Category Archives: Local

American pride

16112717_10154872435637889_4793167427873866802_oSaturday was a remarkable day. The sun was shining, the photocopier at Staples worked correctly, and there was no line to use self-pay at the grocery store. All good things. Additionally, there was a protest march thing going on down by Albany’s state Capitol, which was kind of big.

Actually, it was fairly huge and it wasn’t contained to Albany. The Women’s March was also in Woodstock, Ithaca, New York City and goodness knows how many other cities and towns in our state. And Boston and Austin and Chicago and Miami and L.A. and Denver and, of course, Washington, D.C. and other communities large and small around our country and the world. It was an international event, loosely organized, spread by word of mouth and media – social and traditional. It may have been the largest protest our country has ever seen.

Although I originally questioned the point of this movement (He won. What can really be done?), I attended our local event and was completely blown away by the energy present. My response was surprisingly emotional and I felt near tears as a I looked around at the crowd. There were so many familiar faces, friends, coworkers…I was humbled. It was powerful.

Later in the afternoon, my restaurant filled with guests. Every single person was polite and patient and contributed to an atmosphere that was charged with a unified positivity. A swiftly concocted drink special proved to be very popular and we raised nearly $100 to donate to Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood. Staff, front and back of the house, executed beautifully. It was an incredibly satisfying night.

Only one day after observing the inauguration of a man I don’t believe is qualified to represent our country, I witnessed countless examples of true American character – purposeful organizing, peaceful protest, hard work and the desire to donate to meaningful causes.  The contrast between an egotistical man who “did it his way” and the Americans who came together to demonstrate with integrity could not have been more stark, nor more welcome. Thanks, Albany. You made me proud.

4 Comments

Filed under Albany, Events, Local, News, Observations, politics, Restaurants, Uncategorized

Coming clean

img_0869

I’ve got a thing about soap. Growing up, it was all about Ivory and sometimes, if I could get my hands on my mother’s, Dove. To this day, the scent of either can bring me right back to childhood. Not a bad thing at all, unlike that time when I washed my face with the new soap I found next to the bathroom sink. That one experience with Lava convinced me to never use anything that wasn’t described as “mild” or gentle. Lesson learned.

For the last 20 years or so my favorite soaps are from a company called Pre de Provence. They’re gentle and come in a great variety of different scents, my favorites being the hard to find eucalyptus, sage and, in summer, cocoa butter or verbena. They’re obviously more expensive than what I grew up using, but the bars last a really long time making them a modest indulgence.

A couple of winters ago I discovered the Bliss Mammoth Minty Bar – a huge slab of soap with bumps on one side for massage and gentle exfoliation. Amazing! This soap is as close to a life changer as I have ever experienced in the shower and when I received a surprise bar for Christmas, I couldn’t have been happier.

Speaking of gifts, I was lucky enough to be given a few bars of soap last fall for my birthday that I’m still working my way through. They’re from Chasworth Farm Soaps, a company in Saint Albans, VT and the fragrance these babies emit is heady! I’ve got the egg yolk and honey bar, as well as a lavender thyme one still to go.

Despite my extensive soap experiences I still haven’t explored the local market as I should. I hear really great things about Rad and their new space in Stuyvesant Plaza looks fantastic. Have you checked them out yet? How do you wash your daily grime away?

5 Comments

Filed under beauty, favorites, Local, Recommendations

Holiday wrap up

54cd238f-fa07-4fcb-95e4-36d1a7ec9337-7056-00000503bacda6d6_tmpSomehow 10 days have flown by and it’s back to school time. It’s been a quietly busy vacation and I’m pleased that I resisted over scheduling myself, something I’m inclined to be guilty of doing. So – what did I do? Let me tell you!

I went to the movies, twice. Bonus – neither film was rated G, produced by Disney or animated. La La Land was lovely and pretty much charmed me from beginning to end. The cast, dancing, singing and costumes all combined to give me a simple, happy movie experience. Almost equally enjoyable from a performance perspective was Jackie. Natalie Portman was really remarkable in the role and I’m certain I’ll spend some time reflecting on the story that was told, wondering how close to reality the script may have been.

As you might imagine, I ran. There were miles with the Lunar B*tches, with Jeter, solo, and as part of two different organized group runs. I also checked out an aerial class at Good Karma yoga studio. I enjoyed the class and was surprised by how comfortable and well supported I felt in the swing. Accustomed to a hot yoga studio I was a little underdressed and found myself chilly at times. Next time I’ll wear another layer.

Jeter and I got to the golf course quite a few times. Romping around in the sunshine with a bunch of buddies makes Jeter happy and tired. We always love our time there, especially when there’s snow on the ground rather than mud. A nearly white dog and mud are not a great combination, because our time outside needs to be immediately followed by a bath and then, of course, a bathroom cleaning.

