Joe (go to) College

image: envisioningtheamericandream.files.wordpress.com

Did you happen to see this article in the Times Union recently?  I’m sure lots of folks feel gratified by their decision to reside in one of the successful suburban districts which are considered to be the best in the region.  Me?  I’m left with more questions than answers by the conclusions drawn and I want more information.

  • How many of the students attending those schools immediately after graduating high school, complete their programs in either two or four years?
  • How many of the students attending 4 year schools graduate from that same institution in 4 years?
  • What is the median household income in each of those school districts?
  • How about the average educational attainment in those same households?

I may be in the minority here, but I’m not overly concerned with whether my children go to college immediately after high school. And I’m not talking about the trendy “gap” year either.  If higher education is the logical step on a path leading to a long-term career, what I’m curious to know is this: how many 18 year-olds truly know what they want to do professionally for the rest of their lives?

On a recent evening, the teenaged Lilly boys and I had an interesting conversation about college – getting in, being successful, and paying for it.  In my mind, college isn’t a prolonging of the carefree days of high school with the added benefit of being away from home and playing beer pong.  It’s a serious and expensive investment.  Why take that on when you’re 18 unless you are either

a. incredibly motivated or
b. able to take advantage of an opportunity to attend a school with a substantial scholarship?

My route to college, and ultimately a Master’s Degree, was not direct.  After leaving high school in my senior year, I worked full-time and supported myself. At the age of 21, I tentatively dipped my toes into higher education by taking a couple of night classes at the local high school in the village where I lived.  The following year, I moved to Albany and began studying full-time.

Do I regret not taking a more traditional path to college?  Not at all.  If I were to do it all over again, the only thing I would change would be to have taken even more time to have traveled.  I wish I had taken my hospitality skills on the road and spent some time waitressing in resort areas where I could have made bank while experiencing new sights.  For me, the important thing about having a college degree isn’t about when you start earning it, it’s more about when you finish it.  What do you think?

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Filed under Boys, Education, Schools

“Stuff” to do with your Field Goods

 Have you ever participated with a CSA?  I did one year and found myself more than a little overwhelmed by the array of obscure greens and heritage vegetables.  While I enjoyed the challenge of trying to create meals from previously unknown ingredients, I have never been tempted to commit again to the responsibility of having to retrieve my bag of goods from a remote location.  Field Goods and their convenient delivery to my school has proven to be the ideal solution for getting fresh, and sometimes frozen, produce into my kitchen and my tummy.

This week’s bag included some beautiful Portobello mushrooms and the timing of this exchange on Twitter could not have been more perfect:

twitter

 

Ding, ding – dinner has been determined!

I started by wiping the mushroom and removing the stems, trimming the ends a bit.  Using a combination of olive oil and butter, I sautéed the chopped stems, adding minced shallots* and chopped onion* and basically softening everything up.  I had about 2/3 of a cup of leftover couscous and tossed that in as well.  Rummaging through the fridge, I also found a few sprigs of (kind of) fresh thyme and minced that up to add to the pan along with about a ½ cup of bread crumbs.  I seasoned with salt and pepper to taste and turned the oven on to 350.
caps

I placed the intact caps in a shallow baking dish and drizzled them with a little olive oil and put them in the oven to soften up a bit.  After about 10 minutes, I filled the caps, generously piling the stuffing on.  I had some kind of crappy parmesan cheese in the cheese drawer and grated it over the mushrooms and covered the baking dish with foil.  I heated everything through (maybe 7 or 8 minutes) and then uncovered my tasty meatless dinner.

Delicious and satisfying!  I will definitely make these again.  Maybe, once Lent is finally over, I’ll add a little sausage or ground turkey…

Leftovers lunch!

Leftovers lunch!

* the shallots and onions were both from previous weeks’ deliveries.

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Filed under Cooking, Dinner, Eating, Food, Recipes

New York City, just like I’m picturing it

I’m getting kind of excited about spending some untethered time in NYC.  I feel like circumstances are aligning.  The sun is expected to shine in mild blue skies.  The moon will be nearly full and, I predict, spectacular.  I have a good idea about what I’m going to wear (cutoff shorts with footless tights, flat shoes for walking) and what I’ll need to pack (running gear, a cute dress for cocktails).

