Category Archives: ideas

Finding my rhythm in Chicago

img_0798I started this post the day I returned from a quick weekend away at the beginning of a week that ended up feeling really long. I’ve got a folder full of these aborted writings, but I decided to revisit this one after catching up on last Sunday’s New York Times. The featured magazine was about travel and the editor’s letter grabbed me and wouldn’t let go, something that doesn’t happen often enough. Her words kept kicking around in my head and joined my own thoughts with a serendipity I couldn’t ignore.

Deborah Needleman said:

“Why is it that we can’t just do nothing anymore? Somehow “nothing” equals guilt….”

“I slept as late as I wanted, exercised when I felt like it, ate alone at restaurants…”

“It certainly was a journey, in the personal sense of the word, not just to another part of the world, but to another part of my psyche.”

Now, my own words…

My body aches and I’m about as tired as I recall ever being, but it is a sweet exhaustion. It was a great weekend. I highly recommend 72 hours of alone time in a new city as a means of recharging and getting back to a rhythm that is solely your own.

Traveling solo is both an exercise in self-improvement and an acknowledgement that you’re ok. From the reaction I received each time I explained that I was going to Chicago, alone, and my plans were basically to eat, run, nap and see some new things, I don’t think enough people are comfortable, much less excited by, the prospect of a loosely defined personal escape. Not being dependent upon any one but yourself is a condition that can be interpreted as freedom or a burden and I guess it depends upon perspective. I suspect you know how I perceive it.

We have lives that are busier than ever, connected to multiple platforms and constantly within touch. Taking some time for our own pursuits shouldn’t be a luxury that is too often perceived as foreign. While this trip had originally been conceived as a trip to celebrate a number of my friends and I achieving a milestone birthday, when schedules and commitments didn’t allow that to materialize, I continued to approach the weekend with excitement. I felt remarkably fortunate* to be able to spend three days exploring a new city, but even just two hours at the mall, or in a museum or outdoors can seem like a getaway. It isn’t about how far you go, it’s more about how close you get to yourself and your personal pace. Do it.

*I can’t tell you how many times I wondered to myself how I ever got to be so lucky.

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Filed under aging, Chicago, ideas, musings, Observations, Recommendations, travel

Is Chicago my kind of town?

image: Flicker by ph4nn1 Chicago Skyline Panorama

image: Flicker by ph4nn1 Chicago Skyline Panorama

Last summer I made plans to go to Niagara Falls and Toronto with my kids for a few days. We’d never been and it seemed like a cool and economical getaway. I made hotel reservations and enthusiastically crowd sourced for some tourist recommendations. Then my two older sons got jobs. Plural. Not one to complain about employed children, I cancelled the trip and instead took my youngest down to NYC for a couple of days. That slacker doesn’t have a job, but I suppose he is only 11. Soon enough, little man.

A few weeks after the change in plans, I ended with both a Southwest voucher and a credit on my credit card, a situation which I immediately interpreted as a sign from the universe to buy a plane ticket. I reached out to my posse of friends, a number of whom were also celebrating a milestone birthday this year, to gauge interest in taking a weekend trip somewhere. While there was interest, it didn’t translate into action, so I decided it was time for me to take my first ever multiple night solo – Chicago, here I come!

So, I’ve got three nights in Chicago coming up in a few weeks and I’m a bit overwhelmed by all of the things there are to do! The luxury of traveling alone means I can do whatever I want, whenever I want to, which is pretty amazing. Knowing myself, I see my days being structured kind of like this:

  • Wake up, get out and do something.
  • Go back to the hotel for a nap.
  • Take a run.
  • Take a shower.
  • Go out and eat something tasty.

I imagine there will be alcohol involved, at times, too.

The two things I definitely want to do are the architectural boat tour and an art museum or two. I know there are a million places to eat, but I’m most interested in places where I can eat at the bar.

What can you tell me about Chicago?

