Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving (round two!) with The Wonderlands

Ok, so most people out there who experience a wonderful meal on Thanksgiving with friends or family are already quite blessed, right? Well, this year, I had the privilege of celebrating twice! My hips aren't quite as thrilled about that fact but that's beside the point. One of my dear friends, Kyra, came in town from San Francisco for turkey day and brought her sweet boyfriend, Ted, to celebrate with her family for the first time. They live upstate in Middletown which is just a short train ride from Grand Central. Kyra's family had a duel Thanksgiving themselves as they celebrated with grandma on their own on Thursday. Their second celebration for the rest of the family would be Saturday so, since we only get to see Kyra a couple of times a year AND she was on the east coast, she warmly invited Allison and I to have dinner with them.

Side note for a second. Kyra is the type of friend that I can proudly say anyone would be jealous of me for having. She is one of the greatest people I know and I'm pretty sure her heart is really made of gold. I adore Kyra and she's truly found her counterpart in her boyfriend, Ted. He is every bit as terrific as she is and I'm such a lucky girl to call them both my friends. How adorable are they:
Back to food talk. We took an early afternoon train on Saturday and, when we got to Kyra's house, I swear I immediately felt like part of the family. We met her brother and sister, along with their significant others, and one of their longtime friends. Kyra's parents were also just fantastic and so welcoming! I can truly see where Kyra gets her warm and accepting personality. :) It was so very good to have everyone together like that:
After lots of chatter and catching up, it was finally time to eat. I have to point out that the turkey was one of the best turkeys I've ever tasted. Kyra's dad grills it every year and I've never had such tender, juicy turkey meat in my life. It had that distinct smoky grill flavor too which really elevated the flavor. Hellooooo, Thanksgiving round two:
I think our food comas made everyone have the giggles, hehehe:
Maybe it was the SEVEN desserts, instead.

We had such a wonderful time laughing, talking, and being together. I felt so at home and it made me really miss having my entire family together. Those moments are priceless and I enjoyed being a part of that time with Kyra and her family. All I know is either I'm moving to San Fran or Kyra's moving back to New York because I can't stand all the miles between us anymore. If up to me, I say we just started a whole new Albanese/Wonderland Thanksgiving tradition. ;) 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dinner Recap

I'm still full. There's just no two ways about it yet my stomach was growling like crazy when I woke up today. Ohhh, Thanksgiving, how I love and hate you at the same time.

Those who know me well know that I love tradition. There's something about building and keeping tradition that I find sweet and meaningful. I've already mentioned that this was mine and Allison's 9th year cooking Thanksgiving dinner together (only I messed that up and it was really the 8th year, ooops!) so clearly that tradition has been very special to us both. This year, we surely kept our favorite dishes but added a couple of new twists in there, too. I suppose it's a modern take on tradition. :P

We decided our final menu would be turkey, stuffing, grand marnier cranberry sauce, roasted butternut squash, mashed potatoes and black pepper biscuits with pumpkin cream cheese pie for dessert; everything homemade, of course. We went the route of doing an herb-rubbed turkey this year and it turned out fantastic! The 'rub' consisted of fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme combined with olive oil, lemon juice, a little dry mustard, garlic, salt and lots of cracked black pepper:
Making the cranberry sauce is one of my favorite parts of the meal because it makes the whole house smell like the holidays. While it simmers, the cinnamon, nutmeg, and apple all create such a cozy aroma and it makes me really excited for Christmas. While that cooked, I made my infamous mashed potatoes. This time I used Danish gold potatoes with a couple of Idahos thrown in. I left the skins on all and they were fantastic! Allison made the pie after that and holy crap, I want that exact pie every year from now on. Yuuuum, food:
The layer of cream cheese just makes it pop and it was delicious! I think what we were both most excited about this year was making the black pepper biscuits. I'd seen the recipe (a Bobby Flay'er) a while ago and man, did they sound good. Being a hater of baking, I figured I'd never in a million years make biscuits. Um, me roll out dough? No thanks. This recipe, however, had you combining ingredients in the food processor then kneading only slightly before cutting them out. I was still happy to have Allison do that part, though:
They were so good! Next time, I'd do salted butter and combine the black pepper throughout the dough instead of just on top but they really were fantastic. It goes without saying that I greatly enjoy the ease factor, as well.

