Falling for Fall

Hey, folks who read stuff online! Today’s frickin’ September 1st. SEPTEMBER, dudes and dudettes. So, while I’m by NO means looking forward to heading back to school (not whining but stating a fact: I am fraught with all sorts of anxiety at the thought of returning; I’ll man-up soon after getting back into the swing of things), the paradox is kinda weird. That’s because I super heart fall.


As long as I can remember, I’ve most loved the sweet but somber smell of decaying leaves, the necessity to throw a denim jacket on while enjoying a walk on the first crisp night, and cranking up the oven to help Mom whip up perfect apple pies or Grandma’s famous soft molasses cookies. It’s a thing of beauty, my friends.

So, of course I’m excited to continue my love affair with autumn, and to spread the love with my family. (Shh. Don’t tell Dave. He thinks autumn and I are “just good friends”, so let’s keep it that way. Although, it’s his fave, too, which is why we got married in October. Huh.)

As Hadman grows, EVERYTHING has become more of a fun, at times unpredictable adventure. Even the experiences he had last year for the first time (the year before, he was a brand new infant) that we all enjoyed giving him will be like new this year.

Here was his first autumn ever…

Here were a couple of experiences last year…



What’s better than Vermont and an apple orchard in the fall? I mean, really. Nothing that I can think of.

And, thanks to Pinterest, here are a few of the goals of mine this year. I like to use these as guidelines and reminders of the things we love about the seasons, hopefully reducing the guilt factor when I don’t check off every last one. Although, if I did, it wouldn’t suck.

Most of these are self explanatory, but a couple need a bit of elaboration. Or maybe you don’t care. But, just in case, here goes:

– I very rarely do lattes or purchased flavored stuff, so when I say pumpkin latte, I mean just one will do the trick. Just one pumpkin spice-flavored cup of caffeine, thanks.
– Pumpkin muffins. Pumpkin pancakes. Pumpkin cookies. Whatev. I’m not picky.
– Fly Creek Cider Mill near Cooperstown is a family tradition for me as long as I can remember. It’s an awesome leaf-peeping trip in itself, but grabbing some overpriced cider and feeding their resident ducks complete the season. Totally.
– Vermont started as our honeymoon spot, but has turned into a fall family road trip. Fun!!
– Okay, a locavore date entails saving up, getting a sitter, and going to one of the few pricy-but-worth-it restaurants that serve locally-sourced gourmet food. We don’t get many dates, so these are super special ones. Plus, fall flavors are incredible, am I right? You know I’m right. Pumpkin risotto? Get out.

Oh, and because I believe strongly in surrounding oneself with the cozy reminders of what makes us happiest, I’m a believer in seasonal decor. If you’re into country kitsch, do it up. Antiques? Go for it. Since I’m the antiques-with-a-modern-twist girl, I’m working on finding a happy medium. Check out a couple of ideas (that still stand true) from last year:

The Fall Inspirations I Totally Heart
What I Attempted Last Year
A Fall Tableau (With Really Crappy Pictures)

What about you guys? What’s your favorite season? Do you go all out? Or do you live it up every day of the year?

Being Kinda Productive For Once

I finally kickstarted my “get some $%&# done around the house” engine. Maybe the guilt of not doing stuff was hanging over my head. Maybe the fact that I purchased paint weeks ago and it was sitting, unused, on our deck. Maybe I finally got enough energy (or overcame the mental demons). Maybe I wanted to find “bursts”(remember those?)  of easier-to-manage tasks (or chunked-up tasks) to make it seem simpler.

Whatever it was, I got to work. And, slowly but surely, the trend continues. It even spilled into the nearest vicinity like a nasty plague (not to the neighbors; to Dave!).

I had already wire brushed a majority of the formerly invasive ivy plants which had attacked the side of our foundation. Seriously, the left caterpillar-esque tendrils of plant veins clinging with what looked like millions of legs ON the cement. There were areas that I just painted over them (uncool, I know), but for the most part those buggers were gone.

So a few quick tips for painting a foundation…

Use a crappy brush. This is actually one of my FAVORITE short rubber-handled angle brushes, but it had seen its day. Your brush will be ruined and will no longer be able to follow a straight line. It’s a drunk brush, but it works for this purpose.


Use horrible posture and wear the least supportive shoes on earth. Seriously. I know you want to take several minutes to get up then walk like you’re 90 when you’re done, right? Follow this example:

Show your toddler-toting guns. Seriously, I didn’t know I had those. Thanks for the awesome picture-taking, Dorky Daddy!

