If Wishes Were Horses

If Wishes Were Horses

I spent a lot of time on my fantasy farm today.

Actually, I was in the office, working as hard as the lingering remains of my cold medicine would allow.  But a part of my brain was at the farm.


While we were in Woodstock, Nikki and I agreed that we could be very happy living in the Catskills.  Which, as it usually does, led me to look at real estate.  We have a very small budget and very big dreams, but I did find two properties that I really love.  They’re further west than I would like, but they’re both within half an hour of three college towns, which to me means library, culture and food.  The rest is up to us.

So I’ve been thinking about orchard placement, pasture layouts, greenhouse construction, shop colors, all the big and small things that might go into the place.  Being so close to so many schools, we might be able to barter room and board for manual labor, or offer studio or boarding space in exchange for design or animal help.  I even looked up internet providers for both places.

I’m finding that my criteria for the perfect place are expanding over time.  Originally, I wanted a place near the mountains, woods and ocean (which is why we were looking at Maine), at least 5 acres but preferably more, an older house with at least one fireplace, and at least one cool barn.  I have now had to add to that that it has to be int he coverage area of an NPR station and within half an hour’s drive of a UU church, preferably one with some pagan presence, or at least open to it.  As the kids get older, I’m having to worry less and less about schools.  My job, assuming I can keep it, is one I can do from home, and there are people elsewhere in the department who live far away and only telecommute, so there is precedent for it, which means I have to worry about being in a location with job opportunities.  And working from home would work well with the needs of farm maintenance!  People keep warning me about winters in the places I’m looking at.  Dude, that’s WHY I’m looking at those places!  I need decent winters!

Unfortunately, it’s not happening any time soon.  I need to get the kids through school first.  So three more years minimum.  Unless I win the lottery.  If that happens, I’m not waiting.  Well, yeah I am, but I’ll use the three years to do the renovations on the new place so it’s ready when we are.

Of course, I have to buy tickets…




I’m still sick, so have a visual flashback of last week.


signs of a knitter in residence


Morning tea in one of the two mugs in the cottage. At least it’s a cute one!


Cool ironwork on the Colony Cafe.


Looking out over the Catskills. Very Sleepy Hollow.


We didn’t even notice these carvings at first. So lovely. I’m glad we did!


Another shot of Betty the tattoo dog. She was a sweetie. For a dog.


Maxfield Parrish sky.


One of the many slate walls behind the cottage. Again, very Sleepy Hollow.


Saugerties Lighthouse. Such a lovely place. The second floor is actually a B&B! (but totally out of my price range…)


The Festival before the deluge!


Believe it or not, I didn’t get enough. I need one more skein of each.


My final haul, not including two bags of soup mix and one jar of … stuff. Kind of a dip, kind of a chutney. Thing. Yummy, though!

Okay, going back to bed now. Bye!

Back to Reality

Back to Reality

Okay, yes, I missed a day.  But to be fair, it was a long drive back from New York, and then I had to dive straight back into mom mode to get the kids to church for youth group at 6.  And the allergy attack I’d been suffering turned out to probably not be allergies after all.  Am now suffering what feels like a moderately obnoxious cold.  My sinuses are stuffed enough to make my teeth hurt.

Had to get up early this morning to take the kids to school, and figured since I was up anyway, I might as well get the grocery shopping out of the way.  Wise choice, as the store was pretty much empty and I was able to get cold medicine and throat drops as well.  Came home, unpacked everything, and then felt perfectly justified in crawling back into bed for the rest of the day to sleep and haunt realty websites looking for my farm-to-be.


Anyone got $150,000 they’d like to invest?

Three Bags Full

Three Bags Full

Yesterday was a quiet day. Intentionally.  We had nothing planned, nowhere to go, nobody to see.

So of course, the day before attending one of the biggest fiber events on the East Coast, I had a radical notion.  Let’s check out a local yarn shop!


