Thursday, April 29, 2010

Snake Eyes

Eleven years ago today, after a seemingly endless labor, Griffin Hudson joined our family. The birth of that boy was one of my proudest moments; an affirmation that I could, in fact, deliver a healthy, full term baby. Unlike this year's premature version of spring, that particular spring arrived simultaneously with our new baby. I remember driving home from St. Peter's on Hackett Blvd, and seeing that all the tulips had popped open, mimicking somehow the birthing process I had recently experienced.

While Liam had been a placid baby, Griffin was demanding. He didn't spend more than a dozen nights in his crib and refused to cry himself out. The only place he contentedly slept was in our bed, so we caved and allowed it. I understand that all the baby books say that this is "wrong," but I know that this physical closeness created a child who loves giving and receiving affection. I remember once waking up in the middle of the night and rolling towards him, only to see that his eyes were wide open, burning like embers as he stared at the ceiling. He is an an old soul and has caused me on more than one occasion to consider the possibility of reincarnation. And since he has a history of struggling with telling the truth, I suspect his current life may not be his last.

I feel deeply connected to each of my children and can't yet imagine the day that we no longer share the same roof. Griffin and I have a special connection because I honestly know how his mind works. It is weird, but I can often see what he is thinking, which definitely impacts his ability to lie to me and get away with it. Although I think he resembles Tom the most of all our boys, he is the one, I believe, is most like me in personality and temperament. And that's no lie, despite the fact that he likes hugs.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Coming and Going

Other than with my children, I'm not a particularly "touchy" person. At the beginning of my relationship with Tom, one of his friends actually complained to him about my lack of comfort with physical demonstrativeness. Well, obviously, we must have sufficient physical contact since we do have three children as evidence of our "couplings." The lack of physical exuberance on my part, is more than likely related to the sense of unapproachability, of which I'm sometimes accused. In case you are unaware, Germans are known much more for their efficiency and timeliness than they are for their fuzzy warmth. I'm gratified to have recently learned (thanks again, Yas!) that the type of hugging I'm most comfortable with has a name: A-Frame Hugging. The A-Frame is defined as a hug in which only the shoulders and arms connect while the remainder of the body is held apart. I refuse to accept that this is an inferior type of embrace. Would you consider an A-Frame house to be a sub par structure? I think not. Perhaps, my style of hugging has evolved in response to the grinding and dry-humping I have witnessed over the years while chaperoning High School dances. I don't suppose anyone has considered that maybe I'm just doing my part to restore balance in a world filled with overly graphic, public, physical displays.

Since it would be insufficient to merely mock my greeting modus operandi without addressing my departure technique, I will freely share with you my method of escape. I learned recently that there was a name for the way I like to leave, be it from a party, an evening at work, or at the airport or train station: the Irish Goodbye. Regardless of whether it is a romantic break-up or the ending of a social event, I've always hated to say goodbye. I've been known to tell people that I "don't do goodbyes," prior to quietly departing unnoticed. There was definitely a strong sense of relief when I became aware that I am not the only person afflicted by this character flaw (idiosyncrasy?) and that I apparently represent both sides of my lineage equally, in things other than beer consumption.

In conclusion, if I don't give you a full frontal embrace, or you notice that I'm gone but don't recall my saying goodbye, please don't take it personally. The distance between our bodies does not diminish the closeness of my heart.

Tasting Tuesday!

I'm really looking forward to joining my husband at the bar tonight @Dale Miller for some educating...that's right, it's Tasting Tuesday. A couple of things being offered tonight that have piqued my interest are the Hugel 'Cuvee Les Amore' Pinot Blanc Alsace, France, because you know I love me some Alsatian white, the Tir Na N'og Grenache 'Old Vines' McLaren Vale, Australia, because you've got to like an Australian wine with a Gaelic name, and the Selby Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma, Ca, just because we visited Susie on one of our trips to Cali and she was just another cool lady following her passion. Unless you've got a thing going on with the Wine Director at Dale Miller, you should probably call for a reservation. And if you do have a thing going on with the Wine Director, we should probably talk.

