Olcott, NY: A Memory Maker

Mr. Bunches always says that one of the greatest things about living in Western NY is how easy it is to go explore new places. There’s no traffic, no congestion, and plenty of parking.  All you need is a WNY native to point you in the right direction and you can end up in some pretty fantastic places. One of our favorites so far has been Olcott, NY.  It’s a tiny town on the shores of Lake Ontario and every time we go we just love it more and more. 

Mr. Bunches’ mom, aka ‘Grandma,’ was the one who tipped us off to this place and so we have her to thank for some of our best memories of Mini Bunches’ childhood so far. You see, there’s a little carnival in Olcott. It’s open all summer (with mostly weekend hours), and it’s designed just for those under 52″ tall.  As long as you’re under the height requirement, then you get to ride all the rides. And each one is only 25 cents!

Isn’t that crazy?! It’s an immaculately clean little park with five kiddie rides and one carousel (that everyone can enjoy) and the prices are all in-line with how much they were in the 50s and 60s.  

There are signs all over the park explaining the origins of the place and how it was brought back to life (sometime in the early 2000s) thanks to the generosity of many area donors. If I wasn’t having so much fun watching Mini B in her glory, then maybe I would’ve read some of those signs and be better equipped now to explain things. But since this place is practically like Disney World to her, I’ve never been able to truly focus on the history. 



And even though there are only six rides and a few carnival games, it has so much charm and the volunteers are so friendly that we have happily spent quite a few evenings there. 


And it constantly amazes us that it’s not crowded. I understand that it’s really only exciting for the 1-4 year old crowd, but there aren’t that many safe yet fun options for that age range so it seems like more people would visit. And it’s only about 35 minutes from Buffalo so it’s not like a big hike.  And even though the rides are just for little ones, there’s a huge park next to it which is an awesome picnic spot. 

And on clear days (like this past weekend), you can even see Toronto across the lake. 

Each time we go, we seem to love it more and more. So thank you Grandma for the introduction. And thank you Olcott for another great season. 


Blue Fingers

During our latest quick trip to Boston, we spent all of our time on the South Shore. Since I travelled alone with the kids, I wanted to minimize my moving-around time and so we limited ourselves to seeing family in Scituate. It made for a great trip–we got to spend so much quality time with our family without the hassle of driving all over the place.  And that also meant that we had time to actually do something besides just visit.  And that something was blueberry picking. She loved it. 


She learned the rules quickly: don’t pick the green ones and don’t drop the berries.  She kept reminding everyone of the rules as we went along, and she quickly filled her bucket and then helped everyone else fill theirs. 

The berries were delicious. If only we could have taken all 8 pounds back home on the airplane!

As for Baby B, well, he slept for most of the picking. Turns out blueberry picking wasn’t his bag. But flowers?! Whoo-boy did he like those!

Happy Hump Day!

Camelback Resort: Our Family Adventure

We did it: our first vacation as a family of four and we survived.  And actually we did more than survive–we had fun! 

With my final days of maternity leave ticking away, we wanted to try something new and get away. So Mr. Bunches did some research and we ended up at the Camelback Resort and Lodge in the Poconos region of Pennsylvania.  It’s a brand new hotel at the base of a ski mountain with a huge attached indoor water park and also a separate outdoor water park. 

The drive was 4.5 hours from home, which ended up taking us about 6 hours since we took a long pit-stop at a mall in Scranton (needed some lunch and leg-stretching).  Both kiddos did great on the ride though, for which we were super thankful (we should probably just write a thank you letter to Apple for inventing the iPad). 

Once we finally arrived, we were excited to check-in and get to our room. Since we arrived right at check-in time (4 PM), we figured we would be golden–no waiting. Yeah, so we were wrong. Mr. Bunches had to wait in line for 45 minutes before we even could give our name and start the check-in process. And then we found out our room still wasn’t ready! We had to wait another 45 minutes before it was. So in that respect, Camelback has some work to do. The lobby was overrun with families waiting for their rooms to be ready and we watched that same scenario play out every day we were there.  The good news is that, upon check-in, even if the room isn’t ready, you’re given your wristband for Aquatopia, the “largest indoor water park on the east coast.”


Which was good since once Mini B saw this from the lobby, she wanted in!


