Thursday, December 28, 2017

Romping About Rhinebeck and Finding My People

When bestie Hamilton found herself with a completely free Boxing Day, it barely took a full sentence to convince me to schedule another play day in the Hudson Valley.  She trained up from the city, I drove down from Troy, and we met in Poughkeepsie.  Ole Poughkips, as the kids say. {No kid ever has said that.}






Hamilton and I are college sorority buddies.  Who reconnected through the power {and nosey nature} of social media about a year and a half ago.  And started having little weekend adventures together just nine months ago.  

But it feels so much longer.  Probably because we've known each other since our college years.  But also because, when you find your people, regardless of when and how you meet, they just feel as if they have forever been a part of your heart and life.

Hamilton and her wife Eliza are definitely some of my tribe of best people.  So it was a no brainier that a mutual free day was the perfect opportunity to go on a mini adventure together.

If you recall our last visit to Poughkeepsie, we made a failed attempt at eating lunch in an old ice house turned restaurant, appropriately called, Ice House.  As that's still part of our inside giggles {ice houses specifically}, we decided that our only set in stone plan for the day was to try again.  Ice House deserved a second chance.

Despite The Google listing the hours as open, guess what was most definitely NOT open?  

Ice House was closed.  Round two, and likely our final round of trying to patronize this little joint, failed.  

A quick chat with our boyfriend The Google lead us to another option that was really delicious and gave us prime people watching and partial conversation eavse dropping.  So in the end, we won!

We still didn't really have a game plan for this day, though.  

We decided we would just head north to Rhinebeck and wander about there.  But as we drove, we passed the FDR Presidential Library and Home.  A quick left and we found ourselves admiring stone walls {me} and being forced into taking usies {Hamilton}.  We walked in and thought about taking the tour but the next one wasn't for an hour and a half and if you know anything about New York and New England this time of year, you are limited on daylight hours.  So we walked around on our own a bit and then headed north again.  








But not before me pulling over to take a photo of the FDR home.  Only to walk up to the door to read that "This is not the FDR home."  Classic.




A few miles up the road though, is the most spectacular Vanderbilt Mansion.  I've been twice and am insistent on taking Hamilton and Eliza.  Specifically in the summer and after the current restoration project is finished.  But we were there, so another left, past some more magical stone walls, over a charming wooden bridge, and we found ourselves walking around this incredible property.




I should note that this day was sunny and amazing.  However, it was also freezing.  I think the high was about 20 and in the shade, good grief it was COLD!  So a quick walk and a few usies later, we were back in the car to Rhinebeck.  We'll get back to see the house and gardens in full glory one summer day for sure!

Rhinebeck is another very old, very charming town.  The downtown area is so well done and there are about four blocks on really nice shops and restaurants that were so much fun to wander in and out of. We just had fun touching and commenting and giggling the day away in the pretty stores.  








Until we decided we were cold, had seen all we needed to see that day, and wondered if we might find a comfortable seat near a fireplace in the Beekman Arms Inn, the oldest consecutively operating inn in America.










We scored big time, my friends!  A super comfy couch, all to ourselves, right next to a giant fireplace.  Add in a delicious hot toddy, amazing people watching, all the best conversations about nothing and everything with one of my favorite humans, and it was definitely winning one of my best days.






The best thing about being with one of your people is that you don't have to second guess yourself.  Rambles are welcome.  Deep conversations and silly conversations and pointless conversations happen simultaneously.  Quiet moments and side busting belly laughs are all on the unwritten agenda.  And each moment is your favorite!

As is always the case, the day flew by and out of nowhere, it was dinner time.  This absent of any real plans day filled itself right up!

Now let's talk about Yelp reviews.  I don't know who is leaving them, especially in Rhinebeck, but the highest reviews were for burger joints and the closed falafel place.  None of the nicer places in downtown had very high reviews.  So we took a gamble with our option.

Based on menu, not Yelp score, we chose Liberty Public House.  And it was AMAZING!

