Category Archives: Christmas

But, Daddy, I want to cross country ski TODAY!

Christmas Day was pretty stunning this year with that gorgeous fresh snow. Once the boys were on their way, I grabbed the dog and my skis and headed to Muni for my first ski of the season. Conditions were decent and I went straight out past the driving range towards a wooded trail I like. After a few hundred yards something weird starting happening with my left ski. My foot kept coming loose and the binding just wasn’t cooperating. I ended up taking both skis off, tossing them over my shoulder and simply enjoying the walk.

After I got home I looked closely at the skis and realized that one of the bindings was missing a piece. No worries, until I could it repaired I could use skis that belonged to the Lilly boys. Jeter and I got back out to the golf course the next day. Imagine my annoyance surprise when I realized that these skis also had a malfunctioning binding. The good news that day was that I discovered the problem before I attempted to ski. I put the skis back in the car and, again, we took a walk.

A local ski shop suggested I check out LL Bean for replacement bindings and I headed there bright and early the 27th. I got lucky and was assisted by a super knowledgeable salesperson. I didn’t catch his name but he really knew his stuff and he was more helpful than any other ski salesperson I’ve worked with in the past. The replacement bindings he had available were clearly not great quality and he offered to mount bindings that I might buy somewhere else. Unfortunately, the nearest locations to purchase the NNN bindings I needed was more than a 30 minute drive and I wanted to ski NOW.

The salesman and I talked about the life expectancy of a pair of cross country skis and the cost of new boots, which I needed. My boots had been splitting at the seams for the past three years and I had tossed them at the end of last year’s season. The boys’ boots were about a size and a half too big, but I had planned to make them work until I had a chance to replace my own. Impulsively, I asked how much it would cost to put me in a completely new set of skis…

Twenty-five minutes (and $360) later I walked out of LL Bean with a completely new ski package. The shopping experience was great and I love my skis. This equipment is exactly what I’ve been looking for in terms of ski length and width for the kind of skiing I do on mostly ungroomed trails and Jeter and I have been tearing up the golf course every chance we’ve had since. Maybe we’ll see you there!

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Filed under Albany, Christmas, Exercise, favorites, Local, Recommendations, snow, Uncategorized, winter, x-country skiing

Seventeen things I learned in 2017

  • Never regret money spent traveling.
  • I’m not a good boss and have no interest in ever owning a business again.
  • That being said, I did learn how to do payroll and use Quickbooks.
  • The Hudson Valley has no shortage of adorable and fun places for quick getaways.
  • For every $1000 spent on a cosmetic household improvement there will be $3000 spent on necessary home repairs.
  • Running a half marathon in single digit temperatures is possible and even a little fun.
  • Solo travel is indulgent – and exhilarating.
  • U2 live still delivers.
  • Although I love being home, spending time outdoors makes me happy in an entirely different way.
  • Donald Trump is an even worse President than I had ever imagined.
  • Jeter loves a vacation just as much as any of us and the ‘new” house we rented last summer in Wellfleet was ideal for the whole family.
  • Making granola is super easy and it tastes far better than store bought.
  • There’s a lot of good television these days – think Stranger Things, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and This is Us. The jury is still out on Black Mirror.
  • Cookie swaps are best enjoyed retrospectively. Having 8 or 9 dozen cookies is great, but the stress of baking 9 dozen cookies and packaging them beautifully robs the joy from holiday baking.
  • An afternoon ski on New Year’s Eve with your Lunar bitches, your dog and an airplane sized bottle of limencello is a perfect way to spend the year’s last daylight hours.
  • Giving up the scale and eating another cookie might be my best new holiday tradition. I plan to repeat it next year for a full 12 Days of Christmas.
  • Bourbon sours with her favorite fella on December 31st can make a girl forget about Times Square, fireworks and the ball dropping.

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Filed under aging, Cape Cod, Christmas, concerts, DelSo, Eating, Events, family, friends, Germany, holidays, house, love, musings, Observations, Random, relationships, running, travel, x-country skiing

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

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

Holiday parties

“What holidays?” you ask? Well, in this instance I’m talking about the big ones – Christmas, New Year’s and Valentine’s Day. While each of these may seem like ancient history to non-hospitality folk, we at Lark + Lily celebrated these occasions just last week. It’s how we do it.

From an epic Yono's/Stone Ends holiday party.

From an epic Yono’s/Stone Ends holiday party.

