my relationship with Judaism. But I am Jewish.
  3. This post is going to be jumbled. I don’t know how this is going to go, how this is going to get broken down, how it will be received, how much is just going to be a rambling stream of conscious. I don’t care. This is important.
  4. If you are someone who is a holocaust denier, a holocaust minimizer, an antisemite, racist, or want to disagree you may just move on. (It makes me very….grrr angry and heartbroken that I even have to say something like this, but it needs to be said.)
  5. (I’m just now adding these as I am writing this post). I think this is going to be a two-parter as I’ve only just finished the Dachau portion and I’m already pushing past 1500 words. The second part will be up in short time though- you won’t be waiting long for that.
  6. The second part was written after the incident of Domestic Terrorism on the US Capital, in which the most blatant display of antisemitism was exhibited in my life. I personally saw footage of “heil hitler”, camp Auschwitz sweatshirts, and two congressmen use Hitler’s rhetoric or name. If the tone is off in this second part as opposed to the first, please understand why.
  7. Finally, we are facing drastically rising Jew hatred not only in our country, but across the world. It’s often times hard to voice concerns, content, and information not only about this but also just about being Jewish. In a personal way, I am still learning and trying to figure out how I want to use my voice in regards to this.
  8. This post is being posted way after I originally intended to, but here it is.

Disclaimers over.**

Where do I even begin? During our two years in Germany, we visited a total of 4 Holocaust specific sites, along with numerous monuments and locations relating to World War 2. I’ve written specific blog posts that are just a presentation of the history and facts of each place that I’ll link as I talk about them, but I wanted to talk about the actual opinions and feelings that I experienced at each place. I didn’t do this in the posts for a couple different reasons, most importantly being that I think the actual cold hard facts of these places are not to be overlooked by our feelings of them. But also, I quite simply couldn’t talk about them. I didn’t have the words. I didn’t have the feelings. There is absolutely NOTHING that can prepare anyone for a visit to these places. These places where entire generations of your own people, your own ethnicity, were brutally murdered. I think for a long time after visiting, I found comfort (the very wrong word in this situation, but it’s the only one that makes sense) in the cold hard facts. In not coloring what happened with my own complicated heartbreak. But things change and as I see what is happening in our modern world, our current times, I think that it’s time for me to talk about what this experience was really like. 

I’ve always been well understood, well read, well watched and versed, in the Holocaust. I think I was 11/12 when I really started deep diving into the history of it all. What could make a person single out one group of people as the cause for everything bad in the world? How? I couldn’t understand. I still can’t understand. And there is so much we still don’t know. We will never know. Either way, I learned A LOT. This was in part as it was part of my heritage, of who I was, but also because of the psychology of it all. When we got the orders to come to Germany, I knew that we were going to be visiting some of the camps, maybe even some of the locations that were in shambles, were barely even remembrances of what they were at the time. I had no idea what to expect and, as I said before, nothing could prepare me for what these visits would be.

I think I am going to break this up by location, in the order that we visited each location. Again, I’ll link each location to the “facts/history” post that I’ve already written, but this is just going to be purely my experience at each- good and bad. Each location is unique in both what we see/what you hear/your overall experience. For example, I would say Dachau Concentration Camp is more graphic in its imagery. The museum is excellent, but holds nothing back. A good amount of a visit to Dachau is going to be based in the imagery of the museum and the restorations/recreations of areas. Whereas Auschwitz-Birkenau is vastly different. First off, I would highly recommend a guided tour (first in when the camp opens purely because it’s so much quieter and so much more…just more) and so then you are HEARING. There are few pictures of the atrocities on display, it’s more what your tour guide tells you (which is very graphic) and the artifacts that you see. BUT we will get into all of that. 

Dachau Concentration Camp (FACTS/HISTORY POST)

This was not the first World War 2 site we visited (we had been to both Nuremberg for a day trip and Berlin for a long weekend and seen several memorials/museums), but this was the first concentration camp. And, like many to follow, there are certain aspects that are etched in my mind, firmly planted and tied to my experience. The first being that the day we visited was a brilliant spring day. It was warm, but not hot; brightly sunny and the clearest blue skies you’d ever seen. It was, quite honestly, the perfect spring day and we were spending it visiting one of the most horrific places. That jarring difference made such an impact as the location of the camp, the property was beautiful area of the country and to have this beauty as a backdrop just made the horror of what we were seeing etch in my mind further. Those that lived here didn’t think it was beautiful, and when it was “in action” it definitely wasn’t this beautiful. 

Walking through the museum is an abbreviated look into just how bad Dachau was. Obviously, a good amount of the world knows about the Holocaust and has seen pictures or such in some form. The museum on the campsite is located in the “entrance” building where prisoners would be processed, so you are walked through the camp system from start to finish. You are able to see artifacts, hear stories from prisoners, and see what kept them going. While most of this you may know, there is something unique to visiting it where it actually happened. You are able to see bits from the camp itself, including the actual original gate to the camp (and yes the “Arbeit Macht Frei”) as well as other sculptures relating to the camp and prisoners. The thing from the museum that is really etched in my mind is the story of how this memorializing of the camps came to be. The government wanted to destroy it, but it was actually the prisoners and families that said no and wanted to do something with the camps. Such strength and resilience. 

Something else that will forever be etched in my mind is how…not big it was. When you walk out of the museum you are on the “parade ground” where they would take the roll call of all the prisoners, where they would discipline, and have other displays. You are able to look back along where the “cabins” would be that actually held the prisoners. It’s not big. There are only two prison cabins still intact, which show the progression of the “cabins” as the camp filled and filled and filled. But then, you look back and see the raised bricks where each would be. I repeat, it wasn’t big.

