Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Just ON the Taconic

So, John and I were driving back to the city yesterday after watching the inauguration and, as usual, we took the Taconic.

There was nothing much to report from the parkway. The roads were quiet and it's always gorgeous when there's snow and it was a clear day, so, you know, the usual SPECTACULAR drive... but just north of the Poughkeepsie exit, I spotted what I thought was a cat on the side of the road. But as we got closer I realized it was a BOBCAT (Alive and well, not roadkill, mind you.)

Anyway, this brush with nature was pretty amazing (even if it was at, er, 55 miles an hour). And since I wasn't totally sure if it was a bobcat or catamount (I recently mistook a deer for a sheep), I searched the Internet and can confirm, yes...definitely bobcat.

As a by the way, it's bobcat hunting season (October 25 - February 15), but be careful, lest you be the one hunted (Forgive me, I'm reading Twilight at the moment).

Monday, January 19, 2009

OT: This is Just the Coolest Thing

In preparation for the Inauguration...Everyone must get Obamicon-ed!

Snowshoeing with Allison

Ahhh, nothing like kicking off the New Year, getting all revved up with resolutions and a long to-do list filled with items that are sure to make 2009 my breakout year...only to be blind-sided by the luxury of a three-day holiday weekend. :)

Being a long weekend, several folks were Upstate at our place and Downey Farm for a Murder Mystery (more on that later) and during the weekend we enjoyed snow flurries that eventually amassed about five inches of snow. Allison and Tim stayed at our place and on Sunday afternoon just as we finished watching Retro-TV, Tim started heating up a loaf of Brooklyn's own lard bread (yes, from Mazolla's, bringing me back to my days of Italian food discovery in Carroll Gardens). That's when Allison and I decided we'd break out the snow-shoes to ward off the guilt of eating bread with such a name (it's also known as prosciutto bread) upon our return.

I had gotten John and myself a set of snow-shoes last Christmas, but we got frozen out for the season before we had a chance to use them. Since then, I had learned that the plot of land across the street was used by neighbors for things like cross-country skiing, hiking and hunting (in season). There is also a secret lake that I'm trying to get a handle on in terms of swim-ability (with a buddy of course!), so our goal was to get a closer look at the lake, without falling in.

This being our maiden snow-shoe voyage, we stumbled a bit, okay I fell in the snow, twice, getting the gear Allison laughed, wishing she had a camera. (Luckily I was carrying it.)

So, off we stomped...
Above: Allison, clearly having the hang of it.

Really, snow-shoeing is about the easiest thing you can do (aside, I guess, from walking). It does keep you on top of the snow, so much so that I don't think we actually realized how deep the snow was and how much trudging we'd be doing if we were walking in it.

Above: Me, with my new hat - thanks (to the other) Alison!

Anyhoo, we tramped about the some 100 acres, wearing day-glo colors to avoid hunters, spotting one neighbor in the distance on skis and others on an adjacent piece of land snow-mobiling. We also saw a few duck and deer hunting blinds, as well as a shallow, but wide creek bed. That's when we got to this scary tree....

And just as we approached the tree the snow-mobilers began eyeing us (we think, with binoculars). So rather than trudge forward to the lake, we retreated, lard bread being the excuse for us wimping out.

After checking the area on Microsoft Live, I know that the next time I venture back there, I need to take a hard left at that spooky tree to get to the lake. But I'm nervous about "getting caught" and I'm scared of spooky trees (too much of that HR Puffinstuff-show as a kid) and the like so I'll stick to the nearby state park and do one of the 4-6 mile trails there.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Another Year: A 2008 Retrospective

Above: Our backyard Xmas tree 2008.
The pine tree that missed the house. Free delivery.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." -- Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves into 2009, the above pretty much sums up how things went down in 2008 for us Just Off the Taconic.

Some of the highlights (Best of times) included hosting our friends, finally, after the renovation work was done. And the work itself, definitely a "Best of times" kind of thing -- at least now that it's done. During the process, though, it was "the Worst of times." If not for me, then certainly for the folks who had to endure John's wrath from April - August. ;-)

'Foolishness,' you ask? Sure, just thinking we could manage in "The Country" at all without a corner bodega was foolish...

