Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everybody!  Thanks for having fun with me this past year.  Best wishes to you and yours for a wonderful new year.  

Here's to hoping it's the best one yet!


Friday, December 30, 2011

The Loss of a Friend

Rest in Peace, Mickey

Today, my friend Mickey passed away.  You met him at Thanksgiving.  

He was the sweetest pup, ever hopeful for a forgotten pot roast on the counter, a bit of cheese dropped by "mistake".

I'm picturing Mickey feasting on all of those fatty foods he loved so much and chasing down squeaky toys on a sunny warm grassy hill with his floppy ears and droopy jowls all bouncy and happy.  

We miss Mickey, and we'll carry him in our hearts.

Bye bye Mickey.  Good boy!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fast Train, Slow Station

Tonight the trains that weren't stopping at the station seemed to be moving a bit faster - or was it that the station was stuck in some sort of slowness bubble where everything that stopped there went even slower?

Slow train coming in.  Slow going over the bridge.  Slow at each and every stop. Slow. Slow. Slow.

Okay, it doesn't even seem like a real word anymore - slow.

Maybe it was because tonight was the coldest night of the season so far and all I wanted to do was to be home.   Inside.  Warm.

Well, 2 out of 3 isn't bad - and once the woodstove comes up to temperature, we'll be toasty warm all night.

Stay warm!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Winter Haiku VII

is that a snowflake drifting down to touch my nose? no, just more cold rain

And this concludes the Winter Haiku!  

Thank you all for your lovely thoughts about my seasonal haikus.  For those who are still wondering WTF!?!?  The haiku started last Spring because of a challenge from my brother (no surprise there - I always seem to get into little challenges of bizarreness with my brother!), he said it couldn't be done.  Since he never said it had to be great haiku worthy of the likes of Matsuo Basho, I knew it I could do it!  

Of course, the hardest part was talking to my brother in haiku for the entire week at the change of seasons.  Too wild and crazy, right?  What can I say?  I like silly fun!

And it was fun for me - and I hope for you as well.  The best part was really looking at nature during each day of the new season and trying to find that one thing that really defined the day, then expressing it in a haiku.  Somedays it was something as small as a Canadian geese sitting and watching the rain fall around it while it sat seemingly comfy and warm with it's fluffed out feathers.  Another day it was the winds whipping across the Ice Pond.

Believe me, after spending the day in NYC transit, a Manhattan building encased in concrete and an office filled with computers, it was a wonderful thing to take the time to look at nature and just contemplate.  

Give it a try sometime - it's totally worth it.

Yay!  Haiku week!!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Winter Haiku VI

rain pours down rushing rivulets stream past bog grass, geese sit curled in warmth

Monday, December 26, 2011

Winter Haiku V

streams of golden light surrounding without touching the suns gift is gone

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Winter Haiku IV

cold wind caresses fingers, toes and nose alike. fire holds her at bay.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Winter Haiku III

creeping from the shore out across the cold waters, ice begins its' march

Friday, December 23, 2011

Winter Haiku II

eyes filled with wonder peering into the darkness. look! gingerbread house

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Winter!

The change of seasons brings a change of pace.  That's right - it's Haiku Week!!!  Seven days of haiku to greet the first week of a new season.

I just know you're as excited as I am - okay, maybe a little less than I am, but - it's Haiku Week!!!


winter is sleeping under the mounded grasses gathering it's strength.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rainy Lights

Some folks were complaining about the rain today - so messy, their hair was all frizzy! - but not me.  I love a nice rain in the city.  Everything sparkles.  

It gets so shiny and bright!  ('Tis the season!)  All the streets and sidewalks get cleaned at once.  All the plants perk up, drinking it in.

It was a gentle rain for most of the day.  It was nice! (Way better than snow!!!)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


For our celebration to light the town trees, I had these cupcakes made.  I know what you're thinking - why didn't I do it myself!?  Well, there just wasn't enough time in the day.

The "edible wafer" was made by scanning in a photo and printing it out onto a rice paper transfer.  It was slightly sweet, but mostly neutral in flavor - so it goes with anything.  The buttercream icing was pure creamery fresh butter that satisfied every taste bud.  The vanilla cake was light and moist with a delicate crumb that served more as a delivery system for the frosting than as a cake.


