I Love Lamp: Spruceton Inn, haha!

Guys, can I pat myself on the back for a moment and say that I love the rooms at the Inn? Is that ok? Because I do! I really, reeeeeeeally do! And every time I see them through other people's eyes I get so excited!

Recently the dudes of Guys on the Fly stayed with us and they sent me so many yummy photos. Check out a few below.

Now, come stay with us and see for yourself! 

Gringo Trails

Last night, Steven and I watched the documentary Gringo Trails.

It's about how backpacker culture affects local culture and biodiversity... often for the worse, especially if it goes unchecked.

This is SO up Steven's and my alley. We spent the better chunk of our twenties with backpacks and the simple goal of seeing more of the world together. And we were frankly so embarrassed of our backpacks and what we felt they symbolized to the rest of the world, that these are literally the only two photos I can find of us with them:

In Dogon Country in Mali (hence the crazy wax print patterns), and at the train station in Rabat, Morocco.

In Dogon Country in Mali (hence the crazy wax print patterns), and at the train station in Rabat, Morocco.

(I'm wondering, in retrospect, if we should have simply opted for better looking side bags, but you really can't beat the functionality of a big ass backpack with a hip strap when you're lugging it around for months on end.)

We had a wild, wonderful, life-changing time. And we struggled constantly with the question of what exactly our role in the world was as travelers. Silent observers? Guests? Ambassadors of the States? Ambassadors of liberal culture?

And we struggled with the continual chase of finding "authentic" and "off the beaten path" places. (Btw, I'm resisting saying "undiscovered" because I think that word is frankly, disgustingly neocolonialist in this situation. Oh really, you discovered that place where thousands of people have been living for thousands of years? Cool, Columbus.)

How did we choose our paths, both well-beaten and less-taken? Well, this being pre-Bring-Your-Internet-Everywhere-With-You-In-Your-Smart-Phone, we had tumultuous affairs with guidebooks. Yes kids, ACTUAL BOOKS you had to lug around and hope you didn't lose. They became borderline sacred, to the point that I've kept most of them all these years later.

Tumultuous is really the key word here, because we both loved and loathed these tomes. They gave us deeply practical and necessary tips on things like border crossings and transportation hubs. And they gave us highly subjective reviews of just about everything else. We were partial to Lonely Planet books in particular. Their budget and tone suited our age. But we started actually avoiding hotels that had Lonely Planet stickers in their windows, and bemoaning the inescapable fact that if we had found it in the guidebook, hundreds if not thousands of other people had too

So aside from actively seeking out advice from other sources (shop owners! bar tenders! fellow train passengers!) we became experts on the guidebook authors' language. "Hippie" meant banana pancakes for breakfast and lots of weed, "family-friendly" meant expensive but clean, and "big backpacker hub" meant STAY AWAY AT ALL COSTS. Because that would mean the difference between this:

And THIS:

Getty Image via Mirror UK, and "Gringo Trails" by Pegi Vail.

Getty Image via Mirror UK, and "Gringo Trails" by Pegi Vail.

No joke. These are both on the same island in Thailand: Kho Phangan. The top photo is Steven floating at the oh so peaceful beach of Haad Salad which is only a half an hour moped ride from Haad Rin, home of the Full Moon Parties, aka the drug and booze fueled shit show that is in the photo just above. 

That was the best part of the "Gringo Trails" documentary, if only because the narrative is so straight forward and heart breaking: Pristine beach with local residents is "discovered" by one backpacker looking to get off the usual backpacker trail. Said backpacker tells other backpackers. Just a handful of years later it's a 50,000 person shit show. 

I'm sorry, I keep using the term "shit show" but come on, is it not? I think an alternative title for the documentary could have been:

Twenty-Somethings Just Want To Get Drunk And Have Sex With Each Other Somewhere That Is Not Their Hometown and Ruin It For Everyone Else, Animals Included

(Who was Patient Zero by the way? Costas Christ, an editor at large for National Geographic who has since won awards for his coverage/promotion of sustainable tourism. Kind of ironic, no? The film doesn't get into any guilt he may or may not have felt, but I'm hoping that's only because it was left on the cutting room floor.)

I also enjoyed the interviews with Lonely Planet guidebook writer Anja Mutic. She was especially succinct yet eloquent about the responsibility she feels as a guidebook writer knowing full well that any place she chooses to include in the book will experience an influx of visitors and she can only hope that the local community is adequately prepared for it.

Steven at an elephant rehab sanctuary in Thailand back in 2007. 

Steven at an elephant rehab sanctuary in Thailand back in 2007. 

So what does it mean for a community to be "prepared"? Well, my other alternative title for this movie would be:

Thailand Fucked Up, Bhutan Has The Right Idea

To be fair, Haad Rin got caught by surprise. So places like Bhutan are learning from it and keeping their tourism development highly regulated with a focus on sustainability. And not just environmental sustainability in the sense of recycling all those booze bottles, but the sustainability of the local culture.

