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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Outer Banks

My dream is to one day own a house at the beach. Lounging on the shore,  reading a book while hearing the waves as they crash, feeling the surf spray on my sun-burned body, smelling the brine of the ocean and hearing birds caw in the background is my idea of bliss.



If I had a job that provided a  pension and health insurance that I could retire from I would have a long time ago. Unfortunately, I didn't think ahead when I was younger, or, in reality, I felt I was "too creative" to work "for the man" at some city/state/federal agency -- how boring! -- and opted to own businesses instead, where it was me alone (80's & 90's) or my husband and I alone (90's until now) paying ourselves, with no retirement plan nor  group health insurance.  Silly me. However my dream is still attainable as my "retirement plan" is the Brooklyn house when we sell it. Lucky me.

Our Roanoke home is located in a beautiful part of the country, but mountains and valleys are not where I want to spend my golden years. We will keep it, not only because my son will be living in it, but the location is a good one in case of tragedy, whether that "tragedy" be man-made or nature made.  Ideally, my plan would be to locate somewhere that is within one day driving distance to Roanoke, and near a beach. Even after selling my Brooklyn home, I would not be able to afford a place anywhere along the beaches of Brooklyn, Queens, or Long Island so New York is out. Same goes for New Jersey...besides, other than a couple of days spent in Atlantic City, I'm just not a fan of that state. I'd consider Maine, but my husband thinks it's too cold...same with all the other New England states.

Next up are the Mid Atlantic states. I have not been to any beaches in Maryland or Delaware so can't weigh in on them. The only beach I've been to in Virginia is Virginia Beach and that's a no-go. Beach is nice, but the area is too crowded, too commercial, too military, too touristy, just too-too.

Now we get to the state that I am most leaning to...North Carolina. The furthest away from our home to a beach there is less than 7 hours. We've been to Ocean Isle Beach and Wrightsville Beach. Love them both, but went to them before I decided that one day I wanted to live near a beach, so I will have to visit the surrounding area again before making a Zillow account on those areas. I tried to book a hotel for last week at both places but couldn't find anything available so I opted to check out another North Carolina beach possibility, and one we'd never been to before, the Outer Banks.

I knew nothing about the Outer Banks other than most people rent houses there.



I am not into renting a house as that means I will have to perform all the same duties in that house as I do in this house. That is not what I consider a vacation. Instead I searched high and low for a room that was either ocean front or had ocean view. No point going to the beach if you don't have that. I was surprised at how booked everything was there too, and how expensive the rooms were, but not as expensive as Wrightsville Beach is. I finally found something that looked decent in Kill Devil Hills. What a weird name for a city! Unfortunately, the pictures were deceptive, and I blame myself for not calling and asking if ocean view meant I had a balcony to sit on to view the ocean. We didn't. So, we paid more for ocean view, which is all it was, a view of the ocean from the inside of our room but too far from the shore.  Although I could probably spend a lot more on it, this post is not going to be a bash on the hotel. It's really about what I thought of the Outer Banks. Let's just say, it only took a couple of days to realize it's not a retirement contender.



Like I stated earlier, I love the beach. Not only do I love lounging on the beach, I enjoy going in the ocean. My husband, who once thought he would one day be a marine biologist, does not feel the same way. When I go to the beach, it brings me back to my childhood -- where we spent most days -- either at Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, or Coney Island. When we weren't baking grilled cheese and bologna sandwiches wrapped in tin foil under the hot sun, or chasing down the fudgie wudgie man, we were jumping in, under, and over the waves. I can't swim, probably because I didn't spend much time in a pool, but I can float on my back, for a little bit, in salt water. The rest of the time I'm usually neck deep bobbing like a cork that fell in a punch bowl.

The first thing I noticed about the OBX (quickly learned OBX on those oval stickers on a lot of car windows was the abbreviation for Outer Banks) was the color and temperature of the water. It was grayish,  darker than I thought it would be, and much much colder than I thought as well. The water up north at Brooklyn beaches and Emerald Coast NC ones are way warmer. On my first day I only went up to my ankles because it was so frigid and was disappointed to find how horrible the sand in the surf felt under my feet. It wasn't smooth at all. It felt like shards of broken shells and hurt to even walk on it. I wondered how far out it went, but didn't explore because the water was so cold. There were hardly any shells on the beach, none unbroken, and if we had gone with the kids when they were young other than them probably chasing all the little crabs peeking out from under the sand, they would have been disappointed too. The ocean was so calm that it didn't make sense to me why there would be so many broken shards.



