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Compare/contrast on ballet flats

February 10, 2019

Apparently we’re all about shoes around here right now. My last post was about customizing shoes and this one is about different ballet flat brands.

For someone with no style whatsoever, I love shoes.

Okay, maybe I do have style. It’s like…if 80s Stevie Nicks had a low budget and wore yoga pants. Or something like that. Maybe it’s better not to discuss.


I do love shoes, but my feet are small, and a little on the wide side, and I prefer some support. I used to be a solid 6 but after two babies and fluctuations of almost 40 pounds during pregnancies I’m a wide-ish 6.25 now. Which of course, isn’t a size. And which leads to never ending battles with myself and all brands of shoes, trying to find something that fits and is comfortable.

In the past 2 years I’ve tried 4 popular flats brands, so I’m going to give my personal reviews here for your consideration.


I purchased a pair of Tieks by Gabrielle foldable flats in matte black while pregnant with baby Z. At $175 it was a gamble, but I’d heard great things about them.

Pros: foldable and easy to carry, low profile/sleek look

Cons: visible toe cleavage, no support, visible toe bump

I wore them a handful of times and then sold them. Up until that point, they were probably the most comfortable ballet flats I’d worn, but I’m not a fan of toe cleavage nor the toe bump, and as my foot grew with the pregnancy they started feeling snug and looking just a tad off, and didn’t get better after. The packaging (a cheerful blue box and faux flower band) is adorable, shipping was quick, and overall the shoe was nice, but it wound up not working for me.


My Rothy’s points


I tried a pointed toe style, and truly wanted to love them. Unfortunately, I have Fred Flintstone feet and they just weren’t right.

I was surprised and impressed by how nice the shoes felt, and the removable insole allowed for some customization. Plus, they’re washable! And you can choose from a pointed toe, rounded toe, or loafer style. The point runs $145, but you can nearly always find someone’s referral code for $20 off.

Pros: cozy moldable fabric, elegant styling, removable insole, washable

Cons: no stretch, no support with original insole, a little narrow for a wider foot

I wound up returning them. I would however, recommend them for average widths. Shipping was fast and they were packaged nicely, and they were really very nice shoes. I tried them with multiple inserts/insoles and they would have been comfortable if I wasn’t between sizes. Additionally, on my wide-ish feet the pointed toe looked a little skewed.

Soto Massimo Terzetto in black snake, stylishly paired with pajama panta.

Soto Massini

This company is fairly new and launched in 2018 with Kickstarter and IndieGoGo campaigns. They promised ballet flats with the comfort of sneakers. I’m not going to lie, there have been bumps in the road here between delays in production and shipping, and a skeleton crew on customer service. I have received two pairs out of my order of 3, and I am fairly pleased with them. They are not sneakers (but I didn’t really expect them to be), but they do come with an exceptionally cushy and moldable removable insole that provides an extreme level of support almost unheard of in a ballet flat.

I snagged mine for an early bird price of $125,

Shimmering vanilla Soto Massimo Terzetto with embroidered back, packaging visible

though full price is said to be about $250.

In the pros and cons I’ll speak to the shoes themselves, not the company or the process. For reference, I am wearing a size 37 (euro).

Pros: cushy removable insole, nearly orthotic level support in an attractive shoe, lots of colors available

Cons: less streamlined than other flats, some bagginess at sides

I am not disappointed in my shoes. That said, I’m unlikely to keep all 3 pairs. At first try on they were tight across the top of the toes, but the footbed began to compress almost immediately and by second casual wear they’re very comfortable. They are a little clunkier than other ballet flats, but the support is so above and beyond everything else that it’s a trade off well worth taking if you struggle with other flats. The packaging is lovely, a sturdy box, silver wristlet and silky white bags to protect each shoe.

There have been some complaints about quality, though my current two pairs are fine. For $125, yes. For $250, I’d want to see some improvements in quality control and customer service.

As of this writing Soto Massini is not yet fully up and running regularly so I can’t recommend them per se, but I’d keep an eye on the brand.

