Wrap it up! Easy lunch recipe with Mr. Singh’s Pesto

ingredients for a wrap

The wrap ingredients waiting to be used.

I love the idea of using wraps to hold a collection of leftovers to turn little bits of food into a delicious feast. You know what I mean – that last wedge of uncooked cabbage that wouldn’t fit into the corned beef pot for a St. Patrick’s dinner. Or the five slices of pork tenderloin you saved for a sandwich and forgot about. It’s those little bits and pieces of too-good-to-throw-out but too-little-to-eat food that is “just going bad in the refrigerator.” I save them up to make wraps for lunch on the weekends.

The key to a good wrap is having something to connect all the disparate elements and turn them into a savory unit of good food. Lately I’ve been using Mr Singh’s Punjabi Pesto to add a burst of spicy flavor as it wrangles the singular flavors into a whole. That and cottage cheese provide the moisture and the glue to make a good wrap.

(The all-natural ingredients in Mr Singh’s Punjabi Pesto make for a versatile spread and/or sauce that can be used anywhere you want great Indian flavor without too much heat. I’ve used it in stir-fry, soups and vegetable dips. It is especially nice when used to give some bland ingredients a flavor punch.)

In the pictures here, the top one shows the wrap spread with Mr. Singh’s Punjabi Pesto and the ingredients arranged around it just waiting to be assembled. There’s pork, green onions, cottage cheese and cabbage. (The pea sprouts are out of the picture.) To the side is a finished wrap waiting to be cooked.

I spread the cottage cheese on top of the pesto, and then arranged a few slices of pork in the center of the wrap. They got topped with green onions, cabbage and pea sprouts. A little salt and pepper – and – presto! – the wrap is ready to fold.mrsignspesto 002

One thing I can’t stand is the taste of raw flour. I know the wraps are already cooked, but I can’t get past the rawness factor, so I insist on grilling my wraps before eating them. Besides, it helps to bring all the different ingredients together when I cook the wraps. I use a Panini press to cook mine, but they could easily be weighted down and cooked in a frying pan, or simply baked.

The second picture shows the wraps cooked, looking good with their grill marks, and picking up extra flavor from the garlic salt I sprinkled on them and the aluminum foil they were cooked on. (I hate to clean my Panini press!)

There you have it – a great use for leftovers; one that makes them more elegant than a bunch of little bowls of food, and much easier to pick up and eat. If you don’t mind the extra calories (I do) you could sprinkle these with shredded cheese and pop them under the broiler for a real treat! YUM!

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Getting beyond the Trail vs Train Controversy – Considering the Big Picture

There is a fight going on in Ulster County, NY, with the county planning to rip up the tracks and build a rail trail while their tenant, a tourist railroad, has a lease and operates seasonal theme rides that generate hundreds of thousands of dollars within the local economy. Amid suits and counter suits the big picture is being overlooked.

With one side claiming a Tourist Railroad is most important for local tourism and another claiming it’s the Rail Trail that will bring more tourists, and with neither side proposing a clear path to compromise, perhaps it is time to determine what is best for the future of Ulster County by reviewing our past.

Map of the route of the U&D Railroad

Route of the U&D Railroad from Kingston to Oneonta

The Ulster and Delaware Railroad ran from Kingston Point to Oneonta, in Delaware County, with a spur up to the Greene County communities of Hunter and Kaaterskill. It was an important element in the original development of the tourist industry in the region. The U&D, as it was known, was among the first all season routes into the Catskills, bringing tourists in to fill the huge mountain houses and resorts built to accommodate them. Trains also carried in supplies to enrich the quality of life in the rural Catskills and carried out freight, such as dairy products, bluestone and lumber, to high paying urban markets. In this way the train fulfilled the dual purpose of meeting the needs of the folks who sustained the tourists as well as the tourists themselves. It was a successful and necessary part of rural life in the Catskills.

