It's the most wonderful time of the year.

Monday, October 18, 2010

An Alternate Sound Barrier

I went to the Nascar race with my parents this past weekend. There’s always a lot of good stuff to share after a race. I could tell you about how my mom, while claiming to be enjoying the race, read a book for at least 250 of the 334 laps. “I’m enjoying it…do I have to watch ALL the laps?” I could explain the parking situation and my proposed solution to fix it, or how funny my mom’s face was when my dad told my mom to “get on the bridge with a group of skinny people – this is the one that collapsed a few years ago.” We could talk about Nascar attire or even the winning driver!

Really, all this stuff would make for an entertaining blog post, but nothing could actually top this:

That’s right. Most people use headphones or earplugs. This guys uses tampons.

My Apologies

Sorry, guys. It’s been brought to my attention that nobody cares about NY mansions. I kind of had an inkling when I posted these posts and nobody commented, but I took the pictures. I had to do something with them…and I love these places. I thought maybe you would think they were cool too.

Yesterday at work, I asked Lindsey if she had seen something I posted a while ago on the blog and she said, “No, Ginger! Because the past couple times I have looked at your blog it’s been all these stupid houses!”


I went to show her the picture I was talking about and as she was slowly scrolling down (out of guilt) she said, “It’s like a bad fieldtrip, Ginger. Didn’t you realize nobody cared when you saw all these ‘0 comments’?”


So in an effort to regain your attention I would like to share the following Halloween joke with you:

What is a mummy’s favorite type of music?


Okay, okay. One more!

Why did the skeleton go to the movies by him self?



I will try and make further blog posts more interesting to you.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Walkway Over the Hudson

There’s an old railroad bridge in Poughkeepsie, which crosses over the Hudson River into Highland. Construction on the bridge started in 1873 and the bridge was opened in 1888. At the time it opened, it was considered a “technological wonder” and was the longest bridge in the world. In 1974, there was a fire on the bridge, which ended its use.

A group called “Walkway Over the Hudson” began an effort to open the bridge to the public in 1992 – this was while we were still living in NY! I had no idea! (Of course I rarely picked up the newspaper at the age of 12…perhaps my parents were aware of the group’s efforts?) Anyway – it took a while, but 17 years later, in 2009, the bridge had been renovated and was opened to the public as a pedestrian walkway!

The bridge is 1.28 miles long. While no longer the longest bridge in the world, it IS the longest pedestrian bridge in the world!

(Mid-Hudson Bridge)

(tug boat and oil barge)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

You Get What You Pay For

When we went to Biltmore in April, Christopher mentioned, on more than one occasion, that it was insane how highly they thought of this house to charge $65 per ticket. Well, $65 to walk yourself through an old house without air conditioning might seem steep, but I now think it is well worth it!

What’s that? You question this? Well, take a look at what you get for $65 at Biltmore:

The grounds are immaculate. They continue to expand on the property. There are restaurants, stores, a winery...a hotel. The inside of the house is perfectly kept up. The estate holds events, and decorates elaborately each year for Christmas.

Check out the front lawn at the Vanderbilt Mansion, where we entered the grounds for free and toured the house for $8:

And it’s not just the lawn at Vanderbilt. The back patio, where we used to take family pictures, is now closed off and there are weeds growing up through the cracks in the concrete. Inside the mansion, the elevator has been broken since 2007. They are slowly raising the money to bring it back to its original working order.

This is the rose garden at Vanderbilt. The gardens are taken care of by a group of volunteers. They do a pretty darn good job for volunteers, but there’s definitely room for improvement.

And here’s what you get at Mills Mansion when you enter the grounds for free and tour the house for $5:

I wish I had taken more pictures here. The stone wall that runs the length of their property at the road is in pieces. Chicken wire keeps loose pieces from falling to the ground. From the road it looks like there would be a haunted house through the trees.

When the property was originally gifted to the state, they used it for the grounds. The house was more or less just a building that happened to be there. When some of the exterior stucco of the house started to crack, they sprayed it with gunite, a cement coating, which turned the brilliant white stucco grey. Not only did the gunite turn the color dull, but also it coated all the intricate details. What was once dental molding now looks like bumpy trim.