There isn’t one in Woodstock, but there is one in nearby Saugerties, The Perfect Blend.  And it is.  Yarn and tea.  What could be better?  It was a beautiful day, so out we went.  It’s only a twenty minute drive, so we got to do some leaf peeping on the way.  The Catskills are a gorgeous blend of greens and yellows and oranges right now, the orange becoming even more dominant in the few days we’ve been here.  It was a lovely drive to a lovely little shop.  They had a nice selection of all different yarns (I will not buy laceweight alpaca.  I do not KNIT laceweight anything.  I don’t care how lustrous and soft and tempting it is.)


I did buy one souvenir skein of yarn and one Christmas present that I’m very excited about.  Nikki got almost exactly the same things I did (shared brain in action!) All in all, I think we showed amazing restraint.  Certainly more than the lady from NC who was there at the same time with armloads of yarn!

After that, we went exploring.  I kept seeing signs for the Saugerties lighthouse.  Which, hello, inland!  Lighthouse?  Really?  Yes, really!  We wound our way down to the edge of the Hudson River and then took a half mile hike out to a small Victorian lighthouse jutting out into the river where it joins with the Esopus.



As we wound our way back towards town, we came across an old cemetery and a lovely old church.  The sign read St. Mary of the Snow, and turned out, I learned through research later, that it was the first Catholic church built upstate.


I didn’t take enough pictures of this beautiful building, but I had to get the windows.  I can recognize Tiffany windows just about anywhere.  The cemetery was interesting, built into the side of a hill, with 200 year old stones that have heaved some from the winter.  It looks like a prototypical haunted cemetery.  I can just imagine how it looks at night!  This had originally served a predominantly Irish community, so Irish that many of those older stones were labeled with the name of the county in Ireland where the deceased had come from.  It’s fallen victim to the same consolidations that many Catholic churches face today (both the Victorian rectory and the nearby school were closed).  I hope the parish survives, though.

After that we came home for lunch, naps, reading and just hanging out.  Went out to dinner, hoping to beat the Woodstock Film Festival crowd, although town was starting to get a bit busy.  We came home intending to catch up on watching Great British Bake-Off, but both of us were falling asleep by the first showstopper, so we called it a night and went to bed just after 9.

Only to be woken up at 11:30 by something crashing in the kitchen.

I was the brave one who went to check it out, only to find the roll of saran wrap on the floor and half the previously untouched loaf of challah gone.  I had just said to Nikki that afternoon that I was surprised we hadn’t had critters, as this place does seem like it would be prone to them.  Little jerk just had to prove me wrong!

We were up around 7 and on the way to Rhinebeck by 7:45 with a stop at Bread Alone for croissants and coffee/tea.  We have learned through long, hard experience to get there as early as possible, but it was so nice not having to get on the road at 5:30 for a change!  We ran into no traffic and got to park right near the gate at 8:30.  In line, we ran into Deb and Kathy and the rest of the Quakertown crew, which was such a lovely surprise!  So we hung out with them until the gates opened, and then hit the ground running.

We have a system down at this point.  First the buildings, as they get crowded faster, then the barns, then any other side stalls.  We did pretty well, for a while.  WE checked out the fleece sale.  I didn’t buy anything (although it came close), but I hadn’t realized that the breed of the year this year was Gotland, so we got to fondle all the Gotland fibers and I learned a lot talking to the breeders who were there, as well as those in the breed barn later on.  For anyone who doesn’t know, Gotland is the breed I hope to have when I get my farm.  Fun fact: most people who are allergic to wool are fine with Gotland.  And it doesn’t felt much when washed!

We surprised ourselves in the food building and found a number of things we intended to go back for, including some very nice wine.  I got spit on by an alpaca.  Maybe.  Maybe she just blew really hard.  If’ I’d been wearing a hat, I wouldn’t have been after that!


Not the offended alpaca. Because these are llamas. I think.


