Category Archives: Recommendations

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

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day – John David Anderson

Reading is the least expensive vacation I’ve ever had.  Sometimes I go to the future and other times to the past, but the destination isn’t the important part to me usually. It’s just getting away from now.  At a time when I sometimes feel physically assaulted by the daily news, a low budget escape is exactly what I’m looking for in a book, even when the book’s conclusion is not the one for which a reader would be hoping. Hey, after November 8, 2016, I’m kind of used to that anyway.

I won’t reveal too much of the plot of this YA title, but it’s essentially the story of 3 boys and the teacher who taught them far more than they ever expected.  It’s at times outrageously funny and heartbreakingly sad, but most of all it’s a book that reads as real. If you’re lucky, you once had a Ms. Bixby in your life. My favorite quotes are below.

Ms. Bixby sighs the Teacher Sigh. The one they must give you as you walk out the door with your teaching degree.  Equal parts exasperation, disappointment, and longing for summer vacation.

When I suggested she brush up on her astronomy, she seemed offended, saying that she probably knew things that I didn’t.  I told her that was highly unlikely. Then she asked me who the lead singer of Led Zeppelin was. I told her zeppelins could not be made of lead due to the obvious weight issues.  She said “Case closed.”

Change is the only constant.

Topher is a constant, like pi or radical two.

The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.

You can’t always pinpoint the moment everything changes.  Most of the time it’s gradual, like grass growing or fog settling or your armpits starting to smell by midafternoon.

There’s a difference between the truth and the whole truth.  That’s why they give that big spiel in court, when they make you place your hand on the Bible and promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Because they know if they don’t, people will try and sneak around it. They will leave out the details, skip over the incriminating stuff. Keep the worst parts to themselves.

You have to slay the dragon to be the hero. Not easy to do, but at least you know what you’re dealing with. Dragons are easy to spot…but there are no such things as dragons. It’s never that clearcut. Sometimes the thing you’re fighting against is hiding from you. It’s tucked away. Buried deep where you can’t see it. In fact, for a long time, you might not even know it’s there.

You know how, in movies, everything comes around full circle and you’re back where you started? Turns out life isn’t like the movies. Life doesn’t come all the way back around again. It’s not a straight line either. It angles and curves, shoots off a little, twists and turns, but it never gets right back to the place it started. Not that you would want it to. Then you wouldn’t feel like you had gotten anywhere.

Live every day as if it were your last. The truth is – the whole truth is – that it’s not your last day that matters most. It’s the ones in between, the ones you get the chance to look back on…They may not stand out the most at first, but they stay with you the longest.

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Filed under Books, Librarians, Recommendations, Uncategorized

Bravo, Brava

img_0864On a mellow Sunday evening, I was fortunate enough to revisit Brava Wine Bar in Lenox. It’s hard to say exactly what made it the perfect evening, but the scenery, complete with a dusting of fresh snow, certainly contributed. Seriously, with the holiday lights still on display Lennox looked absolutely magical! What a beautiful little town that is…

We pulled up to Brava early, probably at about 6:00, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. The only other time I was there was Labor Day Weekend and the place was humming. This night, though, things were quiet. We selected a spot at the bar, as far from the door as possible on a cold evening, and joined two other parties in the small space.

After ordering a couple of red sangrias (they offer white as well) , we decided to make a meal from a kale salad, roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon, and a pizza with Italian sausage, onions and mushrooms. Noticing the charcuterie options, we quickly added two meats (a mousse/pate and prosciutto) and a Spanish goat’s milk cheese with a paprika rind to our order. Then we sat back and let the refreshingly professional and competent staff take care of us.  What a treat.

The food, like my last visit, was right on. The salad was adorned with a light, creamy dressing and was perfect for sharing. The Brussels sprout were cut in half prior to roasting and they were tender and coupled with crispy bacon. The add-on charcuterie plate was delightful with plenty of pâté for me and some of the most buttery prosciutto I’ve ever had, while the cheese had a not unpleasant funk to balance both of the meats. The accompaniments, including dried apricots reminiscent of my childhood, made for the perfect foil. And that pizza? Blistery on the bottom and topped with simple, but delicious flavors. I’d go back just for that again.img_0865

img_0867 img_0866The atmosphere was relaxed and cozy and the company was perfect. We extended our meal with a moist, delicious bread pudding, a tawny port and a fantastic “bowl” of coffee. Two leisurely hours after we arrived, we departed Brava and headed back to Albany. That, my friends, is how I do Sunday. How about you?

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Filed under Dinner, Eating, favorites, Food, friends, love, pizza, Recommendations, road trips, snow, sunday, Wine, winter

Brooks Brothers suits

b683bae9-f62b-4ceb-96e3-a47c320e332f-10839-0000071941aafe77_tmp… my taste for customer service, that is. I don’t often shop at Brooks Brothers (their clothes are well tailored but a bit conservative for my lifestyle), but after visiting their Lee, MA outlet location twice in the last few months, they just may have made a customer out of me. Here’s why…

I dropped into their store at the end of summer to pick up a few dress shirts for a friend as a gift. I’ve never been particularly good at keeping track of measurements and sizes and that trip to Lee was no different. I had no idea where to start with sleeve length and neck size for this guy, but I did know that he has a history of shopping BB and I hoped that perhaps there was a database of customers that could be accessed. I stepped up to the counter and inquired and within minutes I knew the necessary shirt size. Easy.

