Category Archives: Recommendations

Films x 5

I’ve been on a bit of a tear recently when it comes to watching movies. I’ve seen 5 in the last couple of weeks, a combination of new releases and catching up on older releases that I hadn’t previously seen. It’s kind of what happens when you’ve exhausted all the other options in our Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime household.

First up was the latest Spider-Man flick – Spider-Man:Homecoming. By no means have I have seen every incarnation of this superhero series, but this one is up there in terms of my favorite versions. It’s really nice to go to a movie with my 12 year-old and not have a single awkward moment prompted by whatever is being displayed onscreen. The movie had light moments, Peter Parker had a buddy, the cast was good (and wasn’t exclusively white) and Robert Downey, Jr had a number of scenes. Definitely worth seeing in the theater.

Next, on a customer friend’s recommendation, was The Great Beauty. It’s been a long time since a movie with subtitles, other than Manga, was viewed on my old television and this one was compelling enough to make me seek out more. The images of Rome have me beyond excited for next winter’s trip and there was a lovely melancholia that has stuck with me even days later. The scene when Jeb takes a woman down verbally is brutal, but I saw enough beauty in the film to keep me interested until the end.

We were back at the Spectrum a second Saturday to see the newly released Dunkirk. Two of my three boys are huge European history fans and they constantly teach me about geography and war. I’d never heard of Dunkirk before, but the story is remarkable and I really liked this movie. The images of those men and boys fighting for survival and to save one another is powerful and my respect for soldiers knows no bounds. I also really appreciated Christopher Nolan’s handling of the material – lots of tension, yet no blood or gore. Looks like Dunkirk is now on the list as a potential destination for Quinn’s 2020 trip, along with Paris and Bruges.

On a quiet Sunday evening I came across 20th Century Women, a movie I wanted to love, but ultimately only liked a little bit. Annette Bening is an actress that I admire and I enjoyed her performance, but the movie just didn’t feel cohesive to me. It was like a cake that is missing some critical ingredient. Meh. I hope to see her again in something more worthy of her talents, but I wouldn’t recommend bothering to see this one.

Lion, though, I very much enjoyed. The young actor who portrayed the main character as a child was amazing. His chocolate brown eyes spoke volumes and I couldn’t stop thinking about his resilience under the awful circumstances he found himself in. I don’t imagine my own children could have survived if they were faced with the same challenges. The movie, based upon a true story, is a genuine tear jerker, but it ends on a high note and watching Dev Patel for an hour plus was not a struggle. He is a very handsome man.

So, what have you seen recently?

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Filed under Movies, Observations, Recommendations, Summer, television

Day trip – Mass MoCA

Took a quick drive over to North Adams yesterday to see the Nick Cave exhibit. I mean, I had to – too many of my friends have posted pictures of the installation and I needed to see it in person. We did a loop – taking the Petersburg Pass on our way east and coming through Stephentown on the trip home. It was a nice few hours with my oldest son, the only one of the three willing to indulge my interest.

Liam and I spent a couple of hours checking out the art and enjoying lunch in the museum cafe. As we walked to the car, the most random thing happened when I encountered a German family in the parking lot. Remarkably, I had run into this same family last week in Provincetown. What do you think the odds of that happening might be? I smile thinking it’s my uncle pulling some strings to remind me that he’s still around. The world can be a beautiful place sometimes if you keep your eyes open.

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Filed under art, beauty, Boys, Local, Recommendations, road trips, Summer

3 friends, 2 cities, 1 lucky human – part 2

On Sunday, it was time to head north of Albany with two vintage friends for a little time in Saratoga Springs. We were at our hotel by noon, parked the car and took off on foot to explore Broadway and all it offers. The Holiday Inn where we stayed was super convenient to Congress Park and we again had dreamy weather. We allowed ourselves to be entertained by the ducklings for a bit as we strolled into town, feeling zero urgency to do anything. Saratoga was hopping and filled with tourists and we thoroughly enjoyed window shopping, sussing out a place for dinner and picking places to stop in on Monday, not wanting to deal with shopping bags and dressing rooms on such a blazingly beautiful day.

Lunch was takeout from Putnam Market, a variety of salads and a lemon bar to share, which we took to a shady bench in the park. At that point I was totally ready for a siesta, but we reinterpreted that as some chill time by the hotel pool. We lucked out and achieved bliss with a quick dip or two alternated with stretching out on a chaise in the sun. Refreshed, we took a long walk into and around Saratoga State Park and I realized how well I’ve come to know that piece of land in my time upstate. It was fun to show it off.

