December 31, 2012

Christmas 2K12 (in pictures)

Christmas 2012 was pretty darn good!  So as we gear up for New Year's Eve (which will include a five course dinner in Saratoga Springs with suggested beer selections - who's excited?  ME!) here are some pictures from the last few weeks!
The 'Christmas week' began with a trip through Washington Park to see the annual 'Holiday Lights in the Park' which benefits PAL (the Albany Police Athletic League).  You basically drive through the park and view some pretty awesome light displays!  It took about an hour and a half but was totally worth it and benefited a good cause!
'Noel' in lights!  At the 'Holiday Lights in the Park'.
Even the sponsors get in on the lights - Dunkin Donuts!
The Thursday before Christmas I wrapped EVERYTHING!  (Do you realize how difficult it is to wrap a 4 foot sound bar?)  It pretty much looked like Christmas exploded all over my apartment.  But then the next day I realized that I could not fly with wrapped presents so I ended up having to unwrap nearly half the gifts and rewrap them once I arrived in Virginia.  Oh well - at least the ones that stayed in Albany were pretty!
The Sunday before Christmas I flew back to Virginia and got to hang out with my bootch!  (a.k.a. my best friend Dana)  She picked me up at Reagan and drove me to Lynchburg, making sure to stop at a Sheetz along the way (oh how I wish Sheetz would come to the NE - such good coffee!)
Once we made it to my parents house we got to hang out with THIS guy - meet Wilson!  He was assisting with the present rewrapping.
The next day - Christmas Eve - Dana and I indulged in something that was so wrong but tasted so right.  Chik-fil-a is delicious, but their politics run completely opposite to my own - the last time I was in Virginia I boycotted CFA, but this time I gave in.  I figured we don't have any in Albany so I could indulge just this once - believe me it did not disappoint!
Yes this looks gross BUT it's our traditional Christmas Eve meal!  SOS a.k.a creamed chipped beef - okay so it still sounds a little gross and only about half the people in my family eat it, but it isn't that bad - especially if you don't mind chugging a gallon of water afterwards.
Christmas Eve mass - happy birthday Jesus ... literally, birthday cake and all!
The day after Christmas I was scheduled to fly back to Albany late - I wasn't scheduled to get in until 10:15 PM and there was a MASSIVE snow storm slated to hit the entire east coast.  I was afraid that I would get stuck in Philadelphia (I had to fly to Philly before flying to Albany) so I decided to take the train instead.  Twelve long hours on the train later I made it back to Albany and basically chased the storm all the way up the east coast.  This was the next day in Albany - well over a foot of snow (and we got a lot more that day)!
Christmas #2 happened on the 27th with Adam and Elise and it was wonderful!  I got a pair of awesome spinning shoes (more on those later) and Adam cooked us a delicious meal - ham, scalloped potatoes, green beans and buttermilk biscuits - yum!
 So that was Christmas!  It was nice to go back to Virginia for a few days and even better to make it back to Albany without getting stuck in an airport or a snow bank.  I am super excited for New Year's Eve tonight and then equally as excited to have tomorrow off of work to relax, recover and get my new phone - iPhone 5 here I come!
Here's to a fabulous 2013!

December 21, 2012

Thoughts on '26'

This past Tuesday (December 18th) was my birthday - I turned 26. Since last year I wrote about reflexions on 25, I figured I should do the same for 26.  I should probably begin with what I wrote last year and evaluate how my life has changed over the past year.  Last year I worte:

