Category Archives: upstate New York

Treetops to Rooftops, 2014

photo 2(7)Last Saturday I ran one of my favorite races, Treetops to Rooftops. This run begins in Highland and crosses the river to Poughkeepsie via the Walkway over the Hudson. It’s an “out and back” run and I pretty much love everything about it – the friends I run it with, the small size of it (less than 375 finishers), and most especially, the phenomenal view of the mighty Hudson.

This year’s run felt as if it came a little early in the morning with the 8:00 start time. I can appreciate trying to avoid the heat, but 9:00 would have been so much more civilized! To make a race time that early, I made some arrangements that allowed me to spend the night in Highland. I so appreciate the flexibility of a reasonable divorce, particularly when it frees me up to spend a bonus evening hanging out with my friends.

Arriving the night before the run had another benefit – dinner from the Gunk Haus. From my home in the DelSo, I can easily walk to a dozen places to eat. My friends’ home is definitely more rural with only one place reachable on foot, but it’s a good one. The folks at the Gunk Haus took a decrepit building and have steadily renovated it, thoughtfully adding a deck, landscaping and a counter for takeout (including growlers!) and baked goods (like pretzel bread). I have nothing but respect and admiration for what they created and I have had very good experiences there over the years. Friday night’s salad and burger hit the spot and the salted caramel brownie was insanely decadent. You’re familiar with carb loading, no?

Post-race selfie

Post-race selfie

The starting line was only about a 10 minute drive from home. Of course this meant that we were a bit cavalier about getting there and we arrived with very little time to spare. My usual pre-race rituals (warming up alternating with lots of peeing) were curtailed and I didn’t even visit the port-a-potties once. The course is fairly flat, but starts with a short hill to climb. I placed myself in the rear of the pack of runners and spent the next almost 28 minutes doing my best to get in front of as many participants as possible. Ultimately, I finished 171st in the field and 11th out of 45 in my age/gender group, a result with which I’m content.

If you’re looking for a scenic race with a fairly small field, Treetops to Rooftops might just be the race for you. There are other races during the year which use the same course, including a 5 miler I’ve done which crosses the river east on the Walkway before heading south through Poughkeepsie and finally back west over the Mid-Hudson bridge. Check out the local road runners group for additional opportunities.

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Filed under Exercise, favorites, friends, road trips, running, Summer, upstate New York

Mountain (without the) Jam

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Aloysius

Last year’s memories of Mountain Jam are a bit tainted. I’d had a really rough morning, thanks to my middle son, and my early afternoon proved that the day could, in fact, become even worse. As always, my friends pulled me through that day and were once again on hand this year to replace any previous negative associations with laughter – and beer.

Unlike previous years, the weather was spectacular. I think this May have been the first time I attended this show wearing anything other than rain boots. We successfully smuggled some sunscreen in and I do not regret my criminal decision. I would have fried without repeated doses of #30.

Chris Robinson

Chris Robinson

The music was great! Chris Robinson (from the Black Crowes) has a new project and I appreciated their set more than I had enjoyed his band when I saw them last. Sean Lennon performed with his band, Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, and while I may not have been familiar with his band, it was really cool watching the son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono making music. He’s definitely rocking his father’s look and vibe.

Sean Lennon

Sean Lennon

As far as Michael Franti goes – well, sign me up to be a member of his church. He preaches good vibes, positivity and love and I’m a believer. He is one of the most inspiring and alive performers I have ever seen and this show was awesome. Musical joy. The Allman Brothers played a super set of rock and roll. As always, their songs seemed to have risen up from some dank mud which also happened to have bred the blues and jazz.  While we didn’t stay for their encore, we did hit the road satiated and completely satisfied with our day.

Michael Franti

Michael Franti

A couple of random things -

  • Security was pretty strict and did not permit food or aerosol cans to be brought in.  A bit of a bummer for those on a budget or who had packed cans of sunscreen.
  • I ate a delicious bratwurst sandwich, with everything, thank you very much.  And an ice  cream sundae!  Beers were reasonably priced ($6 for decent drafts) and a full bar within the lodge was also available.
  • Offered as continued evidence that it is indeed a small world, I ran into not one but, two, guys I knew from when I was married.  I hadn’t seen either in years and it was more pleasant than awkward.