Because of course the horrible irony of tourism is that people are flocking to see something that makes that place unique, and simply their presence changes everything. And quite quickly, if development goes unchecked, there's a bajllion shitty restaurants serving those damn banana pancakes and tours giving you the CliffNotes performance version of their "authentic" culture. Yes, there's some quick money to made in it, but then what? You get these xeroxes of xeroxes of culture til it's just a blurry mess. 

Of course this is something I think about in terms of my own hotel.

photo by Ben of #guysonthefly

photo by Ben of #guysonthefly

When we were looking for locations, I hoped to find a place that already had a history of hospitality. Not only would it obviously be a more straight forward renovation, but I reeeeeeally didn't want to swoop into a town and significantly alter its landscape. Especially without having already lived there for a while. So when I found out that at its peek The Schwarzenegger Sunshine Valley House had literally hundreds of guests I was psyched!

Our guests now (all 20 of them max since there is only one remaining hotel structure on the property) are often curious about if we have plans to expand. Add more rooms, become a big time wedding venue. And while of course we're always looking to grow as a business, I feel really strongly about growing responsibly, which to me means slowly and consciously, keeping in mind everything from traffic on Spruceton Road to Steven's and my life/work balance to the wildlife in our backyard. 

photo by Fran of #guysonthefly

photo by Fran of #guysonthefly

Whelp. That got a liiiiittle preachy, but as you can see it's something I feel strongly about! And I have no doubt that I feel so strongly about it, in part, because of everything I saw on and off the "gringo trails". 

So go forth and travel! It will blow your mind. It will change you forever. Just be the guest you'd want to have in your hometown.

Other People's Tattoos

I literally gasped aloud when I read this article on Scott Campbell's art show where he gave tattoos to people WHO HAD NO SAY IN WHAT THEY GOT. 

Yup, he was on one side of a wall, and someone on the other side just stuck their arm through a hole and hoped they liked what they saw when it came out an hour later.

Rebecca Smeyne for the NY Times

Rebecca Smeyne for the NY Times

?!

Now don't get me wrong. My "?!" sentiments are not anti-tattoo judgement. It's more astonishment, awe. In fact, I think this is a really fascinating idea. As Campbell says in the article:

I love tattooing, but it's always a collaboration. When I work in my studio, it's just me. I get to follow whatever whims and curiosities pop up. With tattooing I have to get permission to be exploratory. So it's always been this romantic idea: if I could ever tattoo with the same freedom that I draw or paint.

Rebecca Smeyne for the NY Times

Rebecca Smeyne for the NY Times

Since Steven writes and illustrates books, we wind up talking about this idea a lot. The nature of collaboration and editing, of producing art that is also a product. At what point do you get to say, "Well I don't care what the consumer might want or think they want, I AM THE ARTIST." ?  I can imagine it's something a tattoo artist, especially one like Campbell who is also a "fine artist", thinks about with some frequency. Are you an artist? Simply the person behind the instrument who gives the customer exactly what they're requesting?

For a long time, I imagined that if I were to ever get a tattoo I would have the whole thing planned to a T and that the tattooist would simply execute my vision exactly with their tools. But then, when I was working at NU Hotel, I went to an art show at Brooklyn Tattoo on Smith Street and started chatting with one of the tattoo artists about their work. I asked him if he's ever turned anyone down for any reason. He said he obviously doesn't do intoxicated people, he doesn't do names of anyone but your own children, and sometimes he has to convince someone that what they've drawn looks good on paper but won't look good on a body, and that that last one is often the hardest. Because it's a three-dimensional thing, you know? Especially stuff like arm pieces that curve around. I can't quote him verbatim because it's been a handful of years but he basically said, "Listen, I've given A LOT of freaking tattoos. Shouldn't you trust me when I say, this isn't going to look good?" 

It really stuck with me. To the point that when I read that piece back in June on Jezebel where a woman was refused a neck tattoo I realized, "Hmmm, I see the tattooist's perspective here more than I would have had I never spoken to that guy." Reading the response of the actual tattoo artist who refused to do the tattoo was even more enlightening, but aaaaaaanyway, how'd I get three paragraphs deep into other people's tattoos when I don't even have any myself?

BECAUSE I'M FASCINATED BY OTHER PEOPLE'S TATTOOS. I am that horribly annoying person who's all, "Tell me about your tattoo! Oh, it goes up your shirt. Well lift up your shirt, I don't care, I wanna see the whole thing come on!" 

But guess what my reoccurring nightmare is? Like my literal nightmare?

That I've gotten a tattoo.

More particularly, that I run into a friend who then points at me and say, "Whoa, you got a tattoo! What's it say?" And then I look at it and it's an Arabic poem on the inside of my forearm and I'm trying to read it aloud for them while simultaneously desperately trying to remember when or why I got it and they're looking at me like I'm super insane because I'm looking at my tattoo like I've never seen it before and... you get the picture.

So perhaps this all explains my obsession with temporary tattoos. Tattly tattoos in particular, because they are extra hilarious and well made.

