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Tuesday, October 24, 2017
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The Rural We: Jamie Cat Callan

Photo by Krystal Kenney

Jamie Cat Callan is the author of the bestselling books “French Women Don’t Sleep Alone,” “Bonjour, Happiness!” and “Ooh La La! French Women’s Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day.” Her next book, “Parisian Charm School: French Secrets for Cultivating Love, Joy and That Certain je ne sais quoi,” will be released on January 2, 2018. Her books have been published in 21 countries and have been featured in The New York Times, Vanity Fair and Time. Jamie, a Bard College graduate who has lived in Europe, on the Cape and in Los Angeles where she earned her MFA in screenwriting from UCLA (and worked for Meg Ryan), is happy to be back in the Hudson Valley. She and her husband, a former climate change scientist, are the owners of La Belle Farm in Valatie, New York, where they’ve lived since January of 2015.

I’m originally from Connecticut and met my husband there. When he got a job on the Cape, we lived in Woods Hole and Mashpee for a total of 10 years. When he wanted to retire and become a gentleman farmer, we moved to a farm from the 1820s. We have 50 acres and all the farming is done by my husband. We have chickens, turkeys and a huge garden. I pick berries — that’s the extent of my work — but I’m very involved in the Valatie farmers market.

Soon I’ll be publishing the fourth of my French lifestyle books. My grandmother was French and I grew up watching her and being aware of the differences between her generation and my generation of the ‘60s and ‘70s. The books are really an homage to her. I’ve traveled to France many times and I’m a huge fan of the culture. But I don’t think a reader has to have French relatives to “get” the books. They’re about honoring the lovely things of the past instead of doing things only for the sake of efficiency. When I lived in a little village in Southern France, they had no clothes dryers and the clothes smelled so nice from being hung outside on the line. In fact, the part of the world where I live now reminds me of that.

For American women, and for American men as well, there are certain lovely, old-fashioned things that our European ancestors understood: enjoying fresh air, taking your time, walking everywhere, less is more, not collecting a lot of stuff you don’t need, and appreciating what is in front of you right now. We know French women are fashionable, but actually they don’t spend a lot of money on their clothes. They mix it up with scarves and jewelry; they’re big on consignment shops and items passed down to them by relatives.

The first chapter is about using one’s intelligence. Intelligence is probably the most charming, most seductive thing a woman can possess. I talk a lot about intelligence, honoring the past and reading books. One word I use to describe the way French women approach life is “artful,” which they apply to everything from creating an interesting ensemble to cooking and gardening. Here it’s more about time, efficiency and money. We say we have the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” They don’t have this exactly; they have la bonheur, which translates literally to “a beautiful hour.” They’re not running after it or pursuing it – it’s all right there in your kitchen, in the apple torte you just made.

What makes French women so appealing is how they’re such individuals, they have their own style based on what their mothers and grandmothers have taught them. What’s beautiful is finding out who you are.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 10/17/17 at 10:19 AM • Permalink

The Rural We: Amy Rudnick

You can thank Amy Rudnick in large part for the spectacular (and seamlessly run) galas you’ve attended. She’s the party planner extraordinaire behind events at Jacob’s Pillow, the Mahaiwe, Shakespeare & Company, and many other nonprofit organizations in the Berkshires. She got her start in the event-producing business as director of special events at the Museum of Natural History. When she and her husband, a filmmaker, moved to the Berkshires, it was a natural progression for her to use her skill set to plan the galas we all love to go to. When we caught up with Rudnick, she had just completed her last event of the season — for the Flying Cloud Institute, of which she is the board chair.

I studied anthropology and museum studies in college. I desperately wanted to work in a museum, so I took a secretarial position at the Museum of Natural History — that proverbial “foot in the door.” I was hoping to move into the anthropology department, but when that didn’t happen after a couple of years, I took a job in its event planning and conference services department, which I ended up running.

We moved here from the city almost 20 years ago, when I was pregnant. We used to come up here to visit friends on the weekends. We decided to take the plunge almost spontaneously, but happily. We’re still in the same house in Sheffield we first bought.

