As Christmas and the New Year approaches, I’ve been wondering about something. I can’t decide if upstate New York is as wonderful as I think it is, or if I am biased because this is where I fell in love with my husband, and where we both became adults. I loved the man who was my boyfriend, and then my fiancé, but upstate New York is where we chose to make our married life together, and this is where I got to know my husband. He is a pretty cool guy. I have a friend who once compared her long marriage to a fine wine, and although at only 4 years in, we are still new at this, I can see what she means. I feel like as great as everything was in the beginning, it gets better. I feel like we’ve both grown more thoughtful of each other’s needs, and supportive of each other’s dreams. This is the place where we have experienced so much happiness, and so much loss. We’ve celebrated together and mourned together, we’ve taken care of each other with the flu, and after minor surgeries. I think moving to a place where we knew only each other was like a crash course in intimacy and getting on the same team.
We both lived on Long Island for most of our lives prior to our move, although my husband was born in Brooklyn and lived there as a young child. We both stayed on Long Island for college for various reasons, two of which were being very family oriented and unsure about what we wanted to do with our lives. It worked out for us, because we might not have met otherwise. Moving here together, the day after our wedding was the adventure the neither of us had ever taken. When my husband got the job offer, I don’t think our families were thrilled, but over the years, they have come to enjoy exploring our new home with us. It was a really tough decision to make, because we knew we’d miss our family and friends terribly. We did, and really, we still do. Luckily, they don’t seem to mind the drive too much,and neither do we, so we still see everyone pretty frequently. Over the years, we have also made some really wonderful friends up here too. Although our apartment and now our house, was always this tiny kingdom that felt like home, I think making connections and running into people you know at the grocery store makes you fully realize that the greater area surrounding where you live is indeed home.
I think diving right into married life in a place where we only knew each other definitely brought us closer together. I know people say that getting over each other’s quirks when you first move in together is tough, but looking back to four years ago, I just remember it being a lot of fun. I seem to have blocked out any newlywed spats, although we must have had some. We’d stay up late on Friday nights watching movies in the pillow pile we made and inventing mixed drinks. Then we’d wake up whenever on Saturday morning and cook big breakfasts together. We’d spend the day exploring the places that our new co-workers mentioned were cool. You will find many of these places listed in this post. We discovered one of the things that we like best about living here- depending upon the direction, you can drive 20 or so minutes and you can be in the country looking out over a far distance, or in the state capital surrounded by restaurants and beautiful old buildings. We love hiking to the waterfalls in Plotterkill preserve, and buying cider donuts at farm stands. A recent Albany discovery is a restaurant that does Dim Sum lunches, but unfortunately sneaks shrimp into everything. But that is a story for another day.
Although we both worked, we were only 23 and had a ton of energy for grabbing drinks with co-workers, seeing movies, and watching a lot of Stargate Atlantis and Arrested Development afterward. There are a lot of really cool bars and restaurants nearby. Those early months were like one giant honeymoon. We eventually did take a real honeymoon to Jamaica a few months in. It was one of our favorite vacations ever. We both proudly sported what our friend Shawn calls the moon tan (pasty white skin), blissfully unaware of our slight happy newlywed weight gain. We only noticed this later when we saw the pictures we took. Did I mention that although I’ve been baking all of my life, I really learned to cook right after we got married? I searched my new cookbooks for elaborate and delicious recipes that were all pretty fattening. Thank you Pioneer Woman for a delicious first few months of marriage! We joined a gym together that spring, which was surprisingly really fun, and learned portion control, which was not.
I think another contributing factor to our happy weight gain was buying whatever we wanted at the grocery store with no one to stop us! We had not yet learned to budget and bought a ton of treats like kids in a candy shop. Even finding our favorite places to grocery shop was an upstate adventure. We also took advantage of a lot of the events hosted locally. Some, like Katie O’Byrne’s St. Patrick’s Day Block Party, and the Saratoga Beer Summit, we still attend every year. We also loved going to the track in Saratoga and the Maple Syrup Fest. Every September we grab gyros and baklava at the Greek Festival hosted by one of the churches. In the winter, we freeze our butts off at Chowderfest, despite being very bundled up. If you haven’t noticed, we are super food motivated! In the summer, we also frequent the Schenectady Green Market every Sunday, and grab iced coffees at The Happy Cappuccino. My favorite place to browse for books is still the used bookstore that I can never remember the name of on Jay Street. For $2-$3 a book, and an amazing selection, you can’t go wrong! This year, we finally attended a show at Proctors, the beautiful local theater. We saw The Book of Mormon, which was very funny and irreverent, although my mother in law and I agreed that the ending had a good message. We have seen so much, but I feel like there are still a lot of new places to explore. My biggest recommendation for anyone moving somewhere new would be to get out there and go to local events. Most towns have lots going on if you know where to look. Forming your own rituals and routines and finding your favorite local spots can help a new place feel like home.
I think the reason that I love upstate New York living is that it is in fact a pretty cool place, and also that in my head, this place will always being inextricably tied up with newlywed memories of the clean-cut 23 year old guy that I married- who sometimes now looks like a messy bearded mountain man. We moved in together here, bought our first home, and brought home our two adorable fur babies. We have learned that it takes time for a new place to feel like home, but the effort that you both put in is what you get out of any situation. It has been quite a fun journey, and I am hopeful that this year will be our most exciting one yet.