Tuesday, May 31, 2011

For sale: lifestyle complete with living space

You'll never imagine what's in here!  photo: Skip Dickstein, Times-Union
My friend, Will and his partner, Raj, are moving on to a new domestic project, which means their current home is newly on the market.  They've received quite a bit of media attention, with articles in both the Times Union and posted on All Over Albany, relating to their home and I don't imagine it will be for sale for long.  I don't write real estate ads, but, if I did, Will's would read something like this:

Will's kitchen
You know a couple  of things about life; it's okay to be different and walls only get in the way.  Your home should reflect these basic tenets.  Offered today is 328 Ontario Street, an urban oasis, architect designed, living space.  2000 square feet of impeccable attention to detail, yet maintaining a versatility to inspire your own creativity.

Unexpected and sophisticated, the space previously known as the Licensed Plumbers Association, incorporates flexibility, privacy and more organized storage space than any cookie cutter place in the 'burbs.  Perfect as either a retreat or as the ideal place to entertain.  Every amenity including sun filled stainless steel kitchen, walk in pantry, full size Energy Star washer/dryer, spacious Kohler walk in shower, uber cool bedroom Z-box.  Unique, conveniently located and completely secure.  There's only one of these and it could be yours.
kitchen office - check out those red cabinets!
What is impossible to convey without an actual visit to the property is the incredible brightness of the space, despite the lack of traditional windows.  Sun streams in from the skylights and there is a definite zen quality to having light shine down from above, while the eye travels unimpeded over the interior walls.  Tranquil.  This home won't be for everyone, but without a doubt, it will be perfect for someone. 

Z-box bedroom

Not enough words for happy

I haven't had a lot of words to share recently.  Getting my home together and my marriage amicably apart is rather time consuming to say the least.  It certainly isn't that I'm not expressing myself verbally - don't doubt the presence of words.  Words are very much being articulated, I'm just, refreshingly enough, keeping many of them personal.

There are times when a photo can easily step in to replace a volume of words.  The photo above taken on my deck does just that.  Two chairs, directly facing one another, close, but with enough distance for legs to be stretched out (perhaps even feet to be rubbed), a cold bottle of vino, flowers...

That is one happy picture.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend aka the weekend I learned to love running in the heat

I don't know what happened to me.  I've always been a lazy runner - looking  for the flattest, coolest running route possible is the way I've always contended with my need to burn calories and get high on endorphins.  I've never been one for  heat.  I've never enjoyed the sweaty, stickiness of it before, but something has changed recently....I'm actually craving hills and feeling some sick pleasure when running in the blazing sun.  Weird, huh?  

I think it began during my time in the desert last month.  The challenge of convincing my body to run up the hill in 85 degree heat was appealing to me somehow.  I was able to get right into the exact moment when each of my feet, steadily and slowly, hit the ground in their own constant rhythm.  I was so tuned into the immediacy of the exertion that I didn't even project into the future reward of running down the hill, down with a pell-mell joy not often witnessed in those beyond the age of 11 or so.  Bliss. 

These recent runs, a little later in the evening than my usual exercise time, have been gloriously challenging.  The sensation of the wind blown threat of rain has been idyllic - perfect running weather to make a girl truly glisten.  My muscles have felt fluid and my breathing has become more shallow as I improve my aerobic capacity.  I've been like a needle pulling thread as I've explored my neighborhood in an ever expanding circuit, admiring gardens, inhaling more flowers than fuel, stitching together the fabric of my community with each stride.  Very cool for a hot day.  Try it. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Delso House White - Summer 2011

I am a huge fan of Empire Wine and Liquor in the Northway Mall.  I like the owners, I appreciate their marketing, which is frequent without being irritating, and I value their customer service which always saves me time.  They do this Ship 4 Free thing which is an offering of 4 bottles of wine, shipped without cost.  Pretty cool, huh?  I don't bother to have them ship to me, (why waste the resources?) but I do like the idea that they are selecting wines for me and I can avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed when faced with shelf upon shelf of bottles.  Vino overload!
I planned to pick up my four bottles of Ship 4 Free Chardonnay last Friday and decided to check in on the Empire website to see what else I could add to my order. This little gem attracted my attention and, on a whim, I added 6 bottles to my order. I mean, really, Chenin Blanc, Viognier, 90 points from Robert Parker, less than $9 a bottle  - why not?  Well, looks like I'll be picking up a few more bottles of this perfect summer swilling  sipping wine!  The flavor is floral and mildly fruity making it perfect with food (like the arugula salad I served for Sunday's brunch) or for enjoying sans food. 

