Follow by Email

Monday, December 31, 2012

Beacon Bits -- Out with the Old & In with the New

It has been two years since I moved to Beacon and just like the song, 'the times they are a-changing', I have borne witness to many changes along Main Street and have noted them with appreciation and pleasure in blog postings.  From my perspective, most of the changes have been very good in terms of economic development and environmental enhancement. So I thought I would end the year with a  small sense of closure and with great anticipation of some new beginnings by taking a brief look at a few of the recent transitions that are evident in our midst.
I'll start with the sad news that the art gallery Marion Royael closed.  Most businesses close when they are unsuccessful.  Rumor has it that Steve and Barbara (a true Beacon power couple) closed the gallery, which was prominently located across from the Howland Cultural Center and the The Beacon Theatre, because they were very successful and decided to pursue their dreams and riches in New York City.  While we wish them much luck in their venture, their presence and artistic flair and sensibility will be notably missed from Second Saturday openings and by the peripatetic residents and visitors who always stopped to take a long hard look at the traditional and avante garde artwork they exhibited.
Perhaps not so sad, but more ambiguous news, Dim Sum Vault has "temporarily" closed its doors. Whether the restaurateurs played it "safe" as a posting on BCN suggested, or read the cards and realized that their fare may not have been competitive with the established Asian cuisine in town (i.e., Isamu, Sukothai, and even the tiny and delicious upstart Korean Seoul Food), is unknown. But for those who may have become aficionados, it is not a good way to treat loyal customers who want to dine out in a favorite place and have the desire for new restaurants to succeed in town.  As for me, whether or not they re-open may be a moot point. I took an out-of-town guest to eat at Dim Sum in October. While I was not impressed with the variety or the flexibility  of the menu and wait staff (e.g., an equivocal response to my request for garlic string beans, which was not listed), I was very put off when I was chastised as I called to say that I was running late for my 6pm reservation and then noted empty tables upon arriving at 6:15pm. Common courtesy and responsiveness to customer requests are a hallmark of the food industry that sells more than the kitchen fare for repeat customers.
On the other hand, I eagerly anticipate getting a taste of the food and fare at Hop, which  I would award "Newcomer of the Year". Reports from friends and reviews that I have read are all glowing. I just haven't been lucky enough to stop by when it wasn't packed full house! So it is high on my list to visit and toast the new year with hopes of future fermentation of its congenial and tasteful presence on the East end of town.
High on my wish list when I moved to Beacon was a store, like Williams & Sonoma, to be in the center of town. I knew that the ordinance on the books precludes 'chain stores and franchises', but I felt that the upscale nature of a flagship business such as W&S would bring in business from other nearby locales (e.g., Cold Spring, Garrison) and match the interest of the foodies and the CIA grads who populate Beacon.  Homespun with its gourmet food offerings was a partial wish fulfilment. Now I can say there are two more "parts" to the wished for "whole": Scarborough Fare, an olive oil and vinegar tap room at 257 Main St.
and Utensil, a kitchenware supply store at 480 Main St. (Time to burn calories in between.)
Perhaps oil and vinegar sounds too specific and limiting for a new business to be hopeful as a newcomer to the streets of Beacon, but mother and daughter owners Corey and Donna Wirthman, who opened this outpost store as a branch of its successful New Paltz business, offer much more with gift baskets to order with Italian pasta, Harney & Sons tea, Italian meats, German meats, Caciocavallo cheese, natural dips and hummus and gluten free items. Stop in for a taste and remember that food gifts are always consumed with gusto.
Meanwhile, who doesn't like to peruse the aisles and shelves of a kitchenware store made easy with the expertise of Utensil's owner, Emily Burke, who opened in November and has the prescience to be open during Second Saturday hours. Just as Lowe's and Home Depot offer the chance to find items that you didn't know you needed, a good kitchenware store feels like heaven to anyone who chops, slices, mixes, stores and otherwise prepares good food with style and flair;  let's welcome Emily to our midst
So while I did not get my hoped for Williams & Sonoma, I now have multiple choices for gourmet food and cooking utensils without leaving Main Street in Beacon. Spices and herbs anyone?
Another wish that I feel I have received as the year comes to an end is a new facade on the Howland Public Library, with a uniform brick wall that has improved safety features with less
plate glass in the children's section and a parking lot at Key Food graced with tree plantings and enhanced signage for what was perceived as an eyesore by many in the center of
town.  This latter project fulfills the promise of the Main Street grant that Beacon received two years ago that allowed the town to work with store owners who wanted to improve the overall appearance of storefronts by returning them to architectural detailing reminiscent of an older era with uniform mill work and colorways that pull together a signature look for the street scape from West to East that bridges the unification of the two disparate towns, Fishkill Landing and Mattewan, that Beacon actually was 100 years ago. These improvements are welcome as we get ready for the Centennial Celebrations 1913-2013 that will begin  in January and last all year long. What a way to start the New Year!

