These Butterflies Are Free

See what’s aflutter at this colorful farm and breeding center for one of nature’s “flightiest” — and prettiest — creatures

If wielding a net around your yard doesn’t sound too appealing (and sugar water attracts the wrong kind of bugs), don’t give up. Why not let that elusive butterfly come to you? The Rainbow’s End Butterfly Farm and Nursery in Pawling is a natural habitat and breeding ground for many different species, most notably the Monarch butterfly.

Patricia and Cornelius du Plessis, along with their daughter Amour, own the farm, which comprises 96 acres of swamps, meadows, woodlands, and fields. Visitors can walk around and picnic among the butterflies and native plants, then visit the flight house, which puts you in the middle of 150 Monarchs, Painted Ladies, and Black Swallowtails.

“They are afraid of nothing,” Patricia says. “We give out Gatorade lollipops — Q-tips soaked in Gatorade — and they will come right up and drink from them as you hold them.”

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Afterward, flutter by the Flutter-Buy Shop, which offers caterpillar kits, butterfly-themed jewelry and books, homemade honey, and maple syrup.

You can buy butterflies to release at your wedding, birthday party, or other occasion. “It’s more environmentally friendly than throwing rice,” says Patricia. “It’s symbolic. The butterfly represents so many aspects of change.” In the fall, the remaining insects are released for their annual migration to Mexico. Last spring, one of the farm’s offspring was actually recovered in the village of Cerro Pelon. “He made it!” Patricia says like a proud parent. “We’ve only done it for one year, but people have been tagging for years and they’ve never had that happen.”

The retired couple tends the farm with their three grown daughters. Although they have owned the land for a long time, they only began turning it into a butterfly Eden about five years ago. The genesis of that transformation was a trip to Cornelius’ native South Africa; while there, the pair learned about the diminishing habitats for elephants and wild dogs. “We wanted to help in some way back home,” says Patricia. So they stopped mowing their fields and let their property return to native grasses and plants. One of those plants was milkweed — the only food source for Monarch caterpillars. And so, a butterfly farm was born.

Which is somewhat surprising to Patricia: “I was never really a bug person,” she laughs. “But once the spirit of the butterfly hits you, it’s all-consuming.”

So is the spirit of conservation. “We are losing 3,000 to 5,000 acres a day of this habitat, particularly milkweed, due to urban sprawl and pesticide use, the usual reasons,” she says. “We found that all the news about the environment was so depressing, but here we can do something and give back to the community and the planet.”

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So can you. Along with simply walking the beautiful grounds and seeing the creatures in all stages of their development, you can learn how to create a butterfly garden where you live. “Plant a milkweed, create a small habitat,” she says. “That makes a difference.”

The farm is generally open on weekends from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. through September. You can also schedule a tour for your garden club or Brownie troop. For more information, call 845-832-6749, E-mail, or visit

Physical Education

Schoolkids in Rockland County give their lessons a workout

In Rockland County schools, the kids can’t sit still. That’s because the teachers won’t let them.

In 2003, the county was one of four statewide that received a grant to participate in Steps to a Healthier New York. This program focuses on improving the health of residents by involving the local community as a whole. Some of the initiatives include encouraging county restaurants to offer healthier food options and urging businesses to provide exercise breaks for their employees.

One activity put in place by the Steps program is called Learning in Motion. At schools throughout the county, students in kindergarten through 12th grade are mixing physical exercise into their daily lessons. The goal is to improve mental performance and physical health at the same time.

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“These programs are both a public health goal as well as an academic goal because we know that healthy students — physically fit students — do better in school,” says county School Health Coordinator Carrie Steindorf.

The children may think they are being spoiled because they can move around the classroom instead of being plastered to their chairs, but the teachers know better. In Tracy Miller’s first-grade class at Valley Cottage Elementary, the students engage in many physical activities that are both fun and educational.

One popular game is Steal the Bacon. For this activity, a ball is placed between two teams of students. Each child is given a math problem to solve; when the correct answer to the problem is called out, the student tries to steal the ball (the “bacon”) for his or her team. This game can be used for subjects like social studies and science as well as math.

Overall, Miller believes that Learning in Motion works quite well for her students because it helps them stay focused. “There are kids that can’t sit still for longer periods of time,” she says. “Now they incorporate movement into lessons and daily activities.”

