Category Archives: road trips

My first focaccia


B195A6C6-71CE-4356-8AE6-69EADC0DCEFCTwenty-five years ago I went to Italy for the first time. It was my honeymoon and we intended to spend a couple of days in the Lake Como area as part of our five week trip. We were about 2 weeks into our vacation, having already visited rainy Ireland and soggy Germany, when we drove into Lake Como under foggy skies.

It’s hard to recall what made this scenic city feel unwelcoming, but we made the decision to stay in the car and keep driving.  I remember we committed to not getting out of that damn car again until we found sunshine. Three hours later, under sunny skies, we hit Genoa.

The next few days contained some of the most memorable moments of our honeymoon. We had a couple of fantastic meals, were eaten alive by mosquitos and discovered Pigato, still one of my favorite white wines. When we eventually left Liguria to rendezvous with friends in Switzerland, we were sunkissed and happy.

As we departed, we stopped for bread, cheese and tomatoes to make lunch on the road during our drive north. The aroma of the still warm bread filled the car as we drove away from the bakery and proved to be irresistible. We tore into it, our hands and mouths becoming shiny from the olive oil which had been brushed over the top of the loaf. There were deep dimples in the loaf which became wells for rosemary and salt and the dough had been baked to an ever so slight chewiness. It was the best bread I had every eaten – and my first ever focaccia.

It seems that many home bakers, during our current time of forced isolation, are exploring bread baking and I’ve heard about shortages of both flour and yeast in local stores. A friend of mine has been teaching her social media followers how to make and feed their own sourdough starter, a project I’ve never attempted. I’m more a no-knead girl and have used Mark Bittman’s recipe with great success over the years.

When I saw this recipe in the April 2020 issue of Bon Appetit, it immediately called my name. “Shockingly easy?” Yes, please. I’d like to make that. After consulting with my baker friend, I tested the yeast I’ve had in my refrigerator for at least 3 years and was happy to see it was still alive. Time to get busy.D84604E7-2845-4528-8EAD-45D295804B53


I prepped the dough on Friday and placed it in the fridge for an overnight rise. When I pulled it out the next morning, it seemed to have just about doubled, so I continued with the recipe. About 4 hours later, following the directions, I got my hands into the dough a bit, stretching it to completely fill the rimmed baking sheet. The texture was surprisingly silken and poking my fingers into the dough was incredibly satisfying. Excitedly, I dusted salt and fresh rosemary over the dough and slid it into the oven for 25 minutes.

Once out of the oven, there was a final basting of butter* and grated garlic and my first focaccia was complete. It may not have been exactly like the one I greedily ate all those years ago, but I could not have been prouder of the result. Make this!

BDCC4EB3-51BA-4F86-A385-91D35B909848*I used a combination of butter and olive oil.

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Filed under baking, Food, ideas, Italy, Recipes, Recommendations, road trips, Spring, travel

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

Catch up!

Believe it or not, DelSo is nearly ten years old. It’s been a pretty interesting run for me. Writing and sharing my life with people who take in my words, without looking in my eyes, is a sometimes odd experience.

My original concept, an inspired idea without much planning (aka The Silvia Story), was a community blog with neighborhood things and local events. I had birthed the sometimes hated name, DelSo and, for some weird reason, it stuck. I’ll never stop smiling just thinking about “DelSo” appearing in some official city mailings and on Google Maps. Kids, you can make up your own language!

Anyway, my idea was to explore happy hours around town and write about it. Low key, kind of insider foodie stuff. Fun. You know, light.

My life changed and the blog changed. There was a lot of emotion and readers responded. I grew to accept that the stories I shared were, in fact, mine to tell and if my transparency revealed the shadows of others, it wasn’t my intention.

DelSo has been a consistent outlet for nearly a decade, something I never imagined. Since last spring I’ve also been publishing pieces on a new platform, CivMix. Some of the topics are similar to things I’ve written about right here, but they’ve been tweaked a little differently. Truthfully, I sometimes wrestle with where to publish what. It feels like some weirdo writer’s infidelity thing. Whatever.

Here are some recent posts I’ve written over at CivMix. Hope you enjoy them – S

Travels With Sons

 

http://civmix.com/2019/09/the-school-year-…chers-confession/

Why Own When You Can Rent?

http://civmix.com/2019/09/the-waterboys-ca…-theater-9-19-19/

Beach birthday – Jersey Shore Weekend

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Filed under aging, Albany, birthdays, Boys, DelSo, Events, family, ideas, Local, musings, Observations, Recommendations, road trips, Summer, travel

Jersey girl birthday

Or, The Story of the 35th Anniversary of My 18th Birthday, Jersey Shore Style

F7603EE7-FF2E-4B6C-9287-B2717F42DEA6I sought this photo out for a post over at CivMix and every time I look at it, I can’t help but smile. What in the world gave that high school dropout with zero prospects the nerve to look over her shoulder with such an assured gaze?

