On neighborhoods and community

I spend much of my work week thinking about neighborhoods, talking about neighborhoods and encouraging others to care about and invest in neighborhoods and the people who live in them. I also spend much of my free time thinking about neighborhoods too.

We lived in Center Square for over six years. Technically, we lived in Hudson/Park for four years and the past two and a half we were true Center Square residents. Before that, I've lived in the New Scotland and Pine Hills neighborhoods. Now I'm representing the Helderberg hood. In a small city like Albany, it's easy to be fooled into thinking that there are just one or two great neighborhoods. Or that there ought to be only one or two great neighborhoods. Or, if you are from NYC, you might think that Albany isn't a city, as evidenced by a recent question I got from a Big Apple dweller about how I like living out in the country. But really, what makes a city truly great, is when all neighborhoods are great. When you can go from one to the next and feel safe and inspired and connected. When there are services and retail and transportation in each. And when each neighborhood has its own character! Neighborhoods of brownstones, ones with tudors, ones with trendy restaurants and others with small specialty shops.


When we bought our house, it was a transition to think of a more uptown neighborhood in the same way. But yes, there are families, young professionals and retired folks living in both 'hoods. Homeowners and renters. Our new place is walkable, with a few notable restaurants nearby, and we need more. I'm looking forward to the spring thaw so we can get outside and bump into more of our neighbors.

What it all comes down to is community. You don't have to live in a downtown row house, or even a city. (You could live in, for example, a coastal yurt community or houseboat neighborhood!) But that sense of place, it's really important. At least it us to me.

I'm quite not as communal or open-door as I hope to be. Like many of us, I long for a bit of space and privacy. I spent years grumbling about on-street parking and street noise. I daydream for a yurt or tiny cabin in the woods. Beneath that, though, you'll find someone who longs for community.

For a tribe, defined by geography and proximity. For face-to-face experiences and conversations. For casual drop-ins, where friends swing by and I make two cups of coffee and slice up the everyday cake that is on the counter. (If I'm honest with myself, I don't really want you to casually drop. So please, don't do it. Call first, ok? Even better, just text first so I can take my time deciding whether or not I want the intrusion. Sorry, I'm working on it.)

I love that we have friends throughout the country and that technology makes it so easy to see their faces and hear their voices. But man, I long for real-life interactions too. It can happen in a small city, a big city, a town or in the country. But place matters, and so do the people that make up those places.

So where am I right now? I'm in our new house

in our new neighborhood in our small city, one with backyards and driveways but also with sidewalks and neighborhood shops and some things worth walking to. I'm enjoying our space and the different bustle it brings. I'm a small city defender but still fill my Pinterest board with tiny homes in the country. That's the way it goes.



Top photo of one of our old neighborhoods. Bottom photo of Albany Has Neighborhoods print by Aaron Wilson, purchased at Fort Orange General Store, framed at Framebridge (inexpensive custom framing).

making flower crowns

Last week, my friend Katie and I went to a flower crown workshop at a local shop. It was one of the most blogger-y events I've been too. You know, beautiful flowers strewn about an impeccably-curated shop with pretty ladies sipping white wine out of small jam jars and nibbling on hibiscus shortbread cookies. Just perfection, and I mean that.

Fort Orange General Store is a small specialty shop here in Albany that sells all sorts of great gifts, home goods, jewelry, paperie and such. It's just adorable. When they announced that they were hosting a Flower Crown workshop under the direction of Flower Scout, Katie & I jumped at the chance.

We snipped flowers, twisted wire and fashioned ourselves some gorgeous crowns. Passersby must not have known what to think when they peered though the shop windows and saw a sea of women sipping wine and shopping in our lovely floral headwear.

The bottom line is that I need to find/create new opportunities to wear a flower crown because I felt like a damn princess and wore it until I went to bed, and then a little bit the next day on our way up to Quebec City. A princess, I tell you.

Such a blogger-y post, isn't it?! With all of the pretty crafting materials looking so beautiful up there. This is what I envision crafternoons looking like, but in my experience they are usually a bit messier. Regardless, who wants to come over for an overly styled crafternoon sometime? It will basically be a photo shoot set up to look like a crafternoon, but isn't that what blogs do anyway? :)

where to stay in albany

Friends, I've been meaning to recommend this to everyone I know booking hotel rooms in Albany, but that occasion hasn't risen very often, so I'll tell all of you here. Stay at the Morgan State House Inn. It's a beautiful brownstone-turned-inn right in the middle of Albany's Center Square neighborhood. Charming, cozy and just a little funky. The building is gorgeous, the garden is an oasis and the rooms are just adorable. Their kitchen is stocked with coffee, pastry snacks and a simple continental breakfast each morning. Eat inside or out in the garden. Splendid!

Chris' parents have stayed here twice now, once in the main building and once in the annex a few doors down. I hadn't even known of the place before they found it, and what a good find it was. When they are in town we'll head to their room for pre-dinner gin and tonics and each time it feels like I'm on vacation. The inn itself is a treat, but the neighborhood is even better. You know how much I like the neighborhood. Stay here to get a glimpse of my Albany. You'll be in the middle of a great, walkable neighborhood, adjacent to a magnificent park, and a quick walk to great restaurants, a charming wine shop, craft beer retailer, the Empire State Plaza... you're in the middle of it. It's the next best thing to staying at your really hip, downtown-living friend's place. You'll feel like a local.

Just an other unsolicited, unsponsored recommendation from yours truly. There are lots of places to stay in Albany, but I think this one might take the cake. Maybe I'll put together a "72 Hours in Albany" list, a la the New York Times, in case anyone is interested in visiting our fair capital city.

Waxing poetic about our neighborhood here and here.

All photos from the Morgan State House Inn.