Category Archives: Summer

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.

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Filed under house, Local, Recommendations, Summer, Uncategorized

Anniversary dinner

Anniversary: a date that is remembered or celebrated because a special or notable event occurred on that date in a previous year

imageYesterday was my 22nd wedding anniversary. I’ve been divorced for 5 years, so there weren’t any cards or flowers to mark the occasion, yet I felt surprisingly sentimental about the day. I think it may have been because of the drive I took which literally brought me down memory lane. It was a good place for a visit.

On a beautiful early September afternoon, I passed off two of my children to their cousins in Lee, MA, a perfect midpoint between Albany and the lake house where their father’s clan would be gathered for the long weekend. Seeing those young men, along with the brother-in-law who was the best man in my wedding, unexpectedly filled my heart with happiness. I’m so grateful that my sons belong to such a wonderful family. Good things came from that equally beautiful early September morning 22 years previously.

Upon recommendation (thanks, Michelle), I headed to Lenox for an early and indulgent dinner. Brava, an intimate wine bar on Housatonic Street, was nearly at capacity when I rolled in and bellied up to the bar at about 5:30. The space is simply and cozy with a couple of big windows and small tables that can be pushed together for larger groups. Flexibility is key in a dining room of this size, particularly when there is a no reservations policy. This theory was quickly proven when the guy next to me and I were each asked to shift left one stool to make room at the bar for a party of five who were facing a 30+ minute wait for a table. Request cheerfully accommodated.

imageI wasn’t in the mood to peruse the wine list so I just asked for a glass of rosé and was quickly provided with a delicious Bandol. After consulting with one of the servers, I placed my order. I opened with the marinated white anchovies and was immediately transported back to a sunny day in Barcelona. They were perfect and paired beautifully with my wine. The portion was ideal – enough to satisfy without overwhelming my taste buds. Great start.

Next up was a salad of roasted beets and basil chèvre. The serving was generous, presented on a simple white rectangular plate which was the ideal backdrop to the vivid colors of the dish. The beets were sweet and the components were nicely balanced without any single ingredient outshining another. As I was making my through the salad, my next (and final) two plates arrived: the patatas brava and the lamb chops.image

The potatoes were amazing – cubed and perfectly cooked with a crisp exterior and fluffy inside, generously accompanied by a smoky, spicy remoulade of sorts. My first bite inspired hiccups, my usual response to spicy food, but they quickly abated and I focused my attention on this plate because potatoes need to be eaten hot. So damn good.

imageThe lamb chops, two on the plate and served with mint sauce (not mint jelly), were fantastic. Cooked to a perfect pink, flavorful and tender, these chops were exactly the protein I wanted to accompany my otherwise vegetable centric meal. I’ll confess right now that, after cutting away all of the meat possible, I finished by picking up the chops and getting a good gnaw in before acknowledging that I was perfectly satiated and ready to continue my drive back to Albany. image

It’s kind of funny that I had such an exceptionally satisfying dinner on 9/4/16. I recall being famished post-wedding festivities 9/4/94, having neglected the food, which I heard was delicious, in favor of enjoying our guests. Yesterday, though, was different. I found myself on familiar roads from long ago, appreciating the turns my life has taken and holding on to the gifts I received from a marriage which ended, yet continues to provide unanticipated joy. It was a day to be celebrated.

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Filed under Boys, Dinner, Eating, family, Food, marriage, Recommendations, road trips, Summer, sunday

Saratoga morning

I understand that, to some people, going to the track involves a pink sheet and placing bets, but I’ve always enjoyed it best early in the morning before the crowds arrive.  The true beauty of the facility and the horses just shines when the day is new and the air is fresh.  It was a gorgeous morning today and I would have regretted missing the time spent with a good friend far more than I missed those couple of hours of sleep.  You see, Will, is an early riser and I was on the road a little after 6:00 a.m. to meet him.  Watching those horses, full of personality with an apparent need to stretch their legs, was a wonderful way to start the day.  Our post-track breakfast at Siro’s, prepared by the legendary Debbie Klauber, felt very much like a reward for our efforts.  I hope those horses are fed half as good as we were!