My actual advice is to use an old newspaper to not only catch drips but use as a guard. Yes, it’ll keep paint from getting onto your garden beds/driveway/etc (it actually works; the stuff you see is actually junk from when they put in our new window) BUT it keeps your brush from getting dirt/gravel/mulch/randomness stuck in its bristles.

Nothing to see here, really. Just enjoying the picture. I look badass. Painting. With a “Life is Good” (“Half Full” glass) hat and my too-big cast t-shirt from our high school production of “Once Upon a Mattress”. It’s my go-to painting shirt and has splatters from every set I’ve ever painted on it. It’s getting buried with me. But, of course.

 

The perfectionist-without-perfection will admit right here, right now, for all the world to read: I’m not a fan of the paint color. I’m not sure what I was thinking. I know I wanted a more charcoal color, and admittedly this one looked darker on the swatch (and in the can, which tells me it’s not mixed wrong). I’m positive it’s the combination of a super bright summer sun and the angle with which it hits the foundation. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

It also dries dark…er. Darker. Kinda.


Either way, it looks cleaner and brighter, so it’s fine. I’m not going to nitpick. S’all good.

I started the project late last week, then spent time with family on Saturday and got back to business on Sunday during naptime. Since there’s a chance of rain today, I’m not expecting to finish today (I’m about 2/3 done), but if I do, I do. And I kind of hope I do.

No worries, though. I’ve got another project halfway finished that will grab my attention if the “rain rain rain comes down down down…”

This. Damn. Ceiling. Okay. So…ahem. This spot had a super budget style light fixture installed…but it had been placed where the angled ceiling meets the straight part of the ceiling in our upstairs hallway. Like, a half circle was cut out of the angled ceiling. Crazy town.

 

(This is actually after I patched it for the LAST TIME.)

We’ve patched and sanded sporadically over the years, always putting it off longer. There were times we had thin little sheets of crappy patchwork hanging precariously. The cats had grown to ignore them, so used to the crapfest were they.

So, Sunday morning after we went out to breakfast (and I had discovered that my favorite antique center nearby wouldn’t open for another hour, egad), we returned home with one foul-moody, high-strung mama on board. I felt like I was spinning my wheels, so I checked my short list of house to-do’s, grabbed my sander and step stool and started the a-gypsum a-flyin’. (Not sure if it’s really gypsum in drywall…or whatever our house is made of…but work with me here.)

Of course, since I threw myself headlong into the project (happens. every. time.), I had failed to check on our spackle supply. D’oh. Very little, and all dried out.

Sooooo, Dave was good enough to watch Hadman while I ran to Lowe’s. Of course, $100-something later I also came home with a few super cheap window blinds and a handful of other do-dads for other projects…and my beloved Dap goes-on-pink/dries-white stuff.

I applied, then had lunch, put the munchkin down for a nap, and hit the outdoors (see: foundation painting). After Dave had gone inside and got the little guy up, I finished my painting for the day and headed indoors to sand, yet again.

I’m sure you already know this, but start with the lower grit number (it’s rougher); the higher, the gentler (finish with the gentler stuff).

Oh, and another word of advice. Don’t take selfies. Seriously, just don’t. But, if you MUST take a selfie, be sure to do it ONLY when you can embarrass yourself royally with it. 


And don’t lick your lips after sanding. Stupid idea.

So, today I hope to slap on a coat of ceiling paint (how do I have two gallons of THAT in the basement but am incessantly out of what I usually need?)

Oh, and I also took the cat tower’s rope scratching post from annihilated (spelled that on first try, woo to the hoo!) to looks-like-new —

RIP Monty Mouse. He squealed. #beardsleesourgodfather #jaspersourmuscle

Complete with massive amounts of help and support from Beardslee along the way. #notreally #heslept  He made some headway on reupholstering Daddy’s computer chair completely in cat fur, though.


And I thought I’d share a few pics of how the garden’s doing, along with its fashionable tulle attire (to keep cat poop out of our food…how’s THAT for fabulous?).

Last I knew, those things (to the left, to the left) weren’t trees. Too bad they turned into trees this summer ‘cuz they’re bogarting all the sun for my garden, man.

