Showing posts with label ; upstate New York. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ; upstate New York. Show all posts

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Glorious February Saturday morning

Today is the start of both the Presidents' Day three-day holiday weekend and of the mid-winter school break in our neck of the woods. The city of Saratoga Springs gets happily busy during holidays and today was no exception.  

I got out and about with greater alacrity than usual this morning and headed to the indoor farmers' market at the Lincoln Baths in Saratoga Spa State Park. Into my shopping bag went some honey crisp apples and the makings for an easy dinner for tonight: fresh crab cakes, local sweet potatoes, a rustic loaf of whole wheat bread, and in honor of  George Washington, a small cherry pie. 

I had planned to go for a walk while I was already in the park, so I stowed my purchases and set off on my favorite two-mile loop.

I love a winter day like this one. The sun was shining brightly on still-clean snow. The temperature was climbing above freezing and there were no frigid wind gusts. Lots of people were already out, walking dogs, jogging, pushing strollers, cross country skiing. Although I had only intended to walk, the pavement on the path was mostly clear of snow so I thought, why not jog a bit? And off I trotted. 

I wasn't really dressed right for a run, but I managed to jog nearly the whole two miles. I did slow down to pick my way across occasional icy patches, but I still made pretty good time (for an out-of-practice lady approaching 67, that is.) After a too sedentary January, to be outdoors, breathing in good clean air, rediscovering  the joy of running all over again felt wonderful. It's time to get back on a regular fitness schedule, for certain.

There are also many indoor pleasures in February. I am knitting a second pink "resist" hat at the request of a friend. Dreamily, I look at plant catalogs and think about what I'd like to change in my garden this spring. I have the pot of lilies of the valley that I bought recently from White Flower Farm to inspire me. From tiny pips, the plants have shot up and the blossoms are giving off that lovely Muguet de Bois scent. 

I've just finished reading Purity, by Jonathan Franzen, an author I usually enjoy. Didn't like this one so much. 500-plus pages of a slightly creepy dysfunctional cast of characters. Deciding I needed to cleanse my literary palate, so to speak, I've picked up a collection of Marilynne Robinson essays to read next: When I Was a Child I Read Books. And also on the night table is Convictions, by Marcus Borg. This last one I am reading along with the "theology book group" at the Presbyterian New England Congregational Church in Saratoga Springs. Ridiculously long name but an active, stimulating church that is involved in a lot of good stuff. This weekend, for example, they are hosting a public forum: Uniting Communities Against the Politics of Hate.  It will take place on Sunday, February 19, from 4pm-6pm. Check out the calender on their web page here for more information.

Enjoy this lovely winter weekend!


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Black and white and red all over

Yesterday, Saturday, was a pretty low-key day for me. Still nursing a sore knee and the tail end of a cold I feel I have had forever, I decided to just plain take a day off. The most ambitious things I did were to refill the bird feeders and to walk down the driveway to get the mail. 

Although the temperature wasn't so terribly low for this time of year and for this neck of the woods, the feel of the day was sharp, damp, and chilling. I enjoyed making some exotic hot tea with the aid of my new infuser. I didn't used to drink much tea and when I did, I just used grocery store tea bags.  This loose tea was fun. The interesting flavor helps to fend off snack attacks in the late afternoon.

When I went outside to fill the feeders, I saw a large raptor-like bird fly slowly in and settle on a tree near the edge of our woods (see photo # 4). We are used to seeing red-tailed hawks come around, looking for careless rabbits or slow-moving mourning doves, but I was pretty sure this wasn't one of those. I quickly snapped a photo but the bird was really too far away to get a good look. By the time I grabbed my binoculars, it had moved on. After checking the bird guides, I am pretty certain it was a goshawk.  It is interesting to see a new-to-me bird. I just hope he doesn't prey on the smaller birds I lure here with feed all winter. I enjoy the life and color they bring to the back yard. Throughout the winter, we will have regular visits from about twenty varieties of birds. 

In my experience, there are two types of knitters: those who knit socks and those who don't. I am not yet sure which category I will end up in. I knit a pair of socks a couple of years ago and they came out a bit funky and misshapen. But I had bought some sock yarn on sale back then and still have an ample supply. So, I thought I would try it again. Alas, these socks are not going all that well, either. But for now, I will keep plugging along. Maybe I will eventually figure out how to get a more pleasing result.

Happy January to you. I hope you are keeping warm and happily busy, indoors or out.

