Tag Archives: Recommendations

Lisbon Love

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Home, sweet home

After more than 20 hours on a bus (actually, 3 buses) we arrived in Lisbon as darkness fell. There was a failed connection with an Uber driver and an eventual cab ride with a driver who could not locate our desired address and instead dropped us off at the bottom of a formidable hill and advised us to simply walk an unknown distance until we located #4 Beco do Mirante. We wandered down a street so narrow that it felt more like an extended driveway than a road, before encountering a mound of trash and a gang of street cats taking their evening meal. We turned around and started over, eventually stumbling upon our home for the next three nights and being warmly welcomed by Renata, our AirBandB host.

It was not an auspicious start.

Despite the less than positive beginning to our stay, Lisbon absolutely captivated me. The view from our flat, both from the front and rear balconies, was memorable, with a beautifully lit dome filling the night sky when we arrived and the rising sun glowing over the river greeting me in the morning. The architecture was remarkable with many of the building facades tiled in dizzying patterns to whose charm I could never imagine becoming immune. 13131683_10154099899137889_3291232505187124338_o

The sounds of Lisbon included barking dogs and cooing pigeons and Fado music. Of the three, I preferred the pigeons. The sidewalks are made from small, rough cut stones which are surprisingly slippery even when dry and the narrow streets wind about with complete disregard for a more modern city’s commitment to a grid pattern. The hills are impressive and I felt no guilt about not running when I instead happily walked for hours up and down and around and about.

Portuguese people are handsome – both males and females. Dark hair and eyes and golden brown skin dominate. The men are more direct with their attentions than I had expected, dispelling any stereotypes I previously held about aggressive Italian or Spanish men. These guys were open about their admiration without being threatening.  If I were younger I might have found it intimidating, but, at my age, I’ll take it as a compliment.

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Look at that tile!

The wines, (with decent rosés  selling for 2 euro a bottle in the corner grocery store), and sangria we sampled were tasty, as were both the red and white ports we tried.  The traditional custard tart, pastéis de nata, was a delicious treat any and all times of day and there were other baked goods, including a bread studded with chorizo and ham, that were also excellent.  The meals we had were not quite on par with the food in Barcelona, but there weren’t really any bad dining experiences.  I could not find the fish stew I had imagined, but it gives me yet another reason to go back.

Breakfast with meat bread front and center.

Breakfast with meat bread front and center.

This is a place I definitely want to revisit.

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Filed under Europe, Observations, Portugal, travel, Uncategorized, vacation, Wine

Le Petit Bistro – Rhinebeck

imageHave you been to Rhinebeck?  Long before Hudson got cool, Rhinebeck was the destination for a Hudson Valley afternoon of fine eating and interesting shopping. The drive is lovely with many different roads which all lead there in a most scenic fashion, as I’ve experienced it, be it from the north, south or west and generally parking is available and free.  It’s worth the slightly over an hour trip from Albany for sure and I recommend it as a terrific day trip for any season.

Yesterday, after an aborted attempt to partake in the offerings at Terrapin Restaurant, Mary Lynn and I decided to try somewhere new and found the specials board at Le Petit Bistro to be quite enticing.  At just about 5:00 we made our way inside the cozy dining room and were offered a table in the front window near the door.  Although it was a less than warm afternoon, we were very comfortable with the temperature of the restaurant and never felt cold despite our proximity to the door.  It was a lovely table.

A chalkboard with the extensive list of specials was presented to us and a short while later a server came to provide details and descriptions of each of the items.  We ordered drinks – a cocktail for Mary Lynn and a glass of sparkling rose for me, and made decisions about food opting for a bowl of asparagus soup, a fish taco starter and the sea scallop entrée accompanied by ramp risotto and hericot vert and the Cuban pork plate with black beans and plantains.  Then we settled in to catch up with one another and enjoy our meal.

Fish tacos

Fish tacos

The fish tacos, two to a serving, were delicious with fresh flavors (cilantro!) and an assertively spicy kick.  Paired with the soup, they were a perfect starter and very shareable.

Scallops with ramp risotto

Scallops with ramp risotto

Our midcourse salad, served with all entrees, was a traditional French green salad with a simple and tasty vinaigrette clinging to the leaves.  I thoroughly enjoyed my entrée.  The scallops were beautifully prepared and the accompaniments heralded spring beautifully.  Unlike many risottos, cheese wasn’t a component and the result was a far lighter rendition of the dish than typical.  I swapped a bite with Mary Lynn for a taste of plantain.  I’m not a fan of bananas or plantains unless they’re cooked and my bite was exactly what I was hoping for – caramelized sweetness with a remaining firmness – delicious!  We finished with a butterscotch crème brulee and a couple of coffees before walking back to our cars and heading off in opposite directions, satiated with hearts and bellies full.

