Monthly Archives: November 2014

Daily Catskills: Winter Wonderland

Winter has begun in earnest with the first few feet of the seaon dumped in the lower valleys of the Catskills today 11/26/14 and further south towards New York City with anecdotal reports of cars on the I-87 sliding and spinning off roads. Up until now, we’ve only had occasional, whimsical flurries and a light blanket on 11/14/14. Compared to last season’s Fall Foliage, taken in the same place, today’s image looks barren and frigid. The home fires are truly burning across the Catskills this evening.

© J.N. Urbanski 11/26/14

© J.N. Urbanski 11/26/14

Saturday Shopping: Vintage

© Laura Levine

© Laura Levine

Every dollar that you spend locally is 5 to 7 times the value of that expenditure to your community. When you shop at a big box store you’re diverting your capital directly out of your community to places like Asia, where most American products are made and wherever the owners of the big box store live. Furthermore, big box stores notoriously pay low wages to their workers, so by regularly shopping in those stores you’re contributing to the large-scale expansion of a low-wage job sector, such is the power of your wallet. Moreover, it’s no secret that government is bought and paid for by large corporations through lobbying and campaign fund contributions, the Supreme Court now having ruled that those contributions may be unlimited. Even if every American decided to vote in the next election, this fact would remain unchanged. This means we are remarkably more powerful when we are spending our money than when we are voting. All the power is in our purse and how we spend our hard-earned money, quite an extraordinary fact. Think about what would happen if we all stopped shopping for a few days, or stopped buying brand-new products, or only purchased food from our local farmer.

One way to buy local and recycle is to choose vintage stores for your Christmas shopping, thereby saving your economy and your environment in one fell swoop. One such place here in the Catskills is Mystery Spot Antiques in Phoenicia owned by Laura Levine, an artist who has shown work at the MOMA and has work in the permanent collection in the National Portrait Gallery. Laura has a superbly discerning eye and has filled her “odditorium” with magnificent, beautifully unique gifts like a snakeskin purse, a shearling coat, Liberty of London ties, gorgeously dainty Czech glass goblets and a bucket of polaroid cameras.

Vintage snakeskin purse © Laura Clapp

Vintage snakeskin purse © Laura Clapp

“I have always collected weird things my entire life,” she says. “I’m from the city. I grew up in the city, but my parents had a little cabin upstate when I was a kid and we used to go to yard sales and in the city I always used to go to flea markets.” Her antique store used to be in a little multi-dealer store in Phoenicia Plaza, near where the Phoenicia Diner is now. She had a 10 x 10 booth and stocked it with antiques until the placed closed down. “I had 30 days to move my things out and I was either going to sell it all or take the next step and open my own shop. I wasn’t going to do that, but I found a little space on the boardwalk in Phoenicia for $200 a month, so I took it. I opened over the summer for 20 days a year and the store grew from there.” That was over 13 years ago and five years ago the shop moved to its current, much larger and more prominent location on Main Street.

The store has just invested in two pick-up truck loads from an estate sale that she is still picking her way though, but her favorite thing of the moment is a steel shoe mold from a shoe factory, in a men’s size eight. “The thrill of the hunt is really the fun part,” says Laura who still lives in New York City and has an employee run the store for most of the time. “When I am at the store, I love meeting my customers. I’ve made some really great friends. I feel like it attracts kindred spirits and I always end up having something in common with the customers, like our paths crossed in the music business or the art world or something.”

Czech glass goblets © Laura Clapp

Czech glass goblets © Laura Levine

For this weekend’s Small Business Saturday, the store is displaying a table of gift suggestions which range in price from 25 cents (for vintage greeting cards) to about $200, but the average price at the table is $20-$30. Gift certificates are also available: perfect for Christmas and especially if you’d like your in-laws to visit more! Entice them back to claim their gift.

If you’re wondering why Davy Crockett is outside, he’s a loaner from the neighboring Sportsman’s Cantina, moved there after Hurricane Irene, that Laura was thrilled to receive. It’s Davy’s birthday on August 17th and last year they had a Davy Crockett day during which customers dressed up as Crockett and local businesses donated prizes.

Go and have a dig around yourself in Mystery Spot Antiques, 72 Main Street, Phoenicia, New York: (845) 688-7868. Open weekends only for the winter, Saturday 11am to 6pm and Sunday 11am to 5pm. Find them on Facebook and Instagram. THIS WEEKEND ONLY: for Small Business Saturday on November 29th, get 20% off everything, except Mystery Spot Antiques’ tote bags and t-shirts.

Liberty of London Ties  © Laura Clapp

Liberty of London Ties © Laura Clapp

Bucket of Polaroids © Laura Clapp

Bucket of Polaroids © Laura Clapp

Daily Catskills: 11/26/14

A dark, gloomy, forboding 30F this morning, with a frigid stillness in the air and the sun barely shining through the cloud. Heavy snow forecast for today. Update: Snow began with a flurry at 9.21 and was a whiteout and an inch deep by 10.30am. What a difference an hour makes. Home fires burning, check. About a foot or two of snow and 28F at dusk.

