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I am a Hudson Valley Parent: Rebecca Miller Ffrench

Cooking up love in her Hudson Valley home

Rebecca Miller Ffrench built a career around her love for parenting. She'd fallen in love with and moved to the Catskills after updating a Fodor's Travel Guide for New York State, then stumbled into a great new line of work putting together stories about events she arranged with and for her two daughters.

"We did a fairy party at a friend's house outside of Phoenicia and it clicked with our readership," Ffrench, who describes her working life as always having involved writing and editing, recalled a route that's since led her to cookbook writing and a burgeoning career running events for her own Upstate Table. "You do what works."

Rural and rich
A special life emerged; not easy but rich in opportunities for her two girls, as well as she and her husband.

Jim, her husband, worked during the week in Manhattan, where the family has an apartment. Rebecca spent her time outside of Phoenicia, working on the house, growing gardens, raising her kids and writing at night. The rural lifestyle suited what she and her husband wanted for their girls.

READ MORE: Check out this recipe for Maple Pumpkin mini muffins!

Support of a community
Both of her daughters started in a local daycare and pre-K where deep friendships were born. They went on to Phoenicia Elementary, which Ffrench still marvels at for its warmth and sense of caring for each student, especially in the primary grades.

"It was the support of my friends and neighbors who really facilitated my ongoing career," she recalls as she prepares Anna, her oldest, to head off to Colby College in Maine, and Camilla, her youngest, for high school. "They'd take the kids for sleepovers or pick them up when I had to go to the city for shoots. Because my husband was in the city during the week, I was essentially a weekday single parent. The community is such a family-driven one here, I felt fully supported and still am greatly appreciative for the help I got."

Wanting the best for her daughters

Ffrench describes ideal childhoods played outdoors with friends in nearby homes on their country road in the mountains, but also complete access to the city, where Anna was raised until the age of four.

Eventually, the Ffrenches started making the long drive down to Poughkeepsie Day School. There, the girls flourished... until their parents realized they could get just as much out of New York City schools, without the hour-long plus drives eating into their days. This sparked their move back to Manhattan.

We do all we can as parents; the Ffrench family's moves for schools are not singular, or even rare.

READ MORE: What is the best school for your child?

Manhattan life, upstate style
The Ffrenches worked to maintain their upstate life alongside their shift back to the city. Partly, they needed the space each weekend. Then there were their many friends upstate. Finally, there was Rebecca's move from writing about kids to writing about food and eventually creating cookbooks, most of them based around the Hudson Valley and Catskill's blooming foodie scene, from great produce to new locavore recipes.

As with everything she's done, Rebecca found inspiration in the particulars of her life as she journeyed forth into new territory, career-wise.

"My kids have taught me so much," she notes. "You've got to garnish whatever you're cooking or creating to make it look pretty," she says. "It's amazing what a little splash of color can do."

Ffrench, whose career now spans from organizing events and food styling, to cookbook writing and television appearances, is also quick to acknowledge not only the many ways in which the urban side of her life
focuses her work, but the sense of refuge her mountain home provides.

Hudson Valley parenting
"It made me really happy this past week to hear the girls talking about everything they wanted to do when spending Thanksgiving and Christmas at home in Woodland Valley," she adds. "You realize what a big area this is when you consider it all part of the Hudson Valley."

Rebecca Ffrench laughs, delightedly (and infectiously).

"It's all part of Hudson Valley parenting, I guess."

Paul Smart is a father who writes for a variety of publications in the Hudson Valley. He lives in Catskill.

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