Creme brûlée

Creme brûlée

 

 

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Filed under Dinner, Eating, Food, friends, Recommendations, Restaurants, road trips, sunday, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Filling my garment rack at Nordstrom Rack

You know I’m not much of a follower, preferring to blaze my own trail when it comes to shopping. It doesn’t matter if it’s groceries (I still haven’t been to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods) or clothing – you’ll not see me waiting in line to get into the newest retail spot. As a matter of fact, these days I seem to do an awful lot of my shopping online because I simply don’t have the time to drive to the mall and poke around looking for deals or something in my size.

But, despite the recent snow, it’s spring and I’m going on vacation in a few weeks which means my wardrobe needed some refreshing. Having gotten my run in early, my afternoon opened up and I decided a few hours of solo recreational shopping would be the perfect way to relax and prepare for a busy week and my upcoming trip. Off to Colonie Center I went.

My original intention was to hit up Macy’s and troll the sales rack for leftover winter items that might transition into spring, but since I started at LL Bean,* I decided to pop into Nordstrom Rack on my way. That was probably the best decision I made all day.

I don’t have much familiarity with this store, having only been here once or twice before with the boys looking for sneakers. Since I’ve been jonesing for an off the shoulder dress for spring,  I headed immediately to the dress racks, focusing first on current, full price items. After coming up empty, I moved on to the discounted racks where I absolutely filled my arms (12 things!) with dresses, tops and an indulgent item or two. I’m a big believer in getting undressed once in the changing room and trying everything on in one fell swoop.

So? How did I do? I went home with 6 (!) dresses, 2 tops, 1 super cozy cashmere sweater and a gorgeous jacket for a grand total of… $290! Considering that the sweater and the jacket alone combined for $144, I’d say that my shopping expedition was a great success. According to the sales receipt I saved $1190 so I guess I did all right.

Where do you scratch your itch to shop? What do you have your eye on for spring or summer? And – have you seen any fantastic off the shoulder dresses around?

*For the first time ever, I exercised the lifetime guarantee offered by LL Bean and asked them to replace a backpack that had shoulder straps that were shredding and tearing off. They lived up to their promise without hesitation.

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Filed under Albany, Fashion, Local, Random, Spring, Uncategorized

In the flesh – Princess Leia’s bikini

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As we traveled to NYC last Saturday morning my oldest son brought my attention to an event currently being held at the Discovery Center,  Star Wars and the Power of Costume.  We’ve been to a couple of other exhibitions at this venue and have always been satisfied with the experience and, seeing that my youngest is a huge Star Wars fan, this seemed like something we wouldn’t want to miss.

Sunday morning I purchased tickets online (even sussing out a discount code) and we planned our visit. I briefly considered just sending the two of them in, but ultimately was really glad to have seen the show myself. We arrived a little earlier than our reserved time and quickly checked our coats and our one piece of luggage. There were no lines or crowds and we were viewing the brief pre-exhibit movie within 10 minutes of our arrival. From there, we stepped into a moodily dark room and began our tour.

Even for someone who isn’t obsessed with the Lucas films (that would be me),it was an awesome and impressive exhibit. The costumes on display are all actual costumes, not replicas or copies. The fabrics and embellishments were remarkably rich and the workmanship so impressive. A number of the displays included fabric swatches adding a tactile element to the experience that even an 11 year-old boy could appreciate. Speaking of that boy, it was wonderfully gratifying to see Quinn’s eye wide as he took in the attire and weapons of his heroes. Worth every dollar. As for that bikini, it didn’t look any more comfortable to wear than it was to watch Princess Leia unknowingly kiss her brother. The bikini didn’t photograph well so I didn’t include it – I suspect you probably know exactly what it looks like anyway.

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Filed under Boys, family, Movies, NYC, Recommendations, road trips, Uncategorized

New York in Bloom, 2016

You know with a last name like “Lilly,” I love me some flowers. If you share a similar appreciation for things which bloom, this is your lucky weekend. get yourself down to the New York State Museum and inhale some of the gorgeousness that is currently on display. $5 gets you in and helps to support the museum’s after school programs benefiting children across our fair city.  Here are a few images to help your interest blossom!

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Filed under Albany, beauty, Events, favorites, Flowers, Local, Recommendations, Uncategorized, upstate New York, winter

Celebrating snake eyes and an unexpected trip from Korea to China

IMG_7974Yesterday my youngest son turned 11.  I wish I could remember exactly what time of day he was born, but it’s honestly kind of a blur. I think that happens once you have more than two children, some of the specific details no longer stick.  In complete honesty, I sometimes have to pause to recall if his birthday is the 5th or the 9th of February.  I guess I’ll never win Mother of the Year, but I do think I have a shot at Mother of the Day based upon my efforts yesterday.

