When…

You find yourself spending more time packing and unpacking your overnight bag than you do cleaning your house

There are events 3 out of 4 nights

Cocktails and cookies have replaced wine and ice cream as your seasonal vices.

You spend more on your weekly grocery trip than you do on your monthly utility bill.

The days fly so fast that you can’t keep up with the calendar.

A holiday song comes on a shuffled playlist.

Addressing envelopes occupies your hands, even before the folding of the laundry, during your rare moments on the couch watching an episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Baking kicks into high gear

You know Christmas is coming.

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Filed under Uncategorized

Little Pecks knows what you want

At a time of the year occupied with what one wants for Christmas, I’ve found myself twice in the past week in a position where it’s lunch time, but I’m lunchless without a clue as to what I want to eat. You know I’ve got some food issues and I’m kind of particular about what I eat, so these kind of situations stress me out. Often I know what I don’t want – food that’s expensive, unnecessarily heavy or too time consuming, but I’m at a loss as to what will satisfy.

On the first recent occasion, I selected a couple of items from the prepared case at the nearby deli which left me feeling less than satisfied. The tuna salad, with a side of pickled beets and onions, I bought was tasty but it just didn’t fill me up. I regretted my choices.

Monday afternoon I found myself between appointments in Troy, hungry. I made my way to Broadway, parked and considered my options. The Placid Baker was closed, the Whistling Kettle felt like too much of a commitment, and the Illium Cafe seemed like more than I was looking for in the 30 minutes I had available. Little Pecks for the win.

While the baked goods looked awesome, I knew that I wanted something more substantial and less carb-y. The chalkboard menu had a number of items that sounded delicious, but nothing really appealed until I read this:

CHICKPEA & SQUASH STEW
salsa verde, fried breadcrumb

Yes, this was exactly what I craved. I placed my order at the counter, took my table marker and made my way to the light-filled atrium where I found a seat. A few minutes later, I was spooning into a flavorful stew of firm chickpeas and tender squash, finished with buttery breadcrumbs, bright salsa verde and the unexpected brininess of capers. It was perfect.

Thanks, Little Pecks, for giving me my belief in an unplanned lunch back. Now, back to that holiday shopping list…

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Filed under Eating, Food, holidays, Local, Recommendations, Troy, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Current favorite cocktail – Fall Spritz!

I’m more a wine or cider girl, but I’m smitten with Amaro, an Italian liqueur. There’s something about this herbaceous, syrupy elixir that I really enjoy when I’m looking for a nightcap of just few sips of something alcoholic. I picked up a bottle of it last winter when I was coming home from Rome and every so often it’s exactly what I’m looking for at the end of a night.

Flipping through the November issue of Bon Appetit last week, I came across a super simple (2 ingredients and a citrus garnish) cocktail using Amaro and just knew it would be the perfect cocktail to offer my guests at our family Thanksgiving dinner – the Fall Spritz. It’s four parts of dry, hard cider to one part Amaro. Talk about two of my favorite things! As I finished the food preparations, I handed the magazine and the task to my trusty neighbor and he mixed us up a batch.

It was a delicious way to start a festive night – fairly low in alcohol, not overly sweet and with a bit of effervescence from the cider. Yummy! It was a unanimous verdict and that round of drinks, I expect, will not be the last time we enjoy that particular libation together.

I stopped downtown the other night at dp’s, intending to indulge in one of their well crafted cocktails from the current list, however, I stopped in my tracks when I read the ingredients of an appealing cocktail. There was one made with Amaro! I cheekily asked the bartender if he would go off menu and make me a fall spritz. As ever, he accommodated my request and made two versions using different styles of Amaro. It seems there are many varieties and they range in color (and taste, I imagine) from light to dark amber.

My preference is the darker version and that was the cocktail I selected – and thoroughly enjoyed. I may need more Amaro.

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Filed under Albany, drinking, favorites, friends, Local, Recommendations, Uncategorized, winter

Revisiting Rent the Runway

I’ve got about a week left of my Unlimited Membership and honestly, if the cost of my initial month ($106) was the regular price, I’d be re-upping in a heartbeat and continuing the service. With one little hiccup aside, more a shipping issue than any fault of RtR, I’ve loved the experience.

