So It’s The Laughter We Will Remember

As 2020 comes to a close, there will be many who say, “Good Riddance!”

Yes 2020 was full of heartache and a never-ending disease, but I always try to remember the good things. And for me there were a lot of good things!

January started off with a trip to Puerto Rico and a 7 night cruise with my daughter. This was my first January as a retired teacher, and we boarded the plane the day I would have had to return to work after the Christmas break. We had a grand old time doing what we do best, soaking up the sun and visiting one beach at a time Island hopping.

The Cruise with my daughter was what got me through the worst parts of the pandemic when everything stopped for “15 Days to Slow the Spread” which we all know went way longer. I would think back and reminisce about the white powdery sands of Punta Cana, overdoing the rum punch in the sun in St. Lucia, hiking in Martinique, souvenir shopping, fine dining, the casino, and especially the walks and talks with my daughter.

My husband and I were supposed to go to The Bahamas for our 30th Wedding Anniversary in March but that was canceled just as all the Caribbean Islands and the airlines came to a stand still. I was really disappointed but I learned from that moment on that you should travel any chance you get! Life is short and you shouldn’t put things off.

In April it was disappointing not being able to go to Church on Easter. I go on a weekly basis, but I especially missed Holy Week and Easter Sunday. Online services never really worked for me, but Rick Warren came through on Easter with a wonderful service. Rick Warren has far more experience with remote Masses than my local church.

My husband was also diagnosed with Covid in April which led to a few weeks of duress for the whole family. Thankfully he never had to be admitted to the hospital, but it was a very stressful time not knowing if things would take a turn for the worse.

The best part about April was that my daughter came home from school. My husband is an essential worker and if my daughter wasn’t home, I would have basically had to quarantine alone. There were no mornings at the gym or trips to the mall so I would have been pretty isolated.

Throughout April, May, and June my daughter and I did many things together which never would have happened if there wasn’t a pandemic. Everyday we would either take very long walks around the neighborhood or visit local trails and preserves right here on Long Island.

After 20 years, I now know all the different blocks and houses in my own neighborhood like I did when I was a kid in my old neighborhood. We strolled around Mill Pond many times, found a new trail to hike short drives away, discovered a Sculpture Park at the Nassau Museum of Art. In the heart of springtime we roamed the Muttontown Preserve, Planting Fields Arboretum, and the Norman Levy Preserve.

During these months in the evening we started doing 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzles. I have fond memories of these nights with my daughter finding ends and corners, sorting pieces, divvying up the sky, grass, fields, snow etc. I got really good at the different blues in the sky and my daughter could always figure out the greens and browns in the fields and the arrays of different colorful flowers. There was always that satisfaction of putting in the final piece and the feeling of triumph. We did ten 1,000 piece puzzles in all. Those nights together were priceless and I will always remember them fondly.

In June we were ready to break out and headed to Binghamton to stay at my daughter’s apartment for a couple of days. The Southern Tier had outdoor dining and we went to Animal Adventure Park and to Buttermilk Falls in Ithaca hiking. It was great to get a change of scenery and it was here I once again realized the value of a road trip. This would turn out to be the first road trip of the summer season, and once again we had a lot laughs and good times on this getaway.

Father’s Day was really nice! We had our usually barbecue and Carvel Whale of the Dad cake too. What made it special though was that my son and his girlfriend finally were able to come over. It was a backyard event and it was a good start at trying to get things back to normal.

Jen’s Doggy Daycare, my dog sitting business fell victim to the virus too. Trip after trip was canceled due to the quarantine which led to zero dogs from March through June.

Then July 4th came! Of course the local fireworks were canceled, but Jen’s Doggy Daycare had a rebirth with Bentley the French Bull Dog and Aria the toy poodle. Both of these pups are what you call quarantine dogs. It really was a great time to get a puppy since families were home full time.

We had dogs all summer and even ended up with Bentley and another pup Lady as regular daycare dogs while their parents were at work. Even though traveling is kind of slow, people started returning to work and needed care for their new puppies while they were away.

In August, my husband and I took a road trip to Cooperstown with a stop at Howe Caverns for 2 nights. This wasn’t the Bahamas, but we got a couple of nights away and enjoyed this town very much.

Before my daughter headed back to school, we went away for a few nights to Cape May, New Jersey and stayed at The Angel of the Sea. I highly recommend this trip to anyone-couples, families, friend. It was a great beach and a fun town. I would definitely go back there again.

Then my daughter went back to school…….

I was sad, but life must always move forward.

In September I tried to go back to the gym, but in the end decided that I actually like my long walks and found great alternatives for yoga, pilates, and other fitness right on YouTube. We celebrated my son’s birthday and discovered another great restaurant in our neighborhood we’ve been missing out on for the past 20 years. My mother-in-law celebrated her 90th birthday and a wonderful outdoor socially distanced party was well orchestrated by my brother-in-law.

I also enjoyed not having to return to work in September for the second time reassured that I knew I made the right decision retiring. Once again I enjoyed the beauty of fall by finding things to do near me.

In October my husband and I were back in Binghamton to celebrate my daughter’s 21st birthday. We had a great hike that day enjoying the upstate fall foliage.

October was also a great time for me to get back into doing crafts. They always say that when you retire you need 3 hobbies: one to make you money, one to keep you fit, and one to keep you creative.

Halloween was definitely different this year with few trick-or-treaters, but I had a great time dressing up all the pups.

In November we finally got to celebrate our 30th anniversary with a trip to Sandals in St. Lucia. The Bahamas trip morphed into a St. Thomas trip then Antigua, but it all worked out with St. Lucia. This was our first time at a Sandals, and we plan to vacation at as many of them in the Caribbean as we can in the near future. Because when should you travel? Any chance you get!

Thanksgiving was only the three of us, but thats what happens as kids grow up and have lives of their own. A few days with my daughter is always a plus and it was great to have her home again, even just for a few days.

December started with my husband’s birthday. It was great to get out and celebrate at The City Cellar. We ate indoors and had some good food and drinks. The waitress even put a candle on the birthday boy’s cheesecake.

I wanted to do somethings this month to celebrate the season and try to have some fun.

My husband and I went to the Jones Beach Christmas Lights which was a great jumpstart to getting into the spirit of the holiday season. It’s fun for all ages!

My daughter came home after finishing her fall semester, and I wanted to be sure to do some holiday outing with her too. The Westbury Gardens had nothing this year, , and we were too late for available tickets to the Milleridge Inn. We did find Bright Lights at the Vanderbilt Mansion and Museum. This was a perfect! It was a warmer evening and my husband came along too. We all really enjoyed this look at Christmas lights of a Gold Coast home.

Christmas Eve and Christmas were as wonderful as always! My daughter and I went to a Christmas Eve mass at our parish and the Monsignor’s homily about family and seeing Jesus in others and the hope that others were see Jesus in ourselves was heartwarming. A very special part of the Mass was at the very end when the Monsignor said he wanted to share something from his childhood with all us. He played an old Bing Crosby Christmas song that touch all of us. It was really special when a few people started singing along, then more and more joined in.

Later in the evening we went to the restaurant that we had discovered over the summer and had a great Christmas Eve dinner full of hope and joy of the Christmas season.

Christmas Day was different not having my son there in the morning, but we enjoyed opening all our gifts the three of us. It was really nice having my son and his girlfriend visit for the day. I guess this is our new normal for now at Christmas. That’s usually what happens. Couples go to one side of the family one night, and the other the next.

So as 2020 comes to a close, I only remember the good things. I pretty much have gone through life only remembering the good things.

As Barbra Streisand sang in “The Way We Were”, “So it’s the laughter we will remember, whenever we remember, the way we were.”

I’m looking forward to 2021 being a great year! I already have some trips planned, my daughter will graduate college, my son and his girlfriend’s love affair will grow stronger, and Charlie and I will celebrate 31 years together.

I’m sure 2021 will fly by like every year seems to do, and I look forward to the laughter and making memories with my family!

Oh Christmas Tree!

The family Christmas Tree is finally decorated. Decorating the Christmas Tree is a big deal to me as it was for my Dad, and as I hope it always will be for my daughter.

