Category Archives: Local

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.


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.


Filed under Albany, house, Local, Recommendations

10 Things I discovered Columbus Day weekend

  • Troy has some really nice homes (while running a 5K).
  • Apparently when he isn’t playing golf, Donald Trump plays”pussy grabbing.” It’s a sport that only gets discussed in locker rooms, but is played where ever famous men find vulnerable women. Sounds fun, right?
  • It is possible to check out events in three different counties in a single day without completely exhausting one’s self.
  • The more often I drive to Kinderhook the shorter the ride feels.
  • Fall foliage season seemed to take a long time to start this year, but is moving very quickly.
  • Samascott Orchard is very welcoming upon arrival but feels kind of militant when you depart.
  • I haven’t met a Nine-Pin cider that I don’t like.
  • Coming across an abandoned hair weave on the sidewalk when I’m running always makes me uncomfortable.
  • The Half Moon Market is a terrific gathering of artisans in a beautiful space that should be used more frequently.
  • My goal of running a 1,000 miles this year is within my sights.


Filed under Albany, drinking, Events, Exercise, friends, holidays, Local, News, Random, road trips, running, sunday, Troy, upstate New York

Deutschland on the Hudson

Last week I was lucky enough to host my Uncle and Aunt. They were touring New England in that wonderful way that tourists seem to do, but most Americans don’t, visiting cities and sites scattered around multiple states and racking up more than 2500 miles on their rental car.  Because of my crazy schedule, we didn’t spend as much time together as I would have liked, but we did get around a little over the weekend. Saturday was Oktoberfest in Albany and we had a great time checking out the Seen downtown.  My family definitely liked Wolff’s Biergarten – especially after seeing their team’s competition being dealt a loss, and were entertained by the crowd and the activities.

Sunday we did a driving tour on the other side of the river with stops at Golden Harvest for cider donuts and some spirits sampling, Olana, and Hudson for a walk about.  One of the coolest coincidences was my finally meeting, after nearly a year of placing orders electronically, one of the people who distills the applejack we use at Lark + Lily .  Turns out that Derek lived in Stuttgart when he was a student and it was a joy to hear he and my relatives speaking German together.  I think we can all appreciate a little bit of home when we’re on the road and this was a perfect dose of familiarity for my family.

It’s always hard to see far away family go, but Quinn and I are excitedly looking forward to meeting up with them again next spring when we’ll travel to Germany to visit. I bought our tickets last week and our loose itinerary includes three nights in the Black Forest, two nights in Nuremberg and four nights in Berlin.  Bis dann!

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Filed under Albany, beer, family, Germany, Local, road trips, upstate New York

Chinese delivery

imageI think I may have mentioned in the past that my youngest son is a bit obsessed with Asian food. What can I say? He was born on Chinese New Year. This school year began with his new lunch box, more specifically a Bento Box, which he tasked his father and I with filling with various Asian noodles, sliced beef or chicken, scallions and some kind of sauce – hoisin, peanut or kecap menas. The first few mornings of school were not easy with his culinary demands, but we figured things out and he happily ate his gourmet lunch, with chopsticks, natch.

Our favorite soup dumplings.

Our favorite soup dumplings.


On our last trip to NYC our itinerary completely revolved around where we would eat. We started at Joe’s Shanghai for soup dumplings, moved to a small Japanese place for ramen in the evening and wrapped up with Korean bar-b-q for lunch the next afternoon on our way to Penn Station. It was a good time, but his hunger for dumplings remained unquenched. Luckily, we found a local source for affordable, convenient and tasty dumplings – Northeast Dumpling House on Central Avenue Some friends turned me on to this place and I’ve dropped in a few times since to pick up frozen dumplings (pork, lamb and cabbage) to stash in the freezer for a quick meal. At $13-15 for 30 dumplings, this is a killer deal and genuine lifesaver on a busy day.

I mentioned to a Chinese friend that Quinn can’t get enough dumplings and that we’ve been enjoying those from the Dumpling House. It turns out her family is visiting from China and that her mother makes dumplings. Imagine how thrilled I was the other night to get a text from my friend offering to share some homemade dumplings with us. We met Thursday morning and she gave me a bag, generously filled, of pork and vegetable dumplings that we’ll be eating this weekend.

Coincidentally, another friend dropped in to Lark + Lily the same evening to give Quinn a cookbook that she was weeding from her extensive collection: Classic Chinese Recipes. It looks to be a terrific resource and I’m excited to have Quinn pick a few recipes for us to try. The cookbook was accompanied by 4 super cool melamine plates, which I know my boy is going to love, and will pair perfectly with the chopsticks our family thoughtfully brought upstate for us after their recent meal in Chinatown. Talk about Chinese delivery! How lucky are we?