I'm especially a fan of "chest pieces", probably because, aside from my face, it might be THE LAST place I'd get a real tattoo, but also one of my favorite places for other people's tattoos. 

Anyway. If anyone is going to get a tattoo and needs a pal to sit there and watch I AM SO GAME. Call me.

Btw, this is what the guy in that first photo wound up with:

This + That: Wed, January 20

Wednesday, January 20.

7 gingerale.jpg

1. Lazed about in bed with coffee, talking about Hillary vs. Bernie's campaigns. / 2. I don't dislike doing laundry. I dislike folding laundry. This was laying in a pile on our bedroom floor for a week. Still "clean", right? / 3. Went to the post office down the road. Open 8am-12pm only, super small-town-y and casual. Paul the Postmaster always make fun of me rushing around in there but I think I have NYC Post Office PTSD where I get all nervous that an enormous line is going to form behind me and everyone in it will want to kill me for not having everything properly packaged and addressed before arriving. / 4. Passed Smokey the horse on the way home. Had to stop and say hi. / 5. Got this book in the mail. Knew I'd have to read it all in one day, so I did. *Tears everywhere* / 6. Took a break to go walking in the woods with Steven (and Waldo). / 7. It was fun to go bush-wacking off-trail through the snow. / 8. Afternoon snack. Btw, I think Not Your Father's Rootbeer is better than the Gingerale. / 9. Made a butternut squash, mushroom, kale soup for dinner. / 10. Dog walks in the moonlight. / 11. Watched "Spotlight". Just lots of eeeeeeasy, lighthearted media consumed today...! Wishing we had another episode left of "Last Man On Earth" to lighten things up!

I Love Lamp: Ikea Hacking My Way To A Dream Closet

First off I will begin with the confession that yes, I am mildly embarrassed that I have an entire room devoted to my closet. But I'm also SUPER EXCITED that I have an entire room devoted to my closet so that's that.

Once upon a time it had a loft for a twin bed that we demo'd

I then painted the room white--

--and basically procrastinated finishing it because it was... the wrong white. Which I'd just gone through with the bathroom so I was over it. 

In addition to not being too pleased with the twinge of blue in the white, I was also having trouble settling on a good lay out. I thought I'd wanted to have these pipe racks for all my dresses and exposed shelves for all my shoes, so I laid things out where they'd be... and lived like that for, oh, NINE MONTHS. This is the only photo evidence because I was so embarrassed:

Not pictured are the piles of shirts, pants, and sweaters to the right. Yes, actual piles. Very nicely folded, but piles on the floor nonetheless.

To be fair, I had a VERY BUSY summer and fall at the Inn. And it's hard to spend any time off putzing around in a closet when it could be spent swimming in the river or BBQing in the garden etc etc. 

But when we came back from Mexico I was like, "Enough of this shit." I ponied up and re-painted the room with the leftover (good) paint from the bathroom and while it was tedious it only took a few hours and it was much, MUCH better. More importantly though, I had the epiphany that I didn't want to look at all my clothes. That the whole exposed closet thing didn't feel boutiquey and cool. It felt loud and cluttered. I really like my clothes, but they look pretty bad all together. Fuzzy plaids with silky florals and such.

So I thought about getting a big armoire, or building shelves within the small closet. But I just couldn't picture what kind of armoire I'd want, or exactly how the shelves would work. So I thought about the other parts of the house that I like the best and what we've done there, like my home office:

Ikea hack with some barn wood! Of course! Duh. A thousand times duh. 

Luckily we had two white Ikea shelves from our studio back in Brooklyn collecting dust in the structure where we keep firewood because we were never quiiiite inspired enough to bring them to the dump. Lazy wins the day! So we brought them up and I cleaned them out thoroughly. 

And rather than trying to get a rod to stay in the shitty not-even-dry-wall situation within the small closet, we simply put one of the free standing Ikea racks we already had in it (which yes, required some mild disassembling):

Steven then braved the cold and went to the barn to make me some barn wood doors for the shelves.

Which we then attached with some pretty basic hinges et voila!

Between the two shelves I managed to store all my pants, shirts, sweaters, scarves, and summer shoes. (Did I mention Steven and I Marie Kondo'd our clothes over the summer? GAME CHANGER. Mother effing game changer guys. Get rid of everything that doesn't give you a little jolt of joy. Just do it!) I also bought some baskets I'd been coveting for a while now from Connected Goods to hold my socks and underwear. I put my jewelry in a few small containers I already owned and hung some necklaces on my lamp for easy untangled access. (Because oh my god how rage inducing is a tangled necklace, amiright?!)

By the window, over the radiator, we hung a simple shelf of one piece of barnwood and two L brackets to be my "vanity".

The bright natural light is amazing and terrifying. It keeps me rather religious about my skincare. 

My favorite part though, is my "boutique" table which was Steven's idea. We were standing in the room, trying to figure out the best flow and I said there was something missing. He was like, "What if you kept your boutique idea and had a little table with fancy lady things that you like on it?"

Yes, I'm pretty sure he said "fancy lady things". Or something just as frilly but either way he was totally right! It makes me feel like my closet is a fancy store, but everything I pick up I already own. Very gentle on the wallet you see.

