Thursday, July 28, 2011

Table for 5 (or why dinner as a family can be continued despite impending divorce)

I believe most people get married believing it is forever, not for ever. Introducing children to a relationship adds some additional concrete to the mix and, when all is said and done within the marriage and it is time to move on from being a couple, the presence of children continues to cement the two of you together for the imaginable future. Obvious, right? Nothing ground-breaking, just classic, common sense.

Although it is evident that every marriage has its own unique set of circumstances, it seems that divorces meet a few consistent themes. Usually they involve a quality of life diminishment, damage to the children, complicated visitation and financial arrangements, a complete re-writing of the holidays and traditions...

Positive impacts of divorce, and there is the potential for there to be some, aren't spoken about in anything above a whisper. Things like more focused parenting, increased time for personal interests and pursuits, less conflict, opportunities to rewrite holidays and traditions...

Every family has meaningful rites, whether it is the appreciative phrase one says as they arrive safely at home, or a special song played during a particular annual car trip. Things that have significance. I think most of these rituals are priceless, yet cost nothing. Why wouldn't a family want to continue these traditions? With some sensitivity and humor, I think it can (and should) happen - everyone benefits.

So, we gathered together as a family of five for a few days at the beach and everyone survived, I mean thrived. Picnic lunches were shared, our natural rhythm of tag team parenting easily fell back into place, and we went to our family's beach joint for a meal, where we sat together as a party of five. Instead of the boys recalling this as the summer their parents split, maybe they'll remember making some more family beach memories with Mom and Dad. And we'll all try to remain cognizant that a table for five is a privilege, not a punishment.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Shucked up in Wellfleet

I love Wellfleet. I love oysters. I love my life.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Thompson's Lake

Holy hot, huh?  I know I've mentioned before that for some unknown reason (general contentment, perhaps?) the heat isn't really bothering me this summer.  Actually, I've kind of enjoyed it.  That being said, getting out of Albany and into the hill towns holds a certain appeal on a 90+ degree day and a recent trek to Thompson's Lake made everyone happy.

The drive from the DelSo up to Thacher Park takes about 25 minutes, significantly longer than that if you're riding your bicycle as the boys' dad enjoys doing.  Pretty impressive, honestly.  

Thompson's Lake is a State Park which offers all sorts of amenities such as rowboat rentals, playground equipment, volleyball courts and picnic and camping sites.  And, of course, a sandy beach.  If you're so inclined, overnight camping will set you back $24.  For us, though, it was an afternoon escape and that comes at the bargain price of $7 a carload. 

For a sunny Sunday afternoon, this place was not incredibly crowded.  We were able to park directly across from the bathrooms (Score - real bathrooms!) and had no trouble finding a spot on the beach that even offered a bit of shade.  The water was comfortable, the lake mostly free of weeds and most important, there was a lifeguard on duty.  This summer, I very much feel as if we've turned a corner in maturity and swimming competence.  I actually brought a book and even got through a few pages before dozing off for a power nap. 
Aside from being a perfect beach for those with small children, I imagine this spot would be a lot of fun for a group of more grown-up folks to gather.  The mere drive would be scenic any season of the year and worth your time.  So, if you're looking for a place to cool off during this genuine summer we're experiencing, give this place a shot.  And, for you hardcore cyclists, a dip here might be the perfect way to break up your ride.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Running through the pain

image from:
The good news is that the thing with my  right glute that had been bothering me seems to have resolved itself. I wish I could say it was because of the awesome stretches my chiropractor, Lee Masterson at Delmar Chiropractic had shown me, but, honestly, I haven't been vigilant about doing them. I have tried to stretch a bit more, but ultimately think it just worked itself out.  The bad news is that I now have transferred my pain discomfort to the left side of my body - namely in my hip and knee. Each time I ran last week, I could feel things being not quite right. The pain wasn't sharp, just kind of a dull ache, and I muscled through well enough to joke that since I hurt in so many places, it was impossible for me to focus on a single pain. Yeah!

