Monthly Archives: December 2017

What are you doing New Year’s Eve?

(Before you read this I suggest queuing up Ella Fitzgerald’s version of the title song. It’s one of the finest vocals ever.)

New Year’s Eve is kind of a weird holiday to me. Long after the childthood challenge of staying up until the ball dropped lost its novelty, it remains a night of varying significance in my history. Part of the ambivalence I feel probably comes from the fact that I’ve probably worked 80% of the NYEs in my adult life. It’s just an occasion to make money at the expense of folks who feel the desire to celebrate the year’s end publicly, honestly.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not critical of revelers, it’s just that I’m not personally interested in dropping a wad of cash on dinner out and the thought of crowding into Times Square, or some other hyper crowded space, is less appealing to me than a polar plunge on New Year’s Day. I’d much rather start the new year with money in my pocket and a clear head. Crazy, right?

On this sunny and frigid day, I’ll make sure the laundry is done and the sheets are fresh. The bathroom will be scrubbed in anticipation of an afternoon pre-shift bath and the floors will be vacuumed. Jeter will get bundled up in his smart red coat and we’ll meet friends at Muni for a festive year end ski. There will be just enough time post-ski to warm up with a big bowl of lentil soup before I head to work for what will easily be my 25th year of New Year’s Eve service.

How about you? What do you have planned?

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Filed under drinking, Eating, Events, holidays, Lark Street

Facials at the Jenkinstown Day Spa

When was the last time you had a facial? It’s been a long time since I had one, which almost explains why I refused to abandon the idea of indulging myself during my holiday vacation even though it took some effort to get appointments.

Our original plan was Rhinebeck for an afternoon of window shopping, some food and drinks, maybe a little music and then a night at the Beekman Arms with spa appointments in the morning. When the forecast, though, was for single digit temperatures, we reconsidered. Plan B? A spa treatment in the afternoon, a little walk around New Paltz, cocktails and then takeout Thai at a friend’s house.

We hustled appointments at a place we had never been before, the Jenkinstown Day Spa. Reviews and recommendations considered, we booked a European facial for me and massage for her. Going in, I understood the space was a little unusual and definitely not hyper fancy. I arrived just before 1:00 p.m. to a parking area with only one car other than my own. (Upon departure the lot was full.) The front door opened to a standard bilevel stairway dilemma – up or down? The upstairs beckoned and I was rewarded with a warm greeting and a comfortable seating area, along with a bathroom that immediately transported me to 1978 (and Lisa Dietrich’s house.)

My facial took place in a room that had been carefully put together with decorative touches and all the necessary tools for the provider. The temperature of the room was a degree a two cool, but not in an uncomfortable way. Hangars or hooks for guest’s clothing would be a thoughtful addition.

My technician was very professional and provided me with an excellent facial. There was minimal conversation, which I welcomed, and zero sales pitch. Perfect. There were a couple of times when I was surprised by the texture or temperature of a product on my skin and I would have appreciated a warning, but it wasn’t a big deal. The experience was very positive and my skin felt and looked great at the end of my appointment.

Facials may be my new indulgence in the new year and I very much enjoyed my service at Jenkinstown. At $80 the facial was reasonably priced and good value and I would definitely return to repeat the experience. There are a couple of tweaks that would make the spa a bit more spa-ish, but the pricing is on par with the facilities. It was also the perfect reminder of how much I appreciate a good facial.

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Filed under aging, beauty, Christmas, Recommendations, road trips, upstate New York, winter

Ode to panettone

I don’t remember what made me buy the first one. Despite my mother’s German origins, it wasn’t as if fruit cake was part of my holiday traditions. As a matter of fact, I had distinct and negative memories of an episode involving fruitcakes baked in November, and left to soak in rum until Christmas, and a curious and subsequently drunk puppy that had left my mother pretty damn pissed. Nope, fruitcake didn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy. At all.

But, somehow I found myself leaving Rocco’s with a hefty 2lb loaf of something called panettone that seemed to be the perfect addition to my mornings during the holiday season. I happily carried my panettone to Albany. The next morning when I released the bread from its airtight wrapping I was provided with an intense aromatic assault – citrus, anise, unimagined spices…heaven. Since that first time, Christmas feels incomplete without this baked treat and I make it a point to get to the city in December to score one, or four as the case may be.

I’ve learned that there are two traditional varieties – Milanese and Genovese. The first is a taller version, more like a crown, light and studded with dried fruit. The Genovese is lower, wider and has the addition of anise and pignoli making for a more earthy, denser taste. I like them equally, toasted and slathered with unsalted butter.

