Distilling My Thoughts

Black Button Distilling in Rochester, NY

Black Button Distilling in Rochester, NY

I recently visited a brand new local distillery in Rochester for a tasting.  Black Button Distilling is located on Railroad Street on the way to the Public Market and adjacent to the Rohrbach’s Brewery and tasting room. The owner and chief distiller, Jason Barrett, provided a tour and was refreshingly down-to-earth and knowledgable. As he shared his story, we learned how he made the bold move of basically giving up his corporate job and house to pursue his dream of starting his own distillery. He also talked about the history behind the brand name (his family owned a button factory), the distilling process, and various tasting notes of the current product offerings. I recommend stopping in – it was a very educational and fun evening!

I sampled a wheat vodka (there were two and I had the one with the non-sake notes), the moonshine, and the Citrus Forward Gin. The bourbon is presently being aged in barrels with an anticipated release in 2015. Not surprisingly, the gin won me over with its distinctive flavor notes. The typical juniper bite is smoothed out with citrus and spices resulting in a profile reminiscent of orange spice tea. I knew I could have some fun experimenting with this. Thus, retail therapy occurred and I left with a bottle in hand. In addition to the booze, the Black Button shop also offers glassware, delicious maple syrup (really good stuff!), a variety of bitters, and simple syrups. I am 99% sure the simple syrup brand they offer is this one. However, I determined that I could make the lavender lemon syrup at home myself because as we’ve already established, I am that weirdo who has lavender on hand. If you are not as ambitious, feel free to procure a bottle of syrup in addition to the gin.

Let’s cocktail, shall we?

Lavender Lemons

Lady Sensory’s DIY Lavender Lemon Simple Syrup

Zest and juice of two lemons + enough water to total 1.5 cup of liquid

1 tbsp dried lavender (make sure it’s for culinary use – you can get it at Williams-Sonoma)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup vanilla sugar

I added a small amount of vanilla sugar to slightly round out the flavor because I have a fussy palate. No worries if you don’t have it on hand – you can omit or add a tiny drop of vanilla extract. In a medium-sized saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil for several minutes. Reduce heat and simmer until mixture is reduced in half (approximately 3/4 – 1 cup). Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer or tea strainer to remove the lavender and zest. The color will resemble pink lemonade. Syrup will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator if stored in an airtight container (I used a mason jar). Use in cocktails, sodas (“cold pop”), or even over ice cream. Cocktail recipes from my mixology experiments are below.  You’ll note that I’ve incorporated some French names thanks to the lavender.

The Jacques Collins

Jacques Collins

Lady Sensory’s Jacques Collins

2 oz Black Button Citrus Forward Gin*

2 tbsp lavender lemon simple syrup (above)

Orange slice and 1-2 Maraschino cherries for garnish

Top with sparkling water/ club soda.

Chill a Collins glass or large rocks glass a few minutes in advance. In a cocktail shaker, combine ice, gin and lavender lemon syrup. Shake until well combined and pour into the chilled glass. Top with sparkling water and garnish with an orange slice and 1-2 cherries. This drink is simple, refreshing, and will make you long for summer (especially in this extreme cold!)


Soleil Levant Martini

Soleil Levant Martini

Lady Sensory’s Soleil Levant (Rising Sun) Martini

2 oz gin (again, Black Button Citrus Forward)

1/2  oz St. Germain

1/2 oz Lillet (blanc)

1 oz lavender lemon simple syrup

Several dashes of Angostura bitters (will provide additional flavor and color)

Orange or lemon slice for garnish

Chill a large martini glass in advance and fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Combine gin, St. Germain, Lillet, lavender lemon syrup, bitters, and shake well. Pour into a martini glass and garnish with an orange wheel (or lemon – your choice). You can add another drop or two of bitters if needed (the drink should be apricot in color). You could also rim the glass with lavender sugar if you are feeling extra fancy. And no, I haven’t made lavender sugar yet, but I probably will soon.

Black Button products are currently available at the distillery, restaurants, and some liquor stores. The average cost is around $40 for the gin, and it is well worth it. Pick some up and support people’s dreams and local businesses. Gin season is almost upon us and you will definitely want the Citrus Forward on your home bar!