I wondered if I should ease up (nope) or if maybe I should replace a run with a ride (check) and this week I was rewarded for sticking with my training. Training, you ask? More about that in a moment... My last 2 runs have been amazing, for me. I remember months ago hoping to run a 5k without having to stop or walk, and I've accomplished that. Twice. I've been working on extending my distance and honestly thought I'd be content with 3.5 or maybe, just maybe, 4 miles.  However, when I was talking to my middle son the other day and describing how I have been increasing my runs he immediately knew where (or how far) I was going - 5 miles.  That's the goal.  And, remarkably enough, it truly feels within my grasp. 

In approximately 2 months I plan to participate in an event in my hometown (what's up, Greenwood Lake?!) called the American Memorial Triathlon. The three components of the triathlon are a .5 mile swim, followed by a 16 mile bike ride, finished with a 4 mile ride. Unlike the last triathlon I did, this one has some (ok, one) familiar aspect and that's the bike ride. I've ridden around the lake before and am not concerned about this middle activity whatsoever. Thanks to stubbornness athletic prowess, I am growing more confident in my ability to run 4 miles. Actually, the other night I ran 4.6 and still had some gas left in the tank. I've got this. So, what to obsess over other than the right attire for a triathlon? The swim, naturally. That is where I need to shift my attention and I've gotten my toes wet, so to speak in the past week or so, in a pool and a couple of lakes.  My upcoming annual beach vacation should be the perfect opportunity to work on all three areas, and I'm hoping to balance my physical activity with the ideal number of margaritas and fried scallops. It is, after all, vacation.

Another thing happens in approximately two months: I turn 45. I can only imagine the sense of strength and accomplishment I will feel knowing that I completed a triathlon held in the village where I spent so many of my younger years.  Greenwood Lake will always hold a special place in my heart and returning there to compete (against myself) is incredibly exciting to me.  Factor in the date of the event, September 11th, and the magnitude of how fortunate I am to even participate is completely inspiring.  

Please share any tips or suggestions or experiences.  Or, better yet, meet me at the finish line.

Monday, July 18, 2011

MIA: Love

Where does all that love go?

That passion that had brought the two of you together? It isn't randomly floating around in our universe, for certain.  At least not in that combined, intense state.  There definitely were bits of it being circulated about, perhaps even covering a wide geographic range, but it was falling more like a light rain instead of being huddled together as a cloud full of moisture.  I think a tremendous amount of the love must go into the children - and they are excellent love investments.

As an exchange, there are many worse deals a person could make than this tangible evidence that a great love had created a lasting entity of beauty, or three.  

One day, though, you wake up and your partner has become another child.  The child who is seemingly regressing while the children you've loved since they existed only in your imagination, are becoming more independent. And you have to decide what to do.  Is it enough to remain in a relationship waiting for the next transition and hoping against hope that there will be steps forward?  Do you continue to augment your partnership by developing other interests - interests which may ultimately lead your further away instead of closer together?  Or - do you recognize that there essentially isn't enough to keep you tethered and begin looking ahead to a future which will be unlike the one you always expected?  And, during this realization, do you recognize how long it is has been since your imagination about the future has been activated?  The sigh that you expel at that moment in time - is it relief?  Sorrow?  Or simply the exhale of a breath that you didn't even realize you had been holding inside? 

And, with its release, how long does it take for you to realize both how empty you've been inside, and how much room there is for something else?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Dinner at the Arlington House

Last night I drove 20 minutes east of the Hudson to have dinner at the Arlington House in West Sand Lake.  Getting there is really easy - take 43 east, go through the little village area of West Sand Lake, pass the quarry thing on the left and the restaurant will be on your left immediately before Quinn's Motors.  Simple - and a beautiful drive on a summer's night.

From the moment that Steve Barnes  mentioned that Rick Weber was now manning the stove at this established restaurant (which, incidentally Rick had originally opened perhaps 10 or so years ago), I've been scouring my calendar for a chance to get there.  Last night, the stars aligned and the nearly full moon shone down upon me as I headed to West Sand Lake with the thought of clams making my foot heavy on the gas pedal.

