Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Little White Church in Schuyler Lake

Sadly, just about the same time I was writing my previous post on Tuesday, the Little White Church in town was burning down. They still don't know what caused the fire, but the church is totally destroyed. We saw a "house concert" here a few months ago, and met many of the members of this church. I am very sure that everyone is devastated, especially the woman in her 80s who told us she had been baptized here.

I had to go take some photos before they tear down this perfect little church building. It makes me very sad to see it go. I hope that the local historical society makes an effort to preserve as much as they can, especially the stained glass windows and church pews.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Did everyone have a nice Christmas?

Even all you snow bunnies in NJ and PA? And you thought we were the ones getting all the winter weather...HA! Jersey Girl (first photo) doesn't seem to mind the snow at all!

Santa was good to KatyD and The Hub, and even Dave made out pretty well...he took over my new sweater as his own comfy new bed (next photo).

Friends Jane and Mac brought some festive drinks—prosecco and St. Germain, with an orange twist of course—for a little pre-Christmas-dinner celebration. Everyone seemed pleased with their meal, and Jane presented me with a beautiful painting she did of an owl on a branch in a windy landscape. With her permission, I may take a photo and add it to the blog for everyone to appreciate.

Then, on Sunday, we met yet another of The Husband's cousins (there are 9 of them, 8 brothers and 1 sister). Kevin and his wife Sharon, daughter Charly, and son Rory came all the way from North Palm Beach to find out what a White Christmas is all about. Since Kevin grew up here, he was anxious to show the kids all the fun things there are to do in the snow.

We are still figuring out what, if anything, we want to do for New Year's Eve. It's not one of our favorite holidays, but if one of our favorite restaurants (the Rose and Kettle in Cherry Valley) is open for dinner, we may go, just because.
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Friday, December 24, 2010

Have yourself a Merry Christmas Eve!

This morning, I searched for an open garage to get a headlight in the CR-V replaced for The Husband. But hey, guess what? they're all closed for the holiday, Baby! It is only the unlucky bankers (and maybe a few others) who don't get a day off when Christmas falls on a Saturday. Then I went back to the Price Chopper again (they're working too!) for a few last things for Christmas dinner (arugula, avocado, pecans, goat cheese and fresh ginger). I decided to make gingerbread for dessert tomorrow, and I am using a Nigella Lawson recipe from that calls for fresh rather than powdered ginger. I have made it in the past, and it is fabulous!

Otherwise just cleaning house and tending the woodstove to get ready for tomorrow's festivities.

To all of you: Have a very warm and wonderful holiday from KatyDaly, The Husband, Lester, Sophie, Dave and Will!

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

First frosty week of winter

We finished up our Christmas shopping in Cooperstown today. The Husband had the day off, so we wandered around town, bought a few last gifts and some spirited beverages, OK, and maybe we bought 2 slices of pizza as well...

We took the long way home. In the higher elevations, frost is still on the trees. Pictures can't capture how pretty it really was, probably because I just took them out the car window. It is difficult to pull over and get out of the car on these winding, narrow roads.

Friends Jane and Mac are coming over for Christmas dinner. Pork tenderloin, garlic mashed potatoes, and roasted beet, goat cheese and arugula salad are on the menu. We might even share some of those spirited beverages we bought. Also hoping to work in a visit with Cousins Greg, Chris, Brian and their brother Kevin flying in with his family from Florida. We will both be missing our NJ family for the first year on the holidays, but we may test our technical abilities and do a video chat with both parties. We'll see how that goes...
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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Morning snow, and now the sun

The weather changes minute to minute up here in the North Country. We have been getting snow here for the past 2 weeks, but not much is really accumulating. There was probably about 6" out there this morning, but now the sun is shining again and the snow is melting again. Maybe the ice slick that is covering the driveway will also melt now that Mr. Kelley blew the snow off the top...again.

I am trying to plan a short trip back to NJ, leaving tomorrow, coming back on Monday. But between the confusing weather reports for up here and the expected Nor'Easter on Sunday down there, it's tough to plan. I just hope I don't get snowed in down there! I have WAY too many things to get done, and I certainly don't want to miss my first Christmas in NY...White Christmas that it promises to be!

Lester and Sophie are still not bored with the constant snow cover. It's a new world for exploring every time they go out the back door, even if it's just to roll around and push their faces through the snow. (Yes, I admit, that was me saying "oopsie!" when the screen door slammed shut right behind me in the Lester video.)

