Category Archives: friends

Rise up

DSC_0015Last year, I was blessed to spend Easter in the Black Forest.  There was a dusting of new snow that morning and I attended mass alone in a beautiful church where the only word I truly understood was “Amen.”  It was perfect.    In the little town of Neustadt, thousands of miles from “home,” I had a deep sense of belonging to something larger than the daily world I have made for myself and my children.  I loved that holiday.

7lbs of bone-in prime rib

7lbs of bone-in prime rib

This year, the boys and I enjoyed a special dinner on Holy Saturday.  I jumped off the meatless Lent train a day early and we feasted on prime rib and grilled asparagus.  I opened a fine bottle of Bordeaux which, after our meal was consumed and cleaned up, I brought to the neighbors’ to share.  There were more bottles of wine uncorked and I enjoyed a relaxed spring evening.  It was lovely.

DSC_0025 This morning, I mastered the lamb cake mold my family had mailed from Germany a few weeks back.  It took three attempts to nail it.  The first try was a disaster – the pan fell over in the (newly cleaned) oven making an impressive mess as the batter flowed into the most impossible to clean crevices.  Take two involved an unfortunate premature slide of the cake from the perfectly buttered and floured mold as the poor lamb lost its head.  Literally.  Toothpicks put things back in place, but I decided to give it one final shot this morning and I found success.

These different experiences from last year to now, offer a wonderful perspective, for me, about life and living.  Home is where we feel loved.  Friends are family.  Sometimes we need to keep trying to get something right.  And, finally, we all need to rise up and live the life we have been given.  Happy Easter.

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Filed under baking, family, friends, Germany, holidays, Observations, Spring

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

What makes a tradition?

unnamedI remember Aloysius asking me that very question a couple of years ago as the Laker guys and I started talking about revisiting Mountain Jam. Since we had all gone together the previous year, was returning to the festival for a second time, in fact, a tradition? Operating on the premise that traditions bring us closer as friends and family, we decided it was. This June, we’ll hopefully be honoring that tradition for consecutive year. Rock on.

In March 2011 I skied for the first time at Belleayre Mountain. When I say “first time” I mean, I’d never really skied before and I’d never been to Belleayre. I was participating in a winter triathlon and I only took one run down the mountain, but I remember grinning like a fool as I cautiously wove my way down the mountain. The view was gorgeous and the novelty of actually having edges on my skis gave me, a veteran cross-country skier, a new sensation. I loved it.

During the winter of 2012-13, I got back down there twice, once for Ski School with my youngest son and once just to enjoy the slopes with Aloysius. That second visit was on a beautiful late winter day in March. The skiing was great as was the novelty of enjoying a cold beer midway down the mountain in the warmth of the bright sunshine. Sublime.

Yesterday, I made my way down that way again. My map app offered a number of different routes and I chose the one which took me along local roads through Greene and Ulster counties, in no rush despite having been robbed of an hour due to daylight savings time. The drive was beautiful with a sky alternating between flurry-filled and sunny.

I pulled into the parking lot just before noon, with perfect timing to take advantage of the half-day rate of $90 for rentals and life ticket, and to meet friends who had gotten an earlier start. As has been my experience on previous visits, the staff was incredibly pleasant and helpful. I obviously don’t have a lot of experience with skiing or the skiing lifestyle, but the folks here are excellent ambassadors to a novice like me. I particularly appreciated when the young guy who fitted me for skis remarked that I “looked like an athlete.” Yes, and thank you very much for noticing, my new friend.

I got in a couple of runs on the easy trails, gradually becoming confident as the moves became more familiar, prior to meeting up with my friends. We had lunch together in the base lodge and then took one run together on a moderate trail that I remembered from prior years. Chrissy remarked that I skied with a lot of control, a fair enough observation. I have no interest in getting hurt, I just want to enjoy being outdoors – the fresh air, the mountains, the sounds of my skis cutting through the snow.  My friends left and I returned to the chairlift again and again until I was cold and ready to warm up and head north again.

While I wish I had the time and the money to get to Belleayre more frequently, I’m okay with only getting there a time or two a season.  After all, the traditions I most treasure, like Mountain Jam, are those which only occur once a year.  That being said, if anyone wants to head down there before the snow disappears for another year – hit me up.  I’m in.

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Filed under Aloysius, beauty, Exercise, friends, road trips, skiing, snow, upstate New York, winter

Yaktrax and making tracks

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for those of us who like to exercise outdoors.  I mean, 5 degrees on the plus side just doesn’t beckon to me, especially when the skies are grey and the wind is kicking up.  After nearly a week without a run, I finally got out last Saturday during a break in the deep freeze.  Of course, it was kind of snowing and rather messy, but damn it the thermometer was finally in the double digits and I needed to run.

Yaktrax in the snow

I’ve enjoyed winter runs and consider a layer of ice on the sidewalk to be an added challenge, along with a bit of a core workout.  I like it.  Layering up may be time consuming, but I have the right clothes and I love the time outdoors, traveling at my own pace.  Saturday’s run required 4 layers and the addition of a new foul weather friend – Yaktrax.

I originally bought these “slip-on” grip enhancers last winter, but they languished in my running drawer until the other day.  My hesitation to use them was based on fear – I was afraid that my feet would hurt or that I would feel awkward running on these springy-things.  Fortunately, I was wrong.  Once I figured out how to put them on they felt pretty light and were actually fairly unobtrusive for the first 3-4 miles.  I had a great deal of traction and didn’t slip or slide at all while wearing them.  I began to become more aware of them during mile five, feeling some new sensations in my lower legs, which may or may not have been from the Yaktrax.  Either way,  I’ll use them again and try to remember to pair them with an outer layer with pockets leaving myself the option of taking them off, if necessary.

Sunday morning, I got an email from Pineridge Cross Country Ski Area, an awesome old school ski area on the other side of the Hudson.  This place has some of the most beautiful trails I’ve ever skied on and I was thrilled to receive notice that they had 25 km of trail open.  After consulting with my runner girls, we made a plan to get ourselves to Poestenkill for a couple of hours of outdoor fun.

Beautiful!

Neither Karen or Chrissy had ever skied here before and I was so happy to share this beautiful place with them. Chrissy offered me the job of “Life Tour Guide,” a career I think I could really get down with if only it was a real option.  Although it was only about 13 degrees, there wasn’t any wind and the sun was reasonably bright.  There may have also been a sip or two of homemade limoncello that provided a nice warm glow to our afternoon.  We had a fantastic time and I hope to get out there again next weekend.  At less than $20 for a trail pass and only a slightly more than 30 minute drive from the DelSo, it’s a bargain indulgence.  Get there!

So fun!

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Filed under beauty, Exercise, favorites, friends, running, upstate New York, winter, x-country skiing

The Big Easy for little $

Planning for the recent girls’ getaway began months ago.  The topic had been bandied about like a pair of traveling pants, each of the four of us adding her own particular curve to the project.  The criteria was simple: not too far, not too expensive, the simpler the transportation the better.

When I came across a terrific airfare deal (Newark to NOLA $260 r/t) while I was browsing Southwest’s site, on day 3 of my annual two-week vacation with the boys, I immediately sent out a group text.  In no time flat, tickets had been purchased, a time-share had been inquired about and personal calendars had been cleared.  We were a go.

We had 4 months to squirrel away put aside spending money and make some plans.  We investigated what to see, where to go, where to eat, how to get around.  We had a very loose collection of ideas for the trip and reservations for one “big night out” restaurant.  Here’s how we did things…

We parked a single vehicle in Newark at the Parking Spot 2.  Customer service and the price (5 days, $54) were both more than satisfactory.  When we arrived in New Orleans, we took a cab, with a trunk surprisingly large for the vehicle’s size, which came out to about $15 each.
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Breakfast our first morning was beignets and cafe au lait, take-out, from Cafe du Monde.  Barely $20 for four, no table-service tip necessary.  Lunch was a bargain at K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, a casual spot where guests order and pay at the bar and a runner delivers your food.  I went with a small Caesar salad with a cup of the chicken and sausage gumbo on the side.  I think it was about $12 with another couple of bucks for a tip.
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On our way back to our accommodations, we popped into a local grocery market and made some purchases, both practical and impulsive.  There was some cheese, a bit of pâté, crackers, fruit, cereal, milk, yogurt and 1/2 and 1/2.  You know, basics.  Breakfast could now be at home.

We did a lot of walking, opting for a cab only a couple of times due to rain or distance.  There’s also a streetcar system which runs 24 hours a day and offers a $3 all day pass.

Using recommendations from friends, along with Yelp, we found our way to a couple of inexpensive spots within walking distance.  Killer Po Boys, located in the back of the bar at Erin Rose’s, lived up to its name and I thoroughly enjoyed my $12 Gulf shrimp Po Boy.   An excellent bloody Mary on the side added only $3.50 to my tab.  Money well spent for sure!