Not required reading, but here below is a list of the 17 birds that I saw in our yard yesterday, January 7, 2017:

Finches: gold, house, and purple
Woodpeckers: Northern flicker, downy, and red-bellied

tufted titmouse
blue jay
mourning dove
slate-colored junco
Carolina wren
White-throated sparrow



Saturday, December 17, 2016

No such thing as bad weather: Showing off my northern woodswoman skills

My plans for this morning were somewhat altered by the weather, which brought us a good bit of snowfall and warnings about possible freezing rain to come. So we stuck close to home and and waited for the snow to let up.

 I decided to make some homemade bread, since we happened to be out of any store-bought. I had planned to buy some at the farmers market, but that was off the agenda for today.  I fished around in the cupboards and came up with everything I needed and got down to it.

By the time I had the dough mixed up and set to rise, the snow had let up a bit and the Handsome Husband went out to start snow-blowing the driveway out in front.

So, with an hour to kill while the dough was rising, I grabbed my beloved Sorel boots to go out back and start shoveling the deck there. 

 I liked Sorel boots better when they were actually made in Canada, but I am pretty sure they aren't made there anymore. Still, they are good toasty boots. They have thick felt liners that are awesome in cold weather. They work so well in this part of the world that they make me think of that expression: There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. 

Which got me wondering who first said that. It turns out that it is a bit of folk wisdom from either Sweden or Norway. No one seems to know for sure. In both languages, the word for "clothes" rhymes with the word for "weather".

Swedish: Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder.

Norwegian Bokmål: Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlige klær.

So I guess it works as a little rhyming ditty of wisdom in either language.

Anyway, I did my share of shoveling (with very warm, dry feet) and then wielded the roof rake to clear snow from that pesky overhang that is prone to ice dams.

And by then, it was time to bake the risen bread. 

I am pretty proud of my north country winter survival skills. Who needs a Florida condo when you can have an hour of useful exercise in the bracing winter air and then come inside to warm, yeasty bread, right from the oven.

PS The recipe for this whole wheat bread came from my late former mother-in-law, Marjorie Machell (for whom my granddaughter is named.) Marge got the recipe from her Home Bureau days. I don't know if Home Bureau chapters still exist, but they were great for teaching all kinds of useful skills. It was kind of like 4H or Girl Scouts for adult women. We should bring this back. When the entire world's cyber systems collapse, knowing how to bake bread will come in handy.

PPS and update:  
My friend Gretchen emailed this picture of the Home Bureau Creed. Gretchen tells me that her street had an active Home Bureau in the 70's and 80's. I, too, remember belonging to a Home Bureau chapter in Warren County, NY, for a brief time in the early 1980's. It really is too bad that Home Bureau has faded away. Their meetings were both fun and useful. Thank you, Gretchen, for the photo. 


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Good weather for reading and knitting

The weather here in upstate New York has been typically November-ish: lots of gray, sometimes cold, sometimes wet. In between, when it's bright, we dash out to squeeze in a woods walk. My Handsome Husband is a more faithful walker than I and does not let the weather deter him. I need to toughen up or it is going to feel like a much longer winter.

While I am indoors, knitting regains its appeal at this time of year. We are blessed to have a gas fireplace, where a simple click! produces a pleasant warmth to sit near.

I have been trying to use up some yarn from my out-of-control stash. I had a bunch of miscellaneous cotton yarn, leftover from this and that. I turned to a favorite source, Mason-Dixon Knitting, for inspiration. They have lots of easy ideas that can work as stash-busters.

I adapted their idea for "Absorba, The Great Bathmat" , but did an even simpler version.

 I just cast on about 80 stitches, held the cotton yarn doubled, and knit simple garter stitches until I ran out of cotton yarn.  I used a size 10.5 circular needle, knitting back and forth, not in the round. Poof! Four-plus balls of cotton yarn are gone from the stash and a usable, if not very elegant, bathmat has been created.

Next up: finishing some other projects on the needles:  a hat for myself and ...

...this sweater I started (ahem) last year.

Because I am linking up with Small Things yarn along today, where bloggers share what they are knitting and reading, I am adding a little about recent and current books here, too. I just finished Lila, which I enjoyed very much. It's the third in a Marilynne Robinson trilogy that includes Home and Gilead.

I have just started Purity and continue to pick my way through The Old Ways.

Having time to knit and read indoors while staying cozy on dreary days are very nice perks of being retired.


