Hilltown Families Handmade Valentine Swap 

Behold, the spoils of the Hilltown Families Handmade Valentine Swap!

I signed up for this annual community tradition for the second time this year, and for the first time as a mom. This time around, the whole process was even more fun, and the entire family got involved.

Created by Hilltown Families, the handmade valentine swap charges participants with creating and mailing handmade valentines to ten assigned addresses, receiving handmade valentines from other families in return.

After signing up, we received a list of addresses of families across Western Mass., and set to work getting our craft on. We started with art supplies in ‘Valentine colors,’ including red finger paint, and several sheets of card stock …

…some of the paint made it onto the paper, along with crayon scribbles and stickers.

Those were set aside to dry, and after bedtime, I added some scrapbook embellishments.

I also threw a few stickers into each of the envelopes — Ben’s job was to create equal piles of stickers for each child — before addressing them and sending them off.

In a few days, we started receiving handmade valentines from other families in return. Some people save them to open all at once on Valentine’s Day, others open them as they come in and display them like Christmas cards. We chose the latter this year, opening them together before bedtime and decorating the mantel. They’re all so creative… we received a heart ornament made out of pipe cleaners and Cheerios, thumb-print love birds, a hand-print fish, a heart made of tiny feet, and two handmade paper hearts in the coolest colors. I definitely noticed a purple trend.

  

From start to finish, the swap is so much fun! Can’t wait to do it again next year.

The Food Truck Rodeo Round-up

IMG_0337After the Winter that Wouldn’t End, it seems like years since last spring. But today was the first Official Really Good Day of 2015 in the Berkshires; the sun shining, the breeze blowing, the tourist season yet to peak. Perfect.

Regardless of the weather, the Family Rags had its plans set. We were heading out to the Spring Shindy and Food Truck Rodeo at Shire City Sanctuary in Pittsfield, an artisans’ space (or makerspace) that includes a screenprint shop, a sewing lab, and a commercial kitchen. At this event, artists, farmers, and others sold their wares inside Shire City Sanctuary (formerly Notre Dame Church) while the adjacent parking lot was packed with a horseshoe-ring of food trucks, beer tents, a band, and a magician with a particularly fun green Viking hat.

To the trucks, though… A great mix of many different kinds of nosh, as it should be. Traditionalists could get their steamed hot dogs and burgers, adventurers could grab a wild boar sandwich, and kids of all ages could enjoy a shaved-ice treat in a color-changing cup.

The line-up:

How We Roll, the local favorite, wrapping comfort food into egg roll wrappers.

Aurora’s Gypsy Cafe game meats and traditional Romani fare.

Kona Ice the aforementioned ice concoctions.

The Hungry Traveler Big ole’ sandwiches, burgers, and soup.

The Chuck Wagon Caloric atom bombs including beer-dredged Bratwurst and deep-fried peanut butter, banana, and fluff sammies.

The Farm Mostly vegetarian farm-fresh sandwiches, salads, and quesadillas.

Chanterelle Upscale farm-to-table goodies.

Flavors of Lebanon Greek and Lebanese noms.

…plus two local-brew beer tents, Wandering Star and Big Elm. 

We ended up with two egg roll creations from How We Roll — Your Own Personal Mac n’ Cheesus (self explanatory) and a Thank You Easter Bunny, a fried Cadbury Creme Egg egg roll — and a bison burger from The Chuck Wagon, plus one beer each from both tents… to be fair, of course.

Read more: WAMC

IMG_0343IMG_0323IMG_0324IMG_0321

Blogtoberfest Guest Post: The Tattooed Ladies of the Mohawk Trail, by Ralph Brill

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 3.27.59 PMMANY BEAUTIFUL AND INTERESTING TATTOOED LADIES LIVE ALONG THE MOHAWK TRAIL – FROM BOSTON TO ALBANY. WE WILL MEET SOME OF THESE SPECIAL WOMEN IN A BEAUTIFUL BOOK AND TRAVELING EXHIBITION.
WE ARE SEEKING TATTOOED* LADIES OF ALL AGES, SIZES AND COLORS WHO LIVE ALONG THIS ROUTE 2 REGION.

NUDE WITH ONE GREAT TATTOO OR MANY IS OUR INTEREST. CONTACT BRILL GALLERY PRODUCTIONS IF INTERESTED IN BEING INTERVIEWED FOR POSSIBLE INCLUSION. MAYBE YOU KNOW SOMEONE?

