Thursday, September 16, 2010

Back from the North

We returned Monday night from ten days at the Cabin. In some ways it felt even longer, in a good way, because over the Labor Day weekend my dear friend and her daughter were visiting, then we had a couple of days alone, and then my father-in-law came up on Thursday and stayed until Monday. So it was as if we had three separate trips to the cabin, one after the other.

I was really glad my friend and her daughter could join us for the long weekend. My friend's daughter is very special to me, since I didn't have children of my own, and I've known her since she was a toddler; so I think of her as the daughter I never had. As Megan got older we joked that she takes after me, since we share some of the same tendencies and little quirks. So she calls me "MO" for "Mother Other." (We didn't want it to be Other Mother, as OM sounded too much like a yoga mantra). To keep her anonymity (she is almost 15 and I'm sure wouldn't want me to be blogging about her), in this post I will call her Megan, which is not her real name.

While they were there, the weather was very changeable. The first few days were basically nice, but windy with a mixture of clouds and sun.

It was cool enough in the evenings to sit out on our deck huddled around the fire in our brass chiminea, enjoying the flicker of the flames and telling stories. Megan had just gotten back from sleepaway camp, where she had spent four weeks over the summer, two in early July and two at the end of August. So she regaled us with all the camp songs she could remember, and the ghost stories that the counselors had told them. I chimed in with some of the ghost stories we used to tell around the campfire on our Girl Scout campouts, as well as singing a few of the songs I knew. I love camp ghost stories; they all share the common theme that whatever horrific thing happened, it happened RIGHT HERE at this camp, and the person telling the story KNOWS a person who was there at the time.

During the Labor Day weekend we spent our time together eating, drinking, reading books, walking in the woods, and journeying out for adventures.

One day we went all the way back to the Albany area to go to a Scottish Fair they were having in Altamont. It was one of those breezy, changeable days with clouds and sun, a perfect day for walking around the fairgrounds. Diva was welcome there, and spent the day meeting people she'd never met before, as we toured the various Scottish and Irish inspired jewelry, clothing and food booths. We stopped to watch the Highland Games for awhile and enjoyed the throwing of the caber.

We were surprised to come across a fish & chips booth that was run by Kearny, New Jersey's own Argyle Restaurant. Sure enough, there was one of the men we'd seen many a time when we attended the Robert Burns Suppers at the restaurant.

Of course we had to patronize a New Jersey business, so my friend opted for a plate of fish and chips, while DH and I chose fried haggis balls. Yes, that sounds really grotesque, but fried haggis balls are great. Take a bunch of meat, spices, and onions, wrap it in thick breadcrumbs and dough, and throw it in a deep fryer, and out comes crunchy, salty, tasty goodness. I'm sure my arteries have still not recovered. Haggis balls are probably almost as "good" for you as Scotch Eggs (fried dough around sausage with an egg in the center, which Argyle's had run out of before we got there, to our dismay).

We also stopped at the Beer Tent and had a pint while listening to a rollicking good band play Irish and Scottish music, followed by another group playing the pipes and drums. All in all, it was a great day for the Scottish - and anyone else who enjoys the food and music! Following are some pictures we took at the fair.

The entrance:

The band

The "feral haggis" display

My friend and her daughter holding Diva as she observes the native Scottish wildlife.

There were kilted men everywhere.

A view of some of the booths selling various goods and trinkets.

There was a lot of food to be had.

And lots of kilts to buy.

A young man clad as a primitive Scottish warrior of some kind, wielding his cell phone anachronistically.

Pipes and drums!

Diva meeting new friends at the fair.

While our friends were there, we also had a good dinner down in Whitehall, NY at our local Italian restaurant, The Roma Restaurant, which has the best lasagna I've found anywhere, even in New Jersey.

After our friends left, it seemed quiet, and we felt lazy and just relaxed for a couple of days. Unfortunately for DH's dad, the weather turned cooler and cloudier when he arrived, so we were stuck inside more than we'd hoped. However, we did have one beautiful day where we sat out on the deck to eat breakfast in the sun, enjoying pancakes and mimosas. (DH's dad brought up the champagne for that purpose).