Wednesday, November 9, 2016


 I step outside to empty some kitchen compost and think: What a dreary November day this is.  But then I look up and notice that, with the leaves off the trees in the woods, I can see all of the squirrel nests. Without looking too hard, I count nine.

 The rain is very light, just a mist really, and I am drawn to get my camera and linger a few moments outside.

Where first there appeared to be only gray, gloom, and not much sign of life, I begin to notice how the red maple leaves glow against the gray of the weather.

 The dogwood has set some buds. There they will linger through the winter until warmer temperatures and longer days coax them to open next spring.

 A small spirea shrub is still holding on to its leaves. Beneath it, a bed of pachysandra will stay green throughout the winter.

 Even the spent blooms of a hydrangea offer a sort of tawny glow.

 There is color here, just more subtle, requiring a different attitude to find it, to notice and appreciate it.

My presence in the yard is too alarming for some of the larger birds. But the chickadees and nuthatches know that I mean no harm.

 They come and go, keeping one eye cocked, but really not too concerned.

Today is a day of reflection for me, as I imagine it is for many people.  I am determined to come out better on the other side of this. That is really all that I can control: my own attitude and my own actions. On this day that seemed so dreary, I chose to look for beauty, for color, and for life. And having looked for it, I am finding that it's all still right there, just outside my kitchen door.

Wishing you peace and blessings.


Friday, June 24, 2016

Albany's Hidden City House and Garden Tour 2016

Last evening, I hied* my way down to Albany's Center Square Hudson/Park neighborhoods for the 41st Annual Hidden City House and Garden Tour.
Sponsored by Historic Albany Foundation, twelve property owners opened their homes and city gardens for viewing by those of us who had purchased a tour ticket.

* Hommage to Carl Strock. 
I myself am a gal of the suburbs, but I am also a nosy soul and a fan of garden tours. It is fun to see what creative folks can do in what are sometimes tiny outdoor spaces. Here above, I liked the idea of growing a clematis vine up along the branches of a climbing rose.

 This photo above is from one couple's rooftop garden. Having no ground-level space for a garden, they built up. Below, two other garden viewers took the liberty of resting a moment in this charming rooftop  space.
 Having an outdoor seating area was the main goal of many of these gardens. And on this June night, one could really appreciate the appeal of spaces like these next two, below.

Fountains were popular features, as well, where the soft sounds of trickling water helped to mask the sounds of city life. They also made the spaces seem cooler and more Zen-like.

 A fairly simple planter, beautifully done in cooling greens and whites, also adds a peaceful element to the front door area on a busy street.

 I know some garden snobs might scoff at the use of pachysandra and hosta, but in many of these urban gardens, they were used to good advantage. Here above, with an attractive iron-like low fence, these easy-to-maintain plants, tolerant as they are of shade and dry conditions, looked neat and cooling. Pachysandra has the added advantage of staying green year round, so even in winter, these city gardens will have something to make them look lush and alive.

 This extra large city garden, above, used pachysandra in a great swathe along one stretch. Again, this hardy plant offers low maintenance and year round green.

Sometimes, neatness and simplicity are all that is needed.  A tidy edging helps hosta and and a few shade-loving annuals provide easy interest to a challenging space. 

Some homes had only tiny outdoor spaces but still managed to squeeze in some fun green things. This homeowner had an admirable assortment of herbs and veggies growing just outside their kitchen door. 
 Other homeowners emphasized good scents in their diminutive gardens. The smell of roses drifted up onto the deck sitting  area at this house.
 The indoor cats at this house had a way to safely enjoy the out-of-doors. This clever run meandered in two directions from a special cat door inserted into a garden-side window.
 A folk art painter was making good use of this garden.  Below, are two of her pieces:
 ~Here, vintage lawn chairs sported cheerful sunflowers; and

~ "Strawberry Cow" caught the eye of many garden visitors.

Also on the tour, visitors could view much of the interior spaces of homes open on Thursday night. However, I chose not to photograph those, as it seemed too intrusive to do so. But it was fun to see how folks have met the challenges of living in historic homes.  

More garden tours are on tap in our region. Coming soon are Ballston Spa's this Sunday (see: and Saratoga's on July 10 (see:

Bring a camera and comfortable shoes. Private gardens are not always as accessible as public spaces so think twice before you set out with strollers or 95-year-old great aunts. Trust me on this.