Monday, May 18, 2015

New York's Secret Garden - Otsego and Schoharie County

I spent every summer as a kid at a sweet little cabin my parents had built on farmland outside of Cherry Valley. My kids spent their summers there, too. I wish it was still ours, but at least it's still there. When I need to whisk my mind to a favorite place, that's where I go.

It's been a long love affair with that area for me. I was back today and when I first caught sight of a rolling vista of farmland, I got teary. I do that.

I pulled myself together and headed into Cooperstown. It's the prettiest little lakeside town I know. It's got it all; pristine waterfront, Victorian and Colonial architecture, a bit of life thanks to the baseball fans. Oh, that Otsego Lake. Thanks to the wealthy family with the foresight to buy up one shore and keep it from turning into a collection of camps. Generations have enjoyed it because of them.
Then I went to Cherry Valley. Part of my heart is always there.  It's an adorable little village that sometimes almost wakes from its slumber, then dozes off again. It appears to be dozing right now. But the townsfolk got together and restored the Lithia Spring in the middle of town about ten years ago. It looks wonderful.

I stopped at the great old market that doesn't appear to have changed in the past forty years. The old fellow behind the counter snorted when I asked him what was new in town. "Nothing," he scoffed. But when I left I found he was wrong. There's a new art gallery in Mr. Lafler's old plumbing business building. Someone else has started a lovely business up the hill; a lilac farm.

Cherry Valley and Otsego County aren't undemanding sweethearts; it takes sturdier folk than I to hang in there when the long winter roars in. It's snow country.

But there's nowhere sweeter in the spring, I'm thinking.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Welcome to Upstate - bring your mittens.

I don't mind winter. Really, I don't. Usually. I'm going to make an exception for this one.

It's too cold. Way too cold.

It got above freezing yesterday for the first time in a couple of weeks, then dropped to below zero again overnight. When I woke up it was nine below.


Violet Wiggins is permanently attached to her chair near the woodstove now. I will have to take the chair out for a walk when spring finally arrives so she can get some fresh air.

That hand on the left side of the pic? That's KB trying to thaw out. The woodstove has been cranking all day and all night since New Year's.

 Now don't get me wrong - I still prefer winter upstate to winter in the city. Winter upstate is easy on the eyes, anyway. Winter in the city is just several shades of gray and icy or slushy.

But I must admit, I'm looking longingly at pictures of warm places. Come on - a little hurricane now and again is a small price to pay for being warm, no? I want to go swim along after one of these guys...

The good news? Houses are selling. I'm busy. Really busy. Busier than I've been in two years. But I'm still cold.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Season's Greetings

This was the view as I drove across the Catskill Mountains from Margaretville to Palenville this week. Back home, near Woodstock in the foothills, there is no snow on the ground at all.
Elevation makes all the difference.

The long drive gave me a bit of time to reflect on the past year. It's been an interesting one, no doubt about it.  No trees through our roof (thanks again for that, Hurricane Sandy), new clients, new friends (often one and the same), a few insanely busy weeks but mostly steady work and time that skids by on greased rails.

The expat invasion from New York City continues in the Catskills, a surge that reminds me of ocean waves. It's been happening for generations, but sometimes the tide is higher and busier than others. Right now, the surge is heading for Hudson and Kingston (a much more affordable alternative), with the usual river to Woodstock and a growing stream discovering lovely but still struggling Catskill.

I find it interesting to watch both Kingston and Catskill.  When I was a kid (and that was a long time ago), uptown Kingston was cool. Midtown was okay and the Rondout, near the Hudson, was off limits. Artists have brought the Rondout and the uptown Stockade back to vibrant life, but that long stretch of Broadway in Midtown had become an economic wasteland. The latest influx of city expats is making inroads into that last, troubled business zone. There are new restaurants, new offices, new businesses springing up to take advantage of the last bargain retail space prices in the area.

Catskill, one of the more architecturally attractive small cities, is tippy toe-ing to the edge of big things. There is a surprising array of interesting businesses on Main St., but the project that's going to bump Catskill into its renaissance is still under renovation. It's a massive mill building on the riverfront that is going to house craftspeople and restaurants and become an arts hub for a city that's been waiting for its props for a long time now. So far, the only clear sign of progress is a food truck in its parking lot that draws lunch lines every day.

As someone whose business takes her into Columbia, Dutchess, Greene and Ulster Counties, I get a chance to see things from a bit of a distance, far differently than the view would be if I worked in a Main St. office everyday. The Hudson Valley and Catskills are in transition again. They're growing. And I can see it happening.  Elevation makes all the difference.

