Kids’ Almanac: Scavenger hunt for old-time gifts, light a bicycle menorah, build a hobbyhorse or visit a sparkle garden

Ballerina Misty Copeland

“I remember, I remember how my childhood fleeted by. The mirth of its December, and the warmth of its July.”
– Winthrop Mackworth Praed


Help the birds with your holiday decorations

With dormant gardens and no snow yet, I started thinking about ways to liven up the space around our house, and I realized that I still had my hummingbird feeder up! I began to wonder how I could attract more birds to our yard, so I reached out to birder enthusiast extraordinaire Mark DeDea, president of the John Burroughs Natural History Society and caretaker/giver at the Forsyth Nature Center in Kingston.

In addition to creating edible garlands, such as stringing popcorn, apple and cranberries in a tree, DeDea suggests making your own suet concoction mixed with ingredients such as rolled oats, yellow cornmeal, peanut butter and even dried bread, with easy recipes here: Or if you’re filling a feeder that you already have, DeDea emphasizes, “One important note on buying seed is getting something that birds actually like, rather than buying cheap filler, which ends up on the ground and becomes an attractant for less desirable critters.”

How about tying in birds with outdoor holiday decorating? DeDea suggests, “Besides decorating your shrubs with edible garlands, you may also dress up windowboxes with fresh cuttings of cedar, holly or winterberry, which look seasonal and will offer birds like robins or bluebirds a meal. But please do not use any Asiatic bittersweet, as that will only help in spreading this undesirable invasive. Better yet, visit a local nursery and purchase a small specimen of one of these species and keep it indoors for the winter to add a little holiday cheer, and then plant it as a family in the spring and provide years of attractive habitat to birds in your backyard.”

Looking for doable building projects with the kids or grandkids? How about building a birdhouse? “If your backyard habitat is conducive to building a nest box for a screech owl or a wintering box for bluebirds, it could be a fun and timely project; or build a birdfeeder! There are many simple designs online.”

DeDea says that the enjoyment of backyard birding can actually be a part of a larger scientific effort. “If folks do feed the birds, they may be able to help citizen science locally as well. We can always use ‘feeder watchers’ in either of the Christmas Count Circles that are centered in Ulster County and conducted by the John Burroughs Natural History Society. Global data collections such as the Great Backyard Bird Count take place in February and link families to useful tools like and”

For more information about local birding outings or the upcoming Christmas Count Circles, visit, and you can always stop to say “Hi!” to Mark at the Forsyth Nature Center, located at 157 Lucas Avenue in Kingston.


Riverby Awards for the best in children’s nature writing

Know of any excellent nature books for children? You can submit your ideas to the John Burroughs Association’s 2016 Riverby Awards through Friday, December 18. Selection criteria for works submitted must be suitable for young readers through high school; have nonfiction subjects of natural history, ecology and/or environmental studies; be scientifically accurate; be in the format of poetry, travel, art, adventure, biography, field studies or first-person experiences, but no science texts; and books must have been published in 2015.

To enter, include a cover letter with your contact information that includes the title/s of your entries, and submit seven copies of each title to: John Burroughs Association, Attn: Literary Awards, 261 Floyd Ackert Road, PO Box 439, West Park, NY 12493. For more information, send an e-mail to [email protected].


Country Christmas at Minard’s Family Farm

Interested in a new and engaging Christmas experience for your family on a real farm? Check out Minard’s Family Farm Christmas Spectacular. Minard’s used to close after apple season, but with its new emphasis on agritainment and agritourism, there’s plenty of fun to last all season.

Outside, the colorful outdoor inflatables add a modern flair complementing traditional seasonal elements, such as the wagon ride with Shawangunk views; and Minard’s sells real Christmas trees, wreaths and kissing balls at prices that keep you feeling jolly. Inside, the barn is open to visitors, and guess who wants to see you? Santa! He’s seated right in the middle of the room, ready to chat or take a photo together. Tables are set up for kids to get face-paint and to make fun crafts such as sand art and suncatchers, which my daughter was thrilled to create. And you can still buy a variety of fresh apples, as well as delicious bakery treats and gifts. My daughter especially enjoyed trying a sample of the pear cider.