Steve Barnes had a recent post on his Table Hopping blog about "chef driven" wine lists and the Pine Ridge appears on the recently updated New World Home Cooking wine list for $34 a bottle or $9 a glass.  I know I'm new to the wine buying game (but I am trying to make up for lost time!), but the pricing seems a little excessive to me.  Isn't there a loose rule about making the bottle cost in 2 pours or something like that?  I understand that Empire does tremendous volume and gets the best pricing available, but paying more for a single glass than the price of an entire bottle rankles me.  So, I'll drink this wine on my deck at home.  Feel free to stop by!

Monday, May 23, 2011

New Neighbor in the DelSo

image from: evbdn.eventbrite.com

Welcome to the DelSo, Laura Glazer! Yesterday I got some exciting news – another artsy person has moved into the Delaware Avenue South neighborhood and I couldn’t be happier. In case you don’t Laura, she, among other things, hosts the radio show “Hello Pretty City” which airs Sunday nights from 8-10 pm on 97.7, WEXT. Metroland Magazine named Laura’s show the Best Indie Radio Rock of the year in 2010 . Laura also makes really cool buttons like these and is involved with community events including the Times-Union’s Garage to Glory contest, Art on Lark, First Friday and currently (until the end of this month) has a display of her photographs on display at the (Hi)story Labor(atory) in Hudson, N.Y.

No pressure, Laura, but I can’t wait to see how you Pretty City-fy the DelSo.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Breaking up is hard to do

image from: http://909sickle.com
Yesterday my therapist broke up with me.  Really.  I've seen her, on and off, since around the time I first became a parent, and I think we've done some good work together.  She helped me to understand my family history and lack of parenting, and to accept myself and some of the challenges I've encountered in life.  I believe I've developed better communication skills, and I know that I've been able to more fully express my wants and needs, because of our relationship.  We've been "seeing each" other again for about 6 months and we've spent the time discussing the unraveling of my marriage and how to best help the boys cope with changes in their lives.  Our most recent visits, say the last 3 or so, have been scheduled at increasingly greater intervals and our conversations have leaned more to the social than the psychological.  The appointment on my calendar has come to feel more like a burden than an unburdening and I think we both knew it was time to close this chapter.  Last night she pulled the trigger and we agreed to separate.  It is time for me to move on - alone.

In terms of personal relationships, how do you know when it is over?  Is there some sort of internal well that either overflows with resentment and disappointment or is it more a case of your reservoir being emptied of feelings and enthusiasm for life?  Does your relationship add more good to your life than it saps from your soul?  How do you broach that life changing topic with your mate - the conversation which upon initiation sets the tone for what is to follow? I guess the decision is personal, no one else can make it for you. Knowing that you are supported by people who love you unconditionally can certainly give you the strength to follow the path you have chosen.  For me, it was the sense that life was too short for me to feel perpetually dissatisfied.  I couldn't do it - not to myself, not to my spouse, and not to my children.  I knew there would be a continuation of pain inflicted and, since making the decision, I have felt a sense of happiness and peace which is absolutely radiating from me.  Breaking up may be hard to do, but staying in a relationship which prevents you from feeling intrinsically intact is far more difficult.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Going Greek

How do you say adorable in Greek?
Friday night Liam and I made it to the St. Sophia's Greek Festival on Whitehall Road.  I've attended this event in the past, but generally would be inclined to visit on Sunday afternoon, however, the weather forecast nudged me into getting there sooner (dryer) rather than later (wetter).  If you haven't experienced the Greek Fest, you really need to put it on your calendar for May 2012.  It is a wonderful, reasonably priced event ($3 gets you in all weekend) that is perfect for families, couples and groups of friends.  And - did I mention the food?  Does anyone know how to say "delicious" in Greek?  I thoroughly enjoyed the mixed appetizer plate I ordered - dolmades, feta, Greek sausage, bread, olives and pepperoncinis, all for $8.25.  The line for souvlaki was crazy long, but I'm sure it was for good reason.  In addition to the fine Greek fare, entertainment and vending are both available in abundance. 

Here's a link to more of my pics on the Times Union website. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Lists are better than being listless

image from 1.bp.blogspot.com
Are you a list maker and, if so, what shape do your lists take?  Are they notes on a calendar, itemizations on paper or some sort of modern electronic version?  My lists generally take form only mentally and I'm uncertain if my lack of commitment to a format which can be easily shared is a good, or a bad thing.  Keeping the list internal maintains a level of privacy, or some might say, control.  It also prevents others from knowing what I am intending to accomplish so if I fail in my attempt to be productive or efficient, no one is the wiser.  As if anyone is harder on me than I am myself - ha! 