My plans are fluid but include a couple of stops on my way downtown – Macy’s, perhaps, Porto Rico Importers, definitely, Rocco’s more than likely.  I’ll be dressed casually so I’m going with a backpack instead of an overnight bag.  I like to have my hands free and travel light.

I’ll have a quality late lunch with at least one glass of wine, maybe my first rose of the season.  My plans include a nap followed by a run.  I want to head south down the lower west side to Battery Park through the Seaport and over the Brooklyn Bridge.  The “blood moon” will be rising and whatever music I choose I know will be perfect.

A quick shower off, a little makeup and then there will be cocktails at a swanky place down on lower Hudson where, I believe, Sundays are “pants optional.”  Fun will be had.  I know how to do this.   It’s going to be epic.

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Filed under favorites, NYC, running, Spring

Yoga and the best shift ever

Have you seen this heartwarming video?  I myself tried to resist the repeated postings and “likes” on Facebook, but finally caved a few days ago and watched it.  I cried.  There was something so touching about Chelsea’s story – her own recovery from an eating disorder, the support she provides to her younger sibling, her daily efforts to work as a restaurant server as well as devote time to her passion and healer, yoga.  She is truly inspirational and I was thrilled to “witness” her hard work be rewarded as she was presented with a fat cash tip, a trip to Hawaii, her dream job and a new car.  Wonderful!

Chelsea Roff struck me as a survivor, a young woman who has worked to improve a life which came with an almost unfair share of challenges.  One of the ways she has changed her life has been by devoting herself to the practice of yoga.  Not content to reap the benefits of yoga without giving back, Chelsea has created a foundation to share yoga with others struggling with food issues.

Yoga as a therapeutic activity seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?  Lest you think it is an opportunity not available in our area, allow me to direct your attention to some exciting local opportunities designed to provide yoga to those who may need it most – those who struggle with addiction and recovery and military veterans and their families.  These free classes are designed to bring the benefits of yoga to people who may not otherwise be exposed or involved with yoga and the rewards practice can be bring to anyone.

Check out the offerings below, share the information with anyone you know who may be interested and contact The Hot Yoga Spot with any questions.  Namaste.

military

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addiction

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Filed under Albany, Events, Exercise, Local, News, Recommendations, yoga

Happy trails

DSC_0009At one point Sunday afternoon, as Chrissy and I ran over snow and sand and through mud and ice, I had to laugh at how lucky it is that we both find the challenge of trail running to be fun.  Yes, fun.  It’s like being a kid again, running through the woods to either get somewhere, or maybe away from someone, not really knowing exactly where we’re going, but having the luxury of enough time to simply run.

On Saturday we did the Parker 5k, a seriously challenging lope through the woods which Chrissy blazed through.  We were down a lunar b*tch, unexpectedly, but we both rallied for respectable finishes on a morning which was far more benign than expected.  There was no rain and the mud provided an obstacle or added an element of excitement, all in the eye of the beholder.

Aren't they lively looking?

Aren’t they lively looking?

A couple of remarks I heard post-race were validating, the race was “humbling,” and the trail “grueling.”  No one was complaining. This event is pleasingly small with only about 100 finishers and everyone who participated appeared remarkably healthy and fit.  As Chrissy said, it felt much more like a friendly group run through the woods than a race.  Next year, hopefully we’ll be our usual running threesome. Missed you, Karen!

Sunday was a gorgeous day – the first day of the year for me to run wearing only a single layer and sleeveless, at that.  We met at the Pine Bush’s trailhead #7, where we consulted a posted map and quickly determined we had no idea how to read it properly.  It was mid afternoon and we had time and an app on our side so we headed in, bearing right at most forks in the trail as we sought a longish run.  The scenery was absolutely beautiful and the day was an ambiguous one, early spring which easily could have been mistaken for mid fall.

"Mudders"We skirted a deep ravine and ran on the narrowest of paths up steeper than expected hills.  There was mud, but no real standing water and we both were glad we had worn our mudders from the previous day again.  We encountered fewer than a handful of other intrepid fun seekers and I have a new desire to familiarize myself with this large nature area.  Saratoga State Park’s trails have nothing on this place in terms of challenge and beauty and I can’t wait to go back for another, even longer, loop.

We wrapped up our running adventures with a first of the season soak in Chrissy’s hot tub.  It was a good weekend.

