Monday, April 29, 2013

Rocking Horse Ranch

Rocking Horse Ranch is an all-inclusive family resort in Highland, NY (only 10 minutes from the Poughkeepsie Train Station, which is the last stop on Metro North's Hudson line from Grand Central). The Mid-Hudson Valley region (Ulster County) was lovely in the spring, but I'm sure each season has its own charm.

Lina chose this trip for her birthday celebration. She couldn't wait to go on a "pony" ride every day. (Click on a photo to access larger images.)

Horse lovers will definitely appreciate being at Rocking Horse Ranch resort. To go horseback riding on the trails, one needs to be at least 7 years old. But there's plenty of other things to do at the RHR.

Like Super Bungee Jumpers:

Fort Tiny Playground:

Horse Spring Riders:

No worries if it gets cold outside or it's raining (weather was perfect during our visit, though, so we spent most of the day outdoors), because there's plenty to do indoors.

Such as the Fun Barn:

Big Splash Indoor Water Park:

They have so many wonderful indoor and outdoor activities, rather than listing them all here on this blog...I figure you can just check their web site. The fun doesn't end at night, they have live shows at the main lodge and even after a long day of fun, the kids were totally into the live entertainment. During our visit we saw the educational reptile was pretty awesome to see the man handling the young alligator and a snapping turtle and hear interesting facts about reptiles. The kids enjoyed lining up to pet the python, that was wrapped around the guy's body. Lina said the python was "soft". On another night, we saw a juggling show by the talented Chris Chiappini. It was amazing to watch him juggle a real bowling ball, hanger and hammer. As well as juggling fake knives, while riding a unicycle. Surprising to find out (after checking out his web site) that he hiked 2184 miles of the Appalachian Trail last year, juggling along the way. Very cool!

Other than the pony rides...Lina's favorite outdoor activities included boat rides on the lake (below photo: we're in a pedal boat and she's steering) and miniature golf.

Lina danced a lot before and after the live shows (she was the first one out on the floor and eventually other kids joined in) and she continuously scored points playing air hockey in the Video Arcade room. We also went on a horse drawn wagon ride in the daytime and, in order to get to the bonfire shown below (marshmallow roast and sing-along), we took a tractor drawn wagon at night.

The trip wouldn't have been complete without acknowledging Lina's 5th birthday (balloons, a cute cowgirl sign and a birthday cake with "Happy Birthday Lina" written on it, candles to blow out and over a hundred people singing to her). They happened to be serving her favorite salad that night, caesar salad, a nice start to the dinner.

I bought Ariat Quickdraw Western Boots for Lina. She did just about every activity (including dancing and running) with those boots on during this trip (without any breaking in period necessary). They are durable, easy to wipe (or brush) clean and she said they are extremely comfortable. I got them a half size big and stuffed cotton balls into the toe area, so hopefully they will last the rest of this year, so she can add cowgirl style to her urban outfits.

Plenty of seats along grassy fields (and benches by the lake, as well) to relax at Rocking Horse Ranch. Lina loved to run to the fence and watch the horses and riders lining up to go out on the trail.

Lots of choices at the meals (and they really work with you to get you what you like), surely everyone will find something yummy to eat. They have various meat and vegetarian options, as you might expect, but I was curious about the seafood. I had perfect rock shrimp (fried crisp and served with spicy mayonnaise dipping sauce) and delicious blackened cod. The potato and bacon soup, mmm, was the ultimate comfort food. It's "family style" seating, so you get to meet many kids and grown-ups during your stay.

Our room in the main lodge was spacious and clean...and Lina slept in a bunk bed for the first time. It was an extremely positive experience for our family. The Rocking Horse Ranch is worth every dime and they offer discounts many times during the year. It's especially fun for families with kids ages 4 to 10. Lina begged to stay at the RHR forever and told me this place tops Sesame Place (in PA) as her "favorite place in the whole world."

It's always a pleasure to travel with Lina, who never whines about long waits on trips. She occupies herself nicely (looking out the window or drawing in her pad) and tries to nap. She doesn't have tantrums when we are out and about at new places. It's so nice to get away, time to time, because too often New York City causes a sensory overload. We were dreading the assault on the senses of 42nd Street, but we had to walk through the aggressive crowds in that area, with our luggage in tow (ugh), to get to the Rocking Horse Ranch via Grand Central (1 hour and 45 minutes to the Poughkeepsie train station with Metro North and then a complimentary pick-up by the ranch, arranged a couple of days in advance). It made us even more appreciative of the welcoming staff and friendly guests we met at this family resort.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Happy 5th Birthday

Lina Celeste turned 5 years old recently and it feels very special to her. As soon as she woke up on her birthday she said "when I was 4 I felt like a I am 5 and I feel like a grown-up." Slow down there!

