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.