Category Archives: ideas

It’s hot In the Heights

Image: Troy Record

Hope you’re making it through this spell of humidity and heat. Greece was really hot, but there always seemed to be a breeze and the heat was dry, which made it different. Instead of my hair springing into curls and frizz, my skin screamed for moisturizer and sunscreen in massive amounts. It’s summer, what can you do?

Well, I’m glad you asked because I have an idea for you – get yourself to Albany’s beautiful Washington Park Lakehouse and check out In the Heights. We went the other night and it was absolutely a joy to watch. The performances were inspired, the voices soared above the excellent orchestra and the dancing was mesmerizing. I loved it.

Take my opinion, of course, with a grain of salt because I am no theatrical critic. What I can say with confidence is this – I believe this production is the best one I’ve ever seen at the Lakehouse. Granted, I haven’t been to them all, especially in recent years, but I’ve hit quite a number of them over the years and this cast and crew is exceptional. When I contrast this show with one I saw last year at a local theater, Into the Heights easily blows it out of the water.

I’ve never seen Hamilton and was unfamiliar with the story told in this early Lin-Manuel Miranda musical. The message, however, remains timely especially When You’re Home which made my eyes fill with tears. You’ve got to see this show!

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Filed under Albany, art, Events, favorites, Greece, ideas, Local, Music, Observations, Recommendations, Summer, upstate New York

DelSo & CivMix

I’ve been doing this DelSo thing for what will be a full decade come December 9th. Wow. I don’t know how that happened, but, I’m also unclear how it is even possible that I will retire in less than 6 years. Boom. Just like that. Incredible!

Over the years, I’ve written about lots of different topics and there have been times that I’ve offended people. I’m aware. What does sometimes take me by surprise, though, is when someone references something I wrote and it’s a person I never imagined reading my words. Wild and gratifying in a way parenthood is most definitely not.

Relationship angst and posts about food and travel are usually the most popular subjects and find the largest readership. Everybody loves a little indulgence and drama, right?

I’ve removed only one post ever, upon request from someone I’ve known a long time. I regret deleting it and would be hard pressed to do that ever again.

There was one post which I significantly modified to add anonymity to the identity of a friend who had died after years of struggles with various substances. Editing the post didn’t change the fact that he was gone.

Often, the posts that vex me the most when I am writing them, are the most audibly received. I get comments or shares, which is particularly welcome when I’ve hit the Publish button even though I wasn’t 100% satisfied with the final product.

I know I make people uncomfortable at times with my positions, or the degree to which I share my personal shit, but what I put out belongs to me – my impressions, my thoughts, my trying to understand the only life I’ll ever have. My truth.

In the past 8 years or so, I’ve been gratified by the opportunity to write for other platforms – both print and digital. All over Albany totally provided my first exposure through their weekly “What’s Up In the Neighborhood” feature and I’ll forever appreciate Mary and Greg for the support they provided to me. I wrote for two Hearst Times Union hosted blogs and have also contributed photos to their website.

It’s been fun to write for other “projects,” but I’ve always maintained my distance and refrained from aligning myself exclusively with an alternate web interface. I’m DelSo Silvia.

A number of months ago, I was approached and invited to write for a new website sort of envisioned as a second generation All Over Albany/Metroland love child. Interested, I agreed. Here’s what I’ve published over there most recently, at CivMix. Maybe you want to check it out? Post a comment? Give a follow?

One thing, remember that the website is still in beta. The site will grow in options and performance and, hopefully, interest to you, DelSo readers.

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Filed under aging, Albany, DelSo, favorites, ideas, Local, love, musings, Observations, Recommendations, relationships, Restaurants, secrets, SEEN, travel, writing

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

Lock her up – four books about young women who have lost their freedom

I’ve been known to seek out books and movies set in locales which I have plans to visit, but beyond that I don’t often read thematically. That probably makes it all the more remarkable that the four most recent books I’ve read all deal with young women contending with the loss of liberty. Three of the titles were from the historical fiction genre while the third, disturbingly, is currently classified as science fiction. After reading it,though, I’m inclined to believe that that title will eventually be reshelved in realistic fiction. Not a good thing.

What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper is a powerful book set in Europe during WWII. The novel opens with the main character, Gerta, being liberated from Bergen-Belsen by British soldiers at the end of the war. I’ve read many Holocaust stories over the years, yet there’s always something new for me to consider and in this novel it was what happened to the survivors once they were nursed back to health and could leave the camp or medical facility? What must that have been like for a teenager who has essentially been orphaned? Another scene in the opening chapter depicting soldiers forcing residents from the nearby community to tour the concentration camp and witness the atrocities which they allowed to occur by their apathy, is another aspect of this tragic time in history that I had never thought of before. What knowledge did citizens have of the victimization of Jews, gays, gypsies and the disabled? How were they able to avert their eyes from what was occurring? This book answers some questions while posing others.

