Sunday, May 31, 2009


I'm not a fan of kids, as you probably already know, but thank goodness so many of the little buggers are running around with open minds. I adore this little girl. And I especially adore the prom dress Ken's sporting for the visual aid in this video. Priceless.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Guess who's having pesto???

We scored some fantastic stuff at the farmers' market this morning, but the best one by far was this gigantic basil plant for $$$FIVE DOLLARS$$$!!!. Pesto for all!

We managed to find a nice healthy dose of garlic scapes (my second favorite thing to find there after fiddleheads), some gigantic asparagus for the grill, portobello mushroom caps, apples for Ben, mixed greens for salad, and a few others. I love Saturdays.

Friday, May 29, 2009


Happy Friday, everyone! And for those of you local folks, Happy Troy Night Out! This one is supposed to be big for lots of reasons, and if you've looked out the window recently you probably saw the sun shining! It's been pouring here for close to a week now and I was worried that the rain would put a damper on tonight's festivities. Guess luck is on our side!

Tonight (and for the next month or so), we're featuring art by the Brunswick ARC Art Project Gallery. I had the honor of seeing their work last year and am thrilled with the idea of showing some new pieces of theirs this time around. This is amazing stuff, and the folks in charge are selling prints of the paintings for an incredible 10 bucks! Coincidentally, some of the ARC folks will also be showing work next door at The Broken Mold pottery studio. So stop by, have some food and wine, take a peek at the art, and shop around in downtown Troy. You'll thank yourself for it!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

flowers from the hubs

Because, well, he's the man.I adore the brown kraft paper wrapping. These little beauties made the entire house smell amazing. Ahh, Spring.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

old bag

So I took some time out on Sunday and went greenhouse hopping with my mom. Had lots of fun, scored some amazing young peony bushes for the yard at a price I couldn't pass up, a few hanging baskets for the front porch, and a few little perennials for the front beds.

Right smack in the middle of our day, while stopped at a red light, and while griping about how quickly my eyebrows grow back in the warmer weather, I noticed a new little something sprouting out from the top of my head. Meet my two new friends:

These are not the first. My hairdresser noticed one while curling my hair for my sister's wedding, but couldn't find another on my entire head. I've been told, though, that grey hairs are like cockroaches. If you find one, there are absolutely plenty more hiding out. You might not see them, but they're there. So, they've multiplied and marched up from the crown of my head into my bangs. I'm so proud.

Yep, 32 and going grey. Love it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

a little ditty... one of my absolute faves to start the weekend off right.

And if you'd like a little more, this video rocks:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

one good read

I'm completely and totally invested in this book at the moment and every second spent away from its pages kills me.

I know a lot of us have been thinking more and more about the planet lately, especially the massive, damaging footprint we're leaving behind. Some of us are looking for ways to do something about that, treading a little less heavy and living life a bit more responsibly. The folks responsible for this book not only thought about it, but they actually did something about it.

This is the story of two people in Vancouver, BC, who made the commitment to consume only foods harvested within a 100 mile radius of their home. So far there have been many moments where I've not only been able to relate to their woes (culinary "been there, done that" woes, if you will), but I've also laughed out loud at the craziness and of it all. This is something that can be done, but it takes more than just a bit of effort. I'm envious of this experience and would love to give it a shot. The feeling of accomplishment when I look down at my dinner plate and realize that every single item came from the local farmers' market is wonderful, but I know we can do even more.

So check it out and give it a bit of your time. It's a short, easy read. Buy it here or here, and if you're in the Troy area, you really should just buy it here. Random House is currently offering the ebook as well.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The totally random post of doom

Is it even possible that I need a vacation already this early on in the year? I'm pretty beat and would love nothing more than to head to the beach for a long week. Or two. Yeesh! This weekend was whirlwind, and that's putting it nicely. After working all day Saturday, Ben and I headed to see Bianca's last roller derby match of the season. I'm so sad it's over already, but I just keep reminding myself that they'll be back. Bianca's team, the Albany All Stars, kicked some serious roller skating butt, and I loved every single second of it. The fact that the opposing team drove all the way up from Pennsylvania and lost miserably was a little sad, I'll admit, but I'm still glad the All Stars took it!

Aside from that, I got all of my herbs planted, my tomatoes potted up and the gardens weeded. I'm retiring two old garden beds that are pretty much spent and unused at this point. With the out of control stray cat population in my neighborhood (more on that some other time...I need to keep my blood pressure under control today), it's impossible to plant edibles in the ground without a ridiculous amount of cat poo all over the place. I know that poop is poop, and I put plenty of manure in the soil, but something about the idea of fresh, juicy, home grown tomatoes on my salad isn't quite as mouth watering when I think about the cat crap these same tomatoes grew in. Nice. So, terracotta pots were an absolute necessity on my last greenhouse visit. Several vendors at the farmers' market claim that container gardening brings about tastier tomatoes anyway, so I'll have to see for myself. Anyway, if you have any tips on keeping stray/feral cats off of your property, I'm all ears. This is getting out of control.

