“I try and reduce myself to an almost blank slate and hope to God that I am creative.”

Ben Kingsley

*NOTE -GROUPON DEAL- Slate Valley Museum visit for Two, Four or Six, ending soon!

I live in Schenectady and before a few months ago I had never been to Granville before. What I didn’t realize that was over an hour North of me was a beautiful little community with a great history as well as the Slate Valley Museum (17 Water Street, Granville) to hold it all in.

I guess I should probably start this post with a bit of a disclaimer. From June 6- November 7 the Slate Valley Museum is featuring an exhibit called “Slate as Muse” that integrates slate and the history of it within the Slate Valley into a piece of art. SlateValley-1The art could be made of slate, a picture of slate, reminiscent of slate- as long as it is a creative muse in the piece. Twenty-seven pieces of work from all over the country can be found in this exhibit and that’s what brought me to the museum in the first place. My Aunt (Chrissey Dittus based in Lake George, NY) painted a beautiful piece called “Slate Truck.” If you happen to find your way up there, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind a vote for the “People’s Choice” winner.

Aside from the specialty exhibits, this museum demonstrates the cultivation of slate and the history of slate in the Slate Valley of New York and Vermont through historic artifacts from the area’s renowned slate quarries and mills.

"Slate Truck" by Chrissey Dittus
“Slate Truck” by Chrissey Dittus

Admission to the museum is only $5 and you could probably get through the entire thing in about an hour but the surrounding area is amazing as well. Visit during one of their amazing events found on their calendar and then take a walk through town. I picked up a Slate Valley Self-Guided Driving Tour, I wasn’t able to do it but a two hour tour of the history of the Slate Valley would be a beautiful ride, especially in the Fall.

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Overall, this was a great little museum filled with exhibits and history that you wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. Surrounded by the beautiful area of the Slate Valley, it’s a nice close-by getaway if you’re looking for an interesting and visually appealing day trip!

“Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.”

Oprah Winfrey

5KThe more and more I train for this, the more and more I think- WHAT AM I THINKING? I’m not going to be posting this weekend because I’ll be focusing on not only a 5K but my first 10K ever at Turning Stone Casino.

I would’ve never thought I would ever enjoy running one mile, let alone 6.2miles! I’ve trained using a 5K-10K app on my phone and if I could guess, I think I’m going to finish the 10K in a little over an hour. I can’t believe that as I’m typing this I’m excited. This is the first race I’ve had to travel for and I’m amped up. I’ve trained hard and I know I’m ready, I just can’t wait to prove it to myself officially after these past few months.10K

From what I’ve heard these courses are really pretty and being in an area like Turning Stone, gambling a little bit in between the races will make for a fun environment.
Though, I’m excited, I can’t wait for the pressure of this race to be over. I already have a massage scheduled for Monday afternoon and I want to earn it!

“Italian food is all about ingredients and it’s not fussy and it’s not fancy.”

Wolfgang Puck

I’ve lived in Schenectady my whole life and if you asked me the one thing I’m most proud of about my city, I would without a doubt answer with the great Italian food we have. It seems at if no matter where you turn, there’s a fantastic Italian restaurant! Thankfully in the past couple of years, Schenectady has really developed its Little Italy area (North Jay St). Perecca’s, Civitellos, Cornell’s and more all in one place offering some of the most delicious food I’ve ever eaten.

Saturday, September 6th is the 9th Annual Schenectady Little Italy Street Fest: A Taste of Italy from 12:00PM-9:00PM. If you’ve never experienced the Italian food that Schenectady has to offer, this is the perfect opportunity.

Whether you’re craving some of the Italian staples like sausage & peppers (Babcia’s Kitchen at JoJo’s, More Perecca’s, Civitello’s), or calamari (Cornell’s), or Italian drink specials (Saw Mill Tavern), or the best Italian bread you’ve ever had (Perecca’s Bakery), it’s there! My only recommendation is to come hungry.

Everyone is happier when they’re eating delicious food and how much happier could you get with homemade local delicious Italian food on a beautiful day in a fantastic community? Bring a chair, bring your friends, and bring your wallet (you’re going to want to try it  all) and enjoy the night! littleitaly

Babacia’s Kitchen at JoJo’s will have sausage & peppers as well as hot dogs & hamburgers.