Another result of the Steps regimen has been the subtraction of junk food from school cafeterias. Now the kids eat salad for lunch, and choose nutritious snacks from the vending machines. According to Steindorf, some of them aren’t exactly thrilled with this part of the curriculum. “They used to have pizza with a side of French fries. That’s not going to go over well anymore.”

— Cayla Consaga

Tomato Time

Heirloom tomatoes have made a stunning comeback. Take a sneak peek into the gorgeous garden of heirloom expert Amy Goldman

“I look forward to August so much I can’t tell you,” says Rhinebeck’s Amy Goldman.

No wonder. That’s when the bounty from her well-tended garden bursts forth with an amazing array (250 varieties this year) of colorful heirloom tomatoes. “When some people think heirloom tomato, they think of one variety, and they usually think it’s some big, pink beefsteak,” Goldman says. “But in fact there’s a whole wide world of heirloom tomatoes. The myth is that they’re hard to grow and that they’re ugly. But contrary to popular opinion, they’re disease-resistant, they’re adaptable, and they’re beautiful.”

We’ll say. Just open Goldman’s new book, The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to Table (Bloomsbury USA, $35), and you’ll be captivated by Victor Schrager’s stunning photographs of these fine fruits. And you’ll be simply astounded by the variety — bizarre shapes and a rainbow of colors from black to pink to gold to white. You’ll also be intrigued by Goldman’s informative text. For here is the story of hundreds of varieties of heirloom tomatoes: their unique profiles, histories (believe it or not, these tomatoes have some pretty interesting pasts — and even more interesting names), fun facts, tips on growing them, and plenty of recipes.

Passed down from generation to generation, heirloom tomatoes have been around for thousands of years and are bred to preserve all the unique characteristics of each variety. The open-pollination process used to produce them (as opposed to commercial tomatoes, which are bred as hybrids) is thought to result in a far superior flavor. Goldman, a renowned food writer, is chairwoman of the board of the Seed Savers Exchange, a nonprofit organization that saves and shares heirloom seeds in an attempt to preserve agricultural biodiversity. “There is a renewed interest in home gardening by the public in general,” she says. “Industrial tomatoes are harvested green and are never allowed to fully develop their flavor on the vine, so their flavor will never catch up, even when they turn color. Tomatoes that are homegrown, grown in full sun, that are given enough spacing and ripened on the vine, are simply the best tomatoes of all.”

— Jennifer Leba

Go to for information on ordering heirloom seeds. If you can’t grow your own tomatoes at home, Goldman suggests a quick trip to the nearest farmer’s market. Recently, the Rhinebeck Farmer’s Market added an additional day; now, you can buy fresh tomatoes there on Thursdays from 3-7 p.m., as well as on Sundays.

Delicious Diversification

A few of Goldman’s wide variety of heirloom tomatoes:

Costoluto Genovese

Flavor: Fair to good; acidic

Texture: Reasonably firm; meaty

Best uses: Cooking

The tomato of choice in Italy for tomato purée.

Green Doctors

Flavor: Excellent; sweet and tart

Texture: Reasonably firm

Best uses: Fresh-eating

“I found these growing in my garden in 2002,” says Goldman. “They’re delicious.”

Sara’s Galapagos

Flavor: Excellent; sweet; lots of flavor in a little package

Texture: Firm; seedy and juicy

Best uses: Fresh-eating, garnish; ornamental plant

“I found these growing wild,” says Goldman, who named them after her daughter. “They’re very special and unique tomatoes with marvelous flavor.”

Plum Lemon

Flavor: Fair; lemony

Texture: Very firm

Best uses: Vegetable soup; not for sauce or fresh-eating


Flavor: Good to Excellent

Texture: Very thin-skinned and soft; meaty and juicy

Best uses: Multipurpose

Green Zebra

Flavor: On the acidic side

Texture: Reasonably firm

Best uses: Novelty

Black Cherry

Flavor: Excellent; fruity and well-balanced

Texture: Firm; juicy

Best uses: Fresh-eating, garnish

“These taste just like black cherries,” says Goldman. “They’re indescribably delicious.”

