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American pride

16112717_10154872435637889_4793167427873866802_oSaturday was a remarkable day. The sun was shining, the photocopier at Staples worked correctly, and there was no line to use self-pay at the grocery store. All good things. Additionally, there was a protest march thing going on down by Albany’s state Capitol, which was kind of big.

Actually, it was fairly huge and it wasn’t contained to Albany. The Women’s March was also in Woodstock, Ithaca, New York City and goodness knows how many other cities and towns in our state. And Boston and Austin and Chicago and Miami and L.A. and Denver and, of course, Washington, D.C. and other communities large and small around our country and the world. It was an international event, loosely organized, spread by word of mouth and media – social and traditional. It may have been the largest protest our country has ever seen.

Although I originally questioned the point of this movement (He won. What can really be done?), I attended our local event and was completely blown away by the energy present. My response was surprisingly emotional and I felt near tears as a I looked around at the crowd. There were so many familiar faces, friends, coworkers…I was humbled. It was powerful.

Later in the afternoon, my restaurant filled with guests. Every single person was polite and patient and contributed to an atmosphere that was charged with a unified positivity. A swiftly concocted drink special proved to be very popular and we raised nearly $100 to donate to Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood. Staff, front and back of the house, executed beautifully. It was an incredibly satisfying night.

Only one day after observing the inauguration of a man I don’t believe is qualified to represent our country, I witnessed countless examples of true American character – purposeful organizing, peaceful protest, hard work and the desire to donate to meaningful causes.  The contrast between an egotistical man who “did it his way” and the Americans who came together to demonstrate with integrity could not have been more stark, nor more welcome. Thanks, Albany. You made me proud.

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Filed under Albany, Events, Local, News, Observations, politics, Restaurants, Uncategorized

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

The New York Times: all the recipes fit to cook

image: rubylane.com

image: rubylane.com

One of the things I really miss about my life pre-restaurant ownership (in addition to loved ones, fretless sleep and true downtime) is cooking. Remember the days when I would have recipes and pictures posted here of yummy food made in my very own kitchen? These days, I’m lucky if I cook an evening meal for my family twice a week. Well, three if you’re willing to count grilled cheese and ramen. While it is certainly a luxury to eat meals prepared, served and cleaned up by others, I definitely miss being in my own kitchen puttering around sometimes.

During a recent break from school, I took advantage of having some extra time by indulging myself in a little kitchen therapy. Actually, I indulged all of us now that I think about it. One of the items I prepared was a new recipe while the other was an old favorite. Both were from recipes I had originally found in the New York Times. Maybe you don’t think of the NYT as a source for recipes, but my vintage copy (1966, baby!) of the NYT Cookbook would prove you wrong. It is one of my favorite recipe collections and I refer to it frequently.

The sides puffed up remarkably.

The sides puffed up remarkably.

The new recipe that I attempted, with great success, was for breakfast Christmas morning. In years past, bagels, cream cheese and lox were our holiday morning go-to meal, but since my divorce things have been a bit more unpredictable. I’ve made variations on pancakes and waffles and one year went to great trouble to make cinnamon rolls. They were good, but not great and, in my opinion, not worth my efforts. Crepes were requested for this year, but, honestly they’re a little more labor intensive than I like at the start of a long day. But, the Dutch Baby recipe from the Times? Well, that was perfect!

img_0778Requiring only 5 ingredients, all pantry staples, this oven baked “pancake” was one of the easiest and most satisfying breakfasts I’ve ever made. Taking only 40 minutes, start to finish, the Dutch Baby is something that can be made even on a regular school morning. It is my new favorite breakfast treat and I think I’m going to make it again this weekend. You should, too.

img_0848The ease of the Dutch Baby was definitely offset by the work involved with making the Meat Lover’s Lasagna. I’ve been using this recipe for more than a decade, despite the extensive list of ingredients and time demanded, and consider it to be a solid version of lasagna, but it comes at a price. First, there’s the actual cost of ingredients – pancetta, pecorino romano and sirloin aren’t cheap, my friend. Then, there’s the time involved in preparing this beauty. Conservatively, it takes about of 4 hours to put this delight together, maybe less if you cheat on the meatballs step. The payoff, though, is good. It is a dense, delicious and hearty entree that will provide multiple meals. That’s a good thing since I won’t have another chance to cook for days!