© J.N. Urbanski 7.30am

© J.N. Urbanski 7.30am

© J.N. Urbanski 10.30am

© J.N. Urbanski 10.30am

 

 

Saturday Shopping: Winter Farmer’s Markets

© J.N. Urbanski Greenheart Indoor Farmer's Market

© J.N. Urbanski Greenheart Indoor Farmer’s Market

Could there be anything more emblematic of the revolution in our consumption habits than seeing a branch of Bank of America transformed into a farmer’s market? Route 28, the essential thoroughfare that winds through the Catskills from Kingston’s Exit 19 on Route 87 (the main arterial route travelling north through New York State from New York City) to Delhi, now has a handful of winter farmer’s markets to visit after the fair-weather markets close on or just after Thanksgiving. Year-round farmer’s markets are rare, but if we frequent them, they will spring up to meet our demand.

Here’s a modest list from Upstate Dispatch that runs east to west starting with the Kingston and Rhinebeck markets and ending in Andes.

Should you know of any more, please reply to this post and I will add them.

Kingston Farmers’ Market, Old Dutch Church, 272 Wall Street, Kingston, NY 12401. 1st & 3rd Saturdays from December through April 2015.

Rhinebeck Farmers’ Market, Rhinebeck Town Hall at 80 East Market St, Rhinebeck, NY 12572. Alternate Sundays: Dec 7 & 21, Jan 4 & 18, Feb 1 & 15, March 1, 15 & 29, April 12 & 26

Greenheart Farm Market: the former Bank of America on 2808 Route 28 in Shokan, between the Door Jamb and the intersection of Route 28 and Shokan Road, is open 24 hours. Go here to see it as its former self on Google Maps. Call Al, on (845) 657-2195.

Migliorelli Farm, 5150 Route 28, Mt. Tremper, NY. Contact: MaryAnn Migliorelli Rosolen. Phone: (845) 688-2112.

Andes Indoor Farmer’s Market, 143 Main Street, Andes, NY 13731. Contact: Cheryl Terrace. Phone: (607) 832-4660. All year round Amy delivers frozen soups to farmers and homeowners. Amy is based at the Andes Indoor Farmers Market every Saturday.

On Route 28 in Delhi, you can pick up locally-grown produce from Maple Shade Farm.

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Daily Catskills: 11/21/14

© Chase Kruppo

© Chase Kruppo

20F this morning at 8am with Belleayre Mountain getting ready for ski-season by making snow. Belleayre is having a Thanksgiving food drive. Lift tickets are $38 at the mountain, but $30 if you bring two cans of food for their drive. Online tickets for the weekend are $25 if purchased today. Afternoon temperatures were 26F in the lower valleys but still on 21F on Belleayre Mountain.

And meanwhile, down in the lower valleys…

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Daily Catskills: 11/20/14

Today’s starting temperature of 20F rose to hover around the freezing mark, with intermittent  clouds and sun.  A light snow overnight and a left-over flurry of big fluffy flakes left a blanket of white on the thin ice forming on Lake Wawaka , while water continues to rush beneath.

© Mountain Girl Photography and Design

© Mountain Girl Photography and Design Midday

Daily Catskills: 11/19/14

This morning saw 12F on the mercury (9F reported in Halcott at 7.30am), with a rise to a sunny and brisk 24F. The Catskills have escaped the snow that is bludgeoning the western part of New York State, but ice is forming on the waterways, proof that winter is serious about its arrival.

© Mountain Girl Photography and Design

© Mountain Girl Photography and Design

Holiday Guide: How to Fill A Hip Flask Without A Funnel

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Christmas is approaching. There’ll be caroling, midnight mass in unheated churches, parties in which you’ll not find the whisky to which you’ve become accustomed and bars wherein they’ll charge you $15 for a thimble-full of Scotland’s finest.

You’ll need a hip flask. Should you find yourself with an empty hip flask but no funnel this season, use a wooden chopstick. You’ll find one stuck between the center console of your car and the passenger seat.

Put the chopstick into the flask pointed side down. Hold the top of the (alcohol) bottle at the flat end of the chopstick and begin by gently soaking the top of the chopstick, then slowly follow this action through, tipping the bottle gently and pouring slowly.

Ensure that the chopstick doesn’t touch the inside of the flask rim when you’re pouring or the booze will spill over the side of the flask. In order to achieve this you can fix the chopstick, without having to hold it between your fingers, by trapping it in a horizontal position between the rim of the bottle and the bottom of the flask. You’re basically using the weight of the bottle to hold the chopstick in place while you pour. It’s easier to do this before you start drinking. A worthy flask should have its capacity stamped on the bottom in ounces or millliletres (see the third image on this post below) but if it doesn’t, a glass measuring jug or smaller bottle containing the flask’s capacity will also do the job.