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Filed under beauty, breakfast, friends, Local, Recommendations, Saratoga, Summer, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Scary grass and a wonderful veterinary practice

imageProving that there is indeed never a dull moment, minutes before I was planning to leave for work on Friday, Jeter sidled up to me with an eye well on its way to being grotesquely swollen shut. Since I had just taken him outdoors not 30 minutes previously, I was at a loss as to what might be the problem. A quick Google image search (dog swollen eye) and I had my presumed answer – bee sting.

Never having dealt with this before, I didn’t know what to do. This is my usual response in medical emergencies, by the way. As Jeter’s eye continued to disappear behind a balloon of fluid, I decided to phone our vet, Boght Veterinary Clinic never expecting a response to my call since it was after 5:00. Well, was I most pleasantly surprised…

imageThe woman who answered the phone was exactly what I needed – informative, helpful and wonderfully competent. I explained the issue, adding details about his demeanor (normal), breathing (also normal) and the appearance of his eye (gross, but apparently not abnormal when stung by a bee). I was placed on hold for a few minutes while the receptionist consulted with the Doctor. On her return, I was offered a couple of options: 1. Bring Jeter in as soon as I could get there, even though the office was now closed and it would take at least 30 minutes in Friday evening traffic to get there. 2. Take Jeter to the nearby emergency veterinary hospital or 3. Give him three 25 mg tabs of Benadryl. I went with number 3.

Here’s the thing, so many veterinary practices would have not made themselves available beyond regular hours, might have insisted that I take him to an emergency facility for treatment and would not have so willingly recommended a dosage of over the counter medication. Their reasonable and pragmatic care, dispensed with the caveat that medical advice over the phone is less than ideal, was yet another example of why I have been loyal to this practice for more than 25 years.

Saturday morning, Jeter’s eye was almost back to normal. He was his usual bouncy guy self, except for one thing – he seems to be afraid of grass! For whatever reason, it seems that Jeter is associating the lawn with the bee sting. It’s kind of silly because I’m convinced he got stung on the back deck, but he’s holding firm to this new phobia and refuses to step foot on the grass choosing instead to walk on sidewalks, driveways and in the street. It’s ridiculous! Any tips for getting my boy back on the grass?

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Filed under medical, Recommendations, Summer

A challenge of a run

imageSo, on Saturday I ran a half marathon. Yep, that’s right, 13.1 big ones. How was it? I’ll tell you about it, but bear with me – it’s going to be kind of long. You know, like the race was.

The race, called the Camp Chingachgook Challenge, was the first road half that I’ve ever registered to run. The course was reputed to be hilly, but I figured the Seven Sisters run in May had prepared me for hills. I was right. Kind of. The rolling hills of this course, I would come to learn, were certainly less intimidating than the mountains we encountered in Massachusetts, but they were nearly as exhausting as they clustered with an annoying frequency towards the end of the route. More on that later.

I arrived at the starting point 35 minutes before start time which gave me plenty of time to:

a. Park

b. Check in and get my shirt

c. Use the portapotty and

d. Feel a bit outclassed by the other remarkably fit looking runners.

I talked myself down by reminding myself that I wasn’t in it to win, but instead to challenge myself with a new experience. Head on straight, I joined the rear of the pack and took off when the horn blew, promising myself to run my own race.

The first few miles were great and I was surprised each time my Runmeter ticked off another mile. The morning was humid as hell, but there wasn’t any sun to contend with, so it was bearable. The first water station came up pretty quick at about 3 miles and I walked through it, enjoying my drink. I considered using the portapotty again (Anyone who knows me, knows how frequently I pee. Actually, I guess everyone knows that now.) but decided to wait for the next water station. Bad move – the next stop didn’t have any toilet facilities which meant I had to leave the course and make use of a bathroom at an accommodating resort. I imagine that added a minimum of 4 minutes to my time, but whatever. It beat any alternative.

