Tuesday, December 31, 2013



I was recently introduced to the Danish word hygge, and it instantly struck a chord with me.
Yes! That's just what I feel at this time of year, and it is why I love winter in places where it gets cold cold cold in December and January.
Hygge is pronounced sort of like hhooo-guh. You can click on this link to hear Danes describe it in their own words.
Hygge is being at home, warm and cozy in the deep of winter. It is snuggling in, with pastimes and foods that are warm and comforting, or sweet and familiar.
I was born in Minnesota, went to college in central Maine, have lived most of my life in upstate New York. I am a northern gal to the core. I have always loved this time of year, but until I learned about hygge, I never had a word to explain how I felt.
Hygge for me is warm, seasoned soups for supper, with homemade bread; baking my mother's 1937 recipe for sugar cookies with my niece; knitting beside the fireplace. It is being quiet, deep in my own thoughts, both looking back and looking forward.
It is a calm pause between the busier seasons. 
It is ... contentment.
Thanks to Denmark, I finally have a word for all of that.
Wishing you all a Happy New Year, with hygge enough to last you until spring.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Handsome Husband on radio this morning, Dec. 24.

Good morning,

My Handsome Husband Bob Conner will be on Fred Dicker: Live from the State Capitol this morning from 10:32 to 11:00 AM, speaking about his recent book and perhaps other issues. Talk 1300 live streams off their website and archives later. See: http://www.talk1300.com/

Wishing you all peace and blessings on this Christmas Eve,

~ Barbara

See more about Bob's book here: http://www.amazon.com/General-Gordon-Granger-Chickamauga-Juneteenth/dp/1612001858.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Caroling at Maplewood Manor, Ballston Spa, NY

We had a good turnout this Sunday afternoon, for services at the Saratoga County-owned nursing home, Maplewood Manor.

This is a busy time of year, but many folks from The First Presbyterian Church in Ballston Spa made time to come and sing Christmas carols and read Scripture with the residents.
 And it came to pass in those days ...

On Sundays, there are only two recreation aides on duty, but they managed to get all of these folks into the hall and settled for the service.

We had song books to share, but most folks knew the carols well.

 Peter brought his friendly pooch, Juliet, who was happy to mingle and be petted.

 All is calm, all is bright.

The comfort of familiar carols, a cheerful warm room, caring aides: Christmas blessings are to be found in many places.

Peace be with you.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

An acquired taste

 My British-born Handsome Husband came to this country with an occasional yen for steak and kidney pie.  His beloved stepmother, Florence, made him wonderful pies sometimes. But she grew old and eventually, I learned from her and from The Joy of Cooking how to make a pretty good one myself. It has been years, however, since I've made one.
How come you never make steak and kidney pie anymore, the HH asked a while ago.
The answer was simple: our grocery stores stopped selling kidneys. No market for them, I was told. Unless I wanted to order a twenty-five pound box of kidneys for our personal use, neither Hannaford nor Price Chopper could help me out. So, this dish disappeared from our menu.
Fast forward to Saturday's farmers' market in Saratoga. I stopped by the Lewis Waite Farm booth hoping for beef short ribs (alas, they were out) when I suddenly noticed that what they did have included - kidneys!


 So with both "steak" and kidney in hand (and from good, local, healthy beef) home I went to put steak and kidney back on the menu for Sunday evening.

Because it has been so long since I have cooked this, I was a little apprehensive. Years ago, I had made a few notes in The Joy of Cooking about how I wanted to change parts of their recipe. That helped somewhat.

The recipe calls for beef broth and about a cup of good beer.

That leaves just enough beer for the cook to sip while completing the preparations.

And how did it turn out? It was not a thing of beauty but the HH didn't complain. He enthusiastically ate a generous serving. And then ate another.

As for me...well, steak and kidney pie is an acquired taste. But I am glad that the HH enjoyed it.

Maybe we can have short ribs next weekend. That recipe calls for a little beer, too. ;-)


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Little's Lake

There were sixteen of us this gray December morning as the Thursday Naturalists gathered at Little's Lake in Menands, NY.