Speaking of cleaning, I vacuumed almost every day. What can I say? I love my Dyson vacuum and Jeter is the most sheddingest dog I’ve ever known. I wish I could say I did some other major cleaning tasks or maintenance projects, but, I didn’t. There’s always February break for that. I’m already looking forward to it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christmas, Exercise, holidays, Local, running, winter

Albany – it’s the most wonderful time of the year

img_0799

As I close in on 30 years as a resident, I still find myself charmed by Albany. Don’t get me wrong, there are things that make me insane (folks who double park when there is an available space, I’m talking to you!), but I continue to fall in love with my adopted city. Yeah, that’s right. I love Albany.

Last Saturday was one of those days that could have been stress filled and hectic, yet somehow instead managed to be a wonderful welcome to the holiday season. The guys and I went across the river and in a remarkably fast time, located, agreed upon and cut down a(nother) perfect Christmas tree – defined, for me, as tall and thin with long, soft needles. It fits perfectly in our family room.

img_0660

Traditional pre-tree killing selfie

We followed our outdoor activities with a fantastic lunch at our favorite Chinese spot – Ocean Palace on Central Avenue. This was the first time we actually ate in rather than taking our order to go, and we were all really happy to sit down and enjoy lunch with a couple of pots of hot tea. We’ll do this again!

Our next stop was Winter WonderLark, aka my favorite Lark Street event. Holidayimg_0678 festivities abounded and we kept ourselves warm browsing the pop up Half Moon Market and chatting with friends as we waited for the start of the Santa Speedo Sprint. There were no Lillys racing, but we provided enthusiastic support to the stalwart runners. What a fun way to do good work – I’m proud of you, Albany!

As fireworks lit up the sky, I found my way to the Lunar B*tches and the starting line for the Last Run. I love this race – the crowd, the course and the enthusiastic spectators combine to make this my favorite 5K. Even when I fall, rip my outer layer tights and skin my knee! The Capitol, City Hall and Washington Park looked absolutely magical.

img_0704

By 6:00 p.m. I was changed and ready to go at Lark + Lily, which was a good thing because we had a busy night. I was thrilled to welcome friends, regulars, and runners fresh from the race to my cozy wine bar. img_0707

My day wrapped up with a little music and a bite to eat with a friend. The cover band rocked (their take on Eruption was epic!) and my grilled cheese at the Gateway Diner satisfied my hunger  as a long and lovely day came to an end. I went to sleep full in every way.  Thanks, Albany.

Leave a comment

Filed under Albany, Boys, Christmas, Events, favorites, friends, holidays, Lark Street, Local, Music, Recommendations, running

When music makes one a little sad – The Cohoes Music Hall

Saturday night, a friend and I drove up 787 to check out a guitar player he admires. It was a miserable night, but I was excited to see a live performance and I had never been to this particular venue before. You know me, always up for a new experience.

I don’t remember the last time I went to Cohoes, but I imagine it has to have been at least 5 or 6 years ago. The area surrounding the music hall is one that I am not familiar with, but it seems to have experienced numerous up and down cycles. Typical for a small city, I imagine. We struggled a little bit to find a parking space, but were able to park a couple of short blocks away and fortunately the rain had temporarily relented.

From the exterior, the Cohoes Music Hall doesn’t tip its hand in any way to reveal that it is a performance venue. Even after stepping inside, there was no indication of where to go to access our seats. The stairs up were our only option, so we took them eventually arriving in a lobby of sorts. There was a coatroom, bathrooms and a concession stand, but it was all kind of oddly situated. I’m all about vintage theaters, but this one just felt a little awkward and not particularly aesthetically pleasing.

We made our way, with the assistance of an usher, to our seats. The lights were still up and we were directed to “our bar” where there were quality options at premium prices. We passed on drinks and settled into our comfortable seats and I began to look around. img_0295

It is definitely a cool venue with decorative ceilings, curved banquet seating and an old fashioned charm, but…

There was a distinct air of neglect to the space with the ceiling art faded and the velveteen upholstery shiny with wear. The state of the room made it feel and look like the step-sister of Albany’s Palace or Schenectady’s Proctor’s. It made me wonder who the theater had originally been constructed to serve and what had happened to those people. Would they ever have been able to imagine the run down condition of what once must have been an elegant performance room?

Eric Johnson was well worth seeing (he plays that guitar with his entire hand), but I left Cohoes wishing we, as a community, could better support this venue. I didn’t expect to get the blues more from the venue than from the actual performance.

