World Cup recap – bonding over balls and beer

Are you a soccer fan? Prior to the recent World Cup tournament, I certainly wouldn’t have declared myself to be one. When I answered Matt Baumgartner’s call for temporary employees to assist during the tournament, I was responding as a worker, not a soccer fanatic. But, something has definitely changed. This whole soccer thing? I think I like it.

Although two of my boys play soccer, I’ve avoided the moniker “soccer mom” with the skill of a teenager ducking household chores. Not me, no way. I attend games and cheer enthusiastically from the sidelines, but I certainly have no interest in driving around in a minivan with a soccer ball decal stuck to the back window. You know me, I’m not much of a joiner or follower.

The first match I worked was Team USA vs Portugal. The crowd at Wolff’s Biergarten was tremendous – pumped up and loud, but in no way aggressive or obnoxious. I loved their enthusiasm and the excitement was contagious. This was definitely going to be fun.

As “our” team advanced, along with Team Germany, the team of my maternal side of the family, I realized that my soccer playing middle son needed to be part of the scene. I arranged to bring him and a couple of his friends down to check out a match. They were awesome! In a crowd of hundreds, they hung out, clad in red, white and blue, mesmerized by the game and the other spectators. I was impressed by their poise and comfort and knew that Griffin and I would become regulars for the duration of the tournament.

As the matches came fast and furious, so did the communication between my family and me – emails, Facebook messages and status updates. Knowing that my family in Germany were occupied watching the same event as we were, was intensely comforting. Who knew that a ball game could make the world seem so small? I absolutely loved it.

When Team USA was eliminated, we placed our energy into cheering on the motherland, Deutschland. Our German flag accompanied us to the subsequent matches and I cherished the opportunity to be proud of being German in a world that doesn’t always perceive us as being worthy of admiration. The hefeweizen flowed and steins were raised amidst shouts of Prost! and Griffin and I hung out, side by side, united in our interest for 90+ minutes.

Photo: Wolff's Biergarten

Photo: Wolff’s Biergarten

Four years from now, my son will be 19, perhaps not as inclined to hang out in a sports bar with his mom as he was this year. I’d like to think, though, that he’ll someday tell his own children about the times he and I spent together watching the World Cup. If he doesn’t, believe me, I will.

More pictures from the tournament here.

http://www.timesunion.com/seen-events/slideshow/SEEN-U-S-A-vs-Belgium-World-Cup-at-Wolff-s-88979.php

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Filed under Albany, beer, Boys, Events, family, Germany, soccer, Summer, television

Morning thoughts

imageThe sun is peeking out from the soft grey clouds and my private little deck beckons. Listening to the birds and the trees on a quiet morning while the rest of the house still sleeps, is one of my favorite times of the day. No one needs anything, other than the hummingbird who just cruised by the feeder looking for some breakfast. He’ll have to wait.

I’ve been visiting the Cape for 16 consecutive summers and the charm has yet to wear off. Sure, there are places I no longer find appealing (I’m talking to you, obvious consumption Chatham) but, in general, I still appreciate what this place offers me. Despite all the changing variables – where we stay, the layouts of the various houses we have rented, the time of the summer, the composition of our families, which friends visit, the most special thing to me about the Cape is how it itself remains constant. There will be fried seafood and sandy feet and predictable tides. The shoreline may shift and beaches and dunes will erode, but the sun will reliably drop into the bay in a blaze of orange and purple at the end of the day. This, is what I love about being here.

I can’t help but reflect on my boys and how their needs and interests have changed over the years. The amount of props they once required! Strollers and pack and plays, life preservers and diapers – all gone now, replaced by digital toys and, thank God, books. When I packed this year, in my usual style, filling Rubbermaid containers which can double as hampers after the clothing is hastily put into temporary homes in strange dressers, I got my own bin for the first time ever. For years, I’ve shared my bin with my youngest as I’ve placed the big guys’ clothes together. This year their stuff is all together and I have a smaller box just for me. It means something doesn’t it?

Life is changing – every day. Coming to the beach and taking the time to recognize, accept and honor that, while digging my toes in the sand, makes these weeks the most special of the year. I hope you have a place like that, too.