I've spent some time recently thinking about lists - grocery lists, to-do lists, mental lists of what I want in the future.  The grocery list thing is kind of new for me, I haven't done any serious grocery shopping since pre-children days.  I enjoy the ritual of browsing the sales circular, jotting things down, clipping coupons and planning my foray to Price Chopper or Hannaford.  It's actually kind of fun until it is time to pay and I realize that my estimated $75. food foray is actually closer to $125. Ooops! It's challenging to run all over the Capital District seeking out the best prices for everything, and I'm hoping once soccer season and school are over I can spend some more time at Farmer's Markets and smaller, independent places like Parivar and Falvo's.  The to-do list which has been circulating in my head is a combination of things for the boys (soccer, school activities, laundry, haircuts...), things for the house (repurposing the space, obtaining a mortgage, changing utilities, gardening, cleaning...), and some things for myself like work, exercise and various appointments.  Each of these lists are necessary for the day-to-day success of my life, as well as for my boys. This to-do list resides primarily as calendar events on my phone and I swear I would be lost if something happened to my electronic agenda. 

Although I spent many years not going to the grocery store I always participated in the list making, so, though the activity of shopping is novel, I've been involved with the process.  I also typically maintained the mental list of family activities and appointments, another exercise which is not new to me as a recent "single" parent.  The last list, the one which percolates in my head, without commitment to page or bytes, is the list of what I want my future to be and I have a pretty clear idea of what I want.  My list is fairly simple: I do not want to be the sole keeper of the list.  Don't misunderstand me - I clearly recognize that during my marriage I was not the only person involved with maintaining the list, however, I do have a sense that I was responsible for creating the list more often than not.  I would like a chance to share both the list making and the list management, with a future partner.  But even more important is my position on their list. If my happiness and security is not on the top of his list, I am more than content to maintain my wish list as a wait list.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mother's Day

pretty table, pretty plate, pretty tasty
Sunday evening I thanked my boys for a lovely Mother's Day and I wasn't even kidding.  There was nothing I would have changed about the day, other than to have included more guests. There was very little indulgence in the traditional sense, but you folks know how I am -  happy to be productive, and that was what the day was all about.  Despite having a mental list of things to do, I slept in a bit and then forced myself to not get out of bed until 9 a.m.  Just so you know, this is actually harder for me than getting up at the crack of dawn to go to the gym.  Since the boys are not really capable of making breakfast (although making a mess is a skill they have mastered),  I cooked up some waffles and sausage and we enjoyed a delicious breakfast accompanied by the day's editions of the Times-Union and the NY Times, courtesy of Liam.  Very indulgent - I haven't regularly read the Sunday Times since before I became a mother. 
pretty special neighbors and friends
Next up was laundry, sweeping the "helicopter" debris from the neighbor's enormous tree off of my deck,organizing flower pots, and planting some herbs and lettuce in a couple of large containers.  I had picked up some flowers on Saturday at the Delaware Avenue Neighborhood Association plant sale and happily got my hands dirty arranging geraniums, pansies, nicotina and a couple of other things in an array of planters.  I also weeded the front yard, planted some morning glories and nasturtium, re-grouted the shower drain upstairs and re-wired the door lock release button - and still had time for a 3 mile run! 

The only way to end a day like this was with an impromptu dinner party.  I already had a mess of pork chops marinating in soy sauce and kecap menis, so I decided to call the neighbors, add some chicken breasts to the grill and make it a party.  Ken and Lori shared their crop of freshly picked spinach so I made a salad of the greens with Gorgonzola, strawberries and a light lemon and olive oil dressing, along with some grilled asparagus and baked sweet potatoes.  The table was lovely, the evening was mild enough for comfort and the wine, a 1997 Petite Syrah from Lava Cap, was fantastic.  Since I hadn't a chance to bake (I know, I'm such a lax hostess!  What the hell was I doing all day instead of sifting and stirring?!), we finished our meal  with leftover Easter candy, including a fresh box of Peeps, and sips of Navan.  Delightful.
I may not have been the recipient of a spa gift certificate as I have been past years, but the gifts bestowed upon me were sincerely simple; the newspapers and the chance to read them somewhat leisurely, breakfast with my boys, the opportunity to accomplish many tasks which will give me pleasure for months to come, and a couple of  handmade coupon booklets good for shoulder rubs, garbage removal and vacuuming.  And who needs commercial flowers anyway when you have a  house filled with fresh lilacs?  Being a mother isn't always easy, but a day like this one reminds me what the real gifts of being a mom are, and, just like that handmade card proudly mounted on my refrigerator, I will cherish them forever.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

DeWitt Lake

I spent a very enjoyable afternoon at a friend's house outside of New Paltz this weekend.  Now you know I love my house (more and more each day), but I have to say I think I could be very happy living at Gregory's place. It may have been the combination of old friends, terrific food, amazing lighting and the internal joy I have had busting out of me recently, but it was most certainly a magical day.   The property, 45 acres, includes a beautiful small lake with a main house that is a perfect example of how to live efficiently in a small, well conceived space. There were no unnecessary items, yet the  overall feeling was luxuriously indulgent.  Nothing extraneous, yet nothing missing.  Perfect.