"Since I am now officially 25 I started thinking ... am I where I thought I would be at 25? And to be honest I don't know if I ever really thought about where I would or should be at this age. I definitely feel like I am lacking in some areas - the majority of my friends are either married, engaged or on their way to being one or the other and are having children, while I am still very much single. I have noticed that this phenomena is more of a cultural/regional thing though; many, if not all of my NY friends are single and loving life while my 'southern' friends are all 'tied down'. But while I am still living the single life I also realized that I am definitely far more advanced in other areas than some/most 25 year olds; I have a great job that I love, an amazing apartment (sans roommate) in a nice part of town, I'm about to graduate from a Master's program without being bogged down by debt, I am getting more fit everyday, I've established myself in a new city/region that 2 years ago I knew nothing about and (for the most part) I am completely self-reliant. So I think that I'm doing pretty well! We'll see what year 25 will bring!"       
Some things have definitely changed!  I feel like I have matured and have become much more sure of myself and my career.  I am much more stable - socially, financically and relationship wise.  So let's break it down - a lot can happen in a year!
1.  I moved!  Into a great little apartment with more space and no noisy upstairs neighbors.  I moved out of a complex (which was a big deal to me because I always viewed a complex as more 'secure') and into a cute little apartment above a law office that costs much less, has more space and is still in a great area.  I also met and have become good friends with my only (and not noisy) neighbor Jamie!
2.  I graduated!  Finally!  That was a long and tough road but I officially have my Masters and am still not 'bogged down' by debt.
3.  I changed jobs ... twice.  Time one and time two.  The first job change was a step in the right direction - I was still working in client services but was running my own housing and employment program.  I thought I was going to love this job and for a (very) short time I did but soon enough my supervisor's true colors were revealed and I was job searching once again.  At that point I knew I no longer wanted to be in client service and I swore to myself that I wouldn't make a lateral move.  So I waited, I applied for a couple of jobs here but never really persued them and then finally applied for the job at PRA - interviewed and gladly accepted!  No more client service, lots of travel and a huge step up career wise!
4.  I am no longer single!  A couple months after turning 25 I met a great guy and we have been going strong ever since - fingers cross it stays that way because he makes me really happy!
5.  Lastly -  I have realized that I should never compare myself to others or feel like I don't measure up because I am in a different phase of life.  Everyone has their own unique journey and so far mine has been pretty good - I have a great job, an awesome boyfriend and an apartment that I am proud of.  
So bring it on '26' - let's see where life takes me this year!

December 17, 2012

Last Week's Travels - Morgantown, West Virginia

Last week I traveled to Morgantown, West Virginia to observe and evaluate a SOAR training.  Growing up in Virginia and literally two minutes from the WV state line a bunch of kids I went to high school with attended West Virginia University (WVU) but I had never visited the campus.  West Virginia was also always (and pretty much still is) the butt of every hillbilly joke around - but the state is really pretty!

Before I go on about the trip to West Virginia I should tell you about the company Christmas party!  Last Wednesday all fifty or so employees gather in the conference room to hear the President of the company give the state of the firm address.  Every year he picks a word that describes the firm's previous year and this year that word was 'BIG'.  Not too shabby!  After the address we received bonuses, gift cards and the new employees (me included) got an awesome PRA fleece hoodie!  About an hour later we all gather around the Christmas tree for a game of dirty Santa (those who participated brought in a gift, $25 or less and received a number - mine was 17 - when it was your turn you could either open a gift from under the tree or steal one that was already open - the gifts could be stolen a maximum of three times).  My first gift was a $25 gift card to Regal Cinemas which obviously didn't last long before it was stolen.  Then I opened up a $25 gift card to one of my favorite sushi restaurants!  I held on to it for a while and I was almost positive that I would be able to keep it to the bitter end until someone stole it!  It turned out okay though as my final gift was a hand made pottery coffee mug and a gift card to a local coffee shop.  Not a bad deal!  After the gift exchange we all headed over to one of the VP's houses for food and socializing!  It was a lot of fun, the food was great and I enjoyed a round of Apples to Apples with my boss and the company president.

So after all the festivities everyone was able to go home around three - but not me and my coworker - we were off to West Virginia!  Our flight left Albany around 7:15 PM and we flew to Dulles.  From there we look a turbo prop plane on to Morgantown and landed around 11 PM.  I must say I have been quite impressed with Silver Airways.  Silver is basically a fleet of turbo prop planes that fly regionally all around the U.S.  They use significantly less fuel than jets of similar size and in my opinion are a lot more comfortable.  The only downside is the noise - turbo props are much louder than regular jets, but other than that Silver Airways is pretty awesome!

The next morning we were off to the Milan Puskar Health Right Clinic which is located right off of High Street (the main street with all the good bars, shops and restaurants), on our way there our shuttle driver took us on a mini tour of WVU.  The campus was really nice and reminded me a an SEC's schools campus.  

