Tag Archives: family time

Visiting the Van Vleck House and Gardens

3 May

Another delightful site to visit in Montclair is the Van Vleck House and Gardens.  Once a private estate, the house and its gardens were donated to The Montclair Foundation in 1993 by the heirs of Howard Van Vleck, who owned this Italianate villa.  The house was built in 1916.  While other homes once were on the estate as well, this is the only house that still remains.

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The original main entrance to the house on Van Vleck Street.

The gardens are open to the public for free every day!  No holiday closures!  The lovely house is used as a center for nonprofit groups for meetings, events, and fundraisers.  I actually saw people having a yoga class in one of the rooms! What a spectacular yoga studio!  The windows overlook the gardens!

The house and gardens were a short walk from the Montclair Art Museum, just along Upper Mountain Avenue.  Our visit came after several days of rain, so all the grass was lush.  But the blooming season, except for the daffodils was not yet in progress.  I think by the end of May these gardens will be stunning.  When we saw them, everything was greening up, but not much was flowering.

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The formal garden in the back of the house.

There are several walkways and levels of gardens.  The formal gardens behind the main house are lovely. Staff members were setting up for an event when we were there, so we tried to stay out of the way. Although not much was blooming yet, it was a great place to get a good walk in a lovely setting.

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One of my favorite spots.

The Upper Lawn had several stations to check out.  You can download the Van Vleck house’ app and learn about the different areas using codes on the signs.  I liked an area on the upper lawn that had many daffodils and a bird house.  When you walk across the upper lawn, you come to the Mother’s Garden and then to a percola that was renovated.

At first, I was not sure if you were allowed to walk on the lawn, as there were no paths. But seeing the information signs across the way gave me some confidence that this was acceptable.  Also the Garden Etiquette flyer we picked up at the Visitor Center, says, “Walk only on the pathways and grassy areas.”  So we did!

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The Visitor Center with an Ap sign.

The children’s butterfly garden should be lovely as well. It is located behind the Visitor Center. (Where there are good restrooms.  Always important when walking.)  I also liked the colorful signs with details about insects and disease impacting trees and what to look for that lined the path from the butterfly garden to the front of the Visitor Center.  I was glad to see on the website that there are many children and family activities planned throughout the spring and summer.

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The pavilion by the Tennis Garden.

We did not go on the Rhododendron Walk.  It was somewhat muddy and damp, and I was not in the right shoes for that.  However, I did enjoy the Tennis Court Garden, planted where the estate’s tennis court once stood.  To the side is little pavilion.  I could, in my mind, see people resting there between sets of tennis, or watching those playing while enjoying the shade.

I hope to go back to Montclair and visit the Van Vleck gardens when everything is in bloom!

 

To learn more about the gardens and home, go to: www.vanvleck.org

 

Adventures in Mathematics at the National Mathematics Museum

29 Apr

After a losing hope about the state of mathematics in the world, I was delighted to learn about and visit the National Mathematics Museum (MoMath)in New York City. Located at 11 East 26 Street, it opened to the community in December 2015. It is worth the trip!

From the Pi symbol door handles to the hologram engraved art work, each inch of this museum is filled with interesting sites and many interactive activities! I loved riding a bicycle with square wheels. It was a little hard on the rear! But fun.

We three adults were having as much fun as the children. There are two floors of activities that parents and children can work on together. Some are math and logic problems to solve. Others are just fun activities like watching your arms branch out into fractals in a living tree exhibit.

I wish I can tell you my favorite activity, but I cannot since so much of it was great fun.

There is also a room where temporary exhibits are housed. When we were there it was unbelievable math art that has to be made through 3-D printers. And fantastic origami art.

The gift shop is packed with educational games and activities to buy. More important this museum is open every day except for Thanksgiving! Need something to do with your children school age and older, go here! There are events and activities listed on its website which I put below.

It is an easy walk to Madison Garden Park where you can sit for a bit and people watch, take great photos of the flatiron building and buy lunch or a snack.

Being there gave me hope. There are parents and children and grandparents interested math and learning. I did not see one frown while there, I just saw adults and children intrigued by what they were seeing and learning while having an adventure at the MoMath!