Update/correction - When I originally posted this (at like 4:45 a.m.) I confused Susie Selby with Cathy Corison. I apologize for any bewilderment this may have caused. Believe me, sometimes those California trips get a little addled to say the least.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Another Sunday...

must mean another Sunday supper! Today I was extremely lazy. Like didn't clean either bathroom or dust, lazy. This complete lack of ambition on my part, made it a perfect day to let the crockpot cook for me. Today's inspiration came from the can of ancho chiles packed in adobo sauce that Tom had picked up at the grocery store on my request. These are beautiful - intensely smoky and spicy and I've been just looking for something to do with them. Hannaford had chicken thighs for ridiculous cheap ($.79 lb) so they became the evening's protein choice.

I began by softening a couple of cloves of garlic and a medium onion in a few tablespoons of olive oil. As this was happening, I opened a can of crushed tomatoes and poured them into the crockpot. After removing the vegetables from the olive oil (and adding them to the crushed tomatoes), I seared the chicken briefly on each side. While the chicken browned, I added to the tomatoes a rinsed and drained can of red kidney beans, and 3 chopped chiles, along with a couple of teaspoons of the adobo liquid. The chicken thighs were added to the sauce, the lid was placed on the crockpot and dinner was was only 3 effortless hours away.

I had roasted some beets earlier in the week (purple pee, anyone??) and had their greens in the crisper. I combined the beet greens with a large head of broccoli rabe and sauteed them together with some olive oil and garlic. For me, nothing goes better with bitter greens than polenta, so that was our starch. My version of polenta, which my mother-in-law loved, starts with about 4 cups of milk. I bring the milk up to a simmer and then whisk in 1 cup of corn meal. For 40 minutes or so, I let the polenta cook on very low heat, stirring about once every 10 minutes. Yes, I know there is something called instant polenta, but this recipe (stolen and modified from the Union Square Cafe) really takes little effort - and that was today's theme, after all.

This was really the ultimate lazy Sunday dinner, because not only did we have a delicious, reasonably healthy meal tonight, but I also have a perfect lunch for tomorrow in the leftover greens and polenta. And the remaining chicken will be shredded and thrown back into the sauce, perhaps augmented by an additional can of beans, for tomorrow night's tortillas.

Bring it on, Monday. I'm ready.

Beautiful Washington Park

Saturday was an amazingly beautiful day and we got the family out to Washington Park in the afternoon. Spring has come rather early this year and chances are the majority of the park's tulip beds will be past peak for the annual Tulip Festival Mother's Day weekend. I shot some pictures for those of you who may not have been lucky enough to get yourselves there. Tulips or not - I'm planning to attend Champagne on the Park. Anyone else?
Beautiful Washington Park

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Can we? Will we?

There was a bit of traffic yesterday evening when I was driving down Delaware Avenue to meet a friend at the Lark Street Wine Bar & Bistro. The traffic was typical end of the work day stuff, nothing too extreme, but there were a number of occasions when other drivers were looking to be allowed into the flow of traffic, or yielded to, as they attempted to make a turn which necessitated their crossing a lane of traffic. I generally wave these people through and give them the opportunity to make their turn or join the line of traffic, but I noticed yesterday that this was not the norm and it made me a little sad.

I reflected on the early post-Obama-elections days and how there was a discernible shift in the mood of our country. At that time, I observed an increase of common courtesy as if everyone was feeling slightly intoxicated with the headiness of possibility. And, no, I don't believe it was the consumption of some liberal kool aid that caused this to occur, but instead, it was the confident knowledge that citizens could become involved in an issue, or cause, and help to create a movement for change. And, 18 months ago our country was filled with an enormous positive energy and a sense of possibility that was unifying and powerful. Unfortunately, this awesome dynamism seems to have disappeared. Or, as I like to think, it has joined ethics and morals in some kind of contemporary place of exile where they are cowering from the energy that has filled their void, namely - greed.

Every single day there seems to be yet another news story about a corrupt politician or an unscrupulous business titan. A person who has decided that power is a greater currency than honesty. In the last few years, as more and more examples of this are reported on by the media, I've often wondered what happens to these people? As a parent, I try to instill in my children a sense of right and wrong, the notion that doing the right thing is more valuable than money or possessions. Weren't these people taught the same thing? Assuming they (insert Bruno, Espada, Paterson, Spitzer...) came to their positions as adults, wasn't that central core of ethics already in place? Is there some unavoidable relationship between political/corporate success and lack of ethics? And, speaking of relationships - these corrupt politicians who seemingly are divorced from any internal compass about right and wrong, are the same people who are in a position to legislate on whether or not same sex couples can marry?

