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Ossining, New York

William Joseph Reynolds, author of Ossining a Brief History, explains, “Early 17th century Dutch maps of the Hudson River Valley show an Indian village, whose inhabitants were part of the Mohegan Tribe, named “Sint Sinck.” That phrase, when translated, means “stone upon stone” and refers to the extensive beds of limestone found in the southern part of the village.” Frederick Philipse, in 1685 fell so in love with the land, which is bounded to the west by the Hudson River and to the north by the Croton River, that he  bought the area from the Sint Sinck American Indians. The last lord of the manor, also named Frederick Philipse, was a Loyalist in the American Revolutionary War, so the State of New York confiscated the manor in 1779. As of 1901, the vast acreage has been incorporated as Westchester County, New York.

A local Indian authority suggested the town be named Ossinsing, a different form of the name Sing Sing. One year later the last “s” was removed for ease in pronunciation. However, today the district might be most famous as the fictional hometown of Don Draper and family – the main protagonist of Mad Men on AMC.

My friend and colleague, Max. The city mouse prepares to meet the country mouse. 

The gang waits at the train station. 

After the not-so-arduous journey we arrived at Sue’s humble abode! 

Ossining, although seemingly light years away from the hubbub of NYC, is actually only a short jaunt of 45 minutes via the Hudson Line on Metro North. Yet, in those 45 minutes the concrete and alumnim dissipate into expansive canopies of foliage, unfiltered crisp air and a carpet of green grass. When we walked into Sue’s house, circa the 19th century, we were greeted with a spread that would put Martha Stewart to shame! Sue’s warm welcoming and hospitality instantly linked the several strangers in the group as “family-for-the-day”.

While everyone was enjoying the autumnal bounty of artichoke spreads on crostini, caramelized onion flat breads, crudités and other hors d’oeuvres, I took the small opportunity to sneak away before anyone noticed! I apologize to my magical hostess Sue, but her home was just so inviting and perfectly manicured. Beyond the dining room and kitchen, lay a world of antique accessories, pattern play and a gorgeous living room.

And I tiptoed down the hallway (on a Persian runner), to the backyard, to where everyone was eating outside on this unseasonably warm October afternoon. Nary 10 minutes later, no one seemed to notice I had disappeared into the world of Sue’s gorgeous home! Every detail is in it’s rightful place, every window letting in the light just so.

And so a beautiful day of book suggestions, conversation, food and friendship drew to a close. It certainlty did not hurt that Sue is practically a Michelin starred chef whose pièce de résistance of the night was a warm Spicy Tomato, Sriracha & Blue Cheese SoupThis is what the harvest season is brings. 

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Newton(onian)

A mere hour from the concrete jungle that is New York City, beyond the Lincoln Tunnel, lies a land of verdant farms and bucolic landscapes! Who knew? Newton is a remnant of antebellum America and was officially incorporated by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on April 11, 1864. The arrival of the area’s first railroad in 1854 brought rapid commercial and residential growth. Construction of the Merriam Shoe Factory in 1873 introduced the modern factory system to Sussex County (where Newton lies) and inaugurated the town’s age of industry boom and sprawl.

Here’s a dandy little description of the town during the 19th century, found hereThe town lies upon the slope of a gentle hill, of mingled slate and limestone, at whose foot a spring sends forth the first waters of the Paulinskill, the chief river of the county … Some of the dwellings are very neat: the place has an air of business, and there is in fact a very considerable trade carried on with the surrounding country. In healthiness of situation, by the report of the inhabitants, it cannot be excelled. – Thomas Gordon, 1834.

 

With a population of less than 8,000 people, I am not sure so much has changed since those first days. I say this lovingly. Sometimes the ebb and flow of NYC is overwhelming, the sheer speed of evolution juxtaposed with the lack of wildlife can be trying. Sometimes, all I want to do is meander into the woods and lose myself in a leaf pile or examine the way stones skip on water. This is simply not possible in my urban existence. So, every now and then, my boyfriend and I get an invitation to escape the confines of the city and play at farm life. It was reinvigorating!

This past Sunday we travelled a mere 60 miles to Newton, New Jersey. Those 60 miles might as well be 100 years worth of construction and growth. The brick facades of Main Street and farm-stands lining the streets transported me to another era! The slight chill in the air and the foliage oscillating between red, yellow, brown and green all helped to make last weekend one of the most relaxing I have ever had  – a perfect autumnal experience!

Like my wooden name tag made with tree bark and a Sharpie? We all got to personalize our own! Please note, the table runners were burlap potato sacks!

Peter from Spirit Family Reunion made me with wonderful portrait while taking a break from playing!  He drew this in a mere 20 seconds!

The BBQ was complete with tomato bread salad, homegrown collared greens, roasted chicken, pulled pork, goat cheese beet salad, potato rolls and fried potatoes! We also played badminton, hula hoop, croquet and bean-bag toss. By the time we had finished drinking apple cider and pumpkin ale, we were all feeling pretty nicely warm and slightly buzzed. The band, Spirit Family Reunion, began to play their jug-handle, washboard, spoon-fed folk tunes on top of a grassy hill. Spirit Family Reunion plays homegrown American music that’s easy to stomp, clap, shake and holler with. As Paste Magazine writes, “Ever since they started singing together on the street corners, farmer’s markets and subway stations of New York City, their songs have rung-out in a pure and timeless way. When Spirit Family Reunion gather to sing, there is communion. Strangers and neighbors come to rejoice in the sound, and there is no divide between performer and spectator.” This magical afternoon was no exception.

Who needs a bucket of ice? 

Have you ever seen “hearty kiwis”? They are able to be grown in New Jersey! Surprise! 

Goodbye nature and time to head back to NYC! Do you ever take a “staycation” – a small weekend getaway that might as well be on another continent it feels so different?