Early Hots & Hams

Before you BBQ those hots and hams on Monday, cook up something fun to do away from your TV; Mets are ‘done’, no good Saturday night HBO movie and some nut is driving around Long Island knocking down poles, pulling electric and cable, so home is not an option.

So what options are on the table? Head out east for the Shinnecock Pow-wow, if you have a boat glide on over to the Huntington Lighthouse Music Fest, take in a street fair or 3…or forget about a planned event with crowds and just hit up a trail at Caumsett, Connetquot River or Caleb Smith State Park preserves!

We took a risk on last minute cancellation openings at Hither Hills in Montauk but will have to post about that in 2014 as no campsites were available. Shame on us, found out they book up 9 months in advance but its supposed to be great camping, movie nights and pickup baseball games out there.

So sorry fellow LI’ers, we took a risk and Brandon, Sofia and I drove up to Watkins Glen State Park up in the Finger Lakes and will spend a few days fishing at Seneca Lake, hiking the 400 foot-deep narrow Gorge behind one of the 19 waterfalls and cooking up some hots and hams early.

Happy Labor Day, loyal 1Quest readers!


Pic from the drive up yesterday to Watkins Glen; from a section of the Appalachian Trail at the Delaware Water Gap. Brandon wants me to take 6 months off of work and pull him out of school to do a thru-hike from George to Maine – the AT is 2186 long! When he turns 18 I’m down!



Thanks from 1Quest2theNext!

We wanted to say thank you to all of you as we’ve now had over 8000 visits to 1Quest2theNext since we began blogging last month…AND we’ve just received a nomination for the Liebster Award; which recognizes new bloggers for the quality of their site.  The kids and I really appreciate this feedback http://momeefriendsli.wordpress.com


Thank you! From Mia, Alana, Sofia, Brandon and Jay

Thank you! From Mia, Alana, Sofia, Brandon and Jay

As part of the Liebster nominations, we are tasked with answering some questions about blogging and things we like, as well as identifying some other newer blog sites that we visit.  Here we go:

1. What inspires you to blog?

Brandon, 10, co-editor of 1Quest2theNext: “This summer we went on a trip to Yellowstone and we wanted everyone to be able to see whatever we saw and thought was fun.  After writing about our trip we decided we wanted people on Long Island to find out that Continue reading

Planting Fields and the Pink Playhouse

“Daddy, can you take me to see the pink playhouse again?”. Many mornings on the weekend I hear this request from my middle daughter, Alana Rose. It’s easy to say ‘yes’ to my sweet girl as all of us enjoy visiting Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay!

Planting Fields is now designated as a New York State Park, but initially it was purchased in the early 20th Century by the Byrne family when it was simply farming property and built into a ‘Gold Coast’ estate on the North Shore of Long Island. An architect was hired and immediately the development plans included what is now the “green garden”, circular pool, and plantings of many fruit trees and layouts for perennial plantings.

Coe Hall

Coe Hall

Coe Hall

Coe Hall

In 1913, William Robertson Coe purchased the estate his family had been renting for a couple of years and continued planting pine, oak, cherry and other trees and much more vegetation and flowers.

The original mansion on the property burned to the ground before the decade was over , and Coe Hall was built in its place. The tennis court was replaced by the Italian Blue Pool and the brick Tea House. Other structures like the green garden, circular pool and fountain statue were rebuilt as it had been previously.

In the middle of the Century, Mr. Coe deeded the property to New York State and it remains a State Park today. Thanks, William!!

steps @ Coe Hal

steps @ Coe Hall

Just behind the Italian Blue Pool Garden is a brick tea house that has been restored in the last decade. The initial layout on this land behind Coe Hall was a tennis court. This is one of many spots at Planting Fields that the girls sit in awe and watch pre-wedding and engagement photos being taken by much more qualified photographers than the one who drove them here 🙂

Tea House

Tea House

tea house side

Just off to the right of the tea house the kids have fun climbing up their unique tree. You will find dogwood, beech, white pine, wheeping cherry and magnolia among other tree types.


