Don't Miss the 25th Annual Washington County Fiber Tour this Weekend!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

This is a favorite weekend of mine coming up.....the birthday of my firstborn (a treasure then, and a treasure now as she awaits her firstborn) and the 25th Annual Washington County Fiber Tour.  Ok, so two wildly different sources of joy for me....what can I say?  Our new grandbabe won't be arriving for some time yet, but there will be no shortage of babies on the farms you can visit this weekend. I'm going to have to miss the tour this year but I highly recommend you don't.  It's such a wonderful way to spend part or all of your weekend - surrounded by beautiful scenery, welcoming farm owners and all the farm animals your heart can stand.

We've attended the Fiber Tour each of the past three years and still haven't gotten to every farm on the tour.  A couple of our favorite farms aren't on this year's tour but there are still 12 stops along the tour in Washington County, including a the Battenkill Spinning and Carding Mill where you can see what happens to the fiber once it's sheared from the animals on these fiber farms.  That fiber can come from a variety of sources - sheep, goats, rabbits, llamas and alpacas, all of which will be waiting to greet you on the tour.  You can read all about the farms on the tour, download a copy of the tour brochure and plan your weekend using the links at the end of this post. You can also read my blog posts about the 2015 and 2016 fiber tours, so I'll save space in today's post by sharing only photos from our tour experiences.
Whether it's on Fiber Tour or a Saturday Evening for dinner or Sunday lunch, one of my favorite stops on tour is Dancing Ewe Farm in Granville, NY.  Jody & Luisa Sommers have combined their talents on this breathtaking farm where they raise sheep for sheep's milk cheese, create authentic Italian cuisine every weekend in a romantic barn, and serve up some of the the warmest hospitality you'll find.  Your visit will be informative and fun and filling.


Another of my favorites stops on tour is always St. Mary's of Cashmere Convent!  At St. Mary's, Anglican/Episcopalian Sisters along with the Cashmere 4-H club raise prize-winning cashmere goats.
Set on a gorgeous piece of acreage in Cambridge, a visit to St. Mary's-on-the Hill is always a highlight of our Fiber Tour.

Another fun stop is Alpacas of Haven Hill, which we visited on our first fiber tour.  

And there's Quarry Ridge Alpacas.....

Whether you're interested in angora rabbits, beautiful ewe, fluffy alpaca, charming goats, beautiful yarn or just a few hours in the beautiful Washington County countryside, Fiber Tour (Saturday & Sunday, April 29th & 30th) has something for everyone.

Don't miss out on this wonderful opportunity to tour so many of the farms that make agriculture the number one industry in Washington County.  Young or old, you're guaranteed to enjoy this experience.  For more information, including the official Tour website and a brochure and map of the weekend's locations and activities, use these link:

Thanks for reading!  Come back soon to Life As I See It where you never know where you'll find me!

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Mom & Pop's Café Where Great Food, Family and Friends Come Together

Saturday, April 22, 2017

One of my favorite things to do here on the blog is give some love and publicity to local, family-owned businesses.  It's been a while since I've done one of those posts, but I've been saving a few for you and I think it's a good time to share them with you this week.  Two will be a couple eateries to add to my Let's Eat category and the next will be a new Best Businesses for 2017 (Businesses You Won't Want to Live Without).  Good service can be hard to find these days, so when I experience something that's top-notch, I love to share.  That's definitely the case with Mom & Pop's Café in Ballston Spa.

Jamie, Michael, Donna and Grandma (Helen)

Although Mom & Pop's has been open since June 3, 2013, it wasn't until a few weeks ago that we finally made our way to check it out.  I'd heard lots of good things about it from a variety of people so we went expecting to be impressed.  As I normally do before visiting a restaurant, I checked out Mom & Pop's Facebook page and their website.  When I saw that they also catered, my interest was piqued because I was in the midst of planning my daughter's baby shower.  The pressure was on.....a good meal today could mean an easy meal for the shower.

