Wednesday, December 31, 2008

First Night: Northampton/Amherst

Because of weather conditions and also because I've never attended, I'm not going to make a very big announcement about First Night: Northampton. (Wow, look at that snow, blowing and swirling about -- it's a veritable white out.) Nevertheless, if you're in Northampton today and looking for a festive way to welcome in the New Year, you may want to look into First Night. You can find all the details here.

PSA: Road Conditions

Once again, the snow falls. And today is falls steadily and with a breeze that could very well turn to wind. There are plows out and about in Belchertown (one just drove past my house), but the snow still covers the roads. I took Bay Road into Hadley this morning, and at 8:50 the roads were already covered; by 10:15 they were deep and mushy at intersections -- hills were also a bit of a problem, giving my car some difficulties.
So, in case you needed another warning, be careful on those roads. Drive slowly and with your lights on -- and give plenty of room to those driving in front of you.

Oh -- and watch for turkeys crossing the road -- one toddled right out in front of me on Bay today.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Eric Carle Picture Book Museum

If you enjoy museums and if you have ever in your life enjoyed looking at pictures in books, and especially if you have a fondness for picture books and children's literature, you should absolutely take a few hours to visit The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. My second visit was made not too long ago and I had the pleasure of going on a weekday afternoon when visitors were mostly adults and a few young children, not yet of school age. The exhibitions in three galleries were delightful and full of beautiful art, and yet not so crowded or plentiful to be overwhelming. What I saw were antique illustrations from Wind in the Willows, the Wizard of Oz books, and other familiars and unfamiliars by a large variety of artists. And from now through March 8, the main exhibit is entitled "Over Rainbows and Down Rabbit Holes: the Art of Children's Books." (I can't wait to see it!)

The museum does not only house and display exhibits, however. Also available is a library of picture books, occasional theatrical and musical performances, storytimes, movies, author/illustrator meet-and-greets, classes for professionals. There's also a make-and-take art studio for kids, a cafe, and a jam-packed gift shop of wonderful things (keep that in mind for future birthdays and holidays). If you're lucky, you might even see Eric Carle while you're there! And be sure to check out the decorative tiles in the bathrooms.

The entry fee is reasonable for a museum ($7/adults, $5/youth), but if you are running on a tight budget, check with your local library to see if it carries free passes to the museum. I know Belchertown's Clapp Memorial Library does, as do many others.

The Eric Carle Museum is fresh, clean, and child-friendly, and a very good place to visit regularly (the exhibits change a few times a year). The entire musuem can easily be toured in the space of a short afternoon, with plenty of time to grab a snack or peruse the gift shop. Be sure to take a little time to admire the spectacular view (especially if you visit in the autumn) -- the museum is set into the rolling hills of the area and is surrounded by trees and sky and mountains, and it is part of the local Museums 10.

Eric Carle Museum: 125 West Bay Road, Amherst; 413.658.1100
(Close to Atkins Market and Hampshire College)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Blog News & Sledding...?

You may have noticed, if you have visited my blog before, that my banner has changed -- as have some of the colors and a bit of the design. It's the new winter look, and I quite fancy it. Let me know what you think.

Also, if you're a cyclist, or if you know someone who is, I'd like to direct you to the link in my sidebar to Velophoria -- the musings and writings of a road cyclist here in Belchertown (and beyond).

Meanwhile, it's Sunday afternoon, and it's still snowing. We had a respite of a few hours during the night, but the snow came back this morning. And now it's gusting and blustering about, blowing snow off of trees and pushing a white haze through the air.
I was out on a walk earlier this afternoon (thus the new pics on the page), and it was fun to dash through the snow that came up past my boots. There were a bunch of kids sledding on the hill on the corner of Hamilton and George Hannum. Where in the area do you sled?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Beauty of Snow

It can be hard to capture the beauty of snow with an old and inexpensive camera -- especially if taking shots from indoors. The lighting is never quite right and falling snow is difficult to capture in a still. Nevertheless, a pine tree frosted with snow is always a lovely winter sight.

The snow continues to fall today in light drifting flakes. The roads are being sanded and people are shoveling and plowing themselves out. Though I have cleared my car twice, it's already covered again with a fine white powdery dusting. More snow is expected tonight and tomorrow, with the possibility of freezing rain in the mix. Most unfortunate, the rain.

As I sit here and write, our red-capped downy woodpecker sits on the seed bell hanging over our deck, happily pecking out his breakfast in the snow. He's a beauty, and I wish I could get just a little closer to him without scaring him away.