A goat picture for my mother. They like her more than they like me. The feeling is mutual

The seal on my wallet broke when we hit the Sheepshed, though.  I had expected it would.  I knew I needed another pound of Gotland fiber from them. (Sensing a theme?  I love Gotland!)  They also had some beautiful merino/tencel and dyed merino/silk that I had to have.  But their prices are phenomenal, so I got 2 1/2 pounds of fiber for what I would normally pay for 1/2.  At Carolina Handspun, I got two braids of yak/silk which made up for that savings, but the finished yarn will be GORGEOUS.  I got goats milk soap and a niddy noddy and figured I was pretty much done, until we found the Yarns Plus stall.  Talk about bargain basement prices!  I got 1200 yds of a lovely acrylic for $25, and 1100 yds for three different colorways of tencel for $24 each.  I don’t even knit sweaters, but I will now!  At this point it was almost 1 and Nikki and I were both feeling loaded down and done in.  We stopped in one of the buildings to get beads to match the yarns we got, then went back to the food pavilion and got wine, soup mixes, dip mixes and olive oil before finally giving up the ghost.  Nikki was looking a bit dead man walking by the end!  The traffic going out and coming in was horrendous, between the festival, the leaf peepers, normal Woodstock tourist traffic, so by the time we got home, we were ready to not go out again tonight.  I’ll make up one of the soups for our dinner, and we’ve got bread and olive oil dips to snack on.  And wine.  We may definitely do in a bottle of wine.

So all in all, a very satisfying trip.  I’ll be sorry for it to be over tomorrow, but I think I’m ready to be home.


Besides, I left my ball winder at home.



I spent half of yesterday hanging out in a tattoo parlor.


Stop right there.  You can forget all the images you currently have of what a tattoo parlor looks like.  No blood red walls, no windowless rooms, no rows and rows of flash on the walls.  Woodstock Tattoo Studio is bright and airy and clean, with bare pine board floors and burlap-covered counters.  The walls are white, as is the shop dog Betty, and the images on the walls are vintage post cards and botanical prints.  Not your grandpa’s tattoo place.

I was there for Nikki, who was getting work done on her shoulder.  I’ll let her tell that story (I’ll link it, I promise).  It all started a couple of months ago when we both separately saw an article about pilgrimage tattoos and a man in Jerusalem whose family had been doing them for 400 years.  It got me thinking.  I knew she’d been wanted to get a crow tattoo.  She’d been collecting images for a couple of years.  And we were going to Woodstock anyway.  So I suggested it to her.  And then, as is always my way with something I think someone else might be interested in, I started doing some research.  There are a couple of places in town that do them, but when I saw the line work Felix does, I just fell in love.  Nikki agreed, and the rest is history.


It got me thinking about myself.  I’ve always been a “my body is my temple” sort of person.  I was absolutely phobic about surgery until I had my c-section with Morgan.  Even after that, the idea of doing anything elective to change my body seemed sacrilegious.  And then I had a hysterectomy.  And then I got cancer.  The temple had already been violated, but more importantly, my perspective changed.  As I was going through radiation, I decided that when I beat this, completely and totally, I was going to get the Queen of Swords from the tarot deck tattooed on the breast that tried to kill me.  Not a traditional one, but my interpretation of her, which is going to end up looking like Alex Kingston as Boudicea, I suspect.

I’ve also been wanting to get a phrase on my left arm.  “Intellect and Romance over Brute Force and Cynicism.”  Craig Ferguson used that to describe the main premise of Doctor Who, but my brain has latched onto it as my own life mantra.  Hopefully you can see that play out a lot here in my blog.  It’s been chewing around in my head, the need to wear these words, for a while.  So after Nikki finished today, I asked about it.  Because of the length of it, Felix couldn’t do it that visit, but I left him my details and we’re going to start laying it out.  We’re talking about coming back up in January or February for Nikki to get the rest of the shading done on her crow, and he said he could do it before or after that.  And then I will set up to get my Queen of Swords when we come up for Rhinebeck next year.  It will be five years and time.

But I don’t think I’m done.

I’ve already started thinking about getting a half sleeve on my right arm.  There’s a character in one of my favorite Sherlock fics who has a tattoo sleeve he’s grown on his arm over time, made up of elements that he’s passionate about as they develop (the most recent addition being hops vines as he’s gotten interested in brewing).  I’ve been thinking about what I would include in mine.  The things that are most important to me are my family, my identity and my faith.  So I’m trying to come up with elements to represent those.

