Monday, January 30, 2012

Sunday Mornings in the DelSo

I've always loved Sundays - fat newspapers, leisurely breakfasts, a second cup of coffee... They're just relaxing. For the last couple of months, I've switched things up a bit, though, delaying my TU fix until a bit later in the morning to squeeze in a little yoga at the DelSo's own Yoga Loft. Although adding something to a day doesn't always equate with enhancing well being, yoga, perhaps exercise in general, scoffs at this notion. Making the time to stretch my body and calm down my brain is an addition to my schedule that starts the day off with balance and community - ommmmmmmmmmmm.

The Sunday morning Sadhana is more of a shared practice than a class designed to instruct. The mood is mellow with lots of constructive observations, countless adaptations, and a decidedly casual feel. If you're looking to be pushed, this is probably not going to be your thing. However, if you're interested in exploring and sharing your practice, as well as making a monetary donation to a local organization, you need to get yourself to 540 Delaware Avenue Sunday morning.

Here's the skinny: Sunday mornings from 9:30-11 (isn't that a nice civilized Sunday time?) the Yoga Loft offers a weekly class with a rotating schedule of teachers.  The price?  Pay what you will.  Now, don't be cheap because the money is donated, on a monthly basis, to charity.  January's recipient was the Humane Society.  See?  Feel good physically, spiritually, mentally and karmically.  And, yes, karmically is a word. It's in the free dictionary.

Sunday morning bliss is only going to get more...ah, blissful, when All Good Bakers hits the space right next door to the Yoga Loft.  Good thing I can walk there - that parking lot is going to be full!

Von Strasser Cabernet, Diamond Mountain, Napa, 2006

Von Strasser Cabernet, Diamond Mountain, Napa, 2006

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Let's see about the go see

It has been a very odd week. And I'm not complaining. Did you know that in the not too distant past I thought every day of my life was going to be the same as yesterday? I had a sad, sad feeling that the next 30 years of my life were going to be coasting towards the ultimate end. Yep, that was it. The life I know today couldn't be more different than what I had tried to convince myself was an acceptable reality. The life I know today is, in fact, Better Than Ever. Which brings me to my recent adventure - an interview for an upcoming article at O magazine...

My former roommate, forever friend, longtime encourager of my writing, Rachel Aydt, sent me an intriguing (don't you love this word?!?) casting call from a former colleague of hers. O magazine was looking to cast a story about women who have experienced a shift, emotional, physical, mental, or spiritual, and who now feel they are indeed Better Than Ever. I don't know if I would have naturally seen myself in this light, but when you get an email from an old friend encouraging you to submit the requested photos and accompanying paragraph, you do it. So I did.

Which brings me to one of the most interesting points of this entire experience - how people, both those of longtime familiarity and of new acquaintance, perceive you. We've talked before about the fact that I am vain and self-satisfied. I won't deny it. I've worked really f'n hard for everything I have and I've kicked myself in the ass as frequently as I've patted myself on the back. Believe me. I know where I've come from and what I've achieved and am comfortable feeding my ego internally. What boggles me is when someone tells me that I inspire them or that I am Better Than Ever. That blows me away.
image from wikipedia

So, I went to NYC on a go see, just like in America's Next Top Model. Except, I'm not 6 feet tall with perfect teeth or even a fetching space between my top two teeth. And I can't imagine walking in heels higher than 3.5". And I honestly don't know how to reconcile the fact that I'm obviously a size small to people who don't know me, while in my own mind I am perennially a size medium. I had to draw an "x" through the line on the intake form where they wanted to know what modeling agency I was with, because I'm not a model. I'm just a woman with a story. And whether O magazine sees it or not, I know that I am Better Than Ever

To be continued....

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Eternal Ones

After what feels like a long time, I've fallen in love with reading books again and have relegated the iPad to a place not on my nightstand. Yes, yes, I know that some folks read books on iPads or other electronic readers, but that isn't really my way. I like to turn pages.

Anticipating a couple of personal days contending with a civil lawsuit (intriguing, yes?), I grabbed a novel to occupy my mind - Kirsten Miller's the eternal ones. From the jacket I was able to determine that it was a tale similar to Ann Brashare's My Name is Memory and The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I cracked the jacket with realistic enthusiasm and proceeded to be...mildly entertained? Here's the good news - there are a couple of likable characters and the descriptions of Italy and New York City provide interest and color. The book is also a really quick read, I read faster and faster because I was so amused by the ridiculousness of the story that I couldn't wait to see what inaneness came next. The only thing unpredictable about the plot was the consistently unimagined absurd plot twists.

