Sunday, October 30, 2011

Occupying a place in my heart

I'm a bad Capitalist. I have no urge to accumulate possessions or wealth, I only aspire to pay my way fairly through life. I am always able to see that someone needs something more than I do - that $3 that rounds the tip up to a nice even number which doesn't require change, those extra few bucks in my checking account that the Regional Food Bank could use since my pantry is more than sufficiently stocked. It isn't as if I believe people shouldn't have to work or that it is unreasonable to expect adults to make a contribution to society, particularly when they are able-bodied and healthy, it's just that I can see that I have more (fortune, opportunity, smarts, survival skills - you pick) than many others and I'm good with sharing. And I will never understand why anyone feels the need to have a net worth of X billions of dollars.
Do you think that being a multimillionaire somehow provides a person with a more meaningful existence? Are their thoughts really worth more than mine (Warren Buffet aside)? Are they happier and more fulfilled? I don't think so.

Should the president of my union being making $345,987?? I don't think so. Does the fact that he is, make me sick to my stomach? Absolutely. Is his position comparable to that of President of the United States, who receives a salary of $400,000.  Yes, yes, I know there are numerous factors beyond mere salary when it comes to compensation, but, really?  I don't think the job descriptions or responsibilities are all that similar between those two positions. 

This morning I made my second visit down to the tent city known as Occupy Albany.  I arrived with 2 loaves of freshly baked bread and a sense of guilt that I was not doing more to support a movement that proves that residents of my country are not afraid of making people, including themselves, uncomfortable when it comes to examining the deterioration of our country's values and sense of priorities.  I left with regret that I can't do more to support their activities other than bake bread, take some photos and publicly acknowledge their efforts.  What can you do?  And - what should we all do?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pumpkin Pie ice cream

On what may have been one of the last open sunroof afternoons of fall 2011, I decided to indulge in a new-to-me flavor of ice cream - Stewart's Pumpkin Pie.  I've always been more a lemon meringue pie kind of lady, but, since I haven't stumbled across a similarly flavored ice cream, I decided to give the pumpkin pie a shot. was pretty darn good!  There were nice bits of graham cracker and a tasty nutmeg-gy spiciness to it.  I won't hesitate to get this flavor again and would definitely consider it to be a treat as a milkshake.  Hmmm...that sounds pretty good.  Gotta go!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Love muscle

image from dkimages
As an admitted exercise junkie, I've done some casual reading about physiology.  From what I understand, to build muscle one has to first sort of tear it apart a bit by straining the tissue. Maybe that's the "burn" thing Jane Fonda talked about so many years ago.  It seems that when the muscle fibers are ripped or torn they ultimately grow back together stronger than ever.  Do you think the same can be said of romantic relationships?

Now, you know I love to push myself physically and I know that some of my friends think I may be a tad too stringent about my exercise schedule.  I'll admit that there is a certain obsessive quality to my workout regimen, but ultimately I love the satisfaction of knowing that my body and my mind are working in concert to achieve something that may have once been unreachable.  I honestly like that feeling of having exhausted my muscles, the tenderness that comes as a  reminder of the previous day's exertions.  It feels good.

The emotional stretch, though?  The sensation of having been pulled apart and put back together?  That really hurts.  I won't ever say it isn't worth the efforts expended, and I certainly can accept the residual ache caused by a misunderstanding or disagreement, but I much prefer self inflicted physical discomfort to overwrought emotions.  Ultimately, though, I believe that our muscles are remarkably capable of being woven back together, thread by thread, to create something stronger than what we originally possessed.

I don't plan for any of my muscles to atrophy from lack of use.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sausage & Peppers

Recently I saw a brand of Italian style chicken sausage at my local Price Chopper - Lupo's from Endicott, NY.  What initially attracted my attention was the sticker on the package stating that they were msg, whey and gluten free.  Now, I've never had an issue with any of those ingredients, but, I figured in most cases with sausage, less is more.  I picked up both available varieties - hot and sweet.  

Over the weekend I was looking for some easy comfort food and remembered the sausages in my freezer.  A quick thaw and some time on the grill and I ended up with some lovely, pleasantly spicy links.

