Saturday, October 30, 2010

Lakehouse Halloween Party

My Joan Holloway Harris Impersonation
Last night's annual Halloween Party, hosted by Matt Baumgartner and Chris Pratt, was the usual rollicking good time party goers have learned to expect.  Costumes were mandatory and ran the gamut from super clever (loved the Scooby Doo Velma girl) to the trampy (there were way too many females there who made me wonder if they forgot their underpants) to the down right disturbing - I'm talking to you, creepy guy in the clerical clothing with the small child attached to your groin!  Eeeewww.  The music was great, although my ears rang for hours post-party, and my night was made when Matt, in his bunny outfit, laid a sweet little kiss on me.  Let's not tell him I didn't recognize him until like 10 minutes later, ok?  Not that I would just let any bunny kiss me, but... 
The bug juice was scary sweet - way too easy to drink.  I only had one of those bad boys due to the fact that I got  jostled and ended up wearing at least half of it - I took that as a sign to not wear drink anymore of that dark pink potion.  The beer was good, though and I happily quaffed one of those. Okay, maybe one and a half if you take into account the sips I stole from Quagmire.  

These parties (Champagne in the Park, Halloween, etc) in the park are such a wonderful way to bring people together in a space which is unfortunately underutilized. I only wish it happened more often.

Friday, October 29, 2010


image from
A couple of things have happened recently to make me ponder who I am.  Leaving McGuire's after 8 years, has been a very bittersweet experience and I think it will be a long time before I no longer identify myself as "Silvia, from McGuire's."  The other more profound sense of loss has, of course, been the situation within my marriage and the aftershocks of the B-bomb.  Being part of a pair, especially a pair who hold  somewhat public professional positions, has all sorts of social ramifications and expectations which are currently residing in limbo.  I don't know how to respond right now when someone introduces me to another as "....'s wife."  It just feels awkward and weird on so many levels.  And, yes, I recognize that my own propensity to be public about topics more often kept private, is a factor in my discomfort, but, for the record,  I wouldn't take back a single word.

And, it's got me thinking about all the separate qualities, circumstances and characteristics which join together to become our own personal identity.  How do we define ourselves, both privately and publicly, and how do our choices impact our ability to maintain an identity to which we've grown accustomed?  Which ones do we personally foster and develop and at what price?  The only conclusion I can make, at this point in my life, is that I'm a person who lives an open existence.  If you ask me to keep your secrets, I will, but please don't ask me to refrain from sharing my own.  The parts of my identity which I plan to display most often during this confusing, emotional time all originate in an internal place and involve frank honesty.  And, they are the attributes which I hope to always possess - along with my position as  "....'s wife."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cornish Game Hens

The conversation around my dining room table this evening:

     Q: "I really like these baby chickens."
     M: "They're not really baby chickens,  They're more like smaller cousins
            of chickens."
     G: "Yeah - who would eat baby chickens?  That's ridiculous."
     M: "Well, actually there are these things called Poussin..."

Ready for the oven
Despite (perhaps because of?) the philosophical and zoological discussion, the Cornish Game Hens went over big - particularly for such a small-ish bird.  The Purdue hens were on sale this week at the Chopper and Tom picked up 3, which were more than enough for the boys and me.  We even have 1 1/2 left for another meal - and you know how I like to cook once and eat twice. I have to confess, I haven't cooked game hens in a long time, perhaps 5 years or so.  And, as long as I'm confessing here, there was a time in my life, perhaps 25 years ago, when I was convinced that Cornish game hens were the epitome of dining elegance and they were very much a part of my entertaining repertoire.  They were certainly a nice change to our standard, chicken  thighs, drumsticks, breasts rotation, and I won't hesitate to toss a few in the freezer for a change of pace - particularly if preparing them can transport me like an kitchen time machine, back to the mid-80's.
By this point in our relationship, you know I'm not one for recipes for items like this.  It's all about the inspiration for me, and I had a hankering for couscous.  We had a box (or 6.  What was there a big sale?) of Near East in the pantry, so I made it according to the directions.  Than I added golden raisins, some ripe chopped pear, roasted pumpkin seeds, diced onions and paprika.  It seemed a little dry, so I poured in a bit of apple cider to moisten things up and, after rinsing the birds, lightly stuffed them with my couscous.  I used the remaining couscous to surround the birds and finished by rubbing the breast area (hope your web filter didn't just lose its sh*t) with olive oil, and then going a little crazy with sea salt and a dusting of paprika.  To keep things moist, I added perhaps  3/4 of a cup of chicken stock to the pan and then I popped them in the oven at 375 for about 65 minutes and they were perfect.
Juicy, flavorful birds.

