Starting over

I like a new beginning. A page turned in a calendar, sharp pencils and a book’s unbroken spine can fill me with promise and hope for what may come next. Possibility is a good thing and sometimes it’s the only thing that inspires me to stay resolute in looking forward rather than to the past. It isn’t always easy.

In life, every day provides us with an opportunity to make positive changes. Today might be the day that you start paying more attention to how you’re treating yourself and others. Maybe you’re ready to take a chance on something which you’ve previously rejected as too scary or a person who has proven disappointing in the past. It’s a new day and anything is possible, right?

So, take a deep breath and let it out with a sigh, expelling the stale and negative air that has been filling your lungs to make room for new energy and inspiration. Maybe take a minute to give yourself a pep talk reminding yourself of your strength and all the other challenges you’ve made your way through already in life. You’ve got this; you’re a survivor, right? You aren’t inclined to settle for less than you need or want, are you? Be your best even if you have to fake it until you make it. Believe in yourself.

Today is a new day to commit to being who you want to be. Be your best you.

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Taking tips from bartenders – Motown Mondays at the 5 Spot

kom-nashville-2015-poster_webHaving a good guide book when you visit a new city is generally not a bad idea if you’re looking to become familiar with where to eat or shop. Making friends with a bartender or two, though, is an even better idea if you’re interested in hanging out where the locals do. Case in point – the excellent tip we received from Kenneth at Husk about where the cool kids go on Monday nights – East Nashville’s 5 Spot.

Now, we really didn’t know all that much about Nashville when we decided to make it our girls’ getaway destination. We certainly didn’t know anything about East Nashville. Well, it seems that this area east of the Cumberland River is an upcoming neighborhood populated, as we learned from our Uber driver, with hipsters. This isn’t my assessment, just what we learned from the locals, my friends. I have to say, judging from the facial hair, plaid shirts and smart spectacles, it seems a pretty valid conclusion.

We arrived at the 5 Spot somewhere between 9:00 and 10:00, it’s kind of blurry. We anted up $5 a piece and joined the healthy crowd inside, already nodding our heads to the music and the scene. This was not a place for posers – just a whole bunch of people who wanted to have fun and dance. I love a good dive bar and this place has the vibe down – a little gritty, a lot dark with cheap beer and a small back “patio” to escape to when the need to cool down trumps the need to boogie down. If this place was in Albany, I’d make it my home away from home for good, clean fun.

This might be a fine time to note that I DO NOT dance generally. I’m not sure if it was the pre-game shots of Maker’s Mark, the anonymity of being a stranger or just that damn Motown beat, but I couldn’t quit moving on the dance floor. For three roughly mid-century girls, we were spun around with enthusiasm by an array of partners, but there wasn’t any handsy gropping or grinding going on. It was just about the music and dancing without any aggressive, cruisy bullshit. It was ultimately the perfect girls night out. The 5 Spot on Monday night is a game changer when it comes to the Monday blues

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Filed under friends, Music, Nashville, Recommendations, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

David Bowie and Fame Right

Last Friday, we played a Spotify station to celebrate David Bowie’s 69th birthday. Less than three days later, he was dead. I guess that’s how it goes. We never know how long the journey from birth to death is really going to be, do we?

I can’t claim to have been the biggest Bowie fan in the universe, but I always liked his more pop stuff. Songs like “Let’s Dance,” “Young Americans,” and “China Girl” were definitely a part of my younger years and are still able to transport me to those simpler days of being a teenager. Some of his stuff was a little too avante garde for me, like this song which freaked me out as a kid but completely wowed me years later in Inglorious Basterds. I always appreciated his range and talent, though. He was very clearly a deeply gifted artist.

Bowie managed, over a career that lasted for decades, to find his way from being a flamboyant, hyper sexual rock star to living a private life as a musician, actor, husband and father. Does this sort of transition simply occur with age? Was it satisfaction with his personal life? Had he merely grown beyond his previous narcissistic need to share himself with the world in an over exposed fashion? Were his over-the-top antics merely a role he was playing for public consumption? Don’t we all do the same thing, projecting an image to the world outside, on some level?

