Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Confession: at 45 years + 3 days

image from messiahmom.com
I am vain.  Yep, there you have it.  In print.  Well, sort of in print.

I just went for my first run in my new year.  It was really hard - it was humid and I have been indulgent this week, as I should be.  Despite the challenges, I'm pleased I went because I always feel inspired when I run.  My appetite for fresh food and mental exercise is stimulated and I come home tired but anticipating the next opportunity to stretch my muscles, wanting just a little more...

My thoughts during those 4 miles this afternoon began with something  I wrote down before leaving the house:

It's not how far you go, it's how far you've come.

That statement sums up a big part of my life's philosophy.  Am I conceited or egotistical? Yes, both, but I earned every thread of confidence I wear.  There are so many ways a person's life can go and the fact that I am where I am at this exact moment in time is because of the choices I made and the work I've invested - in education, and building relationships, and living with the decisions I've made over the years.

There aren't many things I've wanted in my life that I haven't gotten.  Consider yourself warned.  The "things" I've wanted and haven't been able to hold on to, were never really "things," anyway.  I mean, I'll never know my father or trust my mother or have a husband for my entire life, but that all is about yesterday and I think overall, I'm doing ok.  Perhaps, even better than that.

Anticipating opportunities to stretch one's muscles and wanting a little more ain't just for running....

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I got a restaurant for my birthday!!!

Ok, so maybe I didn't actually get a restaurant for my birthday, but I (along with the rest of you lucky Capital District denizens) did get a great new dining option. The Capital City Gastropub opened for business last night and it truly felt like a gift.  This place rocks!  Yes, yes, I work for Kevin Everleth at his Lark Street restaurant, but, I assure you, there is no nepotism in my assessment.  The CCG is the perfect spot for a date, a night out with friends or an evening meal with the family - it just has so much to offer.

Although Kevin took possession of the space less than a month ago there have been some positive improvements, with more still to come, of the interior.  Were you here when it was Pasquale's?  I always loved their pizza, but found it to be a bit pricey when feeding 3 hungry boys who can each pack away 3-4 slices each, especially when the pizza has a divine thin crust.  Anyway, the configuration is similar to what it was in the past with an open kitchen and seating for 40+.  Eventually there will be an actual bar with seating, which is a good thing - they're going to need all the chairs they can find.  Last night at about 7:30 when we arrived, there were not many tables available, and that was without any real advertising.  This place is going to be busy!

Kerry and Jason
I have to say, the most challenging part of the evening was deciding what to eat.  And drink.  There are so many directions that the menu can take you - vegetarian?  Pizza?  Daily meat, fish, vegetarian or sliders options?  Oh my goodness - I haven't even mentioned the beer list or the wine selection...this place will require many visits to cover the tantalizing options offered. 

I want to get this post up right now in case you don't have dinner plans.  I will revisit it tomorrow with some more details...
Beautiful beer taps

Pork Belly Banh-mi

Fried Smelts

Angus hangar steak frites - marrow Bordelaise

Fish Tacos (!!!)

