Seven Sisters Trail Race – 2018 edition

My legs are so sore that I expect them to be purple, like a hard-earned bruise. Or, at the least, beet red because they’re angry with me because of the abuse I inflicted upon them yesterday when I completed my third consecutive Seven Sisters Trail Race with my lunarb*tch, Chrissy. Man, I am hurting, but, just like yesterday, I’m smiling.

There’s something about this brutally challenging event that keeps us coming back even though we know 1. exactly how hard it’s going to be, 2. we’re never going to remotely competitive and 3. it’s a 90+ minutes drive that commences way too early in the morning. I think they call it being a masochist adventurous. Going into the race yesterday, we both had agreed this was our last time. There are other races and challenges and we’ve been fortunate to avoid injury on a course that is pretty damn perilous. But….

We arrived in Amherst at 7:30 a.m. and felt relaxed. The morning was crisp and bright and we got to witness a couple of fox kits romping on the hill near the parking lot. It was almost a reminder of how fun it is to be outdoors and in the woods and running. We ran in the last wave and found a pace that had us moving forward but without haste. There were photo opportunities to be indulged and the views were clearer than we’ve ever seen them. It was a spectacular day weather-wise and, in general, the conditions were ideal.

The 6 miles in didn’t register as too difficult. I felt pretty good and enjoyed cheering the returning elite runners as they made their way back with remarkable speed. Everyone we encountered was friendly and encouraging. It isn’t really possible to describe how extreme this race is – the areas that are steep and woven with tree roots and shale, the sections where you literally have to scramble using feet and hands, the parts when a missed step could result in a really negative outcome…it’s absolutely wild! 

Things fell apart a bit for me in the last couple of miles when I ran out of water and my legs were completely depleted of spring. There was nothing left – other than the ability to keep moving forward at a snail’s pace. And smile.

Following the race we returned to the excellent market just down the road, Atkins. We ate everything we wanted to and brought stuff home, as well. Today, my muscles are tender in a profound way – and not just my quads and calves. Nope, my forearms hurt, as do the sides of my ribs. There’s a little sunburn on my neck, too, but overall I’m good, despite my traditional trail-run-left-ankle-roll at mile 8 or 9. No permanent damages, just a lot of joy and pride in an accomplishment.

That beautiful mug is the best race swag!

When I had my third (and biggest) baby I said “I’m so happy that I never have to do that again.” The Seven Sisters, bitches that they may be, haven’t quite compelled me to say the same about them.

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Seeing the light

I’m not much of a decorator and my home is primarily filled with items which I’ve ever been given or purchased second-hand. When you collect furniture that way, it takes a long time to establish your own sense of style – or even a cohesive theme, so my house is definitely a little random when it comes to decor. Whatever, it’s comfortable and familiar and that’s pretty ok for me and my family.

A few years back my brother gave me a very modern floor lamp. The base was heavy and there were 5 chrome “arms” that curved up and offered light for under their purple metal shades. It was kind of cool and it fit well enough in my family room, so I took it despite his warning that it was difficult to find replacement bulbs in the correct size. Come on! How hard could it be?

Well, it was a royal pain in the ass. It was the most obscure sized bulb possible and I think that, over the years, we’ve successfully located them (always in limited numbers) twice. A couple of months ago, I hit the wall with this bulb nonsense and made the decision to start looking for a replacement lamp. I trolled craigslist and Target flyers for weeks and even made a stop at the Habitat for Humanity store all without luck.

A couple of weeks ago an ad came across my Instagram feed that finally gave me some hope that I would find a lamp – Wayfair was having a sale and their selection was terrific. After a little second guessing, I made my choice – a modern style, three arm floor lamp with shades for approximately $125. Three days later the box arrived, my middle son put the lamp together and my family room finally had enough light for me to read.

Where do you buy your furniture and decorative accessories? Have you ever shopped online or purchased anything from Wayfair?

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Restaurant Navona

Last night my guys and I had dinner to celebrate middle son’s birthday. His birthday was actually on Monday, but he requested a Tuesday dinner because he felt that he would have more options from which to choose since many places are closed Mondays. This is what happens when you raise foodie kids.

We arrived on time for our 6:30 reservation and were seated after a couple of confusing moments. I’ve only been to Restaurant Navona on one other occasion and last night there seemed to be an event taking place which made it less than clear to me who to approach for seating. Once seated we were given menus, followed by water a few minutes later.

We were all hungry and made quick work of the menus selecting 3 starters followed by 4 main courses. Our server was very capable, but it seemed that she had quite a few tables and placing our order wasn’t accomplished until almost 7:00. We weren’t served bread or the glass of wine I had ordered for what felt like a long time, with the wine barely beating the appetizers to the table and the bread served after we were midway through our first course.

