Sweet Finger Lakes Getaway

Keuka Lake view from the Bluff.

Last summer at one of our Inner Crazy performances at Treleaven Winery, Alan and I had the privilege of meeting Bill and Mel. This couple were immediately warm and friendly, complimenting us on our singing and playing and sharing their musical interests with us. They have since become two of our most loyal fans, as well as good friends. Whenever we play in the Keuka Lake area, they are sure to show up. And they frequently surprise us by turning up to shows farther afield.

In March, right after our wedding, we played at White Springs Winery in Geneva and Bill and Mel came to hear us. We chatted with them during our breaks and told them all about our wedding. When we got home and looked in our tip hat, we saw a note from them. We were surprised and touched to read that they wanted to give us a couple of nights at their rental cabin overlooking Keuka Lake as a wedding gift! Since our kids were going to be on Spring break mid-April, we arranged with Bill and Mel to come then.

When the day arrived, it was sunny and cool and as we rolled into the driveway, we took in the vineyards to the right, the lake below, and the charming little cabin. Inside was perfect: sweet, clean, and it had everything one could need for a getaway.

The sleeping area was a part of the one-room floor plan, with a queen-sized bed (with a comfortable mattress) and bunk beds. There were also air mattresses available for more sleeping options.

The kitchen was complete with pots and pans and cooking utensils, plates, cups, flatware, a toaster, a blender, microwave…even a wine cooler, and an ample bar counter and comfortable bar seats.

The living room had comfy chairs and a sofa, a coffee table and end tables, a TV and DVD player and sliding glass doors that led onto the deck and had a view of the lake. The deck had a table and chairs, and the backyard had both a fire pit with seating and a gas grill.

The bathroom was well-equipped with towels and toiletries one might forget to bring, and even had a washer and dryer. Did I mention how clean everything was? I’m a neat-freak and appreciate clean spaces and surfaces, so this place was a delight.

We made ourselves right at home. Alan had a cold at the time and I was recovering from that horrible back spasm thing so we took naps, read, and cooked most of our meals in the little kitchen. It was peaceful and quiet, so we slept well, and felt rested and refreshed during our stay.

I think this would make a perfect writer’s or musician’s retreat, as well as being just right for a romantic getaway. And of course it absolutely would work if you have children.

If you’re interested in a visit to the Finger Lakes Region, Alan and I recommend staying at Bill and Mel’s The Place in the Woods. We both highly recommend it! You can find it here on VRBO.

Green Day in the FLX

I woke at 6:38 in the morning, just 22 minutes before my alarm would go off. I’ve been waking before my alarm most days this spring, but lie there hoping I can get just a little more sleep.

After driving my daughter to school and eating breakfast with Alan, I decided to dedicate my day to working on making un-paper towels. One of the many ways we need to change our habits is to stop using, or at least drastically cut down on our use of, paper towels.

I’ve been scrutinizing the family’s paper towel use and notice most of the time we are using them to wipe up a minor spill, dry hands, or dry a cup or dish. It’s true that I use them to clean, but I have microfiber cloths, rags, and sponges, so I just need to stop reaching for paper towels.

With fabric I had, I sewed up a dozen towels that are flannel on one side and muslin on the other, and another half dozen with linen on one side and muslin on the other.

The pattern was a 13″ x 12″ rectangle, that, when sewn with a 1/2″ seam on each side, made 12″ x 11″ un-paper towels, which is the same size as the brand of paper towels I’ve been buying. I drew a pencil line across at the 6″ mark, and then sewed along the line, so they easily fold in half. And then I folded them in thirds, Kon-Mari style. Since I have a vertical paper towel holder, I couldn’t roll my new towels, so I removed the roller and stacked them in the space.

Now that I’ve successfully made my first un-paper towels, we have to form the habit of using them. Keeping a fresh supply next to the sink will help. Of course, I’ll keep a couple rolls of paper towels in the house for really dirty jobs, but if they’re out-of-sight, I hope they’ll be out-of-mind too.

This was a tiny step toward a more planet-friendly daily life, but it felt like a positive one. Alan and I have been increasingly saddened by the continuous photos of plastic waste in the oceans, on beaches, and harming and killing sea birds and animals. We are examining our habits and purchases and asking ourselves: Is this necessary? Is there another way? What can we do right now?

