Tuesday, April 27, 2010


In honor of half of my cultural heritage:

India Day
When: Sun, May 2, 2010 | 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Where: National Museum of Dance, 99 S Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY
Cost: $5 (General), FREE (Children and Museum Members) 
From the website:
There will be an introduction to India, Indian music performances on sitar & tabla, an introduction to Indian Classical Dance styles with performances by both professional & student dancers, a Sari wrapping demonstration for women & girls, a BOLLYWOOD Dance demonstration for everyone, and a delicious Indian food court with authentic Indian food available for guests.

Thanks, Leanne!

Sunday, April 25, 2010


I have a confession to make.  I'm a mom and I hate playgrounds.  There, I said it.  I don't hate them enough for me to deprive my children of their God-given right to swing and slide, I mean look... here's proof.

But if you gave me the choice between going to the Crossings one more time or listening to my enginerd husband explain the intricacies of his latest research, I'd be hard pressed to choose.

I'm not sure why they irk me so much, but for some reason I just prefer finding places to have fun that have nothing to do with that bouncy purple dinosaur.(My kids don't always let me get away with that, but I sure do try).

Enter Yaddo.

If you have never been there, you should go, and if you have, you know that there is something magical about the place.

The rose gardens, the statuary, the pergola (I had no idea that's what it was called), the fountains... it's all the little details that give this place a special  feeling that's hard to find in a schoolyard, and even sans twisty slide, my kids love it. It's just a great place to wander around and feel like you've walked into a scene from The Secret Garden.

We just went last Wednesday, and while the flowers have yet to bloom, the fountains are still dry, and the statues are still boarded up, we still managed to have the best time.  The gravel paths alone entertained the kids for at least a half an hour with all their digging, and burying, and carrying on.  

Here are some of our favorite parts:

The entrance gate.  We must spend at least 20 minutes hanging out here while the kids get me to guess the 'secret password' so I can get in.  Usually, I give up and just go around the side.

The pergola...or the place they like to pretend is from The Sound of Music. (In the song Do-Re-Mi, Fraulein Maria and the kids run through something kind of like this, and my kids have since made that connection) Note all that glorious gravel.

The steps (there are several sets of these that you can't see in this picture). 30 minutes of up and down, up and down and they still aren't tired.  The nice thing, too, is that you can stand in one part of the garden and see your kids all the way on the other side.

This rock garden is in the wooded section in the back of the gardens. Granted, it's not much to look at now, but there is a mermaid statue, ferns, and tall pines that make it very fairy-tale-esque.

The Yaddo Gardens are open to the public seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to dusk and is very easy to find.  Here are some directions.

*They also have a very clean port-a-potty which has come in handy on several occasions.

Purple dinosaur rating:  None. Just the way I like it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Riverway Storytelling Festival

A week's worth of storytelling fun.

Check out their family events and other schedule here.

Yankee Candle Flagship Store

Candles...yet so much more.

While visiting some friends in Holyoke, MA, they decided to take us to the Yankee Candle Store in Deerfield. I wasn't quite sure what the big deal was, afterall, we have a Yankee Candle at Crossgates (you can smell it from the parking lot). But, boy oh boy my friends, this was not your average candle shop.  It is one of the flagship stores and it's Fuccillo HUGE!  As soon as you walk in they give you a map to the place, and you can still get lost.

I'm not really a fan of the candles.  I find them to be overpowering and overpriced, but I guess I get their appeal and am sometimes pretty impressed that they can emulate some of the smells that they do.  I mean if you have a candle called Storm Watch and it actually smells like what I'm assuming thunder smells like, that's pretty impressive.

Anyway, what I'm getting at is that you don't have to like the candles to like the place,  and the kids will LOVE it.  Here are some of the highlights:

Elevated model train track that winds its way around the store.

Year round Christmas Village, for those of you who feel the need to buy ornaments in the middle of July. (Plus they have a snow machine, so every 4 minutes there is a snowstorm inside) A real live Santa IS included (of course since Christmas is not for another bajillion days, Santa was chilling in some jeans and suspenders and making paper crafts with the kids)

Make your own candles.  Kids can make candles in the shape of their hands or mix and match wax beads to make a custom jar. If  I made a candle it would be called ''Meltdown". Get it?  Candles melt... my kids have meltdowns. That's perfect. It would smell like a cross between crayon wax and frustration.

