I Love Lamp: The Living Room

One of my favorite parts of not being super pregnant? Being able to rearrange furniture again! Among other things of course, like sleeping on my back, having a beer, and not living in constant fear of going into labor on a busy weekend BUT REARRANGING FURNITURE! Woohoo!

The set up of our living room had been bothering me for a while. In our four years here it just hasn't ever quiiiite gelled the way I've wanted it to.

Once upon a time, it was Steven's studio

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But after about a year and half of working there, Steven realized that rather than a big space with those big windows, what he actually wanted most out of a studio was a goddamn door he could close. Aka, the ability to work uninterrupted by the comings and goings of the house. So we moved him upstairs where he's now much happier to be working and I no longer nag him-- I mean ask him nicely-- to clean up his studio when folks are coming over because whatever, it's no longer the very first thing they see when they walk in our front door.

Funnily enough, hotel guests also stopped mistakenly coming to the house with as much frequency once he moved as well. The big computer probably made the room look like a Front Desk from afar.

Then, briefly, the room held only the piano. Which was SO dramatic and cool!

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I also painted those built-ins black which was a nice upgrade. But what happened after? Why did we change it? I'm only realizing just now that it's because we started to acquire a rather ridiculous amount of chairs. Seven to be precise. All from my mom who, over the spring, was in the process of downsizing since she and my dad sold their brownstone and moved into a significantly smaller apartment. And bought the property across the street from us. SAY WHAT?! I know. It's bananas! Most folks who hear that are horrified, but most folks don't actually like their parents, so. Steven and I are thrilled and yes the arrival of Amina is 100% the only reason my city-girl mom is into this. 

Their whole house process is totally wild and fun and deserves its own post so I won't get into it here right now so back to the seven chairs--

One is in Steven's studio, one is in my studio (no pic, sorry), one is in Amina's nursery, and the other four have been floating around the first floor which has looked mostly like this:

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By no means terrible but we weren't actually hanging out in that room--an obvious sign that something needs to change.

We also got that amaaaaazing oriental rug in the process of my folks' move which definitely cozied up the joint. But it drove me NUTS that it couldn't be centered (because of our tiled entrance-way where I am standing to take that picture above) so it kind of awkwardly split that (totally not comfortable) window seat area like this:

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And on top of it all (I know! the interior design injustices never end!) we have recently become the proud owners of two strollers which are realistically going to live near the front door for a few years so that space actually looked like this:

Womp womp.

So! We started by moving the piano over and I immediately felt a) elated to be moving heavy things again as stated waaay back in the beginning of this post and b) pleased with how it occupied the otherwise awkward non-rug corner.

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I like how the far leg is on the rug though, like, "Hey guys, I'm still in your living room party, right?"

Then on the other side, I grouped all the chairs together. Steven was (rightfully) insistent upon the two most comfy ones facing the windows and so, voila!

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And all this left back wall empty so we can keep our strollers there, right by the front door but not in the way of our hang out areas, and not visible from the other room.

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It might be hard to tell from photos, in which case you really must come by for drinks some time, but this set up is SO MUCH MORE intuitive and welcoming! And there is so much more room for toys to be strewn about, which is the next interior design challenge I am of course looking forward to. ;)

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Btw, it's also stuuuupid pretty out these days. It looks like fall but feels like summer. I'm ALL about it. Minus the whole it's probably because of climate change thing but oh well. 

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Hi

Just wanted to come up for air from Baby Land to say hi!

It has been craaaaazy beautiful out here this past month. Warmer than the rest of the entire summer weirdly enough! So we have been spending loads of time outside... before the six month winter sets in. ;)

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And when we're not outside, you could safely bet eight million dollars that we are inside a) changing a diaper b) napping or c) feeding ourselves and each other.

Exhibit B. Ok not really, don't worry; we don't actually nap while hanging halfway off the bed, so please don't take to the comments section to tell me how I'm fucking her up already.

Exhibit B. Ok not really, don't worry; we don't actually nap while hanging halfway off the bed, so please don't take to the comments section to tell me how I'm fucking her up already.