For the life of me, I can’t remember feeling half as confident as I appear in that photo. I was in love. I know that. M1 was making me smile and I was happy, not knowing where I was going, but glad to be exactly where I was.

I’m fairly certain that picture was taken in the summer of 1984. I know it was on the boardwalk at Seaside Heights. My hair was permed and glazed. I believe the shade was called “fuchsia plum” and my hair looked wild under the bright lights.

That was the last time I was on the beaches of New Jersey, until last weekend. Thirty-five years later, I was finally back on the beaches of “the Shore,” which was what we called the New Jersey coast where I grew up.

F306957B-791C-41CF-AB3B-1288B73BD5B9On this recent trip I felt more so much established, certain of my value. I knew I was a catch for far more than a coquettish glance. The swagger in my step currently comes from the knowledge that I am, without a doubt, capable, independent and resilient. My gaze is direct instead of coy and, while my hair may be fading into silver, I feel more confident in myself than ever before.

I look back at that photo and can’t help but consider all of the decisions I’ve made between then and now. Some good, others not so great.  I’m so happy to know that I wouldn’t alter a single one of those choices because, if I did, I wouldn’t be where I am right now and it’s a damn good place.

Sunday, the day after my 53rd birthday, I laid on the beach soaking in the rays of the sun. I wore a two piece bathing suit, something I wouldn’t have done when I was 18 because I would have been concerned with how I looked to others.

On this particular day, though, I realized I didn’t really care how I looked in a bikini, because it was all about how the sun felt on my skin. And it felt great.

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Filed under aging, birthdays, girlhood, musings, road trips, Summer, sunday

Bozen Kill Preserve

I’ve had a really busy month. There was a wedding in Buffalo, a weekend wine fest in Rhinebeck and two Albany events last Saturday. I’m not complaining about the state of my social/work calendar at all, but I do feel as though Jeter has been a little neglected recently and I can’t coast on his Wellfleet week forever. So, Sunday afternoon he and I took a drive out to Altamont to the Bozen Kill Preserve for a little quality time together.

How I came to select this particular spot is kind of funny. I knew I wanted to get him outdoors for a hike, but was unwilling to drive any real distance. As I was considering where I might take him, my Facebook feed offered up a recent  CivMix post  and the first option struck all the right notes – not too far, welcoming to dogs and with the added bonus of clean water for my boy to take a dip. After Waze-ing the drive, we were off.

The ride was pleasant with hints of fall’s shades of orange and red just starting to make a splash in the foliage. I don’t drive out that way very often and am uncertain what surprised me more – how very crowded Indian Ladder Farms is or the fact that someone thought it was a good idea to increase the speed limit to 55 mph just before this way-too-popular place is visible. Someone really should re-examine that decision.

After another few minutes and a series of turns we were past any apple picking crowds and parked in a small lot that contained only one other vehicle. We was in the country! Leashed and ready, Jeter bounded out of the wagon and I signed us in at the nearby trailhead and off we went, following the white trail across the field and into the woods.

Our path was well marked with the occasional mild incline. Once we were about 10 minutes up the trail, the sound of cars faded and we were alone with only the birds and the occasional tiny toad for company. As far as humans, we only encountered one family on our walk. giving me the sense that I had traveled far further than a mere 15 miles.

Eventually we found our way to a gentle stream, aka Kill, which Jeter happily stepped into for what may have been his last swim of the year. As promised, the water was pristine.

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Filed under beauty, Exercise, family, Hiking, ideas, Local, Recommendations, road trips, sunday, upstate New York

(Not) Letting go

As of mid morning on Monday my hair still smelled like woodsmoke from Saturday night’s bonfire on Herring Cove beach. I washed it later in the day, but delaying the shampooing allowed the odor to linger in a lame attempt to cling to the week I had just spent at the Cape. It ended too soon.

After my adventures in Greece earlier this summer, I came to the realization that 2 weeks in Greece was essentially the same cost as the house I rent in Wellfleet. Hmmm. That was striking. Maybe it was time to let go of of this twenty year tradition for the sake of experiencing new destinations…

But, the magic of the Cape seems to get me every time, even when getting there is a clusterf*ck of traffic. Morning walks to the ocean, swimming with my dog in a pond that feels like our own and enjoying friends and low key entertaining…I just don’t know how to let it go.

Difficulty letting go has been a theme for me, it seems. This annual vacation, my Volvo wagon, lovers, specific articles of clothing…I hang on to things that have personal meaning that is sometimes irrational and beyond physical properties. I suspect it comes from unresolved childhood issues and a general lack of stability growing up. I mean, by the time I was in 6th grade I had attended three different school districts (and 5 separate buildings) and moved at least 8 times, which certainly didn’t lend much in terms of consistency to my life.

Perhaps all of that upheaval created a need for some constants in my life, beyond my brother and oldest of friends, and the annual trip to the Cape has simply grown into an event that is beyond a mere beach vacation. It’s a touchstone of my summer.

