Bookshelf: Pond

Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett

A good line or two:

[This is actually a whole chapter in its entirety called "Willful Thinking"]

Pads upstairs, scrapples about beneath ottoman, locates green flip-flop. Straightens, eyes bed. Thinks, hmmmm, stylish. Foxford blanket, textured curtains, suave bolster, a bit of broderie anglaise and so on. Then: have I had breakfast? Swiftly glances over the banister. Sees empty bowl and smeared spoon at the edge of the desk. Next to a bottle of Hawaiian Tropic. Factor 15. Thinks,

perhaps that was from another day.

(p 51, line break intentional as in the book)

Got me thinking about:

What slaves we are to traditional storytelling and how refreshing it was to read something that threw that shit to the wind. This is a novel, but not really. There's essentially no plot and Bennett zooms you in so close to the narrator's life and perspective, throws you in with zero context directly into the narrator's brain and it's SO FUCKING CONFUSING at first. But once you surrender, once you accept that you will not be given such pedestrian, hum-drum details that you think are so necessary like where/when/how/why then oh my god, what a ride. What a ride!

How some writers have such an uncanny ability to walk you through the perhaps insane, certainly illogical, progressions of someone else's mind in such minute detail. How they can make you relate to anybody. Virginia Woolf and Miranda July came to mind a bunch while reading.


Before bed, a little each night. Slowly. It's one of the only books I've read in recent memory where I wanted to truly savor it, make it last. 


As I type this a ferocious fall wind is quite literally blowing away the last of the season's leaves but oh my gosh, it was such a beautiful season while it lasted.

Bookshelf: Today Will Be Different

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

A Good Line Or Two:

"Then, in a prison move if there ever was one, I reached across and rifled around Luz's desk, touching as much of her personal shit as I could"  (p 48)

Got Me Thinking About:

How much I LOVE a book with a strong a voice. Especially one that's self-deprecating, slightly unreliable, and funny. It's the most sure-fire way for me to feel like a character is real. It also makes me read the book compulsively because I feel like by putting it down I'm walking away from an actual conversation that might go on without me. 

How I've yet to come across a novel that has a book within a book with illustrations that I like. (City on Fire also comes to mind.) Most of the time I'd preferred to have simply imagined it. 


In one evening! Couldn't help myself. Went to a bookstore yesterday after an appointment (oh, the joy-- all you city people don't ever take for granted that you an walk to a bookstore!), bought an armload including this one which wasn't even for sale until today. (Thank you employee who shall remain unnamed at an unnamed bookstore for sneaking that to me early!)

Everything Will Get Done Because It Has To

That's what I chanted to myself when we were renovating and doing all the crazy paperwork and whatnot before we opened the Inn. Sometimes it feel endless, completely insurmountable. I'd be rushing and rushing and rushing around and then I'd find myself standing eerily still in the hallway, not moving only because I felt paralyzed by all the different things I should be doing, unable to choose which to do first.

It's a little like that right now. Transitioning between employees, other business development, and the general upkeep that just never ever ends.

It's time for lists, for prioritizing, for doing things just one step at a time. Even the biggest projects are made of small pieces. 

I'm also trying to be kind to myself. To implement the lessons I've learned in moving to the country, a big one being: Go outside. If only for ten minutes. You have the time. Make the time, it's worth it. To breathe that air. To be pleasantly humbled. To be inspired. 

Then get back to work!

We're Hiring at the Spruceton Inn!

Ever fantasized about living in the country and running a little Inn? Well dang, come on up and do it with me! We're hiring for a full-time Assistant Innkeeper here at the Spruceton Inn!

Details about the position and how to apply can be found here.

And for those of you who know and love my current Assistant Innkeeper Megan, you can wish her well as she moves on to wonderful things with Memorial Sloan Kettering! I am SO SAD to see her go, but 100% rooting for her in her next adventure.

UPDATE: Hired! Thank you so much to everyone who applied.

This + That, Thur Sept 1

Thursday, September 1.

