Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Your Albany School Board Election

The Albany School Board has two of its seven seats open right now. So, you get to vote not once but twice on Tuesday November 8th.

Does it matter?

Heck yeah.

The School Board governs our 15 public schools and is responsible for 10,400 students. Of these, about 8,400 are enrolled in public schools and about 2,000 in taxpayer-supported charter schools. The school budget is $206 million and constitutes more than half of your property taxes.

There are three candidates running for these two available seats. We've had oen candidate forum, last night at Albany High, graciously hosted by the League of Women Voters.

Next Monday Oct 24th there is another candidate forum, this time at the Albany Public Library main branch, hosted by the Albany chapter of the NAACP. There will be one last forum; as soon as we have details we'll post that info.

Come to a forum, learn about the candidates, and please exercise your right to vote on Tuesday, Nov 8 !   

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summer Harvest: Blueberries

It's blueberry season! You'll find them in the grocery stores, in farmer's markets, and if you are feeling adventurous, you can pick your own at many farms. We picked our blueberries at Indian Ladder, which is also picking raspberries and black raspberries. Blueberries is one of my favorite things to pick because preserving is easy and those frozen blueberries are delicious in baked goods, yogurt, and even plain as a snack!

Once you've picked or purchased your blueberries, spread them out on a cookie sheet to freeze them. This prevents the blueberries from clumping (but if you let them dry after washing, it's probably fine to just freeze them right in the bag). After they have frozen, you can fill up a gallon sized bag and thank yourself all year long!

I went on a quick trip to Baltimore and was able to stop at a delicious farm stand with some Silver Queen sweet corn that we devoured and I've frozen the extras to kick start my corn saving. More on that in August when the corn is sweetest though!

Here's my favorite blueberry muffin recipe:

Monday, July 11, 2011

Library Budget Vote: Absentee Ballots

I've voted in many elections, but this upcoming Library budget vote is the first time I'll be voting absentee ballot. The ballot is above. I picked up the application at our local library, but it's also available here. A stroll over to Academy Park (the Albany City School District offices across from the capital and city hall) to drop off the application and we got these ballots right away. We'll drop them off before we leave town and then have voted! If you are going to be out of town or unable to get to the polls, then I urge you to get your applications in for ballots now. The deadline if you'd like the ballot to be mailed to you is tomorrow by 4:00 and to drop off is the day before the vote (Monday, July 18). Of course, if you are in town for the election, please make sure you vote that day, Tuesday, July 19. It's important to have your voice heard regardless of your vote.

More information on the vote is available here.

If you care about the libraries and want to help to make sure the budget can be passed, there is still time to help! Phone banks will be on-going Monday through Thursday (tonight through 7/14) 6:30- 8:30 p.m. at Citizen Action, 94 Central Ave (half block away from Henry Johnson Blvd.; parking on the street). Please contact if you are able to help!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summer Harvest: Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes are the curly stalk that emerges from the garlic plant about a month to six weeks after the first leaves of the plant come up. The garlic scapes are harvested after they appear so that the energy of the plant is pushed into the garlic bulb, making larger garlic heads. Garlic scapes are delicious and can be eaten raw: in salads or pureed in dips, or cooked: tossed into stir fries or in any way that you would use garlic or onions. It’s also one of the first things that I preserve from my garden, usually in the form of garlic scape pesto. This year, I also did a few half pints of Dilly Scapes, where the garlic scape replaced the usual bean in the recipe. This is a total experiment, but one that is worth trying if you use small jars that you can just process in your regular pots and pans.

Garlic Scape Pesto:

I have to confess, I’m one of those who does not have a recipe for pesto. But there is a really wonderful one here on Dorie Greenspan’s blog “In the Kitchen and on the Road with Dorie.” When making garlic scape pesto to eat, I toss the garlic scapes and olive oil into the food processor, adding pine nuts, sea salt, and Parmesan cheese as we move along. The results are always delicious.


When I’m processing for freezing, I usually leave out the cheese. I find the taste of the pesto is better, and then the pesto can also be used as seasoning. Adding the Parmesan cheese after thawing is very easy. I’ve read that many leave out the pine nuts before freezing, but I haven’t found any noticeable difference with the pine nuts frozen, so I add them in as well. After processing, I line a cookie sheet with wax paper and drop dollops of the scape pesto onto the sheet. I place this in the freezer and allow it to freeze and then toss the frozen clumps into a gallon sized garbage bag.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Missed us? Here's Our Top 5 Excuses on Why it's Hard to Update a blog in Spring.

Top 5 Reasons Why it's Hard to Update a Blog in Spring...

Yes, some people do it and do it well. But we're new to this and there are so many temptations in spring!

  1. Baseball. If you have children playing it, you know.
  2. The garden. This is the time of year filled with potential, we are dreaming of tomato sandwiches and dilly beans, so the work is fun. But, it’s still work.
  3. Everything winds down in spring. If you are involved in something, there is some big event in the spring. Usually that you need to organize. I'll throw birthdays in this category, because every weekend there are birthday parties galore.
  4. The great outdoors. It’s so stunning out, the blue skies and green grass and flowers….
  5. Baseball. See above.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Teacher Evaluations and New York State Tests

The Albany school budget has passed. The people who run the charter schools in Albany have revealed themselves as unethical rascals. What’s next on the education horizon? New teacher evaluation reforms. As we look more closely at education, the teacher is increasingly getting the brunt of the blame for poor student behavior.

It would be naive to say there weren't any bad teachers out there, because there are. It would also be short sighted to downplay the importance on a child’s life of having a good teacher, because everyone knows that an amazing teacher can literally change a child’s life. (Click here to listen to Planet Money’s podcast on the economics of a good teacher). But when it comes to education, it seems like our eggs are all in one basket. The basket of: if you have a good teacher, they will produce high test scores in a child and then and only then will we have a well educated population.

Most likely driven by the above theory, Governor Cuomo pushed State Ed and the Legislature to have the New York State test be 40% of the new evaluation for teachers. But how valuable are these tests? A standardized test can be a useful tool to assess a large body of students. Having a national or even state-wide benchmark to ensure students are achieving at a certain level seems very logical. However, would that test still be logical if there was no benefit to the individual student? The New York State tests that students take are presented and graded in such a way that they are not reasonably able to be used for individual student assessment.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Reader Comment: Top 5 Results of Tuesday's Budget Election?

There are election results and then there are the results of the elections. We'd like to compile the Top 5 Results of Tuesday's Budget Election.

What do you think was the most dramatic outcome of the budget election on Tuesday? Was it the school budget vote going through? Was it the library vote not going through? Was it the fliers surrounding the school budget vote? Were it the people who won the library trustee seats?

Let us know. Either leave a comment, send us an email (, or leave a comment on our Facebook page.

We'll put together a list from the comments for next week's Top 5.