Training location!
Both days of the training went really well and my coworker and I were able to explore Morgantown!  One thing I must say is that Morgantown is CHEAP, but in a good way.  Maybe I am just used to everything in New York being so expensive but when I can get two beers and a loaf of beer bread with honey butter for $6 I am one happy girl!  The first time we ended up going to the Morgantown Brewing Company which had awesome craft beers and great food!  The next day before our flight we went to the Black Bear which is a tex-mex style pub in downtown Morgantown that had the BEST chips and guacamole!  I could not get enough of that stuff and I think I even considered getting some to-go to take on the plane. 

Morgantown Brewing Company!
So many local beers - they were awesome!
All in all my trip to Morgantown was awesome - a good training, great food and a fun little college town to explore.  As of this trip I am finished with work travel for the rest of the year but will be heading back to Virginia for Christmas December 23rd - 26th.  After that my next trip will be to New York City in mid-January!

December 10, 2012

Football Eats

I LOVE football season!  Sundays are typically spent sleeping in then coffee followed by the gym, a late breakfast, football and then normally a big Sunday dinner!  So since a ‘football appropriate’ snack is typically needed in between the late breakfast and the Sunday dinner I have been experimenting with various dips and appetizers.  We toned it down for a couple of weekends but with last weekend’s SEC Championship (ROLL TIDE!) I made the mother of all dips!  It was cheesy, so delicious and about the furthest thing from healthy – but it was the SEC Championship game so it was totally worth it. 

Creamy & Spicy Rotel Dip
(Adapted from Plain Chicken)
1/2 lb spicy sausage
4 oz Velveeta cheese
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 can Rotel tomatoes (drained)

Brown the sausage and then drain.  In a microwave safe bowl heat the Velveeta, cream cheese and sour cream until melted and combined (stirring occasionally).  Stir in the sausage and Rotel.  Serve warm with tortilla chips.

That’s it!  The dip is so simple and took less than 15 minutes to make – but at the same time it was so delicious!  I have already had requests to make it again!

December 8, 2012

Thanksgiving ... New York Style

Since it has been over two weeks Turkey Day – I should probably blog about the big event!  This was my first Thanksgiving in New York and my first Thanksgiving away from my family, but it was fabulous nonetheless!  The holiday started out the night before when I crafted my Great Aunt Pete’s famous pineapple cheese ball and baked my world class pumpkin dessert bars.  After that was complete we walked down to the local middle school to pick up my race packet for the next day.  It was pretty much a (small) town event with fireworks, the high school band and a bunch of activities for the kids.

The next morning was Thanksgiving and we were up bright and early!  The Bethlehem Turkey Trot (5K) started at 9 AM but we made sure to get there early so I could stretch and so we could deliver the canned goods I bought to donate to the local food pantry (generally everyone gave a can or two but I opted for giving two HUGE (we are talking Marshall/TJ Maxx size reusable grocery bags) full of food).  The race was more a fun run than anything else and snaked through the historic neighborhoods of Delmar.  It was such a pretty day as well – chilly (it is NY in November after all) but not cold, the route was flat and there were tons of people cheering us on.  I finished with a time of 33 minutes – although the race wasn’t officially timed and the start/finish line managed to move a good bit from the start of the race to the finish.  I felt awesome during the race though and think I probably did better than my time reflects.  

After the race I walked back to the apartment to find the stuffing being cooked and the turkey being prepped!  This Thanksgiving was a BIG deal as it is the first Thanksgiving that Adam has ever cooked – but despite the stress he did a fantastic job and everything came out beyond delicious!  He set such a high bar, I think he’ll probably end up cooking Thanksgiving for many years to come! 

Our Thanksgiving Menu
Pineapple cheese ball
Oven roasted turkey with an herb butter ‘glaze’
Hot sausage, apple and walnut stuffing (with homemade bread crumbs)
Mashed potatoes (made with a potato ricer)
Homemade gravy
Homemade cranberry sauce 
Corn casserole
Green bean casserole
Sweet potatoes with toasted marshmallows
Apple salad
Apple pie
Pecan pie
Pumpkin dessert bars
Spiced mulled wine

We were stuffed afterwards and it was all SO delicious!  Between the race and dinner I ended up falling asleep on the couch around 9 PM; an awesome day all around.  And of course one of the best parts of Thanksgiving is getting to have round #2 of the leftovers the next night for dinner!

