Thursday, December 29, 2011


image from wikipedia
I'm calling this in. From paradise aka Palm Springs, CA. There may be more typos than usual. I may be almost sipping my second margarita. I am, without a doubt,


1. To be alive, the ultimate blessing, but so infrequently  appreciated in a conscious fashion. Sometimes the lack of appropriate acknowledgment of what a gift life is comes from a place of ignorance, kitten eyes not yet opened. Other times it is a more conscious decision. Looking too closely can be traumatic for all involved. But, when you see that place inside of you come alive again after the drought that had been your daily life, you understand. 

2. Love. Giving it, receiving it, feeling it, seeing it, tasting it. Yep, love

3. Strength - being able to propel one's way through life is a gift. Period.

4. The opportunity to travel and visit places both new and familiar.

5. An appreciation of beauty. In so many ways.

6. Optimism. I really do believe it is all going to be all right.  And if it isn't, I've always got my strength.

7. Discipline. Not in a dominatrix  sort of way. Sorry, fellas! I just know and accept that some things have to happen. Responsibilities and commitments have to be respected. Always. 

8. Creativity. I can look into a refrigerator with 6 eggs, a hunk of cheese and some leftover ham and give you 3 courses. Easy. I can figure stuff out. I sometimes make attractive things - beyond those boys. 

9. The knowledge that happiness is good.  And possible.

10. The ability to hope. Imagine being hopeless?  That is a sad state of being.

11.  Friends who love me long and hard. No, really. In the purest of senses. Their position as last in my list is a testament to their position as a part of me. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Long and low short ribs

When I placed my order at Falvo's for my Christmas Eve ham, I decided to add another something special for the boys' dining pleasure - and my convenience, beef short ribs. I don't know much about these succulent hunks of tender beef other than I prefer them when they are on the bone and that, until recent years when they became kind of trendy, they were always a bargain cut of meat. I paid $5.19 a pound and bought "8 bones" to feed three boys and myself, with leftovers.

The natural method of cooking these beauties is braising or in the slow cooker. I began by dredging them in flour and browning on each side in a splash of olive oil.

I did this in small batches and placed them in the crockpot as they finished. When all of the meat was browned, I deglazed the pan with a combination of red wine and beef stock, allowing it to reduce slightly.

I added some baby carrots and onions to the crockpot along with fresh rosemary and some small whole garlic cloves. I turned the crockpot to low and cooked them all night, waking intermittently and thinking to myself "Oh my goodness! What is that delicious aroma?"

In the morning I removed the meat and vegetables with a slotted spoon and placed them in my Le Creuset in the fridge for the day. I wanted a chance to skim off the substantial fat the ribs had released, so the "gravy" went into the fridge as well. An hour before dinner, I poured the de-fatted gravy over the ribs, covered the Le Creuset and placed them in the oven at 325.

Dinner is served! Aren't they gorgeous? This is winter cooking at its finest - hearty, fragrant and reminiscent of simpler times. Try this and thank me later.

11 Things I love about the Capital District (part 1)

11 Things I love about the Capital District (part 1)

Thursday, December 22, 2011


There's no place like ___________.

 _________ for the holidays.

_________ is where the heart is.

Each of these phrases suggest that home is a place, something with a distinct location, probably with a zip code.  At this time of the year our thoughts often turn to that place as we plan where we are going to spend our holidays, and reflect on years gone past.  Home, yet another of those 4-letter words that can mean so many things to so many people. 

But is home really a place?  Isn't home more a state of being than an actual location? Personally, I know that the first image that enters my mind when I hear the word "home" is of my childhood home, Greenwood Lake, N.Y. We lived in a number of different houses, so I don't imagine a particular residence. Instead, I recall a time period in my life, friends, and experiences that shaped me into who I am today. Despite my having resided in Albany for more than 20 years, on some level Greenwood Lake will always be home - and I'm a member of the Facebook Group to prove it. The other evening, I was walking around my house, my home of the last 15 years, admiring the holiday lights and the tidy quiet that temporarily makes me notice the boys' absence a little bit less. I had such a sense of peace and belonging that the first word that came to my mind was...home. Happy sigh.

Do you remember how Glinda defined home for Dorothy?

"Home is a place we all must find, child. It's not just a place where you eat or sleep.
Home is knowing. Knowing your mind, knowing your heart, knowing your courage.
If we know ourselves, we're always home, anywhere."

With that timeless piece of wisdom in mind, I sincerely wish you each have the chance to be home for the holidays and, more importantly, each and every other day of the year as well. And, although I won't be in GWL or in my DelSo home, or even with many of the people I truly love when night falls on Christmas, I know I'll be home nonetheless.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The weekend that was...and what a weekend it was!

Wow - upstate NY, what's good? Oh, you want to show me all weekend long?  You're on! 

Friday afternoon began post-work, when I picked up my race packet for Saturday's 15th annual Last Run 5k.  The process was well organized and the volunteers were friendly and helpful.  Swag in hand, I headed to the Shaker Meeting House, with a like-minded friend, on an earnest search for the perfect tree topper.  Motivated by the belief that there is much to look forward to, a star was the goal.  We left empty-handed, but confident in the knowledge that waiting for the perfect beacon of light isn't always a hopeless act.

Sonya Kitchell
I stopped at the grocery store on my way back to the DelSo and got the fixings for pizzas.  Within 90 minutes, I was back in my car, boys fed and lipstick on, heading for Hudson and dinner at Swoon.  I met two friends, one old, the older even older.  We had a super dinner.  The ambiance was cozy with a kind of blurred around the edges feel to it like a sepia tinted photograph.  From there, it was to Club Helsinki for a show which was disappointingly abbreviated for us due to the leisureliness of our meal.    And this was Friday.

