Why NYS is the Best Place for Fall Living

Happy Columbus Day! If you’re looking for something to do today, this post is for you! I’ve mentioned some of the stuff I can’t WAIT to do this fall with the fam. Some of them were great “general” ideas that anyone can do anywhere. Others are totally area specific. So, I thought I’d share some of my favorite Upstate/Central New York autumn must-do’s.

Side note: Upstate? It ain’t Westchester. Just sayin’. Just try ‘n fight me on this one.

I’m a fan of lots of places. We’ve got BFFs in Western Mass, and love visiting the place; there’s SO much to do! We hit up Vermont practically every fall. I’ve enjoyed visiting Maine and Pennsylvania and tons of other New Englandy-type places over the years. I even sway city-lover, thanks to Boston, NYC & Philly (hard to pick a favorite…).

So, what’s so great about NYS/CNY?

Strangely, there are points that Dave and I are sick of the place. Our opinions have bounced around about where to live, and we’ve considered relocating, but the ultimate fact still remains: Family is #1 to both of us, followed closely by those rare lifelong friends (the ones we can easily visit or who have decided to move back “home”). So, this is where our hearts remain.

So, we know the bad (depressing) facts of “here.” But, because of our lifelong experiences, we also can recognize the awesomeness. In the fall, the place is freaking BRIMMING with it.

Leaf peeping at its finest. You can say yours is the best, but seriously…ours is. 😉 If it’s early in the season, pack the car and head up north to the Adirondacks (stop for a bite to eat in Old Forge, or one of the “rustic” diners hidden in the deep woods). If it’s mid-season, hit anywhere south of the Adirondacks. Seriously, throw a dart and go there. Just check out this map first.   

The food be kicking. (<– Clear evidence that I am far from an urbanite. Or cool.) Okay, the food can be pretty great here all year 'round, but when the comfort food season hits (yes, it's a season unto itself), this is the place to be. Two words: Chicken riggies. Two more words: Utica greens. A couple more: half moons. Plus, the seasonal produce is insane and this is our favorite season to hit up our locavore restaurants. The chefs are amazing to begin with, but the flavors of the season just sing under their expertise.

You can pick all ya want. *giggles* Pick. Like nose. Ha! But, no, really, I’m talking about apples and pumpkins (and sometimes autumn berries, if you’re lucky). Apples are king here in NYS, so whether you just want to grab some at a farmers’ market or pick your own, this is the site to find out where. And it just isn’t fall without a pumpkin (or 12), so check this site and click on the region you’re interested in, or just check out my neck of the woods at this site. And, yes, those websites suck, visually. I agree. 😉 

We’re a boozy state. Okay. Iffin’ you’re into such fun, upstate is rife with breweries, cider mills (ahem, the HARD stuff), and wineries. You can spend a day touring a path of wineries, or just hit up one brewery to test their wares. Dave and I enjoy NYS wines, even though he enjoys drier stuff and I’m perfect for the sweet-leaning NYS grapes. And while I should admit for all the world to hear that the Utica Brewery is the best in the world (it’s good…it really is), I actually prefer Brewery Ommegang. Apparently I’m into the Belgian stuff. Who knew? Seriously, there isn’t a flavor I DON’T LOVE. And if you’re going to visit their just-outside-Cooperstown spot, you MUST hit up their munchies. Far more sophisticated than traditional pub fare; I highly suggest the fries. (No, really. Fries. With a combination of dipping friends. A party in your mouth!)

Speaking of cider… If you’re into the kid-friendly stuff, our cider mills are sure to make you happy. We’ve got simple cideries that provide just some basic cider, and maybe donuts on the weekends. We’ve also got huge mills that show you how the stuff’s made and sell gifts, specialty foods, pies, fudge, anything in a jar (you think I’m kidding), and, sure, cider. (I’m talkin’ about you, Fly Creek Cider Mill!) Check out this search (yes, I’m sending you to a Google search since they’re not all in listed on the same website) to find your new favorite! Seriously, I didn’t even know Clinton had a cider mill until a short while ago.

Hayrides and corn mazes and farmers’ markets, oh my! In case you haven’t already noticed, there’s a $%&#load to do throughout upstate. While locals often complain about the sheer lack of anything to do, much like a lazy, bored teenager, it’s actually pretty untrue. I guess it depends on what you’re interested in. Like, Dave and I aren’t huge winter people. We have a few activities that we do, but for the most part it’s “hunkering down with some homemade cocoa and an old movie” season. Others come alive in the winter, with snowmobiling or snowshoeing or skiing galore.

Autumn, however, is THE time to enjoy whatever you like. Search for a farmers’ market to visit and make some roasted root veggies. Like to get freaked out? Take your pick. Want a hayride or corn maze for the kiddos? See if any of these will fit your needs. Honestly, if you just search for activities in whatever area you’ll be visiting, you’ll find something.