Here are some pictures of the master at his craft and the final results!

Thanksgiving morning - Bethlehem Turkey Trot
Slicing open the bird!
Prepping the bird!
Ready for the oven!
Approximately three hours later - DONE - and looking delicious!
Kitty protecting the bird!
Mmmhmm pies!
Post Thanksgiving - a happy man and his cat!

December 7, 2012

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

This is the first year since I moved to New York that I decided to have a Christmas tree!  Past years I just wasn’t feeling festive and I would typically travel back to Virginia for the week in between Christmas and New Years, so I figured – what’s the point.  Well this year is different!  My neighbor Jamie used to live in my apartment before moving and she had the perfect little tree.  Since she has moved on to the bigger apartment which has higher ceilings she no longer needed the little tree and passed it on to me – yay!  It is frosted, pre-lit and stands about 4.5’; I’ve decorated wit ith little ball ornaments and I have more to hang.  I love turning off all the lights in my apartment and reading or watching TV with the tree lit – it makes me happy!
In other new I finally have new (to me) TV!  For those of you who don’t know I have rocked my 19” boob tube TV since freshman year of college.  Back then it was the biggest TV on the hall but in the age of flat screens, high definition and a decent paying job my beloved little TV simply won't do.  Now to me a new TV is not that important and I was/still am pretty opposed to the idea of spending $400+ on a new TV so when my neighbor got a new TV and offered to sell me her 30’ flat screen for $100 I said ‘sure’!  The TV is still a ‘boob tube’ but it MUCH bigger than my other one and has HD capabilities.  Not to mention it is really nice!  Adam says it is a definite step but I am 'not there yet’.  Either way – this new addition will do for now and in the mean time I am enjoying watching TV and looking at my Christmas tree!
Love my Christmas tree!
Christmas tree and 'new' TV in my living room!

December 6, 2012

Homemade Barbecue Sauce & Rice-a-Roni

That is correct my friends - last night I made homemade BBQ sauce and homemade rice-a-roni and I will never buy BBQ sauce or rice-a-roni from the store again, ever, they were THAT good!!  Not to mention the recipes are incredibly easy!  I adapted the them from Plain Chicken (my current food blog obsession) but mixed it up just a tad.
I made chicken to go with the BBQ sauce but I am pretty sure it would taste amazing on anything.  Also, I love boxed rice-a-roni but the amount of sodium is amazingly unhealthy and it always leaves me feeling sort of 'blahhh'.  Homemade rice-a-roni on the other hand is not only delicious and filling but it also has significantly less sodium!  So here we go ...
Balsamic BBQ Sauce
(Adapted from Plain Chicken)
1 cup balsamic vinegar
  3/4 cup ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbs Worcestershire suace
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
In a nonreactive plan add all the ingredients and whisk until smooth.  Bring to boil and then simmer (uncovered) for 15 - 20 minutes or until the sauce is reduced by a 1/3.  Allow to cool and serve over a meat of your choice! 
Simple!  I plan on making a batch or two at some point to have on hand. 
Next up is the rice-a-roni!
Parmesan Orzo (a.k.a. Homemade Rice-a-Roni)
(Adapted from Plain Chicken)
3 Tbsp butter
8 oz Orzo
1 tsp garlic powder
1.5 cups chicken broth (low sodium)
1/2 - 3/4 cup White Wine
1/2 cups Parmesan-Reggiano Cheese
Salt & Pepper (to taste)
Melt butter in a sauce pan (with a lid).  Add the 8 oz of orzo and cook, stirring frequently until the orzo is golden brown.  Add the white wine, chicken broth and garlic powder.  Bring to boil, reduce heat and cover.  Cook for about 10 - 15 minutes.  Once all the liquid has absorbed and the orzo is tender remove from heat and add cheese.  Stir until the cheese is melted and serve!
Simple yet again!  Now I know what you are thinking - wine, chicken broth and garlic powder combined?  Really?  The answer is YES!  The wine give the orzo a great flavor - in the case of this batch, just a hint of sweetness.  And chicken broth and garlic powder will make just about any dish more flavorful.
Chicken with homemade BBQ sauce and a homemade 'rice-a-roni' side!
This is a great weeknight meal and definitely something that I'll be making again soon!