There was a small family celebration at my mom's home, that LC enjoyed greatly, and I didn't have to spend any time, money or effort on it. At least I still rate above treats. She said "I feel happy with my mommy even when I feel like a grown-up and I love my mommy more than ice cream." Then she dived into Ben & Jerry's Phish Food, chocolate ice cream with marshmallow and caramel swirls & fudge fish.

Lina opted out of a birthday party this year. It was her choice. I said we could have a big party, with friends and family, at a cool venue or our home...OR we could leave NYC for a little trip. I'll post about the adventure Lina chose when I get a chance later this month. Right now she is enjoying her birthday gifts...including an awesome Casio mini keyboard.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Delighted by our first Hanna Andersson order...

"Known for quality that's crafted to last, Hanna Andersson's Swedish-inspired designs let kids be kids in playful comfort. Simplicity, love of color and eco-friendly fabrics..."

Lina Celeste wanted to model the clothes she chose from Hanna Andersson. Dresses, shirts, cardigan sweater, bike shorts, tutu, pants, leggings, one-piece swimsuit, rash guard tee paired with swim skirt + accessories (hat, headbands, hair scarves, knit necklace and bracelet) and cute flip flops. LC also wore her own shoes: Saucony sneakers, See Kai Run sandals (pink and white), L.L. Bean suede Comfort Mocs and Pediped Flex bronze ballet flats. Click on a photo to access the larger images.

It's not easy these days to find clothes for little kids that won't make them look like tweens (and tweens look like teens and teens look like adults). I'm so happy I found this company recently. I'm disappointed with what's offered for Gap Kids versus what seemed to be age-appropriate babyGap clothes she used to wear (toddler size 5 is too small for her now). Some outfits are too mature in terms of the shape, style, color and/or fabric for little kids. Also, do little girls need body image issues with parents buying them Gap's "Super Skinny Jeans." I guess "Skinny Jeans" and "Skinny Leggings" are not skinny enough for the Gap and the media. Versus Hanna Andersson offering "Not So Skinny Knit Jeans" and "Livable Leggings" for kids. The Gap also sells "Boyfriend Jeans" for little girls (I actually love the style of the jeans, but not the name). Great sense of humor that Hanna Andersson instead sells "Not Old Enough For A Boyfriend Jeans."

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Time to move on from the Kidizoom

VTech's Kidizoom Camera has been a decent first camera for LC. I bought it for her 3rd birthday and it has been indestructible for two years (she has dropped it several times). Plus, it has great battery life. The camera is still going on strong, but LC has outgrown the poor picture quality. It gives her great pleasure to make photographs. Here's a set she took this month:


All by herself, LC discovered that she could make a balloon stick to a wall (thanks to static electricity).

The indoor pictures (even using flash) look much worse than outdoor daylight photos with this camera...but it's a heavy camera, so she doesn't carry it outside often. I'm going to research a new camera for her later this year that's durable but will produce better images...and Santa will deliver it. When we were at the playground recently, I wanted to see how far I could push her Kidizoom camera...this is the best I could do with it. It was the first time she wore the vibrant patterned pillowcase dress we bought from Hanna Andersson.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Fish and Duck, Upside Down Tree, Humpty Dumpty

Warm spring weather...more cool activities for kids to attend in NYC + we have two family trips scheduled I am not on the computer as often...but I hope to post on this blog once a week.

LC started writing her own books the last two weeks...well, picture books (with very little text) and she breaks it up into "chapters for each story." I have to keep up with buying blank bound journals, so she can write more books. She likes to share what she has written and "reads" the stories (to me, to our relatives, to her friends and to her literature teacher in the East Village etc.) She said "I can't read other people's stories yet, so I am writing my own." Maybe one day I will have some extra time and record her reading some of these stories and put that up here.

BUT...for this post, let me catch up by sharing some drawings she made a month or two ago in a little spiral notebook I gave her.

LC: "A house, not a building, with a big cup on it and a building next to it with a big ice cream on it. The little flying thing is a fairy...and sunshine and sky around it."

LC: "A person looking for a fish and a duck."

LC: "Upside down tree."

LC: "Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall."