Category Archives: Columbia County, NY

Carol’s Corn Chowder

Columbia County, NY  I  Saturday, 14 January 2017

Lately, I’ve felt like eating soup all the time. It’s sooo comforting, after Christmas is over and the bleak, grey, bitter-cold reality of January sets in. I only know how to make one kind of soup, corn chowder. This, of course, isn’t counting a brief foray into French Onion Soup in the 90s. (When my date wasn’t super impressed, I moved on. From French Onion Soup and him. Ha!)

I’ve also felt like eating soup a lot lately because I got a fabulous set of gumbo spoons for Christmas. (Gumbo spoons are big, like soup spoons, but rounder.) They’re in the Oneida Evening Star pattern from 1950, which was one of my mom’s wedding silverware designs. They’re so pretty and shiny, I just want to use them all the time!

I just made a big batch of corn chowder recently, because my local, small-town library has a soup sale every Wednesday evening in January. Patrons donate big batches of soup and the Library Director sets up the large community room with all kinds of Crock-Pots to keep the soups warm.

The soup sale is eagerly anticipated each year, by staff and patrons alike. It’s something to look forward to when the post-holiday blues try to creep in.

You can buy a pint of soup for $4, or a quart for $7, and they even throw in some French bread slices, too. Isn’t that a great idea for a fundraiser?

I don’t really have a recipe for my corn chowder, I just wing it. And I call it Carol’s Corn Chowder, because my mom says she liked to have a pot of this on in the church kitchen when she knew there were going to be visitors who had a long drive home. It’s easy and filling, plus you can easily stretch it if more people show up than you expected.

All I do is saute some diced onions in butter in a medium-sized Revere Ware frying pan while I’m boiling some diced, skinned potatoes to about halfway done. I cut up some hot dogs, or Smokies when I’m feeling rich and fancy, and put them in with the onions.

Everything goes into a large pot at this point.

Then I dump in some cans of creamed corn and drained regular corn, along with the drained potatoes. I stir the mixture a lot, and try to get it thoroughly warmed through before adding some milk and/or half and half. I don’t add any salt, because I figure canned corn already has plenty of sodium.

The only way you can really go wrong is if you boil the soup after adding the milk and get that creepy milk skin. So, after you add the milk or half and half, keep the heat low and stir it constantly, just until warmed through.

Voila, Carol’s Corn Chowder! It’s cheap, easy, and delicious, a great prescription for the January blues.

This post was originally entitled Churchy Corn Chowder, when it was first published 14 January 2017.

Post name was later changed to Carol’s Corn Chowder and light edits were made.

Carol passed away 25 September 2017. This post was republished 25 September 2020, in her memory.

She was a wonderful cook, and is sorely missed by her family and friends. Rest easy, Mama.


Three Soups, Zeppelin, and Curry

Columbia County, New York  I  Friday, 16 February 2018

The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.
-Rabindranath Tagore

Yesterday afternoon, after I’d been to court, to face the woman who was responsible for my mother’s death, I was done for.

Emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausted.

Headache and heartache.

Starving and feeling all alone in the world.

I had decided in advance, the night before, that after I went to court, I would comfort myself with my three favorite soups. I would have a progressive lunch, taking the afternoon to eat three soups, from three different places.

I ate French Onion Soup and Coconut Soup at two different restaurants, savoring the heat of these delicious soups, and soaking up their lovely interiors, along with the smiles of their warmly engaging waitstaffs.

The French Onion Soup was from Wunderbar Bistro, on upper Warren Street, in Hudson, NY. It was served in a small, dark-brown McCoy-like bowl, rich with beef broth and sherry, topped with bread and the requisite thick slab of Swiss cheese, then garnished with green.

One of my favorite songs was playing as I began to eat, Bobby Darin’s Beyond the Sea, and I felt secure and sheltered by the Bistro’s dark wood interior, with amber pendant lighting, varnished butcher block tables, and pretty, black-clad servers, sporting buns or long straight hair, dark lipstick, and large gold hoop earrings.

In the back lounge, there were art nouveau posters, a brown leather couch by the fireplace, and a peaceful, romantic, ski lodge-kinda vibe.