Some food for thought:  New Year's always brings about the melancholic sense of loss for what did not occur in the preceding year and the eager anticipation of a fresh start for the coming year. Finding the balance between regrets and disappointments about the past and optimism and courage for the unknown and uncertain future is key in making the transition 'smooth' from one year to the next. May we all find the time to reflect in a meaningful way about what was and what might be while staying grounded in what is. May we all continue to find the strength for the changes we have endured and for those that are sure to come our way in the coming year.  Many blessings  to all for 2013!
Make a resolution to become a Friend of the Howland Library this year!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Beacon Bits -- Heart-and-Soul

One day last summer, while on Main Street in the vicinity of Global Home and Theo Ganz Studio, I saw a police officer checking out a license plate on a parked car with its door open and a dog lapping up water from  bowl placed by the side of the car by two women shopkeepers.  The officer had been called to the scene by the concerned women who noticed the dog in the car with the windows practically closed on a hot and sultry summer day.  The dog was being rescued from a potential tragedy; the shopkeepers' proactive response had been rewarded by the arrival of the officer and they were relieved as the officer pursued tracking down the owner of the car through a handheld device searching the Internet.  The outcome was whether or not a summons would be issued but the process was the kindheartedness of sensitive and compassionate bystanders who called upon this 'officer of the peace' who responded as you would hope for any local hero.
This is one of the precious heart-and-soul moments of the last year in Beacon.  When I recalled it recently. I thought I'd point out a few more instances where heart-and-soul moments exist along Main Street.
o     Have you ever noticed John's Shoe Repair? you may know it by the clutter and five-and-dime appearance of its large windows across the street from M&T Bank.  When you walk in the door you are transported back to the smell, sight and sound of the glue, sewing machine and rows of gently used shoes waiting to be repaired or retrieved--a remnant of childhood for some of us. I had the pleasure of meeting John and his wife, who travel to Beacon daily from Queens, when I brought a leather pocketbook into the shop in need of a secure strap.  Ten dollars and two days later, a totally wearable sack was back in my possession to my delight and for fond memories being stirred as much as the repair of my purse.
o     Did you notice the arrival of two storefront businesses last summer -- Roosevelt Vet on the Hudson and Orange Pediatrics? Things are really looking up for Beacon when the town pays attention to defenseless children and animals.  (We already know Beacon has ongoing outreach on Main Street for the indigent and addicted with the presence of the Salvation Army and the Lexington Treatment Center.) I recently had the chance to pay a pre-interview visit to Roosevelt Vet on the Hudson and spoke with Emilia, one of the staff, followed by an appointment for my new kitty, Thea, with Dr. Tamara McArdle, after several other
occasions for contact, including a crisis call when adopting Thea at the DCSPCA after being told she had a "cold." Dr. McArdle couldn't have been more understanding as she offered guidance and reassurance to tide me over until Thea could be poked and prodded and

probed thoroughly enough to determine that she's a keeper. Roosevelt Vet on the Hudson now participates in the DCSPCA initial examination program, but whether you're newly adopting a cat or dog or not, I'd say that you can trust your pet care to these newcomers who are professional, courteous and compassionate. Pay them a visit and see for yourself.
o     Did you ever wonder about all the activity that can be seen through the windows of the Yanarella Dance Studio located between Dance Bag and All You Knead off the corner of North Chestnut on Main? I heard there was actually a car dealership in that location years ago, but more recently it has been home for many of the 55 years that this Beacon-owned dance studio has seen kids grow up and become the teachers to their peers' children and even grandchildren. If you were curious enough or received an invitation, you may have even purchased a ticket to one of the two performances held at the Beacon High School in mid-November. If you went, you would see an age range from pre-school to retired (from 3 to 75), all sizes and shapes, and a healthy diversity of ethnicity, religion and race -- a true

equal opportunity venue where the philosophy is that everyone can dance! They can -- and for those who may want to start for the first time - registration was just held for the new classes that start in December and culminate in next November's recital, so there is still time to join in the fun. If you don't feel you have the courage to reveal your inner  dancer, at least remember to buy a ticket next year to support this terpsichorean, community-minded happening that puts all of Beacon on stage.  Kudos to the teachers and Angela, the owner, and especially for the energy of the high school age girls who burned thousands of calories across two days and a dozen performances ranging from hip hop to contemporary, ballet, tap and jazz.  What amazing girl power!
o     And how about our local 93 year old hero, Pete Seeger?  Need I say more.  Just look and listen for yourself. 
Some food for thought:  Reflecting on the day-to-day things we take for granted may reveal that there's more than meets the eye.  And when you do encounter some heart-and-soul in Beacon, whether by chance or by design, you will know that it is truly is a blessed and wonderful life in our town.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Beacon Bits -- A Full Basket

On November 1st, I went to a lovely BeaconArts Awards event, sponsored by "BACA" and held in the Waterfall Room at The Roundhouse. It was the opportunity to look at Beacon Falls from the other side.
I felt a bit like Alice peering through the looking glass as I looked across the room into the twinkling street lights and back lighting against the rushing falls. The event space is grand in stature; as I entered and walked down the industrial staircase into the depth of what was once a factory with its remnant beams and bricks, it felt magical as transformed space from its humble working class beginnings into a chic, upscale, visually appealing party space. My only hope is that the acoustics are improved so that the banter of the gathered crowd doesn’t reverberate off the sleek glass and steel design; despite the protestation of the owner-general contractor, it appears that the signal to noise ratio needs tweaking for those who suffer from auditory distractions. It would be an easy fix. (Feeling inspired by my first taste of the Roundhouse, I went back to the restaurant Swift a week later, and found the quiet ambiance and food to be comforting and very appealing.)

Back to the purpose of the early November-evening event: to celebrate 10 years of BeaconArts (formerly known as BACA) by honoring Susan Sayre Batton, representing the Dia Beacon Museum; Margery Groten, representing the Long Dock Beacon project for Scenic Hudson; and Thom Joyce, local musician/entrepreneur and one of the founders of Second Saturday Beacon. The actual awards that were gifted to the honorees were blown glass masterpieces from our local Hudson Beach Glass and were presented by John Gilvey, Katy & Buddy Behney (owners of Mountain Tops, another Beacon ‘power couple’) and Jennifer Mackiewicz, respectively.
Welcoming remarks by Linda T. Hubbard, President of BeaconArts and owner of Riverwinds, highlighted the history of the 10 year old organization whose membership include those invested in the cultural and economic viability of Beacon – artists, shops, restaurants, galleries, and individuals who support the arts. The crowd attested to the heterogeneity of its membership. There were even three mayors present – two from the past (Clara Lou Gould and Steve Gold) – and our current mayor, Randy Casale, who made the announcement that a trolley would begin a route from the Dia and train station up to Main Street on a part-time basis; an announcement that was well-received by attendees. Bob McAlpine, owner of The Roundhouse, also spoke about the renaissance and forward movement of continued construction of a transformed Beacon that many have envisioned for more than the last 10 years and acknowledged the support of Rhinebeck Savings Bank.

