Berkshire Museum in 2008

Berkshire Museum to Present Public Programs at Lichtenstein Center, the YMCA, and the Berkshire Community College While Closed for Renovations in January & February

The Berkshire Museum will be closed for construction from January 1 through March 28, 2008. During this time Phase II of the renovation project, which includes the long-awaited installation of a climate control (HVAC) system, will be completed. During the construction period, the Berkshire Museum will present several public programs at other locations in Pittsfield, including an exhibition devoted to the Mohican people at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts.

Web Review: Eco-Friendly Kwanzaa & The Official Kwanzaa Site

Craft ideas for making your own Kwanzaa celebration supplies. Includes instructions for making a Kwanzaa candle holder and mat. Also describes how to create other Kwanzaa symbols. From Care2, an activist organization.
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“The Official Kwanzaa Web Site” focuses on the philosophy of Dr. Maulana Karenga, the African-American professor who created the holiday in 1966. It describes in detail the African roots of the holiday, the seven principles, and the seven basic symbols. Includes a comprehensive guide for those celebrating Kwanzaa for the first time. [] (

Battle of the Funny Garage Bands

Notes from Nan: Funny, Funny Staff!
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

BOY am I a good person! You want to know how good I am (virtuous, I mean)? I just opened up Rob’s Grocery Talk with Rob e-mail and laughed so hard I wanted to pee in my pants. And you know what that means?

Rob is funnier than I am. If we had a funny-off, Rob would win. My friend Diane Young and I once thought we should start a Funny Festival—like a music festival, except that everything would just be funny on all the stages. You could have music, but it would have to be really funny music. Nothing at all soulful – unless it was funny soulful. We could have the Rhythm and Happy stage. We were going to hold the festival in Kansas because it seemed like the least funny state and we wanted a good, solid, high-contrast background for it.

If we had the Funny Fest, Rob would be the emcee. Or the headliner. In the Battle of the Funny Garage Bands, Rob would win.

So what does that have to do with me being a good person? I’m so good that I am putting Rob’s Grocery Talk with Rob today’s post even though it’s funnier than I am. I am getting stars in my crown for that, and I will go directly to heaven.

So here’s what you the reader should do if you want to stay on my good side: When you see me, you should say, “That Rob is a funny boy! Yes indeed!”

You should NOT bless my heart by saying,

1.) But you’re funny, too! Really, you are!
or worse,
2.) He’s WAY funnier than you!


Read the rest of this entry »

Web & Book Review: Lughnasadh (Lammas) Celtic Harvest Festival


Lughnasadh was one of the four main festivals of the medieval Irish calendar: Imbolc at the beginning of February, Beltane on the first of May, Lughnasadh in August and Samhain in November, and is related to Lammas.

Lughnasadh, A Celtic Harvest Festival (Web Review)

Lughnasadh Celtic Harvest Festival BreadsThis website offers a background about “the Celtic harvest festival on August 1st [that] takes its name from the Irish god Lugh.” Includes a description of the history of the festival and its celebrations, and recipes for dishes inspired by the events, such as bilberry jam [blaeberry] and potato griddle cakes [boxty]. [LII]

Read the rest of this entry »

Hilltown Old Fashion 4th of July Parade (2007)

Chesterfield 4th of July Parade

// year will mark the 60th annual 4th of July Parade in Chesterfield, MA! To recognize this milestone, this year’s parade will reflect the theme of “An Old Fashioned 4th.” All Hilltown Families are invited to join the Hilltown Coalition To End Domestic Violence and march in the parade. They are marching to promote peace in the home.

With the theme of “An Old Fashioned 4th,” the parade will feature bands, floats, the clown Peppermint Patty, costumed children, antique cars, and horses and buggies. There will be plenty of food, with a Pancake Breakfast preceding the parade and a chicken barbecue right afterwards. A variety of snacks will also be available throughout the day. For kids (of all ages), in addition to the clown, there will be a magic show, petting zoo, climbing wall and “sticky wall.” After the parade, visitors will be entertained by the Heritage Pops Orchestra and will be able to watch the traditional Firemen’s Mini-Muster, an art show and a quilt display. Except for the food, everything is free of charge, and of course everyone is welcome.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sister Village Ceremony in Shelburne Falls


Join the residents of Buckland and Shelburne Falls, MA, on June 4th – 6th, 2007, in a ceremony with a Chinese Delegation to formally establish the Sister Village relationship between Shelburne Falls, MA, and Mutianyu.