Here are our own favorites, in no particular order:

Fly Creek Cider Mill — two words: duck pond. Two more words: Free samples.
Oneida County Public Market — we do this year ’round, actually
Cooperstown Farmers’ Market — one of the few “indoors” markets (and if you’re heading to Cooperstown, enjoy the leaf peeping along the way and wander the town. If you haven’t been, plan to stay a day and visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, and if you’re not into baseball, head over to the Farmers Museum and/or the Fenimore Cooper Museum nearby. 
– ANY Finger Lake wineries (pick lake, grab a map and just go!)
North Star Orchards for some apple pickin’
Beardslee Castle or The Tailor and the Cook for some impeccable locavore grub
Cullen Pumpkin Farm — We may get our pumpkins here this year… Corn maze and wagon rides, too!

What are your favorite fall activities? Got any places that you’d like to share in the comments? Feel free to link!

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?

A Bust

I knew as I wrote Friday’s post that my buoyant optimism was probably a jinx. And it turns out I was right.


Hell of a day, but the worst part was the death of my FIL’s aunt (with whom he was quite close). I didn’t really know her, although I feel terribly for the family. Trying my best not to be bummed and to be understanding (I succeeded at one of those things…), we ended up eating out at a family-friendly, non “local” joint since Dave’s parents were our original Hadley sitters. Won’t even say where, but (still feeling awful for their loss and not wanting to let any selfishness win over) I was bummed.


We had ended up making reservations once again to “The Tailor and the Cook”, which is pretty much the staple for local farm-to-table high-end cuisine. Had it been a usual date night (also, had it not been Food Revolution Day), I probably wouldn’t have been as disappointed. But, as they say on Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, “If something goes bad, turn it around…find something good!” (You have to hear it and sing it about 50 times before it becomes a part of your being. Forever. Dave and I sing it all the time.)

So, the next day, we packed up the car and headed to the first of the outside farmers markets for the season at the Utica train station. We go a handful of times throughout the year; Hadley loves talking to random strangers and getting acquainted with the trains, we like cultivating a relationship with the vendors and woman in charge of the whole shebang, and we stock up on yummies.

While we didn’t get many veggies (ramps…yeah, scallions aren’t a veggie, right? Maybe? So just ramps), we did grab some nice meat, a growler of homemade beer, and a variety of homemade cheeses. The heavy rain from the day before gave way to a beautiful, if not warm, day. We ran a few more errands and I licked my wounds sufficiently.

Looking forward, I can’t wait to have a FRD “do-over.” It might or might not be at “The Tailor and the Cook.” Until then, I’ll just see what I can whip up with my local ingredients.

Did anybody do anything cool for Food Revolution Day? Do tell!

Food Revolution Day — Again

It’s that time again! Rollin’ right around the corner, May 16th is Food Revolution Day (#frd2014), hooray!!

What’s this? Well, simply, it’s a way to engage with food in a public way. This can mean a bunch of things and can be achieved a kazillion ways, but in essence it’s meant to bring attention to the fact that eating responsibly-grown and -raised foods is a) healthier, b) more beneficial to the local economy, and c) way better for the environment. All awesome things. It’s also about learning how to cook from scratch, which tends to be a bit cheaper and healthier for all of us.

(Side note: Clearly, hittin’ up McDonald’s and calling it a day won’t cut it. Sorry!)

Last year, I had high hopes of making an awesome meal, but the fact that Dave was out of town and I was feeling crappy took it down a peg. Luckily, I still found my own way to celebrate — even if in a pretty private way.

This year, I’m hoping to celebrate a little more as a family since, well, Hadley eats regular food now and Dave should be home. So, while we may just do one or two of these things, it may help you get your mental juices flowing (ew) if you decide to take part, too. Here are a few ideas I’ve got for our family (there are a ton more to check out here, and I’m sure you could come up with a ton more far better than mine):

Go out for a lovely dinner. I know what you’re thinking: “Isn’t this all about making your own food?” Yes, and I know what you mean. However, we have a handful of kick-arse locavore joints that we’re dying to try out. It’d be nice to have a date night with the hubby and know that the food we’re eating is Besides, we hardly ever get formal dates, so when we do we tend to try new places or old favorites (which, ahem, tend to be slightly more expensive places; we don’t eat out much normally, so we put more value in what we’re eating when it’s locally-grown and well-prepared).

Try something new. I’m thinking it’d be fun to trek out to the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market, buy a new ingredient (plus any other “needs” we might have), then try a new recipe. My meals lately have been pretty one-note, so this might help kick-start me into getting back into the swing of preparing summer-type meals (which tend to be more creative…or to me, at least).

