Tag Archives: road trips

Celebrate Life – even in 5 degrees!

IMG_1140Yesterday was a day I was not looking forward to – the forecast for frigid weather, the loss of an hour, the long bus ride… I had a few moments when I even considered bailing on the half marathon I had committed to running, but I dug deep and found the motivation to get my a** out of bed and over to East Greenbush to meet the bus that had been organized to take a couple of dozen runners to Rock Hill, N. Y. for the Celebrate Life Half Marathon. I’m glad I did.

I don’t know when I started to get blasé about running 13.1 miles, but somehow it happened. When my Lunar B*tch Karen asked if I was interested in running this particular race, I don’t think I even looked at the course or hesitated. Bundle in the fact that the race is a fundraiser to support those struggling with cancer and I was all in.

The weather forecast for the race changed at least three times in the week prior to the run – from rain to cloudy and finally, to plain old cold. Like, really cold. Single digits cold. The morning of the run I dressed in a single layer on the bottom and 3 layers on the top, and boarding the bus with an assortment of additional UnderArmor items in a bag. Can I tell you how different activities are when you have the right clothes? There’s a reason I troll Marshall’s for running gear, people!

The bus ride was great – a pleasant ride through beautiful scenery and well worth the $25. As we drove along in our warm bus it was easy to forget how truly cold it was outside those windows. Once we were parked, though, the bitter temperatures slapped me in the face and reminded me what I’d be facing for the next couple of hours. I picked up my race packet and started layering up eventually going with 2 bottom layers, 4 layers on top finished with a vest, 2 pairs of gloves and a fleece hat that velcroed under my chin that I am so glad I tossed in at the last minute. I was as ready as I was ever going to be!

We started at 10:00 a.m. I didn’t know it at the time, but the temperature was 5 degrees. The wind chill brought it down to -4. My ignorance was bliss. The first mile was brutal – the wind was blowing and my nose was running like mad. My face hurt and I was almost overwhelmed by the thought of another 2+ hours in those conditions, but that first hill warmed me up a bit and my playlist was great. I settled into a comfortable pace and started to enjoy the challenge.

The course was beautiful, circling around a couple of small lakes and reminiscent of my hometown. There were some hills for sure and the lakeside pieces were definitely cold, but the sun was shining and I eventually warmed up enough to unfasten my hat’s chinstrap and remove both layers of gloves for a short time. The body is an amazing thing.

Towards the end of my run, as the hills continued unrelentingly, I started to think of people I care for who have struggled with cancer and I ran for them. When my phone died at 12.89 miles, I kept running without music, but with heart, eventually  finishing in 2:25 with a deep sense of satisfaction and sore feet. Like life, it felt like something to celebrate.

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Filed under cancer, Exercise, friends, road trips, running, sunday, upstate New York, winter

Bravo, Brava

img_0864On 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.img_0865

img_0867 img_0866The 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?

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Filed under Dinner, Eating, favorites, Food, friends, love, pizza, Recommendations, road trips, snow, sunday, Wine, winter

Peace, love and cupcakes – Woodstock, N.Y.

How festive is this?

How festive is this place? Not the cupcake place, by the way.

Yesterday I headed down to Woodstock to meet the girls for a little shopping and some catch up time. Although I had been down that way just a couple of weeks ago for a show in Bearsville, it felt like far too long since I’ve simply walked around town and checked out the shops. If you’re in a similar situation, I highly recommend December as the ideal time to wander around Woodstock. It is the absolute antithesis of mall shopping.

The first order of business (ok, the second) when meeting friends midday is usually coffee. The café nearest Tinker Square was jammed so we decided to take our chances down the street a little bit and found ourselves at the adorable Peace, Love and Cupcakes. It’s a tiny little space, adorably decorated in just the right shade of pink, towards the south side of town.

Their coffee game was mediocre with the only brew coming from a Keurig, but my need for coffee was quickly overshadowed by my need for a cupcake. The display case was chock full of the prettiest little cupcakes, cheekily named for musicians, that I’ve ever seen. I only hesitated a moment before rationalizing that when your day begins with a very circuitous 15K, a cupcake prior to linner seems more than reasonable. They don’t call it Sunday Funday for nothing, friends!

Although I’ve never been all that enthusiastic about cupcakes before (I think the frosting is usually too damn sweet), I decided that the Chocolate Snowball was calling my name – and I don’t even particularly like chocolate cake. It must have been a combination of nostalgia for those Hostess snowballs from my childhood and the appeal of a thick layer of cream cheese frosting liberally dusted with coconut.