Oh, and the trellis near the garden in that picture? History. (It was being eaten by ants.) That was Dave’s huge project this weekend, and it’s awesome to finally have the thing down. Plus, a farmer helping neighbors move asked if he could take the posts and everything (ants and all), so it all got a second life. *warm fuzzies*

Summer squash lookin’ all growy and stuff…

Can you see what I see? Look closely…little neon green cuteness. (I don’t mind that they’re cute. I just mind the taste when they turn red and, y’know, “edible.” Ew. I love my husband enough to grow him two tomato plants, guys. That’s mad huge love.)

Right after I picked one handful of lettuce, right before I picked the rough-around-the-edges leaves. Keeping it real.

Our first “bounty.” Just a teensy strawberry (I moved those near the front of the garage and they’re doing “eh, okay”) that Hadley ate immediately, a couple of cherry tomaters and jalapenos, and a fistful of lettuce.

Whew! So! I know it’s a long one, but that’s how we’ve been productive lately. How about you? Getting anything checked off any lists — even if your list includes sitting on a sandy beach with something cold to drink? (I’d like to live vicariously.) Go ahead, tell! Or just post some horrific selfies in the comments to make me feel better about my lack of selfie skillz.

Wordless Wednesday – Merry Christmas!

As we joyfully tear open the goodies that Santa has so kindly left for us (and hoping beyond hope that I haven’t passed along the stomach bug to my boys), I thought I’d share a few more pictures from our recent trip to the Cooperstown Farmers’ Museum for their Candlelight Evening.

Thanks so much for reading. It warms my heart to know that even one person (beyond myself) gets any enjoyment out of this quirky little place. Oh, and if you’re bored as things die down this Christmas, have a listen to the Ilion Little Theater’s podcast version of “A Christmas Carol”.

Merry Christmas, friends!

Here We Come A-Wassailing

Almost every year, we haul our heinies out to Cooperstown to the Candlelight Evening the Farmers’ Museum puts on (we skipped last year since the bambino was, like, crazy little…I use “little” loosely). The Farmers’ Museum is seriously one of my favorite places ON EARTH. It’s a living history site where houses and buildings from the mid-19th century have been transplanted to create a small village-like atmosphere. 


There’s a building with an exhibit, but the rest is like a step back in time. The print shop creates mailers and flyers for events; the blacksmith makes shoes for the horses (it is the Farmers’ Museum, after all), old flat, square-headed nails, and products for the store; the “house” has a front AND back garden (GAH! LOVE IT!) and, depending on the time of year, shows how folks were putting things up or weaving and dying their own clothes or baking up a storm; the broom-maker (I’m sure that’s not the real name) shows how they were made; the “hotel” (which has an awesome balcony) is opened serving food and showing just how different it was to stay in an inn back then…and so on. I wish I could live there.

So, this year, we literally braved a brutal storm to have a family visit. There was only one goal for the day — to see Santa. The REAL Santa. We actually know the fellow who portrays him, so the fact that he says “hello!” to us by name is beyond cool. He dresses more like St. Nick, with short pants (freeeezing!), a real beard, a long hat, and a big sack flung over his shoulder.

But, thanks to the storm (we’re freaking crazy — we always plan for the coldest possible weather — I wore 2 pairs of pants, wool socks, 3+ shirts, a hat, two pairs of gloves…still cold), there were hardly any lines. So, that being said, we got to have our first ride on a horse-pulled wagon (where Hadley viewed Santa, or “Ho Ho”, from a mile away), chat up the printer on our own (I have a secret: This is the warmest spot in the place, thanks to their TWO stoves. I learned it on my 4th grade field trip, when I was assigned to the print shop and got to create my own “business cards” and “greeting cards”. You’re welcome.), and down some wassail.

We caught up with Santa before he started his story time at the school building, and Hadley was enamored with him. Oh, he also handed over an old-fashioned (albeit red dye-laden) chunky peppermint stick which he sucked on for a half hour. (I grabbed chunks out of his mouth and ate them so he didn’t choke. He still doesn’t have enough top teeth to help in this respect.)

Then, we finally headed indoors to hear some more caroling and buy two HUGE turkey dinners (which came with cocoa and HUGE pieces of gingerbread, which Hadley enjoyed) before trekking back home at half the speed in low visibility. But, we don’t care. It. Was. So. Worth. It.

So, if you’d like to experience some of the old fashioned Christmas, try some mulled cider. Wassail. Whatever you call it, it’s a lovely way to cozy up on a chilly winter’s night. And what makes it even better? It’s super simple to make. You don’t even need cauldrons over huge bonfires (which is how they do it at the museum).


