Clinton Corners Day 6: Rivendell Riding Academy & a Drizzly Lazy Afternoon

This morning we again awoke to rain, and I wondered if other parts of New York have yet dried out from the flooding brought by the remnants of Hurricane Ida. Fortunately we really suffered no effects here in Clinton Corners, but watching the news these past few days, we’ve learned that so many weren’t so lucky.

Guinness getting prepped for a ride

This morning #1BigSis had her first ever horseback riding lesson. Rivendell Riding Academy is close by, offering lessons for all ages. We scheduled a 1 hour lesson with Madison on a friendly pony named Flash.

Leading Flash to the barn after some initial prep

Madison started by teaching #1BigSis about the basics of grooming and dressing her pony with a saddle. She spent a good 10 minutes brushing his mane.

#1BigSis grooms Flash
Indoor warm up

Since it was drizzling, Madison decided to start the lesson inside the barn to allow everyone to get aquatinted without the added variable of rain. After a few laps where they mastered starting and stopping, everyone headed outside to explore the fields.

Just past the silo is a field with jumps

Out in the field, we encountered other riders enjoying their quiet Sunday mornings.

No jumps yet for these new friends

Madison was a great teacher – patient, spirited and reassuring. Just what our novice rider needed. after about twenty minutes in the fields, the crew made their way back to the barn.

#1BigSis had no trouble with the dismount. In fact she was too fast for me to catch a photo.

Back at the barn, she helped tie up Flash and said some goodbyes. A few last strokes on his mane and a big hug for both Flash and her teacher Madison, and we called it a day. Total expense: $65 + tip.

Madison & #1BigSis
Rivendell Riding Academy

After riding at Rivendell, we came home for lunch and a bit of R&R. Amir and #1LilBrother hit up an air show in Rhinebeck while us ladies took it easy binging on YouTube and afternoon tea.

We made our nightly trip down to the garden to grab veggies for dinner, and Amir collected what dry wood we could find for the solo stove. I’ve been seeing these things all year in Facebook posts from friends and in social media ads, but had never experienced one in real life. There’s a calming feeling it invokes – gentle flames with little to no smoke… this will likely be on the list for Santa this year.

#1BigSis supervises

I finally found the book today that tells the history of The Willows. It was compiled in 1994 by a previous owner when seeking historical registry status for the house. It’s too much to tackle tonight, but fortunately we are here for three more days and nights.

“The floor is LAVA!”

Clinton Corners Day 5: Millbrook Farmer’s Market & Tribute Gardens

This morning we wandered over to Millbrook, a small village about 90 miles north of NYC, with a population of only 1452, but one of the most affluent villages in New York State. Just a 13 minute drive from Clinton Corners, the Farmer’s Market opens at 9am Saturdays and offers fresh veggies, fruit, eggs, handmade wood furniture and local crafts.

Scones with clotted cream and jam

Imagine Amir’s surprise and delight when the third stall at the market was a British Food Truck, complete with sausage rolls, Cornish pasties, and scones with clotted cream & jam. Jackpot!

Just up the hill from the Farmer’s Market are Tribute Gardens, dedicated to the local residents who fought in WWI. Upon walking to the garden gates, you are immediately struck by a sense of peace and beauty, and unlike most faux displays of patriotism, with American flags and eagles plastered everywhere, a single simple flag waves tall and reassuringly at the top of the garden hill.

Entrance to the Millbrook Tribute Gardens

As you enter the garden, you have the option of walking straight ahead up the stairs, across a small bridge spanning a babbling brook with lily pads and flowers, or for those of us with strollers or disabilities, turn right and you’ll find a snaking pathway that weaves back and forth at a steep grade as you climb the hill.

A small bridge crosses the lily pad laden brook

The top of the hill features one of the most immaculately tended playgrounds we’ve ever visited. There are play structures for all ages, public restrooms, picnic tables and plenty of shady seating.