Even if I didn't go in the water I still enjoyed just being on the beach. I did take a dip in the unheated hotel pool which felt good as it was warmer than the ocean.

Paddle boarding on the Atlantic Ocean
The next day it rained so no beach for us. Instead we visited Manteo which is where that other Roanoke is, the Lost Colony of Roanoke. The town itself is cute, but there really wasn't much to see where the actual colony was. We had planned on attending the play that night but since it was outdoors, and still raining, we didn't bother. Here's a couple of shots of the settlement.




Spanish moss


When we next went to the beach it was like we were at a different beach than we were two days prior. The waves were crazy strong and now it made sense as to why the ocean floor was like a sharp dump of broken shells.




The sounds of the crashing waves were amazing, but the pull of them, even as I stood only ankle deep, was scary. I couldn't imagine even going up to my calves as the undertow was so strong.



Those waves were so high and powerful I was scared for the parents who were letting their children go near them. I was on watch the whole time. Any child that was even near the surf I worried about. One guy had one of those sand chairs wedged in right by the shore and I watched as a crazy wave came in and tumbled him out of it! I couldn't imagine letting my child go into that ocean. I heard someone say in the breakfast room that morning that there were riptides. A riptide can pull you out overwhelm you in mere seconds. When I asked the front desk person if she had heard any idea what the weather was going to be that day she said, "You're on the Outer Banks, it changes from minute to minute." Yeah, no, the Outer Banks will not be on my short list.

Always wanted to surf...those days are over!
There were two things I really liked about OBX...the fresh seafood and the thrift stores. I have to say every restaurant we went to was really good and I have had my fill of sea scallops and shrimp to last a while. Some of my recommendations are: Slice, a pizzeria where as the name implies, you can just grab a slice of pizza if that's all you want. There are many varieties, all looked yummy. And their pizza was so delicious I went back to have another fresh mozzarella, Roma tomato, garlic & basil slice twice. You can also get a glass of wine while you wait.

Trio was the exact restaurant I have wanted to open in Roanoke for the last 20+ years...a place where you can get wine, cheese, beer and live acoustic music. They also had a store in the front where you can take out goodies. Delicious! Click here for my Trip Advisor Trio review.  Josephine's Sicilian Kitchen was another favorite. Real Italian food, in an intimate setting where the menu changes weekly. They do not take reservations so if you want to get in without a long wait I recommend going when it first opens at 5:00pm. Click here for my Trip Advisor review of Josephine's. If you want something a little more fancier, for that special occasion, I recommend the Colington Cafe, a French restaurant in what was once a home in Collington which is right near Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills.

I loved going to all the thrift stores. My favorite was Class and Trash which was like an affordable Black Dog Salvage yard. We got some neat things and had I had room we probably would have brought back a lot more "stuff."

Besides the ocean water, the most disappointing event we experienced was a wine tasting event which took us 45 minutes to get to as it was at the end of the OBX in Cutterick. There were only two vineyards sampling, and three beer breweries. I don't drink beer so for $15 it was a waste as the pour was literally a thimble size pour of five different wines. Altogether it would not have filled the glass. I  now know I hate North Carolina grapes, way too sweet with a musky aftertaste. At least there was some nice scenery. There was no way I was climbing the lighthouse and paying $10 to be out of breath and in pain, but it was pretty to look at.






There was no way I was leaving without getting in that ocean so on our last day I braved the cold, waves, and rough bottom and did a quick run in. I was stopped about knee high by a powerful wave which knocked me down. By the time I got up Frank was already at the shore in case he had to rescue me. I got out quickly.




All in all it was good to get away, but with the temperatures soaring into the high nineties in Roanoke, this week at the beach would probably have been a better call.



My husband is pushing for us to consider Florida as a possibility, but I'm not too keen on it. He thinks Maine is too cold. I think Florida is too hot. I'm sure there are other beaches between Maine and Florida we could consider. If you know of any please drop a comment!








Friday, February 9, 2018

23andWho???