Shop Talk

Hood and Company Catskill

Like a condensed version of Crate and Barrel, Hood and Company is the ultimate destination for purchasing a housewarming gift or a dinner party piece. “We relate to that store,” says David Miles, co-owner of this Catskill home-furnishings boutique. “We have an eclectic mix and a casual, everyday feel. We try to find the best of everything to sell.”

The 800-square-foot warehouse-style shop opened two years ago at the height of the summer vacation season — excellent timing for capturing the attention of the hordes of vacationers and weekend residents strolling down Main Street. “We like to focus on serving the local Catskill customer first, then the visitors and second-homers,” says Miles, a friendly, upbeat Michigan native.

Miles, with his partner Derek Hood, moved to Catskill in early 2005 from Harlem. “I’d never been upstate before,” he says. “We came up on a Saturday in September. All the leaves were changing and it was just beautiful.” The two purchased the storefront and the space upstairs (where they live while not in Manhattan), and business has been booming ever since.

When choosing merchandise for the store, Hood and Miles keep an eye out for current trends: This spring, they introduced a line of bamboo bowls and serving trays to go along with the “going green” craze. They’ve also branded their own sauce and dip line, and are marketing an exclusive line of dinnerware (due this fall). Prices range from entry level to designer, with the core price between $10 and $50. “We’re a bridge; not traditional, not contemporary,” says Miles. “We have a clean look.”

But there is plenty more to do at this retail haven than just shop. On the second Saturday of every month there is music with complimentary wine and cheese. “Derek has a background in music,” says Miles. “We have a pianist and Derek sings old standards, like Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald.”

Besides entertainment, Miles and Hood also reach out to nearby residents and patrons (they pass out ice cream sandwiches and seasoned skewer samples in front of the store) and the local community (by sponsoring a duck race benefit for the Catskill Ski Club).

“The ‘life speed’ up here is different,” smiles Miles. “I love it.”

— Elizabeth Stein

Hood & Company. 432 Main St., Catskill. Mon., Wed., Thurs. 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 10 a.m.- 9 p.m.; Sun. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. 518-943-1891 or

Singing in the Rain

Keep the raindrops off your head with this adorable Rain Parade Umbrella by the Sarut Group, $24.95

Sign of the Times

Add some vintage flair to your abode with this decorative 23-by-39-inch plywood sign handmade by Meissenburgh Designs, $125

Savory Salsa

Hood & Company’s gourmet salsas — mango peach tequila and garlic habanero vodka — are a tasty accompaniment to your favorite chips, $7.95 each

Lighten the Mood

Create a Zen-like atmosphere with the Pink Kale and Parsley Candle Collection by Root Candles. Variglass candle, $19.95; 7 oz. tumbler candle, $10.95; 8-pack tealights, $6.95; votive candle, $1.95

Under Wraps

This celebrity spa treatment promises to trim inches in minutes

By Elizabeth Stein

I’m a celebrity-news junkie. My TV time is more often than not devoted to E!, and while I do enjoy variety in my magazine reading, it’s no secret that my copies of US Weekly and

People tend to be atop my pile of glossies. I admit it: Like many others, I’m attracted to these gorgeous people who always seem to be ever so toned and trim. How do they do it?

Aren’t they constantly enjoying endless chichi cocktails and lavish meals at the most exclusive restaurants? But whenever I watch an awards show, it seems as though the stars look even better in their extremely form-fitting dresses than they did at their last red carpet event.

It seems like magic.

Of course, it’s probably the result of a lot of hard work: long hours on the elliptical trainer, strict diets, and countless sessions with personal trainers. Or maybe — just maybe — they’re getting a little help.

Suddenly Slender body-wrap treatments have recently emerged as a powerful player in the losing game — inches that is. First created in 1969 by Victoria Morton, they have been used by some of Hollywood’s elite — Ellen DeGeneres, for one, employed the treatments to slim down before hosting the Oscars in 2007. With wraps, proponents insist, you’re not losing pounds but inches — and lots of them. Spas specializing in this service are sprouting up across the country, and the first one in Rockland County opened its doors this past March: New City’s Simply Slenda, owned by mother and daughter Judy and Mara Dale of Wellesley Hills.

