Week in Review

Happy Friday! The ending of every summer week makes me a little sad, but we have a fun weekend to look forward to. We have good friends coming for a visit tomorrow, and a ladies’ get-together with a couple of my daughter’s friends and their moms, on Sunday.

Here are some highlights from this week:

  1. The deck is finished! Our big house project of the summer is complete, and our new deck is in place. My husband quickly pulled the deck furniture out, so we’re ready to enjoy it.
  2. Summer is not over!! I’ve received several end-of-summer-sale and back-to-school catalogs this week. It’s July, people!! School starts on September 7th in our district. Can we please just enjoy the summer while it’s here??
  3. Swimming lessons are over. My daughter finishes her two weeks of swimming lessons today. For the second year, she took her lessons at Skidmore College, and their program is great for her. There’s a 30-minute lesson, once a day for two weeks in a row. (No weekends.) It’s sort of like swimming boot camp, without the yelling. It really builds her confidence, and her skills improve greatly during the sesson.
  4. Cleaning out the closets. Most of the clothes my daughter outgrows are in good-to-excellent condition, so I try to make a little extra cash by selling them. I generally participate in twice-annual consignment sales, but this summer I’ve been dabbling with selling them on eBay, as well as apps like Kidizen and the Styled Child group on Fam. I just started with the latter two, so stayed tuned for results…
  5. Reading! I’ve been working on catching up on old issues of one of my favorite magazines, The New Yorker. This often feels like a losing battle, since it’s a weekly publication, with tons of great, but dense, articles. I’m also reading another book on my summer reading list, Before We Visit the Goddess. I’m only about 30 pages in, but so far, so good.

How was your weekend? What are your weekend plans?

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A Favorite Upstate Place: Lake Placid

One of my favorite places to visit in upstate New York is Lake Placid. My husband, daughter, and I have been making an annual day trip there for several years, and last fall, my husband and I spent a weekend there celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary. A few days ago, we took my parents there for the first time, and they enoyed it, too.

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Just before the start of the boat tour

More than anything else, I absolutely love the gorgeous scenery in the area. We always take a boat cruise on Lake Placid, and enjoy the views of the lovely, shoreline Adirondack “camps”, the protected lands, and the amazing beauty of Whiteface Mountain, as well as some of the other Adirondack high peaks. We also always drive up to the 4,865-foot summit of Whiteface Mountain, and marvel at the amazing views in all directions. (This time, we actually saw the Montreal skyline!)

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On Whiteface, with Lake Placid in the background

The village of Lake Placid has lots of shops and restaurants, as well as a movie theater and other attractions. (And a Starbucks, if you just can’t go without.) Since we’re usually just passing through the village for lunch and some quick window-shopping, I don’t have a lot of favorites to share – with one exception. If you’re looking for a place to celebrate a special occasion, I highly recommend The View at Mirror Lake Inn. My husband and I had our anniversary dinner there, and it was amazing! The restaurant is lovely, the food is beyond delicious, the service is wonderful, and the views are breath-taking. (Oh – I thought of two, additional favorite spots for food: The Scape Cafe (great, vegetarian sandwiches!), and Cake Placid (fantastic crumb cake!).)

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Anniversary drinks at Mirror Lake Inn

We’re not a particularly active family, but for those who are, there are TONS of activities in the Lake Placid-area. There’s hiking, water sports, skiing and snowboarding, biking, rock climbing, and, of course, the annual Iron Man.

If you’re looking for a truly stunning location in upstate New York, with something to do for everyone, Lake Placid will definitely fit the bill.

Have you been to Lake Placid? What’s your favorite thing to do there?

Getting Decked Out

Getting Decked Out

Our biggest – and most costly – project of this summer is replacing our deck. We’re only two days into it, and I’ve already learned quite a few things.

  1. Make a plan upfront. We decided to replace our deck last winter, and since we live in the frozen tundra upstate New York, there’s a limited window of time when such a project can be done. To cut costs, my husband decided to dismantle the deck himself. Knowing this would take quite a while, he started in April. But we didn’t start the process of contacting contractors, gathering estimates, and selecting materials, until mid-May. At that point, we learned many contractors have already started filling their schedules. For a couple of weeks, it looked like we’d be spending the entire summer without a deck.  Now I know to allow plenty of time to find a contractor at the outset of a project.
  2. Contractors are not always as professional we might like. My husband spoke with five contractors about our deck, and four came to take measurements and provide estimates. Only three of them ever got back to him with their estimates. One of them eventually declined the job, and offered to provide the names of other contractors he would recommend. We never heard from him again. One gave a firm date by which he’d get his estimate to us, and missed it by five days. One scheduled a call to discuss the job with my husband and didn’t actually call until four hours later. My expectations for contractors have definitely been adjusted.
  3. Expect unanticipated costs. Anyone who’s spent more than a nanosecond watching HGTV knows that there are ALWAYS unexpected costs once a home building or renovation project has begun. We’ve been lucky thus far, but even two days into this project, demolition has taken twice as long as was estimated, and a couple of support pieces that we intended to save have turned out to be rotten and need to be replaced.

The deck is supposed to be finished at some time next week, and I can’t wait to set up my lounge chair, grab my summer reading list, and kick back with an iced tea.

Do you have big home projects planned for this summer? How have your experiences working with contractors been?