Allison and I had such fun cooking together this year because we actually spread things out over Wednesday night and Thursday morning. It was much more relaxing and definitely allowed for more time drinking vino. It's hard to choose whether we like the food or wine more at Thanksgiving, this year especially. When we were in Napa this past Spring, we both joined different wine clubs and we get a two bottle shipment every quarter. What better time to drink our super nice wine than Thanksgiving?! That may or may not have gotten me in a little trouble on Wednesday night.

All of this said, Thanksgiving was fabulous this year and I think we're really going to have a hard time topping it. What a wonderful holiday to celebrate and I'm pretty sure this sums it all up:
Gobble! Gobble!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I Give Thanks...

Thanksgiving. Thanks. Giving. Two words with two meanings that act as one which celebrate a beautiful day and season of blessing. A season in which we focus on being thankful for what we have and for how we can share and give selflessly. (Unless you're Dave who has coined this year as being 'Thanksgetting' which just might be brilliant. Story for another time.)

As Thanksgiving has arrived yet again, I'm humbled by the place in life I find myself and the treasures in which I'm surrounded. My heart is stirred each year at this time and I often wish I could bottle the joy I feel and save it for a day where I seem to forget it. No matter what pain and hardship have followed me throughout the year, Thanksgiving is always a place I reach where I'm able to re-shift perspective and re-gain lost ground. I love this time of year so much and I'm grateful for the wisdom I've been blessed with to see life through discerning eyes.

I've always journaled the list of what I'm thankful for but this year I'm doing things a little different and writing it here. Feel free to read or not, I write it for myself regardless. On this special day, these are but a few of the things I'm thankful for:
  • Cori
  • Laughter
  • Good, strong coffee
  • Health
  • Friends who know me better than I know myself sometimes
  • Passion
  • Extra cheesy pizza
  • Crying, in good times and bad
  • Mercy
  • Running
  • Scented candles
  • My family, who are treasures to my soul
  • Peach green tea
  • My old, oversized Rams sweatshirt
  • Fireplaces
  • Music
  • The place I find myself presently 
  • Hugs
  • Fluffy sweaters
  • Love
  • Sunsets
  • Change and new opportunity
  • Red wine
  • The ability to laugh at myself
  • Hope
  • The select few who have seen me fall, helped pick me back up, and loved me all the same
How could I really list all the things I'm thankful for? I'd be here all day if I tried. I will say, with deep sincerity, that what I'm most thankful for is simply life. The good, the hard, the fun, the sad, the crazy, the unknown, the hopeful, the mundane, the stressful, the exciting, the peaceful, the unexpected...the journey. I am more than humbled by the blessings surrounding me that make life exactly what it should be, here and now. I am so thankful that I've got 30 years under my belt of experience, progress, and life. That is joy, my friends.

The house is smelling amazing and I do believe it's time for more wine. So, I'll simply say Happy Thanksgiving to all (and Thanksgetting to Dave). I hope your day is as wonderful as mine!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Countdown Begins...

Oh my goodness, it's almost turkey tiiiiiiiiiiiiiime! I mean honestly, where the heck has this whole year gone? I keep exclaiming about this because I seriously can't grasp that 2010 is coming to a close. Man, time really does start to fly with each year, doesn't it?

I think I'm mentally checked out of work at this point. I've also had a nasty cold the past few days that doesn't seem to want to go away. I actually even walked my whole race yesterday morning. Thankfully, it was only four miles, but I just couldn't get my energy level to where I'd need for running. Allison was so sweet in walking it with me just to keep me company. I really appreciated that. At any rate, I'm still feeling like crap yet the vision of stuffing dancing in my head is enough to take my mind off of it.

In three short days, Allison and I will be cooking our NINTH annual Thanksgiving dinner together! How awesome is that?! We didn't really intend on starting that tradition together so long ago, it just sorta happened. One of these days, we need to put a collage together of the photos. THAT would provide laughter for us both.

This year, we're switching a few things up. We're adding in a veggie (god forbid there be something healthy) and trying our hand at homemade black pepper biscuits. I've also kindly requested that Allison make a pumpkin cream cheese pie. MMM! I might be drooling as I type. I'll have a full dinner report after turkey day, for sure.

