Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ain't We Lucky We Got Em

All in all, 2009 was a pretty rocky road. Fortunately, I live in an area where it's a little easier to forget about the stress and anxiety of the so-called real world. I took these photos over the past year in places in Northern Westchester where I had some truly good times. Here's wishing us all many more.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Top 5 Hot Spots of 2009

If I don't say so myself, I've featured a lot of great places in the area this past year, from new galleries and cafes to amazing new parks. These are my personal favorites.

#1 Walkable Westchester
Featured: May 24
Okay, it's actually a book, but this great guide leads to a huge number of hot spots—160 parks and preserves, with 600 miles of trails.

#2 Neo World Bistro and Sushi Bar 
Featured: August 3
When the New York Times gave this new restaurant in Mt. Kisco an "excellent" rating, I figured it was worth featuring—and eating at. And I'm glad I did.

#3 The Misshapened Bowl
Featured: January 7
Less a hot "spot" than a hot item, but I just love the amazingly beautiful bowls crafted from local reclaimed wood by Yorktown craftsman Charles Lazarus.

#4 Lot 84  
Featured: March 11
Feeling depressed by the new frugality, I enjoyed a visit to this Mt. Kisco store that is packed with gorgeous—and pricey—items for the home.

#5 Table Local Market 
Featured: April 20
This new market in Bedford Hills sells a large range of fresh produce from local farmers, "sustainably raised" meat and poultry, as well as cheeses, dairy products, and bread from local producers.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Top 5 Hot Properties of 2009

I only feature houses that I like and think are noteworthy. But some are real stand-outs. I looked back at the 79 houses I featured in 2009 and picked the 5 that I think were most exceptional in terms of style, setting, and value.

#1 This 1790 colonial sits on 18 gorgeous acres and blends rustic charm with modern style.
Location: Katonah
Featured: February 5
Asking Price When Featured: $2,495,000
Status: Sold for $2,150,000

#2 This 1863 beauty is brimming with original detail and gorgeous woodwork.
Location: Peekskill
Featured: April 21 
Asking Price When Featured: $399,000
Status: Off the market

#3 Located in the lovely Mt. Airy section, this hexagonal creation was built in 1963 but still looks cutting-edge and way cool.
Location: Croton 
Featured: May 21
Asking Price When Featured: $729,000
Status: Asking $715,000

#4 Tucked away on a lovely road, the 1945 Tudor has a stunning living room and kitchen.
Location: Montrose
Featured: June 16
Asking Price When Featured: $525,000
Status: Sold for $525,000

#5 This 1860 farmhouse retains its charm and sports a nicely renovated kitchen and master bath, all on 6 lovely acres.
Location: Yorktown
Featured: May 28
Asking Price When Featured: $999,000
Status: Sold for $910,000

Monday, December 28, 2009

A New Park Takes Shape

The new—and very well done—blog Peekskill Daily reports that the riverfront park, Peekskill Landing, will be completed and open in spring 2010. The 4.4 acre site is adjacent to the Riverfront Green Park and is jointly owned by Scenic Hudson and the city of Peekskill. According to Peekskill Daily, plans call for a shoreline walkway and a fishing pier. Sounds sweet. The park will also connect to the new Lincoln Plaza and Museum. Along wth the wonderful Croton Landing Park which was completed earlier this year, Peekskill Landing will add to the area's riverfront parkland.Image: City of Peekskill

Something Old, Something New

Kids will be thrilled by the spectacle of the original "King Kong" on the big screen! For something just released, try the French movie "A Town Called Panic," a hilarious, surreal stop-motion extravaganza. Monday through Saturday, 12:00 pm and 12:05 pm. Jacob Burns Film Center

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Night Before the Eve

Enjoy the soulful, bluesy tunes of guitarist Marc Von Em. Wednesday, 8:00 pm. 12 Grapes Music and Wine Bar

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Grand Potential

Year Built: 1875
Square Feet: 5,605
Bedrooms: 7
Property: 0.57 of an acre
Location: Mt. Kisco, on West Main Street, steps from the train and stores
Best features: This massive village residence has loads of charm and potential. Zoned for two-family use, it apparently has two units. Many rooms have high ceilings, lovely moldings, beautiful floors, and marble mantles. The upstairs duplex has central air.
Downside: The kitchen looks like it could use a major redo, and a number of other rooms appear in need of some love, too. The Main Street location might be too busy for some.
Taxes: $10,881
Asking Price: $998,750
Agency: Century 21 Country Living
Maps: Google Map, bing Map