Leave a comment

Filed under beauty, concerts, Events, Local, Music, theater, upstate New York

What I’ve learned from owning a business

facebook-profile-icon_lark-and-lily-07I know that sugarcoating reality is often considered positive behavior, but you know that I’m not one to claim to see unicorns and rainbows when it simply isn’t true, so let me tell you how things really are…

On October 20th, 2015 I picked up my liquor license and officially opened for business as Lark + Lily Wine Bar and Kitchen. On some days it doesn’t seem possible that a year has already passed, other nights, when I toss and turn, unable to sleep, it feels like this business has taken years from life.

Being a small business owner is beyond challenging. The expenses involved with maintaining a cozy wine bar sometimes overwhelm me – between payroll, rent, utilities, trash collection, alarm services, draft line maintenance and insurance, we’re talking a minimum of $4000 a week in expenses. Did you notice I didn’t even mention food, liquor or wine? Yeah, that’s a whole ‘nother nut.

I am the lowest paid person in the restaurant, by a long shot. That is honestly ok, even factoring in that my 17 year-old son makes more money than me, because I have a career which provides me with an adequate salary, but if I, or my brother, were dependent upon this project for an income, we’d be completely and utterly broke.

My motivation for being in the restaurant industry remains the same – I have a sincere interest in creating an atmosphere where guests feel welcome and well taken care of. I want to provide a space that lends itself to enjoying a glass of wine or cocktail, a light meal, dinner or dessert, be it with friends, family or that special someone who makes you want to snuggle closer in the make-out booth.

At a year in I’m gaining confidence in my ability to conceive and execute a special event. I trust my instincts a little more now and I am not hesitant to prepare a dessert or orchestrate a continental brunch. I know that I’m not capable of cooking a full menu to order and leave that to the professionals who grace my kitchen (thank you, John, Zach & Ben), but I definitely have some fun pop up events in my head that I’m excited to give a whirl. I’m thinking about themed Sunday suppers or other fun gatherings in conjunction with some of Lark Street’s activities. Sign up for our mailing list for first notice on those!

There are days when I am so proud of Lark + Lily and what we are trying to do – they far outnumber the times when I feel frustrated and stressed. That being said, if I didn’t have a staff of hardworking professionals (Trudy, Jammella, Griffin & Jackie) understanding family and friends (who know who they are) and wine running, I’d be done. The pressure on me (mostly from me) is intense.

To the people who, through their patronage, have become my friends, I am so appreciative. I sincerely hope that I don’t ever fail to convey my gratitude for you and your continued presence at Lark + Lily. I feel fortunate to have met so many other small business owners who are purveyors and as such provide us with the wonderful and local fruits of their own labors. There are, joyfully, too many of them to name. Take a peek at my menu or beverage list to see them all. I’d be remiss if I neglected to mention the media who, despite what Donald Trump might claim, have been unremittingly kind and generous to us in their acknowledgement of our efforts.  Thank you!

While I’ve come to understand that it isn’t possible to please everyone, it remains our ultimate goal and we can only improve with honest feedback and constructive criticism. And if you haven’t been in, I hope you will consider stopping by and checking us out, maybe even Thursday night. I hear there might be some celebrating going on.

2 Comments

Filed under Albany, Events, Lark Street, Local, Observations, Restaurants, Uncategorized, Wine

Help me see the light – decisions about solar energy

I grew up in a home where “Put a sweater on” and “Turn off that light” were common phrases. One of the reasons I no longer have a traditional cable box is due to the amount of energy I heard they consume and I unplug appliances such as my coffee maker when I’m not using them. How many clocks does one house really need?

Encouraged by my oldest son, I’ve been thinking about solar energy recently. My house has a lot of roof space and faces southeast, pretty ideal conditions for sucking energy from the sun rather than National Grid, it seems. Any hesitation I’ve had about pursuing solar panels has come from my lack of information about how they work and a general sense of being overwhelmed about all the options – lease, buy, finance, etc.

A couple of weeks ago, I took a step in the direction of solar energy and had a salesman visit me and talk about leasing solar panels. I was a little taken aback about the 20 year commitment (what if I sell my house?), but moved beyond that by considering that I essentially had already agreed to purchase all my energy from National Grid forever since they were the only game in town.

Price per kw isn’t a huge thing in my decision as long as I’m not paying more than I already am per unit. I don’t necessarily feel that I should pay less, believing that the environmental benefit is a sufficient compensation. I also don’t want to be paying two companies on a regular basis, so I need to produce sufficient energy for my household’s needs. This is being determined by a site visit, currently scheduled.

I’m wondering if any of you have pursued alternative energy and might be able to share your thoughts and knowledge. How did you make your decision? How much did it cost out-of-pocket? Are your bills lower? Any wisdom you can contribute would be welcome.

3 Comments

Filed under Albany, house, Local, Recommendations