Camping in the Catskills

A Guide to Camping in the Catskills Region

Andrew and I both love camping, so we’ve made it a tradition to go at least once a year. For the past three years, our destination has been New York’s Catskills region, in particular the town of Saugerties. We love the close proximity to New York City—about a two hour drive—which allows us to get away for a long weekend without much fuss. Here I’ve put together a little guide of some of our favorite things to do in the lower Hudson Valley.

Campgrounds

First, Andrew and I are “car campers,” meaning that we don’t hike out to remote campsites with all our worldly goods on our backs. Granted, we do hike (take the train) out of New York City with all our worldly goods to pick up a car in New Jersey, but we can’t say that really counts as “roughing it” no matter how difficult it is to carry that stuff up and down the subway stairs. But despite being car campers, we still like our camping experience to be as close to “alone in the wilderness” as we can get. We like heavily wooded campgrounds where the sites are pretty well spaced. We do not like loud groups of college kids arguing over the rules of beer pong at 3am. (Yes, this makes me sound old. I accept it.)

We’ve stayed at both the KOA and Rip Van Winkle Campgrounds in Saugerties, and Rip Van Winkle is our favorite by far. The grounds are pretty, with a winding gravel road that leads through a fairly heavily wooded forest and past a creek (we like the creekside sites the best). The tent sites are huge. There’s also a pool, a nicely stocked camp store, a lake with paddle boats, trout fishing, laundry facilities and free coffee. The staff is welcoming and really does a great job keeping the bathrooms and showers clean. Also, if your attempts at campfire cooking totally fail, there’s an Italian restaurant in town that will deliver to your site. (For the record, we have never done this. We did once get trapped in a crazy bad storm though and have to eat cold rolls and an entire box of cookies in our car because our tent sprung a substantial leak. Needless to say we have invested in better gear since then.)

Hiking

Hiking Trails in the Catskills RegionGiant Ledge: This intermediate 3.5-mile out-and-back hike starts off with a fairly steep trek up rocky terrain in a beautiful wood. I was surprised how strenuous it was because I’m usually good with ascending, but your payoff comes quick. After only 1.5 miles, you’ll find yourself on level ground with access to a series of open ledges with dazzling views. The view is amazing and you feel like you’re on the edge of the world due to the steep drop-off from the ledges. We visited in the fall and the autumn colors were breathtaking. One nice thing about the hike is that the journey up is just as lovely as the view at the top.

Overlook Mountain, Catskills RegionOverlook Mountain: This 5-mile out-and-back hike has a few very unique features that make it well worth adding to you list. One is an abandoned hotel about 2 miles into the hike. The hotel burned down not once but twice, but a good portion of the stone walls remain. We happened to hike it on a misty day and the ruins were totally eerie in the filtered light. At the top of the mountain you’ll find a fire tower that is open to the public, so the brave can get an even better panoramic view from the top. My one critique of this hike is that the trail up isn’t that scenic or enjoyable. Most of the trek up is on a wide gravel track without much wildlife to enjoy. The hotel and fire tower are so cool though, that it makes the uninspiring first leg worth it.

Sights

Storm King Art Center, Hudson ValleyThis year we spent a half a day at Storm King Art Center. This massive outdoor sculpture park is sited on 500 rolling acres, including open meadows and shaded woods, and you’ll find over 100 modern works of sculpture dotted throughout. It is absolutely a whole new experience to view art like this. You can see some pieces from very far away and really appreciate the forms they create against the landscape, and how they change in different lights. Then, as you get closer, you experience their true scale and start to pick up on the details of the work. We also saw some wildlife around the park: a mother deer with her youngster and a woodchuck (fun fact: also called a groundhog or even a whistle pig, depending on where you live). Highly recommend this as a stop on your itinerary.

Saugerties Lighthouse, Catskills RegionAnother cool attraction in the area is the Saugerties Lighthouse. Now operating as a bed and breakfast, it’s only accessible by boat or a walking trail—but, be warned! The trail can only be accessed at low tide. When the tide rises, access from the mainland is cut off and the lighthouse finds itself on an island. Check the tide timetable on their website to plan your visit and bring a picnic lunch to enjoy on the sunny dock surrounded by the Hudson River.

The area is ripe with orchards and farms, perfect for a quick apple-picking stop or a bit of farmer’s market shopping.

