Friday, June 25, 2010

See you all in July...

The epic Lilly family vacation to Tuscany and London begins this afternoon with a road trip to JFK.  From there we fly to London and then continue (with an airport change) to Pisa.  We should be settled into our villa by Saturday afternoon, EST, which means approximately 24 hours of traveling.  It will all be worth it when we are able to explore this beautiful area and hopefully, it will be an experience which our entire family will never forget. I promise to return with stories, photos and memories to share.

And, just in case you forgot why we were taking this wonderful trip - please look closely at the photo...can you see the #50?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Vampire Books Suck

We've already established that I'm a reader.  Unless I've had too many glasses of wine, I am literally unable to fall asleep without a book.   I always have something to read wherever I go - soccer games, doctor's appointments, vacations...  Like my palate for food, my choice of reading material is open and broad, and I'll try just about anything once.  Fiction, nonfiction, memoir, short stories, whatever - I'll give it a shot. 

Just because I'll try any book that is placed in front of me, please don't assume that I will finish it.  In recent years, I've  developed the ability to abandon a book that isn't working for me.  It may still be a struggle (what if the book gets better on the very next page?), but when you work in a space filled with thousands of books, it is fairly easy to accept there is always another option. 

About 20 years ago, (okay, 23 years ago) I worked in a small, public library in Washingtonville, N.Y.  Other than a brief stint in sixth grade as a library helper, this was my first experience working in a library and I loved it.  Patrons were always making recommendations and, when I worked the circulation desk, I could easily discern which books were popular.  There was a series of books by Anne Rice called The Vampire Chronicles which circulated an awful lot.  Based upon this observation, I picked up the first book in the series, Interview with the Vampire, (maybe you've seen the movie?) and read it.  And hated it.  Thinking that all those folks couldn't possibly be wrong - I read the next title in the series, The Vampire Lestat.  And hated it.  At that point, I either found something else to read that I loved, or I went on a prolonged blood Mary binge, (I don't remember) and forgot about those awful (to me) books.  Flash forward to the 21st century and the Twilight Series...

I think Stephenie Meyer first came to my attention because I heard something on NPR about her receiving an unprecedented $750,000 advance payment for three books - as a first time novelist.  I read the first book, Twilight, and...wait for it...hated it.  Okay, maybe I didn't hate it, but I certainly didn't love it either.  And that was that.  I haven't read another one.  I just don't get the appeal of vampires - or werewolves, for that matter, and I'm not interested.  Occasionally another book (recent ones: Liar by Justine Larbalestier or The Dark Divine by Bree Despain) combining romance and vampires/werewolves falls into my hands and I try to temporarily forget that I don't enjoy this fantasy sub-genre.  However, the truth is, if I'm suspending reality, it's more likely to involve something like how good I look in a new dress, or how immaculate my house is after I finish doing housecleaning chores without my glasses on.  When it comes to picking sides for Team Edward vs. Team Jacob, I'd much prefer to take my ball home and read something, almost anything, else.

photo from:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sunday Supper - Father's Day Edition

Sunday - supper included, was all about Father's Day.  From the indulgent sleep-in, followed by gently scrambled eggs with cherry tomatoes and a (non)healthy dollop of Rondele' cheese, to the solo 2+ hour bike ride, the day was all about Tom.  We had a number of offers and options for the day, but ultimately elected to remain at home since this was our last day off at home for a couple of weeks.  It was a gorgeous day and naturally, the grill was the way to go for dinner.