When I was a kid we would go out as a family, always on a Sunday to pick out our Christmas Tree. My Dad would choose the biggest, gaudiest tree he could find. They would tie it to the top of my Dad’s big Cadillac and we would drive home in the sealed car full of cigarette smoke.

My Dad preferred decorating the tree on his own. He would lay the tree on its side to screw it in the stand. He would place the angel on the top, the same angel year after year. We had the big colorful hot lights so my Dad would let me put the foil backings on the bulbs which were for preventing the tree from burning down. Then he would string the lights, carefully string the gold garland, and then start on the ornaments.

If I put on an ornament, I would always see later on that it was moved.

Still, I learned a lot watching and was always proud of our family tree, and of my Dad. Everyone would always come to admire Johnny’s tree.

When I grew up and got married I bought a big and gaudy tree too, and decorated it just like my Dad. I had my own angel now which we got in Woolworths. I included the gold garland and lots and lots of tinsel just like Dad.

As time went on, I evolved. I got rid of the gold garland and said good riddance to the nuisance of tinsel which had a million label warnings. I replaced the garland with red bows and used little white lights. More than 25 years later the angel died and I replaced the Woolworth one with one from Amazon.

Along the way, my Dad died. He left all his Christmas ornaments to me.

My daughter and I have been decorating the tree together for years. I almost never move her ornaments.

Today we still decorate the tree together. It’s my favorite part of Christmas. We even have the color lights again, but now they’re cool to touch thanks to technology. We’re still getting a live tree because I’m stubborn and refuse to get an artificial one. I’m hoping my daughter will feel this way too, but I have a feeling that won’t be the case.

We have ornaments for every year 1990-2020.

We have baby first Christmas ornaments and Best Teacher ornaments too.

There are dozens of Disney World ornaments, and ornaments from many of the places we have traveled.

There’s an ornament for each dog we had over the years.

Many ornaments were made by my children and by me too.

my favorite ornaments used to be the ornaments that were once placed on my Dad’s Christmas Tree.

Now they are the ones my daughter gives me!

Bright Lights

I’m always looking for something to do near me and on Long Island you can always find something. During the holiday season this year, I feel it’s especially important to try to find safe and festive activities. No matter what happens, you can’t stop Christmas from coming, so you might as well enjoy the season.

Last week we went to The Jones Beach Christmas Lights, and last night we went to Bright Lights at the Vanderbilt Museum.

The Vanderbilt Museum was once the Gold Coast home of William K. Vanderbilt. Recognized as a potential museum by its owner, Vanderbilt established a trust fund to finance the operation of the museum, and deeded it to Suffolk County, NY upon his death in 1944. The museum opened to the public in 1950.

Today you can and take mansion tours, explore the waterfront grounds including a seaplane and boathouse. In addition, there is a Planetarium Complex where visitors come to holiday shows, educational shows, and even rock laser shows.

This was my first visit to the estate grounds, but my daughter had come in 4th grade for the mansion tour and planetarium. Apparently, all Long Island 4th graders have field trips here.

Bright Lights was an enjoyable evening. We enjoyed strolling the expansive grounds and imagining what life here was like long ago. The grounds were decorated with familiar light displays. The entrance to the courtyard was similar to an expansive drawbridge. The courtyard had me turning in circles imagining the parties that were once held there. The mansion was closed, but I hope to come back for a tour in the spring.

We took pictures with Santa, which was a little different this year, and drank hot cocoa.

This is a fun time for kids and those who are young at heart.

Deck The Halls!!!

After more than 30 years of marriage and a teaching career, We have acquired quite a collection of Christmas decorations for around the house. Many of our decorations are Christmas gifts from my students. Our children also made some of the decorations when they were young in school, and no matter how worn and tired they look I still display them. Some were my parents, and I keep and display these worn and tired decorations too. Whether they were gifts, crafts, holiday favors, department store bought, or holiday clearance items, they all come out from their year long storage to don our home each Christmas.

Many decorations were gifts from my students over the years…

I’d like to say I remember who gave each gift, but I do remember many.

Swedeena gave me the snowman with a bottle of Chanel #5. I’m not sure if the snowman was handmade.

Brendan gave me the Best Teacher Ever hanging which I love because its the only decoration we display specifically for teachers.

Cody gave me the Nativity Snow Globe which plays Hark the Herald Angels Sing… He was a special kid and this was a special gift. I loved his mother too! She was always there to help out.

Keghan gave the glass nativity ornament that no longer lights up. I don’t put it on the tree because it’s too heavy.

I always received coffee mugs because Mrs. Moerler was always drinking coffee.

The hanging Santa came with some kind of lotion or cologne with Santa’s arms around it.

The Let IT Snow nesting boxes were full of sweets.

The Dreams Do Come True plate is one of my favorites but I don’t remember which student gave it to me.

Cody’s Nativity Snow Globe sparked a phase of Snow Globe collecting…

Snow Globes from Disney World, Mary Poppins on Broadway, and a free gift from Target.

Santa comes in many forms…

Some are very old! They were once displayed in my childhood home…

My daughter’s pre-k class enjoyed holiday crafts…

More school crafts…

And here’s a hodgepodge of the remaining decorations…

It’s a hodgepodge of decorations collected over the years. Nothing fancy, but put them all together and it’s my life.

Looking forward to sharing our Christmas tree and all the ornaments!

Jones Beach Christmas Lights

I went with my husband to the Jones Beach Christmas Lights which is actually called Magic of Lights and it was really great!

These days with Covid it’s hard to come up with things to do. We went out to eat last week for my husband’s birthday, but I’m not overly thrilled about indoor dining and outdoor dining these days might as well be indoors with these pop up tents.

If you go to magicoflights.com you can pre order tickets that are good for any day of the week. If you order online tickets are $25 and they scan your ticket right on your phone like a boarding pass. At the gate tickets are $30 Monday-Thursday and $35 Friday- Sunday. Magic of Lights runs from November 13 -January 2, 2021. 5PM- 10PM Sunday-Thursday and 5PM-11PM Friday and Saturday. It is closed on New Years Eve.

We went on a Monday night around 5 like a couple of old people, thinking there would be no line. Turns out a lot of people had the same idea. Magic of Lights is an activity that’s fun for the whole family and safe for anyone who may be worried about catching the virus. This is probably why its so popular, and it’s not like you could go to the movies or your kids sporting event, so more people are looking for fun and safe things to do.

As you enter you can set your car stereo to Walk F.M and Christmas music plays as you drive through the displays. Using the latest LED technology and digital animations you can experience many familiar scenes which I found very nostalgic. For example Twas the Night before Christmas where you see colorful sleeping mouse and Santa coming down the chimney. They also have The 12 Days of Christmas beginning with a partridge in a pear tree and ending with 12 drummers drumming.

They have a few of the overhead light drive throughs which are always fun and many familiar Christmas symbols such as elves, toys, trees, and of course Santa. They take you on a trip around the world and of course they don’t neglect the true meaning of Christmas with the Nativity scene.

I highly recommend this activity to just about anyone. It’s safe, fun, and will help you get in the holiday spirit! Merry Christmas!

Traveling During A Pandemic

I recently returned from a wonderful trip to St. Lucia with my husband. If you spend a lot of time watching the news, you may think we’re crazy, but it was extremely safe and we had a great time!

We were supposed to travel for the first time without kids in more than 25 years for our 30th anniversary in March to The Bahamas, but everyone knows that’s when everything started to turn bad.

That same trip was changed to later in the year to Antigua, then St. Thomas, and finally to Sandals in St. Lucia.

We had to fill out a Travel Authorization Form basically stating who we were and where we were staying. They approved our travel in a few days through an email. We had to print and travel with this form. We also had to get a PCR Covid test within 7 days of traveling and send the results via email. You must travel with this documentation too. To me these were the 2 most complicated things because they were different from previous travel experiences.

Well, due to the pandemic, on our travel day, everything was quick and easy. We were very happy to give our regular limo company for trips some business, and pulling up to the JetBlue terminal was easy. We had a short line to check in our luggage and security. The airport was setup with covid safety protocols throughout.

The flight was on time and boarding was quick and easy since the plane wasn’t full. We had a seat empty between us which was great for comfort and the convenience of not having to sit with a stranger.

We were number one to take off on the runway!