Here’s another one of my “wing it” recipes, but it’s only because you really can’t mess it up. Want to sweeten it? Use maple syrup or sugar or whatever you like to use to sweeten stuff. Or don’t; it’s still delicious!) Don’t have cloves? That’s okay, leave it out this time (although use it when you have it on hand again…I respectfully advise. ;-)).

WASSAIL

2 1/2 cups apple cider
1/4 – 1/2 c. orange juice
1 -2 tbsp. maple syrup or sugar (or not)
1 tsp. (or less) cinnamon; or 2-3 cinnamon sticks
1/2 tsp. (or less) nutmeg
1/4 tsp. (or less) clove

Bring all the ingredients to a boil on the stove and stir; reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for as long as you can wait. (Five minutes…ten…or thirty. Whatever floats your boat.) If you don’t like “things” in your beverages, strain into mug and enjoy. Serve with a cinnamon stick if you’re a fancypants.

* Grown-ups who REALLY need a warm-up, throw a shot or two of rum in and say “good night.” Or, at least, that’s what would happen to me. I really can’t hold my booze anymore.

Candlelight Evening

When is a trip to Cooperstown not an uplifting, fun experience? I’m not sure how long ago it began, but Dave and I have made it a point to attend the Candlelight Evening at the Cooperstown Farmers Museum (bet you thought I was going to say “farmers’ market”, right?) as long as I can remember – that must make it an official tradition! I used to attend with my family, but I think it’s pretty poignant and heart-warming that I’ve ended up with a man who looks forward to it as much as I do.

This year, Dave’s brother, Dan, and his wife, Tara (and let’s just take a quick moment to tell you how talented Dan is , from his design abilities to his musical talents – between Dave and Dan, there’s lots of creativity in that there blood…not that Tara’s not uber talented – she is, in my humble opinion!). They had never been to Candlelight Evening, so it’s always fun to bring a different group of people every year, especially when they don’t know what to expect.

Picture from The Farmers’ Museum’s FB page


So, for those of you who’ve never been, let me paint the picture. Firstly, I have probably already contacted you (or forced my husband to contact you) to warn you to bundle up. By “bundle up”, I mean, “Get ugly warm.” Wear embarrassingly unattractive, too warm for the car clothing. A hat that will actually keep your head warm (rarely are these ever cute). Wool socks. Boots (again…not the cute kind). The coat you use to shovel snow, or as I wore, the past-your-knees wool coat (gotta cover up that tush and as much of the legs as possible). Anything else that you can fathom in the realm of ugliness, throw it on.

Why all the ugliness? No, there’s not an ugly sweater contest. A strange puzzlement occurs annually in which, regardless of the weather prior to or following the Candlelight Evening, it just so happens that THAT evening…is…freezing. There may be hardly any snow (as with this year – at least there was a dusting; we still have nothing locally), but be assured that there will be frozen tundra status. As sure as taxes and death.

After parking (we always seem to find a spot in front of the Fenimore Art Museum, across the street), we schlep in our ugliness to the main building to drop more cash than we’d prefer – in all honesty, most of the events at the Farmers Museum are pretty steep, but this is worth it to us.

The choices, at this point, are plentiful. Grab some warm, homemade food (also at a price) in the main building, listen to some incredible carolers (which are stationed at intervals throughout the property, along with the occasional brass band…how their instruments don’t freeze to their lips, I have no clue), or meet the Fabulous Beekman Boys, who are signing their latest book (which I missed out on this year due to a limited schedule, *sigh*).

The main building also displays random exhibitions of how-is-that-related-to-farming products. A Jell-O display? Okay. Shredded wheat? Sure, I guess farms help produce that. It’s all retro and neat and quirky, so ya can’t really complain. When you’re done walking through this structure, you’re let loose upon the reconstructed historical village that never was. Buildings have been taken from various areas (but all dating from the early- to mid-1800s) to create a possible cross-section of American life in, say, 1840. Some buildings aren’t open to the public, but the important ones – like the general store, school, tavern, church farm (along with a couple of barns), apothecary, and several other skill-drive foundries – are available to peruse and learn from living history reenactors dressed in the timely fashion.