I was the first in my family to have my DNA tested through 23andMe. I'm sure most of you know what that is but for those who do not, it's a company that will tell you where your ancestors come from, how much percentage you carry of different countries your ancestors hailed from, a timeline of when they first show up, and more importantly to me, are the health reports that they generate. The kit comes with a vial that you spit in, close, shake, and send off to the company.



As I chose to take part in both ancestry as well as health reports it cost $199. If you do ancestry alone it's $99, and they run specials now and then, up to 20% off. It takes about four to six weeks, sometimes sooner to get the results via email.

I always thought I was mostly Italian with perhaps some Norman mixed in as a relative on my Dad's side had completed genealogical research which went back to the 1400's and had something to do with Normans going through Spain and into Italy. The most distinguished DiRosa (originally spelled with an i not e) was a Senator in Naples. If you know anything about Naples during that time period, you know they were pretty much out of control, so I'm not surprised. I mean living on the side of a volcano that can erupt at any moment can make one "carefree." I also suspected there might be a little Genghis Khan in me because my daughter had a little blueish birthmark on her backside when she was born and I read somewhere along the line that mark was present in descendants of Khan.

Here are my results which shows I am mostly Italian, actually 88.5% Southern European and I'm assuming the Broadly Southern European probably is Sicily as that's where all four of my grandparents were born. North African and Middle Eastern make sense too as everybody raided Sicily. I was surprised to see that yes, maybe I am a descendent of Khan as I have .3% Mongolian. I found the Broadly East Asian .1% surprising as well as the unassigned .8%.



Here is my timeline which is very surprising to me.



It makes sense that my Grandparents hailed from Italy between 1870-1930, but there is nothing between the years 1840-1870. My very first ancestor supposedly is Finnish followed by West African. So does that mean a ship left Finland and wound up in West Africa? Did my ancestor have something to do with slavery or did he/she marry an African Queen/King?

The next family member to do 23andMe was my daughter which shows she shares 50% of her DNA with me. I was very curious to have her spit in a bottle because there was some disparity between my husband's relatives as what ancestry they are. Many years ago when my daughter was diagnosed with MHE I tried to find out as much genetic info as I could. Since my husband was adopted and hadn't stayed in touch with his biological father's side, he didn't have any information on them so we turned to his mom. When she said my husband's grandmother on his father's side was Cherokee I was elated as that would mean my daughter was about 25% or 12.5% Cherokee which entitled her to a bevy of free medical treatments for her rare disease. His mom also said his grandfather on her side, her father,  was half-Japanese, which was cool. My husband knew that grandfather very well and said he would never speak of that side. I've seen pics of his grandparents and his grandfather does not look Japanese at all while his grandmother does look German.

Back to the Native American gene...We actually went on a trip to Cherokee, NC to look at the rolls to see if we could verify my husband's heritage. It was a bust, and it was then I decided I needed to reach out to his biological dad's side. His father had already passed many years prior but he still had a brother who I tracked down and sent a letter. To make a long story short they were thrilled I contacted them and were joyful they finally got the opportunity to reconnect with my husband who they hadn't seen since he was 6 years old and only for a moment at 18 at his dad's funeral. Since my contact with them we have become very close and they are truly wonderful people. Anyway back to the heritage. When I told his uncle that I needed some sort of verification about their Cherokee lineage he laughed and said they weren't Cherokee at all. Huh? No, my husband's grandparents were actually Polish!

His uncle was big into genealogy and had reams of pages on their family which first entered America on the Mayflower, the Southwicks, he said. He also said that Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt were distant cousins of my husband. All very interesting but not a Native American among them!

When my daughter's 23andMe results came back it showed she was 98.4% European. She has a percentage of all my ancestors except for Finnish, Middle Eastern, Mongolian, and Broadly Sub-Saharan Africa.  Her majority, not from my side, is Northwestern Europe which included 12.7% British & Irish, 7.5% French & German, and 10.2% Broadly Northeast European which I would assume was Polish. She also showed <.1% Ashkenazi Jewish, and since I had 0% I figured that was from her father's side. What was odd to me was that she had 0% Japanese! The only East Asian she had was .2%, with .1% Yakut.  I had .4% East Asian and 0 Yakut.

