Sep 13, 2020

Interesting places to visit in Cortland County

I wasn’t sure if visiting the Dragonfyre Distillery would be

worthwhile.  I have been to many distilleries and they are all pretty much the same.  However, when we drove up a side road and saw a sign “Beware of low flying dragons” I was intrigued.  And then alongside of the road there was a Small bright blue door to the Hobbit and I knew it was going to be worth the drive.  Before entering I saw a fairy door and I knew I was going to meet and see someone interesting.  

One of the first thing I noticed was their “Most Holey Knight: Sir Lea Kaslot” and the fact that there were dragons and fairies everywhere. You might say there spirits everywhere. Oh, and yes, there is a copper distillery, two of them, hand made by the owner Vincent Pedini.  He learned the process from his father who learned from his father but he is the one that decided to market the spirits.  Everything is
blended from locally grown products and none of the spirits have been blended with
products from elsewhere. His wife, Donna, is the Artist in Residence.  Not to miss is the “necessary room” where Donna painted all surfaces including the ceiling and floor turning it into a magical forest inhabited by an interesting variety of denizens including dragons and fairies.  It was definitely worth the trip and on the way out I spotted a fairy in the forest waving “Good Bye” to us. 

Our last stop on the way home was in Homer.  We were told that the world’s largest pair of pants was in Homer Men & Boys store.  They are 8 feet tall. I wasn’t that impressed.  I don’t know what I expected but the store itself was impressive.  I have never seen such a large store with so much merchandise.  Every inch of the store is covered in huge piles of clothing, shoes, coat, and other apparel, Their motto, “If we don’t have it you don’t need it,” rings true.  They have been family run since 1951.  They also take on-line orders.

There was one more place we wanted to stop but on the way out of Homer I saw a beautiful octagon house and just had to take a

picture.  Octagon houses were popular for a short time in the mid-1800s.  It was thought to be cheaper to build, allowed for more living space, received more natural light and was easier to heat. It was also the time of spiritualism and religious movements in New York State.  Some people believed that an octagon house would prevent “spirits” from hiding in corners. 

Our last stop was at Tartan Acres located on a hilltop with great views.  I was surprised to learn the owner, Ken Clark, was from Mexico, NY where I had lived for 50 years. He and his wife purchased the property and remodeled the farm house planning to open a B&B but then Covid 19 hit so everything is on hold.  His wife, Brenda, saw alpacas at the state fair and her
love for them ended with raising them.  They have about 80, some of which were just born. We petted some and were amazed at how soft their fur is. They often host an open house and provide “Alpaca 101” classes for those interested in owning and raising alpacas.  The alpaca regarded us with an inquisitive expression.  It is easy to see how people become enamored with them.

Sep 5, 2020

Hope Lake Lodge at Greek Peak

I wanted to try another getaway while it is still summer. Obviously I can’t leave the country. Drat.  I searched for a place with both an

indoor and outdoor pool and came up with Hope Lake Lodge at Greek Peak.  The timber-framed building has a variety of rooms including some with a kitchen suitable for a family.  I didn’t need that but I do like a room with a balcony.  It was perfect.  The staff was cognizant of all the covid safety protocols so I felt comfortable.  

The property has several restaurants but only Trax by the ski lifts was open.  I watched the bikers practice for an upcoming race. They would go up on the ski lift and the bikes followed them hooked to the second lift.  Guess that gave the bikers a chance to get off and then get their bikes. The slalom track looked easy enough from where I was sitting but I’m sure it looked more daunting from the biker’s angle.  Several fell.  Greek Peak hosts Dual Slalom races during the summer.  It is just one of their many activities. 

I surprised to learn they were at 70% occupancy.  There were a lot of

families.  The indoor water park was closed but the indoor wave pool was open.  The indoor wave pool required tickets, $19 for three hours.  It seemed to be a favorite of the younger crowd.  The outdoor pool was also busy.  Actually, too busy for me.  I like to wallow in a pool and read.  Can’t do that with a bunch of people plus kids with inflatable toys in the pool. 

Hope Lake Park is just a short jaunt from the lodge.  They have a small beach, boat rentals, and other amenities.  It was not busy. 

There are still many things to do in the area.  I went to Lime Hollow Visitor Center.  The actual center is closed but the trails are open dawn to dusk.  There are maps online.  There are several trails ranging from easy to difficult.  Most are moderate and not terribly long.  I wanted to check out the Eric Kroot Art Trail. The Eric Kroot Art Trail has been set aside for nature inspired outdoor art exhibits created by young people and local artists. Makes walking more interesting. Very cool….  

