August 25, 2008

Regional Specialties

Filed under: food — origamifreak @ 4:10 pm
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Noel alerted me to a recent article in the NYT about food in the Finger Lakes. While they hit some high points (I concur about Dinosaur BBQ and Cayuga Lake Creamery ice cream), they left out a number of other local favorites.

Over the past few years I’ve been collecting recipes of these, and I submit here a list for your culinary amusement:


August 24, 2008

Pork loin with summer vegetables

Filed under: food — origamifreak @ 4:49 am
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Last weekend I put this together, and it was really good:

1 pre-marinated pork loin (any flavor – mine happened to be portobello)
several summer squash, chopped
half an onion, chopped
mushrooms, chopped (optional)
a couple teaspoons olive oil
whatever herbs you have handy
Mrs Dash (optional)

Preheat the oven according to the loin packaging.
In a big rectangular Pyrex dish, spread the chopped vegetables.
Mix in the herbs, and some Mrs Dash if desired.
Spray the vegetables with a few squirts of olive oil.
Lay the pork loin diagonally on top of the vegetables
Bake until the pork is done, flipping over halfway through.
Remove from the oven, cover with foil, and let rest for 5-10 min.

It didn’t require any extra salt beyond what came along with the pork. I thought the juice at the bottom of the casserole was one of the best parts.

August 18, 2008

Lunch Cruise

Filed under: transportation — origamifreak @ 6:01 pm
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On our last full day of Rose’s trip we arranged a lunch cruise on Canandaigua Lake. After stopping by Geneva for my PT appointment, we drove to Canandaigua and had breakfast at The Muar House Cafe. Afterwards we wandered around Kershaw Park and read our books, and swung on the nice swings they provide as an alternative to some benches:

And we played with our cameras:

At 11:45 we boarded the Canandaigua Lady and pulled out into the lake.

The boat is a paddlewheel, so I suppose this is the reason for the plinky-plonky old-tyme music.

It was fun to watch the other boats weaving back and forth around us.

Other passengers amused themselves by taking pictures of the Captain in the wheelhouse:

Eventually they called us to lunch, and provided baskets which we carried upstairs so we could eat outside on the upper deck. We were treated to views of extravagant lakeside homes, and the former and existing houses of various members of the Wegman family were pointed out.

On the trip back up the east side of the lake there was a whimsical monster on a wall.

Once back we had gelato at the Muar House and then drove home.

At the mercy of the winds

Filed under: transportation — origamifreak @ 1:30 am
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When Rose lived in San Diego, we’d sit on her back deck in the evening, drinking wine and watching balloons come up the hill from Del Mar and land in the field behind her house. On these occasions she would sometimes say that she’d like to go up in a balloon, herself, one day.

So, back in April when her tickets to visit had been purchased, I decided it was time to arrange a surprise. There are actually several balloon companies in upstate NY. I found lists of them at the Dansville Balloon Rally website. There were some good suggestions about questions to ask at the Balloon Federation of America website. There are apparently scams to watch out for, described at this website. And there are periodic stories of accidents in the news, so this is clearly not an activity to be taken lightly.  Power lines are often involved.

In the end I went with the closest, which was the Liberty Balloon Company. They not only do festivals and rides, but also apparently train and certify pilots. I contacted them by phone and had a nice chat with Carroll Teitsworth, who answered all of my questions and gave me lots of information about what to expect, how to schedule a ride, etc. Because of dependence on weather, it’s a good idea to have a few backup dates/times set up; on average 50% of scheduled flights are scrubbed.

It was hard to keep this a secret every time I spoke with Rose on the phone, but I managed it until she arrived in NY.

On the morning of the launch, I called at 4:30am to hear the recording saying whether we’d be able to go, or not. The answer was affirmative, so we got ourselves up and drove to meet Capt. Teitsworth in Canandaigua at 6am.

While we sat at a nearby picnic table, we watched him set up. The entire thing, balloon, gondola, and all, are really compact – he had carried them in a pickup, which was also the chase vehicle.

The balloon was one of the RE/MAX ones. I’m not sure exactly how it works, but sounds like the company helps subsidize the equipment. Later, the dairy farmers who helped us land wondered if we’d gotten the flight as a reward for buying a house!

When the balloon was unpacked and laid out properly, Capt. Teitsworth had us help hold it open with ropes so that a gas-powered fan could inflate it. Slowly he added heat with the burners so that it would stand upright. There was a little miscommunication with the designated chase guy, and he was late showing up. Fortunately another guy who works with them showed up to see if there’d be a launch, and he stuck around helping (holding the rope to steady the top of the balloon). Eventually the intended chaser arrived, and the second guy got to go to his last day at Xerox, rather than stepping in as a replacement. I sort-of got the impression that he’d rather do the chasing than Xeroxing, but then I probably would, too!

