Category Archives: Observations

Living (too) large

You know how they say “travel is broadening?” Well, when it comes to the size of my ass, I’d definitely have to agree. Seriously, I’ve taken to referring to my hips as “croissant” and “pain au chocolat.” Whatever. I don’t regret eating a single slab of pâté or hunk of Camembert. It was vacation.

Now that I’m home, though, I’m actually feeling the need to downsize a bit. And I’m not just talking about the size of my hips. You see, one of the things that struck me during my travels was the simplicity of how Europeans live. Both apartments where we stayed, one modern and one in a more aged building, were built on a much small-scale than their American counterparts. Honestly, it made our American tendency to accumulate seem downright vulgar.

Let me give you a couple of examples…

The bedroom closets are really compact to accommodate much smaller wardrobes than those of the typical American. I’m talking maybe 2 ½ feet of hanging rod space and a handful of drawers. Coming home to my walk-in step-in closet and double-sided rolling clothing rack embarrassed me. Why do I have so much frigging clothing?

Both flats had lovely, updated kitchens. If these kitchens are any indication, Ikea seems to dominate the market and I am definitely going to consider going that route myself when I address my tired kitchen cabinets. Both kitchens were well laid out and contained more than adequate storage for the limited number of necessary items. That being said, neither kitchen had extraneous space, merely enough cupboards for cookware, dishes, glassware and some pantry items. Why do American kitchens require so much space?

One of the apartments we rented had 3 bedrooms, 2 baths and a combined kitchen, dining and living room. The other had 2 bedrooms, a large loft sleeping area, kitchen and combined living/dining room. There was one bathroom. I don’t think either of these apartments exceeded 800 or 900 square feet. Why do new American homes need to be nearly three times that size? Who convinced us that we should aspire to maintain, heat and clean such large residences?

Time for me to minimize.

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Filed under Europe, house, musings, Observations, travel, vacation

Avoir de la chance

imageFriday evening I was tempted to leap in the air and shout with excitement “I’m in Paris!” (Kind of Mary Tyler Moore-ish, if you’re struggling for the visual.) It was just so remarkable to me that a day that began at 5:00 a.m. Thursday in upstate New York could conclude more than 30 hours later with me walking from the metro to the wonderful Airbandb flat we had booked in Paris’ southwest end. Isn’t air travel amazing?

Despite not having taken my Frye’s off in more than 24 hours, I felt miraculously light on my feet. Liam and I had already climbed the Eiffel Tower and taken in the view, impressive even in the persist drizzle. I had eaten duck confit with roasted potatoes, washed down with a couple of glasses of Cote du Rhone. There had even been creme brûlée. I was indeed in Paris.

image

By no means is this my first trip abroad; I’ve even visited Paris briefly once before. Yet, this trip seems particularly magical. Gazing around and seeing sights that are quintessentially Parisian – Notre Dame, the Arch de Triomphe, the Place de la Concorde, the Seine, feels a little unbelievable. How did I ever get to be so lucky?

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Filed under Boys, Europe, France, Observations, travel, vacation

18 thoughts from the weekend my son turned 18

  • When he was born, my oldest son scared me. That changed.
  • Now, I’m in awe of him.
  • According to my sons, the plural of penis is penis. (The “s” is silent when it’s plural)
  • Crazy > Creepy
  • The Olde English was the perfect place to celebrate my Anglophile son’s birthday.
  • Molly, our server, deserves a raise. She was terrific, as was my fish and chips.
  • The skiing this weekend was wonderfully challenging.
  • Ryan, the guy at Best Buy who set me up with my new phone, was a super representative.
  • The woman who violently slammed my car with her hand in the parking lot at Crossgates Mall represented “ugly with anger” beautifully.
  • It feels good when someone you’ve known for 20+ years tells you that you look happy.
  • Troy really isn’t that far from Albany.
  • The old fashioned at The Wine Bar and Bistro and the new fashioned at New World Bistro Bar are equally perfect.
  • Applying for my son’s third passport in 18 years fills me with pride.
  • 8 countries in 18 years is pretty damn impressive.  I can’t wait to see where else my children venture.
  • McGeary’s on a Saturday night was wonderfully diverse, a testament to Tess’ ability to create an atmosphere that is welcoming.
  • Putting on a pretty dress and lipstick for an evening out doesn’t ever get tired.
  • It has been a remarkable season for x-country skiing.  That being said, I’m excited to hit the pavement in my sneakers soon.
  • The seasons, the years, life go(es) by so very quickly.  Get it while you can.

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Filed under Albany, birthdays, Boys, Dinner, family, Food, Lark Street, Local, Observations, Restaurants, skiing, Troy, Uncategorized, x-country skiing

Restaurant families

imageAfter more than three decades in the restaurant business, I know a few things. Some of the knowledge I’ve gained is related to food – how to make a buerre blanc or hollandaise and what to do with an excess of vegetables (frittata, risotto or soup).