Saturday was productive, yet remarkably unhurried.  I even snuck in a visit to Marshall's!  I must admit, I'm becoming more accepting of spontaneity and surprises, something more easily accomplished when they both bring positive wonder. Have I mentioned recently how fortunate I feel? Blessed, I tell you.  Have you read this? If not, please do it now.  I'll wait.  When you're done, let me know who that sounds like.

Anyway, in the late afternoon my running ladies started gathering and we headed to the race course.  Dang - it really was cold!  The excitement warmed us a bit and we watched the fireworks, itching to run.  It was a great night, just a little wind, or rather a lot of wind but only in a couple of concentrated areas.  The lights were magical.  We celebrated post-race at the Wine Bar and Bistro in Lark.  My Prosecco was perfect and our beverage was the perfect time filler before we picked up our takeout at Jewel of India.  We opted for this place over Shalimar because I spotted a 25% off take-out orders coupon in the TU.  Price for our evening out in Albany? Maybe $50 each including race, drinks, and food.

All quality - other than the lamb, that is.  That was the toughest thing about the entire weekend.

Sunday was recovery in the morning and indulgence in the afternoon.  For the second consecutive Sunday, I did yoga at the Yoga Loft in the DelSo.  Yes, I can walk there. Following yoga, there  was a little mad dash to get to the Madison for the noon showing of Muppet Move, but we made it with far too much time to spare. I'd honestly prefer to miss some of the trailers. Post-movie, it was cookie baking and laundry and then a solid 4 mile run that felt great other than that pesky discomfort I've taken to think of as my IT band issue.

The cure for that running "injury" and the other demands of a true weekend?  That would be the hot bubble bath I'm just about to slip into with some quiet music, dim lights and thoughts filled with appreciation.  What a great weekend, what an incredibly blessed life.

Friday, December 16, 2011


Considering Liam's love for Fiddler on the Roof, it should come as no surprise that he pulled out the "t" word last week when we were having a discussion about when to get our Christmas tree.  Since we like to cut our own, and are believers that a tree should settle a bit prior to decorating, I offered (after consultation with the boys' dad), two options: Saturday afternoon with the four of us or Sunday with 5 Lillys in a 'vo*.  He opted for the second choice stating that we should all go together because it was a "tradition."  I agreed without hesitation, but did spend a little time later thinking about traditions and their importance.

When I recall my own childhood Christmas memories, I think about things like that wacky silver tree we had for a few years in the early 70's, and the special linens and dishes which only got pulled out once a year.  I remember the hushed mystery of midnight mass and eggnog sprinkled with nutmeg and packages wrapped with more care than I can ever muster.   Even after so many years, the images in my head remain vivid (perhaps that metallic tree burned itself into my corneas) and the season's festiveness holds a special magic I am happy to immerse myself in during the month of December.

The power of memories and traditions as an influence on our own actions and celebrations can't be minimized.  As a child I loved the tradition of Christmas cards - the special stamps and glittery excitement of what each day's mail might bring.  I myself have continued the practice of sending Christmas cards despite my annual threat to seriously cut back, if not eliminate the practice due to the emotional expense of getting the perfect photo and creating the perfect card and honing and continuing to perfect my list of recipients.  But it isn't really about perfection, at all, is it?  

When my son used the "t" word, it made me proud to know that, despite the upcoming dissolution of our marriage, his dad and I have been able to navigate our way to a place where our boys still believe in and respect family traditions. So, last weekend the 5 of us drove together to the tree farm we've been going to for years (our original place slid into the Normanskill some time ago) and we picked two trees for the first time. I picked a different type of tree than we've ever had - it is smallish and has beautiful long, soft needles that didn't shred my hands when I placed the lights on it in my slightly OCD fashion. The boys' Dad got a ridiculously huge tree which I would have most certainly done my best to veto in years gone by. I'm sure we both believe we have Christmas trees that are perfect but, more importantly, I know we have provided our children with imperfect holiday traditions they will continue to honor long after the trees have shed their needles and hit the curb.  

*a fond abbreviation for Volvo

Thursday, December 15, 2011

2 years of DelSo

Just about 2 years ago I started oversharing my life here. I had initially imagined a forum for multiple authors to contribute news, impressions and recommendations about our neighborhood, Delaware Avenue south. That's not quite how things went but, really, how often do we actually know the direction of our path from the very beginning?

So, 24 months later, what do you think? Complaints? Suggestions? Favorites?  Your turn to share.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Winter Wonder Lark

Just in case you haven't had your fill of half-naked folks running down Lark Street, a few of my shots are below. It was a great day of fun, charity and local shopping. Who says Lark Street isn't wholesome?

Pics from the TU's Seen Gallery (not mine)
All Over Albany's archive of photos

Monday, December 12, 2011

Do you believe?

The holidays are the time of the year when our beliefs are placed front and center. Our choice of words in greeting, be it Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa or a less committal Happy Holidays, suggest what we believe in. When we decorate our homes (and our cars these days) we express, on some level, our beliefs. The presence of an adorned tree, a menorah, a crèche, all of these objects convey a message about what we place our belief in.

If someone were to ask you "Do you believe?" what would your response be? Would it be, similar to the perpetual "Fine," reply to "How are you?" You know, the sort of question that garners an immediate and automatic assurance that of course you believe? Perhaps you'd assume their query was merely a whimsical holiday-ish greeting and not give it another thought. Or maybe you'd revisit that question a little later, when you had a quiet moment to think about it...