And, in fact, there are so many practical actions each one of us can take right now to honor and protect the planet we call home. Because, as the slogan I’ve seen on Instagram a lot lately says, “There is no Planet B.”

I’d love to be inspired by how you are finding ways to live in a planet-healthy fashion. Here are a few places where you can go to learn about plastic waste in the oceans and to explore ways you can reduce your plastic usage.

My Plastic Free Life

How to Reduce Plastic Use in Your Home

Green Education Foundation

Oceanic Society

What I Learned In April

Taking a cue from several other bloggers who wrap up each month this way, I am sharing things I learned or re-learned in April.

We are fragile alone and stronger together.

I’m recovering from two weeks of back pain and a cold, both of which left me physically weak and tired, and emotionally worn-down. The drive I wake up with every morning had abandoned me and I felt like I was in a fog of uncertainty, low confidence, and non-clarity. You know what helped me most (after extra sleep and rest)? Seeing the faces of my friends!

On Friday, one friend came over for lunch, shared what’s new in her life, transformation and personal growth that’s happening, her thoughts and feelings on work and family, her struggles and successes. It was so good to listen to her story and to share mine as well. And on Saturday, another friend came over, we discussed ideas for a class we are collaborating on, she shared her latest creative work, we talked about parenting, spirituality, relationships, and more. I felt inspiration returning as well as a renewed desire to keep going with my creative and business endeavors.

Muscle spasms are intense.

As I wrote about in this post, I just had one of the most painful experiences of my life: muscle spasms in my upper back. I couldn’t breathe, and could barely so I thought I was dying of something. The pain was so intense–no position standing or lying down would ease it. My greatest sources of relief were Alan’s massages every few hours and applying aromatherapy pain relief blends I made. The recipes are here. Two weeks later, I am still moving very carefully, walking, doing gentle yoga, and light resistance training.

A few days away from home can do wonders for rejuvenation and recovery.

A sweet couple whom we met last summer on one of our music gigs gifted us a two-night stay at their cabin on Keuka Lake. Since Alan had a cold and I was in a good amount of back pain at the time, we spent the time sleeping, reading, watching old movies, and taking life slowly. We visited a winery one afternoon and walked down Penn Yan’s Main Street. There was a lovely kitchen in the cabin, so we mostly made our meals and ate on-site, and went out to eat only a couple of times. It felt so wonderful to have no responsibilities of home and work and family. This time away was just what we needed! I will be sharing more about our stay at this cabin in a future post.

I’m still trying to figure out if I belong in a church.

On Easter Sunday, Alan and I visited a local church. In my imagination, the service would contain beautiful music and ritual and the minister would share an inspiring and challenging message. Instead, as what often happens in public places these days, there was an ill-behaved three or four-year-old boy that whined and cried and yelled and talked over the top of everything. His mother and grandmother just let him go on and on, ruining the service for everyone else. Finally, after most of the music and all of the readings were finished, and the minister was about to begin her sermon, the mother had enough and took him out. I couldn’t get my mind or emotions to focus for the brief remainder of the service. It was super frustrating!

I love film-noir.

Recently, Alan and I watched Murder, My Sweet starring Dick Powell and Anne Shirley. This 1944 film is one of the Philip Marlowe mystery series that included The Big Sleep with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. When we paused the film to get drinks, I said, “I love film-noir,” and Alan said he did too. The black and white low lighting, the suspense, the hard-edged crime the Some of my other favorites are Double Indemnity, The Maltese Falcon, Key Largo, and The Postman Always Rings Twice.

What did YOU learn in April?


FLX Letters, April 2019 Edition

FLX Letters are an idea I came up with a year ago. My intention is to give a monthly glimpse into life in the Finger Lakes, through my lense and perspective.

Dear Reader,

On this last Saturday in April, I am at my desk, wrapped in a wool sweater while snowflakes whip past my window. The line of evergreen trees shivers and shakes in the cold wind while the sturdy, still-bare maples just stand and endure. The gray, dismal bluster of the day seeps through the cracks of this old house, attempting to drive me back to bed with a pile of books.