Civitello’s will (of course) have their famous Italian lemon-ice as well as gelato, cavatelli & meatballs, sausage & peppers, zeppole, rice balls, calzones, eggplant sandwiches, fried dough and Italian pastries and cookies.

At Cornell’s you’ll find calamari, minestra (beans & greens) and rigatoni bolognese.

More Perecca’s will feature Italian beer and wines, fresh-cut peaches and wine, homemade coffee gelato, pastries, homemade rice balls, eggplant, sausage & peppers, steak sandwiches and ziti & meatballs.

AM I MAKING YOU HUNGRY YET? I know my mouth is watering and I’m not done yet!

Perecca’s Bakery will have their famous Italian bread, greens & beans, steak sandwiches, sausage sandwiches, pasta fagioli, (my favorite) tomato pie and pastries.

Getting thirsty? Head to Saw Mill Tavern for Italian drink specials while you listen to Grand Central Station (12-2:30), Happy Daze (3-5) and Capri Band (6:30-9) as well as Joe Sinatra and Ed Clifford “The Human Jukebox” on the other stage.

Craft vendors, an Italian Cultural Tent and celebrating the history of a neighborhood that has developed for over the past 90 years. Bring the family to dinner, just make sure you don’t forget your appetite!

“Tears shed for another person are not a sign of weakness. They are a sign of a pure heart.”

I just wanted to post a thank you to everyone who has understood of my lack of posts recently. My family and I have gone through a really difficult time and I kind of needed some time to step away, be there for them and take some personal time for me.

I feel like I’m missing out on telling you all about the great things going on the end of summer. So I’m back with tons of stuff to write about. Thanks for sticking with me during everything.

RIP

Courage, above all things, is the first quality of a warrior.

Carl von Clausewitz

I’ve been on this fitness journey for the past year and my very first 10K is in less than a month! I’ve run quite a few 5Ks but I decided that before my big 10K, it was time to step up my game and do something I never thought I’d be able to do before- an obstacle course.

Last week, I just did my very first Warrior Dash in Gilboa, NY. WarriorDash1The event was only about an hour away from Schenectady and I would’ve done it two days in a row if I could! Mud, sweat, beer and fun! That pretty much summarizes it. I had one goal pushing me through: I wanted my free viking hat, my medal, beer (1 free beer with registration/mug $8/refill $10) in one hand and turkey leg ($8) in another and as you can see, I got it!

The course total was 3.2 miles with 12 obstacles. If you plan on signing up next year or another place, be sure to show up early. We waited in line to check-in for a while after having to walk a bit of distance between our cars and the course itself. Luckily, they had a free bag check and we felt safe leaving our stuff there since they were tagged with colored and numbered wristbands.

We started off with a mile run. It was through woods so we had to be careful of tree limbs and some steep hills to climb down but overall it was a good warm-up for what was about to come. Finally, the first obstacle -“Trenches.” We had to climb into deep muddy trenches covered by boards so we couldn’t stand up. WarriorDash2Then we ran to “Storming Normandy” where we had to climb under wires and ropes to get to the other side. Another obstacle I liked was “Shocktop Unflitered” because it reminded me of the parachute from elementary school. We climbed through tubes and under the parachute to get to two walls we had to step up and climb over. I pretty much pulled myself up over the wall so I felt pretty accomplished with myself. “Deadman’s Drop” was at the 2 mile marker. It was challenging and a little scary because it’s built to have all of your weight pulling you back but you don’t want to fall down. If at any point you feel nervous, the crowd is there behind you cheering you on. Everyone wants you to succeed and I loved that!

Between these obstacles we had to run and I loved the running but I was ready for some serious mud. We had to climb up over “Diesel Dome” before saw that I would not be disappointed. We climbed over a mud mound unto a huge pit of mud and water. Everything was slippery and muddy and it was so hard to climb up the other side. Make sure before you go in that your shoes are tied tight because it’s almost like you’re standing in quicksand! I got about 3/4 of the way up and someone on the other side grabbed my hand to help. Throughout the entire experience, everyone was there to help each other. We’re all warriors together and no one gets left behind!