As I drove east and then south to Wellfleet, I did so with the mindset that this was it, end of an era, and I felt okay about it. Seven days later I knew that somehow I would find a way to continue this tradition, even with an anticipated return to Greece and a trip with my youngest son to Spain. At least for the next year. It’s just too important to my emotional and mental health, and my dog, to abandon.

What do you struggle to let go of?

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Filed under aging, beauty, Cape Cod, favorites, friends, Greece, love, musings, relationships, road trips, Spain, Summer, travel, vacation

The perfect Cape house

When I awoke from my afternoon nap to the sound of the wind in the trees, for a moment, I did not know where I was. I smiled that my response to that temporary state of being was excitement and not fear. Good. I prefer the unknown to be interesting instead of scary. I took a breath and, before opening my eyes, recalled where I was…the Cape, in the most perfect house I’ve ever stayed in the two decades since I began visiting this lovely area.

I’ve lost count of the number of other houses there have been over the years. The first few trips to Cape Cod were short getaways of just a couple of nights. My older boys were little guys and we were in the depths of daycare expenses hell which didn’t leave much of a vacation budget. We stayed in an adorable bed and breakfast/inn in Harwich Port and I fell in love with the adorable town and watching my babies enjoy the waves and sand. I was hooked.

We moved on to renting a tiny cottage for an entire week – a big leap forward. The lack of a dishwasher was a drag, but what really propelled us into getting a different house the following year was the need for a washing machine. Beaches + boys = laundry, and lots of it.

Our criteria for a rental now included the following: dishwasher, laundry facilities, dog friendly and an outdoor shower. We found a house a bit further out on the Cape that met each of these demands and rented the same place for the next few years, happily. I learned to immediately remove all the little throw rugs for the duration of our stay, thus avoiding the game of slide-around-the-oversized-kitchen, and somehow managed to sidestep any medical emergencies other than swimmer’s ear and the chicken pox.

During some exploratory drives beyond Chatham, I fell hard for Wellfleet and directed my attention to finding a rental there for the following summer. Fifteen or so years later, this remains my favorite spot on the Cape. The houses we’ve had have mostly been winners, but there were a couple of exceptions.

At this point a week on the Cape had become two weeks, sometimes divided between the Cape and Martha’s Vineyard. For a number of years there was an awesome “upside-down” house that featured a second story kitchen, dining and living room which gave the place a tree house feel. The deck wrapped around two sides of the place and there were turkeys in the back yard and a hammock the boys would swing in until someone reliably got unceremoniously dumped.

We switched things up the next year for a house with newer furniture and a better yard for the kids to play in, but these perks came with unexpected consequences – ants and mice. After a week of storing all of our food in Rubbermaid containers, we knew it was a one and done kind of situation. There was no looking back.

Honing in on our happiness took us closer to the water, near Lieutenant’s Island. The first year was a fail in a house that failed to indicate that going from the upstairs to the downstairs required walking outdoors and down an external staircase, not great with still smallish children. The stone fireplace on the deck wasn’t enough to get us back the next year.

We made the leap over the bridge, (which is inaccessible during high tides), to a decent house within a 10 minute walk to a calm bay beach. During our stay that first year, the kids made friends with a boy in a nearby house and I took the chance to take a peek inside. It looked perfect for us and was in fact an ideal set up with bedrooms and baths scattered over three stories with awesome decks, including one outside of my bedroom that attracted hummingbirds from early morning through dusk. Despite the tight galley kitchen, I really loved that place and we returned to it for the next 3 or 4 years.

As the kids got older, though, the bay didn’t appeal to wave seekers and we shifted our eyes to the other side of Route 6 where we found what is now my ideal house. Hidden in the woods with a semi-private pond directly across the rutted dirt road, the place I’ve visited the past three years is as close to perfect as I can imagine. A 15 minute walk gets us to the ocean and Wellfleet Center is a drive just slightly longer.

The house itself is ideal with a small footprint, but three stories tall. The kitchen and dining area are spacious and open directly onto a large screened porch with a view of the gardens and “our” pond. The separate cabin was perfect as a “crib” for the boys and avoided a whole lot of arguing about wet towels and swim suits on the floor, because I just didn’t have to see it.

The “boys” are older now, though, and no longer interested, or able, to spend a week away from friends or jobs. Last year, for the first time ever I spent a week away from my children at the Cape and filled the house instead with friends. The small cabin became an oasis for a couple and the bedrooms on the second and third floors were occupied with a fluid array of grown ups.

We never ran out of milk. I didn’t drive for five days. We ate when we were hungry and drank when we were thirsty. There was a rager of a party, which we celebrated by taking a swim in the dark in the pond. It was dreamy.

This second year without my sons feels even more indulgent. I’m as infatuated with this house as ever, but I’m looking forward and thinking I’d like to explore some new beaches, maybe in Greece again. The price of the beautiful home I rent is about equal to the cost, I believe, of what I can instead spend putting together two weeks in Greece. It’s time to make a new tradition.

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Filed under beauty, Cape Cod, family, favorites, moms, musings, Observations, road trips, Summer, vacation