I don’t know the answer to any of those questions, but it has me thinking about achieving a new balance between my public and personal personas. When I consider the unsatiated hunger for fame that is present in contemporary American society, I find myself feeling uncomfortable. No longer is the goal to achieve success on a personal level. Instead, for far too many, it must be accompanied by public recognition and notoriety. It’s kind of sad in a vulgar way and I think I may need to wrap myself a little tighter in the future than I have in the past.

That being said, in no way do I consider myself to be famous or a rock star. I’m just feeling the urge to create a new balance between living life out loud and ultimately dying, hopefully many years from now, with grace. You see,

Fame makes a (wo)man take things over
Fame, lets him loose, hard to swallow
Fame, puts you there where things are hollow.

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Shopping Nashville

I went to Nashville with the thought of buying myself a Christmas present, most likely a pair of cowboy boots. I mean that’s what you get when you go to Nashville, right? What I came home with was two vintage inspired dresses, a super cool poster, a couple of Christmas ornaments and a straw cowboy hat that I plan to rock on the beach this summer. Read on to find out how I came to purchase these seemingly disparate mementos from my most recent girls’ getaway.

I kind of liked the red ones on the left...

I kind of liked the red ones on the left…

Downtown Nashville’s strip is filled with stores filled with a dazzling selection of cowboy boots in every color, texture and height imaginable. All the major brands, Dingo, Tony Lama, Lucchese, Ariat, to name a few, are well represented and the prices that I observed ranged from about $125 – $800 a pair with some stores offering a buy 1 get 2 free deal. I’m pretty certain we went into every single boot shop, some more than once, without my finding a pair that I needed to own. As usual, my champagne taste reared its pretty head and each pair of boots that I considered buying was priced beyond what I was willing to pay, even the gorgeous Lucchese boots which spoke to me with a charming “y’all want to take me home, don’t you?” I consoled myself with a glass boot ornament for next year’s Christmas tree along with a cute guitar ornament bought to honor my guitar playing guy.

Evening-In-Paris-480x720As we went in and out of boot stores, which are open relatively late when compared to other shops, I noticed a clothing shop, Tatyana,  which screamed my name with its windows filled with frocks and such. We made our way there and I was completely taken by the sweet dresses beautifully displayed in the two room store. The clerks were adorable with their vintage, pin up style and tattoos and I quickly grabbed a couple of items which were placed in a dressing room for “Miss Silvia” by a helpful employee. It was with great restraint that I selected only two dresses to purchase, both at 50% off the regular price. I’ve worn both already and received numerous compliments, particularly on the green dress which I think of as my Judy Jetson dress.

I think I tried on even more hats than boots on this trip but was unwilling to spend a lot of money on an item that I didn’t imagine myself wearing with any regularity. There were some really handsome hats to be had, but I thought that my inexpensive ($20) straw version was the most practical choice for a girl who doesn’t really do rockabilly with any frequency. I’m looking forward to shielding my face from the sun with my low budget selection.

As for the poster, that’s another story in itself that I’ll share later in the week. ..

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Filed under Fashion, friends, Nashville, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

Sunday supper – Husk, Nashville

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When the girls and I go away we each have a role to play – Mary Lynn does research on music and shows to attend, Lisa is in charge of outdoor activities and places to visit and I arrange dinner reservations for an indulgent meal out. The Times Union’s Steve Barnes had mentioned Husk to me a couple of months ago and, after doing a bit of research, I was convinced that this was our spot for Nashville. I did my thing and made a reservation.

