Road Trip: New York's Schoharie Valley

New York's Schoharie Valley has a rich pre-colonial history—home to the Mohawk who had a lucrative fur trade with the French, Dutch, British and German colonists.  It was also occupied by migrating tribes of the Iroquois on its Western border. 

General George Washington's rebel troups considered the fertile Valley  "The Bread Basket of the Revolution" for growing wheat to sustain them in their fight against the British. 

The roads winding through the Valley offer spectacular views and reveal many towns whose cafés, general stores, and brick oven pizzerias are worth a stop.

This Schoharie Valley guide will help you plan your excursion. Consider a visit to Howe Caverns where you can explore the underground cavern by boat and pan for stones,  The Old Stone Museum Fort, and other historic sites

Just south of Schoharie, in neighboring Delaware County, is Bloomville's Table on Ten —a great home base from which to explore. 

Amsterdam Houseboat Surfing

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If you’ve ever wandered the Seine in Paris or the canals of Amsterdam you may have coveted the houseboats locals call home. Some look sleek and modern but more look lovingly lived in -  scattered with outdoor furniture, potted tomatoes and the occasional slumbering dog.  Now the Web opens up the possibility of finding and renting houseboats on rivers around the world.

We recently indulged by renting a boat on the Amstel River in Amsterdam where AirBnB lists over fifty houseboats. Our host, Hilda, answered all our questions before we left home (where to buy groceries on Xmas day?) and had the houseboat warm and ready.

Hilda’s clean, cozy woonboot has at least a thousand square feet of space. The front door opens directly into a large eat-in kitchen with a long dining table. The kitchen boasts a SMEG stove, dishwasher, Nepresso machine and everything else you need to make and serve a nice meal. Down a few steep steps from the kitchen  are two twin bunks tucked into the bow next to a beautifully-tiled bath (a separate water closet off the kitchen holds the toilet) . Down the steps in the opposite direction is a comfy, sunken living room whose flat screen t.v. can easily be hooked up to your mobile device to watch movies. The stern holds a generous master bedroom with fine linens and duvets.

The boat is docked right in front of the Opera House near the Waterlooplein tram and metro stops so the city is entirely accessible by foot, bike or public transit. (We squated the Opera House's wifi). We could have spent even more time in the Droog Design shop and exploring The Nine Streets both of which are walking distance from the boat and blissfully far from the city's tourist traps.

IAmsterdam is a great resource for planning the rest of your trip and allows you to purchase a combined tram and museum pass so that you can skip the long holiday queues.  We chose the Rijksmuseum,  Stedelijk MuseumVan Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House (which requires you to pick a specific day and time for your tour).  You might consider exploring the 1672 canal-house-turned  Museum Van Loon  after visiting the Rijks' dollhouse to bring Jessie Burton's novel The Miniaturist to life (a novel depicting the harsh realities of 17th Century life for people living on the fringe of society) . 

We also  took an evening boat cruise that was a surprising delight because of the city Light Festival. There are champagne cruises, dinner cruises, pizza cruises, even morning pancake cruises. But we hopped on a nighttime Light Festival cruise which sold hot chocolate, mulled wine and roasted nuts to satiate our empty stomachs. The view was beautiful and we especially loved seeing the bridges and other houseboats at eye level. We also identified several other waterfront excursions we now know we must return to see  - The National Maritime Museum, The Houseboat Museum, and  The NEMO Science Museum.


Ina Garten's Make It Ahead


Ina Garten’s Make it Ahead seems to be her first cookbook to capitalize on her early career as a White House budget analyst. It offers tips on how to “entertain with ease” by preparing ahead. Each recipe is designed to be made and served right away - but is supplemented with tips on how far ahead you can make it (or whether it can be frozen).  Her dinosaur kale chips with parmesan can be put in the oven for minutes just  before your guests arrived (though you must keep an eye on them). And she suggests recipes that actually taste better with time like a Moroccan tagine or overnight Belgian waffles.  

My favorite tid-bit is her description of a perfectly lavish yet simple New Year’s Eve celebration:

Garten describes how she pulls off making dinner in 15 minutes on returning home by either whipping up a lemon/butter sauce for Lemon Capellini with Caviar in advance, or setting up a Provencal Fish Stew  so that all she has to do is add the fish and mussels and cook for ten more minutes, serving it with garlicky rouille and crusty bread . Even if your New Year’s Eve includes a glass of sparkling water, a spin around the family room with the kids and screening Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, this book might help keep you out of the kitchen to enjoy it more of it!