I guess the pilot was happy about all this because he sounded very pleasant as he made the usual announcements about travel time and weather. He was very funny! He welcomed us to The Escape From New York Flight! (Which it was, literally.)

The flight was really uneventful and when we landed you could get off the front or the back of the plane and head to a line where we had our temperature checked and showed our travel documentation and negative PCR tests. We were brandished with a paper bracelet that proved we went through this process. Customs was pretty routine and Sandals representatives were on standby to escort us to the waiting area for our shuttle. Temperature checks and hand sanitizing were mandatory throughout each checkpoint. Our shuttle driver even had his temperature checked.

We shared the shuttle with 2 other couples and we were spaced apart and were required to wear masks. It was a friendly ride and it was great to meet a couple that managed to finally go on their honeymoon. We met many young couples at the resort that were on their honeymoon. It’s nice to know people are still getting married these days!

Throughout our stay at Sandals we felt very comfortable. Everyone working there was required to wear a mask and we were prompted to use the available hand sanitizer often as we navigated the resort. Sun chairs and restaurant seating were all spaced apart. Most restaurants were open air restaurants which was just like doing outdoor dining at home.

Our room was cleaned thoroughly with an emphasis on touch points on a daily basis. We never felt at any point on the vacation that we were risking exposure to the virus, yet the resort was fun and included many of the usual amenities with proper precautions.

We went on one excursion horseback riding and all precautions were taken. They were very diligent and strict about enforcing mask wearing and use of hand sanitizer and hand washing. It was great to be on an excursion and everyone involved was more than willing to follow appropriate protocols.

Returning home was just the same with strict protocols at the airport and once again we were number one for takeoff on the runway!

I know it sounds scary to travel, but in my opinion life is short and fleeting, as I wrote in a previous blog, When should you travel? Any Chance you Get!

I will be traveling again in January because I’m a firm believer in living my life. At this point I have the knowledge of how to take precautions and keep safe, and the Caribbean does too. They are welcoming visitors and taking every step to make Travel safe and fun as it should be!

How Did I End Up Watching So Much News?

I’m not sure exactly how it happened, or when, but somehow my television was on the same cable news channel the entire day. I could tell you what time it was basically by seeing or hearing which news show was on my television.

I retired about a year and a half ago and somehow became a cable news junkie. I didn’t actually sit and watch tv all day, but I had the news on in the background as I went through my day.

In my later years as a teacher, I didn’t have much time for tv because after work I had family obligations and my schoolwork definitely became more complicated. In the evening, I would keep the news on in the background, but that wasn’t always the case though.

Over the years I remember watching sitcoms such as Seinfeld, Everybody Loves Raymond, Roseanne and other shows faithfully. I also never missed Knots Landing, Cold Case, and Parenthood. These shows all ended and I discovered Mad Man, Desperate Housewives, and Rescue Me. I even delved into reality television watching American Idol, The Apprentice, and Chef Ramsey.

Somewhere along the way I couldn’t tell you the name of one primetime show and watching the Emmys would be futile. I didn’t know any channel I should turn to watch anything but the news.

Perhaps I got caught up in the election or politics in general… but now I’m over it and I want to watch anything but the news! I’m learning how to watch television again, but in new and very different ways for me.

I discovered that I can watch Law & Order SVU pretty much anytime of day. I’m definitely not a fan of daytime talk shows, dramas, or courtroom shows. (This may be how I started watching the news in the first place).

I still don’t really know anything to watch on basic cable, but have watched a few things on Netflix. Nurse Ratchet, American Horror Story, Dr. Foster to name a few.

I recently became interested in plant-based eating and watched a few informative documentaries such as Game Changers and What theHealth? This led me to explore more, and I now have an endless supply of documentaries on plant-based eating on Youtube. This takes many forms from documentaries, testimonials, Ted Talks etc. such as Forks Over Knives and Plant PureNation.

Now that we are heading into the winter, my second retired winter, I’m determined not to watch news all day. It’s fine to watch a little local news here and there, but now I’m watching a variety of genres mostly on Netflix and YouTube. SVUs too.

I’m also learning to just leave the tv off and not just have it on for the sake of having it on. I’m putting music on and also find myself just kind of singing or just enjoying the solitude. I’m no longer a cable news junkie!

I have a feeling if I was watching too much news, that there’s a whole group of people just like me. There’s a lot more out there than the 24/7 News Cycle!

Mid 50’s Lifestyle Changes for Better Health and Wellness

My father used to tell me, “Jennifer your 40’s are great. It’s in your 50’s that the chips start to fall off the block.” Well I’m 56 and suddenly the chips are starting to fall! I’ve decided to make some lifestyle changes for better health and wellness.

All my life I’ve had to watch my weight and have yo yo dieted more times than I can count. My dieting days go way back to the Scarsdale Diet, Tab, Fresca, and Jack La Lanne.

I’ve been on Atkin’s, Weight Watchers (Many Versions), South Beach, Jenny Craig, Coffee and Cigarettes, Low Carb, No Carb, Keto, etc, etc.

In 2019, I gave up meat and dairy for Lent and pretty much haven’t gone back except when going out to eat, take out on weekends, or vacations. I never eat cake, cookies, sweets, or carbs besides an occasional pita bread unless its a celebration. I live mostly on fruits and vegetables in season. I have kept my weight at a healthy number. Recently I had two trips to the doctor where my blood pressure wasn’t its usual 110/70. First chip off the block!

During the pandemic with the gym closed, my daughter and I took up walking. We visited many preserves and went hiking on local trails, and began taking more than 60 minute walks a day around the neighborhood. Walking is good for the heart and I was surprised that my blood pressure was high. Regardless, regular walking is one habit I plan to keep for the remainder of my days.

In regards to my blood pressure, I looked more closely at my eating habits and discovered that grated parmesan cheese has plenty of sodium. I had not given this up because if you are Italian, you put grated cheese on everything. There’s an old saying, “You should stop talking to anyone who comments about the amount of grated cheese you use. Who needs that kind of negativity in your life?”

So, I replace the grated cheese with pepper and pretty quickly have brought my blood pressure back to its usual range. Apparently, my body is now sensitive to the amount of sodium I consume.

I recently had a physical, and as a stated my blood pressure was now normal, but I was very surprised to find out that my cholesterol was 216. Previously it was always in the 160’s. Another chip off the block!

I don’t eat meat and cheese, but I do eat eggs. I guess I was overdoing it with the eggs as my cholesterol showed. Now I have to go back in 3 months for another fasting blood test. This is the first time this has happened. Usually I just return annually. Another chip off the block!

I gave up the eggs. Now I’m down to fruit and vegetables and I added in whole oats and chick peas and black beans. One day a week, sometimes two we go out or get take out, but basically I eat zero animal products. This is my new norm for health and wellness.

During the pandemic while the gym was closed, I finally figured out how to utilize YouTube for exercise. I really like it! I can explore endless instructors and different kinds of exercise programs. Yoga and Pilates are my 2 main interest areas. I try a class and if I don’t like it, I can just changed it. It’s a definite plus. There’s no awkwardness about leaving a class or not returning to a class. I also don’t have to worry about what I wear which in Garden City you can it caught in that fashion trap. YouTube is great for a dog sitter because I don’t have to leave them and go off to the gym. The dogs all seem to know when its exercise time and usually doze off for a while. A Frenchie I watch always sits on the end of the mat and I work around him.

Recently my gym opened up and at first I decided I didn’t want to go back just yet, but then I had a change of heart. I returned for a couple of barre classes and Pilates, but found that my lower back was really acting up. Another chip off the block!

A couple of mornings I could barely walk and if I sat down too long I got really stiff. Well apparently I have sciatica and some other disc issues and visit a chiropractor regularly now. Another chip off the block!

Now I’m back to the vigorous walking and some hiking. Occasionally I get heel pain, but that seems to subside pretty quickly. I’m back on YouTube bouncing from Pilates, Yin Yoga, and Flow. I ordered 5 pound weights from Amazon to keep my arms firm because my weak triceps are another chip off the block.

My health and wellness in my mid 50’s is now regular walks, yoga and Pilates. No jumping and nothing too strenuous.  The chiropractor is now a regular thing which I kind of enjoy because we have lively talks about politics.  

