A Bear at the Window


Remember that black bear who went viral last week for chillaxin’ in a hammock? Well we had our own bear visitor recently…he just chose to make an appearance in our bedroom window over reclining in our backyard.

But first a bit of back-story.

We’ve had a few mysterious situations happen around The Hill House. Shattered bird feeders, strange foot prints, motion detectors lights randomly going off and our garbage cans knocked over. We didn’t think too much of it and just chalked it up to a big fat raccoon. Then our neighbor stopped over after the last garbage can incident and blew the raccoon theory to pieces.20140512-192916.jpg

She asked if I had seen “our visitor” and I said no. Then she said “Oh we have bears all the time.” My reaction was something akin to “Wait…what?” She let me know that the bear who was in our trash was about 300 lbs and that she had seen him on our property before. She even had pictures!

Well, we decided to start taking our garbage back to the city and figured that would do the trick. Plus we kinda liked the idea that we had a bear running around the ‘hood.

Cut to one week later when I am in bed, alone in the house one late evening. Suddenly I hear a crash outside and know exactly what it is. So I grab a flashlight, throw the window open and get an eye full of what looks like a wall of black fur. Our 300 lb friend is standing over the toppled over garbage can, literally with egg on his face since I had tossed a small bag of eggshells into the can. He sniffed at me then bolted around the corner of the house. Needless to say I was sorta freaked out and didn’t sleep a wink that night.

The next morning I got to officially bear-proofing the property. Here is a list I came across of tips to keep Smoky in the woods where he belongs.

  • Take garbage out the morning of trash pick up
  • Don’t put up bird feeders – especially hummingbird feeders
  • Clean outdoor grills thoroughly and keep them tightly covered
  • Close windows while cooking indoors
  • Invest in an air horn to keep handy as a scare tactic


To date there haven’t been any more disturbances. Part of me is till hoping for a daytime sighting, however, so I can post the perfect Instagram pic!


Let the Landscaping Begin!


As we wait for spring to fully reveal exactly what’s growing around The Hill House, we’ve also begun filling in some of blanks around the yard. After countless trips to Lowe’s, I think we are finally getting somewhere!

Tackling “Low Light Landscaping”

One challenge is that much of the property is shrouded by trees and we’ve had to look into low light and shade friendly plants and shrubs. Hostas, Elephant Ears and ferns seem to do best and also get along well together.


Eroding those Erosion Issues

After removing an ugly green wire fence that separated the yard from a rather steep hill leading to the woods, we had to come up with something that both provided a separation barrier as well a root network that would keep the hill, well, together. Creeping Jenny and English Ivy is what’s we went with. Let’s hope they stick. Literally.


Oh Deer!

So we live in the woods – which means anything we plant basically will become a salad for deer and bunnies. After much research we discovered that nothing is truly deer “proof” but certain plants are resistant to a point. If they are hungry, they will eat anything.

We nixed cedar – which deer love and went with evergreen and spruces for the front of the house. Weeping spruces and dwarf mugi pines added some height and much needed texture to the front porch, and also sit in one of the only full-sun spots on the property.


Azalea bushes provide a pop of color – and who knew they were actually evergreens? Euonymus and Blue Rug Juniper will also provide some year-round eye candy that will hopefully stay off of Bambi’s menu.


When it came to an herb garden (below) we chose strong smelling and tasting herbs because they apparently aren’t favorites of deer and rabbits. Thyme, cilantro, rosemary, sage, mint, lavender and catnip are what we went with. We will have to see what survives the deer taste test and what doesn’t however.


Stay tuned for updates. What worked, and what didn’t. As well as what the heck has yet to be identified – or even revealed – around the property.

8 Things You Didn’t Know About The Hill House

1. We have no idea when it was built. All papers say the 1960s but the home inspector said it was probably built in the 1940s. I guess a trip to the county clerk’s office is in order. 20140501-144905.jpg

2. It was originally a brick house. The house was sided with wood at some point. The garage on the other hand, is the opposite – a wooden structure that was covered in brick and made to look like a carriage house. Confused now?20140501-145148.jpg

3. It backs up to this creek. ‘Nuff said.20140501-145338.jpg

4. It once used to be part of St. Ann’s Church.  With the house serving as the rectory (we think). Dilapidated outbuildings dot the property, including an old chicken coop, and cellar built into the hill that used to hold the sacramental wine for the church. Super creepy.20140501-181249.jpg