* If you aren’t local to Rochester, an orange or citrus-infused gin would probably work for either of these recipes until Black Button becomes more widely distributed.


Ballooney Tunes


While I was hanging out with Krampus back in December, I bumped into a friend who told me about a project he was going to be promoting involving a balloon installation of Jack and the Beanstalk at the old Sibley Tower here in Rochester. It sounded a little crazy but he was so excited that I made a mental note to check it out when the time rolled around.

Over the past several weeks, he has been promoting the heck out of it as #BalloonManor. I decided to stop in today and I’m glad I did. The artists, Larry Moss and Kelly Cheatle of Airigami, created an amazing balloon depiction of this old English fairy tale. I’ve honestly never seen anything like it and I’m hoping they take it (or another balloon installation) on the road so that other cities can enjoy it. It was also nice to see so many people downtown at the historic Sibley building again. The balloon sculpture is five stories tall, is free and open to the public, and the last day to enjoy it is tomorrow, February 10, from 10 AM – 7 PM.

Here are a few shots, but they really don’t do it justice. If you are in the vicinity, take a day off and go see it in person before it’s gone!

Quick addendum: There is a Balloon Popping Party from 5-7 PM tomorrow. The cost is $10 and the link to get tickets to the event is here.

It’s A Wrap

Crazy Rhubarb Lady ornament

Crazy Rhubarb Lady ornament

Well, December has flown by so I thought I’d provide a quick summary of this month’s funny and crafty holiday highlights.  For starters, I ended up making a Crazy Rhubarb Lady  Christmas ornament with corresponding packaging for my friend’s annual ornament exchange. Previous ornaments can be enjoyed here and here.  Needless to say, Barb (I think we should call her ‘Barb’ since we don’t know her real name) was well received and her attendance at the party resulted in playing her video on the big screen so that everyone would get the joke. Truth be told, I was going to make a Sweet Brown ornament but changed my mind at the last minute. Perhaps next year Sweet Brown will roast chestnuts over an open “fahhhhhre.”

The Breakfast with Krampus festivities were a big success.  I partook in season’s beatings and crafts with Krampus. I also picked up a fun sticker book filled with a variety of vintage Krampus images.  It appears there will be another event next year and I am super excited to attend all over again. I even made the naughty list! I’m so proud!

Season's Beatings

Season’s Beatings!

Finally, I’ve continued to knit like a grandma on a bender. I even brought some yarn to parties to keep my hands out of the hors d’oeuvres while waiting to play Cards Against Humanity. There are just too many tasty and tempting things hanging around this time of year. It also makes for good conversation at said parties and while traveling so I’m just going with it.  I’m looking forward to learning some new knitting tricks after the holidays.

Stitch & Sip

Stitch & Sip

I’ve additionally been creative in the kitchen so stay tuned for some new recipes in the very near future! In the meantime, I’ll be staying out of the cold weather for a little while longer.


Random Black Friday Thoughts


Today for Blog Every Day in November (#BEDN) I’m supposed to tell you what I want for Christmas this year. That answer is fairly obvious and also hella-boring. Let’s just say that this week’s employment alerts for “public relations” have included being the general manager of a Kentucky Fried Chicken. Have I ever told you about the time my mother found a snail in their coleslaw? It was certainly not finger-lickin’ good. Let’s not go there. Instead, I’m going to provide you with random thoughts that have occurred to me between fits of sneezes today. Yes, somehow I am the proud recipient of a head cold that commenced this morning at 5 AM. I did not ask Santa for that.

First random thought: I’d like to alert you to someone’s 40th birthday. A very talented and creative buddy of mine, Joe Mayernik, created this post about his Black Friday Birthday on his blog. Basically he wants to you submit a photo on social media and tag it with #Mayernik40. The resulting photos will be made into a poster to commemorate his milestone day. It’s a really clever idea and it’s been fun seeing what other people have posted today.

Other random thoughts include another amazing live tweet session documenting an irate American traveler trying to get home for Thanksgiving, complete with note passing and slapping. It’s hilarious. Then we had some shoppers wreaking havoc in Walmart  and apparently there was also shooting at a Kohl’s department store in Chicago last night. Is it really worth it, people? Has anyone been out to experience this? I’ve honestly never done it and after seeing some of the footage, I’m still not interested. I prefer my retail therapy to take place in a calm, relaxed environment.