So we got Mr. Bunches and Mini B suited up while Baby B and I stayed dry. Of course, by the time all that happened, our rooms were ready. Go figure. 

And since all kids love hotel rooms, we actually headed there first. Got ourselves a “King Bunk Suite” (there are something like 20+ different room types at this place), and the layout of this room was awesome. A semi-private small room with two bunk beds and a TV for the kids and then a large bedroom with a king bed and Queen pullout sofa bed.  There was no door on the bunk room but the layout still worked well. 


 Mini B loved it and got her first taste of a big girl bed!


And of course Baby B pretty much loves anything, so he was happy too. 


The resort was brand new, so everything was exceptionally clean and still in good working order (although I’m not sure how long it will stay that way given all the action this place was getting–kids galore plus water plus skiing in the winter–yikes!).  

Only lodge guests were permitted at Aquatopia, but there was also an outdoor water park (Camelbeach) less than a mile away (with free shuttle service).  Each resort guest was given a voucher for one day at the outdoor water park (which costs $39.99/adult and $29.99/kid so if you pack your hotel room with 8 people, then the cost of the room doesn’t seem so high once you factor in the cost of one day at the outdoor park). 

We mainly stuck to the indoor water park and only spent one overcast morning at the outdoor one (skin cancer on both sides of our family makes for difficult relations between the sun and me). 

Aquatopia had a lot to offer–a super shallow area for babies and toddlers (depths of 6 inches to 1 foot), a mixed shallow area for both little kids and older ones (max depth was about 3 feet with most of it being around one foot), a wave pool, lazy river, a bunch of monster water slides, an indoor/outdoor hot tub, a swim-up bar for adults, and a surfing simulator.  Mini B loved the wave pool and the baby area, but Mr. B and I definitely liked the water slides and lazy river best. 


The outdoor park was definitely more chaotic and a lot more spread out (it’s at the base of the Camelback Ski site), but there was also a lazy river and a fun toddler area where Mini B actually braved a tube slide (until she was all done when she flipped over on her 15th ride). 

The lodge/resort was a bit lacking in walking-around space. Anyone who knows Mr. B knows that he loves his walkabouts, but there really wasn’t much room here. Even the lobby seemed cramped and a little ‘womp-womp,’ especially given that it was brand new. 


And there really wasn’t any outdoor space to speak of. We had visions of kicking around the soccer ball in an open area and/or walking on some trails in the mountains, but there was really no space.  The front of the resort is a parking lot and the back has a steep drop-off. So we had to settle for walking around the parking lot . . . 


and just looking at the ski slopes.  And yes, she’s in her pajamas. Because it was a vacation and that’s what you do on vacation. 


So that was a bit of a disappointment. But we couldn’t complain too much–Mini Bunches loved the indoor water park. So while she played, Mr. B and I alternated playing with her. And when Baby B napped and it was Mr. B’s turn to get wet with Mini B, then I got to do a little R&R: 


These pictures make it look like we had the place to ourselves, but trust me–we didn’t! It was crowded. And living in Buffalo for four years has made us forget what crowded looks like. We weren’t thrilled with the reminder. ;)

As with all kid-focused resorts, there was of course a gift shop with lots of overpriced stuff. Mini B fell in love with this little guy so by the end of the trip we rewarded her good behavior and let her bring him home. She named him “Puppy Dog”. She’s nothing if not literal. 


Restaurants were also disappointing. I guess when the aim is to please the masses, then it makes sense to offer just the basics (lots of chicken fingers, fries, and pizza), but again we had some hopes for at least a few more grown-up offerings. Hemispheres, the buffet restaurant, wasn’t bad–at $22.99/adult and kids 3 and under free, we were able to piece together a decent meal that didn’t consist of only fried options. And Mini B loved it, especially once she saw the desserts!



I’m a true believer in at least sampling all things chocolate . . .


Once we tapped out of soaking our ankles all day (Mini B’s favorite area was only 6 inches deep), her next request would be to play games in the arcade. The loudest arcade ever, that is. But we enjoyed it too and tried our best to win as many tickets for her as we could. Although we had to repeatedly explain to her that the “claw” games were dishonest and not worth trying. Oy. 


Of course, we never actually won that many tickets, so our prize choices were always limited to the lowest possible ticket levels (that’s what happens when you let a 3-year-old try skeeball and half the balls end up thrown into the tank of the neighboring duck game; shockingly that type of skill is not rewarded with copious amounts of tickets).