My “mystery pair”, Yosi Samra

Yosi Samra

I’d heard of this brand but hadn’t seen them in person, then Facebook hit me with an ad for their mystery sale where you choose your size and they send you a mystery pair. For $19.99. Sigh, I can’t resist.

My mystery pair turned out to be the Samara 2.0 Beige Serpent Leather Ballet Flat, which retail for $108. Little Miss’ pair is a beautiful berry colored velvet and the 11C perfectly fits her little feet (usually a toddler size 10).

Pros: sleek styling, fold nicely, elastic edge doesn’t gap and fits well

Cons: no support to speak of

These shipped surprisingly quick, and come folded in a small sturdy box with a drawstring bag for storage. These are meant to be snug, but the 6 is a hair tight. Wearing thick socks and warming with a hair dryer is providing a little give. While I wouldn’t have chosen this pattern, I actually love them.

I doubt I’d pay full price for these, but they often offer sales and coupons, and some simpler designs are under $100 normally. If you’re not too fussy about color, the mystery sale is an outrageous deal.

Edit: two friends had issues with the color peeling on a pair each of their Yosi Samra mystery shoes. The company graciously sent a new pair, but be aware that this is a thing that can happen.


Ease of purchase, shipping speed: equal for Tieks, Rothy’s and Yosi Samra.

Returns: Tieks and Rothy’s offer free returns, Yosi Samra deducts cost of shipping from your refund (mystery sale items are not returnable).

Comfort: Soto Massini wins this one due to that insole, but the other three are very nice compared to most other flats I’ve tried.

I didn’t mention this previously, but if comfort is key, Sketchers has some very cute styles with a memory foam insole which provides nice support. The company has come a long way from the glittery platform sneakers I wore in high school.

Aesthetics: personal personal here. I loved the look of the pointed toe Rothy’s, it just didn’t work for me. I prefer the Yosi Samra to the Tieks due to toe cleavage and big toe bump. The Soto Massini are overall heavier shoes, but still attractive.

Price: Yosi Samra has adult options under $100, the others do not. Yosi Samra does run sales and offer coupons. Rothy’s can be purchased with a referral code for $20 off (many bloggers share theirs, and there are nearly always referral links posted in the comments on their Facebook posts). Tieks does not offer sales or coupons.

Do you have a favorite brand for ballet flats? Have you tried any of these? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Albany Eats: Mr. Pio Pio

May 17, 2016

Disclaimer: The following is an overly dramatic review of a Columbian restaurant in Albany that is heavily influenced by my overly dramatic pregnancy emotions. You’ve been warned! But also…you guys should go. Because it was so, so good. By the time my food came, I was too hungry to take pictures- so you’ll just have to go and see for yourself!

It was Mother’s Day, 2016. So, basically, it was a few weeks ago. I happened to see a picture of a beautiful plate of Columbian food on social media. I haven’t had many cravings during this pregnancy (besides Mango Curry), but this was the strongest one yet, and it brought me to tears. I quickly googled Columbian restaurants near me, and I came across one in Albany! It was called Mr. Pio Pio, and my friend informed me that it is, in fact, located very close to U Albany. Because it was cold and rainy, and we already had plans to cook a steak dinner, my husband and I decided it would be best to stick with our original plan, and indulge this particular craving another day. So, I mustered all of my pregnant lady courage, and took a nap, hoping that the craving would pass.

I woke up, and it did not! My sweet husband promised me that we’d have a dinner date on Friday where I could finally order my platter tipica. I spent the week dreaming of fried plantains, and we invited two of our friends along for a double date. Although we had the address, we rolled past it and had to turn around to find it. Its one of those little hole in the wall restaurants that you could easily pass by because the sign is not eye-catching, and the neighborhood isn’t the greatest.

When I walked in, my first thought is that it looked more like a restaurant that you would order take out from. In fact, they did seem to have a lot of take out orders. Still, the menu looked good, so we sat down and waited for our friends. My husband and I both ordered the Bandeja Tipica, and our friends split the Picada. The food took awhile to come out, but it was nice to have time to just talk and catch up. Plus, when the food arrived, it was well worth the wait! The Bandeja Tipica consisted of a generous portion of steak, rice, beans, a fried egg, avocado, and fried plantains. My husband and I ordered the green sauce on the side- and everything was incredible. The food reminded us of  La Finca, a restaurant that we loved on Long Island! However, it is important to note that unlike La Fina, Mr. Pio Pio does not serve alcohol. If you go to La Finca, you need to order their sangria as it compliments the food perfectly! The Picada was a platter piled high with grilled beef, chicken, spare ribs, columbian sausage, tostones, fried cassava, and chicharron. It looked great- although I was not 100% certain what everything was. Our friends seemed really happy with their dish. They used both the green sauce and a super spicy red sauce… I recommend trying both!

My husband was pretty impressed with all of the food that came out, and asked me if I would be willing to split the Picada with him next time. The truth is though, that I am all about those sides! They are my favorite part!

All in all, the restaurant does not have the most fancy or impressive atmosphere, but the servers were friendly and the food was really good! We will definitely be going back! Next time we pass through Albany, we will absolutely stop in for dinner or maybe even order take out.

Cooking Health Review

Food Rules: A Review

April 5, 2016

Several years back, my mother let me borrow Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by food writer Michael Pollan. The book features a collection of interesting rules for healthful eating, including:

  • “If it comes from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.”
  • “Eat when you are hungry, not when you are bored.”
  • “Avoid foods you see advertised on television.”

Plus my very favorite, “eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.” I use this one to justify eating 6 homemade low sugar, high protein cookies made with coconut oil, organic oatmeal and organic eggs, should the mood strike me. Stop looking at me like that, I made them.

Anyway, I recently re-discoved Pollan with the Netflix miniseries Cooked (which I will review separately), so I went and purchased both Food Rules and Cooked for myself. Food Rules is a fairly quick read, and a worthwhile one. Here I will share a brief summary, with some of my own input because I just can’t help myself.

food rules review old fashioned modern livingI pretty much think Michael Pollan is a visionary. His views make perfect sense. They may not be popular, because they’re not convenient, and since he hasn’t stuck a fancy name on them, they’re not trendy. Following these food rules can make a huge different in your eating habits, your health and your lifestyle. Even just adhering loosely, but keeping these things in mind can make a big difference.

The dedication in the front of the book reads, “for my mother, who always knew butter was better for you than margarine.” This makes me snicker, because it sounds quite like my mother. Butter has gotten a bad name for being high in fat and cholesterol, but butter is a fairly basic food from a simple source; the fatty part of cow’s milk is churned into butter. Margarine on the other hand, is a man-made, highly processed food product. In moderation, butter should be just fine for the average person as compared to a product that is highly processed and loaded full of chemicals.

This book is broken up into 5 parts: an introduction, 3 main sections and acknowledgements. The table on contents alone offers valuable dietary advice, namely, “eat food…mostly plants…not too much”.

Section one is related to distinguishing real foods from food products, the highly processed food-like substances that fill most of the center of a supermarket. One of my favorites is “don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” My great-grandmother (the only of my great-grandparents I have real memories of) was born in 1901 in eastern Europe. Her family traveled out of necessity (Austria wasn’t a great place for a Jewish family to be at that time), from their hometown to England and eventually, to the United States. She was raised in a largely traditional, religious setting. I would imagine that as a child, her family survived on what was available in and around her small hometown. Basic, whole foods. My grandparent’s generation on the other hand, were having their children in the 1950s, when the post-WWII processed food boom began; they were the very housewives and working husbands the processed food market was looking to pull in.

Also important is rule number 5, “avoid foods that have some form of sugar (or sweetener) listed among the top three ingredients.” Did you know that labels list ingredients by weight, from most to least? Keep that in mind when you look at ingredient labels.

Now that you can distinguish real food from not-so-real food, section two helps you navigate the specifics of what to eat for healthful living. Rule 25, “eat your colors” is a favorite of mine – it’s a point of pride around here than my daughter eats her greens, oranges, reds, blues, and just about anything else I offer her. Aside from being pretty, the different color vegetables contain a vast array of different and important nutrients and compounds.

This section deals with how much to eat of different real foods, discussing meats and veggies, breads and sweets, plus a few cooking tips too! I know from reading this book years ago that when vegetables are cooked in water, that water retains vital nutrients that leeched out during the cooking process. You can save the cooking water for soups or stews, or as I do, simply cook most vegetables by sauteing or steaming, and every now and then make a pot of the heartiest, nutrient packed vegetable soup around – and drink that broth!

Section three is about how to eat, meaning how much, and how often. An early rule discusses being satisfied versus being full, and the next addresses mindless boredom eating. Rules like “limit your snacks to unprocessed plant foods” are simple to implement and can go a long way. An apple or cluster of fresh grapes, or a handful of veggie sticks is a lot kinder to your body than a bag of chips.

As I mentioned earlier, this book is a quick read. In paperback, it has a total of 140 pages, nearly all of which are a headline and then a brief description. This is not heavy reading and is so worth the time – plus you can get it for under $8 on Amazon. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy! If you’re already in the know, you may learn something extra or find an interesting tidbit. If you’re new to healthful eating, it can offer some serious food for thought that can make a major difference in your health and life.

Note: This is an independent review of Food Rules by Michael Pollan. I am reading it again and simply decided to share it here.

Health & Home Review

Maybe Marie Kondo does know what she is talking about.

March 14, 2016

I finally got around to reading Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. If you have not heard of her, she is an organizing consultant in Japan who uses some unusual methods, but claims that her clients have a zero percent rebound rate. Her methods include organizing and sorting by category instead of by room, thanking your belongings for being useful to you, and releasing the items that have served their purpose and no longer bring you joy.  That’s right, one of the biggest take aways from the book are only keeping items that “spark joy” within you. My husband noted sarcastically that none of his underwear brings him joy, but you can’t go throwing out all of your underwear. While he does make a good point, I can tell you that Marie Kondo would say to throw away any underwear that you find uncomfortable or that is old with busted elastic!

Although I enjoyed the book, my first impression was that this book did not really take into account family life. It does seem to be more practically geared toward someone who lives alone. It is probably hard to fully commit to this method if it is not something that all of  your family members are interested in doing too. I also  realized that my room by room method is something that Kondo frowns upon as ineffective in the long term. This struck a chord with me, as I remembered how hard I worked on organizing each room in our home last summer, only to find things in disarray again once I returned to work. Kondo’s reasoning is that if you organize room by room, you will not realize how many belonging you actually have because they are all stored in different places around your home. Despite my skepticism, I can see Kondo’s  point there.

I decided to do a little experiment and “konmari” my beauty supplies. I love samples and trying new products, which means that I have amassed quite a stock of make up and hair products. Some have worked well for me, and others have not. As I searched my home, I found some products stored in my travel kit, some in a bin in my closet, and some on various shelves in my bathroom cabinet. I dumped everyhing out onto my bed and it hit  me how much money I’ve wasted trying new products. Because I spent money on them, I kept them because it felt like a waste to throw them away. Then I realized that I will literally never use some of these things. Ever. If a lipstick just isn’t a good color on me, it never will be, and it will continue to take up space in my house. Using this method, I ruthlessly eliminated any hair and make up supplies that did not work well for me, and only kept my favorites. Although I was tempted to put a few things aside to see if anyone wanted them, I restrained myself from doing so. If you find something that you specifically think a friend or family member might like, Kondo allows you to set it aside. However, she cautions you not to burden friends and family with things you are just trying to get rid of.  Nothing fit the category of something I knew someone could use- so away it went! I paired down my beauty supplies so that everything I actually use fits in my travel kit, which now lives in the bathroom cabinet. Hair stuff has gone from three containers to one, and I rounded up all my hair ties and bobby pins into a small bag. Everything I use now lives in one place, and I know exactly where everything is. If you’ve ever seen the tiny bedroom my husband and I share (and soon we’ll have a bassinet in there too!),  you realize how huge this accomplishment is as far as making space!

Having tried this method for one category of my belongings, I can definitely see the effectiveness of it. I  like that Marie Kondo discourages you from spending a ton of money on organizational bins and knick knacks, as she believes this will only cause you too hold on to more things that you don’t need. I’m probably not going to thank my socks and my purse for all of their hard work, but I will try to cultivate a spirit of thankfulness for what I do have, and try not to fall into the trap of buying things I don’t need. I don’t know that sorting through every category in my home is a practical choice for me right now (sorting clothes at nearly 30 weeks pregnant is probably not the best judgment call), but after having success with one category, I may try it with a few others. My husband and I own probably about 500 or more books. Perhaps we can pair this down a bit and put a few boxes aside for the church rummage sale! If you are at all interested in organizing, I recommend that you read this book. Although I am sure it is more effective if you follow it to to the letter, you can just take what advice seems practical for you. I am glad I tried this method for myself. I have definitely learned some things that I want to keep in mind for the future. I am nesting like crazy right now, so I am wondering what else I can organize next. Although its unrealistic, I want to bring baby home to a perfectly organized house. I think my lack of control over anything in this pregnancy is making me seek control of my home or something!

I hope everyone has a happy Monday and eats some pie! Did you know that its Pi Day? Were living in a construction zone with furniture and baby gear everywhere right now, so I won’t be baking. I wonder if I can tempt my husband to take me to the diner for a Pi date later? The man loves his pie, so I think I have a good chance at succeeding!

Life Review Uncategorized

Quick- read these books before you see the movies: Room, Brooklyn, Me Before You

March 9, 2016

I am lucky enough to have spent a week with my sister in Virginia recently! I tagged along for my husband’s business trip, rented a car, and drove out to her dorm (more like an apartment) every day while he was a work. We spent time going to the mall, visiting puppies at the pet store, watching Married at First Sight, and eating Chick- fil- A. My sister also walked me around her beautiful tree lined campus, showing me her classrooms, as well as the on campus coffee shop, Cafe Moka. That’s where I spent part of my time when she was in class. The PB Moka Frozen Latte was amazing! Plus, the college kids did not snark at my complicated soy and decaf order…that time. Luckily my sister had a few classes canceled that week- so we got to spend even more time together. Sister time is the best. It was also fun to travel with my husband. I love taking adventures with him. I’m so glad I got down to Virginia Beach before the baby is born!

Although seeing my sister was the best part of the trip, I also enjoyed a freshly made hotel bed and a tidied room every day- as well as a yummy (and expensive ) room service breakfast. It was nice not to cook or clean for a week. I’d say that I spent most of the time that I was in my hotel room reading until my husband would roll over and mumble, “Turn off the lights. Go to sleep!” Between the plane, the hotel room, and the coffee shop, I read more than I have in a very long time. It was so, so nice. I also got lucky with my book choices, so now I am here to review them for you! It just so happens that they have all been made into movies that have been or will be released soon. I cannot speak for the movies, although I have heard good things- but I do recommend these books.

Here’s What I Read:

Room, By Emma Donoghue

This book is told from the perspective of 5 year old Jack.  He chronicles his and Ma’s days spent in Room, which to Jack, is the whole world. They spend their days playing, reading, exercising, and once a day, they climb onto the table and scream up at the sky light- the only window that exists in Room.  The reader quickly comes to the sinister conclusion that Ma is actually a young woman being held captive by a man Jack calls Old Nick, and Jack is the child who was born to her in captivity. Although the premise is horrifying, the story is riveting and is ultimately one of survival, and the love that connects a mother and her child. I could not put this book down. I do not want to say more and give anything away!

Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin

Eilis is a young woman living a fairly contended, if predictable life in Ireland with her mother and an older sister Rose, whom she adores. She goes to dances with girlfriends, and works a job below her education level to help support her family. Rose and her friend, Father Flood, a priest visiting from America arrange to send Eilis to America, where they believe more opportunities for her to succeed await. Eilis goes along with this plan, although it is very clear that she was never asked if she wanted to leave home. At first, Eilis is crippled by homesickness and has trouble making friends. However, once she starts taking night classes to move up at work and falls in love with a young Italian man, Eilis’ confidence begins to grow. When circumstances bring her back to Ireland, she faces the decision about where her heart and her home actually lie.  Eilis is a frustrating heroine, continuously letting life happen to her, instead of taking a more active role. It is a constant struggle for her to take charge, although there are times when she does manage to stand up for what she wants. By the end of the story, it does feel as if Eilis is painted into a corner, although she does face the choices that she has made, leaving the reader just as torn as she is.  It is a beautiful story with an imperfect heroine. Perhaps that is what makes Eilis so relatable.

Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes

So, I actually read the sequel to this book on my trip- but I am not going to tell you anything about it because I loved this book so much more and don’t want to give anything away! This book tells the story of Louisa Clark, a young woman killing time in her small town because she is afraid to ask for more out of life, and because she believes she doesn’t deserve more. When she finds herself suddenly unemployed, Louisa takes a job caring for a quadriplegic man named Will Traynor.  Although Louisa is intimidated by his sarcasm and haughty attitude, the two eventually forge a strong bond, and Louisa realizes there is more to Will, and her job than she initially thought. They both manage to change one another’s lives, and Will helps Louisa to come to terms with an abusive past, and let go of old demons so that she can begin living again.

So there you have it- three  book recommendations! Have you read any of these or seen the movies yet? If you are a real life friend or family member and would like to borrow one of these books- I am happy to share! However, you must promise to sit down and discuss it with me over good coffee and maybe this bread. I made it this morning and it is quite delicious:)


Review Uncategorized

A Few of Our Favorite Spots in Schenectady

November 11, 2015

Hi there, Kristen here.

After a busy afternoon at work yesterday, I came home expecting to scarf down leftovers and make some meatballs for lunches tomorrow while my husband worked late. I was absolutely exhausted, and feeling a little shaky with hunger. Instead, while I was letting the dogs outside, my husband walked in with burritos from La Mexicana! “Are you my hero?” I asked. “No,” he replied, “They were out of carnitas, so I got the chicken.” Still, he’s my hero. Plus, the first bite of my burrito was almost entirely guacamole, so that was pretty exciting. If you’re into that sort of thing.

It has been a crazy few weeks here at our house. Between having a lot of company, me going back to work part time, and trying to catch up on housework, we have been relying more heavily on eating out and take out. While this is not ideal, it has been delicious because we are lucky enough to live near some really awesome restaurants. So while I don’t currently have any recipes to share (yet! Friendsgiving is this weekend!), I can share with you some of my favorite restaurants in and near Schenectady, and what you should be sure to order there.

La Mexicana

Located on State street in Schenectady is a small restaurant attached to a Mexican grocery store. They do have a small room if you would like to sit down, and I heard that they now serve drinks if that interests you. We usually just get take out and eat at home. While you’re at La Mexicana, I recommend that you try the carnitas burrito and the carnitas tacos, although the spicy chicken is really good too. The burrito is huge, so if you don’t want to feel stuffed, definitely get yourself a few $2 tacos and use the green sauce. My husband prefers the red, so maybe you should just try both and see which you like better. Tips: the enchiladas there are only okay. If you want really good enchiladas go to Casa Real on Altamonte Avenue in Rotterdam. That is the best hot plate Mexican restaurant that we have discovered close to our house. Also, at La Mexicana, don’t ask for extra guacamole on your burrito. The only times we have ever done that, we have gotten no guacamole. Don’t be presumptuous, just let the guacamole happen the way its going to happen.


Jasmine Thai

I first tasted Thai food at Ilana’s 22nd birthday when I first started dating her brother. It’s been true love ever since. Thai food. And my husband. We were very excited to discover this little gem on Broadway in Schenectady, very close to where we live. We go so often that the staff now recognizes my husband when he calls and picks up the food. Our usual order is Chicken Mango Curry and Prik Pow Fried Rice, with the spring rolls to start. You’ll want to drink the plum sauce that comes with the spring rolls. I am telling you the truest thing you’ll ever hear. We have also tried the Pineapple Fried Rice, the Pad Thai, and the Drunken Noodles. We have never been disappointed.  Just make sure you inquire about the level of spice because things can get pretty hot! Also, they are closed on Sunday, when you will inevitably be craving thai. Don’t go to a different thai food place. Just get something else. My friends and I have made that mistake.