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Filed under Albany, beauty, Events, friends, Local, running, Schools, Spring, sunday, upstate New York

Good morning, heartache

My middle son is going through a phase which I am calling his “asshole phase.”  Please, hear me out on this.  He is a smart, social, funny and athletic kid and I love him dearly, but he is having a very difficult time understanding that “with great power comes great responsibility.”  As a parent who remembers high school as a time of not necessarily applying myself, I am empathetic to a certain extent, but when I consider the advantages he has compared to what was available to me, my indulgence of his laziness starts to dry up.  Time to figure it out, my friend.

Possessing the myriad of gifts and advantages he has, yet not using them, has prevented him from fully participating in sports this spring.  This should be his third year playing lacrosse, but instead of suiting up and getting on the field, he’s sitting on the bench because of academic probation.  I am so appreciative of the fact that there are academic requirements for extracurricular participation.  It prevents me from dropping the hammer and once again being the “bad cop.”

Today is the last day of his freshman year’s third academic quarter and he has failed to submit his outstanding work for the past 10 weeks of school.  Looks like he’ll continue to be a bench warmer rather than an active participant in his chosen spring sport.  C’est la vie.  It hurts my heart to see him not achieving all he is capable of, but at least I don’t have to worry about him getting hurt physically, right?

As the middle guy struggles with time management and fulfilling the expectations and responsibilities which come from growing up, my little guy is taking steps away from me.  This morning, as I parked my car to walk him into school, I noticed his friend walking down the block, solo.  I pointed out his buddy and asked Quinn if he wanted to walk into school with just his friend.  He quickly said yes and happily joined his classmate for an independent “big guys” walk to school.

I got back in my car, pleased that I would be uncharacteristically early for work.  Before I turned the key, though, I took a moment to watch my baby walking away from me and felt a squeeze around my heart.  He’s growing up soo fast!  I paused, thinking about how parenthood at times feels like a series of nearly physical exertions – sometimes we push from behind, other times pull from ahead.  As I drove away from the curb I glanced over at Quinn at the same moment he turned back to look at me.  We both smiled.

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Filed under Boys, moms, Schools

Down and dirty paella

DSC_0012Ever have one of those days when you’ve taken something out of the freezer to cook for dinner with an idea that becomes less appealing as the day goes on? Yeah, me, too. Earlier this week I took a pound of 16-20 shrimp and some thinly sliced chicken breasts out to thaw with a plan to make some sort of garlicky scampi with pasta. It sounded like just what I wanted at 6:00 a.m., but as the day progressed I reconsidered. I wanted something with more vegetables and some spice…

I did a quick search on epicurious using shrimp and chicken as my search terms and came up with a super simple recipe for paella that I knew would work, both in terms of ingredients on hand and Lilly boy preferences. In less than 30 minutes, dinner was ready to go in the oven and I was ready for a quick run. Not a bad Tuesday at all.

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I started with a chopped onion and a bag of frozen chopped peppers from my Field Goods service. Talk about easy – cut open the bag and toss it into the pan! When the veggies were softened, I removed them from the pan and sautéed the chicken, which I had cut into 1.5-2″ chunks, in the same deep pan. When the chicken was almost cooked through, using a slotted spoon, I removed it and put it aside.

Next, I placed about 3.5 cups of chicken broth (a combination of homemade and boxed) in the same pan and turned the heat up to high. When the broth was almost boiling, I threw in 1.5 cups of arborio rice along with about 1.5 t of smoked paprika. I turned the heat down to medium and stirred the rice every few minutes (while I changed into my running clothes) until it was al dente.

The final step was reincorporating the vegetables and chicken and adding the uncooked shrimp. I removed the pan from the heat, covered it and took off for my five mile loop. After returning home, I placed the covered pan in the oven at 300 degrees to warm through for about 10 minutes. Boom! A fast, tasty dinner which everyone enjoyed. If I had some saffron, I certainly would have used it, but I instead seasoned simply with salt and pepper to taste and spiced up my own portion with a delicious pepper jelly I had picked up in New Orleans.

This “recipe” is incredibly versatile – chorizo, leftover ham or chicken thighs could easily be swapped in for the protein choices I made. The flavor profile could be varied by adding beans and/or some hearty greens or trade the paprika for some fresh thyme or flat leaf parsley. Go crazy – it’s just dinner.

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Filed under Boys, Dinner, Food, Recipes, Uncategorized