The transfers were made by one bakery - the cupcakes by another.  It was just one more thing that showed how much our little town was pulling together to do the tree lighting.

You just have to love that!

Mmmmmm - cupcakes!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Just a Little Fun

The lights on the cornice of this building are actually white, but because of the bit of mist in the air, they turned all golden colored.   It was a shot that had to be taken. 

But then when I got it home, I couldn't help myself - I went and had a little fun with photoshopping this building.  I had to clean the picture up a bit since it is a nighttime shot which makes it all grainy, but then I started clicking around in the filters.

I know me, though.  So I limited my filter play time to a mere 15 minutes.  One hour later...

Don't you think that the crosshatch filter brings out the detailing on the building?  And the noise reduction filter got rid of most of those little spots everywhere.  That dimmed the golden color of the lights, so a small Lab Color adjustment was just begging to be made.

I tell you it was necessary work!  There was no goofing off here - nope - just honest to goodness hard labor going on.

Maybe just a little fun!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Here's What We Did

These 2 spruce trees are right in front of our town hall.  They really are a nice shape, so the mayor decided that it would be neat if they had lights on them.

Then 2 committees met and decided that it would be neat if they got lights for the trees and had them put up.

Then a subcommittee met and decided that it would be neat if there were lights that could be put up on the trees.

Then a sub-subcommittee met and decided that while it would be nice if there were trees on the lights, there was simply no funding available to do to.

Then all kinds of crazy broke out and people started talking to each other and decisions got made and folks volunteered and all of the sudden there were people who said - we can do this.

There were fundraisers knocking on doors, flyers handed out and hung up, cans on counters, emails sent, radio chats, television advertising and newspaper press releases.  And the town responded.  And the money came.

And then to story of how the trees came to be planted where they were came out.  They were memorial trees planted for 2 little girls who died.  And the community responded more, and the family of the girls responded.  And the money came.

Then the contractors stepped up to the plate and donated their time and equipment.  And the lights came and were hung, the electric lines got run and a celebration was planned, the bakers baked goodies and  a party was put together.

Then the celebration time arrived.  The people of the town came to see the trees lit.  The clergy came to bless the moment, the mayor spoke, the family lit the trees, the press took photos and quotes and the television cameras recorded the event.

And the trees were lit.

This happened in a rural community where money is tight, foreclosures are common and jobs are non-existant.  It happened because people care about the town and they care about the family who lost the little girls.

This was a wonderful thing.  So many people stepped up to the plate and helped out in whatever way they could.

Thank you everyone!!!

I'm still smiling!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Big Day

Our fundraising campaign is over.  We raised more than enough to put lights on the town trees.  The celebration for the inaugural lighting was wonderful - and very very cold.  And all of that pales in comparison to this - my breakfast.

Egg and cheese on focaccia.  Farm fresh eggs, farm fresh cheese, homemade focaccia.  Melt in your mouth wonderfulness that started my very long day.  


There really isn't much to compare to a perfectly cooked breakfast.  This breakfast had to be the best breakfast that I have eaten in ... in forever.  I tried to make a deal with the baker to leave me little care packages outside of her shop during the week.  I would just drive by when I get home and pick them up.  It is a good plan.  She could out in a little door and my care package would stay warm until I came for it.  

I think she's thinking about it.  

I hope she's thinking about it.  

I wonder if I can make time tomorrow to go and get another one of those fabulous breakfast sandwiches?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fast Train

There's a certain kind of constancy to the trains whizzing through the station.  

The initial "light of hope" as they come out of the tunnels - is this my train?  Peering down the tracks to see what engine type - could it be a diesel for me?  Checking for the color of the cars - please let it be a blue NY train!  Joyful rejoicing as the blue train pulls into the station - yay!  Abject sorrow as it never stops - boo!

So close to going home, yet so far.

This was actually a delayed train coming through, clearing the tracks so my train could finally arrive.  Good thing mine was late, because if you notice, I am not on the same platform as the incoming train - they changed tracks at the last minute.