When the balloon was ready, Rose and I clambered in (this is a classically ungraceful operation, as we’d been warned, many times), and we lifted off.

As we lifted, I suddenly remembered I don’t like heights. Doh! Urgh. Capt. Teitsworth said to look out, not down, and that helped. Rose, on the other hand, was having a grand time taking all kinds of vertigo-inducing pictures, both up and down.

I pointed my camera down (without looking, myself) and also took one:

In search of a wind heading east, we went up high (Rose peeked at the altimeter, which apparently said something like “10,000”). Capt. Teitsworth didn’t want to drift into Lake Ontario or metropolitan Rochester. From that height, even with the haze, there were some pretty good views of Roseland Water Park,

and Canandaigua Lake.

At one point we could even see the sun reflecting off the Syracuse skyline.

Once we’d headed far enough east, Capt. Teitsworth brought us down low and we skimmed a field. We were so low that the gondola was plowing through the taller wildflowers. For fun our pilot leaned out and picked me a tall dandelion and Rose a Queen Anne’s Lace.

Then we went about the height of the surrounding tree tops and headed north.

Rose asked if Capt. Teitsworth had ever flown at the level of migrating geese? He said, “Yes,” in fact he once flew over Montezuma in the spring, and when he landed, a Dept. of Conservation guy met him, apologetically explaining that he was following up on a call from a concerned lady, who had reported “a balloon out chasing the geese.” Apparently those guys have to follow up on every call, no matter how bizarre (and unfounded).

Along the way we went over a horse, who was so fascinated it came out of a barn and stood in the doorway for a long time, staring at our diminishing shape.

We passed over some guys working on a gas line, who asked where we were going? “Don’t know!” was Rose’s answer, and it was true, although Capt. Teitsworth and the chase guy had a general idea.

It was fun to watch our shadow following us.

We passed over a stream and Capt. Teitsworth suggested taking a picture of our reflection.

After about an hour aloft we started scoping out places to land. This is a lot harder than it sounds, because if there aren’t power lines in the way, there are other obstacles. At one point we thought we might manage a yard with dog running around – the guy inside was really excited and ran out, taking photos; he said he hadn’t ever seen a balloon up close, before. In the end we didn’t risk it, because there was a well casing sticking out of the lawn that we might bump into.

We passed over several places that turned out to have power lines in inconvenient locations, and led the poor chase guy on many detours and false alarms, where he’d park and come running out to catch our line, only to have to schlep back to the truck and follow us to another location.

At one point it looked like we might land in a farmyard, viewed by a herd of Holsteins, all staring up at us. Capt. Teitsworth was concerned about startling them and radioed our chase guy to ask the owners who’d come out to see what was going on. In the end there was another power line in the way. It was fun to see the whole crowd of cows turn in unison to watch us go by. I was reminded of the urban legend of pilots in the Falklands buzzing penguins just to watch them fall over en masse.

Eventually we landed at a neighbor’s house, in the front yard of 4746 Kyte Rd, Shortsville NY. The residents weren’t at home, but the dairy farmers assured us they wouldn’t mind and helped us land and deflate the balloon. They had ballooned themselves, a few times, and thought maybe we’d gotten the ride as a reward for a real estate purchase.

Overall, we’d traveled about 10 miles from the launch point. Once the balloon was disassembled and put back into the truck, Capt. Teitsworth and the chase guy pulled out some bottles of sparkling grape juice and left one at the door of the owners of the yard we’d used.

At this point we received “official” certificates with the following text:


Be it known to all whom these presents shall come,

that on (Date)


did, with great courage and heroic aplomb demonstrate cool resourcefulness in the face of imminent death, disfigurement, and destruction. Furthermore, he/she did show exemplary depth of character in gaining victory over no small amount of fear and trepidation. He/She did, at said time and place, ascend into the troposphere of the planet Earth, in the gondola of a hot-air balloon. Approximately one hour later, he/she did return to Terra Firma in the Town of (Town). This awesome deed did scientifically verify the strength, virture, and integrity of the art of Hot Air Ballooning.

This incredible aeronautical feat is witnessed and attested by

(Carrol G. Teitsworth), Pilot-in-command.

All due respect, courtesies, admiration, and deference shall be afforded the bearer of this document from this day forth and forever more.

I asked, and apparently the wording had originated for bungee jumping and been modified to fit ballooning.