The space is time warp quaint - there are lots of tables arranged in various nooks that probably were created during previous times of expansion.  I'd love to see the dining area join us in the 21st century, but, honestly, that kind of stuff falls far below food quality on my list of priorities.  And the dining room was made exceptionally pleasant by the sincere hospitality of which we were recipients.  Now - the important stuff - FOOD!

Rick greeted us with the promise of sending us some things he wanted us to sample.  My only request was an order of  Little Neck Clams with Arthur Avenue sausage - everything else was at Rick's whim. Rick has a deft hand with chipotles and these clams were everything I had hoped for - succulent, tender, each bite of clam matched with a bite of sausage which had been sliced lengthwise rather than as a round.  Lots of flavors, beautifully balanced and absolutely stimulating to the taste buds.
look at these beauties!
Rick complimented the clams with a couple of other seafood items - you know that he spent some time working on Nantucket, right?  This man knows fish, respects fish and truly prepares fish with a delicate yet assertive hand.  Fantastic.  There were so many distinct flavors on this plate that my taste buds have threatened to refuse to acknowledge any other version of this dish.  The tomato and corn relish on the plate was studded with basil and the crispness  of the chips complimented the tenderness of the shellfish beautifully.  Winner!
lobster and shrimp cakes

do you see the HUNKS of lobster?
The third appetizer that landed with supreme grace on our table was the phyllo-wrapped scallop.  I seriously don't know how it is done - cooking the scallop to perfection while it is nestled in an amazing blanket of creamed leeks and wrapped in gorgeously golden phyllo... I made a vow to never work with phyllo pastry again after an awful experience with it years ago and I have great respect for those who can manage this persnickety dough.  This dish was absolutely lovely.
a love triangle of scallops and leeks
As you can see, these starters are substantial.  One could certainly be more than satisfied with one or two appetizers and a salad without breaking the bank.  Or dine with some friends and order a mess of stuff to share.  Our table of two, however was beginning to slow down and we elected to finish our meal with a shared appetizer and a pasta.  The salad choices made the decision difficult, but we went with the calamari and white bean salad and did not regret our choice.  The only thing that would have improved this dish, for my tastes, would have been  more beans, please, and a little less dressing.  Regardless, I'm not making this at home anytime soon and I'm happy to know where I can go when the craving for a cold and satisfying plate of Italian-style love strikes me.

try a little tenderness
The pasta was supremely simple and delicious - Angel Hair with garlic and anchovies .  Did I mention I was dining with a  friend, not a date?  Yeah, garlic!!  Yeah, anchovies!!  Bring it on...
pasta and assorted grilled veggies

The saltiness of the anchovies was balanced by the sweetness of the grilled carrots, beets, red peppers and onions, and I truly felt that my not having pasta recently for no reason other than lack of craving, prepared me for the complete pleasure I received in eating this dish.  I'll even admit to being inspired to make this one at home myself - soon.  

Rick wanted us to have the full Weber experience  and sent out a piece of sweet potato pie to finish our meal.  This isn't the sort of thing I would expect in the height of summer, but it was delicious - and way lighter than any sweet potato pie I've ever experienced.  And, seriously, doesn't everyone require desire a little sweetness to punctuate a fantastic dinner?
a substantial dessert lightened by Rick's gentle hand
Rick's food is honest and adventurous and filled with love and enthusiasm for his ingredients and his diners.  I am beyond happy that I can indulge myself with food as well prepared as Rick's, and am already finding excuses to get back there to sample more of his menu.  Go East to West Sand Lake and prepare to be pleased by all the Arlington House has to offer.  And tell Rick I'll see him again soon.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Shack Attack

Sunday morning I ran my second 5k of the year, the Shack Attack, out at The Crossings.  I had seen this event promoted on the TU's Runner's Blog and I thought it sounded like a great way to start the day.  No, really, I did.  Especially after a huge rock n roll show on Friday night and a leisurely drive home through Vermont on Saturday.  I hadn't preregistered for the run so I got there fairly early which provided plenty of time to sign up and to make new friends.  See - running is fun!