Now, you all have seen what I like to do with a London Broil, so I didn't bother to take a snap of that.  Instead, I've got a couple of side dishes to share.  We had some lovely small redskin potatoes screaming to be made into potato salad.  While the hubs was still getting his beauty rest, I scrubbed them and cut them up a bit and cooked them until they had slightly softened.  I wanted them to be a bit firm, so after I determined they were almost where I wanted them to be in terms of softness, I gave them a cold water rinse to stop their cooking, and left them alone while I attended to other things.  When they were cold, I tossed them with 4 chopped hard-boiled eggs, a minced Vidalia onion, mayo, fresh rosemary from the deck and salt & pepper.  Pretty basic, but pretty damn delicious.  I'm glad I got this done early in the morning because I think the flavors really need some time to meld - plus, who really wants to be boiling things like potatoes and eggs when it's 90?  The extreme yellow yolks of the organic eggs we use gives the salad a richness that is unrelated to the amount of mayo used - for 6 potatoes, I used 3 or 4 T of mayo, the new Hellman's brand with olive oil, incidentally.
I truly believe that colorful food is generally the most healthy,  with Fruity Pebbles being the obvious exception to this rule.  I made a simple cherry tomato, fresh basil and mozzarella salad which I lightly dressed with olive oil and balsamic.  After I took this picture I remembered that I had roasted some orange, yellow and red peppers earlier in the week, so I chopped a bit of those up into a pretty confetti of flavor and vitamins and added them post-photo-op.  We also had some corn on the cob, which, quite frankly wasn't worth photographing.  Actually, it was barely worth eating - tough and lacking in flavor in a big way.  I know, it is wicked early in the season to be eating c on the c, but we had some 2 weeks ago which was dynamite!  Oh, well, can't win 'em all.  We finished up with some brownies (from a box, but with added chocolate chips),  and an episode of The Next Food Network Star which only added to the evening's sweetness by eliminating the annoying and incredibly awkward Dzintra. 

Remember - this will be my last Sunday Supper for a couple of weeks.  Our next Sunday Supper will take place in a villa in Italy where we've arranged to enjoy a traditional Tuscan dinner.  Details to follow...

Solstice Sipping

Last night, the official start of summer, was also supposed to be the inaugural event of Tom's birthday week celebration.  The plan was to meet friends at the Wine Bar & Bistro on Lark Street, to enjoy their Pagan discount and share Tom's natal holiday with friends here in Albany, since we'll be out of the country on the actual day.  However the fates transpired to muck up our plans - Tom was called in to work and Quinn was feverish and ultimately pukey.  Plans were canceled and I prepared myself to spend the evening cuddling my little man on the couch while dodging any vomiting recurrences.  

When I first arrived at home, Q was passed out on the couch putting off a good sweat.  He woke-up about 5:30 and I offered him a cool cloth for his head, which he accepted with a grateful head nod.  After about 5 additional minutes of quiet time, he sat up and requested a donut, which he proceeded to scarf down in no time.  I watched him dart around the house for about 90 minutes, with no signs of feeling ill, before I decided to revisit the idea of sharing a beautiful bottle of rose' on the longest evening of the year.  Wine Bar, here I come!

As would be expected, the place was hopping, and Yas & I had to wait a few minutes for a table on the back patio.  No worries - Kevin recently upgraded the A/C and the inside temperature was very refreshing.  We made it to a table, ordered a delicious bottle of wine and paired it with a cheese and fruit plate for a perfect "welcome summer" sort of meal.  I know, the picture is completely washed out and apologize.  Here's a better picture.  The wine was from Domaine Lafond in Tavel, aka The Cradle of French Rose', and was a blend of 3 grapes, Grenache, Roussanne and Viognier.  If you haven't caught the Drink Pink* wave yet, you really should.  Trust me, nothing tastes better on a summer night than a dry rose'.

*Drink Pink is the theme for the summer in the DelSo.  Notice I didn't specify which summer...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day for Bastards

When I was a kid, Father's Day was sort of an awkward holiday.  There was no male figure in my house to receive the crafts and projects created in elementary school, as gifts to honor Dad.  I would try to explain to my teacher that I didn't have a father, but this was a long time ago - long before single parents were as prevalent as they are today. Almost without exception, my teacher felt it necessary to explain that, of course I have a father, everyone had a father.  And while I thought I understood the difference between having a father and knowing my father, there was still much I had to learn about the dynamics of having a male parent in my household.  I mean, I got it on some level, after all we did have a television -  I knew that men wore Old Spice, and liked to read the paper and wear slippers, and toss balls around.  There were men occasionally, usually family friends or the fathers of friends, who tried to exert a positive male presence in my brother's life, but I was largely left ignored when it came to pseudo-daddy attention.  Dads were apparently more important for boys to have than they were for girls, a message which I've never really understood in a world seemingly filled with Daddy's girls.

My husband was raised in a home with two parents until he was about 18 years old.  He did have a Dad who participated in his life, who was involved with his sports activities and was mostly present for family events, yet they share a very limited relationship with one another.  I'm sure Tom will call his Dad today, one of the 3 or 4 conversations they will exchange this year, and they will chat about the boys and my father-in-law's health and it will be pleasant.  While there isn't a genuine reason they don't communicate more frequently, other than distance and all that word implies, it used to freak me out that they weren't more connected.  Tom was wasting his "Dad opportunity" and I didn't understand it.  I will never forget the first time I met my father-in-law-to-be at a family wedding in Pennsylvania.  I observed a man walking and knew in an instant that it was Tom's father - they shared the exact same gait.  How could Tom not be closer to the man who literally gave him his stride? 

Over the years I've heard the family stories, and while Tom's Dad may have been physically present, it  seems that he was often emotionally absent.  So, while Tom may not be the traditional "bastard" I am, he certainly missed a critical component of the Dad experience. I mentioned I had a lot to learn about fathers and their role within a family.  I thought this gap in my knowledge was purely the result of not having been raised with a male parent, but I've come to understand that, like most important things, being a father is not simple. The paternal strengths I've observed in my own husband, the quick hugs, the words of encouragement and support, were created  more as  response to his father  than as a reflection of his father.  I can say without hesitation that my husband, and his brothers, are involved, affectionate, present parents and I have tremendous admiration and respect for the critical roles they each play in their children's lives.  And that's straight up legit.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Newsweek says Albany High one of nation's best schools

What an interesting way for the school year to end. Have you seen this article? Don't forget to read the comments!  Newsweek says Albany High one of nation’s best schools

photo from

Thursday, June 17, 2010

(Soon to Be) Under the Tuscan Sun

I don't know what your vacation style is.  Do you make plans to visit every historic site, museum and attraction within a 100 km radius or are you more inclined spend your time lounging by the pool?  For me, the perfect vacation is a mellow blend of a couple of must-see tourist attractions, lazy mornings with a second cup of coffee, good food, and lots of walking to absorb the culture.  Based on this criteria, I offer for your perusal our Tuscan itinerary:
  • Sunday, Day 1 - Hanging out at the pool doing some hardcore relaxing.  In the evening we have plans to visit a nearby villa where a traditional Tuscan meal will be prepared for us in honor of Tom's birthday.
  • Monday, Day 2 - No plans, but leaning towards a day trip to the Cinque Terre.  Perhaps a winery or 2.  Tom's "real" birthday so I imagine copious amounts of wine in the evening.
  • Tuesday, Day 3 - I bought tickets to visit (and climb) the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the late morning.  (I factored in the previous evening's copious amounts of wine.  I love the word copious!) I've heard that Pisa is kind of a one-trick pony sort of town, so we'll head to Lucca for the remainder of the day.
  • Wednesday, Day 4 - Florence.  We have tickets to view Michelangelo's David and I am excited to see the Ponte Vecchio where I fully intend to buy something.
  • Thursday, Day 5 - Wine Day!!!  We're still working on hiring a driver to take us to some vineyards where we have appointments scheduled. As a last resort, I will be the designated driver.  No biggie - there will be plenty of wine brought back to the villa, I suspect.
  • Friday, Day 6 - No plans
  • Saturday - We depart in the villa in the a.m. and then have the day to enjoy.  We fly to London in the evening.
So - what have I missed?  And, do you know any drivers in Tuscany? 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mt Rainier to Italy in 6 Years

Six summers ago our family took a trip to Washington and Oregon.  While there, we spent a few days with some old friends in a cabin on Mt. Rainier - I think there were 3 other couples.  We talked about the future and the milestone half-century mark to be celebrated by a couple of the guys in 2010.  I promised Tom that we would spend his 50th birthday in Italy, Tuscany specifically.  I was pregnant with Q, so I can't even blame it on alcohol - I made the vow and there was no going back.

Last year I began, in my typical advance planning fashion, to try to organize the long promised trip.  I touched base with the individuals remaining from the disintegrated couples, and everyone was verbally on board with the trip.  I found an awesome villa, at a terrific price, in a location which I thought would suit all involved and sent some more emails out to the crew.  That's when things started to go wrong. 

