Category Archives: Christmas

Christmas (being) present

imageI didn’t make the homemade cinnamon rolls like I did last Christmas. This year I banged open a can instead and, honestly, I think the boys enjoyed them almost as much. It was a fair compromise and followed our simple ham dinner from the eve before perfectly. We were all relaxed and able to enjoy our time together.

After the boys left to join their dad and extended family, I took care of some chores, finished packing and decided to take care of dropping my car off at the garage for a maintenance appointment I scheduled for next week. I drove towards Voorheesville along Whitehall Road, or, as I call it, the Wild West. For the second time in two days, I was passed by another car driven by a person who apparently needed to be somewhere else. I felt irritated by the frivolous law breaking, but decided to let the negative action of someone else inspire me to be positive. I began to feel excited by the thought of my long run home.

The route I was taking was challenging with some intense hills. I’ve never run it before, but I’ve cycled it and I feel pretty familiar with its path. The first mile, complete with short but steep hill, flew by and I got into my zone. I started thinking about the holiday, the pressures of being somewhere and performing and simply being present. Do people really believe that some sort of wrapped package can give them peace and joy?

Bolstered by my belief that I could do it, I ran up hills that had initially seemed intimidating. I considered how fortunate I was to be able to spend an hour and a half feeling the sun on my back and the air on my skin. Like this morning’s dining room dance with my youngest son to an Elvis soundtrack, I was there, in the moment, alive.

I felt sorry for the two drivers who were in such haste that they were willing to break the law to get ahead of me on a residential road. I feel sad when I think of people who spend their time projecting ahead or looking backwards, instead of being where they are right now. If that is your situation, maybe you should consider how to change it. This precious day that we’ve been presented only comes once. Make it your best present ever.

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Filed under Boys, breakfast, Christmas, Dinner, Exercise, family, holidays, musings, Observations, running, Uncategorized

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

This is my last day of work until New Year’s Eve, a fact which I’m kind of excited about. When you factor in that I’ll be away with a couple of my best girlfriends exploring bourbon a new city, I get almost a little giddy. Good times are ahead and I’m ready for them!

Last Saturday, for either the 5th or 6th consecutive year, I ran Albany’s Last Run. This event is absolutely my favorite run of the year – the course is terrific with a wonderful downhill finish and I just think Albany shines in a particularly bright fashion on this night. This year’s weather was perfect, it finally felt like winter for the night yet there was no precipitation or slippery stuff on the ground.

I have to admit that I nailed it, in terms of prep, parking my car near the restaurant in the early afternoon before they closed the streets, and leaving a change of clothes so I could shower at the Morgan State House, where friends were staying for the night. I ran to the course from the DelSo, arriving at the starting line warmed up and ready for the 5K and, without even really trying, finished with a decent enough time in a sometimes crowded race.

One of the best things about this time of the year, what really makes it wonderful, are the visits from friends who no longer live in the area. I absolutely love the way Lark + Lily has become almost an extension of my home as familiar faces stop in for a drink, a hug and even a bite to eat. It’s an unexpected and very welcome perk of this new life of mine.

At my real home, the cookies are nearly all baked, the stockings are hung and the ham is in the refrigerator waiting for its star turn on my dining room table on Christmas Eve. The next two days will be a balance between traditions (bagels and smoked salmon for breakfast, the holiday linens and Elvis) and winging it in a year with bizarrely warm temperatures and my resolve to simply enjoy the time with the guys I love.

My heart will be glowing.

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Filed under Albany, Christmas, Events, Exercise, family, friends, holidays, Lark Street, Local, travel

How Asheville became Nashville

If you said “by adding an N,” you’d be on the right track. An N as is No way, Not possible, Never happening and Not since you bought that wine bar. You see, the girls and I decided months ago that a road trip between Christmas and New Year’s Eve to Asheville seemed like the kind of adventure with which we could be down. I had read an article or two about Asheville and it sounded like a cool destination with plenty to do and lots of good food and drink to be had, aka our kind of place.