What I didn’t know was that there was a preference (or even a difference) in collar style. Seems that my birthday guy prefers a close collar rather than the wider one I had randomly selected. So, for the last few months three (almost) perfectly new shirts have hung unworn in a closet. Last weekend we took a drive over to rectify the situation and that’s when the customer service took an additional, even more tremendous, leap forward.

Retaining a sales receipt for months is not necessarily my strength and we found ourselves in Lee without evidence of the purchase. I’ve been in this situation in the past and was successful in obtaining a credit by presenting the credit card originally used for payment, but, naturally, I recently switched American Express cards, so that wasn’t an option. As I prepared to log on to my Amex account to recover evidence of the transaction, the clerk asked me if I knew the date of the transaction and, miraculously, I did. Within 2 minutes the transaction was located and an exchange receipt printed. Simple.

A short time later we left the store, new purchases in hand, and headed to a place more my speed – UnderArmour. I had asked at Brooks Brothers for directions to the UA outlet since it was frigidly cold and we weren’t feeling up to wandering around the outdoor mall. As we were browsing the running gear an employee approached me to inform me that I had forgotten my phone at the Brooks Brothers store. Apparently, one of the employees there had made the effort to track us down to notify us of our oversight. Wow. Thoughtful initiative? Yes, please and thank you. Well done.

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Filed under birthdays, Recommendations, road trips, Uncategorized, writing

Coming clean

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I’ve got a thing about soap. Growing up, it was all about Ivory and sometimes, if I could get my hands on my mother’s, Dove. To this day, the scent of either can bring me right back to childhood. Not a bad thing at all, unlike that time when I washed my face with the new soap I found next to the bathroom sink. That one experience with Lava convinced me to never use anything that wasn’t described as “mild” or gentle. Lesson learned.

For the last 20 years or so my favorite soaps are from a company called Pre de Provence. They’re gentle and come in a great variety of different scents, my favorites being the hard to find eucalyptus, sage and, in summer, cocoa butter or verbena. They’re obviously more expensive than what I grew up using, but the bars last a really long time making them a modest indulgence.

A couple of winters ago I discovered the Bliss Mammoth Minty Bar – a huge slab of soap with bumps on one side for massage and gentle exfoliation. Amazing! This soap is as close to a life changer as I have ever experienced in the shower and when I received a surprise bar for Christmas, I couldn’t have been happier.

Speaking of gifts, I was lucky enough to be given a few bars of soap last fall for my birthday that I’m still working my way through. They’re from Chasworth Farm Soaps, a company in Saint Albans, VT and the fragrance these babies emit is heady! I’ve got the egg yolk and honey bar, as well as a lavender thyme one still to go.

Despite my extensive soap experiences I still haven’t explored the local market as I should. I hear really great things about Rad and their new space in Stuyvesant Plaza looks fantastic. Have you checked them out yet? How do you wash your daily grime away?

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Filed under beauty, favorites, Local, Recommendations

Albany – it’s the most wonderful time of the year

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As I close in on 30 years as a resident, I still find myself charmed by Albany. Don’t get me wrong, there are things that make me insane (folks who double park when there is an available space, I’m talking to you!), but I continue to fall in love with my adopted city. Yeah, that’s right. I love Albany.

Last Saturday was one of those days that could have been stress filled and hectic, yet somehow instead managed to be a wonderful welcome to the holiday season. The guys and I went across the river and in a remarkably fast time, located, agreed upon and cut down a(nother) perfect Christmas tree – defined, for me, as tall and thin with long, soft needles. It fits perfectly in our family room.

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Traditional pre-tree killing selfie

We followed our outdoor activities with a fantastic lunch at our favorite Chinese spot – Ocean Palace on Central Avenue. This was the first time we actually ate in rather than taking our order to go, and we were all really happy to sit down and enjoy lunch with a couple of pots of hot tea. We’ll do this again!

Our next stop was Winter WonderLark, aka my favorite Lark Street event. Holidayimg_0678 festivities abounded and we kept ourselves warm browsing the pop up Half Moon Market and chatting with friends as we waited for the start of the Santa Speedo Sprint. There were no Lillys racing, but we provided enthusiastic support to the stalwart runners. What a fun way to do good work – I’m proud of you, Albany!

As fireworks lit up the sky, I found my way to the Lunar B*tches and the starting line for the Last Run. I love this race – the crowd, the course and the enthusiastic spectators combine to make this my favorite 5K. Even when I fall, rip my outer layer tights and skin my knee! The Capitol, City Hall and Washington Park looked absolutely magical.

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By 6:00 p.m. I was changed and ready to go at Lark + Lily, which was a good thing because we had a busy night. I was thrilled to welcome friends, regulars, and runners fresh from the race to my cozy wine bar. img_0707

My day wrapped up with a little music and a bite to eat with a friend. The cover band rocked (their take on Eruption was epic!) and my grilled cheese at the Gateway Diner satisfied my hunger  as a long and lovely day came to an end. I went to sleep full in every way.  Thanks, Albany.

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Filed under Albany, Boys, Christmas, Events, favorites, friends, holidays, Lark Street, Local, Music, Recommendations, running