Time to feed the hummingbirds.

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Filed under aging, Boys, Cape Cod, family, favorites, musings, road trips, Summer, vacation

Sipping from Siro’s Cup

With Dominick and Carolyn Purnomo.                            Photo by Joe Putrock, Special to the times Union.

Last night I attended my first Saratoga “event,” the 21st Annual Newton Plaza Siro’s Cup.  I was thoughtfully included in a friend’s group and during a very busy week, it was the thing for which I was most excited.  What to wear? Could I forsake peer comfort with foot comfort and wear flats? Accessories were key and I wanted to feel put together from head (day 2 hair, flat ironed and sprayed) to toes (freshly pedicured in a gorgeous shade of pastel sea foam).  I knew I needed to feel confident in my appearance and went with a whole Goddess of Reading look.  I think it worked.

The showers through which I had driven in Albany had completely disappeared and the air in Saratoga was fresh and comfortable.  The fancy cars, Maserartis, Rolls Royces and my dream car, a 2 door Porsche, were parked on display and the whole thing felt about as swanky as you can get when you’re essentially walking barefoot from your own wagon parked in a grassy field.

Inside the party there was an almost overwhelming sense of stimulation.  People were ON.  The multiple bars set up attracted what seemed to be the most outgoing cliques of friend – there was a definite (and deserved) sense of holding court.  The clothes, the makeup, the hair…there was so much to absorb.  Fashion-wise, it seemed that anything went.  Naturally, there were Nantucket Reds, seersucker and linen adorning the guys and dresses in every length and color on the women.  There was a lot of jewelry, along with a fair amount of serious suntan.

A constantly flowing river of attendees were carried on a current of cocktails. People seemed happy and there were many outbursts of laughter to be heard.  The “first party of the season” feel to it made for an excellent vibe.  It was fun.  I loved seeing my favorite Pirate Girl and am so psyched the she has taken up residence for the season, like the ballet or the writers of Yaddo.  There were other hospitality folks there – the generation II Purnomos, Matt Baumgartner, Michael Cocca.  It was nice to see them being on the receiving end of hospitality for a change.

Many familiar faces were in the crowd.  I mean, I’ve worked in local restaurants for long time and have probably served thousands of people. I had a couple of moments, though, of feeling mildly out of place amongst a crowd who have far more lucrative investments than merely budgeting carefully and buying consigned clothes.  A couple of times I greeted attendees I knew from one restaurant or another and I wasn’t recognized without giving my name or context.  Do I look that different?  Am I invisible as a server?  Have I gained weight?*  Am I aging poorly? It was a little awkward to navigate.

Gnocchi and shaved truffles

Gnocchi and shaved truffles

The scene, though, was captivating.  I could have walked, marveling under the star-filled sky, for even longer, but my belly demanded food and I don’t like eating standing up.  I headed to 15 Church and got exactly what I was looking for – something delicious and indulgent to eat and sip and the welcome of friends I’ve worked with over the years.  I wish Saratoga was closer.

Burrata, tomatoes, basil

Burrata, tomatoes, basil

*no charge for that peek inside my head.

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Filed under drinking, Eating, Events, Food, friends, Local, Restaurants, Saratoga, Summer, Wine

(Wo)man’s best friend

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Our new puppy, Jeter, has been part of the family for a few months now and I have to admit I am quite taken with him.  The early weeks were challenging as I sacrificed my sleep to housetrain a puppy who suffered from an ultra sensitive digestive system.  Those cold winter nights, with me sleeping in leggings and a long-sleeved shirt to hasten the going out process, are thankfully a distant memory.  Happily, we’ve now moved on to a much more pleasant stage of puppyhood.

What else can I tell you about the latest Lilly boy?  Well, he’s growing remarkably fast.  We just graduated to a larger collar and he no longer comfortably fits in the bedside chair he staked claim to months ago.  He also now leaps directly on to the bed without relying on the chair as a step.  Pretty impressive, right?  On a related note, this sleeping on the bed thing isn’t something I intended to occur, but I have to admit he is quite the cuddler.  No, really.  He seriously sleeps on his back, stretched out for all he’s worth, with his head frighteningly close to the pillows.  Sigh.  But he’s so damn cute…

Although I was concerned by his initial indifference to water, he is swimming like a champ these days!  Jeter loves taking dips in the Normanskill and has enjoyed a couple of pools in the last week or so.  He needs to be attended to in the pool because he is inclined to paddle around without a plan for either how to get back out again or what his endurance actually might be. Suddenly, he’ll go vertical with his head barely above water – a sure sign that he needs to be guided to a way out.