Mom & Pop's is a small café located on Route 67 right next door to Curtis Lumber.  When we were approaching our turn, we got a little nervous with the sea of cars for such a small business.  Our fears were for naught as most of the cars were not at the café, but at the administrative offices next door to Curtis Lumber.  Whew!  We arrived around 11:00 a.m. purposely to come between the breakfast and lunch crowd.  Although it was between peak meal hours, there were still plenty of customers, several of whom appeared to be regulars who were well known by the staff.  Our waitress, Jamie, was efficient and friendly and very knowledgeable when I began inquiring about the catering menu. Although I'm sure she could have easily handled our catering order, Pop (Michael Venturiello) came and joined us at our table to handle the order himself.  Michael, who came to the US from Italy when he was 9, clearly has a passion for food.  He and his wife, Donna, have been in the food industry all of their lives.  Before moving back to Ballston Spa to be near family, they owned Papa Bello Italian Ristorante in Cape Cod. Michael's Italian genes are probably the explanation for Mom & Pop's 'more is better' philosophy because portions here are huge.
I ordered Two Eggs in a Nest which came with home fries and meat (I chose bacon).  Jamie suggested the Italian bread instead of white bread and she was precisely on point in her recommendation.  Because I don't regularly do restaurant reviews and even though some think I'm a little camera happy, I have a bad habit of forgetting to shoot before I dig in.  So, forgive the destruction I caused before I remembered to capture this delicious feast.

John ordered blueberry pancakes, 2 instead of 3, which was a good decision because they were the size of a dinner plate.  Sorry, no picture but he said they were delicious.  Again my mind was distracted the day of the baby shower and I failed to take dedicated photo shots of the food.  Luckily I did take a few because I'm here to tell you, everything was delicious.  It was a small shower, about 15 people.  I ordered a tray of wraps, a pan of Greek Salad, a fruit platter and a couple dozen cannolis.  The wraps were huge, stuffed with delicious, fresh roast beef, turkey and Italian cold cuts and fresh veggies.  The fruit was fresh, sweet and accompanied by a fluffy dip that got rave reviews.  The Greek Salad which came with grilled chicken was also fresh and crisp, and the dressing was perfect. Their cannolis.....sinful.   I knew then that a blog post was happening and that meant a return visit was necessary in order to take some proper photos.
After 15 people had eaten!!

That visit happened this morning.  Again we arrived at what I expected to be an 'off' time, 10:30am. Mom & Pop's is open from 6:00am - 3:00 pm and it would seem from our experience that there might be no "off" time.  It was difficult to do much shooting amidst customers, although I was grateful that several were gracious enough to let me photograph their meals!  One of the great (and smart) things they do at Mom & Pop's Café is post their daily specials the night before on Facebook and their website.  I had already made my decision the night before to order one of the day's specials - homemade sausage gravy & biscuits with eggs.  If this looks like a ton of food - it IS.  I could barely make it through two biscuits which were 1/2 the height of typical biscuits, which was ingenious by the way - no more dry biscuits.  John had another of the day's specials - crab cakes with a side salad and cole slaw.  Crab cakes were delicious and again, the salad was super fresh and crisp.
Biscuits with Homemade Sausage Gravy & Scrambled Eggs $6.25

Crab Cakes, Side Salad and Cole Slaw $8.25
Other diners hopefully brought their appetites today because their orders were also plentiful.  I did note people at both visits leave with doggie boxes.  No did we!

This was a side of Corned Beef Hash (homemade)

Aside from the great food, generous portions and reasonable prices, Mom and Pop's is clean, cozy cafe full of warmth, great service and wonderful hospitality.  Michael and Donna love food and love being able to share it with their customers.  In between orders, both are out front visiting with the customers making everyone feel welcome and appreciated.  It only takes a few seconds to realize this is a real small town family establishment where the customer's satisfaction is the first priority.  The 'family' part is evident throughout the cafe - in the old family photos, the quotes on the wall about family and the loving banter between Michael and his team.

