Category Archives: winter

Mums the word – Mumford and Sons at the Times Union Center

Confession: three concerts in three nights nearly broke me. By the time Sunday morning rolled around last weekend, I was completely exhausted, but I couldn’t stop smiling. What a great few nights this little city of ours showed visitors, local music fans and me! Here’s how this early March Bucket List concert went down…

After hearing from friends about the impressive wait lines they had encountered at the City Beer Hall on Elton John night, I made sure that I called in a favor we arrived before 5:00 for dinner pre-show. Cozy and warm by the fire, our party of 5 ordered an array of food, including burgers and two chicken sandwich variations along with drinks. Despite the fact that the inside of this place was absolutely jammed, the kitchen and front of the house staff were on their game and absolutely humming with professional competence. Food and drink were without exception excellent and I highly recommend this place whether its pre or post show or any other occasion when you want quality ingredients well prepared. I’m still thinking about that burger!

While the girls continued socializing I grabbed my crowd photos for the TU, which was a blast. It was an awesome crowd and there was no shortage of folks willing to pose for me, including a fair number of my friends. This was Mumford and Sons first Albany show and there were lots of excited people, including me. I had been shut out when they last came around for a sold out concert at SPAC and I was still kicking myself for missing that show. By the time the lights went down, I was comfortable in my seat and ready to enjoy some music.

And, boy, did I! Marcus Mumford was absolutely mesmerizing singing his pipes out and playing whatever instrument he happened to land in front of as he ran around the stage. There appeared to nothing he couldn’t play and somehow, the sound mix was remarkably good, something I’ve never thought before at this particular arena. At one point during their set, I couldn’t stop myself from texting a friend with this message: I am so happy.

I will not miss this band again. Maybe you’ll go next time too?

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Filed under Albany, concerts, Dinner, drinking, Events, favorites, friends, Local, Music, Recommendations, Restaurants, SEEN, upstate New York, winter

Elton John in Albany – Seen and heard!

In recent months, once again, I’ve picked up some side gigs taking photos for the Times Union’s Seen galleries. I’ve always enjoyed taking pictures and it’s fun for me to make chit chat with people, even if I don’t always actually get to attend the concert or show that I’m shooting. I feel almost like an ambassador to Albany when I’m talking to folks, asking where they’re visiting from and offering suggestions for places to eat and drink. Once a hostess, always a hostess.

Last Friday night’s event, the Albany stop of Elton John’s farewell tour, promised to be a great crowd. The event was sold out months in advance and it seemed like a lot of people I knew were attending the show. I myself hadn’t purchased a ticket since I was fortunate enough to have seen Elton John before – in London’s Wembley Arena in the early 90s. With Eric Clapton and Bonnie Raitt. Backstage. Come on! How would this show possible top that?

I took up my position in the fairly recently enclosed lobby of the Times Union Arena and started grabbing my shots, beginning at about 6:30. The crowd was colorful and excited and I met people from all over the state, as well as New England, Canada and Florida – all in our fair city for the night. The concert was scheduled to begin at 8:00 and by 7:20 or so, I had my shots and was getting ready to head to my car. Until I ran into someone I knew, that is…

My friend, a retired teacher who was attending the show with his husband, and I took a few minutes to catch up and then he asked me if I was attending the show. I explained that I was just working pre-show and didn’t have a ticket. He asked if I wanted to go in…uh, yeah, that would be cool. It was my lucky night and a short time later, we were inside the TU Center waiting for the lights to go down and Elton to come out.

I have to say, Elton John 2019 was even better than he was circa 1992. Somehow I had forgotten what a terrific piano player he was and his performance was truly stellar. The setlist, which I checked out online once I was in the arena, was pretty much every song a fan might want to hear and his band was tight with the percussionist particularly standing out. He opened with “Bennie and the Jets” and forged ahead full steam rolling out some of my favorites including “Levon” and “Burn Down the Mission.”  It was a great night for Elton and his band, Albany and every person fortunate enough to catch the show.

How about you? Were you there? Were you Seen??

 

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Filed under Albany, concerts, Events, friends, Local, Music, SEEN, Uncategorized, upstate New York, winter

Steve Earle and Shannon McNally at The Egg

There are two things that people say about Albany* that make me crazy, ok, maybe three, and on the top of the list is “there’s nothing to do.” As someone working really hard to pace themselves, I’m going to tell you right now that that’s crazy talk – there is so much activity in Albany these days, that it’s a struggle to not overextend one’s self by trying to go to every single cool thing happening. Truth.

Late winter isn’t known as the most hospitable time of the year in upstate New York, but we’ve gotten really lucky in Albany and have welcomed some terrific performers to the area already this year. Thursday night I had the chance to see a musician, Steve Earle, whom I’ve been interested to see ever since reading a biography about him. This bonafide American low-key legend rolls through town every so often and friends who were unable to make use of their tickets, were generous enough to make their seats available. And, they were great seats!