The Indian restaurant is where I ate (or should I say drank?) the Coconut Soup, along with a piece of nan, and a small bowl of rice pudding. It was served by a young man wearing a mango-colored shirt, with a wide and dark, pleasant face, and the friendliest of smiles.

The Wonton Soup came from Spring Garden, a Greenport staple, and was sold to me by the ancient Asian bartender/takeout guy, with the wicked underbite and witty sayings.

I took a double portion home, to be eaten later, since it warms up nicely.

After I ate the two soups and soothed my soul, I drove along Fairview Avenue, blasting Led Zeppelin, and stopped at an independent bookstore to buy a book I’ve been wanting to read for a very long time.

Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert.

My new mantra of healing and self-discovery.


To read about Radindranath Tagore (1861-1941), a Bengali poet:

Yes, that’s Steph Curry, pictured in the third photo. He and his lovely wife, Ayesha Curry, were featured in the November issue of Food & Wine magazine, and I bought it just for their article.

Steph is a basketball player for the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors. Ayesha has been on several cooking shows, and has a cookbook called The Seasoned Life. They have two daughters, Riley and Ryan, and are expecting a third baby.



Thank God for Dirty Dishes

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

What a mess! But I think it actually looks kind of cool with the partial color filter on Black Beauty, my camera.


Yesterday I was faced with a mountain of dishes. I’ve never had so many dirty dishes piled up at Valoftten, my little upstairs place with the red kitchen and the views out to all four directions.

Why, you ask? Well, pretty sure it has something to do with the fact my church bag weighs 17 pounds: manuals, notebooks, scriptures, Chromebook, it all adds up!

Last Saturday, at my place, I had a leaf-raking work party for the church group and then a Christmas craft activity. In the afternoon, there was more sitting by the campfire, cider and donuts, and then leaf blowing and weed whacking.

A really nice lady named Diana offered to help with the dishes, but I said no thanks, because I wanted to get some more yard work done before it got dark. That day was bitterly cold, too. Our fingers were numb, even in gloves.

But first, after the other ladies left, Diana and I went to the little local ACE Hardware store I love in Chatham, where they have a resident cat, three dogs, and four turtles. We bought mix and gasoline for her equipment, and then that dear soul, a part-time landscaper, she went to town with her heavy equipment. Shades of Rosie the Riveter!

Later on, after she went home and it was just Thing 2 and me, I was worn out after playing hostess all day, so the dishes, although rinsed and stacked, they sat. And sat.

The next day, Sunday, was chock full of church stuff: three hours of services, I taught the lesson in the ladies’ meeting, then visited the nearby rest home to see two church members.

Later that afternoon, I had a choice. Nap or dishes?

Well, you can guess which won out. THE NAP, of course. (I made the right choice.) But by then it was dark, and my kitchen has less than stellar lighting. It has a main overhead light, but no task lights over the sink and stove. I’ve purchased some little red goose neck lamps to use for task lighting. (Hey, they were red metal and only $6 and match my kitchen, so for now I make do.)

Have I mentioned the kitchen at Valoftten, true to the 50s, has no dishwasher? And that’s okay with me, I actually prefer to wash dishes by hand, since I think they get cleaner that way.

Plus, I’d rather have the extra cupboard space than a dishwasher.

In Salt Lake City, my two-butt kitchen, the original home of My Copper Kitchen, it did have a dishwasher. But I didn’t use it. I stored my big collection of pots and pans in there!

As I started in on attacking the mess on Monday morning, I did so cheerfully, remembering a poem I read as a very young teenager, curled up in the recliner in front of the unicorn wood stove.

It goes like this:

Thank God for dirty dishes,
they have a tale to tell,
while other folks go hungry, we’re eating very well.
With home and health and happiness
we shouldn’t want to fuss
For by this stack of evidence, God’s very good to us.
-Dear Abby column


We’ve reached critical mass on the dirty dishes here!


We’ve managed to scorch three pans in the process of cooking…

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Not When I Expected

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Ghent, NY  I  Friday, 25 August 2017

The tree I call Flame-Haired Beauty was already starting to get red leaves at the beginning of August! (Photo taken 4 August 2017.)