Residents of Buckland and Shelburne and interested members of the general public are invited to attend the official ceremony establishing the sister village relationship between Shelburne Falls and Mutianyu. The ceremony will be held on Monday, June 4, from 12:00-12:45pm at the Shelburne Buckland Community Center, located at the corner of Main and Church Streets, Shelburne Falls. Read the rest of this entry »

Annual MA Sheep & Woolcraft Fair @ Cummington Fairgrounds

Ba Ba Black Sheep…

This past weekend saw the 33rd Annual Massachusetts Sheep & Woolcraft Fair. There were lots of animals, woolcrafts and workshops at the fair.

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Several children’s workshops were offered throughout the weekend, including Family Felting and Kumlhumo, Stick Weaving, Beginning Spinning, Felting Treasure Bags and Kool-Aid Dying. Read the rest of this entry »

Old Fashion 4th of July Parade in the Hilltowns (2007)

RiverFest 2007

RiverFest 2007
Celebrating Energy That’s Clean & Green

(c) Hilltown Families - RiverFest 2006 in Shelburne Falls, MA.As spring turns to summer, the village of Shelburne Falls is once again preparing for its annual educational celebration of the Deerfield River and the surrounding countryside … RiverFest 2007!

RiverFest 2007 will take place, rain or shine, on Saturday, June 9. This year’s theme is “Celebrating Energy That’s Clean & Green,” and event organizers are making sure that visitors will have plenty of opportunities to go with the flow. Read the rest of this entry »

Web Site: Kodomo no Hi (Boy’s Day)

Web Site: Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo

Resources for party and activity ideas for celebrating Cinco de Mayo. Includes crafts (maracas and Mexican flag), recipes (guacamole and tortilla soup), and activity pages. Also includes quick facts and history about this holiday that “is the anniversary of a battle that took place between the Mexicans and the French in 1862” and is “mainly observed in the state capital of Puebla” and in the U.S. From the Kaboose Family Network. [LII]

Web Site: Buddha Day

Wesak (Buddha Day) – First Full Moon in May

“Wesak or Vesak, also known as Buddha Day, celebrates the Buddha’s birthday, enlightenment and death. It is the most important day in the Buddhist calendar. In Japanese Buddhism, 8th April marks the birth of the Buddha, 8th December his enlightenment and 15th February his death.”

Discusses Wesak traditions and activities, Buddhist beliefs, suggested classroom activities, and links to related sites. From the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) site with learning resources for home and school. (LII)

Spring into Art at CAM in Shelburne Falls

Art-ful Eggs: Batiked, Wooden & Collage
By Victoria Worth, for Hilltown Families

(c) Victoria Worth - Egg Art at the Children's Art Museum
This past Saturday morning at The Children’s Art Museum (CAM) in Shelburne Falls, my family joined several hilltown families to decorate eggs in celebration of Spring & Easter. CAM offered several ways to create and decorate, creating a festive and rich atmosphere to explore art with my daughter.

One method we were shown was batik egg art, using wax to draw patterns and words, then dipping into colors for a reverse affect. On wooden eggs we used stickers to decorate, an easier project for the very young kids. But my favorite was placing strips of colored tissue paper around an egg, creating a blended collage look.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cinderella Ballet in Northampton

Cinderella Ballet

(c) Hilltown Families- Cinderella Ballet

The Pioneer Valley Ballet performed Cinderella at the Academy of Music in Northampton, MA, this past weekend. Families attended with young girls dressed in fancy gowns, tiaras and ribbon wands. A lovely performance for the entire family, on both Saturday and Sunday.

