Saturday, May 31, 2008

Upper Works: A Little Adirondack History

The day trip to the the fire tower on Mt. Adams, in the Adirondacks, left me with too much to write for one post, so here's Part II...

The Mt. Adams adventure actually began with an exploration of Tahawus, sometimes referred to as Adirondac. Today, the area is referred to the Upper Works, which encompasses three trailheads on Upper Works Road that can give access to some of the 46 Adirondack High Peaks. Prior to being a trail head, the area was an iron ore mining strip. Founded in 1826 by Archibald McIntyre and David Henderson with the assistance from an Indian of the St. Francis tribe.

On the access road to the East River Trailhead, stands the old McIntyre Blast Furnace. The Sackett's Harbor and Saratoga Railroad Company had anticipated extending the railways to Adirondac and the mines. Excited over the potential of having railways to the mines, the mine workers began repairing the buildings and creating a community. They built the blast furnace, at an estimated cost of $43,000, to improve efficiency and profits.

The time period around 1843 was probably the most prosperous period for The Adirondack Iron Works Company (Adirondack Mining Company) , making what was said to be the best steel producing ore in the country. Eventually the impurities, later found to be titanium dioxide, as well as the lack of adequate roadways led the Adirondack Iron Works Company to come to a screeching halt. The mining community left Adirondac, leaving the village a ghost town.

Ironically, World War II brought the need for titanium dioxide, and the Federal government extended the railways into the mining location. National Lead Industries reopened the mining site and a community was rebuilt in Tahawus, including 84 buildings, some of them from the original establishment. National Lead Industries closed the site again in 1989, leaving the town uninhabited once again. Today most of the buildings are dilapidated, barely any walls standing. The roofs are caved in, windows boarded or smashed. The ground is visible through the floor boards, the next room can be seen through the open walls. The paint is peeling, puddles formed inside where there is floor left. The front of one house remains while the rest of it exists as a pile of rubbish. These are some pictures I took while in Upper Works.

“If I had a mine shaft, I don't think I would just abandon it.
There's got to be a better way.”
~ Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy (Saturday Night Live)

The Open Space Institute purchased the land, and has begun work on the Tahawus Tract Project with the hopes of restoring and maintaining the historical features in the area, including the fire tower at the summit of Mt. Adams, the Observer's Cabin of Mt. Adams, the MacNaughton Cottage, and the McIntyre Blast Furnace.

The MacNaughton Cottage is under reconstruction by the OSI. The picture below is current, taken on May 24, 2008. The MacNaughton Cottage is significant in United States history, as this is where then Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt camped after hiking Mt. Marcy. It was during his stay at this cottage when he received the news that President McKinley suffered from a gun shot and had taken a turn for the worse, shortly before Roosevelt stepped up to his new role as President.

Reconstruction on the McIntyre Blast Furnace can be seen at the top of the furnace in the picture below.

Details of the hike up Mt. Adams, and the upkeep of the fire tower can be read about in my previous post.

To see all my pictures from Mt. Adams and the Upper Works, click here.

Information from:,_New_York

Designs By Nora

Meet Nora, from Handmade by Nora.

As a recent graduate with a B.A. in Art and a concentration in graphic design, she is currently looking for a place to start her career, and in the mean time is doing the Etsy thing. Here is my interview with the worlds up-and-coming graphic designer:

I see you sell a variety of things, what's your favorite thing to make?
I basically love making what I'm selling. I love making the polymer clay earrings because they are so cute and they are something I love to wear and give as presents to my family and friends. I also love making greeting cards, which I have been doing much longer than the polymer clay.

Where do you get your inspiration?
I always look outside in nature when I'm seeking inspiration and if that's not possible I love to get it from music, movies and the internet.

What sparked your interest in graphic design and art?
When I graduated from high school. I went to a private Armenian school so there wasn't a lot of artistic freedom but I was always drawing in notebooks at home what I daydreamed that day in school. Thankfully, I have the best parents who supported me and my art so I was able to major in it in college.

What's your favorite thing that you've made?
I love painting. I believe it's great therapy! I did this painting in college of a really close up of the back of a flower. I gave it as a gift to my sister for her new apartment. I think that is my favorite thing I've made - the most challenging, but it came out great!