My mom and I headed out on a day long shopping excursion for craft supplies yesterday, and I'm convinced that I'm completely bushed today because of the excitement. It's amazing how tired you can actually be after a day of shopping madness. Fun times! With Troy Night Out just around the corner, plus a charity fundraiser, and River Fest coming up next month, I'm keeping busy by making a ton of new bags and jewelry. This new load of fabrics, trims and beads should hold me over for a while. Or not.
Oh! One other thing...I'm now selling canvas tote bags with the Paper Sparrow logo on them. Small bags are $5 and large bags are $6. One dollar from every sale will be donated to the Regional Farm and Food project. This is a great foundation and I'd love to help them out in any way possible. Come on into the shop to grab them up before they're gone!

And for a quick update on the stuff coming up around here (as if this post could possibly be any more random), here's a list of events, times and info in case you're in the area and looking for something to do:

Troy Night Out - Friday, May 29th. We're featuring artwork by the Brunswick ARC. I had the opportunity to check the work out last summer, and it was magnificent. I'm excited and honored to feature new work by the same artists here at the shop. We're serving the usual foods, dips and wine. Come on in for a bite to eat and some great shopping.

Samaritan Hospital Auxiliary Afternoon Tea - Saturday, May 30th. All proceeds benefit the Sexual Assault and Crime Victims Assistance Program for Rensselaer County. Raffles, food and good times. I'll be there selling handbags and jewelry. If you're interested in participating, please let me know.

A new farmers' market - Every Wednesday starting June 3rd (3pm - 7pm) at the MarketPlace between Washington Street and Liberty Street. This new little market will come to life in a few weeks and will feature several different vendors than what the big Saturday market offers.

Weekly craft fairs - Saturdays in June, July and August. I'm waiting for more information on where it will be held and at what time, but I'm really, really excited about the idea of a weekly craft fair! Amazing stuff.

River Street Festival - Saturday, June 20th from 10A - 5p. This is the big one, folks. I can't believe it's that time of year already, but it's here. Tons of amazing artists and crafters, music, great food, a juried sidewalk chalk art contest and shopping. You absolutely should NOT miss this festival. It's a great time for everyone. And it has just been announced that Cracker is the headlining music act this year. So excited about that.

As always, if you have any questions about any of these events, please feel free to contact me. I'll do my best to help out. Hope to see you!

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Let's do a bit of a Mother's Day recap, shall we? After toying around with the idea of what to do for our mom this year, my sister decided to make a gigantic lasagna to take to my parents' house and invited us over for dinner. I offered to make dessert, and took advantage of the open invitation to try some new recipes out. I love strawberry shortcake (even though I really don't like strawberries...figure that one out), but I've never made shortcakes from scratch. I realize now that if you've made scones from scratch, you've basically made shortcakes (or vice versa), so ultimately it wasn't as exciting as I'd hoped. But hey, live and learn, right?

Food Network magazine recently published a recipe for chocolate shortcakes with what looked like a delicious strawberry cream filling, and I was on that like white on rice. My mom wasn't thrilled about the idea of chocolate shortcakes, so instead of scratching the idea completely, I decided to make a batch of basic shortcakes and then the chocolate ones too, with enough of the strawberry cream filling for both types. Holy moly, folks, this stuff is incredible.

For the traditional shortcakes, I followed the Barefoot Contessa recipe (shocker, I know), and much like her scones, these shortcakes were delicious. Just the right amount of sweet, with a flaky inside that melted like butter in your mouth, and a crunchy, sugary outside that rivals your best biscuit recipe. The chocolate shortcakes, though, took a bit more work and it was worth every second. I'll include that recipe at the end of this post and hope for your sake that you try it out. Amazing. I could eat the strawberry cream filling on its own, but add the macerated berries on top of the entire thing and you have nothing less than pure magic.

I'm so happy we kept things low-key this year. A relaxing day with my mom, and the newest mom in our family, my sister Carly. As for me, I had plenty of quality time with my fur baby, and that's always the best treat in the world.

Oh, and hey, sorry about the lack of pictures of the finished shortcake assembly. We ate them all before the camera even made it into my hands.