The playground at Tribute Gardens

It was difficult to pull everyone away from the playground, but ultimately our stomachs started rumbling, and Millbrook has a whole street lined with picturesque cafes and restaurants calling us to explore. We settled on Babette’s Kitchen, a small bakery with fresh sandwiches, coffee and chocolate cupcakes with sprinkles.

Back at The Willows, Amir discovered an unexpected talent, and perhaps a new hobby – archery. The first day we arrived, we’d noticed the target sitting in the garage, but hadn’t been able to locate a bow. Oddly, yesterday, we found the bows hiding in the secret back stairwell that connects the kitchen to the second floor, a common feature of older houses, including our own back in Richmond.

The week has been full of new experiences

Amir had only been out shooting for a few minutes when I wandered out to see what he was up to (and maybe ensure no one would get impaled). After only 10 minutes he was hitting the target, and on shot #11, maybe #12, he hit the bullseye. It just happened to be when I was filming in slow-mo with my iPhone. We couldn’t have staged it better.


I also gave it a turn, and while Amir snapped a photo for evidence, nothing looks more ridiculous than a pregnant woman yielding an ancient weapon, so I’m opting not to post that one (editor’s perk), but will say that after just 4 tries, I was striking within the rings, too. Not bad considering my general lack of coordination and aim in all things athletic.

Amir’s bullseye (I was witness)

#1BigSis even gave it a go – but after 4 shots, gave up in frustration and stomped off shouting “I wanna watch something!” Old habits die hard.

Dressed for the occasion as usual, even if on accident

After our archery adventure, we headed to the pool for some swim time. The pool here is heated to 85 degrees, which on this 78 degree day was perfect. #1BigBrother remained attached to his dad, while #1BigSis and I worked on some swim lessons.

The nap-inducing pool time gifted us once again with some afternoon downtime. Amir took the quiet moment to build a LEGO VW Campervan Bus, and me to edit a few photos and type out this post. We’ll cook dinner here at the house tonight, and enjoy yet another tomato cucumber salad fresh from the garden. I’ve been enjoying great sleep on this vacation, which is much welcomed given that pregnancy and sleep are ironically not very compatible. We’ll wake up again tomorrow to the sound of #1LilBrother rather than our alarm clocks, and see what adventures another day holds in store.

My favorite alarm clock

Clinton Corners Day 4: LEGOLAND Remix

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, we purchased a LEGOLAND package that included two days at the park and one hotel night. That allowed us today to revisit some attractions we’d skipped over yesterday, as well as revisit some favorites needing a second look.

#1BigSis’s favorite from yesterday was the LEGO Factory Adventure. I’d gone with her yesterday, so today she took her dad along for the adventure.

Reception drive up at LEGOLAND Hotel

Yesterday we skipped past Kingdom and Ninjago. Fortunately today a few rides that were closed yesterday were open today. Some staff members described short handed staffing thanks to Covid as a reason for the closures, but we learned 100% of the Slushee machines were closed due to Yellow Jackets stinging one too many guests.

MiniFig Displays

Amir and #1BigSis hit the spinning teacups today since they were closed yesterday. I suppose technically they weren’t teacups, rather, the “Spinning Disco,” but that’s the closest equivalent. Happily, no one threw up.

Next stop, face painting. We’d scoped it out yesterday, but the line was long and we’d discovered it late in the day. #1BigSis decided to be a rainbow tiger. Amazingly she sat still for the whole thing, save for one emergency moment where she had a big booger that needed attention. (Sorry Kaye).

She said next time we all 4 need to be rainbow tigers

I think the pace of yesterday started catching up with me today. Between my wasp-stung right foot (still swollen) and the SI joint pain I’ve been battling since pregnant with #1LilBrother, today was a reminder that 43 and pregnant isn’t smooth sailing. I stopped to rest at every shady bench I saw, and gained a new appreciation for disability friendly spaces.

