Fool Proof Banana Cream Pie

I swear on my children’s life … this is delicious!  I’m not saying it’s  a replacement for some high end bakery banana cream pie – but it’s stars and stripes above any supermarket banana cream pie I can get in the Utica area. And it’s so easy…the 11 year old made the ones pictured here. (I know…not so pretty…but ooohh soo good!)

Sorry - bad iPhone pic

He did a good job!

This recipe came courtesy of They have perfectly easy and detailed instructions complete with step by step photographs.  We’ve made it 4 times since February. I know it by heart now.


MVCC Kids Summer Program

If you live in the Mohawk Valley then you’ve gotten the MVCC Summer Course Catalog in the mail.  I ignored it for a few years, but last year I started looking at it and came to realize my oldest had finally reached the age where he could take advantage of the summer programs they offer.  So, I handed him the catalog and he chose 3 courses.

The first was an Engineering Boot Camp for ages 8-12.  

I wondered about that age range when I signed him up. He was 11 and going into 6th grade at the time and I wondered how he’d fair with 8 year olds – but he’s pretty good natured so I didn’t give it a terrible amount of thought.

He loved the first day!  I wish I had taken pictures – but alas, I did not.  They got in pairs and used erector set type pieces to to build a bridge which they then tested to see if it withstood different loads.  I picked him up that afternoon and he was happy…truly happy! I was so glad (my pushing them to get involved usually ends in failure…like the time I sent his younger brother to summer soccer camp at Washington Mills Park…but that’s another story).

As all good things, his enthusiasm ended…the next day.  I can’t even remember what they did (he can’t either – I asked him) but he was miserable. It got worse from there but he kept going the rest of the week (I was at least gonna teach him to finish what you start!). In writing this post, I asked him to reflect on what changes could be made to the Engineering Camp to make it better.  He decided that reducing class size and breaking up the age groups would make it much better.  He gives this camp  2 out of 5 stars.

Perspective Drawing Class

I can make this short and sweet…he LOVED it! However, I looked at this summer’s course selection and it is not listed.  The class was ages 10-14 (if memory serves me well) and they worked on one drawing (see above) the whole time.  So many times I see him rush trough projects for school or stuff we do at home …like he just wants to get it DONE…with no details or thoughtfulness or revision.  I think for a boy who had just turned 11…he did a really good job. He gave it 5 out of 5 stars.

The last class he wanted to take was something relating to history…only one other person signed up…so it was cancelled.

My Son’s First Summer Away…Camp Treetops, Lake Placid, NY

All photos: Camp Treetops

Well folks, this post will be a continuing series (or an updated post…not sure which yet) because this year my oldest son is going away  to Camp Treetops in Lake Placid, New York for 7 weeks!!! I think a little background is required.

My son is not your typical kid.  

He does not like sports and although I wouldn’t call him shy, he’s definitely not the most outgoing child around.  He’s kind of a loner at school – yet I will admit this is getting better.  And yes, he’s a bit over weight.  Next year is a crucial year for him…7th Grade…Junior High School.  All 3 of the elementary schools come together into one middle school.  I’m very proud to say that he is not a follower … so I don’t worry about peer pressure too much (I get that worry with his younger brother- ooh..lucky me!). Instead, he wants to be a leader but he lacks the skills because: 1) I’m not a perfect parent and 2) he’s never participated in organized sports. I suspect this has contributed to his inability to cooperate in a group.  Anyways…enough parent psycho babble…the kid needs to grow up and learn some life skills that I just can’t get through to him.  Oh yeah, I forgot to mention.  Me and my oldest are a lot alike…and this leads to constant battles of will between us.

Seven Weeks at Camp (July 30th – August 18th)

Why Camp Treetops?  

I have enrolled him and paid for the tuition, and I’ve never seen the place.  I am going on blind faith and gut instinct. The camp is part of The North County School, a progressive boarding and day school.  I actually  started out looking for a private school for him, but then I saw the tuition knocking on 40K per year and was determined that my oldest was going….to camp.