The final memory, the one that will forever haunt me and would haunt anyone that visits, they are where the Nazi’s killed and disposed. Dachau wasn’t set up to be an extermination camp (like Auschwitz-Birkenau was), so the facilities in the back corner of the camp (that you actually leave the fenced area of the camp to walk into another fenced area) are small. In fact, there are two sets of ovens as the original set became quickly overwhelmed with the rate that they were being used. I will NEVER forget walking through this area of the camp. Walking through the showers, into the room where the ovens were is etched so permanently into my brain. When you are in that room you can feel the difference. The difference in the air, in the emotions of the room, in the stillness. It was in that moment that I could feel the air change, I could feel the sheer hatred of a people whose goal was to exterminate. It disgusted me. It terrified me. It changed me. Walking out from that building into the bright spring air was a weird kind of relieving rebirth of sorts. Dachau was not an extermination camp, it was not intended to be used as such, and yet here it was…the extermination techniques. 

I left Dachau feeling raw, beyond upset, and in a bit of a state of shock. You don’t truly understand what these camps were like, unless you are a survivor, but visiting them, walking those steps gets a close idea. This was also the first time I had been exposed to such…hatred. Such callous treatment of other people. Such little care for the lives of those around you. And this was “right down the road” from us…kind of. It was only 1.5-hour drive from us. Even now, I don’t know if I have the right words to express the sheer amount of sadness, anger, fear, heartbreak, sickness, that was going through my body and my mind. 

Lidice (FACTS/HISTORY POST)

If Dachau Concentration Camp wasn’t enough, over the Thanksgiving weekend, we traveled a little bit into the Czech Republic. In between our drive from Karlovy Vary to Prague we stopped at, what was, a little town of Lidice. By the time I left I felt pure anger mixed with just shock. This was the only time where my emotions ran into the facts post because it was horrendous in a completely different way. 

The town of Lidice was destroyed. Completely. Razed over. Homes burned to the ground. Livestock killed. Families killed or sent to camps. Children GASSED. BUT, but, but, but, that simply wasn’t enough. No, they couldn’t just destroy the town, no, they CHANGED THE TOPOGRAPHY OF THE REGION. The leveled the ground, filled the river, and PLANTED CROPS over the town. Because they wanted no trace of a city that MAY have held resistance fighters. Later they found the resistance fighters that they thought were in Lidice somewhere else, but it wouldn’t have mattered. 

The difference for me, from Dachau and Lidice were night and day. When walking in Dachau it was pure shock, the pure feeling of standing there where all this had happened. Everything that I had read and learned about and here I was. Lidice I didn’t have all this foreword knowledge of, I was learning as I was walking and then later on when we got back home. I felt heartbroken for everyone who lived there at the time, but mostly I can single my feelings to shock and anger. The lengths that were taken to completely wipe this village from every map, every memory, over the sheer rumor of resistance. Those feelings are etched in my mind and will be forever. 

One other thing etched in my mind from Lidice is a statue/monument that they have to the children of Lidice. I’ve never seen a sculpture be able to convey the very real emotions in a moment until stepping up to this monument. The hollowness, the fear, the sheer shock of the situation. I WILL NEVER not see those eyes in my mind whenever I think about Lidice. 

A Cuppa Cosy Reads – October 2021

It was actually, surprisingly, a stellar reading month! I think I was surprised because looking back, I enjoyed everything I read, I didn’t feel like I was reading as much as I normally do in a month. This makes sense as we traveled, then had family visiting, had PTO kick off, and then needed to decompress from everything. Somehow, I managed to read 6 books and give an average rating of 4 Stars. So, maybe not by best of the year, but certainly a high rating month. 

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones 4 Stars I found this to be suitably, atmospherically spooky. The book has a haunting nature to it, far surpassing the haunting that is happening in the book itself. I really enjoyed it. 

Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson 4 Stars This is the second book in the Good Girls Guide to Murder trilogy and I did enjoy this new case. I don’t know if I enjoyed it as much as the first book, but I did enjoy seeing some character development and I feel like the underlying tone of the book got suitably darker. 

The Tree by John Fowles NR I don’t really have too much to say about this book as I wasn’t really…feeling it? I don’t know, it might have just been a miss for me, but while I understand and believe what he was saying in his long essay, I didn’t connect with it.

The Passengers by John Marrs 5 Stars Easily one of my favorite reads of the month, maybe even of the year (who knows- I haven’t even started to look at end of the year lists). John Marrs is just quickly becoming one of my go to authors for quick paced, unputdownable thrillers. This is my second one and I loved it just as much as The One. I would recommend reading The One first, as this is set in the same “universe” (read: the same modern-day era) and does have a couple of near spoilers for that book. 

Rebel Rose by Emma Theriault 3 Stars Ah, this book fell a bit flat for me. I know I’m not necessarily the intended audience (this is a lower end of the young adult spectrum book) and I think that was the major reason for the average rating from me. I think this book would be excellent for a 12/13-year-old (depending on maturity level- there isn’t anything graphic or super inappropriate, but parent discretion on it), who loves Belle and Beauty and the Beast and wants more post Disney story. I did appreciate the historical references that took place. 

Not All Diamonds & Rose by Dave Quinn NR Ah, THE housewives book. I’m going to be doing an entire podcast on this book, but I’ll just say that I actually really enjoyed it. This is a Bravo/Andy approved book, so you’re not going to get ALL the tea, but you get a good amount of “tea”, but also behind the scenes producer content. 

So, that’s it! Not too much to say on the books, but I’m hoping to end the month strong with a good November and December (even though spoiler alert- I’m not loving my current read…).