Perhaps I lack ambition or some crucial organic urge to dominate the world, but I'm sincerely okay with that. Maybe instead of talking about what we can do, the conversation should be about what we will do. I will continue to teach my children that honesty is more dear than power and that respect is earned not demanded. I will also happily allow any of you to cut in front of me to get to where you need to go. And I will hope that we can all get to a place together where possibility and ethics cheerfully coexist.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Getting schooled

Last Friday we learned that our youngest, Quinn, had "won" a coveted magnet school slot for kindergarten in September. You see, there's a lottery that the city school district uses to place children in four of their twelve elementary buildings. These four schools have either unified themes (Arts and Humanities, Science & Technology) or particular instructional philosophies or techniques (Montesorri or Dual-Language). I think that the opportunity for students to be taught in a public bilingual setting, or using an established, but innovative method such as Montessori, is an option available in this area only in the Albany City School District. That being said, what I wanted for Quinn was the chance to attend the school which is literally at the end of our street. And, while I'd like to think that he has a talent for Arts and Humanities, his 5 years on the planet have not yet revealed that to be the case. Although, I do have some very fine examples of coloring from his "rainbow" period which I'd be happy to share upon request.

Our older boys were bussed across town to a school with which we've generally been happy, however, our ability to be closely involved with the school and its events, has been impacted by the distance. We initially chose this particular school, Eagle Point, because the kindergarten teachers were very highly regarded and the class size was amazingly small. School choice and small class size - try finding either of those things in a suburban district.

I am frequently asked where our children go to school, and when I respond "Albany City" the reaction is almost uniformly one of surprise. It seems that many (most?) people don't have confidence in urban school districts and elect to move to the suburbs rather than subject their children to an "inferior" educational experience. The district where I work is filled with students who attended Albany's schools until the-oh-so-dangerous-middle school days, at which point the families fled the city for a suburban, homogeneous educational experience. I've talked to these kids and, you know what, they were comfortable and challenged and happy in the city. I've never had a single one of them express fear or anxiety to me about attending a school with a diverse population. And, parents, FYI - middle school sucks everywhere, it is not just an urban issue. When you take a bunch of hormonal kids from various elementary buildings scattered around a geographic area and then throw them into a building together, please don't be surprised that things might be combustible.

Our kids go to public schools in the city in which we reside. Homes are less expensive in Albany than in many of the outlying areas, and this savings has provided us the opportunity to travel fairly frequently with our children. At this point, everyone in my home has a passport and is not afraid to use it. As a parent, I believe it is my job to expose my children to as many experiences as possible and I feel that placing my children in an environment in which they are surrounded almost exclusively by faces that directly match their own in skin tone, would be contrary to what I want for them. If we discover that our children are not able to be successful with our involvement and support, or if there is an opportunity that they are seeking which is not available in their respective schools, we will seek out options. Until that day, however, I will continue to believe in my family and in the city school district.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cafe Capriccio

There's something about a place that you have to step down to get into that I love. And I love Cafe Capriccio. There - I said it. It is definitely my go to place whether it is a night out with the hubby or the girls. Even the Lilly children have been there! My first experiences at the Cafe were a long time ago - undergrad days, and they had nothing to do with the food. A friend I worked with at the original Yono's, had a little thing with someone who worked at the Cafe, and I remember (vaguely) some dancing on the bar in an after-hours sort of way. I believe the Rolling Stones were the music of choice. Good times.

Tom & I had our very first mock-Valentine's dinner there in 1993. What is mock-Valentine's you ask? It is the evening that restaurant industry people choose to celebrate a holiday, in this case V-day, since we all work on the real holiday - and we wouldn't be caught dead in a restaurant on a holiday anyway. We had that romantic little booth in the corner of the main dining room.. is a special little place with tons of atmosphere, more than competent service and solid food.

Through the years we've had numerous celebrations in both the main dining room and at the Chef's Table upstairs where owner, Jim Rua, (the Chief) holds court. The Chef's Table is awesome! It is almost like entertaining in your own dining room except you don't have to cook, serve or clean-up. The kitchen is open to the dining room and Jim puts out a spread of antipasti to start and is always more than willing to share his expertise with those wishing to learn authentic Italian cooking techniques. The food is bountiful and well matched by the flow of vino. Bliss.

