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NYC observations

It’s a weird February when the snow drops are in bloom and the daffodils are already 5″ high in Central Park.

Speaking of things that are a weird height, the cool guys were all wearing pants that we would have called “floods (short for floodwaters)” back in the day. Lots of exposed ankles.

In general, it seemed like people just didn’t know how to dress for the weather. I saw folks bundled up like they were visiting Antarctica and others wearing flip flops. Our technique – light layers with gloves, as necessary.

img_1049Thanks to Quinn we scored the best slices of pizza I’ve ever had in NYC in a dive-y spot across the street from the Garden. Crisp, hot, great toppings and excellent cheese. We went every day.

Although I only went once, Macy’s provided me with the ultimate score when I found a gorgeous pair of suede over the knee boots. The original price was far more than I’ve ever spent on footwear before (or any other garment, for that matter), but when Macy’s has a sale they do not mess around. My beautiful new Coach boots set me back $51, approximately 90% less than where they had started. img_1068

The Meatpacking District has changed more than any other neighborhood that I can think of in the last 20 years.  There’s so much good shopping and eating and hanging out to be had there!

I’m really interested to watch the Hudson Rail Yard area develop. Lots of construction going on there these days and I’m hopeful that there will be some new cool places to stay for overnight visits.

Running in NYC is always an adventure. No matter what neighborhood I’m staying in, I can always find my way to either water or Central Park, a fact that reminds me that Manhattan just isn’t really that big.

Since Manhattan is starting to feel small to me, maybe it’s time to start exploring Brooklyn and Queens? Suggestions for exploring those boroughs?

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Filed under Boys, family, Fashion, favorites, NYC, Observations, pizza, running, Uncategorized, winter

17 Things to love about Valentine’s Day 2017

16715920_1844113935853351_7426409160263547542_o• When the 14th of February falls on a Tuesday.
• Speaking of falling – no additional snow falling.
• A great menu created and executed by a professional kitchen – thanks, John & Zach & Ben.
• Competent and attentive front of the house staff – I’m talking about you, Jackie, Jammella & Trudy.
• A tightly mapped seating chart with 2 hour turns for every table.
• Appreciative walk ins who are grateful and work with what you can offer them.
• Solo diners who are comfortable enough to dine with you on the biggest couple night of the year.
• Guests who span the spectrum – white, black, brown, straight and gay. I’m really proud of the diverse clientele we have at Lark + Lily.
• Music that set the mood beautifully – thanks, Trudy!
• Friends stopping in for dessert.
• Mild weather and cozy fireplaces.
• A sense of relaxed pleasure wafting through the dining rooms.
• Finding the perfect card for your honey at Elissa Halloran’s.
• A steady stream of pleasant people populating our bar.
• Guests thanking you for providing them with a place they love to visit.
• Having the prettiest Valentine’s menus ever! Thanks, Lori Hansen & Laura Glazer.   16716184_1844117485852996_4174399207922838321_o
• Finishing the night with something bubbly and pink.

16797713_1844175939180484_5675353717826130564_oAnd one thing not to love – please, please, please have the decency to call and cancel your reservation if your plans change. Having an empty table that might have been filled by someone looking to celebrate is really frustrating. On a related note, if you are going to be more than 20 minutes late for your reservation, I’d suggest calling to let the restaurant know. After 20 minutes (without a phone call), your table becomes mine again.

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, Food, holidays, Local, love, Observations, Restaurants, Uncategorized, Wine, winter

My dirty dozen boy

fullsizerenderFebruary 9th will mark the day that twelve years ago Quinn Padraig arrived and completed my family. Of all my babies, my pregnancy with him was the most challenging – there was an amnio, second trimester spotting, and enough ultrasounds to make a flip book of his growth. Gestating that guy was an intense combination of joy and stress and I couldn’t decide if I wanted it to last longer (since I knew it was my final pregnancy) or just to be over (because I was so worried something could go wrong).

That conflict between wanting it to last longer versus wanting it to be over was the perfect precursor to my general attitude towards my youngest son’s childhood.  As time marches on, I have moments when I wish I could stop the clock and keep this awfully tall little one of mine young for a bit longer. His generosity when it comes to hugs and I love yous will be sorely missed if they fall by the wayside as he becomes a teen. There are times, however, when I can almost begin to imagine having an empty nest and it doesn’t necessarily seem to be such a bad thing. To everything a season and all that, right?

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What 12 looks like at my house.

Until that day arrives, though, I’ll continue to appreciate the time I get to share with my “baby.” The kitchen dance parties, his knowledge of geography, history and politics and his remarkable vocabulary will never fail to impress me.   I know he’ll make me laugh more often than he frustrates me and I’m hopeful that he’ll always insist upon kissing me goodbye when I leave for a run.

How about we all wear our jammies inside out tonight and get Quinn what he really wants for his birthday – a snow day. He’ll sleep in at his dad’s, and then I’ll make him pancakes and bacon and we’ll watch as many movies as he wants. I promise to make the day last as long as I can.

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Filed under aging, birthdays, Boys, Observations, snow, Uncategorized, winter

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

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