The last random thought for today is that I need to clean up my eating habits for the next few weeks. The timing is not ideal with all of the holiday parties but November was chock full o’ bad choices and I’m feeling like crap on a stick. So you can expect some healthier recipes in the coming weeks and I’ll be choosing water more often than wine. Hopefully this will keep me from filling out a Santa costume!


Holiday Traditions?

"I may be a sweetheart now, but no one pees on the diva!" Photo from http://www.who2.com

“I may be a sweetheart now, but no one pees on the diva!”
Photo from http://www.who2.com

With Christmas being only a month away, “holiday traditions” are on deck for today’s Blog Every Day in November (#BEDN). I’m no Ebony Scrooge (yes, please cue the Vanessa Williams classic, A Diva’s Christmas Carol), but my Holiday spirits aren’t quite what they used to be. Let me give you a summary:

1) I’m not a fan of the cold and snow and it’s only gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. I’ve actually hightailed it out of the country to warmer destinations for the past several years.

2) I have no kids and let’s be honest –  there really isn’t anything better than watching kids get excited about Christmas, Santa, and opening presents.

3) Everything has become so materialistic and people get quite nasty and impatient in retail establishments at this time of year. I know this because I have worked in retail during the holidays. This is very sad to me considering it’s usually a person who is generally more fortunate than others.

With those items in mind, I resolve to do the following:

1) While I won’t be leaving the country, I will be getting out of this cold and somewhere warm. That makes me very happy. Extremely happy. I don’t think you even understand how badly I need to see some sun right now.

2) I will be spending time around my friends’ kids in the hopes that some of that Rudolph-loving infectious disease rubs off on me. However, I do not want any of the daycare cooties, so please steer clear if your kid has the sniffles.

3) I will find ways to give back or get involved in any capacity I can. I’ve already talked about Breakfast with Krampus, but my financial buddy puts on an annual fundraiser every December that benefits two local non-profits called Farley’s Friends Give Back. This year’s event takes place on December 2 and will benefit the Rahema Home and Fairport Baptist Homes. There will be snacks, raffle items, and all sorts of amusement for a good cause.

4) In lieu of our annual post-Christmas/ pre-New Year dinner celebration, I’m spending some quality time with my high-school peeps right now since everyone seems to be in town. Here are a couple of us with Santa last year. And just ignore that giant goblet in front. Santa knows that we’re only occasionally naughty.

Santa-ngelo's in Liverpool, NY

Santangelo’s Santa in Liverpool, NY

5) I will bake my mother’s cut-out cookies at some point. Recipe can be found here. Disregard the rainbow sprinkles pictured and substitute with holiday colors of your choice. I may have a few other holiday baked goods up my sleeve as well.

6) While I will participate in my friend’s annual ornament exchange and have developed quite the ornament collection, I still refuse to put up a tree for the 6th year in a row. Come on now, people. “Ain’t nobody got time fo’ that!”

Sweet Brown

The Waiting Place

Oh The Places You'll Go! Book Cover

Oh The Places You’ll Go! book cover

“Out there things can happen and frequently do to people as brainy and footsy as you.”  ~ Dr. Seuss

Can we get a show of hands from those who received Dr. Seuss’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go! upon graduating from either high school or college? My aunt got me my copy. Now, when’s the last time you picked it up as an adult? If you haven’t, you should revisit it sometime. It’s pretty eye-opening. Today’s Blog Every Day in November (#BEDN) post is supposed to be on one of my favorite topics: travel.  As we get a little closer to the end of 2013, I realize this will be the first time in five years that I will not be acquiring a new stamp on my passport. Yep. Insert sad face here. But don’t cry for me, Argentina (note to self: add the land of Malbec to the ‘Travel Bucket List’). I’m very grateful that I have been fortunate enough to have visited several exotic locales over the past few years.  I know that there will be more amazing destinations to come when the timing and financial situation is right. In the meantime, I’m kind of stuck in “The Waiting Place.”

