Tag Archives: travel

Rise up

DSC_0015Last year, I was blessed to spend Easter in the Black Forest.  There was a dusting of new snow that morning and I attended mass alone in a beautiful church where the only word I truly understood was “Amen.”  It was perfect.    In the little town of Neustadt, thousands of miles from “home,” I had a deep sense of belonging to something larger than the daily world I have made for myself and my children.  I loved that holiday.

7lbs of bone-in prime rib

7lbs of bone-in prime rib

This year, the boys and I enjoyed a special dinner on Holy Saturday.  I jumped off the meatless Lent train a day early and we feasted on prime rib and grilled asparagus.  I opened a fine bottle of Bordeaux which, after our meal was consumed and cleaned up, I brought to the neighbors’ to share.  There were more bottles of wine uncorked and I enjoyed a relaxed spring evening.  It was lovely.

DSC_0025 This morning, I mastered the lamb cake mold my family had mailed from Germany a few weeks back.  It took three attempts to nail it.  The first try was a disaster – the pan fell over in the (newly cleaned) oven making an impressive mess as the batter flowed into the most impossible to clean crevices.  Take two involved an unfortunate premature slide of the cake from the perfectly buttered and floured mold as the poor lamb lost its head.  Literally.  Toothpicks put things back in place, but I decided to give it one final shot this morning and I found success.

These different experiences from last year to now, offer a wonderful perspective, for me, about life and living.  Home is where we feel loved.  Friends are family.  Sometimes we need to keep trying to get something right.  And, finally, we all need to rise up and live the life we have been given.  Happy Easter.

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Filed under baking, family, friends, Germany, holidays, Observations, Spring

Time and $$ or Why I don’t fly out of Albany

My third-grader came home from school a few weeks back with a math project assignment.  My His task was to consider and solve a “real world” math problem.  We decided to use his math skills to create a budget for our summer trip to Florida, figuring out travel expenses, which parks to visit and where to stay.  We sat down at the iMac and got busy.

The first component of our trip was airfare.  I mentally estimated $300 a ticket, a generous number I thought considering the trip would be in August. I mean, who really wants to go to Florida in August?  Using Travelocity, I plugged in our dates and destination (trying both Orlando and Tampa) and was shocked by the result – $401 per ticket and 7+ hours of travel with 2 stops between Albany and either destination.  Are you kidding me?

I know that Southwest, an airline which wouldn’t show  up in a Travelocity or Expedia search, has a nonstop flight between Albany, but their schedule isn’t yet open for our late summer dates.  I decided to change our departure airport and see some other options.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that we could fly nonstop from Bradley Airport (84 miles from Albany) for a total of $340. That’s for both of us.

I quickly checked a couple of things – how much will parking be?  Approximately $7 or $8 per day.  What is the baggage policy of the airline (Jetblue) offering this stellar fare of $170 r/t? One bag free.  I mentally did some math…

Driving to Hartford should take about 2 hours, which means that ultimately it will be faster to drive to Connecticut, park my car and board a nonstop (2:50 minutes) flight than it would be to fly from Albany.  Parking will cost about $75, gas and tolls perhaps another $35 or $40 for a total of approximately $460, or $340 less than flying from the lovely little airport less than 20 minutes from my house.

If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know that I love to travel.  In the past two years, I’ve flown only once from Albany International Airport, choosing Logan (Boston), JFK, Newark and now, Bradley, instead.  If the difference in price is $40 or $50, I wouldn’t  mind spending a little more for the convenience of local, but when you’re talking about $100s, well, I just can’t do it.  Unfortunately, choosing local when it comes to air travel, isn’t nearly as palatable as choosing local for produce is.

$800+ to travel from Albany to Florida in August is a price I’m just not willing to swallow.

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Filed under Albany, Boys, Local, Rants, road trips, Summer, travel, vacation

The Big Easy for little $

Planning for the recent girls’ getaway began months ago.  The topic had been bandied about like a pair of traveling pants, each of the four of us adding her own particular curve to the project.  The criteria was simple: not too far, not too expensive, the simpler the transportation the better.