What do you do when you are not in school, working, or crafting?
I'm thinking of crafting or what to craft next. Playing with my doggy, taking him for a walk, etc. Reading a book, visiting other peoples blog and lurking on various forums *grins*.

You can check out Nora's shop at
And her blog and beautiful photography at

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fire Tower Challenge: Mt. Adams

Part of the Adirondack Mountain Club Fire Tower Challenge requires hiking up 18 mountains in the Adirondacks with standing fire towers. On May 24th, my sister (in law) and I completed our fourth fire tower hike - Mt. Adams. We couldn't have asked for a nicer day. It was warm, but not hot; a steady breeze helped to keep the overwhelming number of black flies away, as we regretfully forgot our bug spray.

Lake Jimmy

From what I read up on the hike, the view from the top of the mountain is spectacular, but only from the top of the fire tower. The fire tower had recently been reopened after about 30 years of retirement. In 1912 the Conservation Commission constructed a wooden tower that was replaced five years later with a 47' steel Aermotor LS40 tower (Fire Towers of New York: Eastern Adirondack Region). In 1972, the tower was closed and remained inaccessible until recently when it was reopened. The Outdoor Space Institute, which had purchased the area from the mining company National Lead Industries, works to maintain fire tower and other historical features of the area (Mt Adams - A High Peak Treasure With a Fire Tower). Some of these historical landmarks of the area under the care and reconstruction of the OSI are the McIntyre Blast Furnace, the MacNaughton House, and the observers' cabin.

Unfortunately, the tower was closed again in January because of wind damage, and has not yet been repaired.

Fire Tower

Observers' Cabin

The hike took us about 4-4.5 hours round trip, including a much needed rest and lunch at the summit. While its a short hike, it's not necessarily an easy one. Being only 1.6 miles from the start of the trail of Mt. Adams, it is a hike that's 1800 feet in elevation. Short distance at that elevation makes for a steep climb! The hike begins in Tahawus at the East River Trail head for Mt. Adams and Mt. Allen in the Upper Works. It is about 0.8 mile easy walk through what was described as an Indiana Jones experience. You cross an iron mesh suspension bridge over the Hudson River which swings and creaks as you walk across. If you are susceptible to vertigo, do not fear, there is a railing. A wood plank footbridge takes you over Lake Jimmy. A cairn with a red trail marker for Mt. Adams directs you towards the trail for the mountain.

The trail is not only steep, but muddy and slick in places. If you ever venture out on this trail, be sure to look behind you on your way up. The view between the trees on your way up is actually better than it is from the ground at the top if the tower is closed.

I found a 360o view from both the summit and the top of the tower online. The first picture below is similar to the view that we had. I recommend checking out the view from the top of the tower, which is in the second picture below. If the tower reopens again, it would be worth it to me to try the trail again, because we apparently missed out on a lot!

Click on this picture to see 360o virtual view from the summit.

Click on this picture to see a 360o virtual view from the top of the tower.

Both panoramic views available from Adirondacks 360

Click here to see all of my pictures from this hike! This picture set includes pictures from the deserted village Adirondac, the famous MacNaughton Cottage, and the McIntyre Blast furnace from the days that the area was an iron ore mine. Read my blog post on this ghost town here.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Talkin' Bout a Revolution

The current economic recession and rising costs of gas, and everything else for that matter, has left us Americans looking for places to save even just the smallest amount of money. As you can imagine, I was excited when I heard of a way that I could receive my online payments as quickly as I do with PayPal, but without getting charged the pesky fees.

RME - The new PayPal?

Revolution Money Exchange (RME) was launched in 2007, as a way to exchange money without paying those fees that PayPal charges. Say you run a small online business and receive funds for a sale less than $3000. PayPal will charge the recipient of the funds a 2.9% fee plus an additional 0.30 USD charge. RME will charge nothing for a seller to receive the same amount of money.

RME provides a money exchange service that is FREE to do the following:
  • Sign up for an account
  • Send money
  • Request money
  • Receive money
  • Transfer money to and from your bank account.

The few services they do charge fees for are:
  • Withdraw money by check - $5.00 per check
  • Paper Statement - $5.00 per statement
  • Returned ACH Fee - $35.00 per returned ACH
  • Overdraft Fee - $35.00 per overdraft
  • Stop Payment on a Check - $20.00 per check
You should, however, check with your own bank to see if they have fees associated with using RME.

