Archive for the ‘Smithfield’ Category

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Geoff and I both grew up with the tradition of Christmas and have continued it with our girls despite the fact that we are not religious. Although our daughters know that Santa Claus isn’t real, we all love pretending during the holiday season. Here are some ways we’ve celebrated Christmas in Rhode Island…

1. Pick Your Own Christmas Tree

It’s the ultimate ‘paper versus plastic’ debate — we’ve chosen a real tree because ultimately it’s more sustainable (another tree can be grown) and so much more festive to have the smell of pine in the air. This year, we once again got our tree from Lockwood Tree Farm. Trees get collected after the holidays in Providence — don’t make the mistake of one over-eager dad who tried to burn his tree in the fireplace and nearly set his house on fire.

2. ‘Christmas’ Waterfire

Tonight (December 13), there will be a special (and as always, free) WaterFire lighting to enjoy. It really is much warmer by the glowing fires, although you’ll still need a coat, and a hat, and gloves, and a scarf.

3. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

The Providence Ballet also will put on a performance tonight (December 13) at Rhode Island College of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

4. Christmas at a Mansion

Somehow seeing someone else’s house decked out in holiday spirit can be as satisfying (and a lot easier) than your own. Christmas at The Newport Mansions continues through January 5. I personally love to visit Blithewold, a 45-room English style manor house adorned with holiday decorations. Don’t forget to stop in the Carriage House where the “Gingerbread Wonderland” features mini-gingerbread houses of all styles made by area children. And right in Providence, you can visit the John Brown House Museum‘s Home for the Holidays.

5. A Christmas Carol

The Trinity Repertory Theater has certainly perfected its performance of the classic Dickens tale. The show has moments that can be scarier for children, although of course we were brave (or stupid) enough to bring our two-year-old one year. Let’s just say, it was a good thing we packed plenty of lollipops. Anyway, the show kept all of us mesmerized. I also recently discovered there’s another production of A Christmas Carol featuring Big Nazo puppets, which is definitely on my list to check out.

6. The Nutcracker

Festival Ballet's Nutcracker

Festival Ballet’s Nutcracker

Festival Ballet puts on a stellar performance of The Nutcracker at the Providence Performing Arts Center. For next year, you might also consider the Island Moving Co.‘s performance at one of the Newport Mansions, Rosecliff.

7. Gingerbread Houses and Holiday Cookies

Of course, a great way to celebrate is to make your own or build a gingerbread house (or village as the girls did this year) at home. There are also several decorating events and contests (everything’s a contest apparently) throughout the state. Check out the Decorate Your Own Gingerbread Man event on December 21, 2013 at the Smith-Abbleby House Museum in Smithfield, RI. The Ocean House in Westerly also hosts a Gingerbread Village Competition and Reception on December 16, 2013.

8. Ski, Skate and Sled

There are plenty of indoor and outdoor skating options throughout the state, including the Kennedy Plaza rink in Providence. If we actually get enough snow, you’ll probably find us sledding on the East Side. We still haven’t been, but there’s kid-friendly skiing in Yawgoo Valley Ski and Sports Area in Exeter, RI.

9. Shop Local

Two years ago, I came up with a list of great places to shop locally for children’s gifts. There are also guides to Shop Downcity and the Shops at Hope Street, which includes stores like Kreatelier which has wonderful hand-made items for adults and children.

While you’re shopping, get into the spirit by donating gifts at any one of the local toy drives: Children’s Friend or Toys for Tots (Whisky Republic in Providence is accepting gift donations today December 13), for instance.

10. Holiday Pops

Last but not least, tonight the Boston Pops comes down to Providence Performing Arts Center for a special local performance. We went years ago without children when we were living in Boston. I think older children (especially aspiring musicians) certainly would appreciate the performance.

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A shiny apple picked from the tree

Madeline proudly displays her conquest.