All in all it was a great trip, albeit not exactly what we had envisioned. Would we go there again? Sure, but I think only if we could convince some family or friends to go with us. The convenience factor of having our hotel room steps away from a kid-tastic attraction is something we think would be ideal for a group vacation with others: kids get to have fun and parents get to minimize logistics.  And while the dining options were subpar, there was a grocery store only a 5-minute drive away and each room had a mini-fridge and microwave.  And the true test was this: Mini B didn’t want to leave. She pretty much thought it was the best place on earth–to her, it was basically like being at Disney. And so for us it was a win too. 

Plus, she liked picking out snacks for the car ride. Seriously kiddo?! 


A Midsummer Night’s Tasting

I don’t blog about much these days, but Hurd Orchards deserves a post.  Especially because they fed me dinner the other night, and that dinner consisted of 22 courses.  Yes, I said 22.  It was insane.  Insanely good.


Mr. Bunches and I can take absolutely ZERO credit for discovering this place.  All the credit goes to our good friends B&A; they first introduced us to Hurd Orchards last November when we attended our first farm tasting meal.  That meal was titled “Abundance” and let’s just say that it was an appropriate name.  This summer’s tasting was titled “Delightful Surprises” and it also didn’t disappoint.

So here’s the deal: Hurd Orchards is a family-run fruit farm, and the Hurds have been hosting these bi-annual tasting dinners since 1985.  And they are amazing!  You can get more details here.  Basically, you make reservations in advance, bring your own wine and an empty stomach, and then you get to taste 20+ courses of farm fresh delicacies, all while soaking in the ambience of a centuries-old barn.  It’s basically magical.


Armed with a tin plate, you make your way to each station, which contains a full mini meal (from appetizer to entree to dessert).  Some are inside, some are outside.



You dine in a beautiful old barn, with live music to help you savor each bite (this meal included the most amazing harpist).


In addition to growing many different varieties of fruit, Hurd Orchards also has 20+ acres of flowers, so the arrangements on each of the tables were just breathtaking.



At the end of the meal, the owners (a mother and daughter) come around with a recipe book for everything we tasted that night.  My three favorite items of the night were the soups: 1) South American Coconut, Corn and Summer Squash Soup; 2) Cold Cucumber Soup; and 3) Peach and Raspberry Gazpacho.  They were so divine; my mouth is watering now just thinking about them.


Needless to say, Hurd Orchards’ Tasting meals have officially become a tradition of ours, and we can’t wait to visit the farm again this fall for the Thanksgiving tasting.  Yum.  Thanks again to B&A for introducing us to this place!







Halloween in January?  Yes please.


Timely post?  Er, not so much.  Sorry.  But let’s do a quick recap: this year for Halloween we traveled to Florida.  We spent a week in the sunshine state–half of the time visiting Mini B’s Beachy BFF and half of the time visiting Mr. Squishy.  And one day of overlap at the happiest place on earth.  Which day?  Halloween of course!  We stayed at the Wilderness Lodge (which probably deserves its own post since it was pretty outstanding, well, except for the “test” of the fire alarm during one of Mini B’s only naps . . . grr).  But since it’s taken me 3 months to get this post done, let’s be realistic–there will be no Wilderness Lodge post. 

Back to the matter at hand: Halloween.  And since it was Halloween, we put Mini B and Mr. Squishy in their matching costumes (hand-made by my aunt–thank you Auntie J!).


Are they not the most scrumptious little pumpkins you’ve ever seen?  Holy cuteness.  After doing a little modeling stint in their costumes, it was time to head to the park.  Staying at the Wilderness Lodge meant we just had to hop on a boat to get to the Magic Kingdom.  Mini B’s first boat ride?  Check.




Then it was time for a fun-filled day at the Magic Kingdom.  You know the one–the place where dreams come true.  Which in our case must mean that we dream of our little girl taking the poop to end all poops and having it leak all down her leg and up her back while waiting in a line three-deep for the ONLY changing table on Main Street USA (really Walt?  ONE changing table?  Really?!).  But it wasn’t only a poop-filled day because that would be sad.  So so sad. 

We did a lot of fun stuff too . . . although before we got to that we had to take the requisite posed pics in front of the castle:






It was a super sunny day, so much of our time was spent in Operation Keep Those Babies Covered!