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Saturday Shopping: Chocolate

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski Girl and Bee chocolate bark

Girl and Bee sells chocolate truffles, chocolate bark and infused honey but it’s the chocolate bark that stands out for both its rough-hewn texture and exquisite organic embellishments which include goji berries, lavender, cacao nibs, bee pollen, peppermint and chamomile. Devastatingly delicious, the bark is a tactile experience, coming in palm-sized slabs and thin enough to permit a satisfying snap that releases a burst of color and aroma. It’s tasty and pretty: perfect for a holiday gifts. The bark comes in 4-ounce boxes for $8 and a 12-ounce tin for $20. If you’re in it for the truffles, they are each lovingly prepared by hand: thick, firm and intensely flavored by the likes of vanilla, rose and lavender. “Every truffle has had my hand on it,” says proprietor Melissa Zeligman who sells the 4-truffle sampler box for $14 and an 8-truffle sampler tin for $25. Gold leaf adorns the vanilla truffle like a little crown and combines a dark chocolate shell with pulverized Madagascar vanilla beans in the center.

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Daily Catskills: 11/13/14

An overnight low of 32F had lain a veil of frost on blades of grass and iced beaded water on porches and decks. A chilly 36F at 8am, with a hazy, lightly cloudy sky ushering in some sunshine. Dark days ahead as the sun is lower in the sky and sets earlier until the solstice on 21 December. Update: first came the mist late afternoon, sinking into the valleys and then the snow arrived around 5pm, in earnest this time, like it meant business.

© J.N. Urbanski 11am

© J.N. Urbanski 11am

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Daily Catskills: 11/11/14

40F at 7am, fleeting cloud cover, bright and sunny with the air chilled by the wind. Temperatures rose swifly until they reached 56F by 1.30pm with an armada of hefty, chubby scudding clouds concealing the turquoise sky above. Hunting season well underway with shots thundering through the valleys.

© J.N. Urbanski 1.30pm

© J.N. Urbanski 1.30pm

Saturday Shopping: Bread

© J.N. Urbanski Seven-grain bread from Machu Picchu bakery in Roxbury

© J.N. Urbanski Seven-grain bread from Machu Picchu bakery in Roxbury

In the heart of the English word companionship you will find the word bread, such is the reverence given to this humble foodstuff. It’s from the old French compaignon, literally “one who breaks bread with another”. You’d never know this now of course because wheat has suffered a sharp, unfriendly rebuke of late. The staff of life has stuck in the mud, been rolled into the metaphorical fire and the problem is the now-infamous gluten.

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Daily Catskills: 11/02/14

A frigid 30F at 9.30am with a crunchy topping of overnight snow on the ground and in the treetops of the highest peaks, like Belleayre and Peekamoose, that still lingered in shaded areas by the afternoon. 35F at midday with bracing wind and cloud cover rolling through quickly with bursts of sunshine. Update: cloud cover rolled away completely to reveal briliantly clear skies until dusk.

© J.N. Urbanski 12.02pm

© J.N. Urbanski 12.02pm

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Daily Catskills: 11/01/14

A grey morning and a sullen grey day, with not a scrap of sky to be seen. 40F at midday. The outside world might have stopped for all we know. There would be an eery stillness in the air, if it wasn’t for a light breeze that moves the branches gently and chases the odd leaf here and there. An endless-cups-of-tea kind of day. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starts today: 1666 words by midnight. Update: Light snowfall began late in the evening.

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Saturday Shopping: Local Dairy

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

If you’re one of those people not swearing off dairy for anything from heartburn to allergies, you might consider shopping for local New York State dairy products. If you’re an ethical consumer concerned about the effects on animals and people of large-scale dairy farming, you could help by shopping the Catskills Family Creamery trail. The Catskills Family Creamery is “a group of farmstead dairy producers exploring collaborative marketing, distribution and educational activities” including small farms like Lazy Crazy Acres, Cowbella and Dirty Girl Farm producing gelato, butter, yoghurt, kefir, cow and goats milk cheeses and fluid milk.  (Lazy Crazy Acres bottles the DiBenedetto family’s Crystal Valley Farm milk.) Their motto is “Small Dairies Making a Big Difference” and you could make a difference by choosing to support small dairy operations in which farmers treat their animals with respect and protect their environment: the same environment that gives clean, unfiltered drinking water to almost nine million NYC residents. Not only does it take effort to ethically farm, it takes additional time and work to protect the NYC watershed.

Mark Bittman wrote a column about milk in the New York Times this year stating:

But the bucolic cow and family farm barely exist: “Given the Kafkaesque federal milk marketing order system, it’s impossible for anyone to make a living producing and selling milk,” says Anne Mendelson, author of “Milk.” “The exceptions are the very largest dairy farms, factory operations with anything from 10,000 to 30,000 cows, which can exploit the system, and the few small farmers who can opt out of it and sell directly to an assured market, and who can afford the luxury of treating the animals decently.

We could all be a market for a local, small-holding dairy operation that Mark mentions. Vote with your dollar for the kind of farming you’d like to see in the world.

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