Have you ever planned a group trip?  This was my first, as well as last, attempt at putting together a trip for anyone other than my immediate family.  The first problem was the date - it didn't work for one couple due to their own responsibilities.  Understood and accepted, however, since the trip was in honor of Tom's birthday, there really wasn't much I could do (without a time machine and the ability to go back to 1959 when he was conceived) to alter the date.  Sorry.  The next issue was that the space wasn't large enough to accommodate everyone.  Ok, how about if the folks who need more room than is available, locate a nearby place?  Wouldn't that be easy enough?  But, no, the demise of the original crew had begun and there was no stopping the death spiral as it headed towards Earth.  What a buzz kill.

Despite all the nonsense - the lack of commitment, the sometimes hurt feelings, the disappointment, the realizations about who you can truly count on, this trip is finally happening.  Next week we fly to Tuscany to stay in that lovely villa with three friends and three Lilly boys, of course.  And we are going to have a fantastic time.  More details to follow.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pedestrian Crosswalks

I work in a community that values their children.  It is apparent in the quality of education, and parental involvement, which I witness on a daily basis during the academic year, that children, and their lives, are considered important.  Perhaps this is why I am still pissed off about an experience which I  had last week while driving to work.  I went to work a bit late since I had an early morning doctor appointment.  Apparently, it was the time of the morning when elementary students are heading to school and, as I drove down Cherry Avenue, I noticed a child on the left side of the road waiting to cross the street on her bicycle. Waiting patiently at the painted crosswalk to cross the road.  Of course, I brought my car to a stop and waved her across the street.  Now, here's the part that infuriates me in  perhaps an irrational way - the 2 cars who were behind me beeped their horns!  And the woman immediately behind me did one of those waving-her-arms-around-in-the-air sort of things to indicate her displeasure for my observance of the law.  Incidentally, her vehicle was much taller than mine, there's no way she couldn't see why I was stopped in the road at the crosswalk.  I seriously have lost count of the number of times I have observed vehicles completely ignoring the pedestrian crosswalks in the Delmar area, including the crosswalk directly in front of the High School.  Actually, just this afternoon a parent drove  right past me as I, in the crosswalk, attempted to get to my car in the faculty parking lot.  I'm sorry, but when that kind of thing happens, I have an impulse to yell.  Which, of course, I did.

As part of the improvements being made to Delaware Avenue in the DelSo, I have noticed numerous new crosswalks.  We are fortunate to have a number of schools in our neighborhood which, of course, means there are children crossing streets frequently.  Couple this with the simple fact that the DelSo is an incredibly walkable residential area since we residents have dining, entertainment and leisure options easily accessed on foot. If you read the paper, people seem to die with frightening frequency while walking. How about, as you are driving slowly through the DelSo, due to the ongoing construction, you each try to familiarize yourselves with the locations of the new crosswalks? 

So often our community and schools are compared to suburban areas with our urban resources being perceived as inferior to those of our suburban counterparts.  It really wouldn't take much for the DelSo, and the rest of our fair city, to exceed the respect bestowed upon pedestrians in the 'burbs.    Do you want to live with the knowledge that you hit someone with your car?  Geez, I ran over a chipmunk once and had nightmares for days! How about if we all try to be a bit more conscious of the people with whom we share the roads?  When it comes to white lines, remember - the ones in the road are supposed to indicate safety.  Thank you.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sunday Supper

The first time I had Mexican food I was about 12 years old.  I was at a sleepover party and tacos were on the menu.  I must have eaten 4 of them.  I was absolutely blown away by the crunch of the shells coupled with the tangy salsa and spicy ground beef.  Unlike my own children who basically eat meat and salsa, I remember loading them up with shredded iceberg lettuce, cheddar cheese and chopped tomatoes, and  I fell in love with this new (to me) style of cuisine.  Hmmm.  Good times only made better a few years later when I had my first visit to California and put together Mexican food with margaritas.