This will be my last post until I return next week—I finally caved and shut off my internet connection and phone line in NJ. My only connection to the outside world will be the TV and cellphone...I guess (maybe) I can (somehow) survive without e-mail and Lester's Flat!
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Getting ready for Christmas

Christmas cards should be finished at the printer in NJ. He is going to ship some of them up here, and I will pick up the rest when I go home for the weekend. Needless to say, our cards are going out late (again) this year, and again I am blaming The Husband for taking so long to come up with an idea for the design.

I promised some photos of the house wearing its festive holiday decorations—here's one of our little Frasier fir all done up in new LED lights and our eclectic mix of ornaments. You can't see it in the photo, but even Pee Wee Herman (whose hometown is Oneonta) is hanging in there somewhere!

I was surprised to find that Christmas trees are hard to find here in the North Country. It took us a good hour of driving around and stopping at places that only had small expensive ($40) trees. There are trees in every size and shape, in every parking lot in NJ and Philadelphia. The place we used to go to every year probably had 50 trees on display at any given time, and more laying down in the back to replace the ones sold. Here each place had a dozen trees or fewer, and no one seemed to have anything taller than 6 feet.

That said, we are happy with our pretty little tree. It will be tough to spend the weekend in the NJ house without any Christmas cheer at all.

Well...I am going to 3 Christmas parties in 3 days, so I guess I can find my cheer elsewhere!
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

We all worship the working woodstove

Now that Caleb the Chimney Sweep extended our chimney and gave it a new hat, the stove seems to be working properly. The last time we set off the smoke alarm was Thanksgiving, and that was probably just from the paint still curing on the stove and flue. We have made it through several very windy days, and so far, no more down-drafting.

So now that that seems to be working, our brand new Baxi boiler froze up instead (actually it was the regulator on the propane tanks that froze). Temps overnight were in single digits, so when we woke up to a very chilly house last Friday morning, we were grateful for the woodstove's low-tech heat. And when Suburban Propane came out to diagnose the problem, the $350 bill for refilling the tanks reminded me that we need to fire up that stove more regularly. Since we only paid with Tim's labor for the wood, let's use that propane as infrequently as possible.

Dogs and cats (and humans) do appreciate the radiant floor heat though—it is pleasant to walk on warm floors—but all 4 kids also love the warmth of the woodstove, and spend all of their time in the living room when it is working. Will, the B&W kitty, likes to sprawl on the floor so close to the stove, that I am waiting for him to singe his whiskers. These photos don't show how close he usually is.

Still working on decorating the house for its first Christmas. Those photos are coming next.
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Thursday, December 9, 2010

We love the new house...and the snow...that's OK too

Our Christmas cards are off to the printer and should be done by next week.

I picked up a job today from my friend ME—a big, very-detailed job she didn't have time for, but one that is perfect for this mostly out-of-work graphic artist in upstate NY. I need this job as a good excuse to sit inside all day with the woodstove fired up, and look out on all the pretty snowy pictures framed by all the pretty triple-paned windows, and not feel guilty for sending The Husband out to support us.

The snow finally stopped falling and things are back to normal. I hope Mr. Kelley the Snow Blower is catching up on his sleep.

Lester and Sophie and I took a nice walk through the snow, and for once, Lester pretty much stayed with us. It is harder for him with his old hips to make it through the snow when it is this deep. Thankfully that keeps him closer, or at least it makes him easier to find. We'll test out that theory again tomorrow...
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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Be careful what you wish for!

This is Mr. Kelley out there doing what he do: blow away the snow. Now that we have already decided on our Christmas card design for this year, I am tempted to go back to the original sentiment that The Husband came up with, using this photo—Be careful what you wish for!

Whose idea was it to move to this cold, cold, North Country? It was only a few weeks ago that it was too warm to fire up the woodstove! Now it's only 18° at high noon, and it's only December 8, with a long winter ahead. I should mention that today is the anniversary of the Willingboro Public Library fire that The Hub still remembers watching in his early years...the 1960s.

I received our first Christmas present in the mail today—made it worth the trip in the snow to the adorable little Post Office in town. Oregon Sis must have taken a glassblowing class, and created a beautiful cobalt blue ornament for our tree. How did she know I have this obsession with cobalt glass? She might have noticed the blog post about the recycled cobalt glass vanity top in the bathroom, or maybe she noticed the collection of blue bottles in my kitchen window in NJ, or maybe she just knows me too well...she is my sister after all.

