Echos in Recent Memory + (a couple) Grains of Salt

Autumn fades as the last leaves of our honey locust let go, riding the gusts of colder wind through the parking lot and down the lane.

We chase winter through all our days now, buttoning up projects against the press of time and even colder weather. As projects finish (which they are!), we continue to remind each other to take a step back – admire – congratulate – and (then) move on. I realize I’ve been “hurrying” for almost a year now. I – and others – excuse my life with, “when the renovation is done.” I suppose that’s ok… I mean, at some point this WILL end, and then we can all move on.. when the renovation is done, of course. πŸ˜‰

We met an intriguing man in the Whole Foods parking lot a couple of weeks ago – turned out to be a sculptor from New York who recently relocated to the Valley. A few days ago he stopped by Amber Lane (for a tour, of course!) and casually mentioned [after 5 minutes in the space and about 10 minutes of contextual knowledge of a) us and b) the project] that 1) the renovation would take us 1-2 more years and 2) it was probably fine if we went ahead and opened the cafe mid-construction (“Just make a path to the toilets. People like to see works-in-progress.”).

We’re currently mulling over his suggestions.

Something about this project begs for contributions of 2 cents – maybe a cent for the renovation and a cent for the cafe itself. I think there is something intoxicating about the idea of owning a cafe and the idea of renovating a two hundred year old carriage house. Where I struggle is in how to react to these suggestions, both externally and internally. Externally – to the person offering the 2 cents – I want to appear receptive and appreciative while still steering someone back who has violently swerved off track.

“This is our commercial kitchen. We’ll be making our own pastries!”

“So, in the beginning, you could serve other people’s pastries. A new pie shop just opened in Florence. You could serve their pies!”

Has anyone ever opened a pizza shop and, in the beginning, served someone else’s pizzas – from the next town over? ( Just to get started, you know!)

Internally, it’s more difficult. I take suggestions to heart. By nature I compromise. I see other people’s perspectives very easily and am great at mediation. I find solutions when others are at odds. I communicate between parties that can’t see eye-to-eye. But, what happens when one of those eyes is mine and I want desperately to see my vision through to completion? How do I remain receptive to the inevitable (and often welcomed suggestions) that abound around Amber Lane while still being true to my own (relatively) clear vision (and the avalanche of restrictions we find ourselves working within)? I remember a recent chat we had with the owners of a local artisan bread bakery. They are cash only, a choice that has received some backlash in the community – but has not stopped them from selling out every single day.

“How did you make the choice to be cash only, knowing you’d make some customers very frustrated?”

“It’s our business and it’s what we wanted to do. So we just did it.”

Simple, right?

I’m also reminded of another conversation with a friend about the (pending) name of our cafe. We had thrown out some suggestions to him and he cautioned that, whatever we choose to name it, we have to be ready to tell the story.

“You will have to tell the story a million times. So you best be comfortable with the story you will tell.”

Like, as in:

“So why’d you name the place Bad Coffee? Were you trying to be ironic? Or is it bad like awesome?”

It’s a fine balance, isn’t it? Assimilating suggestions. Making decisions. And living to tell the story of “why” a million times over.


All I’m doing is opening a cafe over here. Just think if I was trying to save the world!


As I finish up this thought, I think briefly of the friends + family who read this blog and the specific pangs of terror I’m striking through your hearts: “Oh no, were my suggestions unwarranted?!” “Was I off-mark?” “Why DID I say that to Emme?” “I’m vowing to never make another suggestion to Emme + Fitz ever again!”

Hmmmm… that might not be the take-away. Ok? Calm down. Keep sending your thoughts our way. It’s all with a grain of salt – from both sides – anyway, right?

Speaking of suggestions that WERE warranted though, we recently had some visitors here (other than sculptor man)… and it was SO GREAT to see everyone!

We kicked things off with a brief visit from San Francisco friends Mandi + Mike!


Ritual reunion!

These kids relocated to Milwaukee, WI last year – the same week we relocated to New England. In fact, we co-rented a moving van together and transported their stuff to a storage area in Wisconsin for them. Only crafty SF-ers could come up with a plan that serendipitously thrifty! It was amazing to reconnect but entirely too short… However, we did get a dry run at giving a tour of Amber Lane – something we’d end up perfecting over the next couple of weeks…

Before the main event arrived (aka loads of my family), we did a massive clean up and rearrange of the building, mostly to make clear pathways for touring the site.


Where oh where to put everything?!

The first two to arrive: my dad and step-mom, Kathryn. It was such a joy to give them a tour of our place – and watch their faces as the pictures and stories and phone calls of the last year came to life in 3-D (literally with the espresso bar floor!). And, thank goodness, they came armed with lots of practical advice, some definite suggestions for the “keep pile” of 2 cents – that’s for sure!

They were followed a day later by my sisters. Jennie. Melissa and her husband, Steve, and daughter, Gwen… on holiday to celebrate Gwen’s 14th birthday. Wow how time flies!

We did some good ol’ fashion family bonding at the Montague Book Mill… books you don’t need in a place you can’t find… and a quaint afternoon in New England autumn!

We crammed as much as we could into 4 days – focusing, as usual, on eating and Catch Phrase. But there was a definite missing link… my brother, Alex, and his wife Caitlyn… stuck in Hawaii with work. Though missed, they weighed in on the rules of Catch Phrase – ending a potentially family shattering argument about whether or not one can “pass” on an unknown word! (You can’t.) Feud avoided. Whew!

Speaking of cramming, on Saturday, we crammed 17 people into Amber Lane for our biggest tour to date! My immediate family + a gaggle of extended family from CT.

Wow! What a great lookin’ group of people! Great to have all of you here!


Liz ducks down to reveal my dad looking pleasant in a group photo. A family first!

But as quickly as they all arrived, they left. Goodbye to Jen – on the train back to NYC. Goodbye to my parents – driving down to CT to spend more time with the gaggle. And a few last hours with Melissa at the Smith College campus before they jumped on a train to Boston.

Until next time!




  1. Your slice of New England resonates with ours! Cheers!

    • Thanks for saying so! If you haven’t been to Montague Book Mill in western Mass, I highly recommend it. A lovely way to spend the afternoon.

  2. Deborah

    Thank you for sharing this window peak into your life, the photos make it interesting, great post!

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