Category Archives: Local

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

The berry best

berriesYou know how, as a parent, you want your child(ren) to eat well and appreciate simple pleasures?  We work to expose them to flavors and provide them with options when it comes to satisfying their appetites as well as their curiosity about what things taste like, and where they come from.  Well, there is no better time to do that than now – it’s strawberry season and nothing will teach your kid faster about the superiority of fresh local produce than some time spent in a field picking (and eating) berries.

All over Albany did a great post last week summarizing many of the options available in the Capital District for picking your own berries.  On Saturday, Quinn and I headed out to Altamont Orchards and quickly picked three quarts of juicy fruit.  We were prepared with our own containers (not too deep because the berries will crush under their own weight), sunscreen and clothing we wouldn’t mind becoming stained from the berry juice.  The drive took a little longer than I had expected, but Quinn’s company pretty much entertained me the entire way.  Note: the pick-your-own fields are not located in the same location as the farm stand/market.  Call for clarification if you plan to head out there.

 I wish I had the words to describe how amazingly delicious that first berry I popped into my mouth was…warm from the sun, succulent, juicy, sweet…it tasted so different from a supermarket berry that it isn’t accurate to call them both the same name.  When my middle son sampled a couple of berries after we got home, he asked “How come they make the ones in the store taste so different?”  I’ve got no answer for that, just a suggestion for him – eat as many of these as you can because the season is way too short.  I guess we could take that advice about living in general, right?

For three fine mornings I enjoyed berries in my cereal and with my waffles.  Jeter, who is inclined to sit at my feet when he sees me slicing strawberries, also appreciated the berries which I shared with him.  We’ve got a quart of cleaned berries in the freezer at the ready for smoothie-making and I’m trying to figure out a way to get back to the fields this coming weekend.  Maybe I’ll see you there!

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Filed under Boys, family, Local, Recommendations, Summer

World Cup mayhem!

photo(171)How was your Sunday?  Mine was wonderfully insane, thank you very much.  Why, you ask? Well, I spent my day selling mugs and beer tokens down at Wolff’s Biergarten, which may not sound very fun to those of you who aren’t into crowds or soccer, but it was right up my alley.  There were hundreds (thousand+?) of folks sporting red, white and blue looking to have a great time on a gorgeous day.  What could be bad about that?

While the match may not have ended soon enough for team USA to walk away with a win rather than a tie, it was still a fantastic day.  I’ll be working a number of additional shifts in the next few weeks and hope you all make it down to take in a match and indulge in some tasty beer and a scene unlike you’ll find anywhere for this event.

photo(172)For the uninitiated, here’s how it works:  for $20 bucks you get a 1 liter plastic stein and 2 beer tokens.  The tokens are good for .5 liters of beer so you can fill your mug fully once or halfway twice, your call.  Personally, I’d go with the halfway twice because I like my beer cold and I like to wander between the Biergarten and the Bier Tent.  Since taking beer from one location to the other isn’t permitted, you’d probably want to enjoy a beer in both places to catch the full scope of fandom.  Need more beer?  Additional tokens are $7 each or 3 for $20 and the tokens don’t expire.  Speaking of not expiring – your stein will get you entry into any and all subsequent games so make sure you hold on to it.  Bring it with you for any matches during the World Cup and you get in without any additional charge.

So, there you have it.  Soccer, bier, peanuts.  Come get some.

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Filed under Albany, beer, Events, Local, Recommendations, soccer, Summer, sunday

Summer solstice

It isn’t often that I have a day when nothing displeases me. When such a day as this occurs on the absolutely longest day of the year, it makes for an incredibly satisfying day. That is precisely what I had yesterday.

flowers

baby’s breath, peonies, roses

The day began with flowers as I cut a bouquet of the beautiful roses and peonies which are currently blooming in my garden, as well as in my neighbor’s backyard. Jeter and I followed breakfast with an early morning visit to the dog park where he played with a lovely dog who had recently been rescued from NYC. I resisted the urge to immediately adopt the sweet young dog, but I do hope she finds her forever home soon.

berries

a berry warm from the sun is one of nature’s ultimate delights

My middle son’s mid morning haircut appointment went well and I left the salon with plenty of time to get home, swap boys and head to Altamont Orchards to pick some strawberries. It took less than 25 minutes to pick 3 quarts of sweet and juicy berries. On our way home we stopped at the Guilderland location of Fin where Quinn got an apple juice and an already prepped meal of seasoned swordfish with corn salsa.

