History Comes to Life on the 1900's Replica Fantail Launch on Saratoga Lake

Saturday, April 29, 2017
It may only be the end of April but it felt like summer yesterday aboard Adirondack Cruise and Charter Company's new vessel.  Not quite finished with its restoration just yet, the 1900's replica Fantail Launch splashed in yesterday and we were invited to be there for its first cruise up Fish Creek.  
You may remember that Hal T. Raven and his Adirondack Cruise & Charter Company took the lake by storm last year when he brought public cruises back to Saratoga Lake on his 22' pontoon boat. Despite what a hit that was, Hal wasn't happy yet, especially about not being able to accommodate everyone that was interested on his 9-passenger pontoon boat.   Even though over 800 passengers took part in Hal's first season, a wait list of wannabe passengers put a damper on an otherwise successful year.  His dream of bringing back the history of steamboats on Saratoga Lake kept him awake at night as did his search for just the right vessel.  Hal's dream and determination brought him to this beautiful 50 foot, 1900's replica Fantail Launch this winter and I'm confident it's going to be a huge success, but then again.... I had no doubts Hal would bring his dream to reality.
Still a work in progress, but still a beauty!

The Fantail Launch (to be named at a christening and naming ceremony on June 3rd), was built in 2003 by Paul Raasoch to tour Rock River, a tributary of the Mississippi.  Hal wasted no time in acquiring this beauty which will be making its first public sails on Mother's Day.  When Hal contacted me yesterday to say he and his crew were on the boat and that we should come over for a ride and take some photos, I jumped at the opportunity.  Who wouldn't?    It was a beautiful day and I've been following Adirondack Cruise and Charter Co.'s social media so I couldn't wait to see this baby for myself!

Hal and crew are still working on finishing up the final touches on the renovations.  A new floor has already been laid, a new canopy, painting and staining, brass polishing all done.  The clear drop-down curtains were being installed yesterday and the seats and tables will soon be added.  I didn't want to spoil the big reveal so I kept my photos focused on details and views for now, but you can bet I'll be back will lots of photos of the finished vessel as soon as its ready for the paparazzi.  In the meantime, here's a peek at some of its features and the spectacular views you'll enjoy when you go on a cruise.
Captain Hal letting Braelyn ring the bell while Captain Kevin looks on.

 This was the earliest I'd ever been on the lake (or up the creek) and the budding trees and deep blue waters made for the most picturesque of days!
Sporting the hat that came with the boat!

 Lake George isn't the only lake that provides some beautiful real estate views!  Whether it's on Fish Creek or on the lake itself, there's no shortage of beautiful property.

The Fantail Launch will provide a completely different cruising experience.  With the capacity to hold 30 passengers, this vessel which glides like silk, will also have a restroom and small bar.  In addition to daily cruises at 4:30 and a sunset cruise at 7:30pm, there are also plans for moonlight cruises, a Sunday Brunch cruise and much more.  During racing season, Tuesdays will also once again feature the Sip and Sail cruise.  Both vessels are also available for private charter, parties and corporate events.  What a wonderful way to celebrate a special occasion.....just you and your family and friends sitting back enjoying a relaxing cruise! Bring your meal or have the Captain drop you at one of the lake's wonderful restaurants.  It will be an occasion to remember.  On Mother's Day, the Adirondack Cruise & Charter will sail at 11:00, 12:30, 2:00, 3:30 and 5:00.  Dine at Longfellow's and Mom sails for free, otherwise Mom's tickets are $10.00, children under 8 are $10 and guests over 8 are $20 for this one-hour cruise. Regular cruises begin in June. Ticket prices for other cruises vary from $20 and up depending on the cruise.  There will be no cruises on Mondays.

In case you're wondering why I've blogged about Adirondack Cruise and Charter so much, it's simple.  Hal Raven is a really nice guy with a dream and determination, but aside from that, I grew up on Saratoga Lake so I have a special place in my heart for it.  In addition to Hal wanting to share the beauty of Saratoga Lake and Fish Creek with the public, Hal's passion really lies in sharing and bringing back Saratoga Lake's history and in its preservation.  He wants to bring back the glory days when Steamboat Alice made its last run, 82 years ago.  Hal shares his love of local history, along with his love of boating with his passengers, young and old, which makes a cruise with him so much more than a boat ride. It's a special experience, one that's unforgettable, educational and well worth the ticket price.  Yes, Lake George is definitely a grand sight, but give me Saratoga Lake any day and definitely at sunset. There's no better way to experience that than on the lake on one of Adirondack Cruise and Charter Company's boats.  For more information, to purchase tickets and to follow them on Facebook:
To read my previous posts about the Adirondack Cruise & Charter Company:

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!

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 wonder...so 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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