Autumn in the Adirondacks

Oh, the pure bliss of it all. Autumn in upstate New York is one that you hear talked about a lot, along with Vermont and New Hampshire (ok basically all of New England). It’s one that everyone says is absolutely incredible (actually I’d argue that people tend to exclude New York from that conversation, which is completely unfair, but that’s a post for another day), but you always wonder…”can it really be that good?”. The answer is yes, yes it can be, in fact it’s better. 

In fact, when I dreamed about what Autumn in New York would be like, I dreamed of spending a weekend in a cabin in the middle of the forest and just watching in wonder at the beauty around me. However, rentals go FAST around here, and you’ve got to plan almost a year out to get what you really want at a decent price (and I was determined NOT to do a hotel in a city for this particular dreamy weekend). My husband took over the plans and ended up booking us an RV and a campsite for the weekend in the Lake Placid/Whiteface Mountain area. There aren’t a lot of words that I can really give to the sheer beauty of it all, and so, while there will still be words in this post, the real star of the post will be the pictures that I took throughout the weekend. 

Now, before we go much further in this post, I’ll address the elephant in this post. Yes, we stayed in the RV in a KOA campground…and we LOVED every minute of it. My husband has been trying to sell me on the whole RV thing and while I wasn’t opposed to it, I also wasn’t jumping up and down and going out to buy one. This weekend convinced me though that an RV for the bulk of our travel is actually a really good idea. Let me briefly explain. When we travel to certain locations, we do a lot of outdoor activities. We are big outdoors people, loving to explore nature, hike through the woods, see waterfalls, and just general do everything we can within nature. When you spend all day just reveling in Mother Nature and the beauty that is around you, only to go back to a hotel in a city it can be a bit…jarring. Especially if what you are craving is an escape from “the real world”. Enter: the RV. It was brilliant and honestly, really added to our weekend. The boys loved it and, at least for this weekend, I didn’t feel like I was truly missing anything by staying in an RV instead of a hotel. It is something that, while we will be renting a few more times first, we are definitely going to be looking at investing in. I would say we do a fairly equal amount in our travels between visiting cities and escaping into nature, so this would definitely be something to have. 

Anyways, tangent over back to our post about Autumn in Upstate. We pulled in on a Friday afternoon and got all set up and unpacked at the campsite. Made up the beds, set up our little cooking and dining area and feasted on some dinner. Like I said, we stayed at the Lake Placid/Whiteface Mountain KOA and we really liked it. It had good amenities, very active and sweet owners (this was actually their last weekend there) and was VERY beautiful. It is a perfect spot to stay due to its location close to everything to see in the immediate region. 

Our first full day in the area we spent chasing leaves across Whiteface Mountain. Whiteface Mountain is the 5th highest mountain in New York and part of the Adirondack High Peaks. It is unique in that you are able to access the summit by car, with the Whiteface Memorial Veterans Highway. This highway was constructed as part of the New Deal public works projects and funded entirely by New York State. It winds up the mountain giving absolutely incredible views of the valley below (with several pull off points to step out of the vehicle and stare in awe), stopping just shy of the summit you are able to then walk through a tunnel and ride an elevator to the fully developed summit OR hike the stairway trail to the summit. The tunnel walks you through to the center of the mountain where an elevator whisks you to the top. We chose to take the elevator due to weather and little children (if the weather hadn’t been windy and damp, we would have probably hiked the trail up). The summit is the most incredible view of Lake Placid and the surrounding area. On a clear day you can even see the skyscrapers of Montreal on the distance. We didn’t have a clear enough view to see Canada, or even Vermont, but we were able to see down to Lake Placid and our further out surrounding area. Whiteface Mountain Summit is only open May to October (in fact the weekend we went was the last weekend), in part due to weather at the summit, but also because on the opposite side of the mountain is the Whiteface Ski Resort. The workers who work the roads and top, also work the ski resort, so they transition from one side to the other to prep for winter and the upcoming ski season.

So, like I said, the opposite side of the Veterans Highway is the Ski Resort. The Ski area is noted by the Olympic Regional Development Authority as a major ski area and is known for hosting the alpine events of the Winter Olympics as well as an Olympic Training Site and just a generally good spot to ski. There are two double black diamond trails within the ski area, as well as quite a few standard trails, and a great separate beginners’ area. Year round, you are able to ride the Cloud splitter Gondola up to the summit of Little Whiteface, which is what we did after leaving the summit of Whiteface Mountain. I will say- this is totally not necessary. In fact, I would recommend just choosing to drive the Veterans Highway and summit Whiteface Mountain. Yes, the gondola rides up to Little Mountain is INCREDIBLE, but it’s just not as good as the drive up the mountain. Just a personal opinion. 

We finished our day out at High Falls Gorge, a nature park that has been around since 1899. This nature park provides trail access to look throughout the falls of the AuSable river with bridges, clear viewing platforms and several photo spots to get close to the falls. There is also a nature trail that walks you through a protected untouched forest called Climax Forest. While the trail, river, and foliage was gorgeous, I don’t know that it was entirely worth the cost. It’s a really pretty area and maybe if we hadn’t spent time touring various waterfalls in the Finger Lakes (HERE) the month previous I would have felt differently, but this just wasn’t absolutely worth the cost. It’s one of those, I recommend, but I also wasn’t overly enthusiastic about it. It was neat I suppose.

And that wrapped up our first full day in the Lake Placid region. I’ve literally never been so in love with a trip (maybe if we had rv’d or camped that Finger Lakes trip, but we stayed in a hotel instead) and a space at a moment in time, but I just kept looking around in awe at every turn. A tear may have been shed over just the sheer beauty of it all. After the High Falls Gorge, we went back to the RV for the evening and spent our night around the fire, munching on some smores and just reveling in the area. 