And - the run itself? was hot!  I definitely would have preferred an earlier start than 9 a.m.  That being said, the course was reasonably flat and there was a delicious reprieve offered by a shady spot along the route.  I wasn't clear on where the finish line was (did we have to go around that little "lake" again??) so when I finally kicked in for my big finish, there wasn't much opportunity to get around the people in front of me.  I did cross the line in the top 60 (of a couple of hundred, I think) in a new personal best time of 27:50.  
A good run - a good cause - a good time. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mangez Montreal

Until last weekend, I hadn't been to Montreal for about 5 years.  My last visit there was during the dark GWB years when we packed up the family and fled to Canada for Thanksgiving - a small protest made memorable by our turkey Peking Duck dinner in Chinatown.  Obviously much is different these days - we're all a little older, our family dynamic has evolved and the Canadian dollar is kicking our American dollar's ass.  Case in point - a lunch consisting of 2 orders of Steak Frittes, a bottle of dry rose' and a tuna salad plate, set me back more than $120 American.  Yes, really.  

$25 of steak frittes
Griffin very much enjoyed his late lunch despite there being salad on the plate, and not enough steak for his appetite.  The lunch definitely hit the spot, but maybe it  was the cold wine on a hot day that charmed me, as we sat outside at a table overlooking the pedestrian walkway of Place Jacques-Cartier.   Naturally, seeing as how Griffin wasn't quite full from lunch, despite my mommy generosity in sharing my steak, we required gelato to top him off prior to our evening's adventures.  It was our bonne chance that just what we needed was right next door to our hotel.  The tiramisu did it for me, while G was more than happy with his cone of stracciatella.  I have to say, I was a tad proud when he ordered an Italian flavor  of gelato in a French speaking city.  These boys of mine are going to be fine...
Yum, like a smile, is the same in every language, oui?
This was my first experience with Montreal in full out summer and it was certainly hopping on a late Friday afternoon in July.  Of course, this was a huge weekend with an expected 80,000 concert goers, in addition to the normal summer tourism traffic, beckoned by the city's great public spaces, museums, dining spots and attractions.  I need to get back there -rapidement!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Roadtrip Montreal!

A mere 18 months after purchasing our tickets, Griffin and I, at long last, drove north to catch Bono and the boys live at the Hippodrome.  As I explained to G, leaving the country to see a U2 show at the ripe old age of 12, is an experience not to be belittled - nor will he be doing anything like this sans parent for many years to come.  Which, I suppose means he won't be repeating this episode period, since apparently my dancing, screaming and general jumping up and down, embarrassed him beyond belief.  Oh, well.  I've got someone else in mind for my next trip out of the country anyway.

But, back to this trip...the drive was uneventful and we skirted around the main border crossing thanks to a tip from my friend, Kevin.  After checking in to our hotel, we grabbed a quick bite to eat and then headed for the show convinced that getting there was going to require patient efforts.  And, we were right.  Seriously, Montreal Metro folks, how about opening up more than a single window for ticket sales?  I mean, oui, I understand there is that single automated ticket machine, but when you're expecting 80,000 to travel to a venue where there is no parking, what were you thinking?  Eventually, we got there, happy to be freed from the packed to the gills train on a very hot evening.  There was a short walk to the actual venue and we settled into a comfortable spot on the "floor" of the arena. prepared for our universe to be rocked.  Things here were fairly well organized - lots of porta potties, vending and plenty of concession people circulating with cold, expensive beverages.  But, who cares about any of that?  It was about the show dammit! 
The "Claw"
I was fortunate enough to have seen this show in '09 at Gilette Stadium, and I've got to tell you, it is, as always, the best show I've ever seen.  The set, the sound, the effects, the MUSIC, the BAND...incredible.  Always.  I can't describe it any better than, for me,  seeing U2 is like being served Mass at the Vatican.  By the pope.  Amazing.  The set list is here and there are a couple more pictures below.  The band will be at Giants' Stadium next week - anyone have an extra ticket?  I'll drive.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Spicy sesame noodles