But then, I bought a restaurant and the idea of 12+ hours in a car began to feel not so fun, even with my best girlfriends riding shotgun. I needed to be home for New Year’s Eve – and not after 12 hours of driving, either. I explored some options for flying home, but abandoned that idea after determining that it was just getting too complicated, exactly what a quick getaway is not supposed to be.

On a whim, I took a quick look at the Southwest website and came across a sweet deal – to Nashville. It really doesn’t take much to persuade my friends to go anywhere, so changing the destination and getting them to fly rather than drive didn’t take much effort at all. So, Nashville it is!

None of us have ever been to Tennessee before and we’re getting pretty excited. Our plan is our usual modus operandus – eat, drink, shop and hang, but we’re open to suggestions.  We’re booked into a swanky hotel and  Steve Barnes recommended a restaurant, Husk, where we’ve already made a reservation. I imagine we’ll drink some bourbon and eat some bar-b-q, and I’m sure we’ll get to some music venues, too. I know that we’ll have a fantastic time because we always do.

Any recommendations from y’all? (That’s how I say it, right?) Have any of you visited Nashville?


Filed under Christmas, drinking, Eating, friends, holidays, travel, vacation

Running to hide in the dark

It’s times like this that make me understand the appeal of going to the theater to see a movie. Or three. I don’t often get to the movies for a film that is anything other than rated PG, but during my winter holidays, I found my way to the Spectrum three times for grown up movies.Two of the movies I saw were based upon books which I had very much enjoyed, while the third appealed to my curiosity and is the one which I’ve found myself reflecting on with surprising frequency. All provided an opportunity to escape.

Escape from what, you ask? Christmas and the stress which it can bring, the reality of who is present in my life and who is not, and a grief that I found I could not run away from no matter how rapidly I moved my sneakered feet. The holidays are a cruel time for death to visit.

So, I went to the movies. First, my middle son and I took in Birdman (and a medium popcorn) together. The plot was interesting without being groundbreaking and I thought the cast was outstanding. Michael Keaton was utterly convincing in the title role and Edward Norton was his standard mesmerizing self. Emma Stone continues to be difficult to look away from and I only wish Naomi Watts had been in more scenes. Overall, I found the film a bit disturbing, but that’s just coming from literal me. I like movies that neatly tie up in the end, and this definitely did not do that.

Christmas Day I made my way back down Delaware Avenue for a matinee of Unbroken. I’ve been waiting to see this movie since I read the book 3 years ago and, while I think the adaptation was respectfully done, the film simply could not live up to the printed page. There just isn’t any way to capture the richness of Hillenbrand’s book and Louis Zamperini’s life in 120+ minutes. By all means, see the movie but do not think it tells the complete story. Read the book.

I completed my trifecta with another film based on a biography, Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon. I just recently read and loved the book and think the movie accurately portrayed the journey that Cheryl Strayed took in the aftermath of the demise of her mother and her marriage. There are always creative choices to be made and I think the scenes taken from the book and depicted on screen were wisely made. I liked it, but, you should still read the book if you haven’t already.

Hooray for Hollywood and thank God for books and running.

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Filed under Books, Christmas, Delaware Avenue, DelSo, Movies, Recommendations, running, winter

Laboring on Christmas Eve

Not to take anything away from Mary, but I did my share of work yesterday, too. The morning began with tending to two loaves of bread, prepping the ultimately fantastic beef roast and driving a friend to the airport, all prior to attending a 10:00 yoga class.

After the sweaty release of 75 minutes of hot yoga and a grande latte, things really got busy. There was brioche dough to make for Christmas morning cinnamon rolls along with sugar cookie dough for a (I swear!) last round of baking. And laundry. And a joyous dog walk/run with Jeter which required a follow-up bath for him and a bathroom scrubbing for me. My final exertions, sweeping, vacuuming, and getting vegetables ready to accompany dinner complete, I made myself a bourbon sour and stepped into the clean shower to wash away the efforts of the day.