Towards the end of July, I started to notice some strange things around the yard. The maple tree across the street from the house was starting to get red leaves. Wait, what? At the end of July?

This is the tree I call Flame-Haired Beauty, because when I made a trip to New York at the beginning of October 2015, she was positively on fire!

I didn’t expect her to start to turn red until more like the end of September, but there she was, a full two months earlier than expected, already turning brilliantly, captivatingly red.

And that’s not the only weird thing around here. The tulip tree, which never really blossomed this spring, it had flowers on top at the end of July, maybe two dozen of them!

I had a hard time getting a photo, because the blossoms were all up so high, but I could see them, plain as day, from my upstairs kitchen window.

If you look hard, you might be able to see a tulip blossom near the top of the tree. Can you also see the pink poodle in the sky? She’s wearing a tutu! (Photo was taken on 31 July 2017.)

I guess in nature, like in life, sometimes things happen at unexpected times. That’s what makes life interesting, huh?



BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Philmont, NY  I  Friday, 3 February 2017

This building is on Warren Street in Hudson, NY. I love the wrought iron railing and how two sets of stairs converge in front of the door. There is also a beautiful wrought iron finial on the railing. Look closely, you might be able to see it, right in the middle.

One of the myriad of reasons I wanted to move back to New York was the beautiful, historic architecture. Some houses have fanlights over their front doors, and I love to ooh and ahh over them.

Merriam-Webster defines fanlight as “a semicircular window with radiating bars like the ribs of a fan that is placed over a door or window”. Fanlights, as well as transom windows and sidelights, are used to bring additional light into an otherwise dark hallway. Plus, they’re just plain pretty!

Here are some examples of fanlights from around Columbia County, and there are many more to be discovered!

Here’s the front door of a private residence. I love how they’ve framed it symmetrically with planters.


Here’s another front door on Warren Street in Hudson, the Daughters of the American Revolution building in the Robert Jenkins House, circa 1811.


This is a private residence. Notice the pleasing symmetry of the left wing and the screened-in porch on the right.


This building is situated at a busy intersection in Hillsdale, NY, and is currently the home of C. Herrington Home + Design. When I was growing up, it was home to L’Hostellerie Bressane, a French restaurant. The building dates to 1783.


The two photos above were taken at Roeliff Jansen School, where I attended junior high. When the school moved into a new campus in 1999, Roe Jan was vacated and has since fallen into disrepair. The gorgeous brick building was built during the Great Depression and the front facade is graced by five beautiful fanlights over the doors. 




Wandering Up Warren Street

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Valatie, NY  I  Monday, 5 December 2016

Please enjoy these photos taken on Warren Street, in Hudson, NY. The storefronts look so pretty, decorated for Christmas!


dscf6361These two shots are taken at an Asian clothing store, as is the last photo in the blog. The lights are a combination of very small and very large lights, and the ones on the ceiling are woven around a black metal grid, hanging from the ceiling.


dscf6384I love the asymmetrical arrangement around the doorway.


dscf6362This might be the most creative thing I’ve seen this Christmas season!


dscf6378The black building makes a stunning backdrop for this snowy, white-light tree.


dscf6373A little touch of purple, so pretty.


dscf6382Cheerful red bows on a wrought-iron fence, dusted with snow.





BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Valatie, NY  I  Monday, 5 December 2016

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.
-Edith Wharton

At night, I like to drive aimlessly around and look at people’s houses, especially at Christmas time! I especially love the ones which have an electric candle in each window, so simple, so striking, so beautiful.

It makes me happy and gives me a little spark of hope. It lifts my mood to see a home lovingly cared for and decorated. The gift of light and beauty is a generous gift, to not squander your home, but to share it with the world.

When I was a child, there was a neat little ranch home on our street, and it had two sets of plastic, light-up lawn ornaments at Christmas time: a manger scene, and a Santa, complete with sled and reindeer. I will always remember it.

Generosity. Decorating your front door, your yard, and windows, it truly is an act of giving. Instead of keeping all the beauty of your home inside and to yourself, why not share a little of it with your neighborhood and people passing by?


