Skiing with my Uncle Wolfgang

Last week’s epic snowstorm provided an unexpected early December treat – the chance to cross-country ski at Albany Muni. I got out there four days and the conditions just kept getting better. It was awesome and Jeter and I loved every minute of it.

Other than the first day when I skied with a friend, it was just me, my dog and nearly two feet of snow. Sort of. Skiing solo provides lots of time for thoughts and when I cross country ski I can’t help but think of my Uncle Wolfgang. He, too, was a cross country skier, albeit much more accomplished than I. Wolfgang, my mother’s youngest brother, was a competitive biathlete in Germany and, as I ski, I do my best to glide with the grace and strength he once did.

As my eyes took in the beauty of the snow covered golf course and my lower back became damp from my exertions, my head filled with memories of my Uncle. He and I, along with his wife and a Lilly boy or two, took some great road trips together around Europe. Wolfgang and Brigitte were great travelers and I have wonderful memories of sharing time with them in Paris, Amsterdam, NYC and, our last trip, Berlin. I miss him and will always be sad that he was taken so fast and furiously by cancer just weeks after we parted in Berlin.

But, I feel him with me, deep inside, and I truly understand the sentiment about how you never really lose someone you love as long as you have memories of time shared. I get it now and it gives me so much comfort and peace to know he won’t ever be gone.

I started thinking about all the little things I do that immediately remind me of people who no longer walk the earth beside me. When I chop vegetables, I remember Len, who taught me how to hold a knife. As I put together a salad in the metal bowl I insisted upon getting in the divorce, I think of my mother-in-law and her inability to not give her son and I something to take with us each time we left her house. If I see a deer dead on the side of the road, I recall my friend, John, who once demonstrated his compassion for a dying doe by finishing the job a car had begun, an act of kindness that he unfortunately wasn’t able to extend to himself.

Losing someone we love and experiencing the void of their absence, especially near the holidays, makes for an emotionally challenging situation. Knowing that we’ll never again hear a loved one’s laughter or feel their embrace, quite plainly sucks. However, if one takes the time to focus instead on what remains – the memories and moments and love shared, it seems to me that they’re never really gone. At least not from our heads and, of course, our hearts.

 

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Filed under aging, Albany, beauty, cancer, Europe, family, favorites, friends, Germany, Local, love, musings, Normanskill, Observations, relationships, skiing, travel, upstate New York, x-country skiing

So many pancakes, so little time

After not getting around to making a pot of sauce with meatballs and sausage a few weeks ago, I found myself with a container of ricotta cheese for which I needed to find a purpose. After a quick Epicurious search I came up with the perfect use – Ricotta Pancakes.

In my house, we’re big on pancakes. Since being shamed by a foodie friend for using Bisquik, I’ve been making mine from scratch and I actually have the recipe* committed to memory. It’s so easy it makes me regret all those years of paying for a packaged mix filled with all sorts of unpronounceable ingredients. I use the same basic recipe for waffles and play around by adding canned pumpkin and nutmeg or using buttermilk or almond extract to change things up because, like I said, we like pancakes and variety isn’t a bad thing when it comes to breakfast.

But, back to those ricotta pancakes.

The recipe I found was simple and used common ingredients. Separating the eggs and beating the whites into lovely peaks is the second hardest part, with the most challenging thing being finding the ability to stop after eating two. Or three. These pancakes are wonderfully light and airy with orange zest adding a delicious punch. I bet a dash of Grand Marnier would be an amazing addition.

This recipe, along with the NYT’s Dutch Baby recipe, is a keeper. Do you have a favorite pancake recipe I should try?

 

*1 1/4 c flour

2 T sugar

2 t baking powder

1 egg

milk to the consistency you like, more milk = thinner pancakes

dash of salt

maybe a t of vanilla or almond extract?

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Filed under Boys, breakfast, Cooking, Eating, family, favorites, Food, ideas, Recipes, Recommendations

Throwback thanksgiving

Pies from Debbie’s Kitchen, Albany NY

When I was a kid I had faux aunts and uncles. There were no true relatives (that I knew about) in the States, so my mother provided close friends who functioned on some level as family. It was a laudable attempt and there were some good people in our lives during those years, some of whom remain to this day.