The most magical part of the day came when we got a sneak peak to the new Fantasyland (they were doing a dress rehearsal for cast members only):


Fantasyland is the Magic Kingdom’s new land–it includes the castles for each of Disney’s Princesses.  Basically if you’re a 6-year-old girl, it’s the best place in the entire world.


It also includes some new rides, including one based on the Little Mermaid.  We decided to take Mini B and her BFF on the adventure, but Mr. Squishy sat this one out (he is a little man after all).


Not sure this was Mini B’s favorite part of the day.







She was not the biggest fan of Ursula . . .


And was pretty relieved when the magic ended.


One of the most incredible parts of the new Fantasyland was Belle’s ballroom.  I didn’t get any pictures since the lighting was not so great, but it was spot-on to the movie.  Here’s just one of the creatures guarding it.


Unfortunately there was still some construction around the park, so it wasn’t always the best view.  But the bambinos didn’t seem to mind.



And luckily they still had turkey legs.  Phew.





Yuck.  Mini B preferred her thumb.


And her BFF just had no idea what to think.


Mr. B was so proud to show Mini B around his old stomping grounds.  So sweet.


Unfortunately this was during Mini B’s ‘I-only-like-my-parents-phase-and-everyone-else-makes-me-cry-so-don’t-even-try-and-hold-me-aunts-and-uncles.’


She can be kind of a drama queen sometimes.


Basically, though, we totally killed it.  3 babies.  1 Magic Kingdom.  Infinite Memories.







It was a loooooong day.  And someone was a little tuckered.



Of course, she did end up rallying later that night for trick-or-treating at the Wilderness Lodge.  Her first candy loot!




Ahhh.  Halloween post finally done.  Only 3 months late.  But still so cute.

Camels, Donuts, and Pumpkins . . . Oh My!

Happy Halloween Everyone!  We’ll share details on how we’re spending today later on, but first we thought we’d share our first family tradition with y’all: The Great Pumpkin Farm Festival!  If you’ll remember, Mr. B and I discovered it last year (more on that here) . . .

And this year we decided to officially make it an annual tradition and bring Mini Bunches . . .

And since this year we did the trip a few weeks before Halloween, there was a lot more to see, but let’s let the pictures do the talking, shall we?

In less than two hours she was completely wiped and passed out on Dad’s shoulder.  Somehow I think next year’s trip will go much differently.  Oh, and next year we might have to go home with a dozen of those donuts; they were NO JOKE the best donuts I’ve ever had.  Period.

Wedding Crasher

I’m not sure how it happened, but Mini B has officially become a wedding crasher.  Her dad is so proud.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves–how about we start at the beginning?  First up–Mini B’s first plane ride.  Gone are the days of us traveling light, huh?

She was great in the airport . . .

But that slumber didn’t last long–she was wide awake by the time we boarded our flight to Philly . . .

And even though we were prepared for disaster (I had steeled myself to be those parents with the screaming baby who receive one of two looks from the other passengers: 1) the look of total sympathy; or 2) the look of death), she actually did wonderfully.  She was wide awake the whole time, but overall pretty content.  Mr. Bunches and I breathed a collective sigh of relief for that one.

Once we got to Philly, we were starving.  And what do you eat in Philly?!  Why, cheese steaks of course!  So off to Geno’s we headed . . .

Now, I had a Philly cheese steak once back in high school on a rowing trip to Philly, but for the life of me I can’t remember where it was from.  But I have a vivid memory of it being surprisingly good.  And Mr. Bunches assured me that this one was the BEST (the best, Jerry, the best).

And let’s face it–I was famished.  So I polished off an entire cheese steak in less than 2 minutes.  Ugh–I’m cringing right now at the memory of it all.

Good thing Mini B was sound asleep and therefore got to miss the carnage.  Was it the best cheese steak ever?  No.  Hardly.  But it was food.  And I was hungry.  Therefore, mission accomplished.  Once our bellies were filled with grease and “steak” (I mean, let’s be honest–that’s no Grade A beef or anything), we headed off to introduce Mini B to the “Loop,” aka Mr. Bunches’ college buddies . . .

Of course, she didn’t really seem to take that much interest in the conversation . . .