Last night Tom & I stopped down at the Cafe for a little dinner at the bar. See - that's the kind of place it is: perfect for special occasions, family dinners, or romantic nibbles at the bar. There are a couple of things that we always seem to get when we are there - namely the eggplant and the ravioli of the day. This eggplant has seriously spawned eggplant all over the city of Albany! The eggplant appetizers at McGuire's, Creo and Cafe Madison all had their start at 49 Grand Street and it is certainly a case of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery. The eggplant is battered and fried to a delicate crispness and then layered with a fresh tomato sauce and 4 varieties of cheese. Perfect as a substantial appetizer or coupled with a salad for an entree. Last night's ravioli inspiration was perfect for spring - the little pockets of yumminess were filled with artichokes and goat cheese and then finished with Capriccio's signature garlic cream sauce. Delicious! The fish special was sea bass and it was lovely, moist, firm and simple. Franco (Jim's son) served it with a beautiful risotto and spring veggies on the side and the plate was appealing to the palate as well as to the eye. We rounded things out with a half-portion (don't you love the half portion option?) of pasta. Our choice for the evening was the tagliatelle with duck confit, mushrooms, tomatoes and wine. It was the ideal blend of hearty and delicate and paired beautifully with the bottle of wine we drank, some Italian red that was fantastic - great job, Tom!

We finished our meal with an amazing chocolate orange gelato from Crisan coupled with a slice of Cheesecake Machismo's chocolate-espresso cheesecake. Here's the thing - I love chocolate and I love ice cream, but I don't like chocolate ice cream. However, this frozen confection transcends any frozen chocolate concoction I've ever experienced. If I were tasting it blindfolded (9 1/2 Weeks anyone?), I would have described it as orange-chocolate because the citrus was very much in the front of the flavor explosion in my mouth. It seriously has opened up new dessert doors for me - and I thank Jim Rua for including exemplary local products on his menu. That slice of cheesecake may have caused me to permanently suspend any future cheesecake making at my house...anyone need some spring-form pans? Don't imagine I'll be using them much after tasting that fine example of cheesecake deliciousness last night.

Joe took terrific care of us, as always, and we had a wonderful time trying to loosely structure our upcoming trip to Tuscany. After months of planning, our villa in Italy will be difficult to leave behind, but the promise of an evening at Cafe Capriccio will make coming home bittersweet.

That's Not My Name

When I was in 1st grade I started spelling my name "Sylvia" because that was the way everyone else (i.e. my teachers) spelled it. As a child, I craved consistency and wanted to conform, so I just started spelling my name the more common way. I didn't have the words yet to correct people and was trying to be a good girl, two circumstances which are certainly no longer true.

My mother named me, the story goes, after a friend she knew in Switzerland. I have a cousin in Germany with the same name and she, of course, spells it the same way I do: Silvia. If I don't know you that well, I'm not bothered if you spell my name incorrectly. Really. However, if you're someone I send holiday cards to, or if you & I have shared written language, I expect that you will spell my name correctly. And, if you don't, I'm going to feel less connected to you. Harsh? Perhaps, but true.

When I read the birth announcements in the paper, which I do regularly to make certain that my children's name aren't being copied, I closely pay attention to name spelling. This probably isn't the time or the place to discuss the random placement of apostrophes in names that I frequently spot - and detest, but we can talk about the phonetic, and otherwise creative, ways I see names being spelled. Here's the deal: it doesn't matter if you spell it Chelsea, Chelsie, or Chelsey, it is still the same name. The only thing accomplished by spelling a name more "creatively" is the guarantee that A. your child's name will be spelled incorrectly on every document for the rest of their life and B. your child will never find a mass produced monogrammed item available with their name spelled "correctly." If this is your goal, by all means go crazy. Allow me to suggest Madison, Madysen, Maddisen, Maddieson.

There's this song by the Ting-Tings that makes me smile whenever I hear it. Give it a listen. And next time you're writing my name, perhaps the memory of its catchy beat will remind you to spell my name correctly.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ironic Facebook Status: "April is Cancer Month."