Happy holidays, dear reader. Best wishes for the coming year. May it bring you the very best of everything.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Behold the Country

What a fascinating a little town that time's practically forgotten as a living museum. I saw the article in today's New York Times.

What a brilliant idea!  And it made me think of other sleepy places I love - Otsego County in NY, Lubec, Maine, Nova Scotia...places where the pace of life is slower, where office jobs are the rarity and farming/fishing are the mainstays.

And wouldn't it also be a genius idea for my hometown of Woodstock, NY?  We're a town of creative people - shake anyone once, from your realtor to the kid bagging your groceries and they'll admit that they also play music, sing, write, act, make films or paint. What if we used our amazing Byrdcliffe venue to be our central access point for visitors to see those artists at work?

(Pic Courtesy Ulster Publishing)

Congrats to New Lebanon. They may be old fashioned, but they're thinking way ahead of the curve.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Kingston, NY - At Long Last, Some Love

It's about time somebody noticed that Kingston is a great little city.

Far enough from the NYC sprawl to chill out, but close enough for an easy day trip, Kingston's becoming the perfect answer for people who are looking for that elusive "quality of life."

Don't take my word for it - take a look at this July 2014 Survey from and see what town is sitting pretty in the #1 spot of best places to live in the state...

Kingston's got architecture, natural beauty (rivers and mountain views, y'all), great shopping and dining.  It fell on some hard times when IBM abandoned it back in the 80s, but urban expats are creating a thriving community of freelancers and entrepreneurs. 

It's home of the O+ Festival, which has now leaped across country to spawn a sister event in San Francisco. It's full to bursting with creative types - artists, musicians and writers. 

It's not a tourist town right now, not a mecca for second home buyers. Visitors are surprised that the streets are busier during the week than they are on the weekends. But there's a busy nightlife, great venues, a wonderful book shop, a new bakery, great coffee shops, even a guitar store, and and all within a walk to the NYC bus. It's got a neighborhood feel.

It's a new homestead, an outpost for people creating a new life and a new community. Right now, the Stockade district uptown seems to be the emotional center of what's happening. But there's a buzz at the Rondout, too, where beautiful old brick storefronts lead to the waterfront. And there's lots of potential in midtown, where the merging of the city's two hospitals may lead to an entirely new business area.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Portrait of Palenville

If you don't live upstate, there is a tendency to think one town is much like another. You'd be wrong. Lately I have found myself getting to know the town that bills itself as NewYork's first arts colony: Palenville.

Palenville has a lot of what we want from an upstate  New York village. First, it's not too far from the city ; two and a half hours by Thruway. It isn't remote; just fifteen minutes to Catskill and big box stores and all night supermarkets. Forty minutes to Albany (maybe less). Right down the road from skiing at Hunter and Windham and forty minutes to Belleayre.

There is a thrilling seasonal mountain road that can get you to Woodstock in less than twenty minutes. Same for Saugerties.  All the locals know it well.

Then there's the setting: a small cluster of charming old buildings dominated by what looks like a castle, but was in fact the old town school, now in private hands.  Towering above this one - traffic - light village are the Catskill mountains. If you don't know the Catskills, let me tell you they are not like the Adirondacks or the Rockies . These are not angry, intimidating peaks, glowering under a cap of summer snow and daring you to take them on. These are old, settled mountains, green and soft like the Blue Ridge mountains further south. The peak overlooking Woodstock is called Mount Guardian and that is what the Catskills are. They are huge, calm watchdogs. These mountains are comforting.

Palenville boasts good restaurants, lovely B&B's, hiking, fishing, swimming, a great new wine shop and my new favorite hangout -the Circle W market and cafe. Inside you'll find  wooden floors, dark wainscoting on the high ceilings, great food and a surprisingly eclectic variety of foods and household supplies. This market has style.

So does Palenville. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Uptown Kingston: hip and historic

Uptown Kingston's time has finally arrived. With Boitsons, the Stockade, BSP, Outdated, Duos and a slew of food, retail and entertainment venues, the historic Stockade area is jumping all week long. Then there is the Farmers Market, the O+ Festival, weekly concerts at the Old Dutch Church and the occasional movie shoot. The only authorized Mac repair in more than fifty miles is here, plus vintage clothes, organic plants and, rumor adds, a bakery is on the way! Yoga, meditation,  used books, coffee coffee coffee!

Just a quick walk from the bus to NY is a great storefront with a neat and simple two bedroom apartment above. Great tenants and a great investment at $399K.
A GDMRE exclusive.