Beginning with the first hardy tourists, hiking has been a popular outdoor activity in the Catskills. For well more than a century, Catskill hiking trails attracted urban dwellers, which led to the trails being expanded and improved to accommodate even more hikers. The whole Hudson River School of Art was built around the vistas and scenery these trails now lead to. Parks and campgrounds were established even as boarding houses multiplied, all to house the growing number of urbanites who wanted the healthful quality of life the Catskills offered and the idealized nature the artists immortalized. Most arrived by train.

Summering in the Catskills became so popular that the Friday evening train into the region was called the “husband train” as more and more men secured their families in the cool Catskills away from the heat and sickness of New York City summers, traveling by train to spend weekends with their wives and children in “the country”. The same trains also carried freight both ways.

Times changed. After WW II, automobile ownership became commonplace and a vast network of highways was built to accommodate them. Passenger train service into the Catskills ended in 1954. Freight transport followed suit by 1976. Today the only way to get people and goods in and out of the Catskills is to drive. Perhaps now, with all our crumbling infrastructure and highway congestion, it is time to revisit passenger train service into the Catskills.

We currently have the first generation in our memory to rely more on public transportation than automobiles. Millennials are driving 25% less than their age group did just eight years ago. (AARP) They simply don’t feel the need to get their driver’s license, or the attraction of car ownership that their parents did. Yet it is their parents’ generation that is designing their transportation future, and that generation is committing them to a future automobile lifestyle that, for the youth, is fast going out of favor.

Consider this: Discovery Land Company just announced they are investing upwards of 1 billion dollars in Silo Ridge, (siloridge.com) a gated community of 250+/- multi-million dollar homes in Amenia, (Dutchess County) NY. That includes an equestrian center, hiking trails, gardens, tennis and golf courts, and full indoor recreation facilities. They plan for an all-inclusive lifestyle for today’s moneyed Manhattanites, much as the summer folk of a century ago sought in the Catskills. All this is just a short two hours into the rural countryside of upstate New York.

The reason Amenia has more of an attraction than say, similarly situated Phoenicia or even Margaretville for that huge investment and all those jobs, is that Silo Ridge is the last stop on the Harlem Line (Wassaic Station) of the Metro North Railroad. This new urban exodus is planned by train!

In comparison, the millions that may be invested by Crossroads Ventures in the luxury resort/residence complex called the Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park (belleayreresort.com) is in a place only accessible by motor vehicle. Besides the congestion on Route 28 caused by delivering all the building supplies and then all the necessities for life in rural Ulster County by tractor trailer trucks, we’ll have all the SUVs delivering the people – every weekend! That’s if Belleayre Resort ever gets built and they still want to drive!

Imagine the success Ulster County could have if, when the generation that doesn’t want to drive has the money to invest in second homes and resort communities, they could consider Ulster County and the legendary Catskills as a place of recreation and putting down rural roots. We already have the name recognition and the recreation in place. We just need a way to access them for people who don’t drive.

If we keep the tourist railroad that draws people and money to our region, and add a passenger/freight train to run up the Route 28 corridor to Belleayre Mountain, our quality of life improves as the traffic diminishes and the investment in a rural lifestyle skyrockets. Jobs for future generations and an expanded tax base to pay for needed services will surely follow. (As an example, Silo Ridge is expected to generate $63 million just in property taxes during the first ten years.) That’s a win/win situation anyone would desire.

Want to add a third “win”? Simply extend the rail trail along the existing train tracks to the Ashokan Reservoir. Connect it to the Ashokan Campus and to a “Water for New York City” interpretive center near the fountains. Finally the Rail Trail has a destination, and it is within Ulster County! Further transport into the Catskills would be by train, easily set up with a station nearby.

You know this is true – hikers will not take a rail trail to their weekend homes, but people riding the train will. Instead of planning for the next 5 or 10 years, we should be planning for the long-term future well-being of Ulster County and the region by promoting passenger (and freight) service from Kingston into the Catskills by train.

Posted in free lance writer, historic preservation, New York History Books, Railroads, tourism, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Etxanobe in Bilbao pops-up in Madrid

I experienced an incredible meal at Etxanobe in Bilbao a few years back (see below)

The “cellophane” was a slowly dried emulsion of potato that tasted  (as the chef said) just like KFC!

