I Love Lamp: The House Lately

Did some spring cleaning. Thought I’d show you what the house looks like these days.

Last year we did some rearranging for Seder but have since gone back to this set up downstairs:

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We spend lots of time in this room with Amina rumbling around, reading books, playing with blocks and backhoes… And I love that we unpacked that bright orange Moroccan rug there right after our trip simply because we wanted to look at it immediately and that’s where it’s stayed.

Oh Waldo. Always so classy.

Oh Waldo. Always so classy.

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The main additions being a high chair on the barn door table and a swing from the rafters for the baby, no toddler, who has since arrived! Don’t know if we’re going to do two high chairs eventually with Baby Girl #2…

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Speaking of her though, we’ve got to start getting her room ready! It’s still set up as an in-a-pinch guest room/storage of non-maternity clothes and lots of art work.

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Like Amina, we’ll set her up in a bassinet in our bedroom for the first few months —

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—but I’d still like it to be ready for her by the time she arrives. What a relief to not be buying and registering for loads of baby things this time around! We keep joking that at the very least though, she has to get her own totally new outfit to wear home from the birthing center. I mean, that’s only right, right?

Bookshelf: Late Winter Reads

While my ideal reading situation is in a hammock on a summer day with a bowl of popcorn and a cold drink within reach, snuggled up by the wood stove in the winter isn’t half bad either. Here’s what I’ve been reading there lately:

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Future Perfect: a Skeptic’s Search for an Honest Mystic by Victoria Loustalot. Modern psychics. Horoscopes. Trump. I snuck down to NYC for the launch of this one because it’s written by my pal Victoria and ate it up in basically one sitting on the bus ride home.

My Sister The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Brath Waite. First off, PERFECT TITLE, right? Moving on: Like most Americans, I read embarrassingly little by non-American authors so I was extra happy to realize that this book I’d been hearing about was written by a Nigerian woman and takes place there. Yes, it’s a super dark murder story on one level, but it’s also just a great window into daily life as a young working woman in Lagos and this one very particular family. Super quick chapters, totally binge-able voice.

Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood. Her dad’s a Catholic priest, she’s a (frequently lewd) poet, she met her husband in a chat room at nineteen. She’s not really like anyone I’ve ever personally met or read before and I just LOVED THIS FREAKING BOOK SO MUCH. It’s a memoir mostly about the year or so she and her husband move back home to St. Louis with her family as they try to claw their way out of some medical debt. But it’s not one of those books you read for the plot. Rather, it’s her keen eye for humanizing detail, her sense of humor, and her (unsurprisingly) poetic turns of phrase. One of the only modern memoirs both Steven and I enjoyed equally.

Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney. This one kept popping up in my media and was recommended by several friends. There’s some wonderful writing in there, but in all honesty I have a hard time getting excited about a book that at the end of the day is about an affair between a married actor and a much younger university student.

Bluets by Maggie Nelson. It’s been almost two years since I read The Argonauts and this book came up in conversation at the bar with one of our Inn’s Artist Residents Aditi Natasha Kini who is SUCH a hoot and a talent I had to abide by any and every recommendation of hers immediately. It’s short, it’s dreamy, it’s supposedly about the color blue but about many, many other things at the same time. I also enjoyed it in mostly one sitting.

Eileen by Ottessa Mosfegh. Intrigued by the interview where she confessed that this book started out as a “joke” or mostly an exercise in attempting something mainstream that could make her money and a name, I first read My Year of Rest and Relaxation which both fascinated and bored me, then her novella Mr McGlue which generally speaking I liked more. Both were incredibly dark and full of characters you’d never want anything to do with in real life but Mosfegh has something going on that just keeps compelling me despite also alienating me. Eileen fit right in. A strange little window into one very particular woman in very particular circumstances.

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. SO MANY good lines about writing and writers and writing students. You could only pen something this spiteful and loving of that community with decades of experience. Such clear prose, such insight about everything from city life to dog owning to suicide. I’m excited to read more by her.

A Tale for The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. I’ve been picking this one up and setting it down at bookstores for a few years now. I love a novel that weaves together two different stories, but I was intimidated by its length and subject matter (post-Tsunami Japan, teenage bullying). I brought it with me for my trip to Austin and really enjoyed having all that travel time to dig deep into it.

