Category Archives: Albany

When you work more hours than you sleep

As my vacation approaches, I find myself getting most excited by the thought of having hours and hours to fill (or not) any way I please. These last few weeks have been joyfully hectic with fun events, long runs and mini escapes, all very carefully penciled into my already impressively full calendar. I’m ready to get away.

Prior to jetting out, there’s a neighborhood association social, wine academy, a party over at the new Biergarten, a date with my someone special and, of course, some packing, that need to happen. I’m confident it’s all going to come to pass, but I do wish it was a bit more spread out. I’d like to savor each of those things instead of survive them, you know? Reality, though, is a bitch and I’m doing my best to keep up, ok?

I don’t think a single day goes by without someone saying to me “I don’t know how you do it. School Monday – Friday, the restaurant 5 nights a week, the three children, miles of running, the house to maintain, the blog, the…” Well, you know what? Sometimes I don’t know how I do it either.

Here’s what I do know, though – if I spent any real time counting the hours in a week that I work versus the hours in a week that I sleep, I’d probably be really tired. If I didn’t love what I’m doing, none of it would be possible. The support I receive from my loved ones and employees is the thread that helps me to keep things together. And all that running? That’s what keeps me strong and sane. Honestly, other than my previous request for two additional hours a day, there’s nothing I’d want to change.  Living life, to me,  is better than sleeping through it.

What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? – Mary Oliver

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Filed under aging, Albany, Events, family, Lark Street, musings, Observations, running, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

Inspiring vs. Inciting – Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump

Photo credit: Griffin Lilly

Photo credit: Griffin Lilly

Yesterday was a huge day for politics in Albany, our Capital City on the Hudson. My schedule only allowed for me to attend one of the three pre-primary political rallies, but I am ever so proud to say that my older sons represented at the two events held during the early afternoon. How cool is it that they are interested and participating at their ages – 16 and 19?

Photo credit: Liam Lilly

Photo credit: Liam Lilly

Liam, my oldest son attended the Kasich rally in Troy, essentially because he is taking classes at HVCC and the event was very conveniently nearby. Liam leans further to the right than I and often threatens to vote for candidates who hold much more socially conservative positions than I do. He didn’t really have an opportunity to share many impressions of the speech but he did say Kasich is a moderate Republican with a repeated refrain of jobs, jobs, jobs.

Griffin, my middle son, is always game to skip school and the Bernie rally gave him a fine and legitimate reason to cut out of class with my permission. He liked Bernie’s message but found him, when compared to President Obama, to be a less powerful speaker. He was in agreement with the message, but said Sanders had a “Grandpa cute” vibe. Griffin did really enjoy the folks present, though, and felt comfortable in the tightly packed crowd in the Armory. There might have even been some hugging, from what I understand. I was sad to have missed it.

Made in China - worn with total irony

Made in China – worn with total irony

Later in the day, after a fortifying beer meal at McGeary’s, all 3 of my boys and I headed to the Times Union Center for what we referred to as the circus. We arrived at approximately 6:40 and waited in line for entry and security for about 20 minutes. It was an informative time as we looked around at the other folks in line wondering what their stories might be. Were they genuine supporters? Local? Perhaps merely curious, like us, there to see the spectacle? It was impossible to know.

imageWe made it to seats in the upper deck just minutes before Trump graced the enthusiastic crowd with his presence. He immediately launched into his stump speech, littering his diatribe with meaningful phrases such as “New York values,” “building that wall” and “making America great again.” His words were resonating with the crowd who greeted his sound bites with cheers and the frenzied waving of their Trump signs. Other people present began to respond as well to Trump’s claims, but these people were protestors, not supporters. The energy in the arena shifted from simple enthusiasm to a more complicated mélange of fear and anger. My children began to feel uncomfortable.

imageI looked around at the people surrounding us and tried to think about what might have made them so angry. How could they possibly be more furious with Mexican immigrants than they are with corporations which relocate to Mexico to lower production costs and maximize profits? Why are they resentful of citizens desiring comprehensive and affordable healthcare, but not with pharmaceutical companies using government money for research yet not making their products financially within reach of those who may need them? How does a New York City billionaire represent the interests of what looked to be a mostly blue-collar crowd?

