Category Archives: drinking

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

Catching up – CivMix & Silvia

I’m really enjoying being a part of CivMix! The site is still being developed, but I think you will find there to be some cool features, both in terms of content and interface, once the website is fully fleshed out.

Here are my most recent posts over there. Why not give a read and some feedback – here or there!

Dispatch from Greece

What makes a meal memorable?

I want to get away – Part I

…and Part II

 

 

 

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Filed under Albany, drinking, Eating, Europe, favorites, Food, Greece, ideas, Local, Observations, Recommendations, travel, vacation, Wine

Love them while you have them

Traveling with my 20 year-old son made for an interesting trip. Because of the time he spent in Thailand last year, he has some experience with having to navigate his way from destination to destination. He may not have the same intuition as my oldest son when it comes to transportation, but he has grown to be helpful and developed some useful skills.

I’ve jokingly remarked a couple of times (maybe even to you, specifically) that the best part of our recent vacation to Greece was having someone with whom to day drink. With some sobering up reflection, I now recognize that what’s going to remain with me, even longer than the 5lbs of feta and dolmas I brought home, are the moments we spent talking, sharing thoughts, making decisions together (rosé or white?) and spending hours and hours outside together, under cloudless blue skies.

Over the years I’ve witnessed too many friends lose a child, most frequently, a son. I grew up in a town where a number of my peers died being physically reckless in a way different than today’s young people. Usually it was a car + alcohol + speed situation, not exactly the same kinds of substances to which our country is experiencing an epidemic of abuse and addiction to currently.  Narcotics have always been way too scary to mess around with to me, which initially made overdoses so incredibly shocking. Now, though, it is my presumed cause of death when anyone between the ages of 17 and 30 dies suddenly.

A few former colleagues of mine have lost children suddenly and at least one was directly related to substance abuse. That mom told me something that will always stay with me. In my whole life, I might have experienced two other instances in which words have had the same profound impact on my heart and thoughts. What she said was revelatory:

All you can do is enjoy them while you’ve got them.

During times of frustration with my sons, I’ve reached for that truism frequently. It helped me to accept that I couldn’t make my sons do, or not do, really much of anything. Whether it was attending classes at the High, writing a thank you note or washing their hair, it was on them. No amount of time spent arguing or in disagreement could force any of my children to do what I wanted them to do, if it wasn’t what they wanted to do. They are their own people.

After my friend’s loss and the lesson she gave to me, I  remember thinking “if something really horrible happened to my kid, I wouldn’t want his last interaction with me to have been a heated exchange about why he hadn’t handed in a required assignment for school.” I’d much rather it be a quick “love you” at the end of a call or text. I learned I needed to let some things go.

On Naxos Island, my son and I rented bikes for the day and rode about 20 miles to the beach and an abandoned hotel project that had become a destination for graffiti artists.  After we were fitted for bikes and provided with helmets, my son clipped the strap on his together and hung it on his handlebars. I said, “you’re not wearing that?” And he said “No.” I bit my tongue, clipped my helmet on and told him to leave his helmet behind if he wasn’t going to wear it. My helmet remained firmly in place on my head for the duration of the ride.

Over the course of the day, I suggested once or twice that my son might want to hit the sunscreen. He declined. I rubbed on my second or third application of the #30 spf I had purchased in Athens without comment. His decision. His eventual sunburn.

There comes a point in a parent’s life when they have to let go in ways that may be frightening, especially when their child’s approach is completely contrary to what they themselves had spent years teaching their offspring was the right or best or appropriate or safe way to conduct the life they had been given. It’s part of the process of separating from one another, isn’t it?

I returned to Albany last week to hear of the death of the child of a neighbor I had when I was in high school. Again, a son.  My assumption about the cause of the young man’s death was, unfortunately, correct. My heart hurt for those left behind.

Finding one’s way through life isn’t easy, despite the maps with which we are provided.  We hope that our children make good choices, but when they don’t, we can only wish for the consequences to be negligible – a sunburn at worst, certainly not the loss of their young life.

Love and enjoy them when you have them.

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Filed under aging, Boys, drinking, family, friends, Greece, musings, Observations, relationships

The perfection of Paros

I’m not sure how we got so lucky with this trip. I mean, the weather has been unrelentingly sunny and hot, the food fantastic, our accommodations comfortable and the transportation between islands pretty much flawless. What more can one ask?

