...and I am very happy there.

...and I am very happy there.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Hallo Weening

I am not a big fan of celebrating Halloween. Yes, I loved Trick or Treating when I was a kid. Mostly I liked the creativity in making my own costumes. Oh yeah, I LOVED the candy too! I can remember my brother Rick and I scattering our goodies all over the living room floor and swapping for our favorites.

Let me see... I remember being a witch once. My mother made me a costume out of black paper that looked really cool! All the fringe would blow around as I moved. What wasn't cool, was that it rained that year and I came home covered in black streaks. But the candy was worth it.

I also made a costume once using one of my mother's old fur coats. (Hmmm, I think it is at least two bears atm!) I was a cat and I used a hanger covered in a tube of fur that I actually sewed together. It was a pain, because the tail kept swinging around the front or drooping on the ground. Then there was the year I tried to duplicate my older brother's costume of a scarecrow. The broom stick on my shoulders didn't go through doors too well. How did he do that???

In the non-creative years, I was a hobo and just covered my face with burnt cork. I was a teen by this time and just wanted the excuse to run around at night and get the candy. Oh, but one year my best friend Ann and I did ourselves up based on the current James Bond movie that was at the theater. I can't remember if it was Live and Let Die. We blackened our faces on one side and put white make-up on the other. Halloween fell on a Saturday night and her mom insisted we go to mass before she would let us trick or treat so we decided to have fun with it. We went to church in costume. All through the service we would either turn our faces toward each other or away from each other every time the priest looked up so he would either see our black side or our white side. We could hardly contain our laughter....I have no idea what the sermon was on that night, but we had done what we were told!

Then... I had kids.
Bryan in an early costume (I dread this one, today)
Bryan was 10 months old and crawling on his first Halloween. I put him in his brown footsie pajamas and tacked on a cotton wad tail and he was my little bunny that first year. The next year I took a pillowcase and cut a three holes in it and slipped it over his head and pulled his arms through; cut him a rope belt and folded another pillowcase for his hood and, wallah, he was a monk. (Too bad the only pillowcases I had were pink!)

Aaron as his favorite character.
He still loves cats!
The best costumes I made were the Garfield cat for Aaron
and the Clown costume that was worn by both Bryan and Aaron and Dan's train Engineer that I just had to put together.

Dan our Engineer loved trains.
We have no idea what the finger signals mean.
Private Dan in PJ's
Other times, pajamas helped!

In Glasco, where the boys grew up, the children didn't go door to door Trick or Treating. We found this out the first year we went around. Everyone still gave out candy, but they all mentioned that there was a party at the firehouse for the kids to do instead. So the next year we headed for the firehouse to check it out. There were lots of people, lots of donuts, and lots of kids milling around in costume. No games! No contests! Then they announced the parade would begin. These poor kids walked around in a circle numerous times so "judges" could pick the winners for the most creative, cutest, scariest, or whatever category they decided on. Then the kids won silver dollars or fifty-cent pieces. I don't know if they have changed it over the years, because we never went back. This was too lame compared to the parties we had when I was a kid, so we headed to other neighborhoods to find our treats.

I recall just a few challenges at our parties were: bobbing for apples, eating a donut off a string hanging from the ceiling with your hands behind your back, balloon on a spoon races, sitting on a balloon to try and pop it. Aaah, so much fun! I don't remember the prizes, but I am sure they were more in line with what kids want.

In later years, I wanted to get away from the demonic side of the celebration and started a Fall Family Festival at our church. I had so much fun creating various rooms for the different age groups to have an age appropriate challenge where they could win fun prizes. Sure we had tons of cupcakes, cookies (and donuts) and cider, no fall festival would be complete without them.

I created a Feely Meely House out of a refrigerator box and cut out special doors that you could reach in and feel sheep eyeballs (peeled grapes), monster brains (tripe), and all kinds of other ewwie, gooie stuff. All the attenders were asked to dress up -- but not in scary costumes.