On our second full day in the region, we headed into Lake Placid proper. Lake Placid, originally known as North Elba, started as a location for an iron ore mine. It started to grow in the late 19th century, starting as a place for former slaves to own land (thanks due to Gerrit Smith and John Brown) before turning in to a resort town. The name change was brought about by Melvin Dewey (of the Dewey Decimal System) who made a “Placid Park Club”. Lake Placid was incorporated in 1900 and became known as a resort spot, as well as a rest and recouperation area (especially for those suffering from tuberculosis- Saranac Lake had a sanatorium for those sick with the disease to convalesce). Before too long Lake Placid became known for alpine sports, later on going on to host the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. 

We started our morning off on the lake itself, taking a boat tour and looking at all the different “camps” and lodges that sit right on the water. It was a peaceful start, giving us a little look into some of the more “known” families that lived there at one time or another. We were also able to spot loons on the water and an eagle up in one of the pine trees. Not to mention, the leaves were just starting to wane from peak season, so all those beautiful reds/yellows/oranges were still standing amidst a sea of green and gray (from the trees that had already lost their leaves). It was a special bit of time. 

Once finished with the boat tour, we headed into downtown Lake Placid. Lake Placid is actually currently under construction…yes, the entire town is undergoing a massive overhaul. This made walking the main street a bit of a struggle, but we wandered down amongst all the shops and scenery of Mirror Lake. We did not make it to the Olympic Complex in town as it was under construction too. It was open to the public, however the reviews that we had read, it was only a fraction of the complex and so we decided to head to a different Olympic attraction from the overall complex. 

The Olympic Ski Jump Complex is one to see. You cannot accurately understand what the jumps are like, until you are standing in front of them, on top of them, riding the lift up next to them. They are MASSIVE. The current jumps are the only free-standing jumps and are listed at 90 and 120 meters tall. The 120 Meter jump is the one open to tourists, but we’ll get to that in a minute. The original jump was built into the mountain in 1920 and was known as the Interval 35 Meter. This jump was initially lifted, still within the mountain, to 50 meters in 1923. In 1927 they built the first tower to increase the jump to 60 meters. Ever few years this was increased, with a 75-meter used for the 1932 Olympics, until 1977 when the entire complex was demolished to build fresh towers for the 1980 Olympics standing at 70 & 90 Meters. The current towers date back to 1994. Another feature of the complex is the freestyle aerial training center, seen from the right of the jump towers. Athletes can train on two similar jumps and jump into a massive pool of water. 

Now, I’m terrified of heights. More specifically, I’m terrified of FALLING from high up. I do not have the personal strength to actually do this jump, just standing up at the tower, a few feet above where the ski jumpers would launch from was more than enough for me to get nervous (aka panic panic panic), but it was pretty incredible to think that people actually do jump and enjoy it. 

And that really wrapped up our weekend in Lake Placid and the Adirondacks. It was one of the most incredible trips.  I really just fell in love with this area of New York (and specifically at this particular time of year, but I’m sure of its beauty year-round) and will happily go back again. I think that we talk about New England as being such a hot spot for Autumnal Foliage, but don’t write off Upstate New York. It’s just as incredible and I would highly recommend checking it out. 

Plant Motherhood – A Journey

If the title and content of this blog post seem a bit…farfetched, please note they are. I recognize that the whole “plant mom” title has taken on a life of its own and it’s one that I may have previously thought was over the top. I’m still not the biggest fan, however I have changed my mind in some respects. I’ve felt the pride of a new bloom from a dormant plant, the tender care required of some plants (and the almost forgetfulness needed for others), and, most importantly, I’ve successfully kept these plants alive and healthy long enough that I feel like I can actually share about them haha! We’re actually reaching the end of the growing season, and therefore the end of my full-on purchasing/propagating/trading of plants and so, I wanted to share where things stand at now. 

But maybe we should go back to the beginning?

I’ve always loved plants, always grown up around them (similar to books), but I’ve never been particularly good with them. Most of the plants in my mother’s collection require very little care and, in my fathers, a good amount (at the time- this is no longer the case) were bonsai- which are some of the most finicky plants there are (I say this from experience and several accidents). I’ve always loved the idea of an outdoor garden, if only we stayed in one place truly long enough to cultivate one, but indoor plants were one of those “if only” dreams. I quite honestly didn’t know if I trusted myself to know what I was doing. And once I started to, life started to get in the way as it does. We had a dog, we had a baby, then another baby, and then we moved abroad where we couldn’t take/bring back plants. 

However, while we were in Germany, I started to dabble. Plants were so inexpensive there that it was hard not to in a way. There wasn’t a huge financial output if I struggled, and they were pretty regularly available from just about anywhere you went. So, I picked up a plant…then another…and then another. I didn’t go too crazy as we were traveling and eventually, we would be moving back (it wasn’t like a domestic move where you can gently box and drive the ones you want to keep), but I managed to do pretty well with them. When it was time to come back to The States, I passed mine along to a friend and vowed to actually make an attempt with indoor plants. I love the idea of having plants around, they not only clean your air, but they bring a sense of peace, calm, and happiness to your home. 

Luckily for me (or maybe not so luckily haha) we live a 15-minute drive from an incredible greenhouse that sources plants and fresh produce and was able to basically supply everything I could ever need to create my own little oasis. And create I did. 

I have spread the plants out into every nook and cranny in our home, short of the boy’s room and the library/play area (several reasons for this both relating to air temp and light and two little boys) and it has infinitely changed the very makeup of our home. The boys LOVE them (the greenhouse is one of their favorite places to go) and will help water and pot new ones. I’ll have a slideshow or layout of all the current plants as they are now, but I’ll also list out all the current plants I’ve got in there “lament terms” as I don’t know all the actual scientific names as well as if there is any little gem in how I got them. 