At this time, RME can only exchange money within the United States, so I don't see it replacing PayPal anytime soon. They do put limitations on how much money you can send and receive in a month as a security measure for protecting against fraud.

Revolution Money Exchange is not only a great tool for small business owners, like myself, but also for shoppers. Part of my cost includes making up for the fees that PayPal charges. I will take off 2.9% automatically when I bill my customers who shop in my online store. If I don't have to pay the fee, why should you?

Still interested? Click the button below and sign up today!

Refer A Friend using Revolution Money Exchange

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


No, not mood rings, the huge fashion fad of the 1970's, but jewelry that you can change depending on what style mood strikes you! Like most of my great ideas, this piece was inspired by a combination of creativity and an accidental thought.

"It's only black when you're around, because you put me in a bad mood"
~ Vada, "My Girl"

My BeadStyle project for May was a chrysoprase necklace, bracelet, and earrings set. However, I've had this ocean jasper donut pendant burning a hole in my bead box since January when I bought it in the city. I've finally found a strand of ocean jasper beads I like, so I decided to make a jasper necklace and bracelet set for my May project instead. Since I'm becoming bored with the traditional back clasp, I decided to make a front clasp for the necklace. Ok, so it's nothing like the May project of the month.

I wrapped my pendant in silver plated copper wire and turned it into an all in one pendant and front clasp. Instead of using a hook and eye clasp in the back, I made two hook clasps to join together at the donut. Using my left over beads I made a matching bracelet. The ocean jasper has hints of lilac and gray, so I used lilac, gray, and silver colored glass beads as spacers.

While taking pictures of the set I realized, "Wow, that is a really long necklace." For some reason I wanted to see if it could wrap around the neck twice comfortably.... Not so much. I don't know what compelled me but I attached the bracelet to see if the two together would be a better length - And it worked! Of course the bracelet was a slightly different variation of the pattern. I cut the bracelet and restrung it to match the pattern of the necklace to see if this could actually work. Here is what I came up with:

Style I: Front Clasping Donut Pendant Necklace with Matching Bracelet
Which was the look I was going for in the first place.

The necklace is hooked to the wire wrapped jasper donut pendant clasp in the front from both ends of the necklace. The bracelet is worn as a bracelet.

Style II: Traditional Back Clasping Necklace with Matching Bracelet
The two hooks of the necklace hook at the center of the back of the neck. The donut clasp is not used at all. Its basically a long plain string of ocean jasper with a bracelet to match.

Style III: Wrap-Around Choker Necklace with Donut Pendant
This is my favorite.

The hook of the bracelet is attached to the donut pendant clasp, then one end of the necklace is hooked into the "eye" end of the bracelet. The other end of the necklace is wrapped around the neck and hooked into the donut pendant clasp. The choker strand may need some minor shifts and adjustments to center the pendant in the front and the back clasp in the back.

To purchase this from my Etsy shop you can click on any of the pictures in this post, or simply click here. Free shipping world-wide if you mention this blog post in the comments to the seller.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Rock Piles, Cairns, and Ducks - Oh My!

ADK Fire Tower Challenge: Spruce Mountain

It was a dreary Saturday and my Sister (in law) decided that we would check out the opening of the opening of the Glens Falls Farmer's Market, then conquer another fire tower mountain. As part of the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) Fire Tower Challenge, you must climb 23 mountains with a standing fire tower to collect your prize - the fire tower badge. We had heard that Spruce Mountain is a really easy day hike. Given the time and the weather, we decided to check out the short day hike. The mountain was a very easy walk, something that could have been a very short round trip had we not been so interested in taking pictures of everything. We rediscovered our child-like imagination and a new interest - rock piles.

Ecclesiastes 10:9: "Who so removeth stones shall be hurt therewith"

I recently renewed my enjoyment of hiking, though I had hiked a lot growing up.
I do recall seeing man made stacks of rocks in the past, but no where near the number of piles we saw on Spruce Mountain. The thick fog, the weird bird call noises Sister could not recognize, and she is familiar with all the Upstate New York bird calls, creaking trees... we had several "Blair Witch Project" moments and chills.

Of course our curiosity got the better of us, and upon our safe arrival home, we simultaneously Googled up all the information we could on rock piles - our new fascination.

