Category Archives: Recommendations

Labor Day – sunshine and duck butts

After a summer spent working and vacationing, I elected to spend this holiday weekend, quietly at home. Friday night I ate al fresco at The Cheese Traveler, devouring my burger and merely indicating yes or no with the motion of my head. So good! Saturday, following a run, I ate at Mingle’s bar very much enjoying my salad and paella, along with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Sunday was a day for leftovers and binging on Orange is the New Black with a side order of tennis. It was definitely a lazy weekend, other than for Jeter who spent quality time each day at the Normanskill Dog Park.

Today needed to be different. I needed to burn some energy in the hopes that I would get a good night’s sleep tonight and feel fresh for tomorrow’s back to school activities. I decided that today was the perfect day to give paddle boarding a try – weather, opportunity, mood, it all added up and so, I hit the highway for Saratoga County’s Kayak Shack. I had a Living Social deal, bought earlier this summer for $20, which gave me 3 hours of paddle boarding for two. I was solo (do you think the businesses in receipt of deals for 2 being redeemed by only 1, tsk tsk silently and sympathetically?), which provided me lots of time to focus on keeping my balance, something of which I really need to remain cognizant in a general sort of way.

So, what was it like? I loved it! I had no issue getting on my board and moving from kneeling to standing. There was a strong current, with an accompanying wind, which made my trip out quite an exertion. It is a real abdominal workout, which I welcomed.  Seems like I’ve taken a few shots to the gut recently and any assistance in keeping that area defensively taut is welcome.  For every 4 or 5 strokes on the left side of the board, I had to take a dozen on the right side to remain on a semi-straight path. There were a couple of moments when I absolutely wobbled and fought to maintain my balance, usually when I neglected to pay attention to what was going on in the water around me. I dumped once, but welcomed the refreshing dunk in the lake and had no issue climbing back on board. Literally.

Here’s what I found kind of interesting – I grew up in lake community and feel like I have some experience with boating, be it from my teen years waterskiing or my brief time spent sweep rowing/sculling. Today, I discovered fairly quickly that motor boaters had no real regard for paddlers. There were all sorts of instances when a boat’s wake provided an experience similar to what one would find in a wave pool. It was mostly ok, but I still felt a bit irritated by the lack of respect for those of us with a paddle rather than a throttle in our hand.

I booked along at a pretty good clip as I worked to raise my heart rate and turn my fun into a true workout. The shore on both sides was marshy with leaves threatening to begin changing colors and tons of ducks greedily going bottoms up as they munched on some delicacy underwater. I paddled to a wider part in the water where things really started to feel a bit like the Wild West with motorboats and kayaks and stand up paddle boards chaotically strewn across the water. I grew up in a town filled with cowboys, but we had more of a sense of water traffic regs than most of the people I encountered today.

Bottom line – it was a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours. If anyone wants to give it a try some weekend before the water grows too cold to be described as invigorating, let me know. I’d love to go back.

Leave a comment

Filed under Delaware Avenue, DelSo, Exercise, ideas, Local, Normanskill, Recommendations, road trips, Saratoga, Summer, upstate New York

Reflections of Disney

DSC_0188Well, we survived our theme park adventures relatively unscathed.  Quinn has a bit of a cold he picked up as a souvenir, along with the small tower of maps, used tickets and a Disney-esque handbook and completed passport.  He wore his new Mickey Mouse shirt yesterday and absolutely rocked it.  Good boy, good trip, good memories.

The past couple of times we’ve gone to Orlando, we’ve rented an offsite condo.  If you’re on a budget, it truly is the way to go, in my opinion. For just under $400 we had a one bedroom, second story unit in a resort approximately 15 minutes from Disney World.  There was a nice pool area, washer and dryer in the unit, a full kitchen and sleeping accommodations for 4.  I’ve been lucky using Craigslist for this sort of thing but, of course,  I always check reviews and feedback before committing.  This experience was really positive and I wouldn’t hesitate to book it again.

During past visits to Disney, I remember being put off by the expense of food and merchandise.  I don’t really know what’s changed (perhaps traveling with only 1 child rather than 3?), but things didn’t seem too outrageously priced to me this time around.  We generally ate breakfast at “home” and went with a late lunch at whichever park we happened to be in.  I usually got a decent salad for about $8 and Quinn dominated chicken tenders wherever we went.  We actually had a sit down meal in “China” while in Epcot and that was our biggest indulgence at $53, sans alcohol.  The quality of the food was better than decent but less than stellar.  I think Disney knows their market.
DSC_0035Here’s the thing about Disney – it pretty damn expensive.  Two days of park hopping set me back nearly $500 and that was with Quinn still considered a child at nine-years of age.  But…once you’re in, there are no additional charges for entertainment or rides.  We went to Universal for a day and their “fast pass” system comes with a hefty additional fee, while Disney’s is included with your admission.  The employees/ cast members were, with only one exception (yeah, you Ms. Norway),  were helpful and friendly, the bathrooms were clean and well stocked and there were plenty of spots to escape the heat of the day.  I do think they should consider a new attraction, though, something I’m calling the Cat Napper.  The way I envision it is a boat ride a la It’s a Small World, but silent and dark with individual reclining seats and eye masks scented with lavender.  It will last 20 minutes and will only be available to adults 25+. Build that, Disney World, and I won’t hesitate to come back again in August.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

1 Comment

Filed under Boys, family, Recommendations, Summer, travel, vacation

Adirondack Tubing Adventures

image: lakegeorgeguide.com

The other day, Quinn and I cashed in a Living Social offer I had purchased for Adirondack Tubing Adventures in Lake Luzerne. Summer seems unrelenting in its march towards Labor Day and the return to school and I knew that Monday’s forecast was the best one of the week. We made a reservation and up the Northway we went.