Like a Mother: a Feminist Journey through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy by Angela Garbes. Finally! A book that goes beyond, “Your baby is the size of an eggplant and has eyelashes now!” The chapter on the placenta is worth it alone. Lots of great science and cultural critique in here. It could also be called We Know So Much More About Viagra Than We Do About Any Part of Labor Because the Medical Industry Worships Men. It’s the only pregnancy-centered book I find myself recommending left and right.

Austin Getaway

Last weekend I snuck off to Austin to meet my dear college pal Kate for a long weekend and it was just the trip I needed to get me through these last doldrums of upstate winter.

We stayed at a little spot I’ve had my eye on for a few years now called Hotel San Jose. It was hip but not distractingly or annoyingly so. And as always, it was absolutely delightful to be on the other side of the Front Desk for a change!

Our room was tucked away on the second floor as far from the pool and bar as we could get which I had not requested in advance but was totally key since I was not exactly pounding the frosé and micheladas with the rest of the guests…

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Kate’s frosé. Which yes, I totally shared with her :)

Kate’s frosé. Which yes, I totally shared with her :)

It was a great spot to call home for a few days— the blooming wisteria and the bamboo bowing in the gentle breeze made the place feel so calm even when it was packed with people. It was also really conveniently located for all the neighborhoods we’d been told to explore.

Both Kate and I had rounded up a bunch of recommendations before arriving, oh so many more than we would ever be able to eat/see/do in just three days, but I figured I’d pass along the ones we particularly enjoyed:

FOOD & DRINK:

  • Elizabeth Street Café. Sweet little Vietnamese spot just a few blocks from the South Congress stretch. So good we went twice!

  • Launderette. Classy new-American spot tucked away in a residential neighborhood. I had prawns in shishito & Iberico ham butter something or other with grilled sour dough and ooh I’m drooling again just thinking about it.

  • Odd Duck. Kinda pricey but totally delicious and experimental farm to table. We tasted everything from goat chilli egg noodles to pork belly to curried carrots.

  • Torchy’s. Franchised taco spot that looks cheesy but was really damn good. The South Congress location was an easy walk from the hotel. Must admit that everyone had talked up the fried avocado taco but both Kate and I wound up liking the barbacoa and green chili pork ones more much to our own surprise.

  • La Condessa. Fancy Mexican worth every penny. The smokey octopus something or other was just amazing. Both Kate and I felt kinda trashy thinking the chips weren’t salty enough though, haha!

  • Lick Ice Cream. Looked super sterile and boring as a location but OMG the beet & mint and the goat cheese & thyme & honey flavors were so well balanced and delicious!

  • White Horse. A low key but popular honky tonk spot that totally hit the spot for us. They happened to be live recording the band that night which was cool. We saw my brother’s freaky doppleganger and Kate hit the dance floor with an old man named Dick who reeeeally wanted to take this pregnant lady for a spin too, but by that point our rather epic day was catching up with me and the idea of two-stepping my belly around for an entire song felt insurmountable. I would totally go back and get out there next time though!

  • Franklin’s BBQ. We went but we went too late— overheard chatter in the long line about everything that was sold out already so that’ll also have to be a next-time spot.

  • Room Service. We had rooms service the first morning at the hotel in our matching striped robes and it was a really fun treat.

SHOPPING & ART & SWIMMING ETC

  • Tesoros Tradiing Company. I had an afternoon on my own before Kate arrived and I happily spent a solid hour of it at Tesoro’s fawning over textiles and jewelry and pottery. I wound up getting a few straw baskets and hats as well as a beauuuutiful vintage Bolivian blanket that’s hot pink, bright orange, and teal. (Where should it live??) Easy walking distance of the hotel.

  • Allens Boots. Also on South Congress. It’s where Steven bought Amina her little black cowboy boots when he went on tour for Fred & The Lumberjack when she was just a few weeks old. I somehow managed to not buy myself a pair and frankly I’m still shocked.