Visit the Pioneer Valley Ballet on-line for future productions at

Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival ’07

Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival
March 10th – March 31st, 2007

Through collaborative community effort, the Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival will be offering a spectacular array of award-winning, entertaining films from around the world this month. Hilltown families and filmgoers of all ages can enjoy compelling drama, comedy, documentary, and shorts from the best film festivals.

The PVJFF runs for three weeks and includes discussions with filmmakers and other speakers, social receptions, art exhibits, and concerts. Film venues range from the Basketball Hall of Fame and the Showcase Cinema, to the Smith College Museum of Art and the Pleasant Street Theatre. Click here for a complete list of venues and film schedules.

Amy Dryansky from the festivals steering committee, has suggested two film programs that may be of interest to hilltown parents:

Read the rest of this entry »

Jewish Book Week

prose1.jpgIt’s Jewish Book Week, and in London a literary festival is held to promote Jewish books and writing. The festival might be in the UK, but we here in Western Mass can enjoy them on-line.

Jewish Book Week
Website for this UK literary festival (late February/early March) promoting Jewish books and writing. In addition to details about current and past events, the site contains reviews of fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books with Jewish themes. From the Jewish Book Council, a group “promot[ing] the reading of books on all aspects of Jewish thought and culture.” [(c) 2007 LII]

On their website they will be including lesson plans for different age groups which will be available for parents/teachers to download and use with their children/classes. Also on their site they have a section of new children’s books they frequently update.

Read the rest of this entry »

Year of the Boar

Valentine Contra Dance Fundraiser in Ashfield

(c) Hilltown Families - Valentine Contra Dance

A Heart-felt Dance Party

by Victoria Worth
for Hilltown Families

The songs are still humming in my head, and when I look down, my feet are still moving to a recent rhythm. Long after Saturday night’s Valentine’s Family Contra Dance has ended, the joyous gathering lingers on in my mind. At the Town Hall, good food filled our tummies downstairs, and when dinner was over, we joined a crowd of children and adults already moving to the beat of the music.

Read the rest of this entry »

Every Little Thing is Gonna Be Alright

00211_cd.jpgYesterday would have been Bob Marley’s 62nd birthday. Many of Marley’s songs have a very positive message that young and old enjoy, including songs like “One Love/People Get Ready,” and “Get Up, Stand Up” to name a couple. The political message may be missed by the little ones but the simple ones (like love and understanding) won’t be.  With the lively rhythms of Reggae music, many of Bob Marley’s tunes make a wonderful musical selection for kids. Putumayo puts out a CD titled Putumayo Kids Presents: Reggae Playground that has many additional favorite reggae artists.

Read the rest of this entry »

Valentine’s Day ’07

Whoopin’ it Up with Wild Asparagus!

Greenfield Center School
Family Contra Dance 2007

Wild Asparagus whoops it up at the Greenfield Center School Family Contra Dance. (Photo Credit: Sienna Wildfield)

On Sunday afternoon, Wild Asparagus whooped it up at the Guiding Star Grange in Greenfield, MA. The Greenfield Center School held their annual Family Contra Benefit Dance and the dance hall was filled with families from all over Western Mass. This festive social dance was for families with kids of all ages.

Families learned easy contras, square dancing, and movements to Jump-Jim Joe, Ride Sally Ride and Sasha. Ann Percival of Wild Asparagus lead the crowd along with her five-person band. The band uses a unique blend of talents to pack a punch of a performance, presenting traditional dances and music of New England folk heritage.

The proceeds went to benefit the Greenfield Center School, an independent day school for students K-8th grade. GSC is known for integrating social and academic learning in every aspect of the school day, while emphasizing the building of community and celebration of the individual. This benefit dance let that spirit of the GSC really shine through by warmly welcoming the larger community to celebrate with them, and empowering the older students who ran the bake sale and silent auction during the dance.

