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.   ;)