We're also slowly getting better at swaddling her so she can nap peacefully (apparently newborns thrash around and startle themselves which is why they have to be burrito'd) and we have FINALLY FIGURED OUT THE FREAKIN MOBY WRAP. Man, that was embarrassingly difficult for us there for a moment. And that's how I'm typing this righ

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Naturally I got interrupted as I typed that and had to feed her immediately. Which is how I'm typing NOW. Boom! Breastfeeding while blogging = new skill. 

Aaand she's done.

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We could probably work on our selfie game, but I'm still impressed with our newly acquired Moby wrap skills so whatever. Thanks for the little smile Amina!

Bookshelf: Nine Months Pregnant Reading

I read approximately 10,000 books my last few weeks pregnant. It was the best way to keep my mind off all the waiting. Here's a few of 'em:

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Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris. About the absurdity of office life. Could have been so mundane but was somehow hilarious. Told in the second person which can sometimes feel forced in other books but it was perfect for this story.

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht. I didn't read this when it first blew up. I'm her age and was working on my own writing so let's get real-- it was 100% jealousy that kept me from this during its initial wave of awards and popularity. At first it felt a little... overworked? Or precious? Or MFA workshop-y? But by about the halfway mark I was all in. It's strange and haunting and I'm now looking forward to whatever is next from her. 

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Obviously a tough read since it's about a family tree, half of whom stay in West Africa and half of whom are captured to be slaves in America. Each chapter is a new character which gives the whole book a delightfully fast pace for something so intrinsically heavy. By the end though, I felt like a few too many characters were living conveniently historically "interesting" or symbolic lives. Like they were checking certain boxes. Prisoners coal mining in the south? Check. Union organizing? Check. Harlem Renaissance? Check. Drugs and single parenthood? Check. Still, a satisfying read. 

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby. The BEST book in this stack. SO. FUCKING. FUNNY. When I read her first chapter, which is a fake application to be on the Bachelor (or maybe it's real??), I seriously couldn't stop laughing aloud. I think Steven had to leave the room it was that annoying :) Such an original voice, such a unique perspective. I've read a lot of memoirs recently but I don't think I've ever read a more bracingly honest and shine-a-light-on-it-ALL-no-matter-how-"bad"-I-might-look one ever before. And you just never knew what she was going to say next. I'm a fan of hers for life now. Kiiinda wish I could meet her in real life despite the promise of her title though...

The Readymade Thief by Augustus Rose. Fast paced, totally bizarre mystery that combines teenage runaways with the dark web and raves and DuChamps. Devoured it in one day. Sometimes mysteries just really hit the spot.

One Day We'll All Be Dead And None Of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul. Amusing, tender. I'm always interested in second generation stories (her folks are from India and moved to Canada where she was raised). Not as laugh-out-loud as Irby's memoir above, but I don't think it was supposed to be quite as outrageous. Her chapter on the cyber bullying she's experienced as a woman was particularly good.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. Another read-it-in-a-day affair. The kind of book someone would lovingly call "a guilty pleasure" or "trashy" but I think that undersells how smart it is. Wanted to read it before checking out the HBO show which Steven and I started the night before last. So far so good! Adaptations are always hard. 

Transit by Rachel Cusk. Just lovely. One of those books that's not really "about" anything. The opposite of books like Big Little Lies or The Readymade Thief which are soooo plot driven. It's that kind of writing that brings you deep into someone else's mind and points out the details of daily life with such graceful nuance that when you look up, suddenly everything and everyone around you seems more interesting. It made me want to reread Pond.

Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta. I loved reading The Leftovers. (Haven't watched the show yet, probably because reading it felt like watching show.) So I was inevitably a little disappointed by this one in comparison. It was hard to care about the characters who were all adrift and making questionable decisions while  being mean to each other. Maybe especially so since I was pregnant and thinking a lot about parenthood and role models.