I have no idea what those reviewers ate when they were there but they appetizers alone looked so great that we DIY-ed a tapas meal for ourselves.  Dates stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped up in smoky bacon, grilled octopus and polenta with the most delicious chickpea and tomato salad, grilled artichoke hearts with some sort of magical lemony aioli, and tuna tar tar.  We couldn't decide on a favorite.  Whatever was on my fork at that moment was my favorite because they were all incredibly creative and delicious!  

I highly recommend Liberty Public House in downtown Rhinebeck, NY!  It was charming, the service was great, and the food was fantastic!








The day without plans ended too soon.  Time speeds up when you just want it to stand still.  But it was such a perfectly relaxed day with one of my favorite people in an incredibly charming part of the New York Hudson Valley Region.

I can't wait to plan our next adventure, Hamilton!  Thank you, sweet squirrel, for being such a very dear friend!

XOKK

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Big Hair Decision: Two More Inches and Then I'll Donate

My hair is long.

I realize long and short are relative terms but for me and my hair history, my hair is crazy pants long.  And I don't feel great about it.  

I should say that in general, I don't love very long hair on adult women.  I think it often looks like women are hanging onto younger years and once upon a time and it ages them.  So going into this, know that I am just not a big lover of very long hair.  It's not my jam.  

On top of that, I have very thin hair.  My pony tail is about as thick as that of a toddler.  My hair is also straight as a board and body-less.  I dry my hair upside down and use hair spray and round brushes and still get almost no body going on in my nest.

So long hair, in my opinion, just doesn't suit me.

However, what I see and what the world sees are different.




I get so many compliments on my hair when it's long.  And that's one of the only areas of my life that garners compliments.  So I've doubted myself a lot over the past few years when it comes to my hair.  I feel better with it shorter.  But the world responds better when it's longer.

As much as I would love to be in a place to say fuck it to society and not feel anything when a well meaning "Your hair looks so pretty!" comment floats my way...that's just not where I am mentally. Because compliments do help on those down days.  They're a boost and a comfort when you forget which way is up.

So I've gone back and forth on do I chop off this mop top sister wife hair or do I let it go a while longer?  

In the end, I know I will cut it.  If for no other reason than I just think it's annoying to have to deal with long hair.  It tangles and needs brushing more than the once a day that I prefer and always ends up in a pony tail by the end of the day.  

But something I've always wanted to do is donate my hair.  However, I've been told many times over that you can only donate non color treated hair.  And there is no way in hell I am about to go a day, let alone a year, without coloring my locks.  In fact, I care more about coloring my hair than cutting it.  All day, every day, if I was forced to pick between the two, I'd pick coloring.  

So no, not coloring my hair is just not an option.

However, after another Google search, I found out that one {maybe more, but I stopped at one} organization will take color treated hair.  The caveat is that it has to be at least 10" in length to donate.  

I do have the length but that would leave me with really really short hair.  And as much as I want it cut, I don't want it quite that short. 

So my new game plan is to grow it out another 1-2".  My hair grows fast so I estimate that takes me into January or February at the latest.  Which is perfect.

I turn 40 in February.  And currently have zero plans.  

So this is my new plan.  Deal with the stringy, long locks for another few months.  And then chop it off and start my fourth decade with a fun, fresh cut.  Plus, finally get the joy of donating to cancer patients who need wigs.

I didn't say this was an earth shaking game plan.  But it feels good to have a goal and an end date.  

If you have any short hair {it will likely be between my chin and shoulder at that point} ideas for me, please send them my way!  I'm open to anything style and color wise.  I'm pretty excited about making a fresh change in the new year for my new decade!

XOKK





Friday, December 1, 2017

Roasted Tomato Tortellini Soup. Easy and Delicious!

When I pulled out my tomato plants from the garden a few weeks ago, I also harvested a bunch of green tomatoes, hoping they would ripen in a sunny window.  But weeks later, with most of them ripe and all of them in my way, I decided to put them to use.  My very last fresh, homegrown, heirloom garden tomatoes of 2017.

As the weather is now cold and dreary, there was only one answer to the question {I posed to myself} of what to make.  

Soup.  I needed to make a big pot of something cozy.  Truly there is nothing cozier than a tomato soup in my book.  It's like a liquid hug!  And this recipe is worth pinning to make later.  