For yesterday's Sunday Supper, I revisited my love of Mexican style food with chicken enchiladas.  It was another overcast Sunday and cooking something fragrant in the crockpot was the perfect antidote to a damp, gray day.  The hubby had bought a family sized package of bone-in chicken thighs this week, so he tossed  (under my direction, of course) 8 of them in the crockpot with a good dousing of smoky bar-b-q sauce.  He turned the temperature to low and we simply let them simmer for 4 or 5 hours.  I then removed them with a slotted spoon (because they were positively falling off the bones tender) and shredded the chicken with a fork.  I added about a tablespoon of chopped poblanos chilies in adobo to fire things up a bit, put them pack into the pot on warm and then prepared the rest of the accompaniments.  Flour tortillas were wrapped in foil and placed in the oven to warm, a slightly under ripe avocado was sliced, some arugula was cleaned, sharp cheddar was grated and refried beans with adobo were heated through.  It was a bodacious make your own enchilada sort of dinner and you can see my version in the picture above.  The green drizzle is commercial salsa verde and added a little kick to a fine Sunday Supper.   Probably not the most authentic enchiladas ever, but they were easy, loaded with delicious green things and not overly dense, like Mexican can sometimes be.  Yum.

Until the sun finally comes out again...


                                                   Oh! To be a flower
                                                   Nodding in the sun,
                                                   Bending, then upspringing
                                                   As the breezes run;
                                                   Holding up
                                                   A scentbrimmed cup,
                                                   Full of summer's fragrance to the summer sun...

                                                                                  Amy Lowell

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Summer Reading

I've been on a roll reading and thought I'd share a couple of titles with those of you looking for a good beach book or 2.  Although I generally read a pretty even mix of fiction and nonfiction (particularly biographies), the last three books I've read are all fiction.  Escapism is good, know what I mean?

Have you read Steig Larsson's Milennium series?  If not, what are you waiting for?  The series began with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, continued with The Girl who Played with Fire and seemingly concluded with the recently translated and published, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.  The author's personal circumstances are pretty interesting, and also more than a bit tragic, which only adds to the mystique created by his outstanding series.  Steig Larsson was a Swedish journalist, like his protagonist Mikael Blomkvist,  and both were devoted to uncovering corruption and correcting injustices. Blomkvist becomes intimately connected to an antisocial, computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander, and together they expose a far reaching government plot designed to protect the undeserving at the expense of the vulnerable.  These are terrific books, well written, with characters who leap off of the page.  Lucky you, if you haven't read any of them yet - because now you have three great books to read this summer!  There is a 4th book, that Larsson left incomplete upon his unexpected death, which may someday be released but, for now, the series originally projected to include 10 titles, culminates with book three. 

Are you familiar with the father/son books Beautiful Boy and Tweak?  These are nonfiction accounts of a family's struggles with substance abuse and addiction and were published about five years ago.  They are popular books in my library and circulate regularly.  Anne Lamott has created a fictionalized account of a family and their realization that their 17 year-old daughter is more than a recreational partier in the novel Imperfect Birds.  This is one of those books that breaks your heart a little more with each page and I really enjoyed Lamott's writing.  I was surprised to learn that this book is actually related to two previous Lamott works (Crooked Little Heart and Rosie) published quite a few years ago, but I certainly didn't sense that I was missing any necessary foundation material.  A terrific story told in realistic voices which continue to resonate after the final page has been turned.

When I really grow up, I seriously want to be Anna Quindlen.  I've been reading her writing for many years and I love her ability to sensitively tell a story which contains both everyday  normalcy, as well as horrific situations.  I love, love, love her writing.  She truly understands the fragility of life and demonstrates an acceptance of the flaws which we each possess and I find her inspiring.  This novel begins by describing the ordinary circumstances of a family of five, their daily activities and their concerns and aspirations for the future.  As the book continues, an act of extreme violence occurs and Mary Beth Latham must consider where and when the original seeds of destruction were planted, and how to continue in a life dramatically changed. I could not put this book down and found myself re-reading particular passages to simply absorb the beauty of the language Quindlen masterfully uses.  Please publish another book soon, Anna.