Since we are now on our final island before our return to Athens, then home, I feel like I can make a comparison between the three we have visited, as limited as that may be. Naxos was lovely and our apartment was very well located. I love the streets of the old city and the views from our rooftop. The activities we did there were pretty chill, a hike of sorts and a bike ride that some may refer to in the future as the Bataan Death Ride, but we really didn’t do too much beyond walk, eat and drink. Perfect start to any holiday as far as I’m concerned.

Mykonos was definitely an experience. We stayed in a lovely hotel, lounged by the pool and had a terrific dinner on our one night on the island. While I’m happy we went and got to see a small part of the island, I think it’s safe to say that I don’t feel a pressing need to go there again. The beautiful and rich people can enjoy it, because I’d much rather spend more time in Paros.

Paros is simply lovely. It isn’t as hilly along the port as the other two islands and I can almost imagine actually taking a run here, if I were an early morning runner, that is. The beach we went to yesterday was great and a deal (10 euro for two sun beds and an umbrella) compared to Mykonos where the same set up would have cost 26 euro. The buses are frequent and cheap and will get us where we want to go today – the beach again, followed by the Byzantine Trail for a hike. Our airbnb experience last night, a farm to table meal, was fantastic (more details to follow) and the bakery around the corner is completely responsible for my rounded belly courtesy of their delicious pastry.

This island is chill and gorgeous and I’m hoping to make it back here for a longer length of time. My dream would be to house sit for a couple of months and really explore this place. Retirement is in my sights and I’m getting some really good ideas about how I’d like to spend it – and where.

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Filed under beauty, drinking, Eating, Europe, favorites, Food, Greece, Observations, Recommendations, Summer, travel, vacation

Mykonos moments

When I was planning this trip to Greece, a challenging task because there are so many options and I knew nothing, I struggled to choose between Mykonos and Santorini as our indulgent (read: expensive) island. Ultimately I went with Mykonos because I thought that party atmosphere was more appropriate than a romantic setting when traveling withy son. Perhaps, Santorini will be a future excursion with a travel partner to whom I didn’t give birth.

The ferry from Naxos took nearly two hours, a bit longer than the official ferry schedule claims. We were on a small boat, but the trip was much more comfortable in significantly calmer waters. Upon arrival in the old port, we found our way to a water taxi (4 euro r/t) and made it to Mykonos Town in less than 15 minutes.

Our hotel, Ilio Maris, was a short walk through narrow and winding streets followed by long hill. The sidewalks are pretty much nonexistent, but the traffic is so heavy that no one is moving particularly fast and it was daylight. The hotel itself is very, very nice. Simple, clean, with terrific amenities including a pool and an extensive buffet breakfast included. And the view – panoramic and gorgeous. It was, by far, the most expensive (~$250) accommodations of our trip, but I rationalized that it included breakfast and I’ve spent that same amount for a night in NYC. Carpe diem.

We spent the afternoon relaxing and napping by the pool and sipping glasses of cold white wine. And water, lots of water. In the evening, we walked down to a recommended restaurant, Kounelas Fish Tavern, where we very much enjoyed a couple of small plates including grilled octopus with fava bean purée and a shrimp dish with tomato sauce, feta and bell peppers, along with more tasty white wine. With the flavor of the complimentary shot of liqueur on my lips, we made for the nearby port to capture the evening’s sunset.

Both of us were feeling pretty giggly from the wine and were happy enough to walk around people watching. We grabbed some gelato and wandered taking in the shops, smells and apparent wealth of many of whom we encountered. The people here are beautiful, but not necessarily without effort, and my son sagely noted, “Mykonos, I see what you’re all about.” After an hour or so, we agreed we were content to return to our room for the night, where I promptly passed out fell asleep.

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Filed under beauty, Boys, drinking, Eating, Europe, Food, Greece, Observations, Recommendations, Restaurants, Summer, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

Eating Athens

In Athens our only organized activity  was a 3.5 hours food tour we booked through Airbnb Experiences. (Remember I did another one of these in Galway earlier this year?) if you’re traveling I recommend taking a look at Airbnb’s site and checking out what might be available at your destination. These excursions, classes and activities seem to be much smaller scale tours than some of the more commercial ones. For instance, our tour was 6 + our guide, Marina, and her assistant, Maria, which made navigating Athens’ busy streets easier than it might have been with a larger, more cumbersome group.

We met at Monastiraki station near the Plaka and once introductions were made, we went directly to a spot, Creme Royale, for traditional pies, with both savory and sweet on our menu. If you immediately think round pies, you’re wrong, because these were rectangular for the most part and served in a slice rather than a wedge. As Marina gave the staff notice that we had arrived, we remained outside a large window captivated by the grace and skill in which the baker manipulated the dough, stretching it to a remarkable thinness which required a rolling pin, but also a couple of vigorous tosses in the air akin to the actions of a pizza maker. When the dough was to his satisfaction in terms of both thinness and layers, he cut it into a wide swathe, topped it with filling, folded it unto itself and sealed it closed.