One of the highlights of the day was the guided walk on the pathway surrounding the lake.  The trail meandered in a completely innocent fashion all the while leading the visitor from vista to vista in a supremely calculated fashion.  It was almost like a visit to a movie set - totally designed for effect while at the same time giving the appearance of absolute happenstance.  Like that pagoda to the right.  It seemed as if it fell from the sky only to land in the perfect picturesque location effortlessly.  For those of you who have spent years perfecting the "no make-up make-up look," you know what I'm talking about here.  It ain't always easy to look natural.

Thoughtfully placed artifacts, both inanimate and organic,  were scattered around the walking path creating a sense of delight to the discoverer.  The pervasive feeling was absolute peacefulness and I sincerely hope Gregory opens the gates to his property for me on additional occasion because it is obviously the type of place where the quiet, attuned observer could contentedly watch the earth evolve for days and days.  The lighting on this particular Sunday, changing from sunlit, blue skies, to an amber yellow, to dove gray, alone made the afternoon feel as if the sky was in competion with the new foliage for its fair share of attention.  The last picture below, I believe, was the sky's attempt to trump the earth's offering of lilacs and dogwood blossoms.  Fortunately, there was sufficient time to absorb the rainbow's beauty while cutting armloads of lilacs to fill my house - looks like I was the winner in nature's face-off.  Spring is most certainly here - get out there, somewhere, and enjoy it.

Buddha watch
View from across the lake

Stunning rainbow - naturally

Monday, May 9, 2011

Champagne (and pork belly!) on the Park

pork belly - not everything needs tulips to be beautiful!

Last Thursday was the annual Lark Street BID fundraiser, Champagne on the Park.  Of all the Tulip Fest weekend events, this one is my favorite. Tulips, champagne, food, smartly dressed people...what's not to like?  The weather mostly cooperated and I took a ton of pictures, 30 of which were featured in a "Seen" Gallery on the Times-Union website.  The flowerbeds were spectacular this year and it seemed to me that they were even more creatively laid out with  great color combinations and precise patterns than in past years.  Beautiful!  I didn't eat nearly as much as I would have liked because I was too busy chatting with friends, both old and new, but I did get to try  Jason Baker's Pork Belly, as well as the cake that Debbie Klauber baked.  No coincidence that both, of course, went perfectly with champagne. Being a social butterfly also meant  I  didn't overindulge with champagne, a fact I was most appreciative of come Friday morning.    I've had the good fortune to attend this event for the past three years and must admit that this year was my favorite year ever - it definitely must have been the company.  I am  a lucky girl.  
orange and purple?  yes, yes!
the design of this bed was beautiful, but debatable.  a regular rorschac test!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thank you, Mother Nature

I know, I know, the weather has been crap. Too much rain, not enough sunshine, flooding, wet basements, lawns and gardens too saturated to permit you to get your hands anything but muddy. I get it. Despite Mother Nature taking a piss on all of us here in the Northeast, I would like to take a moment to thank her for her recent display of thoughtfulness. As with most things, this relates to an experience I had in childhood which forever changed my perception of the transition from early spring to late spring. Let me tell you about the incident that caused me to become completely captivated by an annual rite of spring...

When I was in elementary school, perhaps second or third grade, I remember spending my Easter break (yep, that's what we called it then) with family friends in New York City. They lived in a complex of low, brick buildings arranged around a central courtyard. There weren't many trees, but I have a vague recollection of there being spring flowers in bloom in designated areas of the communal property. The week that I spent in the city was behavior alternating in numerous ways. I was forced to abandon my thumb-sucking ways after my thumb was repeatedly basted with copious amounts of some wretched tasting liquid. On the positive side, Barbara was a phenomenal cook and I'm sure my palate was expanded to include items much more desirable than the more than likely dirty thumb of my left hand. The biggest change, however, didn't come until the return drive back "upstate" to Greenwood Lake. As the car headed further north, I noticed a big change since just 7 days previous...something was very different. The branches of the trees had gone from wearing a suggestive hint of red to a now brilliant green. There were leaves on the trees and everything looked different. And I was pissed to have missed the transition.

