Hippies Unite

2 Jul

Did you know that the iconic Woodstock Concert didn’t really happen in Woodstock, NY? I didn’t until I visited both the town and the actual concert location 43 miles away in Bethel, NY.

This was shocking to me because I grew up a little hippie. Check out the flower power patches on my jeans!

So the town of Woodstock is just about an hour away from Albany and entirely worth the drive for a relaxing day of bumming around. While you’re there you could also try to channel the musical creativity of some of it’s former residents including Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, David Bowie and Johnny Cash.

Love, love this sign in the window of a little diner! Where can I get one?

Our favorite place to eat in town is Joshua’s. Yum! The menu is mostly mediterranean and very veggy friendly. Plus they have a full bar and serve breakfast ’til 3pm. At Joshua’s we ate the amazing zucchini cakes and I had a falafel sandwich that was about as big as my head.

There’s a cute little stream that meanders through town.

The shops in town are quite unique and worth a look. Curiosities Maria Antoinette has a very eclectic collection of wearable art. Love this fuschia tutu!

Again, Woodstock, the town, is a great fun day trip, but don’t expect to visit the site of the concert.

For that you need to head about 40 minutes east to the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. It’s fantastic! I’m not going to post details about it here just yet, but it, too, is an entirely worthy day trip.

If you go: skip the little tented market by the town parking lot. It’s filled with all kinds of mass produced junk in the shape of peace symbols. Instead go into the village and visit all the individual artists’ shops and villas.

Cross Walk

30 Jun

I love The Crossings of Colonie park!

I go there almost every single day to walk Lola, run, ride my bike, or skate.  Here we are heading out for an early morning stroll.

There are 6.5 miles of trails and the pavement is really smooth, so skating is a breeze. Plus there are only a couple crossings where you need to be concerned about car traffic.  Love that!

There is a big pond with lots of ducks and geese and fish. Oh I’ve even seen some turtles bathing themselves in the rocks around the pond, too. The pavilions, including this one, are available for rental.

This kid-size labyrinth is so cool. I crouch down and go through it myself (but, then again, I am a shorty to begin with!).

Isn’t she lovely?

On Saturday mornings in the summer, there’s also a great little farmer’s market. I was quite impressed with the vendors and their wonderful looking veggies, fruit, and flowers.

If you go:  use this detailed PDF map of the park including distances of the trails and parking areas. And if you see us, stop and say “howdy, neighbor!”

You Llama Walker

29 Jun

In the Spring I did something that I had never heard of nor could I have dreamed it up. I walked a llama!

The resourceful and kind Naomi Seldin, Simple Living blogger and Features Editor of the Times Union, posted a blog about her experience and I just knew that I had to try it. She graciously invited me to join her to walk a llama.

Teri Conroy (whose blog you can read here) ofWunsupana Farm was a perfectly gracious host! Her daughter, Hannah, was also wonderful. Both are incredibly knowledgeable and really nice people.

Upon entering Teri’s farm, Captain Jack Sparrow (also known as CJ) is ready to greet. He’s the stud llama and will be papa of three babies due in the next couple of months. CJ is separated from the rest of the herd for obvious reasons.

These two were more than happy to receive some special hay which lures them into the barn so that Teri can put on their walking bridals.

And we walk. I wasn’t kidding. Each of us had our own llama and we walked it through trails in the woods.

We had the opportunity to jump the llamas (you can kind of see that in the background) and Ella was quite the jumper. You can see the enthusiasm and pride in both of our faces after a successful jump!

Ella is quite sweet. Sweet? How can a llama be sweet? They can…you’ll just have to find out for yourself!

Be a Caveman

27 Jun

Not even an hour away from Albany is another world…an underground world called Howe Caverns. It is worth the trip!

We did the “traditional” tour  which was $21 for adults with a 10$ AAA discount. There are also “lantern-only” tours on Friday and Saturday nights (great date option!) and an “adventure” tour where you are able to climb into and around caverns.

Our tour began with an elevator ride down 156 feet. We then spent about 80 minutes with a tour guide walking through the caverns and learning about the geology. Y’know stalagmites, stalactites, limestone formations, and such.

In the middle of the tour there is a boat ride on an underground Lake of Venus. Sounds really cool, right? Well, that was kinda lame. We were hoping for some rapids. Despite that it was highly entertaining and my teenage companions liked it, too.

If you go bring warm clothes! It’s 52 degrees and moist which feels very cold after a while.

Sexy Librarians

25 Jun

Just trying to catch your attention with that one. I haven’t run into any overtly sexy librarians, but I sure adore the Upper Hudson Library System (AKA the library!).

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I think it’s a great library system (and that’s coming from a former Amazon.com book-buying addict) primarily because they have a wide selection and simple, useful on-line tools.

My recent obsession is cookbooks. I check out 10-15 at a time. Pretty much every time I checkout the librarian asks me if I actually cook out of all of them. The answer is: kinda.

I page through them all (much prefer the ones with color photos!) and flag the recipes that seem interesting with post-it notes. Then I make copies of those recipes and put them in my three-ring-binder recipe book. I used to buy cookbooks like a nut, but often times I would find that I didn’t like the recipes. Boo…what a waste. Not anymore!