We witnessed a couple of fights break out and saw a number of attendees being removed from the facility. The threat of more ugliness was pervasive. The boys asked to leave, which we did just before 8:00.

To me, Bernie Sanders brings light to our country’s political landscape while Donald Trump delivers a fire that threatens to incinerate all it touches. More than once last night I considered the similarities between the scene in front of us and what was Germany in the 1930s. At the risk of sounding dramatic, I’ll confess that I repeatedly thought: “Is this how Hitler gained power? Is this how it begins?”

Primary Day can’t come soon enough.

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Filed under Albany, Boys, Education, Events, family, Local, Observations, politics, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Filling my garment rack at Nordstrom Rack

You know I’m not much of a follower, preferring to blaze my own trail when it comes to shopping. It doesn’t matter if it’s groceries (I still haven’t been to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods) or clothing – you’ll not see me waiting in line to get into the newest retail spot. As a matter of fact, these days I seem to do an awful lot of my shopping online because I simply don’t have the time to drive to the mall and poke around looking for deals or something in my size.

But, despite the recent snow, it’s spring and I’m going on vacation in a few weeks which means my wardrobe needed some refreshing. Having gotten my run in early, my afternoon opened up and I decided a few hours of solo recreational shopping would be the perfect way to relax and prepare for a busy week and my upcoming trip. Off to Colonie Center I went.

My original intention was to hit up Macy’s and troll the sales rack for leftover winter items that might transition into spring, but since I started at LL Bean,* I decided to pop into Nordstrom Rack on my way. That was probably the best decision I made all day.

I don’t have much familiarity with this store, having only been here once or twice before with the boys looking for sneakers. Since I’ve been jonesing for an off the shoulder dress for spring,  I headed immediately to the dress racks, focusing first on current, full price items. After coming up empty, I moved on to the discounted racks where I absolutely filled my arms (12 things!) with dresses, tops and an indulgent item or two. I’m a big believer in getting undressed once in the changing room and trying everything on in one fell swoop.

So? How did I do? I went home with 6 (!) dresses, 2 tops, 1 super cozy cashmere sweater and a gorgeous jacket for a grand total of… $290! Considering that the sweater and the jacket alone combined for $144, I’d say that my shopping expedition was a great success. According to the sales receipt I saved $1190 so I guess I did all right.

Where do you scratch your itch to shop? What do you have your eye on for spring or summer? And – have you seen any fantastic off the shoulder dresses around?

*For the first time ever, I exercised the lifetime guarantee offered by LL Bean and asked them to replace a backpack that had shoulder straps that were shredding and tearing off. They lived up to their promise without hesitation.

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Filed under Albany, Fashion, Local, Random, Spring, Uncategorized

A crap week

The first week of spring, arguably the finest season of the year in upstate New York, was the worst week Lark + Lily has ever experienced. When I say “crappy,” I’m being literal, by the way. I arrived at the restaurant Tuesday afternoon and encountered the plumbers who were working industriously to unclog one of our two toilets.* Despite their best efforts, we were unable to open for service until 7:30 which means we lost 2.5 hours of service. Not a great way to begin the week.

That lack of business seemed to set the tone for the week and our numbers were dramatically down each subsequent night from previous weeks. I’ve said before that I didn’t buy a restaurant to make a ton of money, but obsessively looking at my diminishing online checking account was, said the wine bar owner, sobering.

