Category Archives: Recommendations

Celebrating snake eyes and an unexpected trip from Korea to China

IMG_7974Yesterday my youngest son turned 11.  I wish I could remember exactly what time of day he was born, but it’s honestly kind of a blur. I think that happens once you have more than two children, some of the specific details no longer stick.  In complete honesty, I sometimes have to pause to recall if his birthday is the 5th or the 9th of February.  I guess I’ll never win Mother of the Year, but I do think I have a shot at Mother of the Day based upon my efforts yesterday.

The morning started with the scent of chocolate chip/ M&M cookies baking.  You know what?  Everyone should wake up on their birthday to a warm kitchen and the smell of freshly baked cookies. Quinn had Nutella crepes for breakfast, his favorite and he loved the Gryffindor scarf I had bought for him.  When he left the house for school, he kissed me goodbye and thanked me for a “wonderful” morning.  Pretty sweet, right?

I went to Quinn’s school a short while later to join his class for a field trip to the Albany Institute of History and Art.  I know that my chaperoning days are coming to a close and felt really fortunate that he wanted me to attend.  We rode the bus together and I think I succeeded in providing my son with special attention while also giving him his space, a balancing act which becomes more challenging as a child grows.  The exhibit was nicely done and the activities were active and hands on, perfect for a group of 5th graders. It was a nice day.

Our big plan for the evening was dinner out.  Quinn has a thing for Korean barbeque and had been anticipating gorging on dumplings for days.  We trucked up to Colonie, hungry and excited for a special meal, but were disappointed to see that the restaurant was closed.  I had never even considered that possibility!  We sat in the car laughing about our luck and I was incredibly impressed with Quinn’s ability to join in the mirth and indulge his brothers as they teased him about his misfortune.  After a moment’s consideration, Quinn decided that Chinese would hit the spot and we turned around and headed towards Ocean Palace, placing our order as we took the long, leisurely drive back down Central Avenue.

Our indulgent order (Peking Duck, squid with salt and pepper, beef chow fun, 2 orders of steamed dumplings, Chinese broccoli with ginger sauce and sesame chicken) took about 45 minutes to prepare, leaving us with about 25 minutes to kill.  That much time simply waiting can be deadly, but my sons were remarkably chill about the entire dinner fiasco.  There wasn’t a moment of complaining or whining or kvetching and I was left feeling ridiculously proud of their good natured flexibility.  My boys are growing up.

PS – Dinner, as always, was great.  Happy Year of the Monkey, y’all!

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Filed under aging, Albany, birthdays, Boys, Dinner, Eating, family, favorites, Food., Local, Recommendations, Uncategorized

Taking Samson for a haircut

The Lilly boys have all been blessed with good hair. Thick, shiny, and curly hair are represented in our household, all without the addition of products or fussing. Isn’t that always the way with boys? Through the years, the guys have gradually gone from bald to blonde to light brown to dark hair. Their hairstyles have experienced a similar evolution from riotous curls to closely cropped and from moppy to groomed. Aside from one teary episode following a “too short” haircut, things have gone fairly smoothly. Until Quinn, that is.

patsys

image from Twitter: AlbanyMuskrat @albanymuskrat

In recent months my youngest son has resisted haircuts more steadfastly than the biblical Samson. When he finally acquiesced to a trim a couple of months ago, the appointment left all three of us (the stylist, Quinn and myself) frustrated as he literally selected individual hairs which he would allow to be touched by scissors. Seriously, he was lifting hairs and offering them to Nicole with firm directions regarding how much could be removed. When the “cut” was finished the amount of hair on the floor was smaller than a furball coughed up by a kitten – a true waste of money and time.

Now, don’t think for a second that I was demanding a dramatic shearing, all I was hoping for was a taming of the wild mane. Last weekend, with two sons in tow (appearance obsessed middle son had already gotten himself there a couple of weeks ago) we made our way downtown to Patsy’s for another go at a real haircut.

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My pic from last week – same chairs, same tile…

Patsy’s is tucked around the corner on Howard Street between the Times Union Center and City Beer Hall and on a Saturday afternoon, parking was plentiful – a marked difference from the all chairs full scene inside Patsy’s. No worries, we found a couple of seats and waited less than 10 minutes to get the guys in chairs. Some observations from my vantage spot – super professional, meticulous barbers, most sporting full sleeve tattoos and/or groomed facial hair, taking their time with each individual client. It was a wonderful sight to behold and I wouldn’t have been opposed to spending the entire afternoon there, sipping self-serve cans of PBR and watching the men at work.