Currently reading Autumn by Ali Smith and What Happened by Hillary Clinton and LOVING them both! Autumn is surreal and delicious and so original. What Happened is well, also unfortunately surreal. Also incredibly important and insightful and even funny. Amina is posed next to the book because I think about how one day I am going to have to explain to her what the f*ck happened.

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Happy Pub Day for FRED & THE LUMBERJACK!

Woohoo! It's finally out! Steven and I have been waiting oh so patiently for baby Amina to arrive for the past nine months but we've also been looking forward to the release of Steven's 4th picture book: Fred & The Lumberjack

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(Yes, we dressed our baby in plaid for promotion. I believe we have eighteen years minus two weeks until we need her consent for stuff like this, right?)

Set here in the Catskills, it's the story of a beaver who falls in love with the badass lumberjack-ery of a little girl. Beauuuutiful watercolors, a silly but heartfelt story-- I just LOVE it. 

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And how great is this all plaid case??

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It's officially out today, sold wherever books are sold, including here at the Inn's bar! Steven will be on tour this fall; you can check out those dates and places on his website here

Spruceton Inn Artist Residency Applications Are Open!

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Through the month of September, writers and 2D artists can apply for a week long, no cost stay at the Inn. Residents are announced October 20th and come stay at some point between January and March. 

Last year we had over 300 applications for 8 spots. We can't WAIT to see this year's applications! Check out previous Residents, program details, and how to apply right here

Welcome Baby Amina!

Aaaaaaaand here she is! Amina Hemlock Weinberg!

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Sooooooo, we had to drive over an hour in the middle of the night down our winding roads to get to the hospital while I hung my head out the window during contractions like the family dog. And yes Steven totally got pulled over by the cops (who graciously let us speed on). But yes we made it just in time for this bundle o' love to arrive! 

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We spent the first 36 hours at the birthing center, where, just like everyone out here says, the staff was super kind and helpful. Then we came home to the most gorgeous day.

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The sunshine, the valley breeze, THE BABY. It was simply lovely. We were all so happy to be home all together!

Since then we've just been hanging out. Getting a hold on the whole feeding and changing and swaddling and napping while she's napping thing. She's way more alert than I thought she would be which is super fun. I mean, check out this deep soul staring:

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Btw, does her name sound familiar? That's because she's named after my Moroccan host Mom about whom I've written before. I'm so excited to see what kind of strong woman of her own she grows up to be! And I just love that her name connects her to where Steven and I first met once upon a time. As for Hemlock, that's just a little a bit of the Catskills for her too. 

Ok, back to the baby haze!

I Love Lamp: The Nursery

Here it is! That is, the nursery. Not the baby yet... So as I wait with this bowling ball belly I figured I'd show you her room!

Overall we wanted something soothing and kinda neutral knowing that all of her books and toys and such will be bright and fun. So we stuck with the wood/white/cream thing we have going on in other parts of the house. Shockingly for us, the only thing made of barn wood is the shelf below the window from when this was my closet. Though Steven did threaten to build her a crib out of it... :)

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I especially love the Alexander Calder inspired mobile she has. (Happy Birthday to him today btw!) And I of course adore the little school of trout Steven painted. 

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(Btw yes that is a gaping hole next to the electrical outlet perfectly within reach from the crib, and yes we are getting that fixed ASAP. She'll be in a bassinet in our bedroom for the first handful of weeks anyway.)

I originally thought I wanted to get the Sniglar Ikea crib and changing table because they're simple and inexpensive but then we were like, Wait, when are we going to drive down to Ikea? Fuck that. So instead we got the Dream On Me crib and matching changing table from Amazon. SO EASY. The changing pad is the Keekaroo Peanut about which I've read rave reviews. (Just wipe it down!) And I got a handful of storage baskets from H&M (which is killlllling it in the home department these days). I'm sure we'll wind up moving what goes exactly where once she's here and we're using the space, but for now I feel good enough about the system. 

We went with the classic Diaper Genie which is kind of hidden between the table on the closet. The curtain over the closet and the curtains in the window are from Target which I simply trimmed down to size. I like how the big tabs echo the lines of the crib and changing table. And the rug is from Target too which I got for an $89 steal! At first I thought we'd want something totally plain but I'm glad we went with a pattern. It livens things up a bit. 