Plant our garden. We’ve already drawn out (literally) a simple plan for our veggies (and one fruit), and one of my biggest issues is usually not planting early enough. Given that our frosts are gone for the season — which they may NOT be, given our crazy weather patterns — this would be the perfect weekend to buy our plants (I don’t think I’m growing anything from seed this year; I’m taking the lazy mama’s way out) and get ’em in the ground.

You may notice that these ideas are ones you really can’t complete in one day…er, at least, not at our house! I tend to look at Food Revolution Day as more of a weekend celebration than a one-day thing, especially since it generally lands on a Friday (a work day). It’s kind of like how some celebrate the whole weekend of Memorial Day, y’know?

So, you’ve got a little over a month. Are you planning on doing anything for FRD? (Or FRD weekend, as it were?) If so, what? I’d love to hear! 

I’m a Ham

Yes, yes. We all know I’m a bit of a ham — at least when I get on stage. Probably the reason Dave and I work well together. I don’t think I know anyone else who commands a stage (at times while admittedly overacting) quite like he does. His special talent, though, is for people to fully realize that he’s hamming it up — but to enjoy it and fall in love with him, regardless. Now, THAT’S talent, people.

But, I digress. This post isn’t really about how hammy we (and, so it seems, our son is). It’s actually about a ham dinner I made recently.

(crickets chirping)

Yeah, it doesn’t get much lamer than that. (And, yeah, it’s another “recipe” post. Neener neener. ;-)) But for those of you who wonder what our meals look like — you know, the GOOD, I had a little time and energy to put into them meals vs. the after-school-meal-grind meals — here’s an example.

We’re still doing pretty well with the weekday vegetarian thing, although we don’t beat ourselves up if we end up taking a turkey sandwich (because it’s all we have in the house for the “main”) for lunch or have the occasion meat-inclusive dinner on a random Tuesday. All things in moderation, people, especially moderation. 😉 But, yeah, for us, we’re doing pretty well with it.

However, this particular meal was made on a Saturday, so I felt I had a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. I had also thawed a pound of ground beef (grassfed, local) and a thicker-than-I-realized ham steak (also grassfed, local), so no matter what, meat was on the menu. (Needless to say, the beef was used that Sunday.)

All I had to do for the ham was heat it up (in this case using a grill pan) and maybe throw on a maple mustard glaze; quick and easy. It took far more time to prepare the sides, truth be told. You don’t need much direction on the rice — it was just regular, long-grain (non-instant) rice which we cooked while the broccoli was roasting. I’m trying to retrain my patience since I haven’t found any organic instant rice. ANYhoo…


Roasted Broccoli with Garlic

2 heads of broccoli (or 1 large head of broccoli) {side note: ours was organic}
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
Drizzle of olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon, juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon (depending on your taste)
S&P
Sprinkle or two of red pepper chili flakes (optional)

Heat oven to 425 degrees F.

Cut the broccoli to uniform sizes (as close as you can; don’t obsess) and place on baking sheet. Add the garlic, olive oil, lemon, and salt & pepper and toss well.

Roast in oven for ~20 minutes. (The garlic may brown quite a bit; that’s okay.) Taste and season with more S&P if needed, and add some chili flakes, if using. (We didn’t because any vegetables I make these days go into the baby’s mouth — a good thing — and I’d rather not pain him. ;-)) This is also yummy with some Parmesan cheese.

Maple Glazed Ham Steak

1 ham steak (size doesn’t really matter; make more of the glaze if you need, make less if you don’t seem to need it; cooking’s an art, not a science)
2 – 4 Tbsp. REAL maple syrup (not the “pancake syrup” stuff, please, for the love of God!!!)
1 – 3 tsp. dijon mustard
1/2 – 1 tsp. brown sugar (if you have it on hand; I didn’t and it was still fine)
Sprinkle or two each of ground clove and nutmeg

Heat your pan (grill or regular) to medium high. Prepare glaze using all the ingredients but the ham. You can either glaze the ham prior to cooking or while cooking (glazing both sides after each is cooked; this creates less burning and more “glazey” flavor than “hammy” flavor).

Either way, since this is a ham steak, you really only want to put a little color on the meat and heat it through (it’s already cooked, yay!), so use your judgement. It may need 4 minutes on each side…it may need 6 on the first and less on the second…or five on each. Just be sure to keep an eye on it that the glaze doesn’t burn (turn to medium if you’re worried about this happening).

* I also did a teensy drizzle of maple syrup over my rice and ham when finished. As Ado Annie says, I CAN’T SAY NO!

So, there you have it. One example of a Saturday evening meal in the ol’ hammed-up household. I try to keep it simple these days (since the moment the lil’ guy sees me cooking, he starts whining and fussing — he wants food, and he wants it IMMEDIATELY. We’re lucky to have such a great eater, but…), and it’s the little things — Dave loves (…wait for it…) rice. Rice with a meal (or, yes, even AS a meal) and salads, his two favorite things. Well, and maybe a wife who makes them for him without having to ask.