December 5, 2012

Greek Chicken Burgers

Last night for dinner I decided to try something completely new and different – Greek Chicken Burgers!  I had seen this recipe last weekend while watching the Cooking Channel’s Under 500 (calories) show and thought the recipe looked quick and easy – so I decided to give it a go!  This was my first time also attempting ‘Greek’ food and while I know it was far from authentic, the flavors were definitely there! 
Greek Chicken Burgers
(Makes 4 servings – we had two and saved the rest of lunch the next day!)
Four 6-inch pita pockets
1 pound ground chicken
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
3/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
6 ounces low-fat plain yogurt
4 cups romaine lettuce
1 tomato, sliced (optional – I opted for ‘no’)
Cut off a third of each pita and set the largee portion aside.  Grate the tops of the pita in a food processor to create breadcrumbs (you’ll need ½ cup).  In a large mixing bowl combine the ground chicken, bread crumbs, feta cheese, ¼ cup mint, salt pepper and the egg – mix until just combined.  Form the burgers into 8 small patties.  Heat a griddle or large skillet to medium heat and cook burgers.  While burgers are cooking combine the remaining mint and 6 oz of plain yogurt to form the sauce and chop the lettuce.  Once the burgers are cooked and the sauce is made assemble the pitas!  Fill the bottom of the pita with lettuce, add two burgers, top with yogurt sauce (if you’re like me – add more feta cheese) and a little more lettuce.  Serve and enjoy!
Volia!  Dinner until 500 calories – I think it came out to be around 430.  I added some tater tots as a side as well.  The burgers were great!  Really flavorful and definitely different from the ordinary dinner grind! 
Here are some pictures from my (still) craptastic phone!
Greek chicken burgers!
Ground chicken, fresh mint, feta cheese and homemade breadcrumbs!
Burgers cooking!
Dinner! Greek chicken burgers in a pita filled with lettuce, yogurt sauce and a side of tater tots!
How the final product looked on the Cooking Channel's website!
Mine is not as pretty - but equally delicious I am sure!
Now go get your Greek on!

December 4, 2012

Last Week's Travels - Bath County, NY

Last week I traveled to Bath County, New York (a.k.a. middle of nowhere, NY) to hold a SOAR Forum.  This town is RURAL!  I am not even sure it had any stoplights.  We stayed about a half hour outside of town in Corning, NY (home of famed Corning Glassware) which is also a pretty small town in comparison.  Bath County is about a 4 hour drive from Albany; we headed out Tuesday night and checked into the only hotel in town – the Raddison.  We ended up eating dinner at the place called Gaffer’s in Corning – it was surprising delicious and I had the BEST pumpkin soup with a cinnamon base!  It was so good that I vowed I would recreate it!  (This has yet to happen, but I'll keep you posted.)  The next morning we headed over to Bath where we ate breakfast at the one local diner – Stephanie’s Family Restaurant.  We ended up eating breakfast in between a man with one eye and another with no teeth.  I shouldn’t be mean – but it just goes to show that this area is extremely economically depressed and is very much in need of my organization’s program.

After breakfast we headed to the forum which was held at the Institute for Human Services located on County Road 11!  The forum was great!  It brought together local leaders from the entire NY 501 Continuum of Care (which covers an area larger than the state of Connecticut) and throughout the day we created an action plan to implement SOAR in the region.  My trainers will have their first training in February and I will be there! 

While there I asked the head of the NY 501 CoC – “what do you do if you live/work in Bath County”; he responded “you work in factories or you work in social services, there is a lot of transplanted need in Bath and since non-profit organizations must reside in the County seat the need is either concentrated within the town limits or not easily accessible, which makes for an interesting dynamic.”  I am excited to work intensively in Bath as it sort of reminds me of where I grew up.  Berryville, VA is not nearly as economically depressed but it is rural and growing up there left me with a soft spot for small towns. 
Bath, NY - I'll be seeing you again soon (and I am definitely coming back for that pumpkin soup)! 