This was a celebration that marked progress and heralded further positive change on the horizon. Everyone in attendance seemed pleased with being a part of the community, in small or big ways, with or without awards. After all, that is how the work really gets done. People keep showing up and little by little, like the incessant drip of water on the stone, all the rough edges get smoothed away. Awards or not, Beacon’s diamond in the rough appeal to so many individuals who keep moving into the community has all the evidence of multiple facets that are emerging and shining ever so brightly.
At the end of the evening, two baskets of donated gifts from Beacon’s brightest and best were raffled off; I had a winning number and won the second basket to my delight! It’s the second time I’ve won a raffle at a Beacon fundraiser in less than a year. Seems like my luck is changing and it’s a good time to take a chance on Beacon; the odds are in favor of more good things to come.

Some food for thought: I once heard a Yiddish saying, which translated says, ‘change your location, change your luck.’ It seems like this has been true for me. Beacon has been good luck for me. I was also reminded after the event when thinking of this good fortune that I was told by my mother that she would 'win something big' for me before she died. Amazing at it seems, I think she delivered; thanks in peace.

List of Vendor Donations for My Best of Beacon Basket #2

Thanks to everyone for your generosity!

Dia Beacon
Riverwinds Gallery

Mtn. Tops

Tas Kafe
Theo Ganz Studio

Artisan Wine Shop
Dream in Plastic

Brother’s Trattoria

M Shanghai Band


Monday, October 29, 2012

Beacon Bits -- Only the Best

I just finished a two-week "stay-cation" in the Hudson Valley. I don't think there is a more perfect time of the year to experience the variation of weather conditions that are invigorating as the leaves go through their medley of colorful changes. I had the full gamut from frost to fog to the finest and clearest of days that suggested the need for a morning wrap, which unfolded during the day as the clouds marked the advancing time to an earlier sunset and need to bundle up once again. But what better time of year than this to have some freedom and lots of choice for a variety of events that are as plentiful as the multitude of apples for the munching. (Oddly enough, to the day of our early snowstorm this time last year, the weather is once again on my mind as I chose to post this blog today while taking an extended vacation day in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy.)
I sampled the annual Woodstock Film Festival at the Upstate Films in Rhinebeck with a viewing of the documentary Chasing Ice, which provides the visual evidence of climate change with James Balog's time-lapse photographs; they convincingly capture the dwindling size of glaciers (EIS.) A picture is worth a thousand words. See it to believe it.

I attended the Friends of Boscobel Applefest on a glorious Sunday afternoon under a tent on the lawn of this historical landmark in Cold Spring. Enchanting. Despite the bee sting.

I went to the Francis Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie for the first time and know that it will be the first of many visits; next time I will take the 2pm tour led by a docent who is an art history major at the school. What an amazing valley treasure!

I made a quick stop at the Apple Pie Bakery at the CIA in Hyde Park and spent a leisurely half-day at the famous Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck. Yum :)

I didn't make it to Manitoga, home of designer Russell Wright, because of the flooding deluge of rain on the scheduled day of the hike-tour. (Oddly, it's the second time I didn't make the tour; last year it was canceled by the October snowstorm! Beware 10/29 when making plans for next year!!) But the rainy day was the perfect opportunity to go to the Dia Museum in Beacon for a walk in and around the large installation sculptures housed in the renovated Nabisco box factory; a space with north facing clerestory windows that made the most dreary day bearable with the presence of its inner light and the diffuse autumnal colors through the opaque glass windows to the south, east and west.

In between these wonderful outings and catching up with errands and house projects, other enjoyable local events on Main Street in Beacon included an author's event at BIRE where Trudie Grace, curator at the Putnam Historical Museum, presented a slide talk about the history of Cold Spring (Images of America: Around Cold Spring, and two wine tastings at the Artisan Wine Shop: Wines of the Loire Valley (10/7/12) and Wines of Spain (10/21/12.)
I've already described the classes that CIA grads Tim Buzinski and Mei Ying So host at their specialty wine shop in a previous blog (see 4/6/12 posting), but the joy of watching this
Beacon "power couple" at work is worth mentioning repeatedly.  Both classes allowed their expertise to shine: Tim and Mei had just visited vintners in the Loire Valley, so we saw their personal slide show for a visual representation of the olfactory and gustatory pleasures at hand.

We learned about Sancerre and Vouvray (my favorite), cabernet franc and Muscadet. We sampled and commented and tasted an array of complementary goat cheeses, a marriage made in the Loire valley, and longed for more as we were assured that these wines are particularly appropriate for the autumnal weather and fare.

