Friday, October 31, 2008

All Hallow's

October 31, All Hallow's Eve, known to the majority of us as Halloween.
Be sure to watch for little ghouls and goblins, superheroes and princesses wandering the streets this afternoon and evening.
Happy Halloween!

(That's the jack o'lantern we carved from our Sapowsky's pumpking.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Ladies and gentlemen -- it is true -- today we had snow. And from the looks of those clouds, we may have more. Just small little flecks of icy snow that melted into a tiny drop of water upon contact with any surface, but nevertheless, snow did indeed fall from the sky.

And other notes:
Write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days or less! National Novel Writing Month is only days away -- November 1 is the official start date, so if you've been procrastinating that novel, now's the time to get it started. Register, check the rules, and find local NaNoWriMo writers clubs at the NaNoWriMo website. It's great fun!

One of the trains that runs through Belchertown is moving agonizingly slow today. I'm not sure what the problem is, but it's been on the track by my house for about an hour now, moving at a speed I've only seen in turtles.

I went to the library today (surprise, surprise) and picked up a good pile of books and movies. I was kidding with the librarian that I've decided to single-handedly increase the library circulation exponentially -- so she looked up how many items I've checked out since I got my library card on Sept 8 (less than 2 months ago) -- and the total was 60 items -- wow! How many have you checked out?

Just a few more days until it's time to vote. Want to see a sample ballot? Belchertown Town Hall has them online. Check here. Also, for other voter information, visit http:://

And there it is -- more snow -- you can even see it just by looking out the window. Congratulations -- first snowfall of the season!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Kristina's Kafe & Bakery

In the last few weeks, I have had a couple of sets of out-of-town visitors -- and each set I took to Kristina's Kafe for lunch, with great success. Kristina's is just off the town square and serves breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Sunday (closed Mondays) -- hours are 6am-2pm.

Kristina's has a warm and friendly atmosphere and just-right food options. For breakfasts they offer egg sandwiches, omelets, pancakes, a number of sides (such as cereal, pure maple syrup, bagels with cream cheese, homemade toast of the day), and at least 10 breakfast combos (with eggs, sausage, bacon, toast, homefries, pancakes, french toast, etcetera), and all at reasonable prices. The breakfast combos range from $2.29 (egg & toast) - &7.99 (the 3-eyed monster).
On Saturdays and Sundays, when breakfast is offered all day, there are also Weekend Wonders: Bakery Benedict, Homemade Quiche of the Day, Steve's Sensational Scramble, and Belgium Waffle Served with Butter and Powdered Sugar.

Lunch offerings mostly consist of sandwiches -- you can create your own or choose from one of Kristina's specialty sandwichs: the North Main, Firehouse Reuben, Quabbin Club, Stonehouse, Un-Commoner (which is quite tasty, by my own recommendation), and the Men in Blue. There are also hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled cheese, veggie burgers, chicken filets, and other such grilled sandwiches. Kristina's serves hot and hearty meals, as well, for those nasty-weather days (like today) -- things like pot pies, stuffed shells, stuffed peppers, and open-faced turkey sandwiches. There are salads, too, full-size and side. All the sandwiches come with chips and a pickle (at least, from the six examples I've been witness to).

You'll also find daily specials, bottomless cups of coffee -- and of course, the bakery! Donuts, croissants, pastries, fresh-baked breads, custom cakes, pies, and more grace the bakery cases, and though I've not had the opportunity to try many of them, they look quite delicious.

9 North Main Street (Rt 202), Belchertown: 413.323.5733
(Prices and specific menu items from KK&B take-out menu.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Flayvors of Pumpkins

If all these pumpkins hanging out on people's porches, at roadside stands, and in patches have you craving some delicious autumn pumpkinny flavour, get yourself over to Flayvors of Cook Farm on South Maple Street in Hadley. Flayvors is a restaurant and a dairy, and right now they have pumpkins -- and a delicious Pumpkin Mousse Parfait (cream, pumpkin, and spices -- what more could a fall dessert need?).