The first place that we visited was probably one of my favorites – the school. This year, they had St. Nicholas (the real one…I swear to you) giving a lecture on, well, St. Nicholas and how he came to be known as Santa Claus, as well as what a Christmas celebration to an average American family would have looked like in the 1840s. We didn’t expect him to speak at such length, so we ended up leaving before the end, but I always find it magical to listen to this actor. He looks like THE Santa Claus, only dressed in slightly more old-fashioned clothes (far less fancy than a modern day Santa), and simply makes me giddy.

We also enjoyed checking out the printing shop, wonderful singers in the church, the apothecary that showed us how ginger tablets (for an upset stomach) were made, and the blacksmith. There was plenty more to see, and we did, but those were definitely the highlights.

While we didn’t partake, there were also sleigh rides, which are always exciting…but those lines were crazy bananas. Oh, and, of course, one thing we all DID partake in was the wassail. At strategic points throughout the “town”, cauldrons of hot spiced cider were brewing over fires – the fire along with the sustenance helped to keep us toasty warm. Well, warmer than we would’ve been otherwise.

Before leaving, we stopped back at the main entrance to get some food (gingerbread!!!!!) and enjoy a barbershop quartet singing Christmas carols.

Watching the massive full moon set all the farmers’ fields aglow on our drive home with the soundtrack of a classical Christmas radio station in the background definitely helped to set the mood for the rest of the holiday season. I’m ready for some magic; how about you?

Candlelight Evening

When is a trip to Cooperstown not an uplifting, fun experience? I’m not sure how long ago it began, but Dave and I have made it a point to attend the Candlelight Evening at the Cooperstown Farmers Museum (bet you thought I was going to say “farmers’ market”, right?) as long as I can remember – that must make it an official tradition! I used to attend with my family, but I think it’s pretty poignant and heart-warming that I’ve ended up with a man who looks forward to it as much as I do.

This year, Dave’s brother, Dan, and his wife, Tara (and let’s just take a quick moment to tell you how talented Dan is , from his design abilities to his musical talents – between Dave and Dan, there’s lots of creativity in that there blood…not that Tara’s not uber talented – she is, in my humble opinion!). They had never been to Candlelight Evening, so it’s always fun to bring a different group of people every year, especially when they don’t know what to expect.

Picture from The Farmers' Museum's FB page
Picture from The Farmers’ Museum’s FB page

So, for those of you who’ve never been, let me paint the picture. Firstly, I have probably already contacted you (or forced my husband to contact you) to warn you to bundle up. By “bundle up”, I mean, “Get ugly warm.” Wear embarrassingly unattractive, too warm for the car clothing. A hat that will actually keep your head warm (rarely are these ever cute). Wool socks. Boots (again…not the cute kind). The coat you use to shovel snow, or as I wore, the past-your-knees wool coat (gotta cover up that tush and as much of the legs as possible). Anything else that you can fathom in the realm of ugliness, throw it on.

Why all the ugliness? No, there’s not an ugly sweater contest. A strange puzzlement occurs annually in which, regardless of the weather prior to or following the Candlelight Evening, it just so happens that THAT evening…is…freezing. There may be hardly any snow (as with this year – at least there was a dusting; we still have nothing locally), but be assured that there will be frozen tundra status. As sure as taxes and death.

After parking (we always seem to find a spot in front of the Fenimore Art Museum, across the street), we schlep in our ugliness to the main building to drop more cash than we’d prefer – in all honesty, most of the events at the Farmers Museum are pretty steep, but this is worth it to us.

The choices, at this point, are plentiful. Grab some warm, homemade food (also at a price) in the main building, listen to some incredible carolers (which are stationed at intervals throughout the property, along with the occasional brass band…how their instruments don’t freeze to their lips, I have no clue), or meet the Fabulous Beekman Boys, who are signing their latest book (which I missed out on this year due to a limited schedule, *sigh*).

The main building also displays random exhibitions of how-is-that-related-to-farming products. A Jell-O display? Okay. Shredded wheat? Sure, I guess farms help produce that. It’s all retro and neat and quirky, so ya can’t really complain. When you’re done walking through this structure, you’re let loose upon the reconstructed historical village that never was. Buildings have been taken from various areas (but all dating from the early- to mid-1800s) to create a possible cross-section of American life in, say, 1840. Some buildings aren’t open to the public, but the important ones – like the general store, school, tavern, church farm (along with a couple of barns), apothecary, and several other skill-drive foundries – are available to peruse and learn from living history reenactors dressed in the timely fashion.

