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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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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

Today

20131005-223718.jpgWhat I did today:

  • Slept in until 7:15
  • Ate breakfast
  • Did a little dusting and windexed everything
  • Picked up two children
  • Dropped two children off
  • Was at Oktoberfest by 10:00
  • Did wrist bands until 2:30
  • Stopped at Wine Bar to deliver some herbs from my garden
  • Went home, started cooking
  • Ate pineapple and yogurt with granola
  • Sat on the stoop with him
  • Made chicken thighs, roasted parsnips and beets, stir fried red peppers and broccoli
  • Cleaned up the kitchen
  • Folded a bin of laundry
  • Went for a 5 mile run
  • Prepared a beet and bleu cheese salad for dinner
  • Sat down and ate beet salad
  • Opened a bottle of wine
  • Showered
  • Watched SNL and ate popcorn with the teens

I loved my day.

What my son did today:

  • Watched SportsCenter
  • Watched a marathon of SNL prepping for tonight’s episode

My day was better.

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Rocking out the summer – part 2

998240_10151854866042889_351132969_n48 hours after the Allman Brothers’ show, I found myself again at the gates of SPAC, this time for a show by a couple of pretty boys, Phillip Phillips and John Mayer. Seeing as how I’m smitten by a handsome man, I was there, though, purely for the music. American Idol winner, Phillip Phillips, charmed with his enthusiasm and excitement, seemingly thrilled to be playing such a special venue. His voice and vibe remind me of Dave Matthews and I’ve been guilty of hearing his songs on the radio and attributing them to DMB, much to my son’s dismay. I enjoyed his set and was pretty impressed by his voice as well as his ability to fill the seats as an opener.  The place was packed!

Speaking of filling seats, side note to the incredibly entitled girls standing in front of us for most of the opening act: when the entire audience is sitting down in their $80 + seats and you are preventing dozens of people from seeing the performance because you are the only ones standing up, it is obnoxiously rude. Now you know.

And John Mayer? Well, for a guy who has a reputation for being an ass, he was a delight. I caught his show last time around (which I very much enjoyed) and detected a bit more humility Friday night. He was exceedingly complimentary about the audience and the venue and played with a graciousness that was refreshing. I loved his sampling of Marvin Gaye and Jimi Hendrix and his cover of the Dead’s Friend of the Devil was a lot of fun.

Mayer’s last two albums have been a bit of a detour from his previous work, but I really like Born and Raised and his latest effort, Paradise Alley, is growing on me. I’m particularly diggin’ track #3, Waitin’ on the Day and the duet he sings (and co-wrote) with Katy Perry.  The sound is definitely different, but I’m kind of enjoying the grown up John Mayer. His guitar skills are as impressive as ever and if you have a chance to catch him, get yourself there. I don’t think you’ll regret it.  Here are some pic from the show – it may have been the biggest crowd I saw all season.

Until next summer, SPAC.

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Things you may not know about Ireland

I’m not here to talk to you about the likelihood of spotting a leprechaun or the intense greenness of the countryside. No, I’m here to tell you about some things you may not know. For instance, are you familiar with the phrase “going out for a bit of craic?” True confession: the first time I was in Ireland and my cousin suggested we partake in some craic, I was worried. Come to find out that “craic” is a term for fun. This craic isn’t whack – promise.

Another thing that I found confusing are the road signs, particularly one that says “Ramps.” This word refers to neither the entrance or exit to a motorway or those spring onions for which everyone goes crazy. Instead “Ramps” essentially mean speed bumps in the road. You’re welcome.

Most Americans have figured out that chips are fries and crisps are chips, but how about aubergines? Familiar? Well, aubergines are eggplants and they seem to be pretty popular, especially in Asian cuisine and vegetarian dishes. It is a much more elegant word for those purple orbs, don’t you think?

Speaking of colors, it is possible to get a lovely tan in Ireland if you happen to visit during the best summer in years. As a matter of fact, if you neglect to put sunscreen on your feet you just might end up with sunburn on your feet. At least that’s what a leprechaun once told me.

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Filed under Ireland, Irish, Observations, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

Goldilocks and the 3 beaches

20130711-100837.jpgCan I start by saying that pill I took for flying was a BIG mistake? I swear I’ve tolerated sleeping pills, and by “pills” I mean “pill,” but somehow this one knocked me on my arse. I vomited before I even got on the plane, which completely defeated the purpose of the pill which is to sleep instead of getting motion sickness. Thank you for letting me share that with you.

Today was a beach day of sorts. Yes, a beach day in Ireland, I said. We bought an all day family ticket (15 euro) for the DART and hit two beaches south of Dublin and one north. We went to Greystones first, hoping to spot Bono, but the morning fog was pretty soupy and we didn’t have much of a view of anything. We hopped back on the train for one stop and were able to catch a random sunbeam and a delicious gelato in Bray.

While the weather improved as we headed back north, the um, scenery, shall we say, did not. Bray was decidedly seedy, Griffin likened it to Venice Beach, which is a pretty cool comparison to be able to make when you’re 14 friggin years old. Perhaps it was the carnival that was in town? Whatever the reason, we decided to jump back on the DART to try the north side of Dublin for some quality beach time – destination: Howth!

The sun broke firmly through the clouds somewhere along the ride and we exited the train to blazing sunshine and the need for lunch. Howth has a wicked cute pier with numerous food options, all fish related, naturally. We went with the food truck since we are traveling on a budget. My fish and chips was delicious – a thin fillet, crisply fried with a dusting of finely chopped green herbs. Griffin went with the fried calamari and it was perfectly prepared with the thinnest coating of batter and a nice mixture of tentacles and rings. Bellies full, we decided a walk on the beach was in order.

I have to say that the beach area closest to the pier was pretty gross. Lots of random trash and seaweed hugged the shoreline and we had zero interest in dipping our feet in. As we progressed, things began to look more appealing and we braved taking our shoes off only to be shocked by the temperature of the water – brrrrrr! We continued walking and discovered some lovely warm spots where the sand was soft and the water warm enough for us to almost imagine immersing ourselves in the gentle waves. While Greystones was too grey and Bray was too colorful, Howth was just right.

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Catching up with Moms@Work

image:timesunion.com

image:timesunion.com

Griffin and I went to a concert.

I anticipated summer and clarified my economic reality with a comment.

And discussed the economic reality of American women, in general.

An imagined dream come true.

There’s an upcoming event you should think about attending.

I had a really, really bad day.

Dads had their day.

And Sally Ride escaped the atmosphere, but didn’t quite get out of the closet.

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