my parking strip herb garden
Are you growing any herbs this year?  I was on my game early and was able to get some good stuff before everything other than basil and parsley disappeared from the nearby nurseries.  I finally got around to tearing up the parking strip in front of my house and put in a couple of types of lavender, sage (thanks, Wayniac!) and rosemary and they all seem very happy.  On my deck I've got a mess of basil, flat leaf parsley and Thai basil - all doing beautifully in this heat and rain we've been getting here in Albany.  The glut of Thai basil prompted me to seek out a recipe for last week's Independence day festivities, and judging by the compliments I received (and the ease of preparation), I think I came up with a winner...  I present to you (from Epicurious) Spicy Sesame Noodles with Chopped Peanuts and Thai Basil:

so good
The recipe did require a quick trip to the Asian Market.  I went to the one on Colvin Blvd and I must say, it looked like they cleaned the place up a bit - the fish smell wasn't quite as strong as it has been in the past, and things were generally well organized.  I was able to pick up my noodles, peanut oil, ginger, green onions and peanuts there, along with a very tasty $.99 pineapple. The prep was wicked simple and, although I didn't really measure anything, I used a moderate hand with the sambal (in place of the chili oil) and came up with a pretty ideal creeper kind of spiciness.  The noodles definitely absorb the flavors, so make this early in the day to give the ingredients a chance to make friends.  Delicious and refreshing, along with cheap, fast and easy.  It really doesn't get much better.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

running diaries chapbook - part iv

happy runner girl
For the past couple of weeks, I've been running injured. It's nothing serious just a tightness in my right hip and an awareness of my left knee. It is prompting me to try to stretch more conscientiously, which is good. It is also putting me in a position where I am continually asserting the will of my mind over my body - maybe not the best thing, but I try to do it with respect. Legs, lungs, eyes and mind, propel me beyond the discomfort as my body and mind gradually reach an understanding and work in unison to take me where I want to go.

It is hard to back off from running because it is incredibly satisfying to know that I am running distances that are ever increasing, if only by minuscule amounts. Running and biking both give me an opportunity to practice conscious breathing - something I find the need to do occasionally.  I can't be the only person in the universe who finds themselves somewhere (for me, it is usually driving in my car) and realizes that they can't remember the last breath they took, can I?  Exercise forces me to think about inhaling and exhaling and I believe that is a positive thing.  And to expand on the thinking process, running helps me to release my thoughts and generally lighten my head. I always feel better mentally after a run - things clarify and the extraneous weight gets discarded. Another good thing.

The outdoor season is brief, and I love the familiar sights along my route, so I respectfully push through and reward my body with tasty food and lots of water.  I often pass the same people on my run, which makes me feel like part of the community in a really nice way. I have names for the people I see regularly. There's Crazy Dog Lady, which I say in a completely nonjudgmental tone and never out loud. I was first exposed to her a number of years ago during school board meetings when the discussion was focused on the construction of the current neighborhood middle school, Myers. She was strongly opposed to the school being built and I've often considered engaging her in a conversation to learn how she feels about the building 6 or 7 years post-construction.

Mr. Neat and Tidy is another regular along my route and he seems pleasant, although he is a bit intense about his yard and his appearance in general.  Very pressed looking, if you know what I mean.  He's a walker and I've noticed he seems to know a lot of people.  And then there's Ms. Never Has a Passenger in Her Car.  I've never really even seen her other than from a distance but she got her name by the way she parks her car - with the passenger side door so very close to the house she lives in that another person could never open the door to get in or out.   I guess I'll have to keep running until I can make up figure out more of her story.  Because while running may seem to be primarily a physical activity, the truth is, for me, it is much more a mental exercise.  And really, who doesn't benefit from more of that?