Set in the same era, White Rose by Kip Wilson tells the story of a resistance group which made the ultimate sacrifice during a war that fractured families and devastated Europe. The novel, told in verse, provided insight into the conflict of Germans during WWII and the actions taken by young citizens in an attempt to thwart the Nazis. The selfless bravery of Sophie Scholl and other members of the White Rose organization, provides inspiration during a time when our own country is teetering on the edge of nationalism and xenophobia. A quote that stopped me dead:

People who
​refuse
to open their eyes
are more than ambivalent –
they are guilty.

Monica Hesse’s The War Outside brings the conflict to our own American shores in the form of the internment of Japanese-Americans and German-Americans during WWII. This historical novel describes what life was like for American citizens who were considered threats to national security despite having lived in America for generations. As the daughter of a German immigrant, I can attest to biases that I personally experienced 25 years after the war – being told to not speak German in public as a child, for instance. The camp, an actual place in Texas known as Crystal City, was depicted as a “family camp” with amenities such as a pool and community garden designed to distract residents from the reality that they were not considered equal citizens in the eyes of our government. I am certain that my family, had they been present during this dark time, would have been subjected to similar treatment.

Now, the Sci-Fi book I mentioned? Internment by Samira Ahmed is a bone chilling read because it seems all too possible in our current political climate. This was the one that made me the most uncomfortable because it relates the story of a Muslim American family who, after responding to a query regarding religion and ethnicity on the national census, find their civil rights being systematically eliminated by the government. No longer able to study, work or live in their communities, Muslim families are shipped to camps where they are separated by ethnicity and suffer limits upon their access to information, technology and loved ones who do not share their same cultural heritage. It is all the more horrifying because it is completely possible under the Trump regime. And – at a time when the federal government is attempting to insert citizenship questions into the upcoming national census that’s not an exaggeration.

What have you been reading? Do you have recommendations to share?

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Filed under Books, ideas, Observations, Recommendations

Greece is the word

Planning my upcoming trip to Greece was a formidable task. I struggled with the incredible array of options in terms of where to go and how to get there. After polling some friends and seeking some assistance on the Fodor’s Greece Forum, I came up with a loose itinerary and booked our flights (from Montreal) and accomodations (all Airbnb other than on one island). At that point, I shifted my focus to Easter in Ireland and took a break from the remaining details of our Greek adventures.

Now that the end of the school year and Greece are finally in view, it’s time to get a little more specific about what the trip is going to look like. Here’s what we’ve got so far –

Flying out of Canada is going to be a new experience. I booked the tickets primarily because the flight was nonstop and the fare was approximately $900 r/t, a fairly reasonable price for summer travel in my opinion. The drive to Montreal is admittedly further than NYC or Boston, but it’s a straight shot and I don’t anticipate much traffic along the way. I scored a park and stay package that provides us with 15 days of parking and a room on our return for just over $200, which I think is a good deal. An overnight in Montreal is never a bad thing and we’ll definitely score some croissants and bagels for the ride home.

We land in Athens and will spend two nights there at the beginning of the trip, as well as a single night at the end. The time difference is 7 hours and since I imagine we’ll be whooped from flying (and personally, that valium) I made no plans for that first afternoon/evening. We’ll find our way to our apartment, unload our bags and do our best to acclimate. My goal is to stay on my feet until at least 9:00 or 10:00 and score a few food items for our breakfast.

The highlight of our first entire day is a 3.5 hour walking food tour, an Airbnb experience, I booked. My son is an adventurous eater and we’re excited to explore some places recommended by a local guide and sample authentic and traditional Greek cuisine. Since we’ll depart the next morning for our first island, Naxos, the tour will also give us a chance to gather some sundries for our island stay. The temperature could be a real factor in how active we’ll want to be and I imagine the day as pretty relaxed, with some day drinking. Yum, Assyrtiko!

An early morning four-hour ferry* ride gets us to Naxos, which we’ll have the next few days to explore. I imagine that we’ll spend our time visiting the windmills, eating, walking and checking out some beaches. The only plan we have is to take a small, private boat excursion that includes grilled octopus on the beach, a remote grotto swim and an on deck bar-b-q aboard on our way back to Naxos. Ok. I’m in.

Our next stop is a single overnight in Mykonos. I understand it isn’t much time, but it’s a very expensive island filled with people who have no limits on their budgets. That’s not how I travel but I do want to see the beautiful things without getting jaded from the extreme and obvious consumption. Kind of how I feel about Chatham, MA. We’ll stretch the time by arriving before noon and departing the following day in the late afternoon for Paros, our last island.