Old students from the GCS ran a bake sale and silent auction downstairs while families jumps and swung around upstairs. (Photo Credit: Sienna Wildfield)

If you’ve been to a contra dance you know how much fun they can be for the whole family. If you’ve been missing out, not to worry, there are a plethora of contra dances to fill your calendar, including:

A good way to keep up with contra dances happening in our area is the Pioneer Valley Contra Dance e-mail group.

Other interesting links to visit on Contra Dances:

Hilltown Families Spend a Cozy Winter’s Day in Historic Deerfield

Discovering Colonial America in Deerfield

Faith Deering demonstrating a variety of natural fibers used in Colonial America. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

On Saturday, Historic Deerfield in Deerfield, MA, hosted A Cozy Winter Day at their Hall Tavern. Many Hilltown families gathered together to experience some of the rich history of early New England. The day’s presentations included a hands-on approach to illustrate the homestead activities in which early settlers may have participated, such as sewing, cooking, storytelling or singing songs. Families passed the blustery winter afternoon as early New Englanders did.

Weaving on a loom. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Faith Deering did a wonderful sewing demonstration for small groups of families. She present a variety of natural fibers that were used to sew with, including wool, cotton and flax. Children were shown how to card wool, got to see how cotton was grown and view flax before it was processed into fiber.

Families also had the opportunity to see how wool was spun on a spinning wheel. The process of shearing sheep and explanations on why some wools were different colors was shared, and many questions answered. Once the steps from wool to yarn were completed, children got the chance to weave finished threads on a real loom. Samples to take home were passed out.

Cooking demo over an open heart fire. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Participants also had the opportunity to learn about quilting and make their own small quilt to take home. Fabric was available to paint followed by a demonstration on assembly and sewing. Kids loved making their own special quilts for their dolls or stuffed bears at home.

Around lunchtime a cooking demonstration over an open-hearth was offered. Kids watched how cooks made gingerbread, pies and soups over an open fire. Everyone had a chance to make their own gingerbread cookies to cook in the fire.

Musician Tim Van Egmond performed winter-themed songs and told stories. Encouraging audience participation, Tim sang folk songs, played a variety of instruments, including the hammered dulcimer, and told engaging tales.

The day was well spent in Historic Deerfield. Families were engaged the whole day through and children were afforded a wonderful opportunity to look at the ways of life for early New Englanders. The next family activity that will be offered at Historic Deerfield is All About Maps on March 31st, 2007. This will be a workshop for families, offering map-related activities, including how to make your own map.

Hilltown Families Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday

African-American Soul Food for Martin Luther Kig, Jr. birthday at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Hilltown families enjoyed African-American soul food during the “I Have a Dream” community celebration at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA, on Monday, January 16th, honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.

The “I Have A Dream” celebration was kicked off at 1 p.m. with a reading from King’s famous speech, followed by a performance by the popular Pittsfield step dance troupe, Youth Alive. Youth Alive is a troupe of young dancers from Pittsfield, who perform Hip-Hop, African, and Modern dances using their bodies as musical instruments to create a mix of sounds through feet stomping, hand clapping, and body movement.

Making "I Have a Dream" posters. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

A sampling of African-American soul food was offered to visitors following the performance. Children and parents enjoyed free samples of cornbread, collard greens seasoned with pork, and sweet potato pie.

Children sat around tables and on the floors in the upstairs gallery to make “I Have A Dream” posters to be displayed around the gallery for the day or to take and hang at home. Statements like “Use your own mind and listen to yourself,” and “Speak up when you know you should,” were written along with illustrations. Wise words for such young minds!


Kids marvel at the Savage Ancient Seas exhibit. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Currently on view at the museum is the exhibit Savage Ancient Seas, which presents the many gigantic forms of life that populated the prehistoric waters at the same time dinosaurs roamed the earth. The gallery is lit in hues of blue and green, creating an underwater ambience.