Candy store(s) and Toy Stores.  Kids love that kind of stuff.

-Big food court and live entertainment.  The live music was a little annoying, but the kids were invited to perform on stage with the singers, so at least someone got a kick out of it.

Candles - Yes, they have every kind of Yankee Candle flavor you could ever want... even 'New Releases'. (I'm sure there are people that get into that...just like the latest Beanie Baby.) Their website reports over 400,000 candles in over 200 scents.  That's anything but SCENTS-less (badum-cha!)

And guess what? If you aren't sold on the place by now,  Trader Joe's is only minutes away.

Open every day 10 am- 6pm
Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve 10 am-5 pm
Closed Thanksgiving & Christmas

Check out their schedule of events here.

Get directions from Albany here. Sure, it's a little bit of a drive, but you can make a fun daytrip out of it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

O! Baby Consignment Sale

 From their website: 
 A twice-yearly children's consignment sale in Chatham, New York - just 40 minutes from Albany - offering NEW, GENTLY USED and EXCELLENT QUALITY baby and children's items at a fraction of the price
Thurs. April 22, 9am – 7pm 
Fri. April 23, 9am – 5pm
Sat. April 24, 9am – 3pm  

Columbia County Fairgrounds
Chatham, New York

 Thanks, Abby T.!

Family Fun at the Clark Museum

People and Spaces Family Day at The Clark

April 25, 2010
Ongoing activies from 12:00 pm -4:00 pm
~40 miles from Albany.  Get directions here.

 From their website:

This family day will feature a campus-wide adventure to explore how people fit into different spaces, places, and settings. Try to keep your bearings in the cardboard maze, and build a miniature museum that you can populate with detailed clothespin people you create.  Explore the  Clark's grounds as you discover fairy houses and gnome homes created as part of a community-wide art project.

Check out the schedule here.

There is also a Fairy Houses and Gnome Project where you can build tiny homes using found objects and then display them on the grounds.  Each participant gets their own site assignment.  On April 25th (Family Fun Day), maps of the sites will be distributed so you can visit each of these homes.

If you haven't been to the Clark, it's well worth the visit. We had a lot of fun.  Make sure to take a stroll through Williamstown and Where'd You Get That (cool toystore).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Riverfront Park, Rensselaer

I haven't done a playground review in a while,but now that it nice and warm, I'm on the hunt for new places to hang out with the kids.

This week took me to Riverfront Park in Rensselaer.  If you take the Dunn Memorial Bridge over to the East Greenbush Target (which I do often) you will see this park as you are spit out onto Broadway in Rensselaer. 

There are a couple sections of this playground, and some are better than others, so let me explain.

Our first stop was the 'playground' playground.  This section had a large selection of slides, ladders, climbing things and it kept my kids busy for an hour.  We hit this place after school, so it was quite busy with kids and their parents.  I personally was not feeling it because every time the wind blew it would kick up a huge cloud of dust from the neighboring construction yard, but I was apparently the only one who seemed to notice.  However, this was my kids favorite place in the park. If it were up to me, we'd avoid it altogether.

Next, we moved on to the swings.  You have to walk under the bride to get there, which is kind of cool by itself because it looks so massive. Underneath the bridge are a couple of tennis and basketball courts as well as a little playground set up for younger kids, old fashioned see-saws, teeter-totters (whatever you call them), and those springy animal things you can ride on. (Now if they only had the 15 ft metal slide that burned you on the way down, just like in the olden days, we'd really be in business.)

This part of the park was really beautiful and unexpected. The sun was setting on the Hudson, and it was novel to see Albany from the other side of the river.  We took a walk down on the pier (we didn't stay long because my son, who has no fear, was getting way too close to the edge), and enjoyed the views.

On our way back, we walked on a pathway along the river which circles back under the bridge, and found ourselves in another big field where we stopped to watch some baseball practice, kite flying, and did some lady bug observing.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised.  It never looked like much when I was driving above it, but after wandering around, I'd like to go back.  There are plenty of picnic tables and they have free music performances in the summer. You can also check out the murals on the concrete columnswhich were part of a park beautification project in 1995 by the Rensselaer Artists' Movement Society. (The sentiment is there, but let's just say you can tell they are from 1995.)

