The Things That Make You Feel At Home

Grace’s first day (last year!) of preschool was earlier this week. When Anna and I picked her up, Anna waved happily. The feeling was mutual—Grace presented her little sister with an arts and crafts project she’d made. Grace had written “ANNA (heart shape) GRACE” across the top.

“Aww!” I exclaimed. When we got home, I hung it up on the refrigerator, in true mom fashion.

Then I looked at our rental-house refrigerator and realized, “This house feels like home.”

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A refrigerator with mementos magnet-ed to it—this resonated “home” for me. Our most necessary kitchen appliance was no longer a blank slate, but the keeper of a note from an old friend—a card from a new one—and a heartfelt gift from one daughter to another. Our kitchen had become personal.

Intrigued by the idea of refrigerator psychology, I walked through our temporary living space to find other indicators of “home.”

This rocking chair, for sure.

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Stanton and I bought it a couple of months before Grace was born. We’ve had it for more than five years and two cities now. And I’ve possibly spent at least six months, collectively, in this chair, for all the times I’ve rocked Grace and later Anna and for all the times I accidentally and so easily fell asleep holding a sleeping, deeply loved little girl in my arms.

This rocking chair for sure. No matter how worn it gets, I don’t think we’ll ever let it go.

And this painting.

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A Christmas present to Stanton and me from my mom, painted by an artist from my Pennsylvania hometown. It’s our first piece of “good” art. It’s something to build upon, and for quite some time in San Antonio, it gently reminded me of where I grew up.

Now, the opposite of good art: the girls’ playroom.

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You may be wondering, friends: Did Melissa clean up this space—stage it, in fact?—before she snapped this shot for her blog? The answer to your question is, “Yes.” 🙂

Yes, I’m guilty of editing my real life, every now and then, so that the messy details (e.g., toys EVERYWHERE) don’t appall you.

Self-presentation disclosure aside… The girls use this space to create Sofia the First castles out of LEGO bricks and Lincoln Logs, play “Restaurant” and chase each other. They like it because it’s cozy and theirs; I couldn’t live without it because it’s contained (due to a baby gate, not pictured), allowing me a few minutes to myself once in a while.

Both girls are wide awake by 6:30 a.m., and there’s near-constant activity in our day-to-day life until about 8 p.m. At which point I decompress over a cup of tea.

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Stanton was thoughtful enough to prioritize the unpacking of my pink tea kettle, which I remember I bought back in Richmond, Va., with a Target gift card that a co-worker had given me as a wedding gift.

Two evenings in a row this week, the girls and I saw another recently relocated family at a neighborhood playground. I had a “refrigerator psychology” moment in the playground too. You also feel at home when you feel a sense of community somewhere.

A refrigerator with mementos magnet-ed to it. A worn-out, cherished rocking chair. A pink tea kettle.

And people you’ve come to know.

HOME.

What makes you feel at home, friends?

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

 

Mom, Do You Know Where You’re Going?

Stanton, the girls and I have called New York “home” for about a month now. We’re starting to feel settled in our new hometown, as I shared here. And I’ve loved digging into the local food scene.

Something I’m still working on, though, is getting to know my way around.

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Following directions—especially driving directions—is not my strongest skill. Luckily, my phone has Google Maps. Unfortunately, the mapping service has been hit-or-miss for me lately.

Thus, the girls and I have found ourselves on some adventures here in the Capital Region.

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Our detours have taken us off the beaten path at times. We’ve come across beautiful scenery we may not have discovered otherwise—a field of wildflowers; horses grazing behind white fences; serene mountain ridges.

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Anna even found a mermaid. 😉

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I’m lucky that the girls are patient with me as I reenter our destination into Google Maps, or try Waze, or call Stanton, or roll down the window to ask a passerby where in the world we are.

Recently, the girls and I successfully found our latest destination: Stuyvesant Plaza. We loved walking and window-shopping. The girls threw pennies in a fountain and made their penny wishes.

I overheard Grace’s: “I wish Mom will let me watch TV all day someday.” Keep wishing, girl. 🙂

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We ran into some trouble on our return route home. The Albany area has a lot of traffic circles, which I’m still getting used to. On this particular one, I exited right too soon.

I drove a bit; nothing looked familiar. “Hmm,” I said. I pulled over and glanced at my phone.

“Mom, it’s really pretty here,” Grace said, tapping on her window. Anna began tapping on her window too.

“Mm-hmm,” I said, as our new route home came up in my phone.

“Mom, do you know where you’re going?” Grace said this time. She asked the question patiently, but I also heard some worry in her 5-year-old voice.

Do you know where you’re going?

Sometimes, the answer to that question is, “No.” And that’s OK. One thing I’ve learned during these past few weeks is that eventually, you will get there.

Another lesson learned: Make the most of the detours.

“I know now,” I told Grace. “I was a little lost, but I figured it out. I’m sorry it’s taking a long time.”

Grace said it was OK, and repeated that it was really pretty here on our diversion.

“Yes, it’s great,” I agreed.

Every moment means something, even when we don’t know what or why. Enjoy the journey, friends.