I eat fruits and vegetables in season which is currently cantaloupe and apples. I buy blueberries year round no matter how much they cost. I make sautés of vegetables – currently red onions, peppers, and fresh spinach and mix in some beans and have a pita bread. Soon it will be time for air frying brussel sprouts and other winter veggies.

I do cheat on Saturdays and at celebrations. I have a few upcoming vacations planned too. I’m hoping that my commitment to my health and wellness on most days will pay off in the long run. I’ll return for my blood work in a few months and I’m sure without all the eggs I’ve was eating it will be well under 200.

I am blessed at 56 to be a “young 56” and I plan to fight for my health and wellness every step of the way. It is said that health is the real wealth. Without your health you don’t really have anything.

Cooperstown, New York

Last month my husband and I took a road trip to Cooperstown, New York. It is a great little town and we really enjoyed our two night stay there. On the way to Cooperstown, you pass right by Howe Caverns so we figured we might as well plan a pit stop there. It was definitely a one time thing, but fun.

This would be our first time staying in a Bed and Breakfast in our 30 year marriage. We thought it would be fun to try now that we were traveling without kids. When we arrived at the Landmark Inn we were very happy with its outward appearance. We figured we give checking in a shot, but soon learned that B&Bs are not hotels. Check in time was FIRM!

We drove over to Main Street which is literally Main Street USA! God Bless America all the way! I instantly fell in love. We strolled around Main Street to get a sense of things and wandered down some side streets and discovered Lake Front Park on Otsego Lake. We had a great lunch at Cooley’s Stone House Tavern. Indoor dining had pretty much just returned to Cooperstown , and you could tell the employees were very happy about that.

After lunch we decided to head over to play mini golf which was a short straight drive down Chestnut Avenue since it was still too early for checkin at the B&B. We thought Barnyard Swing was the greatest mini golf site! Not only was it a fun and challenging course, the best classic rock hits of all time streamed through the large speakers as we made our way from one hole to the next. We liked it so much we actually came back the next day to play again!

Finally it was time to check in. We learned that our room was actually not in the house but around back. We had a Key West theme room which had a separate entrance and porch. It was a little disappointing to find out that we wouldn’t have a daily cleaning service, afternoon tea and cookies, and evening wine. Apparently, the coronavirus was the reason. We accepted that, but when I went to Cape May with my daughter a week later, Angel of the Sea managed to clean our room and have the afternoon tea, cookies, wine and antipasto.

Like I said, this was our first B&B and we didn’t know any better. The breakfast didn’t options and the serving was so small we had lunch both days of our stay. Lunch was not needed at my Cape May stay.

On our full day in Cooperstown we went to the Hall of Fame, the Fenimore Art Museum, and wandered around the Cooperstown neighborhood, played mini golf, ate at the best Northern Italian restaurant, Northern Italian Grill and got ice-cream.

The Hall of Fame is fun for the whole family. Its great for baseball fans of course, but it really is a great place to see American history and American Heroes.

The Fenimore Art Museum is right on Otsego Lake. It’s a great museum on beautiful grounds. It’s definitely worth a visit.

The Northern Italian Grill is a must do! Kind of dream of living in this beautiful town and eating here on Saturday nights! Perfect place!

On the morning before we drove home we visited the Doubleday Field and the Main Street Bakery. Every Little Leaguer dreams of playing on this field. The bakery is truly like stepping back in time to Main Street USA. The people who live here are fortunate to be able to frequent this establishment regularly.

We really love this town and will have fond memories of our getaway.

Cooperstown Notable Names

William Cooper, was a wealthy land speculator, county judge, and father of novelist James Fenimore Cooper. The village of Cooperstown on Lake Otsego in central New York is a shrine to pure Americana, the home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. *Source Wikipedia

It was incorporated as the “Village of Otsego” on April 3, 1807. The name was changed to “Village of Cooperstown June 12, 1812, after the founder. William Cooper was appointed as a county judge in the late 18th century and was elected to the state assembly from Otsego County. *Source Wikipedia

Otsego Lake takes its name from the Iroquois Indians, who inhabited the area around the lake in and before the 17th century. The name Otsego is from a Mohawk word meaning “place of the rock”, referring to the large boulder near the lake’s outlet, today known as Council Rock. *Source Wikipedia

James Fenimore Cooper (September 15, 1789 – September 14, 1851) was an American writer of the first half of the 19th century. His historical romances depicting frontier and Native American life from the 17th to the 19th centuries created a unique form of American Literature. He lived much of his boyhood and the last fifteen years of life in Cooperstown, New York which was founded by his father William on property that he owned. *Source Wikipedia

The Doubleday myth refers to the belief that the sport of baseball was invented in 1839 by future American Civil War general Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, New York. In response to a dispute over whether baseball originated in the United States or was a variation of the British game, rounders the Mill Commission was formed in 1905 to seek out evidence. Mining engineer Abner Graves authored a letter claiming that Doubleday invented baseball. The letter was published in a newspaper and eventually used by the Mills Commission to support its finding that the game was of American origin. In 1908, it named Doubleday the creator of baseball. *Source Wikipedia

Cape May and Angel of the Sea

Now that I’m retired, one of my life goals is to visit one beach at a time. I do have my local beaches on Long Island which are beautiful, and in the past year I traveled to some really nice beaches in the Caribbean, but things are different now.

I was looking for a quick getaway with my daughter and with Covid that means road trip. We either like beaches or amusement parks, and amusement parks are definitely not the greatest choice at the moment.

I was scrolling through my Instagram one afternoon and an advertisement for Angel of the Sea came up. It is a bed and breakfast in Cape May, New Jersey. I did my research using Google and Tripadvisor and we decided to check it out. It advertised being steps away from the beach and boardwalk and had quite a few amenities.

It’s an easy drive from New York along the Garden State Parkway to Cape May. It took us a little more than 3 hours. As we arrived, I quickly felt reminiscent of my childhood growing up in Rockaway Beach, New York. The town looked how Rockaway did many years ago with the large Victorian homes.

We were early of course for check- in so we decided to take a stroll on the main drag Beach Avenue where you have the boardwalk on the seaside with some shops and eateries, and homes, restaurants, shops, motels, and hotels on the opposite side. We just loved this first walk down this strip exploring. We probably walked back in forth about ten times in our 4 day stay. We discovered quaint little surf shops, eateries and even a couple of mini golf places which I always seem to find on vacation. We got an ice coffee and snack and headed back to get some sun on the beach.

Angel of the Sea provides chairs and towel and you pay a $5 fee per day for a beach pass as you enter the beach. The beach is large and very clean. We found it very easy to social distance with our chairs close to the shore. Again I was reminiscent of my childhood in Rockaway. The beach atmosphere was very much the same.

Couples were playing frisbee and Kadima. Kids were digging and building sand castles and other structures, and there were a lot of boogie boards. The ocean was great! The waves were what we use to call “Dive or Die” waves. You either went under, rode the wave in, or got knocked over. FUN!

Also as you sat on the shore planes flew by with their advertisements for everything under the sun. I haven’t seen those planes in years. There were speedboats, party boats, jet skiers galore. It was an overall happening scene.

Angel of the Sea was a pleasant surprise! Our room was a 3rd floor walk up Victorian themed and perfect for a mother-daughter stay with a scenic porch steps away. Everyday we had a delicious breakfast where we had choices for our entree. I tend to choose the one with the most carbs when I’m on vacation. We had all the juice, coffee, and fruit and breakfast pastries our heart desired.

In the afternoon they have tea and pastries, but I was very happy to find out you can have coffee too. This was perfect after a day at the beach. In the evening, they have antipasto and wine! This was great! A couple of glasses of Moscato and some salty hors d’ oeuvres really hit the spot. The service was so efficient and pleasant and the best part was the outdoor seating on the Angel of the Sea porch with the salt air and scenery.

Our nights were filled with long walks, seaside outdoor dining restaurants, ice cream and of course mini- golf.

There’s a great shopping area called the Washington Street Mall. There’s plenty of souvenir shops, specialty shops, food and drink.