The encore event took us to Spain where we found out about Tim's passion (yes, above and beyond his usual enthusiasm) for Spanish regional wines including sherry, rioja, malvasia and  regional delights from Galicia, Andalucia and the Canary Islands. I sensed something special was going to happen when the usual six glasses for tasting had multiplied to nine, along with exquisitely paired tapas; the nine glasses were a lot to handle for an evening, but with bottles to go, they will be there for further enjoyment with "big food", friends and family. (I must admit I was too busy to take photos at this tasting.)
I especially appreciate Mei's 'behind the scenes' touches that make the presentation and organization of materials for personalized tasting notes a treasure to keep for future reference.  While the tastings book-ended my vacation, the good news is that there are two more to come: Wines for Holiday Meals (11/10/12) and Sparkling Wines from Champagne to Prosecco (12/5) with food pairings; bound to be true gifts of the season.
Some Food for Thought:
While I was driving along our local roads, such as 9D, from Breakneck down to Bear Mountain on weekends during the month of October, I couldn't help but think -- when or if Indian Point melts down -- I really hope it's not during the height of the annual autumnal pilgrimage of leaf peeping, mountain climbing, apple and pumpkin picking and oompah-pahing during Octoberfest. We would surely go up in a blaze of glory.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Beacon Bits -- Local Drama

When you mention the play The Gin Game, you automatically think of Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn. You can't help but make the strong association between the very talented, married thespian couple and the classic drama about getting old and feeling neglected secondary to being placed in an "old folks home." So you may understand my hesitation about going to the production at The Beacon Theatre on a beautiful, early autumn afternoon on Sunday 9/23/12. But my ambivalence about attending the performance was softened as soon as I saw the creatively designed set by Jim Brady in the lobby space where plays, comedy shows and concerts have been taking place during the past two years since the benefit kick-off was held in the fall 2010 and while funds continue to be raised for the complete renovation of the entire building.
My doubts about attending the play were totally erased when Angus Hepburn, playing the irascible, yet lovable, Weller Martin, appeared on stage, soon to be followed by his wife, Stephanie Hepburn, playing the part of the sensitive, secretive and very lucky Fonsia Dorsey; the Hepburn's, with impressive credentials in NYC off Broadway repertory theater, are now local Beaconites, lucky for us. They previously appeared in  the Beacon Theatre's production of Finnegan's Rainbow and hopefully will star in another production very soon; they are a powerhouse duo that are not to be missed. Performances of The Gin Game are scheduled for the weekend of 9/28-9/30 (Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 3pm.) Hopefully, the word is out and the final performances will be well-attended; the Hepburns so deserve a full house. Or is that gin?

Some food for thought:  4th Wall Productions are to be congratulated on their choice and production of this serious comedy about aging, which might make baby boomers cringe, but will certainly give everyone something to think about as health care policies, including medicaid payment for nursing home care, are currently a hot debate in American politics. Whether someone visits a relative in a nursing home or fears being relegated to one at the end of life, the topic cannot be avoided. Focusing on a serious matter while using humor and quirky characters, The Gin Game is a classic gem. Fonsia, so lucky in winning each hand of cards seems to prove the familiar adage true: 'lucky in cards, unlucky in love.' But when it comes to aging, we all need a little bit of luck and a a whole lot of love.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Beacon Bits -- Can't Get More Local

Living in the Hudson River Valley has its perks all year long, but they multiply as autumn approaches. The apples in the orchards are ready for picking and root vegetables abound. The changing light creates a warm glow as the sun sets earlier and rises later as we move through the autumnal equinox. The energy level rises with everyone out-and-about for the annual seasonal festivals and competing events scheduled each weekend that celebrate the harvest and prepare us for the dormant period that awaits us in the near distant future.
There's no need to eke out the last few weeks of farmers' markets, however, with Beacon's very own riverfront market continuing through the winter months. But there's a great reminder that you can't get more local when you do go down to the waterfront and are greeted by the Common Ground Farm's iconic bus.
On the grounds of Stony Kill Educational Center, the CSA farm flourished this past season under the steady hand of farmers Tim Heuer and Sam Wildfong along with their team of knowledgeable and hard-working apprentices.
Tim Heuer, Director of Farming, Common Ground Farm


Katie from Kentucky, Summer Intern
When you purchase the weekly offerings of produce, which is set up early on Sunday mornings, you can trust that the proximity along Route 9D insures freshness that can't be beat by its competitors. Tomatoes, beets, greens, string beans, yellow and green squash, basil, and onions that easily go from our farm to your table.

 The local Beacon scene abounds with additional home grown talent that ripens this time of year. (Some talent even goes global.) Second Saturday events are well-attended during the brisk evening hours; don't miss One Earth at Fovea, a global perspective on ecological crises. The Howland Chamber Music Circle starts its season once again under the capable leadership of Gwen Stevens who orchestrates programming with aplomb and pulls all the strings to get world-renowned musicians into our acoustically engineered Howland Cultural Center. The Beacon Theatre gets ready to celebrate its Second Anniversary kick-off for renovations, which while still underway, have progressed sufficiently to offer plays including upcoming performances of The Gin Game and Love, Loss and What I Wore. And don't forget the Spirit of Beacon Day on September 30th, which is sure to have an international feel with the cross-cultural heritage of local residents.
One of the understated events recently held at the Howland Cultural Center was the awarding of the 3rd Annual Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Celebration awards to Tery Udell and Dan Einbender for their role in starting the Rivertown Kids, a classroom based, community-wide children's chorus; the event was held on Sunday 9/16/12 and was sponsored by the Beacon Democratic Committee. While some of the kids are growing up, they continue their journey knowing they won a Grammy with Pete Seeger for their CD Tomorrow's Children. Hopefully, there will be more eight and nine year olds following in their footsteps by signing up to sing about the present state of affairs pertaining to the environment and human rights and to map out the direction for a hopeful future.
Some food for thought: The local-global connection has a home in Beacon. As we move towards celebrating Beacon's centennial in 2013, there should be no reason to think of it solely as a provincial event. The sense of human connectedness and the power of the community of the 99%-ers who reside here is just a microcosm of a world-wide phenomenon. Beacon, as its namesake suggests, heralds the message that attention should be paid to this specific location at this time. Beacon has something to sing about, to paint and photograph, to grow, and to join hands together to celebrate. There is no better season, as autumn approaches, to be a beacon for the Hudson Valley. Shine on!
Some Upcoming Autumnal Events on the Calendar
Thursday, September 20th - Science journalists Horgan & Revkin, BIRE
Friday-Sunday, September 21st-23rd - The Gin Game at The Beacon
Sunday, September 23rd - Wine 101 - Artisan Wine Shop
Sunday, September 30th - Spirit of Beacon Day Parade, Beacon
Sunday, October 7th - Farm Market Set-up, Common Ground CSA work hours
Sunday, October 7th - Wines of the Loire - Artisan Wine Shop
Saturday, October 13th - 2nd Saturday Gallery Events, Beacon
Sunday, October 14th - Beacon Sloop Club's Pumpkin Festival
Friday-Sunday, October 19th-21st - Sheep and Wool Festival, Rhinebeck
Sunday, October 21st - Brooklyn Rider String Quartet, Howland Chamber Music
Sunday, October 21st - Be Inspired by Spain - Artisan Wine Shop