My first client up here was Jacob’s Pillow. I had a friend on the gala committee who knew what I’d done in New York. Nonprofits are generally small staffed, and putting on a gala takes months and many staff members, which takes them away from fundraising duties. It was the first time the Pillow decided to hire a planner, and I was recommended.

I’d say I’m a producer, the person who brings all of the different facets of an event together. I coordinate all of the vendors — catering, music, rentals, all of the outside people who put an event together. I work closely with the client to strategize about the entire concept of the event, and then the fundraising aspect. I set it up and I’ll be at an event the whole time, managing different elements, putting it to bed… and seeing how much money we made!

I am strictly a fundraising event planner. If I’m going to dedicate myself to parties, I want it to be for a good cause, and there are so many great ones here. I get tremendous joy out of helping them. One of my favorite events this year was the Mahaiwe’s gala, held in a tent at the old Great Barrington train station. Wynton Marsalis was the performer, and to honor his New Orleans heritage, we led the guests to the theater with New Orleans-style music. It was really, really fun and different.

There are so many events here, it’s super important to make each one special, and to help people remember which event they’re at! I try to bring in the personality of the organizations with banners and photographs.

To do this work, you have to be detail oriented and super organized, which are two of my greatest strengths. People don’t realize that the event itself can be incredibly stressful. I’m always watching the clock to make sure things are going off in time.

I’m done now until the spring. I usually use this time of year to go into the city. I like to check out the new restaurants, and since I’m a total museum hound, catch up on my favorite New York museums.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 10/10/17 at 02:27 PM • Permalink

The Rural We: Rob Caldwell

Musica owner Rob Caldwell is celebrating the 20th anniversary of his lovingly curated Hudson, New York music shop. If you are or know a musician and haven’t been there, you need to stop what you’re doing and go there a.s.a.p. Musica was in Chatham for its first 10 years and Hudson for the second. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone more passionate about sharing music with others and creating connections with and between musicians (evident by the huge wall of photos behind him at left) than Caldwell. Each picture is a different kid he gave music lessons to over the years. The store is top notch, carrying essentials but also a wide range of beautiful international instruments you’re just not going to find anywhere else because he’s sourced them directly from their makers during his travels.

Twenty years ago I was a builder but I was always a guitar player. So we were on a big job, sitting in this little hallway in the wintertime, getting ready for lunch and the wind is whipping bad and all of a sudden this little drizzle of water comes down in front of everybody as we are sitting there eating our sandwiches and I said “You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to start a music store down where Filbert and Beans use to be [in Chatham].” And I did. I had always incorporated music into everything I did anyway.

I’ve always been, since hippie times, a believer in community music. Rather than chops and big hair and that sort of thing, I like it when music makes me feel good when I listen to it. I love playing music with other people, especially people that I like and respect. So that’s what I wanted to do in a music store.

Music is a way to have fun and communicate with people in a really pleasant way. It’s 20 years and things have changed. Everybody is a lot more inward with their phones and their machines but there are still plenty of people that want to create a creative community and there are a lot of people making it up as they go along.

I’m never trying to get someone to buy something. I like talking to musicians. Even if they don’t buy something here, I give the best advice I can because I want another musician out there. Creative people are drawn to Hudson so there is still a musical community, but it’s a little bit more difficult for them to maintain these days.

There are a lot of musicians that have come through the doors over the past 20 years that aren’t around anymore and I miss them generally. But there are always new ones coming in that are very cool and human, and that brings new life into a place.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 10/03/17 at 07:32 AM • Permalink

The Rural We: Arlin Wasserman

It’s good for business and good for the environment to follow sustainable business practices, to not overfish our oceans, to celebrate “meatless Mondays,” to recycle, and to buy produce from local farms. But this knowledge wasn’t always known or practiced on a large scale. The fact that it now is has a lot to do with Lenox resident Arlin Wasserman. He’s the founder and principal of Changing Tastes, as well as the former Vice President of Sustainability at Sodexo (the largest foodservice company in the world), and he’s helped them, General Mills and many other companies and organizations make significant shifts toward better nutrition and sustainability in the food industry.

