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Peace, love and cupcakes – Woodstock, N.Y.

How festive is this?

How festive is this place? Not the cupcake place, by the way.

Yesterday I headed down to Woodstock to meet the girls for a little shopping and some catch up time. Although I had been down that way just a couple of weeks ago for a show in Bearsville, it felt like far too long since I’ve simply walked around town and checked out the shops. If you’re in a similar situation, I highly recommend December as the ideal time to wander around Woodstock. It is the absolute antithesis of mall shopping.

The first order of business (ok, the second) when meeting friends midday is usually coffee. The café nearest Tinker Square was jammed so we decided to take our chances down the street a little bit and found ourselves at the adorable Peace, Love and Cupcakes. It’s a tiny little space, adorably decorated in just the right shade of pink, towards the south side of town.

Their coffee game was mediocre with the only brew coming from a Keurig, but my need for coffee was quickly overshadowed by my need for a cupcake. The display case was chock full of the prettiest little cupcakes, cheekily named for musicians, that I’ve ever seen. I only hesitated a moment before rationalizing that when your day begins with a very circuitous 15K, a cupcake prior to linner seems more than reasonable. They don’t call it Sunday Funday for nothing, friends!

Although I’ve never been all that enthusiastic about cupcakes before (I think the frosting is usually too damn sweet), I decided that the Chocolate Snowball was calling my name – and I don’t even particularly like chocolate cake. It must have been a combination of nostalgia for those Hostess snowballs from my childhood and the appeal of a thick layer of cream cheese frosting liberally dusted with coconut.

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My cupcake. Sorry the photo isn’t better – I couldn’t wait to eat it!

I sat down outside to savor my sweet treat. The frosting was perfect, retaining a bit of the tartness of the cream cheese with coconut that resisted mushiness. The chocolate cake was moist and delicious. Together, they elevated my coffee to palatable and made me one happy girl. I’ll definitely go back again for more peace, love and cupcakes. The Ginger Baker has my name all over it.

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Filed under Eating, Food, friends, Recommendations, road trips, sunday, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Upon waking to the news of Donald Trump’s victory

cwzjnxoveaapolxIt seems appropriate that the sky is grey and the ground is wet. It matches my mood perfectly. I can’t stop shaking my head – whether to clear it of the thoughts which are racing about or as an inescapable response to lunacy around me, I’m not certain. This is bad.

When I went to that Trump rally last spring, I left with two conclusions. The first, which has been proven to be undeniably false, was that Donald Trump could never be elected. The second, prompted by my gazing around the arena and wondering who those Americans were, has been confirmed in a manner I never before imagined. I don’t know those people.

There are some things I do know, though. I will never allow the government to rescind the civil rights of LGBT Americans. You see, I do know those people and, unlike Trump and his supporters, they don’t scare me. Last week, when the Indigo Girls played at the Egg, we had a number of lesbian guests and I was struck, as I listened to the good-natured teasing going on between women who had never met before,  by how much progress our society has made in the last twenty years or so. Living a true and genuine life is not something exclusive to heterosexuals and I will stand shoulder to shoulder with my brothers and sisters should they need to battle to retain their equal rights. Going backwards is not an option.

Despite being beyond reproductive age, I will continue to support women and their right to choose when to bear children. I’ve stood up before to those wishing to deny legal and safe access to abortion to women in our country and I am fully prepared to do it again. If you don’t approve of abortion, don’t have one. That’s what’s called a choice.

As a first generation American I’ve always felt that it is my obligation to demonstrate traits which have been ascribed to immigrants in this country for centuries – hard work, honesty, self-reliance and personal responsibility. The only change now is a sense that I must commit to helping other new Americans to have the same opportunities as I have had.

During the presidential campaign I observed that Trump supporters loudly celebrated and gloated each Clinton flaw which was revealed, while Clinton backers reacted with distaste and appall as the laundry list of Trump’s outrageous behaviors was exposed. As an educated and reasonably intelligent woman, my response to both sides was to wish that we, as Americans, had been offered better options for whom to cast our precious votes. We have to do better in a world threatened by terrorists, impending environmental disasters, lack of access to healthcare and the vulnerability of persons of color and those who identify as LGBT.

I hope that a man who is supremely unqualified to hold the highest office in our country proves to be a champion of all people. There’s nothing I’d like more than for Donald Trump to prove me wrong again. Other than 4 more years of Barack Obama, that is.