The boys ripped into these with such enthusiasm that they definitely ingested fruit unintentionally - success!  And look what we can look forward to for another meal:
Leftovers rule.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Looking good, Nicole's

Have you been on Delaware Avenue recently?  After many months, the days of  avoiding the construction and related traffic back-ups are finally ending. The Delaware Avenue project is quietly coming to a close - and, boy, does it look great!  I can't decide which features I'm happiest about -  the beautiful marked crosswalks, the new lighting, the improved intersection of Delaware and Whitehall, the solar trash many improvements, both aesthetic and practical to choose from. 

It seems that the extensive road work has inspired a long term presence in the DelSo, Nicole's Restaurant,  to  make some positive changes to the exterior of 556 Delaware Avenue recently.  Although I haven't eaten at Nicole's in a while, my last dining experience there (1/09?) was positive enough for me to have sent a note to the owner about what a terrific meal my work group had at that time.  The service and food were really good and the kitchen accommodated my request for a half portion of pasta without hesitation.  Their Hazelnut Chicken is legendary and I've always enjoyed the Penne Sorgento and Eggplant Roulade.  Full menu here.  My only beef with the 3 restaurants closest to my home (Sam's Italian-American, Wine n Diner and Nicole's) is that they are all closed on Monday nights.  Come on, people, couldn't one of you  picked another day (maybe Tuesday?) to close?  As consolation, I offer the fact that I'll be at the Lark Street Bar and Bistro that night of the week, so we can see each other there.  Maybe I'll even see Carmella, Dmitri and Margaret (and you, of course) there!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

bulbs (hope) for springtime

On a gorgeous day like today, it is hard to imagine that winter with his annual dose of cold and precipitation, is hiding out right around the corner.  And, although Old Man Winter may have a few tricks up his sleeve, Mother Nature and I have a couple of illusions of our own -  don't you doubt it.  In honor of changing seasons and good things always being in the future, I offer you a simple reminder.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I spent a good part of the weekend de-cluttering, both literally and figuratively.  Eliminating a piece of furniture and its contents (vhs tapes), as well as packing up a ton of cds which are already stored in my iTunes, gave me a great sense of accomplishment and helped me to begin a new week in a good place.  I'm committed to continuing this process as I work my way through my home and it has been wonderful to allow myself to remember how much I enjoy a space which is tidy and clean.     The perfect accompaniment to a tranquil living space, in my opinion, is some comfort food that fills the home with a fragrant aroma, yet requires little attention.  Beef Stew was the perfect solution.   

Prior to cooking
I started by softening some chopped onions in olive oil to lend an additional level of flavor to my end product. I removed the onions with a slotted spoon and they became the first layer in my Crock Pot. I dredged about 1.5 lbs of stew beef (whatever was on sale @Price Chopper last week) in flour and, working in small batches, browned the meat in the onion-y olive oil. When the olive oil began to get a little sparse, I threw in ~ 2T of butter to continue the process. As the meat became brown, I removed it and placed it in the Crock Pot, layering it with chunks of potatoes, about 6 small garlic cloves (whole), peeled chunks of sweet potatoes and carrots. What can I say? I like orange.
Too much liquid is unnecessary - I left 2-3" unsubmerged
When the last of the meat was browned, I deglazed the pot with some Carmignano which had been opened a few days beyond deliciousness. As I scrapped the tasty bits from the bottom of the pot, I added a can of beef broth to the wine and heated it through. The liquid was then added to the Crock Pot and I set the temperature on high and went on my way for the next 4 hours or so, stirring every so often to circulate the flavors and juices.
The finished product
About 2 hours before dinner time, I turned the temperature down to low and took a taste of the "gravy" for seasoning purposes, adding salt and cracked pepper to taste.  About 20 minutes prior to serving, I threw in a half a bag of frozen peas and a couple of branches of fresh rosemary.  With a salad on the side, it was the perfect meal for football Sunday - and there are even leftovers to go in the freezer for one of those nights when I just don't feel like cooking.  And only one post-dinner cooking vessel to wash - which for a girl who likes to sit down without a sink full of post-dinner dishes to deal with, adds immensely to my dining pleasure. 