Shannon McNally opened the evening with a set of the perfect length, perhaps 40 minutes. She was charming with a self-deprecating sense of humor and a voice that shone particularly well when she and Steve harmonized together. While it didn’t seem that McNally had been to our Egg before, she’s obviously been performing for years and played a set that was really easy to enjoy. I’m still chuckling over a remark she made while gently touching upon life and politics. She quoted her grandfather with the following:

In a hundred years, all new people.

Exactly.

As for the headliner, Steve Earle did not disappoint. The “tools” of his trade, 6 various stringed instruments, were arranged around him like a womb and he played each of them with incredible technical skill and respect. His prowess reminded me of Richard Thompson, in a way. But, when I hear Thompson I can’t help but look for the other guitar player who surely most be playing simultaneously, because one guitar player can’t possibly create that much sound. When it came to Earle, though, my eyes were seeking the additional musicians who had to be contributing to the sound with instruments beyond this one single guitar. He just made so much music! Genius comes in many flavors, friends.

If you haven’t seen Steve Earle, or Richard Thompson, you need to get on that. Keep your eyes open and you’ll be rewarded next time either of them swing through Albany. And don’t miss Shannon McNally – she’s got her own special magic, too.

*(In case you’re interested in the other two things rounding out my list – “there’s no parking” and “the taxes are too high.”)

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Filed under Albany, art, concerts, Events, friends, Local, Music, Observations, Recommendations, Uncategorized, upstate New York, winter

The first time – challah bread

The first time I made challah bread was a snowy day at the beginning of a staycation week. I found a recipe that seemed manageable, gathered together my ingredients and tuned to a jazz station on my Apple Music. I was ready, with a reasonable degree of seriousness, to take on the challenge. Baking intimidates me and other than my brownies (it’s a secret, but I’ll tell you in person if you ask) and No-Knead Bread, it’s most definitely not my strength. But, I’m an optimist and I’m curious about bread and yeast, so I began.

The recipe was straightforward and all seemingly went well. My kitchen is on the cold side of my house and I don’t know that the yeast slurry ever truly thrived, but the ingredients went together nicely and I left the dough to rise while I went for a ski.

About 3 hours later I checked the covered-in-plastic dough and saw some expansion, but not much. I handled the dough a bit and divided it into portions which I hoped to braid together prettily. That part went really well. Once the dough was shaped, it got covered and I placed it in the fridge for overnight. “Overnight” is such a non descriptive word really. This particular night, it meant taking the dough out and placing it on the counter at about 4:00 a.m. I miss sleep, but there’s always something with which to occupy one’s time.

About 3 hours later, I brushed the dough with the recommended beaten egg with a pinch of salt and popped the loaves into a preheated oven. They baked for about 34 minutes and I moved them around the oven a total of three times during the process. I think they’re beautiful, but the taste is kind of bland. I’m going to try them again with freshly purchased yeast, another egg and a touch of honey. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Do you bake bread? Hints? Recipes to share with the baking challenged?

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Filed under baking, Food, Observations, Recipes, Uncategorized, vacation, winter

More carbs, please

I don’t know what it is, but I can’t stop eating. Carbs are my thing and recently I have been going to town cooking, and eating, pasta. It’s a little too soon to be officially “carb loading” for either of the 1/2 marathons for which I’ve already registered, so I have no excuse other than it tastes good. And I like it.

Last week, I made a spicy bolognese sauce that I thought was delicious, albeit a little meaty. I will definitely riff on that recipe in the future because it was hearty, simple and really easy to put together in a single pan. I love that!

Over the weekend I made a lentil and butternut squash soup that ticked all my current boxes – lentils and orange vegetables. Again, the list of ingredients was reasonable and the prep practically effortless, an ideal combination of circumstances when one is planning lunches for the week. I mean, come on, how great is it to pull out a pint of homemade soup for lunch on a cold day? With a little forethought, you could be living the high lunch life

The more labor intensive culinary project of the weekend turned out to be gnudi. Have you had them before? I think the first ones I ever had were made by Nick Ruscitto and they were delightful. Lighter than gnocchi with a softness that proves the delicacy of their maker’s hands, these ricotta cheese dumplings are pillows of tenderness perfectly finished with the most simple of sauces. I had to make them.

I found a recipe and got busy, draining the ricotta and exploring methods for how to eventually form and cut the gnudi. After chilling the dough, I opted for the long log technique, slicing the log into .75” pieces which I then gently placed in boiling water. Like many Italian recipes I’ve prepared, the challenge is the amount of time required, not necessarily the level of skill of the cook.

I cooked the gnudi in batches, resting uncooked ones on a plastic wrap covered baking sheet and cooling the cooked ones off under in a colander. Eventually I placed all the gnudi into a plastic container and drizzled them with olive oil. I was saving them for Monday’s “meatless” dinner when I planned to sauté them in olive oil and a dollop of bacon fat with mushrooms, onions, garlic and roasted cauliflower.