One of these families, the Ls, had the most multi limbed family tree in the my world and I loved the holidays we shared with them over the years. Dinner usually included all of the following: the married couple, (about the same age as my mom), and their daughter, who was a toddler when we met, his son from his first marriage, joined by her two children from her first marriage. Also present, her first husband with his son from his second marriage. And the three of us.

It seemed like the most exciting, bizarre and totally normal holiday gathering ever. The traditions all blurred together, Jewish, Italian American, German, and the food was crazy – lasagna, bagels with lox, ham and fruit cake. Thinking about those days always makes me smile big.

Yesterday, for the first time in a few years, I had Thanksgiving dinner with friends. It was very low key and comfortable. We brought desserts and a savory vegetable casserole to join the bounty that was already present. While we didn’t play backgammon for boxes of Marlboro Reds, (as I might have decades ago with “my” extended family), we sipped far better wine than in those long ago days, with a mood which was comparably mellow.

My first attempt at curd – Cranberry Curd Tart from the NYT.

At the table was my UG* and his children. And his children’s mom and her partner, along with her partner’s parents and her brother and sister in law. Looking around the table and seeing the threads that tied us all together, I couldn’t help but smile at the familiarity of the situation.

We recreate the chaos with which we are most comfortable. (I use “chaos” here to suggest a familiar dynamic with lots of activity, not as an indication of lack of control.) There’s a vibe or pace that we try to replicate, whether it’s conscious or not, because that’s what we grew up knowing.

Sitting at the dining table with a bunch of people who, through the years, have chosen to share their lives with one another, defines the holidays for me, even more than turkey and cranberry sauce. The combination of common histories and yet-to-be-explored future activities is what I was raised on and yesterday was the first time I felt that familiar energy in a long time.

It was a good holiday.

How was yours?

*don’t ask me what it means, it’s a private joke term of endearment

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Filed under aging, Albany, Boys, Christmas, Dinner, drinking, Eating, family, Food, friends, girlhood, holidays, Local, love, marriage, musings, Observations, relationships, upstate New York, Wine

Last ride

Thursday afternoon Jeter and I took our last trip to Albany Muni in my Volvo. When we got there the odometer read 149,999 and it just seemed perfect. Truth be told, I was tempted to drive around the lot until the numbers rolled (figuratively) to 150,000 but it seemed too forced, and Jeter wouldn’t have tolerated it anyway with his need to be outdoors. Immediately.

Letting this car go has been unexpectedly difficult. I initially attempted to rid myself of it more than 18 months ago when I bought another car, but failed to finalize the trade-in deal. I wasn’t ready.

The car that I purchased at that time had everything I said I wanted in a car – Bluetooth, a huge glass roof, four-forms and a six speed manual transmission. The color was fine and the price was right and I bought it. I was ready, I thought, for something different, something new.

Since March of 2018 I’ve shuffled two cars, each with its own purpose. The Volvo became the dog car and was my go-to vehicle for Cape Cod. The Mini was my road-trip-south and general about town vehicle.

Maintaining, insuring and juggling two vehicles has begun to feel hyper indulgent. I needed to simplify my life and give someone else the chance to appreciate the car that I had always considered to be my princess vehicle.

The Volvo had come my way after I was rear ended in my previous Volvo wagon. There had been no injuries when the man totaled my car as I sat at a red light, fortunately for both of us. My incredible luck continued after the accident when, after complaining about my distaste for car shopping on Facebook, I was offered the chance to buy the wagon that I’ve owned ever since.

A 100,000+ miles later, I’m in a position to pass this great car on to someone new, coincidentally, a woman who responded to my post on Facebook. I think the car is as perfect for her as she is for the car.

Being emotional about a car is a new, and weird, thing for me. I think it may have something to do with my general unfamiliarity with possessing something for as many years as I’ve owned this car. I’m unaccustomed to it.

It’s easy to love something when there’s no expectation for it to love you back. It’s a car and, obviously, it can’t feel or express emotions, but this vehicle has responded to my affection and care with a steadiness and reliability that I can’t help but to romantically interpret as fondness.