Monday, December 21, 2009

Movie and an Interview

Catch Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Lovely Bones, the ghost-narrated novel by Alice Sebold. After the showing, Stanley Tucci, who plays the murderer, discusses the film with New York Times critic Janet Maslin. Monday, 7:00 pm. Jacob Burns Film Center

Good Press for Two Hot Properties

The Journal News' website,, has recently profiled two properties that I've featured. The 1765 Hallock House in Yorktown Heights, which I featured on September 29,  got a nice write up and loads of lovely photos that really highlight its appeal. The very cool hexagonal modern home in Croton, which I featured on May 21, is also the subject of an interesting article with plenty of facts and details. Both houses are evidently taking some time to find the right buyer. As the owner of the Croton house, Dr. Attila Kursun, is quoted as saying, "this house is not for the mainstream buyer out there, a conservative buyer who's looking for a cookie-cutter Colonial."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Weekend Picks

Activities and things to do this weekend in Northern Westchester

Stratospheerius Enjoy the "flammable fusion and fiddle trip funk" of Stratospheerius. Friday, 7:30 pm. Bean Runner Cafe

Open Mike Night Calling all poets and writers. Friday, 8:00 pm. Hudson Valley Writer's Center

"13" The Edge, Random Farms Kids' Theater's program for high school and college students, presents this musical about growing up. Friday, Saturday, Sunday; multiple times. Tarrytown Music Hall

Annual Christmas Bird Count Help this very important census and hike the trails to count wintering birds. Saturday, 8:00 am. Teatown Lake Reservation 

Sand Candles Make a mold out of sand to create a unique candle design. Then add items from nature such as leaves and seeds, pour in the wax, and watch it cool. Saturday, 8:00 am. Westmoreland Sanctuary 

Winter Farm Tour Get face-to-face with the livestock in their winter shelters and learn about cold-weather growing techniques. Sunday, 3:00 pm. Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture

Candle Making for Kids Come with a smile, leave with some candles. Saturday 1:00 pm. Croton Point Park Nature Center 

Moscow Boys Choir  Founded in 1957, this choral ensemble is among Russia`s most prestigious all-boy choirs. Saturday, 7:00 pm. Paramount Center for the Arts

Winter Adaptations Hike Take a hike with a park naturalist and learn about the winter adaptations of the woodland animals. Sunday 1:00 to 3:00 pm. Muscoot Farm

Indoor Farmer's Market Come inside and find fresh produce, delicious baked goods, maple syrup, honey and jams, wine and dairy products. Sunday, 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. Westchester County Center

Mammals Explore the world of the highest form of life on Earth and learn what makes them so successful. Sunday, 2:00 pm. Westmoreland Sanctuary

Story Sundays: The Big Snow Enjoy a winter story and some related crafts. Saturday, 11:00 am. Teatown Lake Reservation

Winter Solstice Party Come celebrate the start of winter with a potluck supper and bonfire. Sunday, 6:00 to 8:00 pm. Ward Pound Ridge Reservation

Thursday, December 17, 2009

How 'bout a Bungalow?

Year Built: 1927
Square Feet: 1,576
Bedrooms: 3
Property: 0.14 of an acre
Location: Croton, in the heart of the Harmon area and close to all
Best features: If you want an in-town house with some charm and character, you could do a lot worse. The house has some nice original details and a very well done kitchen. The front porch is sweet and the rear garden looks good, too.
Downside: Some of the spaces look quite tight. The upstairs is carpeted.
Taxes: $6,558
Asking Price: $499,000
Agency: Houlihan Lawrence
Maps: Google Map, bing Map

"Joyful" Sounds

The Moscow Boys Choir's Christmas show this Saturday at the Paramount Center for the Performing Arts will include a range of pieces from the classical to the popular. According to Sunday's New York Times, the first half of the show will feature Bach’s “Ave Maria,” the Lacrimosa from Mozart's Requiem,  and the “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel's “Messiah.” The second half of the performance will be lighter, with a number of traditional carols in different languages—from "Silent Night" in German to "Jingle Bells" in English.
Image: The New York Times

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holiday Treats

Seasonal cupcakes can be had at Flour & Sun Bakery. The holiday menu features flavors such as eggnog, red velvet, and gingerbread.