  • Uncommon Objects. No photos allowed in this vintage spot that’s set up like an antique store had a baby with a museum. Found some good weird treasures, like a peach colored metal tape dispenser for Steven which sounds odd but trust me, the guy loves his old, hefty, metal office gear. * shrugs *

  • Blanton Art Museum. Bite sized (says this born and raised NYCer) and lovely. The Ellsworth Kelly was especially serene.

  • Barton Springs. I was totally dubious that a spring fed public pool would be at all my jam, but we went on Monday morning so it was just us and handful of senior citizens doing laps and it was sooooo lovely. Barely a ten minute ride from our hotel too!

It was restorative and fun, even with all my ridiculous flight connections and ending the whole thing with a drive from the Albany airport at 2 in the morning!

It was also the longest I’ve ever been away from Amina which was good and hard for all the obvious reasons. I missed her (and Steven!) like whoa, but I was also having plenty of fun and enjoying some independence. I think the fact that Steven and I regularly split childcare 50/50 made the trip easier for me than first big trips have been for some of my other mom friends who usually shoulder more of the day to day baby care— there was no filling Steven in on what her routine is or hoping she’d be ok with him doing everything. And being able to FaceTime them for even just a few minutes each night was so dang tender. I mean, iPhone kisses aren’t real kisses, but I’ve never been happier to see a little blurry face up so close!

All in all I obviously recommend Austin as a quick vacation spot!

Baby Girl #2!

Excited for summer not just for the sunshine but especially for the arrival of Baby Girl #2!

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Woohoo! Sisters! Sisters? It’s totally new territory for both me and Steven which is kinda fun. Growing up with a brother I was always fascinated by my girlfriends’ relationships with their sisters. There was an intimacy that was just so different from the closeness my brother and I shared. Like everyone with a second kid on the way we keep wondering how the two of them will be different, how they’ll be similar. At this point we’re so convinced they’ll be different that I think we’ll be genuinely shocked if #2 comes out anything other than dark haired, dark eyed, and super shy!

Ok, back to hanging out with Baby #1!

Austin And/Or New Orleans Recommendations?

I’m popping down to Austin at the end of the month. I went for an oh so brief 18 hours when we were on book tour for To Timbuktu, but I hardly got to experience it at all so I’m really excited to have a long weekend there! I’ll be staying at the Hotel San Jose which I’ve been hearing lovely things about for years now.

Do YOU have any recommendations for me when I’m there?

I’m also considering a trip to New Orleans. I went with a bunch of college girlfriends about four years ago and it’s calling my name again. I reeeeally want to stay at Hotel Peter and Paul. Any other recommendations for down there?

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Winter

Still very much winter out here!

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Though Amina, Waldo, and I did get about an hour out in the garden the other day to enjoy some sunshine and do some summer planting scheming. So looking forward to all that.

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For now though, we’ll be snuggling by the wood stove and generally just trying to lean in to the last of winter. For the next few weeks I’m going to be covering for our Assistant Innkeeper Hannah while she’s off on a trip to Morocco (SO JEALOUS, duh), so you’ll find me behind the bar more often that I usually am.

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See ya for a drink here Saturday night?

Florida

Steven, Amina, and I snuck off to St. Petersburg (Florida) earlier this week for some much needed sun, sand, fish, and grandparent hang-time.

Amina surprised us all with a complete aversion to the soft, silky sand. Whoddathunk??

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Once we got her in sandals she was a much happier gal.

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St. Pete’s is apparently where all the Midwestern grandparents go to vacation, so hanging out with her on the beach was basically like hanging out with a movie star. EVERYONE stopped. And EVERYONE told us about their own twenty-seven grandchildren.

It was actually quite sweet.

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Steven’s folks oh so kindly looked after the little movie star too so Steven and I could sneak away for greasy baskets of fried fish, take dips in the ocean, and read while stretched out in the sun.

Ohhhhhhh it was delightful.

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We're Hiring at the Spruceton Inn

UPDATE: POSITION FILLED! Thank you everyone who applied. 