Sigh. I know this blog is positively days overdue, but not for lack of trying. The two houses below look beautiful at night, with candles in the window. I’ve been trying and trying to get nighttime shots of them which would look as lovely as they appeared to my eye, but I’ve about given up.

The first photo in this blog was captured around dawn, but some of these houses turn their lights out when they go to bed, I guess, and even though I’ve driven by many times in the dark and have taken multiple shots, they all look ghoulish. Like Halloween and not Christmas. I might try again at dusk. We’ll see.

So. How about you look at the photos and picture these houses like it’s nighttime, with candles in their windows? They’re gorgeous, trust me.




BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Philmont, NY  I  Friday, 4 November 2016

dscf5518Photos of Anatevka, placed on a 1980s map of Columbia County, New York. The thick blue line on the left is the Hudson River. The thin blue line on the right is the New York-Massachusetts state line.

Pretend you’re in the car with me, and we’re driving east on Route 217, past Philmont, an old mill town, Philmont with its wonderful little library and sandwich shop and the closest place to get milk and gas. Let’s keep driving, up up the hill and then down into a little hollow with cornfields flanking either side of the road, cornfields autumn-shorn, stubble where herds of deer graze.

We’re definitely playing some 80s music way too loud, and probably driving a bit too fast, since the speed limit is 55 MPH here. It feels a bit like a rollercoaster, all these country hills.

Now, up the hill we go again, and at the crest, a green sign on the left: German Settler Road. Because that’s who first lived there, you know, German farmers who built beautiful center hall colonials and big red barns, some of which survive today, begging for their stories to be told, fascinating.

I lived in one of these center hall colonials, Anatevka, through fourth grade, and I loved the mysterious old place. I’m convinced it was the first house on the road, which would place its construction in the late 1700s to early 1800s.

dscf5506The brick labelled Empire came from remnants of the Anatevka chimney. Photo on the left is me with our cat, Albert, sitting on the steps to the kitchen porch. Photo on the right is me on the still-remaining concrete slab of Anatevka’s front porch, with two missionaries from our church.

I loved the weather-worn old front porch, with the built-in white benches, and the blue front door with the transom window overhead. I loved the side porch, off the kitchen, with its easy-stepped entryway made of huge slabs of cement. Nearby, there was the round well cover which we lifted up to prime the pump when we used too much water.

I loved the sunny little glassed-in room in back of the house, and remember reading Charlotte’s Web and The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle there.

The kitchen, however, was not especially cheerful, as it only had one window, over the sink, and it faced north, with a view of the V House. It was in this kitchen where we gathered around the radio to listen to Richard Nixon’s resignation in August of 1974.

There was a moldering and unused pantry off the kitchen, and I was as creepily fascinated with it as I was the dank, dark, this-is-where-you’re-going-to-die basement with its bare bulb, rickety stairs, and old tins of food-storage wheat on the shelves.

The kitchen had a dark brown sink and white counter with gold flecks. I know it well. I’m becoming reacquainted with this sink, the one my mother washed so many dishes at, long ago, because after my father and sister tore down Anatevka, somehow that sink and counter and its encasing cupboards found their way into my red kitchen at the V House, right now.

I loved the tall windows in the upstairs bedrooms, with their pull chains with circular ends. I loved the creaking, crooked, painted-over floorboards. I loved my little Snoop Coop bedroom upstairs, just big enough for my little bed, with its window over the front porch and a view down to German Settler Road.

Welcome to the road I grew up on, located in beautiful upstate New York. I moved here again, arriving a mere two weeks ago, and I’ve been driving up and down the road as slowly as possible, looking at these houses I loved as a child and love still. Over and over again, looking at these homes.

Analyzing the road and its domestic architecture, it appears there were various phases of home construction:
the earliest center hall colonials, starting around 1805, including Anatevka
homes built during the Great Depression, including the V House
several homes built in the 1950s through 1970s
and then, finally, a few built in this century.