Country Folk Meets New York Grit

From pull-at-your-heartstrings tunes like "It's Always Texas" to economic-comic-relief songs like "The Wall Street Fat Cat Tax Payer Bailout Blues," Steve Chizmadia is worth a listen. Wednesday, 8:00 pm. 12 Grapes Music and Wine Bar

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Old and Awesome

Year Built: 1750
Square Feet: 2,025
Bedrooms: 3
Property: 4.4 acres
Location: Bedford, close to the village center and right near the park
Best features: This lovely old colonial has been nicely restored in a way that respects the home's integrity without overdoing the charm too much. Original beams, floorboards, and fireplaces give the house a warm soul, while the updated bathrooms are tasteful and appropriate.
Downside: The house is really close to the road. The kitchen is, in my opinion, off-key and far too standard for the house.
Taxes: $15,171
Asking price: $879,000
Agency: Ginnel Real Estate
Maps: Google Map, bing Map

Monday, December 14, 2009

Oragami Time

Children in Grades K, 1 and 2 can learn the ancient craft of Oragami. Tuesday, 3:30 pm. Croton Free Library

Bird Feeder Basics

If you're thinking of feeding the birds this winter, be sure to check out two must-read posts from my favorite naturalist bloggers. The folks at Westmoreland Sanctuary's Nature Notes have recently posted Getting Started, which offers critical how-to tips for the novice on everything from which kind of feeder to purchase to where it should be placed. Solutions for Squirrels has some good ideas on how to keep the feed for the birds and away from the squirrels (such as mixing a little Cayenne pepper into the bird seed—who knew?).

Friday, December 11, 2009

Weekend Events

Activities and things to do this weekend in Northern Westchester

The Derek Trucks Band Recently featured on the cover of Rolling Stone's "New Guitar Gods" issue, Derek Trucks is an innovative guitar virtuoso. Friday, 8:00 pm. Paramount Center for the Arts

Brian Regan one of the premier comedians in the country, Brian Regan shares his balance of sophisticated writing and physicality. Friday, 7:00 and 10:00 pm. Tarrytown Music Hall 

Decorations From Nature Create beautiful decorations from natural materials. Saturday, 1:00 pm. Ward Pound Ridge Reservation

Tracking and Tracing Kids can learn how to identify signs and patterns of animals on the move. Saturday, 1:00 pm. Croton Point Park Nature Center
Scat! Who left that pile in the forest? Get the scoop on poop in this entertaining and educational program. Saturday, 11:00 am. Teatown Lake Reservation

Evening Candlelight Tours  Experience an 18th-century celebration of "Twelfth Night" with a candlelit visit to the Manor.  Saturday, 4:00 to 8:00 pm. Van Cortland Manor

Christmas on the Farm Sip mulled cider, sample holiday goodies, listen to carolers, and enjoy a tour of the farm by lantern. Saturday and Sunday, 5:00 to 7:00 pm. Muscoot Farm

Stand Up Comedy Night Comedian Freddie Ricks gets you guffawing. Saturday,  8:00 pm. Bean Runner Cafe

Rhonda Denet Enjoy a night of smooth R&B with the Rhonda Denet Project. Saturday, 9:30 pm. 12 Grapes Music and Wine Bar 

Holiday Bird Count Join the all day count of winter bird species, part of the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count. Sunday. Westmoreland Sanctuary

Farm To Table: Winter Roots Enjoy some farming as you harvest greens and cook everything up  using winter root vegetables and other seasonal foods. Sunday, 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. Stone Barns Center For Food and Agriculture

Wildlife Treats Help to decorate a tree for wildlife using natural treats for the holiday season. Sunday, 1:00 pm. Teatown Lake Reservation

Hodie! Hodie!  Women chamber singers perform medieval and renaissance carols, Sweelinck’s Hodie Christus Natus Est, and modern works by Damijan Mocnik, Kurt Weill, and others. Sunday, 2:00 pm. Croton Free Library

Lincoln's Poets Noted Lincoln scholar Philip Kunhardt sheds light on how Lincoln was revered by poets and writers in the years after his assassination. Sunday, 5:30 pm. Katonah Museum of Art

Handel’s Messiah The season's classic is presented by The Taghkanic Chorale. Sunday, 4:00 pm, Trinity Episcopal Church

Thursday, December 10, 2009

An Arab-American Tale

The winner of the Critics’ Prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, AMREEKA tells the story of a single mom who leaves the West Bank with her teenage son in hopes of finding the American Dream in small town Illinois. Thursday, 8:00 pm. Paramount Center for the Arts