We're hiring another Assistant Innkeeper at the Inn

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Like I said on Instagram: My baby is still a *little* too young to work the Front Desk and Bar so WE’RE HIRING! Assistant Innkeeper, 30 hrs a week. You’ll be joining me and our other Assistant Hannah (@comeandgoblues) as we do the little bit of everything that it takes to run this place. No hospitality experience required. Ideal start date is ASAP, but if you’re worth waiting for, we’ll wait! Details on our website including how to apply at sprucetoninn.com/jobs

Returning to Morocco

I was nervous to return to Morocco. Excited too of course. After a long and rather relentless winter we all needed a break from daily life here.

But I was anxious about a lot of it. Would I feel stupid and tongue tied having forgotten all my Arabic? Would it be awkward with our old friends? Would the plane ride be a nightmare with a baby? Would we get sick? Would the baby sleep in all these new places? Would we feel old and unadventurous having all our hotels reserved in advance, leaving no room for spontaneous adventure?

So glad I spent all that time worrying instead doing, oh, anything else. *Smacks forehead with hand*

I want to write about 10,000 parts of the trip but look, it's already been a month since we returned and I'm only just getting around to posting so let's get realistic Casey. For now, I'll tell you about two parts:

1. The meeting of the Aminas was the sweetest thing ever. 

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We basically landed and headed straight to our old block. So many heart-melty, happy tears. Giggles. Kisses. Like I said on Instagram:

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14 years ago Steven and I met here while studying Arabic. I lived with a host family who showed me what genuine, unfussy, and fun hospitality is. We’ve been coming back for years, usually showing up unannounced at their door with a big box of cookies. This year we brought cookies and a baby named after my host Mom.

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It was so tender and fun and I somehow found enough Arabic in the recesses of my brain to communicate easily, to just chat and laugh. I've written about my love for "Big Amina" (vs. our "Little Amina") here before. It was such a joy to fill each other in on everything that's been happening in the six years since my last visit, all while Little Amina was passed around and fed nibbles and generally spoiled. 

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I'm really glad we planned our trip so that we began and ended in Rabat. Having several opportunities to hang out together put less pressure on everyone.

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Ugh, I might cry all over again just posting these photos. And by "might cry" I mean, "am definitely crying right now". Special can seem like such a trite word, but this family is so special to me, and bringing Little Amina over to meet them was basically the whole point of the trip. 

2. I really enjoyed all of our hotels.

Back in the day, we'd arrive somewhere and spend the first hour or so trekking around town with our backpacks, checking out hotel options until we found a place that was suitably cheap, convenient, and clean (enough). The combination of a) having less time but more money b) a baby and c) hotel-owning experience all came together to mean that I reserved all of our hotels in advance. I'm happy to report that it was totally the way to go and each was enjoyable in their own way.

We started at Riad Zyo in Rabat. It's Moroccan owned which is rad (I'd venture to stay that most hotel riads are owned by Europeans), and it's a less than five minute walk from Big Amina's which was super convenient.

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The staff was also oh so welcoming and accommodating to Little Amina and they seemed to take genuine pleasure in whisking her off during mealtimes. They all got quite a kick out of her name too of course!

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Being able to put her to bed in our room and then hang out on the terrace just us was also convenient and lovely.

In Marrakesh we stayed at the very "gypset", Instagram-y El Fenn which I've been stalking via design blogs for years. In all honesty, it was gorgeous but the aren't-we-so-cool vibe of some of the other guests and the level of stress they caused the staff made for a sometimes awkward and less than relaxed vibe. Not sure if that's something I would have picked up on as much were I not in the industry myself, but it felt notable.

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We were also stashed away in a far corner of the property next to the utilities and under the restaurant in what we jokingly called The Baby Annex. What it lacked in glamour it made up for in privacy which was nice because we definitely didn't worry about disturbing other guests when Amina inevitably cried. My favorite detail of the whole experience was how hilariously off-brand their crib was.

Yup, those two little windows are our room.

Yup, those two little windows are our room.

The place that takes the cake was Kasbah Bab Ourika out in the Atlas.  I am not joking when I say that the car ride there (in our itty bitty rental through washed out dirt roads that climbed up the sides of mountains as Amina slept in the back) was one of the scariest rides of my life, but it was 100% worth it! The design was impeccable, the staff so sweet and professional and efficient and welcoming, and the location simply stunning

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We stayed three nights and it felt like a week in the best way. 