The first place that we visited was probably one of my favorites – the school. This year, they had St. Nicholas (the real one…I swear to you) giving a lecture on, well, St. Nicholas and how he came to be known as Santa Claus, as well as what a Christmas celebration to an average American family would have looked like in the 1840s. We didn’t expect him to speak at such length, so we ended up leaving before the end, but I always find it magical to listen to this actor. He looks like THE Santa Claus, only dressed in slightly more old-fashioned clothes (far less fancy than a modern day Santa), and simply makes me giddy.

We also enjoyed checking out the printing shop, wonderful singers in the church, the apothecary that showed us how ginger tablets (for an upset stomach) were made, and the blacksmith. There was plenty more to see, and we did, but those were definitely the highlights.

While we didn’t partake, there were also sleigh rides, which are always exciting…but those lines were crazy bananas. Oh, and, of course, one thing we all DID partake in was the wassail. At strategic points throughout the “town”, cauldrons of hot spiced cider were brewing over fires – the fire along with the sustenance helped to keep us toasty warm. Well, warmer than we would’ve been otherwise.

Before leaving, we stopped back at the main entrance to get some food (gingerbread!!!!!) and enjoy a barbershop quartet singing Christmas carols.

Watching the massive full moon set all the farmers’ fields aglow on our drive home with the soundtrack of a classical Christmas radio station in the background definitely helped to set the mood for the rest of the holiday season. I’m ready for some magic; how about you?

Observational Anecdote

Just a short anecdote. Ha, me, short? Seriously, I’ll do my best. This encounter was overheard while in Cooperstown sipping a latte at our favorite Coop-cafe. I’ll let it speak for itself.

(At a nearby table: Two hyperactive, highly intelligent, borderline TOO confident teen girls are sitting trying to pry information out of a smaller, much quieter, normal teen male. Guessing they didn’t really know each other.)

Ring-Leader Girl: So, like, was your mom a big hippie back in the day? Because, like, our parents…
Boy (trying to answer the question): She. Actually. No.
Girl: Oh, really? Seriously. Do tell. Fascinating.
Boy: Actually, she was pretty normal. She went to Julliard, but she didn’t have much money, so it was really hard. She had to work…
Girl (interrupting): OMG, are you for real? Julliard? Seriously??!!
(girls squeal simultaneously)

           At this point, Dave and I are pretty impressed that THEY’RE pretty impressed by the Julliard fact. Hell, I was.

Other Girl: That is SO where Lady Gaga went!!!
Boy sighs deeply, shaking head.

I couldn’t stop laughing to the point where my husband, with a huge grin, insists that we leave immediately. I’m sure I was probably attracting attention, but GOD.

Oh, and I did research. Seems she didn’t go there. Aw, nuts.

Two Versions of Shopping

Last Sunday, my wonderful husband and I did something we don’t get to do together very often; we went grocery shopping. It was one of those down-to-bare-bones sort of trips. Our dinner the previous night was Dave’s very ingenious use of practically every already-opened bag of frozen veggies in the freezer prepared on the grill pan (there was, strangely enough, some smokiness added) and a balsamic and wine reduction to drizzle on top.

It really was inexplicably tasty. I wondered if part of the reason for its deliciousness was thanks to hubby’s practical “use what we have” thinking and absolutely infectious can-do attitude. Whatever it was, it made me want to try to use up the rest of the crap in our cupboards and fridge, much like John and Sherry over at Young House Love the weeks before they moved. But, alas, thinking of the school week ahead and crazy evening schedules starting, we were out of our all natural turkey and a plethora of other items. So, schlep to Hannaford we did.

And, y’know, it was as fun as a really good first date. We worked and talked about what we really needed. We discussed whether Campbell’s pretty-much-all-natural Homestyle soup was better than Wolfgang Puck’s organic stuff, and whether it mattered. We looked at dressings and quickly decided to put them down again — I could make this at home, and cheaper, and all natural in the process. We got exactly what we needed, and nothing that we didn’t. (I do “allow” that we can add up to 5 non-list items, just in case of sale or “gaaaaahhhh I must have that” syndrome, but we did pretty well this time as far as the 5 was concerned.)