I like eggs.  Poached, over-easy, sunny-side up, baked, boiled and, of course, scrambled.  I think eating a couple of fresh eggs a week is an easy way to add important protein, minerals and vitamins to my diet and damn, it's so easy!  This morning I was feeling like something soft and creamy so the natural choice was scrambled.  Not unnatural orange (hello, Mayor Jennings!) eggs that are dry and powdery.  I'm talking about slowly cooked, constantly stirred, luscious eggs - the perfect start to a Sunday.  

I watched an episode of Julia and Jacques: Cooking at Home recently and was mesmerized watching Julia make her scrambled eggs.  She cracked the eggs directly into a generous amount of melting butter in a saute pan, and gently stirred to mix them together.  The heat was fairly low and she was in no rush to cook them, yet was cautious to not overcook them - a fine line.  I tried to find an online video of that particular episode to no avail - if you find a link, drop it to me here, ok?  Anyway, obviously I'm not tall enough to ever be mistaken for Mrs. Child, but I do make some mighty fine scrambled eggs.  Here's how I make it happen...

Melt some butter (unsalted is best, I think) in a nonstick saute pan over low to medium low flame.*  Use a fork beat a couple of eggs together in a bowl just to mix,  add a little milk or 1/2 and 1/2 if you're feeling crazy.  Pour eggs into prepared pan and settle in for some quality stirring time - I find the longer I stir the eggs, the tastier they are.  What's the rush?  It's Sunday!  As the eggs start to set, get ready to start adding whatever sort of deliciousness you have on hand.  This morning I had some roasted red peppers which paired perfectly with the herbed goat cheese log I found in the cheese drawer.  Just as the eggs start to form into soft curds, add your accompaniments and simply heat through removing them from the pan before they are completely done.  They definitely keep cooking for a few moments after leaving the pan, so keep your eye on this!  All that's left to do is add a little salt and pepper and enjoy.

*I've always used gas - you electric cooktop folks can interpret and adjust as necessary. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Graceful Zombie Walk

Even when something "bad" happens there remains room for grace.  Last weekend when I visited my hometown, (Greenwood Lake, baby), to attend a casual reunion of sorts, I think my friends who are in the know, expected for me to be a bit broken.  Don't get me wrong - there are some crappy moments, filled more with anger than with tears, but in general I'm really okay.  Remember - it's the choices we make following a blow that define us. Since I have the option every single day of my life to be the person I want to be, I choose this:
Me and Ginny trying to wave off a photo interloper

Rather than this:
Blurry zombie girl

Although this is essentially a silly post, I wanted to assure you DelSo readers that I am fine.  Life continues and each day offers new opportunities for happiness and peace.  I am surrounded by friends, warmth and optimism.  And - even though I have no intention of walking like a zombie, I did enjoy watching others plodding their way up Central Avenue yesterday evening.  Check out photos of beautiful grace and zombies walking in the album below.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Living outside of the box

image from:
I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.  I'm not certain when or how I developed that outlook on life, but it has served me well for many years and I have no plans to abandon this philosophy any time soon.  I find that sometimes understanding the reason for an occurrence is almost immediate, but other times it may take years to make the connection between events and situations.   I'm absolutely certain that by remaining aware and open, eventually the relationship between two seemingly disparate circumstances will be revealed and that brings me to where I am these days...

Have you ever felt like all the big decisions have been made in your life?  The questions have been answered regarding where you're going to go to school, what career you will have, who you will partner with and where you will live, how many children you will have and what their names will be... all the things you wondered about on sleepless nights and during sunny afternoons lying in the grass staring at the sky... all of it... settled.  And, if you've had that recognition - how did it make you feel?  Comforted?  Secure?  Or, maybe, just maybe a little trapped?  In Bridge of Sighs, Richard Russo described the feeling "...but, each of them had walked through an open door, then heard it slam shut behind them and the mechanism lock.  While neither regretted her decision, knowing the door was locked was disconcerting just the same..."  When I read this passage a few years ago, it resonated deeply within me and I immediately noted the passage.  I knew that feeling. 