“Another meal in a most remarkable setting was in the Restaurante Etxanobe on top of the Euskalduna Conference Centre. Here chef Fernando Canales stunned us with an incredible example of his creative genius. Describing the meat course as “pork with a potato cloud” does it no justice. Picture a perfect medallion of roast suckling pig capped with a translucent cellophane of potato essence so thin I could see through it. I’ve never encountered anything like it before, and may not again. It was incredible! His wine choices went perfectly with each of the eight courses, and his engaging presence at the table, with his humor, made it a truly one-of-a-kind meal.”

Now, in Madrid’s new food center in Chueca, at Hotel Urso, “The Table By”  hosts pop-up restaurants from around Spain – including Etxanobe! I wish I was going to be in Madrid this spring for the Salon del Gourmet so I could check out the new Etxanobe, and maybe, while I’m in town, get to visit my favorite Madrid chef, Paco Roncero in his excellent restaurant Estado Puro.

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It’s Summertime in Rio!

I spend a lot of time in a commercial kitchen surrounded by hot ovens that often have the room temperature hovering around 100 degrees, definitely an attraction during this frigid winter. When it gets that hot and the sweat is dripping off me I think of a March trip to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – or, as the natives spell it – Brasil.

Helicopter view of Rio

In a helicopter circling Christ on the Mount with Sugarloaf in the distance.

As it is mid-winter here now, it is mid-summer in Rio. The hot, humid, daytime highs over 100 have everyone on the beaches in as few clothes as possible. Office workers change into immodest little swimsuits to hit the beaches mornings, over lunch and after work. At night, miles of beaches are lighted, with pickup games of volleyball and football played on courts laid out in the sand.

At eleven one night, with the temperature cooled down to 30C (86F for you gringos) the ocean breeze was the only way to cool off in the sticky, late night air. Those not playing ball fill the decks and patios of the shore-front clubs and the folding chairs of the semi-permanent carts in the sand selling ice cold beer. And everywhere there is music pulsing a Latin beat giving a sense that during “Summertime” in Rio anything is possible – except, possibly, cooling off!

black and white tiled walks

Roberto Burl Marx designed the distinctive Black and White tile patterns throughout Rio.

Many sidewalks and public spaces are decorated in the black and white swirling tile patterns of Rio’s native son, Roberto Burl Marx. The street vendors and open markets fill these spaces selling everything imaginable, their arrays of food and souvenirs are as colorful as the people buying them. The mix of ethnicities is most evident in the complexions of the beautiful, skinny Cariocas (as natives of Rio refer to themselves) running from light skinned to dark, and I’m not referring to their tans. And everywhere the smell of tropical flowers, cologne and sweat permeate the heavy humid air. Rio is an easy city to fall in love with.

Rio is a hilly city with the vast majority of the moneyed population living along the shore and in the valleys. Many of the hills were once public property, since taken over by the poor whose tin-roofed shacks creep up through the jungle creating homeless camps that morphed into defined communities called favelas. Some have rudimentary electricity, fewer have running water, but all the poor residents share an immense pride in their community.
That pride, and the competition it sparks between communities, is the basis of the Samba Schools (more like guilds or clubs than schools) with each favela associated with its own Samba School. They compete during Carnival (our Mardi Gras) in separate parades involving elaborate costumes, music and dance, with 100s of players outfitted by thousands of members. For some it is the only work they have all year, and it culminates in year-long bragging rights for the winning school.

While in Rio I learned how to say “Good Day” as the locals do – Bon Dia – in their accent (bo gia) with the softest “n” so that I was often referred to as “that Argentinian gentleman”. That and “thank you” – Obrigado – were all I needed to know of the language to get by.

I found Portuguese easy to read (thank you Lloyd Loop for two years of Latin in Saugerties High) so getting around was easy too, especially because everyone was friendly enough to point the way when I showed them my map. With the World Cup, Paralympic Games and upcoming Olympics, Cariocas are used to tourists and are cosmopolitan enough to speak many languages.

food server

At Belmonte, the jerked beef and catubiry cheese empadas were great!