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My cupcake. Sorry the photo isn’t better – I couldn’t wait to eat it!

I sat down outside to savor my sweet treat. The frosting was perfect, retaining a bit of the tartness of the cream cheese with coconut that resisted mushiness. The chocolate cake was moist and delicious. Together, they elevated my coffee to palatable and made me one happy girl. I’ll definitely go back again for more peace, love and cupcakes. The Ginger Baker has my name all over it.

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

Yurt adventure

dsc_0022What would you do if you arrived at your Adirondack getaway, a yurt in a semi-remote location accessible only by foot, in the dark? Would you confidently venture up a trail that you vaguely remember from that one other time you were there? Keep in mind, of course, that you’re toting a ridiculous amount of gourmet food, as well as 3 hardcover books, a heavy (and delicious) bottle of wine, bottles of water and some other stuff that you think you absolutely must have for the night, all of which equals a heavy load. Oh – and you have a city dog on a leash who just might be afraid of the forest.

Well, if you’re me, you take purposeful strides up that steep hill in the direction that seemed familiar until it no longer felt familiar. After a few minutes of consultation and consideration, you conclude that continuing blindly in the dark is more than a little irresponsible and you head back down the trail which, not too surprisingly, leads to a place other than your original starting point.  Bearings now gained, thanks to an app on your iPhone, you walk out to the road with all of that prosciutto and pâté getting heavier by the minute, and then back up the long and rugged driveway to your car and declare Take 2, summit to yurt.  And this time, you are successful.  Those small reflectors marking the trail really helped.

Once in the yurt, ridiculous city shoes off and fantastic bottle of wine opened, you settle in and begin to enjoy the sense of being away.  Food gets busted out, without benefit of plates or utensils, other than the plastic ones tossed into the Cardona’s bag at the last minute. Candles are lit and the wine is uncorked and then swilled directly from the bottle since you remembered a corkscrew, but not a cup, much less a glass.  You begin to truly relax, charmed by the coziness of the yurt and the company.  Surprisingly, the dog who seemed more than a little tense on the walk (it’s become a “walk” rather than a hike, retrospectively. Thank you, wine) up to camp settles down nicely at the foot of the futon and the sound of a nearby train only adds to the atmosphere. Lovely.

Morning breaks slowly and much later than expected. The skylight above filled with grey then shades of blue which grow increasingly more saturated. The first peek out of the door reveals a golden view of leaves and water and mountains. The air outside doesn’t jar as expected  because it is nearly the same temperature as indoors. A mid-morning meal gets made from last night’s leftovers in the hopes that our load on the way down would be lighter, as were our spirits.  A brief escape successfully managed. We’re definitely doing this again – but with less food and more appropriate footwear.

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Filed under beauty, holidays, road trips, upstate New York

10 Things I discovered Columbus Day weekend

  • Troy has some really nice homes (while running a 5K).
  • Apparently when he isn’t playing golf, Donald Trump plays”pussy grabbing.” It’s a sport that only gets discussed in locker rooms, but is played where ever famous men find vulnerable women. Sounds fun, right?
  • It is possible to check out events in three different counties in a single day without completely exhausting one’s self.
  • The more often I drive to Kinderhook the shorter the ride feels.
  • Fall foliage season seemed to take a long time to start this year, but is moving very quickly.
  • Samascott Orchard is very welcoming upon arrival but feels kind of militant when you depart.
  • I haven’t met a Nine-Pin cider that I don’t like.
  • Coming across an abandoned hair weave on the sidewalk when I’m running always makes me uncomfortable.
  • The Half Moon Market is a terrific gathering of artisans in a beautiful space that should be used more frequently.
  • My goal of running a 1,000 miles this year is within my sights.

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Filed under Albany, drinking, Events, Exercise, friends, holidays, Local, News, Random, road trips, running, sunday, Troy, upstate New York

Anniversary dinner

Anniversary: a date that is remembered or celebrated because a special or notable event occurred on that date in a previous year

imageYesterday was my 22nd wedding anniversary. I’ve been divorced for 5 years, so there weren’t any cards or flowers to mark the occasion, yet I felt surprisingly sentimental about the day. I think it may have been because of the drive I took which literally brought me down memory lane. It was a good place for a visit.