When the kids bought their dad a 23andMe kit for Christmas I think I was more excited than he was to find out his ancestry. Well, we got the results last week. Our daughter is his with her carrying 49.9% of his DNA. So where is the other .1%???

Here is a snapshot of some of his results:



As you can see he is listed as 100% European with the majority of his ancestry, 69.2% Northwestern European broken down as 31.8% British & Irish, 15.7% French & German, 1.5% Scandinavian, 20.2% Broadly Northeast European. The rest is Eastern European. Most notable are two things...first, the 0% Ashkenazi Jewish. If I have 0 and he has 0 how does our daughter have <.1% Ashkenazi? Second, no Japanese! How can that be? His mother told him his grandfather was half Japanese. Shouldn't there be at least a small percentage? He was told stories of how his mother, her sisters and his grandmother were almost rounded up and sent to Japanese interment camps even though his "half-Japanese" grandfather worked in the Brooklyn Navy yards during the war. There is even a letter floating around somewhere whereby the government apologized.

According to my husband's timeline either his parent, grandparent or great grandparent was 100% British & Irish and born between 1870 & 1930. He adamantly says this is incorrect. Besides, as we all know no one is really 100% anything!

This is our wall of ancestors...




At the very top is a photo is of my husband's ancestors on his grandfather's side, all Japanese in traditional dress. I do not know the year of this photo.



So, who are these people? Are they not his relatives? Who do we believe? DNA or oral histories? Did 23andMe get it all wrong? And if they got the ancestry side wrong, what about the health reports? How accurate are they? I had hoped this DNA testing would answer some questions, but in fact it's given me even more...23andWho???









Sunday, February 4, 2018

Ice in Roanoke

Ice looks beautiful, but it's pretty treacherous out there if you have to walk or drive in it. There's also a good chance I'm going to lose electricity when the heavy branches topple an electric wire somewhere down the line. Here's some shots from the comfort of my driveway and back patio.

























Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Sleep Paralysis Or????

With her misplaced anger, inexplicable attitude, and trash bags of possessions she pulled behind her when the girl suddenly decided to abandon this household, I secretly hoped she also took our spirits with her. 

I don’t know if it was the black black-out curtains, or the hostile mood lingering in the room, but I felt it was necessary for me to do a cleansing of sorts - not just of the damaged wooden floors - but of the atmosphere as well before I moved in there. I spoke with a friend of mine who reiterated my belief that using sage was probably not the best idea. We both were in agreement that when we had smudged in the past things didn’t clear up, and in fact, became even more active. Instead, she recommended I use some bay leaves, turquoise, and kosher salt.

I happened to stumble upon these really cute speech bubble shaped serving dishes when I was in TJ Maxx slashed to $2.00 which were the perfect size. I went to AC Moore thinking I could get some turquoise there but all their “turquoise” came from China and in fact were made of glass or ceramics, not stones. Luckily Crystal Cottage was open and he had one small vial of real turquoise that I found hidden. He didn’t even know he had it. What are those odds? Again for $2.00! Kosher salt was easy to find as well.

So when I got home yesterday I filled five of the dishes with this concoction and placed them in some rooms while saying my own prayers.



All seemed well and then after dinner things started getting a little weird. As we were watching television in the living room we heard a strange sound, like a “clinking” that my husband thought came from the kitchen and I though came from the piano. Bella also heard it and barked, looking towards the dining room where the piano is. Her head was moving back and forth as if she was following something.  I didn’t see anything. My husband checked the kitchen and couldn’t find anything so I went over to the piano where I had placed one of the serving dishes. When I first placed it down there was salt on the bottom, the leaves placed on top, and the turquoise stones placed all around the leaves. When I looked down I saw many of the stones were now on top of the leaves. I picked up a couple of stones and dropped them on the dish and that sounded like the noise we had heard. I took them back off the leaves and shrugged my shoulders.

From that point on Bella began acting very skittish. When we went to bed she snuggled between us at the head of the bed rather than near our feet where she usually lay, as she loves the fan in her face. She would not settle down and kept panting and following “nothing” in the air. My husband fell asleep, I watched It’s Always Sunny and then shut off the television. A couple of minutes after as I was trying to fall asleep it sounded like a kitchen cabinet door opened. It was loud enough that my husband woke up and asked me if I heard that. As I said yes there was another sound causing Bella to bark and Frank to leap out of bed. He turned the kitchen light on and found an empty seltzer bottle had “fallen” from the middle of the kitchen table to under it.

