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Albany XXX

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Amsterdam

What’s up with that title, right? Is it porn? Extra large? Nope…Roman numerals – thirty, as in thirty years since I first moved to Albany.

In August of 1988 I was 21. I moved here knowing not a single person, other than Mary Panza who I was lucky enough to meet when her roommate tried to seduce me find me an apartment in his role as a real estate agent. The summer of ‘88 was hot, so damn hot. There was a heat wave that was unrelenting. I traveled to England and the Netherlands in July that year and I loved every day of dreary, damp weather we experienced abroad.

That first trip to Europe changed my life. It opened so many doors and windows and made me a traveler in a way I had never imagined. I had met a guy on the ferry on my way back to London and was acutely aware that he was great, but that the timing was not. We did, however, make some lovely memories and everyone should know the excitement of a long distance romance. When a man flys into jfk, hops into a rental car and drives to Albany to spend 2 days with you…well, you feel kind of special. I hope you know that feeling.

Albany charmed me from my very first visit when I found my way to Lark St.and enjoyed a fancy brunch at The Beverwyck. Once I got a handle on the size of the city (it’s always felt small to me, initially a disappointment but ultimately an asset), and began connecting faces and names, history and legend, I settled in with interest and made a life here.

Albany has witnessed my greatest joys. I got married here, right in Washington Park on a picture perfect Sunday afternoon. I own a house and pay taxes in the city and appreciate the privilege of both of those being possible because of the education (and degrees) I received from SUNYA. My children were born here and are students in the city school district and, while the education they receive may not be as immediately impressive as the high test scores and college acceptance rates of the suburbs, I do know my sons have learned a lot about getting along with people who don’t necessarily look or think like they do. Lessons in life count too.

I started running, an activity I never could have imagined I’d love, while a student at UAlbany and have run thousands of miles around this city.  I’ve learned to write and take photos and have been lucky to share some of my passions with an interested audience.  The opportunities here have been limited only by my own level of competence.  It’s been so cool, really.

Albany, though, has also been the setting for some of my saddest days. There are places around this town that are absolutely haunted for me – spots that I do my best to avoid because of the personal ghosts. The news, both domestic and international, that I’ve witnessed while living in Albany, has left an imprint as well. Princess Diana dying, the towers falling, the children murdered in whatever most recent school shooting…I can tell you exactly where I was for each of those breaking stories. I’ve shed a lot of tears in this town. Believe it.

After 30 years, I love Albany more than ever. The happiness I’ve known in this city that receives credit for how easy it is to get to places “to which you really want to go,” has far outweighed the heartaches I’ve experienced. I’m not sure what the future holds, (once I hit my 30 years teaching, who knows?), but these three decades have been the most productive, challenging and exciting times of my life and I wouldn’t have wanted to live them anywhere else.

Thanks, Albany xx

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Filed under aging, Albany, Boys, DelSo, Education, Europe, family, favorites, friends, house, Local, London, love, musings, News, Observations, relationships, running, Schools, Summer, travel, upstate New York

A few brief thoughts early in a short month

  • Everyone should have footwear that makes them feel like a rockstar.  
  • And friends who remind them how special they are.
  • Seeing my children express their interests is the best part of parenting for me.
  • My excitement for travel remains undiminished.
  • February 2018 is the month in which one of my sons becomes an “adult” and the other becomes a teen. In theory at least.
  • Packing for a trip challenges me in a way that I enjoy. The measure of success for me is wearing every thing I’ve packed.
  • I believe there’s little in life that can’t be improved by fresh air, exercise and water.
  • Fresh flowers in my house are an indulgence that I never imagined being able to afford. PS most of my bouquets come from the grocery store or my own garden.  
  • The days are getting longer, a fact which makes both cross-country skiers and folks who don’t like winter happy.
  • I try to avoid scheduling much on Sundays, but don’t truly relax until the sheets are changed and the papers are read.  
  • In my retirement I want to explore yeast and dough. I love the smell, the magic and the kneading. Until then, it’s quickbreads and whisking.  
  • Long runs are Sunday are never the same but always appreciated.

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Filed under aging, Albany, beauty, DelSo, Europe, Exercise, family, Fashion, Flowers, friends, Italy, musings, Observations, Random, running, sunday, travel

Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs

Things are amping up here in Albany as the September mayoral primary approaches. Of course, the winner of the primary in our fair city is the de facto winner of the election. That’s just how things work in our overwhelmingly democratic capital city. I’ve noticed while driving and running around town that there are a lot of lawn signs for the candidates popping up, particularly it seems for Frank Commisso, Jr. They’re everywhere and their prevalence has caused me to wonder what the appeal is for this candidate who I perceive to be a newish face on an old machine. Maybe you can help me with that, reader?