In addition to the poor week at the restaurant, a fierce early spring cold made for a rough week at home. Quinn, who recently was treated for a mean case of strep throat, came down with a dreadful cough complete with a headache and body soreness. The poor guy was just down for the count. Naturally, he required a lot of coddling and cuddling and he generously returned the favor of my attention by sharing his germs with me. Thanks for the cold, Quinn.

As with any week, there were good things, too. The guests we did have at Lark + Lily, including one who I had only previously “met” online (Hi, Bill!), were great and I believe they all left satisfied with their experience. I went to an awesome wine dinner, ran 20+ miles, including once with both of the lunar b*tches, and hiked a peak (more about that experience soon) in the Catskills. We had some beautiful weather with temperatures that invited bare legs and arms to meet the sun and I got in some quality time at the golf course in advance of the takeover on 4/1 by the golfers.  Saturday’s family dinner, an early Easter meal, was an effortlessly delicious treat and provided me with the perfect starter for a killer split pea soup. There was even a brief dining room dance party with Quinn inspired by his favorite Ray Charles song, Mess Around.

I guess it wasn’t really that bad of a week after all, was it?

*Ladies – let’s make a deal, ok?  You refrain from tossing personal items in the toilet and I’ll remain open during hours of service.  Thanks!

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Filed under Albany, Boys, Exercise, family, friends, musings, Normanskill, Observations, Restaurants, running, sick, Spring, stress, Uncategorized

The Withers – wine and words

IMG_8339I don’t know if you’ve ever been able to sit with the owner of a winery or a winemaker and listen to them speak about their product, but it will forever change your perspective about that stuff in the bottle. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet a number of winemakers/winery owners and those encounters have forever changed the way I view a bottle of wine. After walking through a vineyard, tasting from a barrel or simply talking with a winery owner, viewing a product becomes a much more personal experience.

Tuesday night I had a rare opportunity to attend a wine dinner, hosted by one of my sales reps, downtown at dp’s. I say rare opportunity because most of these events are either during a time when I’m not available or are held out of town. The timing for this, though, was perfect and I was thrilled to sit down with Andrew Tow of the Withers Winery, along with a handful of other industry professionals, to learn about some wines of which I had no prior knowledge.

Here’s what I learned –

  • Andrew Tow is an articulate, passionate man who helps to craft wines that are elegant yet accessible.
  • Although the Withers Winery has only been in existence for a few short years, it has achieved remarkable success and earned accolades from numerous national publications.
  • Their wines sell out – especially the rose and the chardonnay.  I’ve got my hand out hoping to land some of the rose at the moment. My luck will be your luck, friends.
  • Everything we tasted was enjoyable and seemed to be equally adept at being paired with foods or sipped sans food.
  • The project has some rock star investors – like Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi. Cool, right?
  • The wines are affordably priced, in fact, part of the impetus for Tow to produce his rose was a desire to drink something delicious without breaking the bank.  If I can land any I’ll probably price it between $30-35 a bottle which makes it on the higher end of my roses, but within reach of most diners.
  • The Pinot Noirs are dynamite.  I don’t have room on my list right now, but when I sell a couple of my higher end Pinots out, I hope there are still a few bottles of the English Hill for me to buy.  When I tasted this the other night, the nose was so damn heady it almost satiated my desire to consume it without even taking a sip.  Wow.

IMG_8326If you were to look at my wine list at Lark + Lily you’d see approximately 100 different labels.  I’ve selected probably 65% of those labels with the others coming as an inventory purchase when I originally opened last fall.  The bottles that I find myself reaching for when a guest asks for a recommendation are the ones that I can share story about – the Hendry, the Biale, the Bonny Doon.  These are wines which were introduced to me by their producers – I walked the vineyard with George Hendry, ate lunch and tasted wine with Robert Biale, barrel sampled at Bonny Doon.  Hopefully, one day, the Withers will have a similar presence on my list.