I also visited the Homeville Museum. This is the perfect museum for

people who love anything and everything with wheels.   There is a large model train exhibit. In the extensive military exhibit there is a WW I war ambulance and a recreation of a trench.  Trench warfare was an integral part of the war. There is a gas mask hanging on the wall.  Gas masks were essential to protect from the poison gas that was weaponized. Mustard gas killed thousands.  The trenches stretched for many miles making it nearly impossible for one side to advance. During World War I, the western front in France was fought using trench warfare. There is a
1925 Brockway fire truck that four people drove 17,000 miles from Argentina to Cortland.  I wonder how they got through the Darien Gap that connects Columbia to Panama.  It is one of the most inhospitable places in the Americas.  For 100 miles there is no road, only foot paths, not to mention the heat, humidity, and critters.  It took them 15 months. In trade the Argentinian firemen receive a new fire truck.  It is a journey worth a book or movie. 

Aug 23, 2020

A Getaway in the Catskills

I never thought the day would come when most countries refused Americans entry into their country.  It has arrived.  I live to travel. It keeps my mind and body healthy.  I know there are many places in New York State to visit but, truly, I have explored the state extensively over the years.  

When I first started to look for destinations I checked out Rhode Island, Delaware, and other places and no sooner had I picked a resort and it was put on the no-travel list.  I wanted a place with an indoor and outdoor pool.  If it was on the beach all the better.  I finally decided on Geneva on the Lake in Ohio.  I had stayed there and explored the area several years ago.  The property is lovely and close enough to my daughter who lives in Ohio so she could visit.  I made a reservation and guess what?  Ohio went on the do-not travel list. I cancelled my reservations and booked a place in the Catskills.  

The Villa Vosilla is an interesting place.  It has been in the family for

several generations. I like that.  I think it started out as a motel and over the years it was expanded and upgraded.  The outdoor pool was great and it is where I spent most of my time. Most of the time we were the only people. I like to sit in the pool and read. The weather forecast for the area showed rain everyday but in reality it the weather was great it is that way in mountainous areas.  The indoor pool is one of the nicest I have ever seen.  The room is large with tables and chairs.  The high ceiling and size means there was no humidity and chlorine smell often
associated with indoor pools.  A stairway from the pool room led to a large game room.  The hotel’s Italian restaurant was very upscale.  It was closed Tuesday and Wednesday so we ventured into Tannersville for meals.  W
e quickly learned that many places are closed a couple days a week and the ones that are open close around 7 pm.  Even so there were several good places to eat. The golf course is across the road so the guys could go golfing.  

I recalled the quaint village of Tannersville from a trip several years

ago.  The small town tucked in the hills of the Catskills was no different from the other towns nearby until Elana Patterson, a local artist, with the help of the mayor, sponsors and local residents, instituted The Paint Project.  It involved painting the downtown building multicolored pastels including, in some cases, murals on some walls, and designs on shutters. The project made the little town a tourist attraction and has been featured in print and on NBC’s Today Show. A brilliant move – and very creative.

There is a lot to see in the area even though things are closed.  There are many hiking trails and waterfalls along with some of the curviest roads I have ever traveled. The Hunter Mountain Zip Line is open. Their longest zipline is 650’ long and 60’ above the forest floor. My zip line and repelling days are over! Skiers will know about the place because of Hunter Mountain Ski Resort.

For Piano Lovers

Most small towns have a hidden gem.  Hunter, a small town nestled in the Catskill Mountains, is no exception. Hunter is best known for Hunter Mountain Resort where they offer multi-seasonal activities from skiing to the sky ride.  But there is something in the village that is really unique. 

The Piano Performance Museum is home of a one-of-a-king collection of historic pianos and musical artifacts. Housed in part of bright blue building that is home to the Performance Center, the museum is home to the Steven E. Greenstein piano collection.

The collection includes early and modern keyboard

instrument including European historic pianos, as well as American pianos built in the 18th and 19th centuries. The collection shows the development of the instrument from the small piano forte, built for use in private homes and salons, to the modern piano, built for large concert halls. The collection also includes tuning tools and repair kits, some 200 years old, leather-wrapped with a place for each tool; tuning forks, hammers—

everything that would allow a technician to bring a piano back to maximum performance standards.  The collection includes an 1851 Chickering, of the same style as the piano in the Lincoln White House. Piano Shawls: A display of beautiful, one-of-a-kind hand-embroidered silk throws that were popular adornments of pianos in people's homes in the 19th century. The museum is located in the Doctorow Center for the Arts that hosts a myriad of event throughout the year. 

I was fascinated by the collection of miniature pianos that was recently donated to the museum.  I think the owner must have had fun collecting them.  There are some the size of a thumb nail.  They range from the delicate glass pianos to whimsical ones.  Of course, there is one of Schroeder playing the piano with Lucy watching.  I appreciate the dedication of people who have a passion for one thing and then donate to someplace where many people can enjoy it. 