But please don't let not having fresh tomatoes stop you from making this recipe.  I made a note in Step 2 and at the bottom of what you can use instead.  I just happened to have tomatoes that needed to be used up.  There are a few ways to get the same end result though.  This soup is so delicious and comforting and simple to make!

Roasted Tomato Tortellini Soup:




Step 1: If you have fresh tomatoes on hand, roughly chop them up, as well as some onions and garlic cloves, toss them in oil, salt, and pepper and lay flat on a sheet pan.  Roast at 350 for about an hour.




Roasted goodness.  A lot of the water has evaporated and the flavors are intensified.  Those onions...they are sweet like candy.  Or...I mean, like onion candy.  My point is that they're delicious!  




Step 2: Add all those roasted veggies to your pot.  {If you're not using roasted veggies, do not fear.  Just cook down a few roughly chopped onions in the soup pot with some oil.  Add garlic for the last minute or two so it doesn't burn.  And supplement in a few cans of tomatoes.  What kind of tomatoes?  It doesn't matter because this is all getting puréed.  So whatever you have on hand or love the most will be perfect.}

Step 3: Add in a large 28 oz can of tomatoes.  I used diced.  You can use whatever you have in the pantry.  It all gets puréed at this point.  Add in 1/2 can of water if you used all canned veggies.  Or a full can of water if you roasted your tomatoes.




Step 4: After everything warms up, purée it to a silky smooth texture.  




Step 5: Add an additional can of diced tomatoes and water {I added half a can} to reach desired texture.  

I added this can after the purée because I prefer soups with chunky bits in them.  However, it should be clear that nothing is hard and fast with this recipe.  If you don't want chunks of tomatoes, be wild and add them in before you purée.  You do you, boo!




Step 6: Add in all the seasoning you love in a tomato soup.  I added generous amounts of salt, pepper, dried rosemary, dried basil, and a bit more dried onion powder.  But play with it.  I think a dash of cumin would be tasty here too.  




Step 7: Add one cup of cream {I used half and half.  You should use whatever you have on hand.  Heavy cream, milk, soy milk, etc will all work just fine.}

Step 8: Add half cup shredded parmesan cheese.  Stir in to incorporate well.  The cheese should melt into the soup.




Step 9: Add 1-2 bags of frozen {or fresh if you're feeling fancy} cheese tortellini.  Let the pot come to a simmer and all the bits warm up and flavors meld.  




I topped mine with a bit more parmesan cheese, because why the heck not?!  But it's good enough to stand alone.  

You seriously need this soup in your life and your belly!  It's delicious and comforting and fills you up.  

Pin in to save for later!  I'm telling you, this will be a favorite in your soup rotation this winter.  Baby it's cold outside....but dang that pot of soup is cozy and happy!

XOKK

**There are a few alternatives to the roasted veggies.  As noted, you can use canned tomatoes.  But you could also just as easily sub in a jar or two of you favorite tomato basil pasta sauce.  Or even use a pre-made tomato soup and just doctor it up with onions and seasoning and tortellini.  Don't feel boxed in to this recipe.  There are lots of ways to get a similar bowl of soup into your life, my friends!!  

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

My Favorite Podcasts

I didn't really get elbow deep into podcasts until a bit over a year ago.  So I felt pretty late to that party.  

Sure, I would listen once in a blue moon.  But I always switched over to music instead.  I never really got into a series enough to listen to more than a few one off interviews.

But now I flip flop between music and podcasts pretty regularly.  And often prefer podcasts when I am in the garden or taking long walks.  It's fun to have variety in my ears.  Especially with so many awesome choices available these days.

When Tricia mentioned recently that she didn't even know where to find podcasts, I giggled.  Because y'all are missing out if you aren't using that feature on your phone.  It's a great way to pass the time on a long car ride or while working out.  

So for starters, look on your phone.  The app came with your iphone so you don't even need to download it.  It's purple and appropriately titled Podcasts.  

Did you find it?  {You can also listen in iTunes and Spotify.}

Now let's talk about the beauty of podcasts.  They can be anything.  From a recording of a concert to an interview to a scripted series.  Do you have a favorite celebrity or author?  Type their name in the search box and chances are good you'll find something.  A topic you're into like cooking or religion or politics or parenting or exercise or books or or or?  Type it in and poof you will be presented with options!