Thanks Sis! I love it!
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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Back in the nick of time

I drove in from NJ last night, just in time to catch the snow. The driving wasn't really treacherous until I got  off the highway to Rte 205—one of those poorly lit country roads with snow blowing so hard you can't find the road, much less determine whether you're on your side of it when traffic is approaching.

It has been snowing steadily since sometime yesterday, coming down even harder this afternoon. Of course that didn't stop the Big Bad Lester from disappearing in the back forty. At least he had a good run out there after being stuck in the house all day yesterday while The Hub was at work.

We are realizing the benefit of having signed on for Mr. Kelley's seasonal snowblowing of our long driveway, rather than paying him $60 per event. He's already been out twice that I know of...before the sun comes up he's out there blowing it all away.

And I am realizing the benefit of having some better photos to take for our yearly Christmas cards. Snow makes our pretty house so much more festive!
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Rain and sleet, minus the pretty skies

I was going to go back to NJ today, but the weather forecast was a bit scary. Not only do I have my own driving conditions to be concerned with, but when I take the CR-V, The Husband is stuck with the little Civic to navigate those deer-populated country roads in the dark on his way home from work. I am glad that I was warned, because it is grey and windy and nasty, and now the rain has turned to sleet. The wind was so strong earlier, that it blew my wooden rocking chair right off the front porch, crunching a pumpkin on the way down. Maybe this is a message from Mother Nature that fall is ending, winter on the way.

I took the trusty old Civic to the Cooperstown Library today, to resolve a little problem I had: I am reading While I Was Gone, by Sue Miller. I pulled it from The Hub's extensive home library, and was happily making my way through when I found page 109 was missing, and page 111 as well! Definitely takes the fun out of reading a book, when I just get into it and have to put the brakes on! Thankfully the lovely lady in the library came to my rescue and held it for me for pick-up. She even offered to read those few pages to me over the phone, and I almost took her up on it just because I thought it was such a sweet thing to do.

Then I had a nice chat with Beth, in Cooperstown Wine, and found out that she is a member of Cherry Valley Artworks. She is into theater arts, but said that some other members are graphic artists. I certainly need to do some networking up here if I am going to increase my freelance work. I spent a few hours this morning signing up to, hoping to do just that, so this was a well-timed conversation. One way or the other, I need to get busy and make some money so I can go Christmas shopping!
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Rainy days bring pretty skies

I ran out just before 5 p.m. to pick up my fresh turkey from Mary's Pantry. It didn't actually come from there, but the nice lady who raises the turkeys in Mohawk was kind enough to drop it off so close to me on her way to Cooperstown.

The Husband's family (mother Rita, brother Brian and his wife Eve) are coming north to spend Thanksgiving with us. We are going to the Otesaga in Cooperstown for our Turkey Day meal, a tradition that The Hub and I began when we first started coming up here. There was no oven in The Dump, so I wasn't able to do my own turkey before; and the Otesaga Hotel has a wonderful afternoon buffet that costs only about $30 for every kind of wonderful food you could imagine, including the obvious turkey and stuffing. Since there is so much there to eat besides turkey, and since we are big lovers of Turkey Day leftovers, I decided to cook a turkey with all the good stuff on Friday.

It was close to 60° here today, and nice and sunny just long enough to lose Lester on the property again this afternoon. So nice he came back soaking wet after a dip in the creek (I guess). Early in the afternoon, sunny skies quickly traded for black clouds and a torrential downpour. The good thing about bad weather up here, is that it almost always makes for a perfect sunset. Getting much colder tomorrow, just in time for our visitors.

Check out my new house looking purty for Thanksgiving...and please take notice of the extended chimney flue with its new hat!
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Monday, November 22, 2010

Maybe she spoke too soon...

The woodstove worked perfectly, and heated the house pretty well too, for 2 nights in a row. Until I get the hang of this, I am afraid to leave the fire burning when I am not here, so I let it burn out overnight and start up again in the afternoon, when the house cools down. If I set off the smoke alarms again (FIRE, FIRE, FIRE! in a lovely and loud female voice) poor Sophie will never forgive me.

I tried again the third day, and it worked well until I turned down the air control so the fire would burn more slowly. I guess that was the wrong thing to do, because we smoked up all over again. Instead of shutting things down this time, though, I opened it all up and opened up some windows and the flames flared up and sent the smoke back up the chimney where it belongs.

I am starting to understand this drafting issue, but will probably scare my Sophie a few more times before I work out all the kinks.

