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
Filed under aging, Albany, Events, family, Lark Street, musings, Observations, running, travel, Uncategorized, vacation
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.
It’s been nearly 4 months since my brother and I closed on our purchase of Lark + Lily. Sometimes it doesn’t seem possible that a third of a year has already passed, other moments it feels like it’s been forever. I’ve consciously kept the restaurant stuff away from the DelSo stuff, for the most part. After talking with one of the people who months ago helped convince me that I could take on this project, I’ve decided to allow myself a bit more freedom in mixing personal and professional. Hope that’s ok.
Although I never addressed any of the comments made on Table Hopping, there was one that absolutely cracked me up. It was the one when someone questioned my ability to run a restaurant based upon my experience as a part-time server. Maybe there have been people who have made the leap from part-time server to owner, but that’s not my reality. I’ve worked in the restaurant industry for a long time – waiting tables, tending bar, hostessing, washing dishes and even cooking. Let’s not discount that.
Owning Lark + Lily has confirmed some of my sensibilities about hospitality. People want to feel welcome and appreciated when they enter (and depart) a restaurant. Clean bathrooms and fresh flowers (thanks, Trudy,) make a positive impression. Promoting other businesses helps to lift the entire industry and builds a community. Speaking of community, our First Friday drink special has evolved into a monthly cocktail special with half of the proceeds being donated to a local not for profit. I’m excited to write a check at the end of the month and make a donation to an organization that needs a boost.
I’ve learned that while we can’t make everyone happy, we are successful meeting that goal much of the time. I know it’s early and there’s plenty of room and time for negative reviews, but right now we’re enjoying the positive press and feedback we’ve received. It seems like folks are receptive to what we’re doing – providing thoughtfully prepared, quality food and beverage to both regulars and newcomers. Maintaining all the social media platforms (Homepage, Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, etc) can be a bit intense at times, but it is remarkably satisfying when efforts pay off, like last weekend when I tweeted out one of our Valentine’s weekend cocktail specials and Tito’s Vodka gave us a boost by retweeting us to their 45,000 + followers. Validation feels good.
If you’ve been to Lark + Lily, thank you. It is truly appreciated and I hope we met, or even exceeded, your expectations. If you haven’t yet come in to experience what we’re doing, please consider this an invitation to join us for a drink and something to eat. Hope to see you soon.
2 of 3 Lunar b*tches
Traditional post-Last Run Manhattan
Former student friends
“Family or la mia famiglia”
Photo credit: Joe Putrock, Times Union
This is my last day of work until New Year’s Eve, a fact which I’m kind of excited about. When you factor in that I’ll be away with a couple of my best girlfriends exploring
bourbon a new city, I get almost a little giddy. Good times are ahead and I’m ready for them!
Last Saturday, for either the 5th or 6th consecutive year, I ran Albany’s Last Run. This event is absolutely my favorite run of the year – the course is terrific with a wonderful downhill finish and I just think Albany shines in a particularly bright fashion on this night. This year’s weather was perfect, it finally felt like winter for the night yet there was no precipitation or slippery stuff on the ground.
I have to admit that I nailed it, in terms of prep, parking my car near the restaurant in the early afternoon before they closed the streets, and leaving a change of clothes so I could shower at the Morgan State House, where friends were staying for the night. I ran to the course from the DelSo, arriving at the starting line warmed up and ready for the 5K and, without even really trying, finished with a decent enough time in a sometimes crowded race.
One of the best things about this time of the year, what really makes it wonderful, are the visits from friends who no longer live in the area. I absolutely love the way Lark + Lily has become almost an extension of my home as familiar faces stop in for a drink, a hug and even a bite to eat. It’s an unexpected and very welcome perk of this new life of mine.
At my real home, the cookies are nearly all baked, the stockings are hung and the ham is in the refrigerator waiting for its star turn on my dining room table on Christmas Eve. The next two days will be a balance between traditions (bagels and smoked salmon for breakfast, the holiday linens and Elvis) and winging it in a year with bizarrely warm temperatures and my resolve to simply enjoy the time with the guys I love.