Www.momath.org

Puzzle Mania After Visiting the Springbok Puzzle Factory

25 Sep

It finally happened!  My husband got to visit the Springbok Puzzle Factory in Kansas City.  A member of our congregation owns it and was kind enough to let my husband come for a tour. (See previous blog below.)

It surpassed all of his expectations.

For days there was the build-up of excitement as my husband counted down to the actual visit.  When the day arrived, he was almost impatient to go to work, because he knew that afternoon was puzzle factory time.

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Puzzles resting before being cut.

But the build-up was nothing compared to his joy in actually going and seeing how jigsaw puzzles are made!  He took photos of the process; he took videos; he took photos of himself and his kind host.  The visit was beyond what he imagined.  His host went around with him for a private tour!  So kind!  To be honest, I think he enjoyed my husband’s enthusiastic excitement.

I actually told the owner that when my husband retired, I hoped that they could hire him to work in the factory, since that was all I heard about for days.  I suggested that he be hired as a tester!  Just to put puzzles together each and every day.

From that point on, my husband wanted one thing only, a 2000-piece puzzle.  Up to then he thought that 1,000-piece puzzles were the best. But while at the factory he saw much larger puzzles.  And the size that tempted him the most was 2000.

When he got home that day and for the next few days, he spoke continually about the puzzles. He watched puzzle videos of people putting together large puzzles, including some guy who used his entire basement floor to do an 18,000-piece puzzle.  That was out of the question for our house.  Although he did ask if he could order it.  I think he was joking, but I said ‘NO’ emphatically.

When my daughter and her husband were in town in June, she and I went to a store where she purchased a 2000-piece Springbok puzzle for my husband’s Fathers’ Day gift.  It was a grand success.  He could not wait to get going on it!  But had to wait for a few days as we had an out of town wedding to attend.

Our usual puzzle table was not big enough for this monster puzzle, so I allowed him to use our dining room table with the caveat that he had to be done by early September.  Every evening after work and on weekends, he worked on it.  I sat with him and worked part of it as well. I like the blue pieces.

Labor Day weekend was a puzzle feast.  We had company who helped as well.  But my deadline was not fulfilled even with all the help.  Those white pieces were impossible.  They even stumped an engineer!

I needed my table. But we could not take the puzzle apart.  It was a stressful situation!  I even posted our dilemma on Facebook.  Thank goodness I did.  A friend had the answer in the genius idea of us putting our table pads over the puzzle!  It was an excellent idea, saving the puzzle, my holiday meal, and probably our marriage!

The puzzle kept him busy for three entire months, till mid-September.  It is now packed away in two one-gallon ziplock bags to go to the home of another puzzle addict.  I plan to let him work on his 1000-piece puzzles for a few months before I surprise him with another giant Springbok jigsaw puzzle to feed his mania.

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One piece left. He always leaves the last piece for me.

https://zicharonot.com/2018/01/13/jigsaw-puzzles-and-true-love/

A Trolley Car Stops, Too!

12 Sep

Holidays always make me think about my grandparents.  We spent all of our holidays, when I was growing up, at one of my grandparents’ homes.  My paternal grandparents in the Bronx were in charge of Passover and Hanukkah.  We went there every year and celebrated with all my cousins.  One year, at Hanukkah, I had to have a tooth pulled and could not eat all the treats. But Grandma made me my very own potato kugel!  I still can taste it!

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My store bought rugelach and honey cake, and candies. Still wrapped in plastic like Grandma would before the holidays.

Every so often something happens that sparks a memory and bring me back in time to the apartment in the Bronx.  During Rosh Hashannah, such a moment occurred.  As I was preparing my dessert plates and covering them with clear plastic wrap, my mind flashed to my paternal Grandmother. She was a great home baker.  One of the high lights of going to her home for the holidays was her magnificent dessert table covered in her treats!

Before dinner, the dessert platters were covered with plastic and put high on a cabinet in the spare bedroom.  We, all the grandchildren and children, knew the desserts were there. But also knew the penalty if we took snuck in and took some.  My Dad and Uncle, known noshers, often snuck in.  But the grandchildren were more careful.