I’m picturing Paros as the quietest spot we’ll be and I’m looking forward to just savoring the last nights of the trip in a place that looks and sounds beautiful. I found a 5-hour farm to table experience, again on Airbnb that I went ahead and reserved. It involves picking produce on a farm and then preparing a meal whilst we sip local wines and beers and sample small dairy cheeses as the sun sets over the nearby Antiparos. I’m practically there already.

Our last night will be in Athens. We’ll have time to hit any last sights before our return home. Maybe you might have some suggestions?

*I went ahead and booked all of our ferries in advance spending about $300 total for two. That seems remarkably cheap to someone accustomed to paying $100 to travel r/t to NYC from Albany on Amtrak.

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Filed under beauty, Boys, drinking, Eating, Europe, family, Greece, ideas, Summer, travel, vacation

Being comfortable in the skin you’re in

(I considered placing a warning here for male readers, but that would be a disservice to any guys who may appreciate skincare. Like my son.)

How do you care for your body’s biggest organ?* Do you moisturize? Exfoliate? Tone? Protect it from the sun? Or maybe you’re low maintenance and just allow it to breathe? Let’s talk about a skincare routine and preferred products.

But first a little history… I was raised by a seamstress who sold Avon on the side and have been devouring fashion and beauty magazines since middle school. I have a distinct memory of sitting in front of a mirror on the floor in my bedroom slathering my face (And neck! Do not neglect the neck!!) with some product, probably from Avon, and hoping that my freckles might fade. They didn’t disappear, but eventually my shame in having them did.

Since those days, my skincare routine has gone through countless revisions. There were the Clinique 3-step years  which ultimately were ended by the 3-sons years. Who has time for 3 steps when they’re raising children?! I moved on to Philosophy’s Hope in a Jar,  a facial cream that has the one-two appeal of great fragrance and a lovely light consistency. It came, however, with a price. That stuff was a bit of a splurge!

In recent years I’ve been a fan of the Origins  skincare line. Again, the products smell amazing, but additionally the ingredients seem to be thoughtfully sourced and the price was more palatable. The array of options – light to heavier formulations for different seasons, cleansers, gentle exfoliants and eye creams all seemed to work for me and I’ve been pretty happy with the condition of my skin. But…

This year I decided to go in a different direction. I wanted to explore some low budget drugstore items to see if my skin responded differently than it does to the more high end lines. I’d like to simplify the number of potions and products on my shelf, but I am even more interested in economizing on my skincare purchases. Right now, I’m experimenting with Cerave (originally nicked from the bf’s medicine cabinet) with SPF for daytime use and First Aid Beauty (FAB)  for night time. I think I’ll continue to use my Bliss** face wash and Origins toner  but would certainly consider a new eye cream if you have a recommendation.

As far as the rest of my skin, although there are times I wish it could be a little thicker, I’ve been told it’s remarkably soft. Nivea for life.

How about you? Do you have a skincare routine to share?

*that’s your skin btw, fellas

** we take our bliss where we find it, people!

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Filed under aging, beauty, favorites, girlhood, ideas, Observations, Recommendations

Getting the picture with my Nikon

 

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All of the photos in this post were taken with my Nikon D60, a camera I’ve had for about twelve years and have taken to at least a dozen different countries. From the very first time I held it in my hands, I’ve loved it. My camera has performed like a champ, as reliable as rain Tulip Fest weekend and ridiculously overpriced brunch on Mother’s Day, while capturing images that provided tangible evidence of life lived.

My very last day in Ireland something happened to my trusty travel chronicler. I had taken a couple of pictures without issue, but when I next tried to capture something that caught my eye, instead of hearing the click of the shutter, I instead received an error message. Hmmm.

I tried all my tricks – removing the battery, pushing a bunch of buttons, googling possible solutions…all to no avail. At my earliest opportunity, I called Cameraworks, a great camera repair shop that I had brought the Nikon to last year for some maintenance, and set up a time to bring it in for a diagnosis. But, then I started thinking, maybe it was time for a new camera body.

As I began considering the advantages of a new Nikon, I felt a combination of excitement and mild sadness. My D60 served me so well, but I know a new camera will offer all sorts of features I’ve never had before. I reached out to a professional photographer friend and he told me that my camera owes me nothing after a dozen years of dependability. He also said he’d personally be concerned that, even if the camera was repaired, something else might malfunction at any time. What if the error had occurred on my first day in Ireland rather than my last?

I guess it’s time to start camera shopping. I wouldn’t want to miss a single sunset in Greece.

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Filed under aging, beauty, favorites, ideas, musings, travel, vacation