Trader Joe’s – when it’s your first time, you get flowers

I’m about to tell you something you may find surprising…despite my reputation as a bit of a “foodie,” until just a couple of weeks ago I had never been to Trader Joe’s. Truth. I know, I know, they “have the best prepared foods!” and the “produce is fantastic.” I’d heard it all, yet remained disinterested. The Wolf Road location always seemed like a clusterf*ck and I do all right with P Chops, Shop Rite and Honest Weight with the occasional Aldi foray. There really isn’t room in the rotation for another grocery store.

But, when a special friend invites a girl to a wonderful “new” place, she goes, right? And that’s how I found myself on a recent Sunday evening cruising the aisles of TJ’s for the very first time. First impression: we picked a good time to go. The parking lot was more empty than full and the store itself was surprisingly mellow. Despite my intention to merely browse, we had a full sized cart and plenty of time in case I changed my mind.

So, what did I walk out of there with? Although the produce looked good and more fairly priced than I had anticipated, I passed since I had already done my pre-Thanksgiving shopping and was set on fruits and veggies. The cheese and meats cases held my attention and I was unable to resist the sliced German smoked ham, at $3.99 for 4 oz it gave me a cheap olfactory trip to my Opa’s house in the Black Forest. Also in the cart were 2 bags of frozen potstickers (chicken and pork at $2.99 each), 2 bags of frozen seasoned corn (haven’t tried them yet), a bar of goat’s milk soap for my weirdo son who wanted goat’s milk, a large bottle of all-in-one shampoo/conditioner/body wash (just trying to cover the bases for my 12 y/o!) and 6-pack of something the guy selected. There might have been another item or three, but I honestly can’t remember – except, of course, for the sweet bouquet of flowers I received once our check out dude learned that it was my very first visit. Nice touch.

The takeaway – there were some cool things and most items were less expensive than I had anticipated. Am I going back? Well, if the fella asks again, of course! But, seriously, I do like the size of the store and the items I’ve purchased and sampled. There was definitely some other stuff that I’d be game to try, but I’m not in a big rush to go back. It’s kind of the same way I feel about places like Marshall’s – when I’ve got some extra time and money, I’m game to recreationally browse.

How about you? Are you a regular at Trader Joe’s? What should I get next time?

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Albany, Cooking, Food, Uncategorized

Not on my bucket list – testifying in a murder trial

If you see something, say something. That’s what they tell you, right? Well, what about if you hear something? Same rule goes, I guess. At least that was my motivation when I originally phoned the police to share some information a number of years ago after a fire in my neighborhood. It just seemed like the right thing to do.

Years passed without any apparent consequences from the information I had shared with the authorities. Earlier this year, though, I was subpoenaed to appear in front of a grand jury. Four years after the fact, the details were certainly less distinct, but my memories of the night of the fire remained – there had been an argument in front of my house in the early hours of the day prior to the house being on fire. The grand jury indicted a suspect later that same day.

A number of weeks ago, I was again subpoenaed, this time for the actual trial. The date went on my calendar and I reflected on that night, now nearly 5 years ago. I considered my contribution to the case to be fairly minimal, but continued to believe that if my family were in a similar position, I would want witnesses to come forward with any information at all.

The night before my testimony I didn’t sleep well.  I was at the court house by 9:00 and ensconced in a small room near the courtroom by 10:30. I was sworn in after the lunch break and spent about 10 minutes total being questioned.

Testifying in a murder trial was far more stressful than I ever could have imagined. I don’t think I really visualized what the courtroom was going to look like, how empty it would be. The benches, reminiscent of pews to this Catholic girl, were barely filled. I expected more spectators or family members to be present and the sparsely populated court room emphasized, to me, the importance of the jury panel. Their task is dead serious.

From my seat next to the judge, I focused on the attorney questioning me and the jury, not looking even once at the defendant. I spoke slowly and at the requested volume, pausing to consider my response, conscious of the potential significance of my statement. Because, finally, I fully understood that the information I shared was important; it provided a context that no one else had been able to offer.

The rest of the afternoon was a bit of a blur. I took care of a couple of errands and basically avoided going home for a few hours. I’m not really sure why. It was a rough day and I hope to never have this experience again.  Have any of you ever testified in a criminal case?