I’ve got my candidate – I’ll be voting again for Kathy Sheehan. Out of all of the candidates, I believe she is the smartest and least inclined to work for her own interests. I’ve heard criticism about her lack of political savvy and some say she is merely performing her duties as a step towards a more elevated position. It’s ok. I’ll take intelligent and ambitious. I think she’s done a good job and is making positive changes for residents. Plus, I like her – she’s approachable, compassionate and we seem to share similar values. She’s got my vote.

There have been a number of folks polling and campaigning at my door already and I’ve signed a few petitions. The other two primary candidates have stopped by and I had a very nice conversation with Frank Commisso, Jr., but remain firm in my commitment to Mayor Sheehan. Maybe that’s why I was dismayed to find a Carolyn McLaughlin sign staked in my front garden when I returned from Cape Cod last week. I do have a first floor rental flat, though, and would certainly permit my tenant-friend to express his own political leanings by supporting his own candidate. When I saw him, I asked if he had given permission for the sign to be posted and he responded with surprise and said “I thought you put it there.” Hmmm. Nope.

Looking across the street, I noticed another McLaughlin sign staked in the front yard of a neighbor who I know to be traveling this summer. When I reached out to my neighbor and asked if she had approved the sign, she quickly said “No,” and asked me to remove it. Done. Both of “our” signs went into the trash last night. Now I’m left to wonder if those Commisso signs all over town might have also been distributed and posted without explicit permission. Regardless, let’s hope they’re removed post-primary as quickly as they’ve appeared. They’re blocking my scenery.

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Help me see the light – decisions about solar energy

I grew up in a home where “Put a sweater on” and “Turn off that light” were common phrases. One of the reasons I no longer have a traditional cable box is due to the amount of energy I heard they consume and I unplug appliances such as my coffee maker when I’m not using them. How many clocks does one house really need?

Encouraged by my oldest son, I’ve been thinking about solar energy recently. My house has a lot of roof space and faces southeast, pretty ideal conditions for sucking energy from the sun rather than National Grid, it seems. Any hesitation I’ve had about pursuing solar panels has come from my lack of information about how they work and a general sense of being overwhelmed about all the options – lease, buy, finance, etc.

A couple of weeks ago, I took a step in the direction of solar energy and had a salesman visit me and talk about leasing solar panels. I was a little taken aback about the 20 year commitment (what if I sell my house?), but moved beyond that by considering that I essentially had already agreed to purchase all my energy from National Grid forever since they were the only game in town.

Price per kw isn’t a huge thing in my decision as long as I’m not paying more than I already am per unit. I don’t necessarily feel that I should pay less, believing that the environmental benefit is a sufficient compensation. I also don’t want to be paying two companies on a regular basis, so I need to produce sufficient energy for my household’s needs. This is being determined by a site visit, currently scheduled.

I’m wondering if any of you have pursued alternative energy and might be able to share your thoughts and knowledge. How did you make your decision? How much did it cost out-of-pocket? Are your bills lower? Any wisdom you can contribute would be welcome.

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Filed under Albany, house, Local, Recommendations

May’s best bites

  • Presenting, in no particular order, the 5 best things I ate in the 5th month of the year…IMG_9002
  • Softshell crabs at New World Bistro Bar. It might be the fleeting availability of this spring delicacy that makes them so damn special, but the capable hands of the kitchen at NWBB elevated them to a new level of awesomeness. The Asian noodle pancake, viet slaw and tamarind peanut sauce accompanying the crabs provided the perfect foil for the sweetness of the meat. I housed the entire plate.
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  • Gnocchi with a gorgonzola cream at Lark + Lily. What can I say? Chef John Futia used the ultimate light hand with both the pasta and the sauce to create a dish that was delicate and satisfying without being weighty or overly rich. A heavenly pillow of deliciousness.
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  • Ceviche at Rosa Mexicano, NYC. Firm shrimp and pungent onions joined together with tomatoes, cucumbers and avocado served appropriately chilled made for a wonderful light lunch course. The pomegranate margarita wasn’t bad either.
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  • French Onion soup at La Bonne Soupe, NYC.  This crock of goodness provided the ultimate example of French Onion soup – a strong beef stock, tender and sweet onions, gooey strings of cheese… Not my usual pick on a hot late May evening, but I am so happy to have not missed this wonderful representation of a classic dish. C’est bon!
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  • Kurver Kreme Sundae – Soft serve vanilla ice cream, chunks of toffee, hot fudge and butterscotch sauce with whipped cream and a cherry made for the perfect treat on a cool Sunday afternoon following a run. Dessert before dinner may be the ultimate perk of adulthood.