1. Morning snuggles. / 2. Checking out the garden with Gary who helps with our groundskeeping. / 3. Catching up on some linens laundry after an especially busy midweek. / 4. Emails for the Inn. Always. So. Many. Emails. / 5. Couscous for lunch. / 6. Acting as another pair of eyes for Steven's work. / 7. A walk in the woods all together. / 8. Writing time. / 9. Wine delivery. / 10. A whole hour of shooting the shit with Gary as he's taking a break from an epic mowing day. Lots of hilarious stories about the "old days".  / 11. Steven heads down to the Neversink to meet my dad for some fishing, so I write in his office. / 12. Another walk for Waldo. Those hay bales have such personality. / 13. More writing, writing, writing til late, late, late. 

Jet-Setting Craziness in Croatia

So, Steven and I went to Croatia... FOR THE WEEKEND.

My dear college pal Alexandra was getting married to a wonderful Croatian guy, Ivan, and well, we just were NOT going to miss it.

I love living in the Catskills but holy shit does it add so much time to international travel!! It took us twenty-three and half hours door to door to get to Split. Once we arrived, knowing we had only about sixty-five hours there total, we cut straight to the fun and stayed out every night til 4am.

Cliff jumping into the sea, dancing to exhaustion, laughing to the point of tears with friends old and brand new... It was SUCH a good time!

I'm not sure I would ever schedule something that insanely quick again, but oh my gosh I am so glad we did it. Such a beautiful town, some of my favorite people in the world. All around just an adventure. Congrats Alexandra + Ivan!

Bookshelf: Gold Fame Citrus

Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

A Good Line or Two:

"Punting the prairie dog into the library was a mistake." (p 1)

First line of the book. Gosh, I laughed so hard when I read that.

Got Me Thinking About:

Water. We live in the New York City watershed; our creek becomes NYC's drinking water. It's very wet here, it's very protected here. It might not always be. 

And Watkin's article in Tin House On Pandering that I read a few weeks ago which is what prompted me to pick up her book. What a mind! What a voice! You should read the whole thing. Really! I'll wait.

Welcome back! Wasn't it amazing when she said this?:

The stunning truth is that I am asking, deep down, as I write, What would Philip Roth think of this? What would Jonathan Franzen think of this? When the answer is probably: nothing. More staggering is the question of why I am trying to prove myself to writers whose work, in many cases, I don’t particularly admire? ...

I wrote Battleborn for white men, toward them. If you hold the book to a certain light, you’ll see it as an exercise in self-hazing, a product of working-class madness, the female strain. So, natural then that Battleborn was well-received by the white male lit establishment: it was written for them. The whole book’s a pander. Look, I said with my stories: I can write old men, I can write sex, I can write abortion. I can write hard, unflinching, unsentimental. I can write an old man getting a boner!

She can write like a man, they said, by which they meant, She can write.

Mic drop. Right?


In the house, as a wedding party joyfully raged on in our meadow. See, I shut down the Front Desk/Bar at 3pm when the ceremony began and didn't have to re-open til 8:30am the next day for coffee, buuuuut I did have to stay on-site and be available in case of any kind of emergency. And Steven was out of town. This book made for a wonderful companion.


Like Desmond Tutu said: "If you are neutral in situations of injustice you have chosen the side of the oppressor."

Yesterday, my white husband and our two white friends were accidentally trespassing on a nearby stream-front property.

We'd been under the (wrong) impression that Department of Conservation law in our area of New York State says that as long as you're in the water or less than 10 feet up the shore, you're welcome to enjoy the creeks. It turns out, that's only the case if everyone in your party is fishing and you're generally on the move.

Our bad.

Hanging out in the water, we were approached by a very aggressive property manager, verbally insulted by him, and told he was "calling the law" on us immediately, which he did. It was unpleasant and surprising. Especially when the Sheriff showed up, flak vest and all, and we were in the wrong. I worried about accidentally offending a neighbor, about creating some fodder for the local rumor mill. (Oooh, did you hear about those Spruceton Inn kids?) But you know what I never worried about?


And you know why? BECAUSE I'M WHITE. 

And you know what happened at the end of all this? I told the Sheriff, "We're sorry to have wasted your time here." He said "Thank you," and we all walked away. Alive. 