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Running thoughts

DC031D98-9254-45A5-ABED-1C946EC8C921.jpegAs late fall inches closer to winter and the days get shorter, I’ve fallen in love again with running. Last night’s run was pretty satisfying. My thoughts were as strong as my legs, the temperature was perfectly crisp and the air was scented with wood smoke. It was a pleasure.

Sometimes running feels really difficult. It doesn’t always bring satisfaction, which is frustrating because when you work really hard at something you kind of expect it to get easier and feel good. But, when your right glute continues to scream and your left knee decides to tweak and it’s dark and cold, well, running can suck.

Last night, though, nothing hurt. My feet were warm, cradled in new socks, and didn’t seem to mind pounding the sidewalk for 5 miles. The comfort with my physical self freed me to consider my state emotionally and mentally – where I’m at and where I want to be.  Am I satisfied with my one precious life? How can I make it more fulfilling? Do I need to make  changes?

It’s just about time to flip a page on the calendar for the last time for the year. 2018 is right around the corner and I’m already looking forward to it. Every day we get a new chance to fall in love, every new year brings with it the possibility of it being the best one ever. I’m getting ready. Are you?

Leave a comment

Filed under Exercise, ideas, musings, running, winter

Getting schooled at Cafe Capriccio

C407CADB-0DA3-41F5-808A-FC99748F03B1.pngI’ve been a devotee of Grand Street’s Café Capriccio for so very long that if I had a sip of Chianti to match each wonderful memory I’m lucky enough to have created there…well, I’d be pretty damn drunk. I’ve experienced just about every type of event imaginable in this incredibly cozy space – romantic date, girls’ night, Mother’s Day, countless dinners at the bar, chef’s table parties upstairs, significant birthdays, a bridal shower, musical performances, a psychic reading, pre-concert meals, staff holiday dinners and after hours dance parties*. I won’t say that each and every visit to the Café has been stellar, but I can count the disappointments on a single hand and when you’re talking about 25 years’ worth of dining, well, that adds up to a pretty solid history.

A couple of Mondays ago, I added a new experience to my Capriccio memories – Cooking School. I had tried to register for classes in the past but had been shut out, as they’re limited to a dozen attendees and fill up quickly.  A friend and I jumped on the opportunity quickly this time and successfully landed a couple of spots at the table. Our menu:

img_3262Beans and greens – made with Franco Rua’s house cured pancetta, broccoli raabe, white beans, garlic and hot red pepper flakes.

Salad of chicory and endive tossed with tomatoes, celery, onion, oil and vinegar

Pasta with Italian canned tomatoes, house made guanciale, cheese

img_3263Lamb chops – pan seared and finished in the over, served with a pan sauce of anchovy, garlic, rosemary

Walnut torte

I may have forgotten a few ingredients in the above dishes (it was 2 weeks ago!), but I won’t forget how much fun the night was. The group seated around the table was convivial, friendly and definitely interested in cooking, food and travel. While we didn’t actually participate in the preparation of the meal, it was a very casual evening and guests were certainly welcome to move around and get as close to the action as they desired. Service was excellent and the flow of wine (the Palladio Chianti was delish) was bountiful, a couple of classic Capriccio features I always have appreciated. The Ruas know how to run a restaurant and have never been miserly with their stories or knowledge and  I’m very much looking forward to getting more educated in 2018.

3 Comments

Filed under Albany, Cooking, Dinner, drinking, Eating, favorites, Food, Local, Recipes, Recommendations, Restaurants, Wine

Hands. Off.

Each new allegation of sexual harassment brings with it an increased sense of disbelief – not because I doubt the women who are sharing their experiences in such remarkable numbers, but because I can’t help but be curious how so many men could possibly have believed their actions are acceptable. I wonder “who raised them?,” yet must admit that I’ve never had direct conversations with my own sons about boundaries and respect when it comes to physical interactions with others. I suppose I just thought that my children would understand that it is not ok to touch people without invitation. It’s basic, isn’t it?

Speaking of basic, using one’s hands adeptly is such an essential motor skill that I believe most of us take it for granted. You know, when you want to pick something up your brain sends the signal to your hands and they respond by reaching out for and gripping onto whatever it was that you wanted. To be clear, I’m talking about something innocuous like a glass or a pen, not a women’s genitalia or breasts. We’re talking about me now – not Roy Moore or Donald Trump.