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Filed under art, drinking, Eating, ideas, Recommendations, Restaurants, travel, Uncategorized, vacation, Wine

Birthday – present, early and late

imageI sent out some invitations to a party I’m throwing to celebrate my 50th. The guest list was challenging – there are so many people I want to raise a glass with, but space is limited and I want to relax and enjoy the event rather than feel pressured to entertain. I ultimately decided to not give in to the reflex of obligatory invitations and instead only invited people who bring joy. I’m lucky enough to have many such friends in my life. Speaking of bringing, I didn’t specify “no gifts,” as I’ve seen on some recent invites I’ve received. I like presents, but hope no one feels that gifts are necessary.

imageSpeaking of presents, I bought something for myself. I’ve had an idea for a piece of jewelry for many years but hadn’t been able to squirrel away the funds to bring my vision to fruition. Not going away for our usual two weeks this summer, resulted in a surplus in summer funds and thanks to Elissa Halloran (for the referral) and Siobhan Byron (for the artistic skill), I now have a fantastic piece of jewelry created from a few pieces which had been occupying space in my dresser rather than on my body. Behold my new necklace forged from a single diamond stud (remember, I lost the other one? Twice.), a pendant that had once hung from a gold herringbone necklace and a pair of vintage earrings. Isn’t it stunning?! Go see Siobhan at Nahbois  in Troy and get yourself something. You deserve it.

Unlike the remarkable beauty of a special piece of jewelry, sometimes stunning has negative connotations. It seems that our world is filled with surprising and devastating tragedies, such as the recent earthquake in Italy. While I had originally intended to feature three of my personal favorite not for profit organizations as potential recipients for September’s Cocktail of the Month at Lark + Lily, I’ve decided instead to focus exclusively on Amatrice. We’ll be offering a classic negroni  cocktail, as well as an Amatriciana pasta special, with a portion of the proceeds earmarked for earthquake relief. I’ll continue my birthday celebration through October when we’ll return to our usual format of three organizations from which to choose. We all do what we can and I hope you’re able to help support causes which are meaningful to you. Stop in and help us to help those in need.

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Filed under aging, birthdays, drinking, ideas, Italy, Local, Recommendations, Restaurants, Troy

My favorite governor in New York State – Governor’s Island

image When I mentioned to friends last week that I was heading down to the city for a couple of days, they suggested that I visit Governor’s Island. Although I often stay downtown in the financial district, I’d never really considered taking the ferry to any island other than Staten and knew nothing about Governor’s Island.  Our proximity, though, and the budget fare ($1 each way), made this excursion too appealing to deny.

Monday morning we made our to the dock for the 11:00 a.m. boat. It was a cloudy morning, but dry, and the super quick boat ride was comfortable and refreshingly lacking in diesel fuel aroma. We docked and made our way to the bike rental tent, which was just a bit to the right of where we had disembarked. Within minutes we were set up with 3-speed cruiser bikes at a cost of…zero. Yes, the first hour of bike rental was free. Talk about budget friendly!

imageWe took a quick spin around the island, pausing to capture some pictures of our favorite lady in the harbor, and got the lay of the land. We saw the newly completed “hills,” along with a beautiful wildflower garden, amazing residences and brick dormitory looking buildings and an area that has been utilized as a training site for firefighters. I kept imagining how cool it would be to live on the island in one of the historic looking homes…amazing.

On our second lap around, we parked our bikes and climbed the hills to get the best vantage point of the southern tip of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island. The skies were clearing at this point and it was just so easy and mellow – no crowds, no stress, barely any expense. Phenomenal.

imageAfter an hour and half or so of island living, we made our way back to the dock and returned to Manhattan, satisfied with our adventure and pleased to know of another inexpensive option for exploring the city. I’d definitely consider going back again to spend an afternoon or take in an event.  On the weekends there are a variety of food options, including food trucks, to sample or you can pack a picnic and go total low budget.  Thanks, Colette and Steve!

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Filed under biking, Boys, ideas, NYC, Recommendations, Summer, Uncategorized

Things to do on Cape Cod without children

How many articles have you read over the years describing all the wonderful and fun things to do with your children while visiting Cape Cod? Since there seem to be countless opportunities to learn about family time adventures to be had when visiting Cape Cod, please allow me to share some ideas for what to do when you’re without children.

  1. Ride your bike everywhere. Load your saddlebags or a backpack with a towel, a sheet or lightweight blanket, reading material, sunscreen, a snack and cold drink and you’re ready to hit the road. Don’t forget your helmet!IMG_9418
  2. Come and go on your own schedule. If you feel like leaving the beach after an hour or two, hop on your bike and go for it. Want to stop for a quick dip at a pond on the way home? Go for it! There’s no one to complain.
  3. Speaking of the beach – why not bring a book for a change? Without children to supervise you might actually read a few pages before you indulge in a nap.
  4. Eat ice cream for lunch and whatever you feel like for dinner. There will be no chicken fingers or grilled cheeses consumed in your company for the duration of your getaway.IMG_9435
  5. Do minimal laundry (because you know how to hang wet towels up and refrain from getting filthy) and sleep in almost sand free sheets.
  6. Run without the worry of wondering when your phone will ring with a crisis (“Can I have ice cream?” or “Where is my whatever?”).
  7. Watch as many sunsets and sunrises as you like.DSC_0073
  8. Go to Provincetown and do adult things like drink tasty cocktails and eat Brussels sprouts and fried oysters.