There were a couple of beautiful red peppers in my crisper so I sliced them.  They went into some olive oil, along with a jumbo sweet onion and a couple of cloves of garlic, and cooked until they were tender and ever so sweet - the perfect counterpart for the hot sausage. 

You know how sausage can sometimes be a little dry? These were not dry at all!  They had a good snap to them, the casings were firm enough to hold the juicy goodness inside yet easily yielded to a knife - and my teeth.  I placed the sausage and peppers on a soft poppy seed roll and had the perfect quick dinner.  I like to think it was fairly nutritious, as far as these things go and it was unquestionably delicious.

sausage and peppers!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Scariest things at Fright Fest

Yesterday afternoon the boys and I headed up to the Great Escape's Fright Fest in an attempt to get into the spirit of Halloween.  We had been persuaded to buy season's passes for 2012 by what seemed to be a pretty good deal - $49.95 per person with free parking for the year along with admission to Fright Fest.  I figured if we made it there twice it would be worth the cost.   I guess I still feel that way after our experience yesterday, but, I definitely have doubts about how many more times we'll visit this place beyond next season.  Let me share with you the most frightening aspects of our time at the park.  Regrettably, I did not snap a photo of the most horrific thing I saw: a milkshake at the Ben & Jerry's concession was $7.99!!!  Yes, a single penny less than 8 dollars for a milkshake.  Now, that is some frightening stuff.  And I saw people who looked they could neither afford the expense nor the calories seemingly happily sucking them down.  How scary is that?

Really, really long lines.

Are these deceased employees or park guests who waited too long for a ride?

Little Lillys on rollercoaster*
 *The Comet wasn't running nor was the Bobsled ride.  Not a lot of options.

Performances which were impossible to see due to lack of a stage or crowd management.

Boys not getting everything they wanted!

The thought of G driving in a mere 4 years.

The Ferris wheel rotating with only 4 of the 20 cars filled

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Banana-chocolate chunk muffins

In my continuing quest to avoid turning on the heat, I become a prolific baker.  There's nothing, other than a fired up furnace, that warms up a home faster than the smell of baked goods or roasting meats or veggies.  Since my children are dismal failures when it comes to eating the bananas I buy with such optimism, I generally end up tossing them into the freezer for later use in baked goods or indulging them with fruit smoothies.  Drink that banana, suckers. 

image from:
This morning I was looking to cozy up the house and lift the gray cloud that has taken up residence over my head in recent days.  Between the fragrant aroma wafting throughout my home and the happiness with which the boys greeted the fruits of my labors, I'd say mission accomplished. 

image from:

I have a couple of different recipes I depend upon to use up bananas seeing as how "I'm not your little monkey anymore," Quinn Lilly, is no longer a reliable source for banana consumption.  Today's came from Epicurious and was easy as...muffins.  I've been using Nestle's dark chocolate chunks recently and I love the larger, darker hunks of chocolate in pretty much everything I bake.  I've not seen them at Price Chopper but Hannaford in Delmar has them. They taste pretty good right out of the bag.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


photo from
What does it mean to you to be productive? It seems there are stages of productivity in life. My thirties were literally about producing babies and breast milk, in retrospect. I literally opened year 30 pregnant and was still nursing the little guy on my 40th birthday. I could show you the picture to prove it - holy D cup! The beginning of my 40s was transitional for me, but in a more private way than things now present themselves. I was beginning to produce some writing and photos that brought me pleasure, but there was nothing that I was prepared to share except on the smallest, most personal level. You know, like in a Christmas card or with immediate family. Certainly not out here in the virtual world of blogging.