I refuse to give in to the gloom! Fairy lights are twinkling around the library, the delicious smell of (gluten-free, dairy free) a strawberry-raspberry fruit crisp is filling the house with home-baked happiness, and I’m listening to the lovely strains of Easter music by Gustav Mahler and Francis Poulenc.

For all the folks who live in warmer climes and wonder why someone would want to live in a place where it still snows in April, one of the reasons is precisely because of days like this. At least for me. For an introvert and a book nerd, it means time to reflect on the past few weeks with a flip through my bullet journal. Time to make a cup of tea and plan blog and social content for the next few weeks. Time to work through my new stack of library books.

It means enjoying the wildness and unpredictability of the weather where one Spring day it is 70 degrees Fahrenheit, sunny and mild, and three days later I put on my winter jacket to get the mail. You just never know what you’re gonna get in the Finger Lakes Region.

It also means when warmer temperatures do settle in, they won’t be taken for granted. Each warm day of our short and sweet summer season is a gift, a chance to create beautiful memories with friends and family, with local wine and lakeside walks, taking in sunsets, hiking the gorges, delighting in treasures from our gardens, or discovering a village on a little jaunt through the rolling countryside to the next lake or two over.

The cold and snow of this April day give me space to do things I wouldn’t do if there was sunshine and warmth to beckon me out of doors. I will live slowly today, relishing the hours spent with a friend who is coming over this afternoon for a cup of coffee and a chinwag. I’ll read both poetry and prose, practice piano, work on a watercolor idea, and do some vision casting. This is a day for hope, for good what-ifs, and as Emily Dickinson wrote, for dwelling in Possibility.

With love, Kim

Late Winter Musings

These last few days of winter and this last day before the season of Lent begins are vibrating with change, energy, and light.

I’m struggling to sleep past six each morning because I am still used to darkness and silence and haven’t yet adjusted to the sun peeking out and birdsong lilting through the closed window.

Not that I am complaining–quite the opposite! I actually prefer change over stagnation, but this year I seem even more aware of the natural world slowly waking up and shifting toward activity and growth.

I have the privilege of living in the middle of all this glory we call the Finger Lakes Region: fields and meadows, forests, hills, valleys, lakes, and wildlife everywhere.

Much of the time, I block out what is happening on the other side of these walls and carry on with the ” more important work” of business and commerce and marketing and study. This disconnect is detrimental to myself, other people, and the earth, so I seek to take a hint from the seasonal transition we are in and change my behavior.

When my children were young and we homeschooled, I followed the Charlotte Mason method which emphasized art, literature, music, history, handcrafts, and plenty of time spent out of doors for nature study. My kids and I each had a nature study notebook. The idea was simply to spend some time outside and draw something that you observed while there: a tree, a cloud, a bird, an insect, a leaf, etc. This strengthened powers of observation while creating a habit of attention to the natural world.

My homeschooling years are behind me, but I need to reconnect myself to nature’s rhythms and be at one with the true pace of the planet. I very much need to reawaken my whole self to what has been before me and what will go on after I have lived my life here.

Mary Oliver, who passed away earlier this year, wrote all the time of nature, of her observations in nature, and of the depths of emotion she experienced in the natural world. I’ll end with her poem, “Mindful” from her book Why I Wake Early:

Mindful

Everyday
I see or hear
something
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for —
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world —
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant —
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these —
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

Quiet the Night Descends

My dinner was eaten in solitude this evening. No one to ask, “What would you prefer?” No one to set the table for, other than myself. A small square plate, a napkin, fork, spoon and knife, a water glass and wine glass. If it hadn’t been so humid and still, I might have lit the beeswax candle in the hurricane lamp at the center of the table.

There was no one to interrupt the audio book I played as I prepared a salad, boiled water  and then cooked the gluten free pasta, sautéed mushrooms, and then the minced garlic, baby spinach and a few shrimp. And as I sat down and began to eat, no one to mind my watching a bit more of the documentary about Joan Didion, whom I have yet to actually read. (Yes, that’s a sad fact, I know.)

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Afterward, I washed pot and plate, put the salad and dressing back in the fridge, and slipped into my shoes waiting at the back door. The sun had already set, the grass was wet and heavy after the rain, like a green sea reaching to my knees in places. Cicadas and crickets, their brassy rhythmic choruses completely in sync, were the only sounds I heard. The air was stagnant; not a branch stirred.