ZZ Raven – This has been a wish list plant since I started buying plants upon our return to the States. 

Snake Plant

Monstera Deliciosa- this is actually a propagation from a good friend here! I currently have two. 

Pincushion Peperomia

Baby Monstera – one of the first plants I picked up from our local greenhouse!

Neon Philodendron – picked up while on vacation in Upstate (HERE).

Peperomia Polybotrya- also known as the raindrop peperomia this guy is just so stunning and I picked him up on a whim at the greenhouse during a sale. 

Monstera Adonsonii – easily one of my favorites in my collection and probably just my favorite all around. I said what I said. 

String of Hearts – I picked this up when our greenhouse had an incredible BOGO sale, and I was SO excited to get my hands on it. I’ve been eyeing them for a while, wanting a more established plant of this that I can then propagate from. However, I ended up having to completely dismantle and propagate this one due to an overwater/fungus gnat situation. I ended up with a strand or two of solid growth, so I’m hoping I can slowly bring it through. 

String of Pearls

Escargot Begonia – I could NOT help myself- this was just so little and so cute. 

Ficus Elastica Ruby – this is a beautiful plant and adds a pop of color

A pot of Adonsonii, Raphidophora, and Monstera Deliciosa – I saw a youtuber do this and I was determined to see if I could make this combo work in my own home. 

Marble Pothos

Philodendron Birken – this guy has been through the ringer, but I think he might be coming back on the other side.

Nanouk Tradescantia

Spider Plant – This is plant number one (of two potted ones), a propagated one from my mom, it contains a total of three propagated plants.

Watermelon Peperomia

2 Cacti – these are just cute little bits; I feel like cactus can just be a fun pop in a home. 

Peperomia tetragona – the Parallel peperomia

Spider Plant – This is plant number two and it’s been through a little trial. A little overwatering, a little too little light, a little too much direct cool air, BUT it’s bouncing back nicely and showing some perkiness and good light. (It’s crazy because these are some of the easiest plants).

Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma – also known as the mini monstera these are known to be fast growers and climbers- I ended up having to chop and propagate this baby (a word of the wise- ALWAYS check your roots, no matter where you get the plant from) so crossing my finger that this works out well and I can bring it back from the brink haha.

Rainbow Tradescantia – she’s just an absolute beaut!

Cupid Peperomia

Aloe

Philodendron Mican- I’ve now got two of these in my home. The first one I purchased is a maybe, I’m not sure, it’s got the velvet nature, but the coloring is off as all get out. It suffered in the big box store of massive over watering (think borderline root rot) and has been slowly coming back from that. 

Syngonium (1&2)- One of these is a propagation gone very well, the other I picked up from a local spot.

Fittonia

Peperomia Little Toscani I’ve found that I really like when plants have this silvery/pearly sheen to the tops of the leaves, and this was definitely purchased just because of that. 

Heartleaf Ice Plant- this was a total “pretty pink flowers and green and white leaves” purchase and for less than $4 I got this gorgeous little succulent. 

Pilea Glauca Aquamarine – easily one of my best growers, this plant is just beautiful

Scindapsus Treubii Sterling Silver – another wish list plant I got incredibly lucky to stumble on this in a local Walmart and snap it up. 

And that’s it for now! I don’t plan on getting a large amount more until next spring, but I’ll be keeping my eye out on different options. I definitely still have quite the wish list of plants, but I’m trying to take it slow (haha- this is probably funny to you if you’ve made it this far in this post).

A Morning in Salem

It’s officially October, officially the Spooky Month, and officially time for me to talk about our stop during our Summer Holiday (HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE) that I haven’t yet. I’ve been waiting, because to me, Salem is the heart of October, and while we went during the middle of Summer, I held on to that spooky feeling the entire time. We only stopped for a few hours, for several reasons, and didn’t do much, but it was a really exciting stop. 

With all of that, it’s definitely time for me to level with you…I went to Salem mostly for Hocus Pocus. I wanted to see the history, pay homage to those who were killed during the Witch Trials and learn their stories, but I also very much wanted to stop at certain points for filming purposes to see them for myself. There was A LOT more that we could have done, but after leaving Boston, the boys were tired, it was sunny and hot, and so we tried to limit our stops. 

So, a little recap on Salem history…

Salem was founded in 1626 by a group of immigrants from Cape Ann, with the Massachusetts Bay Company arriving two years later in 1628 to settle it for the Puritans. Over the following decades the town grows, militia is established (Salem would later be recognized as the birthplace of the National Guard), trade is established, a cemetery is created (“Old Burying Ground” or Charter Street Cemetery), a custom house is built to deal with taxes, and so on. In 1668 the House of Seven Gables is built, known later as a home of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and in 1675 the Witch House is completed, which played a large role in the Salem Witch Trials as one of the presiding judges lived there and some cases were heard in the home.  Finally, in 1692 the Salem Witch Trials, what would bring this little town to the history books, began. I think we all have a fairly good idea of what the Salem Witch Trials were, but you can read through HERE to get a good look into that history. The trials concluded (after a whopping 3 months and an accusation levered at the governor’s wife) with at least 20 dead by ruling and many others dying in prison. 

After the trials, life in Salem quieted down for a time until 1775 when Salem conducted the first armed resistance of the Revolution. The British were attempting to collect ammunition that had been stored in the town, but the militia of Salem successfully blocked them. The town of Salem continues to grow and expand and in 1799 a group of Sea Captains worked together to found the Peabody Essex Museum, the oldest continuously operating museum in the country. It features culture from the New England area, as well as around the world. 