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Beacon Bits -- B-"ECO"-FRIENDLY

A recent visit to the new materials recovery facility, ReCommunity Recycling, at 508 Fishkill Avenue (Route 52) during an Open House, sponsored by the Beacon Chamber of Commerce, was quite informative and a far cry from last year's publicized resistance to the project voiced by some concerned Beaconites fearing additional truck traffic in neighboring areas. The public relations presentation touted all the virtues of recycling that has come of age because companies, such as this local affiliate of the largest recycling company  in the U.S. headquartered in Charlotte, NC, can turn a profit on the abundant waste of plastics, bottles, aluminum, and paper.  The business opportunity for the resale of recycled refuse has fostered education and encouragement for consumers to use their increased awareness that garbage needs to be separated while capitalizing on the ease of "single stream" recycling, which does not require pre-sorting materials at home; this is left for the automatic conveyors and 44 newly hired employees in a 7.5 million, 52,000 square feet, renovated building that opened in the Spring 2012. ReCommunity Beacon promises to reduce the local carbon footprint by recovering material that would ordinarily add to greenhouse gases and take up landfill space.

My choice for a theme song for this venture is clearly Dan Einbinder's "It Really Isn't Garbage"....."til you mix it all really isn't garbage til you throw it away". The song, popularized by Pete Seeger and the Rivertown Kids, can now be front and center, but it doesn't eradicate the history of recycling since the 1970's when volunteer environmentalists would sort through garbage for "free". Nor do the 'de rigeur' recycling plants negate efforts of local heroes from the Beacon Sloop Club who led the way to convert the former  garbage dump north of their current building by the train station into the popular Riverfront Park.

Beacon has been and will continue to be at the forefront of environmental activism; people here seem to always be leading the way. Just take a sample of recent and upcoming events in town that focus on water pollution (Poisoned Waters, a film on new toxins from everyday life on 8/16/12 at CEIE at Dennings Point), environmental crises (Plan B, Mobilizing to Save Civilization, a film shown on 7/24/12 at The Beacon Theatre), and ecological concerns (One Earth, an upcoming group exhibit at Fovea, opening night on Second Saturday, 9/8/12)

Beacon still has further potential for leadership in this groundswell of renewed fervor to save our planet. With Pete Seeger as champion of the cause living in our midst, being home to the Clearwater organization and having the support of neighbors like Scenic Hudson, Beacon has many role models, including Victor 'Roland' Mousaa, inventor of the Solar Electric Sun Bulb, a Rocket Hub project to be premiered at the Solar Expo Jam Festival on 8/18/12 at 12 noon at Rickey & Son's Organic Farm, 442 Rt. 94 North, Vernon, NJ.* This may just be the newest chapter for Beacon to once again stand as a 'shining light' for the Hudson River Valley; from the historical signal fires of the revolutionary war to the current urgency of creating alternate energy sources, using solar, wind and geothermal technology.

*Pete Seeger will be playing at 2pm on Saturday 8/18 at the Solar Expo Jam Festival along with Princess of WOW and Her Smile Revolution Band, Roland Mousaa and many other musicians from Friday night (8/17) through Sunday (8/19).

Some food for thought: Beacon's role may be truly 'enlightening' for environmental issues. For those of us who have always been aware, we are in good company. For those of us who need encouragement to prace eco-friendly habits, we have the social support and resources at hand to do so. For those of us who need that extra push, someone will be willing to apply some peer pressure. Hopefully, there will be an appropriate showing of 'b-eco-friendly' advocates in the form of educational floats and community activities at this year's 35th annual Spirt of Beacon Day in September to light the way.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Beacon Bits -- Beacon's Buzz

When you look at a beehive, you know there's a lot of productive activity going on inside. Every bee has a purpose and mission to fulfill, and collectively, the outcome is greater than the sum of its parts. So it's no coincidence that the Common Ground Farm Fair Food Committee* chose to host a free showing on July 15th of the documentary The Greenhorns, about young farmers, at BEAHIVE, the innovative and progressive workspace in the center of Beacon. The "hive" was the perfect venue to bring Beaconites together to view this film, which depicts the choices and challenges of sustainable farming, and to personally meet the local farmers and apprentices of our CSA with time for Q&A, refreshments and prizes.

In speaking to Scott Tillitt, founder of the BEAHIVE's Beacon site, the mission of the BEAHIVE was greatly clarified; I understood that the hive is more than renting work space to those who need an office, rather, it is an interconnected system of individuals who have common goals and values for sustainable living while advancing the level of community for all participants. It is a place  to come together to support the larger Beacon community and collaborate on projects of mutual interest. It is a place for belonging and membership.

