Category Archives: Christmas

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

Desert beauty – Palm Springs, December 2018

Here are some photos from my recent trip to the desert. I’m already looking at the calendar for Christmas 2019. I need to get back there again to spend time with someone I dearly love and to soak in more of this beauty.

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Filed under beauty, California, Christmas, Exercise, favorites, Flowers, friends, Hiking, holidays, love, Observations, Recommendations, running, travel, Uncategorized, vacation, winter

Universal thoughts

On Sunday I took a walk at the golf course and found the most fantastic piece of deer “shed.” It was lying in the meadow, completely exposed and bleached white, a four-point rack from a buck. I could scarcely believe it was just there in grass, there where no one else had seen or taken it. I picked it up, surprised by the smoothness, and accepted it as a gift from the universe. You know, because that’s the kind of relationship the universe and I have.     

I’m completely convinced that I was rewarded for something that happened a couple of days ago. I had been at the grocery store picking up what I needed for Christmas Eve dinner and noticed the deli counter was featuring two different prosciuttos. The price per pound difference between the two was significant so I asked if I could sample both. As expected, the $19.99 per lb version was significantly better – less salty, more tender. You know, better. I placed my ordered and happened to catch the clerk ringing my purchase up and couldn’t help but see that she entered the wrong PLU. Instead of prosciutto she keyed in the code for pancetta, an item that was only $11.99 a pound.

Enter moral dilemma…

There was a significant line of folks behind me looking to order and I didn’t want to hold anyone up. I also was hesitant to point out the mistake in front of a crowd of people. I didn’t say anything.

I finished shopping, debating internally the whole while, and  selected a register, unloading my cart onto the conveyer belt. I gave the clerk my coupons and rewards card and the pancetta prosciutto. I told her a mistake had been made and that the package was mislabeled and therefor mispriced. She called a manager over to make the price adjustment, but first the employee asked me if I knew the correct price. I did and shared it with her. She looked at me. With an expression of disbelief, she asked me another question “So, you want to pay more?”

Well, yeah. I don’t mind paying for what I receive and I don’t need to invite bad karma or negative energy or something gained from an unethical exchange into my life. No, thanks on that.

The manager warmly told me to “get out” and not to worry about the discrepancy and I think we both felt better about humanity in general by our exchange.

The very next day, I found my shed on a path I infrequently walk. Undoubtably, it was an acknowledgment from the universe of the correctness of my action. Incidents like this communicate to me that sometimes you truly do get back what you put out in terms of energy. It doesn’t always work like this for me or anyone else, but if you keep your eyes open you may find an opportunity to do the right thing, as well as a sign from nature that you made the right choice.

Enough writing. It’s time to look out the train window and see if I can spot more bald eagles. I already was lucky enough to see one.

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Filed under Albany, beauty, Christmas, Dinner, holidays, Local, musings, Observations, Random, Recommendations, Uncategorized, upstate New York, winter

Keeping Christ in Christmas

As in “Jesus Christ, are you kidding me?” Let’s talk for a moment about babies and Christians and Christmas songs and greetings and how the upcoming holiday has become a battleground instead of a celebration and why reasonable human beings are allowing that to happen.

To begin, babies. Big confession here…I don’t find babies to be very interesting. When I say I didn’t even like my own babies all that much until I had my third, I am being completely honest. My lack of enthusiasm for infants, however, doesn’t prevent me from feeling incredibly sad for children who are separated from their families or born into situations which fail to provide opportunity or stability. You know, like Jesus – and all the children who continue to live in tents apart from their families in a state of imprisonment. How people who claim the mantle of “Christian” can fail to see the parallels between their savior and those babies is truly one of the wonders of Christmas to me.

“Baby, It’s Cold Out” is not a date rape song in my head or heart. They’re flirting, he’s cajoling her to stay and she’s finding lame ass excuses blaming everyone but herself for not being able to stay. That’s my read at least and I’m entitled to it. I refuse to feel icky about this song, but you can feel free to rail against it if you must. I’m not buying in to that craziness and I’m not taking that song off my holiday season playlist.

The phrase “Merry Christmas” should be received by non-Christmas celebrants in the same way “Happy Hump Day is. Maybe neither are your holiday, but it’s ok to acknowledge that they’re both important days to those who choose to celebrate. If someone wishes you the “wrong” sentiment, do you really get offended by their greeting? Isn’t there so much more to take offense from in our world? You know, like children in cages? As for me, I’m just going to keep saying “Merry Christmas.”

Migrants and other seekers of asylum and the chance for a better life, should be more compassionately dealt with, particularly by those who like to claim religion as their justification for how they approach the world. Please don’t talk to me about the miracle of a savior’s birth in a manger if you’re unwilling to recognize the efforts being made by contemporary families to achieve a similarly blessed life for their own child(ren).

I’m all about remembering the reason for the season, but, Jesus Christ, can’t we do a better job honoring him?

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Filed under Christmas, holidays, Music, musings, Observations, politics, Uncategorized

Rainy run reward

When you make plans with your two favorite running partners more than a week in advance, it isn’t possible to predict the weather. No surprise then that the evening arrived with a pissing rain that would inspire most folks to skip the 5 miles and head directly to a restaurant for some holiday cheer. But, we luna b*tches are a hearty breed and despite a moment’s wishful thinking, we were committed. We headed out at about 6:30 and, surprisingly, the rain wasn’t nearly as bad as we had anticipated. I mean, we got soaked, but it wasn’t particularly cold, and the holiday lights decorating the homes along our route provided a warmth of their own.

Following our run, we cleaned up and drove to our dinner destination – Capital City Gastropub. I hadn’t been there in a few months, the menu is always interesting, and their burger is consistently dynamite. We arrived a bit after 8:00 and were immediately seated in a comfy corner. After selecting drinks (the Cremant I wanted wasn’t available, but I was happy with my Sauvignon Blanc) and an order of Brussels sprouts, we made some decisions about what to eat.