“We were on vacation a year and a half ago and one of the hotels had this option,” says Judy. “I doubted it at first. It seemed a little too good to be true.” Her daughter decided to try it out. “I was extremely satisfied with my results,” says Mara.

“We did some investigating and it turned out that there were no detox wrap programs in Rockland County,” says Judy. “We went down to North Carolina and took some classes and got certified as aestheticians and wrap specialists.”

Since a TV news report about the spa appeared this spring, the ladies say they have been filling up with appointments every day of the week. “Business has been good,” says Judy.

“We get a lot of mothers and daughters — a lot of women coming in to lose a lot right before their wedding or before a vacation. Or people who come in to jump-start a diet.”

About 90 percent of their customers are female, ranging in age from 16 to 85, all looking for the magic answer that will make them feel and appear more slender, more toned, more healthy.

According to Judy, the treatment “rids your body of toxins that are stored in fat cells, causing the cells to flatten and your body to lose inches.” She says that the treatment also cleans and clears pores, removes metabolic waste, and increases metabolism. This creates a loss of six to 30 inches per one-hour session. Similar boutique salons across the nation — and now in the tristate area — are marketing the treatment at a cost of $150 and up per session. While different companies produce mineral wraps, Suddenly Slender is probably the best known, although Simply Slenda uses the GoodSpa brand. These companies claim the wraps detoxify you in minutes, and continue to take inches off your body and intensify your metabolism for up to six days after the treatment. Of course, many doctors don’t believe “toxins” exist in the body due to constant filtering by the liver and kidneys — and detractors say the wrap is simply removing excess water, which will be replenished after a few days.

Whether or not it really works, or to what degree, everyone seems to agree that the process doesn’t feel as heavenly as many spa treatments do. After all, stripping your body of inches doesn’t sound exactly pain-free. “People describe it as moderately miserable,” admits Mara, who has been wrapped three times. “But it’s completely worth it.”

How worth it? I went to see for myself exactly what it means to “lose inches” and if the treatment would actually transform my own body. Before I was wrapped, I was measured in 20 different areas and directed to drink a mineral solution “to intensify the detoxification.” Then I was enveloped from toe to head in hot, mineral-soaked ace bandages — bound so tightly I could hardly bend my knees or take a deep breath. Once I was completely mummified (and understood all too well what Mara meant by “moderately miserable”), I was instructed to jump on a trampoline and march around.

After 20 minutes of “exercising,” I was doused with more of the mineral solution. This sequence of events was repeated for two more 20-minute sessions. After an hour, all of the bandages were removed. Eagerly I looked at myself in the mirror, hoping to find a magically reduced me. Needless to say, I didn’t think I looked even an ounce thinner, though Judy and Mara were unanimous in their efforts to convince me otherwise.

“You lost 26 inches!” exclaimed Mara after remeasuring me.

“Wow. That’s fantastic,” I answered with uncertainty. According to her measurements, some of my biggest losses were in my lower thighs (two inches), my forearms (two inches), and my neck (one inch).

I left the salon feeling a bit mystified by my experience. Is it really possible to lose dozens of inches in less than an hour? Maybe there are others who have seen more dramatic results immediately. But for me, it wasn’t until three days later that I noticed the straps on my shoes were loose, and my tummy looked more toned. All the same, I think I’ll stick to the less painful option of elliptical training and dieting the next time I’m getting ready to walk the red carpet.

Go Fly a Kite

With this summer activity, the sky’s the limit

For generations, kite-flying has been one of the great American pastimes. While most commonly used as a toy, these aerodynamic tools historically have had more important uses. Kites were initially used for religious purposes and in military operations in China, where they originated nearly 3,000 years ago. While these airborne craft were used for signaling and delivering munitions during wartime, they also played a significant role in a number of scientific discoveries — the most famous being Ben Franklin’s experiment that proved lightning is caused by electricity. Kites were instrumental in the development of early aircraft and also had a role in lifting meteorologic instruments to measure atmospheric conditions for weather forecasting.

In modern times, kites have served a more recreational function. Originally made of silk and bamboo, they are now constructed of synthetic materials, according to Jeremy Johannesen, executive director of New York Kite Enthusiasts. “The fabric of choice nowadays is Ripshot nylon,” he says. “Wooden sticks have been replaced with graphite tubes and carbon fiber.” Like many of us, Johannesen has been flying kites since he was a little boy, when he used to build them with his grandfather. But thanks to the NYKE, a club he helped found a decade ago, he continues to fly high.