I too, dressed up, once as a Geisha girl (complete with chopsticks in my blackened hair) and once as a Teen of the Times, with baggy jeans, t-shirt, flannel shirt, work-boots and a ring in my nose. Did I mention I was the church secretary at the time? The kids kept asking me, "Mrs. Bell, is that real?" to which I replied, "Of course it is!" Then my boss -- a.k.a. pastor of the church -- caught sight of me and said, "Please tell me that isn't real." to which I winked and said, "Yeahahahahahah!" What fun we all had during these festivities. The entry fee to get in was  bag of candy and we made up gift bags for everyone to take home. It was a wonderful safe alternative to the sinister (or boring) Halloween celebrations.

Elijah following in his father's footsteps!
Nowadays I may go to my sister's house or a friend's to hand out candy and see what characters come by.

We live too far from our grandson's to participate.

But Bryan is carrying on the old tradition, much to the chagrin of his wife, by carving some very creative pumpkins
and getting dressed up in his own costume...

only problem -- is he uses the same one over and over each year!

Nowadays, all three sons attend local hauntings in their respective towns to see if anyone can scare them and see what creative juices are flowing this time of year.

Jim and I did something different ourselves this year and visited Cortlandt Manor's Blaze.

What a fantastic night it turned out to be. We drove about an hour and a half toward NYC to Croton-on-Hudson to see more than 4000 pumpkins carved in every imaginable shape and form...
The manor of the VanCortlandt family.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


This post is for our sons and daughter-in-law, Jessica. The photos are of the Saugerties Public Library in the heart of the town they grew up in. To the left in the first picture stands the original library. To the right the new addition  that is being completed.

This library is where all the kids went for story time when they were just tots. Then they took part in many a summer reading program in their school years. The paintings they produced during the years of art classes were proudly displayed here. In later years, many hours were spent looking up references for school papers or college prospects.

Of course nowadays with the internet, many folks think the libraries will become obsolete. Thankfully our town feels that it is a place that must be enlarged so many more families can use it as a place of refuge to read real books, learn crafts or languages, take a CPR or parenting class, and so much more.

We love our library in Saugerties and once it is completed and reopened, we are sure many more families will experience a lot of the same things we did. A computer can never replace the familiar musty smell of old tomes or the joy of feeling the glossy pages of a new magazine. Yes, you can still look up a subject of interest, or find a new recipe from some famous chef's cookbook, but to go through time in many of the historical volumes and escape from reality in the fictional writings of many many authors, just isn't the same as sitting in a corner of the couch on a rainy day and snuggling under a blanket turning page after page of a great book!

It will be fun to go back when the construction trucks are gone and the fences are down to be able to walk through the new building with it's bright and shiny surfaces. Personally, I relish the thought of still being able to return to the library of old that was not torn down, but expanded to do so much more. Kudos to the people of Saugerties for keeping it in town and using the old with the new!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Escaping from the World...

Last weekend Jim and I set out on a quest to find an overlook that I used to pass on my way to a Women's Retreat in Spofford, NH. We have set out on this trek in the past with no success. This weekend we hit paydirt!

Since it is Leaf Peeper time here in the northeast, once again we decided to take drive from our home in Saugerties to head over to Spofford to see if the route we chose would help us locate the overlook. We took Route 7 & 9 across New York and Vermont. We have been on these routes many times in the past but never found the scenic overlook I had remembered. It turns out we just didn't go far enough. Route 9 is also known as The Molly Stark Trail and at the highest point on this "trail" is the overlook I remembered.

Unfortunately due to our poor timing the colors were not quite a magnificent as I remember. We were about two weeks later than when I used to travel this route. We also had just experienced heavy winds and flooding rains due to hurricane Nicole this past week. Hence many leaves that were in full color were torn from their branches and blown to oblivion. (One bit of advice - don't trust The Weather Channel's Fall Foliage maps. They had the area as near peak when it was actually past peak.)

So we drove on to our destination of Camp Spofford near Keene, NH. It was nice to see the camp was still there.