Recent events have convinced me that I now have a legitimate opportunity to step out of the box which I've been living in and to explore what I want.  It is, of course, scary, but I absolutely refuse to be dominated by fear.  I prefer to focus on the liberating aspects of my current situation and will not re-enter the box, nor hear that door lock again, until I am absolutely certain I am where I want to be. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

NYC - Just like I pictured it.

Henry Street Settlement House
Yesterday I chaperoned a student field trip to NYC.  I've been on this trip a few times and always enjoy spending the day walking around the Lower East Side with 30 teenagers - no, really, I mean it.  Most of the kids have never been in this part of the city before (other than some Canal Street shoppers) and I like watching them absorb the culture and history surrounding them  The trip is part of an elective course called History of NYC and the students are each given an assignment in advance to prep for the visit.  The walk focuses on Chinatown, Little Italy and the Foley square area and the students are each responsible to research a site or address along our route.  They then must present to the class at their location, and we end the day by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge into Brooklyn Heights, where we eat dinner and meet our bus. 

Broom and Orchard Streets
Often the large group splits up for meals since we don't make any advance reservations, and my group was the non-chain, not-available-to-eat-in-Delmar, restaurant posse.  For lunch we went to an awesome dumpling place suggested by another chaperone, called Vanessa's.    Wow !  It was everything I want in a lunch - cheap, reasonably fast and tasty.  While there is some seating available, it was more a take-away place and we ended up eating outside, co-opting some nearby stoops.  I had an order of chicken and basil steamed dumplings (8 per order) and a sesame pancake for the grand total of $5.  The dumplings were tender and filled with fresh flavor.  The pancake was a bit thicker than I'm accustomed, but, in all honesty I was expecting a scallion pancake not a sesame pancake - duh.  It was fantastic - crispy, salty and a bit buttery.  Yum!  The kids sampled a wide variety of dumplings, soups and some wonderful looking sandwiches which used the sesame pancakes in place of bread.  Dinner was a quick bite on Montague Street.  We were leaning towards Indian, however, the Indian place was closed so the students elected to have Mediterranean - how cool is that?  I had an ideal green salad and a bowl of red lentil soup, which set me up perfectly for the nap  bus ride home.  Two self proclaimed foodie girls thoroughly enjoyed an appetizer platter of assorted dips and salads, although there was no way they could finish their feast in our allotted time.  No worries - it was packed up and enjoyed on the bus ride north.  I'm not an expert on this cuisine at all, but everything was fresh and well prepared, and our group was pleased with their decision to eat at Taze

Below our some pictures from our very full day.  Enjoy! 

A really cool market filled with delicious things to eat!

Old Synagogue
Dragon fruit

SVU was filming!
Brooklyn Bridge - random man

Brooklyn Heights

Cool view of the Brooklyn Bridge

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Coffee time

I don't know about you, but I haven't been sleeping that well recently, which makes my morning cup of Joe that much more necessary.  For the rest of you coffee dependent folks out there, just a reminder that my favorite coffee place, Porto Rico Importers in NYC is having one of their two big annual sales starting October 22nd.  The sale continues until October 31st and provides the perfect opportunity  for stocking up on high quality beans at a ridiculously fair price. I haven't received my sale promotion postcard in the mail yet, but during Peter's Birthday Sale prices range from $4.99 to 7.99 a pound for beautiful, intact beans roasted to a gorgeous hue of deliciousness.  My morning blend is generally 3 parts dark roast to 1 part flavored for a subtle taste bud stimulation and my favorite flavored beans (for those of you already considering what to get me for Christmas) are the French-Cinnamon Orange and French-Cinnamon.  And despite critical consideration, I do  prefer to start my mug with a generous glug of half -n- half.  Life is short and I refuse to count calories before 7 a.m.  Don't you tea drinkers feel left out either - there is a comprehensive tea selection in addition to the plethora of coffee beans available, as well as filters, coffee makers and other gadgets.  Mark your calendars and mail order yourself some morning (perhaps afternoon and evening, too - who am I to judge?) pleasure.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Looking Ahead

I guess I could be curled up in a little ball right now, practicing deep breathing as I attempt to clarify what I'm feeling and thinking, but, it really isn't my style.  While challenging situations aren't something I purposefully seek out, I have to believe they happen for a reason, and I find that often, surviving the shit storm is secondary to understanding and accepting why the skies chose this precise moment in time to rip wide open.