Eating like a Carioca means having a light breakfast of fruit, sometimes with a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. Lunch is the heaviest meal, a veritable groaning board of meats, a starch (usually cassava), and if you’re lucky, a vegetable. Vegetables are so rare that I once saw a sink full of greens in the kitchen of a restaurant (naturally I was in every kitchen) and reported to my tablemates that we would finally have a big salad with our meal. When the greens came out, they were under a whole roast pig!

Caricoas love their meat. In fact, Brazil’s churrascaria restaurants serve course after course of all types of meat, often with the challenge to eat some from every part of the steer, from the nose to the tail.

At dinnertime, a late, light meal is the norm. I frequently had just appetizers with drinks in a local family eatery, called a Boteco. A typical Boteco is Belmonte, which has several locations throughout the city. One night I saw two tables of three generations of family eating together, besides couples of all ages and singles grabbing a bite before hitting the clubs. It was a nice mix of people, and the jerked beef and catubiry cheese empadas were great with the local draft beer.

The neighborhood between Copacabana Beach and Ipanema Beach is a very convenient area to stay. There are blocks of restaurants and bars, including the one that inspired the hit song “The Girl From Ipanema”, and the ocean is only a block or two away.  You can find high-end and lower hotels there, too. I stayed at the Copa Sul Hotel.  It fit my needs nicely. With the ample breakfast included for free with my room, and some fruit purloined for lunch, eating in Rio was very economical.

sunset over Ipanema Beach

At night, miles of beaches are lighted, with pickup games of volleyball and football played on courts laid out in the sand.

Yes, summer in Rio is palpably hot, at times steamy (and I mean that in the best possible way) but I’d go back in a heartbeat!

Posted in Culinary, tourism, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

It’s Summertime in Rio!

It’s Summertime in Rio!

I spend a lot of time in a commercial kitchen surrounded by hot ovens that often have the room temperature hovering around 100 degrees, definitely an attraction during this frigid winter. When it gets that hot and the sweat is dripping off me I think of a March trip to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – or, as the natives spell it – Brasil.

Helicopter view of Rio

As it is mid-winter here now, it is mid-summer in Rio. The hot, humid, daytime highs over 100 have everyone on the beaches in as few clothes as possible. Office workers change into immodest little swimsuits to hit the beaches mornings, over lunch and after work. At night, miles of beaches are lighted, with pickup games of volleyball and football played on courts laid out in the sand.

At eleven one night, with the temperature cooled down to 30C (86F for you gringos) the ocean breeze was the only way to cool off in the sticky, late night air. Those not playing ball fill the decks and patios of the shore-front clubs and the folding chairs of the semi-permanent carts in the sand selling ice cold beer. And everywhere there is music pulsing a Latin beat giving a sense that during “Summertime” in Rio anything is possible – except, possibly, cooling off!

black and white tiled walks

Many sidewalks and public spaces are decorated in the black and white swirling tile patterns of Rio’s native son, Roberto Burl Marx. The street vendors and open markets fill these spaces selling everything imaginable, their arrays of food and souvenirs are as colorful as the people buying them. The mix of ethnicities is most evident in the complexions of the beautiful, skinny Cariocas (as natives of Rio refer to themselves) running from light skinned to dark, and I’m not referring to their tans. And everywhere the smell of tropical flowers, cologne and sweat permeate the heavy humid air. Rio is an easy city to fall in love with.

Rio is a hilly city with the vast majority of the moneyed population living along the shore and in the valleys. Many of the hills were once public property, since taken over by the poor whose tin-roofed shacks creep up through the jungle creating homeless camps that morphed into defined communities called favelas. Some have rudimentary electricity, fewer have running water, but all the poor residents share an immense pride in their community.
That pride, and the competition it sparks between communities, is the basis of the Samba Schools (more like guilds or clubs than schools) with each favela associated with its own Samba School. They compete during Carnival (our Mardi Gras) in separate parades involving elaborate costumes, music and dance, with 100s of players outfitted by thousands of members. For some it is the only work they have all year, and it culminates in year-long bragging rights for the winning school.