Since then, I have tried to always be home in the Hudson Valley during the springtime. Because if you blink, you just might miss it. So, this public thanks to Mother Nature is for her indulgence of my recent trip west. I was concerned that I would miss the unfurling of the first leaves of the season, but, due to the lack of sun and the excess of rain, I was able to witness the busting out of Mother Nature's summer wardrobe. Now, if we could all only get a chance to do the same...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Pizza @Cafe Capriccio

Pizza a la Capriccio
Looks like there may be a new contender in AOA's Tournament of Pizza.  Friday night Yasmine, Will and I ventured  to Capriccio for a late night, grown-up dinner and were the lucky recipients of Franco's beautiful circle of love. The pizza Margherita was delicious!  Six slices of crisp crust, fresh, flavorful sauce, and generous mozzarella finished with fresh basil...a perfect beginning to a terrific evening.  The angle of the photo above is misleading - that crust was thin, baby.  I'm talking fold it in half and hear it crunch thin.  I don't know if pizza is on the menu there yet, but it would be worth your time to investigate.  Pair with the eggplant and a plate of Franco's home-cured meats, alongside a delicious bottle of Barbera, and you've got yourself a fantastic dinner for 2 for little green. 

My frequent partner in crime, Yas

alcohol, whipped cream, chocolate = dessert in a glass
Since we were cabbing it for the night, it was the perfect occasion to enjoy a nightcap at The Point.  Would you just look at this frothy concoction the lovely bartender made for me?  I requested a dessert drink...something with raspberry and chocolate and this is the gorgeous cocktail she served me.  Wish I knew what was in it, but I guess the important thing is, I know where to get another one. 

Where there's a Will...

This is my friend, Will.  If you're an Albanian, chances are you've met him at some social event or another.  Or perhaps at a restaurant because he does enjoy dining out frequently.  Will is a realtor and the owner of a fabulously unique living space that was recently featured on All Over Albany.  If you're lucky, you've been the recipient of one of Will's spine-crushing hugs, inhaled his divine Jo Malone cologne and heard his uproarious laughter.  He's a great guy - generous, thoughtful, loyal and fun and I always enjoy spending time with him.  Even when things don't go as planned, as was the case this past winter when we skied Albany Muni together with a less than ideal outcome.  One of us will share that story with you someday.  The bottom line is this: I love me some Will!

Last Friday, Will came over for a glass of wine prior to our meeting a third friend for dinner.  As always, the conversation was lively as we caught each other up on our recent trips and talked about all the changes occurring in my life.  Little did I know that Will had some changes in mind for me, also, relating specifically to my living space. For those of you not familiar with my house, I'll describe it: typical Albany two flat property which has been tweaked.  The first floor unit is fairly standard with a living room, dining room, 2 bedrooms, kitchen and bathroom.  Upstairs I have 2 floors of living space (thank you, zoning board) with the first of the floors containing a living room, office/playroom, bedroom, bathroom and an open kitchen/dining room.  The top floor for the last 12 years has been 2 additional bedrooms and a bathroom.  There have been numerous changes made over the past 15 years, with walls coming down and doorways opening up and I thought the space was fairly well arranged.  That is, until Will took a good, hard look around...

Will has been to my house on numerous occasions, but he must have been inspired by my new status as a solo homeowner that night.  He asked if it was okay for him to take a tour of the upstairs and within minutes he had mentally reconfigured my entire space, other than the kitchen, a bedroom and the bathrooms.  The ideas he shared were creative, logical and completely novel to me - it absolutely never would have occurred to me to utilize the space in the manner which Will came up with in all of 5 minutes.  I'm going to get me a new house!! 

I was so excited immediately by the prospects Will presented that night that, following our dinner, I moved the first of many pieces of furniture.  Saturday I shopped a bit for some items and continued moving furniture with the assistance of all three of the Lilly boys.  Geez, they're strong!  It must be the Meadowbrook Farms milk, we splurge on.  I'll post some pictures when the project is done (as if any homeowner project is ever completed!) but I'll tell you in advance that it will be very different.  Try to stay with me as  I describe the dramatic repurposing of the space...the current dining room (open to the kitchen) will be the new family room, the current living room will become my bedroom, the office is now the dining room and the second floor bedroom will be an office/guest room.  Lucky (as always) Griffin gets my large bedroom on the third floor and the boys will take over the upstairs bathroom (as well as the entire top floor of the house) and I will girlify the bathroom on the main floor.  You realize this is just a lot of moving around, right?  Which means not a lot of money, just some muscle.  Thank you, Will, for your vision and, most importantly, for your friendship.  You literally rocked my world!