There’s nothing quite like biting an apple taken directly from the tree — so crisp, a little bit tart, and absolutely delicious.  On the advice of a friend, we decided to drive to Smithfield’s “Apple Valley” to Jaswell’s Farm. A fourth generation family farm, they have acres of apple trees you can wander through to fill up bags of apples for $1.50 per pound. Right now, cortland and macintosh apples were ripe for the picking. They also have a field to pick-your-own pumpkins and another to pick flowers. Jaswell’s is famous for their handmade candy apples and their fresh cider which is milled and pasteurized on the premises. Their daily farm stand offers a selection of locally grown and homemade baked goods, jams and produce.

Madeline loved hunting among the low branches to find the reddest apples. Needless to say, we came home with three big bags filled with 17 pounds of apples. Now, someone needs to bake some pies…

Jaswell’s Farm
pick-your-own apples and pumpkins continues through most of October
50 Swan Rd
Smithfield, RI
www.jaswellsfarm.com

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Lockwood's Tree Farm -- nice trees for a reasonable price, plus some extra hospitality.

On Saturday, we had grand plans of heading to the far reaches of Rhode Island to find a Christmas tree.

Let me clarify. I always have found it amazing when we lived in New York that we could drive an hour or two and wind up in some rustic town along the Hudson or a farm in Pennsylvania. Leaving Providence, however, it takes only a few minutes to reach a bucolic setting, as if everything in Rhode Island is miniaturized even the distance between city and country.

Geoff had read about Duquette Tree Farm in Chepachet, RI so we headed west. Our mistake was stopping for a late lunch along the way at Bishop Hill Tavern– not because the food was bad, because, in fact, it was pretty good for a random bar/restaurant, especially one that posts a sign, “Warm Beer. Cold Food. Slow Service. Have a Nice Day.” The problem was that our lunch ended after 4 pm which, in winter, is night or at least looks like it. We didn’t know when the farm closed but guessed it’d be hard to pick a tree in the dark. Nevertheless, we decided to visit Chepachet for the state’s oldest store, Brown & Hopkins Country Store, and happened upon a line of charming antique stores, which we made our way into just a few minutes before they closed at 5.

On Sunday afternoon, we were ready to try again. This time I started with some research and called around. Turned out Duquette Tree Farm didn’t have larger 8-9 foot trees left, but they recommended Lockwood’s Tree Farm not too far from them. I also tried calling Big John Leyden’s Christmas Tree Farm but they never answered the phone. Instead of taking the good advice of a farmer, we decided to be adventurous and drove out to Greene Tree Farm & Nursery because I read they had maple syrup, and well, I’m the kind of person who will go those extra 10 miles for good maple syrup. Plus, over the phone, they said they had 8-9 foot trees, and the cost was $40 for any tree.

Picking a tree in the rain is not nearly as romantic as picking one in the snow, and we trudged around the farm amid drizzles looking at trees. They had plenty that were tall enough, but many were planted a bit too close together so they inevitably were thinner on one side than the other. Also most of their trees were a yellower green, which if I knew anything about them probably indicated that they were cypress instead of fir or something like that. Worse yet, their dilapidated maple syrup stand was filled only with debris.

Enjoy some cupcakes while you wait for your tree.

So we got back in the car, stopping along the way at Pezza Farm in Johnston, RI which didn’t have larger trees and whose wreaths were $50 each. Hence, back in the car to Lockwood’s Tree Farm in Smithfield, RI. As we drove up to their red barn placed alongside their field of trees and a pond for skating (although a bit wet for that currently), we knew we had found the place for us. With very little effort, we found a wonderful tree — tall, full, green, and trimmed — for a reasonable price of $45. Apparently the rain had curtailed business that day so they were glad to see us too. Even better, the owners welcome visitors into a heated room where they offer candy, cupcakes, and hot cocoa for the kids and cider and coffee for the adults — all for free. And every tree comes with a string of lights. Now that’s country charm that’s well worth the 15-mile drive from Providence.

Lockwood’s Tree Farm
129 Austin Avenue
Smithfield, RI
www.farmfresh.org/food/farm.php?farm=509

Duquette Tree Farm
87 Reservoir Road
Chepachet, RI

RI Christmas Tree Growers Association www.richristmastrees.com

Farm Fresh RI’s list of Christmas tree farm vendors: www.farmfresh.org/food/food.php?zip=02909&food=130

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