After having passed Flayvors of Cook Farm many times on my way to and from Hadley, but never visiting, I finally took the opportunity to stop by yesterday. And I'm glad I did, since I was able to get one of those parfaits and enjoy a never-before-tasted-by-me pumpkin treat.

Looks like a good place to get ice cream, too, and in the summer, you can pet the cows! (Open year-round.)

Short Sapowsky's Update

Last night was pick-a-pumpkin night at our house, so we headed to Sapowsky's Roadside Farm Stand where I knew they had tables and benches and tables of pumpkins (as did Dickinson's and Atkins Farms). Sapowsky's did indeed have lots of glorious orange pumpkins of various shapes and sizes (some are even super warty!). Generally they run at $.39/lb, but the bigger ones are priced -- I saw prices ranging from $5-10, so they may vary a bit more than that.
Sapowsky's is open until 6pm through October 31 (Halloween). Then they close for the season until May 1.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Seeing Stars

Last night was a night clear enough to see the striations on Jupiter and four of its moons -- if you were looking through the right telescope -- and luckily, I was. After a Mexican dinner "in town" (aka Amherst), we headed off to the Amherst College Wilder Observatory, where there was reportedly an open house for the Amherst Area Amateur Astronomers Association. Unfortunately, the open house had been changed after the event had already been announced to the papers and such, but there was a member of the club there to greet any visitors who might show up -- like us. Woody, our greeter, had his 'scope set up in line with Jupiter and let us take a look -- and what a view! Later, we went into the observatory and, with a small class of students, heard the stories about its construction. And then, the ceiling opened.

Not dressed for an extended stay in the coldness of last evening, we didn't have the chance to look through the large 'scope of the observatory (just as cold inside as out), but I'm definitely planning on making another visit -- it was fascinating!

You can listen to a history of the observatory and see photos by visiting this page or by making the trip to the observatory on a clear Saturday evening, when it is open to the public -- it's hidden away on Snell Street -- look for a white sign on the south side of the road that says "A.C. Observatory". (You might want to check the AmAstro website first, however, to make sure they'll be there.)

In short, if you're a sky watcher or a star gazer and hoping to find like-minded friends, give the AmAstro Association a try. Take your telescope, if you have one, but don't worry if you don't. They'll happily show constellations and planets and anything else in the night skies worth seeing. Just be sure to dress warmly enough!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pictures of Autumn 2

I took a walk down an unpaved road that is crossed by a number of hiking trails (at first I thought it might be the M&M trail, but I was mistaken). The day was lovely and the nature was spectacular. That afternoon walk was a perfect way to enjoy the autumn sights, sounds, and smells that I love so much -- birds swept across my path, chipmunks skittered through the brush, leaves crackled beneath my feet and drifted down from nearby trees.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Book Sale: Final Note

Tomorrow, Saturday, is the last day of the Clapp Memorial Library Friends Book Sale. I finally made it in to the sale this morning, and it is quite amazing. If you're worried that at this late date the books are too picked over to make a visit worthwhile, you have nothing to worry about. There are still loads and loads of fabulous books to choose from -- some strikingly old and some like new. Classics, biographies, sports, mysteries, dictionaries, science fiction, children's books, magazines, recipe books, westerns, and more line shelf after shelf after shelf in multiple rooms -- it's just like a used bookstore -- and perfect for picking up that reading you've been putting off or gifts for those birthdays you have coming up. Don't miss it! Plus, to top it all off, tomorrow is 1/2 price day.
My picks of the day? Foundation Trilogy by Asimov and Dune by Herbert.

Blog: In the Valley

I was trolling around Google, using search terms to see where this blog would show up on the results lists, when I came across another local blog full of resources for getting to know the Pioneer Valley area through outdoor activities, restaurants, and other such things. It's loaded with pictures, movies, and random facts. It's called In the Valley. Take a look.