Well, in recent months my hands have been less cooperative than Jeff Sessions testifying under oath. The thing is, though, unlike Sessions I can clearly recall how things were, how my hands used to behave…and I’m a bit distressed about it. Some days are better than others and there are times when my hands don’t hurt at all. Other times? The dexterity that I once knew and expected is simply no longer present. My hands ache, particularly in the fleshy area between my thumbs and my wrists, and it feels like my fine motor skills are shot.

So, I’m a bit concerned naturally. Maybe it’s arthritis or a touch of carpal tunnel. I’m not certain, but I’ll be discussing it with the doctor at my next physical in the new year. I can accept my own stiff and uncooperative hands as a natural side effect of getting older, but as far as women continuing to be victimized by men who choose to not maintain control over their own hands? Yeah, that’s something to which I will always throw up my hands. I hope you will, too.

Leave a comment

Filed under aging, medical, musings, News, Observations, politics

Thankful for…

  • My children – even on the days when I can’t understand their actions or attitudes.
  • A brother whom I never doubt, even when he just makes stuff up.
  • Friends whom I’ve known for so long that I don’t have to explain to them where I come from because they were there.
  • More recently made friends with whom I share interests like running, attending fun events and learning new things.
  • Health and the ability to get up in the morning and run a 5k without batting an eye.
  • The belief that each day comes with an opportunity for positive change.
  • A profession that gives me a chance to work with interesting kids and adults and have summers off.
  • An ability and means to express myself creatively.
  • The opportunities I have to travel and see new places.
  • A former husband with whom I can coparent without drama or conflict.
  • My home, in a neighborhood of good people, complete with creature comforts, a well stocked kitchen and a dog who brings me joy.
  • The knowledge that my life is full of blessings and that every single new day is a reason to feel appreciative.

2 Comments

Filed under holidays, musings, Random

Crying with a “purpose” and laughing when “life is beautiful”

9FFEF99C-3B5B-4088-8289-19E0167F6853A Dog’s Purpose” crushed me. I knew it was a bad idea to watch this movie, yet cuddled on the couch with my boy, I thought I’d make it through ok. I didn’t. It’s probably time for me to accept the fact that I can’t tolerate watching animals or humans, particularly children, being mistreated and dying. It guts me. It probably started with “Old Yeller,” a classic book turned movie that ended, for me, with a horrific gunshot. I understand that the movie actually ends with a new puppy and some happiness, but, by the time that final scene occurred, I was already in my room crying into my pillow.

How Jeter and I slept after watching “A Dog’s Purpose.”

After watching “A Dog’s Purpose, “Old Yeller” seems almost  cloyingly sweet. You see, unlike the dog in the more recent movie, Old Yeller mercifully only had to die once. The only thing worse for me than watching the same dog die multiple times is my newfound and overwhelming feeling that Jeter is narrating our life together. Thanks to that damn movie I keep wondering if my dog is sharing his thoughts and experiences like Bailey did. If he is, I hope that it’s a good story he’s telling.

Speaking of good stories, the Italian film “Life is Beautiful” is one that will remain with you long after the final credits role. Although the movie is more than 20 years old, the impact of the story and the performances remains vivid and I strongly encourage you to watch it whether it’s your first time or your tenth. Humor and the holocaust don’t go together in a single sentence often, but this film manages to combine the two into a tour de force that touched me deeply.

If you’re not familiar with “Life is Beautiful” the movie, set in Italy during WW II, tells the story of a Jewish waiter, Guido, who works to hide the reality of concentration camp life to his young son by presenting their situation as a game they must try to win. His commitment to making the best of their circumstances to protect his child and assure his wife of their well being is inspiring. The depth of love he exhibits for his wife and child in many ways transcends the horrors of their circumstances and managed to lift my heart despite the film’s inherent sadness. I need to watch this movie more frequently. It is simply beautiful – watch it with your family over the holidays.

Have you seen either (or both) of these movies? What movie makes you cry?

1 Comment

Filed under favorites, Movies, Observations, Recommendations