Win B. built a fire in the cottage fireplace before we set out so that we would have a warm place to return to for our lunch. Helen stayed behind to monitor the fire, and off we went to explore the woods. We stopped to admire this good-sized cottonwood tree a little way down the trail.

Further on, we reached no decision about what this tree was. A birch, perhaps? The upper bark looked birch-ish, but not the lower bark, alas. Trees in winter are hard to identify sometimes.

Browns dominated underfoot, but across the lake, this willow was a haze of deep gold and the partially frozen lake reflected the gray-green pines.
Here, too, was some green. Moss, lichen and ferns created a blend of verdant shades against the fallen leaves.

Evergreen wood fern: such a lovely name.
There were darkened, tough bracket fungi with a rich, earthy scent.

This yellow fungi stuck with the color theme of the day.
There was beauty in these muted colors of the woods in early winter. I want to find yarns in these tones and make an afghan of them.

Ruth S. broke apart a catkin bract of a gray birch. Against her dark mitten, we could see the tiny winged birch seeds, as enlarged below.

 Ruth always finds something interesting to share in the tiniest of objects. Most of us would pass by these things without noticing, and oh, how much we miss in the natural world. Ruth has taught me to look and to see.

 Later, the scent of wood smoke drew us back to the cottage, warm now and cozy with light and a crackling fire. Someone had heated water in an urn for tea and coffee and cocoa. Just the ticket.

We ate our lunches while Ed shared his knowledge of frazil ice and Ruth introduced us to a lovely book, Spider Silk. It begins with a quote from E. B. White:  Once you begin watching spiders, you haven't time for much else

Yup, that pretty much sums up my Thursdays with this intrepid group of kind and curious people. 


Monday, November 25, 2013

And on it goes in Malta

Dennis Yusko is reporting in the (Albany, NY) Times Union this evening that Malta Democratic supervisor candidate Cynthia Young has "filed a notice appealing a judge’s decision to toss two absentee ballots cast for her, which cost her the election."

And on it goes.

Read the TU story here.

Every vote counts, my friends!


Friday, November 22, 2013

Update on that Town of Malta Election

As I wrote here on Wednesday, this was a cliff-hanger of an election here in Malta, NY.
Today, the Albany (NY) Times Union reported that Judge Robert Chauvin ruled that two disputed absentee ballots for Democrat Cynthia Young could not be counted. This means that the Republican incumbent Paul Sausville has won re-election by one vote.

Malta ballot (Dennis Yusko / Times Union)
These photos from the Times Union show the front and back of a disputed ballot. Those handwritten words, "no vote", on the back of a ballot made the whole ballot void, including the unmarred choices on the ballot's front side.
Malta ballot (Dennis Yusko / Times Union)
So a word of warning to folks who vote by absentee ballot: Read the directions. "No stray marks" means no stray marks. In a close race, both sides are going to lawyer up and challenge the heck out of everything. Even a pin prick, as from a staple, becomes fodder for legal arguments. Really.
The Handsome Husband and I were at the Malta Sunrise Rotary-sponsored Red Cross blood drive today. (The HH was volunteering, handing out juice; I was donating blood.) While there, we saw and chatted with both Mr. Sausville, who was donating blood, and Mrs. Young, who was also volunteering. They both looked exhausted.
God bless them both. You know, it takes a lot of time and money to run for public office, not to mention a lot of intestinal fortitude. How many of us are willing to stand up and put ourselves out there to serve our communities in this way? Not enough. I can't imagine how Cynthia Young feels today. One vote. Man, oh man, that has to hurt. Thank you Cynthia, for your efforts and for your willingness to serve our town. Without folks like you, there is no choice, and thus, no democracy.
And thank you, too, Paul. Congratulations. At the end of what must have been a very taxing two weeks, you still made time to come in and donate blood today. Thank you for that, as well.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Oh, that Town of Malta race for supervisor ...

... and why you should not vote like my Handsome Husband did!

Our local election for town supervisor has been a cliff-hanger for days. Today, a judge was supposed to end the suspense, but no such luck.