“From April 15th to the end of June, I used to go all around the East Coast every weekend to festivals — Montreal, D.C., local places,” he says of the club’s genesis. “I couldn’t keep going around as much, so I wanted to get a group of people together instead.” In 1998, the NYKE debuted. Some of its activities include kite-flying events, kite building and sewing workshops, supporting regional festivals, and competing at the regional and national level. Some of the club members have held national titles in different events, such as fighter kites and kite building.

Club membership has slowed down a bit recently, though Johannesen remains optimistic.

“If I look at my crystal ball, I would say that a resurgence will be coming in the next couple of years. People will be looking for entertainment without spending much money and staying closer to home. Wind is free.”

So what are the most ideal conditions for taking her up? “Whenever the weatherman says it’s perfect for kite-flying, you need about half of that,” laughs Johannesen. “Once the wind gets over 20 to 25 miles, you need to pack it in. The best range is 10 to 15 miles per hour. Nice, slow, and steady.” But if you find you have too little wind, Johannesen offers some helpful advice. “Stand with your back to the wind, and at the right angle the wind should carry the kite up,” he says. “Instead of running, have someone walk the kite downwind. You can let the line out, and once they’re about 50 to 75 feet away, set the spool down and pull the line in hand over hand. Once you get altitude, it should start to drift up. The higher you go, the more wind there will be. Keep repeating that.”

Join Johannesen and other kite enthusiasts at NYKE events held throughout the Valley; visit for details. — E.S.

On Your Mark, Get Set… Roll!

It’s all downhill from here with Kingston’s classic — and quite literal — “art movement”

If you see a giant toaster on wheels coasting around town this month, don’t make a beeline for the breadbox: It’s just Steve Proner practicing for Kingston’s 14th annual Artists’ Soapbox Derby.

This late-summer derby takes the cake as far as unusual events go. Sure, there are plenty of cars, crowds, copilots — even crashes. But unlike other races, these soapboxes aren’t built for speed.

“It’s basically coming up with wacky ideas, putting wheels on them, and using gravity to roll them down the hill,” Nancy Donskoj explains. She’s the owner (with her husband, George) of Donskoj & Company, an art gallery at the top of Broadway in Kingston. This very hill marks the starting line for the “kinetic art show,” in which as many as 40 creative coupes parade down a three-block stretch of pavement alongside dancers, musicians, and stilt-walkers. Nearly 8,000 spectators — from county residents to Californians — line the street to cheer on the artistic, the absurd… and the downright awful.

Donskoj recalls the efforts of a previous year’s contestant: “One artist tried using the wheels from his desk chair for his soapbox, but it just kept spinning; he never made it down the hill. So we presented him with the first Rondout Reject award — it looks like the rear end of a horse on a trophy. He actually used it as the hood ornament for his second race.” Local artists judge the event and award prizes — consisting of cash, gift certificates, and artist-made trophies — based on clever engineering and creativity (or lack thereof). The goal is to promote Kingston’s businesses, show off some of the Valley’s goofiest moving artwork, and, of course, score some bragging rights.

Looking to snag the People’s Choice award in the Family category, first-time pilot and lighting designer Steve Proner is sure his human-sized toaster on wheels will be a big hit.

“We’ve been going to the derby for years, and my boys thought it’d be fun to enter,” says Proner, referring to his sons and copilots, Aiden (13) and Josh (9). “My company was giving away some aluminum, so I asked my kids, ‘What can we make that’s a big shiny thing with chrome on the outside?’ And of course, they immediately thought of our toaster. My sons have this crazy idea to have cardboard toast popping out of it, and to toast some real bread to leave behind like bread crumbs. It’s actually set to scale to ours at home; I’ll drive it, my oldest son will be the brakeman, and my little guy will probably operate the toast. We’re just going to have a lot of fun with it.”

“This is where artists can really think outside the soapbox,” Donskoj laughs. “Because our gallery is at the top of the hill, not too many people want to walk up there. So we figured, ‘Why not bring the art to them?’ ”

For more information or to join the Aug. 17 race, visit

— Jessica Friedlander

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