Camp Treetops has the traditional summer camp activities…bonfires, swimming, horseback riding, canoe, hiking the Adirondacks…all that good stuff.  But it has MORE!  Herb and vegetable gardens, barns with pigs, chickens, sheep, cows and llamas.  Woodworking, basket weaving, spinning wheels, looms, no television, no phones, no candy!  Like stepping back in time! The children have chores everyday which rotate from garden duty to barn chores to helping to make the meals.

Here is a sampling of just a few activities to look forward to this summer:

Artwork including flower pressing, plant rubbings, watercolors, vegetable prints, gourd music, creating garden fairy houses, garden mask-making and plays, and making lip balm with garden herbs and flowers.

Wool activities like washing, carding, dyeing (using synthetic and natural dyes), and felting wool from our own sheep.

Food projects including preserving foods such as tomatoes, pesto, pickles; harvesting and cooking food for garden tea parties; using herbs for tea, bread, pizza, salsa, muffins, and scones.

Animals exploring garden insects, incubating and hatching chicks, checking animal heart rates, animal portraits and photography, and much more.

Farm Lessons about where our food comes from, healthy eating, and the importance of eating local produce.

I love this idea.  I worry that with todays lifestyles (mine is NO exception) our kids will grow up and have no concept of what it takes to feed us and clothe us.

I’ll admit a certain level of ignorance myself. I was over 30 years old when I found out that summer time is not the season for oranges.  I never even questioned why every Christmas the chocolate companies make chocolate oranges…now it makes sense.  And I grew up in rural Herkimer County, NY where being 4-H Dariy Princess is quite the honor!

To raise children who respect and understand the earth…well, it makes them better people.  And I hope it’s one of the many things he’ll learn this summer at Camp Treetops.  I’ll keep you posted!

Summer Camp for Kids at the Farmers Museum, Cooperstown

I wish I had pictures of my son from his time at the Farmer’s Museum Summer Camp.  Cooperstown is about 45 mins from my house and yes, I drove him down every morning but I was lucky that a friend was able to bring him home. He forged a hook…wove a basket…made lip balm …among other activities as he learned about life in the early 19th century.

The museum runs several sessions during the summer at various times. Check out their website  for this year’s program.  My sone gave it 5 out of 5 stars!

Support Local Business…NOW!

I am so bummed right now.  For years I’ve thought as soon as my daughter is old enough I can have her birthday party at Emmi Beads and with her birthday coming up fast I went online and found out a terrible, terrible thing – they are closing.

Photos: Courtesy of

Now, I admit I did not help to keep them in business.  I am not crafty.  But I always thought it would be great to go with my daughter when she was old enough to appreciate it (a/k/a sit down and not stab anyone with the wire).  Emmi Beads has always been a great supporter of my school’s PTA events (Kim, the owner, donated generously to all of our Basket Bonanza Fundraisers). I feel so guilty – I know the added patronage of one person would not have made the difference for Emmi Beads – but how many other small businesses in the area have I passively neglected over the years??? And, how many people like me are there?…well meaning, but not putting my money down.

Then I read The Electric Company in Utica is closing.

Photo Credit:

And Just days later….the Observer Dispatch prints:

Fiscal concerns lead to end of Utica Monday Nite summer series

Utica is a lovely city…my history loving 11 year old can’t stop telling me how he wants to grow up and become a mega rich entrepreneur and bring Utica back to its glory days.  Every time I drive through West Utica he tells me how he’s gonna bring manufacturing back to Utica. He is 11.  It is nice to know he has an appreciation for history and I hope his visionary thinking isn’t just a childhood whim.

Fort Herkimer Church – for kids who like to hear cannons go BOOM!

In the Fall of 2010, I dragged my kids and my husband down the hill to my old stopping grounds … Herkimer County.  Specifically, Fort Herkimer Church to see and hear a re-enactment of a Revolutionary Battle.  They really loved hearing the cannons go BOOM!!!