5. The Master bedroom and kitchen are additions These two rooms were actually porches and turned into the rooms they were today probably around the same time the exterior brick was covered in wood (to match the additions). We think that the original kitchen was either in the small nook ( where there was once a wood stove) or in the area that now serves as the laundry room. Confused again?20140501-182108.jpg

6. It has these beautiful floors. I mean why on earth would someone cover these floors with deep pile baby blue wall to wall carpeting? That’s what we had to rip up. Which means we had to touch it. Yuck. 20140501-182310.jpg

7. The interior windows and doorways are trimmed in Red Oak. Can you say ka-ching?20140501-182120.jpg

8. There’s blue stone everywhere along the property.
The area surrounding the Sawkill Creek was known for its blue stone quarries back in the day. Looking forward to reclaiming as much of the stone as we can for outdoor borders, walkways and raised beds and maybe even a wall – or 6.20140501-182322.jpg


My Favorite Design Finds for The Hill House

This vintage cabinet was just $50 from the local Salvation Army in Kingston. Got it home somehow thanks to some borrowed ties (also from said Salvation Army) that we used to secure the trunk of the car with.


I’ve come across some really cool weekend house appopriate art at local antique dealers as well as eBay. These wooden framed prints from Hudson, N.Y. were $35 each and are perfect for the kitchen/dining area.


Having a bunch of artist friends doesn’t hurt either. Cost for these? Priceless, of course.


Came across these amazing orange pots at Lowes – they were marked down to $2 on clearance. And they’re orange. Sold.

Ikea has been our salvation – providing inexpensive and easy to incorporate pieces that work well with decor of The Hill House. This Nesna bedside table is just $14.95. And I may have bought 2-3 “just to have them.”

Ah, Craigslist. This antique chest of drawers cost us $120 – and the guy we bought it from even wound up delivering it to us since the thing was too damn big to fit in a Camry. Tarva bed frame from Ikea was $129.

This Vittsjo shelving unit from Ikea set us back $40. The units come in a variety of sizes.

Another Salvation Army treasure (although it has been deemed as a questionable purchase in an earlier post) – this rocking chair cost us $25. We’ve been lucky to get there on days where furniture is slashed 50% off and hasn’t been totally picked through. Oh,  for all of you Upstaters –  the Kingston location rules!

This Noguchi coffee table knockoff was tucked away in a corner of an antiques store in Saugerties, N.Y. Of course I snagged it. And a major deal at just $50. Grabbed the rug (also $50) from a local discount store in Kingston called Ollie’s.

This antler-adorned cuckoo clock made its way from Dan’s Brooklyn apartment to Kingston. It’s perfect for above the fire place and I think it cost something like $10 from Urban Outfitters. 20140209-155808.jpg

Anything from Restoration Ware’s Luxe faux fur collection. It’s everywhere at The Hill House – couch pillows, slippers and a super warm (maybe too warm) bedspread. Annnnd, super excited that this will soon be joining our Lux collection!20140209-155942.jpg

The Best Damn Kale Chips in the World


Tried a bunch of kale chip recipes and was basically bored with them – until this one came along. They take some time to make but the finished product is well worth the wait. These are definitely our favorite road-trip snack, just wish we could actually get out of NYC before they are gone. And who knew that nutritional yeast was the new parmesan cheese? Send any of your favorite kale chip recipes my way!

Big bunch of kale
2 cups raw cashews (soaked for 2 hours)
1 medium sweet red pepper
1/2 or more nutritional yeast
1/3 cup water
Sea salt
Cayenne pepper 

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Step 1:

Rip kale into pieces. Make sure your kale is dark green and of the curly kind. Check your local Farmer’s market for the best selection.

photo 2

Step 2: 

Blend soaked cashews, water and sweet red pepper into a paste (I Magic Bullet mine). Add a bit more more water if the sauce is too thick. The paste should be thick but not watery.

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Step 3:

Put the kale into a large bowl and pour the gooey sauce over the pieces and mix together (use your hands, it’s easier). Sprinkle in some of the nutritional yeast ( a healthy amount) and continue mixing. Make sure the pieces are well coated and then arrange on a canola oil-sprayed cookie sheet.

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Step 4:

Sprinkle the rest of the nutritional yeast on the kale along with the salt and cayenne pepper and pop into the oven for 25 mins at 350 degrees. Flip pieces over and continue baking in oven for about 10-15 more minutes (be careful not to burn them!) Once removed, let the chips cool on a paper towel (don’t put into a deep container to cool, or cover them or chips will get soggy). Make more and repeat steps 1-4 if you have enough kale to do so.

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