I’ve had 10 items delivered (including three formal gowns, all options for an early December event) and have worn, or will wear, 8 of them. One of the two gowns which were part of my initial shipment is exactly what I wanted for the upcoming gala, so I’ve held onto it for the entire duration of my subscription. not wanting to risk it not being available closer to my date. That left me with three open spots to rotate garments through, a fun challenge that I really enjoyed.

The quality of the clothing has been high with everything arriving on hangars, in plastic. One dress had some very minor “pulls” in the fabric, but beyond that, everything has been pristine. I’ve made a point of selecting garments which are beyond my typical budget for clothing, i.e. designer dresses which retail for $500-$700, gowns that top out north of the $1000 mark, a real indulgence which I wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to experience. That being said, I’ve been a bit surprised by the manufacturing standards of what I consider to be very expensive items – a Jason Wu dress with a hem that isn’t turned of truly finished. They just don’t make things like they used to…

When I reflect on what I’ve borrowed, it’s apparent I have a real fondness for easy sweater or knit dresses in eye-catching patterns – the kind of stuff that is strikingly vivid, yet quickly repetitive. Exactly what I want in a garment that I’m only going to wear two or three times. The shipment that I’m expecting tomorrow includes a really high end leather jacket in a beautiful raisin color. I could never justify buying a $1200 motorcycle jacket, but I will be wearing this one as frequently as possible before my subscription ends. Look for me in it!

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Filed under Fashion, favorites, ideas, Recommendations, Uncategorized

WEXT – Jukebox Heroes!

If you’re of a certain age, the following may tweak a memory for you…

“Standing in the rain, with his head hung low
Couldn’t get a ticket, it was a sold out show…”

I didn’t say Foreigner, circa 1981, would necessarily elicit a good memory, but I do know some folks who hold their 80s mix tapes in high regard and I imagine that track made it on to more than a couple of them.  Anyway, I heard that song on the radio recently and those lyrics totally expressed my situation perfectly – it was indeed, a sold out show.

Last summer I attended a show at SPAC specifically to see the Marcus King Band. Unfortunately, they were an early act on a day that included an afternoon on the water, pre-show. Needless to say, we arrived late to the concert and missed almost their entire set. Bummer.

When I found out the band was playing Cohoes Music Hall Thanksgiving Day Weekend, I jumped on it. Apparently, my leap was too late and I was dismayed, (and annoyed) to find the show sold out. Refusing to settle for being shut out, I sent Exit 97.7 WEXT a message asking if they had a line on any tickets, or a ticket. I’d go solo to this show for sure.

10 days later, I got a message back apologizing for the delayed response and inquiring if I was still in need of a miracle of sorts. Upon receiving my response confirming my situation, they were able to assist in my getting into the show. The Fantastic Show, I should say.  This band, and the opening duo Ida Mae, rocked the remaining paint off the ceiling of that spectacular, but sadly neglected, venue. Can’t somebody help this space to rise up and live up to its former glory?

How about this? Giving Tuesday is O.D. official on November 27th, 2018, but you can feel free to donate any time you’d like to organizations which you find important to support. If you’re looking for ideas, consider an independent radio station, like WEXT 97.7 or a historic property like the Cohoes Music Hall. Both would appreciate any assistance you could provide, I’m sure. Music makes you feel good – helping to support it feels even better.

Ida Mae

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Filed under Local, Music, Observations, Recommendations, upstate New York

Lit

I woke up Thanksgiving morning and started my usual routine – bathroom to pee, brush my teeth and clean my nightguard. I brush and then soak the night guard in some fizzy solution last year’s 8th-grade homeroom advised me on. To dissolve the tablet you toss it in very warm, but not hot water.

Since it’s first thing in the morning, I expect to run the water a few extra seconds to get the water to the tap from the hot water heater in the basement two stories down. Yesterday, though, was different. The water just didn’t get warmer. I immediately assumed I’d go to the basement to find a burst or wildly leaking hot water heater and anticipated dropping $750 or some other crazy-right-before-the-holidays price to replace and install a new one.

I decided to have coffee before venturing downstairs.