Reflecting on what this lump may or may not be, I've been thinking about the thyroid cancer I had a number of years ago. Thyroid cancer is weird - doctors call it the "good cancer." Riiiight. Kind of like the "clean break" of a bone or the "mild heart attack, " yet another euphemism designed to allow a person to distance themselves from the reality of the situation - that their body is broken. It may be a temporary situation, but at the moment, when you receive that type of news, things ain't going the way they're supposed to go. And I've come to learn that nothing clears a room faster than the word cancer. Or, as my dear friend called it, the "C-word."

Why can't we talk about illness and death? And, no, I don't think I'm dying yet. :) If death is a part of life, why is it so cloaked with shadows and only talked about in whispers? I've always been pretty liberal about what I share in life and of my life, but I remember, during that time, feeling that no one wanted to talk about what was going on. At least not with me directly. I didn't have the emotional energy to invest in what was going on with the people around me, but I definitely felt...kind of alone.

I know that I am not easy to care for - not because I don't prompt feelings of tenderness, but because I really don't have much experience in being taken care of. Blame my mother if you want, but, I've done the therapy and am finished with that. I take care of people - my family, the students and faculty, the guests at the restaurant, it is what I do. And enjoy doing, but....

If I have a situation here, some sort of cancer, no matter how "good," I'm milking this one. I want to be taken care of a little bit, I think. I don't only mean thoughtful donations of soup or baked goods, I mean, I don't want anyone to run away from me. Cancer isn't contagious. Even though I feel too much a novice to call myself a "cancer survivor, " the truth is I am, and it's placed me in a special club; the best possible cancer outcome club. And maybe I was inducted to point out that every month is cancer month for someone, somewhere. And it's okay to talk about it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I am feeling a bit whiny. This is primarily because I am very impatiently waiting for my Monday appointment with the ENT. I'm sorry, but 2+ weeks is a little too long to wait to find out what that thing is that is growing on my parotid gland. Since I am basically a positive person (and, of course, I am positive it is a new version of cancer for my body to deal with), I'm going to transfer my whining to wine-ing.

My husband and I enjoy wine. From our earliest days together, we've gravitated towards wine producing vacation destinations and have spent many days tasting and exploring wine countries both in the States and in Europe. Through a chance encounter many years ago while swimming in Friend's Lake (hello, random!), Tom was able to turn his interest into a career in the wine business. After stints working as a sales rep for a distributor, and as Daniel Darves-Bornoz's "wine guy," he has been the Wine Director at Dale Miller Restaurant for the past year. Wifely pride aside, he has developed an excellent reputation for both his palate and his personality. You know how some of those "wine-guys" are insistent that they know what good wine is and you don't? Well, he isn't. If you like it, it's good - 'nuff said.

While I enjoy wine, sometimes I can be a bit particular and if I'm not enjoying a glass of wine, I'm not interested in drinking it. I generally prefer New World wines, although I am a sucker for Alsatian whites, obscure Italian whites (Pigato) and Amarones. One of the best things about living with a wine-guy is that we have, at least until the boys are old enough to indiscriminately drink it with their derelict friends, a large collection of bottles from which to choose. If Tom opens something and I don't like it, he doesn't hesitate to pull something else, which is really quite a luxury, yet another reason I consider myself to be a lucky girl.

He does these Tasting Tuesdays things down at DM and I was just looking over the schedule. I was trying to prioritize and limit myself to one or two of the tastings, but, honestly, for me, there are more reasons to go than there are to stay home. Especially when you're directly comparing number of children at home (3) to number of wines to be tasted (a minimum of 6 or 7). Factor in nibbling on Dale Miller's tasty food, instead of cajoling my boys to "just try one bite" of something I made at home, and there is a clear winner. So, if you're looking for me, I mean, trying to expand your wine knowledge, give DM a call and make a reservation - these things have been filling up way faster than the time between my doctor's appointments.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Blogs can be like children...

not always satisfying... frequently lacking in feedback... vessels that get filled with words and thoughts and emotions, often without any indication of impact. I very much consider this blog to be an exercise in expression for myself, but the comments I receive from readers/followers certainly spur me on, just like those rare examples of parenting success that my children provide me, manage to make me forget the challenges of child-rearing. For those of you who indulge me by reading DelSo, and who have not been able to make comments in the past, please know that I have tweaked my settings (not painful at all!) and enabled anonymous comments. So, comment away! I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

When we were looking for a house in 1995, we had a clear idea of where we wanted to live - Pine Hills. The Pine Hills area of Albany is lovely with lots of trees, good schools, and an array of 2-family home options. We concentrated our search in that area and came up empty. After a few months of fruitless searching, I did a drive-by of 13 Arcadia Avenue and immediately decided it was too small. And not in the "right" neighborhood.