I know I’ll miss this car, but I’ve come to accept that it’s time to pass it on to another family who needs it more than I do. I wish them many happy years together.

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Filed under aging, favorites, love, musings, road trips

Not maintaining the standard of conduct

PHOTO BY JIM LO SCALZO-POOL/GETTY

Go read that title again. One more time. Do you get it? This is where we are as a country. We are “not maintaining the standard of conduct,” as I heard a decorated military man so eloquently say on the radio today. He was referencing the Eddie Gallagher situation and other recent high profile pardons courtesy of Donald Trump.

The enlisted personnel who had in cases been convicted and serving prison sentences, had been granted clemency and had their previous ranks returned to them. They had committed heinous atrocities. They were “not maintaining the standard of conduct.”

I listened to a lot of the hearings today and it looks more likely than ever, to me, that Donald Trump just might get himself impeached.

The hostility present in our country, the home grown, domestic, “native” type, is horrendous. I’ve never known America to be so in disagreement about priorities. The divide between the haves and the have-nots is as gaping as  the Grand Canyon. A general lack of connection is evident.

South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona (Photo by Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images)

Watching, and listening, to today’s hearings has been depressing. It’s difficult to believe anything being said. The hyperbole is epic.

I decided to vacuum because I needed to quiet the voices in my head. It’s hard not to think that far too many of our representatives are “not maintaining the standard of conduct.” Their motivations, bilaterally, are suspect. Who are they serving?

The government we currently have is what you get when citizens don’t become involved or pay attention. When qualified people don’t vote, it seems that unqualified people get elected. See: Donald Trump

To those of you with the stamina to watch tonight’s debates – bravo! That’s wildly impressive. As for me, I am burnt out on politics and need a walk, a shower and bed.

We have got to do better than this. It’s time to relearn how to maintain the standard of conduct.

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Filed under aging, musings, News, Observations, politics, stress

Scenes – NYC, 11/10 & 11/11

No matter how many cities I visit, I will always love NYC the most. I can’t imagine ever feeling the same combined sense of awe and comfort any other place in the world.

From my earliest days exploring the city independently as a teenager, to last weekend, no other location inspires, contents and entertains me the way New York City does.

A few sights that caught my eye recently are below. Hope you like them.

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Filed under aging, beauty, favorites, NYC, Observations, Random

Protesting the President on Veteran’s Day

I don’t know about you, but I live in fear of my nonexistent grandchildren. There have been too many times in recent years when I’ve wondered, how I might respond to these future beings when they ask me what I did during the Trump years to register my dissent with this most corrupt presidency. Participating in Monday’s protest in NYC as the President made a speech prior to the Veteran’s Day Parade kickoff, gave me an opportunity to demonstrate my complete and utter lack of respect or honor for the man who I believe is the worst president of my lifetime.

It took a little time for me to locate “my” people. Initially I was on the east side of Fifth Avenue, but I soon realized that the folks in the red MAGA hats were in fact wearing them in earnest rather than ironically.When the woman standing next to me said, “Well, at least we’ll be able to hear him even if we can’t see him,” to which I responded “Everything he says is a lie anyway,” I realized I needed to relocate.

After finally making my way to the “correct” side of Fifth Avenue, the west or left side naturally, I enthusiastically joined in with the chorus of boos. Protesting a president while honoring veterans makes for a challenging situation. Without exception, the protesters did their best to respect veterans, even the uniform-clad one who directly confronted the crowd and expressed his stance that, as Americans, we are obligated to obey and serve the president. Um, no, sir. I politely refuse to blindly follow a megalomaniac (or should I say MAGAlomaniac?).

The turnout in general was smaller than I would have expected, but perhaps the intense security which made crossing the street a six block ordeal played a role. Trump was tucked safely behind a caravan of garbage trucks, which meant we really couldn’t get near him anyway, but I’m confident he heard us.

I don’t really enjoy crowds, but managed to hold my position for the better part of an hour before making my way back downtown to enjoy what turned out to be a spectacular autumn day for a parade in my favorite city.

 

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Filed under Events, holidays, NYC, Observations, politics