Why We Do What We Do

Monday, I posted a quick survey to see what my readers are thinking (and what they like/dislike/want to see more of on the blog). Here’s the link in case you haven’t had a chance to take it yet — and I promise you, I’m not selling your info or any weird thing like that, it just gives me a better idea of who you are and what you’re into!

Anyhoo, so far I’ve heard some wonderful feedback, especially when it comes to what people would like to see/hear more about. One that sticks out to me is hearing more about our change to a more organic lifestyle; the trials, tribulations, cost effectiveness, recipes, farmers market experiences (and what we bought!); also, DIY pieces with the “why” and ideas behind what we’re doing. And recipes. 🙂

(I’m pretty much paraphrasing the comment that I was happy to read!)

That being said, I thought it’d be a good time for a review and check-in about our decisions, our lifestyle, and even a few words about why I have a blog.

Some of this might be explained by a walk down memory lane (or, as I call it, my Archives page), but for those of you who don’t have the time to waste reading my oh-so-wordy accounts of days gone by, I’ll give you a quicker spiel.

I never had a huge goal when I started writing here. I didn’t want to practice writing more. I didn’t want to follow one set path or topic, since life doesn’t generally follow set structure (and I wouldn’t have stuck with it if I’d boxed myself in, anyway; I guess I’m a free spirit and am not a fan of feeling tied down). 

I did think, however, that it would be nice to have a place to share my thoughts and try out some new things, and to be able to look back and say, “Oh, right, we got Beardslee that year! Oh, I forgot about that pumpkin place, what a fun day that was! Right, that was a yummy meal, I need to make that again.” Or, heck, to even be able to go back and remember our wedding a little easier. My memory sucks, by the way.

So, my very first post just so happened to be about something for which I felt uber-passionately in that moment (and still feel passionately about). It also just happened to coincide with Earth Day and related to Food, Inc. (a POWERFUL documentary about the state of the food that we eat…so powerful that we haven’t been able to bring ourselves to watch it since, we cried so hard and were so touched). I guess that laid a foundation for an environmentally-conscious blog!

Which I’m profoundly proud and happy about, please believe me! I love my teensy piece of the blogosphere. And I guess I would consider us to be conscientious greenies, in our own way. But we also live life and eat the occasional ordered-in pizza or doctor with traditional medicines (more-so myself than my hubs) and use traditional diapers (a mix; easier with the sitter). I try not to beat myself up that I’m not baking my own bread and making my own granola and soaking my oats (yes, that’s a thing) and raising my own chickens.

Plus, I have LOTS of interests outside of the green living realm. My favorite blogs to read have always been design/decor-based (namely DIY), and we’re huuuuuuuuge fans of old movies/radio shows and history. I love weird music and books; Dave loves his own weird music and comics. We’re all over the place!

I guess I’m saying that teaching our son (and future kiddies) about environmentally friendly practices, sustainable and healthy eating, and general awareness/kindness towards those around us (animals included) are some of our main priorities in life. If I’m able to build up to being a full-blown homesteader, great. But, odds are that we’re just going to keep working up to being as green as we can be, and be happy with what we can do.

After all, isn’t that really the meaning of life?

So, that being said, I hope to keep blogging about these things. When we get to a farmers market, I’ll remember that a few folks actually like to hear about what we purchased (and what we did with it! Recipes!). When we select a certain meat, I’ll try to remember to explain WHY grassfed is more sustainable and healthy than corn-fed (broken record or not). I’ll explain why we made the choice to eat one thing organic yet another item locally-grown but non-organic. Thanks for jogging my memory — just mentioning something once isn’t always the smartest thing, especially if folks haven’t been reading that long.

But, I hope not to come off sounding like this is what any of you should do. If it gets your wheels turning and considering where your food comes from and how it may give you better health in the long term, WONDERFUL!!!! If you’d just rather read those posts to see how we spent our weekend (and could give two hoots about whether the bacon was treated kindly), that’s great, too! I’m not here to preach. I’m just here to share my thoughts.

I’m proud to be a green blogger and writer, but there’s more (and going to be more) here than an enviro-blog. Since I’m into decor, DIY around the ol’ house and even some crafty stuff, I’ll be doing such. But I’d like to incorporate the Three R’s into as much of it as possible, whenever possible. And, of course, I’m first-and-foremost a mom, so any mommy thoughts will definitely find their way into posts. Again, there’s no right/wrong way to raise a child (unless you’re abusive…that’s unacceptable and I’ll smack you through the computer for that).

This might or might not have explained why the blog looks as it does, or it might just be yet another random-thoughts tangent. (Sorry!) Reading through some of my early, early posts might help describe the journey to where we are, currently, if that helps. And, as always, a HUGE thanks for reading! It makes it way more fun to write when I know folks are reading. Writing for crickets? Not as much fun.