The mud made the next obstacle really challenging, the “Giant Cliffhanger.”

Photo Credit: Warrior Dash
Photo Credit: Warrior Dash

We had to climb up an angled wall with a rope but because of the mud, everything was so slippery. It took so much upper body strength to get myself over that wall but I was so impressed with how I did it with no help whatsoever! This is where I earned the next obstacle, “Warrior Roast.” A celebratory jump over fire! Only two left at this point! We saw “Goliath” as we were walking in and I was intimidated. Here we were about to do a 3.2 mile obstacle course and I saw a water slide and freaked out. That’s not my thing but I did it. I climbed up the rope wall, balanced over the wooden board and went down the muddy water slide. WarriorDash4Last obstacle, “Muddy Mayham.” Climbing in squishy mud under barbed wire into a pit of muddy water to climb over a muddy mound and get that medal!

The entire thing was a blast and there’s no way I’m not doing this next year! The mud, the fitness, ending in beer and a giant party- loved it! If you want to buy merchandise there though, heads up to get there early. We wanted to go after our heat but most of the sizes we wanted were gone. Also, bring extra clothes with you and a towel. WarriorDash5They have hoses there to wash off most of the mud but you don’t want to have to clean up your car after the course. After we washed off, we dried off with our towels and changed into fresh clothes. We were disgusting! All of the mud came out of my clothes and shoes but I still don’t recommend wearing your brand new running shoes just in case. Last thing, expect to take a few showers before you feel clean. The race was Saturday and by Monday, I still felt clay in my hair. See you next year! What’s your favorite local 5K? Have you ever done an obstacle course?

Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

If you know me, you’d know that at the end of the day I’m a child at heart. Sure, I have to go to work everyday and put on the act that I’m an adult but I’d much rather be playing outside. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to try the new Adventure Trek game Quest of the Guardians at the Great Escape Lodge in Lake George. I stayed at the lodge with a couple of friends of mine for the Glow for a Run and woke up bright and early to try this new game. The best part? It’s all ages, parents can do this with their kids or friends could do it together. My friends and I are all 25 and over and couldn’t get enough!

You start off aimed with a wand. You have the ability to pick out your wand and various accessories like a wand holster, wand top, etc. AdventureQuestWandsThe game itself is $12.99 with wands ranging from $17.99-19.99 depending on how brilliant you want your wand to be. Some of the wand tops even make noise while you’re waving it (mine lit up)! The best part though is that once you get your wand, it’s registered to you specifically and you can bring it back any time to the lodge and continue your game right where you left off. The goal is to save the resort from the evil humdrums and sludge monster through a different realm helping out the Guardians in various tasks through a bunch of different missions and earn badges.

Once armed with your wand, you’re given a kind of “cheat sheet.” You can either wave the wand at the various screens and see what you can find or follow the cheat sheet that brings you to the correct floors for your journey. You start at the main screens outside of the wand depot, pick the journey/tasks you’ll be following and you’re on your way throughout the hotel trying to help the Guardians!

Our first mission? A Splashateer Adventure: Tall Treehouse Leaky Bucket Mission! We had to help build a treehouse but didn’t have any tools. AdventureQuest2Our mission took us all over the hotel playing games, waving our wands until eventually the treehouse was built. We found that following the key was necessary or we would still be there on the same mission (we couldn’t let the Guardians down)!

The game was a blast, where else do you get to wave wands around and have things react to it? My favorite part was the little touches throughout the hotel with the wands that I wasn’t expecting. You may see neon colored rocks on the wall in the hallways (they look like the Aggro Crag from GUTS for my fellow 90s kids) and we loved “lighting” our way by waving the wands in front of them and turning them on during our quest to build a treehouse. If you’re going with a group of people though, each person has to complete each part of the mission with their wand. Some of the things we had to find were as easy as waving your wand in front of a TV screen with a room it may e hiding in but others had to be earned by building a blueprint, for example.

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It may seem focused on children but this is honestly something for all ages, especially after a long day at the Great Escape park across the street. I would recommend anyone to go check it out and the best part about staying at the lodge is that you’re close enough to home for it to not be a traveling hassle but you still feel like you’re on vacation.

And in case you missed this part- YOU GET TO WAVE AROUND A WAND and activate TVs! I felt magic!