Exploring undersea world of the late Cretaceous Period at Berkshire Museum. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The exhibition explores the undersea world of the late Cretaceous Period, filled with huge carnivorous marine reptiles with double-hinged jaws and teeth in the middle of their palates, gigantic flesh-eating fish big enough to swallow an adult human whole, and more. With voracious appetites, incredible teeth, and gaping jaws, these creatures are unlike anything known in today’s world. Highlights include an Elasmosaur with a 30-foot long neck, the toothy scowl of a giant carnivorous fish (Xiphactinus), and the jaws of a Megalodon, or giant shark, along with other skeletons, fossils, and life replicas.

Hilltown Families Have the French Experience in Ashfield



Several hilltown families have begun to gather for an informal French language learning group with their children. Families from Ashfield, Chesterfield, Cummington and Shelburne Falls participated in the first group gathering this past Saturday. A recent French studies major from Cornell University and local Conway resident lead the group in French songs and conversation.

I feel it’s important to expose my child to different languages and cultures as a supplement to her education,” commented one parent participant. “I wish our public schools offered exposure to different languages at a much younger age.Read the rest of this entry »

Hilltown Families Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Noho

With clear winter skies and no snow in sight, you couldn’t have asked for a better day to explore all the family activities happening on Sunday afternoon for Northampton (Noho) First Night. The day’s program of activities was filled with nearly 40 venues of entertainment, including dance, theater and music at 18 different performance halls, churches and public spaces in Northampton. Well worth the trip down from the hills with something for everyone, especially families!

At twelve noon the festivities kicked off at the Northampton Center for the Arts with a Caribbean Street Carnival, presented by the Enchanted Circle Theater (ECT). ECT has been infusing arts and education for 30 year! At Noho First Night they put on a spirited performance of music, dance and storytelling. Read the rest of this entry »

Medieval Faire at the Springfield Museum

(c) Hiilltown Families

The Springfield Museum is hosting a Medieval Faire during the winter school break. On Tuesday, Rosalita’s Puppets performed a marionette puppet show. Keeping in theme with the Medieval Faire, the performance was Goldilocks and the Three Dragons and was performed to an interactive crowd in the Davis Auditorium. With an endearing improvisational method, puppeteer Charlotte Anne Dore invoked the crowd of families to participate on cue, while incorporating into the performance suggestions and comments children would shout out from the audience.

All week long families can participate in a variety of craft activities, including medieval mosaics in the G.W.V.S. Art Museum. Mosaic art was very popular during the Renaissance era. Children were given the opportunity to create their own mosaic art while visiting the museum during the Medieval Faire. Read the rest of this entry »

Solstice Bonfire Bring’s Hilltown Families Together

Winter Solstice Tradition Begins, 2006
By Sienna Wildfield

Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield

ASHFIELD, MA (Dec 23, 2006) – Ancient and modern Winter Solstice traditions were celebrated on the town green in Ashfield, MA this past Friday evening, organized by Ashfield residents, Laura Stravino and Victoria Worth. Wanting to begin a local Solstice celebration tradition they could share with their community inspired Stravino and Worth. With the help of several community members, they successfully put together an inspiring event. Ashfield teachers Edie and Julie joined in with their families under umbrellas as a light freezing rain fell. A beautiful bonfire warmed the crowd and Stephen Worth and Lael Boesel tended to the fire. Elmer’s Store offered hot cocoa and a warm meal and Country Pie was open for oven fresh pizza. Storytelling, songs and dancing filled the darkest night of the year, and families from all over the hills came to celebrate together.

Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield

The Hilltown Children’s Chorus had their debut at the Solstice celebration. Spear-headed by Stephanie Pasternack of Cummington, MA, this new chorus sang This Little Light of Mine, Jingle Bells and Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel, led by blues singer Marla BB of West Chesterfield, MA. Marla also led the crowd in a variety of songs of light as they gathered around the fire.

Morris Dancers arrived after the kids sang. Morris dancing is an English folk dance and is choreographed with rhythmic stepping while wielding wooden swords they’d knock together. Music played and the dancers performed a festive dance around the fire, knocking their swords together and singing out praises.

With children participating, storyteller Rona Leventhal wove together a Native American creation tale about forest animals attempting to retrieve the sun’s light. Only the wise Mother Spider was able to bring the sun’s light back to them.