I was thinking recently about what I believe in. I don't really have a formal religion, (despite my having acquired the Catholic trifecta of baptism, communion and confirmation) but I firmly believe that there is a spiritual presence in the Universe that I can talk with to express appreciation, fear and hope. When I look at all the world's wonders, I am comforted by the thought that there is some sort of plan for each of us, which leads to my second belief... I believe that life's timing is something to be respected and accepted. When things come together in a fashion which can only be described as nearly effortless, it speaks to me. Accepting timing gracefully is not always easy - there are occasions when I want something to occur in a particular fashion, yet, am thwarted by situations and circumstances. Things happen, I believe, when they're supposed, good and bad.

And, at the risk of sounding like a Dixie Chick, I believe in love. Romantic, passionate, "I've got your back" love.  I would never renounce the years of my marriage, but, other than to try to catch a glimpse of the place where things began to go awry, I wouldn't want to revisit that time because I believe in the possibilities the future holds.  I believe in living a full life, not merely an existence.  I believe in intentions and decisions made.  I believe in me.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Art of Running in the Rain

Fun as a kid ~ fun as an adult
There was a time when I only was able to run on flat roads. I sought out routes that consisted of level surfaces avoiding even the slightest incline. Then I ran in the hills of Palm Springs and realized that scrambling over rocks and gaining elevation added to my running joy. I began to incorporate hills into my runs and grew stronger.

I used to allow the heat to discourage me from running. As the temperature increased, my interest in adding my own sweat to the pervasive humidity that is upstate New York in July, diminished and I easily abandoned my intentions to get some exercise. But then I discovered that a steady pace, and the relative coolness of the evening, allowed me an opportunity to stretch my legs despite the heat and my opportunities for running grew broader.  Running in cold weather and precipitation never held any appeal for me. I'd see those people out there and conclude that they must be crazy - plain and simple. And then the day came when I was committed to getting a run in and the weather did not cooperate. I considered my choices:
  • skip the run and feel crappy
  • drive back to Delmar for the third time of the day and jump on a dreadmill
  • suck it up and follow through on my original plan to run
We've known each other awhile now (2 years, but more on that in a future post).  Guess which option I went with?  As I parked my car on State Street on a rainy, dark early evening I was utterly convinced that I was in for a miserable time.  It was cold.  And wet.  Really wet.  I started walking down the block past the Capital and something happened.  Maybe it was the song in my ears or the holiday lights in my face, but I suddenly felt good.  Really good.  I was struck by a thought - what's so damn bad about feeling the elements?  I had the advantage of adequate attire and the promise of a hot shower to follow.  I wore quality running shoes and was fairly familiar with my intended route.  I knew that once I was completely soaked I couldn't get any wetter, so why not just yield to the experience?  

It was amazing!  I ran up Washington Avenue in a mercifully quiet rush hour, due probably to the weather.  I observed the shrinking Occupation and silently thanked them for their efforts.  When I approached Washington Park, my body felt warm and the festive, and charmingly corny, light display invited me for a private tour.  On foot, of course.  It was perfect.  The course I took, which was a modified version of the upcoming Last Run, finishes with nearly a mile downhill.  By the time I hit Swan Street, I'm practically at a lope, and by Eagle it's a full out canter.  Fully engaged and present - just about exactly where I want to be.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pasta Prosciutto

Why don't I eat pasta more often? I mean, it comes in about a million different shapes, is inexpensive, incredibly versatile and quick.  What is the matter with me? Last night I was inspired and freezing! after a rainy run and came up with a delicious, easy dinner that (finally) used up the prosciutto left over from Thanksgiving weekend. Behold - Pasta with Prosciutto!

To begin, I sautéed a few chopped cloves of garlic and about half of a large, sweet onion in olive oil. I really took my time with this to allow the sweetness of the vegetables to come out and to give the water time to get to a rolling boil. To keep myself busy, I cut my prosciutto into small bites and rinsed my broccoli rabe. Once the water was ready to be introduced to the pasta (I went with Campanelle or "church bells" on a friend's recommendation. Good call, my Italian friend.), I added the prosciutto to the sauté pan along with some crushed red pepper flakes. I had some walnuts on hand so I gave them a light toasting (with me, it's either a light toasting or blackened) and coarse chopping.
About 2 minutes before the pasta was ready, I added the broccoli rabe to the pasta pot to soften it a bit. Then it was just a simple matter of draining the pasta/broccoli and tossing it around the pot with the yummy olive oil concoction. I finished things up with a little salt, the walnuts and some fantastic grated aged Parmesan.

Welcome home, pasta.  I've missed you and promise to give you much more attention in the future.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Turkey Pot Pie, sort of

While my appreciation for Thanksgiving is boundless, I was at the end of the line with bountiful leftovers. Inventorying my fridge, I came up with a few chunks of sweet potatoes, some mashed potatoes, a small amount of sautéed mushrooms from Saturday's strip steak meal and some gravy. I thought I had some turkey, but other than a lonely drumstick, that had all been consumed by my "good eater" friend, Peter. Since I was mentally committed to preparing some comfort food, and I am master of the creative use of leftovers, I decided to make use of a couple of chicken breasts instead. The end result of my ridiculously easy efforts may have been the best pot pie ever!