From Alana, 5: “I like to go to the park and see all the wedding people having their pictures taken. We went there yesterday and we climbed a really big tree! I also found this pretty tree with red berries but I didn’t know if I was supposed to eat them so I didn’t”.


Coe Hall

Coe Hall

The Camellia Greenhouse displays the largest collection of camellias in the northeast, and the Main Greenhouse has extensive collections of hibiscus, orchids, succulents, and seasonal displays. You will also find cacti and a banana tree inside!

From Brandon, 10: “In the greenhouse there are all different kinds of cacti; some of them are in weird shapes. They have these plants that kind of look like pumpkins but they are green and they have thorns on them. In all of the greenhouses Sofia runs through the aisles and I run after her. It’s like a maze!”

What plant is this?  Comment in this post with your guess

What plant is this? Comment in this post with your guess

Also behind Coe Hall Historic Mansion you will find “The Green Garden” which includes a circular pool with a beautiful fountain statue and this brick walkway below:


From Brandon: “There is a bigger pool near the brick tea house and then behind the Coe Museum there is the one below. We have another picture of Alana in front of the small fountain where she has a big grin; what you can’t see in the picture is that she was picking a wedgie!”

Silly time!

Silly time!

Planting Fields Arboretum State Park was voted by Long Islanders (LongIslandPress.com) as the best public garden on Long Island in 2011 for a reason. There are over 400 acres of greenhouses, gardens, woodland paths and outstanding plant collections to explore.

Along the paths you will find many species including dahlias, peonies and of course roses in the Summer. Also, 100s of rhododendrons and azaleas.

along our Garden walk

along our Garden walk


There are too many open fields to list!

planting mia 2

Pic of Mia and her mama that was featured in Newsday this Summer

Pic of Mia and her mama that was featured in Newsday this Summer

Each time we talk about where our next adventure is going to be Alana shouts, “Can we go back to my pink playhouse?”. It’s hard to deny her wish and she always prances around and peeks in the windows; trying the doorknob to see if just this once she can get inside and play!

The estate owner had this playhouse along with the brick tea house built for his two young daughters early in the 20th century. Now that’s a doting dad!

playinghouse 4

and…we’re back again


…and again


We mentioned earlier that each weekend you will find wedding photography at several lovely locations within the Arboretum. We came here AFTER a family event and had some fun of our own!

From Sofia, 7: “So….we went to our cousin Kelsey’s party and then after we went to the park we are writing about right now. And…I was spinning around on this ledge. Then all of us were running around on the grass in the field. I like to look at me in my dress, it looks really pretty!”






Please don’t hate the oldest editor of this post for it being so kid photo focused! The first several times we visited I was just taking shots of my little ones. I’ll add some more shots of the property at Planting Fields shortly.

Hours & Admission:


9:00 am – 5:00 pm daily

$8 per car until Nov, 13th. **The park accepts the Empire Pass, which if displayed on your car window gets you in for free (nothing’s free, you have to purchase said Empire Pass, but it’s so worth it as you can use it at State beaches and parks)


Self-Guided Visits to Coe Hall

11:30 am – 3:30 pm 3/31 – 9/30 daily

October Weekends only

$3.50 Non-Members

Members & Children under 12 are free


By Car:
Long Island Expressway to Exit 41 North or Northern State Parkway to Exit 35 North. Proceed north on Route 106 towards Oyster Bay. Turn left onto 25A Northern Boulevard. Make first right onto Mill River Road. Follow green & white signs to the Arboretum on Planting Fields Road.

By Train:
Oyster Bay is the last stop on the Oyster Bay line of the Long Island Railroad. Planting Fields is approximately 1 ½ miles west.