A rock wall fence

Wikipedia's Trail Blazing entry describes the most simple cairn, the "duck". Ducks are used to mark poorly marked trails where trees are not available for marking. When people blaze their own trail off the official one, ducks can also be a more environmentally friendly method for trail marking. I would assume that on Spruce Mountain, with its poorly marked trail, most of the cairns were ducks guiding us to the top.

A duck

Take heed, however, a rock resting up another rock could be the result of a natural occurrence or accident and should not be relied upon for a marker, hence the phrase, "two rocks don't make a duck."

A paint blaze to mark the trail - We named him Ketchup Mustard face

Rocks can be balanced into an art form, such as the work by Bill Dan. I really recommend you check out Bill Dan's blog and Flickr page for beautiful pictures of his amazing rock balancing skills.

A balanced rock art, nothing in comparison to Bill Dan's, however

According to Bill Dan's website Rock On, Rock ON! those carefully balanced to stand for extended periods of time could be a cairn to provide a place for a moment of reflections. There are ceremonial cairns as well, which would be a rock stack centered in a ring of rocks, providing a point of focus for a ritual. A fun modern cairn is the memorial cairn for people visiting the site to put their own rock in the pile.

Perhaps a community memorial cairn?

I came across this blog, titled Rock Piles, that is a blog dedicated completely to rock piles, particularly in the Northeastern / New England area of the country. The group of rock pile experts that manage the blog were kind enough to look at my pictures and give me their thoughts. It was concluded that most of the cairns we saw were for trail marking or an artistic expression, not ceremonial.

Upon reaching the summit, all signs of trail markers were gone, the area was clear of rocks for making ducks. We were on our own trying to see our way through the swampy fog to find the fire tower. Finally we saw a large structure through the fog. Much to our embarrassment, and thanks to the thick fog, we were only about five feet away from the base of the structure when we realized that it was a satellite tower, not the fire tower we sought after. What to do? We made it up the mountain and the creepy horror movie setting, only to not find the fire tower? The fog cut for just a moment and I saw what I believed to be the fire tower, or at least another satellite structure. We approached the area until at last, we had found it! Three down, twenty more to go!

We found a little "troll hole" that Sister was small enough to fit into. On our way back down the trail we made a little pile of rocks in her hole, leaving our little mark on the trail.

Check out other pictures from this hike on my Flickr page.

Friday, May 9, 2008

It's a Cozy Life

Meet Etsy seller Cozy - a jack and master of many trades. Her talents include needlepoint, embroidery, quilting, tole painting, sewing, knitting, crocheting, tatting, and leatherwork! Though she enjoys many types of crafts, she is most content when creating magic at her sewing machine, or with a crochet hook or knitting needles dancing between her fingers.

Cozy learned the basic knit and crochet skills from friends and family, however her natural aptitude for following directions and patterns with broadened her abilities, purposefully picking patterns to learn new skills.

Twenty years of doing craft shows finally took its toll and she decided to work out of her home online. With 16 years of teaching in a computer lab, its no wonder that she manages to keep up with her blog and her online stores, and she has a few. Her "crafting ADD," as she calls it, keeps her busy bouncing from project to project, book to book, blog post to blog post.

She was a Navy wife for the first 17 out of her 32 married years. Now living in Arizona, Cozy and her husband have three grown children and six grandchildren, all residing in Utah.

Here is where you can find Cozy:

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Spring Cleaning In Full Bloom

It's amazing what one can accomplish in a week off! I've always thought that it would be boring being a housewife, working on the house all day while the husband is at work, but I honestly think now that if I were to not have a full time job I could make one out of housework. I clean regularly, laundry, and so on. But now that I have a full week to work on my projects, I have found that when given the time, I do a really good job, as opposed to my usual quick rush clean the surface job.

Everything I have done this week will come in a later blog post for sure, but I'd like to concentrate this post on one particular project I have done, and I'm actually considering adding it to my Etsy shop as a custom order. Of course I'll need more practice to work out the kinks.

I have an apple theme going on in my kitchen, which stemmed from my grandmother's Franciscan Apple pattern dishes that I inherited. Now that we have a house and the room for a china cabinet to displace the dishes, I have quite an apple collection!