Here is what happened. After election day, the voting results stood like this:
Democrat Cynthia Young had a 12-vote lead over incumbent Republican Paul Sausville, 1,537 to 1,525. But, there were more than 100 absentee ballots that needed to be counted the following week.

On November 13, 112 absentee ballots were counted by the Saratoga County Board of Elections. Democrat Cynthia Young’s lead over the incumbent Republican, Paul Sausville, dropped to just four votes.
Disputes over 23 ballots meant that the candidates were headed to state Supreme Court today.

As former Schenectady Gazette writer Carl Strock would have said, I hied myself over to the county court building at 11:00 AM today to see how it would all turn out.

Except, nobody was there. A kindly security person explained that the parties were across the street at the Board of Elections, trying to hash out their differences before resorting to the court for a decision.

So across the street I went and just in time, too. The two sides had agreed to count 22 of the ballots, leaving only one ballot still in dispute. This one ballot they would take to court only if it was necessary to decide the winner.

As each absentee ballot was opened, everyone leaned in to check it out.

The attorney for Republican Mr. Sausville objected to another of the ballots, making it two ballots under dispute. Both of these were votes for the Democrat, Cynthia Young.

When they were done, Mr. Sausville was ahead by one vote. There were two disputed ballots, both for Mrs. Young.

"It's going to the judge," Republican Attorney Walsh said.

In court, the arguments were about "stray marks" on the back sides of the two absentee ballots. This was the area where voters chose "yes" or "no" on six propositions. Here was the issue for the judge: Should marks on the back of a ballot invalidate the voters' clear choice of supervisor candidate on the front side?

 On both of the ballots, the voters had tried to correct a mistake. One wrote in "No vote" (after crossing out "yes") and initialed the change.  The second voter also changed his/her proposal vote but did not add initials.

Judge Robert J. Chauvin seemed to be more troubled by the ballot with the initials than the one without them. The initials, he said, could be used to identify the voter, and that could invalidate the entire ballot.

The judge wanted more time to research the statutes and case law and said that he will announce his decision tomorrow afternoon at 1:30.  If Judge Chauvin accepts one ballot but tosses out the other, the election is a tie.

Which brings me to my frustratingly non-committing Handsome Husband. The HH did not vote in this race. He went to the polls on Election Day and voted on other stuff, but he refused to make a choice for supervisor.  My husband and I know and like all three of the candidates whose names were on the ballot. The HH just did not want to vote for one over the other. He stayed out of it. (There was a third candidate, Peter Klotz, who withdrew from the race but whose name still appeared on the ballot and received over 400 votes.)

And because the HH did not vote, he just may have disenfranchised the rest of us. You see, if the election is a tie, that means it will not be the voters who choose their next supervisor; it will be up to the all-Republican Malta Town Board to appoint a supervisor.

You know how the Car Talk guys always end their radio shows with, "Don't drive like my brother"?

Well, I say, "Don't vote like my husband."


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Hoppy in Clifton Park

The Handsome Husband and I checked out the tasting room at the Shmaltz Brewing Company in Clifton Park (NY) this afternoon.  As you can see, it didn't take me long to get comfy.

The tasting room is a cheerful place and it was doing a good business this chilly November Saturday afternoon.

 This new, state-of-the-art brewery opened this past July.

You can buy beer there, of course, but also plenty of other Shmaltz  stuff.

The tasting room has a variety of places to sit and relax. It is also well-stocked with decks of cards and board games. A few folks were playing cards when we arrived.

If you didn't  know this new brewery was there, it is unlikely you would stumble upon it by accident. There are no obvious signs visible from the road or parking lot.

It isn't until you get right to the door that you get confirmation that this is the right place.

But the beer is cold and delicious and for the young and hip like the HH* and myself, it was a pleasant place to relax for a little while.

Tours of the brewery are also available when the tasting room is open. If you like craft beers, you should try these. Delicious with lots of shtick. Be prepared to chuckle.

Find their website here.

*HH=Handsome Husband