Nash's Dinosaur Tracks

If you have a budding archaeologist in your family, or take an interest in prehistoric life, or just want a quick interesting and inexpensive afternoon excursion for yourself or guests, make the short trek out to Nash Dino Land. It's a small roadside museum, gift shop, and quarry that's been around for over 50 years. The outside is fairly nondescript with peeling paint and a sign and a model dinosaur (apparently, it used to have other, bigger, brighter dinosaurs in front, but those have been taken away) -- and plenty of parking. Once inside (you may need to sound you car's horn to gain entry), there are a number of stones, dinosaur toys, and fossils for sale, as well as full and partial dinosaur tracks from the Nash quarry itself (up to $2000 for a set). Pay the minimal admission fee ($3 per adult as of my visit) and head out behind the building to the small quarry. At the quarry you can see dinosaur tracks that have been outlined in chalk, and once you know what you're looking for, you can try to spot some yourself. Muse a little at the life of the dinosaurs and enjoy feeling like a detective -- I'm sure you'll notice more and more prints, and even see the ones used as flagstones in front of the doorways.
On your way in or out, be sure to take time to talk to whoever happens to be manning the museum that day -- they have lots to say about the history of the quarry and the founding of the shop.

To get to Nash's, follow 116 until you see the road signs for Nash Dino Land, nestled away on the South Hadley/Granby border.
This is definitely a good-weather place to visit, so don't rush over during the next thunderstorm or snow shower.

Read more about Nash Dino Land at Roadside America.

Can you find the tracks in the picture below? (Clicking on the pic will expand it and make them easier to see.)


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Recipe: Simple Cabbage Soup

With the influx of local cabbages in the markets, it seemed only reasonable to purchase one to use. My only problem -- I had never used cabbage before. So my first recipe was a simple cabbage soup, using local produce. (My main recipe book didn't have a single cabbage soup recipe in it -- can you believe it?!)

3 T olive oil
1 carrot
1 onion
1 celery stalk
4 cups chopped/shredded green cabbage
salt & pepper

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add chopped carrot, onion, and celery. Heat until softened. Add cabbage. Stir occasionally until cabbage is tender. Add 6 cups of water, cover, and let simmer. Salt and pepper to taste.

(I've been reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and in the story the Bucket family survives on cabbage soup. Our house response? We don't understand the Bucket's complaints -- cabbage soup is pretty good!)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Atkins Cider Donuts

Cider donuts are a popular autumn experience 'round these parts, and you'll find many markets and farm stands selling them. recently posted an article that includes Atkins Cider Donuts in their article "A Dozen Choice Doughnut Spots." If you haven't taken the opportunity to pick up a half dozen of these delights, be sure to do so soon -- and while you're at it, compare them to other donuts in the area and see if you agree with Saveur. I pretty much guarantee you won't regret the donut experience. (I had company this weekend, and we must have gone through nearly 2 dozen of these cider donuts -- delicious!)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Book Sale

The Clapp Memorial Library Book Sale opened to the public today. I have it on good report that it's well organized and has lots and lots of books. Don't miss this opportunity to pick up some great books you can keep and to support the library!

Pictures of Autumn

Just a few pictures I took while I was out and about this weekend -- it was definitely a beautiful weekend for foliage and the weather was perfect. My camera didn't quite do justice to the scenes, but at least some came through. Click on the pics for larger images. (Pictures come from the DAR State Forest in Goshen, Hamilton Orchards, and the Quabbin.)


Dickinson Farms & Farm Stand

I made another roadside farm stand visit last week, but haven't had time to post it until today because of long weekend company, so here it is, a few days later.