The morning started with the scent of chocolate chip/ M&M cookies baking.  You know what?  Everyone should wake up on their birthday to a warm kitchen and the smell of freshly baked cookies. Quinn had Nutella crepes for breakfast, his favorite and he loved the Gryffindor scarf I had bought for him.  When he left the house for school, he kissed me goodbye and thanked me for a “wonderful” morning.  Pretty sweet, right?

I went to Quinn’s school a short while later to join his class for a field trip to the Albany Institute of History and Art.  I know that my chaperoning days are coming to a close and felt really fortunate that he wanted me to attend.  We rode the bus together and I think I succeeded in providing my son with special attention while also giving him his space, a balancing act which becomes more challenging as a child grows.  The exhibit was nicely done and the activities were active and hands on, perfect for a group of 5th graders. It was a nice day.

Our big plan for the evening was dinner out.  Quinn has a thing for Korean barbeque and had been anticipating gorging on dumplings for days.  We trucked up to Colonie, hungry and excited for a special meal, but were disappointed to see that the restaurant was closed.  I had never even considered that possibility!  We sat in the car laughing about our luck and I was incredibly impressed with Quinn’s ability to join in the mirth and indulge his brothers as they teased him about his misfortune.  After a moment’s consideration, Quinn decided that Chinese would hit the spot and we turned around and headed towards Ocean Palace, placing our order as we took the long, leisurely drive back down Central Avenue.

Our indulgent order (Peking Duck, squid with salt and pepper, beef chow fun, 2 orders of steamed dumplings, Chinese broccoli with ginger sauce and sesame chicken) took about 45 minutes to prepare, leaving us with about 25 minutes to kill.  That much time simply waiting can be deadly, but my sons were remarkably chill about the entire dinner fiasco.  There wasn’t a moment of complaining or whining or kvetching and I was left feeling ridiculously proud of their good natured flexibility.  My boys are growing up.

PS – Dinner, as always, was great.  Happy Year of the Monkey, y’all!

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Filed under aging, Albany, birthdays, Boys, Dinner, Eating, family, favorites, Food., Local, Recommendations, Uncategorized

Taking Samson for a haircut

The Lilly boys have all been blessed with good hair. Thick, shiny, and curly hair are represented in our household, all without the addition of products or fussing. Isn’t that always the way with boys? Through the years, the guys have gradually gone from bald to blonde to light brown to dark hair. Their hairstyles have experienced a similar evolution from riotous curls to closely cropped and from moppy to groomed. Aside from one teary episode following a “too short” haircut, things have gone fairly smoothly. Until Quinn, that is.

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image from Twitter: AlbanyMuskrat @albanymuskrat

In recent months my youngest son has resisted haircuts more steadfastly than the biblical Samson. When he finally acquiesced to a trim a couple of months ago, the appointment left all three of us (the stylist, Quinn and myself) frustrated as he literally selected individual hairs which he would allow to be touched by scissors. Seriously, he was lifting hairs and offering them to Nicole with firm directions regarding how much could be removed. When the “cut” was finished the amount of hair on the floor was smaller than a furball coughed up by a kitten – a true waste of money and time.

Now, don’t think for a second that I was demanding a dramatic shearing, all I was hoping for was a taming of the wild mane. Last weekend, with two sons in tow (appearance obsessed middle son had already gotten himself there a couple of weeks ago) we made our way downtown to Patsy’s for another go at a real haircut.

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My pic from last week – same chairs, same tile…

Patsy’s is tucked around the corner on Howard Street between the Times Union Center and City Beer Hall and on a Saturday afternoon, parking was plentiful – a marked difference from the all chairs full scene inside Patsy’s. No worries, we found a couple of seats and waited less than 10 minutes to get the guys in chairs. Some observations from my vantage spot – super professional, meticulous barbers, most sporting full sleeve tattoos and/or groomed facial hair, taking their time with each individual client. It was a wonderful sight to behold and I wouldn’t have been opposed to spending the entire afternoon there, sipping self-serve cans of PBR and watching the men at work.

How did we fare? Quinn received a compromise haircut which left both of us satisfied – his mop was shaped and layered and now looks far more intentional than the mess he was sporting when we walked in the door. Liam, whom I think looks most handsome with short hair, got a fairly dramatic cut and neck shave, both of which he appreciated. Hair for hair, his cut was the more dramatic but Quinn’s trim and shape up definitely was an improvement. Two thumbs up for Patsy’s – our new go to place.

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Filed under Albany, beauty, Boys, favorites, Local, Recommendations, Uncategorized