How did we fare? Quinn received a compromise haircut which left both of us satisfied – his mop was shaped and layered and now looks far more intentional than the mess he was sporting when we walked in the door. Liam, whom I think looks most handsome with short hair, got a fairly dramatic cut and neck shave, both of which he appreciated. Hair for hair, his cut was the more dramatic but Quinn’s trim and shape up definitely was an improvement. Two thumbs up for Patsy’s – our new go to place.

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Filed under Albany, beauty, Boys, favorites, Local, Recommendations, Uncategorized

Taking tips from bartenders – Motown Mondays at the 5 Spot

kom-nashville-2015-poster_webHaving a good guide book when you visit a new city is generally not a bad idea if you’re looking to become familiar with where to eat or shop. Making friends with a bartender or two, though, is an even better idea if you’re interested in hanging out where the locals do. Case in point – the excellent tip we received from Kenneth at Husk about where the cool kids go on Monday nights – East Nashville’s 5 Spot.

Now, we really didn’t know all that much about Nashville when we decided to make it our girls’ getaway destination. We certainly didn’t know anything about East Nashville. Well, it seems that this area east of the Cumberland River is an upcoming neighborhood populated, as we learned from our Uber driver, with hipsters. This isn’t my assessment, just what we learned from the locals, my friends. I have to say, judging from the facial hair, plaid shirts and smart spectacles, it seems a pretty valid conclusion.

We arrived at the 5 Spot somewhere between 9:00 and 10:00, it’s kind of blurry. We anted up $5 a piece and joined the healthy crowd inside, already nodding our heads to the music and the scene. This was not a place for posers – just a whole bunch of people who wanted to have fun and dance. I love a good dive bar and this place has the vibe down – a little gritty, a lot dark with cheap beer and a small back “patio” to escape to when the need to cool down trumps the need to boogie down. If this place was in Albany, I’d make it my home away from home for good, clean fun.

This might be a fine time to note that I DO NOT dance generally. I’m not sure if it was the pre-game shots of Maker’s Mark, the anonymity of being a stranger or just that damn Motown beat, but I couldn’t quit moving on the dance floor. For three roughly mid-century girls, we were spun around with enthusiasm by an array of partners, but there wasn’t any handsy gropping or grinding going on. It was just about the music and dancing without any aggressive, cruisy bullshit. It was ultimately the perfect girls night out. The 5 Spot on Monday night is a game changer when it comes to the Monday blues

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Filed under friends, Music, Nashville, Recommendations, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

For breakfast, I ate pork belly – Pinewoo0d Social

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Eating breakfast out is generally not my thing.  It’s usually just too much for me – time, money and calories.  An exception is made, though, when I travel and more than one person had strongly recommended the same spot.  So, on our first morning in town, I made a reservation and we took the short walk over to the very cool space that is home to Pinewood Social.  On approach, it wasn’t immediately obvious to me if the brick building was a new build or a reclaimed industrial space.  Once we were inside, though, it was clear that a well-executed renovation had taken place in what I’ve come to learn had been a series of trolley barns.  The facility was beautiful inside with areas which were well defined, yet open.  All of the attributes of the original building remained intact – exposed brick, gorgeous windows and original woodwork.

We were given a spacious booth with an excellent view (through a series of windows) of the bowling alley.  Yes, bowling alley.  This place is designed to have a little something for everyone!  We looked over the menus and made our selections.  I’m a good eater and overordered starting with the yogurt with fresh fruit and house made granola.  This was a generous and delicious portion of berries, Greek (?) yogurt and an outstanding granola whose only failure was a lack of availability for purchase to go.  It was an excellent primer for my less virtuous next course – 2 eggs over easy, biscuits and pork belly.

I’d have to say the biscuits and the yogurt were my favorite things, not that any of the food I ate wasn’t really good.  I’m just picking favorites here!  Coffee was rich and strong, accompanied by liquid versions of sugar, and the orange juice was freshly squeezed.  Music was exceptional – a great playlist, and service was competent and friendly.  It was definitely a terrific way to begin our first day exploring Nashville, despite what the oddly less than glowing Yelp reviews might say.  And, while I’m not a convert to breakfast out, I kind of regret not going back for a second morning meal.  If you’re in Nashville, I suggest this place for sure, y’all.