Try to follow the chain of events leading up to this project: I was in the bead shop last week and the owner was working on those Scrabble tile pendants that are all the rave. I had seen the little pouches of letter tiles in craft stores before, but never really knew enough about the craft to try it out. She was kind enough to show me the basic gist. While letter tile pendants are kind of small in my opinion, I was thinking how fun it would be to make pendants on larger pieces of wood. I went to AC Moore to see what I could find, and I saw a rectangular shaped block that reminded me of a coaster, so I was on a mission to find square ones. My search for square coaster size pieces came up empty but then came the thought, "What about wallplates?!"

Here's the basic steps of what I did:

Buy ready-to-paint switch plates or outlet plates, depending on your project - I figure if paint doesn't stick to the basic ones, glue won't either. Unfinished wood plates work as well.

Trace the outline of the plate with an exacto-knife onto decorative paper, I did it at a slant away from the plate to give a little extra room to cover the sides of the plates too. Scrapbook paper works nicely, and comes in a variety of designs. Cut openings for the screw holes, outlet and/or the switch.

Wearing gloves, glue the paper onto the plate with a clear-drying water-base sealer glue. Paint over the paper with the glue as well. I used a toothpick to wipe the glue out of the outlet cracks.

When the glue dries, spray or paint on a glossy acrylic sealer. Be sure to do this step in a well ventilated area. Allow it to dry for several hours before use. The picture looks great, but if you look up close, you can see a few minor imperfections. Things I learned include: you should probably make a cut at the corners to avoid puckering, you should probably start at one end and smooth out in the opposite direction, and maybe a sponge will avoid the streak lines that I got from using a paint brush.

Finding plain, cheap, ready to paint plates was the hardest part of the whole process. The craft stores in my area don't sell them and the wooden ones in the local hardware stores fancy with beveled edges and curves. When you ask for ready-to-paint ones in the hardware stores you get told that the only ones you can paint are wood. And if you try explain why the curvy beveled wooden ones won't work well, they look at you funny and explain that they sell decorative plates - already made... Now what's the fun in that?!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Mother's Day

Mother's Day is the topic for the EtsyBloggers Blog Carnival this week, particularly any memorable gifts exchanged. The gifts that come to mind weren't Mother's Day gifts, but special mother-daughter moments.

While cleaning my room a couple weeks ago I came across a letter she had given me when I was no more than eight years old. I find it every couple years and read through it. It has a letter she had written on April 16, 1981 when I was just a few months old. It was a letter about how she'd always love me no matter what, about the things that troubled her at the time, and what she struggled with growing up. She also hoped that we would get along. We did for the most part, and when we didn't, I suppose it was mostly my fault. Of course being a lot a like, it only makes sense that we butted heads frequently. I always tell my co-workers to be patient, it will be better when their daughter goes away to school and moves out...

We have a special connection - I know her so well that I can usually figure out not only where she is, but where she is parked.

Gift of Time:
This past year for her birthday I stayed with her at the camper in Schroon Lake; I took her out to lunch in town, and we spent the sunny afternoon at the Arts and Crafts Fair at the beach. How ironic - now I wish I could go back to all those summers that we spent at the camper together, instead of being a brat about it, concerned about how I wouldn't see my friends in the summer and all the fun I was missing at home... Now I would actually try to enjoy it.

This is not the original camper of my childhood. We used to have one a lot smaller (and this one is not big)

Gift of Memories:
The gift that my mom said was the best gift EVER was her early Christmas present a couple years ago when I took her on a bus trip to New York City to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes. After the show we shopped and walked around Manhattan. It was nice to spend the day together, shop, window shop, laugh, people watch, and try not to get lost.

Gift from the Heart:
My mom gets so excited when I make her jewelry. She actually plans outfits around that pieces I give her. Typically she gets the things that I'm disappointed with, or that I don't think will sell. Sometimes I custom make her stuff. She is big on matching sets; it bothers her if she doesn't have a perfectly matching pair of earrings to go with a necklace.

This here is what I'm giving her for Mother's Day. I tend to make her red jewelry because its her favorite color. The focal piece of the necklace is red jasper, a stone that is thought to provide protection, courage, and energy. It's not red-red, but somewhat orange-red in color, wire wrapped and accented by red jasper beads and Botswana agate. And of course there are matching earrings to go with it.