45 Things I've learned this year

1.  I prefer my surgery with local anaesthesia.
2.  There is a huge difference between having one's heart broken and having your ego
     stomped on. The first situation requires time to heal, the later demands a realistic
     examination of what the relationship really meant means.
3.   Part time parenting is the dirty little secret of divorce. That's all I'm saying and I'm quoting
      someone else.
4.   After a couple of 5Ks, a Warrior Dash and a sprint triathlon or two, I know I'm up for more
      physical challenges at age 45 than I was at 35. Or 25.
5.   Being alone and lonely is an improvement on being with someone and lonely.
6.   Writing is a path.
7.   The lines on my face are not from sleeping on my stomach. I'd better get used to them.
8.  There is a deep irony in losing one's ability to see close-up while simultaneously
     beginning to grow rogue hair in random places. Jury is still out on whether diminished
     vision is a curse or a blessing.
9.  I'm happy to get away from home for adventures but content to be in my home - even
     alone.Where ever you go, there you are.
10. My brother and friends, both old and new, continue to be amazing sources of stability,
      support and nonjudgmental love.
11. Speaking of love, I feel blessed to have as much love in my life as I do. Opening one's
      heart and letting go of the negative creates space for the positive.
12. Relationships may change over time, but common interests like children, cycling and food
      can keep a friendship alive.
13. Never believe all the decisions in life have already been made. Choices always remain.
14. Exercise, particularly running these days, is a sanity saver.
15. It is wonderful to work for a restaurant owner who understands owning a restaurant is a
      professional endeavor not a vanity project.
16. Having good credit is an often minimized reward in life.
17. Ice cream and alcohol make summer fun. They also make me about 5 lbs heavier.
18. I am much more productive when I am busy.
19. I don't know why or how, but apparently I sometimes inspire people. I hope the    
      inspiration I provide is to live a full life.
20. The challenges in life merely make the sweet spots more special.
21. I have a new found appreciation for exercising when the temperature is high.
22. I'm not that difficult, much less impossible, to take care of.
23. Milk, and other dairy products, from Meadowbrook Farms are a luxury I am willing to work
      into my budget as a necessary expense.
24. Children accept change with grace when it is accompanied by honesty.
25. Being healthy makes everything better.
26. Speaking my mind, with as much sensitivity as the circumstances demand, is best for
      everyone involved.
27. People are capable of things never imagined - both good and bad.
28. Endorphins are real. And addictive.
29. Grocery shopping can be fun!
30. Love comes from places not previously imagined.
31. Life has many chapters. Not every character makes the leap from one chapter to the
      next. This is okay.
32. Worrying is less productive than work.
33. Sleep becomes less necessary with age.
34. I have a latent competitive streak that surprises me.
35. Acceptance and surrender are very different emotions.
36. I will not tolerate feeling invisible.
37. I don't have many regrets in life but, those I do have, constantly remind me to avoid
      accumulating any more.
38. I love buying wine by the case!
39. There is nothing so heady as falling in love.
40.  Words are very powerful to me, but without action they lose their mojo.
41.  I've never been more optimistic about the future.
42.  The Capital City Gastropub is going to rock this town.
43.  It doesn't really matter where you are.  It's all about who you're with.
44.  Feeling excited about tomorrow is invigorating.
45.  Being in love is the best drug in the world.  Maybe even the universe.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Birthday Friends

For about 30 years I've exchanged birthday wishes with my dear friend, Brian, who had the courtesy of being born a day before me, thus ensuring he will always be my elder. Through the years there have been cards exchanged, in person, via traditional mail, and online. Almost every year we have spoken on both his birthday and then my birthday to convey birthday greetings. I have come to mark Bri's September birthday as not merely a precursor to my birthday, but as an event in and of itself worthy of the heartiest celebration - and believe me, we've done that.  Many, many times.

Last year, my newish neighbor, Ken, and I determined that we share a common birthday. And, while I am a firm believer that one's birthday is their very own special holiday, I'm sincerely ok sharing mine with Ken. As long as there is a bottle of wine involved, that is.

I started thinking recently about how friends flow in, and sometimes out, of our lives. It's almost as if we, as individuals, send out some sort of cosmic message which attracts people to us at different points in our lives. People who seemingly have very different interests or experiences suddenly are more similar to us than previously thought and connections are made. And, amazingly enough, these individuals bring with them, in addition to their own personalities, a group of people - partners and friends and families. Isn't it magnificent?

Birthdays and friends are two things I will never complain about having more of in my life - there will always be room for a few more of each of them.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Warning! Birthday week has officially begun...

Yasmine and I slapped hands in the corner tonight and, as a tag team of birthday celebrants, officially transitioned (in my mind, at least) from her birthday to mine.  Or, at a minimum, we agreed to share the next few days as mutual birthday space or something like that.  Bottom line: this entire week will be spent acknowledging birthdays (mostly mine) and milestones and transitions, some things I've learned in my most recent year of living, and what the next year may bring.