Once again, a period of time passes; Nathaniel Hawthorne publishes a Salem local book (Fanshawe in 1828 and in 1836 Salem is incorporated as an actual City.  Then, thanks to Nathaniel Hawthorne, Salem comes back in the spotlight with the publishing of The Scarlet Letter in 1850. The residents were not a fan as they felt it mis portrayed the residents. However, Hawthorne followed up with The House of the Seven Gables, which turned the house into one of the most famous historic houses in the country. In 1866 Salem held the first public demonstration of a long-distance phone call. 

After a massive and devastating fire in 1914, and a National Historic Site designation in 1938, Salem becomes part of pop culture when the seventh season of the show Bewitched is filmed in town. This reignites interest in the city and the city starts to lean a bit more into its…darker past. In 1982 it hosted a one-day Haunted Happenings Festival, which still continues to this day (every October for the entire month now) and offers a variety of spooky and historical events to attend. You can see the site HERE if you’re interested! 

In 1992 they added the Witch Trials Memorial, which is simple, but contains stone benches around the perimeter with the names of every accused witch along with the execution date.  Finally, in 1993 Hocus Pocus is released into theatres and catapults Salem not only from the history books, but into a constant pop culture sphere (in my opinion). Fun fact, the very very opening scenes (think like opening credits) were actually filmed overhead the Plymouth Patuxet that we visited in Plymouth (you can follow the first link in my vacation above or HERE). 

So, what did we actually manage to see on our quick morning? Well, first I could not help myself but see the house from Hocus Pocus. It’s privately owned and while they don’t mind folks taking photos of the front, be courteous. Don’t leave your trash, don’t block traffic, don’t blast their personal information (such as cars, license plates, etc.) into the online world. We literally pulled over long enough for me to take a couple photos and then we left- a total of maybe 5 minutes. Then, we parked at the downtown mall, paid for two hours parking, and trekked through main street. 

We stopped to pay our respect to the accused Witches at the Memorial, we wandered over to Town Hall, to the Witch House, and stopped at the Ropes Mansion. The main street is absolutely delightful and the perfect spot to buy all your souvenirs, take in the sights, grab a bite to eat and just enjoy the small-town vibes. It was all in all, a delightful stop and I would definitely recommend making a least half a day to a full day to learn the history and take a step into both real life history and a world of pop culture.

A Cuppa Cosy Reads – September 2021

Well, we’ve come to the end of another month and I’m once again sat here wondering…where did the month go??? It was a busy one for us, we traveled at the beginning, and then school started, Autumn sports started, I got a little burned out in doing some forward planning and thinking about all the things that are coming, and it seemed like the world just continued much the way it has been over the past year or two. It was just…wow. You would think I would run to a book, take to reading and escaping even more and yet, it wasn’t a great reading month. I feel like there was a lot of…this was fine/ok, but not a lot of in-depth thoughts happening about really any of the books that I read. It was just a very…meh reading month to be honest. 

For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing 4 Stars  Ok, I was a bit on the fence about this one, but upon reflection I think I enjoyed it more than I thought. We are following a couple of characters at a prestigious private school who all just want the best for themselves/their friends/ their students and will go to whatever lengths to do what they think is right and best. While I think this was good and well done, and I enjoyed the overall concept, I do feel like there could have been a bit of change or editing. There were a couple bits that were…unnecessary? Or were intended to be like red herrings, but in reality, had just nothing to do with anything. 

Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurlan 4 Stars Ah, if I had to guess, I would say this was the book that started the reading mood I found myself in as the month wore on. There is just something to be said about reading a book from a variety of psychopath’s perspectives that will…just do something to you. Now, don’t get me wrong I really liked this book- the hunter becomes the hunted? Yes please. BUT there is something about reading from points of views of people who don’t “feel” as we do that just makes it…a struggle. 

Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer 4 Stars I think that Kemmerer is just one of my go to light romance, light fantasy authors that I know will give me a book that I enjoy and captivates me. This was my fourth of hers that I’ve read and, similar to the other three, I enjoyed this one. 

To Be Taught If Fortunate by Becky Chambers 3 Stars This is a novella that is space centered, like many of her other books. I don’t have a lot to say about this one as it was shorter, but I will say (and maybe this is because it was shorter) but what I will say is there is quite a bit more of the “science-y” stuff that I struggled with in this one. 

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé 4 Stars I think this was probably one of my most unnerving books that I read this year. This is an academic thriller, with very much Gossip Girl vibes (a mystery person sending out texts that harm others reputations), but with much more sinister undertones and connotations. It hits you in a way that you don’t expect when you find out the common denominator (though as a reader I feel like we figure it out much faster), but it brings up quite a bit of good social commentary that could start some very important social commentary.

The Royals Next Door by Karina Halle 4 Stars This is the final book I’m going to talk about, the final book I’ve read at this point, and the easiest fastest read of the month. I think I’ve settled on my overly specific romance genre I prefer- which is royal or royal adjacent romances. In this case, the neighbor and the bodyguard. It’s good, some of the romantic thoughts made me giggle, and there was definitely some smut, but also some sweetness. A true win to the end of the month. 

I’m sure I’ll still read another book before the month ends, or maybe I won’t this month has been a strange one in terms of reading. What about you?

A Weekend in the Finger Lakes

Our final trip of the Summer was over Labor Day weekend and involved over 12 miles of hiking! It was a last-minute trip of sorts as we wanted to do something but didn’t know if schedules would work out for us to go anywhere. When it came out that we were going to be able to make it work, we decided to opt for a weekend in nature. We are a big “outdoors” active family, we love walking and hiking as a key part of our travel. I personally am a big water person (think lakes, streams, waterfalls, NOT beach). So, we decided to opt for a weekend in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. 