And now? Now I feel myself being productive in an entirely new way, both public and intensely private. It's almost like what I'm producing is love, amor, agape, liebe and it is coming out of me in so many uncontainable ways. Always, words, words, words, but there's more than that. I have plants that are positively thriving under my attentions. It's like magic or kismet or the damnedest good karma. I can barely recall the day when I forced a decision with the boys' Dad: "The plants or the kids? I can't keep them all alive. Pick." But, somehow now I've got a good touch with my plants and I'm no longer afraid to accept the responsibility of taking care of them. A really, really good touch and that mostly dead fern my friend, Lisa, gave me last year is absolutely beautiful. I've never done anything but kill ferns in the past - in record time, as a matter of fact.  My boys are doing great, physically, emotionally and academically, and I'm enjoying them immensely.  There's been a marked expansion in my capacity to nurture, and no longer is there the question as to what has to give because I feel like I have so very much to give. And wouldn't you consider nurturing a type of productivity?

Over the weekend I thoroughly cleaned my house, prepared a delicious dinner of risotto and baked cookies. Despite opportunities to socialize and share a meal with friends in the DelSo, I opted to sit on my couch in my tidy home and enjoy the satisfaction of being alone and pleasantly tired. The efforts I invested over the course of my bonafide two day weekend paid off in aces for me, and I thoroughly appreciated the results of my work in the form of a bowl of greens and risotto with a glass of wine, followed by cookies and milk. Productivity looks and tastes pretty damn good.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Q(uinn's) V(ery) C(ute) Shopping

What a delightful day! This was truly one of those days as a parent that you hold on to as evidence that it is all worthwhile. Those of you with children know what I mean. Yes, yes, children are wonderful and they allow you to see the world again with new eyes and it is amazing to truly understand that they are little sponges designed to absorb whatever we saturate them with, blah, blah, blah. We could discuss this ad nausea, but there will always be more to debate, I suppose. This posting, however, is about the joys of parenting, an occasion rare enough to demand appropriate recognition.

You know how I love to take one Lilly boy and disappear for a few hours or days? Saturday was Quinn's turn. Despite Liam's disbelief that Q could ever possibly need new clothing ("Doesn't he have hand-me-downs?"), it was time to get the little man some new duds. We headed to Crossgates, listening to the perfect pre-shopping Stones' song: "You Can't Always Get What You Want." Quinn was an awesome co-shopper, he carried bags, he worked within the parameters I had in place, he made me laugh. I have to say, he indulged me just such as I indulged him. He was patient with my wanderings and didn't balk when the line at Starbucks was ridiculously long. We left the mall happy campers, a refreshing change from past shopping expeditions.

After I got all the loot out of the car at our house, and got another load of laundry going, I surveyed the boys about dinner requests. I almost caved and did takeout, but G had a great idea - make your own pizzas. Perfect. I added pizza dough, pizza sauce, some mozzarella and pepperoni to the grocery list and headed out.
Griffin's pizza - with fresh basil!  Pre-grilling.

Dinner was a joy. Parents - how often do you get to say that and mean it? I did the dough stretching and shaping, laying the irregularly shaped crusts on an oiled baking sheet. The guys did their thing with toppings and we cooked the 'zas on the gas grill over medium heat. Griffin was an integral part of the process, manning the grill and generally providing assistance. I opened a bottle of winter house red, sighed with parental happiness, and dug in with my boys. A perfect Saturday. How was your weekend?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Acorn squash

Why, oh, why did I not eat beautiful orange vegetables (other than carrots) when I was a child?  These days not much makes me happier than a pan of sweet potatoes, butternut squash and my favorite, acorn squash, roasting together in the oven and so I say, "Welcome back squash!  I've missed you."
I'm sure there are a million ways to cook these hard shelled squashes but I usually do the a variation on the same theme: squash + something sweet + fat + spice.  My something sweet is generally either brown sugar or maple syrup, but this batch ended up with something a little different.  See that picture of the amber-colored rock candy-ish stuff?  Well that's what you may find, if you're lucky, at the bottom of your maple syrup container.  I knew there would be a use for it one day and this was its day to shine!  If you aren't fortunate enough  to have maple "glass,"  I'm positive that  maple syrup would work just as well, it just wouldn't add moisture and flavor simultaneously. 