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Filed under Albany, Dinner, Eating, favorites, Food, Local, NYC, Recommendations, Restaurants, soup, Uncategorized

A crap week

The first week of spring, arguably the finest season of the year in upstate New York, was the worst week Lark + Lily has ever experienced. When I say “crappy,” I’m being literal, by the way. I arrived at the restaurant Tuesday afternoon and encountered the plumbers who were working industriously to unclog one of our two toilets.* Despite their best efforts, we were unable to open for service until 7:30 which means we lost 2.5 hours of service. Not a great way to begin the week.

That lack of business seemed to set the tone for the week and our numbers were dramatically down each subsequent night from previous weeks. I’ve said before that I didn’t buy a restaurant to make a ton of money, but obsessively looking at my diminishing online checking account was, said the wine bar owner, sobering.

In addition to the poor week at the restaurant, a fierce early spring cold made for a rough week at home. Quinn, who recently was treated for a mean case of strep throat, came down with a dreadful cough complete with a headache and body soreness. The poor guy was just down for the count. Naturally, he required a lot of coddling and cuddling and he generously returned the favor of my attention by sharing his germs with me. Thanks for the cold, Quinn.

As with any week, there were good things, too. The guests we did have at Lark + Lily, including one who I had only previously “met” online (Hi, Bill!), were great and I believe they all left satisfied with their experience. I went to an awesome wine dinner, ran 20+ miles, including once with both of the lunar b*tches, and hiked a peak (more about that experience soon) in the Catskills. We had some beautiful weather with temperatures that invited bare legs and arms to meet the sun and I got in some quality time at the golf course in advance of the takeover on 4/1 by the golfers.  Saturday’s family dinner, an early Easter meal, was an effortlessly delicious treat and provided me with the perfect starter for a killer split pea soup. There was even a brief dining room dance party with Quinn inspired by his favorite Ray Charles song, Mess Around.

I guess it wasn’t really that bad of a week after all, was it?

*Ladies – let’s make a deal, ok?  You refrain from tossing personal items in the toilet and I’ll remain open during hours of service.  Thanks!

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Filed under Albany, Boys, Exercise, family, friends, musings, Normanskill, Observations, Restaurants, running, sick, Spring, stress, Uncategorized

Worst mother, best neighbors

Now I need to get some new pillows!

Now I need to get some new pillows!

Last Monday, my oldest son and I took a walk with Jeter around the neighborhood. We were about a mile away from our house when we came across some curbside treasure – a leather couch in remarkably good condition. Hmmm.

I should tell you about our history with couches. In the last 20 years there have been at least 6, 3 of which were bought on Craigslist. You see, we (and by “we” I mean the male Lillys, Jeter included) destroy couches and I refuse to spend more than a couple of hundred dollars on a replacement, particularly in light of the fact that I spend very little time actually sitting on one. So….

Liam and I gave the couch a quick once over and decided it was worth my walking home to get the car. I left he and the dog and returned with my wagon within 15 minutes. That’s when the real fun started.

The couch is a small sectional in two pieces. The small piece and the cushions easily fit into the back of my car, but the larger part? It was not happening. At this point, I was committed to getting the couch and came up with my best option – drop the smaller section at home and pick up my middle son. We were going to have to carry the couch.

I wish someone I knew had been able to witness the ridiculousness of us carrying that piece of furniture approximately a mile. The laughter (mine alone), the bitching (Griffin owned that part), the cursing (all of us)…it was a classic moment in mothering which, I hope, will one day be passed down to future generations of Lillys as an example of how crazy I was.

We made it, with uncountable pauses along the way, to about a block from our house when I caved to the complaints and called my always helpful and strong neighbor, Emily, to literally lend a hand. As we hauled the couch down the street, two more neighbors came to our assistance – big, strong guys who completely saved our asses, not to mention backs, by muscling the couch up the stairs and into my living room.

I look forward to sitting on it soon.

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