When I came across a terrific airfare deal (Newark to NOLA $260 r/t) while I was browsing Southwest’s site, on day 3 of my annual two-week vacation with the boys, I immediately sent out a group text.  In no time flat, tickets had been purchased, a time-share had been inquired about and personal calendars had been cleared.  We were a go.

We had 4 months to squirrel away put aside spending money and make some plans.  We investigated what to see, where to go, where to eat, how to get around.  We had a very loose collection of ideas for the trip and reservations for one “big night out” restaurant.  Here’s how we did things…

We parked a single vehicle in Newark at the Parking Spot 2.  Customer service and the price (5 days, $54) were both more than satisfactory.  When we arrived in New Orleans, we took a cab, with a trunk surprisingly large for the vehicle’s size, which came out to about $15 each.
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Breakfast our first morning was beignets and cafe au lait, take-out, from Cafe du Monde.  Barely $20 for four, no table-service tip necessary.  Lunch was a bargain at K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, a casual spot where guests order and pay at the bar and a runner delivers your food.  I went with a small Caesar salad with a cup of the chicken and sausage gumbo on the side.  I think it was about $12 with another couple of bucks for a tip.
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On our way back to our accommodations, we popped into a local grocery market and made some purchases, both practical and impulsive.  There was some cheese, a bit of pâté, crackers, fruit, cereal, milk, yogurt and 1/2 and 1/2.  You know, basics.  Breakfast could now be at home.

We did a lot of walking, opting for a cab only a couple of times due to rain or distance.  There’s also a streetcar system which runs 24 hours a day and offers a $3 all day pass.

Using recommendations from friends, along with Yelp, we found our way to a couple of inexpensive spots within walking distance.  Killer Po Boys, located in the back of the bar at Erin Rose’s, lived up to its name and I thoroughly enjoyed my $12 Gulf shrimp Po Boy.   An excellent bloody Mary on the side added only $3.50 to my tab.  Money well spent for sure!

There was a taco truck I had hoped to catch up to but, alas, it wasn’t to be. We did find a terrific nearby taqueria, Felipe’s, where for $40 (including a generous tip), we bought a mess of tacos and soup to go.  Pairing our meal with drinks at “home” made this dinner a tremendous and tasty deal.
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Don’t get the impression that we’re nickel and dimers, because we’re not. Sunday night we indulged in a fantastic meal at Restaurant R’evolution on Bienville.  We had originally considered the $75 per person prix fixe menu, but elected to go a la carte instead so we could sample more items on the enticing menu.  We selected a salumi sampler for 4 (only $6 more than the salumi plate for 2), crab beignets and a beet salad to start.  We were only able to eat about half of the salumi, but it packed up nicely for snacking on later during our stay.  We shared 3 main courses (ricotta gnocchi, beef short ribs, shrimp and cheese grits) and were comfortably satiated even after the heavenly creme brûlée bread pudding and treasure chest of one- bite sweets that followed.  Our 3.5 hour experience, with a cocktail, a $70 bottle of wine and 25%+ tip came to $100 a person.
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We were naturally craving something a little less indulgent for lunch the following day and found a yummy salad and soup in a nearby food court.  Our meals were fresh, creative and a bargain.  I had yellow split pea soup along with a salad with some Asian notes like ginger and soy for barely $10.

Cheap airfare, a friend’s generous offer of their one bedroom timeshare and thoughtful expenditures for transportation, food and beverages made our get away a treat without breaking the bank.  NOLA – I’ll be back.

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Filed under Eating, friends, ideas, Recommendations, road trips, travel

The evolution of the girlfriend getaway

DSC_0036It started with a couple of stolen hours.  We’d pick a date that worked for all of us, crossing our fingers for no last-minute work emergencies, sick children or childcare cop outs.  Our rendezvous destination was generally somewhere in the middle – north for them, south for me.

On the given day, as I put miles between myself and the responsibilities and demands of home, I recall becoming aware of my breath. It was almost as if I had been holding my breath, neither inhaling or exhaling with any depth, for what seemed like days.  Those couple of hours shared with my girlfriends reset my heart, my lungs and my mind.