Cape May is the kind of place where you can eat at pizza places like Carney’s and reasonably priced restaurants like Mermaids or you can eat at the $60 per person or live lobster joints. You can get ice cream and falafel at Seaview Beach Eats or walk up lobster rolls and Italian ices. Cape May is great for whatever kind of vacation you’re looking for.

Of course one night we went on the beach to take the classic Cape May lifeboat and lifeguard chair photos.

There was plenty more to do in Cape May. We were provided with bicycles but unfortunately my daughter isn’t the greatest rider, so we walked the backstreets exploring the different Victorian homes. They have trolley tours and horse and carriage rides. You can climb the infamous lighthouse or visit the historic district.

I highly recommend Cape May and Angel of the Sea for a beach vacation. In the year of the road trip, I’m glad we found this gem. My daughter and I will have fond memories of our trip to Cape May!

Howe Caverns

When I was a teen in the early 1980s, I didn’t have instant access to answers to questions I had, or things I wondered about. My resources were my parents, the Encyclopedia Brittanica, and the local library; and these resources often weren’t very useful in answering my questions.

When my close friend bought her first used car when we were 17 it was the typical “first car” you had in those days. Pretty old and dated, no bells and whistles, just the basics. We didn’t care it got us some new found freedom and lots of good times.

One thing this old Chevy had was a bumper sticker that said, Howe Caverns. We had no idea what Howe Caverns was, and no one we asked knew either. Some nights we would walk from the boardwalk in a “fog” and pass by the car and giggle, “Howe Caverns” blissfully ignorant to what the heck that bumper sticker really meant.

Thirty something years later, I googled road trip/day trip ideas from Long Island. Wouldn’t you know it, what would come up on the list was Howe Caverns! I chuckled and was back in time for a few moments.

That was last year long before the pandemic. When I read how long the drive was I kind of lost interest for a day trip, but I finally knew that Howe Caverns was a very popular tourist attraction where you explored a cave. It stated it had a motel and pool but the whole idea just went by the wayside.

This year is the year of the road trip! My husband and I decided that we were going to go to Cooperstown for a couple of days. When I researched Things to do in Cooperstown wouldn’t you know it, Howe Caverns came up on the list! When I brought it up to my husband he laughed and said a friend mentioned to him that we should check it out because its on the way to Cooperstown.

Howe Caverns is in rural Schoharie County, New York. The exact address is 255 Discovery Drive, Howes Cave, NY. It literally is Howes Cave NY because there really isn’t anything else in the area.

It took us little more than 3 hours from Long Island to get there. They were very organized and I was surprised how popular this place really was. They have a tour every 15 minutes and they were booked. Of course the number of people were curtailed from the norm to allow for social distancing. As we waited for our tour we took a walk around, and the motel, pool, and restaurant definitely weren’t up to my usually vacation standards, but we did have a good time on our tour!

We had an entertaining young man as our tour guide. His comedy was kind of like being on the Jungle Cruise at Disney World. We learned how Mr. Howe discovered the cave, toured the cave admiring the wonders that have been formed from years of erosion, and even had a fun boat ride. All in all we had a good time.

I personally wouldn’t recommend Howe Caverns as your only destination. We went on our way to Cooperstown and I’m sure there are countless places in upstate NY you could visit before or after your trip to Howe Caverns. From what I saw, I wouldn’t recommend an overnight stay. They did have a nice gift shop if you wanted a souvenir and the large chocolate chip cookies looked pretty good.

They do have some haunted Halloween events coming up which I would imagine would be pretty scary in the cave. I would do that if I was passing through on my way to or from somewhere else.

At least the mystery is solved and I now know what Howe Caverns is. The pandemic was definitely good for bringing back the great American road trip.

I Think I Reached Phase 4

Dog Sitting during a Pandemic

When I retired last year from teaching, my plan was to make some side money dog sitting so I could travel. I’ve been dog sitting for about 5 years now, always with the plan that this would be my side hustle.

All was going as planned…

When I retired last year in the end of June, my daughter and I went to Universal Studios and were back in time for the usual Fourth of July rush @ Jen’s Doggy Daycare. As always we would be celebrating our guest Wallace’s birthday with all his dog pals. The summer was busy as usual with “regulars” and new pups keeping me content and busy.

In the fall, I was able to travel to D.C. and to visit friends in Massachusetts. My plan was working!

Holidays are always hectic @Jen’s Doggy Daycare with my regulars Sadie whose Mom goes to see her son in Miami or her daughter in Los Angeles, and Yofi whose Mom prides herself in planning extended extravagant trips at the end of each year. We celebrated the New Year with new dogs Toby and D.J. whose parents went off to Jamaica for a family getaway.

In January, my daughter and I went on a 10 day getaway to Puerto Rico and a cruise. I was sure to start this vacation as all my teacher friends were returning to work. Made it kind of bittersweet.

When we returned I had a pretty busy February and March dog sitting. Things were really going great and I was looking forward to celebrating my 30th wedding anniversary in The Bahamas in the end of March.

That’s when everything changed….

It soon became very apparent that it wasn’t a very good idea to go on this trip, no matter how much we were looking forward to it. JetBlue was great about a credit for a future JetBlue Vacation. It was just about right at this moment, most people’s worlds came to a screeching halt for “15 Days to Slow the Spread”.

If you think about it,

With my one single vacation cancellation: the dog sitter doesn’t get paid, the limo driver doesn’t have a run, the shuttle guy doesn’t get paid and no tip, no tips for the bartenders and no money spent on excursions and souvenirs. The airline and hotel workers have less and less reason to keep paying a worker. Worst of all, little did we all know that it was going to be a lot more than 15 days.

And just like that, Jen’s Doggy Daycare went dark...

If there’s no weekend getaways, no cruises, no European trips, no Caribbean vacations, no business travel…. There’s no Jen’s Doggy Daycare. So many bookings were cancelled for the next few months. Some were rescheduled and cancelled again.

Slow start back…

March, April and May were quiet but here in the NY suburbs, things slowly started getting better, and slowly Jen’s Doggy Daycare started anew. I actually had a meet and greet! Lola, a lapso apso was suppose to stay Memorial Day weekend. They changed their plans and she ended up staying for just Sunday night, but it was a start. One dog, one night in May on Memorial Day Weekend.

Lola came for a couple of over night stays in June, and then an extended weekend. (They had family to stay with in NJ.) Bruno whose family cancelled during spring break came for Father’s Day weekend while his parents went to Montauk. (This year is definitely the year of the road trip.)

I think I reached phased four…

July 4th weekend was the real turning point for Jen’s Doggy Daycare. Bentley the French bulldog puppy came to stay. Bentley is what you call a quarantine puppy. It turns out during the extended lockdown, many people decided that it was a great time to get a dog. People had plenty of time for training, and dogs are always a good idea if you need some cheering up. Bentley came for one weekend, then another, and now comes twice a week for daycare while his parents are at work.

Fancy’s parents went to see their daughter for a weekend in Albany. Aria’s parents whose Mom is a must teacher, hence the name went to Alaska. Aria is a mini poodle who also is a result of the quarantine. Her parents are first time dog owners. I’m hoping to watch Aria for years to come. Roxie the cavapoo was back for an overnight stay. Buster the beagle stayed a week in August while his family were in Pennsylvania. I really like a beagle!

In addition, the daycare side of Jen’s Doggy Daycare has been very active with day trips and people visiting from the city (also with new quarantine puppies) who need a place to leave their puppy while attending various parties.

The future is looking bright…

I squeezed in a road trip with my husband to Cooperstown and I’m heading to Cape May with my daughter for a few days. I’m back to watching dogs and traveling. Like I said, its clearly the summer that road trips made a comeback.

I have bookings for the remainder of August, Labor Day, and September, and of course I have Bentley a couple of days a week for daycare. I feel blessed knowing that Jen’s Doggy Daycare’s future is bright, and look forward to many more years of dog sitting and traveling because my ultimate goal is for me to live a happy retirement life!

Teladoc to the Rescue

Update! I must give another shout out to Teladoc. I think they are the single best thing to come out of this pandemic.

I went to the beach this week during the heatwave and went in the ocean numerous times and have water stuck in my right ear. I tried all the techniques suggested on the Internet for relief with no success. So what do you do? You log in to Teladoc!