This book had it all - romance, religion, adventure, drug abuse, a lovable gay stereotype, fashion, travel, mystery, suspense, humor, Satan... The only thing missing was plausibility. Hey, guess you can't have everything, right? Like those hours back that I spent reading this dreck.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Doing new math

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I was working on homework with my youngest son the other night.  He's in first grade and we were doing math.  I encountered a problem that absolutely boggled me for at least 90 seconds. No, really.  It was a simple addition question, but the method my son is being taught is very different from the way I originally learned addition.  Students are being taught to make "tens" when they have problems in which the solution is more than ten.  Like this question: 8+5 would be figured out by adding 8+2 (=10) + 3(5-2) = 13. Now, I believe I've mentally being doing math this way for years, but it caused me to wonder are children being served by taking this eventually intuitive method of math away from them before they can fully grasp it?  And, like I asked when I was in geometry class, how do, we use this stuff when we grow up anyway?

Well, grown-up math is a bit different than algebra and geometry. (I can't speak of trigonometry or any other higher orders of math.  I never got there.) My favorite math class was algebra, probably  because it was word math.  Replacing variables in a sentence or problem, with definite numbers, and solving for a specific answer often expressed with words, flexed my brain and satisfied me.  As an adult, many of the word problems I encounter involve taking chances in life - accepting risk in the hopes of achieving an satisfying solution.   Counting on people to do what they promise and intend.  Weighing risks and odds and making the decision to try and solve for X. Will A + B - C = Happy?  Who knows?  Will it all add up?  

In life, (as in math) there are positives and negatives, and just because I've always been more a word girl than a numbers girl, please don't ever assume I'm not capable of doing the math.  I may not yet know the ultimate solution but I'm more than willing to show all my work.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Roast Beast

While I wouldn't consider myself to be overly impressed by beefcake, I do enjoy a good piece of meat.  Last night I treated the Lilly boys/princes to a beautiful roast beef dinner.  Or roast beast, as I said to Quinn.

I prepared the beef simply,  with salt and pepper, and placed the roast on a meat rack in my magic roasting pan.  Below the beef in the pan was a combination of red wine, beef stock and sliced onions adding some steamy richness to the oven.  Confession: I don't know what I do wrong, but I struggle to slice roast beef as thinly as I would like.  Yes, my knife is sharp.  Any hints?

After spending the day in the crockpot
Dinner was tasty and there were unsliced leftovers of the 2.5 lb roast despite Griffin's best efforts. I only had to threaten Quinn with discipline twice, both times related to the mashed yellow and sweet orange potatoes.  As if beef and mashed potatoes aren't the ultimate pairing! 

This morning I placed the beef, the au jus/onion liquid and a couple of canned chipotles in adobo, into the crock pot and let things simmer all day.  Tonight, I removed the meat and shredded/sliced it, adding my leftover mashed potatoes from the previous night to the juices in the pot.  This step worked to both thicken things up a bit and to take the edge off my enthusiasm with the chilis. Delicious.  Like a spicy beef stew that would only have been more wonderful with some sliced avocado and a cheese quesadilla.  Maybe tomorrow. 

A Tale of Two Pinots

A Tale of Two Pinots

A cool follow-up to this post - I responded to a Tweet from Empire Wines inquiring about what their followers were drinking on a Wednesday. I mentioned the Talbott Logan - I was at work, sometimes I have to have a glass of wine when I'm working. Empire must have retweeted me because I got a tweet from Talbott thanking me for enjoying their wine. I responded to them and asked if the Logan Pinot was restaurant only because Empire didn't have it available. They responded saying "no," and offered to discount my s&h if I would like to purchase some directly from them.

And that, my friends, is Marketing 101 using social media.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Strawberry Field Forever

In case you don't know, I love baked goods. Cookies are one of my favorite things to snack on, especially with a tall glass of cold milk, but I've pretty much been disappointed by the cupcakes I've tried around town.  I don't really understand why they have to be filled with artificial ingredients and the ration of frosting to cake is usually way wrong for me.  I've contented myself with baking for myself and the boys to satisfy a craving, and usually have cookies stashed somewhere in the pantry.  I like cookies for the size and variety - and the fact that I can eat 3 or 4 and feel adequately indulged.  But, I believe I've found another option...