If you're looking for some delicious food - the kind like Mom and Grandma makes, not all gourmet and froufrou, just homecooked goodness - Mom and Pop's is your place to go.  Open Monday-Saturday for breakfast and lunch, Michael, Donna, Jamie and Grandma will be waiting to make your dining experience filling and fun.  And if you have an event coming up, consider having them cater it....again - generous portions at a great price!  Check out their Facebook page, their menus and their website using the links below.  Thanks for reading.  Don't forget to use the links at the end of this post to share this with all the friends  you know that appreciate great food.

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Spring Emerges One Leaf at a Time, One Promise at a Time

Thursday, April 20, 2017 of the best parts of life in the Northeast!  I've never been one to feel the need - or the desire - to escape from the New York winter.  I'd miss the beauty of the stark white snow against a vivid blue sky.   I could handle a more temperate summer with less heat and less humidity, but really...summer in New York is pretty nice too.  We can all agree there's nothing more beautiful than autumn in New York.   Each season has its own rewards for me, including spring - the season of renewal, the season of hope, the season of promise.

Spring arrives just in the nick of time, just as we've reached our breaking point, just as we're about to cry, 'uncle'.  Just when we think we can't take another flake of snow, another sub-freezing day, spring makes its quiet entrance.  It arrives in a breath of warm air and its arrival is serenaded by a chorus of feathered friends singing their enthusiastic welcome.  It seems almost incredible how quickly nature responds as it quickly comes out of its winter hibernation.
First Sprouts on my Rose Bush
Hydrangea popping up from below the leaves.

Pussy Willow

Magnolia Blossoms
Hosta sprouting from the earth!
And then, almost without warning or very much time....the world is green again and full of new life. Nature is not discouraged by difficult circumstances.  It does not hide its head in the sand after tough times and frigid temperatures.  It rises again and embraces a new season.

Coral Bells

Bigger everyday!

Snow drops!

Unfurling Fern
Spring gives us hope.  It gives us comfort and it gives us relief.  It reminds us that life carries on, despite hardship and tough times.
Glorious Forsythia

We all experience difficult times - times of illness, stress, job loss, financial difficulties.  During those times, we might feel hopeless.  Often we lose our ability to see a light at the end of the tunnel.  We may even want to give up.  Winter can make us feel that way too.  Endless cold, winter driving, storm after storm....even winters with hardly any snow can have a profound affect on our mood.  Have you ever experienced a difficult time that seemed endless and all of a sudden you find yourself free from it?  One day you wake up and realize that it's over, you've overcome whatever was weighing you down.  It can happen after a long illness.  Day after day you feel lousy, unable to function normally. The days drag on until you're sure you'll never feel like yourself again.  Then suddenly one day you notice you are better.  It seems like an overnight change when in reality it was happening a little each day but until the change was big enough and evident enough, you hadn't noticed.
Spring is like that for me.  One day it's brown and muddy out, and the next everything is sprouting up with new life, green and lush, filled with optimism and promise.
One of my favorite parts of spring is the crop of skunk cabbage in the woods behind our house.  One day each spring I look out and notice them beginning to emerge, tiny pointed sprouts from the earth....
Skunk Cabbage
And before long, sometimes days, little by little the brown barren ground is dotted with green.
Skunk Cabbage
And then one morning I look out and this is what I see.....
And the world is green once again!
Winter has its beginning and it also has its end.  Life is filled with winters, some harder to endure than others, but it is up to us to have faith that just like spring returns year after year, life's hardships will also come to an end and new life and gentler times will come again too.
If you're experiencing an endless winter, I'm hoping and praying for a warm recovery.  If life has kept you too busy to notice the emerging life outside your window, take a moment to have a look.  I bet you'll see many signs of promise right outside your door.
      Song of Solomon 2:11-12 For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
Spring shows us what God can do with a drab, dirty world. - Virgil A. Kraft

Thanks for stopping by Life As I See It.  It's always a pleasure to see you and hear from you!

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