On one of the cloudy days, we drove to Glens Falls and went to the Hyde Collection, a small exquisite museum contained within the Hyde family's historic home. It reminded us of a smaller version of the Frick or Isabella Stewart Gardner museums.

In addition to the permanent collection, there are newer wings added to the house that are used for changing exhibitions. We had just missed a collection of Andrew Wyeth's work on the day we were there. That was just as well, since the museum was remarkably empty during our visit; one of the guards told us there had been 700-800 people there over Labor Day weekend viewing the Wyeth exhibit.

The museum overlooks the Finch Paper Company factory, an industry that has been in Glens Falls since 1865 when it was founded as Finch Pruyn & Co. (It was sold in 2007 to a holding company funded by investors from another paper company, and is now known as Finch Paper LLC). The "Pruyn" part of the name is where the Hydes come in. Charlotte Hyde was originally Charlotte Pruyn, daughter of the papermill owner, and when she married Louis Hyde, he became a vice president in Finch Pruyn, thus helping to fund their hobby of art collecting.

The museum is still set up as a house, with each room containing priceless furniture, tapestries, and decorative pieces dating back as far as the 15th century. The artwork on the walls is equally exquisite. While the collection of paintings is not huge, it comprises gems from various eras and countries, from Rembrandt, Rubens, El Greco and Van Dyck to Renoir, James Whistler, Winslow Homer, Albert Bierstadt and even Picasso. This museum is a must-see for any art lover. Below is one painting from the collection - a portrait of Jesus by Rembrandt (taken from the Hyde Collection website).
The meal we had in Whitehall on our way back from the museum was also well worth mentioning. For anyone not familiar with Whitehall, my excitement about this restaurant has to be explained.

Whitehall is a rather down-at-heel post-industrial town on the banks of the Champlain Canal. The town was formerly prosperous, due to the proximity of the canal, which once transported goods up and down its length, resulting in many businesses springing up along its shores, and a number of grand homes. Unfortunately, now that this type of transportation is done mainly by truck, time has kind of passed by Whitehall. There are many empty shops and shabby storefronts, and very few good restaurants. There is one over at the marina that we have not yet tried, and one on the other side of the canal that was good but nearly empty the time we were there. Roma and the House of Pizza are the ones we frequent most often.

So imagine our surprise when we drove down the main street by the canal and saw a lit up, busy new restaurant one evening! We looked it up on Google and sure enough, they had just opened in August and were obviously fulfilling an unmet need in the community, as there was a line waiting outside the door to get in. City Steaks & Seafood is hip, trendy, and reasonably priced, with great lobsters and steaks as well as other more ambitous dishes.

The building used to be a bank, and the outside has been restored and lit up tastefully with the name of the restaurant above the doorway. Inside, it has been totally remodeled, with exposed brick walls, wood floors, and a cozy and lively ambience. The service was good, the waiter was friendly, and the food excellent. Our steaks were done perfectly (mine "mid-rare" and DH's "medium rare" - they actually managed to make mine a little rarer than his!), and Dad's twin lobsters (only $19.95) were hefty specimens and perfectly cooked. DH and I also had lobster (we had the steak and lobster special) and were equally pleased with our lobsters. We are looking forward to our next trip to the Cabin so we can go there again very soon. (Below is a picture of the outside of the restaurant taken from their Facebook page, linked above.)

The next day we had to pack up and leave our cabin until our next visit, which won't be until October 8th, as we are heading up to Cape Cod for a week in between. Before then, however, I will be catching up on blogs and blogging!


Sherry Peyton said...

Wow, all your pics seriously stressed my uploading! lol..Sounds like you had a terrific time, and well, your cabin is just so lovely anyhow. I'm glad you were able to have such nice visits, find such great food, and all around enjoy yourself. It will be cold care!

Mauigirl said...

Sorry about that, I know pictures are slow to upload! Thanks for the good not ready for winter at all. Hope the fall lingers on through November as it did last year. We shall see!

nonnie9999 said...

looks like fun, but haggis balls? really? poor mrs. haggis.

