Monthly Archives: February 2020

Where to stay in NYC?

Over the years I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels in New York City. Most of them have been perfectly fine, especially since I’ve only required accommodations for a single night or maybe two. There have been a couple that I won’t book again – The Empire across from Lincoln Center comes immediately to mind. That room was so damn small that it was impossible to navigate, even though there were only two Lilly boys at the time we stayed there and they were significantly smaller than they are now. Pass.

My favorite hotels, the ones I return to repeatedly, are my picks because of a combination of amenities, space and location. Value for the price, basically. The Millennium Hilton on Church Street is my absolute favorite place to stay because it checks every box for me – I love that area of the city for an evening run, on weekends it’s possible to actually find on street parking, and the shopping and eating options are decent. Oh – and there’s an indoor pool, something rarely seen in my experience in NYC.

While I tend to stay at Hilton properties (including Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, Doubletree) because of rewards programs related to my credit card, there are times when I go off brand and try someplace different. TravelZoo sends a weekly email with some good deals and I’ve discovered some terrific, new-to-me hotels by taking advantage of these opportunities when the price is right.

The hallway and the closet which was larger than many NYC kitchens I’ve been in.

Last weekend my son and were in the city to celebrate his birthday. I had a reservation at a Hilton, but canceled when I received an email offering a night’s stay at the St. Giles Tuscany on E. 39th. A few years back I spent a night at a different St. Giles property, now closed, and found it to be comfortable, chic and well located, especially when Amtrak was using Grand Central as their NYC station. The deal being offered through TravelZoo was unbeatable at $140 total. I booked it.

We arrived too early to get into our room prior to our matinee at Lincoln Center, but we were welcomed and invited to enjoy the complimentary hot beverages in the lovely lobby while our bags were checked. We returned hours later, after dinner and a walk around Bryant Park, to finally see our room and I was blown away.

The room was easily the largest NYC hotel room I’ve ever been in. There was a hallway with the bathroom to one side and a gigantic walk in closet on the other. The bedroom had two queen beds with enough room remaining to move around without bumping into one another. It was just enormous! The bathroom was a dream with gorgeous tile, a floating vanity and a tub that made me regret having had recent surgery which prevented me from indulging in a deep, sudsy soak.

#bathroomgoals

Generally speaking, I don’t spend a tremendous amount of time in any hotel room, much preferring to be outdoors or doing fun things. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate having somewhere comfortable and well laid out to return to after a full day of activity. Maybe you’re the same? What are your favorite places to stay in NYC?

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Filed under birthdays, family, favorites, NYC, Recommendations, travel

Recuperation under the watchful eyes of a Labrador nurse

Being a patient is not really my thing. I’m not sure if that comes from growing up without the presence of an overly indulgent parent or simply being uncomfortable with too much personal attention, but either way, I prefer to be alone when I’m not feeling 100%.

Meniscus surgery recovery has been remarkably undramatic. The procedure seemed to go well and I haven’t felt the need for any prescription pain medication since the first day. I made use of my son’s leftover crutches for one day, opting for a jaunty cane beyond that. There was a lot of time spent on the couch, with my leg elevated, watching Schitt’s Creek, with the occasional episode of House Hunters thrown in to break up the binge.

The presence of the television in my house was more prevalent than usual, but my biggest companion for much of the week was Jeter. He really astounded me with his uncharacteristic gentleness and caution when it came to dealing with me. It was obvious from the very day of my surgery that he somehow knew something was going on with me that required sensitivity. Quinn noticed it immediately as he observed how calmly Jeter was behaving.

Generally speaking, Jeter is more than a little “bull in a china shop,” in terms of how he wields his 85 lbs around the house. His excitement when it’s time to go outside often results in him being a bit pushy, particularly on the staircase and outdoor front steps. I was really nervous about how I would be able to manage him and feared being yanked down the steps in Jeter’s zealous potential pursuit of a squirrel.

Remarkably, my fears were completely unfounded because the dog I often describe as “very handsome, but not so smart” shocked me with his recognition that something was different. He literally planted himself at my side, allowing me to rest my leg next to him. When it was time to go outside, he refrained from jumping or winding himself between my legs and waited patiently. The stairs were a completely new experience as he walked down the stairs slowly without his usual rambunctiousness. It was amazing.

Jeter may not be an official service dog, but he just might be the best nurse I’ve ever had.

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Filed under aging, DelSo, love, Observations, sick, television, vacation

Cathedral in Bloom, 2020

Gorgeous welcome courtesy of Kate Fleming of the Floral Garden

Even when winter has been relatively mild there’s still excitement for spring, particularly in upstate New York. As the crocus and daffodils start popping through last season’s faded mulch, I can’t help but begin looking forward to afternoons on the deck (or stoop) and sandals on my feet. Looks like we’ve almost made it to another spring, friends!

Yesterday I got a giant dose of the upcoming season in a floral fashion when I visited the second edition of Cathedral in Bloom Albany’s amazing  Cathedral of All Saints. This gothic edifice, which always seems to be overlooked in favor of the more visible Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, is absolutely magnificent. The craftsmanship and architecture of the building provided an excellent backdrop to the artistic and fragrant floral displays and I appreciated the spaciousness of the minimally furnished interior.