Toward the end of the celebration, families took part in a candle dedication. Each participant lit candles, offered their own personal message and placed them together with others.

How an ancient tradition is celebrated today.

Ellen Jackson’s book, The Winter Solstice, (published by Millbrook Press) takes a look at the many different cultures throughout history who have celebrated the Winter Solstice and developed cutoms for this shortest day of the year.

With a simple storyline and attractive watercolor illustrations by Jan Davey Ellis, Jackson’s book is a nice addition to a social studies curriculum for children ages 4-8 this time of the year. The Scottish, Romans, Scandinavians, Celts, Northern Europeans, Peruvians, Pueblo Indians, and the Kwakiutl Indians are presented with their customs and beliefs; in addition to a scientific look and simple experiment to illustrate the planetary alignment that creates this seasonal change.

Jackson also explains how the winter solstice is celebrated today in modern American and European cultures, and how solstice customs have found their way into the celebrations of Hanukkah and Christmas.

She ends her book with a Cherokee folktale of creation that tells why evergreens stay green because of their faith that the sun would return. Read the rest of this entry »

Where can a girl get some sushi around here?

(c) Hilltown Families - Sushi Social

Sushi Social in West Chesterfield

Hilltown mom’s gathered in West Chesterfield, MA, for a sushi social and Yankee Swap. Women came from miles to celebrate the season, including from Ashfield, Dalton, Cummington, East Hampton, Plainfield, Chesterfield, Worthington, Shelburne Falls, Goshen and Windsor, to have all manner of sushi in a lounge like atmosphere. Everyone gathered to reconnect with old friends while making many new connections, sharing family stories from this past year and looking ahead as a community to the year to come. Read the rest of this entry »

Hilltown Families Discover Hanukkah

Hanukkah in the Hills

(c) Sienna Wildfield - Hilltown Families

Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield

Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah, Chanukah, Hanukah, Hannukah and Channukahis) is the Jewish Holiday known as the Festival of Lights. For eight days Jewish families kindle the light of a menorah by lighting one of the eight remaining candles every evening.This past Friday evening, hilltown families of mixed spiritual/religious faiths gathered in West Chesterfield, MA, to discover this ancient (over 2,000 years old) Jewish festival. When guests were asked if they knew what other holiday was celebrated on that day, one child shouted out, “CHRISTMAS!” Actually, it’s Shabbat. Two candles were lit, apple juice was served in small cups, blessings were sang and loaves of homemade Challah were passed around for children to tear off pieces of bread.

(c) Hilltown Families

homemade latkes (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Nancy Rothensberg cooked up an endless supply of delicious, homemade latkes (potato and onion pancakes), quickly devoured by everyone with sour cream or apple sauce. For perfect potato latkes, Master Chef Levana Kirschenbaum recommends keeping your recipe dry, thick, hot, steady, lean, white and fresh. Not sure if Nancy followed these guidelines, but they were the best latkes around town!

Upstairs families learn how to play dreidel. Chocolate coins (called gelt) were passed out to all players and Marla BB explained the rules and Hebrew markings on the dreidel. The dreidel is a spinning top with four sides, with each side corresponding to the following Hebrew words:

  • Nun (not) Nothing happens and the next player spins the dreidel.
  • Gimel (gimme) The player takes the entire pot of gelt and the next player spins the dreidel.
  • Hey (half) The player takes half of the pot of gelt and the next player spins the dreidel.
  • Shin (put in) The player puts one piece of gelt the pot and the next player spins the dreidel.

Of course a few younger children had a hard time giving up some or all of their gelt, but the older kids were intent on learning the game and continued playing even after all the adults finished.

Dancing followed with a warm up to Hanukah Bamba from a new Hanukah CD made available from the PJ Library. Later, with Klezmer music playing, the Hora was taught to all. Participants gathered hands in a circle and learned steps to this Israeli folk dance.

Stories were shared at the end of the evening. Marla BB read The Eight Nights of Hanukah and Runaway Dreidel to an interactive crowd of families. Both books were also made available from the PJ Library.

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