Fortunately I ran and made it.  

Commuter track changes - there's a reason to where running shoes if I ever heard one.

Thank goodness for the weekend.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I Take It Back

This surprised me.  Seriously.  I never expected to see a giant teddy bear strapped into the passenger seat in a car sitting in the parking lot at the train station.  What the!?

I had to get out of the truck and take a second look.  Yup.  It's a teddy bear alright.  Very funny!

What a great hiding place for a Christmas present - I mean, nobody would think to go looking in the passenger seat of your car in the parking lot of a rural train station.  It's a way better place than way back in the corner of the top shelf of the bedroom closet.

Don't you think?

I'm still laughing.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Something You Don't See Everyday

My pup was going crazy barking and I just couldn't figure out why - until I saw this guy.  Yup, it's a camel.  

I can't say that it really surprised me, maybe because of all my years of living in Manhattan where you see the strangest things without commenting.  

I can say that it certainly surprised my puppy!  You would have thought that the world was coming to an end and only she could save us!  By barking really really loud!! Inside the house!!!

Of course I had to oblige her curiosity and go over to see the camel - and I obliged the camel by not bringing my pup with me.

This lovely guy was part of a living nativity over at the church.  He and a few of his friends stopped by to join some spirited children in reenacting the nativity scene, it was really cute.  I especially loved Mary's footwear - the latest in flashy bright hightop sneakers.  Sparkles included.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Darn File Conversions!

Okay.  This actually falls into the category of organizing.  The thing is, I worked all day on a programme for my little town event.  And it looks sort of okay.  Still needs a but of work.

But the thing is, I saved it in Microsoft Publisher format.  (That's sort of a cross between Microsoft Word and Microsoft PowerPoint - for you Windows users.  Or sort of a cross between Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop - for you Mac users.)

And the thing is, I have no software on my Mac to view - let alone edit - the file.

And the other thing is, I have to send out the file for editing tonight.


I went online and found ZamZar.  They have a convertor.  And it's free.  And it works pretty good.

They saved me!!! Yay!

So if you're stuck in a conversion meltdown, check them out. 

Okay, that's the thing then.

(Disclaimer:  I am not affiliated with ZamZar and they have no clue who I am.  And tomorrow I plan to have no more computer issues.  Honest.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Back It Up

I should have known better.  There is over 47 gigabytes of data on my computer and none of it is backed up.  That is 20,614,200 pages of information and none of it is backed up.

This past Thursday my power adapter died.  By Friday night I had entered the realm of "stealth computing"!  Figure out what you want to do.  Power up.   Type as fast a possible.  Power down.

I was 21 minutes away from total power loss.  21 minutes away from losing access to all of my data.  21 minutes away from digital death.

Had I backed up my data, I would not have had to shell out massive amounts of time and money to get my power problem fixed.  I could have just switched over to another computer.  If only I had backed it up.

So a word of caution to all.  Back up your data.  In a form that you can get to if you computer dies.  You'll be so happy you did.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Warm House

The victim - 1 small piece of black locust from the tree that feel during a summer storm 2 years ago.

The weapon - 1 lightweight electric chain saw with enough power to slice your foot off.

The act - steady hand, firm grip, good balance, pink gloves (a must!)

The result - enough firewood to heat our winter rooms for the night and wood ash for the garden come springtime.

Heat in the winter - it's a beautiful thing!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Taking the Cake

It's finally done!  Okay, it's not what I had planned.  I kept the tree part, but just made a flat cut-out, not 3-dimensional.  But I think it is pretty nice.

Devil's Food chocolate cake with a lemon/almond buttercream - decorated with mexican paste stars and dots with a pine tree on top.

I did a striped pattern in the buttercream on the sides by moving the offset spatula up and down.  The stars and dots are evenly spaced around the cake.  

There are some bumps in the frosting.  The dots are not exactly placed.  My eyes see a thousand little flaws.

This is where I take the advice of my friends - it doesn't have to be perfect.  I just has to taste good.

I can tell you - it is quite delicious.

Tomorrow it goes to the bake sale.  I hope it brings in a lot of money for them!

Yay!  Now I get to sleep!!!