I began my life’s work very early. I grew up in Philadelphia, in a produce company family, and I was always enamored with the ripe fruits and vegetables my father would bring home. Most of the food we ate was coming from local farmers.

I studied at the University of Michigan during the early days of climate change research, but I was already very interested in the health of our planet. Studying sustainable business is much more common now. While still in college, I helped start Recycle Ann Arbor, which launched the nation’s first weekly recycling pickup. That started my career in environmentalism. I then co-founded the Michigan Land Use Institute, and from 1992-1994 the Kellogg Foundation funded a study on what would happen if schools bought fruits and vegetables from farmers near them.

I founded Changing Tastes in 2003, and we work to help improve our health and the health of the planet by having the restaurant industry choose to offer us more delicious foods. We provide better guidance on environmental and nutrition science, and we help environmental organizations that want to engage the industry be more effective and faster making the changes they desire.

We developed the plan for the National Farm to School Network, brought together the foodservice industry around standards for sustainable seafood, and, since 2009, have worked with the Culinary Institute of America and Harvard on Menus of Change. Menus of Change is the only executive-level event in the industry that integrates nutrition and sustainability. It’s the only program that has brought leading chefs together in a business environment. Through this event, we get both communities to realize they need to rethink protein as the center of the plate. Plant-forward dining (making vegetables the center of the action) is now a major focus of culinary innovation.

People want to know where their food comes from, but many of them believe it’s the company or restaurant’s job to do that. We help the people who care to make changes inside these companies, instead of just getting them to admit that they’ve been doing the wrong thing. It’s in their best interest because climate impacts the foodservice industry. We’re already seeing the very early financial impacts of climate change and the damage to crops.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 09/25/17 at 10:10 AM • Permalink

The Rural We: James Crisp

The founder of Crisp Architects, a prominent architectural and design firm based in Millbrook, New York, Jimmy Crisp was born in Pumpkin Center, Louisiana. While he was working in the city after graduating from Louisiana State University, he renovated a one-room schoolhouse in Dutchess County, and started getting work in the area. He thought, “Why am I commuting when I could live here?” He opened his office in 1985, and now the firm includes about a dozen people. The staff is gearing up for its tenth annual FineHome Source, an “exceptional” home show that gets bigger and better every year. On Saturday, Sept. 23, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., FineHome Source will be at its customary location: 3327 Franklin Avenue at the bandshell in the Village of Millbrook, New York.

We live in Poughquag, which sort of reminds me of Pumpkin Center. We have a 1790s house that was added on to in the 1860s. Our kids are in 4H and raise sheep. We also have a couple of sheepdogs, bunnies, chickens and cats.

We didn’t intentionally set out to create a home show. Years ago, one of my clients asked me to be in a boutique home show, some sort of fundraiser in Connecticut. At the show we met a number of people who we’ve since worked with, and we even met a client there. I was gung-ho for the next year, but they never did it again. Someone in the office said, “Well, why don’t we do it?” We had just moved to a new location, with a big field next to the office. We rented a giant tent and brought in all the people we work with. They got booths, and we had a home show. Ten years ago, we started with 30 vendors. Now we have over 60.

It’s a wonderful way for us to have a one-stop shop for clients to look at people who might be working on their homes. It’s also a good place to meet potential clients. This year there will be culinary tutorials — someone from the Culinary Institute of America is going to demonstrate how to make winter soups and other things. Some of the other food vendors will be Soukup Farms with their maple syrup, Peony Vodka, Zoe’s ice cream, and Shunpike Dairy with its cheese.

This year our office manager, Annette Santacroce, who coordinates the show, was talented enough to get Tesla as an exhibitor. They’re flying in people from California to promote their cars and solar shingles.

We have a fine fashion show that we started last year, and a Plein Air Art Event & Auction. Ten artists will be on site and create paintings inspired by their surroundings. People will be able to buy their favorite painting at a silent auction. Larry Hamm, a jazz pianist, will be playing on a Yamaha baby grand.