The sign deceivingly gave evidence of neglect and wear, but actually I was quite surprised by what we found. We tried to find someone to tell that we wanted to park in the lot and walk around but the one man I did see disappeared before we could catch him. So I headed to the office to see if anyone was there.

The left side of this building is the office/registration area and it was locked. Not a surprise. The right side of this building is the gift shop (closed). It looks small, but this shop could hold almost a ton (ok, a lot) of ladies during our retreats. One time I remember feeling the floor giving way to the weight of all of us (no where near a ton!) traipsing through looking for gifts to take home to our families or to remember the experience by.

We then headed for the Dining Hall to see if anyone could be found and I gave Jim a tour of where we ate many meals during our stays. Hundreds of women took turns eating, serving, setting up and cleaning at this buffet style eatery. (We were told there are plans to rebuild this in the future.) It was here we ran into (almost literally) a young man who was on his way to the refrigerator. We told him that we just wanted to walk around the camp and he was more than obliging. Jim thought we probably caught him taking food he wasn't supposed to be taking and was just happy to send us on our way.

So we started our tour of the camp. First to the little Tentels that I did share once with some friends.

These actually have a wall in the middle and an access door on each side to house up to six people. They offered a full size bed and a single upper bunk bed. They were great for rainy weather, and offered great shelter from the cold. Our retreats were usually held in late September and there could be a nip in the air in the mornings. I imagine they were pretty hot in the summer.

Continuing our tour, we then moved on to the "Lodge" which had a living/gathering room in the center with cathedral ceilings and a fireplace. We tried to get our whole group in here once, but as this was one of the most popular facilities --with real bathrooms -- it was often booked by the time we made our reservations. I did stay in here once with some gals. Most of us would stay in cabins where we shared dorm style rooms. I remember them being really rustic and crude, but I couldn't find them on our visit. So I assume they rebuilt new ones like these to replace them.

We learned the chapel had been rebuilt after a fire destroyed the one I remembered.

 The beach of course was very scenic. It was always too cool to swim here whenever I attended a retreat, but we did go out on the lake on the pontoon boat or rowboat when we had time.

Special Note here:  Jim and I had planned to walk around the lake. I had done it once before and seemed to remember that it was an easy walking trail. Here's a funny - you know how sometimes people remember things BIGGER than they actually are (i.e. the fish we caught). I seem to have a tendency to go the other way...the lake was a lot larger than I remembered. When Jim caught sight of it through the trees as we drove in he said it looked too large for us to make it around before we lost daylight. (We had arrived around 4 p.m.) He was right. The lake was six miles around and thinking my memory of the trail might me off as well, we ditched the hiking idea for a stroll around the camp.

Now back to our tour...
Many heartfelt stories were shared around the campfire. We sometimes reverted back to our childhood and roasted marshmallows or made s'mores.

This gazebo was good for gathering in the rain. It also offered a peaceful getaway when no one else was using it. There is an attached deck that we would come out at night and look at the stars. I remember Louise McClelland, our pastor's wife, sharing some Biblical teaching in this gazebo.

These retreats offered the women of the church a quiet respite from the busyness of their lives. The grounds offered many places to "retreat" and get closer to our Creator.

A view of the camp from the beach.
 The two newest additions that we found were this kayak and the gymnasium.

We assume practicality and building codes forced the camp to build the gym in such a way that is so out of character with the rest of the camp. It is a nice addition however for activities and large gatherings.

While we were there it seemed to be offering itself for some teen party, as balloons were on the door and teenagers were
popping out from all over as we toured.

I hope some of those that have been on these retreats with me will share their memories. The camp provided a great way to get to know each other and to learn more of what God created us all for. Be blessed!

PS - Missing from the pics are the campers. I had the privilege of staying with Louise in her parents camper one year...Camping to the ultimate -- in house bathroom, hot showers, fridge to supply midnight snacks...electric blanket...To think I had swapped out to let Miss Lillian (an elderly sister in the Lord) have my Tentel and ended up with this made me guilt ridden --- not enough to give it up though, lol.