Some of my favorite memories from my days working for Donna & Yono Purnomo revolve around the staff parties they generously sponsored for us back in the day. There were a couple of years when our Yono’s crew was treated to a fabulous holiday party at Dale Miller’s Stone Ends. We gussied up like nobody’s business and were feted by a staff who indulged us beautifully. We, of course, reciprocated when they came to our place for their party. Really good times.

Last Sunday, the entire L+L staff headed to Ocean Palace on Central Avenue to celebrate a successful holiday season. We selected this casual; mostly take out spot because we’re all fans of their food and we’re in agreement that supporting a (practically) neighbor’s business is what we’re all about. It was an excellent decision.

Whole flounder, salt and pepper

Whole flounder, salt and pepper

Because we’re industry people and we understand the challenges of essentially having a walk-in table of 14 (significant others were included in our party), we ordered some items in advance to give Peter, the chef-owner, a headstart. After consultation with staff and Ocean Palace, we went with the following:

· A variety of dumplings, vegetarian, pork, shrimp, fried and steamed.
· Squid with salt and pepper – a personal favorite of many of us.
· Scallion pancakes.
· Chinese “bacon” which was essentially pork belly. We ordered a second one as soon as the first one hit the table.
· Sautéed stringbeans.
· A whole flounder prepared salt & pepper style – very impressive!
· Roast duck chow fun
· Shrimp with pan fried noodles.

Chinese bacon

Chinese bacon

I had imagined “fleshing” things out once we were actually at the restaurant, but, I actually nailed it in terms of how much food would satisfy. We were pleasantly satiated with the amount of food we had been served and didn’t feel the need to add anything to our order. However, there are definitely things on that menu that we still need to explore and I don’t think anyone from Lark + Lily would protest a return to this quality spot. It was worth the wait!

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Filed under Albany, Christmas, Dinner, Eating, Events, favorites, Food, holidays, Local, Restaurants, sunday

The New York Times: all the recipes fit to cook

image: rubylane.com

image: rubylane.com

One of the things I really miss about my life pre-restaurant ownership (in addition to loved ones, fretless sleep and true downtime) is cooking. Remember the days when I would have recipes and pictures posted here of yummy food made in my very own kitchen? These days, I’m lucky if I cook an evening meal for my family twice a week. Well, three if you’re willing to count grilled cheese and ramen. While it is certainly a luxury to eat meals prepared, served and cleaned up by others, I definitely miss being in my own kitchen puttering around sometimes.

During a recent break from school, I took advantage of having some extra time by indulging myself in a little kitchen therapy. Actually, I indulged all of us now that I think about it. One of the items I prepared was a new recipe while the other was an old favorite. Both were from recipes I had originally found in the New York Times. Maybe you don’t think of the NYT as a source for recipes, but my vintage copy (1966, baby!) of the NYT Cookbook would prove you wrong. It is one of my favorite recipe collections and I refer to it frequently.

The sides puffed up remarkably.

The sides puffed up remarkably.

The new recipe that I attempted, with great success, was for breakfast Christmas morning. In years past, bagels, cream cheese and lox were our holiday morning go-to meal, but since my divorce things have been a bit more unpredictable. I’ve made variations on pancakes and waffles and one year went to great trouble to make cinnamon rolls. They were good, but not great and, in my opinion, not worth my efforts. Crepes were requested for this year, but, honestly they’re a little more labor intensive than I like at the start of a long day. But, the Dutch Baby recipe from the Times? Well, that was perfect!

img_0778Requiring only 5 ingredients, all pantry staples, this oven baked “pancake” was one of the easiest and most satisfying breakfasts I’ve ever made. Taking only 40 minutes, start to finish, the Dutch Baby is something that can be made even on a regular school morning. It is my new favorite breakfast treat and I think I’m going to make it again this weekend. You should, too.

img_0848The ease of the Dutch Baby was definitely offset by the work involved with making the Meat Lover’s Lasagna. I’ve been using this recipe for more than a decade, despite the extensive list of ingredients and time demanded, and consider it to be a solid version of lasagna, but it comes at a price. First, there’s the actual cost of ingredients – pancetta, pecorino romano and sirloin aren’t cheap, my friend. Then, there’s the time involved in preparing this beauty. Conservatively, it takes about of 4 hours to put this delight together, maybe less if you cheat on the meatballs step. The payoff, though, is good. It is a dense, delicious and hearty entree that will provide multiple meals. That’s a good thing since I won’t have another chance to cook for days!

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Filed under breakfast, Christmas, Cooking, family, favorites, Food, holidays, Recipes, Uncategorized, vacation