Through bad example, I've learned that letting go of the painful to ensure there is enough emotional space for the more joyous moments in life, is the way I prefer to live.  I've taken a few hits recently and there has been the temptation to wallow a bit, but every day that dawns brings me to a better, stronger self awareness, beginning with the knowledge that I really don't know where any of this is going to go.  Living in the moment is an incredibly difficult task for me, yet so worth working towards.  I think that the true realization that there is no predicting where things will be next week or next month or next year, allows space for right now to be present.  And that's what I'm working on. 

And, I've got some exciting news to share.  Beginning Monday, November 1st, I will be working Monday nights at the Lark Street Wine Bar and Bistro - with Jason Baker!!  It is going to be odd to be returning to the very same block where (I like to think) I held court for the past 8 years, but I am so looking forward to the opportunity which Kevin Everlath made available to me.  Stop in and see me!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Shine a Light

image from:
If knowledge is indeed power, why do we as a polite society, value secrecy over information?  How come it isn't more obvious that the more we keep things hidden, the more we yield our own control and strength in almost any situation?  Example?  Let's step away, for a moment, from the derailed train of my own personal life and examine one of the contemporary world's dark secrets: HIV.  Why is it necessary to specifically request HIV testing when receiving medical care?  I don't need to request testing for hepatitis (which is inherently more contagious) or Lyme (which will be the result of only 1 tick bite out of 100) so why is it required that a specific request must be made to determine if a person has been infected by HIV?  It seems to me, that by keeping HIV in the dark we are doing a disservice to human beings who have a disease, perpetuating the misimpression that they are bad people who have done bad things and deserve punishment.  In reality, HIV+ people are simply individuals with an illness, and if people can't comprehend the clarity of that situation, who really deserves the name "sick" more?

Or, how about people who smoke marijuana?  Assuming they are adults, why must they be forced to indulge in secret?  Does anyone really still believe that smoking pot, on a social or recreational level, is worse than ingesting tobacco or alcohol?  I've often thought that if every person who enjoys getting a little high, refused to be forced into a dark and cloudy closet, and instead stepped out and lit up publicly, something would have to change.  Why do we allow others to determine what is acceptable behavior for something we do as individuals to and for ourselves?  I truly believe if marijuana smokers collectively decided to no longer hide their enjoyment of pot, the denial of darkness would likely result in the complete decriminalization of personal consumption with limited possession.

And, to revisit the train currently off the tracks, if more people were open to discussing issues within a relationship, rather than hiding the challenges, wouldn't we as a species evolve into more honest and understanding beings?  If we knew that others shared our fears and frustrations, wouldn't the consolation of common experience supersede the vulnerability of examining our flaws and personal fault lines?  I'm sure there are people reading this and questioning the motivation of my opening my life for public perusal and potential criticism.  I can only respond that I know no other way than to allow the light in.  The future holds more than enough mystery for me, thank you very much.  I prefer the ownership of a situation over a secret, and will continue to blaze my path, torch firmly in hand.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

E.S.P. - or knowing something

Excitement.  Stimulation.  Provocativeness. 

If you've been in a relationship for any length of time, you know these are characteristics which often get lost amongst the piles of laundry and calendars containing far too many commitments. In the early years of a marriage, the loss of these ingredients is unimaginable, an impossible case of   "How could our love ever become a cliche?"  Well, folks, allow me to (over)share with you since it seems there is a conspiracy to keep these situations and emotions and personal failings a collective dark secret.

Marriage/relationships are hard to maintain as the focus shifts from one another, to the additions (children, property acquisition, career growth) being made to your circle of two.  The string which surrounds your pairing, regardless of what it is made, expands, stretches and on occasion, unravels.  Minus the emotions, it sounds so simple, doesn't it?   In our daily lives we unwittingly replace excitement with routine, stimulation with comfort and provocativeness with passivity, thus creating a perfect entry point for primal contributions to come from another. 

I don't believe the intent is ever to hurt the person we have vowed to honor, but communication deteriorates,  patterns and positions become firmly entrenched and the next thing you know, needs are being met beyond the boundaries.  I wish I could claim innocence myself - minimize my own culpability, but it would be insincere to portray myself in such a flattering light.  We each possess our own erogenous zones, and stroking between the ears can often require more effort than a caress in a more expected area of the body.  