Here's my technique: Unroll a crust and place it into a deep pie dish - or be all overachieving and make your own dough for a two-crust pie. Combine an assortment of vegetables, meat and liquid (more about this in a minute) and place in pie crust. The amount of liquid varies and unfortunately, I didn't make any attempt at measuring. I generally try to balance the liquid (gravy or broth) with the mashed potatoes to create a balance between moist, yet able to retain its form when cut into. In addition to using my gravy for inside the pot pie, I made use of it as a kind of "poaching" liquid, cooking a couple of chicken breasts in it due to my lack of turkey. I can't say how long I let them simmer in the gravy...maybe 20 minutes or so? Once they cooled off a little, I cut them up into bite-sized pieces and added them to the vegetables already in the crust, along with some par cooked some baby carrots. I checked my ratio of solid to liquid, thinking that the gravy should reach about the halfway point in the pie dish to ensure a steamy deliciousness when cut into. Check.

At this point, I showed my oldest son what I was making and he immediately dubbed it "Thanksgiving Pie." Fine. If that's what you want to call it, go right ahead. I topped the gorgeousness with the second crust and rolled the edges together and did my best to make it look presentable. I've mentioned before that crust is not my thing, right? I cut a couple of slits in the top to allow some steam to release during baking, and placed my pie in the oven at 375 degrees. I again remembered to place a baking sheet on the rack below my pie to catch any errant drips - yeah, me! After about 30 minutes, I increased the temperature to 400 and gave the pie another 15 or 20 minutes to finish getting all brown and pretty. I then called my neighbors and asked if they were hungry...

While I took a quick shower, I let the pot pie cool a bit and settle. Freshly washed, I grabbed my pie, some arugula and a lemon, and headed next door for an impromptu Sunday DelSo dinner with Ken and Lori. Their wine, my pot pie and salad, and another satisfying weekend drew to a close. Life, my friends, is good. Get some!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Admit 2

or perhaps I should say two admissions.  This weekend, for the first time ever, I agreed to be described with two adjectives I generally wouldn't use to describe myself.  At least not publicly.  The first was at a party last night.  The house was cozy with food and beverages and many familiar faces.  It was a nice party and I'm glad I forced myself out of the house, despite my secret desire to cozy up in a cloud of cashmere and watch a Netflix which I'm suddenly paying $30 a month for..huh?
image from:

Anyway, it was nice to spend some time with two of my fellow Vinoteca bloggers and I was frequently introduced by my co-writer (correct term?) and hostess, Claire, as a blogger.  I was asked a question I had never fielded before - "Why do I blog?"  With only a nanoseconds hesitation I responded: "because I'm a writer."  I don't even think I blinked.  And, I didn't even backpedal or attempt to qualify what I meant.  Damn.

Today I ran a modified version of the route for the Last Run, something I'll try to do one more time pre-event. Even though I never aspired to have a running partner, I thoroughly enjoy running with Chrissy.  It's awesome.  I've relented a little on my no-talking-while-running-stance and today we were talking about another woman runner, and I described her as a "serious runner."  Chrissy looked at me and said "Like you.  You're a serious runner."  Gulp.  That one was harder to swallow than the writer tag.  Maybe because running is newer, (I've been blogging here for almost 2 years!!) I'm not yet accustomed to belonging in this runner lifestyle.  You know me, I've embraced being illegitimate - it's what I know.  Smile.

In the car on the drive home, Chrissy and I talked about living in the moment as the ultimate expression of peace and balance.  Recognizing different parts of one's self is  an acknowledgement of who we are right now and, knowing who one is, is always worth the price of admission.

Fits and starts and finishes

I was a little worried about December. The holiday stuff was firmly in hand - presents had been purchased, cards ordered, the boys had even selected the Christmas Eve menu (ham and a roasted chicken) and theme (festive party in the afternoon), but the first day was rough.  Here's what happened after I went ahead and flipped the page on the calendar...
  • a 14 year old (not the one I birthed) asked me if it was my "time of the month."
  •  there were discussions about personal bleaching and drugs in high school from which I could not look away despite the mental discomfort (ouch!) they caused.  I had limited knowledge about one of those topics - care to guess which one?
  • Quinn's brand new $360 eyeglasses fell off of his face on the playground and were promptly picked up and thrown by a classmate, apparently into a black hole, never to be seen again. Sigh.

But, then...
  • Liam's appointment with his doctor proved that he has indeed grown by leaps and bounds. My skinny boy has gained 26 lbs in less than 10 months! Looks like he found my lost weight, huh? And it looks way better on him than it ever looked on me.
  • I picked up an extra shift at the Gastropub and saw an old friend I have been out of touch with for many years. And ate a terrific pizza - props to Dan McBain for his skills.
  • Saturday I went to the Crossings to run a 5k and had a couple of delightful surprises. The first was the presence of an unexpected fan at the start line whose pre-race hug provided warmth and inspiration for 3.12 miles. So far. I truly expect these feelings to last much longer. As I finished the race with my usual final kick, I overtook the woman I had been following for much of the last mile or so. When I checked out the printed results a short while later (personal best, 27:12, barely third in my age group!), I realized that my pacer was a childhood friend. Having two special friends, one from elementary school and one fairly new, present made the day, and the race, incredibly memorable for me.
Each day, each month, holds new promise and I find that the finish of one thing is just the beginning of something else.  And despite fits, the starts and finishes often have a way of  making me smile.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Thankful for November

While the 11th month of the year contains merely a single day for us to officially express our thanks, I feel compelled to acknowledge my appreciation for the past 30 days. What an amazing month November was! The warmer than usual weather provided the perfect backdrop to 30 days of fun and productivity - one of my favorite couplings.

I don't know how I neglected to devote an entire post to the best (it beat out the Sausage Fest by a link nose) party of the year - my brother, Tommy's,  Big Bourbon Birthday Bash celebrated 11/10-11/13 in Syracuse. Yes, it really took nearly 3 days to celebrate a non-milestone birthday!  His actual birthday is 11/11 so you can think of it as 1 day of festivities per 11 in the date.  Or simply think of it as a slightly selfish, valiant attempt at reliving our youth - with the benefit of disposable income. 