Here’s how we did (toilet paper and all):


As you can see, we’re still doing well with our all natural/organic quest. If it’s not organic, at least it’s all natural (and no HFCS, thankyouverymuch). You may notice the word “Goya” a few times. Now, I wasn’t raised to be a beans girl, but knowing that Dave’s now interested in eating more vegetarian meals, and just that he’s verbalized that means that I need to grab it and RUN WITH IT! So, I’m looking for ways to incorporate beans more. And not be intimidated by making them the center of a meal.

Carmelized hazelnuts for salads – or snacks – or dessert. Two homemade salad dressings (my own thousand islands!!!). The Barefoot Contessa’s scallops provencal planned for dinner. It was a lovely Sunday afternoon when we got home.

Then, Saturday, we decided to schlep out to Cooperstown for their occasional winter farmers’ market. While it was a little chilly (it’s inside, but in an unheated building that they have to try to blow warm air into), I think it was one of the most enjoyable farmers’ market experiences we’d had.

Sure, the cool British guy with awesome coffee and true, homemade scones wasn’t there, but it was so much less pressured than usual. During the summer, it’s gorgeous out and there’s such an incredible variety of produce, but everyone’s thinking the same thing: “What a nice day to go to the farmers’ market” or “Gotta do my weekly shopping.” So, you get lots of Cooperstown locals (which, admittedly, is a dream of ours to become, if life could follow that direction), tourists, and folks from 50 miles in any direction. Lots. Of. People. It can get brutal if you’re not in the right mood to wait or put up with a crowd — one reason we don’t go weekly during the summer (plus, our own garden and the cost of the drive).

So, anyhoo, this visit was great. We not only were able to actually look at every vendor, compare prices, pick what we needed, and get out pretty darn fast. We had time to hunt down a cafe and enjoy a local-eggs-and-sausage breakfast sandwich before our regular town walk (although, admittedly, it was fuh-reezing). We ended up picking up some raw milk cheddar that had been soaked in hard cider, maple syrup, some whole wheat/potato bread, and our produce – gorgeous carrots, parsnips, potatoes, onions, shallots, leeks…

Do you think it’s strange that I get so excited over carrots…and, especially, parsnips? I ended up roasting some parsnips, carrots, a potato and shallots with some seasoning for 30 minutes or so and, holy cow, it was aaaaaawesome. Pair that with some all-natural chicken thighs stuffed with Vermont goat cheese (picked up during the honeymoon) and some salad with homemade dressing and, dang, were we happy! I do have to admit that this whole eating natural and organic thing has turned me into a much more adventurous cook. At times, it seems expensive (although, yesterday, every vegetable we got was $1 per pound, vs. $2-4 for others at the market), but when I think about how much a meal like this would’ve been in a restaurant (especially if it was locally-grown or organic), it would cost, conservatively, twice as much.

So, can we get a hallelujah for two weekends in a row that consist of a food AND relationship focus? Love it!

Free Shopping

One of my favorite things about the Internet is guilt-free window shopping. It’s helped with my wedding (although, with so many options out there, it’s made decision-making harder) and to check reviews before making a big purchase. It helped get me through the terrifying wait a year ago while buying our house; it was a foreclosure, and there were lots of delays — so, Lowes.com was a great calmer and made me feel productive, strangely enough. And, we’re still being “lurkers” in terms of the Foodshed Buying Club; none of our necessities have come up yet.

But, on days that I allow myself to be lazier than I’d like to admit, I let my browsing fingers tap the less practical side of my brain and look into the prices of dreams, ultimately researching possible nothings or hopeful somethings. That sounds confusing, so let me elaborate — mind you, these are things that many of our friends aren’t even aware that we discuss.

1. I found some web sites today that got me pretty excited about a prospect Dave and I have discussed numerous times. Dave has always complained that we don’t have a good cafe in our area. You have to drive to Domenico’s in Utica for a decent place to get creative, meet friends or…dare I say…enjoy a good coffee or cappuccino. We have one small joint in Little Falls that could possibly be considered hippie enough to fit this, but considering that Herkimer is a larger town, it’s downright disappointing. There are 2 Dunkin’ Donuts stores a stone’s throw (seriously — one at Walmart, another 1 1/2 blocks away) and a Stewart’s every other town or so — but both places feel franchisey and sterile (when actually clean) and just…not like a “cafe.” So, we’ve considered it as a career/retirement project later in life — or whenever a cheap property rears its head. We both have coffee experience (my own being a few years at said Stewart’s shop) and good customer service knowledge…aaaaand not much more than that! I’d like to do some baking to sell with coffee early in the morning and come up with panini recipes for later in the day, and would prefer keeping the place as green as possible — check out THESE cups and things — but still have refined sugar and “normal” options for our less conscientious clientele. But…again…this is all just a dream, so it may never happen — but wouldn’t it be neat?!