And the Mills Gardens – they have been done away with long ago. The greenhouses were torn down and I couldn’t see anything that even slightly resembled a flower.

They are slowly starting to restore the Mills Mansion, but it will be a slow renovation as they continue to raise money.

I left all these pictures their original size so you can click on them and enlarge them.

Of course it’s lovely that anyone can just drive up to one of these estates and use the grounds for free and tour the house for a more than reasonable price. Roosevelt’s home tour was $14…that seemed to me a happy medium. It didn’t break the bank, but nothing seemed to be in too bad of disrepair. Of course I’m sure that property carries a bit more weight being that of a former president.

Where’s the happy medium? I’m not sure, but the next time I pay to go to Biltmore I think I will appreciate it a bit more.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mills Mansion; Staasburg, NY

I had recently come across information about the Mills Mansion in Staatsburg, NY, and thought “huh – I wonder why I’ve never been there…?” I figured it must have just been further away than what was convenient – after all, we probably went to Vanderbilt’s and Roosevelt’s at least a couple times a year.

After we had been to Vanderbilt’s, I asked my dad about the Mills Mansion and he asked if I wanted to go. I just said no – it was too far away. He said it was just a few miles away. Say whaaaa? Sure enough – a mere FOUR MILES north. Mom – why didn’t you ever take us up there?

Anyway, this house was particularly exciting because it was all new to me! It’s quite grand!

I don’t really know much about the Mills…I don’t really think they were known for much more than simply having money. Well – I’m sure that’s not completely true, but I don’t know where any of it came from…

We took the tour, however; while seemingly knowledgeable, our guide seemed a bit socially awkward. Additionally, while we were only on the tour with five other people, you would have thought these five individuals, each well into their seventies or older, were all twelve year-olds required to turn in a written report on their experience. I’m not kidding. They had paper…notepads…pens. “And Ruth Livingston Mills was the daughter of….” “Now if he was her uncle…was he also the one who was born on April 16, 1921?” “Is he the one in this picture over here on the wall?” “Were the two brothers…?” I would have paid $50 if there had been a “Mills Family Tree” within reach that I could have just handed them. It was weird.

(rear of the house)
(if you look closely, at the lower right corner of the house, you can see Sir Asks A Lot and friend)

Monday, October 11, 2010


Next up: Roosevelt’s estate, Springwood! This was the home of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He was born in this house and continued to live in it after he and Eleanor Roosevelt were married. This is what the house has looked like since 1915:

However, before 1915, the house looked quite different. I had never seen this picture before – or at least I don’t remember seeing it – but this is a painting of what the house looked like before its renovation by FDR and mother, Sarah, in 1915.

(this painting is located in the FDR Library…where you can’t use a flash…blah)

Also located in the Presidential Library is FDR’s car, which was retrofitted for him so he could control the break and gas with his hands…

And lots of stuff from Fala!

The gardens are beautiful!

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt are buried in the garden (along with Fala and Chief (German Sheppard))

There’s a new building at the estate – they sell tickets here and this is where the [totally awesome] gift shop is. They also have rooms for conferences and meetings and such. In the middle of the floor, in the center of the building, there is a really cool mosaic map of the town of Hyde Park.

(and that's just about where my grandmother's house is on the map!)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Vanderbilt Mansion

Many of you have made it to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville – home of George Washington Vanderbilt. The Vanderbilt family is actually from New York, and there are quite a few more of these Vanderbilt mansions scattered throughout New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island (though none as big as in Asheville). George Washington Vanderbilt’s brother, Fredrick Vanderbilt, had a house in Hyde Park, NY, where my grandmother lives (she lives in Hyde Park…obviously not in the Vanderbilt Mansion – though that would be totally awesome if she did).

Unlike the Biltmore Estate, the Vanderbilt family no longer owns the mansion in Hyde Park – it is owned by the National Park Service.

The Vanderbilt Mansion was always my favorite, so that’s the first place my dad and I went.

Now, I know I said my grandmother doesn’t live in the Vanderbilt Mansion, but she did actually live on the grounds for a brief time. The estates that lined the Hudson River employed a lot of Hyde Park residents when my grandmother was little. Her uncle was the head gardener, in charge of all the vegetables. When she was little, there were a couple months where her mother had been sick and couldn’t take care of her – so she stayed with her aunt and uncle, in one of the gardeners' houses, at the Vanderbilt Estate. Kinda cool, huh?