Weekly Recap

Happy weekend! With abundant heat and humidity, the July 4th holiday, and a full week of summer camp, this week felt like the first true week of summer. Here’s a recap of the highlights:

July 4th

As you know, July 4th was on a Monday this year. My husband’s uncle throws a big party at his house in New Jersey every year, and this year it took place on the preceding Saturday, the 2nd. It’s a great chance to catch up with his extended family, and there’s always a huge spread of food. This year was no exception, and even included a whole, roasted pig. (I like pork, but I couldn’t bring myself to eat it with the butchered corpse seeming to stare at me from the carving table. I stuck to burgers.)

The actual July 4th holiday felt kind of strange to me, since my daughter’s camp week started on Monday. As a result, we skipped the parade and other festivities in downtown Saratoga. Instead, my husband and I spent the day doing chores around the house. I did some cleaning – okay, and some reading – while my husband worked on dismantling our deck, which is being replaced next week. We finished the day with some delicious grilled fish at home.

Summer Reading Update

I finished reading Long Live the King while we were in New Jersey, and started reading The Nest. Long Live the King was pretty good, but I’m absolutely loving The Nest! I rarely read very new fiction, but I’m so glad I did this time. This book is about a group of dysfunctional siblings, who were planning to receive a substantial inheritance, until it was spent cleaning up a big mess made by the oldest brother. The other siblings desperately try to get him to pay them back, since they’ve basically dug themselves into financial holes, in anticipation of getting the inheritance. I plan to finish it this weekend, or early next week.

Summer Camp

Summer camp is a touchy subject in our house. My daughter is an only child, so it’s important for her to have socialization, especially over the summer. Also, camp gives her something to do, to help avoid the summer doldrums. She’s a shy kid, and it takes her a while to get comfortable in new environments, and with unfamiliar people. (This is one of many traits she inherited from me.)

We’ve tried a variety of different camps throughout the years, and she’s had fun at some, and disliked others. But no matter how much fun she has, she tends to insist that she didn’t like the camp in question, and refuse to return the following year. For example, last year she attended a very affordable, half-day camp in our town. It’s a pretty basic camp, with high school and college-age counselors, leading standard camp activities – crafts, games, and the like. Since it ended last year, my daughter has said she didn’t want to return to that camp this year because they “made me play tag.” She steadfastly maintained this resistance, even though almost all of her school friends are attending this camp this summer.

Instead, this year she wanted to attend a theater camp, offered by a great local theater organization, Saratoga Children’s Theater. Each week has a theme, and the activities throughout the week all relate to the theme. At the end of the week, the campers put on a show for parents. Last week’s theme was Frozen, so we were deluged with snowflake and snowman crafts, and got to see her sing several songs from the movie at yesterday’s show. It was adorable, and I’m pleased to share that I managed to get through the show without crying. (An unusual feat for this weeper, indeed!) Best of all, she seemed to have a great time at this camp! She’s returning for two additional weeks, later in the summer.

Sneak Peek at Next Week

Starting on Monday, our deck is being replaced. I’m overjoyed about this, since reading, sitting, and eating on our deck is something I love doing in the warmer months. We’ve known for a while that it needed to be replaced, so my husband started dismantling it early in the spring. This means it’s been out-of-commission all season, and I’ve really missed it. After gathering quotes from several contractors, we’ve finally selected someone to do the work, ordered the materials, and scheduled the work to begin!

How was your week? Did you do anything special for July 4th? Are you planning any big home projects for this summer?

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The Trouble With Track Season

Signs at the Saratoga Springs city lines read, “Health History Horses.” Sure there was a pretty significant Revolutionary War battle here, and yes, the mineral-rich springs and spas have been enjoyed for centuries, but Saratoga is probably best known for its horse-racing track season.

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Every summer, Saratoga Springs hosts a seven-week meet, culminating with the Travers Stakes. Pretty much everything about the city changes during track season: The population swells, hotel and restaurant prices spike, parking becomes scarce, and everything becomes a lot more crowded. Can you tell how I feel about track season?

It’s undeniable that the people and businesses of Saratoga and the greater Capital Region benefit tremendously from the revenues generated during track season. The hotels and restaurants are jam-packed, area employment opportunities increase dramatically, and individual homeowners can earn enough money to cover their annual property taxes – and sometimes more! – by renting out their homes to visitors. According to a 2015 report from the Saratoga County Industrial Development Agency, the summer season at the track generates $237 million and nearly 2,600 jobs throughout the Capital Region. Who am I to complain about that??

While I don’t dispute the many ways in which Saratoga Springs and the area benefit from track season, as a local resident, track season is my absolute least-favorite time of the year to be in Saratoga. It probably doesn’t help that I don’t enjoy attending the races at the track, or even horse-racing, in general. In the eight years that I’ve lived in the area, I’ve attended exactly one day of races at the track! It was hot and crowded, I don’t enjoy gambling, and while the (quick) races themselves are exciting, the approximately 30-minute wait-times in between the races are an absolute snoozefest.

The town that I love becomes so packed with people during track season, everything takes longer and becomes more complicated. Want to go out for a spontaneous, restaurant dinner? Good luck getting seated in under an hour. Meeting a friend for lunch? Leave an extra half hour for searching for a parking space. Love sitting quietly in Congress Park and enjoying the peace? Come back in mid-September.

For many good reasons, track season is here to stay in Saratoga. But on Travers Day 2016, you’ll find me hunkered down at home, and counting down the number of days until life returns to normal.

How many times have you been to the horse races in Saratoga?