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We got floating shelves for her books-- so much more fun to browse that way! Especially when you're little. And speaking of little, we purposefully hung them low so that she'll be able to reach them. MAN was that fun picking out her first load of books! And I'm sure the collection will only grow. Steven and I keep joking that we are going to be those parents who say yes to her every whim whenever she's in a bookstore because that's basically how we are ourselves in bookstores already... 

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The rocking horse was mine and my brother's growing up and the baby monkey is Bubba Jr., my first stuffed animal. My folks also came across some of my baby dresses so I've added them to her little collection of onesies and such that hang in her closet.

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The full circle of all that is hard to wrap my head around. I can so easily remember being little and playing on that horse with my brother, making Bubba Jr. dance to The Specials in the living room... and then here I am, 39 weeks pregnant, 30-some years later... and she'll be wearing the same dresses, playing with the same monkey?! It's also kind of impossible to imagine Steven as a baby even though I've seen the pictures. Can you imagine the owner of these socks once fitting into infant ones??

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Those baby socks were a real moment for me. I was moving them from the washing machine to the dryer and suddenly I understood so clearly, There's going to be itty bitty baby feet in these socks. Which yes, is of course something I already intellectually knew but it all just flooded over me in this rush of visceral understanding, so much more real than it had ever been before. 

That's kinda how it's been in general. Anticipating what-- no, who-- is coming, while also knowing that really WE HAVE NO IDEA. Everyone keeps telling us to simply enjoy this time. And while yes, the other day I woke up at 3:30am and couldn't get back to sleep so I decided Fuck it, I'll just get started on this quarter's taxes so I won't have to do it with a newborn, I'm also officially on maternity leave and have on balance been able to truly relax BECAUSE MY SPRUCETON INN TEAM KICKS ASS. So Steven and I have been spending loads of time in the creeks--

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And in the garden--

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Simply enjoying the summer and each other.

One member of the house has had absolutely zero trouble relaxing during this waiting period...

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Rather adorably, the chair in the nursery is his favorite spot these days. As is napping on the floor halfway under the crib. And any time we've been in the middle of building stuff for the room, he places himself literally in the middle of the action. We keep laughing about how he thinks we've made this room for him and he's all, I love it! Don't know why you're bothering with the little baskets of stuff but whatever. Thanks! Looks like he'll be in for the biggest surprise of all of us.

I Don't Play Favorites But...

Guests ask me all the time what my favorite season is out here and I always wind up waxing poetic about the beauty of each. The rainbow riot of leaves and tasty apples right off the tree in the fall, the perfectly snow capped pines and cozy time around the fire in the winter, that muddy but oh so earned and delicious smelling spring as the world comes back to life...

But let's get real. IT'S SUMMER.

I mean, right??

I Love Lamp: Nursery Coming Along...

A little sneak peek of the nursery here for ya.

Every time I come out of our bedroom door or look up from my desk in my home office I'm surprised to see the crib. Frankly sometimes I'm still surprised when I look down and see a giant belly too. You'd think that after eight months I'd be, I don't know, in the know about this shit, but alas. Perhaps I am experiencing the pregnancy side effect of forgetfulness after all...

More photos to come once we've got the space more sorted!

Spruceton Road

Last night I was walking down Spruceton Road at sunset and it got me thinking about the first time we drove it four years ago, unknowingly just moments away from spotting the property that would change our lives. Then I started thinking about how our guests might feel driving down it for the first time on a summer Friday evening, about to embark on their weekends. Both thoughts made me happy.

I'm just so damn glad we're out here.