Suffice it to say, this evening was lovely.  Dinner at Capriccio, as always, was dynamite (such a Jim Rua word!) and I only wish for more hours in the day to spend with those I love.  And, how has Franco's incredible pizza not garnered a nomination in AOA's Tournament of Pizza 2011?  People, really?  Get there!
Pizza with mission figs and house made prosciutto 

Stay tuned for epic self-indulgence this week as I intend to celebrate my mid-40's marker with enthusiasm and good humor. And a smile.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011

Inspired

pappardelle cinghiale 
If you had told me ten years ago, that I would successfully complete a sprint triathlon in my lifetime, it would have seemed as  likely as the Twin Towers tumbling to the ground. Impossible.  However, yesterday I swam 1/2 a mile, biked 17.9 miles and ran 4 miles when I participated in the American Memorial Triathlon, a combination of physical events I had never attempted before.  Let me tell you how it went...

The carb-loading aspect of training was thoroughly enjoyable - especially after I was told that wine has carbohydrates!  I added two glasses to my evening meal at Viviano's in Warwick where Griffin and I had a delicious and fun dinner.

My night's sleep on Saturday wasn't the best, but the Sunday morning sky, filled with peach colored clouds and hints of blue, was beautiful as I drove over the mountain to Greenwood Lake.  I had checked in the previous afternoon so the morning went smoothly, other than the increasingly larger jitters wreaking havoc in my stomach.  I had joked quite a bit about my fear of drowning, but my nerves were definitely more generalized than that.  I don't know if you've participated in an event like this (and I know this was merely a sprint tri), but serious athletes show up at these things!  I couldn't help but be intimidated by some of the really ripped bodies surrounding me and my $300 used road bike.  At least I had a (borrowed) wetsuit to give the illusion that I was legit.  An illusion which would immediately be dispelled once I hit the water, of course.

The swim segment was less frightening than I anticipated because of two things: 1. men and women were separated and sent out in 2 waves which prevented the kind of flailing and splashing and jostling that I had heard can occur in large group swims and 2. that wetsuit gave me confidence along with some added buoyancy.  I definitely hung back to avoid slowing anyone down and, since I had only trained (for the past 2 weeks) indoors, the sensation of having the waves slap me in the face was a bit disconcerting.  I did a lot of time on my back staring at the sky, which was not a bad thing.  Once I made it to the first buoy (1/3 complete), I knew I was going to be fine, unlike the three or four people I witnessed swimming ,or being transported via jetski, back to shore.  I was probably among the last 5 or 6 people back to land, but at least I wasn't last - an improvement already over my last tri outing. I slipped off the wetsuit, got my shoes, helmet and gloves on and headed out for a ride around the lake.  

The bike ride was an area with which I felt fairly comfortable.  I've done this ride recreationally before and I knew it wasn't particularly challenging, but the recent rains had the potential to create some problems with debris and gravel deposits, so I rode with caution.  I definitely started to gain some confidence as I saw people walking their bikes up hills which didn't even threaten to take me out of my seat.  I forced myself to ride at a decent pace, yet did my best to preserve my legs for the run, which I now knew incorporated a couple of hills that would definitely feel more significant as the exertion became increasingly cumulative.  I passed a number of other riders, taking an unsportsmanlike glee in overtaking those younger than myself - a definite benefit of having one's age written on the back of one's calf.  I was overtaken only once by a really tall guy as we were riding downhill.  I noted the number (36) on his leg and promised myself I would catch him on the next climb - which I did.  Other than that, I was never passed (in any segment), a fact I take some pride in.  And, no, it wasn't because I was last either!
heading to the finish
Getting off the bike felt good, but the first 2 miles of the run were pretty slow for me.  I swear my legs weighed about a 100 lbs.  Each.  But once I knew I was down to the last 2 miles and felt the endorphins kicking, I picked up my pace a bit and probably finished the second half of the run doing 8.5 minute miles, which, for me, is pretty good.  The tears threatened when I ran past the volunteer firehouse and saw the folded up uniform and helmet on a chair in honor of the fallen from September 11, 2001, but I managed to keep it together.  My support son, Griffin, met me and we ran the last 100 yards or so together, which was awesome.  Having him there, along with one of my best Laker girlfriends, was just what I needed at the finish line.  
 