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  9. Wander in and out of shops filled with fragile and delicate items without fear.
  10. Enjoy your relative freedom knowing that it is for only a few days and that your children are just fine hanging with their dad.

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Filed under Boys, Cape Cod, drinking, Eating, Exercise, favorites, ideas, Observations, Recommendations, road trips, running, Summer, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

Beer run

imageBack in the day, taking a beer run involved driving into town and picking up a few sixes of something cheap. My, how that has changed! The other day I decided to mix up my run a little bit by running down on the Corning Trail. It was a gorgeous day and the breeze off the river felt fantastic on my bare shoulders. I ended up running about 6 miles in an up and back route and felt really happy with the experience. So happy that I started imagining running the trail all the way to Troy…

Sunday was my first entire day off since the school year wrapped and I decided it was the perfect opportunity to get some solid miles in. I asked a friend to meet me in Troy and decided to start my run from home rather than driving my car to the parking lot by the trail. It added a few miles, but really it was all downhill from the DelSo to the river, making for an easy warmup. Other than the blazing sun, of course.

I ran for about an hour and 40 minutes and covered close to 11 miles, great training for the half marathons I’ve decided upon for later in the summer and through the fall. The Corning Trail is super flat and fairly lightly traveled. There were just enough cyclists, walkers and runners to prevent me from feeling isolated, with most of them on the southern part of the path. Surprisingly, there is no evidence of all the heavy equipment traffic that was present during the recent construction and maintenance of the I90 bridge. It’s a wonderful place to get in some scenic miles and we’re lucky to have it available.

When I reached the parking lot in Menands where the trail kind of dead ends, I followed the bike path route on Route 32, as I would if I were cycling. I’m not sure if the path continues beyond that lot along the river. Do any of you know? This part of the run is the least scenic since you’re basically running alongside 787, but there are some interesting homes and I now know where Sadudee is for future reference. I made my way below 787 to the Green Island Bridge urged on by the thought of a cold beer, having depleted both water bottles I had brought along.

I had remembered Wolff’s Biergarten as being a bit up the hill in Troy but, as I crested the bridge, I was thrilled to see that beer was even closer than I had imagined. With one final push, I ran the remainder of the bridge knowing that a cold beer and a warm friend waited. I think I want to run this again. Who’s in?

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Filed under Albany, beer, Exercise, ideas, Local, running, Summer, Troy, Uncategorized

What I want to be when I grow up

As I get close to wrapping up my 20th year as a librarian, I’ve been thinking about the future. I’ve always just assumed that I would  invest thirty years in my chosen (and mostly beloved) career, but the last few years have been challenging with ridiculous teacher evaluations handed down by Governor Cuomo State Ed and tight school budgets causing the elimination of positions. It’s been a little disheartening, to be honest, and I think I just might need to have a new plan…

In a little more than five years I will be 55 years old and should have 25 years into the NYS Teacher’s Retirement System. That seems like a substantial amount of time to devote to a profession and I think that may be the perfect threshold to my relationship with teaching. Maybe 30 years isn’t really in the cards for me…

Writing those words caused my stomach to buzz with nerves…and excitement. Walking away from my steady paycheck will be a leap of faith that gets my heart beating a little fast. Mt first response to letting go of financial security is to think about all the reasons why I shouldn’t retire “early.” You know things like the fact that my youngest child will only be 16 years-old with college still to come and my house won’t be quite paid off and I’ll be paying increased out-of-pocket cost related to maintaining the excellent health insurance I presently have. And, really, who knows what the future holds in terms of income from Lark + Lily. Do you think I may actually see some income from this labor of love project?

But, something changed this week, almost as if a coin flipped to the other side and I began considering all the ways my life might improve should I retire in another 5 or 6 years. Instead of focusing on what I may not have available in terms of financial flexibility, I started thinking about the freedom that retirement will offer me. I’ll be able to spend more time with my youngest child. Travel plans can be made based upon when I want to get away rather than dates that are dictated by a school calendar. I’ll have opportunities to pursue other interests – maybe writing, photography or perhaps a position that involves promoting or supporting one of the organizations about which I feel so strongly. I’m feeling recommitted to my teaching job (after summer vacation) and curious to learn what the future may hold in store for me.  I think I’ve got a plan.

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Filed under aging, family, ideas, musings, Uncategorized