The Magical and Majestic Beekman 1802 Garden Tour

Friday, July 24, 2015

Have you ever visited a place so beautiful, so peaceful, so perfect that you never wanted to leave?  I've experienced a few of those places since beginning this blog and one of them was a place we revisited last Sunday.......at Beekman 1802.

You might remember we visited the Beekman estate in May '14 with our local library.  At that time we were given a tour by Beekman COO, Megan Holken because Josh and Brent (owners of Beekman 1802) were delayed out of town.  I happened to be online at just the right moment last week when Josh & Brent decided (rather spontaneously) to open their home for Garden Tours that very next weekend. As soon as I saw their post on Facebook and read that Josh and Brent would be conducting the tours themselves, without a second of hesitation, I clicked on the link and ordered two tickets for the 10:00 a.m. tour that Sunday!!!
This photo was taken during our first visit in 2014.
Now anyone that knows me knows I may get ecstatic over many things....I'm a pretty enthusiastic person, but I am not all that impressed with celebrity, wealth, or the things that come with it.  I'm a simple girl and I love simple things.   So my admiration and fascination with everything Beekman is somewhat of an irony.....unless and until you meet Josh and Brent.  If somehow you have not heard of the Fabulous Beekman Boys (really???), I'll refer you to my original blog post for their complete story, (http://gwfirecracker.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-fabulous-beekman-1802.html) but...long story short: Author Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Dr. Brent Ridge won the Amazing Race, lost their jobs in NY city in 2008, bought the historic Beekman 1802 estate in Sharon Springs and began raising goats.  Sounds crazy, I know, but along the way Josh wrote about their journey in the bestselling book, "The Bucolic Plague", the two revived the beautiful estate, and opened a flagship store in town selling a number of products including goat's milk cheese, goat's milk soap, cookbooks and more.  Fast forward to today and you'll find the Beekman Boys as they're known and loved are two of the most famous and likeable entrepreneurs on the planet.  Their products include housewares, cookbooks, food products including their Mortgage Lifter sauce, clothing, including their famous muck boots, products for the garden and way too many others to list.  They've done TV shows, public appearances, TV commercials for Time Warner Cable, and more.  I'd say they're certifiable celebrities!   Yet, when they greeted their visitors last Sunday, they were anything but celebrities.
Josh (l) Brent (r) - forgive the candid shots guys.....asking you to pose seemed artificial.
Brent was the first to greet us with a warm handshake asking our names and where we were from.  He and Josh were so friendly and warm, and so down to earth.  Had you not known their history, you would have thought they had just arrived from the city and were simply the owners of the property hanging out with their new neighbors.  It is impossible not to love them.  They seem to have no idea how big they are nor have they let their success and fame affect them.  Brent who seemed the more animated of the two (although Josh certainly has personality as exhibited in his hilarious storytelling in the Bucolic Plague) began the tour giving the history of the property.  He then announced that today there would be a special treat.....since we were a small group he would be letting us on the porch where we could enjoy the fabulous view that is often the subject of so many of his Instagram and Facebook photos.  Normally they don't let large groups on the porch.  Our group let out an excited gasp but Josh's mouth dropped open and after a moment to recover he said, "You are?????"  It was so genuine and pretty funny.   Brent, totally unphased by Josh's reaction, simply continued on.
We did get on the porch and trust me, the view is nothing short of spectacular.   The Beekman estate is one of the most beautiful places on earth - no matter which direction you turn.



Our tour continued down to the pond - one of Brent's favorite places on the property.  
It's easy to see why!    




We even got to meet Onder who also loves the pond!
From there we headed back up to the barn where we were greeted by Farmer John and the 100+ goats, most of whom were eager to receive as much love and attention as the visitors would accommodate.

Farmer John gave us a little education on the whole goat-keeping process, much of which is included in my earlier blog, answered a multitude of questions and then passed the group on to Josh who was our tour guide in the vegetable garden.

The garden consists of 52 raised beds which are used to grow everything from herbs to the tomatoes that were the original ingredient in their famous Mortgage Lifter sauce.  At every point along the tour we were welcomed to break off on our own to explore and take photos, and throughout, everyone - Josh, Brent, Megan and Farmer John, was so welcoming and eager to answer questions and make us feel relaxed and unhurried, providing us with ample opportunity to take in as much of this paradise as possible.