Oh, and I do plan on sharing more of our shopping visits for all the world to see, if I can remember to take more pictures while wrangling a now-active toddler. 😉 Same goes for writing down recipes. I’m just so much of a “eh, throw a handful of this in…then another handful of that…” cook that I need to get better at…um…taking measurements and jotting things down.

Reset Button

Since Dave started his wonderful new job in the world of PR (and, more recently, after having a health scare with Hadley), his perspective has changed…which means that our family perspective, too, has shifted. While I wish my schedule was more conducive to accommodating his new ideas, I’m generally ecstatic to see the changes.

His mind is far freer to explore the parts of life he had grown out-of-touch with. He’s able to put his time and energy into his writing, but also researching healthy living ideas (sometimes even happening upon articles or websites that I had showed him a year or two ago that he didn’t have the time or mental astuteness to look into), decor for his awesome new office, family activities, and more.

I’ve always loved my husband (obviously…well, maybe not obviously, but I’m saying it here — I’ve always loved my husband!), but I hate, hate, hated what his previous job did to him. I didn’t necessarily hate the job itself, but the fact that he was always beat, always on-call to fix problems or post to the web (or getting called in), always experiencing weird chest pains, always full of stress and anger and anxiety, rarely able to help out around the house (I tried my best to juggle cooking, cleaning, baby-bathing…his one joy of the day that I was glad for him to do was reading the baby his bedtime stories), rarely able to enjoy life…that, I hated.

But, with his new job, even if he tries to stay late, his co-workers will call him out and say that it’s time to go home. *clouds part, angels sing* There’s practically no way for him to over-work. It’s beyond lovely.

So, with this newly-freed mind, here are a few ideas that he has happened upon…


These are all part of one topic in our conversation. The Chipotle commercial to which we’re referring is this “Scarecrow” vid (which even has its own game app…yes, I downloaded it, although I simply lack the coordination to play games with a phone. It’s a fact.) which evokes almost every emotion a person can have. Don’t believe me? Check out this article. The guilt, anger and sadness is horrible…the ending, a little uplifting and inspiring that we can, possibly, make a difference in what we eat.

If only we had a Chipotle restaurant in our area. From there, we discussed other things that we can do since any chain restaurants (and a vast majority of the locally-owned ones) have deplorable ingredient sourcing practices. We also recently made the realization that the only places that are 24-hour around our joint are Wal-Mart (we don’t go there) and McDonald’s. When we needed a last-minute prescription for the baby, Dave had to drive 45 minutes away to finally get the stuff (all the local pharmacies closed EARLY…E-A-R-L-Y)!

The local eating website he shared was okay, but I still prefer localharvest.org (it’s easier to search, has more information, and is just cleaner-looking). That’s just how I feel. 🙂

So, what’s the take-away here? We’re going to work on eating better…TOGETHER. It’s not as much of an “I’ll go grocery shopping and try to figure this thing out on my own because my husband’s got more on his mind than bananas” situation (although there are crazy times of the week that I will head there on my own for a few of the essentials). Instead, he’s going to help…and even *gasp* cook from time to time. *clouds part, angels sing*

 
Yaaaay, score! We didn’t have much vacation-age going on over the summer since Dave was (all together now) leaving his job (and needed to give them numerous weeks, no vacation time to be used, to help out…worth it in the end, but the summer kinda sucked because of it for him). We usually take one Friday off to go visit Old Forge. They have an awesome farmers’ market, then we hang out by the lake and walk around town doing touristy things, then finally eat at “The Old Mill” (or some other place like that).

So, while we’ve officially missed that train for the year, knowing that we can head up north to take in the autumn scenery (the Adirondacks ROCK for that) and have a casual time of it (read: if the baby melts down, it won’t be in the middle of a nice restaurant or something) sounds like heaven to me.

(I’m also hoping that may be a gateway to finding some family-friendly hiking up north. *fingers crossed* Man, I hope the hubby’s reading.)

Needless to say, I’m very much enjoying this new job situation. 🙂

Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb

For those non-actor types reading, “rhubarb” is one of those (I’m sure there’s a technical term for it, but I’m unaware) filler words that you silently mumble to a nearby actor when you’re upstage and non-important to the scene. Y’know, so you don’t look like you blend in with the scenery. Hence the title. And excessive description of said title.

ANYHOO, rhubarb is HUGE with our family. There’s a very important strawberry rhubarb pie recipe that comes with a set of rules (passed down from the almighty patriarch of the family, “Grandpa Heidi”).