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Filed under Aloysius, beer, concerts, friends, Music, road trips, upstate New York

Two Step while trying not to step in anything disgusting

628x471For the second year in a row my middle son and I went to both nights of the Dave Matthews Band’s pretty much annual stop at SPAC.  As always, Carter smiled continuously as he banged the drums and Dave praised the crowd and venue.  We had a good time and I got some great crowd photos in the parking lots prior to the shows.  We ran into some people we knew and even made some new friends.  It was fun and I imagine we’ll do it again next time the band is in town.  By then, I hope to have erased some of the less pleasant parts of this year’s shows.

I haven’t kept track of how many times I’ve seen DMB, but seeing that it was Griffin’s 6th show, I imagine I’ve got somewhere between 12-15 shows under my belt.  I grew up taking the bus into the city for shows at the Garden and consider myself a concert veteran, but there’s always something new to see, right?  Take that man’s penis, for instance.  What a shocker that was!  I can say with complete honesty that I’ve never before stood in line next to someone who was pissing into a red solo cup – and I hope to never repeat that experience.  The close up of a stranger’s not so privates may have been a blessing in disguise because when that woman on the lawn threw her skirt up and prepared to pull her underwear down to pee on the lawn in front of everyone, it wasn’t that traumatic for me.

Now, urine aside, the only other bodily fluid which made an appearance was vomit.  Fortunately, I missed seeing that (re)enter the world, but I became aware of it after someone near me on the lawn stepped in it.  Situations like this completely validate my decision to always wear closed shoes, often rain boots, at outdoor concerts.

Now – the good stuff!  We met some awesomely friendly people while taking photos, including two adorable hula hooping pixies who were so pleased with the photo I took Friday that they sought me out on Saturday to reward me with a hug.  Sweet!  I also ran into one of my favorite parents from school and finally met her collaborator in creating 4 fabulous kids.  That kind of made my night.

As far as the music goes, the set lists were epic and I’m so glad we went both nights because we heard nearly every song we had hoped to hear.  The transitions between songs was flawless and the flute solos provided a fresher sound than the sometimes (to me) tedious violin solos.  Highlights were #41, the acoustic What Would You Say, and pretty much the entire second set on Saturday night.

Towards the end of Saturday night I looked around at the crowd and concluded that pretty much everyone would end the night by either fighting, having sex or falling asleep.  Me?  I slept well.

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Filed under concerts, Music, Observations, Saratoga, SEEN, SPAC, upstate New York

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

Come on in my Cucina

See that post title above?  I have a confession about it… I seriously almost used  a more, shall we say, colorful homophonic version of the word “come,”  but chose not to because I was afraid it might be interpreted as vulgar.  I may be salty at times with my language choices, but crass is something I do not want to be.

So – why the temptation to use a word with carnal connotations to describe a dining experience?  Well, because Cucina, located at the north (east?) end of town in Woodstock, is a very sexy restaurant.  From the wide porch which offers dining al fresco during the warmer months, to the painted plank floors and the understated decor, to the menu which invites exploration and sharing, this place is hot.

My number one advice for planning your meal at Cucina is this: go with people you love because you’re going to want to share your food. Until the dessert course, of course, but we’ll get to that…

My home(town)girls and I selected Cucina for our “midway” dining date based upon recommendations from the Wine Bar & Bistro Chef, Nick, and the prior experience of one of the girls. We had 7pm reservations, but arrived a little early since most of our usual shopping destinations are still on winter hours and had closed by 6pm. We began at the bar, an open, well-lit area, and perused the creative cocktail list. I struggled with personal responsibility wanting to order one of everything, gin drinks aside. Because of our mutual appreciation of wine with dinner, Ginny and I elected to share the Orient Old Fashioned as an aperitif and it was a revelation. Spicy from the ginger syrup, smooth from the Bulleit, refreshing and piquant, I easily could  have gulped this down in record time.