2. If the second dream were to happen, the first one definitely couldn’t (at least, not in Herkimer). I use homes.com to search for homes in other areas that are more eco-friendly and less economically depressed (hopefully with more opportunities for us and the “future kids”). I’ve looked throughout New England, “shopped” for jobs in London…hell, I’ve looked everywhere. And, clearly, nothing much comes from it, but somehow it makes me feel better about the future and where we might be going with it.

3. Speaking of “future kids” — yeah, I’ve done free shopping for them, too. More just getting ideas as to whether it’s worth it to be so eco-friendly to give up disposable diapers, and learning about the cost of things. No big whoop. But, it’s still dreaming since we’re not even hitched yet.

Luckily, my guy and I get to do some REAL shopping tomorrow — which may be dangerous since I just got a chunk from my “end of year” check. And this ain’t just ANY shopping! We’re re-visiting the Cooperstown Farmer Market tomorrow morning, this time with cash in our pockets, a cooler in the car and an un-stocked fridge — meaning we can actually BUY AND USE what we get, rather than the last time we went (I’d done some grocery shopping that week…blah). CAN’T WAIT!!!

Cooperstown Farmers’ Market – Our First F.M. Adventure of the Year

Although the weather forecast seemed doomed, Dave bouncily suggested that we head to our first farmers’ market of the year – in Cooperstown. With all that enthusiasm, how could I possibly say, “What, no cozy, “stay in and clean” day?” Plus, I already knew that it’s one of the area’s only indoor markets — it’s open every other Saturday throughout the winter, with normal hours the rest of the year. After hearing some great things about it, and with such an eager partner in tow, we left beneath a steady stream of chilly rain.


Strangely enough, by the time we reached the baseball rhetoric-riddled Main Street, the sun had taken over and our jackets were unnecessary. It made the short walk toward the barn-like structure used for the market incredibly quaint, especially with other locals and travelers meandering their way with grocery store reusable bags and homemade baskets in tow. The vendors were overflowing to outside its doors, which we saw as a good sign.

Compared to the, admittedly, only other farmers’ market I can recall attending, it was kind of sparse. I’m sure the local ones I’ll start attending next week will be teeny-weeny, so I’m not necessarily complaining about it. There were plenty of vendors, several with the same goods (which we LOVE — it makes it easy to compare prices), mostly incredibly friendly and willing to talk. However, several of the goods were pretty irrelevant to us — tie-dyed shorts, anyone? And there were only a couple vegetable vendors, each with few items we could actually choose from.

Having worked on a dairy farm and lived in a quasi-rural area my whole life, I’m not ignorant about the reasons I wasn’t overwhelmed by lush and plentiful goodies at the CFM. I know. We’re still pretty much off-season. And, I knew that when Dave asked me to go, wide-eyed. Mostly, I wanted to see what the place was about, what the farmers and artisans and cheese-makers were like, and whether it truly is worth it to schlep 45 minutes away for locally-grown goods. There arises a paradox: If you’re going to release your fossil fuel into the atmosphere with a 1 1/2 hour round-trip to get organic, locally-grown goods which are good for you and the environment, is it really equaled-out?

Mind you, it was a wonderful drive (other than for the occasional rain shower) and we did get our first-ever free-range multi-colored XL eggs, Amish cheddar cheese (INCREDIBLE!), very well-priced European-style yogurt and some homemade, environmentally-friendly soaps (all well-thought-out and exciting purchases) as well as a side-trip to visit the ducks at the Fly Creek Cider Mill.

And, as far as the quandary is concerned, I say we still hit the ball out of the park (I do spend too much time at Cooperstown! We’d live there if we could! – not for the baseball). While we used up some gas, we got a great overview of what to expect when the yields REALLY start coming in. I foresee perhaps visiting the CFM once a month while supplementing the occasional CSA and local farmers’ markets more regularly, but it’s definitely not only a great resource for healthy, sustainable goodies, but an always-needed excuse to get away for part of a day.

***I realized after I wrote this that I’d taken a bit of a novelistic approach. Perhaps a slightly-more-sophisticated version of Donna Thompson *cringe*? (If you’re local, you know what that means.) Just a thought.***