Flash-forward, Lost-style, about 3 months. We had made a reasonable offer on a beautiful, large 2-family home in a nice area off of New Scotland, which was refused. We later came to learn that the sellers waited for their listing to expire and then sold it "by owner" for exactly what we had offered them. It seems that for every lame realtor, there is an unscrupulous seller/buyer, unfortunately they don't always go hand in hand. (And we do know many more terrific Realtors now). On a whim, I decided it was time to actually visit 13 Arcadia Avenue, which was still on the market.

I attended an open house one afternoon and was struck by the beautiful woodwork in the house and the way the sun streamed in the windows on the southeastern side. There must have been a special deal on light blue paint, because that was the color of every room, but I understood that paint was reasonably cheap. As was the house. I was checking out the basement (for probably the last time. The washer and drier are in the basement now, along with Tom's wine collection and I don't visit that area frequently.) when I became aware of another visitor to the house, a nice older gentleman, George, who spoke with a charming brogue. As he politely grilled me I knew that I had found our future home - a place with real Irish people right across the street. I called my husband and less than 3 months later we were painting walls and having our floors refinished. And we've been there (here?) ever since.

We came to know George as the mayor of the block. During snowstorms he directed us all on where to park and his garden was an inspiration with brilliant purple morning glories and Chinese lanterns galore. He and his family always had a moment to chat or an offer of a cup of tea. Tom & I started our family and became acquainted with other neighbors, and through the years we lost some wonderful friends (George passed away, Mario & Julia relocated to accommodate their only child) and gained some equally fabulous neighbors. Our block has character and spirit and diversity and I can't imagine living anywhere else in Albany - except for Englewood Place, of course.

So, right now, George's house is for sale. The "new" people, who bought George's house a few years ago, are "motivated" to sell and we are excited to have someone new (and friendlier) move in across the street from us. Someone more like George. Of course, we visited the Open House yesterday to see the updates the current owner has made, and the house looked pretty good, although it certainly still has an enormous amount of untapped potential. So, if you're in the market for new digs and want to live in a neighborhood that is central to everything, yet tucked away on a quiet street, this could be your place. We have a park and playground at the end of our block and are within walking distance of the Spectrum, a pharmacy, a hardware store, an awesome new branch of the public library, a place to replenish your fish tank, and your thirst for art, and a number of independent, funky restaurants. DelSo would welcome you, so, won't you be my neighbor?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunny Sunday Supper

Say that title 3 times fast. Anyway - I've been running my mouth for the last couple of days about how Sunday was going to be "Greek" night at our house. Give me a little ground lamb and some feta and somehow that equals Greek in my mind. Dinner ended up having even more variety than I had initially planned, and it sure was delicious. I started the grill with a couple of big red peppers roasting. As they charred, I sliced up an eggplant and combined some tahini paste with sesame oil and kecap manis to make a nice basting sauce. The eggplant slices went on the grill dry and as I turned them, I brushed on some of the Asian-style sauce. As the eggplant finished up, the next thing to be tossed on the grill were the asparagus. We pretty much live on these during the spring, stinky-pee be damned, and these were really prime, tossed with a little olive oil and coarse salt. Next up was the grilled ceasar salad - completely inspired by Rick Weber's salad at McGuire's. I wasn't certain exactly how Rick prepared the romaine and I thought it might be interesting to brush (did I mention how much I love my various silicone brushes from Utilities in P'town?) the romaine heads with the actual ceasar dressing. My ceasar dressing is aggressive with lots of garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, anchovy paste and salt and pepper. I turned the grill down to medium-low and brushed and turned the lettuce for about 5 or 6 minutes until it had a nice little smoky look but was still cool in the center.

At this point, we decided to join our wonderful new neighbors, and so, with a burst of genius, I transformed the grilled eggplant, and roasted red pepper into a lovely coarse dip by chopping them together and then tossing with feta cheese. With some old-school Triscuits on the side, it made a terrific, simple appetizer in no time flat.

