They say you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family, however that hasn’t been my experience. When you don’t meet your first relative (other than your mother and brother) until you’re 22 years-old, having family is very much a choice. With complete honesty, I can say that finding and getting to know my family has been without exception the most personally gratifying and fulfilling decision I have ever made. I think that’s why I’m so devastated by the loss of my uncle, the man I’ll always think of as the burgermeister
From the very first time we met, me an undergraduate student and the daughter of one of his oldest sisters kicking around Europe, he, in his midthirties and a father to two young children, he always made me know I was family. There was never an instant that wasn’t apparent in the subsequent years and the times we shared.
Between that initial introduction and his recent death we probably were together on a dozen different occasions. He and his wife visited Albany, we met in NYC on the very day my own cancer was determined to require additional treatment, we traveled together in Europe. Three of my last four trips to Europe involved spending time with him and those are some memories that I’ll take out and shine until they gleam gold.
We stayed in the town where he lived twice in recent years and it was truly wonderful to witness the affection with which he was greeted everywhere we went. It was so obvious that he was a beloved member of his community – from the bakery to the Italian restaurant where he still occasionally worked when they needed a hand, he was met with humor and warmth and I was honored to claim him as my uncle. I always felt safe with him and I’m convinced there was nothing in this world with which he couldn’t contend. Except cancer.
As I was proud of him, he was proud of the life he had created. He had been a competitive athlete representing his country in the biathlon. Since learning that part of his history, I’ve loved cross country skiing even more, like it’s our family’s sport. During our visit in April he shared the medals he had won and his unabating love for winter sports was apparent. His home actually overlooks a ski jump used in international competitions, (which he helped with, of course) and we toured a local museum dedicated to the history of Nordic skiing.
My uncle, the unofficial burgermeister, was a great man and the loss of him, despite the thousands of miles between us, feels almost unbearable. How incredibly lucky was I to have seen him so recently? How kind of the universe to have cooperated by putting so much of my family in one place to celebrate Easter just two months ago. I know the ache in my heart will dull and the tears will dry but I don’t think I’ll ever stop missing him. As the marker on his final resting place states, he was a gift from Heaven.
Hug your dads, uncles, husbands and sons and know how fortunate you are.
The schedule my boys’ dad and I share is probably unique, but it’s been working for all of us for more than 5 years. There’s a good bit of back and forth for the guys, with them generally spending no more than two consecutive nights in either house but, since our two houses are literally around the block from one another, things are pretty low stress. I’m thankful for that because I’ve seen other divorces that most definitely are not as amicable.
Marriages are about two people, while families are about all involved. When a marriage no longer works, it is the responsibility of the adults to navigate the family to a new place that serves everyone. While my marriage may not have lasted our commitment to our children, if anything, got stronger. I know that I work harder than ever to foster the relationship between my sons and their dad* because I would never want them to think their father is anything but a great dad. Because he is.
As a parent, I know how fast the years with my children at home have gone by and it no longer is unimaginable that they will be moving out, and on in their lives, in the next couple of years. Had my former husband and I not been able to negotiate the end of our marriage with our children’s best interests in mind, the years since the divorce would have undoubtedly been very different.
Last night I had an extra night at home with the guys since their dad had some plans for the evening and I wasn’t needed at the restaurant. I didn’t have a dinner plan in place, so we all did something different – a leftover half calzone, a rare visit to McDonald’s for takeout and an impressive and spontaneous shrimp and pasta dish prepared by one of my gourmet wannabee kids. Everyone was happy.
There was something about this third night that made me feel indulgent, even a little lazy. The wind outside was fierce and I wasn’t even a little tempted to take a run. The vacuuming had been done, the laundry was underway and I had uncovered a surprisingly tasty bottle of rioja in the basement. We settled on the couch with a movie. It was a mellow night, glowing with normalcy. We had all the right things.
*What I mean is, I always speak positively of him and share memories and stories from when we were married. I want our children to be comfortable with their place in our family.
• 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.
• Finishing the night with something bubbly and pink.
And 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.
Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, Food, holidays, Local, love, Observations, Restaurants, Uncategorized, Wine, winter
As is usual for me and television, I’m more than a little late to the game on one of the buzziest new series, This is Us. I needed something to follow an embarrassing number of binge watched seasons of Project Runway and was pleased to see that TiU was available on Hulu. A single episode in and I was hooked. Talk about rich. What characters! Such dialogue! The soundtrack! I’m obsessed.
Episode 2 reached into my head and my heart simultaneously and I haven’t been able to shake it yet. There were two scenes involving Mandy Moore’s character, Rebecca, that have stuck with me and they’ve been both inspiring and grounding. The first was a conversation between Rebecca’s husband, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and his best friend, Miguel (Jon Huertas). Miguel tells Jack that Rebecca is “…like the gold standard of wives. She’s smart, funny, beautiful, great personality…”
It was a line that made me want to be Rebecca. That’s the kind of woman who I want to be.
The other scene was between Jack and Rebecca. As they sat on the floor next to each other, after a night of sleeping apart, Jack said that when he first met her he finally knew what he wanted to be when he grew up – the man to make her happy. Ugh. Shot to the solar plexus.
That’s the kind of man who I want.
This is Us feels, to me, something like who we hope for.
On a mellow Sunday evening, I was fortunate enough to revisit Brava Wine Bar in Lenox. It’s hard to say exactly what made it the perfect evening, but the scenery, complete with a dusting of fresh snow, certainly contributed. Seriously, with the holiday lights still on display Lennox looked absolutely magical! What a beautiful little town that is…
We pulled up to Brava early, probably at about 6:00, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. The only other time I was there was Labor Day Weekend and the place was humming. This night, though, things were quiet. We selected a spot at the bar, as far from the door as possible on a cold evening, and joined two other parties in the small space.
After ordering a couple of red sangrias (they offer white as well) , we decided to make a meal from a kale salad, roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon, and a pizza with Italian sausage, onions and mushrooms. Noticing the charcuterie options, we quickly added two meats (a mousse/pate and prosciutto) and a Spanish goat’s milk cheese with a paprika rind to our order. Then we sat back and let the refreshingly professional and competent staff take care of us. What a treat.
The food, like my last visit, was right on. The salad was adorned with a light, creamy dressing and was perfect for sharing. The Brussels sprout were cut in half prior to roasting and they were tender and coupled with crispy bacon. The add-on charcuterie plate was delightful with plenty of pâté for me and some of the most buttery prosciutto I’ve ever had, while the cheese had a not unpleasant funk to balance both of the meats. The accompaniments, including dried apricots reminiscent of my childhood, made for the perfect foil. And that pizza? Blistery on the bottom and topped with simple, but delicious flavors. I’d go back just for that again.
The atmosphere was relaxed and cozy and the company was perfect. We extended our meal with a moist, delicious bread pudding, a tawny port and a fantastic “bowl” of coffee. Two leisurely hours after we arrived, we departed Brava and headed back to Albany. That, my friends, is how I do Sunday. How about you?
Filed under Dinner, Eating, favorites, Food, friends, love, pizza, Recommendations, road trips, snow, sunday, Wine, winter
- Run a half marathon.
- Check out the sales at Macy’s.
- Buy nothing. You really don’t need a thing.
- Have dinner out.
- Get a pedicure.
- Go to bed early.
- Eat a delicious salad.
- Take a run.
- Have a beer.
- And a shot.
- Laze in bed an extra 20 minutes.
- Feed the birds.
- Put on a pretty white linen dress (because it’s still summer, at least for today).
- Read birthday messages on Facebook.
- Try not to listen to the news of the latest unarmed black man being killed by the police.
- Charge the battery for your 35mm camera. You’ll need it.
- Have a hot flash.
- Ask your flag waving children to fly the Irish flag just for today in your honor.
- Arrange to have a carrot cake baked by the same friend who made your wedding cake.
- Order 15 pizzas from DeFazio’s.
- Open the sunroof on your car on the way to work.
- Turn up the radio.
- Treat yourself to a blow out – that’s blow out, guys.
- Imagine that Elizabeth Warren was running for President.
- Have a hot flash.
- Eat tasty treats from your coworkers.
- Read birthday messages on Facebook again.
- Take phone calls from both the friend who has been there for 35 years and the one you hope sticks around for the next 35.
- Accept happy birthday greetings from dozens of middle school students after your birthday is announced over the school PA system.
- Wear the beautiful necklace you had made for yourself.
- Remove the modesty-lending shirt over your pretty dress because of another hot flash.
- Book Talk challenged books to 8th grade students and watch them become agitated about censorship.
- Glance out the window at the cloudless, blue skies.
- Hope, just this once, that time moves just a little faster for the next 60 minutes only.
- Pound water in anticipation of the evening’s libations.
- Crave a coffee.
- Figure out a way to swing by Starbucks between school and a salon appointment.
- Get excited thinking about having so many loved ones in one spot.
- Wish Jeter could come, too.
- Get home in time to freshen up and gather loved ones together.
- Take a walk with your brother.
- Mingle and mix with folks from all corners of your life.
- Beam with pride watching your children do the same.
- Toast repeatedly with gifted Prosecco.
- Worry when the pizza is late.
- Remind yourself that it isn’t your fault.
- Sigh with happiness. Best birthday ever.
I’ve got a big birthday coming up at the end of summer…fifty…half a century…the golden anniversary of my birth…the point in my life when I just might have to begin behaving a tad more adult. I think I’m ready.
It could be just me, but these decade birthdays began taking on more significance as I aged and I can remember each of them vividly. At 20, I was on the verge of independence and living completely on my own for the first time. For my 30th birthday, I was married and thrilled to be pregnant with my first child. When I turned 40 I thought I had it all, only to realize that maybe it wasn’t enough. And now, as 50 approaches, I find myself excited to flip a page to a new chapter in my life despite not really knowing what may come next.
I’ve learned so many things during my years alive, yet I’m still not sure what the future holds for me. Is that lack of certainty, that acceptance that what happens tomorrow is eternally a mysterious surprise, a sign of growing up? Maybe.
What do I know now that I didn’t know 10 years ago?
- I know that I can outrun cancer and the fear of being alone.
- I know that I can juggle a lot and that, even though I now wear a nightguard because I seem to be grinding my teeth, I am more satisfied with a full life and schedule than with one that lacks challenge and stimulation.
- I know that there will be days that nearly overwhelm me with minutia and situations which demand immediate and close attention, but I’ve also learned that they pass.
- I know that I am utterly blessed to have three healthy children and a positive relationship with their father that is based upon our mutual focus on what is best for them.
- I know that the lines on my face and the grey in my hair are evidence of the length of my life and that I’m lucky to have both of them – and access to quality skincare products and a good colorist.
- I know that life is about give and take and trying to remain cognizant of the balance between the two.
- I know that I’m ready for what comes next.
I’m ready, ready for the laughing gas
I’m ready, I’m ready for what’s next
I’m ready to duck, I’m ready to dive
I’m ready to say ‘I’m glad to be alive’ – U2