Purple Dinosaur Rating:  None. But the river is a nice touch.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Time for a Change

Last year, to my chagrin, the Times Union Best of the Capital District Poll came out with these choices for the best restaurants in the Capital Region for kids.

Well, it's high time someone does something about this...but wait...someone has.  The Profussor has implored us all to think long and hard about this ballot, and make some choices that actually represent our region, and not the chain restaurants/shops found all across this great country of ours..

He has created a sample ballot that I encourage you to peruse.  You might not agree with his all of his choices, but the sentiment is there.  It's time to rock this vote and get some more local color and flavor in these results.

If you haven't voted already, take the time to do so right here:  Times Union Best of 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mom Exchange

Here is a great new website I found though FUSSYlittleBLOG:

It seems like a great resource for parents. Once you register you can add events, write reviews, and suggest other cool places to go in the area.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Tomie DePaola Mural

If you love children's books, you have most likely come across some of Tomie DePaola's books in your reading. The prolific writer/illustrator (having published over 200 books) may be best known for his Strega Nona series and his moon faced, folk-art characters.  My family saw a documentary on him last year when we visited the Eric Carle Museum.

In addition to illustrating children's books,  he has also done a series of murals for New England monasteries and churches. As it turns out, one of those murals can be found right here in the Capital District.

Don't ask me how I came upon this website, but they mentioned that one of DePaola's murals was in their chapel. According to their website the mural was commissioned by the Domincan Sisters Congregation and was first his first major work.

Being a fan of his, I headed over to check it out. It wasn't easy. The chapel itself was closed, but after walking around the grounds, trying different doors, a member of the cleaning crew let us in.

Here is a picture of the chapel and his mural. You can see this mural was signed in 1958, before any of his books were published.

The retreat center also had a small gift shop, which, along with other religious themed gifts and books had a collection of DePaola's story books, all signed by the author. The bookstore is run by the honor system, so you just pick the book you want and put your money in the cash box. (I love the honor system).  The woman who let us in let us know that DePaolo comes back every couple of years to visit.

I would say go check it out, but its not the easiest thing to accomplish with kids. 

I guess its just nice to know that there is another unexpected gem here in the area.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Summer is here?

I just heard the ice cream truck pull around the corner. One of the first true harbingers of warmer weather.

Along with the annoying music, this one actually asks "Hello?" in a somewhat impatient voice.

At least it's only 4:15pm as opposed to last year.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Happy Birthday, Small-bany!

It's hard to believe, but a year has already passed since my first post here on Small-bany.

What did we do to celebrate?

Why, visited some of our favorite places here in Small-bany, of course.

1.  We spent the first part of the morning at the Albany Art Room.  If you have not had the chance to visit here, it's definitely worth stopping in.  For $7/hr, your child can have fun painting, stamping, beading, collage, etc. and basically making a mess (I mean, unleashing their creative energy)  in a place made just for that.  They also offer classes for children and adults, summer camps, a pottery studio and space for birthday parties, baby showers,  and any other kind of celebration.  

(*Note:  I just learned that if you visit the Art Room during the week of April 20-26, all profits will be donated to 'Make Art 4 Art' to benefit Albany City School's Art Programs.)

2. Stop #2 took us to the Corning Preserve.  We had a picnic by the river, enjoyed a bike ride along the path, and took a little pit stop at the playground.

3. After all that exercise, we headed on over to Emack and Bolio's. I wouldn't normally indulge in ice cream twice in two days, but I was feeling festive... and hot.  The ice cream here is definitely more pricey, but you get what you pay for...good quality ice cream made with good quality ingredients.  May I humbly suggest the 'Deep Purple Cow' (black raspberry ice cream with white and dark chocolate chips and blueberries).  While you are here, check out the Mosaic studio, outdoor garden, as well as their schedule for live music on Friday and Saturday nights. It's also a great place to have a birthday party.