My Rome connection (grazie, Alex!) has gifted me with an imported loaf for the last two years. I haven’t yet opened this year’s special panettone, but I’m eager to see how it compares to my beloved Rocco’s version. I noted that by appearance, it looks to be a Milanese version which should be the perfect way to come full circle in my panettone season. Six pounds of panettone later, that is.

Have you had panettone? This article in the NYT gives some excellent information about this special bread, yet doesn’t provide a recipe for baking your own. It seems to be quite complicated, by I’m putting panettone baking on my bucket list. Until I have time to devote to learning how to make it myself, I’m content to travel to NYC for a fix because at this point, Christmas wouldn’t be complete without it. How about you? What baked goods define this season for you?

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Filed under baking, breakfast, Christmas, Eating, favorites, Food, holidays, NYC, Recommendations

Christmas gift to myself (Aside from the gifts I’ve already given myself)

I’ve decided to abstain from weighing myself from the remainder of the month. That’s right, I’m going to deny myself the chance to feel badly beginning first thing in the morning when I step on the scale. Because that’s what inevitably happens if the number reads higher than I had hoped.

Not checking in daily on my weight makes me uncomfortable. I guess I can be a bit of a control freak and the daily weight check helps me to determine what level of indulgence I “deserve.” I suspect that it will eventually prompt me to eat less, instead of more, since I’m already concerned about what I’ll see when I finally revert to my daily weigh in on January 1st.

On any given day I could probably list every single item I consumed. Confession – sometimes I fall asleep at night counting calories instead of sheep. I try to be a conscious consumer and don’t eat mindlessly. Respecting the connection between what one eats and how much exercise will be needed to balance one’s consumption, requires attention and I try to stay tuned in. I truly consider every day how I’m doing in terms of fruits, vegetables, carbs and protein striving to achieve a reasonable representation from all food groups.

Are you exhausted yet? Or, maybe you approach food in a similarly controlled fashion?

At the holidays when my kitchen is filled with delicious baked goods, I find myself challenged. “Life is short, Silvia, eat the damn cookies,” I say to myself. But, the calories, the sugar, the butter…but the panettone! The chocolates! The linzer cookies! What’s a girl with a tight leash on her appetite to do?

My solution for the rest of 2017 is to put the digital scale on vacation and resort to a more intuitive way of eating. I suspect it will involve lots of baked goods offset by fruits and vegetables in copious amounts, along with as many miles as I can muster. Wish me luck – or better yet, help me eat some cookies.

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Filed under baking, Eating, Exercise, Food, holidays

I’ll never be mistaken for Florence Nightingale

My bedside manner is seriously lacking. Don’t believe me? Ask my middle child – the one I told to put a Band-Aid on the cut which eventually required 8 stitches. He’ll corroborate my complete fail as a nurse, trust me. The most recent example of my abysmal diagnostic skills occurred last weekend. Let me tell you about it.

CDCAF904-C885-43B5-BD5F-838DBF0A468ASaturday my youngest son was a guest at a birthday party held at Skyzone, a trampoline place in Menands. Sidenote: Waze pronounces Menands “men ands” which cracked us up each time we heard it. Anyway, I arrived to pick him up at the end of the party only to find that he was limping and unable to put any weight on his left leg. I pulled the car up to the door and brought him home where he settled in on the couch. I looked at his leg and noted no swelling or bruising in the area where he said it hurt – the back of calf. He declined Advil or Aleve and seemed fairly comfortable. I diagnosed a “pulled muscle” and figured he’d feel better in the morning.

Sunday morning he woke up and said his leg hurt and rated his pain a 6 on a scale of 1-10. I gave him Aleve and suggested a bath with Epsom salts. Despite my medical care and advice, he continued to hop around the house, something I found more than a little annoying. See? I told you I’m a horrible nurse. He began to soften his stance about not wanting to go to the MD. With his blessing, I called the pediatrician’s office and spoke with the doctor on call asking him how to proceed. He mentioned that the Bone & Joint Center had walk in hours until 3:00 and suggested that as our best move.

We arrived a little after 1:00 and checked in. The waiting room had about a half dozen people in front of us, but we were seen after about 75 minutes, a time span I didn’t find unreasonable. Quinn hobbled to the exam room, pausing to be weighed and measured (he’s a giant, btw) and, after a short wait, a PA came in to examine him. X-rays were obtained and I think we were all surprised to see the fracture in his fibula. The youngest Lilly boy managed to be the first to break a bone.