*The Fair Food Committee offers support in the form of stipends for individuals who qualify for a subsidy to purchase a share for Common Ground's CSA; purchases a share that is distributed to two local food pantries (St. Andrew's in Beacon and First Reformed in Fishkill); and collaborates with the Cooperative Extension's Green Teens program that educates students about food justice by scheduling deliveries to seniors and those who may not ordinarily seek out healthy food choices based on convenience, habits, or limited funds.
Some food for thought: The buzz about Beacon has reached notoriety with the recent CNN advertisement with designer Mark Bastien's drive to Beacon and the New York Times article by Paul Appelbome after his July Second Saturday visit. But the real buzz in Beacon occurs in the center of Main Street, which Appelbome characterizes as middle America--"waiting for better days", the stretch between the east and west coasts--"where the cool people hang out". However, it is this very middle ground that brings Beaconites together as a community in the form of partnerships, meetings, gatherings and events, such as free film showings at the Howland Library, community chorus at the Howland Cultural Center, dancing at Rosa's Exercise Dance Studio or Yanarella's, purchasing chocolate delights at Alps Sweet Shop or bread at All You Knead, working together on a fundraiser at BEAHIVE and attending a book signing or  lecture sponsored by BIRE--where former Mohawk tribal chief James Ransom shared insights about Native American spirituality and the environment on July 19th at BIRE's Dennings Point location. He spoke volumes about community spirit; his comments about building community through common interests and activities amplified my own beliefs about finding meaning and purpose through participation and engagement in diverse activities (i.e., occupations) that are valued and important. This shared sentiment is what the real buzz in Beacon is all about. Take time to get involved. Sign up. Join in. Gather together. Reach out. Meet up. Support local business and nonprofits. Do something new. Contribute. Receive. Belong. Become a member of the hive!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Beacon Bits -- America's Bounty

Looking back a year, I see that I spent the day doing similar things: catching up in the kitchen with all the items that I’ve been gathering at Common Ground Farm’s weekly harvest so that they don’t go to waste. It seems as though a critical mass accrues by this time in July. It’s been a year of bounty on the farm. We’ve had a most wonderful variety of lettuce, arugula, turnips, beets, fennel, celery, green onions, radishes, broccoli, kale, mustard greens and other greens, kohlrabi, basil, cilantro, dill, cucumbers, bok choy, scapes, patty pan squash, green zucchini, peas and garlic thus far. Despite the blanching of greens and freezing for future use, the best salads I’ve been eating for lunch, and the sharing of some of the harvest with friends at work, I found myself in the kitchen today preparing several dishes so that I could be on top of the bounty. Given I did this on Independence Day last year, it felt like a tradition was emerging; a tradition that seems to be rooted in the rhythms of the Hudson Valley where local farming has taken root.

Of course there are other traditions for 4th of July. And where else to feel so connected to them but living along the Hudson River where bombs did indeed burst in the air! This year, I’ve been invited to a barbecue and a chance to see the Beacon fireworks in Memorial Park up close and personal. So spending the morning in the kitchen was a simple and centered way to begin the holiday.  Cooking is a flow experience for me. I never feel as present in the moment as I do when I wash, slice, cut, chop, sauté, stir, whip, season, bake, broil, and taste. Even the anticipation of the finished product doesn’t distract from the tasks at hand. It’s a wonderful experience to feel rooted in nourishing the body, mind and soul---all at the same time.

I’ve had years of being inspired by great chefs on TV shows: the Frugal Gourmet, Julia Childs, Jacques Pepin, Lidia’s Italy and now Andreas Viestad and Tina Nordstrom of New Scandinavian Cooking. I call it inspired cooking because there are times that the only measurements are done by eye and taste, not spoons and cups that are exact; inspired because it is the spur of the moment-- what is lying in wait in the cupboard, refrigerator or basket on the counter and what has been purchased that needs to be used up before it spoils. I’m not sure if the only motivation is getting to prepare something that is worth eating or if it’s the challenge of analyzing and predicting what will actually taste good. Either way, it’s a great outcome.
I guess that’s why I find barbecues boring. There is only so much you can do on the grill. From start to finish, it is a bit more precise. So I think I’ll continue to leave the grilling to those who may not want to spend hours in the kitchen, lost in the moment, grounded in the present, and in no need to rush.
Some food for thought: Traditions are important. They are anchors, touchstones, bookmarks and the rituals we create in our lives. How many years does it take to have an event become a tradition? I think it depends on how important the task or the routine is. Sometimes it takes a while to see the pattern of repetition. Other times, it is evident from the start that this is something to return to over and over again. Guess I’ve found my 4th of July tradition: connecting to the earth’s bounty and identifying with the work of farmer’s wives who pickled and ‘put up’ food for future use; feeling independent from fast and processed foods; and being content with the here and now. And after tonight's fireworks with new local friends, Jens & Betty Ann, Steve & Barbara and Mindy [a.k.a. "Princess WOW!"] & Roland (among others), and good food, I hope this new tradition lasts for years to come.

To the right of Beacon's fireworks, which were delayed after a quick and fierce moving thunderstorm, nature had it's own display of lightning behind some nimbo-cumulus clouds, competing and outlasting the colorful and beautiful manmade version

America's 4th of July Bounty
Roasted Beets

Wash beets and trim. Place into tin foil. Sprinkle with tarragon vinegar and salt. Close foil. Bake at 350 degrees until tender. Rub skins off. Beets are ready to be a side dish or as an add in for salads.