We get around 1200 people, and expect that there might even be more this year. I always say I think it’s going to be our best one, and I think this one will be.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 09/18/17 at 09:49 AM • Permalink

The Rural We: Linda Mussmann

Claudia Bruce and Linda Mussmann

Time and Space Limited has been a haven for artistic and cultural energy in Hudson for over 25 years. TSL’s co-founders and co-directors Claudia Bruce and Linda Mussmann turned the old factory on Columbia Street into a destination to experience vital works from underrepresented and emerging artists as well as classic art films and high-definition broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera. TSL is also a community center and does everything from host children’s programs to organize protests for progressive causes. They’ve stirred things up over the years in Hudson with their unique brand of political activism, but those who know them see Mussmann and Bruce as unconditionally openhearted and passionately open minded. Here, Mussmann tells us about the drive they still have to further TSL’s mission and the quarter century it took to get where they are.

In 1989, there was a big storm over the censorship of Mapplethorpe in the national museum in Washington, which resulted in the National Endowment for the Arts censoring artists it funded. In New York City at the time, we were one of four theaters that gave our money back rather than sign a censorship clause. That was really a wake-up call that Claudia and I should figure out another way to survive.

There were a lot of visual arts in Hudson but there weren’t any full-time art centers, running movies and putting on performances. That was the vacuum we thought we could fill. Plus, we wanted to do serious stuff, thoughtful, challenging stuff.

Including the community has been one of our main agendas and I think we were pretty successful at making sure everyone got a piece of what we were doing. It’s still a mom and mom kind of place. We are still very much into the daily operations of programing. We are here, we answer the phones, and we care for people.

TSL is a reflection of Claudia and me, together. It’s a 40-plus year journey. It’s been amazing and I think the qualities that Claudia has, what I have, and the relationship of how they work together is really how we’re able to sustain TSL. It’s a lot of intuitive thinking and being open. There’s a lot of humor and fun. It’s lots of fun here at TSL. We also still do theater pieces together, so there’s still working and training together.

The community and this place are tied together in a really interesting knot, and Claudia’s and my passion for one another is the great sense of caring at the center of this thing that sustains itself.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 09/11/17 at 08:41 AM • Permalink

The Rural We: Cherri Sanes

Cherri Sanes and her husband Scott own and run ExtraSpecialTeas, a teahouse in downtown Great Barrington, Mass. that provides habilitation therapies and vocational opportunities for young adults with special needs who would not otherwise be employed. The nonprofit celebrated its one-year anniversary this past April, and in June Sanes accepted an award for being one of the Commonwealth’s Unsung Heroines of 2017. If you’ve never been to the brightly colored Victorian teahouse, stop by the open house on Sept. 22 from 5-7 p.m. to get a glimpse of Sanes’ vision – “a future where everyone belongs.”

I grew up in a small town in Texas, and moved to Dallas for school. I studied business, and ended up in Houston as a legal secretary, where I met my husband Scott. I married him in 1990 and we had a son, Jache, two years later, who had autism. We found out when he was 28 months old and we began lots of medical intervention, including the Son-Rise Program at the Option Institute in Sheffield.

We went back and forth from here to Houston and really fell in love with the Berkshires. We decided to move here in 1999. We built a house in Sheffield about a mile north of the Option Institute, and ran a home-based program with Jache for 12 years. During that time, I trained more than 150 volunteers for the program. Jache attended Mt. Everett High School, in their life skills program for special needs students, until he was 22. When he turned 21, we began looking for what would be the next thing for him.

There weren’t a lot of options here, south of Lee, so we felt there was a real need. I came up with the idea of the teahouse, because tea is such a communal thing. I was trying to think of a way that Jache and others with special needs could be a part of the community. I wanted it to be in Great Barrington because it’s such an open community. Jache and 10 other individuals with various disabilities work here. Everybody has a job, there’s something each person can do.