After our wine, I mean, social visit, we again fired up the grill for the protein component of our meal. You know, we're no vegetarians. We had a mixed grill - or as I like to think of it, a maximization of the chances that each of the children will find one thing that they enjoy. We all really like bratwurst (not, Greek, understood.) so there was a package of those, as well as some skewered shrimp, a few turkey dogs and the highlight, for me, lamb burgers. I mixed the ground lamb with egg, dried bread crumbs, chopped rosemary and minced onion and shaped them into 3-4 oz burgers. As the shrimp finished up, I brushed it with some of the eggplant sauce (tahini, kecap manis, sesame oil) and the burgers were served on a bed of arugula with a spoonful of the eggplant/roasted red pepper/feta cheese "chutney" on top - perfect.

Between the company, weather, food and wine it was a wonderful way to end my spring break.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Steal MY bike. Please.

Walking through the DelSo, I saw some bicycles standing at attention on the front porch of a duplex. My first thought was "I hope those don't get stolen." We are acutely familiar with the incidence of bike theft in Albany - it is epidemic. Our family has had 4 bicycles stolen through the years, one of which was recovered. Never seen again were my wedding-shower-gift green Giant, it's replacement the cherry red Giant and Liam's red Jamis. Both of my bikes were locked with Kryptonite locks - Liam simply left his on our porch and someone saw an opportunity. I'd have to say that stealing a child's bike is solidly in my top 10 of scummiest things to do.

An analogy: child bike theft is to larceny
pedophile is to sex offender.

I mean, yuck. Truly. I sometimes wonder if in the old days there might have been a code of ethics among thieves that didn't permit this type of trespass. If children's toys were somehow considered to be off limits to common thieves back in the day. Is this a sign of the times we live in? Maybe it is an indication of the more general deterioration of our society? Beyond newer, stronger locks, how can we combat this? Perhaps making connections in our neighborhoods and looking people in the eye as we walk past each other will help? Or maybe our virtual friends on Twitter are the answer?

All I know is, if anyone needs to steal a bike, please consider taking my 14 y/o Trek. It has been a great bike, but it gets pretty heavy when I have to carry it up the stairs after I ride it, and I wouldn't mind replacing it with something a little lighter. And leave the kids' bikes alone.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Have you ever had this delicious Italian sweet bread? I've come to think of it as the bastard child of German Stollen and Irish soda bread. But, perhaps I project. My experience with panettone is pretty limited but over the years I've seen it around, generally at Christmas. Last weekend when we were at Rocco's picking up black & white cookies, I saw some beautiful, glossy loaves and decided it was just what I wanted for Easter morning. I know it is an nontraditional choice, particularly when they had those loaves of bread topped with pretty colored eggs, but the panettone looked too good to leave behind. Easter morning I enjoyed a slice of this dense, moist cake, I mean, bread, liberally smeared with unsalted butter. Talk about having a lot going on! There were dried and candied fruits, pine nuts, and a beautiful anise flavor all nestled into a flakier-than-it-looks bread. Eating this bread is like tasting history - it is clearly a treat that has been enjoyed for many generations. Mario Batali has a simple recipe if you want to give it a shot yourself, although, if I were making it myself I'd be sure to include some toasted pine nuts. I think I'd also add some Sambuca to the water I soak my dried fruit in to get some liquorice flavor in there. Of course, pouring yourself a pony of Sambuca on the side is also an option.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Me & Neil & Karma

There are certain things in life that I will always think of as belonging to someone else and therefore unavailable to me. For instance, the Tolkien books were always my brother's thing and thus I never read them. Thank goodness for Peter Jackson's films otherwise I would still be in the dark about such things as Frodo, Gandalf and the importance of that damned ring. There's also some music that I so strongly associate with individuals that I resist adding it to my collection - sometimes because I simply don't like it (sorry, Tom, Frank Zappa will never be on my ipod), but more often because I would feel awkward about "stealing" it. Unless, of course, I was literally stealing the music, like the time I took every one of Aloysius' Ricki Lee Jones cassettes that I could get my hands on, just so he would stop playing them incessantly.

