Homeward bound.

After this most insane few weeks, a little country time is just what we need (and then some city time too.)  It’s time to catch up with family and friends and celebrate the wedding of my cousin!

It’s apple picking season in Columbia County and I’m looking forward to some crisp, pie, cider, doughnuts…

One fall a long time ago, when I was in elementary school, my mom wasn’t home when Michael and I got off the bus and we were locked out of the house.  We went to our neighbor’s home, where Mrs. Hatfield was making her boys an after-school snack.  She peeled and cut apples into slices and mixed them with cinnamon and sugar and served them to us in bowls.  THAT was the afternoon snack before dinner.  Michael and I were in heaven.  In our house we didn’t put sugar on apples (sweet enough) or cereal (except at our grandfather’s house).  We kept the crust on bread (the BEST part).  We ate the peels to everything.  So this was QUITE the treat.

I’m sure momma had to send us outside to swing or hang from trees in the woods when she got home to quell our sugar rush.

Look who’s waiting for me and C!  See ya soon, Glitter Kitty!


This weather.

This rainy, cool weather makes me want to snuggle up on the sofa at Queechy with a good book and a cup of tea and laze the day away.  One of my favorite memories that I go back to often in my mind is waking up on a cool late-summer morning to thunderstorms and hard rain on the roof over the loft in the cottage.  It’s a recurring memory, as it happened several times a summer during my childhood.

This is the very best dreaming weather.  The very best kitty cat cuddle weather.  The most wonderful hot chocolate with Marshmallow Fluff weather.

It is a comfort to have a bit of this Columbia County sky here in Denver today.

Queech1[ain't it just grand?]


Feeling farm-y.

A few weeks back, we met C’s dad, Jeff, to drive up to his friend’s farm in Brighton.  Jeff has a goose blind on the farm property and has been friends with Bob for many years.

I’ve been wanting to check Bob’s farm out ever since C brought home a 10-pound bag of onions after hunting geese there with his dad.  They were basically the best onions I’ve ever had.  We ate them for weeks and each one was perfect.

I knew the farm was big, but I didn’t realize it was 3,000 acres big.  The farms I know in Columbia County and the Hudson Valley are generally a few hundred acres – if that (mix in a lot of dairy and orchards).  The biggest farm I know about in the county I grew up in is Samascott Orchards – coming in at a whopping 1,000 acres.

Right now, Sakata Farms is finishing up the harvest of their delicious sweet corn.  It’s a bumper crop this year.  We rode out to the field that had been harvested Saturday morning and ate raw corn off the stalk (C is still thrilled by this!)  It was delicious.  No butter or salt needed.

Our visit reminded me of stopping by Gould’s farm in the late summer with my dad and brother as kids and picking corn from Gordy’s field.  We were dwarfed by the large corn stalks in the small field he had planted near the road, for his friends and family to pick at their leisure.

Bob Sakata is a Renaissance Man for certain.  He’s in his mid-eighties but is the brains of the operations behind an incredible business.  Sakata ships pinto beans to Mexico, corn to Saint Louis, sells feed to elevators that ship all over the world.  Locally, he sells produce to Safeway and King Soopers, but you can find his corn as far away as Maryland.

I did make sure to ask him if he’s ever sold corn in upstate New York.  ”That market’s covered,” he said.  Oh yes, it most certainly is!

Cheers to a happy corn season!


What’s for breakfast?

Weekend mornings growing up we usually had some sort of fun breakfast my dad would make for us.  On Saturday, it was always French toast, pancakes, bacon or hot chocolate.

And after church on Sunday, if we didn’t have donuts or buttered rolls at church, we’d stop on Main Street in Valatie for six of the best fresh-glazed donuts I’ve EVER had in my whole life.  Or, we’d pick up some Freihofer’s powdered donuts from the grocery store.  My dad liked plain, my brother liked white powder, I liked cinnamon powder, and my mom liked tea…so it all worked out.  Donuts are easy to eat over the Sunday funnies.