I wish I understood why we (as a couple, as a society, take your pick) find it so difficult to ask for what we need.  Why do we expect the ones closest to us to permanently retain the telepathic connection originally forged in an earlier, more simple time?  

Effort.  Sincerity.  Patience

Characteristics which may lead us to the place we want to be.  Together.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Psychic Ipod - Heartbreak Edition

The shuffle feature on my Ipod provided me with the playlist below.  Really?  I mean, really?
  • Last Goodbye - Jeff Buckley
  • Our House - CSNY
  • Mysterious Ways - U2
  • Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying - Rickie Lee Jones
  • So Lonesome I Could Cry - Cowboy Junkies
  • Can't Find My Way Home - Clapton/Winwood
  • Low Down - Clapton/Winwood
  • Miss Otis Regrets - Ella Fitzgerald
I was talking to someone yesterday about heartbreak.  He had mentioned that his son was coping with his first heartbreak and he, the Dad, was informally polling people about how many heartbreaks they had personally experienced.  I took a moment before responding... Three.  I remember with the first one I was absolutely convinced that I was going to die.  How could I not die on a diet  comprised exclusively of tequila and cigarettes?  I dropped 10 lbs in a week and bought a teal blue Yves St. Laurent bikini in a size 4 and made it my uniform for beach drinking.  Which I did a lot of that particular summer.  I had a friend, someone I worked with at the time in a restaurant, and she told me I should never gain that weight back again because I looked so good skinny.  I couldn't be friends with her after that remark - skinny is not better than happy and the fact that she failed to see the heartache on the inside, convinced me she was not truly a friend - a conclusion I've never regretted.  

Heartbreak #2 was a genuine blindsiding.  I knew it wasn't working, going anywhere or providing light comparable to the heat produced, and took a step away only to be drawn back in close enough for the inevitable slap in the face.  I held fast to my non-smoker status after that one, probably still drank too much tequila and have memories of running through Washington Park to escape the demon memories, as the tears poured down my face.  I left town as quickly as possible and regretted nothing other than being so trusting.

The current situation definitely has earned a place in this unfortunate top three  list, however, I'm older and smarter and I now know a few things.  Like, I'm not going to die.  I'm not really interested in consuming excessive amounts of tequila - especially on a hollow stomach.  I'll more than likely lose some weight, although it probably won't be enough to get me in a bikini again.  The path ahead is going to be filled with optimism and anger and sorrow, decisions and considerations and conversations.  And there won't be any running away. 

Bear with me.  The playlist will change, I promise.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


image from
How incredibly ironic that I should discover marital transgressions on Columbus Day...   Perhaps it is appropriate - new things always come with some risk or peril, be it exploring a new land or testing the waters beyond the marital boundaries.  Discovering your relationship no longer is fulfilling is at least as frightening as taking to open water and setting a course for the unknown.  When you push away from shore, the place where you've been berthed for lifetimes, it is impossible to know where the wave is going to take you.  Maybe it will be a smooth sailing experience - minimal seasickness before once again arriving safely in harbor.  More experienced, eyes opened to both the beautiful and the frightening, ready, maybe even eager, to tie up again in safety.  Or, maybe, just maybe, there's no turning back and the new land where your ship comes to rest becomes your new dwelling without the option of ever returning to the placid waters you once called home.

People don't talk about the hard parts of a marriage.  How to maintain the flame that originally brought two people together and using it to navigate through times of darkness.  The resentment and history and disappointment that builds and becomes increasingly more difficult to throw overboard.  The weight of daily life which anchors the soul in a way that is more suffocation than safety.  Like other explorations, both literal and emotional,  this situation is taking me to foreign lands and I just don't know if I have the correct map in my possession.  To be continued.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A-Mazed at the Metropolitan

My oldest son watches way too much television.  The only redemption from all this television viewing, in my opinion, is that he has learned some useful and cool  information.  From watching crime shows like CSI and NCIS, he learned the fact that there are bomb smelling dogs and drug smelling dogs and that the Labradors that were pacing up and down the aisle on yesterday's train to NYC posed no threat - just kidding!  Watching NYC's NY1 channel obsessively, exposes him to cool events and activities in the city, such as the installation currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  When he asked me last spring if we could go to check it out, I readily agreed.  Yesterday was the day.