At last week's Albany Wine and Dine for the Arts I had an opportunity to try a new kind of delciousness - cake pops. These beauties were prepared by Strawberry Field Confections
based in Clifton Park and they were fantastic!  Their display table was eye-catching with artfully presented trays laden with colorful treats in a mind boggling array of flavors - German chocolate with walnuts, Salted caramel, lemon, pistachio and my favorite - carrot cake.
I should have had these, too!  Silly Silvia.

The carrot cake pop was moist, perfectly spiced and three bites.  I considered going back for a salted caramel one but got distracted by Yono's short ribs and the pork belly from the Wine Bar. Ah, sweet regret...I didn't get pricing information but if I had an event that demanded a dessert course, I would definitely look into these babies as an option.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Savory Bread Pudding

I'm not a vegetarian, but every once in a while I have a dish that tells me I could be without missing meat at all.  Like this fabulous mushroom dish prepared by Jason Baker, the chef at the Wine Bar and Bistro on Lark - where I am lucky enough to work a couple of nights a week. Damn, that was tasty!

King Oyster Mushroom small plate - by Jason Baker
Thanks to another guy, Jonathan, at the bistro, I experienced my first savory bread pudding recently.  It isn't often that I request a recipe from someone, but this bread pudding was unlike anything I've ever eaten - earthy, cheesy, and a touch squashy sweet - delicious comfort food perfect for a potluck, brunch or Super Bowl party.  I made mine with a molasses sweetened multi-grain bread, which I think added a nice dark richness to the finished product.  Next time I make it (and there most certainly will be a next time), I will be a bit less enthusiastic about the amount of bread I use.  It was a tad drier than I would have liked.  Nonetheless, the kale released a bit of juice which prevented things from being too dry and the 5th period lunch crew really seemed to enjoy my Monday offering.

Bubbly, hot veggies, cheese and bread - oh, my!

There were some leftovers to contend with and, in my opinion, this dish screamed for a fried egg or two to take it to a whole 'nother time of the day - breakfast.  I'm a big fan of getting some fruit and/or veggies servings in early in the day and this recipe does the trick.  Don't be shy - add some ham or smoked salmon, maybe mix things up with spinach or a variety of squashes.  Remember - it's your meal!  Or meals, as the case may be.

The breakfast version.  You know I like me a fried egg.  Or two.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

All is Good in the Neighborhood!

The All Good Baker folks at The Wine and Dine for the Arts Festival
2012 had begun on a very high note in the DelSo...we're going to become the new home for Albany's only farm to baker, All Good Bakers.  Local, sustainable and fresh pretty much sums up their creed and the photos below offer a glimpse of how good those adjectives look when in the Fosters' capable hands. I can't wait to finally have an opportunity to get really familiar with all the good things created by All Good Bakers.  If that crazy delicious grilled cheese on their sourdough that I sampled at the Food and Wine Fest is any indication of what local, sustainable and fresh tastes like, well...I may want to hold on to some of my more generously cut jeans...

Beef Stir-fry

Do you ever buy those really thin cuts of beef at the grocery store?  They're done in minutes and the boys love them - and there are never any leftovers when I cook with these inexpensive pieces of beef.  I think some folks may use them for steak sandwiches or something along those lines, but at my house they scream "stir-fry!"  So that's what we did...

I sliced the "steaks" into thin strips and tossed them into a mixture of kecap menis, soy sauce and freshly squeezed orange juice.  Into the wok they went with a little sesame oil and chopped scallions.  This dish lends itself to your creativity - maybe add some matchstick carrots or sugar snap peas.  How about some par-cooked sweet potato rounds or water chestnuts?  A quick minute or 3 and they're done.  On this particular evening, I served them with some sesame ginger rice, and sliced orange peppers and avocado - making an appealing, colorful meal in less than 30 minutes.  Take that, Racheal Ray!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

We All Fall Down

image from:
I have a dark fascination with addiction. I don't understand it, but I know that it is real and accept that it is a part of our society. It's everywhere. Of course, for every drug addict there is an ever widening circle of the people impacted by the drug addict and their actions. I think it would be very difficult to find a person who has not been touched in some way by addiction. Despite my years in the restaurant business, I have had minimal exposure to hard drugs or the people who use them. Most of my knowledge comes from reading memoirs and the experiences I learn about when there is a drug related death in a friend's life. Unfortunately on this particular day in January, I've spent time reeling from both of those occurrences in a single day.