As he informed me what it was, the lights in the house starting blinking, the fan cutting on and off. “What the hell?!” we both exclaimed. And then complete silence. Everything went out. No power at all. Not knowing if it was just our house or others as well I called the power company and let them know, but since they did not say there was a power outage in my area we grabbed protection before opening the door to see what the rest of the neighborhood looked like. 

We had no idea it was raining so maybe that played in the blackout, but the stores down below seemed to still have power. When he ventured to the end of the driveway it did look very dark and there were no streetlights so we breathed a sigh of relief that it wasn’t just our home. Imagination could make you think all sorts of weird things!

We tried going back to bed but I was having a hard time as total silence is too distracting for me to fall asleep. I needed that fan or at least the soft glow of the vaporizer. Lying there I kept hearing knocks and other strange bumps in the night. I didn’t want to wake Frank back up because he had just come from the doctor earlier who told him he has a heart condition, extremely high blood pressure, and needed to not be so stressed out, to get plenty of rest, etc., and besides prescribing nitro glycerine pills and an aspirin a day regiment, he is setting up a bunch of testing with a cardiologist. It’s been a couple of “stressful” weeks here so I did not want to disturb him.

I turned on my side and began praying and imagining a white light covering us, protecting us. The next thing I know is I hear in my left ear a sound that I cannot describe other than to say it was almost celestial, or harmonic, or fluttering, a universal vibration type noise. Like something I imagine one would hear in space. It freaked me out a bit. I tried to move my arm to put the cover my ear and that’s when I realized I was paralyzed, and then I felt as if my body was about to rise, like it was going to go somewhere, not of this world. 

I tried to move my mouth but I couldn’t. I tried to speak but nothing came out. I felt myself rising and I pushed myself down. I was afraid to go into the tunnel so I kept fighting it. With all my strength I tried rocking myself free but nothing worked. I started praying in my mind stronger and as I did my silent scream started to be a soft whimper. I couldn’t mouth any words other than a weak help which came out like “heh.” My husband heard it and when he put his hand on me and asked, “Are you all right?” I was able to move again. He broke the spell.

I told him what I had felt, and asked if he had heard the sound that I had, but he hadn’t. I told him that I was paralyzed and I didn’t know if I was going to be abducted by aliens, or if I had unintentionally meditated to a place where I was going to be shown other dimensions. The phrase "harmonic convergence" kept coming into me. The last time this had happened to me was when I lived in Brooklyn. At that time I was by myself in bed and although I couldn’t move I was able to see, and sitting at the edge of my bed was a figure of a man dressed all in black like from late 1800's to early 1900's wearing a top hat. To break that spell I had to gather enough strength to rock myself off the bed. When I hit the floor I was able to move and the dark man disappeared.

I don’t know what I felt last night but damn, I think I stirred up some shit again. 

Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever experienced sleep paralyzation? What do you do to get out of it?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Lake George

Some of the best vacations I've had have been ones that had little or no planning, ones where I just got in a car armed with road maps, AAA tour books, a suitcase, a cooler, with a sorta destination planned, and hit the road. Last month my husband and I decided to do just that and we found ourselves in upstate New York in the Lake George region.

The Village of Lake George
During the summers of my Brooklyn childhood, going on a vacation to Lake George, or the Catskills, both in upstate New York, was almost a rite of passage. When I was a kid I never went to either place. Instead, my father drove us all around the New York upstate hotspots. Vague memories include Lake Placid, The North Pole, 1,000 Islands, Niagara Falls, sometimes Toronto, Montreal and Quebec,  then back to the New England states. Glad I got to see The Old Man in the Mountain, whose granite profile is no more in New Hampshire, some distant relatives who lived inVermont, old sailing ships in Connecticut, along with other forgotten destinations. When I became older and could travel myself, I did hit some upstate spots for skiing and dude ranches, including the Catskills,  Hunter Mountain, Bear Mountain, and some other mountains, but never got to Lake George. It's probably not on most people's bucket list but it was on mine, (I have a very doable travel bucket list) so off we went...

Never realized how large Lake George is...it's 32 miles in length.