So - go forth and read!  And don't forget to share your recommendations here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

On parasites and pregnancy and cancer(s)

When I learned I was pregnant with my oldest son, I was surprised and thrilled.  Surprised, because I had taken a number of pregnancy tests with negative results, and thrilled, because my only request for my 30th birthday was to be pregnant.  Mission accomplished.  While I was deeply excited with the knowledge that my beloved and I were venturing down a previously unexplored path together, there was a smidgen of something else that I was feeling; something small and irrational...a sense that something foreign was germinating inside of me.  A parasite of unimagined proportions which was growing in a way that made me a bit uncomfortable.  There were so many things that could go wrong that if I allowed my mind to take off,  I was quickly overwhelmed.  So, I talked myself down from the ledge and chose to think positive thoughts only.  We know where that got me.

Last week, I left the hospital in a pretty good mental way.  The surgeon was very optimistic that my tumor was benign and that the pathology report would only confirm her impressions.  Sitting in her office this morning I reflected on the week since my surgery.  I thought about how well I had been sleeping after weeks of insomnia.  I considered that maybe I shouldn't have been quite so quick to embrace the good news, perhaps I should have held off on the internal congratulations I had been quietly enjoying this past week.  Maybe she was wrong and that little lump of tissue was hiding some secret vengeance, poised to do damage to my body for reasons I will never understand.  And it was.  Malignant.  Again. 

But,  its gone - relegated to a slide to be studied and evaluated and appraised by "the team."  I don't need any further treatment at this point - no chemo or radiation, just monitoring with a frequency reminiscent of pregnancy.  I haven't cried yet, but I know I will. I just don't like witnesses.

So, what have I learned 14 years, 3 children and 2 cancers later?   Well, there are things that are wonderful and amazing that have grown inside of me and there are things which are scary and ugly.  I remember moments after Liam's birth when I wished he were back inside my womb, safe and protected, while I have felt nothing but relief to expel the traitorous cells that together make a cancerous tumor.  There are some things that leave my body behind and become individual, independent beings whom I celebrate, and there are those that leave my body by a force sharper than labor pains and take with them pieces of my psyche that , unfortunately, I don't expect to truly possess ever again.  

Thank goodness that I had that third sweet, baby boy because the score is still in my favor:  Lives Created = 3, Cancer Experiences = 2.  And life goes on.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Class of 2010

The academic year is drawing to a close.  While there were times when I thought June would never arrive, of course, it did and with its arrival  I begin to feel a  familiar mixture of sadness and excitement.  Working with teenagers is a privilege and I truly love watching these kids grow up - what an amazing thing it is to see their eyes open and their wings unfurl.  Boys whom I first came to know as gangly freshman, are now semi-self-assured seniors, heading out to greet, and perhaps conquer, the world.  Awkward girls are growing into their powers and taking measure of what is the appropriate amount of self to give away.  So much hope and promise, so many goals and dreams.

Walking through the hallways is a melancholy stroll as the display cabinets which formerly boasted of our students' talents now reflect emptiness.  Their absence is already apparent.  The genius which had been duly exhibited for public appreciation has now been removed as the students prepare for their next step in life.   I've witnessed this transition more than a dozen times, yet each year it feels as if I am freshly experiencing this cycle of growth and change. The summer is filled with exciting prospects, but, for right now, I will try to hold on to these last days shared with this year's graduating seniors.  You know I wish you all the best.

image from

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sunday Supper!

It seems like a looong time since I've cooked a family meal, but Sunday was an excellent time to jump back into things.  How about those storms?  It really was a wonderful day to hang around the house watching the London broil marinate, making a few quarts of chicken stock and folding bushels of laundry.  Last week Price Chopper had the London broils buy 1 get 2 free, so we took advantage of that deal and tossed a couple in the freezer while reserving one for family night.  I marinated the beef in kecap menis (Seriously - have you gotten any of this yet??  What are you waiting for??), ginger, balsamic vinegar and fresh thai basil for most of the day before tossing it on a hot grill for approximately 15 minutes.  I must say, the steak was beautifully cooked - medium rare with a bit of a "crust" on the outside due to the carmellization of the palm sugar in the marinade.  Delicious! 
I paired the beef with some fiddleheads I found in the crisper.  I honestly think they've been in that drawer for about 10 days, but they survived their exile pretty well, and they sure were tasty after some time spent in the pan with bacon fat and minced garlic.  Ok - so what wouldn't be tasty with bacon fat and garlic? 