Friday, December 9, 2011


One of my favorite things about working in Manhattan is the architecture.  I love the way the old and new 'tallest buildings in the world!' stand side-by-side.

The building in the foreground has those turn of the (last) century details - green copper cornices, intricate mouldings, arched windows.

The building in the background covered in glass sparkles like a diamond slicing through the afternoon sky.  It steps upwards, but the little detail that echos the older buildings makes it fit in the neighborhood.

The building between the two is the oldest.  It's gingerbreaded stonework is the basis for the other two buildings.  

They remind me of family - grandmother in her pearls, mother in chunky golds and daughter in sleek dangles.  All stylish individually.  All similar in a way.

Plus, the skyscraper is sparkly.  And who doesn't like a little sparkle now and again during the holidays?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

They Just Won't Stop Blooming

I love pansies.  Honest.  They're a wonderful early spring flower.  And I always look forward to my friend, Laurel, telling me when the first blooms start to open at the greenhouse.  Really.  It let's me know that spring is only a few weeks away.

But seriously.  December 8th.  With an inch of snow on the ground.  With ice coating the walkway.  Bundled in layers and 2 - count them 2! - pairs of mittens on my frozen fingers, after chipping the ice off of the truck at the train station, I came home to this.  Pansies blooming in the planters on the front porch!

Now, I understood yesterday seeing impatiens in Manhattan.  It is 2 zones warmer than here at home and the impatiens were in a sheltered sunny spot.  Humorous, yes.  Explainable, yes.  But we are zone 5.  It's in the 30's.  There's *snow* and *ice* on the ground.  The planters are in shade - sitting on stone.  

It's not warm.

Okay, maybe there is a bit of warmth coming from the house.  Our front door is not weatherproof.  (What can I say?  It's Victorian.  If you were 150 years old, you probably wouldn't be all that weatherproof either.)

But really.  Enough is enough.  These pansies must die.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


I can't decide if I am anxious for winter to be over and done with or for spring to come around again.  Today, when I saw a patch of impatiens in bloom in Manhattan, I became more confused than ever!

It is December 7.  Impatiens are planted in spring.  Did I mention that it is December 7th!?

I think I'm impatient for spring.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Chocolate Inspirations

Perhaps I should file this under "what was I thinking", but here is what I have gotten myself into.  This Friday I am going to a - I guess I'll call it a pot luck dinner.  I'm bringing dessert.

I have no idea who likes what, who is allergic to what or what any of the rest of the meal will be.  I just know I have to bring dessert.

Stupidly, I said I would bring something chocolate.  At first I thought - chocolate! so easy! But then I really thought about it.  Cakes take a lot of time to decorate.  Cupcakes - same as cake. Pie - too Fall/Winter for pie, especially chocolate pie.  Ack! Argh! Wahhhh!

So I surfed for inspiration and here's what I came up with.

Chocolate dipped dried apricots with almonds.  Simple, 3 ingredients, 15 minutes.

Cocoa meringues.  Simple, 5 ingredients, 10 minutes - then 2 hours cooking, but really only 10 minutes.

Pound cake petits fours. Simple, 2 ingredients, 15 minutes.

Chocolate with crushed pistachios. Simple, 2 ingredients, 15 minutes.

So here's the plan.  I got all the ingredients from the store tonight.  Tomorrow I'll spend an hour putting it all together.  Then I'll just pop the goodies into some cupcake foils and toss them in the freezer.  On Friday, I'll rush home from the train, grab the stuff from the freezer, toss half into a bag, toss the other half into baking boxes for take-home treats, toss it all in another bag and drive like a mad woman to the pot luck.

I'll only be an hour late to the dinner, but since I've got the dessert, it won't matter so much.

Good plan, right?

What was I thinking!?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Into the Woods

Even with the October snow and November hurricane, some of the trees have managed to hang onto their leaves - as well as their branches!  

This lovely patch of woods is framed ever so nicely by the rustic stone wall at its' base.  The remains of red dahlias are a nice little touch to draw the eye towards the trees and bring the landscape together.  Don't you think?