Bookshelf: The Argonauts

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

A good line or two:

"How does one get across the fact that the best way to find out how people feel about their gender or sexuality-- or anything else, really-- is to listen to what they tell you, and try to treat them accordingly, without shellacking over their version of reality with yours?" (p.53)

"We bantered good-naturedly [after watching the movie X-Men: First Class] , yet somehow allowed ourselves to get polarized into a needless binary. That's what we both hate about fiction, or at least crappy fiction-- it purports to provide occasions for thinking through complex issues, but really it has predetermined the positions, stuffed a narrative full of false choices, and hooked you on them, rendering you less able to see out, to get out." (p. 82)

Got me thinking about:

Oh so much about intersectionality in identity politics (especially on the heels of events like this), about how Americans define family, about how I perform my gender, about pregnancy. WHAT A FREAKING MIND. This books has been recommended to me by so many different people and I've been putting off reading it knowing it would be a good one and oh, was it a good one indeed.

How inviting and approachable her writing is not at all at the cost of being whip-smart and subtly layered. 

Consumed:

In one quiet evening with the dog in the garden, on our stoop, in the living room... as Steven was out brookie stalking with Todd of Espous Creel who was on the hunt for one big guy in particular he knew had been lurking for days. And they got him!

Put him back too of course.  

I Love Lamp: A Nursery Begins

I'm giving up my dream closet so our baby can have a bedroom. You hear that baby? THAT'S HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU ALREADY.

We did some reshuffling of our Ikea-barn-wood hacked dressers that had been in that room as well as my office, and now her bedroom is empty, currently awaiting the crib, the changing table, and you know, her

Since I now have to move all my clothes into our bedroom, we dragged a dresser in there which I was worried would make the whole thing feel crowded, but I think it actually works just fine.

How rad is that blanket btw? Got it at one of our favorite Kingston shops Clove & Creek. 

How rad is that blanket btw? Got it at one of our favorite Kingston shops Clove & Creek

We've got a nicer seagrass hamper on the way, and Steven and I will split the hanging space in the actual closet. Fingers crossed everything will fit. I did wind up doing a pretty big clothing purge as I've grown out of things while growing this baby, asking myself along the way "Hmm, will I actually want to wear this again once I can fit back into it?" I'm sure it helps too that in the three plus years we've been here I finally have a much better handle on what I actually do and don't wear. (Hello ten thousand sweaters, good-bye anything that needs to be dry cleaned.)

I'll post some pics of the nursery once we've got some stuff in there. In the meantime, please enjoy this picture of Waldo as he patiently awaits the stork's delivery.

WE'RE HIRING AT THE INN!

Come live it up with us in the Catskills this summer and fall as our Assistant Innkeeper!

It's part-time (about 22 hrs per week), temporary position during our super fun high season. Duties include checking guests in and out, handling email inquiries, coffee and bar service, and generally being a Catskills concierge to our kick ass guests. 

Email info@sprucetoninn.com for more details if you're interested!

This + That: Tue, June 6th

Tuesday, June 6th 2017.

Morning coffee service. I am SO INTO the second shelf we put up last week, not to mention the new kegerator we got to fill with West Kill Brewing beer. Now, if only I could drink the beer...

I am less into the whole it's 49 degrees and rainy in June thing, but what can ya do. I hear it's good for the flowers. 

Got some routine blood work done. (Pregnancy = 9,000 doctor visits.) Saw a college friend on TV in the waiting room! On Cops! No, I'm kidding. Michael is a surely upstanding citizen who works for the Late Late Show and was in a publicity bit for it. Still, kinda exciting in an otherwise hellaciously unexciting place. 

Words of #inspiration as your blood is drawn. I wish this photo did justice to how blurry they all were. Blurry display photos unnerve me almost as much as random apostrophes do. 

Continued the fun fest by heading to Kingston to buy a few more towels. STOP MURDERING MY TOWELS PEOPLE. I mean fine, you're on vacation, do whatever you want. 

A walk in the woods. 

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Afternoon bar service for the overnight guests. 

One room wanted to go out for dinner. On a Tuesday! BAHAHAHAHAH! I'm laughing because absolutely nothing is open on Tuesday out here except for Brio's where they commit all kinds of apostrophe crimes across their menu. Calzone's anyone?

It might feel wintry, but at least it's light past 8pm these days. 