Today, I’d like to take you on a very quick pictorial tour of the earliest phase, the center hall colonials.

dscf5454The G House: A beautifully restored colonial, rising a full two stories high. Notice the sidelights and transom windows around the orange front door, and the sidelights flanking the upstairs center window. When I was a child, this house was painted red, and its barn was closer to the road.


dscf5448The I House: a fully restored and lovingly cared for house as the road bends around the corner and heads up the hill. Notice there are no upstairs windows in front, so skylights have been added to light the upstairs. The front door has sidelights and built-in benches. There are also two lovely decks: one in back, overlooking a pond, and one on the right, with Chippendale-type fretwork, with views to the barns. When I was a child, this house was white and had not yet been restored.


dscf5451The B House: A nicely restored 1805 Colonial. Notice there must have been a front porch at some point, and the unusual double sidelight windows, along with tiny eyebrow windows upstairs. The house was white when I was growing up, and had not yet been restored.

There is still much to discover about these houses, even though I’ve known them my entire life. I wonder when each one was built and by whom, including, and most importantly, my beloved Anatevka. Maybe a trip to the county historical society is in order? Yes, I think so.

And, because I love mysteries so much, let me throw in a mystery house from my road, even though it’s not a center hall colonial. I just can’t resist a good mystery.

Mystery House

dscf5445The A House: This house, built in 1930, was lived in and well-loved when I was growing up, and I went to high school with one of the boys who lived there. I loved to drive by at night, looking up at the pretty little house on the hill, because there was always a lamp turned on in front of the living room window, giving it such a cozy feel. Notice the gracious screened-in porch on the right and the beautiful rock chimney on the left. For some reason, the owners converted their nearby garage into a cabin and moved out of this house. Rumor has it renters trashed the inside. Sadly, it now sits empty, in a state of overgrown disrepair.



Of Picnics and Red Plaid Blankets

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  West Valley City, Utah  I  Thursday, 8 September 2016


Every family should have a red plaid picnic blanket.

I remember when Lori gave me mine for Christmas, one year in the early 90s. Somewhere along the line I must have mentioned I’d like a flannel quilt, so she made one for me, in secret.

This was when Lori and Julie and I rented my sister Chris’s condo, after graduating from college. I don’t know how in the world she was able to make it without a sewing machine and a quilting frame, but make it the talented Lori did, carefully binding it with hand-sewn stitches all around the edge and white yarn ties.


I still remember, all these years later, I was so excited when I started to open up the big box that Christmas at our gift exchange before we each went home to our parents for Christmas: Lori to Idaho, Julie to Indiana, and me to New York.

Splitting open the tape, I caught a glimpse of red and plaid peeking out, and I knew right away what was in the box. I jumped for joy! (See below for proof.)


This blanket. The back is a very faded navy blue, from all the exposure to the sun, while riding around in the back of the car, like a patient child, just waiting for the perfect picnic spot. And trust me, it’s seen many of them.

This blanket. It’s been there in the car in case the kids get cold on those long rides in the wintertime. Is anything cozier than well-worn flannel when you’re in a darkened car and the snow is swirling around outside it, driving through a pitch-black canyon? I think not.

This blanket. Sometimes I’ve even brought it inside and snuggled under it on my bed, not caring it might have some grass or dirt or sand on it from our last excursion.

This blanket, it has a rip on the plaid side, a rather large one, and I have to figure out how to patch it before it gets worse…

This blanket is like my life, well-worn and faded and ripped from being used, lovingly. But I can figure out how to patch it, right? Just like I’ve patched up my own life when it’s been unexpectedly and undeservedly torn open…

There have been many mouthwatering meals eaten on this blanket, many long and heartfelt talks, many pleasant, drowsy naps under summer-shady trees. And many more to come. Thank you, Lori.

May I suggest if you know someone with a quilting frame and are handy like that, it would make the perfect wedding present? If it doesn’t match the newlyweds’ decor, it doesn’t even matter. It matches the green of grass and blue of skies, and it most certainly matches the golden-brown of crispy-fried chicken on Labor Day. And Memorial Day and the Fourth of July and Pioneer Day…



My mother made the cross stitch chickadee Christmas ornament. The red drum and white church ornaments came from a shop I used to frequent on my Christmas vacations in the late 80s. It was a great, cluttery gift shop called Pavane and was on lower Warren Street, in Hudson, New York.

