Tag Archives: Albany

Friendship Garden

There was a time when I felt overwhelmed by the needs of my children.  The attention they demanded caused me to abandon my interest in taking care of any other living things, specifically my plants.  I believe I have one houseplant which survived those toddler years.  It is a shadow of its former self, but seems determined to remain a member of the household.

As the boys became more independent and able to entertain themselves a bit better, I started acquiring plants again.  There was a rubber tree I inherited after a friend’s move, a fern or two, a couple of plants my brother no longer wanted. My house once again had bright spots of greenery.  It was time to direct my attention elsewhere…

My front yard is the size of a postage stamp.  When I moved in 18 years ago, there were a couple of rose bushes and some grass. Simple.  And boring.  Over the years , friends have shared their perennials with me, beginning with Sharon and her purple cone flowers.  I remember her bringing over clumps of flowers and my not getting them into the ground for days.  I was skeptical that they would survive my neglect, but they have thrived in the sunniness of my front yard.

A few years later, the cone flowers were joined by Black-eyed Susans.  I love the sturdy cheeriness of these and usually cut some to have in the house.  I like to put them in an old glass pitcher with the baby’s breath my brother gave me a few years back.  The baby’s breath fills in an area of my garden directly in front of the red bee balm and purple balloon flowers which my friend Donna gave to me.  It’s one of my favorite little spots this time of the year when everything looks so lush.

There are shasta daisies and a variety of ever multiplying lilies, also.  The grass is long gone and mulch and rocks fill in the garden in the few bare areas which remain.  My iris, given to me by both my brother and my friend, Lisa, have long since bloomed, but I’ll need to thin those out come fall because they have taken off.  They’re surrounded in their home in my parking strip by colorful snapdragons.  I don’t recall ever planting snapdragons, but an elderly neighbor always had them in her front garden and I suspect that is where mine originated. I think she’d be happy to know that she left behind some life on our block.

Come fall, I also plan to thin out the geraniums I was given by a work friend. They would take over if I didn’t keep my eye on them! The peony, which was originally in my shady backyard, has settled into its sunny home and thanked me for its new digs by bestowing bloom upon bloom.  I’ll be splitting that this fall, as well.  Right now the peony is home to a cat which Jeter is constantly trying to flush out. Each time he brushes past the star-gazer lilies he marks himself with pollen.  Guess that makes him a flower, too, almost.

The biggest surprise in the garden this summer are the sunflowers.  After years of planting seeds with limited success, this year I left the work to the birds.  They have thanked me for my mostly constant feedings by spreading sunflowers throughout my garden.  In return, when they’re done blooming I will harvest the seeds and give them back to the birds.  Without the birds and my generous friends, my garden, and my life, would be a far less beautiful existence.

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Filed under beauty, Flowers, Gardens, 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.

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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

Lorax night at ASH

DSC_0003Any idea what the items are in the picture above? Perhaps you’ve got a sweet tooth and recognize them as Twizzlers and Wonka nerds. I suppose you would be correct literally, but had you been at Lorax night at ASH, you’d identify them more literary as truffala tree stumps and seeds. And delicious, of course.  Those Wonka nerds are the bomb!

You know the story of the Lorax, Dr. Seuss’ primer on environmentalism, right? Although the book was published more than 40 years ago, it continues to resonate with kids and the message of “speaking for the trees” still, unfortunately, remains timely. Last week, Quinn and I attended a fun family event which used the Lorax as a springboard for an array of activities which were creative and surprisingly fun.

We began (and ultimately concluded) our evening in the gym with an awesome obstacle course. There were things to crawl under, through and over, as well as a mini trampoline and a couple of soft hurdles. You could almost see the satisfaction on the face of the parents as the kids repeatedly attempted the course, tiring themselves out and promising a quiet remainder of have evening. Good job, PE teacher!

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We next headed to the “planting station” in the lobby of the school. Long tables had been set up with rinsed and recycled milk cartons and there were a variety of vegetables seeds available for planting. We’re hoping to see our pea shoots any day.

By this point, we needed some sustenance. The cafeteria was our next stop and we put together a delightful mixed bag of treats, including the aforementioned truffala seeds and stumps. We also tossed in some goldfish and barbaloots (gummy bears) for good measure. Adequately fortified, we made for our final destination – the sculpture spot. Here, we found a pile of recycled items (small cardboard boxes, empty plastic bottles, egg cartons) to spark our 3-D creativity. Quinn made the awesome rocket below.

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I wish I could say we attend all the events offered at my son’s school, but it just isn’t always possible. I am, however, so glad we made it to Lorax Night. A literary inspiration, some physical activity, environmental awareness, inspired recycled art and candy?  Yes, please.  It was terrific.

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Filed under Albany, Boys, DelSo, Events, family, Local, Schools