(Hudson River from the back of the mansion)

(front of the house)

(in the garden)

(more garden)


(tree growing out of a brick wall)


The estate has quite a few plant species that are not indigenous to the area. I’m sure there is a story as to why that is, but I don’t know it. I vaguely recall something about one of the Vanderbilts bringing them in? But I might be making that up. One of the plants that was not originally native to the area but is found in abundance on the estate grounds is the water chestnut. These aren’t the water chestnuts that you find in your moo goo gai pan – these are an “invasive” plant native to Europe and Asia. The seeds that float up and off the plants wash to shore and they look like little angry Darth Vaders. I think they are super awesome.

You can find the seeds down by the river... (in a van, down by the - just kidding - no van, just the river)


Saturday, October 9, 2010

To Grandmother’s House We Go!

I made an impromptu trip up to New York, at the end of September, to visit my grandmother. My dad called one night and said he was going up to NY the next week to visit and work on a few things around my grandmother's house. I hadn’t been to visit in a long time, and I had some vacation days I needed to make plans for, so I decided to go too! I flew up on Wednesday and then drove back with my dad on Sunday.

(Uncle Steve, Grandma, Dad)

I had a GREAT time! It was nice to visit with my grandmother and family, and my dad and I also went to visit a few cool places. I took a ton of pictures, so I will break this up into several posts, but a preview includes:

(Vanderbilt Mansion)

(Roosevelt Estate)

(Mills Mansion)

(Walkway on the Hudson)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dixie Classic Fair

We went to the fair last night with friends, B-Tim and Ruth Ann, Nathan and Stephanie and had a GREAT time!

If you have been following the blog for a year, you might remember that my camera battery died a mere four pictures in last year. I came better prepared this year!

On the way to the fair I got a text from Amy saying my mom won a blue ribbon on one of her photographs. This is significant because my mom was previously bummed because she didn't think she won a single ribbon for a photo...she had completely overlooked one - and not just any one - a winner!

(blue ribbon - right there!)

When we met up with everyone we had food first. My first priority was the deep fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was everything I had hoped for and more!

Nathan and Stephanie got some fun chips on a stick and a corn dog.

B-Tim got that turkey leg he had been talking about for the past several weeks.

And then it was time. What we had all been waiting for. The famous Krispy Kreme Burger! Would it be good? Would it be terrible? I had heard both reviews. Christopher was up first.

(burger, bacon, cheese, pickles and lettuce between two Krispy Kreme donuts)

It was actually pretty awesome. I had a couple bites and I totally could have had more.

Everyone else wanted to wait for the verdict, but they soon followed.

(first Nathan)

(then Bryan)

(Ruth Ann)

(and finally Stephanie - I know her face looks skeptical after the first bite, but she had more)

(I found a camel)

(Ruth Ann found corn!)

(and Christopher found room for some chips)

We went to see dogs herd ducks and that was pretty awesome. Of course the herding was awesome, but better than the herding was the.....


(black ducks go in...)

(add special duck soap)

(white ducks come out!)

And then...the moment we have all been waiting for! Okay, okay - it was the moment I had been waiting for. The petting zoo!!! I spent $8 on carrots and it was the best $8 I had spent all week!

(in case you have never seen it before, this is my "can I have one" face)

These are capybaras, the world's largest rodents! They are adorable. If anyone wants to read a GREAT book about capybaras, check out Bill Peet's "Capyboppy."

(this guy was one of may faves)

Now this alpaca... He liked some carrots. And I fed him quite a few...

I thought we were friends...

But then he sneezed little bits of carrot chunks all over me! Ruth Ann was nice enough to pick the carrot chunks out of my hair. I hear she also had to pick some carrot chunks off her own glasses later that night.

(we did stay friends though - he couldn't help it)

This was probably the cutest thing all night. This little goat just stayed snuggled up against this cow-thing the whole time. I think the little one was a little nervous. Isn't it adorable?!?!

(you don't say!)

We were starting to wrap things up and head home, but Ruth Ann and I decided to take a quick trip down the slide. It was pretty awesome - just as fun as I remember!