As soon as he mentioned the table this was the exact shape/material I imagined-- white, shiny, circular, strong but delicate. And lucky for me, West Elm had this in stock and on sale!

I have yet to hang a curtain over the small closet door, but I'm thinking I'm going to use the material from this nice hammock we bought in Colombia a handful of years ago that proved to be more pretty than functional. I'll post a pic once that's up. 

So there it is! Unsurprisingly, having a nice closet has re-inspired me to dress with more care. To wear that chifon skirt even though it's twenty degrees (yes, with leggings under it), or put on a bright pop of lipstick and a bold bracelet if I'm layering myself in grey cashmeres. It can be easy to get in a jeans/sweater/winter boots rut out here. Here's to keeping that up! 

Vintage Menu Love

The New York Public Library just released more public domain images and oh my gosh it's such a wonderful time suck. You can search by color, date, collection... 

I just spent the morning looking at their collection of menus. Yup, menus. 

El Diablo Y La Sandia: The Coolest Place To Stay In Oaxaca City

There's nothing like staying at someone else's hotel when you spend all the rest of your time running one.

The potential downside is of course that you have become VERY PICKY and way, waaaay too cognizant of every detail that goes into the creation and operation of a place, but the upside is that you enjoy the good service and design you come across even more.

Having done a little Trip Advisor research that was then confirmed by some word of mouth praise, Steven and I decided to have our home base in Oaxaca City be the Boca Del Monte location of El Diablo Y La Sandia.

"The Devil and Watermelon". ADORABLE. Not to mention, those illustrations. ALSO ADORABLE.

The neighborhood was beautiful, laid back yet lively, very walkable.

And the B&B was such a lovely sanctuary, such a great place to put up our tired feet after miles upon miles of walking.

I really didn't photograph it enough. This is just one view of the multiple terraces, and I never snapped a pic of the communal kitchen/hang out spot which trust me, is usually something that makes me cringe but was done quite nicely in smooth cement and local pottery etc.

We spent the first few nights in the Arbol room. Two beds and a communal bath, but it was all that was available so we took it. It turned out to be super cute and comfy. We treated the twin bed like it was a couch.

Then we moved across the courtyard to the Palma which was suuuuper delightful.

I suppose my enthusiasm is unsurprising given my obsession with whitewash, local textiles, concrete, and indoor plants. But where I think this B&B succeeds is not just in its fabulous décor, but in its attention to detail as related to service. The sombreros in each room that you can use while reading on the terrace, the well designed paper map of favorite spots in the area that you can tuck in your pocket for your daily adventures, your cup of coffee that is never empty no matter how much you drink of it thanks to the thoughtful breakfast service. 

Maria is the owner's name. And needless to say we shared some wonderful talks about what it's like to be at the helm of an operation like this. She is doing a kick ass job and I wish her nothing but the best! If you're looking for a place to stay in Oaxaca, look no further. Trust me! 

Side story I have to mention:

One morning, Steven stumbled out of the room to grab some coffee and he saw a woman at the B&B entrance with her bags. He couldn't help himself and went into autopilot, being so used to helping out guests at our Inn. "Are you checking in?" he asked. He didn't quite understand her answer. "I don't work here," he clarified. "I'm just a guest, but come in, I'm sure someone at breakfast can help you."

Of course it turns out that was Maria. 

She'd been out of town for our first two nights, and we didn't know what she looked like. When we all figured it out later it was hilarious. She said she was just so confused, fresh off her long flight. That she'd wanted to tell him, "I know you don't work here because I didn't hire you." Anyway. You can take the innkeepers away from their Inn but you can't keep the hospitality service at bay.

A Few Things Learned On The Road Again in Mexico

1. I like the taste of grasshoppers.

They're a Oaxacan speciality called chipulines and they're roasted in chili and garlic and you put 'em on top of guacamole and they're DELICIOUS.

2. If we ever get another dog, it's gonna be from Mexico.

Because every single dog we came across, from the beaches of Oaxaca to the middle of Mexico City, were sooooooooo chill. And amazing off leash. And never fought with each other. It was adorable (and it made me miss Waldo so bad I quite literally shed a tear when we reunited). 

3. We might be too old for hostels.

Or maybe it's the fact that since we last stayed in a hostel we've opened our own, verrrrrrry quiet hotel and so we've gotten soft. Either way, I don't feel the need to ever share bathroom with a pack of twenty year old Australians again. Or to attend any kind of communal "movie night" in a lobby.

I'm making a bit of a joke about it here, but this was actually a very serious moment for me and Steven. Here we were, having traveled all over the world together, having stayed in a huge variety of bizarre and downright questionable places, having written a goddamn book about this kind of stuff, wondering if we were suddenly too old for this shit. Or, gasp, not adventurous enough anymore..?! There was some serious soul searching done on the beach on both our parts and we ultimately concluded... that the answer is of course a combination of many things but yes we are little too old for this shit, and yes we are spoiled by our own Inn, and no that does not mean that we don't have a sense of adventure.