Big Loser

I featured this lovely Croton house back in June 2008, over a year-and-a-half ago. At the time, the 1915, 3,400 square foot abode on 3 acres was asking $925,000. A year later, in June 2009, a reader left a comment (love that) saying that the house was still on the market and was asking $699,000. Now the asking price has been cut an additional $150,000. The house still has loads of charm and potential, and it still needs some updating and cosmetic love. One thing that has changed for the worse is the tax bill, which increased from the already high $24,328 to $25,646 a year. $549,000.
Houlihan Lawrence, Google Map, bing Map

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

History Books

The John Jay Book Club meets this Thursday at noon to discuss Alex Storozynski's The Peasant Prince: Thaddeus Kosciuszko and The Age of Revolution. Bring a brown bag lunch and join in the discussion. John Jay Homestead

Steak, with a Side of Psycho

This Wednesday, every entrĂ©e at the Division Street Grill comes with a free ticket to the 7:30 showing of Psycho at the Paramount Center for the Arts.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Evolution of Speed

How do animals evolve the ability to move extremely quickly? Professor Sheila Patek will look at two animals—trap-jaw ants and mantis shrimp—that have some of the fastest movements in the animal kingdom. Her lecture, "Airborne Ants and Smashing Shrimp: Accident and Intent in the Evolution of Movement," will explore the mechanics of how they produce these movements and possible scenarios for how they might have evolved. Wednesday, 7:30 pm. Bedford Audubon Society

Front Porch Colonial

Year Built: 1824
Square Feet: 2,148
Bedrooms: 4
Property: 2.5 acres
Location: Ossining, in the north-east corner of town
Best features: This classic colonial has old world charm and original details like gorgeous pine floors. The home has been updated and has the modern features many want. The front porch is picture perfect and the property is lovely. But...
Downside: The house is just a few hundred feet from the Taconic Parkway and must suffer from the noise. Some of the renovations—especially in the kitchen—are far too standard for my taste.
Taxes: $13,015
Asking Price: $699,222
Agency: Mark Seiden Real Estate
Maps: Google Map, bing map

Monday, December 7, 2009

Marketing and Improving Peekskill

Two recent articles point to different ways that Peekskill is trying to improve it's appeal to would-be residents. Sunday's New York Times had a piece on how the city is relaxing it's requirements for eligibility for its artists’ housing. Peekskill's downtown historic district has 49 subsidized live-work rentals over storefronts, as well as 28 co-op lofts. According to the article, the units draw artists from around the region, but tenants have become "scarce" in the current market. The city hopes that relaxing it's definition of "artist" will increase the number of eligible applicants. Another draw could be an improved connection between the downtown artists' district and the city's waterfront. The North County News reported that the city’s planning department recently unveiled a plan to make Central Avenue into a more vibrant and appealing corridor. The city is now creating a more comprehensive plan for the area, which will include code and design guidelines as well as incentives to lure developers into the area.

“Eclectic Illusions!"

The exhibit “Eclectic Illusions!" shows the works of Doris Renza. Through January 10  at The Flat Iron Gallery.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Weekend Picks

Activities and things to do this weekend in Northern Westchester

Arts and Crafts Show Featuring the work of the Hudson Craft Collective, the Croton Artisans' Group, and loads of jewelry, ceramics, paintings, fiber arts, photo art, wood bowls, and glass work. Friday, 5:00 to 9:00 pm; Saturday, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.  Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Briarcliff, Croton and Ossining

Dave Fields Guitarist Dave Fields has been tearing up the Blues Charts with his hit songs, "Still Itchin" and "Train To My Heart." Friday, 9:30 pm. 12 Grapes Music and Wine Bar

Candle Making Learn a little bit of candle-making history and then make your own hand-dipped candle. Registration required. Saturday, 11:00 am. Westmoreland Sanctuary

The Clay of Croton Learn about Native American pottery traditions and build pots from Croton Point clay. Saturday, 1:00 pm. Croton Point Park Nature Center

Ready, Set, Sleep Not everyone heads south for the winter—some animals burrow down into the leaf litter, some even freeze until spring. Discover how local wildlife survives the cold and snow. Saturday, 11:-00 am. Teatown Lake Reservation

Wild Tea Party Adults can taste wild teas brewed from such plants as Sweetfern, White Pine, Goldenrod, and Mullein and learn some of the culinary, medicinal, and ceremonial uses of each plant. Saturday, 1:00 pm.  Ward Pound Ridge Reservation