I made an easy caprese salad for lunch, with my own basil, and reveled in the simple delight of summer eating. I followed my meal by folding a couple of loads of laundry while watching the first half of the Germany-Ghana match with Griffin, my source for soccer commentary. Germany looked good, especially their keeper (holy hotness!), and I decided it was a fine time to make my way to a joint high school/elementary graduation party in Delmar. Since the day was supremely beautiful, I chose to ride my new bike and thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

The party was lovely and my initial impression about not knowing anyone was rapidly put aside as I enjoyed meeting and talking with some really nice people. Seems I was wrong about not knowing anyone as connections were quickly made. Yes, it is a small world. Griffin kept me abreast of the match via text and I loved knowing that my son and my family in Germany were simultaneously taking in the same event – more connections.

sword

swordfish steak, corn salsa, steamed spinach

I rode home and made a simple and delicious dinner while taking care of our bounty of strawberries. It was strip steak and corn on the cob for the guys and grilled swordfish with a side of steamed local spinach for me. So delicious! After cleaning up the kitchen, I prepped about half of our strawberries for the freezer already anticipating their eventual use in smoothies. I should have picked more!

Jeter and I returned to the dog park for round two but ended up home again after a short while since it is never really fun to be the only dog at the dog park. While playing fetch in the yard, I got to witness the reaction of two teenaged girls to my son’s haircut (“Oh my God, you cut your hair!” exclaimed in a shriek.) which is still making me laugh.

I changed into running clothes and hit the streets for a fast (for me) 5 miles, luxuriating in the extended twilight on this, the longest day of the year. There were only pleasant aromas tickling my nose and I realized that there hadn’t been a single affront to my senses all day long. The temperature, the smells in the air, everything I had eaten, the conversations shared, the view along the drive to the berry patch, the birds at the feeder…every single thing had given me pleasure. It was the beginning of a new season. Life is good.

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Filed under Albany, beauty, biking, Boys, Delaware Avenue, Dinner, Exercise, family, favorites, Flowers, friends, Germany, Local, Observations, running, Summer

Up a tree

image: John Carl D’Annibale/Albany Times Union

I’m sure you’ve heard the saga of the Albany Bear.  A young black bear, with a history of repeatedly wandering into populated areas, was a deemed a “nuisance” and euthanized yesterday.  The last 24 hours of the bear’s life included being struck by a car, shot with both a shotgun and a tranquilizer gun and falling approximately 60 feet from the tree in which he had sought refuge.   It makes me so sad.

Have you ever seen a bear outside of a zoo?  I’ve been lucky enough to see one twice, both times from the safety of the car in which I was driving.  The first time, in a rural area of Massachusetts, the dog in our vehicle sensed the bear’s presence before we did.  When I saw the bear loping along, my heart lifted.  I had always hoped to see a bear and the glimpse I had of this one affirmed my belief in nature and all the wonders which she often holds secret.  I was elated.

A couple of years later, in a more densely populated area in Orange County, N.Y., I noticed a dog on the right side of the road barking furiously at something on the opposite side of the road.  The dog was maintaining a respectful distance, rather than approaching whatever it was that had attracted its attention.  I looked to my left and immediately saw it – a black bear lumbering through the underbrush, more than likely heading towards the nearby orchard.  Hours before this occurred, I had returned to the States after some time spent in Europe, a place I always feel is devoid of wildlife.  Seeing this bear was one of the best “welcome home” experiences I’ve ever had.  I was thrilled.

I understand the perceived threat of a wild animal in a residential neighborhood and the need for authorities to address the situation, I really do.  My struggle with what happened yesterday (just blocks from my home) stems from my sense that that bear wasn’t dealt with respectfully.  His tagged ears indicated he had prior experiences in local communities, but I can’t help but wonder how much effort was put into relocating him to a new home at a substantial distance.  We like to brag in New York State about our 6+ million acres of “Forever Wild” land in the Adirondack Park.  Couldn’t that bear been taken farther away from settled areas during one of his previous visits?