Cut the squash through the middle and scoop out seeds and gook. (Compost!) Trim the top/bottom of your halves in necessary to allow them to "sit" without wobbling.  Add some maple syrup or brown sugar, maybe 1.5 T per side, a dab of butter and some nutmeg, clove or cinnamon - or all  of the above.  Bake at 375 degrees until the squash is soft but not caving in on itself.  Maybe 35-45 minutes depending on size - size can be a real factor sometimes.  If you're in a rush, place squash, cut side down in a shallow glass plan with about an inch of water and place in the microwave on high for about 10 minutes.  Finish in the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes.  Cut into wedges and serve, or eat the whole thing yourself. 

An aside: when Liam was a baby his nose was orange because of all of the yellow/orange vegetables he ate.  Does Mayor Jennings perhaps eat a lot of squash?!?
Obviously, this shouldn't be considered a recipe so much as a reminder that the seasons are changing and so should your meals.  Although the transition from bright red tomatoes  to orange squash and darker greens comes with some regrets (I should have eaten more blts!), it is inevitable and should be embraced. And, bonus - oven roasting also serves as the perfect delaying tactic to turning on the furnace for the season!  Delicious  + money-saving = winner.                             

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Schweddy balls v. Sweaty sheets

image from:
Apparently this hip new flavor of Ben & Jerry's is a seasonal item, here today and perhaps gone tomorrow.  I hope I can say the same is true for these crazy night sweats I've been getting.  I suppose I've been having them for months, maybe even longer.  They seem to be my most  frequent night visitor, surpassing Quinn by a nose.  Or maybe a fluid ounce.  I have not, however,  broached this topic in daylight before now. Prepare yourselves...

It seems that it is acceptable to talk about Schweddy balls publicly, but not sweaty sheets.  I'm willing to take one for the team here, ladies, and admit to experiencing this delightful symptom of advancing age.  I wish I could remember the first time it happened... At the time I probably I discounted it as the result of too much wine, or lack of fresh air flow, or maybe even the soft flannel sheets.  So, last night there was nary a drop of wine in my blood stream, the window was generously cracked open and my sheets were crisp cotton and guess what?  I awoke absolutely dripping wet.  I'm talking drenched.  

Since I'm all about dispelling fallacies and exposing truths, I thought I would share this little personal experience with you, DelSo readers.  Who but me is going to tell you about the wonders of perimenopause?  The joys of parenting three boys who have poor aim?  The magic of pharmaceuticals and surgery?  And let's not forget general heartbreak and relationship implosion.  Merde - maybe night sweats and menopause aren't so bad.  At least there will be ice cream.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Land ahead, Columbus!

I forget sometimes that I run for clarity - to be able to see better.  Despite thoroughly enjoying my genuine two complete days off in a row, I was feeling punky today.  Yes, precisely punky, I'd say.  I was able to rationalize my funk as being the result of too much wine and not enough exercise over the holiday weekend, but there was something else.  Something that made me feel off.

I watched a sweet but sad excuse for a romantic comedy and then forced myself to put some running clothes on and get on out there.  I was barely .25 mile in when I realized without a doubt what was niggling around in my head... 

Exactly one year ago this weekend, my neighbor, Ken Ragsdale drew a picture (is this the right word? is there a more correct artsy word I should know?) of the view of Arcadia Avenue looking out from his front porch.  That perfect piece of his work now hangs in my house.  And, Columbus Day 2010 was when I, too, began to gaze intently at a similar view but somehow my eyes went beyond Arcadia Avenue, and I began to see all kinds of things I hadn't before noticed.  Or perhaps, even wanted to notice, would be a more accurate assessment.  Ah, yes, the hindsight view.

The path from thinking "nothing will ever change," to living a life that is more vital than ever before, is disconcerting sometimes.  Thank goodness for DelSo - it certainly eliminates having to explain a lot of things individually to people since it's all here! 
There were layers and layers of emotion that were stripped away, some with a slow erosion, others with something more akin to the proverbial band-aid rip, and, happily, what remains is a true concern for one another and a sincere hope for all future happiness.  No longer casting for stability and safety with one another, but instead discovering a future that involves explorations to different places.  Happy trails ahead.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Allegrini Palazzo della Torre 2007

Allegrini Palazzo della Torre 2007

An Albany evening

Last weekend I enjoyed what may have been the ideal early autumn Sunday afternoon in Albany. And it didn't even involve football or chicken wings. Instead, I got to wear something pretty and see people I originally met a couple of decades ago when I first worked for Donna and Yono Purnomo. I've celebrated quite a few milestones over the years with Albany's first family of restaurateurs - there have been graduations and birthdays and weddings and other anniversaries, but this event was to mark 25 years of Yono's, the restaurant. And the Purnomo family knows how to entertain, be it professionally or personally, believe me.