Ahh well.  After that it was time to take Mini B to her first hotel.  The Hilton Garden Inn.  Now, we had asked for a crib in the room, but we already knew we weren’t going to use it.  Nope, not for our high-maintenance Mini B.  No sirree.  We had to instead bring her “Pink Palace” from home for her to sleep in . . .

And there she is in all her glory.

See, in preparation for this trip I had attempted to wean her off the Pink Palace (which is actually the Nap Nanny), but it didn’t work (and I suffered 30 sleepless hours for my failed attempt).  So the Pink Palace came with us–stuffed in a suitcase.  But it was basically a lifesaver, so it was worth it.

Why was it a lifesaver?  Well, let’s just put it this way–Mini B gave us her longest sleep ever on our trip.  8 uninterrupted hours of pure bliss.  We seriously contemplated moving into that Hilton Garden Inn for good . . . isn’t it amazing how important sleep becomes when you have a kid?  But anyways, back to the long, drawn out story of our trip (C’mon–you’re loving the play-by-play, right?).

On Saturday we decided to hit up Mr. B’s alma mater: Villanova.

She was loving being shown around by her proud papa . . .

Of course, being the idiots we are, we thought that school hadn’t started yet since there weren’t any students around.  But then we saw a few students and they informed us that it was just too early for people to be up, but school had in fact started the previous week.  It was 11:30 AM on Saturday.  Apparently that’s “too early” for people to be awake . . . oh, to be in college again.  Sigh.

We wanted to get Mini B a little souvenir of her trip, so we headed to the bookstore.

But it was CLOSED.  Seriously?!  Closed for the entire Labor Day weekend–whoever heard of such a thing?  So maybe next time Mini B . . .

After our excursion, it was time to get ready for the main event: the WEDDING!  Mini B took a power nap (3 hours–basically her best nap EVER.  Again, we were seriously considering moving into that Hilton) and then put on her party dress and headed out.

Of course, she ended up waiting until we got there to give us a little surprise . . . no worries, though, that just meant a quick diaper change in the car.  We’re actually getting pretty good at that maneuver.

Once she was all cleaned up, we passed her off to our babysitter (thanks Auntie Kar-Kar!) and we headed to the ceremony.  It was really beautiful–held at the Stone Barn in Kennett Square, PA, the ceremony was just perfect.  I’ll let the pictures do the talking . . .

See what I mean?  Sigh.  Thank you, thank you Leah & Derek for inviting us to be a part of your day!

Well, after the serious stuff was taken care of, it was time to get our party on, and that’s when it became official: Mini B crashed the wedding!

She just had to get in there and see what all the fuss was about.  Plus, they had bacon-wrapped scallops.  And if there’s one thing Mini B loves–it’s bacon-wrapped scallops ;).

Seriously, though, she had a great time meeting some of the guests, being reacquainted with the “Loop” and also giving her congratulations to Leah & Derek.  There also may have been a few celebrities in attendance that may or may not have been slightly enamored with our little peanut . . . but we’ve got to keep those details on the DL.  Sorry! :)

Unfortunately Mini B was not the best dressed in attendance . . .

Sorry Ian–I just had to do it.  It was THAT good.

It was a great time, and once Mini B made her rounds, it was back to Auntie Kar-Kar so that the Mr. and I could enjoy our night out along with everyone else.

There was a fair amount of hoopla, including Derek’s initiation into the Loop . . .

Which basically was the start of things going a bit downhill (this last one is from the after party) . . .

Oh, and just because I thought they were great, here are a couple shots of their wedding cakes (yes–they had three!) . . .

After all the hoopla, we spent a quiet night back at the Hilton Garden Inn (aka our favorite place ever since it somehow put that magic spell on Mini B and got her to sleep extra long) and awoke only slightly hung over . . .

But no worries–we rallied.

Mini B even did a little more hanging out with her new friends . . .

But then it was time to say goodbye and head back to the airport to go home.  She did AMAZING on the flight home–slept the entire way!

It was a great trip, but she was happy to be back home . . .

And while we had some trepidation about leaving behind that glorious, glorious Hilton Garden Inn, it all worked out in the end.  On our first night home she slept 9.5 hours straight!  It was a Labor Day MIRACLE!  Of course, it didn’t last–the next night we were back to sleeping in 4 hour chunks.  So who knows–maybe we will be moving into that Hilton Garden Inn after all . . .


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 57 other followers