Jeter and I took our first road trip together earlier this month and he was pretty much perfect. He rode shotgun and was great company during the drive.  I swear my brother gave him more attention than any of my human children have ever received and I’m ok with that.  My brother has always been more of a dog person than a people person.

During that trip to Syracuse, it was duly noted that Jeter is a bit of a mommy’s boy.  True, I suppose.  Maybe it’s our morning routine at the kitchen sink when I share my strawberries with him?  Or could it be the efforts I make to get him to the dog park as frequently as possible?  I am inclined to spoiling the guys in my life, and Jeter is no exception.  I love that he eats berries, pears, apples, watermelon and carrots and have no problem indulging him when it comes to healthy snacks.  Geez, he probably eats more fruit than any of my human children!

Cassidy Bono - seeing her makes me smile and tear up simultaneously.

Cassidy Bono – seeing her makes me smile and tear up simultaneously.

I know that we’ll never stop missing our Cassidy, but, Jeter’s presence has made our house a home again.  I like to imagine that Cassidy is watching over us and knows that she will never be replaced in our hearts by the mischievous puppy we’ve brought into our family.  Hearts, though?  They have the capacity to expand faster than a puppy can grow – and that’s saying something.

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Filed under family, love, Observations

Friendship Garden

There was a time when I felt overwhelmed by the needs of my children.  The attention they demanded caused me to abandon my interest in taking care of any other living things, specifically my plants.  I believe I have one houseplant which survived those toddler years.  It is a shadow of its former self, but seems determined to remain a member of the household.

As the boys became more independent and able to entertain themselves a bit better, I started acquiring plants again.  There was a rubber tree I inherited after a friend’s move, a fern or two, a couple of plants my brother no longer wanted. My house once again had bright spots of greenery.  It was time to direct my attention elsewhere…

My front yard is the size of a postage stamp.  When I moved in 18 years ago, there were a couple of rose bushes and some grass. Simple.  And boring.  Over the years , friends have shared their perennials with me, beginning with Sharon and her purple cone flowers.  I remember her bringing over clumps of flowers and my not getting them into the ground for days.  I was skeptical that they would survive my neglect, but they have thrived in the sunniness of my front yard.

A few years later, the cone flowers were joined by Black-eyed Susans.  I love the sturdy cheeriness of these and usually cut some to have in the house.  I like to put them in an old glass pitcher with the baby’s breath my brother gave me a few years back.  The baby’s breath fills in an area of my garden directly in front of the red bee balm and purple balloon flowers which my friend Donna gave to me.  It’s one of my favorite little spots this time of the year when everything looks so lush.

There are shasta daisies and a variety of ever multiplying lilies, also.  The grass is long gone and mulch and rocks fill in the garden in the few bare areas which remain.  My iris, given to me by both my brother and my friend, Lisa, have long since bloomed, but I’ll need to thin those out come fall because they have taken off.  They’re surrounded in their home in my parking strip by colorful snapdragons.  I don’t recall ever planting snapdragons, but an elderly neighbor always had them in her front garden and I suspect that is where mine originated. I think she’d be happy to know that she left behind some life on our block.

Come fall, I also plan to thin out the geraniums I was given by a work friend. They would take over if I didn’t keep my eye on them! The peony, which was originally in my shady backyard, has settled into its sunny home and thanked me for its new digs by bestowing bloom upon bloom.  I’ll be splitting that this fall, as well.  Right now the peony is home to a cat which Jeter is constantly trying to flush out. Each time he brushes past the star-gazer lilies he marks himself with pollen.  Guess that makes him a flower, too, almost.