A couple of years ago I read two nonfiction works written individually by a father and son, David and Nic Sheff. The father's book, Beautiful Boy, shares the heartbreaking story of losing a beloved child to a life of drugs, prostitution and criminal activity. And that Beautiful Boy, of course, is Nic. His tale, Tweak, told matter-of-factly, with false bravado and a persistent tone of disbelief, taught me about a world where drugs repeatedly ruined, and sometimes ended, lives. Nic has a new book out, We All Fall Down, which I just read in record (for me these days) time. The repeated trips to rehab, the 12 Steps that never were taken, and the disappointment that constantly waged war with the hope for a happy ending, made this book a real page turner. Knowing that Nic had relapsed after the original success he experienced with Tweak was disheartening, but this was one of those books that can cause a reader to hold their breath. Powerful.

Which brings me to the other part of my day. Perfectly lovely parents are not guaranteed that their children will escape the allure of hard drugs. I've been to some wakes and funerals over the years and too often they have been for people younger than myself. To witness a parent bury a child is to witness one of the deepest sorrows imaginable, and as a parent, I think it is impossible to attend these funeral services without projecting how one survives such a tragedy. I don't want to ever know.

Addiction is an illness frequently accompanied by undiagnosed mental illness. Depression is common, as is a history of abuse, and self esteem issues. Closing the book on Nic Sheff's struggles only to learn about a friend's loss of their beloved child to addiction and depression, is nothing short of shockingly sobering. On Friday morning when I share books with students as part of their class' requested "booktalks," the Sheffs' books will be included. While I've never subscribed to Nancy Reagan's Just Say No policy, I will do my best to make sure that children Know the reality and perils of drug experimentation and addiction. And then, Friday night I will attend the wake of a friend's child and do my part to offer consolation from the ultimate loss. We all fall down. I suppose that being surrounded by family and friends willing to support us, through our struggles and sorrows, is what allows us to keep picking ourselves up.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The half life of neglect

According to Wikipedia Half Life is defined as the period of time it takes for the amount of a substance undergoing decay to decrease by half. It's radioactive decay. I'm not really a science girl - I appreciate the nurturing it takes for something to grow and I know that my health has been directly improved because of medicine (including radiation) and science, but, for the most part, I don't really get it. And, honestly, I'm not even that curious.

When I run, I exercise my mind. During last night's trot around the neighborhood, my thoughts were bouncing around - pausing on relationships that have inspired me. Inspired me to see things in a different way, to learn about myself and what makes me happy, to make changes in myself and my life. From out of nowhere, the concept of half lives flew into my mind and landed with a thud and I realized that I could apply that concept to two of my longest duration relationships quite neatly.

If you know me or possess the ability to read between the lines with perception, you've probably gathered that my mother and I don't share an easy relationship. It took me 30 years, a good friend's sage observations and a boatload of therapy to realize that, on many levels, I lived a childhood of neglectful. Understand, she was never, ever abusive but she just didn't have the capacity to address my emotional needs. No blame here, no anger (used that up as a teen), no judgment, just reality.

I guess I should consider it progress that it only took me half as long, til the age of 45, to wake up to the fact that my fundamental complaint about my marriage was a lack of emotional care giving. This isn't a criticism of my former spouse. I don't think either of us realized how much I yearned for someone to take care of me from the inside and I'm at least equally guilty of neglecting that part of myself. My own inability to recognize and ask for what I needed was radioactive poison causing decay, no doubt.

I know I can't decontaminate either of those prior relationships and I'm more than okay with that. I'd like to think that the part of me that has been becoming progressively smaller is the part that tolerates being neglected, by me, and by those whom I allow into my life. In the big picture, even a half life is far too much time to waste.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Thought while loading the dishwasher...

How I see it:
image from

How my dog sees it:
image from

Saturday, January 7, 2012

“Ridiculous” Lamb

My most recent contribution to Vinoteca. Lamb food porn. Ridiculous.

“Ridiculous” Lamb

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Giving up

Trying to maintain relationships with people who don't communicate with me. Done.

Reading blogs that subsist on recycled ideas and mean spirited observations. Living life on the edge ain't for me. Finished.

Paying more than my share in life. In a world of nickel and dimers, I've erred on the side of generousity. No more.