 

You can find your way across this country using burger joints the way a navigator uses stars.

Charles Kuralt

I had the pleasure once again to host a cooking demonstration at ShopRite. Amy and the rest of the nutritionist team at ShopRite, Colonie (1730 Central Ave, Albany) is awesome. If you’re looking to eat better or just find yourself overwhelmed going grocery shopping, stop by their station to set up a meeting.

My first demo with ShopRite was 2 years ago when I made sushi. It was pretty intimidating since I was literally in talking distance from the people who went to school for years to learn how to do it. I was teaching people how to do it in their own homes! Miss that demo? You can check it out in my blog archive or CLICK HERE.

My second demo, last year, I tried to introduce some calcium into people’s diets with dairy replacements. For example, like spinach artichoke dip but want to eat it healthier? That’s also in my blog archive or CLICK HERE.

This year, I went burger. Not the kind of burger you’re thinking of though, a quinoa burger. I’m obsessed with quinoa because it’s such a versatile ingredient. You can cook it up like rice and add a few stir-fry vegetables or, as I did at ShopRite, make a burger. If you’re like me, I eat more hot dogs and hamburgers in the Summer than I do the rest of the year and though they’re not terrible for you, why not cook up a quinoa burger and bump up your protein for the day? Quinoa (keen-wa) is a grain that has been called a “superfood” that is not only gluten-free but a good source of fiber, magnesium and iron that you could be eating in each burger! You can even make sliders if you’re hosting a party! This recipes makes about 4-5 burgers depending on size.

INGREDIENTS:

-          1 ½ cup cooked quinoa (any color, I prefer tri-color)

-          2 eggs, beaten

-          1 small onion, finely chopped

-          ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

-          2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

-          ½ cup panko bread crumbs

-          1 tsp baking powder

-          Salt & pepper to taste

Combine the quinoa, eggs and salt & pepper in a medium bowl. Add onions, cheese, and garlic and then add bread crumbs and baking powder. Let sit for a few minutes so everything settles together. You can add more water to moisten or breadcrumbs to make drier if needed. Bake at 400F on parchment lined baking sheet for 20-30 minutes flipped halfway through.

With every burger, you need something to either go on it or go with it so I took on hummus two ways: Roasted Red Pepper Chickpea Hummus and Garlic Black Bean Hummus.

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With hummus, though, I tend to eyeball my ingredients and go by taste rather than measurements. I like more garlic than most so I put in a lot. I would recommend starting with the base (chickpea/black bean) and then add the flavor slowly, tasting in between. That way you won’t end up burning your mouth with garlic or not tasting the roasted red pepper at all. Once you get the hummus base, you can add any ingredient you want. Check out the grocery store and see which ingredients the big name products use and go for it! The best part of making your own hummus is not only that you get to make your own flavors but you’re using fresh ingredients!

INGREDIENTS [ROASTED RED PEPPER CHICKPEA HUMMUS]:

-          1 clove garlic

-          1 (15oz) can of chickpeas

-          2 tbs lemon juice

-          1 ½ tbs tahini

-          Olive oil to taste

-          Roasted Red Peppers to taste

 Drain can of chick peas and rinse. Mince garlic before adding to food processor. Add chickpeas and process until broken up not still chunky. Add red peppers gradually and process while tasting to make sure the flavor is what you’re looking for. Add additional ingredients (tahini, lemon juice and olive oil) and process until desired consistency.

 INGREDIENTS [GARLIC BLACK BEAN HUMMUS]

-          2 cloves garlic

-          1 (15oz) can of black beans

-          2 tbs lemon juice

-          1 ½ tbs tahini

-          Olive oil to taste

 Drain can of black beans and rinse. Mince 1 clove garlic before adding to food processor. Add black beans and process until broken up not still chunky. Taste and gradually add more garlic until it’s the flavor you prefer. Add additional ingredients (tahini, lemon juice and olive oil) and process until desired consistency.

If you have any questions on my recipes or on ShopRite, feel free to send me an email at 518BitesNSights@gmail.com and if you want to keep up with other events I’m going to or hosting, make sure you follow me on Facebook 518BitesNSights!

Anything I can add to your to-do list?

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