We arrived at the rustically modest shop after about 75 minutes on the road. We had been warned that we should print our voucher in advance because we wouldn’t have cell phone service. Good call. We checked in and at the appropriate time received our life vests and boarded the bus for a bouncy 15 minute ride to the “putting in” spot. Once we arrived, we were given our tubes (we went with the basic, un-upgraded model) and a few simple directions and then, as a group, we were off.

The pristine waters of the upper Hudson were fantastic. The water temperature was reported to be about 68 degrees, but when the sun was shining, it felt even warmer. The water was soft and without clouds, never getting deeper than about 5 feet, from what I could tell. The fresh smell of the air, faintly cedarish with an occasional whiff of campfire wood smoke, was lovely.

We floated, Quinn and I tied together once again by a cord, doing our best to stay in the middle of the river for the best currents. Along the shore we observed 3 ducks whose remarkable camouflage kept them hidden until one moved ever so slightly revealing their presence. There were pretty wild flowers punctuating the scenery, including some tall, vivid red ones* which I don’t recall ever seeing before. I wished I could have gone closer for a better look, but going with the flow was the day’s agenda so that’s what I did.

A little more than an hour into the trip, we paused on a sandbar for a little beach time. The kids on the trip really enjoyed being out of their tubes and feeling the sensation of the river pulling them along as if it were indeed the ultimate lazy river. I appreciated the chance to stretch a bit, but as our time on land passed, I felt myself growing cold and was happy to get moving again. We reached the “taking out” spot after about another 50 minutes, I think. The times are all approximate since I didn’t wear a watch, and the old Timex one I pulled from the river’s bottom, unfortunately, took too much of a licking to still be ticking.

We were met by our bus and, after a 5 minute bus ride, returned to the shop and our vehicles. Quinn and I changed and drove over to outlets area of Lake George and grabbed a few quick slices from a place called Frank’s on Route 9. I’ve got to say I was pleasantly surprised with the pizza. The crust was crisp, the toppings generous and the sauce flavorful. I’ve had way worse pizza and I wouldn’t hesitate to stop there again. It was a good day.

*When I checked out All Over Albany’s weekly neighborhood roundup I learned exactly what they were, cardinal flowers!

1 Comment

Filed under Boys, family, pizza, Recommendations, road trips, Summer, upstate New York

Pie-eyed for the Scottish Bakehouse

imageOne, okay two, of the best things I put in my mouth while on vacation this year was pie from the Scottish Bakehouse in Tisbury. I think I’ve mentioned this place before and am happy to report that, like some favorite books from years gone by, this special bakery continues to satisfy.

When I rolled in to their parking lot in the late afternoon midweek, I was worried about what the remaining selection might be. Come to find out that the limited choices available for me were perfect – key lime and blueberry. Naturally, I took both, along with 2 peanut butter cookies, 2 chocolate chip cookies and a hunk of cardamom cinnamon coffee cake. Total: $54.00. We’ll talk more about that in a moment.

While my order was being put together, my attention was attracted by a woman wearing kitchen clothes. Turns out she is the chef (owner?) of the Art Cliff Diner at the Bakehouse to pick up their order of baked goods. See how it works? Good places source from good places, a truism always nice to see.

How were the pies? The blueberry pie with an intriguing hint of cinnamon was a simple pleasure. The fruit was tender and sweet and I thoroughly enjoyed the single slice to which I laid claim. I focused on the key lime, one of my all-time favorite flavors and one which they do a great job. It’s tart and tasty, sitting up tall on a graham cracker crumb crust. I’ve singlehandedly eaten almost the entire thing. I’m not sorry.

Now, let’s talk about the prices. When I first was presented with the total, I was a little taken aback. I don’t really buy a lot of baked goods, but it seemed a little pricey. I’ve been thinking about, though, and have decided that I’m really okay with the expense of my splurge. The quality of the items certainly justified the price and when you consider the brevity of the season, it seems fair. I highly doubt that anyone at the Scottish Bakehouse is getting rich off pie, you know what I mean?

I’ve got one slice of that key lime pie left. I’m calling it breakfast.

Leave a comment

Filed under baking, Eating, favorites, Martha's Vineyard, Recommendations, vacation

On the beach…

…there’s sand.  Grains and grains of sand.  Because of this condition, this year I committed to taking only paperback books to the beach.  I mean, really, when it comes to reading at the beach, something I can finally do now that my boys are older, the paperback is the only way to go.