While in Rio I learned how to say “Good Day” as the locals do – Bon Dia – in their accent (bo gia) with the softest “n” so that I was often referred to as “that Argentinian gentleman”. That and “thank you” – Obrigado – were all I needed to know of the language to get by.

I found Portuguese easy to read (thank you Lloyd Loop for two years of Latin in Saugerties High) so getting around was easy too, especially because everyone was friendly enough to point the way when I showed them my map. With the World Cup, Paralympic Games and upcoming Olympics, Cariocas are used to tourists and are cosmopolitan enough to speak many languages.

food server

Eating like a Carioca means having a light breakfast of fruit, sometimes with a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. Lunch is the heaviest meal, a veritable groaning board of meats, a starch (usually cassava), and if you’re lucky, a vegetable. Vegetables are so rare that I once saw a sink full of greens in the kitchen of a restaurant (naturally I was in every kitchen) and reported to my tablemates that we would finally have a big salad with our meal. When the greens came out, they were under a whole roast pig!

Caricoas love their meat. In fact, Brazil’s churrascaria restaurants serve course after course of all types of meat, often with the challenge to eat some from every part of the steer, from the nose to the tail.

At dinnertime, a late, light meal is the norm. I frequently had just appetizers with drinks in a local family eatery, called a Boteco. A typical Boteco is Belmonte, which has several locations throughout the city. One night I saw two tables of three generations of family eating together, besides couples of all ages and singles grabbing a bite before hitting the clubs. It was a nice mix of people, and the jerked beef and catubiry cheese empadas were great with the local draft beer.

The neighborhood between Copacabana Beach and Ipanema Beach is a very convenient area to stay. There are blocks of restaurants and bars, including the one that inspired the hit song “The Girl From Ipanema”, and the ocean is only a block or two away.  You can find high-end and lower hotels there, too. I stayed at the Copa Sul Hotel.  It fit my needs nicely. With the ample breakfast included for free with my room, and some fruit purloined for lunch, eating in Rio was very economical.

sunset over Ipanema Beach

Yes, summer in Rio is palpably hot, at times steamy (and I mean that in the best possible way) but I’d go back in a heartbeat!

Posted in Culinary, tourism, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Layered Soup – more than brodo

layered soup2I make two or three soups a day at Hudson Valley Desserts in Saugerties, NY. Each is made from scratch, with the chicken or vegetable stock each recipe calls for also made from scratch. They are delicious and very popular additions to the menu, but all lack a dimension I’ve been searching for in my cooking at home. Now I’ve found it.

When cooking commercially for a crowd as I do, making two and a half gallons of soup at a time, it really has to be a one-size-fits-all proposition. At home I can just make soup by the bowl. That allows me to layer the tastes, textures and complexities of each element to build a satisfying meal in a bowl.

It all began when the weather turned cooler last fall. I started to serve just a bowl of good homemade broth for dinner one night a week. It was meant as a night of no excess; a way to keep weight down as the lower temperatures cranked up my body’s cravings for rich, heavy, caloric meals. Gradually I added a fresh vegetable or two, then some ramen noodles crept in, until it became a satisfying bowl of (conventional) soup.

Then, suddenly, broth was all the rage, with the new broth-only restaurant called Brodo (Italian for broth) opening in Manhattan, and my broth dinners were on the culinary cutting-edge. That’s when I took it to the next level.

Now each element is different. For instance, last night I heated some rich, homemade beef broth for a really spectacular soup. I began with leftover roast chicken which I fried in seasoned olive oil (called Galician Oil because of all the paprika) with onions and garlic until it was browned and just crispy. I set that to warm, uncovered, while I stir-fried a package of Fresh Farms Oriental Salad, adding the all-natural ginger salad dressing for the last toss. Meanwhile I boiled water and blanched some broccoli and some green beans. Then I put it all together.