We stopped by another MiniFig station for some construction time

About 4 years ago, Amir started collecting LEGO MiniFigs. I think as a result of saving a few of the LEGO Star Wars Christmas Advent Calendar friends over the years, his hobby gained traction, and now has over 200 back home. When we were at LEGOLAND Denmark, he even made one representing each of (at the time) the three of us.

This was #1BigSis’s contribution to the family collection

While I rested, Amir and #1BigSis rode a few rides, including the Mini Dragon rollercoaster, her first ever.

No scaredy-cats here

In a miraculous feat, we did manage to get one photo of all four of us while exploring Ninjago. I asked a nice woman to take her photo, and she was mortified when her preteen daughter jumped in front of the camera and blocked the view, not realizing her mom was helping out strangers.

A motley crew, but we have fun

LEGOLAND was certainly hard to say goodbye to, but exhaustion made the decision easy. There were a few tears on the trek back to the car. But once I took some Tylenol and put my feet up, I stopped whining.

Robots give the best hugs

Back at The Willows, the rain from Ida left everything even greener than when we’d left. Amir threw a fishing pole in but got no bites. We walked the grounds, hoping to spot another deer (I saw one when alone on day 1, and still no one believes me). Sneaking up on skittish deer with our squirmy crew is a futile effort.

Not much makes him feel small
All the snugs

A gamble, I climbed into the hammock, not knowing if I’d be able to climb out on my own. It didn’t take long for everyone else to pile in with me, and Amir captured the photo that encapsulated everything that taking a vacation can heal.

A fitting end to a beautiful day

Tomorrow is Saturday of Labor Day Weekend, and we plan to check out the Farmer’s Market at Millbrook as well as a playground close by. Sunday we have a beginner’s horseback riding lesson scheduled for #1BigSis. Trying not to over-schedule us, but to balance that with taking in all these amazing experiences while we can.

Clinton Corners Day 3: LEGOLAND New York

Last fall when we learned they were building a new LEGOLAND in the US, we knew we needed to go. In July 2019 we went to the original LEGOLAND in Denmark and enjoyed an unforgettable adventure.

LEGOLAND Hotel lobby artwork

The 41 mile drive took us about an hour and 15 minutes as the roads are 2 lanes and wind through vibrant small towns dotted with red barns and antique shops.

LEGO Kingdom Room

We lucked out and received a free early check-in to our room – a welcome surprise since we had a crew ready to potty and unwind a bit before hitting the theme park itself.

A little HGTV before the main event
More lobby artwork

Park tickets are available by reservation (prepurchase) only as a way to limit volumes and be more Covid-19 compliant. We took advantage of a 2 day park pass with one hotel night promo which is just the amount of time needed to explore everything without feeling rushed.

#1BigSis making friends as usual

The park offers a combination of visual candy (hundreds of LEGO sculptures) along with rides and carnival style games. Everything is designed for younger families, with rides even broken out into ages 3-5 and 6-14 in some areas.

#1BigSis never passes up a carousel ride

First stop: the LEGO Carousel… kids can ride Duplo block animals or sit in LEGO teacups that spin. #1BigSis picked a giraffe with red spots and pink stripes.

After some construction time, we turned right and headed down the hill to MiniLand, the iconic miniature cityscapes of all LEGOLANDs. We visited NYC (complete with Upper, Mid and Lower Manhattan), San Fran, DC, and many other US landmarks.

Guggenheim Museum overlooking Central Park
Lady Liberty

Because the park is just a few months old, the cars and cultural references in these models are up to date. When we were in Denmark, the original LEGOLAND, I distinctly remember the building replicas surrounded by 1980s model cars, indicative of the era in which they were constructed.

The 9/11 Memorial and Freedom Tower in Lower Manhattan

We are just a week away from the 20th Anniversary of the attacks on September 11. This morning I watched part of a documentary commemorating the milestone anniversary and reflected on just how much has changed these last 20 years.

The Mad Scientist
San Francisco Harbor

Not widely known, but Amir is obnoxiously good at winning carnival game prizes. Lucky for us, he’s that dad that always wins the giant stuffed animal on just the first or second try, ensuring that #1BigSis never goes home empty handed, and that I am constantly rearranging our giant stuffy collection back home to make room for new friends.