*In 2014, about four-in-ten females aged 18 to 29 years old have tattoos. This Look-At-Me phenomenon along The Mohawk Trail was not in place in 1914. Lots of other things have thankfully changed as well for these ladies over these past 100 years: Women were allowed to vote for Presidents, Women were allowed to study at Williams College, Minority Women were allowed to enjoy the resorts in the Berkshires, Women were allowed to buy their own cars, etc.Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 3.24.12 PMMost of the Five Nations Confederacy Chiefs of the Iroquois including the Mohawks were Tattooed as were the Chiefs of the various Atlantic Tribes. It was like their personal signatures. The above is a detail of Mohawk Chief Sa Ga Yeath Qua Pieth Tow’s portrait by John Verelst painted in 1710. Some Native American women were also Tattooed. For the first time in American history, in 2014, more women than men along The Mohawk Trail are Tattooed. Our Tattooed Ladies are a connection to this historical art form along The Mohawk Trail.

The Mohawk Trail started out as an important Indian Trail connecting the Atlantic Tribes around Boston with those in Upstate New York. In 1799, the Massachusetts Legislature established a toll road along this Path – officially known as The Fifth. Eventually, cattle were driven from Western New England Farms to the Boston Markets along this Path as were wagon loads of various goods. Horse coaches brought visitors from Boston to the Berkshires via The Fifth.

In the early 1900s, as more families owned Model T Fords and wanted to take long country drives, The Fifth began to become known as the scenic road to explore. In 1914, The Fifth was widened to accommodate the increasing number of vehicles and was officially designated as the Mohawk Trail by the State in that year.

Ralph Brill owns the Brill Gallery in North Adams, Mass. Have a Blogtoberfest Guest Post you want to submit? Email it to writerjax – at – gmail – dot – com.

It’s Time for the Sixth Installment… PodCamp Western Mass.

Be part of the push: share the press release here!

A full day of lively discussion, info-sharing, and plenty of documentation via smartphone, tablet, or laptop awaits at PodCamp Western Mass. 6 (#PCWM6), this year slated to convene on Saturday, April 19 at Holyoke Community College’s Kittredge Business Center.

The event welcomes anyone interested in learning more about social media and networking, from beginners to advanced practitioners. It’s one example of an ‘unconference,’ at which participants choose the topics they’d like to discuss on the day of the event. It’s the longest continually running PodCamp in New England, organized by local volunteers.

As a co-founder, this is my take on the day: it’s a democratic approach in line with the key tenets of social media and networking, which aim to involve everyone in a global conversation.

Our world has always been a social one, and while technology is moving the medium forward, it’s still a very human phenomenon. ‘Real-life’ events like PCWM highlight that fact, and offer all types of people – extroverts and introverts alike, opportunities to both learn and teach.

PodCamps also aim to promote education, innovation, and collaboration between new media enthusiasts and professionals of all types, including bloggers, social networkers, marketers, and the people who read, watch, and listen to them. Anyone can also suggest or lead a session, and topics often include overviews of current and emerging trends.

PCWM will be held on Saturday, April 19 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at HCC, with an after-party at Slainte in Holyoke to follow, with a special after party performance by country singer AJ Jansen. Attendees are encouraged to bring laptops, power strips, smartphones, and cameras, and can come and go as their schedules allow. The cost of the program is $30 and $10 for students, which includes a box lunch and morning refreshments, as well as a PCWM t-shirt as supplies last. Tickets are limited, and participants are encouraged to pre-register via EventBrite.
About PodCamp WesternMass
PodCamp WesternMass (PCWM)launched in 2009 to allow anyone interested in the online world to share ideas, hear from industry experts, and participate in discussions at their own pace. PCWM is part of a large network of similar events; the first PodCamp was held in September 2006 in Boston, and today camps are staged around the globe in response to this rapidly growing phenomenon. To learn more or to register, visit the PodCamp WesternMass website (http://podcamp.westernma.biz/).

Solid Gold Sponsor: HCC Kittredge Center

Timeless Classic Sponsor: Constant Contact

Front Row Sponsors: Winstanley Partners, RedHeaded Diva

Backstage Sponsors: Valley Gives , Epic Filmmakers