Miss J read my comments about learning to cook on the woodstove, and sent me these 2 links:

Shortcut to:

Thanks J! Once the holiday visitors are gone, I might actually get creative and try this. I must say it is nice though, to have a real stove for back-up.

Photo borrowed from Cape Cod Times / Ron Schloerb. I'll replace with my own as soon as I try it!
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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Wow! A working woodstove!

Lester says: "See that big hunk of black metal in the background? Mom finally figured out how to use it without burning down the house."

When in doubt, trust the chimney sweep to come up with a solution to my smoking stove problem. Actually, he and Jim the Engineer came up with the same solution—raise the flue a foot higher than it was, and add a special down-draft-preventing chimney cap. Cost us $250, and now we have a $150 barely used cap that we don't need, but the problem appears to be solved, and rather inexpensively, considering the other options.

Since our last propane bill (for 2 months) was almost $350, even with our tight house, it will be interesting to see how much we can cut down propane usage by trying to heat with the woodstove. Mac and Jane kindly gave us a large supply of nicely dried hardwood for our help (mostly The Husband's help) in cutting, splitting and stacking the wood from their property.

So, now we are ready for winter in the North Country. I am already thinking of ways that I might be able to cook on top of the stove. Pizza on the pizza stone is sounding like a plan, scrambled eggs, pancakes...give me some time and I'll come up with more...
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Monday, November 15, 2010

Mass transportation and a warm but wintery fall

The Husband is away in Pittsburgh on his first business trip. What HE is going to miss about NJ, is that we were close to everything involving mass transportation. Up here, it is actually faster to drive 7 or more hours to Pittsburgh than to take a flight from either Albany or Syracuse, neither of which have direct flights.

From our house in NJ, we were no more than 20 minutes to the airport in Philly, and only a 10-minute walk to a light rail train that could take you to Philadelphia and Amtrak south, or Trenton and trains north. I still find it interesting that we are now in NY state, and it takes 4 or 5 hours to drive to NYC, but from southern NJ, I could walk to the train and it would take only 2.5 hours to get there.

Fall is looking like winter up here (not a leaf left on the trees) although the temps are still in the 50s. Lester has created his own walking trail—he loses me every time we go out. He reappears from the front of the property, usually coming down the driveway from the road, even though I lost him way in the back by the creek.

And the creek has been running wild, even though we have not had all that much rain since I have been up here. Wherever the creek begins, they must be getting more—global warming and all that. It is more difficult to cross the creek and get to the back of the property, but I do like the sound of running water. It is calming and helps me get to sleep at long as the howling coyotes don't drown it out...
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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tis the season

Susan the Architect very kindly invited me to a wreath-making class in Cooperstown this morning. People always think I should be good at these arty projects, but in fact I am pathetic! The Husband says this looks like it was designed by Carmen Miranda. But it was great fun, and actually I think we will both grow to love it once we get the pumpkins off the porch and some more Christmas decorations out there. Most of my wreath is covered in juniper, with berries, so if I get tired of the Carmen-inspired cartouche (that's what they called it!) I can always strip some of that and just keep the juniper and the magnolia leaves on the back. This is actually a much more traditional Christmas wreath than some of the other artistic creations I saw, including Susan's...but this is her fourth year, so she's had some practice at creating art...

I left NJ on Friday, and it was 64° and sunny. I started out with the windows and sunroof open, but as I got farther north and the sun was going down, I had to put my jacket back on, close the windows and turn the heat on. There was frost here in the morning when I left for the wreath class, but when we finished around 10:30, it was already warming up.

There will be a lot of things I miss about NJ: my house for one, my gardens that I have been working on since I moved there in 1992, and yeah, probably those 64° days in November. But this new house is a fine replacement for my favorite old house, I have 22 acres for gardening experiments, and I am actually looking forward to a snowy winter here. The one thing I won't miss is all the traveling back and forth.
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

This time last year

In order to get the scary clown pic off as the lead photo, I am doing a little dej√° vu segment for the Oregon Sis. In this photo, Lester and Sophie are patiently waiting for the big move into Lester's Flat, which you can almost see through the frosty windows in the background. This time last year we were still staying in The Dump. The weather was cold and rainy, as it is this year in November.