Treat your family to a special outing by stopping at Minard’s Family Farm, and be sure to say “Hi!” to Jason Minard, and let him know what you think! Minard’s Family Farm is located at 250 Hurd’s Road in Clintondale. For more information, call (866) 632-7753, visit, or look for updates at


Hudson Valley gifts

Here are three gifts that will make you look like a gift-giving pro, and they’re all from the Hudson Valley!

World’s Greatest Search & Discover: The United States by Matt Maley, local artist, is a visual scavenger hunt on a 36-by-72-inch poster with over 500 treasures to find from American history, geology and roadside attractions. Excellent for fun at home, and my husband and his colleagues even bought one for work, where they compete to see who can find the hidden items first. Great for ages 3 through adulthood. $29.95.

 Old King Cole by Iza Trapani, local author, is a fun retelling of the classic nursery rhyme that includes a host of peers from the Mother Goose canon, such as Humpty Dumpty and Little Red Riding Hood. Perfect for ages 2 to 5 years. $15.95.

 Friends and Frenemies by Jennifer Castle, local author, and Deborah Reber is a dynamic manual to provide support to middle school students looking to make friends, keep friends, help friends and end toxic friendships using tools like quizzes, polls, quotes from older teens and more. Aimed at middle grades, ages 9 and up. $11.99.



Beacon Hanukkah celebration

This year’s Beacon Hebrew Alliance Hanukkah celebration features a one-of-a-kind bicycle menorah along with honoring a different part of the Beacon community during the candle-lighting at 5:30 p.m. each night at Polhill Park, located at the corner of Route 9D and Main Street in Beacon: Thursday, December 10, Volunteers; Friday, December 11, Entrepreneurs; Saturday, December 12, Clergy; and Sunday, December 13, Builders, Makers & Fixers. On Sunday, December 13, all are invited to attend the Community Hanukkah Party from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 331 Verplanck Avenue in Beacon.

For more information, call (845) 831-2012, extension 3, or visit



Sparkle at Boscobel in Garrison

Sparkle at Boscobel sounds like pure winter magic, with acts such as internationally renowned ventriloquist Jonathan Geffner on Fridays, December 11 and 18 or Holiday Jazz with the Libby Richman Trio on Saturdays, December 12 and 19, along with magician Margaret Steele, sparkle gardens and more. Tickets include all lighting displays and attractions and cost $15 for adults, $10 for children aged 3 to 11 years, $45 for a four-pack for two adults and two children and free for children under age 3.

Boscobel is located at 1601 Route 9D in Garrison. For tickets or more information, call (845) 265-3638 or visit


Charles Dickens program at Esopus Library in Port Ewen

This Friday at the Town of Esopus Library, you may hear a “Bah, humbug,” but you’ll feel cheered spending the evening learning about the life of author Charles Dickens, Victorian England and hearing dramatic readings from his holiday classic. “Charles Dickens and A Christmas Carol” takes place on Friday, December 11 at 6 p.m. This program is free and open to the public.

The Town of Esopus Library is located at 128 Canal Street in Port Ewen. For more information, call (845) 338-5580 or visit



Kids’ Holiday Painting Party at Poughkeepsie’s American Stardom Dance Academy

Interested in a winter art activity for your kids that you don’t have to clean up? On Saturday, December 12 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the American Stardom Dance Academy, children ages 5 and up are invited to attend the Kids’ Holiday Painting Party. Each child will make two snowflake artworks on canvas. The cost is $10 per child, and snacks and beverages will be provided. Ages 5 to 10 years must have a guardian on-site, and all participants need to bring smocks. Advance reservations are required.