If you look very, very closely, you can see the church and chickadee and drum on the tree in the candid photos of the Christmas I received the red plaid quilt…

My mother purchased my cobalt blue angels at Pavane. It was also at this shop I found my favorite, timeless black silk scarf which I wore to Les Miserables on Broadway this past July, and to countless weddings and funerals. I even wore it to church last Sunday…


Thing 1’s Graduation Luncheon

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Claverack, New York  I  Sunday, 17 July 2016



Here I am again, at my tiny, beloved, red-brick church. Today we had a luncheon after our meetings to celebrate Thing 1’s high school graduation. Here’s what we served:


Sliced Deli Chicken
Cashew Cauliflower Pasta Salad
Fruit Salad Baskets with Mint and Sprite
Potato Rolls
Chips with Guacamole and Salsa

Purple Party Punch

Strawberry Lemon Torte
Italian Pastry Platter
Brownie Bites
Japanese Pocky Sticks
Hi-Chew Candies

It was perfect, it really was. I was up in the night, literally, carving fruit baskets: two made of watermelons, four of cantaloupe halves, and three made of pineapples cut the tall way. The fourth one didn’t make it and the green part fell off.


I figured why should I spring for table decorations when fruit is so beautiful?

After everyone was sitting down and starting to eat, I stood at the front of the room by the buffet and looked down at the three tables. There was a beautiful and lovely line of jewel-like fruit which seemed to stretch for miles and looked sooo pretty. I decided on the spot to definitely do this again!

I got the idea because of the too-round watermelons, you know. Strangely, the Price Chopper in Ghent didn’t have the oval-shaped watermelons I wanted to make baskets for centerpieces, so in order for the tables to not look so empty, I had to make more baskets, out of cantaloupes and pineapples.

And I’m glad I did. I got the pineapple idea from seeing a photo of Jackie and JFK sitting at their wedding reception table. Not sure if I would do it again though, it was a lot of work for not very much pineapple. I might just replace the pineapples with bowls of strawberries and cherries on ice and banana halves, still in their peels…


We ran completely out of chicken (should have gotten three or four instead of just two) and the chips and guacamole were decimated, but we still had plenty of Cashew Cauliflower Pasta Salad and Purple Party Punch and assorted desserts left over. Can I tell you I’ve been dreaming of an Italian Pastry Platter since I saw one last year, right before Thing 2’s Baptism Luncheon?



Nothing makes me happier than knowing my sister and I pulled off this party, mainly just the two of us, with some help from Mom, who balled cantaloupe, sliced green onions, cut grapes in half, and broke up cauliflower unto bite-sized chunks. We treated those nice people at my church to a lovely meal before they ventured home that day after services and it felt great.

And, most importantly, Thing 1 knew he was loved by people in two different states, was the star of the party, and ate it all up in typical teenage fashion.

Many of the same people were there who attended Thing 2’s Baptism Luncheon a year ago. D, my mom’s bestfriend, and K and L, who are sisters-in-law. And don’t forget B.


B, who cheerfully worked on the platform for my new four-poster bed (twice!) and then chatted with us on the screened-in porch for hours. B, who invited Thing 2 to a Boy Scout bike event at the troop of which he is assistant Scout Master, and then (twice!) hauled around a bike he gave us last year in order to get the back tire fixed. Then, he also went out of his way to pick up my boys and me to go bowling with his delightful daughter, C.

They were all there and I loved cooking for them. How I love these people.

Many people complimented my on the spread. But the remark I liked the best was when my dad said he didn’t think anyone had ever seen a Linger Longer quite like that.

The room was indeed, once again, always and forever, small and warm and full of love.












This post was completed in West Valley City, UT  I  Thursday, 21 July 2016

Thing 2’s Baptism Luncheon:
Featured 14 July 2015 @ My Copper Kitchen

Purple Party Punch:
Featured 14 February 2015 @ My Copper Kitchen’s blog launch

Easy Guacamole:
Featured 4 May 2015 @ My Copper Kitchen

Cashew Cauliflower Pasta Salad:
Featured 24 May 2015 @ My Copper Kitchen