1395 Planting Fields Rd Oyster Bay, NY 11771
(516) 922-9200
For high resolution versions of these photos and additional pics of Planting Fields Arboretum, please follow this link to the associated photo set on Flickr. If you would like to use or purchase any of the photos on this site or on Flickr please click ‘Contact Us’ at the top of our site:

And don’t forget to add comments about what you like at the Planting Fields; my kids are excited to see if you like this quest!

Also, Click FOLLOW on the website to get notified when we post new quests. Thanks!

Sleepy-eyed Sunday

Yawn….Ok, stretch a little, and it’s your own fault for staying up so late Saturday night!  But enough complaining about being tired; time to get up, check the 1Quest2theNext calendar and choose something to do outdoors on Long Island today!  It’s supposed to be as perfect outside as yesterday so take advantage while we still have some Summer left….forecast of ‘a good deal of sunshine and high near 80F’.

There are hikes to the North of me, strolls to the South, and here I am stuck on this website with you…Get goin’ now!

Wait, your still here? Post is over.  Stop staring off into space.  Go!


from a Sands Point Preserve post we'll be publishing soon

from a Sands Point Preserve post we’ll be publishing soon


Roll the Dice this Weekend

Happy Friday to my fellow Long Islanders! Now before you reach the office, hurry through your meetings and rush through your paperwork, place your bets on winning picks for this weekend. Odds are in your favor for lots of sunshine, laughter and an all-around great time with family and friends!

Visit the 1Quest2theNext calendar for a little of ‘this’ and a little of ‘that’:

Races & Walks
Street Fairs & Greek, Scottish and Seafood Festivals
Daytime Hikes and Sunset Strolls
Snakes & Butterflies


Friday Foto;

Here’s one taken on the Great Lawn at C.W. Post campus in Brookville . My eldest daughter (and 1Quest2theNext Co-Editor) can pick dandelions all day…


Camping at Blydenburgh County Park

Hi, this is Brandon.  I’m 10 years old and this is the first post on 1Quest2theNext that I’m in the Primary Editor of.  I’ve been asking my dad to take me camping and fishing for awhile.  When we lived in North Carolina we used to go to Holly Point to go camping and would get a lot right on Falls Lake.  I caught a catfish there when I was younger (see below):

Caught my 1st fish at Falls Lake in NC years ago

Caught my 1st fish at Falls Lake in NC years ago

We decided to try camping at Blydenburgh County Park in Smithtown; only a few minutes from our house which is funny!  Blydenburgh is 627 acres total, of which 100 acres are Blydenburgh Lake; also known as New Mill, Weld’s or Stump Pond.  It is known for having really big dog runs for small and large dogs.  You wouldn’t even go more than a short while without seeing a dog.  Fed by the headwaters of the Nissequogue River, it is one of the least developed and most picturesque ponds on Long Island (I got this last sentence from the internet).

Right next to the greek yogurt and eggs in the fridge

Right next to the greek yogurt and eggs in the fridge


We filled a cooler with ice, milk, hot dogs, drinks and more.  We took our tent, a small charcoal grill, flip flops, hiking boots and regular sneakers, a bunch of clothes, some small battery operated fans, camping knives and tools, a hammer for our tent and lots of water.  We had lots of gear from our trip to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks this summer.  We picked a campsite without too many trees, but there was enough shade and the ground had level spots for our tent.  It had running water and 2 picnic tables.  We setup our tent, put on bug spray, hats, our hiking boots, filled our hydration backpacks and took off for a hike around the lake.


We hiked the blue trail; there was blue paint blazed on trees along the way.  To continue on that trail there were trees with an extra blue mark pointing in the direction of our trail.  They do this so you don’t get lost.  We saw lots of dogs on the trail; greyhounds, labrador retrievers, rottweilers, terriers and many other kinds.  There were also horses that use the trails so you have to watch where you step 🙂

There was a big mudpile and a thin log running across it but it was loose.  Both me and daddy slipped off the log a few times and got lots of mud on our boots.  It didn’t matter because we have good boots and our feet never got dirty or wet during our camping weekend.  We went off the blue trail for a little while without realizing it and came to the Greenbelt (white) trail and hiked that for awhile.