My pictures don’t do the site justice.  Mrs. Mecomber at New York has beautiful pictures and accompanying descriptions.  I LOVE their website!  They are doing what I would love to do – and their site is extraordinary and a definite labor of love. For a more in-depth history on Fort Herkimer Church, check out the Three Rivers website.

Art and Dance Classes for all ages in Utica

I love Munson Williams Art Institute! Every time I walk their campus I feel young … we’ll at least in my head I pretend;-). My middle son (8) and my daughter (5) took their Artbox Classes last summer and are bugging me already to sign them up again.

The kids spent the first two weeks painting and drawing, and the last two weeks working in clay. The class was Monday through Thursday for 2.5 hours each morning. At the end of the 4 weeks, all the students put on an exhibition of their work in the same gallery the full time art students use to exhibit.  Grandma and Great Aunt Connie came and the kids were proud as peacocks!

I looked to see if the Summer class schedule was up on their website yet, but I don’t see it.  Instead I found their Spring Program which although it is too late to take those courses, will give you a feel for the types of classes they offer. Tuition was about $200 per kid. Also, I must say the parents I met there were some of the nicest and most down to earth I have met in a long time.

My daughter also took the beginning ballet class.  I must warn you – this is a serious dance class.  Don’t get me wrong, the girls had a wonderful time – loved it!  But these are dance instructors at an arts college and their passion and professionalism shines and the students respond to it appropriately.

Mine is the one with the skirt…we soon found out you should not wear skirts!! We quickly fixed that.  Also, we bought the cheap ballet shoes at Target….this is a No-No.  But the nice part was they had a drawer full of ballet shoes prior students had outgrown and donated and they let us borrow those.

Summer Camp at the Herkimer Home

The Herkimer Home runs a wonderful day camp for kids who love history!

My son loves history. He’d actually prefer to jump in a time machine and live in the past.  Summer Camp at the Herkimer Home is the next best thing.  Offered in July to kids ages 8-12, the day camp allows the kids the chance to dress up in colonial garb, forge their own spoons, play period games … and much more.

The Herkimer Home allows its visitors an intimate look at Revolutionary living and unlike most historic sites, the volunteers make you feel like a family guest. If you are interested, contact The Friends of the Herkimer Home for more info!

Check it out yourself …April 15th, 1-4PM

On Sunday, April 15th, from 1 p.m. to 4p.m., join Herkimer Home State Historic Site and the Friends of Herkimer Home as they celebrate the 36th annual Sugaring Off on the grounds of Herkimer Home. Since 1796, Sugaring Off has been one of Central New York’s sweetest goodbyes to winter and the tastiest harbingers of spring.
Sugaring Off at Herkimer Home is a great social event as hundreds of happy visitors join costumed staff and volunteers in recreating the taste, aroma, and spirit of a colonial maple sugaring bee.
Visitors will see sap will boil in huge kettles, spiles whittled from sumac, troughs hewn from half round logs and hearthside cooking. The 2012 Maple Queen will give a presentation about the Maple Syrup process. Horse drawn wagons will convey visitors around the grounds of the property once owned by Revolutionary War hero General Nicholas Herkimer. Tastings of sap, jack – wax, and maple gingerbread will be offered. The Friends of Herkimer Home will be selling their famous Kitty’s Fritter’s smothered in warm Maple Syrup.
A Raid on the Sugarbush, staged by several of the area’s Revolutionary War re-enactment groups, will highlight this edition of Sugaring Off. The Tryon County militia will also demonstrate the drill, weaponry, combat tactics, and camp life of the period.
Admission to the grounds, Visitor Center, militia demonstration and wagon rides are free. Guided Tours of General Herkimer’s house will be offered for a small admission fee to support the historic site.

And finally….a great big THANK YOU to NYS Senator James Seward and State Assemblyman Marc Butler for helping the Herkimer Home to secure $100,000 in the state budget to keep the site open.