Naturally, there was food and wine in tasteful excess, along with faces I haven't encountered in many years. I felt a wonderful sense of family, and was struck by how many of the guests present had born witness to my life, as I have to theirs. It was a lovely party and I hope there will always be a place for me on the Purnomo guest list. If not, no worries - I'll just crash the party!

After spending a couple of hours chatting and having my appetite piqued with Bakmi Goreng and Babi Kecap, I headed over to Capriccio's cozy bar to enjoy a more substantial meal. I very much am an "eating at the bar" kind of girl because it is just so damn convivial.  This occasion was no exception to this life tenet and our party ebbed and flowed as we took over shared the bar with old, as well as new, friends.   

When I got in my car to drive home I was thrilled to listen to Hello, Pretty City on 97.7 WEXT. My drive seemed far too short but I arrived back in the DelSo smiling at Laura's voice, and feeling utterly at home and grounded in Albany, NY. The afternoon may have begun as an acknowledgement of a milestone in the hospitality business but it concluded, for me, as a celebration of my adopted city.  My professional and personal experiences with Donna and Yono over the past 20+ years are completely responsible for my introduction to Albany's finest restaurants.  The kindness and consistent support I received from them provided  the perfect foundation for me to expand my love for food, hospitality and the people who make both of those happen each day.  It may have been Donna and Yono's silver anniversary which we were celebrating, but to me, they truly are worth more than gold. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The gift of nothing

It seems to me that there are many people who remain in relationships or situations because they are hesitant to lose the security of what is known. Change is scary. Period. When I look around my home, I know I am incredibly fortunate that I didn't have to pack myself up and leave the place where I have lived longest ever. But, I think I could have.

If it had been necessary, I'm confident I would have been able to leave the house behind as I stepped towards the future. I know this because I spent my childhood packing and unpacking, as we moved from house to house sometimes improving our standard of living, sometimes not. The frequent moves (I recall 10 addresses by the time I was 12) left me with a firm belief that the stuff in the boxes was where the comforts of home came from, but the stuff that made me at home with myself came from some other internal space.

I spent some time recently with a very dear friend, someone I have known for more than 30 years. We were talking about finding happiness and contentment in a world often placated by stability and complacency. She spoke of her hesitation to change her circumstances because she was uncertain if she could sacrifice her home and the comforts she has grown accustomed to for an unknown future. Despite the possibility of gaining a deeper sense of personal joy and emotional fulfillment, the appeal of creature comforts and social acceptance was proving too formidable a leash to easily escape. Our conversation caused a genuine "aha" moment for me...

Growing up as I did, moving from town to town and school to school and house to house, taught me a lot. I know I can make a home wherever I am - for myself and my children. I am able to achieve a degree of comfort that is independent of what possessions I am surrounded by. Being raised with limited resources has made me capable of living with little. The gift of nothing may in fact have been the greatest thing my mother ever gave me.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Donut Picking

Q: Why are donuts round?
A: So you can slip them on around your waist!

My friend, Emily once described these delicious treats as fried fat and sugar. Yep, pretty much sums things up. This past Saturday I devoted my morning to exploring the nuances of cider donuts as I (and my mini me, Quinn) joined the 2nd annual Tour de Donut organized by Daniel Berman of Fussy Little Blog fame. It was quite a sacrifice of sleep and a commitment of time, once you factor in the 3+ hours for eating, driving and socializing, as well as the amount of time it took me to run 4 miles post-donut binge. All worth it.

I will allow Daniel to sums things up in his inimitable style - he promises the post will be up this week and he seems to be quite a reliable sort. I'll just offer some photos from the day and my opinion on what was best, leaving, of course, knowing "what's good" to Daniel.