That's not happening to black people in our country right now. 

If I were black, the moment that property manager told me he was "calling the law" on us I almost certainly would have ran. Literally ran for my life.

And that's fucking tragic.

So there's my white privilege. And here's my teeny, tiny addition to the voices who are screaming #BlackLivesMatter.


Next Up, Croatia!

I have been jonesin' to go to Croatia for yeeeeeears.

Lucky for me, one of my best friends in marrying a wonderful Croatian man! (Thanks Alexandra!) So next month Steven and I are heading to Split for their wedding.

pic by cupsofthy on Tumblr

pic by cupsofthy on Tumblr

ascim on Tumblr

ascim on Tumblr

 Since it's the middle of high season here at the Inn and I can't leave it ALL on my Assistant for too long, we're being total jet-setting ballers about it and going for only THREE DAYS.

I know. It's crazy. But what can ya do?

pics by ezwhit and For Life Is Not A Paragraph on Tumblr

pics by ezwhit and For Life Is Not A Paragraph on Tumblr

We'll be in Split the whole time. Already rented an Airbnb in the old part of town with some of our other pals who are coming to the festivities too. Bottom line, I NEED YOUR RECS! What should we do in Split with just three days?? What should we eat? Drink? Dance to? Make sure to not miss?

Bookshelf: Ways To Disappear

Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey

A Good Line Or Two:

By noon, Beatriz had written in her first novel, the heat in Brazil was an animal’s mouth. It would swallow anything to feed itself. (p 99)

Got Me Thinking About:

The subtle art that goes into translation. The trust that must exist between writer and translator. How strange and particular it would be to spend your life working with someone else’s art so intimately.

How I’ve studied so many languages—French, Mandarin Chinese, Modern Standard Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, Bamanankan, Spanish—and how it’s always at my most fluent that I feel most acutely my failure to fully express myself.


Also in the stack of books gifted to us by a guest who works in publishing. (She edited this one!) In a hammock, so happy that summer has finally arrived. 

I Love Lamp: Renovating the Barn Part One of..... Probably Many

Steven and I have this barn.

When we first moved here, every morning we'd take our coffee and walk around the property and wind up in it, giggling, saying, "Oh my god, we own a barn! How far from New York City life is that?!"

On our very first morning living here.

On our very first morning living here.

Ok, maybe only I was doing the "giggling". But still! It seemed so wild to both of us.

The previous owners used it to store hay and house their oodles of goats. So far, we've mostly used it as a woodworking shop--

Building what would become the bar

Building what would become the bar

Or a novel place to drink beers with visiting friends (and Waldo), even in the dead of winter.

Matching your dog's outfit is super cool, right?

Matching your dog's outfit is super cool, right?

Originally we thought we might want to have the Front Desk and Bar in the barn, but we decided to wait on that. It would entail such a massive (and expensive!) renovation, we wanted to be 100% sure it was worth it. 

So we "temporarily" set up the Front Desk and Bar in Room One and it probably only took about three weeks for me to realize that that's how it should stay.

Pic by Sarah Jane Ellis

Pic by Sarah Jane Ellis

The barn is BIG, and as I've mentioned before, at our maximum capacity we hold only 20 guests, so even if every single overnight guest was at the bar in the barn, plus a handful of neighbors dropping in for a drink, it would still feel kinda empty. And I'll always take cozy over empty at a bar, especially in the cold months (of which we have oh so freakin many).

And, perhaps more importantly, I can offer much better customer service when I'm this close to the rooms.

Pic by Sarah Jayne Ellis

Pic by Sarah Jayne Ellis

Running a Front Desk isn't just checking guests in and out and answering the phone. It's about reading people, anticipating their needs, making slight adjustments for someone who could be enjoying themselves even more.  And it's usually the "little things" that make a difference in a stay at a place as low key and casual as this. A quick reminder of where the trailhead is before you set off, a corkscrew to borrow for the wine you packed, a fresh towel after a swim, a flashlight for your nighttime BBQ-ing. Things that maybe a guest would decide weren't quiiiiite worth trekking all the way to the barn to take care of, but ultimately do make a difference in their overall comfort and fun.