There is another gem in Newark, NY.  Located in a dedicated area of the Newark Library is the Hoffman Clock Museum. Ever notice how our lives are governed by time.  Gone are the days when it was either morning or night, or before the sun is high in the sky and after it is. Time keeping dates back 5000 years to the Babylonians and Egyptians.  Since then there have many devices to control our daily life.  When I was
teaching I was amused by the fact the class would end at 9:32 or some other very precise number. The museum details the history of timekeeping. This unique collection of timepieces has something for everyone and includes over 300 clocks, watches and tools. Exhibits introduce the visitor to the development of timekeeping technology and provide a wide variety of clock styles. There is an organ clock and time clocks. A special emphasis on the history of New York State clock makers makes this museum a truly exceptional place to visit.

These small collections allow me to learn a l
ot in a short time while being focused on one topic.  I sometimes wonder how a person becomes so entranced by an object that they collect obsessively. I visited the Pez Museum when I was in California.  It was fun and interesting but it made me wonder how the person got started.  I know if I collected it no one wants and it isn’t worth anything, to wit: silver, crystal, Toby Mugs, 

Aug 9, 2020

Making paprikash with dumplings

I think we all have a grandmother who made cooked some incredible recipes.  Now is a good time to try some of those old family favorites and/or learn how to make a new dish. My Hungarian grandmother made the best pie crusts.  The secret – lard, preferable home cured.  Many Hungarian recipes call for lard and, it turns out, there is a reason for that. The reason that there is extensive use of pork and lard originates from Turkish times. During the centuries of the Ottoman occupation (1541 to 1699) they took all the domestic animals except the pigs.  Their Islamic religion forbade the eating of pork. For the best flavor lard is still suggested. 
Needless to say lard is high in cholesterol so using plant based oils is recommended. 

One of my favorite recipes my grandmother made was Chicken Paprikash. When I was in Budapest, Hungary, I booked a cooking class with Chefparade. With Chef Geri Hajas instructing one other participant I learned how to make three recipes including Chicken Paprikash which is one of Hungary’s signature recipes. I was surprised – it tasted just like my grandmothers. 

Many Hungarian recipes call for paprika. Hungarians are the number one producers and consumers of paprika per capita. Hungarian paprika is made from peppers that are toasted and blended to create different varieties ranging from mild to fiery hot. 

Chicken Paprikash

3 tbsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, diced
2 tbsp sweet paprika
2 whole chicken legs
1 tomato, diced
1 Hungarian sweet pepper, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup sour cream
¼ (one fourth) cup flour
Water as needed

Put oil in a pot. Add onions. Cook over moderate heat until onions are glossy. Remove from heat then stir in paprika. Add a little water and mix. Add pepper, tomato, salt and pepper. Add chicken to the pot and return to stove. Add enough water to cover the chicken. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to moderate.  Check occasionally to make sure there is enough water to cover the chicken. Turn chicken legs over after 30 minutes. Cook for an hour or so until chicken is cooked. In a bowl whisk sour cream and flour until smooth. Slowly add a teaspoon of liquid to the mixture, stir. Repeat two more times. It will prevent curdling. Add mixture to chicken. Stir. Cook for another 5 minutes. Serve with dumplings or noodles. 


2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
2/3 (two-thirds) cup water
1 tbsp sunflower oil

Fill a large pot 2/3 (two-thirds) full. Bring to a boil. Add some salt. In a bowl mix flour, salt, and eggs. Add water until the mixture is a sticky, semi-liquid dough. Is should not be too runny.  Place the dumpling maker over the boiling water,. Place dough in the dumpling maker box. Slide across the boiling water. Repeat until all the dough is gone. Remove with a slotted spoon when all the dumplings come to the top of the boiling water. Drain. Put in a bowl. Add sunflower oil. Toss to coat dumplings so they don’t stick together.  Serve with chicken paprika.

Tip: It you don’t have a dumpling maker a simple solution is to use a cheese grater. Place over boiling water. Put some dough on the cheese grater. Press through the holes with a spatula.  

Aug 1, 2020

Battle of Fort William Henry

Fort William Henry, a British fort at the southern end of Lake

George, was constructed in 1755 during the French and Indian Wars. Before the revolution and when most of America was under the control of the British, the French and Indian War pitted the colonists against French in the Americas.  The local Indians helped on both side. 

In August of 1757 British General Montcalm and 8000 French Troops aided by Huron Indians and Canadian Volunteers attacked the fort. The fort's walls were breached, its guns were overused, and the many casualties, caused General Monro to surrender on August 9. Today it is remembered as a massacre. There still remains much speculation as to how many people were killed (including women, children, and slaves who
were not part of military records). The massacre was later dramatized in James Fenimore Cooper's book, The Last of the Mohicans, and its numerous film adaptations. Imagine if you lived in that area and what the terror must have been like.  When I hear people claim that we live in disastrous time I suggest they recall their local history. 
Not many people were living in Western New York at that time but Fort Oswego, not to be confused with Fort Ontario, was constructed in 1727 at the mouth of the Oswego River on the southeast shore to protect the area.  Only a stone monument remains. 