When we were at 3.3 miles completed on our hike, we reached an old mill, an old light-pink colored house.


Then we went up steps towards the Greenbelt Visitor Center, which includes the Weld House, a blacksmith shop and an old kitchen house.  We also met the caretaker of the house and he told us all about the tours that he gives on Saturdays and also around Thanksgiving where the blacksmith lets kids wear goggles and hammer the iron that is burning hot, you can cook things like Apple Turnovers and then eat them and you can take a tour of the visitor center.  It sounded cool and I want to go.  The caretaker was really nice and talked to us about hikes along the Long Island Greenbelt Trail.

Recharging at the Greenbelt visitor center

Recharging at the Greenbelt visitor center

We came back down near the mill and we met a fisherman named Igor who lives in Brooklyn but comes from Russia.  Daddy was talking to him about where he lived in Russia (in Minsk, the capital of the ‘state’ of Belarus) and daddy said his great-grandfather and great-grandmother came from Belarus (city of Babruysk) in Russia too.  Igor liked to take pictures too and told us cool things to take pictures of.  He showed us on the side of the mill house there is an old window with an American flag inside it that was cool.

American flag at the Mill

American flag at the Mill

Igor said he and his wife caught 4 bass fish already and he was wearing a fishing suit so he could go in the lake.  He told us he is going to Montana soon on a road trip and we told him that we just got back from Glacier National Park in Montana.  We told Igor about our website and he promised to keep in touch (the next day Igor wrote to us through the 1Quest2theNext site)!  We finished the hike finally and it was 6.5 miles long!

Our Blue and White (Greenbelt) Trail loop around Blydenburgh Lake

Our Blue and White (Greenbelt) Trail loop around Blydenburgh Lake

My longest hike before this was about 3 miles in Glacier National Park.  Blydenburgh Lake is only about 5+ miles around – daddy ran it last year – but our hike was extra because we did some of the Greenbelt Trail besides the Blue Trail.


We went camping Saturday, Sunday and Monday and hiked a total of about 12 miles!

We made Ballpark hot dogs for dinner on our little charcoal grill.  They were so delicious.  I had 2 and daddy had 3.  We were going to make Smores but all the chocolate melted really bad so we roasted marshmallows instead and that was fun.  We had sleeping pads and sleeping bags and we had brought a little DVD player.  We watched Percy Jackson but the battery didn’t last so we read a bit.  I read “The Magician’s Nephew” by C.W. Lewis and daddy read “Suttree” by Cormac McCarthy.  Then we went to bed.


On Sunday we were going to have cereal but when we went for a ride to the fishing shop we stopped and had breakfast at the Candlelight Diner in Commack.  We go there a lot and I got chocolate chip pancakes.  Then we went to a fishing shop in Kings Park and had our lines re-spooled and got some new hooks and nightcrawler worms.  The worms are from Canada.  We went to Blydenburgh Lake and rented a rowboat and took it out for a few hours.

docks 3


On our boat trip we saw swans, ducks and a bunch of really cool birds that we have to find out what they are called.


There was a lot of seaweed or other kinds of weeds in the lake so it was hard to row for a little while until it cleared up.

What kind of bird am I? Send us a comment

What kind of bird am I? Send us a comment

Then we started fishing but we didn’t catch anything.  We went back to the campgrounds and played some basketball on the court and some nerf football.  Then we bought hamburgers and chocolate from the supermarket and then went back to the lake to fish from the shore.  We did better with the nightcrawlers from Terminal Tackle than the worms from Walmart and we caught a Pumpkinseed Sunfish.  It was so awesome!  We were yelling across the lake to another fisherman and talking about our catches.