Food
Andrew and I always make it a point to cook out on the fire when we’re camping, so we haven’t eaten out a lot during our stay in the area. That said, we do have a favorite lunch spot: the Dutch Ale House in downtown Saugerties. We stop here every year because I’ve become addicted to one item on their menu: The Pilgrim Sandwich. This decadent sandwich, inspired by Thanksgiving, can really only be eaten once a year, but it is so, so worth it. House roasted turkey, stuffing and provolone cheese are pressed onto marble rye bread and accompanied by two to-die-for condiments: cranberry relish and gravy. It is insane. Insanity in sandwich form. But I love it so much. Basically it is Thanksgiving dinner in one bite. Ugh, now I totally want one.

A Kate Spade Bridal Shower Brunch

You know what je l’adore? Tulle skirts. And bold statement stripes. And cute graphic tees. And this Kate Spade bridal shower. I am seriously already shopping for my own version of bride Lauren’s stylish ensemble and her contagious smile absolutely conveys the happy-time vibes at this brunch, captured by Stacy of Set Free Photography. The navy and gold color palette creates a bit of a nautical feeling, but the pop of pink gives it a modern twist. Guests enjoyed stuffed French toast (Lauren’s favorite) and mimosas before cutting into the cake shaped like a Kate Spade jewelry box (plus, Lauren got to open the real thing later that day).
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Photography: Set Free Photography | Planner: Along Came Stephanie | Venue: The Verandah River House | Rentals: Alter Elements | Florals: Signature Florals | Cake: Kakes by Karen | Hair & Makeup: Me Too

Frock + Flowers // Dark Fall Bouquets

How to create a fall bridesmaid bouquet

It’s full-on fall now, folks, and with that comes a slight shift in the wedding color palette as bold jewel tones and all the colors of autumn leaves find their way into bridesmaid dresses and bouquets. Creating a fall look is all about embracing dark colors, letting a little forest green or purply brown sneak its way in. These bouquets feature magenta and crimson statement flowers, like roses, dahlias and protea with pops of blue thistles and yellow billy balls. Try incorporating robust, deep greenery like eucalyptus or fall berries to add earthiness.

Image credits: Top left: The Bride’s Cafe | Top right: Wedding Chicks | Bottom left: Naturally Yours Events | Bottom right: Ruffled

A Bit of Fall (Social Media) Cleaning

Well folks, we’ve entered the wedding slow season, those few months after most weddings have ended for the year (except those amazing winter weddings that make bridal scarfs and evergreen bouquets totally a thing) and before the onslaught of proposals that will occur around the holidays. So what’s a bridesmaid blogger to do with her time? Check some much-needed social media improvements and additions off her list!

First up, Ultimate Bridesmaid joined Instagram. So overdue, am I right?! I’ve had a personal Instagram account for awhile now but I really didn’t want to turn it into a blog account as well. Because I need an outlet for posting pictures of my adorable nieces picking pumpkins or my attempts at flower arranging (apparently I Instagram flowers the way some people Instagram food). So I finally figured out how to have two accounts on one phone and now you get pretty bridal shower photos! There’s so much to share since I basically have the whole history of Ultimate Bridesmaid to catch up on, so I’ve been having a kind of neverending #tbt as I share my favorite party photos.

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Instagram is too addicting. Like, it may be rivaling Pinterest as my new favorite social outlet. (Just kidding Pinterest, don’t be mad! You got some love too.)

Next up: Pinterest clean-up and expansion. I realized that some of the general Pinterest boards that I started way back at the Dawn of the Pin were getting a little unfocused—namely boards with titles like “Bridal Showers” or “Bridesmaids.” I took a look at what was actually on these boards and then broke them out into a bunch of new ones with more focused themes. Which means you get really cool ideas for creating Bridesmaid Survival Kits for the bachelorette or wedding day. Or a ton of Will You Be My Bridesmaid cards all in one place! Isn’t that so much more helpful? Some other new boards to check out: Bridal Shower Invitations, Bridesmaid Duties, Bridesmaid Brunch and Bridesmaid Gifts and Favors.

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I work hard for you guys, for real.

I have a few more Pinterest boards up my sleeves, so keep checking back for more updates! And leave special requests in the comments. What party inspiration or bridesmaid resources are you searching for and coming up empty?