Here's a bonus of podcasts.  While they do use up storage space {so be sure to delete them after listening}, they don't require wifi once downloaded.  So you can listen on a plane or train or car ride that is without a wifi signal.  




Three of my recent favorite crime mystery series are Accused, Dirty John, and S-Town.  I highly recommend all three as they keep you intrigued and really into the stories of these long forgotten unsolved crimes.  And at this point, S-Town is part of pop culture so definitely give that a listen.  {Though I liked Dirty John better if asked to pick between the two.}





I am so into Queery and Nancy!  I've listened to every episode of both and can't recommend them enough.  They are different, but both center around LGBTQ topics.  Both should be listened to by everyone.  I can't say that enough.  They are so well done and are important to share so that we all stop living in our little uninformed bubbles.  Plus, I really like the hosts of both series.  

Nancy is short.  So if you like a quick 15-20 minute podcast listen, this is for you.  It's pretty light and easy to listen to {for the most part- there have been a few heavier episodes} and has done a great job of bring new ideas and topics to the front of my mind.  

Queery is long.  Episodes are about an hour in length and each interviews a single other human.  So you really get to hear some deeper and broader topics discussed between Cameron and her guest.  Lots of heartfelt moments and lots of laughs and lots of oh wow I never thought of that before moments.  It's thoughtful and introduces a great mix of discussions.  If asked to pick my current favorite podcast, I'd tell you without hesitation that it's Queery!



If you're looking for a bit of daily life and politics, This American Life and Pod Save America are for you. This American Life has been around for ages and is hosted by Ira Glass.  The topics covered are incredibly diverse from cars to stories of people and everything in between.  Pod Save America is hosted by four former President Obama aids and if you were a fan of Obama, you will love it.  




Now for the one I want to ask you about.  My Dad Wrote a Porno.  It's British and about a guy reading the terrible porno book that his dad wrote and self published.  The first few episodes were hilarious.  The son plus two hosts add in side busting commentary.  My question though is if anyone has listened past episode seven?  I was a little {lies...all lies...a LOT} disturbed by where the story went.  It's kind of {lies again...it's definitely} horrifying.  The commentary is so funny.  But I am not sure I can get past the porn's story line, even though the series is about mocking it.  So if you've listened, give me the skinny. Should I keep going or just abandon ship?

So what are your favorite podcasts right now?  Have you listened to any from my list?

XOKK

Monday, November 27, 2017

An Attitude of Gratitude

My Thanksgiving week was low key and lovely.  And I'm so grateful that stress and drama were kept at bay.  I find this time of year to be rather gloomy and difficult, so when one of the holidays comes and goes without a fuss, I let out a big sigh of relief.

I'm not a Scrooge.  I don't hate the holidays.  I just never manage to really get into them.  To me, they feel like they are intended for other people.  People who have people.  Not me.  

Maybe one day I will feel invited to this whole holiday spirit thing.  But for now, I am just happy to glide through them unscathed.




The best news is that the weather was amazing!  Wednesday and Friday I spent 4-5 hours each day down in the garden.  I did it!  I managed to mulch in the whole thing, add new T posts for a new tomato row next year, move a few plants, and tidy it all away for winter.  And then on top of all of that, i planted 200 cloves of heirloom garlic, which should grow into 200 heads of garlic next year!  

I would like to squeeze in another half hour this week just to make sure everything is truly squared away.  But beyond that, the 2017 garden season is officially over for me!






Family is complicated.  So this year, dad and I opted to have our own tiny holiday together.  Free of stress and drama.  On my chosen schedule.  I watched the parade {which...don't hate here...but if that ever gets cancelled, I won't care...it's just kind of a thing to have on as far as I am concerned}, the dog show {now that is something I can get into!}, cooked a giant meal, cleaned up, and we were able to see a 6:20 movie.  It's the perfect little Thanksgiving! 