Botanical Art Show Opening Works in graphite, colored pencil, and watercolors will be on display. The inspiration for the art comes from the gardens and trees of Lasdon. Saturday, 1:00 to 3:00 pm. Lasdon Park, Arboretum and Veterans Memorial

Al Jarreau Put a little jazz into your holiday as Grammy Award-winning Al Jarreau performs songs from his first ever Christmas album, “Al Jarreau - Christmas.” Saturday, 8:00 pm. Paramount Center for the Arts

Westchester Free Arts Day Museums throughout the county will be letting visitors in without charge and will be hosting special performances and events. See Wednesday's post for details. Sunday. ArtsWestchester

Peter Fletcher Classical guitarist Peter Fletcher performs. Sunday, 2:00 pm. John C. Hart Memorial Library

Cynthia Ozick The renowned author Cynthia Ozick reads from her works. Sunday, 2:30 pm. Hudson Valley Writer's Center

A Christmas Candlelight Concert Enjoy works by Mendelssohn, Holst, Saint-Saens, and Handel performed by Charis Chamber Voices. Sunday, 4:00 pm. Bedford Presbyterian Church

The Nutcracker The holiday classic is performed by the New York Theater Ballet. Sunday, 3:00 and 6:00 pm. Paramount Center for the Arts

Sonny Rollins Legendary jazz artist Sonny Rollins and his band perform a rare benefit for the Clearwater environmental organization.  Sunday, 2:00 pm. Tarrytown Music Hall

Off the Record With Alex Ross The New Yorker music critic and National Book Critic's Circle Award-winning author speaks about music today, with a performance of works by Aaron Copland. Sunday, 3:00 pm. Merestead

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mid-Century Calm

Year Built: 1950
Square Feet: 3,842
Bedrooms: 5
Property: 5.49 acres
Location: Bedford Hills, close to the village and to Katonah and Mt. Kisco
Best features: With walls of windows and slate floors, this mid-century dwelling exudes modern cool and sophistication. The house is well-sited to catch vistas of the property's lovely landscaping and two ponds.
Downside: The property might be a bit too close to the Saw Mill Parkway for some. And the taxes seem on the high side for the price range.
Taxes: $37,174
Asking Price: $1,695,000
Agency: Ginnel Real Estate
Maps: Google Map, bing Map

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Free Arts Day

This Sunday is ArtsWestchester's annual Free Arts Day. Museums throughout the county will be letting visitors in without charge and will be hosting special performances and events. Some highlights include:

Essential Funk

Funk/Soul diva Sharon Jones is backed by the Dap-Kings, an eight-piece funk band. Together they are "spearheads of a revivalist movement that aims to capture the essence of funk/soul music as it was at its height in the mid-1960s to mid-1970s," according to Wikepdia. Thursday, 8:00 pm. Tarrytown Music Hall

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Blacklisted Hollywood

The documentary Trumbo tells the true story of Academy Award-winning screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, one of the Hollywood Ten who defied the House Un-American Activities Committee by citing the First Amendment. Wednesday, 7:00 pm. Ossining Public Library

November Sales and Deals

The number of houses going to contract in November in the area this blog covers dropped a little from October but was a bit larger than a year ago—which is nothing to brag about. Three previously-featured Hot Properties found would-be buyers, including one very high-end home. Of the three that closed, the house in Yorktown did pretty well on price and time on the market, while the Ossining contempo didn't.

Contracts signed on single-family homes

October: 74
November: 68 
November 2008: 60

Hot Properties That Went to Contract

Location: Katonah
Featured: July 2, 2009
Asking Price When Featured: $799,000
Final Asking Price: $695,000

Location: Croton
Featured: May 5, 2009
Asking Price When Featured: $1,749,000
Final Asking Price: $1,695,000

Location: Bedford Hills
Featured: December 2, 2008
Asking Price When Featured: $14,500,000
Final Asking Price: $11,950,000

Hot Properties That Closed

 Location: Croton
 Featured: June 30, 2009
 Asking Price When Featured: $459,000
 Last Asking Price: $459,000
 Sold for: $390,000

Location: Yorktown
Featured: May 28, 2009
Asking Price When Featured: $999,999
Last Asking Price: $999,999
Sold for: $910,000

Location: Ossining
Featured: November 4, 2008
Asking Price When Featured: $750,000
Last Asking Price: $599,000
Sold for: $525,000