Like I said in the beginning of this post, there are 10,00 more things I want to say-- about traveling with a baby (do it! people spend way too much time talking about the downsides!), about how smart phones are ruining the world (stop looking at them all the time people!), how it was kind of emotionally intense to return to a place where I've spent so much time in such different phases of my life (hello ghosts of anxiety past!)--but the baby only naps so long and the barn renovation calls so I will leave you with a few more pictures that will hopefully tell you some of those 10,00 words. 

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Frivolous

Running a hotel can feel frivolous. Especially these days. I’ve got friends who work in immigration reform, in global healthcare, with bereaved children… and I help people with discretionary income go on vacation. Womp womp

But this past weekend there was a massive snowstorm (think thirty plus inches in just twenty-four hours) and the whole area lost power and suddenly, we weren’t just helping these people have fun— we were keeping them alive. 

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I know I know! That sounds kind of dramatic. But in the depths of winter, with roads that became more impassable by the minute and all of the hotel’s heat, electricity, and running water depending on the strength of two generators well, these people’s lives were in our hands. 

Four years in, I now know that in the middle of a Mother-Nature-meets-mechanical-failures shit-show I go into an adrenaline fueled survival mode that feels eerily calm as it’s happening. It’s a deep and bright calm that immediately illuminates what is important, and as the chaos flies in my face, each problem sorts itself into one of two clear categories:

#1 Things I can control

#2 Things I cannot control

Things I can control I make a plan for immediately. I become Action Casey! Things I cannot control I do not worry about right then. Later? Oh, you bet! But right then? No fucking way, because I’ve got stranded guests to feed and comfort, a baby who needs the same, and oh what’s that? The generator attached to our house and well just inexplicably kicked the bucket? Cool. So now I have no running water at the hotel and no water or power of any kind in the house. And the snow is still piling. And it’s dark out. And it’s getting colder. 

Yaaaaaaay.

My first thought is: At least it wasn’t the hotel generator. Heat in the rooms is a necessity. A shower and flushing toilet just became a luxury. 

So did making much of a profit on this weekend.

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Steven and I can hang with “rustic”. We’ve done 120 degrees with no electricity in West Africa, we’ve done eight months in a house with no heat or hot water in Morocco, we've spent years using squat toilets that don't flush. It’s easy enough to tap back into those old selves. Especially in a house as well insulated as this one, with a wood stove and all of our sweaters on hand.

But paying guests are another story. These New Yorkers used to Seamless and Uber and landlords and constant connectivity are another story. I swear, since opening, literally hundreds of people have told me they are afraid of the dark. And it’s dark out here even when the electricity is on.

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So it’s a delicate dance, accurately conveying the potential severity of the situation to guests so they can be prepared without accidentally scaring the absolute shit out of them. (“No, I don’t think you’ll be able to head back out for dinner since I just heard troopers closed Route 42 because of fallen trees and an acci—did you bring any snacks with you? Could I tempt you with a soup and sandwich here at the bar? Tell me more about that two bedroom in Bed Stuy you said you guys might move into it sounds amazing.”) 

So Steven and I communicate with our eyes, whisper about generator error codes, and generally just keep moving and moving like we’re sharks who will die if we stop. We do NOT say aloud what we are both fearing: that the second generator will stop working and we will have eighteen people we need to figure out how to keep from freezing. (Can't control it! Won't worry about it until I have to!) 

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Obviously we all made it. The hotel generator held on, we poured free beers and discounted the rooms and sent everyone home in the morning once the storm had stopped but the power (and therefore water) was still out. Steven probably spent eight solid hours shoveling and helping push cars out of the parking lot as I bounced and nursed the baby and made coffee for guests from melted snow. Everyone hit the road in remarkably high spirits. There was a bit of a “we’re all in this together” vibe that took over the group which was very heart warming. You never know if things are gonna go the way of Lord Of The Flies.

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Steven and I could breathe easier once the Inn cleared out; now it was only ourselves we needed to take care of. Well, us and our six month old baby. But we leaned into it. We buried the meat from our freezer in the snow to keep it from spoiling. We read Mary Oliver poems about the beauty and strength of nature. We used the fold-out bed in the living room not just as a cozy place to sleep near the wood stove but as a giant mat for extended “tummy time” and now the babe can roll over on her own. We went to bed at 7pm because hell, it was dark out and we were tired.