Several of my boy cousins and my brother were eventually tall enough… and sneaky enough… to climb up and reach the sealed plates to get a few treats before dessert.  But we were very careful.  There was always a cousin on guard duty.  We were never greedy, we never took too much in fear of being caught by the sight of an empty plate.

The best part of the holiday was when the dishes were cleared from dinner and food was put away.  Then out came the desserts.  My Mom and Aunts and Grandma could bring all the home baked treats out and put them on a long table against a wall.  Among my favorites were the rugelach sticks and the thimble cookies.  But my all time favorite were the apricot candy.  So thick and gooey.

There were cookies and cakes and even homemade candies.  During Passover there were also Barton’s candies.

Thanks to one of my cousins, I have the recipes for three desserts.  I was bemoaning that I miss them years ago. I found out that my cousin had the recipes.  So smart.  His wife emailed three recipes to me…in 2006!  At the time she told me that they had high calorie count.  And she was right.  Each recipe is chuck full of sugar.

To be honest most of my desserts are store bought.  But for you bakers, here is one of Grandma’s recipes:  Apricot Candy:  Wash ½ pound of apricots.  Boil in 1 cup of cold water. When water is boiled away, mash the apricots.  Add 1 ½ cups sugar, ¼ pound almonds.  Cook for 1 hour, stirring constantly.  When thick, pour out into a pan, and when cold, cut into squares and dip in sugar to prevent sticking.

If you have crowns on your teeth, do NOT eat this!!. It is delicious.  I love apricots and dried apricots and this apricot candy.

One dessert they did not have the recipe for was Taiglach, a mixture of nuts and honey mixed together and baked into a gooey hard mess of deliciousness.  You had to be careful biting into this dessert.  I remember one year my Dad actually broke his tooth biting into this!  He was not so happy that holiday.

My grandfather had a role at all these family events.  He would sit at one end of the table and guard it.  Seriously!  If any of the grandchildren (or his children) took too much dessert or came back too often, he would intone, “A Trolley Car Stops Too.”

When I was little, I had no idea what he was talking about.  But when I got older, and found out what a trolley car was, I realized he meant we were eating too much.  That even a trolley car, which ran constantly, would stop occasionally.

My brother, and my boy cousins were often the recipient of this advice. I heard it as well, but not as often.  It really did not matter.  We all would conquer our fear of Grandpa, in order to have a sweet delectable dessert.

As for his saying, we use it often, especially when something is happening that we think needs to end.  I still can see my Grandpa nodding at me and saying in a deep voice:  A Trolley Stops Too!

 

 

Jigsaw Puzzles and True Love

13 Jan

A jigsaw puzzle in progress can almost always be found in my family room.  My husband loves to work on them, especially after a long day of work. It is his way of unwinding and relaxing. Many evenings we sit in the family room, him finding the right piece for the right spot, while I am busy crocheting my next creation. It is peaceful and fun as we chat, or even sit comfortably in silence.

We have found that jigsaw puzzles are wonderful for opening a conversation. People who come to our house for the first time, will often sit at the table and start working on the puzzle. Then they start to talk.  It takes the stress out trying to make conversation for some. To be truthful I think jigsaw puzzles should be part of every host/hostess’ repertoire entertainment.

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Our son in law had two of his brothers working on a puzzle.

When our daughter got married, her future husband and two of his brothers stayed at our house for several days before the wedding (They are Canadian.). The jigsaw puzzle was a great success.  In fact, his brother, the best man, said during his toast that he was worried at first about staying in our house. “But once I got there, I saw a jug of real maple syrup in the refrigerator and a jigsaw puzzle on the table.  And I knew it would be just fine.”  And it was.

Almost everyone enjoys them. And even those who do not, will sit around and talk while others complete the puzzle. When we have a house filled with guests, we make sure one is always out. Whenever there is down time, someone can be found working on the puzzle.

My sister and her family are great puzzle workers.  We got our jigsaw puzzle love from my Dad.  We often had a jigsaw puzzle going on the table in the Catskills.  Great rainy day activity!  I also remember the one we could never finish!! It was so difficult!  But I digress.

Recently a friend came over with her 7-year-old granddaughter. She was amazed when she saw my husband working on his 1000-piece puzzle.  “I have never seen a puzzle with so many pieces before,” She stated. “How do you know where to begin.” My husband had a great time talking to her about puzzles! He welcomed her to come back any time to work on one. I do know that she was gifted a 300-piece puzzle for Christmas, which was put together by her family.