Upon pouring our grape juice, we were regaled with a story that when balloons were newly invented in France, some peasants had attacked one when it landed, thinking it was an intruder from another world. From then on, we were told, balloonists started carrying champagne to show farmers that they were actually from Earth, and even France, and therefore not Dangerous Aliens. From there the legend grew into a tradition, and balloonists apparently now celebrate a successful flight with champagne, and give some to the property owners to thank them for use of the landing spot.

While this story is delightful, I was skeptical, so afterwards I went online and checked it out. Although the event of French peasants attacking the first hydrogen balloon is well-documented (Gonesse, 27 August 1783),

and there are several references to early flights being toasted with champagne aloft, I found no solid references to wine or champagne being carried in France to comfort those on the ground. Amusingly, I did find references to the French government distributing notices that balloons were not a threat after the Gonesse incident.

However, in this reference, there is a story that wine was shared by French hydrogen balloon pilot Jean-Pierre Blanchard with an illiterate farmer in America to quell his fears (New Jersey, January 9, 1793). (see page 35)

If I were a North American balloonist, I think perhaps I’d use this version of the story, since it has a nice local flavor, especially in the Northeast, and it appears to be better documented, at least as far as I can find.

While chatting over our sparkling juice, Rose mentioned that she used to watch the balloons from Del Mar, and that they usually held a large number of people. Capt. Teitsworth pulled out a photo album, explaining that he’d sold a large-basket balloon to someone in the San Diego area a few decades ago, and pointed to a picture, asking if she recognized it? She thought she did. So, in the end, it appears that one of the balloons she’d been watching all those years ago had belonged to our pilot, here in Upstate NY.

On the drive home, Rose said she’d enjoyed the flight, and started speculating about what she should drop hints about next…

August 17, 2008

In Deep Urbanity

On Friday Rose and I drove to Freeville, picked up Deb, and drove with her to bus meeting point, where she saw us off, and carried on with her errands, kindly babysitting the car while we were gone. (Good thing, as it turned out that her car had to have brake work done, so the spare vehicle apparently came in handy.)

We took the Campus2Campus bus to Manhattan, and walked around the block from its stop outside the Cornell Club to our hotel, Club Quarters. After settling in somewhat, we ventured out for dinner and had Indian food at Sukhadia. We brought home a selection of sweets for dessert. Rose didn’t like them, so more for me! Interesting flavors, more associated with savory than sweet for Western palate. Then we stayed up until crazy hours watching the opening ceremony for the Olympics. I fell asleep long before the torch was actually lit.

The next morning we walked to Grand Central Station for breakfast and information. The kiosk didn’t have maps, but the little transportation museum did, so we got some. Next we took the subway to Central Park. My knee was bothering me, so we rested in the shade by the fountain outside CBS, listening to a grouchy street vendor give advice to his assistant. They were selling sunglasses, and the assistant was instructed to keep an eye out for lookers who weren’t buying, and to tell them to move along. Rose privately questioned the legality of this, since sidewalks are public. I figure the chances of getting caught and prosecuted for something like that are so low, it doesn’t matter if it’s legal, or not.

Once my knee felt better we put on our headphones and started following a walking tour designed to introduce the listener to the art and architecture of the park. We walked up the street past many carriage horses and into the park where we saw many things, including the sailboat pond and the musical clock next to the zoo,

Here it is in motion, playing an out-of-key rendition of “The Farmer in the Dell” at 1pm:

(In case you’re wondering, it’s Rose’s camera that makes the funny creaking noises.)

We also stopped by the Alice in Wonderland statue,

and the 3,500-year-old obelisk near the Met. There was a man circling it wearing shorts and a polo shirt that had heiroglyphs where the alligator should be, so I asked him to translate it. He seemed pleased, and halfway through his wife came over and sat with us to join in. They had been on a trip to Egypt (where he got the shirt) and were on their way into the museum. Rose noticed writing on the crabs holding up the corners (they are repros of Roman work), and got the guy going around and reading all of them, using his binoculars.

Next we ambled past the turtle pond covered in bright green duckweed

and up to the ramparted folly overlooking it.

By this time my knee was in full-blown arthritic rebellion, so we walked to 81st Street and took the subway back to 47th St.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped for dinner at Gaby next-door to the hotel. Wine for Rose, cosmopolitans for me. We went in and watched more olympics (swimming and gymnastics, if I recall correctly).