In March, in the heart of the pandemic, I had an eye issue and discovered Teladoc. It is the greatest service. All you do is create a profile on their site and put in your concern and they give you the option to call you or FaceTime you.

This time on a Saturday morning at 7AM standing in my kitchen in my pajamas, I received a phone call after two minutes of logging in. The doctor patiently listened to my concerns, asked me a few questions and suggested an antibiotic ear drop. He also gave me suggestions for a follow up if the issue wasn’t resolved.

Like I said, I think Teladoc is the greatest thing to happen during the pandemic. It brought back the days of just calling the doctor and getting a prescription. It may not be your own personal doctor, but it’s the next best thing.

When you have minor issues that can be addressed without having to wait for an appointment and visit the doctor, I suggest Teledoc. There’s no traveling. No waiting. No risk of interacting with a sick or contagious person. In addition, with my insurance there is no cost!

In a few minutes, I’ll be going through the CVS drive through and picking up my prescription and on the road to recovery.

What do you do when you need a doctor? Call Teladoc!

Chihuahuas Are My Favorite People

One of my favorite sayings is, “Dogs are welcome. People are tolerated.” As a lifelong dog mom and as a dog sitter this statement is very true. I love watching all kinds of dogs for day trips, weekends, or extended stays, but my favorite dog to have for my very own is a chihuahua.

In Dog Sitter Life, I wrote about my pug Fiona. She’s a great family dog and always fun and loving. I also wrote about my less outgoing handsome puppy mill rescue dog Stitch the Yorkie. In I Miss You All The Time, I wrote about my soul dog Gabby.

Gabby was the love of my life! We had a connection that I have never had with any other dog, and with few people. She got me! When she got sick and died I was so heart broken and lost without her.

Chihuahuas are notorious for being loyal to one person, and I was very fortunate to be that person. She only had eyes for me and we were attached at the hip. Two peas in a pod. She could look me in the eye and touch me like few people I have ever known.

Last summer, I spent the whole summer without her which made me sad because blue skies, sunshine, and soaking up the sun was the epitome of Gabby and me. My Instagram posts say it all… Blue skies, sunshine and Gabby….Another great day with Gabby… Summer Sunday Selfie with Gabby…

Well… the whole summer went by and I was pretty busy dog sitting and life went on. September came and for the first time in my life I didn’t have to go back to school. I started browsing rescue sites for chihuahuas. I was just looking because I could never replace Gabby. Most of the chihuahuas were mixed and none were teacup anyway. I would let that thought go and resume planning new vacations and living my new retired life.

Then I got it in my head that maybe I would volunteer at a dog shelter. One of the local shelters was having an event at a pet store near me, so I figured I check them out. I walked into the pet store and one of the volunteers was holding a teacup chihuahua! What are the odds? Arthur was the cutest thing, and I was so happy when she let me hold him. She kind of went off to do other things and left me with him. I texted my daughter and husband who agreed he was adorable, and showed no resistance in the idea of me adopting him. I held him for a long while, then I got this feeling of being disloyal to Gabby. I gave him back, thanked the girl, and went home.

I went home but I wasn’t happy… The next morning when I woke up I completed an online application for Arthur. How could there be a less than 1 year old teacup chihuahua available for me to rescue and then let it go?

We went off to D.C. to celebrate my son’s birthday for a couple of days. When we returned I had a very comprehensive phone interview and a home visit. We found out that Arthur was found walking the streets somewhere in Texas. He seemed really comfortable with my husband (haha) and was very social with the other dogs. Of course we passed the interview and visit. Then we headed back to the store to pick him up.

When we went to pick him up he was in a small carrier and seemed very nervous. I promised myself right there that I would never put him in a carrier again. We had to get a name tag, leash, and collar before we were able to adopt him. Arthur became Andy because all our dogs are named after Disney characters. Plus Arthur isn’t the greatest name for a chihuahua.

It is said that when adopting a dog it takes your dog 3 days to try to figure out their new home and family. 3 weeks to figure out that they will live with you and start a routine. 3 months to feel like part of the family.

Andy was very comfortable with my other dogs and any dog I was petsitting right from the beginning. He was potty trained which is a plus when you rescue a dog that was living in a foster home. He was leery of people and kept his distance which was weird since he didn’t mind it in the pet store when I met him, and with my husband at the home visitation.

It didn’t take long for him to gravitate toward me though. He was jealous of other dogs getting attention and started kissing me, and eventually letting me pick him up. One thing that was very different from Gabby was that he was very food oriented. I could lure him easily with promise of a treat. We figured his prior experiences of having to find food made him this way. To this day I have to worry about overfeeding him because he gets fat so easily.

In a short while, I became his person . Of course! He loves routine and hates when you waver from it. Andy loves to wake up at sunrise, jump all over me and kiss me to death, and literally go dancing through the house. Probably because he’s going to eat. lol

Andy makes friends with all the dogs. Our own, and our visitors.

Andy loves all the holidays. He participated in the blessing of the animals, Halloween and Christmas.

Andy is here about 9 months now and he definitely feels like part of the family. Like most Chihuahuas he is loyal to one person- me. He’s not really interested in any other humans at all. We have moments of real connection where we communicate with just our eyes. The sweetest thing he does is kiss and kiss my face incessantly then nuzzle under my neck where I kiss his head repeatedly making the muh muh sound. He nudges my ankle to pick him up which I do immediately. We are surely on the road to a lasting relationship.

Some people are dachshund lovers. Some love golden retrievers. Some families will keep adopting beagles. I’m a chihuahua person. They are my favorite people!

Bailey Arboretum

I’ve known my whole life that the beach was my happy place. Growing up in Rockaway Beach, N.Y just one house from the boardwalk and ocean, my friends would call me (on the house phone) to see if there were waves, and I would stretch the long telephone wire onto the porch to check it out. The beach was all I knew growing up being kind of isolated on the peninsula, and I can count on one hand the number of family vacations we took.

When I got married and had kids we visited The Poconos, Disney World (lots of times), and went on various cruises. Of course we visited Caribbean Islands and beautiful beaches, but there was always somewhere else kind of tugging me in another direction. I discovered that I enjoyed strolling and hiking in wooded areas.

As we moved away from Disney trips, my daughter and I always made it a point to go on at least one hike per trip. We explored the El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico, a bamboo forest in Hawaii, rain forests in St. Lucia, Curacao, and recently in Martinique on our cruise in January. Booking a hiking excursion became as important as booking a beach excursion.

Somewhere along the way in our marriage, we moved to Long Island for better schools for our kids. Being a teacher, I still had my summers with Long Island beaches and our annual family vacation. Last year everything changed. I no longer spent my days at work and my nights planning and preparing for the next day. I no longer just planned and looked forward to my annual family vacation. I retired!

My life now revolves around dog sitting, planning vacations, and finding things to do near me. Summer was like it always was, but in the fall I started looking for things to do near me, and for the first time in a long time I enjoyed the season of fall. One of the places we discovered was the Bailey Arboretum.

Bailey Arboretum is located on the North Shore of Long Island in Lattingtown, N.Y. There’s 42 acres of trails and gardens and you can visit throughout the year for free. They do have events such as Family Day and Popcorn and Pajamas. My husband and I enjoyed getting lost along the leaf littered trails and enjoying all the beauty fall had to offer here on Long Island. We visited many leaf littered wooded areas on Long Island and for the very first time in a long time, I was able to take a deep breath and enjoy the beauty of the fall season.

Turns out spring is even nicer than the fall walking through these wooded areas. I wrote about the beauty of The Muttontown Preserve and Planting Fields Arboretum previously, and how great it is to find things to do near me, and the awesomeness of spring green. Emerald green is the dominant color.

I never really noticed much about spring except the blooming flowers and trees that popped like the magnolia and cherry blossom. Spring in recent years was a countdown to summer and my summer vacation.

Visiting the Bailey Arboretum in the spring looks far more beautiful to me than it did in the fall. It radiated renewal and hope. Turtles and frogs were soaking up the sun in the pond and birds were singing their songs throughout the acres of trails and gardens.

There is a section called Turtle Island. When we went in the fall we did not see any turtles, and this time I made a joke about there being no turtles on Turtle Island. And then, exactly as they advertise, two turtles were basking in the sun on a log. They have chairs are set up for you to sit and rest and enjoy the island.