For the shortcakes:
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 ounces milk chocolate, roughly chopped
2 large eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Raw or turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

For the toppings:
1 quart strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered if large (about 3 cups) if large
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream


Position a rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Make the shortcakes: Whisk the flour, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour mixture until sandy. Add the chocolate. Whisk 1 egg, the cream and vanilla in a glass measuring cup; stir into the flour mixture with a fork to make a shaggy dough (there will be some dry bits). Turn out onto a lightly floured surface; pat flat until 1 1/2 inches thick. Cut into 6 rounds with a knife or cookie cutter, using the scraps for the last cake.

Place the rounds on the baking sheet; freeze for 20 minutes. Beat the remaining egg; brush onto the cakes and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake until firm, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Meanwhile, make the toppings:
Toss half of the strawberries with half of the sugar in a bowl; set aside. Place the other half of each in a saucepan; cook over medium-low heat, mashing with a fork to make a thick puree, about 10 minutes. Cool completely. Whip the cream with a mixer until medium peaks form; swirl in the strawberry puree.

Split the shortcakes in half. Layer some of the strawberry cream and reserved fruit on the bottoms; cover with the shortcake tops. Finish with more strawberry cream and the remaining berries.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Can I get an amen???

Two things...

I love Keith Olbermann (but you probably already knew that), and I'm sick to death of this woman:

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

And while we're on this particular subject, can I get an amen for New York State? Holy hell, it's about time!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

It's no "Dick in a Box", but it'll do. Happy Mom's Day!

Saturday, May 9, 2009


Saturday has become my new favorite day of the week now that the Troy farmers' market has moved outside.

Sure, I love its handy indoor location during the colder months, don't get me wrong, but there's an entirely different feel to it when it's outdoors and I can't quite put my finger on it. Peaceful. Serene. Comfortable. Everyone seems overly friendly...more so than usual. I try to time my arrival as close to 9am as possible, right when the market first opens, and then I can spend a good solid hour there before I have to dodge back around the corner to open the shop for the day.
Ben and I made it just as the clock hit 9 this morning and spent about an hour wandering around, taking pictures, and buying too many things, of course.

Lots of herbs for my container gardens (several different kinds of basil, several varieties of thyme, some oregano, parsley, etc.), some fresh cheese, Elk meat for Ben, some salad greens, green garlic, fingerling potatoes, and much, much more. Yikes! This will hold us over until next Saturday when we'll raid the market all over again. And I can't wait.

striking reds

The intensity of the color of these Ida Reds stopped me dead in my tracks. Mother Nature never ceases to amaze me.

Oh, and as if you haven't heard it enough from me already, the Troy Farmers' Market rocks.

I'm heading out in a short while for round 2 at the market. More pictures to come.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Logan by Ashley

We've been in the market for a new sofa and loveseat for a while now...we just didn't want to admit it to ourselves.

I've had the old sofa and loveseat for over ten years, and yuck, you could totally tell, but it was just so comfy I never wanted to let it go. So, we headed out to a few different places over the past two days to see what we could find. There were a few different qualities this furniture had to have in order for us to even consider it. It needed to be dark in color to hide unruly pet hair and muddy paws. We're not dirty people by any means, but if you have pets you know what they can do to make even the nicest furniture look like crap. So yeah, dark upholstery was a must. We also wanted a sofa with back cushions that were not attached to the frame. The cat likes to sleep on the back of our furniture, and her big butt tears the cushions away from the frame. And besides, I've always loved the look of pillow-back couches anyway.

Our house is just a tiny little bungalow, so size was also something we had to take into consideration. I love sectionals, and I'd absolutely go for something of that size for our home, especially considering the amount of entertaining we do. But it just doesn't work in our living room, and I've come to the conclusion that it never will.

Luck must have been on our side last night because we fell in love with, and then purchased, a three piece living room set...sofa, loveseat (or "chair and a half", as the maker refers to it) and oversized ottoman from the clearance section of the store for a whopping $899.00 for the entire set. How lucky is that??? This was the last model they had in the store so we had to act fast. We got it home and set it up last night and it's perfect for us. I took the back cushions off while lounging in front of the television, and it seats both me and a sprawling spacehog of a dog comfortably. No more crammed space and too much body heat on a summer's night. No more oversized furniture jammed into a too small living space. No more stinky, outdated furniture to scowl about. This stuff = love. And the best part? The body can be cleaned with a damp, soapy towel, and the seat cushions and back pillows can be recovered by yours truly when they've seen their share of wear and tear.

The photos I've included in this post show the same model as the one we bought, only our cushions are covered in a chocolate brown microsuede. I have plans to recover two of the back pillows with a sweet little calico or some sort of graphic fabric that will just make the furniture pop.