 

 

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Filed under Albany, Dinner, drinking, Eating, Events, Recommendations, Restaurants, Uncategorized, winter

Are you the owner?

image: alloveralbany.com

During my years as a server, I’ve been asked this question dozens of times so forgive me if I stumble over my answer these days.  After decades of saying “No,” my new affirmative answer still feels a little odd coming out of my mouth.  But, I’m getting used to it.

It’s an interesting thing, owning a restaurant after working in so many throughout the years.  The other night I apologized to a guest for not having tea available.  He quickly said “Oh, it’s not your fault,” to which I replied “Um, yes, it kind of is.” It’s my choice to not venture at this time down the expanded hot beverage route due to space and time constraints in an 11 table restaurant, but I am sorry.

The follow-up question, nine times out of ten, to “Are you the owner?” is “Are you Lily?” Well, yes, sort of…in all honesty, I’m not even a little offended when people use my last name as my first name.  I understand – I suck at remembering names, and I really don’t care if anyone calls me Lily instead of Silvia.  It’s all good.

Sometimes I think that buying a restaurant has provided me with two more bathrooms to clean and three more “children” to supervise.  Regarding the latter, I’m not suggesting that my front of the house staff is immature or requires parenting, it’s more that I observe their interactions and individual personalities and sometimes find myself steering them in the direction where I want our service to be.  Service is so very important to me and I’ve learned from the best that treating guests with considerate attention is the foundation for success in the hospitality industry. That is what I want to do in the restaurant of which, yes, I am the owner.

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Filed under Albany, Lark Street, Restaurants, Uncategorized

International Women’s Day is over

imageLast night Lark + Lily represented at a lovely event held at the Opalka Gallery at Sage College in Albany. It was a lovely event attended by a diverse crowd and I was really happy to have been asked to participate. Our beet juice pickled, deviled eggs garnished with roe were beautiful and well received and I was really proud of my chef’s creativity and the reputation we’re building. After the event, I drove to Lark Street and was really happy to see that the restaurant was busy with all tables seated with guests. It was a good night.

Today, though, despite the dazzling sunshine and mild temperatures, things are feeling not quite as rosy. As I read the morning’s paper an article raised my ire to a level of frustration and annoyance high enough to chase away my sense of satisfaction with regards to International Women’s Day. Maybe you feel the same?

This article from today’s Times Union left me almost speechless, not due to the incident itself (I vividly recall the Tawana Brawley case and was greatly dismayed to see this sort of situation occur again), but rather because of the words spoken by the two attorneys involved with the case with regards to the decision made by their clients to not attend a disciplinary hearing being held at the University of Albany. Or, as one of the attorneys described it, the “University of Injustice.”

I’m not going to provide either lawyer with additional “print” exposure so I won’t mention their names, but Attorney One characterized the University’s adherence to its internal disciplinary process as an opportunity for it to “manufacture and perform an academic lynching.” Yes, he was directly quoted as saying “lynching.” How does that do anything but perpetuate racial divide? As for Attorney Two’s statement that his client is unable to appear at the scheduled hearing due to the criminal charges she is facing and how “that’s not fair,” I’m afraid I don’t have much sympathy. Perhaps counsel should attempt to get the hearing delayed so she can be held responsible legally for her actions prior to facing discipline at the University?

I can’t begin to truly understand the discrimination that minorities face in our country. I’ve witnessed the racism to which our President and his family have been subjected and it makes me sick. How can our society remain so divided when it comes to race?  As a white person, I know I will probably never be subjected to systemic racism, but I can look at the experience through a different lens; that of gender.

As women, we are often taught to fear men and their actions.  The initial reports of the bus incident indicated that the young men had aggressively menaced and threatened these young women, an occurrence which is always a potential threat to females in our society. This was not the truth.

I don’t know what the solution is to the systemic racism in our world, but I can say with confidence that the actions of these three women students did nothing to advance that cause. In fact, their decision to fabricate an outrageous story has damaged the credibility of other women who may truly be victims of racism and misogyny.  That is nothing to celebrate.

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