We work with Tiesta Tea, a Chicago-based company created by young people, millennials, who are always looking to give back. They work locally for the homeless, as well as on a water project internationally, and they’ve been a huge supporter of ours. Their teas are fantastic and flavorful, and of superior quality. They come in brightly colored packages and have fun names, too, which is great because it’s important for us to create a happy place. A lot of times there’s a sterile, clinical environment for people with special needs.

By mid-November we hope to add e-commerce to our website, where we’ll sell tea-infused gluten-free items from our baking program. We use the commercial kitchen at Hevreh, and most are tea-infused, including our signature shortbread, power bars and truffles. We also make tea-infused bath bombs, soaps and candles. Our newest product is Teabones for dogs, which are infused with lavender and chamomile tea.

We’d love to have more participants, as some of our workers are only part-time. In addition to our baking and arts and crafts programs, we started a garden in our courtyard last summer. Our next event will be on Friday, Sept. 22 from 5-7 p.m. We’ll have an open house with samples of our new small plate, light lunch menu, things like tea sandwiches and fruit plates.

We’re just so proud of the project; it really gives people purpose and we’ve changed lives, for Jache and others in the community. The Great Barrington community has welcomed and accepted us. My vision was always community integration and our customers really do seem inspired when they look at the handmade items, and come in to share a conversation.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 09/06/17 at 01:37 PM • Permalink

The Rural We: Ruth Jaffe

A psychoanalyst in New York City until two-and-a-half years ago, Ruth Jaffe and her husband now live full time in Washington Depot, Connecticut. While she does see some clients in Litchfield County on a part-time basis, you’re more apt to see her volunteering her time teaching Spanish (she’s originally from Argentina) and refining her own method of painting using wine as her medium. Never having painted before arriving in the area, she developed her skills through classes at the Washington Art Association. “Painting was my therapy when I started,” she says.

We were weekenders in Bridgewater in the mid ‘70s. I was teaching full time and doing research — my first career was in neuroscience — but I decided to do more one-on-one clinical work. I got a postdoctoral degree in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. My husband (who’s a neurologist) and I shared an office on the Upper East Side for almost 40 years.

Wine plus watercolor painting by Ruth Jaffe.

We sold our house in Bridgewater about 15 years ago, when we downsized, and ended up in Washington Depot. We were coming up more often and wanted a less rigid schedule. That’s when I started to paint. I signed up for a landscape plein air course in 1999 at the Washington Art Association, an active art gallery and school. I chose watercolor. That’s what started to turn our life around because the classes were on Friday, so we had to be here on Thursday, no matter how late. We used to scoot up here so we’d be here for a 9 a.m. class (my husband took a sculpture course). We became very happy art students. The class offered me the opportunity to show my work, and I began to dare show what I was doing.

Ten years ago, we started going to California — Santa Barbara — in the winter. The Santa Barbara Valley has vineyards, which we visited, and I thought I’d see how wine looks on paper. It was surprisingly wonderful. I decided to develop a technique and experimented a lot, being a researcher from way back. I boiled down small quantities of wine to concentrate the pigment. I had little bottles of chardonnay, merlot, malbec, etc., and kept track of where the wines were from. A quarter of a glass would be enough to boil down to do a few washes on paper. Using wine, the final color becomes initially unpredictable, that itself becoming part of my experiment. My work is impressionistic rather than representational, inspired by what I see but driven by my personal reaction to it. I have shown some of my work at the local library and was invited to show at Blue Mountain Gallery in Chelsea.

Washington Depot is a very special little town. The best part of the landscape class was the group; some have become lifelong good friends.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 08/25/17 at 05:07 PM • Permalink

The Rural We: Ron Harrington

Hillsdale, New York resident Ron Harrington has been a TV commercial actor, print model, interior designer, bookkeeper and, along with his husband, Rick, a longtime member of the PantoLoons at the Ghent Playhouse. This weekend, he’ll reveal another of his talents in his first one-man show, “Works on Wood,” at the Old Chatham Country Store and Café from Aug. 25 through Oct. 10. Meet Ron at the opening reception on Saturday, Aug. 26 from 3–5 p.m. 