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When the power came back on a little over two days later of course we rejoiced. We showered and flushed with abandon. We ran the space heater and the white noise machine in the nursery. (Living on the edge!) We opened and closed the fridge any time we wanted to even consider a snack. 

Oh so quickly we were back to normal. Which felt great! And then… irritating. Because all those things we couldn’t worry about when we were in the thick of it, we had to worry about and take care of now. Like fixing the fire alarm in the boiler room that got fried in the surges, washing the towers of dishes that had piled up in the bar, getting the parking lot a clean-up plow, sending out refunds and receipts, ordering more propane since we’d used nearly all of it, fixing the second generator, replying to the onslaught of unanswered emails, digging out our own car… 

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Yesterday afternoon, after getting barely halfway through my to-do list—neither Steven nor I feeling like we were getting enough done as we passed the baby back and forth—I pounded an IPA and realized: 

I wanted to punch Mary Oliver in her nature loving face. 

Oh the trees and the wild hawks and the oneness with everything! Fuuuuuck that. I didn’t need a walk in the woods or a goddamn poem. What I needed was four more beers and a personal assistant who was also a mind reader and a babysitter and a licensed electrician. What I needed was a vacation somewhere warm and Chinese delivery and to sleep through the night again one day please!

I was emotionally hungover.

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So I started to write this. Because my friend Dominique once told me, “You bitch compellingly,” and it made me laugh. And because writing can feel just a frivolous and life-saving as running a hotel.


I have to thank our neighbors who helped us through the storm as well. Knowing that we live in a community made of people who actually help each other in moments of chaos and crisis is part of what helps me keep my cool throughout it all. Thank you Gary for plowing, thank you Mike and Brian and Garrett for coming down and helping get Gary out of the ditch he got stuck in, thank you John for the parking lot clearing... Keeping our bar open so neighbors could use the WiFi and the outlets and have some free beers was the least we could do.

Also, thank you Amina for being chill AF throughout the whole thing. If only we could all be this happy with a spoon and some boob.

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I Love Lamp: Some Rooms Are Nearly "Done"

I put "done" in quotes because let's get real; nothing in a house is ever "done". At least no house of mine. I mean, just the other day I was laying in bed thinking, "Hmmm, it might be time to update this room."

And then I had the much more sensible thought of: "HOLY HELL CASEY YOU JUST DID THIS ROOM FIVE MONTHS AGO. Relax. You're in bed for fuck's sake."

And so, on that note, here are some rather relaxed photos from two rooms that are nearly "done", aka rooms that we've made some good progress on, for which I still have a few plans up my sleeve.

Let's start with the bathroom which I got partially through only the realize, "Ugh, this white ain't right."

Then Steven went to one of our local hardware stores and one of the employees kept insisting he get Direct To Metal paint. Probably because Steven said he wanted the glossiest paint they had. Needless to say it was blotchy and drippy and weird, so Steven unfortunately got a taste of the same "this white ain't right" medicine I had.

Not one to wait around, he got a new batch of regular old house paint the next day in a pure white and ta-daaaah!

Phew! I'm gonna do some more futzing around with the toiletries/TP set up, get some clear plastic soap dispensers and such for about $20 total just for a streamlined face lift, probably switch out the basket, but we're close. And the most annoying part is done!

The other room I wanna show you is Steven's former studio, where I now have a PIANO! All caps because I am still SO FREAKING EXCITED that I have a piano.

I'm realizing now that the only real change here from the last pic is that we keep bringing over more pillows from other parts of the house to use in the window seat.

As an East facing room, it's turning out to be our new morning coffee spot since it floods with sunshine. (The sun is setting on the other side of the house in these pics so you'll just have to trust me that it's glooooorious.)

I've also still got my eyes peeled for a big fat oriental carpet. My mom said she actually might have the perfect sized one which she was about to put in storage, so fingers crossed that one works out! (My mom's an interior designer with impeccable taste. Pretty much anything sophisticated and/or cool I own is from her. No joke.)