And of course, now the gears are grinding in my head about changing the curtains in that room, and maybe the paint color...again. We shall see. Home improvement is such a never ending (yet fun!) process, don't you agree?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

venturing out

Please feel free to tell me if you think I'm completely nuts, but after several requests from customers, and suggestions from family and friends, I'm seriously considering writing a cookbook. It'll be a small run, of course, 100-150 copies at the very most, but I think it might be fun. I managed to put together a cookbook for my mother-in-law a few years back and I enjoyed every single minute of it. I'd like to take it to the next level, though, and do something a little more serious than that.

Do you have any experience with writing a book? I'm open for any and all pointers because aside from doing this myself out of my house, I have no clue what I'm really doing.

Am I totally crazy for even considering this? I have a small stockpile of my own recipes, ones I've created over the years, certainly enough for a book. The complete strangers who eat the food I've prepared (every Troy Night Out) suggest that I do something professional with it. I'm in no position to open a restaurant, although that is a dream of mine, so this just seems like the next logical step. I know this is going to be a lot of work, and I'm totally prepared for that. When I cook I mainly eyeball ingredients and cook to taste, rather than measuring everything out. That's going to have to change for this book.

Help! Pointers?

P.S. Those of you in the area will be thrilled because I'm going to need lots and lots of guinea pigs when I test out recipes. Get your eatin' pants on!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

could it really be?

Some interesting stuff here. But how do you prove something like that?

Monday, May 4, 2009


I came pretty darn close to begging Ben to come with me to Pottery Fest this year, and as always, he agreed to join me. I'm so lucky to be married to a man who is totally willing to do things like this, even when he had a zillion other things he'd rather be doing instead. So, we headed out to the Shaker Historic Site in Albany for some pottery shopping and some really neat demonstrations. The festival itself seemed much bigger this year than in the past and I must have picked up and put down several dozen pieces that I wanted. So many amazing things. I scored some sweet little magnets from Mud Slipper and Ben bought me a little bird box (which is actually an incense burner) from another seller whose name escapes me right now.

We left the main barn area and headed to the main field area to watch two potters demonstrate raku firing. We timed it perfectly because several pieces were coming out of the fire to cool when we arrived.

I love the look of raku, and the results seem much more immediate than kiln firing, but from my understanding the pieces are not functional and not food safe, and serve more as art than dishware. Am I wrong on this? If I am, would someone please set me straight? I hold off on buying raku because I feel like I can't use it in the kitchen, and much like Alton Brown, I don't like unitaskers. Poo.

The raku people finished up and we headed to the second festival spot in the commons room of the site. Tons of vendors were set up to sell their wares in the hall and we wandered around getting lost in the stacks of bowls and dishes and whatnot, listening to the Pine Hills String Band play while we shopped.

I really hope the folks at the Collar City Clay Guild keep this going every year. It's a small festival that only seems to get better with time, and I hope to keep going every year.

Since Ben agreed to come with me, I asked him to choose something he'd like to do next. We both love bookstores, and The Book Barn in Latham, a smallish used book store, is one of his personal favorites. It must have been my lucky day because I scored a small ton of great finds there, too!

My personal favorite is this book:
I haven't made my way through the entire thing yet but the images are gorgeous and there are tons of great ideas nestled in the pages. Reminded me a lot of this blog. This is a Better Homes and Gardens publication and I'm pretty sure it's out of print. If you can get your hands on a copy, though, go for it.

Another beauty is this little find:
There are tons of great craft ideas in this book and I highly recommend it. The author encourages you to include as many natural touches in your day to day living and suggests that you simply go outside and have a look around when you need a gift for someone. Think outside the box kind of stuff, you know?

This little lady was simply an impulse buy:
I love reading about the historical importance of herbs, their medicinal properties, how to plant them, how to cook with them...the list goes on and on. Sweet little illustrations and inspiring photography make this book one of my new fave kitchen handbooks.

If you love Viva Terra like I do, you'll love this book:

Simple design, shabby chic style, natural touches. Three of my must-haves for comfortable living. I've found so many things in this book that I'd like to try in my own home. Books like this make me want to gut my house and start all over again with a totally new look.

And last but not least, I grabbed this book with the hope that it will help to inspire me with my sewing and jewelry making:

I love combining colors and textures, especially in different combinations than you'd normally see. There were some really interesting combos in this book that I'd never considered and I plan to keep this close by for those times when I'm not feeling very inspired. Hopefully it'll help.

So, I spent less than $50 throughout that entire day and had a total blast. I can't guarantee that Ben had as much fun as I did, but it was so nice to have him along there with me.

How was your Sunday?