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Filed under Albany, Boys, Cooking, Eating, favorites, friends, Local, NYC, Recommendations, Restaurants

Yoga Brunch

imageOne of the most exciting parts of owning a restaurant, for me, is conceiving and hosting events. The Ladies First party last fall and our New Year’s Day Open House, were two of my favorite afternoons spent at Lark + Lily in the  near year (!) since we opened. Last Sunday I was fortunate enough to add a third such afternoon event to my chain of satisfying and happy hospitality experiences, yoga brunch.

Originally planned for August, but rescheduled for after Labor Day, our introductory yoga brunch had a reasonable attendance on a morning that threatened rain. I definitely went big in terms of food, but I’m pretty certain the menu was well received and enjoyed. It was challenging to know how much to prepare since Albany is such a last-minute town and people don’t necessarily honor commitments made without prepayment. I get that, but next time a deposit might be necessary to better help me have the appropriate amount of food available. Believe me, there was no hardship in taking a dozen bagels home for the Lilly boys and it seemed more than acceptable to stop at the St. James Firehouse on September 11th to drop off an extra dozen donuts.

Because I didn’t want to interfere with the kitchen’s well deserved weekend, I made myself responsible for the prep and kept things fairly simple by creating a spread of bagels, veggie cream cheese (thanks, John!), Cider Belly donuts, hard-boiled eggs, lots of fresh fruit, homemade granola and R&G’s fantastic yogurt and ricotta cheese. I think I’ll keep the format similar, maybe mixing up the carbs a little and keeping the fruit as seasonal as possible. It’s a fun little project for me that I really enjoy.

I didn’t get to take the class, unfortunately, but everyone came back from the park a bit flushed and more than a little livelier than they were before class. There are some great photos taken by Trudy that really capture the bliss of being outdoors on a late summer morning. Be sure to check them out and mark your calendars for our next class led by the wonderful Jammella – October 23rd. Keep an eye on the Lark + Lily Facebook page for more details.

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Filed under Albany, Brunch, Eating, Events, Exercise, Local, Recommendations, Restaurants, Summer, sunday, Uncategorized

Getting your mind into the gutter

When you own a house there’s always something that needs attention. If you’re lucky, you can alternate the fun projects such as a new bathroom or a rehabbed deck with the necessary, but unsexy projects like replacing the roof or windows, and achieve some sense of satisfaction with the expense of homeownership. If your house is as old as mine (110 years), I wish you good luck with that.

My investment this summer was of the latter sort – adding gutters to the east side of my house in the hopes of preventing water from coming into my basement. I know that it is irresponsible to hire the first contractor you meet, but I wish it wasn’t. It’s just such a headache having to contact companies and schedule appointments and go through the same process multiple times. Sadly, this is probably my number one reason for delaying projects.

The process for this recent job was pretty typical, I suppose. I started by searching “gutters” on All Over Albany in the hopes that someone else had broached this topic in recent years. Sure enough, there was a thread from a couple of years with a strong winner when it came to customer satisfaction. I emailed the contractor and waited for a response…and….nothing. A week or so later, I emailed a second time and followed up with a phone call and message and still…nothing. I moved on.

I contacted two other potential installers – Huff n Puff and Ipek. I’ve never used Huff n Puff, but they were quick with a response and we set up a meeting. Ipek, who did my roof a number of years ago, took a bit longer to return my call and when they did, I was in the middle of a run and asked them to phone back later, which they didn’t. Huff n Puff was looking better and better.

The salesman came when promised and provided me with pricing which, as he explained, would be out of line with other companies due to their product being superior. He left and I planned to follow-up again with Ipek. But, wait! I received a phone call within a day or so from the salesman and learned that at their weekly business meeting, my project was discussed and they came up with a new option making their price about 25% less than previously quoted. Done, deposit paid and scheduled. Great.

Until, of course, the installers came and determined that they couldn’t hang the gutters because of some sort of issue with the fascia of my house, at least not for the agreed upon price. Back to square one. As tired of the process as if I had installed the damn gutters myself, I called Ipek again. This time we connected and one of the same people who had worked on my roof, came out and gave me an estimate lower than either estimate I had received from Huff n Puff. A few days later my gutters were installed and, ironically,  we’ve been pretty much rainless since.


Filed under house, Local, Recommendations, Summer, Uncategorized