1) Say three “Hail Mary”s before eating the pie.
2) You must be completely silent while eating said pie.
3) You must close your eyes while eating said pie. (#3 is up for debate, depending on which family member you ask)

I’m pretty sure that by the time we were teens, we realized that the rules were set in place to silence the five kids in my mom’s family, but I still think it’s pretty cool that Grandpa respected Grandpa’s pie (don’t be dirty) enough to make them up.

So, when I saw rhubarb at yesterday’s Herkimer Farmers’ Market (we’ve got two of them in Herkimer — woohoo! And this one runs ’til 7pm, so it’s super easy to get to after work), I had to purchase it. Seriously, no choice in the matter. I would’ve given my last dime to do so. And, luckily, they gave me an awesome recipe that I made once I got home. Since I didn’t have strawberries on hand, and it was a simple crisp recipe, I was in luck.

Oh, and I also have to mention, among the other incredible things I grabbed (free-range and humanely-treated chicken eggs (seriously, the kind lady referred to the chickens as her “girls” — love that!), raw cheese, green onions, delicious raw butter) were a couple of “Cat’s Creations.” I don’t recall what else was in the bread, but she had me at figs. I ate several pieces before unloading the rest of my goodies. Yes, it was that good.

(cue teensy weensy Instagram pic)

Oops, anyhoo, here’s the crisp I made. Oh, and the humidity broke over the weekend, so it wasn’t a big deal to turn on the oven. Don’t do this when it’s hot out. Seriously, just grill some pound cake or make a sundae with organic peanut butter with natural vanilla ice cream and call it a day.


Rhubarb (I can’t believe there’s no strawberries in it) Crisp
4 c. rhubarb, cut into 3/4″ pieces (I only had enough for 3 cups — I adjusted the following accordingly and it came out fine)
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. flour (I used unbleached whole wheat white, but just use whatchya got)
1/4 tsp. cinnamon (give or take)
a few sprinkles of nutmeg (that was my addition — I can’t really bake without it. It’s got my name in it, people!!!)
For crumble topping
1/2 lb. butter, melted (yeah, baby)
1 c. rolled oats
1 c. flour
1 c. brown sugar

Mix together the first 5 ingredients and put into 8×8 glass baking dish. (I buttered mine…because, y’know, you can’t have enough butter.)

Mix together the rest of the ingredients and top the rhubarb mixture. Bake at 375 for 35 minutes (give or take, depending on your oven — I always under-bake, then check it).

This would be insanely good warm with vanilla (or strawberry!!) ice cream, but it was just as delish with a fork. And a plate. Seriously, make this.

Mini Revolutions

I was fully intending to celebrate Food Revolution Day last Friday in a small way — dragging the baby to a local farmers’ market, since Dave was out of town for an awesome workshop. The illnesses floating around school put a stop to that.

So, while I did do a quick grocery shopping visit (one of my Aldi/Hannaford runs), I felt like the day was a dud. I ate locally for a meeting I attended in Utica, but the food was far from healthy. At Hannaford, most of my purchases were organic, though, so I told myself that would have to be good enough, as I tried to get my nose to stop running. (Side note: I bought fiddleheads (I was ECSTATIC to find them at the store…and I think people thought I was nuts) and kale for the first time!!! Can’t wait to try it.)

However, Saturday afternoon as the baby napped in my arms, I decided to hit up our Wii for some Netflix streaming. I can’t even guess the last time I did this. My hope was that “Gilmore Girls” would finally be available (what else can a girl wish for with her husband out of town??), but since it wasn’t, I typed “food” in the search area in hopes of finding a cooking show. Instead, I found my re-education and a way to celebrate Food Revolution Day, delayed though it may be.

A French documentary named “Food Beward: The French Organic Revolution”, yes in 95% sub-titles, showed me that the organic craze isn’t just a fad, and isn’t just an American trend. The rise of cancers, particularly among French children, were the origins of major concerns of the state of food production in France. To take a progressive, proactive approach, a rural mayor decided to change the school menu to organic and mostly local foods.


Here’s the IMDB movie description: Food Beware begins with a visit to a small village in France, where the town’s mayor has decided to make the school lunch menu organic and locally grown. It then talks to a wide variety of people with differing perspectives to find common ground – children, parents, teachers, health care workers, farmers, elected officials, scientists, researchers and the victims of illnesses themselves. Revealed in these moving and often surprising conversations are the abuses of the food industry, the competing interests of agribusiness and public health, the challenges and rewards of safe food production, and the practical, sustainable solutions that we can all take part in. Food Beware is food for thought – and a blueprint for a growing revolution.”

We get to sit in on school lunches (“Organic bread tastes better.” And, Philippe! Eat your damn carrots!! Sheesh.) and follow students to a garden, which their teacher uses as a learning tool, from teaching science and the enjoyment of nature to math (“use your rulers to measure the lettuces’ growth” “that’s impossible!”) and cooperation (“Hugo gave me his parsley. Here, you can have some.” Awww.), as well as the evolution of adult thinking on organic.