This was our first "open" Sunday in what seems like weeks of commitments and I couldn't have enjoyed the day more.  And, finally, 4 of the 5 Lillys at the dinner table ate the main course without bribes or threats.  The littlest Lilly is still balking at  meats, but he did some damage to a bowl of egg noodles drizzled with chicken stock.  I pick my battles, and if he prefers veggies and carbs to being a carnivore, I can certainly live with it.  Hope you all had an equally relaxing, pleasant Sunday.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Troy Farmer's Market

Since soccer was canceled due to weather (?) and I am on temporary gym restrictions, I finally had a chance to get to Troy for a visit to the Farmer's Market. I really wish we could make it to this special market more often, but perhaps it remains a treat because we get there so infrequently. I was on a bit of a mission yesterday seeking pumpkin plants for the new raised beds the neighbors put in their over-sized yard. Of course, I couldn't simply limit myself to such a small task, especially when there are delectable, organic leafy greens and strawberries available. And even though my deck has been decorated with colorful flowers for a few weeks already, I could not resist buying a big pot of cheery zinnias for $5. Also for $5, I bought a loaf of jalapeno-cheddar bread for the hubby to assist in his carb-loading in advance of the 75 km bike ride he was scheduled to complete on Sunday. It is a little disturbing how quickly money flies from my pocket when I shop at one of these markets, but it is gratifying to know that the $$ are going directly into the hands of the producers of the bountiful produce and goods.

An incomplete list of items available this week at the market: maple products, plants and flowers for gardens/pots, early root veggies, cider, herbs, greens, cut bouquets featuring peonies, baked goods, handmade marshmallows and craft items and prepared foods.


So...guess which of these wristbands was the most fun to wear? I'll give you a clue - it wasn't the one on the bottom nor was it the one on the top, which obviously leaves the one in the middle.

I had my surgery Thursday afternoon and everything went well. The surgeon was very pleased and feels reasonably confident that the tumor will turn out to be a benign mass which makes me 0 for 2 in terms of predicting cancer, a statistic with which I am quite comfortable. The AMC experience was really quite good and I felt well taken care of, although I continue to be, quoting my doctor, "an anesthesia lightweight." So be it.

The green wristband is from the "Biergarten" at SPAC and, ironically, it is guaranteed to be the only speck of green within the fenced-in area where adults may purchase incredibly overpriced beer and wine. Calling it a "Biergarten" is such a misnomer - hello, it is quite clearly a "Beer Cage." I was still feeling the effects of the wretched hospital pharmaceuticals and did not indulge in overpriced alcohol, however, with all the crackdowns in place, this was basically the only legal place to enjoy (?) a beer.

Now, that polka dotted wristband was my ticket to fun! Despite being released from the hospital a mere 6 hours earlier, I was committed to making the Dave Matthews Band show at SPAC, particularly since Dave is taking next summer off. I've lost count of how many DMB shows I've seen over the years, but they're always a good time, unless, of course, you're a puking or passed out dumb ass kid. Speaking of which, I really wish folks would embrace the concept of moderation, believe me, we would all have a better time. We had awesome balcony seats (my preference after the year when the frat boys rushed from the lawn into the amphitheater like a bunch of snot nosed, entitled brats), and I genuinely enjoyed the show until I hit the proverbial wall. Not staying for the entire show was beat, but I consoled myself with the fact that I would be chaperoning the senior ball the very next evening at the Hall of Springs, and the knowledge that I would be in better form for the Bethel Woods show in July. Overall, it wasn't the best DMB show I've ever seen, but it sounds like the last 45 minutes were smoking. If anyone has an extra recording, please pass it my way...

Thank you for all the positive thoughts and well wishes which came my way. I truly appreciate it. Summer 2010 is beginning to look better and better. :)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Eating - NYC Edition

When I go to the city with the girls, food usually comes in second or third place, in terms of priorities. I mean, we all like to eat and enjoy a good meal, but shopping and drinking destinations (not necessarily in that order) usually trump dining options. Fortunately, we know our way around the city pretty well and can always find a restaurant that fits in with the rest of our itinerary of debauchery.