A wonderful section at the Arboretum is the Children’s Garden. We felt like kids walking the grounds where you can climb, make your mark with chalk, swing, playhouse, or just rest. My daughter instantly became childlike as she played with the chalk. Shortly after we left this section a band of cheering kids entered and were playing and having a great time just as the garden was intended to be used for.

The arboretum sits on the former estate of Frank and Marie Louise Bailey. That was news to me until we stumbled on a house on the grounds which we inferred was part of the original estate. It was the Bailey’s summer home purchased in 1911. Frank Bailey was a self taught horticulturalist and left his mark on the 40 plus acres in Locust Valley, NY. The property was donated to Nassau County in 1968 and has been under the care of the Friends of Bailey Arboretum since 2006. The estate and grounds can be rented for special occasions.

So if you don’t know, an arboretum is a botanical garden devoted to trees. As you walk the paths and trails, especially this time of year, the trees are simply breathtaking. The grass is emerald green and there’s not a falling leaf in sight.

Bailey Arboretum is a great find close to home. I highly recommend it to people of all ages to stroll, explore, or just to sit in relax among nature.

Why Not Take a Road Trip?

Living on Long Island is great, but a change of scenery is even better. In the world we are all living in right now, why not take a road trip?

I just came back from a road trip to Binghamton and Ithaca New York with my daughter, and we had a great time. The Southern Tier of New York has plenty to offer, and basically our trip was really about just getting away and being somewhere different.

We had a good time on our 3 day 2 night getaway. We went to Animal Adventure Park, Buttermilk Falls in Ithaca, and we were out in about in Downtown Binghamton.

Animal Adventure Park was way better than I expected! As a teacher I’ve been on field trips to local small zoos like the Prospect Park Zoo and Staten Island Zoo, but this place was 1,000 times better! When you look at their website they advertise and promote the giraffes- April, Oliver, Tajiri, and Johari, but I was very surprised to discover that there were tons of animals to see and that you could spend a great deal of time visiting. The giraffes were amazing! They are very friendly and you can get great photos with them. For a small fee you can buy carrots to feed them, and you will quickly learn how long a giraffe’s tongue really is. You always hear about how long their necks are but never about their tongues.

Animal Adventure Park is located Harpursville, NY which is just about a 15 minute drive from downtown Binghamton. It is open 7 days a week from 10am-4pm. My daughter and I paid $13.99 each for 2 adult tickets and I thought it was definitely worth it. If you come with a family, children under 2 are free and children under 12 are $11.99. When we paid our admission, we were asked if we wanted to buy a cup of food to feed the animals which was $3 each. At first I was a little surprised by the price, but the 2 cups of food lasted the whole visit and were also souvenir cups. Besides it was definitely worth it because we had such a blast feeding the animals. I always enjoy watching the brazen ones who try to bully everyone else or the clever ones that go way out of the way from the other animals pushing and shoving for food. We always make sure to feed the timid ones who just can’t break through the crowd.

As we were walking around we were continuously surprised by the amount of different animals to see at this little known animal park. We saw sloths, reindeer, bison, tamandua, camels, lions, zebras, and many other animals I didn’t think would be here. Most of these small zoos usually let you down with the actual amount of animals. available.

There were also an endless amount of birds such as penguins, macaws, ducks, flamingoes, toucans, and many more!

We had a great time at Animal Adventure Park wandering around encountering beautiful animals. It was nice to visit a gift shop and snack stand where I got a hot pretzel and my daughter got Dots ice cream. I would highly recommend visiting this park!

On another day we visited Buttermilk Falls State Park. This was about an hour drive from Downtown Binghamton. If you already read my blog you know my daughter and I enjoying hiking nature trails on Long Island and visiting various preserves and gardens, so this place was right up our alley. We paid $8 to park our car and we were on our way. There’s a large picnic area and a huge waterfall that leads to a large natural pool that under normal circumstances you would be able to swim in. After our hike it would have been great to cool off in, but it was still relaxing to sit by, and very beautiful.

People come to this park to camp and you can bring your RV but we came to hike the trails. There are 4 trails: Lake Treman (Easy), Bear Trail (Moderate) Rim Trail (Strenuous) and Gorge Trail (Strenuous). At first we didn’t know where we were suppose to go, but a nice family suggested we start at the Rim Trail and it will lead to the Gorge Trail and bring us around in a loop to the pool, and that’s what we did. And it turned out we hiked the two strenuous trails. We didn’t know it at the time, but it definitely was a lot more challenging than the Long Island trails we were use to. Rim Trail was uphill at first then became a woodland area that was much easier to navigate.

We walked along for awhile and then seemed to be on the street and then came around and ended up on the Gorge Trail which was magnificent! This was much different from our usual trails on Long Island. The water was flowing everywhere and shaping and eroding the rocks into magnificent textures and shapes. Waterfalls and natural pools flowed and shaped the rocks.

We got some great scenic pics on bridges and slippery steps along the way.

We spent sometime sitting by the pool and then headed off to Ithaca Commons which apparently wasn’t really up and running. Usually there are nice little shops to browse in for somewhat unusual items.

The remainder of our trip was spent in downtown Binghamton. It was fun walking around by the Twin River Park and walking along the river. We also discovered Peacemaker Plaza which was rather nice. As you walk along the promenade they have plaques from people influential to African American History such as Rosa Parks and Fannie Lou Hamer. The entry has a beautiful statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. Of course we enjoyed some outdoor dining as Binghamton was a phase ahead of us in opening.

Sometimes all you need is a couple of days away and a change of scenery. In When Should You Travel? Any Chance You Get? I wrote about another time we went to Binghamton to spend the day for my daughter’s birthday. That time we visited Ross Park Zoo, The Phelps Museum, the Cutler Botanic Garden, Dos Rios Cantina, and 205 Dry.

I love to travel as is evident in my Cruise Travel piece and When Should You Travel? but with the ways things are this summer, I think we will stick to road trips. Why not?

Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park

It’s funny how you can live in an area for 20 years and not be aware of the many beautiful places you can visit in your own backyard. I spent the last 20 years raising my children, commuting back and forth to work, and taking our annual family vacation. I visited and knew about the more well known places near me like Jones Beach and Old Westbury Gardens. We strolled around Mill Pond Park and took an occasional hike in Cold Spring Harbor, but apparently there’s so much more to see and do.

As a retired teacher and now a dog sitter I enjoy traveling, but I often look for things to do near me. I discovered in the fall that I could find somewhere different to visit just by googling Things to do near me. This year I appreciated the beauty of fall for the first time without all the hustle and bustle of teaching. The spring season has been no different. As beautiful as the reds and golds are in the fall, so are the green and pink and purple hues of spring.

My daughter and I have discovered many Preserves and Parks this spring on Long Island from Muttontown to Merrick. Our latest discover is the Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park. The name “Planting Fields” comes from the Matinecock Native Americans who cultivated the soil in the clearings above Long Island Sound. It is located in the village of Upper Brookville in Oyster Bay NY. Like the Oheka Castle in Huntington, NY owned by Otto Hermann Kahn and his wife Addie, Planting Fields was home to William Robertson Coe and his wife Mary during America’s Gilded Age on the Gold Coast of Long Island. The original Coe Hall burned down in 1918 and was replaced soon after.

We were very surprised at the size of Planting Field. It turns out that it is over 400 acres and includes nature walks, gardens, huge open areas and woodlands. We knew from the moment we started walking around that we would definitely need many visits to thoroughly explore all the trails and gardens. The huge open space made us feel as we were far, far away from home. Like we took a long road trip to the country.

The Coe’s hired the Olmstead Brothers, the landscape architects who also designed Central Park and Prospect Park. Their influence is evident throughout the estate. There are different themed gardens that rile the senses. The scent of the lilacs was overwhelming as was the collection of azaleas in all the colors of the rainbow. There were rose gardens, peonies, Italian Garden, and greenhouses.

Walking the wooded areas and nature trails also show the landscape architect’s influence.

You can tell that this is a special place when you see plaques honoring those who valued the importance of the preservation of the beauty of the Planting Fields. There are so much more about this place I would like to learn. At some point I would like to return for a guided tour of the estate and gardens and attend some of the events such as concerts that are hosted here. There are other houses, gardens, and greenhouses that I would love to learn about.