Since it was only Liam and me, we splurged a bit and bought Amtrak tickets.  There was actually some sort of special promotion going on and we were able to travel Albany-Penn for a total of $88 r/t, which was a fair enough price.  We jumped on the 10 a.m. and enjoyed a beautiful and comfortable ride to NYC.  Is there anything more majestic than the Hudson River on a gorgeous October day?  It seems like the foliage is a little late getting started this year, but, the trip was a feast for the eyes nonetheless.
Steps for the lucky folks who got tour tickets
We hoofed it up to the Metropolitan to rendezvous with friends, pausing on the front steps to enjoy NYC style snacks - a knish for me, a pretzel for Liam.  I'm pretty picky about my knishes and the ones sold in front of the Met have never disappointed me - fluffy potatoes, an exterior with a bit of a crunch and always served piping hot.  Delicious!  Our group headed to the rooftop and were thoroughly amazed by the structure, as well as the view.  The installation is only up until the end of October, but, if you can find some time to get to the city, I recommend it.  There were some lights strung around the sculpture so I imagine nighttime viewing would be pretty cool, too.  All the necessary information is here
We kind of blew through the museum on our mission to see this installation because it was way too nice out to be inside for long.  We'll get back down there as soon "Washington Crossing the Delaware" is viewable again and will be more thorough in our art appreciation. 
Bamboo and bungee cords

The next stop on our agenda was Central Park, specifically Strawberry Fields.  I don't know about you, but the shooting of John Lennon was one of those definable moments in my life, right up there with Elvis' death and the Challenger disaster.  In honor of what would have been his 70th birthday, we headed southwest through the park to pay our respects.  We were in absolutely no rush and paused frequently for playgrounds, bird filled trees and people watching.  
Shrine to a hero.

As you would expect, Strawberry Fields was filled with folks celebrating the life of John Lennon.  There were musicians playing Beatles and Lennon tunes in a seemingly spontaneous jam fest.  Tears were being shed by the emotional, as classic hippies shared their memories and voices.  It was pretty cool.  We stayed for a rendition of Imagine and Sergent Pepper's before continuing our ramble south to the West Village.  After fueling up at Starbucks, we jumped on  a train to Union Square to wander around a bit and take care of an errand or two.

We headed to Bleecker Street via Washington Square Park to grab a few pounds of coffee prior to Porto Rico's big fall sale which starts on October 22nd.   I think 5 lbs will hold us until we stock up later in the month.  You probably noticed we didn't eat very much - nothing other than those snacks hours earlier.  The truth is, I was saving myself for dinner at Lupa.  It seems that whenever I find myself in the city on a Sunday, I am drawn to this spot on Thompson St. for their Piatto del Giorno, Braciole.  This is one of the best $20 meals in town and I always enjoy their version:  Stuffed, rolled, tied, and braised pork shoulder. Here, with garlic, parsley, mint, lemon, cheese.  Seriously - are you kidding me?  It is so damn tasty with this intense tomato sauce clinging to the meat - fantastic.  I started with an order of broccoli rabe with ricotta to get my veggies in and then plowed through half of my entree before declaring defeat.  Liam had the Market Fish (Wild Striped Bass) with cucumber, which he definitely enjoyed.  If you haven't been to Lupa, I strongly suggest you give it a try.  We hadn't called ahead and were told the wait would be 45 minutes - we were seated in less than 10.  Our 3 food items, along with a perfect Bellini and a quarto of red wine my server suggested, came to a reasonable $77.  Following dinner we caught a cab to  meet another friend for a quick drink (and gifted her with my Braciole leftovers!) and rolled into Penn Station with 5 minutes to spare.  God, do I love New York City.  Looking forward to next month's trip with the ladies all ready!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Wheaties Schmeaties

Forget about some flakes in a bowl with cold milk - this is where it's at if you're looking for a Champion's breakfast.  Roasted asparagus topped with a lightly fried egg and a shave of Parmesan.  So good, so good for you!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sunday Stroll

After witnessing a beautiful wedding on Saturday, Sunday was kind of a funky day for me.  What better way to span new beginnings and potential endings than a literal walk across a bridge?  Exactly - especially when you factor in the gorgeous sunshine and my complete lack of schedule. The Walkway over the Hudson was the perfect start to a mellow day.