The Finger Lakes is a region in New York featuring ~11 lakes that run North to South. The Finger Lakes were actually formed during the last ice age when glaciers in the area receded to form these unique gorgeous lakes that do look like fingers from above. Each lake even has its own “claim to fame”, with Skaaneateles Lake being considered one of the cleanest lakes in the United States, Keuka Lake (the third largest) being a “crooked lake” like Lake Cuomo as well as for providing an excellent microclimate for wine. Cayuga is the longest lake in the grouping, running just under 40 miles and 435 ft deep. Seneca Lake is the largest by volume, with 618 ft deep. Finally, in fun facts, Canadice Lake – the smallest of all the lakes- is the most “untouched” of all the lakes making it the perfect peaceful spot for hikers and wildlife. 

Though the Finger Lakes have been existence for quite a long time, they weren’t actually referred to as “The Finger Lakes” until the 1800’s. The region was home to several Iroquois Tribes, which are referenced and respected throughout the areas you visit. The Tribes were actually able to fend of colonization for quite a long time, some of the last in their area to be colonized after putting up a large fight. 

Ultimately The Finger Lakes region is known for Waterfalls & Wine (or Beer), making it a pretty perfect vacation destination. This region is actually the main wine region in New York. In some ways it reminded me of Lauterbrunnen Switzerland (although, much to my disappointment it is very much not Switzerland- haha), in that you can be driving or walking down a road, look to your side and there is a waterfall. It is also the home to Watkins Glen International Raceway, which is home to several races of varying caliber drivers. 

We decided to explore the more Southern Region of the Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake. Our initial plan was to RV or camp in the area, but a) camping wasn’t going to be an option and b) RV sites (and RV rentals) book up months and months in advance. So, instead we booked a hotel in Horsehead (which was all that was available!) to stay in. I will say, in some ways this would have been the only thing I would have changed about our trip. We spent 75% of our time out in the woods, in nature, and to leave that to come back to a hotel was a bit jarring. Otherwise, it was the perfect weekend. 

Our first stop was Buttermilk Falls State Park.

This is a park featuring a foaming cascade of waterfalls coming from an offshoot creek heading towards Cayuga Lake. There is a large amount of hiking trails throughout the park as well as camping, RV, Cabin, and Cottage sites to stay in the park. We walked the Gorge and Rim Trail, which allows you to see the different water spots. There are a couple of trickier spots to navigate, but overall, I would say these two trails are fairly easy for any level of hiker. I did not actually where my hiking boots for this trail or the next if that tells you anything. As for the falls themselves, these were pretty incredible to see. They are definitely a cascade effect, so you’ll be able to see several different smaller falls that lead down to the bigger Buttermilk Falls at the “bottom”. From Buttermilk Falls State Park we went over to the sister park of Robert H Treman State Park.

Similar to Buttermilk this State Park is home to not only waterfalls, but also campsites, hiking spots, AND (unlike Buttermilk) you are able to swim in the stream fed pool at the base of a waterfall. There are two waterfall spots; the one I previously mentioned that you can swim in and then the Lucifer Falls which is a 115-foot waterfall. Now, normally you would be able to hike through Enfield Glen gorge and get up close and personal with Lucifer Falls, however when we went there was a section that was closed, so we weren’t able to hike it down. We still managed to hike the trail opposite and see the falls in all of their glory, which were incredible. The trail was a bit more up and down than Buttermilk, but otherwise still pretty straightforward. After that we decided to call it a day, head to the hotel and let the kids do a bit of swimming in the pool. 

The next morning we were up bright and early to head to what became the real highlight of the trip: Watkins Glen State Park. I’ll say it here and now, Watkins Glen State Park was my favorite of the whole weekend hands down. The Park and falls were beautiful and expansive, the gorge trail was easy to navigate and if you walk the gorge in, the rim out, you get the perfect mix of both water and woods. 

The gorge was formed over time, starting during the same glacial event that formed the Finger Lakes.  As the water of Glen Creek cascades through the glen, cutting away at the rock. This is an ever-changing gorge, and you can feel that what you are walking through will continue to shift and change and move over time. The gorge opened for tourists in the 1860’s as a privately owned resort destination. In the very early 1900’s, New York State purchased the gorge in an effort to protect the land, the wildlife, and the people who would trek through. The goal was to create a safe and welcoming environment for everyone to enjoy. The stone trails that make walking the gorge so easy were crafted in the 1930’s through a program to help put Americans back to work post Great Depression. 

Like many of the other State Parks we’ve visited, there are camping options in the park, both primitive and basic cabins. The hiking trails were fairly easy (the official pamphlet calls them “moderate to challenging”), but I would definitely wear some sort of hiking shoe boot as the trails are wet. Another thing to note is that the Gorge trail does close during winter so you’ll want to keep that in mind as you plan a trip, and I would highly highly recommend walking the gorge trail. It’s incredible. 

We spent a good 2-3 hours in the park before wandering through the main street of town and over to Seneca Lake. We had a little snack and walk to the end of the pier at the lake before heading out. We stopped over to Shequaga Falls, which were easily the most incredible “side of the road” waterfalls as well as Hector Falls. From there we decided to do end our weekend on a high note of things for the boys and went to look at the international speedway and play a round of mini golf. 

Our final stop on our weekend was Taughannock Falls State Park. Taughannock Falls is a 215-foot waterfall right near Cayuga Lake. Like many of the other parks we’ve been to, it provides hiking, campsites, and cabins, along with a boat launch and marina for Cayuga Lake. We walked the Gorge Trail, and it was probably the easiest walk we did the entire weekend, the most accessible for anyone. I’ll be honest, the great thing about these falls is the accessibility, you can easily see them from above or below and while they are really nice, but they weren’t a highlight. 