We went just to explore another nature trail on Long Island, but we may have found a new place to visit often, attend garden talks, and other happenings.

Muttontown Preserve

It seems that the chipmunks of Long Island have discovered the secret to happiness- The Muttontown Preserve. As you walk onto the trail at the preserve you immediately discover that there are many, many chipmunks happily dancing with delight from one side of the emerald green trail to the other. During the height of the spring season the the preserve’s fluorescent hues are simply breathtaking.

Muttontown Preserve is the largest nature preserve in Nassau County, NY. There are 550 acres of fields, woodlands, ponds and estate grounds. The Preserve is also referred to as the Bill Paterson Nature Center named for the naturalist who served as the supervisor of the preserve from 1968-1992. He lived in Baldwin, NY before living on the estate grounds. The Preserve has miles of marked trails that are suitable for most.

I have read that this preserve has been named the “Best Nature Walk” of Long Island. Since my retirement almost a year ago, I have visited many Long Island Trails and visited many Preserves, and I have to agree. The William Cullen Bryant Preserve with the Sculpture Park and the Planting Fields Arboretum State Park are other beautiful gems on Long Island. We will definitely back to the Muttontown Preserve for a nature walk and to visit to the lucky chipmunks that reside there!

Long Island Hiking Trails

I’ve been retired almost a year now from teaching and I’ve discovered that I really like the outdoors and walking the trails of Long Island. I have hiked trails in Hawaii, Martinique, Puerto Rico and many other places, but you can get that feeling of escaping it all, right in your own backyard.

Three recent trails I have visited are Cold Spring Harbor State Park, Trail View Trail, and Stillwell Woods Preserve. Each one of these trails were different and offered visitors a different kind of experience.

The Cold Spring Harbor Trail is a tough one. My daughter and I chose to do this trail on my birthday. I like to confirm I still got it lol after 56 years on this earth. This trail is 4.2 miles in length out and back. This is not a loop trail. Basically, whatever you climb up you need to climb back down. It is characterized as an intermediate trail.

The Cold Spring Harbor Trail starts out with a steep climb up and makes you wonder what you are getting yourself into. Along the way you have some choices of the best way for you to safely make your way through the trail. Most of the trail is a hard dirt surface with occasional rocky areas and branches that are underground. In many places you are ascending and then suddenly there’s a downward trail that has you side stepping to keep a strong footing. I saw many people using hiking poles to help them along. The trail gives you great views of the harbor and is a beautiful wooded area. Many people bring their leashed dog along for the hike and there are even joggers. Some people appear to walk the trail regularly as a means of exercise.

Trail View State Park runs between Bethpage State Park and Cold Spring State Park and is considered to be part of the Nassau/Suffolk Greenbelt Trail. It is located on Jericho Turnpike in Woodbury. It is right next to the Stop & Shop and has its own free parking. Like most parks it is open dawn till dusk. I chose this trail to walk on Mother’s Day because we went as a family on this walk, and it is mostly flat and linear. There is a walking path and a separate mountain bike path. On our return trip we cut off to the mountain bike trail which made it slightly more interesting with more highs and lows and twists and turns.

All in all the Trail View State Park Trail was very enjoyable. We did see and hear many birds along the way and would be a great place for birdwatchers. In the springtime everything was very green and beautiful as the filtered sun dappled our trail along the way. I do have a sudden intrigue in learning more about this mountain biking. I am a regular bike rider on newly created bike paths around Long Island.

Stillwell Woods Preserve was a really nice place! As you drive in there’s a ball field that normally would be occupied and a few people flying kites. You need to keep walking to the back to see where the entrance to the trails are located. We seemed to see three distinct trails. One for walking and 2 for mountain bikes, but you could still walk the mountain bike path. That’s what my daughter and I decided we were going to do.

The trail was very different than other trails we have been exploring. Everything was so green and kind of glowing. We seemed to need to walk at a faster pace as we made our way twisting and turning through narrow paths.A few mountain bikers came by, but we just simply step to the side out of the way. They really seemed to be enjoying the struggle of it all.

The path was a loop and clearly marked. I really enjoyed all the highs and lows and twists and turns and felt like I got a good workout. We checked out the other bike path too which seemed to be much tamer as was the walking path. One thing I will say about Stillwell Woods Preserve was that everyone was all smiles and very friendly. I really like this place and will definitely return.

Cold Spring Harbor is great when you want a challenge. Trail View State Park was nice, but probably a one time thing. Stillwell Woods Preserve is a place I would visit again and again.

What should you look for in a dog sitter?

We are all starting to get a little antsy, and as soon as we can, we are going to start planning well-deserved vacations. Our dogs all think we quit our jobs to be with them, so they are going to need a special dog sitter.

I’ve been dog sitting for 5 years, and now that I’m retired from teaching, I am home full time.

This is what you should look for:

Referrals/Recommendations/Reviews

A great way to find a reputable dog sitter is through referrals from your local groomer, pet store, or veterinarian.

Family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers may have a reputable dog sitter they can recommend to you.

If you use an on line site like Rover you can read the reviews the dog sitter has on the site.

Cleanliness/Competence/Creativity

Cleanliness of the dog sitter’s house inside and outside is important. As you pull up to the house look for a debris free area. Check out the yard for junk lying around or piles of poop that haven’t been cleaned up.

Inside the home should be clean too. Floors, surfaces, furniture that your dog would potentially interact with should be clean. The appearance of the dog sitter should look clean and neat too.

Competence is definitely a trait you should look for in your dog sitter. If you approach the front door and dogs run out this is a bad sign. Dog sitters need to plan ahead for possible escapes and the safety of the dogs in their care.

Energy/Enthusiasm/Empathy

You definitely want an energetic dog sitter. Someone who is healthy and fit and can move around pretty quickly. Dog sitters should be active and into spending time outdoors. Couch potato or lazy dog sitters are not optimal.

Your dog sitter should show genuine enthusiasm for your dog and all dogs in general. A dog sitter’s light should shine the brightest when they are talking about dogs and when they are interacting with them.

A dog sitter that has empathy for dogs is very important. Showing emotion and feelings for your dog and the ability to understand your dog’s emotions is important. Some dog sitters are much better at this than other dog sitters.

Outlook/Openness/Organization/

Your dog sitter should have a positive outlook about your dog’s stay. He/she should explain all the wonderful ways your dog will be happy in his/her care.

The openness of your dog sitter’s home is very important. You should feel that you can walk freely about the home inside and out to see exactly where your dog will be staying while you are away.

An organized dog sitter is very important. Your dog sitter should have a system for keeping track of a variety of important issues. Dog sitters should an orderly system for reviewing your dogs upcoming stay in terms of food intake, medicine, contact numbers, and other issues unique to your dog.

Responsive/Responsible/Receptive

How responsive your dog sitter is can you really make or break or vacation. You want a sitter that responds to your texts or calls in a timely manner. Nothing worse than wondering why the dog sitter is not responding.

A responsible dog sitter will be there for all your dog’s needs. Your dog will be taken care of in all the ways you would take care of your dog. Your dog will eat and be taken out in a timely manner. A balance of social interaction, play, and rest are important components of a responsible dog sitter.

Being a receptive dog sitter is important. A dog sitter who can sense what a dog needs intuitively and is able to figure out what your dog’s feeling is very valuable.

Flexible/ Forgiving/Fun

How flexible is your dog sitter? Are drop off times and pick up times flexible? If your plane is delayed or canceled can your dog stay longer? Flexibility also involves being able to drop your dog off for a stay with short notice or switch dates and times of stay.

Forgiving mishaps is crucial. Your dog sitter should be understanding if your dog has an accident in the house, knocks something over, or cries at night because he/she misses you.

Finally, a fun dog sitter can make or break or dogs stay while your away. If your dog is spending a lot of time outside getting fresh air and sunshine, playing with toys, and interacting with other dogs and loving people, you can be sure that your dog is content!

For additional viewing read Meet and Greet Questions Dog Sitters Should Ask.

More stories about dogs read:

1. Dog Sitter Life

2. Rescue Yorkie

3. I Miss You all the Time

%d bloggers like this: