Saturday, July 31, 2010

I'll be on the couch if you need me.

Food poisoning can blow me...

but at least I have my co-pilot by my side.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


I've decided recently that I'd like to learn to speak French.

Growing up I soaked up the Spanish language, mostly because I figured I'd use it more, I liked the teacher more, and my dad is pretty fluent in Portuguese (the two languages are pretty similar) and I figured he could help me through the learning process. I loved the language and enjoyed taking classes, but I've lost most of what I've learned since graduating high school. Rather than freshening up on what I've already learned, I want to dive into something new. I never really cared either way about the French language or French culture, but now I'm suddenly interested. Must be all of those food books I've been reading.

What's the best way to learn? I've heard marvelous things about the Rosetta Stone software, but I don't know if I can commit to sitting at a computer to learn a language. I've thought about taking actual classes, but would rather not do something like that alone (who would I practice with???). Do you have any suggestions? Have you learned a language outside of a classroom? Any pointers for me?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

just a thought.

Thanks for the skirt love yesterday, kids! I successfully wore it the entire day, rolled around with the dog while wearing it, grilled burgers for the boys in it, and walked home from work through very windy conditions, and nary a soul had to witness my naughty bits. Ahem. As much as I complained about how large the skirt is (and how far it wraps around my bod), it certainly makes for a confident strut when my hands are full and the wind is blowing half of my skirt over my head.


I had an interesting conversation with a business owner this morning. She and I discussed the economy and the financial mess this country has gotten itself into, and yet business is still pretty good for the both of us. People are out buying, and while they might be buying less, or being selective about the things they DO spend their money on, they're still spending.

But I've noticed something lately...

and I'm sure someone somewhere can and will come along and whip the numbers out of their ass to prove me wrong....

and maybe this is only happening here in this part of the country, or maybe I'm simply imagining it completely...

but it seems as though folks are starting to think about the kind of impact their money has in this world and may be spending it in places that count...small businesses, farmers' markets, craft fairs. I've had customers come into the shop and explain that they stay away from chain stores and big box stores ever since the economy took a nosedive, because they feel the only way to fix the problems we're dealing with now is to start at the bottom and work with the little people. A "redistribution of wealth", as one customer put it. That makes a lot of sense. The old way wasn't working, so let's go back to where we were when it DID work. I like that.

And like I said, I'm sure I'm wrong and there are numbers floating out there to prove it (I know I can't compete with Walmart's prices), but I like to live for just a while in this fantasy world of mine where people really do care, really do pay attention to where their money goes and the impact it has on all of us. I like to think that the number of people shopping at our local farmers' market has doubled (some even say the number has tripled) because people want to do something good for others, something good with their lives, and maybe even improve their health at the same time. It has to start small, and it has to start somewhere. I read the statistics recently on the drastic increase of people growing their own food, not only to save money but to teach their children and their peers that food doesn't always have to come in a box or a can, no matter how convenient. There's always a choice out there. It's just a matter of looking for it and choosing the right option for you and your family.

I'd like to think that maybe we're collectively starting to move into a whole new way of thinking and living, and I can only hope that we'll be a more responsible people when we get there.

The cynical part of me wants to erase this post completely for sounding like such a dreamer, but I know that as people, we're all capable of real change.

Go here to find out how your money can directly benefit your community instead of disappearing overseas.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

trial run

So, I finally made one complete skirt. I managed to squeeze it out in less than an hour and I'm pretty happy with this version. I went with the dimensions meant for a size medium, but added a bit of length and a few darts in the back to cinch in the waist a bit. I also ditched the idea of using quilt binding to finish the bottom hem and just opted for a basic rolled edge. I love it.

Of course, I'm a paranoid mess today...a normal reaction for me on days when wearing a homemade piece of clothing out in public for the first time. What if the hem gives out? What if the ties come loose and my skirt falls off? What if I just look like an asshole walking around in this thing? Either way, the skirt is comfy and cute. If I can make it through an entire day with little to no problem, I'll be making more tonight. A new collection of skirts for little money? Yes please!

So what do you think? I need to shorten the ties for sure. I didn't realize until looking at the photos. Aside from that, though, any suggestions?

Monday, July 26, 2010

for you cold hearted folks

Loved this movie. Loved it. I'm feeling like poo today and decided to slob around the house and catch up on some movies. I'm thrilled that I decided to go with this one. The perfect romantic movie that wasn't really all that romantic. Just like the tagline says, "This is not a love story. This is a story about love". Very Annie Hall. And hey, Joseph Gordon-Levitt really grew up into a scrumptious little man, didn't he? Yum. Check it:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

have you seen this???

Somehow, "lucky to be alive" doesn't quite cover it, right??? Crazy stuff.

Friday, July 23, 2010

big softy

I have a soft spot for teacher movies and documentaries. You know, Dead Poets Society, Mr. Holland's Opus, Lean on Me, etc. A big part of me wanted to be a teacher from the time I was old enough to even consider such things (Laura Ingalls Wilder had a lot to do with that), until I was a junior in college. I finally switched majors once concerns of not knowing enough about art myself to teach it to other people plagued me on a daily basis. I went through with a very long student teaching process and enjoyed it, but it just didn't feel right and I never went back. I don't consider it to be a regret at all, but sometimes I wonder what life would be like now had I stayed on the same path. Anyway, yeah, teacher movies.

I just spent the last two hours watching this documentary and it was fantastic. If you're interested in this sort of thing, I must say that it was one of the better movies I've seen in a while, and I even shed a few tears at the end. Imagine that.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

on the agenda

Well hey there, folks!

Ever have one of those blog days where you have lots to talk about, but nothing you really can talk about? I'm in the middle one of those days, so if this post seems scattered it's because my brain is working a million different ways all at the same time.

Let's see...what's been going on here? I've tested out the skirt pattern and I love it. I had a slight problem with the sizing, but that's something that's easily fixed. I automatically went with the dimensions to make a size large (the skirt pattern can be made as a small, medium or large) and the large was WAY too large. So I cut it down to a medium and thought I had a winner, but I guess the medium is a bit too big also. So I'm going to attempt a small despite the fact that I can't remember a time when I ever wore a small anything. We shall see. I plan to make some skirts for Randi (who is suffering through the extreme heat and humidity in Florida) but if I wear a small, what the hell will I make for her? The skirt is adorable, though, and I got compliments on the medium, saggy baggy and all. Super cute. The photo above features the fabrics up next in line for skirty goodness. Can you tell I'm going through a gold/brown phase?

My wonderful father turned another year older today. He hates it when people make a big deal out of it, so I figure I'll just hide this mid-post to avoid the lecture later on. But yes, today is the big day, so I now have an excuse to make the "Chocolate Death" cake. This cake is, by far, the most amazing chocolate cake ever to cross your lips, but it's so rich and decadent you just have to have an excuse to make it. This isn't your average bake sale cake, or something you make when you have your girls over for tea and gossip. This is a serious cake. My dad loves it, so I'm making it for him. He deserves such a luxury. Happy Birthday, Pop!

Dug out a small ton of Columbine from my garden. I randomly planted some seeds around the beds a few years back assuming that it's Columbine so therefore I'd automatically love it. Not so. This is that white Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris) that looks more like a weed than anything else and it just takes over everything. So I dug it out, bagged it up and gave it to my mom who wanted it for her back yard. The huge gaps left behind in my front beds just screamed out (in their best Evil Dead voices) "hey crazy, go to Faddegons and buy something new...fill us...fill us!!!", so I went. Folks, I know I've said it before and I'll say it a million times over, I love that place. The selection, the gift shop, the staff, the general vibe of the's all just so fantastic. Got a great deal on some black eyed susans, some tick weed, and some bee balm and it just looks so great. I re-mulched with a nice, chunky pine that looks more like rusty driftwood than anything else, and everything is just so neat and tidy now. Our house looks like someone lives there! Hooray! I have some work to do on the front porch, painting and re-screening and then our house will really look lived in. I can't wait. I love projects.

Oh! How could I forget? I made Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream. How marvelous! I've made lots of homemade ice cream before, and I prefer a cooked base over an instant one by far. I was really shocked at how quickly the custard set up for this recipe. Super thick, very rich, and just the right amount of cayenne pepper and cinnamon. Delicious. If you own an ice cream maker, you must make this. You'll thank me for it. By the way, I use Simply Recipes to find most of my ice cream recipes. Something about the recipes there offer so much more than other recipes I've tested. Lots to choose from!

I think that's about it. Aside from these things I've been stressing a bit, watching too much television, balancing the tv out with lots of reading and crossword puzzles, and making plans. Lots to think about these days.

Monday, July 19, 2010

skirt fix

The last skirt pattern worked well last year, but I wasn't completely satisfied. I'm currently living in skirts and t-shirts (with a smattering of light weight dresses mixed in for the super hot days) this summer, and plan to keep the skirt wearing going straight through fall and winter.

I wanted something a little more polished and little more complex than a basic tube-with-elastic skirt. So, I searched around and decided on this pattern here. In one word, LOVE. I've only made one so far, but have enough fabric chosen to make six more. Wrap skirts are my new fave and with a pattern this simple, why not make an entire new wardrobe? A yard and a half of fabric will be more than enough. The pattern calls for two prints, one for the main body and one for the trim and ties, but I've chosen to take the cheater way out and use a double fold bias tape to finish off the bottom and add ties to the top.

Photos of my own skirts to come as I make more...maybe this weekend. Photos shown here are courtesy of the Make It Perfect website.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


I know, I know, it's not Friday. But it's my Friday and I'm so happy it finally arrived. So, what did I do with my night?

Cherry Cobbler, baby.

Friday, July 16, 2010

weekend planzzzzzzz

If you live in the area, you must make a pilgrimage to the Troy area for the annual Troy Pig Out! It's particularly evil, in my humble opinion, to force the business owners to stay put in their shops while the smells of barbecue waft in from the streets, but we manage...barely. Saturday features several chef demonstrations, live music, more food than you'll know what to do with, fireworks, and the rib competition. If you're a rib connoisseur like I am (ribs are tied with nachos as my all time favorite food), and want to get in on the madness, here's how it works:

Tickets go on sale at 4:00
$1.00 a ticket, one ticket gets you one rib
Buy 5 tickets, get a "voting ticket"
Try them all (lots to choose from)
Cast your vote
Ticket sales will raise money for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure

Tickets are limited to 8,000 this year, so act fast. If you're not interested in voting in the rib contest, just stuff your face at any of the other food vendors there, no tickets needed. You'll thank yourself, but wear your fat pants!

Sunday features more chef demos, live music, and the main event, Best in Show for chicken, pork ribs, pork butt/shoulder and beef brisket. Awards will be given out at 4:00.

This is such a good time, folks. I've gone the last two years now and it's really fantastic. Great food, a great environment, and the smells...ooh the smells. Hot damn!

Oh, and FYI: For those of you who come to Troy on Saturdays for our farmers' market, please be advised that the market will be moved to River Street this week only. Pop by the shop and say hello!

AND (I promise I'm almost done), if you're looking for a bit of fun this evening, be sure to head on over to Cohoes and hit up Bread and Jam for some delicious food and the music of one of my local faves, Sean Rowe. Mmmmm, paninis and that voice. Heaven, I tell you.

Hope to see you at both events!!!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

pumpkins and shoe porn

Wow! I haven't made it through the entire month of July yet and I'm already fantasizing about autumn. Normally I can make it through mid-August (at least!) before even thinking about it, but how can one ever resist the dreamy ideal of cardigan sweaters, tights, pumpkins, dry crisp air, leaves, and most importantly, not sweating? It's been one hell of a hot summer thus far here in the northeast, something we haven't had to deal with in many years. Anyway, since I can't do a thing about the heat, at least I can start preparing myself for a cooler time of year, right? I'm due for a new pair of shoes for fall/winter/spring and this year I think I'm going to be breaking my Keen buying habit and opt for something different. Last winter I tried on my first pair of Dansko clogs and the salesman nearly had to tear them off of my feet before I left. I didn't want to take them off! They also didn't have my size, so I've been pouting about it ever since. If you own a pair you know what I'm talking about. And if you don't...well, fix that, would you??? Holy hell, they're so rad. I want a pair of black Dansko professionals in the worst way, and plan to snag myself a pair if the birthday fairy leaves behind some birthday loot for yours truly.Do you own a pair? Should I stay away from this particular model? I want the type of clog with the back on it...not a fan of the open back. I tried a pair of the red wine colored leather and they were pretty amazing, but I think black is versatile enough for just about everything. I've also been told by fellow clog lovers that you should never buy clogs online. Always try them on first. They're all made by hand and three different pairs of size 9s are each going to fit differently. So, before I take the plunge, any comments or suggestions for me?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Unconstitutionally vague"

This just totally made my day. Glad to know they're not all morons.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


(photo courtesy of

Ben and I are trying to be a bit more frugal with our money these days, but this gal has her weaknesses, and vanilla is at the top of the weakness list. Just ask my mom. I drove her all the way to Brunswick to search for the very best vanilla extract ever (scroll down to the Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla, although I've tried many of these and they're all lovely), only to find that they were sold out. So, you can imagine the squeal that escaped my lips this morning when I happened to stumble upon this little gem hidden inside the "plants and edibles" category on Etsy. Bliss.

People think I'm nuts for spending good money on things like vanilla beans/extract/paste, but it makes all the difference when I'm baking (or wearing it) and I simply can't accept that there isn't something comparable in everyone's lives. What do you splurge on?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

a little too late

I spent a majority of 1994-1998 in art school, and unlike some of my peers, I have no regrets. It's hard to get a job, yes, but hey, at this point it's hard to get a job anywhere! Some days, though, I wonder if I made the right choice. I sometimes wonder how different my life would be had I skipped art school and did something else entirely. The only other thing in life that has held my attention as long as the art world has is the culinary world. I sometimes fantasize about where I'd be right now had I chosen a career in the food industry instead of learning about perspective, arc welding, hues, gallery maintenance and the importance of opting for Turpenoid over Turpentine in a closed space.

And that's not to say I want to be a chef. I fear that if I ever got involved in the food industry, I'd regret it and eventually lose the peace and zen that cooking brings me. I can be pissed off, miserable and ready to take a swan dive off of a tall building and yet one step into my kitchen brings me back to normal. I love that. I love losing myself in a recipe, testing out new methods, tasting new or rare foods, shopping for ingredients, while the rest of the world just melts away. I'd like to think it's what keeps me sane. But there's always that "what if" bouncing around in the background. There's a "what if" for everyone, I guess. For me, my only regret is not learning technique. Culinary school would have taught me the necessary techniques, and therefore, made me a better cook. I've learned a lot from watching the Food Network (my knife skills have improved drastically, for example), but the two just don't compare.

Anyway, talk about bad timing. I just read about the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland and I'm seriously kicking myself in the ass for not knowing about this sooner. Why didn't I know about this back when I was trying to decide what to do with my life? This would have trounced art school by far. No degrees to work for. No pressure. A short-term commitment. And an excuse to travel??? Ah yes, such is life. Anyway, a twelve week course costs over $15,000 (still significantly less than four years of art school), so this little dream of mine will have to stay on the back burner until we hit the lotto, or some long lost relative kicks the bucket and dumps their fortune in our laps. I'd say, though, for the money you spend, you walk away knowing everything from the bare bones basics to pretty advanced topics of farm-to-table cuisine. I don't know about you, but I'd love to learn the ins and outs of smoking mackerel, beekeeping, curing bacon, and making yogurt and butter. This class also covers topics such as preparing wild game and the cooking styles of France, India, Mexico, Japan, Italy, and let's not forget Ireland.

For now I'll stick with the book. This was written by Darina Allen, the founder of the Ballymaloe school, and I have a feeling I'm not going to want to put this baby down.

So, yes, I love food. No brainer, right? I love talking about food, I love reading about food, I love being around food, and well, duh, I love eating food. Lately I've been sucked into several books about food. A Homemade Life rocks, for those of you who love little stories that always go hand in hand with a good recipe. And, if you're a fan of Orangette, one of my fave blogs, you'll certainly love this book. Up next, a book recommended by Stanley at the Market Block Bookstore, Heat, by Bill Buford, and another I found while poking around the cooking section, The Hunger by John Delucie. I'll keep you posted on how these turn out. I trust Stanley's judgement, so I'm sure they'll be great!

Do you have any other faves you can recommend? I'm getting in lots of reading time on the bus every day. Keeps the crazy people from bugging me.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

We Live in Public

This has officially made its way to the "must see" list in my book. Caught this little gem of a documentary last night with friends and I really don't know what to think about it. It was compelling, intense, mind boggling and quite disturbing. The only other thing I can think of to say is...check it!

Friday, July 9, 2010

open question

So, I'm curious about something. Maybe you can help.

I eat at Subway every day, at least once a day. It's cheap, I can easily count my points, eat a solid meal and never get bored. But Subway isn't the issue I'm trying to get into here and it's beside the point...

You see, the Subway in downtown Troy just so happens to be located in the same building as the local Planned Parenthood. Yeah, I know. Now, I'm not going to turn this post into an abortion debate because I really don't give a damn about what anyone wants or does not want to do with their own bodies. Most days there's a slew of abortion protester folks across the street carrying signs and kicking and screaming for the cause. That's fine. They have just as much right to stand there and scream as I do to walk through those doors and have the procedure done. I do, however, have to walk by them, witness the disgusting posters of graphic material and listen to them berate the escorts standing outside the door, and all I want is my damn veggie footlong!!!

So what I want to know is...why are they all crusty old men? Where are the women? I think I've seen one woman there over the last three years. What's this all about? Is this a geographical thing or does this go on where you live too? I hope you have the answer because frankly I'm more than just a bit puzzled.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


I know those of you who read this blog regularly probably roll your eyes back into your skulls when the obligatory Eric Bachmann / Crooked Fingers post pops up, but hey, it's that time of year I guess. Mr. Bachmann recently released another cover album, Reservoir Songs II, and it rocks. With any new album comes a tour, so here's hoping this fall tour includes a New York stop, and maybe even a Florida stop while I'm down there in November. Fingers crossed. I need a fix.

Oh, and for those old Verizon coworkers of mine who read this blog...yes, I do still do this. After 16 years it's a little hard to stop.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


I think congrats are in order for my friend Alex and his wife Therese now that they've officially welcomed their new (and first) baby, Mary Jane, into the family. Best wishes, you two! Better you than me! Heh.

P.S. Photo credit goes to Mr. Alex himself. I snagged this from him like the sneaky bee that I am.

Monday, July 5, 2010

at last!

Hooray! IFC is now showing all episodes of Freaks and Geeks!!! Happened to stumble upon the pilot episode on Friday night and literally squealed until the dog came to see what my deal was. I have no clue why I was so excited...I own the box set of DVDs, but something about seeing it on cable makes it so much better. If you haven't had the opportunity to check this show out, please do. IFC, Friday nights at 11:00. I've also heard that IFC will follow this up with episodes of Undeclared as well, but I'm not sure yet. Check it!

Friday, July 2, 2010

long story short

So, I've been going back and forth about when the right time would be to post this, and you know, I'm just going to go for it. I thought if I posted it too early I'd do nothing more than add more grief to my day, but if I waited too long I might pass up an opportunity that might make this whole thing a little bit easier to swallow. So here goes...

My lease here at the shop is up on March 31st of 2011 and I'm not re-signing. There, it's out. The Paper Sparrow will close by April 1st at the very latest.

This little shop was such a delight to run and maintain over the last three years and I'm so glad I actually took the plunge and dove in head first. I knew nothing about running a business before I first opened my doors, and honestly, I can't say that I know everything there is to know about running a business now. But I've learned so much, met a ton of amazing people and experienced something that many people have told me they've always wanted to do but never had the guts. That said, if you're considering opening a business and don't think you can do it or don't know where to begin, get those wheels rolling. You CAN do it! If you can balance a checkbook, you can run a business.

Over the past two and a half years I've grown a bit weary of being here. When I first opened my doors the economy was in full swing and people were out and spending money left and right. Everything ran smoothly and the future looked bright. Then the economy took a nosedive and people were afraid to spend a cent, and yet somehow we still persevered. Locals were more than willing to spend their hard earned money in Troy, especially in our little store here, and I can't thank everyone enough for supporting us, even when your wallet contained nothing but cobwebs. Yes, there's always stress in owning a new business. Yes, there are always hurdles to overcome to keep moving. And yes, there have been way more good times here than bad. But I'm burned out and I'm looking to get out before I simply hate this whole thing. Plus, closing means a part time job for me and a little money in my pocket to help pay the mortgage...this is a good thing. Poor Ben has been supporting me and Olive for close to three years now and he's working his tail off on his own. I want to help out (I have a few plans up my sleeve and I'll fill you in on those soon enough). We all know that you don't make any money in your first three years of business, so I'm basically working for free here. I'm not complaining, it's worth it. I'm just ready to try something new.

So that puts me right here, right now. I wasted ten years of my life working for Verizon and hating everything about the job, my life, my attitude. I was miserable. And when I left I promised myself that I'd keep moving forward and never let a job that made me unhappy hold me back. I'm starting to get that same day-to-day blah feeling all over again and I refuse to let that happen here. So I'm calling it quits. I know this is going to upset a lot of people, and I know that bailing on a community that is struggling so hard to pull itself up doesn't help things, but this is the best thing I can do for myself right now. Does that make sense? I feel selfish even writing that out.

I'm fully prepared to hear all about how I'm making a mistake, or maybe making a smart move, or just being an asshole. I've heard it all before when I left my job with corporate America, and I'm braced and ready to deal with it all over again. Just please understand that this is something I not only have to do, but I want to do.

That said, I'm in a position where I'm willing to sell this business. The name, the logo, the wholesale and resale contacts, the names of consignors willing to stay here under new management, the merchandise, etc. I'm willing to talk with serious buyers as candidly as I possibly can. I'll be totally honest with you when you ask me questions about the good, the bad and the ugly. If I don't find the right opportunity to sell, you'll see some pretty serious in-store sales going on between January and March, and a kick-ass "Goodbye Troy" party on our last Troy Night Out. Stay tuned, folks. It's going to be a bumpy ride. And please be patient with me because this project was my baby for three years and it's going to be hard to let it go. With eight months left to go, it's starting to hit me.

For questions or inquiries about the sale of the business, please contact me at

Thursday, July 1, 2010

R.I.P. and WTF

R.I.P. Gretchen! She was a good little truck while she lasted. I bought her used and abused and then drove her into the ground. Hell, despite the recall way back when, I risked my life to drive her, broken, rusted frame and all and she was good to me no matter what. But all good little 1996 Toyota Tacomas have to eventually make their way to the big shiny Tacoma heaven up in the sky, and Gretchen made her slow ascent there yesterday. Sooooooooo, now I get to take the bus. I loathe the bus. If you see me hoofing it to/from work/bus stop, please take pity on me and give me a ride. I'm old.

Also, way to go New York State for taxing us yet again!!! $10 for a pack of cigarettes. Thank goodness Patterson's days are numbered. Lets hope his replacement just so happens to be a smoker with the cojones to undo all of this rigamarole. And before you go on lecturing me about the dangers of smoking, just let me vent here. I know smoking is bad for you. My two year old niece can tell you that. This is just insane. Raising the price isn't going to solve the budget crisis. It's also not going to get people to quit smoking.

But let's give them the benefit of the doubt. Let's assume that people are going to quit smoking because of the tax. Let's take a look at this process a little closer:

Step 1. Raise the tax on already overpriced luxury items to astronomical levels.

Step 2. People quit smoking, not because it's a healthy choice and they really should anyway, but because they're broke and have to choose between their cocaine and hooker habit and the cigarettes. No brainer. Cigarettes lose.

Step 3. People quit buying tobacco and therefore don't pay the tax.

What do these steps add up to???

No money made for the state! And a whole lot of pressure on one of the biggest industries we rely on in this already financially strapped country. Idiots. Does this make sense to you???

If you MUST tax something (I'm against taxes in general, but that's another post completely) increase the tax on alcohol or legalize weed and tax the living shit out of that. Problem solved.

P.S. For any of you smokers out there who are feeling the pinch, roll your own. Easy, inexpensive (for now...and it's still way less expensive than buying the big names), and a quiet way to (slightly) screw The Man. If you decide to take my advice on the DIY cigarette option, buy finely cut pipe tobacco instead of cigarette tobacco. Prices haven't increased on that yet, but they will within the next three months. Hey, who loves ya, baby?