Travel books are also favorites. Again, I used to buy these with wild abandon even if we weren’t serious about traveling to that place. That book on Hawaii taunts me every time I see it (that little bugger). It’s great to check out travel books from the library so that you don’t have to go broke while dreaming of a luscious far-away place.

Get yourself a library card. All you need is your driver’s license or a utility bill showing your address is in Albany or Rensselaer county. Then you can visit and check out items from any location.

Check out this on-line card catalog. I search for books and DVDs on it all the time. Then, then, then…I can reserve the items that I want and the library will email me when my books are in. How slick is that?

And it’s all free, my friends (well, I mean, we pay for it with our taxes, but you know what I mean)!

What books(s) are you in the market for that might be at the library? Ohhhh…ohhhh…ohhhh…what cookbook recommendations do you have for me?

SLURP Caffe Italia

22 Jun

One of the very first places I visited in Upstate New York was Caffe Italia at 662 Central Avenue in Albany. It was the ideal setting to meet hub’s Italian Family. His father has been eating here for about 30 years.

During that first dinner, I fell in love…with the olive oil bread dipping sauce. Delizioso!  It’s so good that I’ve actually considered drinking it straight up.

From what I can tell, it’s a simple mix of fresh ingredients: olive oil, flat-leaf parsley, garlic chunks, and tomatoes. Drench that bread and enjoy. Magnifico!

There are many other wonderful Italian dishes on the menu that I also adore. Give it a shot and let me know your favorite.

Caffe Italia doesn’t have a web site, so call 518-459-8029 for reservations.

If you go, tell Jimmy (the bald waiter) that Mrs. Vaccarielli sent you. 😉

Don’t Tread on Vermont – part 2 of 2

21 Jun

After our stop at the Ben & Jerry’s Factory (read all about it here), we continued the Vermont adventure.

A quick stop at the Ziemke Glassblowing Studio in Waterbury was next. There is a store stocked full of your standard blown glass. We bought a cobalt blue glass globe that’s now hanging above the kitchen sink.

There’s also an area where you can watch the glassblowers work which was really neat. This fun chalkboard drawing explains how it’s all done.

A sign for wine tasting lured us into the Cold Hollow Cider Mill also in Waterbury. There is a cider pressing observation area where you can watch an old-fashioned hydraulic apple press from the 1920’s do it’s thing (or you could take a nap…it’s about the same excitement level).

I quite enjoyed sampling the cider right out of the barrel though. We tried the cider donuts (don’t save up calories to splurge here) and bought some apple butter and habanero jelly (both made in Vermont, of course).

Yes, we did the wine tasting. It seemed like a bargain at $1 per person until we tasted the wines. I ended up with a bottle of Montgomery Cherry wine anyway.

One final stop in the Waterbury area was at the Cabot cheese store. The sampling area was insane and we did our best to politely shove our way to the delightful dairy treats. We picked up with a nice organic baguette from a local bakery and a chunk of spicy cheese and headed to our hotel.

We stayed in a typical B&B. Nothing worthwhile to note about that.

The highlight of the trip for me was going to Burlington for dinner. I had no idea that this was such a great little town! We followed the advice of all the travel reviewers and went to American Flatbread for dinner.

They have a funky little alley with outside seating and a back patio area where a local band was playing. All sorts of little earthy kids and their hippie parents were dancing. Simply charming!

Oh and the food was good! The tamari ginger salad dressing was probably the highlight. Yum!

When walking around downtown after dinner, we stumbled upon a four-block stretch of Church Street that is fantastic. Only pedestrian traffic is allowed and the street is lined with restaurants, outdoor cafes, and shops. There happened to be a the annual Jazz Festival going on at the time so stages and music were sprinkled throughout.

I want to go back to Burlington for a whole weekend!

Ok so on day two of our adventure we drove through the capital of Montpelier. It was a good thing that neither of us blinked because we would have missed it. Despite it’s tiny stature, it’s neat and funky. Plus did you know that Montpelier is the only state capital to not have a McDonalds?  You go, Vermonters!

We ran across a flea market at the Quechee Gorge Village in Quechee. I scored some jewelry…yes!

There were also vintage amusements including this carousel, pig, and horse. I HAD to try ’em!

The Quechee Gorge is a stunning natural phenomenon that just can’t be justly captured by a photo. It plunges 165 feet into the Ottauquechee River. Odd thing is that it’s best observed right off the main Highway 4 on a narrow bridge. Watch out for speeding traffic!

If you’re in the market for an $800 glass lamp or just want to check out how that lamp was made, stop by Simon Pearce in Quechee. You can talk with the glassblowers doing their thing and then check out this waterfall that provides hydropower to the building. Pretty cool! Next time we go back I’d like to eat at the Simon Pearce restaurant. It looked wonderful and the dining room overlooks the waterfall.

My conclusion on a Vermont is that it is a fun weekend trip for taking in all kinds of small little finds along the way. It’s perfect for meandering!

Don’t expect to get your socks blown off with any major tourist attractions in the summer (remember that the most popular site is the Ben & Jerry’s factory). However, the winter scene is quite vibrant with the skiing options, so perhaps I’ll go back in a few months to check that out. Killington or bust!