Not dealing directly with people and situations that are unacceptable. I'm no longer willing to have the discussion solely in my head. Over and done.

Avoiding wearing my reading glasses from the mistaken belief that I can't possibly be at an age when I really need reading glasses. Surrendered.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Saying thank you

image from
How and when do you express appreciation? In an age of electronic and digital communication (are these the same??) are you inclined to say thank you with a phone call or perhaps an email or text? Does a simple and sincere face-to-face "thanks" suffice?

I recently read something about this book and it got me thinking about how meaningful an unexpected written thank you note can be to a person. And I believe that unexpected is the key word in that sentence. We're not talking here about the forced thank you notes children must write prior to being allowed to enjoy a present, or that obligatory wedding or shower gift acknowledgment. What I'm referring to is inherently more meaningful - a thoughtfully written note which communicates appreciation for an act of kindness, a generosity or a professional service. You want examples? How about three...

In the fall of 2010 I had corrective surgery on my separated shoulder. This cycling injury had become progressively more uncomfortable and I had arrived at the last resort - surgery. My doctor, Max Alley, did a fantastic job with the procedure. From his willingness to operate with a local anesthesia to the ultimate positive outcome, the surgery was an absolute success and I regained my ability to enjoy physical activities, most especially cross-country skiing. So I sent him a little note of appreciation. And - guess what happened? He responded in kind sending me a thank you note for my note!  As I said to him in my note, I hope to never see him again, but if I do our connection will be more personal, which I think, is pretty cool.

A few weeks ago I had an errand at the newly renovated Albany County Courthouse.  I was cutting it close on time and became extremely frustrated due to the locked doors at the main entrance on Eagle Street coupled with the complete lack of signage indicating how to get the heck in the building.  I literally had to go to another building and inquire where the entrance was (on the east side of the courthouse.  You're welcome.)  and, when I finally made my way to the office I needed, I was told that I was too late in the afternoon (Friday, naturally) to get done what I had practically maimed myself (extreme exaggeration) to accomplish.  I was not pleasant to the woman at the desk and I think know I spoke to her in an unnecessarily brusque fashion.  She very calmly and competently defused me with her tone of voice and reasonable demeanor.  I ultimately left my documents with her because she offered to keep them on her desk and attend to my matter first thing Monday morning.  After I left, I felt awful about the manner in which I had behaved, so I wrote a letter to her boss, Albany County clerk, Thomas Clingan to commend her for her professionalism.  I was most pleasantly surprised to receive a response directly from him thanking me for my note and expressing the appreciation of his staff for my notice of their hard work.  Nice, right?

And my third example?  Let's just say it involved a winning 50/50 raffle ticket with a substantial prize - maybe $2000+.  And maybe the winner of that prize independently elected to donate $1000 of that prize to the family who the lottery originally benefited, while keeping $1000 as a contribution to a fund for a special upcoming family event and making three smaller donations to other worthwhile charities.  And, perhaps, the donor never received the slightest acknowledgment of her generosity.  (At least not from the largest beneficiary - the other 3 donations were accepted with appreciation.)  Nope - not a phone call nor a note were ever received.  Granted, one shouldn't be motivated to give by the expectation of appreciation, but I honestly can't imagine ever cashing that check before expressing my gratitude.  Can you?

Maybe I should send them one more gift?  Perhaps a copy of this post would be appropriate? Nah, I'll just continue on my own path of appreciation because what you put out there does eventually come back.  Thankfully.

Monday, January 2, 2012


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I just finished an amazing book about a remarkable man. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand relates the absolutely inspiring life story of Louie Zamperini, an Olympic athlete, a soldier in the Pacific during World War II and, ultimately, a man who did not allow the extreme challenges in his life to permanently break him. Or, perhaps Louie's story isn't so much about how to deny life the opportunity to break oneself, but is instead a story that proves that it is the way we put the pieces back together, after being broken, that truly define us.

This excerpt, from when Louie began to run seriously, moved me.  Perhaps it was my own physical proximity to where he had been decades earlier, but I felt as if I knew exactly what he had experienced.

"...he went to stay at a cabin on the Cahuilla Indian reservation, in southern California's high desert...He ran up and down hills, over the desert, through gullies...He didn't run from something or to something, not for anyone or in spite of anyone; he ran because it was what his body wished to do."

I imagine it looked like this...
Get this book for athletes, veterans, WW II history buffs, and anyone struggling with personal challenges. It is unforgettable.