There's the gang - ALL these years later...

The theme of indulgence was definitely present with the trail runs I took this past month - Saratoga State Park, Albany Muni, Colonie's Crossings - no hilly path was exempt from my plodding feet.  You know I love running, but this trail running thing is kind of like running with the random cartwheel thrown in to keep things interesting.  Challenging and endorphin -inducing. 

And, then there was dinner with the boys was scheduled for the Saturday after the actual holiday and I think we had an excellent dinner.  The food was delish (don't you find this to be an easy meal to prepare?) and we shared our table with an appreciative friend - as the season demands.  And those turkey-stuffing-cranberry-arugula-mayo sandwiches always make me wonder why I don't roast a turkey more often. 

As the month drew to a close, I found it impossible to recall a better November.  Ever.  Friends, physical activity, food...all means to share love and honor life.  This must be the reason Thanksgiving precedes the holidays that have come to represent  a consumption of things, rather than a celebration of spirit. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Wrist Corsage

I finally broke down and spent $30 on a strap thingy (obviously a technical term) to hold my iPhone when I run and, of course, I'm having a bit of buyer's remorse.  So, in my inimitable style*, I'm asking some questions I probably should have asked sooner.  

1. Can I turn off the phone function on an iPhone 4?  I don't want to take calls, I'm just using an app (Runmeter) that I can't use on my antique iPod Shuffle or iPod Classic.  It's about the app/music capability of the phone.

2.  Where on your arm do you wear the strap?  Bicep?  I started with it there but it was totally awkward to look at when I wanted to skip a song or check my distance.  I could definitely see myself stumbling or tripping while running on one of those trails I love.  I eventually slid it down to my forearm area, but it wasn't ideal.  Help!

3.  Lastly, anyone else plan to run this Saturday in the Jingle Jog? How about the Santa Speedo Sprint? The Last Run?

* I have been acknowledged in the past for my sartorial style.   ;)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dynamic Duo

No, I'm not talking about Batman and Robin.  Nor am I referring to the deadly pairing of smart and pretty.  What I'm talking about is the killer combination of stainless steel bowl and whisk, my ground zero for whipped cream, Hollandaise, roux and chocolate sauce.

How about you?  What do you find yourself reaching for with an easy familiarity when you're working in your kitchen?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Paper White Project - Week 4

We have fragrant blooms, people!!  It was seriously crazy how quickly these bulbs provided gratification, but what would you expect in a November in which the temperature exceeded the average daily high for 21 of 27 days?

Bethlehem Turkey Trot

We've already established that Thanksgiving can mean a lot of things to different people For some, the holiday tradition may include a physical activity to  stimulate the appetite or to help eliminate some stress. There are a number of morning races in the region, but I opted for the Delmar version because it is fairly new and thus, not too crowded.

I got to bed pretty late Wednesday, after working more hours in a single day than I had cumulatively slept in the previous three nights. Surprisingly for me, I wasn't particularly nervous pre-race, no jitters at all other than the frequent peeing kind. Come on - that happens to you, too, right? I was in good spirits as the holiday dawned and was very comfortable as I started the run.

There wasn't official timing available but I borrowed a friend's watch and did some self-timing. The start was rough because of general bottle necking and the presence of many dogs and strollers. I'd estimate that the first 1/3 to 1/2 mile was mostly spent positioning myself at a comfortable pace. My first mile was a decent enough 9:17, my second was slightly quicker and then I forgot to time my third. I felt pretty in the zone, though. After running the golf course a couple of times a week recently, the flatness of this course was a real lack of challenge treat. My finish time was 27:30 which shaved 40 seconds off my last race time and previous personal best*.

The race was really fun and I completely enjoyed seeing former and current students, silly costumes, and turkey fryers at the ready in a number of front yards. There was typical  enthusiastic Delmar support from spectators and I loved seeing the families and groups of friend running together. (Sorry, Donna!  Next year we'll stick together or at least have a plan to meet, post-race.)  Next up is the Jingle Jog at the Crossings in Colonie on Saturday, December 3rd. I'm looking for two more bib numbers before the end of the year which will make 2011, by far, my most productive year of running.

*sounds way less uptight than "personal record," don't you think?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday.  I loved the smells that wafted through the house gently waking me with the promise of turkey, to be followed by pie.  No two Thanksgivings were precisely the same, the faces around the table varied, but there was a familiar quality to the day - watching the parade while playing a board game, helping with dinner preparations by staying out of the way until it was time to set the table. There was always laughter and a sense of sharing that transcended a mere meal consumed simultaneously.

I feel sorry for Kristi Gustafson Barlette.  Despite being one of the few people  "who actually likes her family," she doesn't seem to get Thanksgiving.  It isn't about the food being bland or the time of day it is being served.  Or even what we're wearing.   The significance of taking a day, (or a half day these days due to the commercialization of our national day of giving thanks), to pause and consider all of the gifts we receive, got lost somewhere on the way to her emotional in-box.

I don't mean to completely rag on KGB, but she does seem to court criticism and controversy in an apparent bid for attention and blog traffic. There were plenty of comments made on her post about this topic and many were in complete support of her younger, much taller Scrooge impersonation.  As I ran a flat, suburban 5k this morning, I counted far more blessings than miles.  I decided that what I really loved about Thanksgiving was that it reminded me of a second Sunday - a fat newspaper to leisurely read, more coffee, maybe something with bubbles scandalously early, cooking, football or music, people we love nearby...