The West Village and Chelsea are my most familiar stomping grounds, but, this trip was more midtown based. Did I mention we stayed at the Roosevelt? This is a great location if you're coming into Grand Central Station and if you're obsessed with Don Draper, since this is where he generally stays when he and the wife are having problems. I Pricelined the room and stole it for $150, leaving plenty of cash for other pursuits.

Since one of the girls wanted to check out her friend's jam session at P and G Cafe, we were kind of committed to the UWS. Rosa Mexicano's Lincoln Center location was the perfect choice for a delicious, reasonably priced meal. Despite not having a reservation, we easily scored a lovely table upstairs and were well taken care of for the duration of our meal. We ordered indulgently and shared everything, starting with the guacamole, which is made tableside and served with a basket of warm handmade tortillas. Fantastic, as always. We also had an order of Zarape de Pato (Layered Duck Tortilla Pie) and the Tortilla Soup. The duck was incredible - tender, moist and extremely flavorful. I had never had Tortilla Soup before and am glad I waited to lose my "virginity" at Rosa Mexicano - complete satisfaction. We had three entrees served simultaneously - the Tablones (beef short ribs), and 2 enchilada variations; Suizas (chicken) and Jaiba (jumbo lump crab). It was the perfect amount of food for 4 hungry ladies trying to create a solid base for alcohol consumption and very little food was left behind. The short ribs were amazingly tender with a bit of smoky heat and the quality of the food and service were excellent.

On Day 2 we (and when I say "we", "she" knows whom I'm talking about) weren't feeling up to much of a meal early on. Breakfast was assorted deli food (bagel, fruit, yogurt, etc) enjoyed in beautiful Bryant Park. NYC travel trip: Bryant Park has the nicest public restrooms I've ever seen in the city. There was a washroom attendant who did not have a tip jar anywhere visible, but, I would have happily paid $1 to use the facilities - they really were that nice.

After our High Line jaunt we dropped into Colicchio & Sons for a beverage. I have zero experience with Tom Colicchio's food (being more of a Batali/Meyer whore), but I will definitely get back here with the hubby. The space was really nice, the menu was excitingly different and the beer and wine selections awesome. I had a glass of Rose' from Abruzzo which was perfectly refreshing on a hot afternoon. Our bartender, Erik, was hospitable and represented the restaurant really well. So well in fact, that I dropped a McGuire's business card on him and hope that he comes to Albany someday so I can return the professional courtesy.

We ended up grabbing lunch at the Grey Dog on W. 16th Street. Their menu was varied enough to make everyone happy and the food is fresh and reasonably priced. The tuna and avocado tacos were killer and the other items at my table (Cobb Salad, a Cuban pressed sandwich of pulled pork, ham and cheese, and a turkey sandwich) all looked tremendously appealing.

These Girl Trips to the city, or, as we were jokingly calling it "No-Sex in the City," are infrequent but consistently the best times. We return to our lives equally refreshed and exhausted - the perfect little escape until the next opportunity arises. How about you? Where do you go to recharge your fun battery?

High Line

It seems like I've been hearing about the High Line for awhile. Kind of a buzz that keeps growing in volume until it can no longer be ignored. A recent overnighter, with the girls, in NYC provided the perfect opportunity to finally explore this abandoned elevated rail line - and it really was spectacular. The High Line begins at the 34th street between 10 and 11th Avenues, but this northern piece is not yet open to the public. The accessible area, known as Section 1 runs from 20th street to Gansvoort and has a number of access points, including elevator service at both 14th and 16th Streets.

The day we visited was hot and sunny, yet the breeze coming off of the Hudson made the walk completely tolerable. The path was bordered with flowers and decorative grasses and there were panoramic views of the skyline and the river. We were concerned that the sun would be too blazing hot, but, honestly, it was delightful, even on a morning after a night of tequila. There is an area that is semi enclosed where the wind was downright gusty, but we had no choice but to pause and admire the beautiful stained glass mosaic windows that lined one side of the "shed."

As a park, the High Line is very much a work in progress. A water feature is currently being constructed and, obviously, there are about 14 more blocks of rail to be renovated and opened to the public before this attraction can be considered "finished," but, if you're looking to gain a new perspective on Chelsea, don't hesitate to visit NOW.