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Filed under News, Observations, politics, Uncategorized

5 questions for Election Day

95d00716-6f66-4af0-91c9-ba34ed0a572e-8665-00000b1bc4435617_tmpIt has been a particularly unpleasant and long campaign season and I’m looking forward to it being over so I can just enjoy the grace and dignity of the Obama family for a few more months. But, first some questions.

  1. Why do elections bring out the worst instead of the best?
  2. How is my vote important if the electoral votes determine the winner?
  3. Is there a reason other than racism to justify the complete lack of acknowledgment of the accomplishments of President Obama?
  4. Who are the people who believe that Donald Trump is concerned with their interests – other than other wealthy people who have learned how to Trump the system?
  5. Will this election with all of its controversies, ugliness and accusations compel people to be more or less involved in the process in the future?

Vote.

 

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Filed under musings, politics, Uncategorized

My Gregg Allman fantasy – rated R for rock

fullsizerenderThey say you never really miss something until it’s gone and when it comes to the Allman Brothers Band, I guess I’m just going to have agree with that sentiment. Growing up listening to Eat a Peach is one of the many things I appreciate most about being a child of the 70s. Well, that and the joy of Sunkist soda, Charles Bronson movies and Marathon bars, that is.

But, back to the Allman Brothers…

I have few regrets in life, but two of them involve the ABB – the first is missing that Dickie Betts Live at 5 show in Albany in 2002. The set list was epic and I’ve only heard raves about that free show. Damn. The other thing I wish I hadn’t missed were the shows at the Beacon Theater in NYC where the Allmans were practically artists in residency. Why didn’t I ever make the effort to get to one or a dozen of those?!

For consolation, there are the memories of when I did see the band, mostly at SPAC, but with a couple of other venues thrown in over the years. The SPAC shows are particularly memorable because two of my three children were in attendance with me (on separate occasions) and it almost feels like those shows were a rite of passage for my family. Good memories all around.

While I’m sad that my youngest will never have the experience of jamming out to the ABB on the lawn in Saratoga, my fantasy about Gregg Allman is a bit more self-serving. In a couple of weeks, I’m going to see a band, Live at the Fillmore, down in Woodstock.  They’re an Allman Brothers  tribute band and I’m pretty psyched to check them out. I know that Gregg has been around the Hudson Valley in recent months (he played at a 4th of July party in Westchester) and I’ve been thinking that it would be amazing if he dropped in on the show in Bearsville.  You know, did a cameo and rocked out a little bit.  Can you imagine how incredibly thrilled every single person in attendance would be? It would make for a night that everyone could talk about for years, like those long ago nights on the road filled with groupies.

Come on, Gregg. It’s a Friday night show – how about you let your eagle fly?

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Filed under aging, concerts, Uncategorized

Is Chicago my kind of town?

image: Flicker by ph4nn1 Chicago Skyline Panorama

image: Flicker by ph4nn1 Chicago Skyline Panorama

Last summer I made plans to go to Niagara Falls and Toronto with my kids for a few days. We’d never been and it seemed like a cool and economical getaway. I made hotel reservations and enthusiastically crowd sourced for some tourist recommendations. Then my two older sons got jobs. Plural. Not one to complain about employed children, I cancelled the trip and instead took my youngest down to NYC for a couple of days. That slacker doesn’t have a job, but I suppose he is only 11. Soon enough, little man.

A few weeks after the change in plans, I ended with both a Southwest voucher and a credit on my credit card, a situation which I immediately interpreted as a sign from the universe to buy a plane ticket. I reached out to my posse of friends, a number of whom were also celebrating a milestone birthday this year, to gauge interest in taking a weekend trip somewhere. While there was interest, it didn’t translate into action, so I decided it was time for me to take my first ever multiple night solo – Chicago, here I come!

So, I’ve got three nights in Chicago coming up in a few weeks and I’m a bit overwhelmed by all of the things there are to do! The luxury of traveling alone means I can do whatever I want, whenever I want to, which is pretty amazing. Knowing myself, I see my days being structured kind of like this:

  • Wake up, get out and do something.
  • Go back to the hotel for a nap.
  • Take a run.
  • Take a shower.
  • Go out and eat something tasty.

I imagine there will be alcohol involved, at times, too.

The two things I definitely want to do are the architectural boat tour and an art museum or two. I know there are a million places to eat, but I’m most interested in places where I can eat at the bar.

What can you tell me about Chicago?

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Filed under art, drinking, Eating, ideas, Recommendations, Restaurants, travel, Uncategorized, vacation, Wine

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.

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

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