AND today we went to a nearby nursery to get those herbs for the garden that I was talking about earlier this week.

According to the dude who helped us there, it's still a little too chilly to put 'em in the ground, so for the next week or so they will be our kitchen companions. Rosemary, sage, lemon thyme, lavender, parsley, and fennel. We'll go back to the nursery towards the end of the month to pick other greens goodies like kale, chard, and basil once they come out of their greenhouse.

The things I didn't know a lick about until we moved here!

Gardening, generators, and basic plumbing to name a few. Septic systems, circular saws, and how to build tables to name some more. How to electronically file sales tax. How to hire and fire someone. How to fly fish!

Did I mention we went fly fishing last week with local legend Judd Weisberg?

Did I mention I'm really happy we live out here? And that I'm still shocked every damn day by how much I love it?

This is kind of an intense idea to just tack on to the end of a "la di da I love furniture" post, and I'd like to go into more detail about this soon, but essentially I'm starting to realize that moving from the city to the country is kind of scratching that same itch that I used to think could only be scratched by international travel. Which makes me excited because it puts every other "I can only be happy if I [blank]" into question. Which frankly, re-opens the whole damn world.

Like I said-- more on that later. For now, I've some play off hockey to watch! (Seriously. It's Rangers vs. Caps.)

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

 

I Love Lamp: The Garden Grows

We inherited a big, beautiful garden from the previous owners. Here's a pic of what it looked like the very first day we visited the property:

By the time we actually moved in in December though, it was mostly a rock garden, haha:

And that winter, like this one, was pretty fucking rough weather-wise, so the whole thing took a bit of a beating. The white picket fence especially. So that April, almost exactly a year ago, a handful of friends came up for a work weekend and one of our nine hundred tasks included removing the broken fence and weeding like crazy to make room for the spring growth.

That day we decided that while we loved all of the slate stone garden beds, there wasn't actually anywhere within the garden to hang out. So we removed (and replanted elsewhere) the stuff from the central bed to make room for just that.

We didn't get to it that day, but maybe a week or two later, Steven and I had an Andy Goldsworthy moment and took all the stacked stones from that central bed and laid them flat:

Then brought over a picnic table and voila! Here's our buddy Kate enjoying it a few months later:

As you can see, we left the white posts in from the fence that had been dug in deeply. We figured that we'd see how the first summer went with deer etc to decide what kind of fence we'd need the next year. I forgot about them pretty much all season because the flowers and bushes grow up around them so huge. Here's a pic from one of my days off during the summer which I spent reading (and drinking) in the garden, with guests coming to and fro and never spotting me. Perfection.

After our first summer of use we decided two things:

1. We love plants that basically take care of themselves. The fancy way of saying that might sound more like, "We're re-wilding most of our property and focusing on native species". Which is true. But so is this version of that sentence: "These thumbs ain't so green and we'd rather spend our free time doing other things." So this year, we're planting some pretty low maintenance stuff like rosemary, mint, basil, chard... Stuff we (and hotel guests) can use in cooking, stuff that basically takes care of itself.

2. We want a discrete fence that will keep Waldo in. Because it turns out, deer and rabbits and such weren't so much of a problem (especially because we're not actually growing too many edible things) and it's much more relaxing to simply close a fence door than have to keep an eye out for the pooch to make sure he hasn't wandered off to explore what guests are grilling for dinner that night.

Until quite literally three days ago it was way too cold to even consider addressing #1, so we started with #2. The first step of which was to paint the white posts grey so they would simply disappear.

And I love it already! It looks so good, and took Steven all of an hour at most. Frankly, I don't know why we didn't think to at least do this part last year, but oh well.

Next up is installing black deer fencing. This will require some more digging (which again, we couldn't even consider doing until the ground thawed, which out here is RIDICULOUSLY late in the year) and stapling and such, but once we're done, that should also mostly disappear in the flowers and bushes as they grow up. And then we'll have a wonderful garden sanctuary to enjoy all summer!

We're still waiting for the delivery of those materials, but I'll post some pics as soon as we're done. Til then, I hope you're all enjoying this burst of spring! I sure as hell am.