Dinner was at Forno Bistro, coincidentally this week’s restaurant review in the Times Union. Before dinner, though, we were compelled to have a cocktail on the veranda at Salt & Char. I completely enjoyed my very first Moscow Mule, essentially dubbing this my official cocktail of Summer, 2017. After our drinks and a lot of giggles, we went to Forno and had a positive dinner experience, made even more exceptional by my being greeted by a former student, who was dining, with an enthusiastic “Hi, Silvia!” We shared a couple of antipasti, a pasta and a pizza and left satiated. It was too nice to go directly “home,” so we took a walk around Caroline Street and found ourselves at Ben & Jerry’s where I stepped out of my comfort zone of Cherry Garcia and Coffee Buzz Buzz and tried Coconut Seven Layer Bar instead. It was a great way to end the night.

Our first stop Monday morning was Mrs. London’s where my friends experienced their first almond croissants. These are no joke and since we were early (9:00), we had the place nearly to ourselves and were able to enjoy our cafe au laits in a most leisurely fashion. We timed things perfectly and, fully caffeinated, we got some quality shopping in. At our first stop, Violet, we were presented with the opportunity to purchase a coupon book filled with special offers from local businesses. From an initial $15 investment, I saved more than $40 which made this a really good buy. The shopping was pretty epic and I cleaned up with 4 dresses, a skirt and a super cute pair of cropped Hudson jeans. After what feels like months and months of exclusively online shopping because of my schedule, boutique shopping felt like a real luxury.

Who am I kidding? It’s all such a luxury. To have the friends, time and money to make quick getaways like these possible is an indulgence that I’ll never take for granted. That’s why I’m one lucky lady.

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Filed under drinking, Eating, favorites, friends, Local, Recommendations, road trips, Saratoga, SPAC, Summer, upstate New York

Walkway over the Hudson Half Marathon – 6/11/17

In our ongoing quest to check items off our runner’s bucket list, Chrissy and I headed south to take on Sunday’s Walkway over the Hudson half. Due to the crazy early start time (7:00 a.m. with a suggested arrival time of 90 minutes earlier), we drove down Saturday evening and enjoyed a few hours of hanging out with friends, including another Sunday morning warrior, and an ideal sunset walk.

Morning came early. We bumbled around having some breakfast, preparing our gear, and getting sunscreen-ed prior to leaving the house well before 6:00. Parking was kind of a pain in the ass, but after a solid 15 minute walk we found our way to the port-a-potty line, right in front of the starting line. After a flyover by some historic planes and the national anthem, we were off promptly at 7:00.

The first couple of miles were challenging with what felt like a few decent hills. On a hot morning I worked really hard to pace myself and committed myself to maintaining a slow and steady pace. We traveled from the roads to the beautifully shaded rail trail before we ventured out onto the walkway and crossed to the west side of the Hudson. The sun was really beating down by this point, mile 7 or 8, and I took my brag worthy 7 Sisters shirt off and continued in my tank, relishing the faint breeze on my shoulders. I began taking two cups at the water stations, drinking one and dumping the other over my head.

The mile markers were great with notes about the environmental themes the race is based upon and encouraging images. The support was great with lots of spectators and enthusiastic folks lining the trail in numerous spots. Mile 8 was particularly significant because of the height I reached as I jumped into air after noticing the snake curled up on the side of the trail. I got elevation!

Not being familiar with the course was a little disconcerting. I just didn’t know what remained between me and the finish line. Fortunately, it was surprisingly shady and not terribly hilly. Despite those positive conditions, I was friggin spent and the last two miles were kind of hellacious as my feet burned uncomfortably and I rode the line between muscling though and feeling nauseous and a tad dizzy. When I finally caught a glimpse of the finish line, I couldn’t have been happier. Half marathon #5 in the past 10 months is in the books. Time to find another race.

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Filed under Events, Exercise, friends, Recommendations, road trips, running, sunday, upstate New York

3 nights, 3 burgers

It’s been a weird week. I’ve consistently been one day ahead of the calendar, thinking today was tomorrow, and each time I mentally corrected myself, I was disappointed to find myself a day “behind.” See? This is what happens when I have too much free time – I can’t keep track of it.

While concluding that what I thought was Thursday was really only Wednesday was a bit of a bummer, what didn’t disappoint were the meals I ate on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Let’s start at the beginning…

Albany to Troy

Wednesday was the night of the sick storm that dumped rain, and even hail, around the area. It was the last pre-half marathon, long run that Chrissy and I were doing and we organized ourselves so that we left a car in Troy, drove to Albany and then ran back to Troy to get the car. When we met in Troy jagged bolts of lightning were flying to the west and, as we headed south on 787, the rain began. Out timing, though, was perfect and by the time we parked at my house and got ourselves ready to run, the sky was clearing and the temperature had dropped 20 degrees – perfect weather for a run along the Hudson.

That 10+ miles left us hungry with me craving a burger and an adult beverage. We made our way to McGeary’s, where Tess’ warm welcome and the kitchen’s well executed plate set us right. The burger was generously portioned (Seriously, I could have been satisfied with half the burger. Naturally, I ate all of it.) and nicely cooked to the requested medium rare. The fries were crispy like I requested and the draft cider, recommended by our server, was perfect. I slept well that night.