So! In Room One the Front Desk and Bar shall remain. 

Which leaves the barn open to possibilities again!

We've learned A LOT about renovating since first moving here, so it's much easier for us to make a viable plan than when we first arrived. (Not "easy", but definitely "easier".) And after nearly two years in business, we now have a much better sense of what our guests want:

An events space.

We've hosted five weddings, four writers' retreats, two family reunions, and flea market to name a few. And when the weather is good, everyone can spread out comfortably around the property. But if it's raining, well, people are kind screwed. Room One is our only communal indoor space and it has a legal maximum capacity of only 13! So for events, we currently require that everyone rents a tent. Like this:

Pic by Max Flatow photography

Pic by Max Flatow photography

Which totally works! But it would would be much more straight forward, not to mention fun, to have parties and retreats like these in a beautiful old barn. And beautiful it will be. It might not look like much on the outside right now, but it was built some time in the mid 1800s in the traditional Dutch method so the huge beams are hand hewn and it's peg construction without any nails!

spider webs.jpg

So. This is what we're working towards.

Back in April we had a new, metal roof installed because the old shingle one was beginning to leak and that was obviously bad news. It was a big cost, but definitely the most responsible first step towards rehabbing the place.

Our next step was to demo and remove whatever junk had accumulated and whatever interior new construction wasn't load bearing so we could have one big open, flexible space. So we ordered a dumpster and did as much as I think we're capable of in a day. Which was a lot! Literally an entire dumpster's worth:

Most of that is from one part of the barn had this drop ceiling installed:

Which as you can see took a beating from some weather sneaking its way in. It was also filled with wood shavings, so we'd been procrastinating taking care of what we knew was going to be an insanely messy job.

(Btw, I know. Wood shavings?! Mr. Peters, who owned the property before the Schwarzeneggers, was a woodworker, so this must have been his shop and he must have used the materials he had on hand (loads of wood shavings) to make himself more comfortable.)

Yes. It was a TOTAL mess.

Steven did most of the muscling-- having at the ceiling with a crowbar, with a saw. I spent several hours ferrying garbage cans of shavings to the dumpster right outside. Tedious, but worth it! And while we still need to remove the most stubborn bits and take a shop-vac to it all, we're one significant step closer!

Eventually the interior walls, the staircase, and all the loft structure will be removed so that it's one big open space, but we're leaving that to the professionals because there's some serious engineering that needs to be considered with all that.

In the mean time, we hung some cardboard Ikea lamps we'd originally bought for our temporary kitchen upgrade (they were too big for that space, but perfect for the barn) and made a grand "table" out of some of the last of our barn wood and some leftover table horses et voila!

Next up is talking to the professionals about the rest of the demo and some new siding but for now it feels so good be inching our way towards all the good times to be had here on site!

In the mean time, we'll be enjoying the occasional beer in there while still having a laugh at the fact that we own a barn. I know, it's been two and half a years since we moved up here but sometimes I still can't quite believe how much our lives have changed! From China to Mali to San Francisco to Morocco to Brooklyn to--

Here, five miles down a seven mile dead end road in the Catskills. 

Pic by Nat Chitwood

Pic by Nat Chitwood

Yea, I'm ending this post on a glam shot. :)

You Must Be This Tall! Beard Boy!

Just taking a moment to give a shout out to Steven for all the crazy great work he's been up to recently!

He redesigned his website and it's gorgeous

Because his work is so gorgeous. I mean, right??

And the good news is he's added a shop (hooray Squarespace for making that so streamlined!) so you can buy his original watercolors and more good stuff with just a few clicks. 

He's also been kicking butt on his kids books!

Beard Boy (about a boy who wants a beard just like his dad's) and You Must Be This Tall (two snakes who want to ride roller coaster but one of 'em is too short) were BOTH featured in the New York Times in the past few weeks! And Tall got what is perhaps my favorite bit of review goodness to date:

"A thrillingly shameless disregard for the safety obsessions of our time."

Oh hells yea it is.