We arrived about 20 minutes before our 7:15 reservation to enjoy a cocktail at the bar. Husk is a very pretty restaurant, located in a historic house on a hill up above the Cumberland River. The hostess station is anchored by an enormous chalkboard listing the menu’s ingredients and their origin. Not being from the area, we were unfamiliar with most of the farms and producers, but hat in no way diminished how impressed we were with extensive list.

The bar was downstairs and the walk there took us past the open kitchen, an area populated by both kitchen and service staff. It was a cool opportunity to witness the controlled chaos that is the kitchen of a busy restaurant and I struggled against my wish to tuck myself into a corner and just observe the professionals at work. There were cocktails to be had, though, so we moved on.

My initial impression of the bar was mixed. It was attractive and cozy with low ceilings and windows peeking out to a patio, but the bar itself was a little unapproachable. After a couple of minutes of awkwardness we were presented with a lovely cocktail list and placed our orders. As expected, the drinks were meticulously mixed and beautifully presented – and tasty. The single high top table in the bar area became available and was offered to us prompting a change in our plans. We decided to eat in the bar instead of relocating to our table, a pretty remarkable choice since 20 minutes earlier we were feeling less than welcomed.

With some assistance from our bartender, Kenneth, we ordered opening with the available-only-in-the-bar, cut to order cured ham. This perfect starter was accompanied by the definitive version of freshly baked Parker rolls and a lard-butter spread. It was a wonderful introduction of what was to come – best quality ingredients respectfully prepared and presented. Delicious.

We followed with 3 items from the First course menu – Shrimp and Grits ($16), Gourds Roasted Over the Fire, Benne, Arugula, Aged Gouda ($12) and a Seafood Johnny Cake with Kimchi Purée and Benne ($15).  The Johnny Cake was the only one we didn’t enthusiastically finish, it was very good, not that I’m an expert on johnny cakes, but kind of heavy.  The other two were eaten with gusto.

For entrees we went with the Bear Creek Farm Pork with Barefoot Farmer’s Sweet Potatoes, Sassafras and Pecans ($34) and the Field of Dreams Duck with a Chestnut, Pear and Cornbread Dressing with Giblet Gravy ($37).  Just as you might intuit by the titles, these meals celebrated the ingredients and cuisine of the south. The pork was tender and flavorful and was accompanied by classic whipped (mashed?) sweet potatoes presented in a fresh, untraditional manner as thick squiggles painted on the plate, topped with a modern riff on marshmallows.  Very visually appealing.  The duck was hyper-rare and a bit chewy, but very tasty.  I wonder if my palate is so accustomed to large production meats, that maybe that chewiness, accompanied by rich flavor, is the hallmark of more consciously raised meat.  I do think another 60 seconds of cooking time would have elevated the duck even more.

My favorite item was an item which appears on many menus, yet was lifted to a previously unexperienced level – the shrimp and grits.  The grits were creamy and a little toothsome and the shrimp was firm and fresh.  What really pulled it all together was the lightly cooked egg which topped the dish, inviting the serving spoon to mix it all together in a blend of textures and flavor which was outstanding. In a restaurant which seeks to honor and present the local cuisine, their interpretation of a southern staple really scored perfectly.

We didn’t eat dessert but we did get a sweet tip about where to go for a good time on Monday nights.  More on that later. Dinner total for 3: Approximately $200 with a generous tip, including three cocktails, one glass of wine, four smaller plates and two entrees.

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Filed under Dinner, Eating, Food, friends, Nashville, Restaurants, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

For breakfast, I ate pork belly – Pinewoo0d Social

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Eating breakfast out is generally not my thing.  It’s usually just too much for me – time, money and calories.  An exception is made, though, when I travel and more than one person had strongly recommended the same spot.  So, on our first morning in town, I made a reservation and we took the short walk over to the very cool space that is home to Pinewood Social.  On approach, it wasn’t immediately obvious to me if the brick building was a new build or a reclaimed industrial space.  Once we were inside, though, it was clear that a well-executed renovation had taken place in what I’ve come to learn had been a series of trolley barns.  The facility was beautiful inside with areas which were well defined, yet open.  All of the attributes of the original building remained intact – exposed brick, gorgeous windows and original woodwork.