There were moments along the way when I doubted my ability to finish and I thought of those lost a decade earlier and kept going.  I told myself to be thankful for the opportunity to push my body and reminded myself that I never had to do this again.  Kind of like when I had my last drug free childbirth.  I am ridiculously proud of myself and am fully prepared to greet 45 next week with open arms.  And I'm planning to keep the date open for 2012.  Never say never.  Never forget. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

3 Events Inspired by 1

image from: steeljawscribe.com
On the 10th anniversary of the most devastating terrorist act in my lifetime, I will be participating in a sprint triathlon.  It's called the American Memorial Triathlon, a title which annoys me a bit with its commercial stink.   In all honesty, the date of the event is a significant factor in why I am registered for an athletic activity which frankly, kind of scares me.  How can I complain about being afraid to swim .5 miles in a lake I grew up swimming in, when ten years prior firefighters and police officers willingly entered an inferno in an attempt to save the lives of thousands of strangers?  Fear?  I'll be swimming to remember and honor their selfless bravery and a million miles in shark infested waters would never do them justice.

I have pictures in my head that I will always retain - images I  don't ever want to forget because they remind me of how life can change in an instant.  I  never imagined that pain and fear and horror could visit our world on a glorious day with the sky a shade of blue that should only be experienced while lying on one's back in a field of late summer asters with your beloved at your side.  No, for the sky to have been a reflection of the events of that day, there should have been howling winds and menacing clouds that compelled one to seek shelter and hide from what was to come.  As my tires spin while I pedal the around the shore of Greenwood Lake, I'll remember that the world will continue to turn, no matter the weather or the color of the sky, and I will be inspired by those who know that a blue sky does not guarantee security.

It isn't always immediately clear in life whether one is running towards or away from something. On that September morning, both happened.  I met a firefighter in 2002 at my favorite Irish Pub in New York City, the Dublin House.  He told me, over a pint, that he had been off duty that Tuesday morning when our nation's innocence disappeared in multiple balls of flame.  Despite not being obligated to respond to the situation in Manhattan, without hesitation, he jumped in his car pausing only to visit his daughter at school for a kiss, and drove as fast as he could towards the disaster from which thousands were fleeing. This Sunday, September 11, 2011, I'm going to run away from doubts and being afraid of how my body may not be prepared for a task I've never before encountered and keep my eyes and heart and mind instead upon the finish line.  And when I finally complete this triathlon, I guarantee you, there will be tears and a pint raised. The tears will be shed in appreciation of the efforts of my body, yes, but more than that they will be in honor of who and what we have collectively lost since that morning a decade ago.  As will that pint.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sign of the Times - Who's your mayor?

Are all politicians essentially narcisists?  Is there some cachet which I simply don't understand in having one's name emblazoned upon recycling bins, trash cans, a fleet of city vehicles and various signs around our city?  I don't believe the position of mayor is permanent despite the number of years Jerry has been on the job and I have to wonder what the eventual   related expense of having his name removed from all of those publicly owned city assets will be.  And why in God's name is Gerald diminutized to become Jerry?

Years ago, I remember there being a sign welcoming folks to the New York State side of my hometown Greenwood Lake, a nine-mile body of water which straddles N.Y. and N.J.  I can't recall if it was Governor Carey or Governor Cuomo the first who decided that his name being on that particular sign was extraneous and more than a little self-indulgent.  Since that time, decades ago the sign has simply stated  "Welcome to New York, the Empire State."  Doesn't that say all you need to know?
image from upstatenyroads.com

Wouldn't it make cents sense to stop wasting taxpayer money feeding the egos of elected officials?  I know who my mayor is - I even pulled the lever for him a couple of times in the past. I might even miss him when he's gone, something which will eventually happen.  I hope he takes his signs with him. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

456 Shanghai

I happened to catch Sam Sifton's review of 456 Shanghai last week and decided to give it a try for lunch over the weekend.  Or, as I like to think of it when traveling with the girls, an afternoon food base for our evening's cocktails.  We rolled in at about 1 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon and encountered a modest wait to be seated.  We would have had our asses in our chairs a bit faster had the diners at "our" table not dawdled after they concluded their meal.  Note: when you have finished eating at a busy restaurant where there is an ever growing line of diners waiting to be seated, do not visit the bathroom one-by-one or linger to attend to personal grooming at the table.  It is just rude.