There are a couple of books which left a big impression upon me when I first read them many years ago.  I decided to revisit them to see if they still would move me after so many years had gone past.

I started with Hemingway’s  A Moveable Feast.  When I first read it, I was an undergraduate infatuated with the romance of Europe and expatriates.  Two of those three have not changed.  Reading it last week,  I was once again  transported to Paris, witnessing the cafe life of some of America’s finest writers during the 1920s.  Hemingway’s observations, recounted from memory decades later, are remarkable as he paints such vivid scenes with an almost miserly number of words.  It still works for me.

A couple of favorite passages:

“We’ll come home and eat here and we’ll have a lovely meal and drink Beaune from the co-operative you can see right out of the window there with the price of the Beaune on the window. And afterwards we’ll read and then go to bed and make love.”

“In Europe then we thought of wine as something as healthy and normal as food and also as a great giver of happiness and well being and delight. Drinking wine was not a snobbism not a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary, and I would not have thought of eating a meal without drinking either wine or cider or beer.”

The other title I picked up for the first time in years was Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate.  I remember being absolutely charmed by this wonderful novel when I initially encountered it.  The passion!  The deftly handled magical realism!  I loved it then and I love it now.  I could almost taste the words.

Here are a few morsels to savor.

“To the table or to bed
You must come when you are bid.”

“A man equal to loving someone who needed love as much as she did, a man like him.”

“…within our bodies each of us has the elements needed to produce phosphorus… each of us is born with a box of matches inside us but we can’t strike them by ourselves…each person has to discover what will set off those explosions in order to live, since the combustion that occurs when one of them is ignited is what nourishes the soul.”

What are your favorites?  Have you revisited any recently?

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Cape Cod, favorites, Martha's Vineyard, Recommendations, Summer, vacation

Popping cherries

imageIs it me or have the cherries this year been terrific? I’ve really been enjoying them with plain Greek yogurt and granola as a light lunch or pre-run snack in recent weeks and will be sad to see the season end. Especially since I just bought a new kitchen gadget to make eating even easier. Meet my new favorite kitchen toy – the cherry pitter!

You may be familiar with my resistance to buying one-trick wonder items. I’m more into multitasking, you know. When I hit up Utilities in Provincetown for my annual shopping spree, though, I was willing to take a break from my usual state of efficiency to simplify my life by buying a cherry pitter. Of course, as always, when I go to a store seeking a specific item they were sold out. Boo.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to reside in the pits for long because Vineyard Haven has an awesome home store, Le Roux, that had exactly what I was seeking – in three different versions! I went with the Cadillac version in the hopes that I will never have to make this purchase again. At least that’s what the salesman promised.

So? How does it work? It’s pretty damn amazing! Stem the cherries and place them in the pitter and press. Bam! The pit drops out and you’re left with a nearly intact cherry. Easy-peasy, as they say. As a matter of fact, I just may pick up a couple of more to have on hand for gifts for friends who are tired of living in the pits.

Leave a comment

Filed under favorites, ideas, Martha's Vineyard, Recommendations, Uncategorized

Dinner at the Art Cliff Diner

During the two weeks we spend at the beach each summer, we eat dinner out maybe a handful of times. Part of that decision is based upon practicalities – kids, expense, day drinking and driving, but the fact that we’ve been disappointed with pricy meals in restaurants with menus that attempt to satisfy adults and children, is the biggest factor in choosing either take out (less expensive than dining in with tip/adult beverages) or cooking at home.

All that said, there’s a place in Vineyard Haven I’d been wanting to try for a few years – the Art Cliff Diner. Sunday the stars aligned and the guys and I finally got there and we couldn’t have been happier. The Art Cliff is both a food truck and a stationary restaurant. We pulled into their shared parking lot at what seemed to be the ideal time, about 5:15. The restaurant wasn’t open for business, but the truck’s menu more than sufficed for us.

image

There were maybe a dozen options and we were able to find something for each of us – Liam chose the cheesesteak sandwich ($14?) which was as fine an example of that item as I’ve ever enjoyed. The meat was thinly sliced, maybe even shaved, with sweet onions and the perfect amount of cheese. The portion was more than generous.

image

For Griffin it was the pig on a roll ($8?), a moist pulled pork sandwich with cole slaw. He declined the chipotle mayo, but I’m sure it would have added a terrific kick to the tender and overstuffed sandwich. I also went with pork in the form of spicy pork taco. The soft flour tortilla ($8?) was complete with juicy pork, greens, a sour cream based sauce and green salsa. It was really, really delicious.

image

Quinn went with a ho-hum hotdog ($4) which he thoroughly enjoyed and we rounded out things with two generous orders of fries – one plain and one dusted with grated Parmesan. The fries were fantastic and would make an awesome and satisfying snack solo at only $6.

Our total for a really high quality and nicely presented meal, with soft drinks was a fair and reasonable $57 before tip. I imagine their offerings change regularly, but can’t imagine ever being disappointed by their food.  Have you been there?  Tell me about it!  If you haven’t yet, try it and let me know.

Leave a comment

Filed under Boys, Dinner, Eating, Food, Martha's Vineyard, Recommendations, Summer, vacation