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Filed under breakfast, Christmas, Cooking, family, favorites, Food, holidays, Recipes, Uncategorized, vacation

Superman never made any money

Both of our names start with

Both of our names start with “S.”

Let me preface this by saying I do not consider myself to be a superhero in any fashion. Actually, that’s kind of the image I’m trying to dispel here. After receiving a couple of really nice compliments recently, I feel I need to lay a couple of things out because I wouldn’t want anyone to perceive me as any more than simply human. Just like you.

My only similarity to Superman is the fact that I’m not motivated by money. Fear about wasting the life I’ve been given, though, is a strong incentive. The thought of not being able to physically or mentally or emotionally continue to do the things I currently manage keeps me inspired. And, when I start feeling overwhelmed by the demands of life I have created, I remind myself that:

A. I am the person most responsible for how busy I am.
B. Life goes by so quickly that it makes sense to try to experience as much of it as possible.

My life philosophy for more than 30 years has been to try to gather as many moments as possible in the time given to me. With the passing of years and some health issues, my commitment to this has only been strengthened. A number of months ago I responded to the question “How long do you want to live?” with this:

I want to live every day.

When I’m asked how I do it all, how do I manage to have a full-time job, a business, a family, a relationship, friends, activities, etc, I don’t really have an answer. I just do it – sometimes better than others, by the way. More specifically? I am in touch with my calendar and I’m super organized with my time. When it comes to scheduling things, my German side takes charge and I’m probably guilty of trying to do too much. That being said, I occasionally recognize that I’ve overextended myself and I bail on commitments, social ones usually. Sometimes, more than anything, I need to sit on my couch and watch something mindless on television. I do that, you know. Just like Superman.

But (s)he stayed in the city
And kept changing clothes in dirty old phonebooths
Til his work was through
And nothing to do but go home.

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Filed under aging, cancer, musings, Uncategorized

Remember the children

Four years ago, as I sat in the humid warmth of an indoor water park while my children played, 20 children were murdered within the confines of their elementary school. As I read the story online, a bone chilling horror entered my body  and lodged in my head. I considered that it could have been my own 7 year-old child. Ultimately the horrific sadness found its way to my heart, taking up permanent residence  as I grieved for the families who will never again be the same. It remains one of the melancholic days I’ve ever known.

The month of December seems a particularly cruel time for a child’s life to be taken. Isn’t this, after all, the time of the year many devote to celebrating the birth of a child? How do we reconcile those two things – the pointless deaths of innocent school children and the birth of a savior?

Maybe we can honor those children who were killed in Connecticut by making a commitment to the children who are fighting for their lives in Aleppo. Even if the battle is over, children and their families are going to need assistance as they rebuild their broken lives after years of conflict. Perhaps the perfect way to remember some of the children our world has prematurely lost is to make a donation, directed to Syrian refugees, to Save the Children, UNICEF or some other humanitarian organization.  It’s not too late yet to try to save those children.

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Filed under holidays, Observations, politics, Uncategorized

Peace, love and cupcakes – Woodstock, N.Y.

How festive is this?

How festive is this place? Not the cupcake place, by the way.

Yesterday I headed down to Woodstock to meet the girls for a little shopping and some catch up time. Although I had been down that way just a couple of weeks ago for a show in Bearsville, it felt like far too long since I’ve simply walked around town and checked out the shops. If you’re in a similar situation, I highly recommend December as the ideal time to wander around Woodstock. It is the absolute antithesis of mall shopping.