At one point, the mayor meets with local farmers, calling it something of an occurrence (rather than something more aggressive…a fight?) and a chance for organic farmers and more traditional farmers to discuss methods and reasons for doing what they’re doing. I found this to be an interesting example of the fact that adults are able to debate an issue in a respectful manner, in addition to the fact that the information they were sharing can be directly linked to similar views in the U.S.

Overall, I was dismayed, informed, entertained, and finally uplifted by this flick. Often, the American-made docs tend to be downers (or so aggressive that it does nothing but inform and upset…and enrage…and then come the tears….), so this was an awesome reminder of our renewed reason to work on eating organically and locally — Hadley.

Next year, I’d like to have a bigger Food Revolution Day, with the hubby in town and the baby old enough to eat, like, EVERYTHING (he’s already a little foodie, I can’t get him to stop trying to devour my food; don’t get me wrong, I love that he loves food and I don’t mind that he wants to eat off of mine (after all, I’m a mom!), but his diet is still relatively restricted at this age). So, whether it’s a foodie get-together with friends or just a family visit to a farmers’ market followed by a special meal, I’m looking forward to it!

No matter what it is, it’s all about the mini revolutions, isn’t it? The small attempts at better things on a boring ol’ normal day?

Flexi-Saturday

So, it’s the weekend before the new school starts (more commonly known as “Labor Day Weekend”, yes) and I’ve gotta admit to being anxious. When I say “anxious”, I actually mean anxiety-ridden. My year ahead will look completely different than previous years, so it’s generally the stress and worry of the unknown that causes the anxiety. But, no worries; I’m working on it.

As part of our “Woohoo, 3-day weekend!” celebration (it’s not really a celebration, don’t get your hopes up), we trekked out to Cooperstown for a morning of farmer marketing and cider milling. Wow, I just made those activities sound quite…active! To be clear, we didn’t mill any cider or market any farmers. I’m not even sure how I’d go about doing such things.

The farmers’ market was even more burgeoning with good things than usual, possibly because we got there by around 9am-ish. From various vendors, we ended up getting a huuuuge 50-cent zucchini (which wins “deal of the day”), 3-count-’em-3 heads of garlic, broccoli; organics from The Farm in Ilion including a basket of baby heirloom tomatoes (for Dave; yuck, tomatoes), HUGE leeks, and purple potatoes; 6 ears of corn from the Amish (we’re saying goodbye to summer…); strawberry jam; and TWO sampler packs from “the British guy” (NOT his vendor name, just what we call him) who sells awesome British pastries. Oh, yes…and the bacon. The. Bacon.

This bacon, my friends, is a marvel. It’s, of course, naturally-raised and we know exactly what it’s fed. It’s not smoked, so it’s necessary to put a little salt and pepper on it while cooking, but it’s in-cred-i-ble. Like, save for Christmas morning good. Yet…I blame the bacon for what came next.

We asked the buoyant, knowledgeable seller of said bacon (as well as other meats, eggs and produce) if she’d have more this autumn, to which she informed us that she wouldn’t have anymore until December since she has “two growing at home and a sow about to give piglets.” I felt Dave (and, to a point, myself) pull back, suddenly a bit surprised, then kindly thank her and go on our way. We briefly discussed the fact that, while we’re aware that it’s treated well and fed proper things, it hadn’t occurred to us that…well…the stuff ever lived. Thinking of piglets being raised specifically to appease our taste buds left us taken off-guard…but not so much as to deter us from seeking out an awesome breakfast at Doubleday Cafe, including bacon and sausage. We’re idiots sometimes. Perhaps “human” is a better description.

After our Cooperstown excursion, I detoured us to the Fly Creek Cider Mill to stock up on some wine and cheese, and anything else that we felt like spoiling ourselves with. To those who have never been to Fly Creek, I’ll digress for a moment: It’s a tradition for many who live in the area to visit the cider mill, particularly during the fall. It’s generally too expensive to consider going there more than once a year. But, my husband and I live dangerously and, at times, just go to feed the ducks (and, now, chickens, geese and various other fowl). It’s an incredible operation that has commercialized itself almost too well, so be forewarned. It’s an awesome place, but not nearly as great as it was when we were children…and could afford the donuts. At least they have free samples throughout the store.

So, after purchasing our wine, cheese, salad dressing, and more (one item’s a gift, shhh), we went to feed the ducks. Is it just me, or is there always always ALWAYS one duck or goose that’s worse off than the rest? One that you try to feed more than the others, that you pity more than you would some humans? Well, today was no exception, and this one seemed to have a bad condition causing its feathers to fall out and leave parts of his skin exposed. Dave also noticed an eye disease. Ick. Poor lil’ guy.