There's a certain peacefulness in snow like today's. Enjoy it -- ski, build a snowman, sled, have a snowball fight, snowshoe, or just watch it fall. If you go out, drive with caution.
Happy snow day!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Where to Find School Closings

Most of you probably have cable television or local stations and can tune in to find out about school closings. Others of you may be on the phone-tree list and and will get a call on mornings when school is canceled or delayed. However, for the rest of you, and for anyone who would rather find the closings online and read through them more quickly than the scroll at the bottom of the news channel, check out these two websites for area school closings:

WWLP 22 News

And just in case you're wondering, school is closed today. It's going to be a winter wonderland!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


These are the stockings I made from fabric from Quabbin Quilts. Spiffy, no? Especially considering I had no pattern and no previous stocking-making experience!

Friday, December 12, 2008

PSA: Flooded Roads

Watch those roads while you're out driving today -- there are lots of stream and pond overflows causing hazardous conditions and flooding the roads. And I hear we're at a flood watch for the rest of the day.
Drive safely!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Quabbin Quilts

Sewing Christmas stockings for the season? Piecing together a quilt to warm and be cherished for years to come? If you're looking for fabrics for either of these projects or something similar, make a visit to Quabbin Quilts on Rt 202 in the Swift River Commons.
I made my first visit to Quabbin Quilts a few weeks ago, scoping out fabric possibilities for Christmas stockings I was planning to make this year. I was pleased with what I found and returned a week or two later to make a few purchases. (Now I'm ankle-deep in thread clippings and fabric scraps....)

The Quabbin Quilts store is not large, but it has a nice variety of fabrics that come in bolts (cut by the yard), or in pre-cut packs of fat quarters and 1/2 yards; there is also a selection of battings and fusible fleeces. Sewing and quilting tools are available, as well -- needles, thread, measuring devices, scissors, quilt patterns. There are also quilts for sale and other quilted items, like place mats, handbags, wall decorations, and more.
Quabbin Quilts has a main fabric area and a quilting classroom, in which it offers classes and an open quilting time -- an opportunity to get out of the house and enjoy quilting with others. The store also offers a quilting service for after your quilt is pieced.

The store was relatively quiet both times I visited, giving me plenty of time to browse the fabrics and pick the brain of the owner/employee who was manning the store at the time -- she took a good amount of time to talk with me, and she was quite friendly and helpful.
The store has been there for almost four years, if memory serves, and hopes to be there for years to come. If you have an interest, I'd recommend making a visit.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Birds @ Our Bell

I have yet to purchase a real birdfeeder. However, last week I did manage to buy a seed bell, in the hopes of attracting some of the birds that live in the trees and wetland behind our house. The squirrels discovered the seeds early, and as I hadn't hung the bell low enough, they helped themselves to a nice portion of the seeds before I had the chance to rehang it. I finally did. And still I waited for the birds. And waited. It took five days for the birds to discover the seeds, but when they did, they brought their friends. Chickadees, downy woodpeckers, tufted titmice (titmouses?), dark-eyed juncos, and even a shy cardinal. It was like a winter festival on our deck all weekend. And now this morning, they're back. I see a woodpecker (red cap and all), a chicadee, a junco, and a tufted titimouse all out for their breakfast and a little drink of snow.

Oh, how I do love the birds. They are such a delight.

(These pictures taken on a snowy cold day by my husband.)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Belchertown State School

Between Rt 202 and Jackson Street, there is a length of road lined with abandoned buildings and overgrown fields. Many of the buildings have asbestos warnings on them and "no trespassing" signs; some even have piles trash in front of them. Tunnel entrances rise above the ground with cautions that the tunnels are sealed off and have no exit, yet the tunnel openings are still accessible. Rundown and especially bleak on a cold November day, this stretch of road is what once was the Belchertown State School.

The Belchertown State School often appears in search results for the town; I came across mention of it many times while researching Belchertown. Last weekend on a walk and a whim, we stumbled upon its physical presence -- all its buildings, sidewalks, boarded windows, parking places, graffiti, garbage, fields, basketball courts, and more. It is an amazing stretch of under-utilized land in a prime location in town.

The BSS was a "school" for the mentally defective ("feeble-minded"), though with its history of abuses and overcrowding, it is not necessarily a bright mark on the town or the state. It opened in 1922 as the third such school in the Commonwealth. It closed in 1992, and since then has been left mostly to deteriorate, though plans for it are often being discussed.

The state school often hits the papers these days as officials try to determine what to do with the buildings and the land, which currently falls under the responsibilities of the Belchertown Economic Development and Industrial Corporation, though most of the construction plans listed on that webpage to begin in 2004 have not yet seen progress. On December 1, reported on a revised plan for the land that was approved by board members. There are a few businesses that have taken up residence near the Rt 202 side of the school.

For more information on the history and current status of the land and buildings, visit the links below.

The Wikipedia article, Belchertown State School
From State Hospitals of Massachusetts
From inside the walls, BSS YouTube vids
Rise & Fall of the State Hospital

Photographs and text copyrighted by Livin' In the Belch blog author, unless otherwise stated.