Quick Pickled Cucumber
Place 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Add 2 tbs. chopped onion, a handful of celery leaves, and 2 sprigs of dill. Bring to a boil. Add 1/3 cup tarragon vinegar and 1 generous tbs. sugar. Simmer for a few minutes. Set aside to cool. Slice cucumber into container. Pour vinegar over cucumbers. Refrigerate.
Farmer’s Delight Vegetable Soup
Chop ½ cup yellow onion, 1 white turnip, ½ large green zucchini, 3 stalks celery including the leaves, 3 stems basil, 1 stalk of fennel, 2 garlic scapes, 4-5 large beet green leaves, peas and 1 dried cayenne pepper. Heat 2 tbs. olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add onions and the garlic scapes and sauté until onions are transparent. Then add turnip, zucchini, celery, and fennel to the mixture. Finally, add the peas, basil, greens and pepper flakes. Saute together for approximately 15 minutes. Then ½ cup wine (whatever you have open in the fridge) and 32 oz. Pacific Foods organic beef (or chicken or vegetable) broth. Bring to a boil; lower and simmer for up to 1 hour. Halfway through, open a can of cannellini beans, rinse and add to the soup. Add salt to taste.  This can be frozen for a rainy day. (The cayenne pepper is something that was leftover from last season; I was afraid to use it. It reminded me of the red pepper flakes on the counters of pizzerias that I avoided. But it seemed appropriate to add the ‘heat’ today being 4th July.)

Roasted Vegetables du Jour
Chop onion, turnip, patty pan and green squash, fennel, basil and celery leaves and place into a roasting pan. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle salt, chopped cayenne pepper pod and toss to mix well. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hr. or until tender, depending on how much you prepare. This is a great way to have vegetables ready ahead of time for several days.

Red-White-and-Blue Dessert for Betty Ann and Jens’ Barbecue
Make 1 pound cake from scratch. (I use a recipe, “Grandma’s Pound Cake”, passed down from a tried-and-true family kitchen, that gives ‘pound’ a new meaning – pound of butter, flour, confectioner’s sugar, eggs and flavored with vanilla and almond extracts.)  Rinse 1 pint blueberries and 2 pound strawberries, hull and slice the latter. Place ¾ cup white wine (I used a German, organic Riesling -- Weingut Heymann-Lowenstein Riesling Uhlen Erste Lage Blaufusser Lay Mosel 2006 from Artisan Wine Shop) and ½ cup maple syrup (I used the local Crown Maple Syrup) into a bowl. Chop 5 to 6 stems of spearmint leaves and add to the mix. Macerate the berries for several hours. When ready to serve, whip 1 cup of Hudson Valley Fresh heavy cream, and when the cream forms peaks, add 2-3 generous tablespoons of crème fraiche (I used Ronnybrook Farms), 2 tbs. powdered sugar and the grated rind from 1 lime. Slice the cake, spoon on the berries with lots of juice, and top with the whipped cream for a finish equal to the fireworks display.

Bon Apetit!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Beacon Bits -- Beacon's Rainbow!

Just as I pulled up to Yanerella's for tap class on Monday June 25th, a quick moving thunderstorm traveling from west to east, straight up from the Hudson River, along Main Street towards Mt. Beacon, let loose. A drenching downpour ensued intensely for 5 minutes, so I sat in the parked car to wait it out with some concern about the tree limbs that were swaying above. I was able to get out of the car in time to jump the rushing water at the curbside and head under the awning at Dance Bag on the corner of Chestnut Street across from Rite Aid. Since I sensed the timing was perfect, I decided to risk being late for class in order to gaze in anticipation for the break in the clouds in the west until the streaming sunlight emerged. When I turned back to the east, I wasn't disappointed. A most wonderful rainbow appeared in the heart of Main Street framed by Mt. Beacon, which reappeared as the mist lifted its veil after the passing storm had obscured the mountaintop momentarily.

ROY G. BIV intensified over several minutes and the sight was riveting and awesome.

There was an ironic twist as well; I learned that it was pizza, not a pot of gold, at the end of this rainbow. Yum!

And as every good rainstorm does, the air cleared beautifully so that today became a perfect day for my pick up at Common Ground Farm. Peas, turnips, kohlrabi, arugala, basil, savoy cabbage, radishes, braising greens and a couple of sunflower stems were included in this week's share. Receiving the bounty of the earth felt like a reminder of how blessed I was feeling. As I headed home, I remembered it was a primary day and that I needed to stop at the polling place where neighbors sit on the Election Board. I was utterly delighted to see that Pete and Toshi Seeger were heading back to their car just as I pulled into the parking lot. It was an even bigger thrill than yesterday's rainbow to know that I was heading into vote right after Pete and his family. I knew I was in the right place at the right time.

Some food for thought:
Being in the right place at the right time is pure serendipity. You cannot plan it. You cannot take it for granted. You cannot take responsibility for it. But you can notice it. Always be aware of what is possible. Pay attention to subtle cues. Put the cell phone down. Turn off the computer. Stop driving the car. Go dancing. Eat your vegetables. Don't forget to vote. Keep your sense of humor. Open your eyes. Put your hands out. Listen carefully. Take a whiff.  Life can be sensational. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Beacon Bits -- Virtual Community

It's been a full year of blogging about my experiences and sense of community life in Beacon and now, 30 posts later, I find myself even more enthralled and passionate about what has been developing and what the future holds.

Community life is not just what brings visitors to Beacon, like the new venues to eat, such as the Roundhouse, Hop, the soon-to-arrive Dim Sum Vault, and old stand-bys like Sukothai, Cafe Amarcord, Isamu, and Beacon Falls Cafe.