I grew up on a farm in northern Illinois, and I was 24 when I moved to New York City in 1972. For about 15 years, I made my living doing commercials and print modeling. I did a lot of theater, as well, and worked with Time & Space. Linda and I go back a long way. Rick did all of the posters for her shows in the city when she was there.

My husband and I have had a place in north Hillsdale for 30 years, and I moved up here full time last year. We had a place on the Upper West Side and I was working for an energy brokerage firm half the week as a bookkeeper, but I’m retired now. Columbia County is just gorgeous; the Green River runs right through our backyard.

I have a studio in a double-car garage that I converted about 20 years ago. There’s a big pool table, so I shoot a rack of balls in the morning and then I cover it up and I work. I created a man cave because I wanted to save my nice 40-year relationship.

Rick was my inspiration. He’s also an artist, and he made a diptych in 1973 and I went “Jeez, I can do that!” His work is rather personalized, but I’ll grab a bunch of stuff and then that will be my limitation for that piece of art. For a while I was creating in shadowboxes using junk I found on the city streets. Now I’m creating life-size characters out of barn doors. We tore down an old barn garage, and I’ve been saving money by using that. In the city, if there was a car accident, I’d run out and get the big pieces of glass from the street. Recently, I took the caution tape they’d left from an accident right outside my studio. We like to recycle.

Now that I’m up here full time, it’s nice to have everything in one place. I figure I’ve sold about 100 pieces so far, so I’ve still got about 400. There are 18 in the show: some of the boards from the ‘90s, 5 wooden sculptures and a couple that go back 40 years. There are a lot of faces and people, and then some flying pigs and cows.

Rick and I were in the PantoLoons for 11 years, and we had a great time. It’s a spectacular group of people, including some very talented NYC transplants, and it was a really nice experience for us. I’ve always stayed busy and had lots of interests. I’m a Gemini and they do everything. I’m not afraid to start something new.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 08/21/17 at 01:03 PM • Permalink

The Rural We: Elyse Sadtler

Elyse Sadtler and her husband, Dan Cloutier, who works for the United Nations in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, met in Brooklyn. They found living in New York to be overstimulating, so they moved to Kent in March of 2015. (Cloutier commutes every day to the city.) A certified teacher, Sadtler works at the Washington Primary School as a literacy tutor and is a freelance writer for the Lakeville Journal.  She’s also an internationally certified natural henna artist. This summer, she has made a concerted effort to turn her love of henna (temporary body art) into a real business. If her schedule of events is any indication, she has already achieved that goal.

I got into henna in middle school. I had a friend whose parents were from India. I was at her house and her mom sits us on the floor and pulls out the Mendhi (a form of body art from ancient India, in which decorative designs are created on a person’s body using a paste created from the powdered dry leaves of the henna plant). I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. I asked my mom if I could get my own henna supplies. I stopped doing it in college, but as a reporter I covered an event about henna at the Kent Library, and picked it back up again. My company is called Henna by Elyse.

I’m self taught — watched a lot of YouTube channels. I gravitate toward traditional Indian and Moroccan henna designs. The henna paste is made from henna, essential oil and sugar to help it stick to the skin. I do designs on hands, feet, arms and legs using a squeeze bottle with interchangeable tips. Or I make a henna cone, which is like a little pastry bag. I get the henna powder from a manufacturer in Pakistan.

It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to do a whole hand. At private appointments, I pick elements from different designs, or I tell my clients to create a Pinterest board of what they like. At festivals, I bring a design book, so people can go through it and pick a design.

On the hand, a design will last from 10 days to 2 weeks, if you don’t constantly wash your hands. You can rinse it off with warm water, but you’re supposed to let it flake off.

My first major event was the New Preston Summer Stroll. I just did the sidewalk sale in Kent, and stores have hosted me, as well. I have a bunch of events coming up: I’ll be at the farmers market in Washington Depot, Conn. on Saturday (Aug. 19), and I’m giving henna workshops at the Kent Memorial Library on Aug. 23, The Montessori School for ASAP in Washington on Sept. 30 and at Twin Star in New Milford, Conn. on Oct. 6.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 08/13/17 at 12:35 PM • Permalink