One of the recommended suggestions for this topic was to post about a funny travel story. I’m not sure I can top what I have already done here and here, so please amuse yourself with those tidbits while I present the best of what “The Waiting Place” has to offer at this time of year: New York apples. I’ve told you about how I’ve been participating in the Good Food Collective CSA share. Throughout the fall season, I’ve been getting a variety of about 6-10 apples per pick-up and the crisper drawer was starting to overflow with fruit. With a slight nod to the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe (Ina Garten), I decided to thin out the numbers by making a pot of homemade applesauce.


Lady Sensory’s Don’t Worry, Don’t Stew Homemade Applesauce

16 medium-sized apples, peeled, cored and sliced. Reserve the peel of two red apples.

Juice and zest of 2 oranges

Juice and zest of 2 small lemons or 1 large lemon (my lemons were the size of limes so I went with 2!)

4 tbsp butter

2 tbsp maple syrup

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1 tbsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground allspice

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp salt

ApplesauceJuice and zest the oranges and lemons, then put the juice and zest in a large cast iron fancy pot (6 – 7 qt) on the stove. Add the butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, salt and dried spices to the mixture. Warm the pot on low until butter just melts and turn off the heat. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit while peeling, coring, and slicing the apples.  I used a mix of red, yellow, and green apples. Don’t ask me what they were because I honestly do not have a clue. All were great for snacking and/or baking so choose accordingly. Reserve the peel of two red apples if you can. Mine was a hodge-podge of red apples because I suck at making fruit peels. You’ll eventually discard them, so don’t worry if they aren’t pretty or perfect. Combine your apple slices in the fancy pot with the citrus/spice mixture, cover with the lid, and place in the oven. You will be baking this for about 1.5 – 2 hours, until the apples are very tender. I cooked it for about 1 hour and 20 minutes and then turned the oven off, leaving the pot to sit in the oven for another half hour. Remove the pot from the oven and carefully remove the lid (a lot of steam will be released). With a potato masher or whisk, mash and stir the apples until the desired consistency is reached. This makes about 8-10 servings. It’s very tasty warm but it will also keep in the fridge for a few days in an airtight container. The brown sugar, maple, and vanilla give it a caramel/pie filling flavor that you will really enjoy and the citrus keeps it bright.

I hadn’t made applesauce since I visited an apple-picking farm with my parents as a kid. If you’ve never made it, it’s actually very easy. As a bonus, cooking it elicits the most delicious and natural fall home fragrance you could ever ask for. So when in doubt in the kitchen (or anywhere for that matter), you safely can rely on Dr. Seuss to give you that extra boost of confidence you need: “And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)” 

Local Women ROC-ing Fashion


Today’s Blog Every Day in November (#BEDN) post is dedicated to fashion. While I certainly enjoy fashion and retail therapy, I don’t write about the topic often. I’ve decided to focus this post on the Rochester area and four young professional women who are making an impact on local fashion through their work and various social media outlets.


Tanvi Asher of Peppermint

Let’s start this off with the clothes, shall we? Meet Tanvi Asher, designer and owner of Peppermint, a boutique located at 121 Park Avenue. Tanvi received her MFA in Industrial Design from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and worked in packaging design before eventually opening the shop that would house her clothing line. Last spring, she presented exclusive looks at her Sewn Seeds runway show alongside other local designers, Andrea Geer and Josean Vargas. Most recently, she was featured in the RIT Design Autopsy show in early November; and will be at the annual Holiday Bazaar hosted at the Rochester Museum and Science center this coming weekend.  Peppermint offers stylish, contemporary clothing at an affordable price point.  Stop by often, since Tanvi stocks new, “minty fresh” items frequently.

Peppermint designs from the Sewn Seeds Runway Show

Peppermint looks from the runway show

In addition to her own clothing and scarf designs, Tanvi stocks other brands in limited quantities. She also features accessories created by local artists and has hosted trunk shows for those artists to debut their work.  She has participated in Fashion Week of Rochester events for the past few years. Tanvi occasionally does custom designs for weddings and other special occasions.  Check out the dress she made for me for a fundraiser in September below.