Next morning we had breakfast at Starbucks across the street, and walked back to the 47th St subway station. They were blocking off 6th Ave for some reason, and there were already people sitting on folding chairs, preparing to watch something. We took the subway back to the AMNH (where we had left Central Park the day before), and proceeded to get a ticket to just about everything they had going on:

They had some extremely photogenic reptiles, in the squamate exhibit:

Plumed Basilisk (Latin America)

Veiled Chameleon (Yemen & Saudi Arabia)

Rhinoceros Iguana (Hispanola)

Collared Lizard (North America)

Who kept an eye on the primates outside:

Cuban Knight Anole (Cuba & Florida)

Eastern Water Dragon (Australia)

Madagascan Giant Day Gecko

Water Monitor

Eastern Green Mamba (southern Africa)

Emerald Tree Boa (South America)

This one reminded me of a cat, all curled up, sleeping. It struck me as a very content-looking bundle of snake.

The horse exhibit featured, among other things, ancient tack and stirrups and a repro of a Chinese terracotta horse. It was mobbed.

Rose enjoyed “patting” a baby bison in a diorama.

On the way back to the hotel we found out that the Ave of Americas had been the site for a Dominican Day parade. We had an unimpressive dinner at the Goodburger across the street (pretty much the only option on a Sunday night), and I regretted it – I didn’t feel right after the rootbeer float, and ended up with the trots for 2 days!

The last morning we walked back to Grand Central on a mission – to bring home a cheesecake for dinner at Suzanne’s that night (to celebrate Petra’s graduation). We had breakfast at Junior’s and while Rose wandered around the station I nursed my knee and watched all the people arriving from trains. Later Rose joined me and we enjoyed commenting on the interesting sartorial choices of the passersby. Eventually it was time to pick up the cheesecake (plain, large), and head back to the hotel to check out, and then lug our baggage back to the Cornell Club.

The trip back was uneventful, and we had a delightful dinner (capped with the cheesecake, of course). We also played a game of Ticket to Ride 1910. Finally, content and tired, we drove the rest of the way home and arrived to see a couple of relieved and lonely cats.

Still to come:

  • additonal pictures and movies in this post, and
  • a description of our balloon flight over Canandaigua and the lunch cruise on Canandaigua Lake

August 16, 2008

Free Manhattan audio walking tours

Filed under: travel — origamifreak @ 6:37 pm
Tags: , ,

In preparation for the weekend Rose and I were to spend in Manhattan, I identified a number of free audio walking tours available for download in MP3 form. Here they are, for future reference:


Central Park

Other Locations, from the New York Times

Air, land, and water

Filed under: transportation,travel — origamifreak @ 6:13 am
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My sister has been visiting for the past 2 weeks. Among other things, we’ve managed to squeeze in a balloon flight, three nights in Manhattan, and a lunch cruise on Canandaigua Lake. I didn’t take a complete vacation, and worked 4 days in there, as well. I’ve been taking photos and will provide acounts of our adventures soon, but her flight home is tonight, so they won’t appear until tomorrow at the soonest.

Oh, and the fleas have abated, to everyone’s relief.

August 2, 2008


Filed under: cats — origamifreak @ 9:56 am
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Ugh. My cats are indoor cats. They don’t go outside except on leashes, and I haven’t had much time to take them out this summer. I did take them to the vet, however. Where I think we got fleas. Either there, or I carried them home on me when I went with my H2O aerobics instructor so she could choose a couple from Dawn’s new batch of kittens.

Regardless of how they got here, they are here. As much as I try to stay away from herbicides, pesticides, etc. etc., when it comes to living with two jumpy, itching felines and millions of jumpy insects whose bites make me itch, I draw the line.

Better living through chemistry, in this case. Bring on the hormonal growth regulators and neutotoxins!

When I finally figured out what was going on (we haven’t had fleas since M & L and I lived in CT, which is about 15 years ago), I ordered some Advantage from Amazon, on 2-day shipping.

I also set the thermostat at 75 F, to slow down the development and dry out the air in the house. (Fleas like heat and humidity, which probably explains why we suddenly have them, given the kind of summer it’s been.)

Then I went to Walmart and picked up a flea collar for M’s immediate relief (he has longish fur and is 16.5, so they were really bothering him, compared with S). I made sure to get the kind that has hormones that prevent insects from maturing, so it would be useful later.

Then I started the Great Purge of 2008, where everything they sit on or sleep on was either washed in Very Hot Water, or vacuumed within an inch of its life, if it didn’t fit in the washer. To aid this process I used a spray that really stinks. I’m not a big fan of permethrin, so if I could have found a spray that just has s-methoprone, I would have gotten it.

When the Advantage finally came on Thursday, I put it on them and put the flea collar in a new vacuum bag so that it will help prevent vacuumed eggs from developing. It was like a miracle. They stopped itching within half an hour, and slept like little furry logs the entire night through. I guess they were exhausted from all the itching.

Now we’re continuing to purge the Flea Hatchery, and they itch now and then, but I’m crossing my fingers that the situation is under control…

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