Twenty minutes later, I rounded the corner from the stairs to face the hot water heater…actually, heaters. There are two and I first needed to determine which was mine. Fortunately, neither had any water leaking. Good news. I touched the one on the right and it felt warm. No doubt, it was on. I moved towards the other one, on the left, covered in cobwebs. Great.

Of course, that one, mine, was cold. The pilot wasn’t lit. I went upstairs, did a little research (perhaps the thermocoupler needed to be replaced?) and returned with a flash light and some matches, not able to find the stick lighter in the drawer. Maybe it ran away with the hammer. I can’t find that either. Back downstairs, I crouched down and read directions for lighting the pilot and was relieved to find that I didn’t have to provide fire to light the pilot. It had its own ignitor. I thought back to when I first learned how to relight a hot water heater.

I was probably 12 or so. We had recently moved into what would be the longest term residence of my life until I bought my own house. The house felt special because it was ours, sort of. My mother’s boyfriend had bought it and done some work to make it habitable, after a period of vacancy. We could paint any color we wanted to, as long as we agreed to the same one, and we each had our own bedrooms. Without heat. Sometimes in the depths of winter, the interior of the windows would be frozen from exhaled breaths and dreams. We were teenagers and had lots of blankets. It was fine.

There were times when we didn’t have heat in the house other than that cast off by the wood burning stove my brother fed like a mother nurses a newborn. If the uninsulated, built above a dirt foundation, house got too cold we’d wake to have no water whatsoever. During really cold spells, that might be our situation for a few days. On occasion we had oil for the furnace and propane for hot water and cooking, but if we didn’t, we learned to adapt to what was available. It’s just how it was.

So, lighting that water heater, all those years ago. I remember being mad. I was a kid. This was an adult’s responsibility, not mine. I was frustrated. Other people just had hot water and heat all the time. They could boil things on the stove because they had gas. Why was our shit so inconsistent?

And I was scared. Gas scared me. Electricity scared me. Is that weird?

But, we needed hot water (not for the washing machine, we didn’t have one of those,) and there actually had been a propane delivery. We must have been caught up on our bills,* for a change. I wanted a shower and my brother wasn’t home to take care of it. I didn’t have a choice – it had to be taken care of and there was no one else.

The utility room was down the hall, on the other side of a door that led to a part of the house we didn’t use. It wasn’t fit to occupy with its glassless windows and concrete floors. The hot water heater was by far the newest piece of hardware and I kneeled, practically genuflecting, next to it. I remember there was a red button that needed to pressed, and maybe you had to count to three, before inserting a match into a blowhole of sorts and then, trusting that it was lit, the knob had to be released and turned a particular way. It felt intense. I hated it.

Just like yesterday, I lit it.

“our bills?” I was 12, they weren’t mine.

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Filed under Albany, Education, girlhood, house, musings, Uncategorized

Bread. Alone.

When I carried a two pound loaf of Genovese style pannetone and a dozen bagels in a bag topped with a single bialy around the city, I knew I had to acknowledge how much I sincerely love bread. It might just be my favorite food group and it definitely would be my desert island wish. Truth be told, the thought of being sensitive to gluten makes me sick to my stomach. Yes, I love bread.

The best part of an early Thanksgiving is a bonus week of Christmas eating.

Let me counts the ways…

Italian holiday breads such as panettone at Christmas and pane di Pasqua at Easter. I love a bread that marks a holiday, what can I say?

Irish breads like soda bread and whole wheat brown bread lightly dusted with oats. With rough cut orange marmalade, please.

Croissants, particularly those that leave a petite souvenir of their presence in the form of scattered flaky crumbs and a glisten of butter on one’s fingertips.

Bagels and bialys, with whipped cream cheese to smear on, for the win.

Focaccia like the one you get in Genoa, tasting salty like the ocean and herbaceous from rosemary as you tear into it.

Challah, yellow with eggs and used in every single bread pudding and French toast recipe forever and ever.

Naan, stuffed with slightly bitter garlic and a tad oily.

The Placid Baker makes some damn tasty breads.

German fruit stollen, the city cousin to the more well-known, country style dark fruit bread that is the perpetual butt of jokes.

My own version of no-knead bread in which I tweak the recipe a tad by increasing both the salt and the yeast.

What’s your favorite bread? Where do you get it?

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Filed under baking, Eating, favorites, Food, love, Observations, Recommendations