As our lives have progressed, our opportunities to get together have also grown.  A quick shared meal evolved into an occasional overnight in NYC, complete with dinner and drinks. On one occasion, as I packed to leave Albany for 2 nights in the city, I realized that I was borderline sick and in desperate need of a nap.  I also knew that my chances of actually getting a nap (and being taken care of) were better in the city with the girls than at home with the guys.  I went.

We’ve explored new neighborhoods as we allowed Hotwire and Priceline to determine where we stayed, economizing on accommodations to allow for some shopping as we attempted to bring some of our peace of mind home.  We’ve got restaurants and cocktail bars which we consider to be “ours” and have had some wonderful trips making memories to last a lifetime.

We’ve just returned from our most ambitious girls’ trip ever – 5 nights in New Orleans.  I can’t tell you how many times I said “Can you believe how fortunate we are that we are able to do this?” during the trip.  The fact that we have come to a place where we have the resources and time to pull off a get away like this impresses me to no end.  I don’t know when we got to be such grown up women, but I like it.  A lot.

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Filed under aging, drinking, Eating, Events, friends, NYC, Observations, relationships, travel, vacation

YOLO – NOLA

image: gonola.com

First, apologies for YOLO. I’ve never used that acronym before and I promise to retire it immediately.  The term, that is.  The sentiment? Not likely.

I’ve got a little trip planned with three of my besties – a long weekend in New Orleans.  I’m rather ridiculously excited.  I’ve never been to this city before, but its reputation as a destination for eating, drinking and music has interested me for years.  Factor in 5 nights with terrific company and this is about to get real!

The girls and I are in accord when it comes to travel – make a reservation or two, include a nonnegotiable destination or site and wing the rest.  Here’s what we have so far:

  • Dinner at Restaurant R’evolution.  We plan to experience their traditional holiday four-course meal known as Reveillon.
  • At least one visit to Taceaux Loceaux.  I’m hoping to try the avocado fries and the bourbon glazed pork belly.
  • Coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde.
  • A garden or cemetery tour
  • A riverboat cruise
  • The national WW II Museum.

What else?  Anything you’d recommend?  How about a place for breakfast or great music?  And, lastly, I have repeatedly heard that it is important to stay within a fairly small perimeter for safety.  I don’t know, I remember hearing that it was treacherous to drive in L.A. and I wasn’t overly impressed by that experience.  It seems to me that if you’re a New Yorker you know the importance of remaining aware of your surroundings without living in a bubble.  What do you think?  How about places to get a few miles of running in to offset the decadence?  Any experiences or tips you’d like to share would be welcomed!

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Filed under Christmas, Eating, friends, holidays, ideas, Recommendations, travel

What I missed

IMG_2475After being back and settled in the DelSo for a week, I thought I’d share what I missed this summer while away. Some of the items on the list, I may take for granted when I’m home, while others are always appreciated. The list is not in any order, although alphabetical would naturally be my first impulse. I’m a librarian, remember?

  • My pillows. I wish I could bring them along on the vacation, but there just isn’t enough room in the car – and there are only two.
  • My coffee bean grinder. What do you mean not everyone grinds their beans freshly each morning?
  • My griddle pan. Traditionally, I bring my waffle iron along on the trip, but next year I may need to find some space for my go-to pancake/grilled cheese making surface. Making either of these items individually makes no sense when you can make three at a time.
  • Our sweet old lab, Cassidy Bono Lilly, especially when I read stories like this gem from Paul Grondahl.
  • Him. Because I like having him around.

What do you find yourself missing the most when away from home?

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Filed under Albany, breakfast, Cape Cod, Cooking, DelSo, family, favorites, friends, Martha's Vineyard, Summer, travel, vacation

Catching up with Moms@Work

image:timesunion.com

image:timesunion.com

Some recent topics from my blog over at the Times Union:

Catch up and comment.

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Filed under Boys, Europe, family, Ireland, Moms@Work, Observations, Recommendations, Summer, travel