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squid – two sauces

The dinner menu came with its own impressive array of temptations, but as a party of four we were in a good position to try a number of items.  I took charge (imagine!) of how many dishes we would have and collectively we agreed on what each course would contain.  We started with two appetizers – the crispy squid and the shrimp and white beans.  Neither dish broke any new ground in terms of composition, but the execution was exceptional.  The squid was lightly battered and virtually without greasiness, while the shrimp were perfectly cooked and accompanied by beans which retained the ideal amount of firmness.  Great start!

shrimp, white beans, tomatoes

shrimp, white beans, tomatoes

We followed the appetizers with two salads and a special pizza.  The asparagus, snap peas, endive, etc salad was creative and capitalized on ingredients which are coming into their own, seasonwise.  What can you say about roasted beets, Coach Farms goat cheese and balsamic vinegar other than yum?  Exactly.  Our beautiful pizza, topped with a riot of green veggies, including some banging jalapenos, on the thinnest of crusts, was a spicy delight.

pizza

pizza – baby spinach, jalapenos, red onions

We finished our savory experience with two pastas – the spinach and ricotta filled ravioli with brown sage butter and an evening risotto special with scallops, shrimp and saffron.  The portions aren’t tremendous, but the flavors are and we were very content with the quality and amount of food we were served.  Speaking of served, our server was terrific.  No complaints at all , start to finish.  With our meal we enjoyed a bottle of Abbazia di Novacella Kerner, 2010, a wonderful food wine which I am familiar with from the Wine Bar & Bistro on Lark.  Perfect.

MY dessert - no sharing

MY dessert – no sharing

When it came time for dessert, I was done with sharing and insisted that it was every woman for herself.  My choice, the butterscotch budino, was off the hook, crazy delicious.  Butterscotch, caramel, toasted coconut and sea salt put together in ideal proportions to make a dreamy pudding-esque climax to a wonderful evening.

Yeah, I’ll come on in Cucina any time.

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, Food, friends, Recommendations, Restaurants, road trips, upstate New York

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

Maple Weekend 2014

I don’t know about you, but I grew up believing that “pancake” syrup was all there was to drown my pancakes in. Based upon my middle son’s recent query about “Why is the number one ingredient in maple syrup water?,” I have to think that more must be done to educate children about the difference between pancake syrup and genuine maple syrup. Maple Weekend 2014 provided the ideal opportunity for a little lesson on the genuine article vs. that water-based, artificially colored and flavored bastardization known as “pancake syrup.”

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Last weekend, on a damp and cold morning, Quinn and I headed out to Berne to see the trees from which our syrup comes. The drive was full of sights for us to observe – cows and horses, heaps of lingering snow, raging creeks, and to discuss and, in case you were wondering, that boy has no interest in living in the country. Definitely a city kid.

We arrived at Mountain Winds Maple Farm in the late morning. While we weren’t the only folks visiting, Randy made time to take us on a little tour. Our footwear choice (rubber boots) was validated by the squishy earth and we confidently headed towards the little pumping station. This was where the tubing, working with a vacuum pump, initially collected the surprisingly clear and remarkably not sweet sap.

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Randy explained that the yield has thus far this season been very low since we have not yet had a true thaw to encourage a free flow of sap. Fingers crossed, a few days later that he and the other syrup producers are seeing a more impressive run as the temperatures have somewhat moderated.

From this first collection point the sap is sent to be boiled down, changing the percentage of sugar from approximately 2% to a more familiar 60+%. The rich amber color also develops as the syrup is concentrated and caramelized.

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We were lucky enough to nab his last gallon of syrup and have stashed it away in the basement as back up for the gallon we’re currently enjoying. In the DelSo, I use 100% pure maple syrup, preferably extra dark. I buy this delicious liquid, 2-3 times a year, by the gallon. It’s an investment at approximately $55, but buying in bulk definitely makes sense for my household where we eat pancakes or waffles or French toast at least weekly. In addition to this standard use of maple syrup, I frequently find myself reaching for the syrup dispenser to add flavor to root vegetables and other savory items. Delicious!

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When it is time for some more amber sweetness, we have options other than hauling out to Berne. Randy vends at the Bethlehem Farmers’ Market and also distributes through Farmie Market. In addition to syrup and syrup related products (cotton candy, syrup straws, hard candies, etc), he also sells farm eggs and fresh chicken.

See you at Maple Weekend 2015!  Don’t forget your boots.

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Filed under Boys, breakfast, Events, Local, road trips, Spring, upstate New York