16C08AA8-E984-4C98-9C29-5A0F7A1E9683One red Christmas stocking-esque cast later and we were on our way. The take away?
• I should have heeded the wisdom of E. Stewart Jones who once said to never allow kids to go to trampoline parks or in bouncy houses.
• Broken bones don’t always reveal themselves with swelling, acute pain or discoloring.
• We’re so lucky to have quality health insurance and medical practices that are open on Sundays.
• While I may never receive a special lamp, I did see the light in this case and do the right thing.  Just like Quinn’s fibula, I’m getting better.

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Florence’s Lantern!

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Filed under aging, Albany, Boys, Local, medical, moms, Observations, Recommendations, sunday

Have you ever imagined what it might be like to wake up the day after your 6-year-old was massacred?

I have. If I’m being completely honest, far more times than I’d like to acknowledge. If you’re a parent, I think you probably have, too. How could any human being not place themselves in the shoes of the 26 families who lost a child 5 years ago in an elementary school in a pretty little town in Connecticut?

That day is like 9/11 to me, etched on my heart and absolutely unforgettable. Maybe it’s the same for you?

I had indulged two of my three boys with a midweek (personal day) overnight stay at an indoor water park. My oldest son declined to come because he didn’t want to miss school, something I didn’t endorse lightly at that time. I’ve become more lenient about it since.

I remember it being late morning when I first became aware of the situation occurring in Newtown, CT. Reclined in a chaise lounge under a roof built mostly from glass, I checked my Twitter feed and saw news of a shooting at an elementary school. There was an image of children being led in a line outside of a brick building, a second shooter was being sought, and emergency vehicles looked to be everywhere. It was chaos and horror. I swear the sky clouded over and became gray. I wanted to go home.

As we packed up our bags, I monitored the situation on my phone. I looked at my own child, approximately a year older than most of the victims as it turned out, and imagined sending him to school and never seeing him alive again. On our drive south, I stopped at an unfamiliar branch of my bank to take care of something. As I stood in line for service, tears rolled down my face with quiet abandon. The other people in the bank had conversations in normal volume voices, certainly unaware of what had transpired, I imagined. I couldn’t understand how anyone could possibly continue to speak on a day in which primary school students and their teachers had been shot to death in their classrooms. What words could be said that had any meaning?

Every single day since then has been a new opportunity for our country to honor those lives lost. We can do better. We have to do better. No one should ever have to wake up a day after their child was massacred in their classroom.

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Filed under Events, News, Observations, Schools

The art of being fit in Albany

Saturday was a great day to be an active Albanian. The day began with yoga and while the evening’s activity was a no-brainer, the choice of which class to take was a real dilemma. For the sake of trying something new, I went with the pop up yoga class being offered at the art museum at the University at Albany.

I had originally heard about this free class (donations welcome) last month when it was first offered. I couldn’t make that class, but getting to this one at noon was easy enough despite my lack of familiarity with where to park on campus. We set up our mats on the second floor and were led through a 75 minute all levels practice. Modifications were offered and our instructor, Carrie, was proactive about moving around the room to offer assistance and suggestions. There was a really nice spiritual element and we were invited to consider the art on display as we imagined the colors prompted by our positions. It was the perfect way to loosen up my muscles and joints for my next activity – Albany’s Last Run

This race is my absolute favorite 5k of the year. There’s just something about running with your favorite running friends through the garish light display in Washington Park that screams Christmas to me. Factor in our first snowfall of the season and you’ve got the perfect event to herald the holidays. It was a blast!

0D927683-551A-4A3B-A8CC-903D38CA6CE9Since parking can be challenging, I find the best way to reach the starting line is to run from my house to Center Square. This year I was particularly glad that I did that since my warm up run gave me an opportunity to experience how truly treacherous the conditions were from the still falling snow. It was crazy slippery! After meeting up with the Lunar b*tches, we made our way to the Capitol and cheered as the fireworks display lit up the snowy sky. Despite the fireworks going a bit long (it felt a bit self-indulgent as I began to get chilled) it was pretty damn festive. When the horn sounded for us to begin, I happily started up Washington Avenue.

7439658B-00D8-4E97-826E-CC5A2AC20E86The conditions were definitely intense – lots of people, slick streets and some spots that were not particularly well-lit. You know what? None of it mattered. It was a beautiful night for a run through Washington Park and Albany was shining like a diamond. As the race drew to a close, I managed to resist the urge to sprint down State Street for a big finish, which was a good show of restraint considering the number of people who went down as they crossed the finish line. I really wouldn’t have wanted to fall, or to have missed a second of that run. It was a great day and night to be an Albanian.

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Filed under Albany, beauty, Christmas, Exercise, favorites, friends, holidays, Lark Street, Local, running, snow, Uncategorized, yoga