Hilltown Families Hand-made Valentine Swap 2021!

Once again, we’ve thrown our crafty hats into the ring of the Hilltown Families Hand-made Valentine Swap!

This annual tradition charges local families in the hidden hamlets of western Massachusetts (the Hilltowns) with creating original Valentines and sending them to other families and individuals.

I’ve actually participated in the HFHVS several times, including before I had children, and each year we receive a wide array of greetings from people of all ages in exchange for our own offerings.

This year, our Valentines took on two forms: magic wands and heart flowers, which followed the same basic pattern. First, I bought sheets of heart-shaped labels from Avery (I used template 94603, but there were a few available sizes) and craft sticks, ribbon, foam hearts, and heart stickers from Amazon. We rounded-out the supply list with our own stash of sequins, beads, markers, glue, and paints.

From there, two labels stuck together over a craft stick created the base for any creation, and we were off to the races — making not just enough for each Hilltown family on our list, but also for family members, friends, and holiday decor around the homestead.

Heart-flower Valentines, the Tiktok tutorial!
Julia’s preferred design was magic wands with long strands of ribbon. Amazon tip: I bought 20 rolls of themed ribbon for $11 – brand name Vatin. I think I’m set on Valentine ribbon until 2025.
I made more flowers than wands, largely because layering the foam hearts as petals is very mentally soothing. We kept going with flowers and wands until all of the foam hearts were gone; a bag of 300 from Amazon was $8.
My favorite wand of Julia’s was her two-sided “Frankenstein Heart,” which had green stitches on one side and brains on the other. I’ll be sure to repost this next Blogtoberfest. 🧠
The stickers were $9 for 500; also all set on multi-design heart stickers until at least mid-decade.
I had fun with the sequins, too…🦩
Heart wands, the TikTok tutorial!

Many thanks to Hilltown Families founder, publisher, and editor Sienna Wildfield for spearheading one of my favorite activities of the year — one that creates connections that felt a little more important this year than they already had. ❤️

Truckin’ at Wahconah Park

With a Memorial Day forecast that left a lot to be desired, we didn’t have particularly high hopes for our outdoor-itinerary this weekend. But the clouds parted around lunchtime on Saturday, so we jetted down to historic Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, Mass. for their First Annual Food Truck Feastival and gathered some tastes, sights, and sounds to share.

There were a few familiar trucks on the grounds, but also some new trucks and a great breadth of choices, from Asian to Mexican to American and back again. Several musical acts were scheduled throughout the day — enough that we heard three different acts in a two-hour period — and plenty of arts, crafts, clothing, and vendors of other sundries that I think add to a food-truck fest as long as they don’t overtake the food.

I also really love this park. We’ve attended games and other events here before and it’s a family-friendly destination with a chill vibe and a lot of cool things to see and do, no matter what the occasion. It’s one of the last ballparks in the U.S with a wooden grandstand, more than 200 “Pittsfield Players” have gone on to play in the Major Leagues, and it’s surrounded by decidedly historic looking signage, service buildings, and snack stands.

On to the food, though: because she had a “big girl” breakfast and lunch, Juli was able to start off with a super-fancy French vanilla sundae from the Krispy Cones soft-serve truck.

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Kid ate just about the whole thing, then went on to share Ben’s hand-cut fries and pulled-pork sandwich from The Chuck Wagon.

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I went off in search of something new while they were noshing, and ordered some fried beef gyota from the aptly named Nom Nom Hut, and a local brew (“brown“) from Bright Ideas Brewing.

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Let me know if you hear of any food truck fests in New England this summer that we might want to hit up!

Top Five Bowie Touchpoints for Gen-Xers

David Bowie’s career spanned six decades, and as such, fans of varying ages have different memories. For those of us who suffered diligently through the eighties and nineties, these five cultural touchpoints might ring a bell. Leave your own recollections in the comments…

5. Bowie and Bing, 1977

This rendition of Little Drummer Boy, originally recorded for a 1977 TV special: Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas, became a radio standard in the eighties — adding to the long list of ridiculous things we took seriously. But heck, it’s a nice arrangement… Bowie wrote the Peace on Earth harmony, and the duo recorded just a month before Bing Crosby died, marking one of his final recordings.

4. Cool World, 1992

Cool World is half live-action, half animation and stars Kim Basinger, Gabriel Byrne, and this young up-and-comer named W. Bradley Pitt. It ranked among my very favorite films in 1992, because I was 14, and it was on a relatively short list of PG-13 films I’d ever been allowed to see. So of course I remember it as an edgy, avant-garde masterpiece… In reality notsomuch, but its soundtrack was kick-ass and got (much) better reviews than the film, featuring a song written by Bowie and produced by Nile Rodgers  — Real Cool World — as well as tracks by the Thompson Twins, Ministry, and Moby. The video is quite the slice of the early nineties, too: we never actually see Bowie’s face, but his dance moves rival Christopher Walken’s.

3. The Breakfast Club, 1985

We all know how the movie starts… the lyric from Changes appears on a black title screen. We read it solemnly, knowingly, even though we’re confused as hell. Then the screen shatters, and we’re left with the exterior view of Shermer High School on a gray morning. There’s really not much more to the Bowie Lyric Legend of The Breakfast Club (that I can find), except that Ally Sheedy might have suggested it. Regardless, there it will always be, perplexing viewers until the end of time.

2. The Man Who Sold the World – Nirvana cover, 1993

Fast-forward to 1993, when the thrift store sweaters and plaid flannels started to emerge, along with the fast-and-furious trading of Nirvana albums bootlegged onto Maxell blank cassette tapes. The one that required two blank tapes was Nirvana Unplugged, which included the cover of Bowie’s The Man Who Sold the World that grungy teenagers everywhere proclaimed ‘the best Nirvana song ever.’ Such wankers, we were.

1. Labyrinth, 1986

Bowie as The Goblin King Jareth was probably the only reason my older brother would ever deign to watch a movie with me in the eighties, but I didn’t care — there he was, pretending not to enjoy one of Bowie’s five original tunes on the soundtrack. Like most of the films from my youth, this one received tepid reviews, but has since become a cult classic. On a side note, I’m really hoping to see a lot of Jareths this Halloween.