The Bier Abbey

The Bier Abbey is located on Union Street in Schenectady. You’ll go for the extensive rotating beer list, but you’ll stay for the Abbey Cheese Fries and the wings in bierbeque sauce. We have tried other things on the menu, the burgers, the salads, the chicken fingers- one of my friends even tried the brussel sprouts. It’s all good stuff. Ultimately, we always return to the fries and wings for the perfect accompaniment to the beer.  It’s a good spot for a date night or to bring friends! As for beer, my husband loves IPA’s and I enjoy dark beers. If you are anything like me, my old reliable there is always Beanhead. If you are uncertain- order a 4 oz. just to try it.


Cella Bistro

I first walked into Cella Bistro wearing cutoffs and a tank top and I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Don’t be like me guys. To clarify, no one made me feel that way but myself- it was just a little fancier than I expected. We now reserve Cella Bistro for special occasions like anniversaries or birthdays since it is a little expensive. We discovered Cella Bistro not long after we moved upstate. It’s located on Rosa Road, not far from our old apartment complex. I always thought of Cella Bistro as nontraditional Italian food, but really, their menu offers so much more. I also discovered that they use  mostly local ingredients, which is really cool.  If you go, be sure to sit in the front by the bar, where the Tapas menu is always offered. There are a few delicious constants, such as the bread and cheese fondue, and the beef rib, but the menu offers something new each day. My husband and I usually choose a small plate to share and split the spinach and arugula salad in addition to our meals.  My absolute favorite dish is the Roasted Poblanos- a vegetarian dish-peppers stuffed with rice and beans and smothered in some kind of creamy white cheese.  My husband has gotten the duck, the steak and the bolognese, and has been thrilled with everything that he ordered. If you are in the area, I definitely recommend Cella Bistro for your next special occasion. Order a French Martini for me!

Ambition Coffee and Eatery

Ambition is the coolest allegedly haunted sandwich shop that you have ever been to. Its located on Jay Street in Schenectady, a place which Harry Potter fans will recognize as resembling Diagon Alley. It is covered in bottle cap decor, cute knick knacks and pictures of celebrities. I even discovered a picture of young Brad Pitt in the bathroom. My husband tells me that there is one of Madonna in the men’s room. I have only been there for lunch, but apparently they also have breakfast and are open late enough for dinner on the nights that there are shows at Proctors- our local theater. The sandwiches are all delicious and have funky names. We have gotten the Ambition, and Jeremy’s Package. There are apples, bacon, and cranberry pesto involved. Oh- and did I mention the pretzel bread? I’ve also tried multiple soups, gazpacho, and their coffee-  everything has been delicious. Just go there.

Oliver’s Cafe

I will leave you with this one last place, Oliver’s, although I am realizing that I have a lot of favorite places that I haven’t mentioned.  Perhaps there will be a part two forthcoming, but for real. Not like that time we were going to do a part deux of our Fall beer tasting, but instead my husband drank it all and did not describe it to me. There will be an actual part two.  We have not even covered dessert. Or sushi. My husband loves sushi.

Oliver’s is actually just outside of Schenectady, over the bridge in Glenville. Anyway, it is open for breakfast and lunch, but we just go there for breakfast.  The breakfasts are amazing. If you have not learned by now, I am a creature of habit, and I tend to have a favorite dish at every restaurant that I go to, and I order it every time. At Oliver’s, that dish is the Texas Benedict. Its a poached egg and sausage on an english muffin, covered in sausage gravy. You get two of those, plus home fries that are more like chunks of baked potato that have been lightly fried in some kind of delicious, mysterious grease. I recommend eating half and saving half for the next day. Or you will probably get sick. But you won’t be sorry, because your breakfast was that good. They also have other exciting things like cornbread french toast and giant pancakes. Really though, who cares? Just get the Texas Benedict and make sure you bring cash! They don’t accept cards. Go early or expect a little bit of a wait. I promise it will be worth it.

Well that’s it for today folks! I’ll be back soon to document Friendsgiving and share some of our recipes!