My heart will be glowing.
• A visit to the Hot Yoga Spot
. After months of not managing to get to a Bikram class, I finally made it to the newest HYS location in East Greenbush this week. It was truly 75 minutes of blissful hard work and I am so happy that there is yet another location and schedule of classes of which I can avail myself.
• The thought of Donald Trump representing my country.
• Sunshine and 57 degrees in Albany, N.Y.
• The Soba noodle dish we’re offering as part of our
Tuesday & Wednesday Pasta Special – so good! I know it is going to be exactly what I’ll crave when I get my first winter cold.
• New flannel sheets from Macy’s Martha Stewart Collection
. They are legit like velvet.
How I had been feeling.
There have been a few moments in the past week or two when I’ve felt reasonably competent when it comes to keeping all of the necessary balls in the air when it involves Lark + Lily. I’ve moved forward from the preliminary weeks of being a business owner when I felt nearly overwhelmed by the responsibilities I had taken on. It seemed as if nearly every hour of the day was consumed by school followed by errands, meetings and tasks related to the restaurant, capped by evenings on premise. It was mentally, and on a lesser scale, physically exhausting.
I was struggling with balance – and you know how I thrive on cultivating balance. Eating, sleeping and running were becoming distant memories and I wondered when I would achieve some control over my life again. Well, I’m happy to report that I feel as if I’ve moved on from the daily-putting-out-fires stage of entrepreneurship to a more even state of composure. I’m breathing (and sleeping and eating) better.
The Lilly guys and I are creating a new normal with shared dinners each of the nights they spend at my house, even if one of those meals is takeout and another is leftovers. I’m pretty much getting my miles in each week which really helps with my energy level and mental well-being and I’m eating more consistently. It’s all working and I’m beginning to feel as if my life is merely pleasantly full rather than completely drowned by demands. It’s even starting to get kind of fun.
This week I added 8 new labels to my wine list, bringing my total selection to almost 70 labels. I’ve also tweaked some of the wines by the glass and spirits we offer. The list is growing to reflect my palate, while also representing varietals that guests expect to be present on a wine bar’s menu, things which I don’t necessarily gravitate to like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. A couple of my favorite recent picks are a lovely Alsatian Riesling from Rolly Gossman and a bold Zinfandel, Valravn from Sonoma County. Maybe you’ll stop in sometime soon for a taste.
Months ago, as I started to imagine what Lark + Lily might look like, I had an idea about how I would like to officially launch the new business my brother and I were in the process of purchasing. I’ve been to soft openings, friends and family events and ribbon cuttings over the years and felt compelled to do something just a little bit different. Surprise, surprise, right?
I decided that I wanted to host an event exclusively for women, more specifically women who I found to be inspiring, influential and impressive. Once I had that sentiment as my motivation, the details rapidly fell into place. I settled on a date I found auspicious – the first day of a new month. Sunday, November 1st also felt perfect since we had been gifted with an extra hour with the previous night’s turn of the clock. My chef, John Futia and I developed a simple menu of finger foods, which we accompanied with sparkling wine and other gifts from the grape. It all came together with a remarkable ease.
The most challenging aspect of the entire afternoon was the guest list. Limiting my invitations to what our capacity is, was a Herculean* effort. As I considered all of the women who have inspired, influenced and impressed me over the years, the number became significant and I was placed in the unfortunate position of having to make some very difficult decisions. My only consolation? The fact that I was fortunate enough to be acquainted with so very many fabulous women. Truly.
On Sunday afternoon, as we lit candles and fireplaces, the skies turned blue. Lark + Lily soon filled with dynamic, interesting women and I was overwhelmed by joy as I watched business cards and handshakes and hugs being exchanged. Present were business owners, neighborhood activists, politicians, professionals and dear friends. The buzz was tremendous and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the afternoon – it was powerful.
If you were at Lark + Lily, thank you. I hope you found the mixer to be both enjoyable and valuable. And, if you couldn’t make it for whatever reason, please know that this was the first event for us, but certainly not the last.
*Should I say an Alcmenean effort since I’m being female-centric?