During the week of August 10, 1756, a force of regulars and Canadian militia under General Montcalm captured and occupied the British fortifications at Fort Oswego. There were not many people living in the area but it must have been frightening for those who did.

During the French and Indian War and again during the Revolution

many areas of New York were under siege. Within the fort besides the soldier there were women and children. That is not to mention the many Indian raids. 

The Battle of Fort Niagara was a siege late in the French and Indian War. The British siege of Fort Niagara in July 1759 was part of a campaign to remove French control of the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley regions, making
possible a western invasion of the French province of Canada in conjunction with General James Wolfe's invasion to the east. The French had about one hundred Iroquois allies at the Fort who deserted when the British arrived. British Captain Pouchot directed a vigorous defense. British General Prideaux was killed when a shell fragment from one of his own guns hit him, and command of the British forces fell to Sir William Johnson. The French capitulated on 26 July. 

Image result for martin luther king images
I can’t imagine living in such times.  Not counting 9/11 and President Kennedy assassination I think 1968 was the scariest time.  It seemed that it was one thing after another: Martin Luther King assassination followed by riots in most major cities, Robert Kennedy assassinated, North Korea captured the US Pueblo, Tet Offensive and ongoing protest to the Vietnam War, and the debacle at the Democratic Convention. The year of 1968 is considered one of the most violent years in American History but the country survived. 

“May you live in interesting times” is purported to be a Chinese curse. Hopefully, not too interesting. We will survive the current situation and so will the country. “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Jul 25, 2020

Driving along Route 20

U.S. Route 20 runs from Boston, Massachusetts to Newport, Oregon. It is 3,365 miles
long. In New York, US 20 extends 372.32 miles from the Pennsylvania state line at Ripley to the Massachusetts state line in the Berkshire Mountains. US 20 is the longest surface road in New York. It is more historically significant than Route 66.

U.S. Route 66  was one of the original highways in the U.S. Highway System. The highway, which became one of the most famous roads in the United States, originally ran from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California covering a total of 2,448. 
Why is it more popular that Route 20.  Publicity. It was made famous culture by the hit song "Get Your Kicks on Route 66" and the Route 66 television series, which aired on CBS from 1960 to 1964. Route 20 needs someone to write a song about it and/or develop a TV series. 

I think it would be wonderful to drive the length of it, exploring all the small towns along the way.  That is not going to happen but it is easy to explore Route 20, which is also a Scenic Byway, one area at a time. 

One way to experience Route 20 might be by selecting one county and use it as a base for exploring the area. Schoharie County is a great place to visit. Drive the historic Route 20 Byway between Sharon Springs and Esperance and/or explore Schoharie County’s less-traveled roads enjoying the tranquility and beauty of the countryside taking a few side trips. The county is dotted with classic Main Street towns featuring unique shops with locally made goods, art galleries, restaurants, and restored turn of the century accommodations. Step back to an earlier time in Carlisle, Cobleskill, Esperance, Middleburgh, Sharon Springs, and the historic village of Schoharie. In Sharon Springs don’t miss the Beekman 1802 Mercantile made famous in the “Fabulous Beekman Boys” of reality TV fame. Too bad they didn’t use the show to promote Route 20 and write a hit song “The Fabulous Beekman Boys of Route 20!” 

Schoharie County is dubbed the “County of Caves.”  For six million years Mother Nature carved out amazing underground caverns. The most famous is Howe Caverns where visitors descent 156 feet below the Earth’s surface to journey through the expansive main cavern marveling at the stalactites and stalagmites and then take a boat ride on the underground River Styx. If you haven’t been to Howe Caverns in a while then you will be amazed at all the adventurous things to do besides explore the cave. There is a zip line, ropes course, rock wall, H2OGO Balls, a motel, and more. Nearby is another underground wonder, the Secret Caverns, complete with a waterfall. 

Before the first European settlers arrived in 1712 the area was home to the Iroquois. The Iroquois Museum, near Howe Caverns, is housed in a building that recalls the traditional longhouse offering an insight into Iroquois culture by promoting Iroquois art and artists. There is a nature trail plus a variety of festivals, events, and learning activities for all age groups.

The Old Stone Fort Museum Complex in Schoharie includes several buildings: a 1700s home, a 1780 Dutch barn, a one-room school house, plus a 1772 stone church that was fortified and attacked by the British forces in 1780. Take note of parishioners’ names that the builders chiseled into the stones. The Treasure Hunt of the Fort’s eclectic museum collection is fun for all ages. Try to find a shield from the Philippines, a button with a photograph on it, and a glass tombstone. A variety of historical events are reenacted throughout the year.