(RIGHT?!) 

4. Steven will find a way to fish anywhere we go now.

'Nuff said.

Also-- traveling right before high season begins is a great way to get what feels like exclusive access to stuff that's usually super crowded. Like sunrise boat rides where you swim with dolphins. (And fish too of course.)

5. Sometimes flying within the country is totally worth it even if it's on a 13 seater prop plane and the flight itself is SUPER SCARY.

But also kind of exciting. I mean, we could literally tap the pilot on the shoulder to ask him a question. Like: "If you have an allergic reaction to whatever you just had for lunch and black out, how do I land this thing?" All in all it was totally worth paying the fifty more dollars each to take a thirty minute flight vs. the ten hour puke-inducing bus ride through the mountains. (Also filed under, "Suddenly Too Old For This Shit".)

6. We heart bartenders around the world. 

Ok, so maybe that's in no way a new realization, but it was reaffirmed this trip for sure.

That's Gregory on the left and Asis in the middle. We met Asis at a mescal bar in Oaxaca City and he offered to take us to his family's 125 year old distillery outside of town that weekend. BECAUSE WE STILL HAVE A SENSE OF ADVENTURE WE SAID YES. (Ahem.) And oh my gosh was it fun! We actually wound up going all over the countryside, to three different distilleries and this little waterfall/cave, all the while sipping on mescal after mescal after mescal, asking questions and making terrible jokes in terrible Spanish. 

And you know what? Despite all the mescal consumed, I'm probably going to remember that day for a long, long time. There's simply nothing like cruising around with a local for a day, no matter what you get up to.

 6. WiFi (nearly) everywhere makes travel better and worse.

Oaxaca City.jpg

Better because a) I could easily stay in touch with my Assistant Innkeeper about anything business related b) there was a world of recommendations about what to do and where to eat/stay at our fingertips at any given moment.

Worse because a) I could easily stay in touch with my Assistant Innkeeper about anything business related b) there was a world of recommendations about what to do and where to eat/stay at our fingertips at any given moment.

Yes, those are the same reasons.  Although if I'm gonna be totally fair the "Better" list should also include c) we could easily book flights and rooms on our own without having to mess around with getting local phone credit and/or getting our point across in another language. 

But point b especially was hard. Part of traveling is simply wandering and being present somewhere new. And when you have the Internet to tell you about the bajllions of really cool things you could potentially be missing out on doing at this new place, it gets overwhelming. And suddenly just strolling from plaza to plaza doesn't seem like enough. Even though IT IS TOTALLY ENOUGH. 

It's not even been three years since our last big trip, but this was a huuuuuuuge change. And I'm clearly feeling torn about it.

7. It's so much fun to read a book by a local author.

Local voices, local perspective, stories that take place on the streets you're walking. It's even more fun when it's part of a super cool art/literary project! Our pal John at Community Bookstore recommended we pick up "The Story of My Teeth" by Valeri Luiselli and it was so. freaking. good! She was commissioned by the arts foundation associated with the Jumex Juice factory to write a serialized novel that would be read aloud to the factory workers in the tradition of cigar factory readers in Cuba back in the day who would read stuff like Dickens aloud to everyone as they rolled the cigars. All while trying to create a bridge of sorts between the Jumex Juice factory and their museums. I don't want to say anything about the story itself because it was such a strange pleasure of a tale to dive into blind. But basically, hurry up and go read it. And make sure you ask John for a rec next time you're going on a trip. 

8. Private infinity pools make for great Author Photos. 

Amiright?

This is Hotel Escondido. Aka, one of the best hotels I've ever stayed at in the entire world. More to come on our many different accommodations in my next post!

Off to Mexico!

Monday morning Steven and I, we vamos a Mexico!

We haven't taken a big trip since our honeymoon in Greece two and half years ago. (That's the terrible irony about being a traveler who opens a hotel. )

At the oh so amazing San Giorgio hotel in Mykonos, Greece.

At the oh so amazing San Giorgio hotel in Mykonos, Greece.

That trip was wonderful for so many reasons, especially because it was there, one night on a beach in Crete, that we had the idea to open a hotel in the Catskills! And while yes, the dream to open a hotel had been brewing in my mind since we lived in Morocco, it wasn't until Greece that it became crystal clear exactly where this dream hotel should be. 

So, thank you Greece! Or more precisely, thank you Travel for doing what you do best: opening our hearts and minds to paths previously unconsidered. 

We're flying into Oaxaca and out of Mexico City so we'll be getting both our beach and our city on. I cannot WAIT for the mezcal and the tacos and the hammocks and the conversations with new friends... If anyone has any recommendations, lemme know!

The one place we have booked right now is three nights at a kind of a sister hotel to our favorite hotel in Greece (the San Giorgio in Mykonos): Hotel Escondido

photo by Christopher Sturman for the NY Times T Magazine

photo by Christopher Sturman for the NY Times T Magazine

It's the big splurge of the trip, but I've heard such fabulous things and besides, it's toooooootally research. I'm sure I'll learn a thing or two!