But...did you know it's impossible to cook a small Thanksgiving meal?  It is.  But that's okay, because my personal favorite holiday is the Friday after Thanksgiving.  Not because of the shopping, of which I did none.  But because it's Leftover Day.  All the joy and none of the work.  Yum!

Also, apple pie was always an acceptable breakfast in my house growing up.  It's mostly apples...so practically a health food.  




I did a bit of shopping and bopping about on Small Business Saturday.  My beloved city, Troy, NY, has an ever growing downtown shopping area with great stores and antique shops.  It was a delight to see how many people were at the Farmers Market and in all of the stores on Saturday.  As much as we all love Amazon and free shipping codes, I do believe that people love shopping small just as much.  

Sunday the weather turned cold, windy, and gloomy.  But my father asked me earlier in the week to go with him to my grandparents' and great grandparents' cemetery to bring out the Christmas wreath.  I hadn't been in years and had nothing else that was pressing so it was the perfect day to drive out to the country.  

This little old red barn is just in front of the entrance to the cemetery and I love it.  The wooden star is so sweet.  It's hard to see in this photo but there's a lovely creek that runs behind it, too.




I often post photos on Instagram of my walks in a beautiful historic cemetery in Troy.  Which is fully of towering monuments and mausoleums. The people who were buried there once upon a time were clearly from great means.  

This little cemetery though, is way out in the country.  It's humble and sweet.  With some really beautiful stone walls that make me swoon.




Every time we go, which admittedly is not very often, my father points out where a general and his horse are buried.  And every time he says this, I ask "a general of what war and why is his horse there?"  Dad has never given me an answer.  For all I know, the bit about the horse could be an urban tale from his childhood.  But...I hope it's true.  I like the idea that a man and his horse are in the middle of this rural spot.  Everything is better with a dash of quirk.  Even a cemetery.




Snow flurries started to come down as we were standing there talking about who was here and who was in the various other spots.  Apparently I'm related to a lot of the people here.  Which I find comforting and endearing.  




I've decided that a Thursday holiday is ideal.  I wish Christmas could move to a Thursday every year too.  Having Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to play really feels like the perfect amount of time.  Someone should look into that!

How was your holiday?  Did you head to a big family meal or host a big {or small} meal at home?  Regardless, I hope you were with people you love and went to town on the turkey and pie!

XOKK

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Holiday Gift Guide For Your Everyday Needs

I took some time to collect some must have, very affordable, holiday gift ideas.  Just a few every day items that are both practical and fun.  These are sure to check off all those hard to shop for gifts this season.

Like a tin can.

I kind you not.  You could open a can of crushed tomatoes {I'm looking at you, Mermaid} or you could head over to Tiffany & Co to pick up their Sterling Silver Tin Can for the low low price of $1000.  One thousand dollars.  




Where do you buy your balls of yarn?  Michaels for about $5 or Tiffany & Co for...wait for it...$9000.  Nine freaking thousand dollars.  American, not Monopoly, dollars.  Nine.  Nine thousand!




Have you ever shopped at Tiffany?  You know the complimentary cup of coffee they give you in a small paper cup, coated in their signature blue color?  Well you can also get one in bone china.  Comparatively though, this one is actually a total bargain.  



A pill box...so big enough for tiny pills...in the shape of a Chinese food take out container is less of a deal.  Though to be honest, I know people collect pill boxes so I suspect this one will be a big seller.  



But let me ask you, dear friends, where you store your band aids?  I slovenly store mine in the generic Target store box that they came in.  Gasp!  Proper ladies likely store their {store brand because let's be honest...how else are you going to afford this thing} band aids in sterling silver band aid boxes lined in Tiffany blue.  Oh how I wish I could one day be a proper lady!  


And my final gift suggestion is something we all need.  A rose gold bendy straw.  For $350.  Which better make your Diet Coke taste about $347 better than the plastic two cent variety!




So there you go.  Top tips for all you gift giving needs this season!  You're welcome!

Seriously though...I want to see a list of people who buy that tin can, bendy straw, and ball of yarn!  While I am of the belief that everyone has the right to spend their pennies as they so choose...no one needs a sterling silver tin can.  No one.  I'll take a blue paint pen and DIY that shit for you.  

Happy Holiday Season, friends!
XOKK


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