I just finished having a late breakfast with my boys.  This is the second year I've planned a Thanksgiving that did not include spending the entire day with the boys, or the extended family to which they will always belong.  The fact that we ate bagels instead of  a predictable  mix of white and dark meat had no bearing on the value of our time spent together.

After a meal shared with my children,  a meal when Liam sang, with tears welled up in his eyes,  a beautiful version of a hymn he learned attending church with his grandmother, Griffin shared stories of himself - a 7th grader straddling the intersection of boy and young man, and Quinn shared his bagel and his last piece of pear, Thanksgiving remains my favorite holiday of the year.

Monday, November 21, 2011

As easy as...

Apple pie! There was a pattern to my cooking in recent days, a sort of pre-Thanksgiving emptying of the refrigerator to make room for the groceries necessary to prepare a holiday meal. I had some buttermilk I needed to use up, so fried chicken and pancakes made the weekend menu. My cheese drawer was crammed with odd bits of Gorgonzola, ricotta salada and sharp cheddar, a situation which begged for mac n cheese. And there was a collection of miscellaneous apples becoming sadder looking by the moment - perfect apple pie fodder.

I've stocked up recently on chocolate chips and pie crusts, two items that allow me to easily put together a quick dessert be it cookies, brownies, a tart or pie. I know that making pie crust (like pizza dough) is more time consuming than difficult, but I find myself much more willing to take on the task of baking with a little head start.

For Saturday's pie, I laid the bottom crust into a deep pie dish and got busy peeling and slicing a variety of apples - Empires, Macintosh, and Delicious, primarily. I was feeling kind of cocky (that's how I get after a long run. Blame it on the endorphins.) and didn't measure anything, there were about 8 apples, perhaps a 1/3 cup of brown sugar, a 1/4 cup of white sugar, a 1/4 cup of unbleached flour, and a 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg and a shake or two of ginger powder. I tossed all that together and then rather unceremoniously dumped it into the crust. The top crust was added and I did my best to seal the edges and crimp in a modestly decorative manner. I sliced a coupe of slits in the top to release steam and placed my rustic, beautiful pie in a 375 degree oven, placing a baking sheet on the rack below the pie's rack. I've finally learned my lesson about things bubbling over and making an awful mess (and smoke) when the drips hit the bottom of the oven. The pie took longer to bake than I expected, maybe 65-70 minutes. Maybe next time I'll use the super cool convection feature which I know nothing about.

The pie cooled a bit while we feasted on fried chicken and mac n cheese. Topped with French vanilla ice cream it was a tasty way to get both a fruit serving and a dairy serving into dessert. Wait - I'm not the only one who considers pie to be a fruit serving, am I? If that thought process is wrong...well, I simply don't care to be right.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Black Forest Bastards

Decisions, decisions...

No, I'm not talking about my brother and myself - I'm referring to the cakes I made recently.  Last weekend I spent some time with a group of very old friends celebrating my brother's birthday on the fantastic date of 11/11/11. The birthday boy has a large, comfortable home and a liquor cabinet which speaks of his fondness for bourbon and dark rums. He also has a hot tub, which came in handy both after the hilly runs I took with our friend James, and in the evening after one of our delicious group effort meals.

My one (semi)homemade contribution to the weekend's menu was my brother's birthday cake. When we were children, our mother would accept requests for special dinners and cakes on our birthdays and my brother always seemed to choose Black Forest Cherry Cake aka Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte. Although I must have seen her bake this cake a dozen times over the years, I had no interest in duplicating her steps precisely, a statement which can be used to summarize our entire relationship, incidentally. But, I digress...

Over at Vinoteca, I pretty much gave the directions to replicate this Meder family recipe.  The most important things are the Kirschwasser and the cherries.  And being with people you love.  

Paper White Project - Week 3

Holy growth spurt!
These paper whites are growing faster than Liam - and that's saying something!  As the mom to a boy who has shot up from a size 12 to a size 20 in the last 15 months, I recognize crazy growth when I see it. and these bulbs are definitely giving that teenaged boy of mine a run for the money.  

There's still time for you to get on board the paper white train in time for Christmas - or Hanukkah for that matter.  Aren't they the same time this year?

Inspired by this post, I stopped at Hewitt's yesterday and sprang for a gigantic amaryllis bulb, which I promptly stuck in a pot of soil.  It was a bit of a splurge (sale price $11.99) but I can't wait to see the gorgeous white flowers in my boudoir.  I'll keep you posted on the progress of that project as soon as something starts happening.  From what I've read, they're a little slower to get going but the payoff should be spectacular. What a treat - fresh flowers in winter!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cherry Water

Check out my latest post on Vinoteca!
Cherry Water

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cheesecake Machismo

Are words even required?

A couple of months ago (where does the time go?!?), I attended a fundraiser at LaSerre for the Starlight Children's Foundation and succesfully bid on a couple of items in the silent auction.  For some ridiculously inexpensive price, I scored a basket, donated by Cheesecake Machismo, which contained a pound of coffee ("Make your own damn coffee") and a gift certificate for a Frankencake, their name for a cake comprised of 12 individual slices selected from the daily offerings.  I'd been waiting for the perfect occasion to cash in and last week's epic party in Syracuse proved to be the ideal opportunity.