I'm also excited to hit up the art/residency center Casa Wabi right next door and see what they're all about.

And yes, the Inn will be closed to guests when we're out of town, though we will have a buddy house-and-Waldo sitting when we're gone. No, Waldo did not make the packing list cut, haha!

Hasta la huego!

 

This + That: Wed, November 18

Wednesday, November 18.

1. An administrative day. Tidying up lots of odds and ends before our TRIP TO MEXICO next week!! / 2. A neighbor knocked on our door to tell us there were two bald eagles hanging out on our property. So. Bad. Ass. / 3. Generators running their weekly tests. This one's got a "I'm working but not 100% happy" yellow light. Sigh. Always something. / 4. Checking on vacant rooms, making sure the heat's turned off. / 5. Made couscous with leftover beef stew, chickpeas, and uhhhh, couscous of course. We're trying to work our way through everything perishable in the house before our trip. / 6. Moody, moody weather. I'm glad we have Waldo for a thousand reasons, but one them is that it gets me out of the house even when it's not particularly welcoming out. / 7. No more leaves. Well, plenty of leaves! They're just all on the ground. / 8. Waldo. Lovingly looking at Steven. Seriously. / 9. So. Much. Desk. Work. / 10. A welcome interruption from Steven has he runs his latest children's book revision by me. / 11. When it gets dark at 4:30pm, working til 5:30pm feels so late. / 12. Chinese for dinner courtesy of chef Steven.

I Love Lamp: Ikea Sinnerlig Light

Apparently I'm one of those people who not only knows about but caaaares about when Ikea produces a limited line with a designer. Because it turns, some of my favorite pieces of furniture are from special Ikea collections. Like this crazy yellow chair from their 2013 PS line:

Or this PS Vago outdoor chair that lives in Room 7 of our Inn:

Or this PS Gullholmen chair that's lived all over our house and currently resides in our bedroom:

Ok, I guess it's sounding like I'm mostly obsessed with their oddly shaped chairs. Fair enough. HOWEVER, I got really amped about their Sinnerlig collection designed by Ilse Crawford.

Natural fibers, earthy tones, clean but comfy lines... THIS IS THE STUFF OF MY INTERIOR DESIGN DREAMS. (Not to mention the plants and the concretes floors from the shoot...) And Ikea has been torturing me for months! Mostly accidentally in the form of Scandinavian design bloggers who all got a hold of this stuff eons ago because Ikea released the line out there first. 

So when Steven and I found ourselves in the Brooklyn Ikea this past week, supposedly just getting a few replacement door mats and lamps and hangers (we entered via the check-out exit and went only to that last part with all the accessories, that's how dedicated we were to having a quick trip!), I simply couldn't resist the Sinngerlig light. 

Luckily Steven dug it too. So we brought one home.

We had to do a little hacking since we couldn't install something with direct wiring right above our dining room table. We got one of those $8 cords (and $16 bulb! they get you with the bulbs) and strung it up with two hooks. I thiiiiink I'm cool with the cord as is. We decided to go with black instead of white and really commit to the whole "I know, you can see the cord" thing. Kinda like girls wearing lacy black bras under white tshirts, ya know? We'll see. Here is is in daylight:

I keep forgetting that we've installed it and every morning it's a fun surprise!

And yes, I'm fully aware how insane that sounds. 

(What is I Love Lamp? This is I Love Lamp!)

A Quick Love Letter To Our Catskills Friends

There's about 25 questions I'm asked all the time by our Inn guests.

Photo by Ali Francis for The Working Pair

Photo by Ali Francis for The Working Pair

How'd you find this place? Did you always want to open an Inn? What'd you do before? What's the winter like? What do you do out here for fun? What's the deal with the Schwarzeneggers? Where do you go grocery shopping?

Some questions are more intimate than others. For example, I can't tell you how many people have asked without blinking:

Have you guys made friends out here?

When I'm asked for the 5th time on a Saturday afternoon, I'm often tempted to get a bit sassy and say, "Nope. Not a one. It really makes me regret moving out here." Because I think that's actually the question behind just about every question I'm asked: Are you happy with your choice to live out here?

And the answer is YES! Yes I'm happy we moved out here, and yes, a big part of that is because we've made lots of wonderful friends. I can't even list them all of course, but looking back on just this past week we had a studio visit with Theresa and Michael at their gorgeous home in Kingston, ate couscous and stayed up late watching a big boxing match with Stephen at our place, had a slumber party over at Tracy and Jamie's with too much Chinese food and bottles upon bottles of wine, had another slumber party at Sarah and Soheil's where we played dice and watched two great Dane puppies wrestle, and hit up Taco Tuesday in Phoenicia with Jac and Nora. And that's just in the past 6 days!

Morning lattes with Sarah at her and Sohail's wonderful restaurant Brushland Eating House. 

Morning lattes with Sarah at her and Sohail's wonderful restaurant Brushland Eating House. 