Life Review Uncategorized

Thoughts on Faith and a Book Review: Sarah Bessey’s Out of Sorts

October 9, 2015

I first discovered Sarah Bessey’s blog during a time when I was not attending church. I had just gotten married and moved away from home for the first time. To be honest, I was spiritually exhausted and needed a break. After years of attending the imperfect childhood church that I loved, things had fallen apart, and my family had moved on to another church that we attended throughout my teens. Although I joined the youth group and went on a mission trip, I never found a place there. As an adult, I did not feel like me with my questions, and my half Catholic, half Jewish and completely unreligious fiancé really fit in there.

Although I could have easily been dismissed as “one of those millennials” who abandons church as an adult, I was still very much a Christian, and always felt like God was with me.  I felt alone in my questions and experiences until I discovered an online community of bloggers who also wrestle with questions about their faith. I guess we are never as unique in our struggles as we think we are, and there is something comforting in that!  Sarah writes candidly about her family life, her love of Dr. Who, and her ever evolving spiritual journey. She describes this time of questioning and time away from church as a “spiritual wilderness.” During my time in the wilderness , Sarah’s posts were among the only sermons that I heard. Let me tell you, this girl can preach- although it feels more like a conversation with a friend.

Being bolstered up and nurtured by the words of Sarah and others gave me the courage to find a church to attend.  I now happily attend a small church five minutes from my home.   Its filled with people from all walks of life with differing political and social opinions  and somehow we all like each other and manage to get along. I find the presence of those I disagree with extremely comforting. We make up quite a misfit Body of Christ, but our pastor reminds us that we don’t need to all agree to worship and work alongside one another. My husband is also welcome to attend all church events as well as our community group. Although  he and I  see things differently, its really cool to explore these bigger questions together, alongside a group of fellow travelers. After time in the wilderness, it feel great to rejoin a community that welcomes us both.

Even now that I have gone back to church, I still follow Sarah’s blog regularly and I bought her book, Jesus Feminist as soon as it came out. She has a new book coming out on November 3rd that I have been given a chance to read early and review! The book is called, Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith, and it is fantastic. She tells her story in a series of personal anecdotes, as well as passages that feel like letters or even diary entries. Sarah writes warmly about the process of “sorting” through her faith and  questions. I feel as though this is a process that many of us can relate to. The questions that many of us have about science, sexuality, politics, tragedy or social justice don’t always seem welcome within our faith traditions. However, while many of us have been discouraged from asking questions, Sarah invites us to lean into our questions and to “rest in the in-betweens”.  She writes that questioning does not mean that we “don’t value scripture” or that we are “becoming one of those wishy washy folks who only read parts of the Bible that suit them and ignore the rest.” The answers may not come right away, in fact, Sarah explains that it may take  years to “live out the answers.” Although at times it can be tempting to give up altogether, rather than live in the mess of  “sorting” our thoughts and questions, she points out, “If our theology doesn’t shift and change over our lifetime, I have to wonder if we’re paying attention.”

If you are someone who feels “out of sorts” in your faith at times- this book is for you. In each chapter, Sarah examines the types of life experiences that cause us to question, as well as how these questions fit into various parts of our lives: church, scripture reading, social justice, theology, grief, vocational choices- and so many more. For example, she wrestled with how God could allow her to have multiple miscarriages, and how her husband’s best friend could lose his wife at such a young age. We have all known loss and pain. We have all doubted. If you are a person of faith, I am sure you can remember  a time when you asked, “Why, God?” This brings to mind a Frederick Buechner quote, “Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.” Out of Sorts is an invitation to embrace the unknown and to keep your faith “awake and moving.”

What I love about this book is that Sarah is not telling us what to do. She is merely telling the story of her own journey in these areas, and encouraging us not to be afraid to examine our faith and why we believe what we believe.  She believes that we all have something to offer to one another, and this is a beautiful reminder that we are not alone in our journeys. Sarah writes, “There are many of us out here sorting, I think. This might be a small candle, but I’ll set mine on a lamp stand, and you can set yours there too- and maybe our glow will light the path for others.”