We ate burgers and had so many Smores at night and then had a football catch in the dark.  Then we went to bed and got a lot more sleep than Saturday night.

On Monday we got up and went fishing at another sandy spot on the side of the lake less than a mile from where we rented our boat the day before.  We practices casting our lines because we wanted to get better.


We talked to another fisherman and then a lady came with her retriever and we watched him swimming and playing fetch.  The dogs name was ‘Mayes’ or something like it in Spanish.  Then two people on horses with a small dog came into the lake and walked around on their horses.  They were really nice and the dog was so hyper.



After fishing we went by the dog runs to check out the dogs.  At different times during our camping trip we saw at most 15 dogs in the large dog run and they were all playing nicely with each other.  It is almost more a dog park than a people park!  Then we packed up our stuff at the campsite and went home.

I thought it was a really fun camping trip at Blydenburgh Park and I like the lake and when we went fishing.  The other campers and fishermen were really nice – even though the people camping next to us played Christmas music Sunday night!  If you read this you should go there if you like the outdoors.  Thank you for reading my blog post!

– Brandon, 10, of Smithtown, NY


Please make sure your dog is trained to interact with dogs of all sizes and with human beings also!  Please clean up after your dog…

Fishing for pumpkinseed sunfish, large-mouth bass, perch and bluegill is permitted at Stump Pond between sunrise and sunset

Admission and Hours: Sign up for the Green Key Card.  It’s only $24 and your spouse can use it too.  Camping is $15/night.  Boating is a $10 deposit and are available daily from mid-May through Labor Day, 8am-3:30pm.  Check with the park for specific rental fees.

Veteran’s Memorial Highway, Smithtown
Park Office: (631) 854-3713
Camping: (631) 854-3712
Greenbelt Trails Conference Office: (631) 360-0753
Camping Reservations: (631) 244-7275

For high resolution versions of these photos and additional pics of Blydenburgh County Park, please follow this link to the associated photo set on Flickr.  If you would like to use or purchase any of the photos on this site or on Flickr please click ‘Contact Us’ at the top of our site:


And don’t forget to add comments about what you like at Blydenburgh Park; my dad and I are excited to see if you like this quest!

Also, Click FOLLOW OUR BLOG on the website to get notified when we post new quests. Thanks!


Dirty Sock Sunday

So the weekend is only half over (or maybe some of you are on vacation this week). You can go head to Bagel Boss and pick up the paper to chill in the backyard (I won’t judge). However, It’s not too late to get outdoors and explore nature, work up a sweat for a cause or take in some culture as a family. Stop by our calendar for the scoop or to plan next weekend!

I’m out camping with my son this weekend. He doubled his longest distance hike to date – 6.2 miles around Stump Pond at Blydenburgh County Park (post coming soon). Here’s a shot of him regaining some strength outside the Long Island Greenbelt office and Weld House, above the Greenbelt portion of our trail hike:



Bats and Tongues!?!??! Weekend must be here…

There’s a lot going on this weekend on Long Island. The annual Polish Town Fair and Festival in Riverhead, a nature walk at Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve in Lloyd Harbor, a Bat Safari at Connetquot River State Park Preserve, learn about animal tongues at Caleb Smith State Park in Smithtown and much, much more. Check out Upcoming Events link on the top menu and make plans outdoors now!!


Fun @ 2012 Polish Town Fair:


Argyle Park

It was Saturday and nice weather.  So..outside we go on another quest.  This wasn’t a first timer; we’ve been to Argyle Park before.  We went last Summer the same weekend as the Polish Town Festival in Riverhead (perogies!) and enjoyed both that day.  I’ve walked the lake many times over the years as well and it’s a good time.

Just off the parking lot is a nice playground, including toddler and regular swings and the slides on the main structure aren’t burning hot.  The playground is in sand for safety.

The Argyle Lake loop is .75 flat miles.  It’s an easy walk and you will find lots of people taking a stroll, speed-walking and running.  Watch out for geese poop!