We scored a great table by the window and quickly made our decisions - scallion pancakes, soup dumplings, shrimp, pork and chicken lo mien, and sauteed green beans.  Our server warned us that the dumplings would take 20 minutes, a reality which dragged our light meal out into a 3 course affair, but no worries.  The scallion pancakes were fine - hot, kind of crispy, but not really special like the ones I enjoyed at Vanessa's.  Things picked up with the lo mien - it was flavorful, hot and with the perfect amount of oil to keep things delicious without leaning towards greasy.  I neglected to photograph the green beans which is unfortunate because they were a little different than what I have experienced in the past.  Rather than a simple garlic and oil coating, they had almost a hot and sweet flavor.  I do believe they even initiated my hiccup response to hot peppers, albeit briefly.  The sauce was a bit reddish and clung to the beans beautifully and while they were different than what I am accustomed to, they were enjoyed by all three of us.

The real star of the show, though, was the order of soup dumplings.  I've had some debate with Albany Jane about soup dumplings, and I readily admit my novice status as a soup dumpling connoisseur, but the first time I tried these lovely tidbits of yum was at Joe's Shanghai and my initial exposure is what has defined them for me.  I've had them a couple of times locally at Ala Shanghai and I wasn't particularly impressed.  I mean, it is nice to finally get a chance to have them locally, but I think the dough is too thick and the flavors weren't as concentrated as I expected.  No worries - AJ and I remain good and we will certainly continue our mutual admiration of one another!  The dumplings at 456 Shanghai were of the same ilk as those at Joe's, which means more for me 'cause AJ won't be scarfing them all down - and that girl can eat.  My Sunday drinking dining companions had never experienced soup dumplings before and they were quite smitten by them as well.  There will be more dumplings in their futures for sure.

I can see myself alternating between Joe's and 456 on future visits to Chinatown because they both provide a satisfying meal at an incredibly reasonable price.  How reasonable?  Our shared meal of lo mien, green beans, scallion pancakes and dumplings came to...$25.75, pre-tip.  They don't place an automatic gratuity on the check at 456 as they do at Joe's, just so you're aware.  I'd be willing to pay a little more for the quality of food we consumed, and would suggest they charge a couple of additional $$  and devote the extra money to restroom clean-up.  They (yep, I checked them both out) were pretty groddy and I know I enjoyed my lunch more before seeing the state of the bathrooms.  All in all, thanks, Sam Sifton, for a good find in Chinatown. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Boy man

What can you say about a kid quickly becoming a man?  I mean, I'm talking about a young teen on the express route physically, and perhaps even intellectually, to adulthood.  He is taller by the second as his height wrestles with the size of his feet for ultimate dominance, and his hair and voice are growing darker and deeper each time I look at him.  Something I now have to do, incidentally, by looking up rather than down.

His dvr recorded list is very interesting and offers a peek into his personality.  It spans decades and seems to revisit some movies an uncountable number of times.  Get Smart (2008 remake), Airplane (1980), Captain America (1992), Muppet Treasury (1996, with Tim Curry), The Parent Trap (1961), Great Performances (Vienna Philharmonic), Jurassic Park (1993).  Wow, huh?  I'd say that about sums it up - he is cultured and silly and sentimental and adventurous.  He's my boy. 


He's starting high school this month - a whole new world of opportunities and experiences are right around the corner. He is beginning to make more of his own choices beginning with the academy for his curriculum as Albany High tinkers with their academic structure to create more focused houses within a large school. His schedule arrived last week and he seems excited, for him. Teens have a tendency to be blasé so his eagerness manifested itself as a lack of disdain more than something most people would interpret as excitement, but I can see it.  He's ready for the next thing.  Glad one of us is.