For many years Neil also belonged to Aloysius. He had older siblings who refined (created?) his musical taste and was definitely ahead of the curve (or maybe a flashback behind the curve?) on the Neil Young love. I remember the urban myth about Aloysius seeing Neil at the Garden and joining him from the audience on a harmonica solo - probably not true, but lovely to imagine. For me, though, Neil somehow was different; he was available. Perhaps because he had had so many incarnations through the years, I somehow didn't hesitate to embrace him as my own. Over the years, I've been fortunate enough to see him a number of times, once with C, S & N, a couple of times with Crazy Horse, and also solo. He is amazing! Watching him play guitar, stomping his foot and nodding his head, it is pretty clear that he birthed grunge. Probably without pain medication and with forceps.

A couple of Decembers ago, I went to see Neil at the Garden. Sarah had bought 2 tickets for us as an extravagant Christmas gift. It was so fun to be back in the Garden after a 20 year absence and the show rocked, despite the fact that our seats were total nosebleeds and the crowd around us barely registered a pulse. After the show we walked up 9th Avenue, occasionally stopping to warm up until we found ourselves at Kennedy's.

As we settled in to our last stop, enjoying our conversation with some Irish ex-pats, a new group filtered in. And they each had lanyards with all access passes to Neil Young - they were roadies! We hung out with this fine group for a couple of pints and had a great time talking music and shows. The evening ended with their promise to guest list us for the next night's show - and they really did! The second night's show was enhanced by our stage side "seating" and the addition of Aloysius, because when Mark asked how many tickets we needed, I immediately thought of Aloysius. This is where the Karma comes in to the story. Seriously, what are the chances of meeting Neil Young's lead sound engineer, getting guest listed and having one of your oldest friends, a friend who basically gave Neil Young to you, passing through NYC on his way from LaGuardia Airport to New Paltz, join you for the show?? It really was that spectacular.

The only way this story can possibly get any better is if our sound engineer friend, Mark, is able to hook us up for the Palace show next month. And if Neil and Mark let us make them dinner. To be continued...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

First Favorite Album

Growing up in Greenwood Lake (GWL) in the 70's was a pretty cool experience. Summers were filled with unknown faces, but the winters were pretty tight. It seems like there were few small families - families of 5 or 10 were common, and these families had surnames that almost always were of Irish origin. I was still very much a child in the 70's, but I remember wanting to hang out with older people and I was totally drawn to hippies, people who had beads instead of doors between rooms. I had a friend in 4th grade - the hyper-patriotic year of our nation's bicentennial, and she was unlike anyone else I had ever known. She was of German descent but interesting German - cool parents and curly haired, two things I wasn't very familiar with. We only hung out together for about a year before her family moved - surprise, surprise, to Vermont, but there are a couple of incredibly detailed memories that I have from spending time with her and her family. I had my first pomegranate in their home and I thought it was the most exotic fruit I had ever seen or tasted. Her parents had a water bed (naturally) and their bedroom had a beautiful winter view of the lake. They would hang out on the waterbed and smoke joints and listen to music that I had never heard before - like Fleetwood Mac's Rumours. An album that still remains one of my Deserted Island picks more than 25 years later.

In the spring of that year, rumor had it that a headless torso washed up on a beach not too far from where this family lived and I learned more new things. About the rumored organized crime connections to GWL and how a "headless torso" looked in my overactive imagination. That 4th grade girl that I once knew is now my Facebook friend, and a connection to a much simpler time in my life. And that album? It still takes me back to those days faster than my children can dirty a clean bathroom.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


There are certain things in life that you never forget. Like where you were when you heard that Elvis had died or the shock of seeing that home pregnancy test create a pink plus sign. Almost exactly 8 years ago I was emptying the dishwasher, and thinking about the fine needle biopsy on my thyroid that had been done that day. I will never forget the thought that went through my head: "I can't have cancer. That's ridiculous." Well... unfortunately, I did have cancer, but it was the "good" kind, papillary thyroid cancer. It wasn't caught particularly early (thanks for doing a crap job, Mr. Radiologist) and had metastasized, requiring some lymph node removal as well as targeted radiation, but it was very treatable. Flash forward to the present. I've got this growth, or mass, if you prefer, on my parotid gland. It is small and it has not yet been determined what it is. This time though, I don't have that same sense of impossibility since I've already been wrong before. It just seems more ridiculous to think it isn't cancer this time around. So, if you see me around in the next couple of weeks and I'm acting a little carpe diem-ish, just join me for a drink or a walk or a moment of fun. And if I seem a little crabby be aware that in German, krebs=crab or cancer and I'd rather behave a little crabby than have krebs. Or crabs.