Very much unlike The Dump (and this old house in NJ) the new house is almost too warm and toasty. No matter how the wind is blowing out there, and it always is, it is never drafty or chilly in the house. I still don't have the heat turned on in all 4 zones, and the bedroom window is always cracked open a bit for fresh air. Apparently these are the 2 causes of my woodstove problems: that the wind is always blowing and the house is too tight.

Either this week or next, Caleb the Chimney Guy is supposed to come out and extend the chimney another foot above the roof peak. He will also install a different chimney cap that should eliminate down-drafting. If this does not completely eliminate the smoking problem, then we will take the second approach and install a vent through the wall to the outside that will let in fresh air as needed. Rather than leaving the windows constantly cracked a bit, the vent will only open as air is being drawn in—either by the woodstove, kitchen vent hood, or anything else that is trying to draw fresh air.

Both of these are somewhat inexpensive fixes that may or may not solve my problem; but the engineer, the chimney guy, and the store where I bought the stove all seem to agree that they will. I am counting on the professionals to be right on this one.
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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Who were we?

The house in NJ isn't selling any more quickly with our new "aggressive" realtor—probably just an indication of how few people are in the mood to buy a house right now. Who were we to think we could take on a loan, build a new house and sell an old one during the worst economy in our lifetime? At least now that The Husband is working, we can afford to make it through the winter holidays (when absolutely nobody will be looking at our poor old lonely house).

I am thinking that Chazoo's Magic Barn (at the end of our long driveway) will probably not sell any time soon either, which is probably just as well for us. Our location is perfect in that we don't really have neighbors who will be bothered by our wandering pooches, but now that Chazoo is leaving us, we have no way of knowing who will be our new and closest neighbor. Let's just hope it isn't WalMart.

I have heard that Chazoo is not well, and that is the reason he is selling. I joke all the time about us buying our land from a clown, but really he is just a nice older guy who loves that land as much as we do. Sending some prayers for you, Chazoo...stay well.

I am making progress in packing up this old house this week. Lester and Sophie are here with me, remembering the good old times. We are just about ready for a walk to the Cookie House (hi Emma and Jack!). Make sure that cookie jar is full, this could be our last visit for awhile!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Burning down the house...not really.

This photo of the woodstove is from October 10, the first time I fired it up. Yes I know you're not supposed to store the logs on top...I was just getting ready to load them when The Husband took this photo. We also moved the church pew when it felt warm from being too close.

The first and second time were not a problem, but the third and fourth smoked up the whole house and set off the smoke alarms (which totally freaked out Sophie and the cats, Lester was not concerned at all). When I first had the smoke problem, it was minor and I only had kindling in the stove. Yesterday, after hearing from the place where I bought it that it might be a drafting issue, I had the whole thing loaded up but good! Had to close up the stove and open every window in the house before we could get the smoke alarms to stop yelling at us (FIRE...FIRE...FIRE!)

The best answer would be that our flue is blocked somehow (bird's nest?) and the chimney sweeps will solve the problem this week. But if that, or some sort of installation snafu is not the problem, I fear we will be headed down some road I don't want to take (like my house is too tight).

Needless to say I won't be using my Harman Oakwood until this issue is resolved.

The second photo is one of those pretty pics (of my favorite view) that I never had the chance to post. It is from Labor Day weekend, otherwise known as the Day of the Porcupine.
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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Let's all be lazy...but Lester

The cats spend most of their time either sleeping or watching the birds at the birdfeeders. The dogs spend most of their time sleeping, chasing critters on the back forty, or eating dead stuff. The Deer Diner is closed for the season, nothing left but bones, so they have to search for more presents from the coyotes, or whatever it is that is on the prowl out there.

Jane and I missed our walk yesterday, so we are going to try for today. Earlier this week we took her beagles, Murphy and Ridley for a wander up Van Court Road. Today we will take Lester and Sophie down Tunnicliff Road and maybe stop at the Post Office to pick up my mail.

When I get back, I have to get more serious about hunting for work. I have finished up all of the loose ends on the jobs I was working on: AMH, MEOC, and RE. None of them seem to have anything else coming my way, and it's about time I started some serious job-hunting in the North Country anyway. I have to do something to hold up my end, now that The Husband is back to the daily grind.

Our newly finished house is holding up well to all the weather has to bring. Radiant floor heat and spray foam insulation make this house warm and toasty all the time. I started up the woodstove a few times just to make sure it was working (and because I am a real firebug) but even though it was cold enough outside and the heat was not on inside, the stove made it so warm that I had to crack open a few windows. I imagine that when the winter winds start to blow, that will be a welcome warmth.