So really, this is just a quick love letter to ALL the friends we've made out here. I love you guys! You're such a hilarious and talented and wonderfully weird spread of people. It's easy to worry when you move somewhere new that you'll never make friends as good as the ones you already hold dear, but it's simply not true. The world is full of gems of people. Douchbags too of course, but no need to care about them. Just keep your heart open, and no matter how awkward you feel about doing it just suck it up and platonically ask out that nice couple down the road. Because they might turn out to be some of the bricks that build your heart's home. 

I Love Lamp: DIY Rustic Coffee Table With Modern Legs

When we moved to Brooklyn about 5 years ago, we inherited a coffee table from some family friends that was on its last legs. It also turned out to be a little formal for the rustic look we were clearly hell bent on creating once we moved out to the country. 

Here's a shot from right after we moved in. Right after we'd adopted Waldo actually!

Aw, aside from adorable Waldo, seeing this picture makes me so glad all over again that we painted those built in shelves glossy black and and put all the books in the other room together, not to mention ditched that terrible white Ikea TV stand and generally minimized...

For a while we stumped though. Until Steven hacked some Ikea stools to be temporary tables for the bar--

And then we thought duh! We'll get a hold of some metal legs and use some of the wood we already have!

So we ordered some legs from ModernLegs.com (ignored any impulse to go super trendy and get hairpin ones) and about two weeks later screwed them on to a wooden door we'd snagged at a country auction last year et voila!

Since it's just a beat up old door, we can put drinks on it without coasters etc and generally abuse it, just like our barn wood dining room table that we adore. I'm super pleased with the result!

Now onto finishing that kitchen floor...

(What is I Love Lamp? This is I Love Lamp.)

I Love Lamp: The Kitchen Part 10,000,000

Our kitchen is that part of the house that is just a black hole of work. Or at least that's how it feels when we find ourselves getting supplies to paint it or making a new light fixture plan AGAIN. But. But! We're getting there. "There" being a place that's cozy and functional enough to enjoy until we do a real deal renovation on it at some point TBD.

Since I last wrote about my "just paint the damn thing" revelation in June, we went ahead and just painted the damn thing. Well, half of the thing.

Forgive the 30 racks of cheap beer and the charcoal bags and such laying around. Not to mention all the storage that is now open. But you get the idea!

We painted "half" of it as in a) only halfway up the wall (very much on purpose) and b) didn't get around to the floor yet. It's like Steven had an entire children's book to illustrate and I had an Inn to run and so we were too busy to prioritize it. Oh yes, in fact, THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED.

Anyway.

The other big thing we did was take out a counter on the west side of the kitchen that used to run next to the sink. It lacked proper storage like the other one and was generally just a home to clutter up top and dust bunnies below. Sorry, it turns out I disliked it so much I never photographed it but here's what we're working with now:

All in all it makes that corner of the kitchen feel much more open. Though speaking of open, the entire portion below the sink is still open which is not so appetizing. Still working on our solution there. Also a solution to our mini fridge outlet which is weirdly in the middle of that wall.

And here's the view towards the stove where you can sadly see that porch paint on linoleum like this with no glossy top coat wears like crap.

This is why you do test corners! So some kind of poly top coat it is. Because I think once we get the floor a uniform and not-yellow color, the whole place will come together a bit better. 

I'm also currently thinking up solutions for the how-to-hide-the-under-part-of-the-sink and how-to-hide-the-hotel-storage-shelves questions... And what to do about lighting since we don't want to keep using the horrible overhead fluorescents. And what to do about garbage and dog food. Anybody know any really reliable and easy on the eyes containers for both? We've been striking out with our choices for them.

It's progress though! It's progress.

(What is I Love Lamp? This is I Love Lamp.)

This + That: Wed, September 9

Wednesday, September 9.

11 point five cooking with the door open 2.jpg
12 parsley.jpg

1. Day off = sleeping in. / 2. Waldo makes use of the vacant bed once we're up. We wiped him out with a 4 mile river walk yesterday.  / 3. Iced coffee and words on words on words. / 4. Steven oh so gallantly sorts out our wild web of domains and hosting etc that all need to be consolidated... / 5. A walk down the road past our neighbors' garden. / 6. I've been "drying out" a bit lately (aka, not boozing) and have been reeeeeeeally into seltzer with raspberries or lemon or mint. / 7. Swapped out everything on my home office cork board. Yea, it's like a real life Pinterest board, remember those? / 8. Stacked wood. / 9. Played piano without my pants on because it's been that hot. / 10. A (much needed) storm is coming. / 11. And here it is. / 12. And there it went. / 13. An open kitchen door so we could smell the rain. / 14. Our friend Craig was in the area doing some location scouting and came over for dinner. Honey roasted carrots with cumin on parsley and almonds, roasted green peppers, hummous with toast, steaks, olives, and a fig + date almond cornbread for dessert. Morocco was calling. 

I Love Lamp: What If We Just Painted It? The Kitchen Edition

"What if we just painted it?" said me and Steven ten million times since we've moved here. 