An “Almost a Mrs.” Donut Bridal Brunch

As the bags you’ll see below so cleverly state, “okay, you had me at donuts.” Photographer Angela Cox and event stylist Suzie of Static Couture dreamed up this “Almost a Mrs.” bridesmaid brunch for the first Greenville NotWedding. In addition to the stunning donut centerpiece, the bride and her maids had a gorgeous spread to enjoy, highlighting blueberries and grapefruit with blueberry scones, grapefruit halves, and a twist on the classic mimosa: grapefruit juice topped with berries. These ladies look beyond gorgeous and oh so relaxed in their comfy lightweight shifts done in soft neutrals and accented with statement necklaces made of natural materials—plus fuzzy woolen socks, of course. Cobalt blue shibori accents were the perfect explosion of pattern, giving the industrial space an earthy, warm vibe. The whole shoot just makes me want to cozy up with my own hot cup of coffee and warm pair of slippers.
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Photography: Angela Cox Photography | Donuts: Circa Doughnut | Fruit & Scones: Swamp Rabbit Cafe | Paper goods: Jankun Creative Studio | Florals & Styling:  Statice Couture Florals & Event Design | Platters, serving spoons, shibori and table accents: Knack Studio  | Clothing & Necklaces: Savvy Inc. Boutique | Rings: Danielle Miller Jewelry | Makeup & Hair: Isabelle Schreier

Maid of Honor Speech Writing Prompts

Maid of Honor Speech Writing Tips and Prompts

This post could probably be entitled “creative writing tips” because that’s really what writing a speech is all about—with the caveat that whatever you write needs to sounds natural when spoken aloud. Since getting started is usually the hardest part, I’ve compiled a list of prompts that will help you organize your thoughts about the bride and groom and focus your speech. I’ve also written on how to format your speech and some maid of honor speech do’s and don’ts, if you’re looking for more info.

To start writing a speech, I am a firm advocate of just vomiting out whatever enters your mind (from your fingers, not your mouth). Other people would call this “stream of consciousness” or “spontaneous writing,” but “word vomiting” is just as apt. The whole idea is to not worry about choosing the right word or turn of phrase. You want to focus on ideas rather than word choice. Organization and finesse can come later. What you need to start are the broad strokes. Sometimes I don’t even write full sentences. I just jot down phrases or words that enter my head. I skip around. I leave my thoughts unfinished. I just get something out there. Don’t worry if what you’re writing doesn’t make sense. Let yourself go.

Once you have all those words down, read over what you’ve written. What has potential to be expanded? What catches your attention? Do you see some of the same words and ideas coming up again and again? Sometimes getting out your thoughts shows you the shape of what you want to say. To give you a really good example, when I started writing this post I thought it would be a step-by-step guide to writing a maid of honor speech. But as I was word vomiting (don’t worry, I feel fine now), I realized that I was focusing a lot on the barriers that keep us from starting to write a speech and how we can overcome them. So I modified my idea, organized my thoughts and turned this post into what you see today.

Still struggling? Here are a few tiny tricks I use to help with my writing process and some general advice on maid of honor speeches in particular.

1. If you get stuck on a word, or find yourself slowing up as you grasp for a particular concept, just type “TK” and move on. TK is a editing term that means “to come” (don’t ask about the K instead of a C, I don’t know). TK is really useful because it frees you to keep writing, but you know you need to come back later and find that perfect word.

2. Sometimes your brain needs a warm-up. If I’m struggling with writing, I like to tackle a simple task or mental problem. I feel like it gets my brain organized and ready to think without all the creative frustration that can come from writing. So for example, I might work on putting together a shopping list or read a blog post by a writer I admire. Endless scrolling on Instagram or catching up on Real Housewives won’t encourage your mind to be active. Quite the opposite—those activities are like pause buttons for your brain waves.

3. Resist the urge to use or modify a canned speech from the internet. Resist, resist, resist! 95% of the ones I have read are horrible—like truly cringe-inducing. The number one thing you speech should be is personal and there is no way you’ll get that from a template.

And here are your writing prompts. Use these to get you started. Hopefully these ideas will help you find the nugget of a story or idea that will lead to the perfect speech.

Maid of Honor Speech Writing Prompts

What words best describe the bride?

What words best describe the groom?

What words best describe their relationship?

How did you meet the bride?

How did the bride and groom meet?

What did they do on their first date?

What did you think of the groom when you first met him?

What’s your favorite story about the couple?

What do you admire about their relationship?

How did the groom propose?

What are some of the highlights or milestones of their relationship?

What were some of the challenges they faced in their relationship?

What’s your favorite story to tell about the bride?

Is there a story that epitomizes the bride?

Is there a story that epitomizes their relationship?

What hobbies and interests, like and dislikes do the couple share? How has that enhanced their relationship?

What hobbies or interests, likes or dislikes do they differ on? Has that led to any funny stories?

Have they tried to introduce their spouse to something new? Has it succeeded or failed (hopefully in spectacular fashion)?

Tips for writing your maid of honor speech, with lots of writing prompts to get the ideas flowing

 

Photograph by Christa Nicole Photography.