SY said...

wow you got the opportunity to spend a lot of time in that cabin.. Labor I was at work.. I guest retail doesn't count as labor...

My niece is as dear to me as your "meagan"

kids are the best, aren't they?

LeftLeaningLady said...

Oh wow! Where do I start??

I love a man in a skirt. I wonder if I could get my husband in a kilt? Our anniversary is coming up!

Lobster!! For $19.95? We can't get per pound down here. The high cost of shipping is killing us. I am jealous.

And 10 days in a cabin, cool nights, mimosas on the deck. Wow!

So glad you had a good time!

Evelyn said...

Mimi... I thought Ed had grown his beard during vacation... had to take a second look at the man in the kilt wearing the hat and holding a glass of beer. Sure looks like Ed!

Glad you had a great time!

fallenmonk said...

Looks like great fun at the Highland Games. I love them and we have a huge one here in Atlanta at Stone Mountain which is coming soon. Being a Scot I have a kilt and it is my only opportunity usually to wear all my Scottish garb. I have lost some weight since I bought it so it is a constant struggle to keep all 18 pounds of it where it should be. The haggis balls sound good and I am a big fan of the eggs. I can't wait for the games to sample both.

Life As I Know It Now said...

The pictures are great and it looks like you had a wonderful time. May I also add welcome back to the wonderful world of blogging ;~)

Annette said...

Love reading about your trips. You live in such a historical area... or your cabin is I suppose.. I would love to visit there. It sounds like the Ozarks here some.

Sue said...

what a great life you have! A cabin to enjoy when ever and now a trip to Cape Cod, Fabulous! Thanks for taking me along with your great pictures!

The Cunning Runt said...

What a great travelogue - such cool stuff within driving distance of us, we may have to visit the Hyde some time soon!

TomCat said...

Mimi, it sounds like you had a great time. Loved the pics.

Of course we had to patronize a New Jersey business, so my friend opted for a plate of fish and chips, while DH and I chose fried haggis balls.

Didn't the haggis get really mad about that?

In case I don't make it back tomorrow, may I jump a day early?

Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday to you!!
Happy Birthday, dear Mimi!!!
Happy Birthday to you!!!!

Because my paw won't reach that far, I delegate the 39 spanks to my pal, Baxter. Keep those claws in, buddy!! ;-)

KGMom said...

My oh my--what a busy lovely time you had. The best time to have, of course. Friends, family, food, fun--and furry friends.

LeftLeaningLady said...

I AM going to the Rally To Restore Sanity!! Let's get together with our rational signs and our.. beer!
J/K on the beer thing, I drink rum!

Fran said...

I finally got to read this entire post... I have had it held aside since you published it.

What a fun time you had and here you are, a part-time resident of the area, informing me of the good places to eat. We don't get up to Whitehall often, but I want to try City Steaks and Seafood.

So glad you did all the fun things that you did. If you ever get to return to the Altamont area and Thatcher Park) in the fall for the leaf change season, please do so! The Scottish games looked like fun.

If you are in Glens Falls again (<3 the Hyde Collection) try Jake's; it is a pretty good place to eat.

Happy birthday today!!

lisahgolden said...

That sounds like a wonderful trip, Maui. I love the photo of the kilted youth with his cellphone.

jmsjoin said...

Sounds and looks like you had a relaxing good time. I would say you can't beat good weather outdoors with friend telling stories at the cabin at night but those pics show you had a great time and finish it off with lobster how can you beat that?

S.W. Anderson said...

Sounds like a wonderful time. More power to you, Mauigirl. Finding an especially good Italian restaurant is one of life's special joys. Viva cusina Italia!

La Belette Rouge said...

The Scottish fair sounds fantastic. i have become a bit of a Scotophile now that I have a West Highland White Terrier. I do have to say that I would pass on the haggis balls, no matter what you say.:-)
Have a great time in Cape Cod!

Fran said...

Fun was had by all!

You make retirement look good... too bad I am probably a decade & 1/2 away from retiring.

I love all things Scottish.... the husband is of Scottish descent -- he was wise enough to marry an Irish girl. ; >

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