Was this really necessary?     image: http://alloveralbany.com

Why wasn’t there a more humane plan in place after 24 hours of officials monitoring the situation?  Was it really necessary for the bear to fall 60 feet to the ground?  How do we prevent another tragedy like this in the future? The bear may be the one to have fallen from the tree, but the authorities are really the ones who dropped the ball here.

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Filed under Albany, Local, News, Observations, Random, upstate New York

Confession – I didn’t vote yesterday

I’m hoping that publicly admitting my failure to act as a responsible citizen will help me to exorcise the guilt I’ve been feeling since last night’s decision to not get in my car and drive to yet another new polling location.  You know I’m a big believer in exercising one’s civil rights, and I truly believe that those who don’t vote really shouldn’t feel entitled to offer an opinion on politics or education.  So – why didn’t I get myself to Hoffman Ave last night?  Well, I just didn’t feel like it.

I’m generally happy with the education my boys are getting in the Albany City School District.  My only minor complaint is a lack of communication from the attendance office at the high school.  I mean, my middle son has a crazy amount of tardies, yet I’ve never received notification about his inability to make it to class, particularly his first class of the day, on time.  Not a big deal in my situation, or should I say his, but potentially problematic for students who may be truly teetering between passing and failing.

I’m glad the budgets in both my community and the district where I am employed passed.  I know folks complain about taxes all the time, but I think my taxes are fair and I’ve never resented paying them.  After years of teachers being in the crosshairs when it comes to public vilification and perception, the focus has changed a bit recently.  It seems that school boards and administrators are now on the receiving end of the public’s wrath and dissatisfaction.  God forbid we should look both higher (state and federal policy makers) and lower (parents and caregivers) when we assign blame for standards not being met.

I’d say more, but, since I couldn’t spare the time to vote, I’ll spare you my opinion on the subject.

Did you vote?

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Filed under Albany, Local, Schools

The mean streets of Albany

Occasionally when I write, I pause to consider how a particular post is going to play. Will it garner comments? What sort of response will it get? How many retweets or shares will it prompt? I really don’t know how the incident I’m about to share will be received, but I’m just going to put it out there.  Here’s what I experienced yesterday during an evening run.

It was fairly early in my run and still quite light out.  As I headed west on Whitehall Road, I approached a group of teens walking in my direction. There were three or four of them, I don’t exactly remember – or, more accurately, I hardly really noticed.  What I did notice was the tremendously bright smile on the face of the girl closest to me. Spectacular!

As we passed each other, the small group politely fell into single file formation as we met on the not-really-so-wide sidewalk.  The teens were talking animatedly and the big smile girl made eye contact with me and said “She’s got anger issues,” with a nod of her head to one of her companions.  I interpreted her tone as joking, and responded, without breaking my stride, with “She’s working on it!”  What happened next was disturbing enough that it is still bothering me.

The girl with the “anger issues” started yelling at me – to mind my own business, that she’d show me and a few other choice words she felt I deserved for “getting in her business.”  I had the distinct impression that if I had elected to stop and turn around, she would have been right in my face.  Her voice and words were threatening and I chose to keep running, maybe even a little faster than I had been previously.

The incident brought to mind the coverage I’ve seen recently about “girl brawls” which have occurred around the Capital Region.  I reflected on my own teen years and considered whether I would have ever been that aggressively confrontational with an adult in similar circumstances.  My conclusion was no.  I couldn’t imagine speaking to a stranger with such anger and disrespect.

This young woman and I were different from one another, and our differences did not stem from the fact that she is black and I am white.  Her behavior and demeanor were hostile.  She was assaultive and seemed to be actively seeking a fight.  She was indeed angry and somehow viewed me as a potential target for her fury.  She and I were not alike at all.  But…

I won’t make assumptions about her home life, but I can tell you that by the time I was in middle school I had lived at 9 different addresses.  I don’t know what the composition of her family is, but I do know that I never had the good fortune to meet my own father, or a single blood relative other than my mother and brother, until I was an adult. Maybe she comes from a family with limited positive educational experiences.  My mother was limited to an 8th grade education until she was able to obtain a GED in her early 40s.  I know about Medicaid and free lunch and long afternoons spent at social services as a child.  I get it.

What I don’t get is her rage, nor her desire to inflict it upon me.  I have no intention of give up my running route, but I do hope she finds a way to exorcise her anger.

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Filed under Albany, Local, Observations