Very Madonna ”Like a Virgin,” no?

In years past when there was a similar event hosted by the NYS Museum, I was a regular visitor. The inspiration of the museum exhibits always provided a cohesive theme to the floral arrangements and, while I miss that component, the new venue allows for a fresh approach and provides opportunity for growth as the event gains traction.

I imagine the weekend opening hours will be more densely attended than yesterday’s opening day, but parking should be readily available – and if it isn’t the weather forecast looks inviting. May as well take a walk and grab a drink or bite to eat while you’re downtown. Plan accordingly, breathe deeply and enjoy the preview of spring!

 

 

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Filed under Albany, art, beauty, Events, Flowers, Gardens, ideas, Local, Observations, Recommendations, Spring, upstate New York

Staycation 2020 – Crazy things I think of and do when I have too much time on my hands

  • Binge watch television programs. I demolished Sex Education and am aggressively working me way through Schitt’s Creek. The later is growing on me with each episode, while the former grabbed me immediately and remains in my thoughts. Of course, I relate to Maeve more than any of the other characters, but, damn, Gillian Anderson’s performance in this series is remarkable. Wow. This quote keeps echoing in my hear and my heart:
“Try to stay honest because once you start lying it’s hard to stop.”

Amen.

  • I was thinking that ma’am just doesn’t agree with me. I’m not attempting to claim the title “Miss” but I’d much prefer “Milady.” It’s dignified, but still fun. I’m just not ready for ma’am.
  • I’m surprised that my knee doesn’t hurt me more. It’s feeling a little tight, but I imagine that to be some moderate swelling because you know I hate the ice when I’m injured. It’s very difficult to stay still when there isn’t pain.

Relationships being the exception to that rule.

  • Speaking of pain and relationships, Jeter has been amazingly calm since I came home from my surgery. He’s been on the couch right next to me consistently. I walked him this morning and he was sensitive to my hobble, even when that squirrel practically danced in front of Jeter as I fastened his harness.
  • On Monday, I did a flurry of cooking, roasting broccoli, pickling red cabbage from my Field Goods bag and making #thestew from the NYT with the addition of cubed tofu. I love having prepared food in my fridge.

A unexpected side benefit from all the cooking was a couple of cups of gorgeous purple liquid that I couldn’t resist pouring over my hair. I mean vinegar adds shine and who knows? Maybe my ends will absorb some of the color. I’ve been toying with adding a little color to my tips and this just might add a little tinge of purple.

 

How’s your week?

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Filed under Cooking, Eating, musings, Observations, Recipes, Recommendations, television, upstate New York, vacation

Knee needs

Tuesday morning at an ungodly hour, I have an appointment in Clifton Park to have my meniscus trimmed and basically tidied up. Or in. Whatever. It’s going to be a little worse for a short time, but then it should get better.

I’ll be able to strengthen my body symmetrically instead of out of whack, as I innately protect my left side from further damage during yoga class. Both butt cheeks should hit the ground together in child’s pose and the bottom of my left foot will once again find the inside of my right thigh. Even more will be right in my world than it is today and that’s saying a lot.

Spending this winter break from school at home having, and recuperating from, knee surgery may not sound like an ideal vacation, but I’m psyched about it. Unless something goes terribly wrong, my discomfort is going to be abated and my flexibility will improve. And I’ll be able to run again.

It’s ok to be home recuperating in February when I’ve got 4 weeks of travel later this year to which I’m looking forward. Unlike my hobble when I initially landed in Athens last summer, I should be feeling stronger and more able to walk without pain or a limp during those upcoming weeks of foreign adventure. I’ll be better – physically and mentally. It’ll be great.

Today was my last walk around Muni pre-surgery and it was spectacular. There was no wind and the sun was bright and strong. Jeter was well behaved and placed his poops really well, near trash cans oddly marked “Inedible.” We walked the front 9, counterclockwise, adding a short loop by the clubhouse.

At one point we overtook a group of three humans and a couple of dogs and, as we passed them, I overheard one of the women talking about running. Judging from her attire of leggings and windbreaker, I concluded she had originally planned to run the course but, when she encountered her friends, changed her mind and decided to walk instead.

Hearing the word “run,” honestly, triggered me. Coincidentally, I was wearing my running shoes for the first time in months on the relatively clear paved path. I couldn’t not run.

Last uncut knee pic! Scars show life lived.

I ran slowly, reveling in how my body felt unleashed. My feet didn’t hurt and my hips felt loose. The sun was on my face as I smiled. I was so damn happy. I imagined being able to run again, without the tenderness I was currently experiencing on the inside of my left knee. That morning date with the orthopedic surgeon couldn’t come soon enough.

I really (k)need to just get this done.