I checked out their Facebook page, saw the day's options and called ahead to have my order ready.  Although one of my personal favorite flavors, Chocolate-Chipotle was not available, I think everyone at the party would agree that what I ultimately selected was exactly what we needed to complete our night.  The flavors I chose, in clockwise order beginning at 12 o'clock, were:
  • caramel pumpkin
  • wild blueberry
  • cookies and creme
  • caramel brownie
  • raspberry Lucille
  • tiger stripes (Kahlua and caramel)

It would be impossible to say which was the favorite, but I assure you, all were gleefully consumed.  This place is a gem.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Drug of choice

I can't remember a more beautiful early November than we're currently experiencing. It almost makes up for the muted foliage season and the need to crank on the furnace in October to offset the chill from our premature snow event. Something happened to me this month, just like I've always feared since high school health class when I learned that one could become addicted to heroin with just one use. I've found my heroin in cross country running.

Now, granted, once upon a time, I knew I was born to be a gymnast, however I started lessons way too late to ever be competitive, so I competed against myself. Maybe that's when I became a non-team player. I remember one summer in particular, I practiced for hours with my friend, Brenda, in her cement basement cushioned with old mattresses, as she worked to perfect her side aerial and me my back handspring. I kind of lost my passion after an unrelated injury forced me to take some time off. There was an extended period of time when my feats were more social and academic than traditionally physical endeavors, which means I was too busy having a different type of fun to exercise with any real commitment. And then the babies came, which was an entirely different and engrossing physical experience, of course, leaving no room (or energy) for recreational physical pursuits. It was about mere survival some of those days.

I stepped back into the exercise world when the boys were in primary school, beginning with yoga. When I left my first class I remember declaring "I've found my sport!" I immediately loved it, the combination of physical stretching and mental quieting was just what I needed. Ultimately I learned that it really was all about the instructor and just couldn't work a class I loved regularly into my schedule. And honestly, I need to exercise more than once or twice a week and would find myself easily bored with yoga. I needed something more demanding. Spinning class met the requirement for physically challenging, but again it was about the instructor and their music and I needed more flexibility in my schedule - plus I hated the competitiveness necessary to get a bike. And I got bored.

The only things that really held my attention, and that I could do on my own schedule, were cross country skiing and cycling.  While totally dependent upon the weather and season, these two activities provided everything I seemingly wanted in a drug exercise - I could go solo or with friends, there were both local and more distant places to pursue these interests, I could literally do either on a moment's notice, modifying my route to accommodate time available and challenge desired.  And I could party exercise outdoors - something I found increasingly more appealing as I began to acquire the clothing and gear that allowed me to play outside and remain comfortably warm.   

But, now there's something new in my world - an activity I never expected to like, much less fall in love with. Running cross country has changed my world. Perhaps my passion is a natural progression on the path of health and well being I've been increasingly drawn to you as I age. Which is ironic in a way because when I'm trotting along a wooded path in a park or golf course, I feel very much as if I'm revisiting my childhood.  The sensation of being outdoors, observing and absorbing the world around me while  pushing my body to keep going, is amazingly invigorating and stimulating. Like speed with a slightly different, less erratic heart race.  

I'm never going to run a marathon, unless running 26 miles is 6 times more fun than running 4.5 miles, and I'm perfectly okay with that.  The pure joy (now I get it, Lucinda!!) I get from running solo, or in the company of a friend, allows me the opportunity to continue my lifelong quest to enjoy moderation in all things.  Anybody want to come along and score some endorphins? 

Crazy good cookies

I realized recently that I have a glut in my quick oats. What is that, you ask? It means I really didn't need to buy those 2 canisters of oats seeing as how I already had a nearly full canister. Must be time to bake cookies!

There is a recipe under the lid of the Quaker quick oats called "Disappearing Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies." It is a simple recipe and goes together quickly leaving plenty of time for creative embellishments. Yesterday I opted to toss in about a cup of butterscotch chips along with a mixture of craisins and yellow raisins, probably about a generous cup. I make big cookies (hey, if you're only having 2...) and I baked these about 12 or 13 minutes. The last batch I left in a little longer and they turned out more crunchy, not a compliment or a criticism, just an observation. Bottom line - easy, delicious and fairly low fat, I imagine. There's only a single stick of butter used, which seems reasonably healthy, to me, especially when you factor in the three cups of oats. You should make these.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

I may not look like I've got soul, but believe me, I am an appreciative fan of both the music and the cuisine. I particularly love the side dishes - okra and greens and beans, all cooked in a fryer or with a generous hunk of pork fat, naturally. Of course, eating this kind of heart challenging diet isn't something I often do, but, my boys are young and healthy and I believe in indulging children in cleanly made treats on occasion. Things like home baked cookies, Meadowbrook Farms eggnog and bacon from my favorite butcher shop, Falvo's.

Making this boy favorite meal is so easy that the most effective way to maintain its status as "special" is to make it with great infrequency. 2 or 3 times a year - tops. I cluster the occasions so I can reuse the oil and I try to coincide the festivities with an event that gets me out of the house for a day after the extended frying frenzy. I have convinced myself that the smell of fried foods nauseates me.

I initially made fried chicken when I found myself with leftover buttermilk after some baking adventure. Maybe scones? When I googled to get some ideas as to how to use the remainder of the .5 quart of buttermilk, my results leaned heavily to fried chicken. What follows is not a recipe, just what I do. Adapt to your own tastes, or like me, be a slave to your children's palates and go simple. Place chicken pieces (I like bone-in thighs) in a bowl and cover with buttermilk. Allow to soak in fridge for 12 hours to two days. Remove chicken from milk and drain on a baking rack over a baking sheet for 10 minutes or so. Heat up vegetable oil in a deep pot. Put some flour, salt, pepper and a couple of sprinkles of corn meal to add some crunch, together on a plate. White pepper and some paprika would be nice here, but the boys are still in a muted stage flavor-wise. It's ok, they're a bit of a longterm project.