Had my folks over for dinner since they've been renting a cabin down the road. Steven roasted up some trout he'd caught with my dad-- the first of the season that we've eaten! My mom was fucking horrified we presented it with the head on. Ooops! Sorry Mom. 

Bookshelf: Homing Instincts

Homing Instincts: Early Motherhood on a Midwestern Farm by Sarah Menkedick

A good line or two:

[On being pregnant and living in a cabin with her husband in rural Ohio after years of international adventure.]

"I've descended from some imagined terrain of exceptional into which I've always placed myself, always sought to be placed, and become ordinary. And then I see that I have been ordinary all along. How, I ask myself, can the most common of all human experiences be so overwhelming? How can it be so transformative and yet banal, so widespread and so unique? I've always associated the transformative, the unique, with being jarred out of commonness, out of familiarity. With being out: exterior. But now... I range no farther than the centimeter thickness of the notebook and find transformation." p 60

Got me thinking about:

Well, fucking EVERYTHING. Because of course this is kind of my life right now. Being pregnant out in the countryside, content and present in a way that would be unrecognizable to my Thai tuk-tuk riding, Timbuktu-dwelling, twenty-something self. I underlined quite a bit of this book, felt personally seen and also imbued with empathy for others who are different from me in that way that only good books can do. 

Where Menkedick feels a gravitational pull home to Ohio after years abroad in China and Mexico and other far flung locales, neither Steven nor I are returned home by moving to the Catskills. (I'm from Brooklyn, he's from the suburbs of D.C.) We did not come here to live a bucolic dream of farm and family and simple pleasures. We came here led by my desperately hungry professional ambition to open a boutique hotel. We came here so we could literally sell that dream to others for $199 a night and in the process we, accidentally, oh so obviously, found it for ourselves. Menkedick spends a lot of good paragraphs wondering if this contented stillness she experiences in the American countryside is a narrowing of her life, if this is an artistic and moral failure, if this is settling for less, giving up. I've asked myself the same things. But with less and less frequency. Where the physical and emotional experience of pregnancy is a major catalyst for this change for her, my pregnancy finds me having already drastically changed from the person who, like Menkedick once "associated the transformative, the unique, with being jarred out of commonness, out of familiarity" and now finds it everywhere, especially nearby. I can only assume motherhood will change me further. How exactly I of course don't know yet. But I'm no longer so surprised by the prospect of change.

Consumed:

Outside in gloriously warm weather, my feet propped up in a laughably pregnant-woman pose. Pen in hand.

*Btw, thank you to reader Anna who emailed me to recommend this book!*

This + That: Thurs, May 11

Thursday, May 11th, 2017.

1. A guest who works in publishing sent us a box of books including this one: Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage by Dani Shapiro. Paired it with today's NY Times article on open marriages this morning which made for an obviously odd juxtaposition. / 2. Was never a breakfast person before this, but pregnancy has finally converted me. / 3. So grateful there are all these trails right in our backyard. I think back on how little time we spent in nature when living in Brooklyn, and frankly, how little I cared; I was plenty happy living in our concrete jungle. Now? Total nature convert! Yes I know, I'M INCREDIBLY LATE TO THE GAME. / 4. Finished Hourglass. Wrote for a bit. Same box of books included The Sun in Your Eyes by Danielle Shapiro which I began under the mistaken impression it was one of Dani Shapiro's novels. Saw the photograph on the back and was like whaaat? Ooops. Still enjoying it. / 5. Walked away from the toaster when this bread was in there. Came back and it was sitting on the counter just like this, apparently having flown out when it was done, old school Eggo commercial style, ya know? / 6. More Waldo walking with Steven. I love this canopy of maples. / 7. And blue skies. / 8. Splurged on a new Turkish linen robe that arrived today. I WANT TO WEAR IT FOREVER. Also, trimmed my bangs. / 9. Read some more. Wrote some more. (Can you guess my favorite thing to do on my days off??) Turned my chair so I could a) put my feet up on the day bed and b) sneak peeks at our kitchen that I'm still totally in love with. / 10. Watched the NBC nightly news before dinner. Wtf Trump? Wtf.