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This year, the farmer has planted corn all around the periphery of our land as well as in the fields across the road. We are walled in by corn, much taller than I am, crowding out the view of the lake and the lower fields, and making me feel a bit claustrophobic. That sounds silly, because the sky is so big and expressive, yet that’s how I feel all the same. The past two years the fields were sown with either soybeans or potatoes, so this is my first experience with the corn’s ominous presence.

fullsizeoutput_141eI stood staring at the corn and the cloud-filled sky, took a few pictures, then trudged through the grass to see the garden. I must pick lettuce tomorrow; its red and green leaves looked luscious and ready to be eaten.

fullsizeoutput_1427I walked to the fruit trees beyond and around to the gazebo with fairy lights twinkling, a touch of welcomed civilization amidst the dripping grass, the darkening trees, and the unrelenting army of corn.

fullsizeoutput_1426After getting the mail, I went up the front steps, saying good evening to our two reading gargoyles, and in through the front door. Dorothy said it and it’s true: “There’s no place like home!” Home, a refuge against whatever my wild imagination conjured out of the settling darkness.

 

 

 

Finger Lakes Wines I’m Loving

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I seem to be on a foodie trail lately, so I’ll just go with it. I wanted to share my current favorite local wines with you. If you’re lucky enough to live in the Finger Lakes Region, you already know how much fun we have here. New wineries seem to spring up overnight around these lakes.

Last year, for Mother’s Day, we went over to Keuka Lake to Hunt Country, Dr Frank’s, and Heron Hill for a tasting at each. That was my first time at those wineries and I enjoyed interacting with the staff, tasting their delicious offerings and the views of Keuka Lake as well.

So here are my late winter picks:

Wagner Vineyard’s Vintner’s Riesling is one I picked out at Trumansburg Wine & Spirits about a month ago and immediately fell in love with. Sorry, out-of-towners, but you can only purchase this at local stores. Which means you will have to come visit! It’s a great price and easy to pair with light meals.

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Six Mile Creek Vineyard’s Ithaca Red is all berry jam and spices. Yum. This wine was one of the only things I could sample at last year’s Downtown Ithaca Chili Festival. It’s a fun wine to share with a friend on a cold day.

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Hector Wine Company’s Soul White is a semi-dry blend that I enjoy drinking anytime. Alan and I brought a bottle to the first Big Mean BBQ that we attended together to drink along with our fare from the Silo Food Truck. So it brings back happy memories for me whenever I taste it.

Hector Wine Company’s 2016 Riesling is their semi-dry wine that Jason served us after our show there a couple of weeks ago. Cheerful, fruity and perfect for a celebration.

There you are, dear readers! It’s Friday, so pick up a bottle of fabulous Finger Lakes wine, make a delicious dinner and enjoy your evening.

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Songwriting Madness in Winter

 

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At Hector Wine Company November 2017

We were at Hector Wine Company two days before Christmas, listening to The Blind Spots when the owner, who is friends with Alan, asked when we were going to play there. He said he had openings on all the Friday nights in February and we could have our pick. So Alan told him that we could do the last Friday night, February 23. I was inwardly panicking, my heart pounding and dread replacing the happiness I had felt at being out, enjoying the evening during the holiday season.

Here’s why I panicked: it’s an all-originals show that we’ll be putting on and we only had a handful of originals penned. How were we going to write 20-25 songs in two months? Alan, ever the optimist, thought it was completely within the realm of possibility. So is being stressed to the max and writing every spare minute we have!

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My songwriting notebook

Fast forward to this week, by which time we’re nearing fifteen completed songs. Completing the number of songs we need feels more like a possibility, but it’s going to continue to be stressful. I need to be disciplined to write during my mentally sharpest hours, while making time to create new products for my Etsy/craft business Delicata House, spend time with my kids, exercise, cook, clean, etc.

It’s a huge challenge, but we will meet it–we have to–and the reward will be that we’ll have access to several more local venues that only allow originals to be played. So if it’s been quiet on the blog lately and if it continues to be for the next three weeks, blame it on Alan. No, just kidding, it’ll just be that I’m songwriting my heart out. When we get some of these tracks recorded, I’ll share a link. In the meantime, if you’d like to check us out, here’s a link to the covers and one original we currently have on SoundCloud.