FreihofersDonutsBut one Saturday morning, Michael and I woke up to a smell unlike the normal weekend smells coming from the kitchen.  It was almost exactly like…a dinner smell.  Occasionally, my dad liked to experiment.  Like the time he discovered the Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix Pancake recipe on the side of the box.  He made them with Crisco.  It is basically like having a heart attack for breakfast.  Truly delish!

But this particular Saturday morning, we stumbled down to the kitchen and saw a small cardboard box on the counter top.  In the oven under the broiler was our breakfast.

“What are we having?”  I asked.

“Well, something new,” my dad said.  ”It’s what people in Texas eat for breakfast.”

The timer went off and the meal was put on our plates next to glasses of orange juice.  We took a bite.

“Dad,” Michael started.  ”People in Texas eat garlic bread for breakfast?”

“I guess they do.  They call it toast.  Seconds?”

PepperidgeFarmTTTrue story.


Lewis Lent nightmare.

On Monday morning I was perusing the Albany Times Union, as I do a few times a week so I can catch up on what’s happening in my old neck of the woods.

This headline caught my attention and made my blood run cold.  Lewis Lent linked to the death of another child.  His name gives me shivers.


I was just about 10 years old when things started going a bit haywire in my rainbows-and-butterfly world.  Sara Anne Wood from Frankfort, New York, was missing.  This was after another child, Jimmy Bernardo, of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, had gone missing and was found dead in upstate New York a few years before.

We basically lived right in between Franklin and Pittsfield.  And when kids went missing, it was big news.  While one child may have been a fluke, two children got people seriously concerned.  There was a standard school photo of Jimmy that flashed on the TV screen night after night and a photo of Sara Anne in her cheer-leading outfit in the newspaper, one pom-pom up in the air.  There was worry that these two events were connected.

I loved my after school freedom.  We had a trail behind our neighborhood that went over the Kill (Dutch for river) and my friends and I would routinely ride bikes back there and sit by the water and talk–spring, fall, winter…whenever.  We’d play in the woods in the evenings after getting off the bus and then walk to the gas station across from our neighborhood to buy penny candy.  Our bus route was mobbed with kids in the afternoons and early mornings–many with no parents home to send them off or pick them up–many with parents waiting on front porches.

When Sara Anne Wood went missing in 1993, it frightened my mother.  She told us later she was scared out of her mind for us and the other neighborhood kids.  Many a conversation with other stay-at-home moms in the neighborhood, after the bus was gone and a second cup of coffee was poured while dinner sat marinating, revolved around how to protect children.  What could they do besides lock us inside?

We noticed bits of my mom’s fear.  Normally, she wouldn’t have batted an eyelash at us walking the less than half mile from the bus stop home.  But after Sara Anne was missing, she’d be mysteriously “taking a walk” and happen to meet us at the stop as the bus came around the corner.  Other times, she’d be, “on her way to the market” and pick us up in the car from the stop.  Other moms from the neighborhood who had been trusting their kids to be latch-key were taking afternoons off from work so they could be home.  The neighborhood got…quiet.  Mom needed help with dinner.  Mom bought a movie we could watch as a family.  We were going out for pizza.  We were meeting Dad in Albany.

This lasted a while.  Days turned into months then years and Sara Anne wasn’t found.

To this day, my mother is convinced Lent was driving his truck around our block and up and down the streets of Kinderhook and Valatie, just waiting for the perfect opportunity to snatch a child.  More and more, I know she is right.

These rural pockets of life in the Hudson Valley and Berkshires and Northern New York are an ideal place to raise children to respect nature and nurture families.  But they are also the perfect place to be caught alone at dusk or even in broad daylight because there is an air of trust.  We have volunteer firefighters and Rotary clubs and charity pancake dinners when families fall on hard times.  We are all neighbors.  The same people have lived for generations on their family land.  Back doors are left unlocked and car keys remain in the ignition.