All I know is I better get over this cold before Thursday. I'll cry if I can't taste the very stuffing I'm dreaming about. Three more daaaaaaaaays...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My First Giants Game: Bigshot Style

Finally, after three years of being a Giants fan, I went to my very first game on Sunday. I'd been to the Meadowlands last year for a Jets game but had yet to go to the new stadium and boy, was it nice. I was out with some friends on Saturday afternoon when Scott texted about going and I got SO excited. Going to football games is quite possibly one of my favorite things in the world. Going to a Giants game in particular just elevates that for me. :)

We all met at Brother Jimmy's near Penn Station for some food and beers before the train. In all honesty, we were having such a good time before even getting to the stadium that we kinda lost track of time, ha! Finally, we were on our way and I was soooo excited. Of course, brown bag beers were a must for the train ride. That made Scott apparently verrrrry happy:
 Camille was our honorary guest jersey wearer thanks to Abbey:
Once we got to the stadium, I was like a little kid. I know I know, I'm pretty easy to please which I happen to think is a great thing, heehee:
If I thought I was excited then, I had no clue what I was in for with our seats. When we walked in, we kept going further and further down until we stopped at the 7th row, ahhhhhhh:
Dude, that was the best surprise ever. I have to add that there was a mini blackout during the 3rd quarter! The entire stadium went dark which was pretty wild. The lights starting coming back up a little bit at a time. Pretty cool:
I don't think I need to go any further in saying we had a GREAT time:
Thank you soooo much, Pagano! Best day, ever.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Old and New Friends

This past weekend was so much fun. I know, I say that a lot, but anytime I get to visit with an old friend automatically makes a weekend better. On Friday, my friend, Mike, came in town briefly and I was quite excited to get an old crew of people together after far too long.

I met Mike in 2007 at KBC which was my first job here in the city. We instantly became friends! He entered into a great group of people that remain some of my closest friends here which is so special. Over time at KBC, I somehow became the one in charge of organizing get-togethers for everyone and, before you knew it, we were all doing something together at least once a week. I love those memories and thinking back on my time at KBC brings such a smile to my face. True to form, when I found out Mike was coming in town, I organized a happy hour and decided to include my present work colleagues, too! I wasn't sure how the groups would mix but I know just how much fun I always have with my old crew so I figured we'd have a great time. Annnd...we did!

We decided to check out Traffic Bar for the first time and it was a cool space. They have a great happy hour and we actually had our own private room, not on purpose. I haven't seen Mike in a year and a half so it was wonderful finally having him back in the city:
Yep, we match. :P It was funny for me to bring my two work groups together. It was actually so great re-living memories and sharing stories from the past with my present co-workers. We laughed, caught up, and had a super fun Friday night together:
From old friends...
to new friends...
what a fun Friday night:

Monday, November 8, 2010

4th Annual Marathon Sunday

Why oh why do the best days always have to end so fast? It's so hard to believe that yet another marathon day has come and gone. I feel like I just wrote about it from last year! I also can't believe that this is the fourth marathon I've gotten to watch in this great city. Boy, does time fly!

As usual, I totally got emotional as soon as I turned on the news coverage Sunday morning. I love how they do one off interviews with runners as they wait for their official start times! Since the marathon begins on Staten Island, I have a little bit of time before the elite runners get to my side of town. My apartment is around mile 17 and 18 which is a tremendous point on the course to be out watching. You really begin to see what these runners are made of and it's SO inspirational and moving. As mentioned, I've spent four years supporting people on marathon day and it's a true delight for me. This year was a little different, though. This happens to be my last year watching as I'll officially be running in it next year! For those who don't know, the New York marathon is one of the hardest races to get into in the world. NYRR offers their 9+1 Program which is a fantastic program that allows members to run nine races in a calendar year, plus volunteer for one, which guarantees them entry into the following year's marathon. I have two races left to go this year and then I'm an official entrant into 2011! I am SO excited and feel like it's such a reward for my hard work this year.

Watching the marathon this time was much more meaningful for me than prior years. I was focused on different areas of it than I ever have been before and that's really because I kept imagining myself out there on the road next year, finally participating. That's huge for me and I feel rather overwhelmed each time I think about it. At any rate, we had a fabulous day celebrating the amazing runners who leave their heart out on the road. As usual, you saw everything from people with two fake legs to grandmothers to people in big is quite the spectacle, running aside. My favorite part is when I'm fortunate enough to see a runner spot their friends or family on the sidelines and to see the pure joy in all of their faces. It's so amazing and has me choked up even writing this. While many out there aren't runners and cannot understand the pain one endures for a marathon, you still get to see unconditional support and encouragement. It's SO great. We all had a really terrific day together:
Another marathon day passed, another amazing memory for the books. I cannot wait for it to be MY turn next year!