The prosecco I ordered was very sweet making me think I had perhaps been poured the asti spumante rather than what I requested. I drank it anyway. You would have too had you been out with my crew, believe me. Our first course was nicely presented and delicious. The evening’s special of grilled octopus served with beans, fennel and capers was perfectly cooked and tender. My Caesar salad was generously portioned and the bruschetta presentation was unique with the fresh ricotta, peperonata and tomatoes each being served on the side of a stack of very thinly sliced, crisp bread. The bread service was great – warm and oily focaccia with a smear of fresh ricotta and olive oil on the plate. It may have been the best focaccia I’ve had since I visited Genoa more than 20 years ago. I’d happily go back to Navona just to order that again.

Our main course followed very quickly behind our appetizers. The birthday boy had the pork chop, one of the night’s specials, which was accompanied by creamy spinach and roasted potato coins which he found lacking in salt, but I found perfect. The chop itself was beautifully cooked and of high quality but we both agreed that the spice rub was more a detraction than an embellishment.

My oldest son went with the evening’s fish special – roasted cod, faro, and greens. This was a simple dish and the quality of the ingredients and the skill in preparation was evident. My youngest had the Navona pizza with sweet Italian sausage added and he was quite pleased with his choice. The large dinner plate sized pizza was thin crusted with tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil. We all sampled it and agreed that it was a really nice pizza.

I had the gnocchi de pepi which was a risk knowing that it would never reach the level of the cacio e pepe that I fell in love with when I was in Rome. This preparation had the addition of “crispy artichoke hearts,” which I thought were unnecessary to the dish. (Also, they weren’t crispy by any stretch of the imagination.) I would have happily seen them replaced with more cheese and black pepper to suit my own personal taste. I ate about half of the dish, saving room for dessert and today’s lunch.

We finished with two orders of the carrot cake and a coconut cream tart. The carrot cake was an individual-sized loaf with plenty of piped frosting and praline pecans on the side and it was really outstanding. The tart was also very good, but didn’t quite reach the level of the one at Mio Posto although the crust was excellent. Desserts were served on rectangular slate “plates,” a choice we found to be consistent with some of the other unique decorative touches such as the plethora of clocks and pottery scattered about the restaurant. It seemed a little overdecorated to us, but we’re simple people.

Overall, we were impressed with the food, but would have preferred a bit more attention in terms of service. The table where we were seated was less than ideal with lots of traffic continually going back and forth. I think I’d be inclined to return for a bite at the bar or perhaps a table less in the middle of things. The food really was delicious, though, and judging from the crowd that was there last night, they’re doing well and I couldn’t be happier for them.

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Filed under Albany, birthdays, Boys, Dinner, Eating, family, Food, Local, Restaurants, Spring

Asking to be killed

Watch this video.

The situation in Toronto earlier this week was pretty dramatic – a man, a rented van, and seemingly, a mission to hurt and kill as many innocent pedestrians as possible. While it’s something we’ve seen before, there were two things that stood out to me as remarkably different.

The first, the one that has been justifiably lauded by so very many, is the composure of the police officer who ultimately disarmed the suspect. His actions have already been recognized as being text-book perfect. He was calm, and he controlled and managed the situation in a manner that will surely be used in the future for instructing how to deal with these all too frequent incidents. It was reassuring to witness an officer of the law bringing a horrific episode to an end without a single bullet. Bravo.

The second thing that impressed me was the absolute lack of awareness about the situation demonstrated by three pedestrians who walked through the scene as it unfolded. I use the word “scene” intentionally, because what in the world was those people thinking – perhaps, that they had stumbled upon a movie being filmed? I mean, look at them! There’s a police officer facing in their direction with a weapon drawn and they’re just ambling along? How is it that they were not prevented from walking into the middle of a wildly volatile situation? And, more striking, how clueless were they?

0A2D807D-B9BB-49BD-B933-42644634995FIf folks can’t assess the threat of an ongoing altercation between the police and a suspect, I have little faith that they’ll ever be able to prevent more occurrences like the one in Toronto (or NYC, or Barcelona or Muenster…) by seeing and saying something. Eyes open, people.

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Questions about a well-lived life

How many times a week do you conclude that your day was one that felt as if you had lived it well? Once? Twice? Maybe more than that?

How do you personally define a day as “well-lived?” Is it measurable in some way? Is there a consistency in the components that come together to combine in a fashion that would satisfy your own criteria for well-lived?

I’ve been struggling. As a person with a pretty firm idea of how long life is (not long enough), my ability to tolerate accept witness loved ones who can’t seem to recognize and embrace the simple joys, daily miracles and random accomplishments that are present in most of our lives, is limited. Sometimes I just need to separate myself from people who do not appreciate the time they’ve been given.

How do I define a well-lived day? I’ll give you an example – on Saturday I raked up the backyard and filled three bags with leaves and yard debris, swept the deck and finally tossed a bunch of cracked flower pots, roasted some vegetables, took care of a few chores inside the house, played ball with Jeter, prepared and ate dinner with my family, went to work and took care of my guests with as much attention and competence as possible, came home and wound down with an episode of some HGTV show and a little ice cream and was in bed by midnight. To me, that felt like a day well-lived.