Dickinson Farms on 202 in Granby is a larger farm stand than Sapowsky's, but smaller than Atkins. They offer a variety of things from milk and local eggs and cider (not their own), to kettlecorn and granola and homemade preserves, fresh local fruits and vegetables, sausages and cheeses, breads and pies and cakes, and of course, their own apples and tomatoes. For someone who eats simply and naturally, they could be an entire market -- the only catch is that many of their vegetables are Green Giant, and not local.

Dickinson Farms also has a ton of pumpkins and squash available, as well as flowers (like chrysanthemums). They have large greenhouses set up, and I look forward to seeing what comes out of them as the year progresses.

Dickinson Farms has an orchard which provides the apples they sell (macouns, macs, cortlands, and empires at the moment), and they also do pick-your-own on the weekends.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


This is definitely peak foliage weekend -- trees range from brilliant burgundy to fiery scarlet, fierce orange, and glowing yellow. The hillsides are ablaze and amazing to see.

I'm afraid I have not yet been able to capture the glories of nature on electronic film yet this season, but I highly recommend that if you have not yet made it into the countryside for a little leaf-peeping, you do so soon -- these beauties won't last forever and will soon be followed by bare trees and snow!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Belchertown Antiques -- Grand Opening

On my way home from the library and the post office this afternoon, I decided to stop in at Rannsaka on 115 North Main Street. It advertises collectibles and "olde" stuff and wreaths and such things -- I'll do another post on that shop later.
Right next door to Rannsaka is a new antique store -- Belchertown Antiques. Belchertown Antiques doesn't officially open until tomorrow (Thursday), but when I went to peek in the window, the owner opened the shop up to me while she was cleaning and preparing for her grand opening weekend.

I didn't stay long in the shop this afternoon, realizing that Elizabeth had much still to do. But she was very kind to let me in a day early and to take some time to chat with me about her new venture. She had furniture (tables, sewing tables, desk, chairs), kitchen supplies (including some darling aprons), old hats and scarves, and jewelry. Jewelry is her passion, and she intends to have a dollar table for jewelry and more expensive pieces as well.

For Elizabeth, owner and operator of Belchertown Antiques (and buyer and seller), opening this shop has been a long-time dream -- so when the opportunity came for her to realize the dream, she took it. Now, after some of weeks cleaning her three rooms and repainting the walls and trim in preparation, bringing her antiques and collectibles into the store, and arranging and pricing them, she is nearly ready to open for business. She opens shop tomorrow and will be open through the weekend -- check with the store for regular hours.

Belchertown Antiques, 115 North Main Street (adjoining Rannsaka).

Kettle Corn Call

Every Tuesday May through October there's a farmers market in Springfield: The Farmers Market at the X. Normally I wouldn't trek all the way to Springfield for a farmers market, especially with all the markets and farmstands that are so local, but I was planning on meeting a friend I haven't seen in years and so I made the short journey south. This friend just happens to make the best kettle corn around, and she sells it at the Springfield Farmers Market and the Framingham Farmers Market (Thursdays on the Common through October).

It's an interesting setup they have going on -- large kettle popper, corn sifter, bag sealer, promotional magnets --I enjoyed watching them work their magic on the little yellow corn kernals that they to be constantly popping. People flock to thier tent to pick up their weekly fix of the sweet & salty corn, causing a sell-out every few minutes. Bags come in two sizes -- $4 & $6 -- and they'll even give free samples so you can get a taste before buying. If you can't make it to a market, they also sell it online (which is very handy for the winter when farmers markets are closed). So tasty, I came home with 3 large bags yesterday afternoon -- thanks Velma!