Mondays can be rough after a busy weekend, but when dinner and multiple lunches are prepared before Sunday officially ends, they’re not so bad at all.

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Filed under Cooking, Dinner, Eating, favorites, Food, ideas, Observations, Recipes, Recommendations, soup, winter

(The) freedom of obligation

Wow, January! You were really something. During your calendar page time, I made my way home from California, spent an evening with friends in New Paltz and had a quick getaway to Miami Beach. There were numerous runs, some yoga, lots of golf course walks with Jeter and the first ski of the season. It was a month full of living life and spending time with people whose company I enjoy. 2019, I think you’re going to be a good one…

As I spent a little time reflecting on the past month, I couldn’t help but recognize that it didn’t matter where I physically was,  wherever I was I felt happy. I guess this internal happiness I’ve been working to cultivate travels well. It really is true, you know, wherever you go, that’s where you are.

It didn’t matter if I was traveling alone or with someone else, if the sun was shining or the wind blowing, or where I physically was – my general state of emotional being was positive. I felt lucky to be wherever I happened to be, even when it wasn’t a place with a scenic view or the warmth of sun on my face. I’m alive. I have family and friends and people with whom I enjoy sharing my time. I have a home and a job. My health is good and my body (mostly) does what I ask it to do. And, there isn’t a single day that I don’t appreciate every single one of those things.

One of the best gifts about growing older is learning new lessons about life and oneself, and how those two things relate. I think the happiness I’m currently experiencing comes in part to my recent realization that beyond my children, the only one I’m obligated to is myself. I’ve known for a long time that I alone am responsible for my own happiness and security, but I’m starting to have a different understanding about what that means. To me, at least.

The commitment I have to being happy, to living my best life, comes with an emotional independence that I hadn’t previously considered. While I most certainly owe honesty to any romantic partner I am with, I’m not obligated to sacrifice my needs to a relationship which may not fill my soul in the manner in which I desire. This is, to me, a rather radical understanding of myself and the state of being linked emotionally with another. I don’t have to stifle my feelings or longings because my ultimate commitment is to me. I only get to do this life thing once and I’m unwilling to experience it as an observer. I want to live it. All of it.

How is the new year treating you? What are you doing to make your life one that is well lived? Are you living your best life?

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Filed under aging, Albany, Brunch, California, friends, love, marriage, moms, musings, Observations, Random, relationships, running, travel, Uncategorized, upstate New York, vacation, winter, x-country skiing, yoga

Memories of Miami

Last weekend, while Albany hunkered down for a powerful snowstorm and arctic temperatures, I hopped on a nonstop flight to Ft. Lauderdale. Ultimate destination: Miami Beach. Despite the government shutdown, my timing was good and I made it through Albany International (*giggle*) Airport security in no time and boarded the JetBlue flight in the second group, pretty much ensuring that there would be space for my carry-on bag. I’d been burned in both directions on my recent trip to California when I’d had to surrender my bag to be checked and I had no time to waste waiting on checked luggage on a tight weekend. Minutes count, you know?

 

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Following a comfortable flight, my first on JetBlue, I was collected curbside by a very old friend and we headed to South Beach for drinks. It was Art Deco Weekend, an event with all sorts of activities like music, performances, dancing and food and drink related happenings. Ocean Drive was closed to traffic and under the light of an increasingly larger moon, we walked around checking out the scene. It felt incredible to be outdoors, walking with a mojito in hand, and my indulgent decision to take this trip was confirmed as the correct impulse. I was so happy to be there!

The remainder of my brief time in Miami was spent walking for miles, eating and drinking liberally, gazing at Deco buildings and the Atlantic, and simply relaxing whether that came in the form of a run, a nap, or a lounge chair with a view. And a cushion. I stayed with a friend (Thanks, MB!) and the location of his rental house was fantastic well within my range of walking distance from the terrace of The Standard, Lincoln Road Mall and the ocean. When the destination was deemed as too far, we Ubered and Lyfted, but I also noticed a free shuttle that might have been an option if your budget was particularly limited.

There was a bountiful meal at Mr. Chow in the W Hotel, the decided upon location when I explained that I needed a place to wear a special dress and delicious baked goods and cafe con leche from a place filled with flavor, both local and imported. I had a wonderful meal of the evening’s special preparation of red snapper at the bar of Stiltsville Fish Bar, watching the Patriots game, before we Ubered to a cash only dive bar, where the game continued. I drank too much tequila, but my sunscreen application was mostly on point and I came home a bit worse for the wear, but with a glow that was more golden than green. Or so I’d like to think.

 

I wouldn’t hesitate to do this again. It was a terrific little almost-mid-winter getaway. Have you ever split town for a weekend in a similar fashion? Where did you go?

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