Was it exciting? Not particularly. Did I change the world? No, but my yard looks so much better and my deck is ready for sunshine and the plants I pre-ordered from my neighborhood association. Were there moments when I felt stressed or even melancholy? Of course, but my appreciation for the physical strength I possess which enables me to do outdoor and indoor maintenance overshadowed those instances. Would I have liked to simply remain at home or have gone out to socialize rather than go to work? Sure, but I do value the extra income and it provides me with the means to travel, something I absolutely love to do. Plus, I’m not great at going out solo. Believe it or not, I can be a little shy in social situations.

What made the day well-lived, to me, was the sense that I made good use of my time. It wasn’t even necessarily what I did with my minutes and hours, it’s what I didn’t do – I didn’t squander them or spend them doing things that didn’t give me satisfaction. The day in many ways was spent cultivating happiness – it makes me happy to have a tidy yard and a clean house and a fridge stocked with good food and guests who have enjoyed their own evening out because of, in part, my efforts. It was a good day.

How was your weekend? Did you live it well?

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Brad Mehldau Trio at The Egg, 4/22/18

I know about as much about jazz as I do about wine. I like some of it, I recognize a few names and I am usually willing to try something new when it comes to both of those topics. While my favorite wines are often bright and fruity, when it comes to jazz I’m more taken by dark and smoky sounds. I like jazz that sounds like you might have once heard it played in a candlelit bar in a city whose name you can’t quite remember.

Last night I took a chance on trying something new, jazz-wise. I had seen an ad for the Brad Mehldau Trio and the description “Thelonious Monk classics, American Songbook standards…” had grabbed me, so I got myself to The Egg on Sunday and bought a ticket. After a quick stop at Cafe Capriccio for a delicious Stoli gimlet, that is.

The trio consisted of Brad on piano, Larry Grenadier on bass and Jeff Ballard on drums and each of them were mesmerizing in their own way. At times, I felt as if I were a voyeur observing the relationship that seemed to exist between each of the musicians and their instruments. It was so intimate – the curve of Mehldau’s back as he curled over the keyboards, the drape of Grenadier’s arm around the neck of his bass, the varied tension that Ballard possessed in his hands..

Closing my eyes, I absorbed the music in the center of my body. The songs rolled into one another, with some alternating solos thrown in, and after about 85 minutes or so, it was over. I was home by 9:15 with a new favorite contemporary jazz trio and a promise to myself to buy  their upcoming album and enjoy it with some wine.

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(Not) Lost in translation

278790E3-7D3A-4AE8-9C22-6CA27AF25C5CAt work last night I saw something new – a rare occurrence when you’ve been a server for 35+ years. A couple, an Asian woman and white man who were dining, had a novel way of communicating with one another – an electronic universal translator. It really seemed to come in handy as they made modifications to dishes and ordered their meals, but I didn’t notice that they used it very much for actually speaking to one another. It made me wonder about how men and women might be able to utilize such a device when they speak the same “official” language, yet lack a common emotional language.

One of the biggest challenges in a romantic relationship is communication. Even though we live in a world with a dizzying array of means to communicate, it still seems as if males and females approach this exercise in very different ways. It might be unfair to generalize and assign characteristics by gender, but, in my 51  years on earth, I’ve learned a couple of things.

In my experience, men don’t often initiate conversations about topics which might be difficult to discuss. It’s kind of the way I am about household repairs – I try to ignore suspected problems (the dishwasher not cleaning plates thoroughly, for example) until they became too big of an issue to avoid any longer. It’s almost as if those fellas (and I) are hoping that the problem will somehow resolve itself without any attention. Of course, it doesn’t really work that way and instead of the glitch rectifying itself, the malfunction generally grows larger and results in an even greater problem. Ignoring a problem doesn’t make it nonexistent, it just allows it to morph into something even more expensive to repair. My machine will help to prevent these kind of situations from occurring or , at the least, escalating..

If I were able to invent a male-female translator I would be sure to include a feature that measured levels of honesty. A relationship that lacks such a fundamental function will never provide a truly satisfying and healthy coupling. We all are guilty of lies of omission, I suppose, but a romantic connection between two should always include a sense of security when it comes to talking about tough subjects. More honesty eventually means more opportunities for creating a relationship that can provide a couple with the strength to stand up to the everyday challenges of life as a unit. Honesty can be scary, but lack of direct honesty is far more scary.

My prototype for a male-female translator would also come loaded with a function that demands that communication comes at regular intervals, i.e. there should be mandatory limits on allowing texts/emails/vms to go unanswered. Lines of communication corrode when they go unused and a lack of time devoted to one another will kill relationships faster than an iPhone battery dies. It isn’t realistic to expect a complete accord when it comes to communication styles, but leaving your loved one hanging for too long will create an unnecessarily adverse situation. My translator will be equipped with an electrical shock function that grows progressively more painful when one party fails to respond after a particular length of time or in the case of an accumulation of unanswered messages.

What have I failed to include? Additional features you’d like to add to my prototype?

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Filed under love, musings, Observations, relationships, Uncategorized