My go to order here is the Kilcoyne burger, rare, no bun but with cheddar cheese and carmelized onions. Fries crispy, please. Without fail, my burger arrives exactly as requested with a great sear, beautifully seasoned and always perfectly cooked. The fries, such a seemingly simple side dish, are burn-my-mouth hot and worth every fatty calorie, something that is far too frequently not the case when I order them at other places. 

The Brussels sprouts arrived, firm and bright in a light sweet and sour sauce filled with umami. So different than the usual fried or bacon garnished preparations seen around town. We finished them up and shortly afterwards, our mains arrived. My burger was prepared precisely as ordered and the other two plates were also well received. K went with the New Scotland Hot Chicken sandwich, a riff on Nashville style hot chicken and was really happy with her choice. The spice level was balanced and not blazing and the portion was generous without being overwhelming. C’s Grilled Squash Sandwich was nicely presented and seemed to satisfy the need for a solid, but not too heavy meal. We shared a Bibb lettuce salad on the side which was the ideal accompaniment to our plates and tweaked K’s fondness for citrus and greens.

There were no pictures taken of the food because we were too busy eating and talking and laughing to pause for anything beyond this little selfie.

Dinner – an appetizer, a salad, three sandwiches, 3 glasses of wine and a soda totaled $96 pre-tip, a small price to pay for the satisfaction we got from running 5 miles in the rain and rewarding ourselves with simple food made from quality ingredients. You’re welcome to skip the run, but don’t miss eating here.

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Filed under Albany, Christmas, Dinner, drinking, Eating, Exercise, favorites, Food, friends, Local, Recommendations, Restaurants, running, Uncategorized

But, Daddy, I want to cross country ski TODAY!

Christmas Day was pretty stunning this year with that gorgeous fresh snow. Once the boys were on their way, I grabbed the dog and my skis and headed to Muni for my first ski of the season. Conditions were decent and I went straight out past the driving range towards a wooded trail I like. After a few hundred yards something weird starting happening with my left ski. My foot kept coming loose and the binding just wasn’t cooperating. I ended up taking both skis off, tossing them over my shoulder and simply enjoying the walk.

After I got home I looked closely at the skis and realized that one of the bindings was missing a piece. No worries, until I could it repaired I could use skis that belonged to the Lilly boys. Jeter and I got back out to the golf course the next day. Imagine my annoyance surprise when I realized that these skis also had a malfunctioning binding. The good news that day was that I discovered the problem before I attempted to ski. I put the skis back in the car and, again, we took a walk.

A local ski shop suggested I check out LL Bean for replacement bindings and I headed there bright and early the 27th. I got lucky and was assisted by a super knowledgeable salesperson. I didn’t catch his name but he really knew his stuff and he was more helpful than any other ski salesperson I’ve worked with in the past. The replacement bindings he had available were clearly not great quality and he offered to mount bindings that I might buy somewhere else. Unfortunately, the nearest locations to purchase the NNN bindings I needed was more than a 30 minute drive and I wanted to ski NOW.

The salesman and I talked about the life expectancy of a pair of cross country skis and the cost of new boots, which I needed. My boots had been splitting at the seams for the past three years and I had tossed them at the end of last year’s season. The boys’ boots were about a size and a half too big, but I had planned to make them work until I had a chance to replace my own. Impulsively, I asked how much it would cost to put me in a completely new set of skis…

Twenty-five minutes (and $360) later I walked out of LL Bean with a completely new ski package. The shopping experience was great and I love my skis. This equipment is exactly what I’ve been looking for in terms of ski length and width for the kind of skiing I do on mostly ungroomed trails and Jeter and I have been tearing up the golf course every chance we’ve had since. Maybe we’ll see you there!

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Filed under Albany, Christmas, Exercise, favorites, Local, Recommendations, snow, Uncategorized, winter, x-country skiing

Seventeen things I learned in 2017

  • Never regret money spent traveling.
  • I’m not a good boss and have no interest in ever owning a business again.
  • That being said, I did learn how to do payroll and use Quickbooks.
  • The Hudson Valley has no shortage of adorable and fun places for quick getaways.
  • For every $1000 spent on a cosmetic household improvement there will be $3000 spent on necessary home repairs.
  • Running a half marathon in single digit temperatures is possible and even a little fun.
  • Solo travel is indulgent – and exhilarating.
  • U2 live still delivers.
  • Although I love being home, spending time outdoors makes me happy in an entirely different way.
  • Donald Trump is an even worse President than I had ever imagined.
  • Jeter loves a vacation just as much as any of us and the ‘new” house we rented last summer in Wellfleet was ideal for the whole family.
  • Making granola is super easy and it tastes far better than store bought.
  • There’s a lot of good television these days – think Stranger Things, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and This is Us. The jury is still out on Black Mirror.
  • Cookie swaps are best enjoyed retrospectively. Having 8 or 9 dozen cookies is great, but the stress of baking 9 dozen cookies and packaging them beautifully robs the joy from holiday baking.
  • An afternoon ski on New Year’s Eve with your Lunar bitches, your dog and an airplane sized bottle of limencello is a perfect way to spend the year’s last daylight hours.
  • Giving up the scale and eating another cookie might be my best new holiday tradition. I plan to repeat it next year for a full 12 Days of Christmas.
  • Bourbon sours with her favorite fella on December 31st can make a girl forget about Times Square, fireworks and the ball dropping.

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Filed under aging, Cape Cod, Christmas, concerts, DelSo, Eating, Events, family, friends, Germany, holidays, house, love, musings, Observations, Random, relationships, running, travel, x-country skiing