Custom dress by Peppermint. Photo by Christopher Cove

Custom dress by Peppermint. Photo by Christopher Cove

How we met: I went into Peppermint for a gift certificate for a friend’s 30th birthday and continued to go back and shop for both myself and others.

Social: In addition to word-of-mouth referrals, and a newly redesigned website/ online store, Peppermint has a very strong FacebookInstagram, and Twitter presence. Follow along for info on upcoming trunk shows, events, promotions, contests, and of course, pictures of Tanvi’s adorable pup, Cooper, who is often at the shop.

Cooper Next on our list is vintage clothing store owner, Morgan DeLapa, of Treasure Trove Vintage which is conveniently located around the corner from Peppermint at the same address (entrance is on the Meigs St. side of the building).  I think the most impressive thing about Morgan’s selection is the quality of the clothing she offers. Everything is in excellent condition and she has pieces from almost every decade. She also offers some unique vintage shoes and accessories.

Morgan DeLapa: Serious and silly about vintage

Morgan DeLapa: Serious and silly about vintage

How we met: Morgan had several pieces from Treasure Trove stocked at Peppermint during the Fashion Week Boutique Crawl.  I spied a fabulous coat that I liked and she encouraged me to come back the following week with my Fashion Week coupon which was super nice of her! This coat is a huge hit wherever I go. Unfortunately, I don’t have a decent full length shot yet so that you can bask in all its glory but you can get a sense of the color and pattern here.

I like my coat big time

I like my coat big time

Social: Morgan makes excellent use of her blog, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to showcase new arrivals as well as her great sense of humor.  I actually found her on Instagram before I met her in person. She is a joy to follow and you can tell she really enjoys vintage garments and working with fashion by how much fun she is having in the pictures.

"Master Flairista" Claire Albertson

“Master Flairista” Claire Albertson

Continuing on the vintage side of things is another local gal named Claire Albertson, also known as ClaireFlair.  She creates her unique, one-of-a-kind accessories by integrating pearls, metal, and vintage “flair.”  In addition to designing jewelry, Claire works a full-time job as a vice president of marketing and is also a dance instructor. She has an online shop but can usually be found the second Saturday of every month at the Rochester Brainery Bazaar at the Village Gate. I haven’t picked out my first piece of ClaireFlair yet, but I’ve been eyeing some of very recent designs with braided pearls and spike accents. I’ve always been a pearl girl but I seem to have a bit of the spike fetish these days.

How we met: At a housewarming party for fellow advertising friends. As it turns out, she was an intern at a a local non-profit where I volunteer, the Ad Council of Rochester.

Recent ClaireFlair designs

Recent ClaireFlair designs

Social: ClaireFlair can be found on Etsy, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. She will often promote when she will be at the Brainery Bazaar and post pics of new designs that get snatched up rather quickly, so you need to move fast if you spy something you like!

Flower City Fashionista, Jenny Sanzo Photo by Sweet Pickle Photography

Flower City Fashionista, Jenny Sanzo
Photo by Sweet Pickle Photography

Last but not least, meet the Flower City Fashionista, Jenny Sanzo. She is married and has two adorable little boys and manages her fashion blog and her own personal shopping and styling business. She’s an accomplished writer and originally had goals to be an English professor before life took her in a different direction. In addition to that, she is the co-founder of Rochester Blogger Network and also manages their Facebook and Twitter accounts. What is refreshing about Jenny is that she’s down to earth and presents looks that are both trendy and friendly on the wallet.  She can also transform looks from what you already have in your closet. A big proponent of shopping local, she has featured the above ladies on her frequent shopping excursions around town.

How we met: In the ladies’ room at a local fundraiser while I was hanging with two of my favorite drag queens. She complimented me on my dress and then found me on Facebook after the party.

Jenny at the Cocktails and Couture event

Jenny at the Cocktails and Couture event

Social:  Jenny posts daily on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can usually find her out and about at local fundraisers, fashion shows, and networking events sporting something fabulous and likely from a shop in Rochester. Sometimes she manages to get her son to take photos of her outfits which is pretty cute.

So there you have it: four local ladies making their way in Rochester fashion through hard work, word-of-mouth referrals, and amazing social media efforts. Do yourself a favor and check out what stylish gift ideas they have to offer for someone special this holiday season!