Dirty Bird

The next night, Thursday, I finally made my way down to Nine-Pin for their Cider and Sliders event. I’ve been wanting get to one of these forever to have a cider and some food from one of the food trucks they have organized and I picked a good night – the weather was ideal and I got the chance to try Slidin Dirty. I had a really hard time choosing from the menu options,  but eventually selected the Dirty Bird BLT, a delicious chicken burger with bacon, cheddar, arugula, tomato, red onion, avocado and chipotle cream. I mean, really? There’s nothing on there that I don’t love! I added some Asian noodle on the side (I’m carb loading, people!) and washed it all down with a raspberry cider. It was a terrific al fresco meal for less than $20.

Lamb burger!

Friday night my son filled up on pizza and popcorn at his school’s carnival and my older guys were out and about, leaving me solo for dinner. I impulsively decided to walk to the Cheese Traveler to see what was on their Friday Night Cookout menu and was lucky to find a seat outside within range of the grill and its wafting aromas. The lamb burger was an easy choice and, after some assistance from my server, I chose an interesting cider that featured hops. As the sky darkened and night fell, I lingered, savoring my dinner and the live jazz music. It was a great way to ease into the weekend and I really hope to repeat that experience soon.

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Filed under Albany, Eating, Exercise, favorites, friends, Local, Recommendations, Restaurants, running, Troy

Deutschland, 2017

A69B9E6B-9F72-4581-AE2C-814616DEE529-13571-00000AC233BF55C6As our long awaited trip approaches, Quinn and I are both getting excited for our upcoming adventure. I’m kind of impressed with this kid’s pick for his Mom & Me adventure – the Black Forest and Berlin, with a 2 day pit stop in Nuremberg, on my request, to break up the drive.

This will be Quinn’s second trip to Europe, but his first to Germany where he’ll be meeting members of our family. We’re planning a holiday dinner reunion of sorts and I smile each time I imagine my youngest son being introduced to his great aunts and uncles and second cousins. It’s definitely going to be awesome and emotional for everyone.

Our time in the Black Forest will be busy with family, but I’m hoping to get to Freiburg for an afternoon and perhaps even over to Colmar, France for a few hours. I’d like Quinn to see as much as possible, naturally, and the area where my family is from is perfect for crossing over the Rhine and into Alsace, home of some of my favorite wines. It wouldn’t be a bad way to spend a day.

Nuremberg and Berlin will be both be totally new cities to explore. Nuremberg appealed to me because of its rich history and architecture and Quinn will be beside himself to see sites he’s only read about or seen in documentaries. I can’t wait to walk cobblestone streets with half timber buildings on either side and I can almost taste the beer already. Proust!!

I’ve heard so much about Berlin from friends who have visited in recent years. They use words like “cosmopolitan,” “artsy” and “edgy,” which could pretty much describe me, too, right? Seriously, there’s a lively arts scene, terrific nightlife and vivid history all waiting for us to experience. We’ve got what looks to be an ideal Airbandb with plenty of room for all of us (we’ll be with my uncle and aunt) and I’m hoping for good weather and lots of time outdoors. We might even make it to Potsdam to check out a castle, which is kind of funny since I’ve never even been to Potsdam, N.Y.  Maybe if there was a castle, I’d go there, too.

Have you been to these areas in Germany? Any must-sees you’d recommend? Please share any tips or suggestions!

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Filed under beer, Boys, Europe, family, Germany, holidays, Recommendations, travel, vacation

The profoundness of This is Us

0699394b-931b-490e-8940-e5c39b5b6cfb-6194-00000420a2ffb43e_tmpAs is usual for me and television, I’m more than a little late to the game on one of the buzziest new series, This is Us.  I needed something to follow an embarrassing number of binge watched seasons of Project Runway and was pleased to see that TiU was available on Hulu. A single episode in and I was hooked. Talk about rich. What characters! Such dialogue! The soundtrack! I’m obsessed.

Episode 2 reached into my head and my heart simultaneously and I haven’t been able to shake it yet. There were two scenes involving Mandy Moore’s character, Rebecca, that have stuck with me and they’ve been both inspiring and grounding. The first was a conversation between Rebecca’s husband, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and his best friend, Miguel (Jon Huertas). Miguel tells Jack that Rebecca is “…like the gold standard of wives. She’s smart, funny, beautiful, great personality…”

It was a line that made me want to be Rebecca. That’s the kind of woman who I want to be.

The other scene was between Jack and Rebecca. As they sat on the floor next to each other, after a night of sleeping apart, Jack said that when he first met her he finally knew what he wanted to be when he grew up – the man to make her happy. Ugh. Shot to the solar plexus.

That’s the kind of man who I want.

This is Us feels, to me, something like who we hope for.

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Filed under aging, family, favorites, love, marriage, Music, Observations, Recommendations, relationships, television