I just think it is incredible that the dahlias are still hanging in there!  I'm sure they'll be dug up and set in the basement to spend their winter hibernating.

It is so nice to see these golds of autumn hanging on.  Maybe they'll make it all the way to the actual start of winter!

A girl can dream...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

How Green is My Valley

This is the valley where I live.  At the end of the day, this is where I get to go.  My friends are always asking me how I can commute for 6 hours every day.  Why don't I just move back to the city?  Am I crazy!?

Maybe I am a bit crazy.

But at the end of the day, I get to come here.  And on the weekend, I get to live here.

Totally worth it.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Fundraising 102 - Thank You!

Our fundraising drive is over and now it is time for the Thank Yous.  We did very very well with the campaign for the tree lights.  We raised more than was needed, so we will be able to get twice as many lights and be able to maintain the trees as well!

Today I printed up the Thank You cards for all of the people and businesses who donated to our little cause.  It's so important to thank everyone who helped and donated - to let them know that their money and time really matter.

When I read through the list of names, there were two that stuck in my head.  They are the reason we have trees to plant in the first place.

It turns out that the trees were not planted in front of what used to be the town's elementary school just on a whim.  They were planted as a memorial to 2 little girls who died 21 years ago in a terrible terrible car accident.  We heard about this and looked into the history - it was *bad*.

The two names that stuck out on the list don't live in our town - and this is really understandable.  They were the parents of the little girls who died.  But even though they don't live here anymore, they wanted the trees to be lit up for all of the town's celebrations.

The parents want the girls to be remembered for their happiness and joy.  They want the lives of the girls to be celebrated, not just have their deaths mourned.  And that is what will happen now.

Every time someone in our town has a cause for celebration - they can light up the trees.  And the trees will be cared for with the extra monies in the fund.

It's all good.  And that's what fundraising is all about.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Cake Inspirations

I have to bake a cake for the church raffle this weekend.  Of course, I needed some fresh ideas.  I thought about just doing a basic white cake with white frosting.  No! Really!! I thought about something just plain and simple! Honest!!!

But then I thought - where the fun in that?  So I headed over to Cake Central to get some inspiration from the fabulous bakers there.  The stacked ornament cake above is by Karen Anne Cakes.  The thing I like about it is the hand painted gold snowflakes on the bottom tier.  The wobbly effect is neat, but I don't have a tray that I am willing to drill a hole through to secure a dowel rod.  I'll just keep the golden snowflakes in mind.

I just love the pearl detailing on this cake.  The use of both blue and white pearls adds such a nice sparkle.  But - I don't have any pearls so, continuing the search.

Love the leaf border on this.  So nicely done.  But not really Christmassy - more of a winter theme, no?

Clean and classic.  The plain white fondant really shows off the holly on this cake.  I like the holly a lot, but I'm not too keen on the fondant covering the cake.  I'd have to make it tonight in order to let it cure to be able to use it tomorrow. And tonight I am definitely not making fondant.

Serious beauty here.  Mexican paste edible tree, ribbons and bows!  Very nice, very nice indeed.  And I love the little stars anchoring the petals on the side.

The Bumble! OMG! Too funny and adorable.  Rice krispies and cotton candy came together in this beauty.  If I could get cotton candy, I would definitely attempt this one just for the laughs!

Okay - last one.  I promise.  Love the simplicity of this -shell border, leaf in red and green and round dots - all buttercream, all delicious.

I have to think about it, but tomorrow is cake bakin' time!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Knee Theory

My friend who is an expert master knows everything gardening guru has a theory.  It is quite simple and straightforward, as most gardening things are.  The theory is this: if your knees are dirty, then you were gardening.  If not ... well, you get the drift.  So here are my knees before I went out to do some gardening.

Here are my knees afterwards.  Clean as can be.

So, apparently I was not gardening.  I was working in the gardens, pruning my apple trees.  Up on a ladder hacking off branches damaged by the storm, however, is not really gardening per se, it's more of 'garden maintenance' I guess.

Oh well.  Still plenty of time left to garden this year and many more opportunities to get my knees dirty.  (Maybe I should have taken these shots in June when we were prepping for the garden tours!  Yikes!)