December 3, 2012

Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup

Here comes another simple and delicious Plain Chicken recipe that is helping me get out of my repetitive dinner rut!  I LOVE soup!  I have actually been on somewhat of a soup kick the past couple of months, I have made a couple but it can be difficult without an immerson blender or a food processor (Santa?); so when I say that this recipe was condense soup based and included tortellini, I was SOLD!   
The soup was awesome and after we ate I had enough leftover for lunch the next day and to give some to my neighbor for dinner!  Soup has also been more than welcome since it is fast becoming winter here in Upstate New York.  Here's the recipe ...
Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup
(Adapted from Plain Chicken)
1 package Barilla 'for two' cheese tortellini
2 cans (10-3/4 ounces each) Campbell's condensed tomato soup
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups half-and-half cream
1 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Cook the torellini ~ In a seperate pot combine all ingredients except the cheese and cooked tortellini ~ Heat and allow flavors to combine ~ Add tortellini ~ Serve hot and top with parmesan cheese.
Serve with garlic bread!

Again - that's it!  So simple and delicious!  This was a great weeknight meal and something that I will definitely be making again!

Creamy Tomato Torellini Soup
Note - Picture is from Plain Chicken

Note II - My iPhone camera still bites

December 1, 2012

Spicy Sausage Pasta

Over the past couple of weeks I have been making an effort to try some new dishes - I felt like I had fallen into a rut, cooking us the same 5 things over and over again.  Well in an attempt to remedy my dinner rut I discovered a new recipe blog - Plain Chicken and it is awesome!  So far this week I have made two recipes from her blog and I plan on making another tonight!
So last night was Friday, I worked until 5 PM and we had a movie to see at 7 PM.  (The Silver Linings Playbook - it was great!)  I had bought the ingredients for this dish earlier in the week because it looked 'that good' and I figured last night would be the perfect time to give it a whirl!  
Spicy Sausage Pasta - a one skillet/dutch oven dish that was spicy enough to knock your socks off!  Obviously you can adjust the levels of spice but between the crushed red pepper and the habanero cheese this dish pretty much cleared out our sinuses.  But it was delicious nonetheless!  Here's the recipe ...
Spicy Sausage Pasta
(Adapted from Plain Chicken)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb smoked turkey sausage, sliced
1 tsp dried onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (10 oz) can Rotel tomatoes
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 oz campanelle pasta
1 cup shredded habanero Cheese
(for a less spicy dish - Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese)

 In a dutch oven (can also use a skillet) cook the sausage until lightly browned in 2 Tbsp of olive oil ~ Once the sausage is cooked add chicken broth, cream, tomatoes, pasta, (dried) onion and garlic powder, salt and pepper ~ Bring to boil then reduce heat and cover for 15 - 20 minutes ~ Once the time has elapsed and the pasta is cooked remove from heat and mix in 3/4 of the cheese ~ plate the pasta and top with the remaining 1/4 of cheese.
That's it!  One pot used and it was SO SO good!  And the best part about this dish is that it is so versatile, you could make it with chicken instead of sausage and add any type of veggies.  A definite must try for weeknight meals!
Spicy Sausage Pasta!
Note - this is not my picture - it is from Plain Chicken
Note II - my iPhone is on it's last leg and my picture taking of late has been seriously reduced, holding out until January 1st when the new iPhone 5 will be purchased!
Happy Cooking!

November 28, 2012

Tis' the Season for Giving!

Christmas is right around the corner!  I cannot believe it, I feel like Thanksgiving snuck up on me.  Anyway - around this time of year I like to give!  I have a pretty good life and while I don't make millions of dollars I am pretty set with myself - I have a nice apartment, a good car, can do shopping or see a movie if/when I like and I always have food in my cabinets.  Obviously there are MANY people in my community who are not as fortunate and I am so lucky to now work for a company that recognizes that!  PRA and the Delmar community as a whole does a ton of things around the holidays to help and I am trying to participate in every single one of them!  