The first order of business (ok, the second) when meeting friends midday is usually coffee. The café nearest Tinker Square was jammed so we decided to take our chances down the street a little bit and found ourselves at the adorable Peace, Love and Cupcakes. It’s a tiny little space, adorably decorated in just the right shade of pink, towards the south side of town.

Their coffee game was mediocre with the only brew coming from a Keurig, but my need for coffee was quickly overshadowed by my need for a cupcake. The display case was chock full of the prettiest little cupcakes, cheekily named for musicians, that I’ve ever seen. I only hesitated a moment before rationalizing that when your day begins with a very circuitous 15K, a cupcake prior to linner seems more than reasonable. They don’t call it Sunday Funday for nothing, friends!

Although I’ve never been all that enthusiastic about cupcakes before (I think the frosting is usually too damn sweet), I decided that the Chocolate Snowball was calling my name – and I don’t even particularly like chocolate cake. It must have been a combination of nostalgia for those Hostess snowballs from my childhood and the appeal of a thick layer of cream cheese frosting liberally dusted with coconut.

img_0635

My cupcake. Sorry the photo isn’t better – I couldn’t wait to eat it!

I sat down outside to savor my sweet treat. The frosting was perfect, retaining a bit of the tartness of the cream cheese with coconut that resisted mushiness. The chocolate cake was moist and delicious. Together, they elevated my coffee to palatable and made me one happy girl. I’ll definitely go back again for more peace, love and cupcakes. The Ginger Baker has my name all over it.

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Filed under Eating, Food, friends, Recommendations, road trips, sunday, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Upon waking to the news of Donald Trump’s victory

cwzjnxoveaapolxIt seems appropriate that the sky is grey and the ground is wet. It matches my mood perfectly. I can’t stop shaking my head – whether to clear it of the thoughts which are racing about or as an inescapable response to lunacy around me, I’m not certain. This is bad.

When I went to that Trump rally last spring, I left with two conclusions. The first, which has been proven to be undeniably false, was that Donald Trump could never be elected. The second, prompted by my gazing around the arena and wondering who those Americans were, has been confirmed in a manner I never before imagined. I don’t know those people.

There are some things I do know, though. I will never allow the government to rescind the civil rights of LGBT Americans. You see, I do know those people and, unlike Trump and his supporters, they don’t scare me. Last week, when the Indigo Girls played at the Egg, we had a number of lesbian guests and I was struck, as I listened to the good-natured teasing going on between women who had never met before,  by how much progress our society has made in the last twenty years or so. Living a true and genuine life is not something exclusive to heterosexuals and I will stand shoulder to shoulder with my brothers and sisters should they need to battle to retain their equal rights. Going backwards is not an option.

Despite being beyond reproductive age, I will continue to support women and their right to choose when to bear children. I’ve stood up before to those wishing to deny legal and safe access to abortion to women in our country and I am fully prepared to do it again. If you don’t approve of abortion, don’t have one. That’s what’s called a choice.

As a first generation American I’ve always felt that it is my obligation to demonstrate traits which have been ascribed to immigrants in this country for centuries – hard work, honesty, self-reliance and personal responsibility. The only change now is a sense that I must commit to helping other new Americans to have the same opportunities as I have had.

During the presidential campaign I observed that Trump supporters loudly celebrated and gloated each Clinton flaw which was revealed, while Clinton backers reacted with distaste and appall as the laundry list of Trump’s outrageous behaviors was exposed. As an educated and reasonably intelligent woman, my response to both sides was to wish that we, as Americans, had been offered better options for whom to cast our precious votes. We have to do better in a world threatened by terrorists, impending environmental disasters, lack of access to healthcare and the vulnerability of persons of color and those who identify as LGBT.

I hope that a man who is supremely unqualified to hold the highest office in our country proves to be a champion of all people. There’s nothing I’d like more than for Donald Trump to prove me wrong again. Other than 4 more years of Barack Obama, that is.

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Filed under News, Observations, politics, Uncategorized