Brandon, 10:  “We saw 3 swans and 1 of them was guarding the other two.  When we went to take a close picture it started hissing at us.  But then when we walked along the lake it followed us to see what we were up to.”


You can go fishing beginning in Spring and will find the following: Brown Bullhead, Sunfish, Largemouth Bass, Yellow Perch and Carp.  Also, Brown and Rainbow Trout are stocked in the lake.

On your visit you are likely to see Wedding pictures being taken, or – if the right time of year – prom photos as well.  Both times we I’ve taken the kids there the girls were so excited to see brides all dressed up.  Sofia and Mia both told me Saturday they want to take their wedding pics at Argyle.  I told them they have time!

the 1st African-American baseball club began at the site of Argyle Park. Very cool!

the 1st African-American baseball club began at the site of Argyle Park. Very cool!

Each September the town of Babylon’s Beautification Society produces the annual Country Fair on the grounds at Argyle Park.  This fun day includes hundreds of crafts vendors, food, entertainment and child rides.  We may give it a try next month!


Alana asked if we could replicate a picture we took last year with her and Sofia peeking around a tree.  The one below is from 2012 and was in Newsday.  I’m not taking any credit;  these kids are just so cute who doesn’t want to put them in the paper 🙂



I took a seat on one of the many benches on the grounds on the park and watched the kids do their thing.  I had to get up a few times when Mia (2) ventured way too close to the edge of the lake and was attempting to reach out and touch a swan;  the same one that had been hissing at me the 2nd half of our trip around the lake.  The kids were playing tag last year; this time it was other games on the grass.  Life is good!


It's this old game, see....

It’s this old game, see….

Sofia asked me to take the shot below; typical.  She reminds me of old super 8 films of my mom when she was a little girl; always trying to model for the camera my Papa was holding…

tree hugger!

tree hugger!

Ok, so this is the schizophrenic swan; who was alternating between trying to scare me off and then genuinely try to follow us around and hang with us.  Doh!


Brandon:  “When we were walking next to the lake I looked over and saw a really small frog hopping on the ground on the edge of the lake.  When we went to touch it the frog stayed still and tried to blend in.”

Sofia, 7:  “Brandon found a frog and daddy put his hand out on the ground and the frog jumped on his hand.  Then it jumped off and then I put my hand down and the frog jumped on my hand and it was so small.  Daddy took a picture and then I told all the walkers and runners going past us that I was holding a frog and showed everyone!”

Sofia and friend

Sofia and friend

Ok, we have consensus; Argyle Park rocks!  Honestly any place that includes a playground my kids are going to be happy anyway 🙂 But it is a beautiful place; the lake view, watching the geese, swans and ducks and also the architecture just off the road in front where everyone takes pics before special events.  Oh, and I’ll have to head back with Brandon to fish soon!


Please understand that for the geese, swans and other waterfowl at the park; this is their home.  This woman was teaching her kids to run up to the geese on the lake’s edge and yell and scare them into the water.  Her kids were copying her.  I made a point to tell my kids thats what you DON’T do, but I didn’t have to; they understood already from all the time we spend enjoying nature.  Ok, enough venting in the ‘notes’ section…

Of course you can bring your dog on a walk around Argyle Lake, please just clean up after it.

Boats are not allowed.  No swimming.

Please don’t feed the waterfowl!  Not trying to be park police, but thinking of their health.

Admission and Hours: It’s free, baby!  Dawn until Dusk.

E Main St, Babylon, NY 11702
(631) 669-1212

For high resolution versions of these photos and additional pics of Argyle Park, please follow this link to the associated photo set on Flickr:


And don’t forget to add comments about what you like at Argyle Park; my kids are excited to see if you like this quest!

Also, Click FOLLOW on the website to get notified when we post new quests. Thanks!

looking fantastic at the lake

Comment on this post if you like it.  Hope you give Argyle a chance soon!