First went the crispy chicken mixture, next to it in the bottom of the bowl went the stir-fry salad. Layered on them were the blanched vegetables. I poured hot beef broth over top to fill the bowl a little more than halfway and topped the whole pile off with the package of Asian noodles and slivered almonds that also come with the salad. That last touch adds a nutty crunch (and the only carbs) to a complex dish.

It’s all real food, healthy and balanced nutritionally, with enough different tastes, temperatures, textures and mouth-feel to satisfy any hunger. The bonus? Not only did I not gain weight over Thanksgiving and Christmas (the two biggest eating holidays of the year) but I actually lost a few pounds, and I feel great!

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Strawberry Hill Fiddlers, Sunday, January 25th, 2015, at 3 p.m.

Saugerties Pro Musica presents the Strawberry Hill Fiddlers, Sunday, January 25th, 2015, at 3 p.m. This is their sixth exuberant appearance on our stage. The Strawberry Hill Fiddlers always play to a full house and receive rave reviews. They are middle school and senior high students from throughout the Hudson Valley who are dedicated string musicians. This year their youthful energy will help to ring in the New Year with a concert filled with smiling, foot-stomping, fiddle-playing, good family fun!

The Strawberry Hill Fiddlers are directed by Emily and Carole Schaad. Evolving since 1999, the Fiddlers are now part of Stringendo, Inc., a 501(c) 3 non-profit community music school. Besides learning string instruments, these young students are taught how to present themselves well and please an audience. There will be some singing, some dancing and, of course, some great string music performed for your enjoyment. Please join us for the irrepressible enthusiasm these talented young string players are guaranteed to bring.

Last year's crop of Fiddlers at Jay Unger & Molly Mason's Ashokan Campus

Last year’s crop of Fiddlers at Jay Unger & Molly Mason’s Ashokan Campus

Future Saugerties Pro Musica concerts:
February 22nd – pianist Yalin Chi, Principal Keyboardist of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic and Staff Pianist at West Point, who appeared to rave reviews with the West Point Band last season, will present her first solo performance on our stage.
March 29th – pianist Thomas Pandolfi, who performed two seasons ago to equally rave reviews, is also returning to our stage for a virtuoso solo performance.
April 19th – we break tradition by presenting a rare saxophone concert by Ashu, who will perform with piano accompaniment.
May 17th – Finally, to close our season, we present the very talented Hyperion Quartet to perform enough wonderful classical music to last through the summer hiatus.

We hope you’ll join us for many, or all of these fabulous offerings. These concerts are quality musical performances by world-class musicians in a comfortable, intimate setting – and at very affordable prices. Saugerties Pro Musica concerts are at 3 p.m. Sunday afternoons at the United Methodist Church, on the corners of Washington Avenue and Post Street in Saugerties.
Adults $12 and Seniors $10. Students are always free. Call 845-246-5021 or 845-679-5733 for more information, or visit our website for the most up to date programming schedule: http://www.saugertiespromusica.org

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American Standards/Jazz SWINGTIME DUET 10/19 from Saugerties Pro Musica

With a show entitled My Blue Heaven, which is also the title of their new CD, Saugerties Pro Musica is proud to present Terry Blaine and Mark Shane in a return to their duo roots as Swingtime Duet.

TerryBlaineMarkShaneweb

My Blue Heaven pays homage to the marvelous treasure trove of music from America’s Golden Age of Swing. Together they create an irresistible duet.

Songs include My Blue Heaven, Ain’t He Sweet, Honeysuckle Rose, Melancholy Baby, and Come Up and See Me Sometime; beloved singers such as Ethel Waters, Billie Holiday, Annette Hanshaw, Mildred Bailey, Peggy Lee and Mae West are showcased; and the great Harlem-style piano tradition born with James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, Teddy Wilson, Art Tatum and Earl Hines shines on.

Jazz singer Terry Blaine has been singing virtually all her life. She has enjoyed a multi-faceted career that includes live performance, TV/radio, recordings, studio work, songwriting, production, and music therapy. She gained international attention and recognition as one of today’s finest interpreters of hot small-band swing from the 1930s. Terry’s singing is a gentle, swinging reminder of where we came from, instilled with a spirit that only genuine affection can inspire.