For faith, I want a pentacle.  Something intricate and not necessarily Celtic, as I’m not necessarily Celtic.  And maybe some representation of Athena and/or Hephaestus.  They’ve been my patrons almost the whole thirty years I’ve been pagan.  The great blue heron is my totem, so maybe some of that.  For identity, I have always tied that in with my astrological sign, so some elements of that. My brother did a gorgeous drawing for me of my signs that would make a gorgeous tattoo on its own, but I’m not sure.  Pens for my writing.  Yarn for my fiber crafts.  For family, I’m not sure what I would do for my kids.  For my parents, I would do iris for my father and California poppies for my mother.  As Time goes on, I hope to add in elements from the farm.  I should probably include fannish elements as well, since they are so integral to my identity.

There’s lots of time to think about it.  But I know where I’m getting it done.

Preserve and Protect

Preserve and Protect

So, my garden didn’t perform the way I had expected or necessarily hoped this year.  I’m the only person I know who can plant 12 zucchini plants and get 3 zucchini. My pickling cucumbers went nowhere, but the slicing ones went MAD.  Do you know how much use there is for slicing cukes?  Outside of a salad, not much. I got a couple of nice stir fries from the pea pods, and the carrots loved the new bed, but the winter squash were decimated by vine borers.  I have to get more aggressive next year.  All learning opportunities, right?

But as fall settles in, I get the urge to can.  I know it’s from watching my folks do it when I was a kid.  Even though half the time I didn’t like what was in those jars (dilly beans, bleah!), I just loved the way they looked.  And now that I have both a water bath and a pressure canner, I can can just about anything.

A couple of weeks ago, I did.  I think the cat was getting nervous that he would be next.


It started with the end of my tomatoes.  They were looking scraggly and brown no matter how much I watered them, so I picked them all.  Even the green ones.  Honestly, the biggest reason I grow tomatoes is to be able to make green tomato relish.  But then we were running around to this and that, and by the time I got back to it, half the green ones had ripened and suddenly I didn’t have enough to make my relish!  Lucky for me, Jen in my running club was sick of her tomatoes and said I could help myself to green ones.  So I went over with a shopping bag and did just that.

I got a little carried away.

Turns out less than half of that would have been enough for a double batch of relish.  But never mind.  I had a long weekend, and I was going to put up food for the winter.

First I cleaned out the freezer and did a full freezer cook.  Well, I say cook.  Most of it was dump this, layer that.  I didn’t even cook the chicken I needed, instead buying precooked chickens from Costco. (They’ll be back in the story later).  I got about 30 dinners squared away in the freezer.  That was Saturday.  Sunday would be can all the things.

I started with my creole recipe.  This is the base for a shrimp creole recipe my mom gave me, and really it’s stupidly easy.  You chop up a lot of tomatoes, onions, green peppers and garlic and cook it all down, then can it.  Water bath canning seems to work fine for this, or at least I haven’t had any problems.  When it’s time to eat, heat it through, add a pound of shrimp and a tablespoon or two of Worcestershire sauce, heat until the shrimp is cooked, and serve over rice.  Easy peasy!  With all the tomatoes from my garden and some of the ones I’d gotten from Jen the ripened in the week since I got them, I got 18 pints.

Then I started on the green tomato relish.


I doubled the recipe and got nine and a half pints, in full and half pint jars.  Happy!


But I still had a lot of green tomatoes left.  I vaguely remembered from the Little House on the Prairie books Ma making a green tomato pie, so I grabbed my LHotP cookbook to look it up.  The filling was good for fresh tomatoes, but wouldn’t work for canning.  So I went to the internet and found over and over again the same recipe for green tomato and apple pie filling.  Okay, well, how bad could it be?  I got the apples and raisins and started peeling and chopping away.

By now, the fever had started to kick in.

Look at all those jars.  Aren’t they pretty?  Don’t they make you feel like you’ve done a good job taking care of your family?  (Who cares if they won’t actually eat the stuff.)  Surely there’s more that you could do.  I looked down at the apple peels and cores.  Hrm.  I bet I could make jelly out of this.  Do I have any half pint jars left?