I’ve learned about wine and spirits and the significance of all the minutia that is involved with creating an atmosphere that welcomes guests and makes them want to return. All of this is important to being successful in the hospitality industry but it pales in comparison to what I’ve come to know about people.

As a server my focus, naturally, is on my guests. I sincerely want those that I take care of to be happy and I have been so fortunate to be able to wait on some of the same people since my long ago undergraduate days. They’ve witnessed my life and the connection we share crosses our respective sides of the table to a place somewhere in the middle. Many of them know which nights I work and I do my best to recall who likes to sit where and which glass of wine they enjoyed last time they were in. We’re familiar with one another.

Over the years, though, there have been situations which have proven that the most valuable thing I have learned about the restaurant business is that the people I have worked with are my family. We’ve shared annoyances, laughter and the stress of a life that is utterly unpredictable every single shift. At the end of the night, while counting money and emptying trash bins, we have connected over a glass of wine (or two) and then hugged good night before heading to our cars to return to our other families.

It’s been a really tough couple of months for my family. The losses right now are so utterly outweighing triumphs and joys that my heart is echoing with absence. As we come together again to support one another, to embrace each other in love and sorrow during a time which feels impossibly tragic, the ability of our industry to create connections between people eclipses in importance any other aspect of the job.

Each shift on the floor comes with the guarantee of there being something new to witness or with which to contend. At this time of sadness, it is vital that we also remember with that same certainty that we are a family.  Always.

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Filed under Albany, family, friends, Observations, relationships, Restaurants

Like a virgin

imageI switched handbags this week. I’d been using a beautiful green one since early fall and it was time for a change. I peeked inside a couple of cloth bags until I came across a red bag that I hadn’t used for a while. It suited my mood and I lifted it off the shelf.

I began placing my items in the bag, filling the various pockets and compartments. In one of the inside pockets, I came across a concert ticket stub from 2008, Neil Young at the Garden. What a great time that had been and what a long time ago it was. Using a handbag for the first time in 7 years or so is almost the same as having a new bag. It’s almost like it became brand new again…

Which reminds me of a story I may have already told here. It doesn’t matter if I did because it’s one of my favorite stories and I’m telling it again because it’s my blog. Many years ago, my friend Mary Panza told me about a conversation she had with her grandmother, a woman I never met. Her advice, upon learning of the state of her granddaughter’s hymen, was simple: “If you don’t have sex again for seven years your hymen will grow back and maybe some man will want you.”

The take away? Putting something on the shelf for a few years can make it seem fresh and previously untouched. I’m loving this “new” bag.

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Filed under Fashion, favorites, Observations, Random

The State of our State makes me angry

  • I’m angry that Sheldon Silver was given the courtesy of sitting in a position of prestige at this week’s State of the State address when the state’s teachers are not invited to sit at the table and truly participate in education reform and improvement.
  • I’m angry that Sheldon Silver, along with the governor and other elected officials, is responsible for the educational, social and financial policies of NYS, a task with which he doesn’t deserve to be trusted.
  • I’m angry that for the last 5 years or so my profession has been under constant attack while Speaker Silver has been profiting from illegal business deals for decades.
  • I’m angry that Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly maligned the teachers of this state while protecting those he promised to prosecute.
  • I’m angry that dedicated and experienced educators have been made to feel like criminals when, in fact, the real felons are drafting absurd policies to evaluate how we are doing our jobs.  I’ve been a librarian for nearly twenty years and the measure of how well I do job is going to be based upon a test that I give students who want to check out a book or need research help?  How about that facility I manage?
  • I’m angry that 7 of the 12 charter schools in my district have closed, yet the governor has tied an increase in educational state aid to an increase in the number of charter schools permitted, along with the removal of limitations regarding how many such schools can be placed in a particular region.
  • I’m angry that other sitting New York State Democrats have not expressed their commitment to eliminating corruption and ridding our government of politicians who think that holding public office means that they are somehow above the law.
  • I’m angry that more people don’t vote.

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Filed under Albany, Education, News, Observations, politics, Rant

The Golden Globes in 3 Takes

image: usmagazine.com

Take 1 – Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are fearless. The collective gasp when they ran their Bill Cosby bit was definitely an indication that they caused some discomfort in the audience. Unlike the rest of Hollywood, Tina and Amy weren’t letting Cosby get away with anything.

image: People.com

Take 2 – Nothing worked harder during last night’s broadcast than the yards of double-stick tape employed by so many of the women to prevent nip slip. Many of last night’s gowns gave new meaning to the phrase Golden Globes…

image: people.com

Take 3 – Amy Adams in her incredibly awkward and inarticulate acceptance speech did nothing to endear herself to me – until she stopped speaking, that is. I don’t know what it is about her, but I just can’t stand her.

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Filed under Fashion, Movies, musings, News, Observations, sunday, television, Uncategorized