After feeding them as much as my wallet would allow, and thinking to myself how much I’d like to raise chickens for eggs (for the millionth time), we turned and walked, half hugging, towards the car. Casually, yet determined, Dave calmly stated that he’d like to eat less meat. I nodded and agreed. This conversation continued in spurts as we drove the meandering rural roads home, passing countless cows unknowingly feasting in their fields.

Between the Bacon Lady and the helpless little birds, we were of the same mind. Strangely enough, we’d seen documentaries (Food, Inc., in particular) and read enough in the past however-long-we’ve-been-eating-naturally-and-organically to know that meat is an item that we should have been eating in moderation, anyway. But, we’re both meat-and-potato people, borne of meat-and-potato (and cabbage, and pasta – not that Dave would allow cabbage to be cooked in the house…*sigh* Why did I take you for granted, Cabbage, with your buddies, Ham and Carrots? Oh, why? But, it’s the price I pay for a quite happy marriage) people. It’s difficult to break the habit.

So, that being said, we’re not going vegetarian. We’ve been eating “vegetarian” pretty much every week, be it a Meatless Monday or, more likely, Tallow-Free (best I could come up with) Tuesday, but more likely than not, it’s pasta and a salad. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it really shows my lack of ingenuity in the field of culinary arts. I try, and made a meatless Mediterranean Lentil Soup during Irene last Sunday (great day for soup!), which turned out awesome, but I can’t just make soup.

Regardless, I’d call us flexitarians – which is NOT a cop-out, you ignorant people out there (online and in talk shows) who make fun of it! Sorry, whew, I don’t mean to attack folks, but ignorance is my biggest pet peeve. Aside from crappy driving and general rudeness. For those of you who don’t know what the whole flexitarian thing is, it’s GENERALLY (as with all generalizations, there may be individuals who define it differently, hence using the label differently) folks who make a concerted effort to base their diets mostly in grain, vegetables and fruits, with the occasional detour into the land of happy meats. This article describes it pretty well. Even the cookbook author and founder of the famous Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca (at which I have eaten, go me) is no longer a vegetarian. Ha! Nice.

OUR reasons for going flexitarian are both moral and physical/health-related. We don’t want to be the reason for the death of so many innocent animals. Simultaneously, if we’re truly “voting” each time we purchase something, the fact that the meat is raised humanely (and, if at all possible, locally – y’know, it’s hard for them to lie to your face, easy to lie through packaging), we’d like our vote to count. Heck, I believe in that a little moreso than our current democratic process…but I digress! Let’s just say that we’re huge animal people. Three rescued cats being loved and spoiled rotten in our house. Dissolving into a flood of tears when seeing an animal killed on the side of the road. Boiling mad when news stories come through about abused animals. We can’t be ignorant Americans anymore. Our meat COMES from some place and if we’re going to eat it, we’ve got to remember that.

As for the health part, we feel that curbing our meat intake will a) make us consume healthier proteins and b) pump less red meat into our arteries (mostly Dave’s, he’s more susceptible to cholesterol issues and heart disease…gulp). It’s pretty simple.

So, why not go full-blown vegetarian – or even vegan? A few reasons. One is our families. We don’t hope to be the strange “what’re we going to cook for them” people who throw a wrench into holidays and get-togethers. Otherwise, I’d like to go vegetarian, or even vegan, one day. Really. Who knows, perhaps I’ll have a personality change and do it. But, for now, given my (at times) busy-ness and my (at times) laziness and my husband’s (general) aversion to certain new foods (although he’s getting better!), and my general lack of ability to commit completely to a lifestyle change (sigh), this will have to do. I think the fact that we go local as much as we can and otherwise try to purchase less processed items (although I’d like to master tofu…anyone? Sarah? ;-D) means that we’re on the right path.

So, that being said, I’d LOVE it if anyone here has great vegetarian recipes or valuable links they could share – just hit comment and let ‘er rip! The more the merrier.

On a side note, our breakfasts at Doubleday today consisted of eggs, french toast, home fries (Dave’s personal favorite), meat of our choice (bacon/sausage) and coffee and ran us around 8 or 9 bucks each. Simultaneously, if we’d stopped ourselves and just THOUGHT about what we were putting into our bodies, some vanilla yogurt with granola and berries would have run us $3.50, plus a buck or so for juice or tea. Actually, the place had lots of healthy options we COULD have ordered…

On a second side note (hee hee), YES, I’m suggesting a Wikipedia article. Here are the types of semi-vegetarianism, which kind of amuses me. I’d say that I’d probably like to veer into the realm of pollo-pescetarians, who eat white meat (but no red), one day. Freegans makes me giggle, but actually has some merit – they’re vegan unless it’s free, supporting the low impact, less waste philosophy. I guess we’re headed down that path. If our parents or friends make it for us, we’ll take it! Beggars can’t be choosers, and you don’t want to be a bad guest.