 This is a Smoke Bush - an abnormally large and beautiful specimen, in fact. Even Martha Stewart was impressed during her visit to the farm!
Don't let the overcast sky fool you - it was very hot and humid, but it was worth it!
We weren't the only Beekman groupies on the tour.  In fact, there were people who had come from Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Georgia!  We met some really nice people!  I feel so fortunate to have been online at just the right time to be able to take advantage of this opportunity.....not just to enjoy the farm again, but to finally meet Josh and Brent.  If you haven't read the Bucolic Plague, I urge you to do so.  It's a quick and hilarious read.  Like me, you will be left wanting more and a trip to Sharon Springs will be on your bucket list.  Check out the Beekman 1802 website for upcoming opportunities to tour the farm (which is only open for special events).  Thank you Josh and Brent not just for being really cool and down-to-earth human beings, but for opening your home to us and doing so in a way that made us feel genuinely welcome.  It was such a pleasure!




If you get to visit Sharon Springs, be sure to check out this beautiful little village and all it has to offer, including the Beekman 1802 Merchantile and the American Hotel where we enjoyed a magnificent lunch with great service by Rebecca!   Please use the links provided below for more information about Sharon Springs.

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Keeping Traditions Alive & Making Memories at Huck Finn's Playland

Friday, July 17, 2015

Not all stories have happy endings.  You don't have to be an adult to know that.  While many fairy tales begin with "Once upon a time...." and end with "and they all lived happily ever after," last year at this time one of everyone's favorite childhood stories was about to end with a much less happy ending.  That was the story of Hoffman's Playland.


After 62 years in the business of making memories, the owners of Hoffman's Playland decided it was time to retire.  Patrons begged and lobbied and pleaded for various businesses to take over the playland but for a while it seemed hopeless.  It seemed that this historical landmark, this happy place was about to close for good.  And suddenly (after a long and strongly supported campaign)....this happened:

"Last year, the Albany Business Review broke the story that David & Ruth Hoffman wanted to retire.  It set off an effort by Albany County Executive Dan McCoy to move the park's 18 rides elsewhere.The playland's new life is thanks to a $650,000 financial assistance package from the Albany County Industrial Development Agency, National Grid and the state. Without the help, Jeff Sperber (new owner) said the $1.8 million investment would not have happened." (Taken from the Albany Business Review).

Although this was great news - the best news - I think it's fair to say that there were some doubters who wondered if an amusement park, especially one that had been around for generations built 62 years ago in what was practically a field, could be the same once located in the middle of an industrial park along the fast-paced 787.  It was a hard picture to paint and an even harder vision to imagine but the owners of Huck Finn's along with their supporters were not only able to envision it, but were determined to make it a reality.  Not only have they recreated the magical world many of us have known for most of our lives, the place we've made memories as kids, then with our kids and even with our own grandkids, they have created this wonderland amidst an industrial park so successfully that when you're in it, you don't even realize you are surrounded by warehouses.  Bravo Huck Finn's!


I had the chance to check out Huck Finn's a couple weeks ago when my granddaughter was in town from Indiana for a visit.  We've been taking her to Hoffman's since she was a baby.  At almost five, Hoffman's (now Huck Finn's) is one of her favorite summer highlights.  When her mom was small - it was her favorite too.......
My daughters - 1986
So there wasn't a doubt that Huck Finn's would be on our list of things to do while she was in town

The boats have always been a big favorite with our girls!



Unbridled enthusiasm!


We opted to make an evening visit and that evening the crowds were light and there were no lines for any ride.  What you'll first notice when you visit is that all the rides, except the bumper cars, made the move to this new location.  You'll also notice that the rides are closer together - not sprawled over as large an area as they were at Hoffman's.  This is not a bad thing.  What we noticed and loved was that the fencing around the rides is lower making viewing and picture-taking easier.  The walkways between rides are either concrete, blacktop or brick. (You can purchase the bricks  and have them engraved).  They've also softened the appearance with grass and flowers which helps minimize the city feel.  All the rides have received some sprucing up and if you were a newcomer to the park, you'd probably think they were new.

Huck Finn's built a nifty new train tunnel, a beautiful building with restrooms and snacks and brought along the snack trailer from Hoffman's.  They've done such a beautiful job that when you're there, making memories and having fun, for a minute it's hard to remember you're not back on Route 9.  The commute for those of us coming from the suburbs may not be as easy, but it's nice that the city kids can enjoy this colorful, happy park too.  Just like always, Huck Finn's employs an army of young adults to run the rides and as always these are an awesome bunch - lifting kid after kid into the rides, assuring nervous parents their child will be fine alone.  It can be scary that first time you let your child go on the little ferris wheel all by themselves.........