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At Home in the Finger Lakes

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A few days ago, I spent an hour or so on Instagram adding several hundred accounts to the list of those I follow. The photos from Europe and the UK in particular have me itching to pack my bags, cross the ocean and immerse myself in the beauty of otherness and be thrilled with whatever is new and foreign to me. I’ve been waiting to travel my whole life, but refuse to give up on my goal. Trying to be patient in the meantime is tough, but at least I can see through the eyes of other world travelers any minute of the day on Instagram.

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Do you ever feel discontented about where you live and wish for some fresh landscapes to inspire and refresh you? But as I wait for my opportunity, I will be thankful for the wildness, drama and variety of this region I live in. I’ve visited unremarkable places, but the Finger Lakes region is not one of these. Waterfalls, gorges, wooded hills, valleys, lakes and streams, farm fields and meadows stretch in all directions. Small town life definitely still exists and I live it. Small villages and towns are to be found every few miles. Biking, hiking, boating, fishing, skiing, and plain old walking can yield an abundance of breathtaking beauty.

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The leaves are mostly off our trees, the fields are either harvested or being harvested, squirrels are collecting their last store of food for winter. We’ve had a dusting of snow and have woken up to frost-covered cars several times already. The wind has taken on a cold and blustery Northern edge.

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We are discussing Thanksgiving recipes and preparing for the Advent and Christmas season. Wooden angels and pine trees already decorate my mantel and I’m researching where I can get some evergreen shrubs for the front door. In a week, I’ll be getting an evergreen tree for the library as well. Here is where I live and love, so I will notice the goodness all around me and be grateful.

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What do you love about where you live and where would you like to travel next?

 

Curiosity and a Cob Oven

 

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According to www.dictionary.cambridge.org, one of the definitions of the noun renaissance is: “a new growth or interest in something, especially art, literature, or music.”

This word renaissance has stayed with me since the end of 2015 as I felt a shift taking place in many areas of my life. Sure, “midlife crisis” may be the term used to describe major changes that humans undergo in an attempt to find meaning and satisfaction in their lives. To me, though, I began to “choose the path of curiosity instead of the path of fear”, which were words used by author Elizabeth Gilbert to describe creative people in a recent On Being interview with Krista Tippett.

To me, though, I began to “choose the path of curiosity instead of the path of fear”.

This meant doing new things through my anxiety and fear of the unknown. And I have a boatload of anxiety and fear. Some of my everyday anxiety includes when I have to talk on the phone–both calling and answering the phone, going to the bank or post office (I haven’t analyzed this, I just know it happens), going to large-ish parties or gatherings even if I know a good deal of the crowd, basically, introvert problems.

This week I was mulling all this over because I bumped into a girl I met at the Cob Therapy cob oven workshop at Hawk Meadow Farm that I took in June 2016. We stood in Greenstar and chatted. I asked her if she’d done anything with the knowledge we gained and she shook her head. Neither had I, I told her, but Alan has a pile of field stone that would be perfect for the base of a cob oven if we had a team of people and Matteo and Peaches from Cob Therapy to oversee the project.

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On the other hand, that workshop taught me things I have carried into this last year and a half. I helped a team of people build a beautiful and useful cob oven with my own hands. We worked at least 7-8 hours in the summer heat making cob, hauling stone, lifting, stacking, mixing clay, straw and sand with our feet and hands yet we all were positive and downright happy from start to finish.

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Although I respect and admire nature, I’m not inclined to get myself dirty, but it felt good and I won’t forget it. We worked together without jealousy or squabbling of any kind. We blended together and worked peacefully. It’s a cliché to say we felt like family for those four days, but there was that sense.

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Since that class, so much has continued to change in my life and I’m still following curiosity’s path. I am trying new things: a craft business, NaNoWriMo, becoming pescatarian, writing more poetry, challenging myself to publish a blog post daily, attempting to learn about marketing on social media, trying watercolor, and figuring out what I want to do next. I’m still faced with anxiety, but I have the solid memories from the positive experiences I’ve had to spur me on new experiences. My personal renaissance will continue, hopefully throughout my life.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

–Walt Disney

Where are you with your personal renaissance and with choosing curiosity over fear?