The biggest surprise in the garden this summer are the sunflowers.  After years of planting seeds with limited success, this year I left the work to the birds.  They have thanked me for my mostly constant feedings by spreading sunflowers throughout my garden.  In return, when they’re done blooming I will harvest the seeds and give them back to the birds.  Without the birds and my generous friends, my garden, and my life, would be a far less beautiful existence.

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Filed under beauty, Flowers, Gardens, Summer

Fireworks are where you find them

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How was your Independence Day? Do you agree with me that it should always fall on the first Friday of July? It was such a great way to begin a beautiful weekend!

I’ve been spending a little time remembering previous 4th of Julys and am a little surprised by how many distinctive memories I have of this particular holiday. I guess those fireworks aren’t always mere colorful explosions in the atmosphere. Sometimes they’re more earthshaking.

July 4th, 1976 was the first time I ever met my friend Virginia. We were at a marina on the west shore of Greenwood Lake, probably waiting for fireworks to go off from Chapel Island. Although I moved that summer and wouldn’t attend the same school as Virginia until two years later, I’ve never forgotten that exact moment, under a sky filled with anticipation, when we met.

I once flew into NYC on Independence Day. I had been out of the country for 5 weeks and I recall being greeted at JFK by friendly faced strangers giving away American flags. It felt like a hug. Another year, I had the unforgettable experience of being on a hop on/hop off tour bus in London on July 4th. As I glanced to my right the historic marker on a row house caught my eye – Home of Benedict Arnold. How perfect.

There was the year spent at a campground somewhere in Washington State’s Yakima River Valley. We had been camping for about a week and the somewhat seedy location of the campground seemed a major step down after the beautiful campsite we had enjoyed at Doe Bay on Orcas Island.  My perspective shifted after spending the afternoon getting to know some of the residents – and I do mean residents. It turns out a tremendous percentage of our fellow campers actually lived at the sad campground at which we had found ourselves. I was struck by the threat of combustibility which was present, the result of close quarters and even closer budgets. I was happy to get back on the road the next morning.

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This year, I enjoyed a perfectly colorful and delightfully explosive holiday. A morning spent with someone who inspires me to be my best, an afternoon watching World Cup soccer and an evening with the ideal view of Albany’s annual pyrotechnic display. Freedom was appreciated. More memories were made.  There were fireworks.

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A rich summer vs. summer enrichment

For those of you with school age children – what are your summers like?  Are they a time to explore new interests, further develop skills and pad college applications?  Are your children busy with summer jobs or camps?  Maybe they’re already tackling their summer reading lists to get a jump on things for fall.  All good things I suppose.

Around my house, though, things don’t look quite like that.  My oldest son has been busy re-watching episodes of Murder She Wrote and mastering the art of making omelets.  He also has a part-time unpaid internship set to begin in another week or so and I know he is looking forward to that experience.  Liam also learned recently how to pay by phone for Chinese food when I forgot to bring my wallet when I picked up the Chinese food, which meant he needed to call in my credit card information.  I think that’s an important life lesson, don’t you?

The middle guy has been occupied with playing lacrosse and watching the World Cup.  He’s been working on his game, both on and off the field, and I had a weird sense of pride when I saw his photo in a recent Seen gallery shot at Wolff’s Biergarten.  He was rocking his red, white and blue and appeared completely comfortable taking in the match while surrounded by beer-fueled adults.  I believe he finally may now understand that spending a little time each day doing homework eliminates the need to spend 10 more months taking Spanish 2 because you failed the class with a 62.5.  My walk last night with Jeter also taught him that I may just unexpectedly come around the corner when he is out hanging with his friends in the neighborhood – a good lesson for him to absorb, don’t you think?

As for my youngest, well, this week he mastered making his own pbj and has been taking even bigger steps towards independence.  Last weekend, for instance,  he attended an afternoon birthday party a couple of blocks away and walked home solo.  Sort of.  The birthday girl’s mom texted when he was leaving and there may have been an older cousin who walked him partially home.  The bottom line is he felt a sense of accomplishment and independence.  That is the kind of summer enrichment I’m looking for.

Summer, for me, is a time to catch up on things – some tasks around the house, a few books I’ve been meaning to get to and visiting friends I don’t often get to spend time with during the school year.  How about you?

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Filed under Boys, Education, SEEN, soccer, Summer, vacation