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Filed under aging, Albany, Exercise, medical, Observations, running, travel, vacation

Galentine’s Eve

Last night, after far too long, I finally saw my running friends. Getting a date on the calendar was a challenge only slightly less difficult than running a half marathon together, but a special screening at the Spectrum provided the perfect occasion.

February 12th would have been The Doors keyboard player, Ray Manzarek’s 81st birthday. The two surviving members of the band worked to honor the life of Manzarek and helped to produce a feature length movie, The Doors: Break on Through, which included footage from a 2016 tribute concert with an impressive roster of musicians, along with archival footage and personal recollections and anecdotes.

Show time for this One Night Only film was 7:00 which gave us just enough time to slip into New World Bistro Bar for a quick bite to eat. I had been craving a burger all day and the deluxe Kilcoyne Farms version that I ordered last night rang all the bells. Delivered perfectly medium rare with peppered bacon, Cabot sharp cheddar, grilled onion and a chipotle aioli it was everything for which I had hoped. Paired with an excellent bottle of Tempranillo, and great company, it was the ideal dinner.

As for the movie, I had no real expectations or assumptions about what I might see. While there was a definite buzz about the showing (and the theater was at least ⅔ full), I hadn’t seen any critical response to the film, so I walked in completely open to the experience. And slightly buzzed.

I don’t often see these types of movies and I’ve got to check my life and do this more often because I had so much fun. When I was about 15 I went through the standard Jim Morrison phase and crushed on him pretty damn hard. Seeing his hot and handsome self on the big screen elicited more than a few sighs, and not just from me. The musical performances from the tribute concert were for the most part fantastic. Warren Haynes and his guitar prowess were definite highlights, but a couple of the singers who boldly took on Morrison’s leading role also were impressive.

The audience at the theater was enthusiastic with lots of shoulders moving and singing along with the music. One guy could not control himself and took over the aisle to make it into a dancefloor – a move I greatly admired. I wish there had been a designated area to get my groove on, because I would have been inspired to join him.

It was an awesome night. Galentine’s Eve just might be my favorite new holiday to celebrate.

 

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Filed under Albany, Delaware Avenue, Dinner, drinking, Eating, Events, friends, Local, Movies, Music, Recommendations, Restaurants, running, Wine

When flying south flies out the window

Last night I should have been settling in to my second cocktail of the weekend with the sound of waves in my ears and the scent of salt water filling my nostrils. Instead, I was cozied up on the couch wrapped in a cashmere robe with more holes in it than my aborted weekend plans, watching yet another episode of Sex Education…what is it that they say about the best laid plans?

I initially booked a quick trip to Florida as a chance to see friends and get a dose of vitamin D. I had enough JetBlue points for a free ticket, multiple options for places to stay and plenty of people whom I love and enjoy spending time with. A $100 rental car would cover my three days and provide me with the independence to come and go as I please. Seemed pretty ideal.

Admittedly, the fact that I forgot my son’s birthday took a bit of shine off the weekend, but he was okay with it and his present was on track to be delivered precisely on his birthday. I was covered.

As the weather report evolved and Friday afternoon seemingly became the absolute worst imaginable time to fly with mixed precipitation and wild winds, I started getting concerned about my ability to get out of town. I arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare and settled in at the gate to wait. That’s when things took a bad turn.

Our plane had been unable to land in Albany due to weather conditions and had been diverted to JFK to refuel. We were going to be delayed. I started thinking about arriving in Fort Lauderdale closer to 9:30 instead of 8:20. Next we heard our plane from JFK couldn’t take off because of weather conditions in NYC. Our expected departure time changed again. I called my car rental company to talk about a later pick up time.

Phones in the waiting area chimed again – our flight was going to be further delayed. I approached the check in desk to ask about cancelling my ticket, and having my points returned to me, and was advised to call the 800 number to speak with someone who might be able to help me.

The expected departure time changed again – best case scenario had the flight arriving in Fort Lauderdale close to midnight. The car rental office closed at 12:30, making that an uncomfortably tight transition for me. I called JetBlue and was completely satisfied with their willingness to cancel my ticket and refund my points to use another time. I made a couple more calls, notifying friends and cancelling the car rental.

I retrieved my car from the valet and decided to treat myself to dinner, craving anything that would go well with a glass of rich red wine. I drove towards Yono’s but, upon seeing the marquee at The Palace, realized that getting in an hour before Cheap Trick hit the stage wasn’t likely. I crossed Lark St. thinking I would finally try the cacio e pepe at 288 Lark Wine & Tap, but just felt the need to be closer to home. Nicole’s it was.

I settled in at the bar with a menu and the capable Logan in attendance, He poured me a gorgeous glass of Valpolicella and I eventually selected the fried artichokes and a half order of pappardelle with a hearty beef short rib ragu. It was exactly the kind of meal a snowy February night demanded.

I heard familiar voices from the dining room and was really happy to see some folks that I’ve known since the McGuire’s heyday. We caught up and shared a few laughs. It might not have been Florida, but it still felt pretty warm to me.

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Filed under Albany, birthdays, Eating, Food, friends, Lark Street, snow, stress, travel, upstate New York, vacation, Wine, winter