Paint. Porch paint in particular. That and barn wood have been our absolute favorite go-to DIY tools since moving up here. Because sometimes you don't have the time and/or the cash to do much more than a quick, surface layer re-do of a space. From our living room--

90% of the work has been PAINT!

Which brings me to the kitchen. 

Oh, the kitchen. As I've mentioned before, it was once the industrial kitchen for when the first floor of this house was the restaurant for the Schwarzeneggers's Sunshine Valley House. Meaning yes it's huge, but it's also kind of falling apart and totally unheated and all in all just a liiiiittle bizarre. And scary. Like from a designer's point of view, I think it morally offends my mom that a place like this even EXISTS in the world. 

We made a stab at it last year-- threw some white paint up and some plastic rugs down, hung some wire baskets and even a barn door!  And it was a nice improvement. See, here's when we moved in:

And here's pretty much what it looks like now:

rustic country kitchen

But this is ALSO right now:

Not so hot. Well, especially not with the the fluorescent lights on which we normally don't have buzzing, but I wanted to give you the full effect of that oh so wonderful and probably many decades old linoleum floor.

Basically we've been torn about what the most sensible next step for this space is. Because while we'd love to do a MAJOR renovation of it, that's just not in the cards right now. But there's also a limited amount of changes we can make between now and whenever that will be, because once you pull at one piece you realize it's attached to another-- and I mean this quite literally. Like the cabinet over the sink is literally a part of the ceiling so who knows what would happen if we tired to take that down. From conversations with the pervious owners, this seemed to be their conundrum too so at least we haven't been the only ones kinda stumped by this room.

SO. What does that leave us with? You said it! PAINT!

I'd been trying to be orderly about this-- saying we'd paint the ceiling first, then the walls, then floor etc. But today we had the grey porch paint out since we were painting the floor of the hotel's laundry room (new boiler = time for a real cleaning and painting) and well, it just kind of happened.

"It" being "the first coat in part of the kitchen" but already I'm IN LOVE. And it was high stakes-- I sacrificed making brownies tonight to test this corner! 

We're gonna let it sit overnight and see how it does. Scuff it up a bit, make sure it wears well. And then hit the second scariest corner of the kitchen:

But check that out! Look at the stripe of grey and how it looks approximately 3,000 times better than whatever else we're working with over on the right? I mean, our hodge podge storage solutions aren't doing us any favors either, but I've also got some plans for that...

Anyway, I'm psyched! About porch paint!

The things that thrill you now that would disappoint your little kid self to hear... haha!

(What is I Love LampThis is I Love Lamp.)

I Love Lamp: The Garden Comes Together

About a month ago, Steven spear headed a garden revival effort and painted those old fence posts grey to get us going. We had to wait a few days until our deer wire arrived and then we had to wait til the inspiration to actually install said deer wire struck.

That came about a week later, just as the daffodils were blooming. We realized we had to get in there right then, otherwise everything would start to grow up around the fence and we'd be screwed til next spring.

The installation was tedious but simple. We unrolled the deer wire a few feet at a time, hand raking out the dead leaves that had collected and pushing aside what was already starting to grow. Steven pulled the fence taught while I hammered in the little U shaped nails, about three to a post.

There were a few spots where the dirt was high and so Steven dug it out.

He was also a real trooper about being the one get all up in the prickly stuff.

Though it was my job to get into the tight spots.

If I remember correctly, the whole thing took about two and half hours. At which point Steven decided he was gonna finish it right and make us a little barn wood door.

And tada! A fully enclosed garden once again!

Experienced garden folks might be looking at this saying, "That's not nearly high enough to deter deer!" or " They didn't dig nearly deep enough to deter bunnies and groundhogs and all those other pests!" to which I say it's really more of a "Keep Waldo In" fence than a reeeeal "Garden Fence" and for that it works perfectly.

I wish I had a photo of Waldo laying in the garden, content in the sun, but at the moment I don't, so you'll just have to trust that that's how it happens over here now!

Though it wasn't like we were finished once we did the fence. It turns out there's the whole gardening aspect of gardening. (Who knew?!) And while we'd bought a handful of herbs the other week, they were sadly wilting away in our kitchen, waiting to be planted, and the weeds were overtaking the garden, gravel included. Cuz we've been busy! Which is great. You love a full house at a hotel. But it was getting borderline embarrassing... 

Which is why we were so lucky that when Steven's folks visited this weekend, they decided it would be good fun to help us out in that department!

They weeded and pruned and trimmed and weeded some more, then planted and watered our sad little herbs which will hopefully pull through.

Then weeded and pruned and trimmed and weeded even MORE... til it finally looked like a garden again!

They even prepped another raised bed for more veggies and herbs which we're gonna get from our local nursery hopefully this week.

And all just in time as things are really starting to finally bloom around here. And not just the chives that have gone to seed--

Bu the peonies too as of just this morning!

Aaaaand these other flowers... whose names I totally don't know.

So thank you Kathie and David! It feels so great to have this little garden wonderland back!

(What is I Love Lamp? This is I Love Lamp.)