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Filed under breakfast, Brunch, Eating, Food, Nashville, Recommendations, travel

5 Things that got me hot in December

• A visit to the Hot Yoga Spot. After months of not managing to get to a Bikram class, I finally made it to the newest HYS location in East Greenbush this week. It was truly 75 minutes of blissful hard work and I am so happy that there is yet another location and schedule of classes of which I can avail myself.
• The thought of Donald Trump representing my country.
• Sunshine and 57 degrees in Albany, N.Y.
• The Soba noodle dish we’re offering as part of our Tuesday & Wednesday Pasta Special – so good! I know it is going to be exactly what I’ll crave when I get my first winter cold.
• New flannel sheets from Macy’s Martha Stewart Collection. They are legit like velvet.

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Filed under Eating, favorites, Food, Lark Street, Local, politics, Random, Recommendations, Uncategorized, yoga

Tara Kitchen

olive tapenade with artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes

olive tapenade with artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes

Sunday, more than ever, has become my “Me” day. Yesterday I had hours to myself to do whatever I felt like – once the waffles and bacon had been cooked, served and cleaned up and payroll had been done and the sheets had been changed and I had met with Linda Kindlon at Bake for You about adding her cookies to Lark + Lily’s dessert options…hours, I tell you.

Following an afternoon run (down one lunar b*tch, missed you, Chrissy!), I decided to follow through on my intention to eat at Tara Kitchen. I’ve been wanting to get to this spot in Schenectady forever and this post  in All Over Albany’s weekly roundup of what’s going on in the neighborhood, forced my hand.

I’m not very familiar with Schenectady, but I have spent some time in the area where Tara Kitchen is. Parking was readily available in the lot directly across the street from the restaurant. I arrived at about 5:30 and the place was hopping with nearly all the tables seated. Bar seating was plentiful. I sat at a table in front of the window and was completely comfortable even with the door opening and closing. The upstairs seating was definitely toasty warm due to, I imagine, the heat rising off of the big range in the open kitchen.

spinach with potatoes and poached eggs

spinach with potatoes and poached eggs

As I browsed the menu, I sipped a delightful tea from a small glass.  It was a magical elixir, I swear, stimulating my taste buds and giving me a boost.  I eventually ordered three courses – opening with the olive tapenade served with warm triangles of pita. It was delicious, wonderfully salty and earthy with a hint of heat. For my entrée, which was served blazingly hot, I had the spinach, potatoes and eggs, the kind of meal which would be perfect at any time of the day. There was more pita and rice served along side the tagine, I imagine just to give a diner something to pick on while they’re waiting not so patiently for their main course to cool off. The flavors were fantastic – I especially loved the cardamom, and the vegetables were beautifully cooked retaining just a touch of firmness.  I  requested some harissa to add a little zip, since I felt a cold threatening and I loved the smoky quality it lent to the dish.

warm delicious baklava

warm delicious baklava

I finished with the baklava, because, why not? Unlike some renditions of this dish, it was not overly sweet or buttery and it actually was perfect with my remaining half glass of Moroccan Pinot Grigio  (Ouled Thaleb White).  Service throughout was comfortably casual and I wouldn’t hesitate to return to this terrific little spot.  Total for my meal including tip: $43.  Pretty reasonable for a trip to Morocco, don’t you think?

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Filed under Dinner, Food, Local, Recommendations, Restaurants, Schenectady, sunday, Uncategorized

Squirrelly Six – 2015

The last time I ran up, and I do mean up, at Thacher Park was over the summer during ARE’s trail series. The weather was fine and the people were nice, but the course began with a murderous hill which made me a bit cranky. I don’t mind hills*, but, please let me work up to them!

IMG_7415Last Sunday’s Squirrelly Six caught me a little unprepared. You know, the week you open a restaurant and work 6 consecutive days/nights may not be the right time to register to run six miles through the woods, but there I was, nonetheless, at 9:30 in the morning at the starting line. The weather had been a concern since rain was in the forecast and I was worried it might be kind of cold. We (my Lunar Girls were there, too!) totally lucked out with a mostly dry run through some fresh mud from the previous night’s showers in an almost balmy 50’ish . Mud is fun, though and I nailed it when it came to running attire, luckily selecting layers which kept me comfortable for the duration.

IMG_7409I’ve done this race, I think, 3 consecutive years and the course which debuted this year was my absolute favorite. The trails were mostly fairly wide with limited hills and the vista was spectacular. No, really – it was a stunning morning with peak foliage and a mood enhancing layer of fog in the valley. I was unable to resist stopping twice to snap a couple of pictures because it was that scenic. It was an absolutely beautiful run and the perfect personal reward at the end of a long week.

IMG_7403Next up – After the Leaves Have Fallen in early November. It’s a bit more than twice the distance which means it should be at least twice as fun, right?

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Filed under beauty, Exercise, friends, Local, Recommendations, running, sunday, upstate New York