When you live next door to artists...

My original Ragsdale
About 2 years ago, our next door neighbors put their house on the market.  During the brief time the house was for sale, I sometimes imagined who the new perfect neighbors might be.   The sellers were a nice enough couple with three children, but we certainly didn't have much in common with them.  I decided the ideal new neighbors would be a gay couple - kind of artsy, perhaps more accustomed to traveling and eating and drinking than the current owners.  A bit more fun, for lack of a better word.

When I learned the house had been sold to a couple, I was a tad disappointed, picturing more of the same traditional and conservative behaviors I had witnessed for the preceding dozen years or so.  But, then I heard the new neighbors were artists.  Now, you're talking my language!  Welcome to the neighborhood, new friends.

Having Ken and Lori next door has been awesome.  They are social and friendly and thoughtful and completely eclipse the previous folks in terms of neighborliness.  We share a milk box and bottles of wine, and Ken has been generously mowing my lawn this season.  Of, course, he can't simply mow in an up and down fashion because, like I said, he's an artist.  He has taken it upon himself to mow in an artistic fashion.  This week's design was a challenge from me which Ken executed beautifully.  Check it out - herringbone!

Don't you wish you lived in the DelSo, too?  Stay tuned for more images in this summer series...

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sunday dinner - ravioli!

5 minutes to make
Unlike some other folks, I've never made ravioli myself.  Or any other kind of pasta, to be honest.  I'm not saying I'm opposed to the idea, but I think it is an activity which would be more fun with friends, or a real pasta making person to show me the ropes.  Or the linguini, so to speak.  Instead I rely on Pede Brothers, a family owned place in Schenectady that distributes their products in both of the big grocery store chains in the area.  And, you know what?  I like their ravioli and am happy to buy something good made locally.

Last night I realized that my veggie drawer was looking a little sad - not much in there other than "baby" carrots and some roasted red peppers.  Fortunately, my little herb garden on the deck has proven bountiful and I was inspired to make a really quick little pasta for dinner, leaving plenty of London broil for the carnivorous Lilly boys. 

I started with a tablespoon or 2 of olive oil in a pan and then added an equal amount of unsalted butter.  Double the fat means double the taste, yes?  I had a half bag of frozen peas that I tossed in with the full awareness that using frozen product when local fresh product is available, is a sin.  Add it to the list.  Anyway - I sauteed the peas for a couple of minutes, threw in my chopped red peppers (at least I roasted those myself, right?) and finished the "sauce" with a generous amount of chopped flat leaf parsley and basil.  A bit of grated aged Asiago and voila - pasta with 4 veggies!  Not too bad for an empty crisper drawer and delicious, too.

Friday, July 1, 2011

DelSo Night

What better way to start my summer vacation than a walk down Delaware Avenue?  It was the perfect evening for a stroll (in between rain showers) and I was happy to see so many people out and about.  Don't the tables in front of Pizzalo look good?  I need to give their pizza another shot soon, but, on this particular night I had my sites set on New World Bistro...

I've been hearing good things about New World's new menu and the grilled baby octopus were absolutely calling my name.  Look at them!  I took some notes while I was eating them: "Holy smoky octopus! Delicious. Tender.  Gorgeously presented like stars on little bread ovals perfectly toasted (grilled?) to perfection.  Citrusy jam - yum."  Yep, that pretty much summed things up for me.
I'm kind of a fool for fried squid and these were perfect - not greasy and the ideal balance of spicy and  sweet.  Perfect snack food with a glass of wine at the bar.  Kevin recommended the Millbrook Tocai Friulano and it was a lovely match for my seafood items - good tip!   How lucky are we in the Delso to have a wonderful neighborhood joint like this? 

I hit up Emack and Bolio's on my way home and thoroughly enjoyed sitting outside with my hot fudge sundae watching my neighborhood settling into summer.  Life is good - don't forget to taste it.