My daughters in 1986 and my granddaughter in 2015



Elena - always enjoying the cars.....2012, 2013 and 2015
From 2011-2015, Elena never looses her enthusiasm for the Merry-Go-Round!
Like Mother in 1986 (L), Like Daughter 2015 (R)
What kids doesn't love the boats??

1986 - 2015 - The tradition continues bringing smiles to children and parents alike!
Beginning the tradition with my newest grandbaby - Braelyn!

Huck Finn's has continued the tradition of creating a place where families can go without breaking the bank -  a place that's close to home, easy to enjoy in an hour or two, and leave with smiles on your faces and change in your pocket.  A book of 25 tickets sells for $29.95. Thirteen rides require just one ticket and only four rides require two tickets.  Trust me.....those 25 tickets go a long, long way, especially if you only have one or two children.  Where else can you go for that kind of investment and have this much fun?  A visit to those big amusement parks cost between $46.99-$56.99 per kid!  I can only speak for myself, but as a grandma I'd much prefer a visit to Huck Finn's!  Not only is it a bargain....it's a chance to be part of something special, a landmark, a fairy tale.  

Thank you Huck Finn and team for making this fairy tale continue, for recreating the magic in a clean and safe environment, for keeping the tradition alive.  You have done a wonderful job and all of us who went to the park as kids and are now bringing our grandkids appreciate your efforts more than you can imagine. 


To read my previous blog, "Thanks for The Memories" about Hoffman's Playland:

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Come Sail Away on Narragansett Bay

Monday, July 13, 2015


Everyone has a fantasy of a life they dream of living....I'd have to say one of my fantasy lives would be one in which I was rich enough to sail the seas in some luxurious yacht.  Now, I don't mean a cruise ship.....I have no interest in those.  I mean a schooner with cabins below and big beautiful pristine sails like the ones above.    While that is certainly as far from reality as it gets, I can easily get a taste of that life for a couple of hours when I step aboard the Madeleine, a 72-foot sailing schooner in Newport, RI....which is exactly what I did last week.  This was my second time on the Madeleine and this time was really special because I got to experience it with my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughters.  If you haven't sailed on a schooner before, I hope today's post encourages you to do so soon.


The schooner Madeleine was built in 1991 to replicate 19th century style with 20th century comforts and conveniences.  Built of wood and designed to carry passengers safely and comfortably, this ship is Coast Guard approved to carry up to 49 passengers.  The only thing more beautiful than the ship itself is the view you see as you cruise along the Newport coastline.
On this visit to Newport we decided to take the Sunset Cruise which included complimentary champagne and beer........not just one glass, but as much as you wanted.  Of course, that is dependent on the good behavior of the passengers.  No one wants a disorderly drunk aboard. We're lightweights when it comes to alcohol so we stopped after just one. The Madeleine cruises range from 60-90+ minutes, but ours ran about two hours.  We were fortunate to have picked a perfect evening for our cruise weather-wise and although the day was warm, once we were out on open waters and the sun began to set, it got a bit chilly.  Not to worry.....our hospitable and friendly crew were on hand to pass out blankets for everyone.

Speaking of crew.....the Madeleine's crew of three is always top notch.  The daytime cruises are narrated, pointing out all the sights along the coast, but the sunset cruise is meant more for relaxing so the crew mostly answered questions from the passengers, poured champagne and managed the navigation of the boat.  That gave passengers the opportunity to just sit back, sip champagne and soak up the perfect atmosphere as we watched the sun lower in the evening sky.  Towards the end of the cruise, the junior passengers had an opportunity to pilot the ship (with close supervision, of course).
The Madeleine is just a gorgeous piece of sailing equipment, built right here in Albany, NY. 


Popping the cork of the champagne!





 You'll enjoy meeting other boats along your cruise.....


 Here's the Rum Runner II, another popular cruise boat (below).

 and this car carrier ship......

 And eventually....all good things must come to an end....

Lowering the sails after an amazing evening! 

If you get to Newport, be sure to take advantage of the many opportunities to see Newport from the water.  Whether you cruise the Madeleine, the Rum Runner II, the Amazing Grace, or one of the many others, like the next schooner on my wish list..... the Aquidneck......you'll love every minute.  I promise if you do, you'll fantasize about being able to spend your days cruising around the world too, or at the very least - Narragansett Bay!   Links for some of the cruise opportunities are listed at the end of this post as well as previous posts about Newport and it's many attractions.  Thanks for reading and come back soon to Life As I See It. 
The Aquidneck
Previous posts on Newport:

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