I’d say the opening 8 miles were the most pleasant – there were lots of gorgeous homes to see, the hills were fairly manageable and my body felt strong. At about the 9 mile mark, I started seeing a significant discrepancy between my app’s measurement of mileage and the painted markers on the road, which was a bit discouraging. By the finish, my app read close to .5 of a mile over the course of 13.1. It might not sound like much, but, believe me towards the end if felt like a lot.

Things started to get a little gnarly for me at about mile 9. My legs were getting heavy and the bottom of my left foot was on fire. The sun started to peek out from behind the clouds and my body was simply dripping with effort. Cue rolling hills… At this point I started allowing myself to walk a little. I could feel myself getting a little light headed and chose to not push myself beyond where I was comfortable, and by “comfortable” I mean endurable discomfort. I don’t know if any of you experience foot pain when you run, but it is the worst thing I’ve ever felt during a race. I really need to get this figured out – hopefully before next month’s Palio in Saratoga.

I crossed the finish line at 2:27, which was fine for me. I immediately took my shoes off and waded into the refreshingly cool lake for a quick dip. My next stop was the showers, which was really an exercise in futility – I hadn’t brought soap or anything so it was a mere rinse off. Despite my oversized beach towel, it was impossible to get dry due to the extreme humidity. I dressed my still damp body and went to wait for the shuttle bus to take me back to the start and, of course, that’s when the rain finally started. I basically got drenched for the fourth time of the day (sweat, lake, shower, rain) only to finally get on the bus where I came as close as possible to passing out without actually losing consciousness. I’m not 100% sure what it was about, but I’m thinking dehydration and my generally low blood pressure weren’t a great fit with the outrageously humid and hot bus ride. Reflecting back, my lack of need to urinate is a huge red flag for me and I didn’t pee for at least 3.5 hours despite my taking in close to 64 oz of water – so unlike me.

Regardless, I made it back to my car and ate a perfect peach to rally myself for the drive home. I had an invite for a celebratory breakfast, but I requested a big, fat burger instead and met my friend at Crave, which was exactly what I wanted.

Our table number at Crave - perfect!

Our table number at Crave – perfect!

I continued pounding water before finally crawling into bed for a nap. I’d definitely consider doing this race again, but the experience only affirmed my disinterest in ever doing a marathon. I just don’t think that 26.2 miles sounds fun and if it isn’t fun, I’m not in.

Until next time – Summer Mountain Runner (my new Native American name courtesy of my lunar b*tch friend, Karen)

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Filed under Eating, Events, road trips, running, Summer, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Millions of (bad tasting) peaches

imageI don’t know when it happened but it seems that finding a delicious peach has become a challenge on par with picking the trifecta at Saratoga. I mean, your odds of buying a flavorful, juicy peach are even less favorable than that of a thoroughbred surviving a hot summer season in the Spa City.

After buying too many bad peaches from the grocery store, I’ve given up on peaches which do not come from a farmstand or farmer’s market. I’ve been stalking the Troy Farmers’ Market the last few weeks sniffing around for my favorite summer fruit, but seem to have been a bit premature in my hunt. I did, however, score some amazing ricotta cheese from R&G which we paired with local blueberries, honey, candied pecans and chocolate mint from St Anne’s Institute for a dynamite dessert at Lark + Lily. But, I digress…image

Yesterday, though, my perseverance paid off. I stopped at my favorite farmstand, Burger’s on Route 7, and found exactly what I been dreaming about – a luscious, succulent peach. It was the perfect size, not overly large, and the ideal temperature, not refrigerated. My first bite was juicy and sweet, unlike the mealy, dry peaches I’ve suffered through this summer. I sat in my car and devoured it with glee. Nirvana! Get some.

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Filed under Eating, favorites, Food, Gardens, Local, Recommendations, Summer, Uncategorized, upstate New York