First up was the Delmar Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning.  For this they ask all the participants to bring canned goods for the Albany food bank.  You may remember that LAST YEAR I gathered donations for SICM so this year I was all for it again.  Using my couponing abilities and massive Thanksgiving sales I was able to put together two reusable grocery bags full (one was a Marshall's bag which are extra big) of non-perishables.  The director of the race said that they are typically able to fill a tractor trailer full of donations which more than stocks the food pantry!

Next up are the monthly shelter dinners and breakfasts at Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless in Albany.  For a while now PRA has been providing monthly shelter dinners and just recently they began serving breakfast at the shelter in Albany.  I of course am all about this idea and immediately signed up to be apart of the next shelter breakfast; if I can I am pretty sure I will volunteer for all of them.

And lastly, I am adopting a 17 year old girl and an 8 year old boy for Christmas!  (Well, me and a few other people.)  They are both currently living in a shelter and their family does not have the means to provide them with 'Christmas' so we are adopting them!  I am super excited for this - we used to adopt families from the 'giving tree' at church every year growing up but we mainly provided basic needs, socks, shoes, under shirts etc ...  And while we will definitely provide the basics you also get a flavor of what the children like (for instance my 17 year old loves the Walking Dead and the 8 year old is into books and board games) so I will be able to pick out some special toys as well as an outfit for two!    

November 27, 2012

Co-piloting Boston to Albany

My trip back from Denver was long - to say the least!  For starters I had a red eye flight that began at 11:30 PM followed by a four hour layover in Boston.  After hanging out in downtown Denver for a couple of hours I headed to the airport in preparation for the all night flight.  The flight was packed and I was unlucky enough to have a middle seat.  Luckily in anticipation of my misery I bought a cushy neck pillow that at least allowed me to sleep on and off for a couple hours.  The flight from Denver to Boston was not that bad; we had free direct TV and the flight was smooth the only down side was that we were flying from 11:30 PM - 5 AM (remember the two hour time change).  We landed in Boston at 5 AM, which of course would have been 3 AM Denver time; I think I ended up sleeping on and off from Iowa to right over Albany, NY (if I could have parachuted down at that point, trust me I would have).  I made my way over to my connecting flight's gate and started my layover, which ended up being nearly 4.5 hour layover.
When I booked this flight I knew the second leg of my journey would be on a small plane, but I had no idea how small!  I have flown on small propeller planes before but never a Cessna.  I was flying Cape Air which is a small airline company based in the Northeast that mainly flys to Cape Code, Hyannis Port and some stops in New York.  After what seemed like forever we finally lined up to board.  I was the first one in line and as we walked to the plane I began to realized just how small the plane actually was - we are talking (maybe) a 10 seater Cessna, my carry ons were placed in the wing and we were arranged by weight.  I was the first one in the plane (aside from the pilot) and as I crawled in and was trying to decide what seat to take the pilot said, 'Hi!  Would you like to be my co-pilot?'; I am pretty sure I responded with, 'Suuuuure, I just don't want to touch anything.'  Classy I know, but I was deliriously tired!  
So I was in the front seat!  The pilot was literally a foot to my left, I had a steering wheel and all the gears in the world right in front of me and I was pretty sure that if I stuck my arm out the window it would have been chopped off my a propeller (I was clearly not going to do that but it just goes to show how small the plane was and how close I was to everything).  Taxiing next to a Jet Blue flight (which happened) our plane look minuscule!  Take off was intense - it was an awesome albeit scary feeling!  Throughout the flight we had great views of Boston and the mountains between New York and Massachusetts.  We didn't have a very high altitude so the entire trip I was able to look out the window and see everything below.  The best part of the trip though was landing in Albany - it was awesome to see the city come into focus, fly low over the towns and then land at the airport.  Here are some pictures of the landing.

That would be my leg - steer wheel literally in my lap!
Looking to my left - there's the pilot!

All the gears - right in front of me!

Flying over the mountains!
Flyig over Boston!

Flying over Boston - part II!

The sequence of landing in Albany!

Annnnnd we'r on the ground!
 All in all it was an awesome experience and probably one that I would say I won't be able to have again for quite some time, if ever!