And yesterday he got some test prints in the mail for some final art for another book he's working on with Simon & Schuster. I can't tell you too much about yet, but I can give you a sneak peek of how dang cute it's looking:

So, good job Steven! I'm continually impressed and inspired by you. :)

Bookshelf: Modern Lovers

I love books. I wanna talk about 'em more. So I'm introducing a new every-so-often feature here: Bookshelf

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub

A Good Line Or Two:

Sometimes even the brightest people had truly no idea. (p 67)

Got Me Thinking About:

How growing up in Ditmas Park today sounds a lot like growing up in Park Slope in the 80s/90s. Which I did. Skateboarding, innocent debauchery in the park, the culture and excitement around new restaurants, diversity that you knew was shifting and maybe even disappearing. 

How everyone is the center of their own worlds.


So easily. Mostly tucked in bed, midday, as a break from daily madness at the Inn. Straub is one of those authors who can write about a world you already know, but show you all the nuances you haven't taken the time to notice or think on. 

This + That: Wed, June 8

Wednesday, June 8th.

1 up with the sun.jpg

1. Didn't sleep a wink. One of those nights full of ten thousand ideas. So at 4:45am I surrendered and got up with the sun. / 2. Then went straight to the barn where Steven (and Waldo) and I got to work. / 3. We ordered a dumpster the other day so we could-- / 4. --remove all the crazy wood shaving filled drop ceilings in the barn. Part of the process of slowly restoring it back to its original 1860s, post and beam loveliness. / 5. HOLY CRAP WAS THAT A LOT OF WOOD SHAVINGS. / 6. Went into town. Stopped at the Pharmacy which is going out of business :( / 7. And got pizza for lunch. / 8. Took a break to read more of the oh-so-readable Modern Lovers and nap. / 9. Work up rested and ready to finish this phase. Got the place "broom clean". / 10. Hung some lights, set up the world's most rustic epic long table and-- / 11. --had two well earned beers at it. / 12. The temperature dropped to the 40s, so we snuggled up with some soup and a DVD of "Carol" before tucking it in and sleeping like logs.

I Love Lamp: Trees, Herbs, and Office Nooks

Have I ever mentioned that sometimes when I'm gardening (ahem, weeding, let's get real; THAT'S ALL GARDENING IS) I wish I could move plants like I move furniture? Well the other day I decided to actually do just that:

My mom sent us some Japanese Cedars that were on sale which are supposed to grow quickly and densely. Perfect for a natural privacy fence between our house and the Inn guests' BBQ patio. 

So we relocated a few of the more spindly trees we'd planted upon moving in that hadn't done too much in the way of creating a barrier and clustered 'em together on one side:

Then planted the three new trees in the remaining space:

Hi Gary! (He's one of our favorite neighbors and does all our mowing.)

Hi Gary! (He's one of our favorite neighbors and does all our mowing.)

Yes, they are hilariously tiny right now. But supposedly they grow up to 4 ft per year, up to 30 ft total! Also, those sparse looking bushes are hydrangeas that get big and fluffy and beautiful, so hopefully soon we'll have several layers of natural, pretty barriers that will help define and cozify the different spaces.

Yup, cozify. It's a word now. As in, to make a space more cozy.

Then we moved some small bushes from other parts of the property over to the corner of our oh so charming kitchen "patio" and potted some herbs, again, with the idea to cozify that space. This is before:


And after-ish:

I say "after-ish" because we'll see how it grows...

Meanwhile, right upstairs in my home office, I had the obvious realization that since I'm clearly not going to figure how out to properly repair or move the broken, ugly radiator any time soon, I should just paint it so it simply goes away. I also needed to deal with my ever accumulating stacks of (mostly travel) magazines... Not to mention that bag of random crap.

So, out came the white paint once more! (First coat always looks like a preschooler had a go at it, right?)

first coat.jpg

Et voila!

Not the most elegant solution, but an inexpensive one that works! Just a little white paint, some more purposeful stacking, a small rug that came out of hiding, and a throw pillow. 

Now I think it's time to do some reading and writing in one of these two cozified nooks...