That said, our "Season of Darkness" hands down was in January 2008, when the wet weather brought water barreling down the hill that got into our electric line and corroded the main line into the house. Yep, you betcha, the damn thing disintegrated, leaving the house a frozen ice-box for weeks until we (nay, John), was able to put all the working pieces together (electrician, plumber, wits and sanity) to get things operational enough to at least get the reno work underway. But summer, as always, was our "Season of Light," even if it meant only getting back into the house on Labor Day.

Below, our hit list of Best of Times and Worst of Times, 2008:
  • Best: Kenneth Young, Mark Thalasinos, Devan Singh, Bob Keller, Bob DiRuzzio, Team Leggett, Rudy (our hip Italian tiler), Art & Pat from Functional Sculpture (Catskill, NY) and everyone who at some point or another put their hard work into getting our home in order (a more complete list will be forthcoming).
  • Worst: Watching wood climatize, tied with the 12 weeks to get our god-damn curtains sorted out with Pottery Barn. (Apparently, you can't order more than 2 panels of one color without going on back-order for 8 weeks...and don't get us started on the PB curtain rods...)
  • Worst: My meltdown at the L.L. Bean store in Colonie, when we were trying to figure out how to exchange a pair of snowshoes that turned into a scene from dumb and dumber when it came to customer service. (That said, they did send us a $50 gc for our troubles.)
  • Best: All those deals at Walmart, Lowe's and Price Chopper that you just can't get in The City.
  • Best: Seeing a praying mantis, as well as humming birds, deer, chipmunks, wild turkeys and woodchucks (and knowing what one actually is) right in our backyard.
  • Worst: The passing of Dave's llama at Downey Farm.
  • Best: Hitting up Le Gamin and celebrity-spotting with Jean (who had to tell me who I saw, how to pronounce her name, and who she's slept with...okay, kissed on TV. Hint: She kissed George Clooney).
  • Worst: The closing of the Moosehead Tavern on Rt. 27. Where will I be able to express my inner biker chick now??
  • Worst of times: peeling back some sheet rock only to discover that not only had mice been chewing our electric wires (so that the house needed to be completely re-wired), but that our crappy (and expensive) electric heating system was banned in Canada and the whole house could go up in flames at any moment.
  • Best: Fixing all of the above...having peace of mind and a kick-ass gas fireplace (with remote control!) to snuggle up with.
  • Worst: Getting Mido in the (Sherpa) carrying bag.
  • Best: Getting Mido in the Sleepypod.
  • Best: Enjoying the T-Giving holiday at our home with Jean, Peter and Lesley (and Katkin!).
  • Worst: Having the uber-cool new Bosch dishwasher crap out on us just as our T-giving guests arrive; then decide to begin working again just as soon as the T-giving dishes were all done.
  • Worst: Arriving to the house on a snowy January evening (2008) only to find that water had gotten into the electric line, corroded the line to bits and frozen our house into a giant ice cube.
  • Best: Being able to call a guy like Kenneth Young, who knows people...and knowing that "Help was on the way!"
  • Worst of the Worst: Ice Storm, December 2008
  • Best: Knowing you've been through the worst of the worst.
Left: A Praying Mantis in our backyard, late summer 2008. Below right: Me, during ice storm, praying for electricity - and the trees to stop falling (wine and blackberry aiding the cause).

And a few things we are looking forward to in 2009:
  • More of the outdoors. Snowshoeing anyone? Downhill skiing at Catamount?
  • A full summer spent at the house.
  • Swimming holes.
  • Dave Roberts' corn. And the Hudson Greenmarket.
  • Smoked brisket at Stephen and Nancy's.
  • Removing all those trees from around the house.
  • Lower gas prices and amortizing the mileage on our leased vehicle (we're over our yearly limit by about 3K, but have some time to make up for it)
  • Listening to more of John's (yes) "record collection."
  • Figuring out the secret to Good Earth's "Bombay Soup."
  • The opening of Miller's Tavern in E. Taghkanic.
  • Finishing the porch.
  • Finally scoring a table at Baba Louie's (in Hudson or Great Barrington, we're not fussy)
  • Planning to do, and then blowing off, the five-mile Turkey Trot next Thanksgiving.
  • Planting more wildflowers...and sunflowers, now that the shade is gone.
  • Meeting a few more of our neighbors and hanging in Hudson.