The house was filled with the aroma of beef stuffed with garlic, parsley and horseradish roasting and the boys had set the table with festive linens and holiday tableware. I sliced some of the beautiful bread I had baked earlier and prepared to sit down, confident that I had remembered every last detail. Until I smelled smoke. I first looked in the kitchen, but there was nothing out of the norm there. Next stop: the dining room where I found a very different story.

The bread basket had apparently been placed too close to a candle and the wicker basket, linen napkin and nearby placemat were all on fire. This was not a smoldering, it was a full-out flaming situation and I instinctively scooped up the entire mess and hastily made for the sink, yelling for some assistance from the boys. The flames were quickly doused and I headed back to the dining room to survey the damage, duly noting the freshly charred area which will perennially mark Quinn’s place at the table.

After the excitement passed, I confessed to Griffin that I wasn’t sure if I had reacted appropriately. Was picking up the flaming stuff and making for the kitchen the right thing to do? Should I have addressed the situation differently? He looked at me and asked “Did you put the fire out? Is anything else destroyed?” When I admitted that there had been no further damage, he assured me that I had done exactly what needed to be done at precisely the right time.

Which kind of brings me back to Mary and Joseph and that manger. Maybe if we keep our eyes open for guidance, be it from the brightest star in the sky or a wise young man (or 3) it really will all be fine. Merry Christmas.

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Filed under Boys, Christmas, Dinner, family, holidays, musings, Uncategorized

My Christmas wish list, 2014

  1. A universe and population that has evolved to understand that we’re more alike than different.
  2. Fewer guns in that wiser universe.
  3. In my own personal DelSo planet,  the boys to clean their bedrooms.
  4. A romantic love that inspires.
  5. If number four doesn’t happen, Bradley Cooper would be an acceptable alternative.

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Filed under Boys, Christmas, holidays, ideas, love

Gifts of the season

So far, it’s been a particularly relaxed holiday season. I’ve been on my game – my freezer has 8 quarts of assorted homemade cookie dough ready to thaw and bake, the door has a wreath and the dining room a decorated tree. The last of the Christmas cards went in the mail 3 days ago and I’ve got 4 rolls of wrapping paper – and tape.

Holiday preparations are so well in hand that I’m adding challenges to the upcoming days. I’ve got a few recipes which I’ll be debuting over the next few days, a riff on apple fritter waffle donuts, overnight pull-apart brioche cinnamon roll bread and a killer roast for Christmas Eve. And, yes, I already ordered the beef from the butcher. How did I manage to be so on top of things? I’d have to say it was because I remembered to put a few things for myself on this year’s gift list.

Last week, I loaded two of the three boys into the car and drove to go pick out a tree. At Price Chopper. Yep, we bought our tree from the Golubs, the same folks from whom I bought the potatoes and onions for our latkes. Talk about one-stop shopping! Generally we go out to rural Rensselear County for our tree, not suburban Slinglerlands, but the week’s wet snow made the appeal of tromping through a field searching for a tree pretty minimal. I gave myself the gift of simplicity. $35.00 and car filled with pine needles later, we have, as always, the perfect tree.

Last night, I had a hankering for latkes. Even though it was Friday and I felt kind of beat, I made the effort to grate the potatoes and chop the onion and fry a batch of latkes. With each step, I considered, then accepted, what I had to do next to get this out of the norm meal on the table. As the pancakes fried, I peeled apples for a quick sauce and grilled sausages. We didn’t sit down to enjoy our dinner until after  8:00, but I felt so relaxed because I didn’t rush the process or myself. I gave myself the gift of indulging in something I was really craving – sour cream and generous glass of Riesling included.

During these often hectic holiday weeks, when so very much (festivities, shopping, food and drink) is crammed into each day, I purposefully left my calendar open. I quietly refused to commit myself or take on obligations. It has been remarkable. I’ve been available to do some fun relatively last minute things.  I’ve been writing and reading, taking long walks with Jeter and enjoying my home and boys. I gave myself the gift of time.

I hope you’re giving yourself something priceless, too.

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Filed under aging, Boys, Christmas, Cooking, family, holidays, musings, writing