Lent was caught a few years after Sara Anne Wood vanished.  A little girl my age, Rebecca Savarese, was walking to her middle school in Pittsfield when Lent tried to lure her into his vehicle.  A quick thinker, as the story goes, she feigned being hurt and then wriggled out of her backpack, grabbed by Lent, and ran to seek help.  She had a good description of the truck and he was caught, with her backpack in the cab.

Lent admitted to Jimmy Bernardo’s torture and murder as well as the killing of Sara Anne Wood.  Authorities are absolutely convinced he’s responsible for many more missing children than he’s admitted and believe he had accomplices.

Sara Anne Wood’s body was never recovered, though Lent did lead police to a desolate area of the Adirondack park years ago.  He had them dig in the woods in freezing cold weather for weeks before he told them it was all a prank and that he’d never tell them where her body was.  Lent will never leave jail and is already serving a life sentence.  He keeps himself in the news every few years by making a statement like he made Monday.  He admitted to killing then 16-year-old James Lusher in 1992 and told investigators his body was dumped in a pond in Becket, Massachusetts.  Now, dive team police in two states are searching the pond for any remains.

I often wonder how Chris and I will parent when it comes to looking out for our children’s safety.  Chris grew up differently than I did – as a latch-key child of a single mother who was working full time.  He often talks of running with a gang of neighborhood kids after school, causing a ruckus in the blocks surrounding his house, all harmless fun.  But he also talks about sometimes being scared after school, alone in the house before his mom came home when it was dark outside.  We want our children to have the freedom of unlocked doors and friendly neighbors.  We don’t want them to be unnecessarily frightened.  But what is the best medium?  Where can we strike it in the middle – a healthy fear followed up by the notion that most people are good and kind?

Car travel weekends.

Chris and I have nearly bisected the United States into West and East over the past week — in cars.  We are pretty excited to sleep in our bed and eat out of our fridge.


Living in Denver has really helped me understand the meaning of the great American road trip.  Apparently, lots of kids grew up this way — climbing into the station wagon and driving to destinations like grandma’s house or The Grand Canyon or Wally World.

Last Sunday, we drove from Cascade, Montana, to Denver (14 hours).  On Wednesday evening, we drove from Denver to Santa Fe, New Mexico (5 hours) and the next morning from Santa Fe to Green Valley, Arizona (10 hours).  Then yesterday, we drove back.  All in one day.  It was hot.  I was carsick.  We forgot to load podcasts.

Let me just say that the farthest my family EVER went in a car together was to Myrtle Beach to visit friends for Thanksgiving.  We only did it once.  Our grandma lived fifteen minutes from our front door and who on earth cares about The Grand Canyon when there’s CAPE COD two hours away?  We flew to Disney World.  According to my dad, on our way to Myrtle Beach we stopped overnight in Roanoke at a Holiday Inn.  Twelve hours in a car?  No thank you, we said.  We are from the Northeast and any more than three hours on the open road is much too much.  We do not care for open road.

As the story goes (and I remember it all pretty clearly), the day before we left for Myrtle Beach I broke my arm on the playground at school and had to shower with a plastic bag masking-taped over my huge cast.  I’m sure this put me in a bad mood and I in turn put Michael in a bad mood and we bickered the entire way to South Carolina in the back seat each time my mom took breaks from reading Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims to us.

Map2Anyway.  That’s what C and I have been up to–driving about the western United States, North to South and South to North.  More on our travels in posts this week.  I’ll break down just exactly why we were where we were and why driving to and fro Mile High seemed to be a better idea than flying.

Denver runs on Dunkin’

Well, not quite yet, but the former KFC on Broadway and East 4th is slated to open up as a Dunkin’ Donuts…soon.

Dunkin’ Donuts has a soft spot in my heart.  We didn’t have one in Kinderhook until after I was already living away from home, but there were plenty of DDs in Albany and Schenectady.  I remember associating fun Easter brunches and family baptisms with a box of Munchkins brought by my Uncle Bill–he’d never let me down.  I loved the blueberry cake donut holes.  I still do.  Glazed goodness.