The American Stardom Dance Academy is located at 40 Vassar Road in Poughkeepsie. For tickets or more information, visit


Christmas with the Ellisons at Knox’s Headquarters in Vails Gate

Have you heard? The Ellisons would like you to join them for Christmas festivities. “Who are the Ellisons?” you ask, furrowing your brow, thumbing through your address book. Why, they’re your friends from the 18th century whose house was used during the Revolutionary War by Major General Henry Knox!

Let me explain. This Saturday and next, December 12 and 19 from 4 to 7 p.m. at Knox’s Headquarters State Historic Site, visitors will be treated to a candlelight tour of the 1754 Ellison mansion by costumed interpreters, the historic house decorated in 18th-century holiday style. Admission costs $3 for adults, $2 for students and seniors.

Knox’s Headquarters is located at 289 Forge Hill Road in Vails Gate. For more information, call (845) 561-1765, extension 22, or visit


Make your own hobbyhorse

If you’ve wanted to do some woodworking with your child or grandchild, this weekend you could make a hobbyhorse! On Saturday, December 12 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., both children and adults are welcome to work with Tom Hanford at the NorthEast-Millerton Library. Reservations are required.

The NorthEast-Millerton Library is located at 75 Main Street in Millerton. For more information or to RSVP, call (518) 789-3340 or visit


Frozendale in Rosendale

The Frozendale Daze festival means free hot chocolate, a Redwing Blackbird Puppet Theater show for children, a free matinee of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? an open wreath-making workshop with Victoria Gardens, a mac & cheese contest and much more! Frozendale takes place all day this Saturday, December 12 along Main Street in Rosendale. For more information, call (845) 658-3131 or visit


Gingerbread historic houses at Ulster County Historical Society

If you have fun creating gingerbread houses at home with the kids, you’ll want to check out the Gingerbread Exhibition at the Ulster County Historical Society, which features historical sites in Ulster County modeled in gingerbread! Its last day is Saturday, December 12 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission to the exhibit costs $10 for the general public, $7 for seniors and children under 12, $5 for Society members, $25 for families and free for children aged 4 and under.

The Ulster County Historical Society is located at 2682 Route 209 in Stone Ridge. For more information, call (845) 338-5614 or visit


Wayfinder Experience’s Living Legends at Sudbury School in Zena

Got a kid who really gets into roleplaying, foam swords and an epic storyline that keeps building every time players return for more? Then take a look at the Wayfinder Experience’s Living Legends program this Saturday, December 12 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Hudson Valley Sudbury School. New players pay only $10; returning players pay the regular $40 fee. Participants should bring lunch and dinner.

The Hudson Valley Sudbury School is located at 84 Zena Road in Kingston. To register or for more information, call (845) 481-0776 or visit



Holiday Hunt at Locust Grove in Poughkeepsie

The Locust Grove Estate challenges you to a Holiday Hunt. Explore this lavishly decorated historic mansion to find unique gifts exchanged by the Young family. What a great way for children to engage in the details of this historic site! And when they’re finished, cider, cookies and holiday stories await them at the Visitor Center.

Locust Grove is open from 12 noon to 4 p.m., so arrive by 3 p.m. to do your hunt. Admission costs $8 per person, and children under 4 years get in free. Locust Grove Estate is located at 2683 South Road in Poughkeepsie. For more information, call (845) 454-4500 or visit


Rosendale Theatre screens Misty Copeland’s A Ballerina’s Tale

“Through movement, I found my calling. Through ballet, I found my voice.” This quote alone from Misty Copeland – the first woman of color to hold a principal dancer position in a major ballet company – makes me want to run out and see the documentary about her. A Ballerina’s Tale is shown this Sunday, December 13 at 3 p.m. at Rosendale Theatre. Admission costs $10 for members, $12 for non-members and $6 for children age 12 and younger.

The Rosendale Theatre is located at 408 Main Street in Rosendale. For more information, call (845) 658-8989 or visit To learn more about the film, visit


Erica Chase-Salerno completes another circle around the sun this week. She and her husband, Mike, live in New Paltz with their two children: the inspirations behind She can be reached at [email protected]

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