Driving up there for an extended weekend with no hotel reservations, during August, was probably not the best idea as we met quite a few no vacancy signs. Too many of the establishments that did have a vacancy only had one for that night which would mean we would have to begin the trek all over again the next day, not something I particularly wanted to do. When we first rolled into town the plan was to stay at a really nice place right on the lake. I wanted to be able to open the window in the morning and see the glistening sun beam off the water and fall asleep to the sounds of bullfrogs and crickets while ripples of lake gently lapped to the shore. As doors slammed in our face, some outright laughing at our question, "Why aren't there any vacancies?" and their response, "Ummm, it's summer!" we began to think that maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea to be across the street from the lake and stay in one of those cute little cottages that dotted the road. When that proved undoable as well, we decided to keep driving north while following the lake to see if there was any rooms available. We had 32 miles of possibilities.

After being met with a plethora of no vacancy signs we found ourselves about ten miles from the downtown happening part of Lake George and in a cute little town called Bolton. There was an old timey looking motel with cabins facing the lake that had a vacancy sign up.



We were thrilled to find that they did indeed have four nights available, alas no lakeside cottages. We were told those were reserved a year in advance in most cases, so we opted for a room right by the pool. We could walk down to the lake and use the kayak and canoes any time we wanted. Oh, that sounds great we said to the clerk, and booked the room at a higher rate than I wanted to pay, as it was a typical upstate motel room that you would expect to find in the seventies.

When's the last time you used a key like this?
Even if there was no hair dryer, only one-ply toilet paper, the most translucent, thinnest, wrapped sliver of soap I have ever seen, and no complimentary shampoo and conditioner, I was thrilled it had air conditioning, a refrigerator, cable television, and thick wooden walls with no neighbors on either side. When we settled into the room I mentioned the canoe and kayak to my husband causing us both to burst out laughing as he uncorked the bottle of wine. Yeah, like we would actually go out on the lake, and row, or paddle something. Ha!

This was the view from the Bonnie Motel we saw when we walked down to the lake.

In fact, it was quite the hike down to the lake from our poolside room, so I think after the first time trek, that was the last time we trekked. Instead, we drove into town to see what was what, and found there was no shortage of activities for people who were more ummm, "outdoorsy" than us.

That's not Frank driving the boat. That's not me water skiing.
Can you see my husband and I parasailing?
Here's a close-up so you can see, nope, that's not us...

Cruising on Lake George

Nope, not for us...I get seasick.

Seriously though, we found plenty to do...

All upstate New York feels haunted to me
Fort William Henry
That flag offends me...remove it!!! Ha, just kidding



Downtown Lake George is your typical tourist upstate town, very picturesque, plenty of fudge stores, souvenir shops. ice cream parlors, live music, bars, restaurants, shopping, shopping, and more shopping. Bring comfortable walking shoes as you will do a lot of walking. I never realized the Lake George area had such a huge Italian presence. One Italian restaurant in Bolton, Cate's, was so good I thought I was back in Brooklyn. In fact, the pizza we had there was better than any pizza we had the last time we were in Brooklyn.

Seriously better pizza than the last one I had at L&B's in Brooklyn!
We overhead a lot of people speaking and many folks had our same Brooklyn accent. When the chef came out and made the rounds, we made sure to tell him how much we enjoyed the meal. I also discovered the refreshing joy of watermelon vodka mixed with cranberry juice and seltzer. There was a typical German restaurant that also had authentic fare, and lots of it. Go hungry. We also found a great Italian deli only down the road from the motel where we had breakfast and lunch. I think the biggest surprise came when we stumbled upon a bakery in the Village of Lake George that not only had real Italian bread and pastries, but the best black and white cookie I have ever had.

Perfection in a black and white, spongy with a slight tinge of lemon zest moist cake covered with fresh, soft, thick layer of homemade vanilla and chocolate frosting. 

The food was so delicious up there, and varied with so many Italian delicacies to choose from which I cannot get in Roanoke, we didn't have to hit Brooklyn on the way back home to Virginia because all my food cravings were satisfied.

Another reason why I chose Lake George...there was another bucket list location nearby. And it was a perfect time to visit as this was the brief season when the thoroughbreds were racing in Saratoga Springs!  More on that in the next blog post...