Robbie Gil Record Release Party

You can go back through so many of my posts where I reference the one and only Robbie Gil. He is my favorite local musician and he's an absolute powerhouse mixture of performer and songwriter. He is so very talented with a deep, smoky voice like that of Ray LaMontagne. His rich, soulful voice is definitely what draws you in initially but then you pay attention to his lyrics and you're truly blown away.

I've been going to see Robbie Gil for three years and he is a huge part of what makes living in New York so wonderful. His songs have really been like a life soundtrack for me. I can pinpoint so many ups and downs where his music has played on in the background of my heart and mind. Interestingly enough, I've been able to follow along on his journey as he's seemingly endured heartbreak himself and I've gotten to see him press on and heal as he's openly shared his soul through his songs. It's rare to find the kind of artistry where honesty and transparency seem to be the top priority. This is what you'll find in any live Robbie Gil show. I remember listening to his album 'Stumble Inn' for the first time before seeing him live and, while I thought he was great, I had no idea what I was in for with a live show. He is tremendous and the guys he plays with regularly now are every bit as talented. I had the great pleasure of attending his 'Save Yourself' record release party and show on Saturday night and I am so glad I went.

As a side note, because food rules my life, I have to mention that we had dinner at The Meatball Shop on Stanton beforehand. Um, though I got made fun of for repeating it a million times, I couldn't stop saying how genius the place is. The menu is small enough where they can perfect each dish and the original recipe ideas (like homemade oatmeal ice cream!) are, well, genius. Awesome prices, cool space, great food - I mean, you can't ask for much more. I had a couple of sierras ($4 might I add!), we shared the chicken meatballs with pesto and classic beef with spicy meat sauce, and sampled the delicious roasted butternut squash with walnuts and ricotta salata. So good!

Ok, back to Robbie. What a fantastic and packed show it was. He played a couple of known favorites and then a few new songs off the record. I got such a calm energy from him and you really felt their sense of pride on completing the album. It was exciting to hear a couple of never before played songs, one of which had strong lyrics like "I'm gonna make ends meet before I meet my end". Inevitably, he speaks to me on some level each and every time I see him. I feel this odd connection to Robbie like that of an old friend or someone who you've known for a really long time. Though I only recently met him, I enjoy that aspect of how I feel with his stuff. I think that says something about him as an artist.

I'm really happy for him and the guys with this record. I wish them the absolute best and I look forward to so many more music filled evenings with them. Play on, Robbie Gil:
 Harmonica, YES:
The hugely talented Pat Firth:
I love Josh Dion (on drums) in this:
My favorite:

Friday, November 5, 2010

Race Day and Chocolate Croissants

Marathon weekend is upon us and I couldn't be more excited! As I'll be sure to write after this coming Sunday, marathon day is my absolute favorite day in New York. I really wait each year for it to roll around so I'm getting pumped up!

I actually ran the first ever NYRR 5 this morning and it was so great. It was a 5 mile race in Central Park to kick off marathon weekend and it was also a qualifier which I needed. My boss was kind enough to let me come in late so I could run and I'm so glad I got to be a part of that. I'm not sure if it was the fact that this was the first time this race has been held but there was such spirit and excitement amongst the crowd. We actually ran the final three miles that are on the marathon route, too. I got choked up coming around to the finish because I began to imagine what I would feel like next year when I'm running the marathon and come around that final bend. I'm pretty emotional when it comes to my running accomplishments because I've worked so hard over the years. It's funny to think back to when I could never even imagine running 5 straight miles yet now it's like a warm-up for me. It's one of those things in my life that's always been such a challenge which is exactly why marathon day is so incredible to me. Ironically, I ran my best time yet in the NYRR 5 which I think is a pretty cool parallel. Must have really been all the heart out there in the crowd. One other fun tidbit is we got medals at the finish since this is tied into the marathon. The slogan this year is "I'm In. We're In." which I think is super cool and that was engraved on the medals. :)

I had joked with the girls at work that I'd like them to be waiting at the finish with hot coffee and homemade chocolate croissants. Well, they did the next best thing and had them waiting for me when I got into work:
They're just so cute. :) It was a fun surprise and the croissants were freaking delicious. At any rate, it was a terrific start to my Friday and really to the weekend as a whole. Bring on the marathon!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

You're Mean, Jimmy Clarke!