Velma's Wicked Delicious Kettle Corn


October in New England means glorious fall colours in the trees and bushes. I'm anticipating great things this season. Many leaves have already changed and fallen; there are roads that seem to glow golden because of the leaves that line the streets and fill the trees and blanket the yards.
Unfortunately, my little camera and I haven't yet been able to capture any truly stunning views -- it seems there is still plenty of green out and about, but even the small changes are beautiful.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sapowsky's Farm - or The Unknown Apple

I made a trip this week to a yet-unvisited farm stand -- Sapowsky Farms Roadside Stand on Rt 202. Rumour had it, and their roadside sign confirmed, that they had had Honeycrisp apples earlier in the season, and to date, Honeycrisp are my favourite eating apples.
Honeycrisps are out of season now -- they are an early apple. However, the farm stand did have 5-lb bags of "sauce apples" for $3 per bag. When I queried the manager about the kind of apple in the bag, she informed me that they were Zestar apples -- an apple I had never tried and had only once heard the name of. I asked her to elaborate -- what's the texture, the flavour -- in other words, why a good sauce apple?
Zestars, I was informed, are juicy and sweet with a firm flesh that softens easily, making them great cooking and canning apples. I bought 2 bags.

Friday, I finally canned applesauce, and this is what I learned this year -- 5 lbs of zestar apples makes 4 pints of sweet applesauce, no sugar needed. Zestars can get a little mealy, and when they do, they begin to peel themselves (very odd, I thought). But they still make a great applesauce, and I'm hoping Sapowsky's has another bag or two available when I get back there this week.
(Last year I loved Macouns for applesauce, and I intend on using them again this year when I find the right price, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try new apples, and I'm glad I did.)

Sapowsky's has more than just apples of course. As of mid-week, they had Cortlands & Macs for $1.29/lb and Macouns for $1.69/lb. They also had goldens, red delicious, and galas. Their own tomatoes ran at $1.99/lb, with a quart for $2.49. They also had bushels of decorative gourds for 2/$1, cabbage, lettuce, squash, pots and pots of mums, a few baked goods -- and a friendly little Corgi, who was not for sale.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Voting Reminder

If you plan to vote in November and still need to register (your name has changed, your address has changed, you're voting for the first time in MA), your voter registration form needs to be postmarked by October 15. You can pick up forms at the Post Office, Town Hall, or the Library.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Clapp Library Reopens!

I had quite a happy surprise today when I went to the library to return some movies and books -- and the whole library was open and ready for business! Since moving to town in August, I have known nothing of the library building but the basement Children's Room. Services in the basement were impressive when compared to the size of the room, but being a librarian and hungry to browse a larger collection of reading and viewing materials, I was definitely looking forward to the reopening of the main parts of the library.
Apparently, yesterday was the grand reopening.
And I was absolutely not disappointed today when I visited.

Inside, the library is a very special place -- stained glass windows, built-in bookshelves, a balcony, dark wood decoration, hanging light fixtures, and set-in windows. A beautiful building, designed to encourage the arts and learning.
This is not your typical library.

(However, it is small inside and very very crowded. Though the state has funded a grant to expand the renovate the library, that money needs to be augmented by a large chunk of funds from the town and from private donations. You can read all about it here. )

I walked around the rooms in awe, beginning with the children's sections and moving over to adult fiction and reference, passing teen books, movies, music CDs, and magazines along the way. I even picked up 2 graphic novels (Bone and Batman), a teen novel, and a movie as passed through those sections -- and had to hold myself back from selecting more -- library browsing can be a dangerous habit to get into (though I highly encourage it).

I have met three of the librarians at the Clapp Library, and they have been very helpful and friendly (which I sense is a Belchertown theme). One of them has even read an article or two on this blog. I have also had the pleasure of meeting the library bulldog (perhaps the director's dog?).

The Belchertown library is a great community library, and I'm glad it has reopened. Be sure to stop in soon to pick up an audiobook, a movie, a book, a magazine, or to use the internet, do homework, study, or just discover something new. People have raved to me about the Clapp Memorial Library, and I am starting to understand why.

Tune in soon when the Friends of the Library run their BIG annual book sale! Coming Oct 13-18.

Happy October!

Just wishing any and all readers a happy October. I love October!
(More later.)

Photographs and text copyrighted by Livin' In the Belch blog author, unless otherwise stated.