We were able to taste five – one of savory cheese, a spanikopita style with spinach and feta, a pork and beef, and one that was filled with a sweetened custard, my favorite. Additionally, we were provided with a different styled which was round and filled with meat and a sauce which was reminiscent of American bar-b-q. Remains were packaged to either be divided amongst the tour goers or given to the homeless along our way, the unanimously agreed upon perfect solution.

Next up was a walk through the old fish and meat market. This was absolutely remarkable. The fish was so marvelously fresh that even on a very hot day (90+ F), there was minimal fish smell. The vendors were friendly and humorously aggressive about selling their products and the stalls were clean and surprisingly lacking in cats because cats are everywhere. How they keep them out of the open air, but covered, market is a mystery. After touring the central area of the market, we did a broader loop and covered the part of the old market where the meat vendors ply their wares. In this area of the market vendors were provided with butcher blocks on which to chop and the cleavers were put to good use as customers requested particular cuts of beef, lamb, chicken and pork. Also available were some more exotic meats such as rabbit and water buffalo. Again, there was surprisingly little aroma, which was a bit of a relief to me.

Naturally, our next stop was for cheese, cold cuts and yogurt at a small place called Zarkadian. Beyond the deli display cases there was seating and we were made quite comfortable with water, red and white wine, ouzo and a Greek style of grappa. Anise is not my thing and I was a little afraid of the grappa, so I stuck with wine as I enjoyed the bountiful Greek salad, array of cheeses and sliced meats including both water buffalo and camel. Yes, camel and no, I’m not sure if it was one or two hump camel. It was dried, and the texture was between a prosciutto and a jerky with a flavor I can only describe as different. The fruit topped yogurt was the perfect aperitif after indulging in a taste of almost everything so generously presented.

Feeling temporarily satiated from our consumption, we made our way to Mokka for coffee. Here I had my first Greek style coffee. Served in a long handled copper pot which is poured tableside into your cup, my coffee was bracing, yet smooth. It turns out the Greeks have their own obsession with coffee and there were many varieties from which to choose. With caffeine now coursing through our veins, we leisurely walked to our lunch destination Tis Theatrou to steki for “tapas style food.” Or maybe better read as “an incredible spread of numerous small dishes made with a variety of ingredients.”

We arrived and were seated at a large table outdoors with a view of a crumbling, yet still distinguished building. As Marina explained, countless buildings were torn down as Athens expanded and lifestyles changed in modern times. It wasn’t until the latter half of the last century when buildings were retained rather than destroyed for the sake of new construction. Now it seems the buildings are left to deteriorate or, on rare occasion, be rehabilitated. Our luncheon was extravagant in variety but simple in flavors – olive oil, oregano and basil played starring roles, as did tomatoes, beans, eggplant and yogurt. It was divine.

The remains of our feast.

There was still one final stop, Serbetia tou Psyrri, for desserts. In my world, there’s always a little room left for something sweet and we were at the right spot. This family operated bakery had a display of fantastic looking cakes and baked goods and we were lucky enough to taste 3, along with a sampling of ice cream. I was pretty much in a food coma at that point, but the delicacy of the pastry and the limited amount of sweetener, be it sugar or honey, helped me to thoroughly enjoy each bite.

I can’t recommend Marina’s Taste of Athens tour enough. It was an excellent value at approximately $65 per person and it is a great way to discover the cuisine of Greece with a guide who is knowledgeable, personable and enthusiastically proud of her home.

Also – I took most of my photos with my Nikon and they won’t be available until I’m home. I imagine I’ll do a number of posts that are just photo-centric at that point, so come back to DelSo again if you’re interested!

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Filed under Coffee, drinking, Eating, Events, favorites, Food, Greece, ideas, Local, Recommendations, travel, vacation

Things I’ve given up on vacation

Wearing makeup*

or a bra if I don’t feel like it.

Counting calories

or glasses of wine.

Checking the clock

or my email.

Caring about an extra couple of pounds

or the silver threads in my hair.

Having three meals a day

or even keeping track of how many there have been.

Running

or any exercise beyond walking.

Knowing what day of the week it is

or remembering why that matters other than so I know which island I’m on.

 

*except for a pop of lipstick

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Filed under drinking, Eating, Europe, Greece, musings, Observations, Random, Summer, travel, vacation, Wine