This past year has been a lot of fun, and I hope I can continue for another one.  I have met some great people, got a chance to write for All Over Albany (thanks, Mary and Greg!), and best of all, I was able to discover some really great places and things to do in the area (the whole point of this little experiment!).

Thank you  to everyone who reads this blog and has contributed their ideas and comments.  It's been a lot of fun and I really appreciate your support.

Here's to another year of getting out of the house!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I Scream, You Scream

With temperatures in the mid 80's, it took all in our power not to hook up the sprinkler and run around in the backyard.  Part of me knows it's still April and this is a fluke, but baby it feels like summertime to me. So instead... we had ice cream for lunch.

Wa....wa...what?!  C'mon...everyone knows that ice cream is the number one source of calcium for pregnant women, and that's the kind of science I can get behind.  Because of that, Small-bany will spend the better part of this summer backing this up by engaging in our own little ice cream tour. Or we'll just let you know if we find anyplace good.

Stop #1 Jim's Tastee Freeze - Ignore the first reviewer, aka Mr. Grumpy Pants. I experienced neither grime nor snot.  Sounds like someone needs another ice cream cone... and make that a double. In terms of price....whatever, it's ice cream, it's cold, and it's good. I didn't notice it being more expensive that anywhere else.

My kids also loved it because their grandfather is named Jim... and he bears a striking resemblance to that guy on the sign.  (Just kidding, Dad. Your teeth aren't that big)

Albany Family Dance

This looks like a great event for the family and perfect for little ones.  The word is that this might be the last time they'll do it in Albany if the turnout isn't so great, so mark your calendar and put on your dancing shoes.

Sunday April, 11th
4:00pm - 5:25 pm
405 Quail Street, Albany

Here's a description and directions:

The afternoon will consist of singing games, contra, square and international folk dancing led by Paul Rosenberg and live music by Tame Rutabaga. All abilities and ages of dancers -- as well as musicians to join the band -- are always welcome. Great for the younger set.

DIRECTIONS: From New Scotland Avenue, go one block north on Quail Street. Church is at the corner of Quail St. and Maple Ave. Turn left onto Maple, and park in lot. Enter building down the stairs on Maple Ave entrance. http://www.firstcongregationalalbany.org/

DONATION: We ask for a $5 (adults) or $1(children) donation at the door to defray the expenses at each dance.
This dance series is sponsored by DanceFlurry Organization. More info: http://www.danceflurry.org/new/familydance.html

Thanks, Miriam!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What do you get when you cross my favorite author (Roald Dahl) and my favorite director (Wes Anderson)?

A rollicking good time, that's what. (I've always wanted to use rollicking in a sentence)

Recently released on DVD, Fantastic Mr. Fox is one of the best animated movies I have ever seen.  Not only is it only artistically beautiful and intricate (all characters, costumes, sets were made by hand) but it was witty and entertaining without being obnoxious (cue Alvin and the Chipmunks)

Admittedly, when I saw this in the theater a few months back, I had no idea that Wes Anderson directed it and prepared myself to endure, rather than enjoy, as I do with most kids movies (Kung Fu Panda being an exception). However, from the first frame it was obvious that he directed it.  If you have seen any of his other films (Rushmore, The Darjeeling Limited, and The Royal Tenenbaums etc.) all the tell tale signs are there...reoccurring collaborators, rocking soundtrack, witty dialogue, and dry humor that pairs well with Roald Dahl's darkly comedic writing style.

It took me a while to realize that George Clooney did the voice for Mr. Fox... the voice was so familiar but it drove me crazy until I could place it.  Other characters were played by Bill Murray, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Willem Dafoe, Jarvis Cocker (who I spent most of the 90s having a crush on... loved me some Britpop) and even a rabbit chef voiced by Mario Batali... complete with orange Crocs.

Since we bough the DVD two days ago we have already watched it twice. There is some shooting involved and some creepy farmers, but if you don't mind that it's a great family film. There will be a free viewing of the movie on Thursday at the Delaware Branch of the Albany Public Library

Location: Delaware Branch
Begins: 2:00 pm (Thursday, April 8, 2010)
Description: Popcorn donated by Spectrum 8 Theatres. (hooray!)

You can watch a "making of" video, among others, right here.
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