Community life is not just about the artists and creativity that Second Saturday gallery hopping (Bau, Fovea, Gallery 508, Marion Royael) and Open Studio events reveal.

Community life is not just the music at the Howland, performances at the Beacon Theatre, parades like Beacon Barks and Spirit of Beacon, and riverfront events like RIverfest and the Beacon Sloop Club seasonal festivals.

But community life is about the chance to run erands locally and personally greet the shopkeepers. It's about the chance encounters with new friends or the feeling that "everyone knows your name." It's about the long chats. informative conversations and being able to share the news and gossip about what's happening. It's about taking care of the mundane tasks of daily life: getting books at the library, taking a dance class, learning how to make music, buying fresh baked bread, getting your car washed, running down to the Farmer's Market, stopping for a great cup of coffee, purchasing a handmade gift, getting clothes altered or shoes repaired and seeking diversion. It's about being able to meet your needs and to connect with others doing the same.

And Beacon community is always about the river .The river that "runs both ways." The river that connects us to our distant past and to our future revival as a rivertown. It's about the here and now pleasure of being close to the river. It's a chance to rent a kayak at Long Dock Or to take a ferry ride to Newburgh and back. Or to reserve a spot on the sloop, Woody Guthrie. Or to picnic at Riverfront Park.

Some food for thought: I've made many suggestions over the past year related to community involvement and volunteerism, so I thought it would be a good time to take stock of how I am following my own advice. I've become a member of community institutions and nonprofit groups like the Beacon Sloop Club (BSC), Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries BIRE), Dia Museum, Fovea, Howland Cultural Center and Mt. Beacon Incline Railway Restoration Society (MBIRRS).  I joined the Beacon Citizens Network website. I've pledged support to the Beacon Theatre since its kick off fundraiser in September 2010. I joined the Common Ground Farm CSA and have participated in its Fair Food committee, annual auction and weekly distribution. I welcomed 6 new neighbors with small gifts of hospitality, and randomly gave seasoned holiday nuts to 5 others in my neighborhood who had been welcoming to me. I hosted representatives from BSC, the Howland and MBIRRS for my homeowners association to share the energy and enthusiasm of Beacon's finest 'movers and shakers'. I've gone to 12 Second Saturdays, 2 Gospel Cafes, 1 Coffe House, 2 MLK celebrations, 1 anti-fracking concert, 1 celebration of the RIvertown Kids grammy award, 2 BSC potlucks, and about 1/2 dozen lectures at BIRE. I've seen Pete Seeger perform live 10 times; he never ceases to amaze me. And just recently, I made approximately 400 biscuits over a 4 hour period of volunteering at this year's BSC Strawberry Festival.

So my hope going forward is to continue to expand my involvement and to celebrate this growing community spirit and to practice neighborship and voluntarism. There still are a lot more "biscuits" to bake. And a lot more blogs to post.

For further information about Beacon, see listings of Beacon businesses and dowload the iPhone app for all things Beacon.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Beacon Bits -- A Tree Grows in Beacon (Brooklyn)

As many Beaconites have discovered already, there is quite a strong association between Beacon and Brooklyn other than the letter B; store owners commute from Brooklyn to Beacon, residents have moved to Beacon via Brooklyn from their place of birth across the U.S., and there are those that were raised in Brooklyn, like myself, who kept moving up river to the Hudson Valley region. I glimpsed another aspect of this Brooklyn-Beacon connection at May's

Second Saturday when I attended the opening of a new gallery, Theo Ganz, at 149 Main Street. Large paintings of trees found in Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

created by Swedish-born Anders Knutsson are placed in juxtaposition with metal sculpture, including a six foot tree by local Korean-born artist, InSun Kim, bringing us to another connection: the multicultural aspect of both Brooklyn and Beacon. The light in the gallery complemented the refurbished space where Clay Wood Cotton had recently vacated for their new location; the warmth of the early May evening was mirrored in the hospitality and comestibles provided by Canadian-born gallery owner and artist, Eleni Smolen, who also moved to Beacon via Brooklyn. The cool crisp lines of the compact space with the soft feelings of Anders' life-like representation of boughs and trunks of old tree spirits and the hard copper and silver-toned carpenter's nails, sheet metal and found objects in InSun's sculptures are an open invitation to "Segue" (as the title of the show intends) for all the gallery browsers who helped make the inaugural opening feel so special. Its' close proximity to Fovea, (where Rob Penner's photos depicting "Beacons of Music" can be seen indoors, as well as outdoors on the facade of the factory building next to the Roundhouse, which I made sure to see since I had missed the April 14th opening), will make Theo Ganz a special stop on the monthly Second Saturday circuit. Both exhibits will be ongoing through June, so additional visits are possible for a first or second look to relish the respective shows.

Speaking of special, Homespun's candelight atmosphere for a light, but filling, supper of wonderful crabcakes evoking memories of Maryland for anyone who has indulged during a trip south. And what more perfect ending for the evening could there be but a Zora Dora gourmet popsicle treat.

Some food for thought:  Enjoyable routines are a welcome relief for the day-to-day stressors and hassles that we bear. The relaxed exploration and novelty that Second Saturday events offer Beacon's community are exceptional opportunities to unwind with friends, or to enjoy while traveling solo. The evening can be as simple or complex, as fast-paced or slow, as long or shirt, as inexpensive or not, but it will always be guaranteed to deliver inspiration and reduce stress. It's a monthly routine you shouldn't resist; it's a habit worth developing.

Top 3 Zora Dora 'paletas' (a.k.a. ice pops) -- so far this season
Orange Lavender (milk-based)
Kiwi Lime
Red Ruby Grapefruit, Ginger Honey