I didn’t.  In a fit of sanity, instead of going out to buy MOAR JARS, I just put all the cores and peels in a freezer bag in the freezer.  Maybe later.

I got the dutch oven full of tomatoes, apples and raisins and was just starting to add the seasoning when it suddenly hit me.

I think this is my mom’s mincemeat recipe.

The mincemeat that I HATED as a kid.

And I had a vat of it.

I called my mother then and there to confirm.  She laughed.  Longer and louder than was probably necessary.

I ended up with 6 quarts of it.  (Although after the fact she said I only need a pint for a pie.  But all the recipes said can it up in quarts, so that’s what I did!)


But I still wasn’t done!  Remember those chickens?  Yeah, they spent all day Sunday in the stockpot, and Sunday they got their turn in the canner, this time the pressure canner.  11 more quarts.  I would have liked to have done them up in pints, but by then I was out of jars.


So now I have everything neatly stashed in my basement, just waiting to be used.  I may not be quite done.  I have beets in the garden yet that may or may not get big enough to do another batch of pickled beets with (I did the first back in July).  And if I can find cheap apples, I may do up some applesauce or apple pie filling.

But I’ll have to stock up on jars first.

Boot-y Call

Boot-y Call

Had Hero’s follow-up appointment today with the orthopedist.  It was actually pretty anti-climactic.  It still hurts a bit, but it’s better, so she can start easing out of the boot.  She’ll only wear it at school for the rest of the week, and she can start swimming now and easing back into cycling.  She needs to hold off on running until it stops hurting, so we figured we’ll give it until November and then she’ll do the C25K program again.  That goes slowly enough that it won’t re-injure her.  She doesn’t need to go back to the doctor unless things get worse or it doesn’t stop hurting.  But he seemed confident she would be fine.

I just know she can’t wait to get back on her bike!

Citizen of the World

Citizen of the World

20161008_095909We had an International dinner at church last night.  I’m a sucker for a church potluck, but this was especially fun because of the theme.  Hero and Karma came with me, although they mostly hid out in the youth room rather than have to make grownup conversation.  It was an interesting variety of food, from Korea, Colombia, Germany and Boston.  😉  Okay, some people stretched the International idea a little bit, but to be honest, I hadn’t realized how much I missed Boston brown bread!  My favorite was the Korean Chap Che, a beef and cellophane noodle dish that I really need to get the recipe for.

My contribution was zaalouk, an eggplant and tomato cooked salad from Morocco.  I do not like eggplant generally, but I love it in this.  It’s one of three salads that come on a salad platter at the Moroccan restaurant we like to go to, and I can now make all three of them.  For those who are interested, here’s the recipe I used.


(Adapted from a recipe at about.com)

1 large eggplant
large tomatoes, seeded and chopped3-4 cloves of garlic, diced or smashed
1/2 c chopped fresh parsley (you can go halfsies with cilantro, but I hate cilantro, so…)
1 T paprika
1 T cumin
1 1/2 t salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup water

First roast the eggplant.  Slice it in half, put the halves face down on a baking tray lined with parchement paper, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-45 minutes, or until the skin starts to collapse slightly.  Remove and cool, then scoop out the insides.  You can do this a day or two in advance, as you have time and the oven on anyway for something else.

Dump all the ingredients in a dutch oven or large sauce pan and bring to a boil, then turn back the heat and simmer for half an hour.  If the ingredients are too chunky at this point, mash them with a vegetable masher, but leave some texture.  Continue simmering until the mixture is thick enough to mound up in the middle of the pot.  This can take a while, but resist the urge to turn up the heat, as it will burn easily.  Long and slow gives the flavors time to develop.  Mine cooked almost 2 hours, but it was totally worth it.

This mixture freezes beautifully, so don’t be afraid to make extra.  I got two eggplants off the discount rack at the store for this and roasted them that day, keeping the pulp in the fridge until I was ready to make the salad.  There were plenty of leftovers, so I’ll pack them up in individual containers and bring one out any time I want to dress up a boring bit of chicken for dinner.  Or just for snacking!  It’s best eaten with pita, but any bread works, and I bet it would be great as a topping for roast chicken or kebabs!