And that really rounds up our weekend in the Finger Lakes! It was easily one of my top long weekend trips (rivaled by…of course Switzerland) and I think that it was the perfect way to close out the summer. As I previously stated, I do wish that we had camped/RV’d or stayed a little more remote in a cabin, but it was still a phone trip and the boys got to have a little hotel pool time. 

A Weekend Upstate

One of our final Summer Hurrahs was a weekend in the greater Albany region. We spent a total of 3 nights in Schenectady, exploring Saratoga Springs, Schenectady, and Albany. It was a relaxed weekend trip that covered quite a few cute spots. Our first evening was spent getting settled into our Airbnb and heading over to a nearby park for some live music. We didn’t really “start” our exploring until the next morning. 

Fueled with some delicious bagels, we headed out for a day in Saratoga Springs. Saratoga Springs is really known for two things, horse racing and spring spas. The city’s slogan is actually “Health, History, Horses”. We started with the latter and ended with the former. So, Spring Spa’s. This dates back to the Native Americans believing that the springs (High Rock Spring) held medicinal properties- this is nothing new, there has long standing been a belief that mineral springs are good for you/your soul/your body/etc. This was then expanded when a British soldier was brought by the Native Americans to the spring to treat wounds from the French and Indian War. 

But back up for a moment… The land was originally “settled” by the British who built the Fort Saratoga in 1691, which was actually now Schuylerville. This is most noted in the location of The Battle of Saratoga, which actually took place in what is now Stillwater and the surrender at Saratoga took place in Schuylerville. Saratoga Springs was settled in 1819, incorporated in 1826, and then became a city in 1915. There are two turning points for tourism in the history, one of which was the arrival of the railroad, which made it much more possible for anyone to visit and be cured by the legendary springs. The second was the doctor Simon Baruch advocating for the “European Spa” (aka springs and bathhouses) coming to America. At one point in time, Saratoga Springs was the home of the largest hotel in the world.

Saratoga Spring State Park was developed in 1962 when the state of New York to control to preserve the springs. The property was then labeled a state park and gained National Historic Landmark status about 25 years later. There is a wide variety of activities to do within the park, between walking trails and taking in the springs, to snowshoe and cross-country skiing in the winter, to golf courses and pools to enjoy. We enjoyed walking along the creek and seeing a couple of the springs, as well as the wells that would have been used in its heyday. 

After we were entirely relaxed from the Springs, we headed over to the excitement of the Racetrack. The Saratoga Racecourse is the fourth oldest racecourse in the US, though many think it is the oldest. The track dates back to 1863 and has been in use almost every year since (notable exceptions would be during an anti-gambling legislation, as well as during World War II). The track itself has three tracks within the complex, a dirt track, a turf track, and a second inner turf track, which offers steeplechase races. We watched I think 4 or 5 races and enjoyed the excitement of the tracks and were swept away in the anticipation of the race. The boys enjoyed it and then were able to go in the kids’ zone to play some games in between. It was a fun way to spend a couple hours and an experience to have (this was my second time going to the races). 

We spent much of the rest of the day wandering the downtown shopping district, popping into bookstores, clothing stores, and tea shops and enjoying the afternoon in the quaint little town. It was a lovely way to spend a day in Saratoga Springs and the city itself is a really nice spot to stop for a weekend of fun and relaxation. 

Our second day of the weekend we headed into Albany. Albany is the state capital of New York (as of 1797) and a relatively modern city in the area (whereas quite a bit still has some original architecture, I saw a much more modern look to Albany). Originally founded by Dutch colonists in 1614 (though inhabited by the Mohican tribe at the time), the city of Albany was officially chartered in 1686 (under the English). The Albany region has its’ own long and storied history involving the Native Americans, the fur trade, and the shipping trade. It is one of the oldest of the original 13 Colonies and the longest continuously chartered city.  We headed into the city with no real plan, just a list of sites we’d like to see. This actually came out to be quite handy as we quickly learned that there is very little open in the city on Monday’s and Tuesdays. Every museum and attraction, save for the State Museum is actually closed those two days of the week. A bit of a bummer, we ended up driving past two of the attractions we wanted to see (The Schuyler House and The USS Slater (DE-766)) so we could still see them, even if we couldn’t tour them. The one place we were actually able to visit was the New York State Museum. Located within the Empire State Plaza (which also houses the State Library and Archives) and across from the Capital, this imposing building and museum details the history of the state of New York. It is the oldest and largest state museum in the US. As we walked through, we learned about the mining activities, the native American presence in the state, the history of New York City and its diverse makeup and neighborhoods. There is also a section devoted to September 11, which was incredibly meaningful and special to see. 

From the state museum we walked over to the Capital (though due to security you are not able to tour it at this time), and up through some of the neighborhood streets, admiring the old architecture (all of which is plaque dated and so awesome). We spent most of the rest of the day stopping in at different antique stores and bookstores as we wandered from little town to little town. 

The final thing we did on this little weekend away was see one of the Erie Canal Locks. The Erie Canal was built to provide a route from the Atlantic to the Great Lakes (Hudson River to Lake Erie was the original stretch). Originally proposed in the 1780’s, it was considered again in 1807, this time gaining approval and funding. Construction started in 1817 and finished in 1825 with a total of 34 locks. At the time water was the most cost-effective way to ship goods (as there were no railways) and this was a way to transport goods at less cost and faster transport. By and large this is considered the most successful human built waterway and one of the most important works of civil engineering in the United States. We saw Lock 7, also known as Vischer Ferry, though we also drove past Lock 8 (and have since seen the Oswego Canal). I will say, the sheer engineering of these locks is impressive, and it was very cool to stand right at the edge and see it first-hand. 

And that was our weekend in Upstate New York.