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

Local Flavors From New York’s Capital Region: A Newbie’s Perspective

Arguably the most fun thing about moving to a new city is discovering the local culture. Neighborhood hangouts, hidden gems and—my favorite—go-to homegrown eateries. Yes, friends, I love digging into the native food scene (pun intended!). 🙂

Stanton’s new job is based in Albany, N.Y., and we’ve been living in a family-oriented town a bit south of the city for about a month now. I’ve learned that this whole area, located at the northernmost point of the Hudson Valley, is known as “the Capital Region.” And here’s what I’ve learned so far about the local flavors here.

First up, a local coffee shop called Perfect Blend. Because every good story begins in a coffee shop.

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Perfect Blend is located at the picturesque “Four Corners” intersection at Delaware and Kenwood avenues. The quintessential local coffee shop, it serves up a variety of beverages and baked goods in a friendly setting with plenty of seating, both indoors and out.

…every good story begins in a coffee shop.

My standing order: spiced chai tea latte and an oat bran muffin. To my delight, the oat bran muffin features raspberries and blueberries—a sweet surprise in this traditionally hearty product. I last enjoyed my snack break indoors, admiring this stained-glass window panel.

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Across the street (Delaware Avenue) from Perfect Blend are the Delmar Marketplace and McCarroll’s: The Village Butcher, two local businesses that care very much about the high quality of both their products and their customer service.

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On a recent Saturday morning, one of the friendly cashiers recommended the Island Coconut Green Mountain coffee to me from the Delmar Marketplace coffee bar, which paired perfectly with my made-to-order breakfast sandwich from McCarroll’s: The Village Butcher, just steps away. All of this for less than $6—hard to beat.

Stanton was my breakfast date that Saturday morning. We told the gentleman working behind the counter that we had just moved here. He called to his co-workers, “Hey, we got some newbies!” To which they all replied, “Welcome, newbies!” Let me tell you, friends: I love this place.

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Now, across the street from McCarroll’s (Kenwood Avenue—we’re still at the Four Corners) is Swifty’s Restaurant & Pub. As you would expect, they offer extensive wine and beer selections to accompany the hearty pub-style food. I so enjoyed my sangria, as well as the Cubano sandwich that arrived later.

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Just two miles down the road from the Four Corners is Kleinke’s Farm, a local dairy farm that’s been operating since the early 1900s. What’s amazing to me about this part of the country is that you can walk and shop in a bustling community (the Four Corners area), and then drive just two miles and find yourself in beautiful farmland. I’ve only taken advantage of Kleinke’s flowers so far, but I look forward to sampling their fruits and vegetables soon.

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On the subject of beautiful farmland…Indian Ladder Farms in nearby Altamont (about 12 miles west of Kleinke’s) is stunning. We loved apple picking there over Labor Day weekend. As you can see from this picture, Grace did lots of picking, while Anna focused on munching. 🙂

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There’s so much for folks to delight in at Indian Ladder Farms, including a playground for kids. The cozy bakery and café also sells apple cider donuts, which I can assure you from personal experience are a hit with people of all ages.

Back in our town, Stanton and I had a lovely experience at Tool’s Family Restaurant for breakfast one morning. We walked inside during a busy time. An older gentleman sitting in a booth leaned over and said, “You can sit anywhere you like.” So we did. As we waited, we overheard other patrons chatting with one another and greeting the servers by name.

The vibe here is neighborly and down-to-earth. I ordered a broccoli, cheese and bacon omelet (an intuitive combination of flavors, yet one I never experienced in an omelet before!).

An older gentleman sitting in a booth leaned over and said, ‘You can sit anywhere you like.’ So we did.

Close to Tool’s is Shogun Sushi and Sake Bar. It’s similarly down-to-earth, yet more upscale. During late summer, people like to sit outside on the patio.

Stanton and I loved our alfresco dinner, which began with the Appetizer Sampler of pork gyoza (pan-fried dumplings), harumaki (Japanese spring rolls) and spicy rock shrimp. Everything was flesh and flavorful. We’ll be back.

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North of Albany is Colonie, a suburb with bigger developments and stores such as Barnes & Noble, Target and Whole Foods Market. I haven’t spent much time here yet, but one rainy weekend evening, the four of us stumbled upon Grandma’s Pies & Restaurant. What a delight to find a local restaurant amidst all the chain offerings.

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Another delightful find was TwisT Ice Cream Shoppe, which is part of an old-fashioned drive-in movie theatre (Jericho). Stanton, his dad and Anna couldn’t get enough of their cones (and one kid-sized cup!). The laid-back ambiance at TwisT is a breath of fresh air.

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Last but not least, you can’t talk about New York cuisine without talking about pizza. We’ve tried a few pizza places, and our current favorite is Andriano’s (pictured below). Another good one: Golden Grain Gourmet Pizza.

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Pizza is to New York what tacos are to Texas, you could say. Thus, I’m on a mission to find an excellent Mexican restaurant to satisfy the taste buds of my San Antonio-born better half. Mission No. 2: checking out the downtown area’s food and wine scene.

Pizza is to New York what tacos are to Texas.

Any recommendations, New York friends? 🙂

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.