We were given a spacious booth with an excellent view (through a series of windows) of the bowling alley.  Yes, bowling alley.  This place is designed to have a little something for everyone!  We looked over the menus and made our selections.  I’m a good eater and overordered starting with the yogurt with fresh fruit and house made granola.  This was a generous and delicious portion of berries, Greek (?) yogurt and an outstanding granola whose only failure was a lack of availability for purchase to go.  It was an excellent primer for my less virtuous next course – 2 eggs over easy, biscuits and pork belly.

I’d have to say the biscuits and the yogurt were my favorite things, not that any of the food I ate wasn’t really good.  I’m just picking favorites here!  Coffee was rich and strong, accompanied by liquid versions of sugar, and the orange juice was freshly squeezed.  Music was exceptional – a great playlist, and service was competent and friendly.  It was definitely a terrific way to begin our first day exploring Nashville, despite what the oddly less than glowing Yelp reviews might say.  And, while I’m not a convert to breakfast out, I kind of regret not going back for a second morning meal.  If you’re in Nashville, I suggest this place for sure, y’all.

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Holidaze 2015

Despite having sent out 95 holiday cards, I still feel as if the holidays passed by without nearly enough time for me to make contact with all of the people I had hoped. Shit, I guess I can say the same thing about the entire year. Sometimes I think that TIME is the ultimate 4-letter word.

As I was running yesterday, I started inventorying the year, thinking of places I’ve been, thoughts which have stuck with me and little things which have brought great satisfaction. It was a very full year.

• Taking on the restaurant has been a life changing endeavor. I’m learning so much – about the responsibilities of running a business, how to ask for help when I need it, time management and what my own priorities are.
• Although I am spending less time just hanging out with my guys, it feels like we are actually seeing more of each other. What I mean is, I’m not merely Mom anymore and my sons are no longer just children. We’re each viewing facets of one another that may not have previously been revealed – they’ve become more independent and are developing an understanding about who I am as a business owner and hospitality professional. It’s pretty damn cool.
• I bought a new raincoat, kind of an anorak, prior to my France trip in April that was exactly what I wanted at far less than I expected to pay. That doesn’t happen often.
• The cold doesn’t really bother me, but I need sunshine.
• As far as that France trip goes, I wouldn’t have changed a thing about it. Seeing the beaches of Normandy and the sights of Paris with my oldest son was an unforgettable experience.
• Speaking of beaches, our two weeks on Lieutenant’s Island in Wellfeet were memorable in numerous ways. I was so lucky to spend 2 weeks with my favorite fellas, something I don’t expect to be able to do again for quite some time.
• I saw so much great music in 2015! Highlights were Jack White, Robert Plant (2x!), The Black Keys, Alabama Shakes and Government Mule’s amazing Dark Side set. It’s going to be hard for 2016 to rise above that lineup.
• Getting to my hometown, not once but twice, in 2015 was a real treat. Celebrating a 35 year class reunion and an afternoon spent on a paddleboard on the lake were both fun times.
• I ran a half marathon!
• Miraculously enough, I scored the perfect skinny jeans, like the raincoat, they came from Gap. Online shopping has become the norm for me and when I receive an item that actually fits perfectly, it’s kind of like hitting the jackpot.
• I made my way to NYC a few times, mixing it up by traveling with a special friend, my girlfriends and family. It remains my favorite city in the world.
• Closing out 2015 by spending 4 days with my most fun friends in Nashville was the perfect punctuation to a year filled with new experiences, challenges and accomplishments.
• I can’t wait to see where 2016 takes me. Hope you’ll come along for the ride!

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Filed under Boys, Cape Cod, concerts, Europe, Events, Exercise, family, France, friends, holidays, Music, Nashville, NYC, Observations, Random, running, travel, vacation