There was a taco truck I had hoped to catch up to but, alas, it wasn’t to be. We did find a terrific nearby taqueria, Felipe’s, where for $40 (including a generous tip), we bought a mess of tacos and soup to go.  Pairing our meal with drinks at “home” made this dinner a tremendous and tasty deal.
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Don’t get the impression that we’re nickel and dimers, because we’re not. Sunday night we indulged in a fantastic meal at Restaurant R’evolution on Bienville.  We had originally considered the $75 per person prix fixe menu, but elected to go a la carte instead so we could sample more items on the enticing menu.  We selected a salumi sampler for 4 (only $6 more than the salumi plate for 2), crab beignets and a beet salad to start.  We were only able to eat about half of the salumi, but it packed up nicely for snacking on later during our stay.  We shared 3 main courses (ricotta gnocchi, beef short ribs, shrimp and cheese grits) and were comfortably satiated even after the heavenly creme brûlée bread pudding and treasure chest of one- bite sweets that followed.  Our 3.5 hour experience, with a cocktail, a $70 bottle of wine and 25%+ tip came to $100 a person.
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We were naturally craving something a little less indulgent for lunch the following day and found a yummy salad and soup in a nearby food court.  Our meals were fresh, creative and a bargain.  I had yellow split pea soup along with a salad with some Asian notes like ginger and soy for barely $10.

Cheap airfare, a friend’s generous offer of their one bedroom timeshare and thoughtful expenditures for transportation, food and beverages made our get away a treat without breaking the bank.  NOLA – I’ll be back.

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Filed under Eating, friends, ideas, Recommendations, road trips, travel

The evolution of the girlfriend getaway

DSC_0036It started with a couple of stolen hours.  We’d pick a date that worked for all of us, crossing our fingers for no last-minute work emergencies, sick children or childcare cop outs.  Our rendezvous destination was generally somewhere in the middle – north for them, south for me.

On the given day, as I put miles between myself and the responsibilities and demands of home, I recall becoming aware of my breath. It was almost as if I had been holding my breath, neither inhaling or exhaling with any depth, for what seemed like days.  Those couple of hours shared with my girlfriends reset my heart, my lungs and my mind.

As our lives have progressed, our opportunities to get together have also grown.  A quick shared meal evolved into an occasional overnight in NYC, complete with dinner and drinks. On one occasion, as I packed to leave Albany for 2 nights in the city, I realized that I was borderline sick and in desperate need of a nap.  I also knew that my chances of actually getting a nap (and being taken care of) were better in the city with the girls than at home with the guys.  I went.

We’ve explored new neighborhoods as we allowed Hotwire and Priceline to determine where we stayed, economizing on accommodations to allow for some shopping as we attempted to bring some of our peace of mind home.  We’ve got restaurants and cocktail bars which we consider to be “ours” and have had some wonderful trips making memories to last a lifetime.

We’ve just returned from our most ambitious girls’ trip ever – 5 nights in New Orleans.  I can’t tell you how many times I said “Can you believe how fortunate we are that we are able to do this?” during the trip.  The fact that we have come to a place where we have the resources and time to pull off a get away like this impresses me to no end.  I don’t know when we got to be such grown up women, but I like it.  A lot.

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Filed under aging, drinking, Eating, Events, friends, NYC, Observations, relationships, travel, vacation

YOLO – NOLA

image: gonola.com

First, apologies for YOLO. I’ve never used that acronym before and I promise to retire it immediately.  The term, that is.  The sentiment? Not likely.

I’ve got a little trip planned with three of my besties – a long weekend in New Orleans.  I’m rather ridiculously excited.  I’ve never been to this city before, but its reputation as a destination for eating, drinking and music has interested me for years.  Factor in 5 nights with terrific company and this is about to get real!

The girls and I are in accord when it comes to travel – make a reservation or two, include a nonnegotiable destination or site and wing the rest.  Here’s what we have so far:

  • Dinner at Restaurant R’evolution.  We plan to experience their traditional holiday four-course meal known as Reveillon.
  • At least one visit to Taceaux Loceaux.  I’m hoping to try the avocado fries and the bourbon glazed pork belly.
  • Coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde.
  • A garden or cemetery tour
  • A riverboat cruise
  • The national WW II Museum.

What else?  Anything you’d recommend?  How about a place for breakfast or great music?  And, lastly, I have repeatedly heard that it is important to stay within a fairly small perimeter for safety.  I don’t know, I remember hearing that it was treacherous to drive in L.A. and I wasn’t overly impressed by that experience.  It seems to me that if you’re a New Yorker you know the importance of remaining aware of your surroundings without living in a bubble.  What do you think?  How about places to get a few miles of running in to offset the decadence?  Any experiences or tips you’d like to share would be welcomed!

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Filed under Christmas, Eating, friends, holidays, ideas, Recommendations, travel