Dredge the drained chicken in the flour mixture, taking your time to make sure the chicken is evenly and thoroughly coated. Test temperature of oil. I usually drip a drop or two of water in. You don't want spatter, just sizzle. Scientific, right? I cook the chicken, a few pieces at a time. Don't crowd the chicken! TUrn the chicken after about 10 minutes and cook for an additional 10 or 15 minutes. Since I'm cooking in batches, I usually place the chicken, on a baking sheet layered with a brown paper bag topped by paper towels, in a 200 degree oven to keep warm. Once that chicken comes out of the oven, beautifully brown, crunchy and glistening lips inducing, believe me, keeping it warm isn't an issue.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Shower of filth

Locker room showers

I have been sick to my stomach since yesterday morning when I read Maureen Dowd's column about the Penn State child sexual abuse cases.  She deftly wove a child's perspective throughout the paragraphs and, at one point, I literally threw the newspaper down because I was so distressed by the explicit description of one of the incidences of rape.  Yes, rape.  I'm sure you're aware that there was an eye witness to one of the crimes.   After hearing and then investigating the source of a repeated "slapping" noise, a 28 year-old coaching assistant witnessed a ten year-old boy being subjected to anal intercourse in the shower.  His response? He walked away.

Now, imagine that ten-year old boy is you (or one of your three sons).  Put a face on that child and consider for a moment that maybe, even with the noises being emitted by the running water and the disgusting old man who is raping you, he managed to hear the witness to this crime as he approached the horror scene.  Now, accept the fact that your could be hero, savior, walked away and left you to be brutalized by a pedophile.  

There isn't enough water in all the world's showers to wash away the filth that was knowingly present in Penn State's football program.  Perhaps those supporters of the program, and their rightfully shamed head coach, should consider who the innocent victims were in this situation and riot on behalf of the children whose only crime was being involved with an organization designed to provide them with "help and hope."

Monday, November 7, 2011

Getting all Natty Bumppo

Although I was wearing Lycra instead of deer skin, and had no intention of hunting, that was one of the mental images I had yesterday while I was running through the woods on my maiden trail run. Another internal movie clip involved my being in a Black-Eyed Peas video, but I digress...

Have you ever gone trail running?! Or perhaps I should qualify that question by asking if you've run on a trail in the woods post-age 10 or 12, not including running away from the police while partying on the horse trails, Laker friends. I'm sure it is a natural progression to move from playing in the woods to hanging out with friends indoors, but I am firmly convinced it is time to take it back outside, people. The complete joy of running on pine needles in the dappled light of Saratoga State Park has made a believer out of me. Give me more, please!

When I got the invite to join a friend for one of these "trail runs," I was hesitant. I don't run with a partner or group - I'm more a lone wolf sort of runner. I don't want to be responsible for maintaining a conversation or pace, choosing instead to let my little iPod shuffle dictate my speed. I'm also kind of a freak about knowing how far I've run - 3 miles? 4? 4+? I very much allow distance markers and, in the city, counting traffic lights, to inspire me to continue running when my body is more inclined to slow down. But, the weather forecast and the enjoyment I always get when I hang out with Chrissy, prompted me to agree to give it a try, with the understanding that I didn't plan to run and talk simultaneously. Ground rules in place, we hit the ground...running
post run endorphin high
Despite our not always knowing where we were going and being completely ignorant of distance covered, I can say with absolute conviction that it was one of my favorite runs ever. Chrissy and I are well suited running buddies and we wordlessly pushed each other to run farther and faster and up and down some really fun hills. There was some conversation and plenty of blissful sighs, as well. It was an amazing way to spend a couple of hours and I'm already looking for other places where I can get off the pavement and into the grass. Any suggestions?

Sunday, November 6, 2011


who doesn't love a luminaria?

For the second year in a row, I volunteered to pour wine last night at the Historic Albany Foundation's annual event, Built.  This silent auction and art exhibit highlights the use of vacant buildings in Albany and is a wonderful fundraiser, as well as being a really fun night. Mark Brogna, from Capital Wine and Spirits who donates the evening's wine offerings,  originally roped me in last year and I enjoyed myself so much that I asked him this year if I could participate again.  The attendees are seriously the nicest group of people I've ever taken care of - "What, no more Pinot Noir?  Ok, I'll have Merlot!"  I'm talking mellow and happy and appreciative. And, did I mention artfully dressed?

This year's festivities were held at the Cathedral of All Saints. Despite my having spent my first 2 years living in Albany less than a block from this magnificent edifice (if I gush a little it's just to make up for neglecting to give this building its due respect previously), I am sheepishly confessing to never having been inside it prior to last night. The cathedral is absolutely stunning and I think it is the ideal location for this event - can't wait til next year! My awesome neighbors, Lori Hansen and Ken Ragsdale were honored (along with Mark Brogna and John McLennan) for their contributions to Built over the last 10 years, which made the night that much more special. Way to represent the DelSo! The food, rumored to have been catered by the Lily and the Rose (confirmation, anyone?)  looked terrific and the brownie I indulged in met my criteria, which is - it must be able to be stuck back together in chocolate gooeyness.

A highlight for me, in addition to having some fun taking these pictures for the Times Union's SEEN gallery and the generous number of compliments I received on my vintage dress, was finding myself within a circle (natch) of women described by Lori Hansen as being "powerful women." A year ago, I felt very much like an awed witness to the contributions made by fantastic local women like Lori, Laura and Elissa, among countless others.  I am kind of amazed that a year later, I have been included in the same sentence as these ladies.   Built?  Yeah, I'd say I'm very much enjoying this life under construction.