Later, when I worked at Capital News 9, it was my Friday tradition to go through the drive through on Central Ave to get a Mocha Coolatta and a bacon, egg and cheese on a croissant.  Mmm.  And their iced coffee is the best.  I wonder if, in Denver, we’ll be able to order it “light and sweet”?

What a fun way to start summer!


Strawberry fields forever.

It’s strawberry season in California.

Or, at least that’s what California wants us suckers in Colorado to think.

So far, the strawberries Safeway and King Soopers are selling us in plastic quart containers are mushy and half-red and not at all sweet.  I’m certain they ripened in the back of a tractor trailer.

I’m craving some Columbia County berries from the fields of my childhood.

Michael and I have wonderful baby- and childhood memories of berry-picking with our Mimi and momma.  We’d each carry around a small container — my mother a large metal pail that once belonged to Mimi — just for picking.  When we arrived at whatever patch struck our fancy on a particular Thursday or Monday or Tuesday (all the days were the same in late spring and early summer — sunshine and swimming and playing) we’d get our pails weighed and get to picking.

I loved the smell of warm berries and their leaves in the field.  There is NOTHING like the taste of a strawberry that’s ripened on the vine in a big wide field.

The last time I picked was the week before I moved to Denver.  We were at Queechy enjoying July and our last bits of home before taking a huge leap and big adventure.  My mother was making shortcake and needed us to get her some berries.  Pick we did–on Route 9 in Valatie at Yonder Farms.

IMG_2468 copy IMG_2476 IMG_2477California could never compare.

Boat and Tote love.

Since I was a wee kid, these bags have been hanging around my life.

I’m a total bag lady – just like my Grandma Betty.  I love a good, sturdy bag I can stuff full of everything and anything.  That’s why the L.L. Bean Boat and Tote is a must-have.

My momma uses these bags all the time, and over the years, has purchased several for herself, friends and family.  From the small size to extra-large, these bags are the best for trips to the library, the beach, a picnic, toting groceries or using as carry-on luggage.

They’re made in Maine from heavy-duty canvas, able to be monogrammed and practically indestructible.  Because they’re from L.L. Bean they’re guaranteed for life.


[A gift for Katie!]

I travel with one of these bags almost every trip I take.  I gave them to my bridesmaids (filled with some of my other favorite things) as gifts for being in my wedding.  I have open top, zip top, large and extra-large sizes.  I have them in pink, black and navy-colored straps.

As we were walking out the door to Martha’s Vineyard for a quick getaway honeymoon last year, my mother handed us a Boat and Tote with beach towels, sunscreen and snacks.  Our “Stroh” bag gets used at least once a week.  Cute, right?


[Stroh bag's first beach trip]

These bags aren’t too expensive in general–as you’ll have it for the rest of your days on earth–but right now, through Wednesday, May 29, they’re an even better deal because they’re all 20% off.

Click here for details!

[Top photo by Kara Pearson]

May Day.


I’ve figured it out.

April [snow] showers bring May [snow] showers.

It’s May 1 and Denver is covered in snow.  It continues to fall in big, juicy flakes.

C and I went to the Nuggets playoff game last night and celebrated by getting an ice cream cone at Sweet Action.

As we pulled the car into Cheesman Park, the first sprinkles of rain started falling and by this morning, the rooftops in our neighborhood were covered with a light dusting of snow.  Throughout the day, many inches have fallen (this is my official estimate from my seat by the window at work).

When we were little and living on Knollwood, I remember our next door neighbor, Hillary, who was also little, pulling the May Day trick.  For years, she’d walk up our front steps on May Day and leave a basket of marigolds outside the front door, knock and run away.  I don’t know if my momma ever caught her to give her a smooch, but I always thought that was fun.

I imagine even through snow, Hillary would have delivered her May Day treats.