I have a personal trainer. His name is Jimmy Clarke. Sometimes, Jimmy can be very mean...but only in the best of ways, of course.

Jimmy is the single best personal trainer I've ever worked with. He is so focused, engaging, and very very tough. He's one of those people who really cares about what he does and he pushes you to constantly be better. I've worked out consistently for the past ten years. I've done just about everything under the sun you can imagine but one thing I was never satisfied with was the inability to work with a trainer. Whether it was financial issues or not finding the right person, I was never able to work on a consistent basis with someone one on one. I was thrilled to be referred to Jimmy and working with him is one of the best decisions I've made in a long time.

That said, let me repeat myself. He can be "mean"and I'm so sore today that I really think I'll be stuck behind my desk for the whole day. It hurts to move and I'm sore in places I didn't really know I could be sore. Yep, good ol' Jimmy. I simply cannot wait for next week. Just thought I'd share.

Happy Thursday! :P

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween Weekend with Brant and Susanne

First of all, it's November?!?! I'm in serious disbelief. Anyway...

My goodness, October was a busy month for me. It's fitting that I'd round it out with more guests, too. Brant and Susanne came up to visit again and what a nice weekend we had. They've come to see me several times since I moved here which is always so special. This trip was particularly great because we really just laid low. They wanted to be more like locals since they've covered most all the touristy stuff during past visits. I really enjoyed this visit for that reason which I'm sure most people would understand. ;)

We spent Saturday mainly walking all around town. The weather was just so gorgeous all weekend, albeit chilly. I brought them up to see my office and we did some shopping in several different areas of town. It was really nice to simply roam around with no real agenda. Just as a side note, we went into Armani Exchange in Soho and I've never in my life heard such loud music. I contemplated getting a six pack and just hanging out there since it was more of a club in that store than anywhere I've seen in a while. However, I did find a hat I've been wanting forever so yay for that! Anyway, a group of us had dinner at Po (just as tremendous as the first time I went!) and then it was off to Seafood's party. I hadn't gotten a costume this year because I had a race to run on Sunday morning and blah blah. It was supposed to be a low key Halloween wasn't. Thanks to Camille's Halloween stockpile, I became a witch pretty fast so I was "accepted" into the party. :P It was so awesome having Brant and Susanne here to join in the fun:
Isn't she menacing:
Team Camps on the roof, weeee:
Stephanie is so freaking creative. She was a bed bug (and yes, made her shell out of fiberglass!) and Alex was the mattress. Genius:
Seafood did an awesome job with everything and I think Brant and Susanne were thoroughly impressed with his incredible apartment. I kept trying to describe it to them but saying it's a "quadplex" doesn't really do it justice til you see it. We were there for quite a while and then went for a few more beers at Highlands. We all had such a blast and, next thing we all knew, it was 3:30am. Um, I do not stay out until 3:30am. I sure didn't have a problem doing so Saturday, though.

Needless to say, I did not run my race on Sunday morning but I'm actually glad because we had a wonderful time walking through Central Park. The leaves were beautiful:
After that, we walked around the west side and stopped at a little Swedish cafe called Fika that Susanne knew of. It was fun to try some treats that she grew up having. :) How cute is she:
Argh, I do not know what's up with my camera uploading these weird, grrrr! Anyway, last but not least, we did our one big touristy thing of the weekend: Katz's Deli. Brant was set on getting a sandwich from there so we braved the masses and went. I swear, they have some insane operation happening in there. Finally after being squished like sardines in line, Brant got his dream pastrami sandwich and I have to was freaking delicious. I mean, look at that thing:
It was worth the $15. I'm going back to get one of my own soon.

It was another awesome trip to add to the books. I'm excited because I think I'll be home at Christmas while Susanne's parents are in from Sweden so I'm really looking forward to hopefully meeting them. :) We all know Christmas will be here before we know it, too...

PS -  Is it really November?!?!