Mark Shane’s piano, featured in the hit HBO series Boardwalk Empire, adds a distinctive new voice to the tradition of hot ensemble playing. His jazz piano has also been featured on film soundtracks, including The Cotton Club, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, and Working Girl. Mark’s piano reflects a true sense of living jazz history, and continues the Classic Jazz Piano tradition that is one of America’s unique contributions to world culture.

Future Saugerties Pro Musica concerts include the winner of the 2014 Bard Conservatory Concerto Competition, violinist Gabriel Baeza on November 9th, pianist Thomas Pandolfi on March 29th, 2015, saxophonist Ashu on April 19th, 2015, and the Hyperion Quartet on May 17th, 2015.

Of course, the perennial favorites – Strawberry Hill Fiddlers – will return January 25th, 2015, but our traditional free concert by a West Point Ensemble has been cancelled, to be replaced this year with classical pianist Yalin Chi on February 22nd, 2015.

Tickets for all concerts are $12 for Adults, $10 for Seniors, and all Students are always free.

Saugerties Pro Musica concerts are quality musical performances by world-class musicians in a comfortable, intimate setting, and at very affordable prices. Concert times are 3 p.m. Sunday afternoons at the United Methodist Church, on the corners of Washington Avenue and Post Street in Saugerties. Season tickets are a bargain at $50 (for 7 concerts!)

Call 845-246-5021 or 845-679-5733 for more information, or visit our website for the most up to date programming schedule: http://www.saugertiespromusica.org

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Ferncliff Fire Tower hike is a perfect way to start the day

This is one more reason the Hudson Valley receives 4.75 billion dollars in tourism

Looking west over the Hudson River (and the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge) to the Catskill Mountains

Looking west over the Hudson River (and the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge) to the Catskill Mountains

every year – it is beautiful! The fire tower is just off Rt 199 in Rhinebeck, and the gentle walk in – less than a mile – is shaded and lovely. The tower is more than 220 ft high, so the 360 degree view is spectacular on a clear day.

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Wedding Bills – does having more disposable income mean gays have to throw it away?

In the past decade on the marriage front gays went from being discriminated against by denying their right to marriage, to being discriminated against and targeted by the wedding hucksters as the population with the most disposable income. Somehow the LGBT community sees the change as positive even though both are discrimination. Suddenly gay weddings are a hot market. It’s called “Follow the money.”

The same curious reverse polarity happened in the travel industry, real estate and countless other areas where gays went from being vilified as pariahs to being courted. The reason? Gays are statistically identified as being of higher income with fewer expenses than their straight, married with children counterparts. It’s all about disposable income. Gays have the money!

It follows that society’s widespread acceptance of same sex marriage has more to do with money than progressive enlightenment. Once the LGBT community was identified as a valuable demographic, capitalism changed the tide of sentiment – gays won! And, sadly, they went along with it as if the end justified the means. The latest evidence of this phenomenon is the gay wedding market.

According to Pew Research at least 71,165 same sex weddings have been performed in the US since (or in California’s case, while) they were legal. A search of gay weddings on Google returns 75,700,000 hits, or more than 1000 websites for each wedding. The average number of guests at a same sex wedding (in NYC) is 36, for now, far less than a straight wedding’s 70 guests.

All this is simply to point out that there are ways to get married to your same sex partner without falling into the trap created for straight weddings. While size may matter in the bedroom, bigger is not better in the wedding category. Right now the cost of same sex weddings in the US average $9,034 each while straight weddings hit more than $21,000. But the gap is narrowing as all those websites market bigger (read that more expensive) weddings to equality-hungry gays. Soon, the average number of guests in straight or gay weddings (and therefore the cost) will be the same unless we stop this trending insanity.

Listen up folks. Weddings don’t have to be expensive. Consider saving your money for philanthropic purposes, or just blowing it on a fantastic honeymoon. The point is, you don’t have to enrich someone else to get married. Don’t throw your disposable income away trying to keep up with the Joneses. Spend it on a lifetime commitment, not on an expensive wedding.

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