On a beautiful early September afternoon, I passed off two of my children to their cousins in Lee, MA, a perfect midpoint between Albany and the lake house where their father’s clan would be gathered for the long weekend. Seeing those young men, along with the brother-in-law who was the best man in my wedding, unexpectedly filled my heart with happiness. I’m so grateful that my sons belong to such a wonderful family. Good things came from that equally beautiful early September morning 22 years previously.

Upon recommendation (thanks, Michelle), I headed to Lenox for an early and indulgent dinner. Brava, an intimate wine bar on Housatonic Street, was nearly at capacity when I rolled in and bellied up to the bar at about 5:30. The space is simply and cozy with a couple of big windows and small tables that can be pushed together for larger groups. Flexibility is key in a dining room of this size, particularly when there is a no reservations policy. This theory was quickly proven when the guy next to me and I were each asked to shift left one stool to make room at the bar for a party of five who were facing a 30+ minute wait for a table. Request cheerfully accommodated.

imageI wasn’t in the mood to peruse the wine list so I just asked for a glass of rosé and was quickly provided with a delicious Bandol. After consulting with one of the servers, I placed my order. I opened with the marinated white anchovies and was immediately transported back to a sunny day in Barcelona. They were perfect and paired beautifully with my wine. The portion was ideal – enough to satisfy without overwhelming my taste buds. Great start.

Next up was a salad of roasted beets and basil chèvre. The serving was generous, presented on a simple white rectangular plate which was the ideal backdrop to the vivid colors of the dish. The beets were sweet and the components were nicely balanced without any single ingredient outshining another. As I was making my through the salad, my next (and final) two plates arrived: the patatas brava and the lamb chops.image

The potatoes were amazing – cubed and perfectly cooked with a crisp exterior and fluffy inside, generously accompanied by a smoky, spicy remoulade of sorts. My first bite inspired hiccups, my usual response to spicy food, but they quickly abated and I focused my attention on this plate because potatoes need to be eaten hot. So damn good.

imageThe lamb chops, two on the plate and served with mint sauce (not mint jelly), were fantastic. Cooked to a perfect pink, flavorful and tender, these chops were exactly the protein I wanted to accompany my otherwise vegetable centric meal. I’ll confess right now that, after cutting away all of the meat possible, I finished by picking up the chops and getting a good gnaw in before acknowledging that I was perfectly satiated and ready to continue my drive back to Albany. image

It’s kind of funny that I had such an exceptionally satisfying dinner on 9/4/16. I recall being famished post-wedding festivities 9/4/94, having neglected the food, which I heard was delicious, in favor of enjoying our guests. Yesterday, though, was different. I found myself on familiar roads from long ago, appreciating the turns my life has taken and holding on to the gifts I received from a marriage which ended, yet continues to provide unanticipated joy. It was a day to be celebrated.

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Filed under Boys, Dinner, Eating, family, Food, marriage, Recommendations, road trips, Summer, sunday

Lunch at the Culinary Institute of America

imageSome days my good fortune threatens to overwhelm me. For instance last Friday, as part of a day of professional development, I had the opportunity to enjoy a three-course meal at Ristorante Caterina de Medici, the CIA’s Italian restaurant. What a treat! image

Have you dined at the CIA before? I think it’s been close to 20 years since I was last there and, boy, does it look different! I wish I had more time to roam around and check out what’s new (to me), but I was with a group and we had a schedule to maintain. Andiamo!

We began with a Caprese salad, which was lovely. I mean, seriously, if you can’t produce a tasty and beautiful tomato-centric plate in the Hudson Valley in late August, well, you might want to find a different career. This plate was a winner with an unexpected touch – green olives. Nice. imageOur second course was pretty dreamy – portions of 3 different pasta dishes. I really wish I could order this again because sometimes I struggle with decisions and it was the perfect entree for a girl who can’t always easily make up her mind. The ziti was pretty forgettable but both the lasagna and the risotto were really nicely done. The lasagna was definitely my favorite but an impressive amount of flavor came out of the vegetable risotto. imageDessert was tiramisu – really good and generously portioned, leaving me only hungry for a nap. image

Other items of note, the dining room was beautiful with excellent service and two somewhat garish Murano glass chandeliers suspended overhead. There was also a very coolly repurposed card catalog that charmed this wine bar owner – librarian. Check it out!

Isn’t this awesome?

 

Not my style but I do appreciate the craftsmanship.

Not my style but I do appreciate the craftsmanship.

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