Ready to eat donuts.  And ride a Harley.

Stop #1, 9 and 20, East Greenbush
Our first sample - nutmeggy

On the road to Goold's

100 years!  This was our first time there.


Where I stopped on the way home...that's a hint.

I love the little imperfection - see the evidence of the donuts once being connected?

They bonded over an imaginary nuclear bomb - and sugar.


Ah, glistening fat...

Samascott - curiously brown and whole grain-ish
And crumbly

Cutest logo

Cakiest donuts

Think pink - and positive
You know that PET scan I had the other day?  Well, as with many things in life, there is good news and potentially bad not so good news.  The area of my neck where tiny malignant things seem to like to grow is clear.  No signs of any additional issues, which means at this point I can avoid having my neck cut into for the fourth time in less than 10 years. However...

I've learned over the years, that when a physician's office calls with test results and they don't leave a message, there may be a problem.  Seeing that missed call on Friday and not seeing a corresponding voicemail, caused me to pause.  And pick up the phone and call the ENT's office.  Looks like there was some uptake in my breast area and I need to get a mammogram, despite just having had 2 in May.  So, today I will call my primary doctor's office and ask for a referral and schedule an appointment to have my breasts squished between those metal plates for the third time in less than 6 months.  

As far as PET scans go, I'm 2 for 2.  But, I know that if there's anything there it is early and I am confident that all will be fine.  And - how perfect that it is October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If you know me in real life (as if I'm an enigma virtually!) you know that I'm not one for trends, but this situation couldn't come at a better time of the year. For me and you ladies out there. Do your breast self exams and get that annual mammogram!  Early detection is key.

As for me,  I'm going to wear pink every frigging day.  If I'm not outrunning cancer mentally by literally taking a run wearing my hot pink ear buds, I'll be wearing a pink scarf or sweater, or socks or perhaps a favorite piece of hot pink under-attire.  Pink?  Oh, it will be there.  And we'll hope that's ALL that is there.  

Check out this recent SEEN gallery from the TU.  Survivors are everywhere.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Highlights and lowlights

This is the time of the year when I generally tweak my hair color to a richer, more autumnal shade. You know, add some highlights and lowlights to add depth to my color for the long dark winter that lies ahead. But that isn't what this post is about.  I've been reflecting on the month of the September and recognized that I've  had some rather extreme emotional experiences in the past 30 days.
image from
I'm inclined to overshare events in my life, focusing most often on the positive.  What can I say?  It's my way.  And my blog.  This past week I've struggled a little bit with my generally sunny outlook on life and I thought it would be a good exercise for me to kind of itemize the good and the bad to help me gain perspective.

Without further ado - the highlights of September 2011:

  • Visiting the NYS Fair with the boys and hanging out with my brother at his house.  This was the month when Q learned to swim and his time spent in my brother's pool was integral to the process.  Bonus that my brother is a doctor in case of any near drowning  incidents.
  • NYC with the girls.  No further explanation necessary or offered.   
  • Participating in the American Memorial Triathlon
  • Outstanding meals at Cafe Capriccio and the Capital City Gastropub
  • A memorable birthday breakfast
  • Celebrating birthdays and a marriage with friends
And now, the lowlights:

  • Seeing people I love struggle with loss and personal challenges
  • Losing the only other girl in my home, Cassidy Bono Lilly, for a night.  She was picked up by animal control when an unnamed Lilly boy did a crap job taking care of her.  She is no worse for her night spent at the Menand's animal shelter and perhaps appreciates home more now than ever.
  • Having a routine follow-up PET scan at Albany Med.  It sucks to walk through the door marked "Oncology" and know that you're in the right place.

Expressing these high and low points of the month clearly illustrates that I have way more to be thankful for than I have to complain about.  I also can appreciate that two of the difficult things aren't clearly about me - they're situations which affect me because I care. Which ultimately is a positive, isn't it?

I can't be alone in doing this, right?  Don't you weigh good and bad events in your life to try to evaluate how you're doing?  Do you check in, and if so, how?