As my sign of love, I usually buy my husband jigsaw puzzles for his birthday, Fathers’ Day and as Hanukkah gifts.  I search them out. The best stores I have found for puzzles are Tuesday Morning and JoAnn’s Fabric. But I have found some on line and in specialty stores. I am always searching and keeping a stash hidden and ready for a celebration.

This year I went out of control in my puzzle buying.  My husband had surgery in July, and I thought jigsaw puzzles would be great entertainment during his time away from work. I knew he would be bored so I purchased 15 puzzles!  It did not work out as I thought, as he had a brace on his neck and could not look down.  The jigsaw puzzles stayed in their boxes for months. Finally, we could take them out and work on putting them together. The good thing about puzzles is that they do not go bad!

I do not always buy them.  I have found that jigsaw puzzle enthusiasts will trade puzzles when they are done.  Which we have done. I have met friends in parking lots and at home to exchange a bundle or trash bag filled with boxes of puzzles.  My husband always puts the puzzle pieces into a ziplock bag after completing one and then into the box. And we have found other true puzzle enthusiasts do the same.

I have a friend with a second- hand store.  She is great about giving us puzzles she thinks he will like so that he can put them together and see if any pieces are missing!  Then we return them with the answer to that important questions, “Are all the pieces there?”. I will admit that there was one puzzle my husband loved so much that was missing a piece. He spent days working to make a new piece for it.  I won’t go into detail, but I will say he did a wonderful job.

Friends and family members often purchase puzzles for him. They are the perfect gift. No matter how many we have, we always have room for more. I see the gift of a new puzzle as a sign of love.

We have another couple with whom we get together every so often. They also love to compete jigsaw puzzles. Twice now we have tried to finish a 500-piece puzzle in one evening.  Each of us takes a different part to work on.  It makes for an enjoyable evening for all of us.

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I think I will sit right here!

One major issue in working with the puzzles our tortoiseshell cat.  She seems to think the puzzles are there for her to enjoy.  We often see her trying to get into the box and run off with one of the pieces.   Her favorite place to sit is in the middle of a not yet completed puzzle… as we are working on it.  She believes we should be paying full attention to her and not the puzzle.  It is a dilemma because if we chase her off, she disrupts the puzzle.

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Current puzzle with the plastic cover!

We have been covering up the puzzles with old poster board when we weren’t working on them to protect them from our cat.  But now, we no longer have to do that!  Our son’s girlfriend gave us the best ever gift!  She purchased a sheet of clear plastic and four clear placemats for us to put over the puzzles when they are not being used.  It is great!   We can still see the puzzle, but our cat cannot mess it up when she sits on it.

Since I usually purchase the puzzles, I chose topics that I enjoy as well: Disney, cats, travels.  For my husband, I find space related puzzles, or Star Trek and Star Wars themes.  The one we are working on right now combines our loves; it is a jigsaw puzzle about knitting and crocheting. I realized my husband was at a disadvantage with this one, when I said, “That purple piece goes with the doily on top.”  And he said, “What doily?  Now I know he knows what a doily is, but these were very small and not what he was used to seeing.

We actually know someone who owns a jigsaw puzzle company.  I have been trying to arrange a visit to it for my husband for over a year now.  First, we were gone.  Then my husband needed surgery.  Then they were gone. I know it has to happen.  My husband is intrigued by the thought of seeing how the puzzles are made in person.  We did see an episode of “How It Is Made” that showed the process. But in person would be so much better.

My husband is extremely kind in his jigsaw puzzle work.  He knows that I am competitive and like to be the ‘winner.’   He always saves the last piece of every puzzle for me, and says, “Okay, here is the last piece, so you can complete the puzzle.”  In this way, I can say I finished every puzzle.  That my friends IS true love.

I Love Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

22 Nov

To me Thanksgiving always means staying in my pajamas and watching the Macy’s Day Parade. Yes the Macy’s Day Parade! That is what I called it as a child and that is what I still call it in my mind.