The fishing game on crack
I came in 2nd place on the water gun game

After game time, Amir took #1BigSis on the Pirate Ship Splash Battle (video below speaks 1000 words) and the Anchor’s Away spinning ship. #1LilBrother and I hung back with the stroller, and both our stomachs are a bit more delicate.

Riders shoot water cannons up at bystanders who can shoot back
And to think this was AFTER lunch, too

Lunch was admittedly the low point for the day. The park has been open just a few months now, but food service is definitely an area for improvement. We expect theme park food prices but have likely been spoiled over the years by Busch Gardens Williamsburg which, while costly, offers food that matches the price tag.

As I mentioned, the rides are well-suited for various age ranges. The cars are a popular spot, with ample staffing to keep drivers moving forward without crashing.

Car matches the dress
Interactive displays play music and invite exploration

After the rides, we headed indoors to the Build & Test Lab where kids (and maybe an adult or two) can build cars they send down steep ramps and buildings they can subject to earthquake style forces to see how they hold up.

First car prototype made it all the way down the ramp
Every inch of every wall is deliberately decorated

After the park, we headed back to our Kingdom to rehydrate, rest and change a diaper or two. #1BigSis watched the LEGO Ninjago Movie from her Kingdom bunk bed while I took in a little HGTV (my ultimate vacation relaxation).

Hotel amenities
The kids room has bins of loose LEGOs

For dinner, we stuck around the hotel and enjoyed pizza and Caesar salad at The Brick House. Dinner was admittedly much tastier than lunch, and offered a variety of family-style dishes for sharing such as roast chicken and veggies in a pan and pesto pasta.

1/2 Hudson Valley, 1/2 Cheese
My cocktail: Blueberry cotton candy fizz

Tomorrow we have another day at the park. We’ll explore the back half of the park that we breezed past today, including the Kingdom and Ninjago themed areas.

These happy faces are now sound asleep, ready to do it all again tomorrow.

Time to put my feet up and take some Tylenol. Phew.

Clinton Corners Day 2: Rain Rain Go Away

With the reminents of Tropical Storm Ida headed to the northeast, we knew today would be all rain all day. We made plans to eat lunch and explore some shops in Rhinebeck, NY, just a 23 minute drive from Clinton Corners.

Apparently Wednesday in Rhinebeck is the Monday of Richmond in terms of when restaurants take a day off and close. We tried three spots before settling on Village Pizza.

Classic pepperoni by the slice at Village Pizza
Vanilla in a cup and pistachio in a cake cone

After lunch, we stopped by the Land of Oz Toy Store where everyone, including Mama, picked out one toy. Ollie chose a windmill, Evie a blue race car, Amir a puzzle and me – a greenhouse terrarium kit that I aspire to one day have enough wine and solo time to ever put together.

Rolife Cathy’s Flower House Kit

Back at The Willows after lunch, we found some short-lived quiet time. Amir settled in on the side porch, cracking the windows slightly to hear the rain, and catching up on Reddit. I explored the house, looking both for the book on the history of the house as well as hoping to find some photographic vignettes.

Enjoying the sounds of nature on the side porch

Second floor sitting room would also lend itself to a book and relaxing

Tomorrow we’re headed to Legoland NY. In summer 2019, we made a pilgrimage to the original Legoland in Denmark while there for Jeff & Najia’s wedding. This Spring, they opened a new park in Goshen, NY, which is new since we’ve last been up this way.

Original light fixtures and vintage wallpaper
Entryway and view into the living room

Since no one seemed to want to nap this afternoon, we busted out the new purchases from Land of Oz. The rocket ship puzzle would have been a snap if someone unnamed wasn’t stealing and dropping pieces.

Puzzle on the patio

Looks like I’m not getting a nap today. Someone remind me to pack our overnight bags for Legoland hotel tomorrow!