Aloysius was my promenade partner, and I must say, we are well suited walkers.  We scored a legit parking spot on the west side of the river and then proceeded to leisurely walk and talk our way east to Poughkeepsie.  There was a generous wind blowing, but the sun was shining and the air was the perfect mix of crisp and mild.  I had hoped the foliage was going to be a bit more colorful, but the first weekend in October proved to be a bit too early in the fall for really dramatic color.  .                                                                                                                        
The view north while walking east.
In case you're unfamiliar with this bridge, the longest pedestrian bridge in the world at 1.28 miles, here's a link to some FAQs.  What their website fails to mention is that there are some minor issues with traffic flow.  I mean, it isn't a big deal, but there aren't distinct lanes for the various types of traffic crossing the bridge, i.e. pedestrian, cyclists, folks with dogs and/or strollers, joggers...  It's a bit of a free for all, which is fine if you're a person who remains cognizant of others, unfortunately, however, we all know how increasingly rare that trait
                                                                              seems to have become. 
View from Caffe Aurora
Once we got to the east side of the river we decided to search out a good cup of coffee and some pastry.  Both desires were met at the charming Caffe Aurora, in the Little Italy area of Poughkeepsie.  I had a cappucino and a plain Baba which is a delicious sponge-y cake which had been soaked in rum.  It reminded of the cake I enjoyed in Tuscany and was the perfect degree of sweet.  After reading the Yelp reviews, I'm going to try a cannoli  for sure next time - calories be damned. We enjoyed our treats on their cozy covered front porch and were incredibly entertained by the conversation at the neighboring table between a few characters named Nunzio and something else that ended in a vowel.  Very authentic stuff.

I definitely recommend your going to check out this bridge and explore the local area.  The Mid-Hudson Children's Museum  is nearby and this handy map has more information about additional places of interests nearby.  This Cafe Bocca place has some serious potential and Janet's Jerk Stop looks like a cool cheap eats kind of spot.  And talk about a great name!  I imagine the next couple of weeks are going to be pretty popular ones for pedestrian leaf peepers, but you should still slip your walking shoes on and get yourself there.  Some more photos from our jaunt are below.
View south

Walking shoes?

Mid-Hudson Bridge

Friday, October 8, 2010

Normanskill: A Photo Essay

These photos were taken a couple of weeks ago before the rains came to stay.  I don't really think that many words are necessary to convey the joys of spending a little time with my littlest boy, our dog and some water.  The Normanskill Farm area is an amazing resource right in the DelSo which somehow feels remote and wild regardless of the season.  Have you been there?  Why not?
A boy and his dog
Some water
Shirt off, boots on.
Watering the grass

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Amazing Feat

I went to my first former student wedding this past weekend and instead of simply making me feel old, it filled me with joy and hopefulness.  The ceremony was sincere, honest and filled with laughter, as a wedding and marriage should be.  Beautiful. 

The wedding was held in the quaint Berkshire village of Lenox,  a drive of less than an hour from Albany, yet miles away in terms of acceptance and welcoming grace. The union and commitment, which we guests were fortunate enough to witness, contained the same components as many of the weddings I've attended over the years; beaming parents, stunning flowers, thoughtfully selected food and wine, celebratory toasts...

The fact that the relationship we all saw being formalized in front of our very eyes, was one between two men, was incidental to the sense of radiating happiness which all of those present felt.  What is remarkable, to me,  is that there are families where such acceptance is absent.  Or that there are young men and women who are so tormented by their natural sexuality that they opt to end their lives rather than continue an existence in a community which does not support them.

The traditional refrain of a wedding ceremony is "I do,"  two simple words which come together to convey commitment and promise. Well, I think I don't can also demonstrate commitment and promise.  Although I don't want to hijack Darroch and Michael's most joyous day to rail against the homophobic in our society,  people who believe their own sense of morality should be the only acceptable normal, I don't want to stand by silently.   I don't want to have to wonder who the parents are that  raise children to secretly videotape intimate moments between consenting adults and then stream them on the internet for the world to see.  I don't want to know that students in my very school have to lie to their parents rather than openly attend meetings of the Gay-Straight Alliance club. I don't want to read about another teenager committing suicide because they can no longer tolerate the brutal bullying of which they are made a regular victim.  I don't ever want my students, former, current or future, to ever feel they are not accepted and celebrated for who they are.