Growing up in the New York City metropolitan area meant that the Parade was an important part of our life. We lived close to Hoboken. And as ‘everyone’ knows the floats are built in Jersey, the giant balloons are stored in Jersey and the participants practice in Jersey.

As a child I remember my Dad driving us to Hoboken in order to drive up and down the streets of warehouses and peek in. You probably cannot do it anymore, but when I was a child it was possible.

I remember seeing the color guards and bands practicing in the street.

It was part of the annual build up to the great event itself! The parade.

I loved watching the parade on television. But most exciting was actually seeing the parade in person. My Grandma Esther was the executive secretary for shoe company’s whose headquarters were across the street from Macy’s!

The best year of my life was the time we all went into NYC to her office. We watched the parade in the warmth of her office through the giant windows overlooking the Avenue. It was tremendously exciting! I remember the balloons flying right past the windows. Wow. I had such joy. Did I say I love the giant ballooons. Many people make an annual trek just to see the balloons filled with helium!

I will admit getting there was a hassle and getting home was the worst. But seeing the parade in person was worth it. I still get a thrill just remembering.

Watching the parade on television November 23, 2017.

When my children were little, we would lie in bed together and watch the parade. To be honest, they were not excited as me. It did not matter. Thanksgiving morning the television stayed on the Parade channel.

Eventually my children moved out. But it does not matter to me. I need no excuses to watch the parade. When the Rockettes make their annual appearance I smile. When the bands play and the color guard twirl their flags I feel satisfaction. Each broadway show tune makes me want to see a play. And then their are my favorite floats like Sesamee Street!

When Thanksgiving morning arrives I will still stay in my pajamas. Get a mug of coffee. Cuddle with my cats. And spend three hours watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade. I cannot imagine a better way to spend a Thursday morning!

The Big Snow in The Winter of 1960-61

22 Jul

Among my parents collection of photos and memorabilia were several little booklets of black and white photos called a Peek-A-Pix Album. When we went through their home, we sorted through the photos, and I took home all that looked important or interesting.   So now, whenever the mood strikes me, I take out the bag of photos and search through them.

Since it was 99 degrees outside today, I decided today was a good day to look at photos, specifically ones of snow. Why not?   It might cool me off!

I remember the big snow in North Bergen, NJ,  when I was five years old.   School closed. The roads closed. Dads could not go to work.   It was a wonderful holiday from life.   Even without these photos, I remember this snow storm.

I remember the work and effort to get into our snow clothes. I especially remember my sister. She was only 2 1/2 at the time. My Mom got her all bundled up, when my sister announced that she had to go potty.   Mom sent my brother and I downstairs to join our Dad, while she dealt with my sister.

Sliding down the backyard mound.

Ready to sled down the backyard mound.

The Dads were all very busy shoveling. Shoveling out their cars, shoveling out the walkways, shoveling out the streets. You really could not go anywhere. But all this shoveling created the giant mounds of snow that we could climb on!

I still remember climbing to the top of a giant mound of snow on Third Avenue. My brother, neighbors and I were all playing King of the Mountain. It wasn’t until we had been jumping and scrambling up this mountain for a while, that the green top of a car was exposed. The snow pile was so high, we were able to climb on top of a car! That made a major impression on me.

My Dad and my friend’s Dad, (they lived next door), made a giant mound of snow for us in the back yard. We could sled down from their back porch into the relative safety of their yard.   I have pictures of the three of us and our sled. You can barely make out our faces as we are so covered with clothes.

Mom and Risa 1960

My sister and my Mom…In the background the window where I almost died.

One of my favorite photos shows my Mom and my sister at the corner of the house. My sister is hiding from the camera. But that is not the exciting part for me. If you look closely you can see a basement window. That window almost cost me my life, one spring day, when my friend accidentaly pushed my head through that window.   Luckily the Dad’s were home. I remember my Mom standing upstairs yelling at me not to move, while the Dads went into the basement to figure out how to get me out without cutting my face. It was scary.   But as an adult, I am glad to see the window as in reinforces my memory. It really did happen.

I love seeing the backyards and all the old garages with their wooden doors. Each photo brings back memories of the cold and the snow. But most of all it brings back memories of the fun we could always have on Third Avenue. I know I will never forget the Big Snow.