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

This + That: Mon, April 27

1. Set up coffee for guests then did some trouble shooting for a malfunctioning heating unit. / 2. Cleaned a room as quickly as possible so I could move the guest from that room to one where they'll be warm. / 3. Disposed of a dead bird that came to its ultimate rest right outside of Room Ten's window. / 4. Put on bright lipstick to distract everyone from my dirty hair. (After a busy weekend I prioritized sleep over showering.) / 5. Propane delivery. / 6. Hired a new full time cleaning staff member! HOORAY! Oh my GOD hooray. / 7. Dog run. / 8. Calculating distances and whatnot for a split rail fence for the bar patio. / 9. Setting up for happy hour. / 10. Kept the bar open an hour and half later than usual because I couldn't stop talking art/family/life/EVERYTHING with two of our Resident Artists. I feel so happily fueled by interactions like this. / 11. Chef Steven, who is way too tall for this kitchen island but kicks kitchen ass anyway.

(What is “This + That”This is “This + That”.)

I Love Lamp: New Studio For Steven And....

Last Sunday, our neighbor Robert came by and picked up the mattress from our guest room for his new cottage.

We'd offered it to him because we'd realized that we didn't really feel the need to have a dedicated guest bedroom in the house considering we've got nine of 'em in our backyard:

(No, it's not that green yet-- that's a pic from last summer!)

So what to do with the room instead? We talked about moving the TV up there, hanging some hammock chairs... but nothing seemed to excite us as much as when Steven suggested, "What if I move my studio up there?"

It turns out, as much as he loved having a huge space and a mountain view, it was also a very public space with a distracting view. Our front door leads directly into that room and the stairs are open and right there too. And while you can see the mountains, you can also see where guests park so it's a lot of coming and going.

We tried to solve the privacy problem by rearranging his desks, moving shelves around to create a kind of faux-wall right when you walk in, and more, but nothing ever fully worked.

It looked significantly better when we gave the shelves a few coats of glossy black back in January, but it still wasn't functioning that much better which let's face it, is rather important in a work space.

One of the many things I like about Steven is that when he has a good idea, he acts on it immediately. So yes, we moved his studio that very night!

We had a momentary challenge when realized we'd have to dismantle his desk to get it through the door--

But then we kept going strong! Brought all the book downstairs and made a total mess...

And brought up some of Steven's stuff to his new space. I say "some of" because he decided to bring up only what he uses every day.

I forget where, but last year I read about a family who moved to a new apartment very near their old one (I think it was a duplex and they moved to the upstairs unit...?) and rather than moving all of their things at once, they went to their old place to get their things only when they actually needed them. In this way, after a month or so, it became really clear what they could live without and give away.

Anyway! Steven's new space is nicely streamlined like that. And he loves it! Here's what it's looking like after just a few days of use:

I'm so happy that he's enjoying it so much already!

So what did we do with the huge room downstairs? Well first, we put all those shelves to use and arranged our books:

Next we moved our dining room table in for a belated Seder with friends:

Then we moved it back and I drove to Albany and BOUGHT A BABY GRAND PIANO!

I know, that probably sounds borderline insane and random, but I've been dreaming of getting a piano of my own since, well... since I moved out of my parents' place at eighteen! And it never made sense til now. I kept moving, I lived in apartments, and now, here we are in a big ol' house without plans to move any time too soon so voila! And oh my god, it's only been here a few hours but already it makes me SO. DAMN. HAPPY.

I pulled out all my old sheet music and played through years of pieces. I played my favorite piano piece in the world first, Debussy's Dr Gradus ad Parnassum, and I literally cried.

I'd been looking pretty seriously for the past few months, but it all came together the morning after we'd moved Steven's studio I pulled up Craiglist again and there it was: a baby grand built in 1935, lovingly played by a lifelong musician since the 50's, in great condition, an hour and a half away, and within my budget...! It had to be viewed that day and picked up no later than the next. So when I finished doing coffee for guests I drove straight to Albany, played it for thirty seconds and surprised the hell out of the guy when I turned around on the bench and said immediately, "I'll take it." I hired VIP Piano Movers to pick it up and just like that, it's now mine!

I have to wait about two weeks to tune it-- let it adjust to the temperature and humidity etc of the house.

But it's in tune enough to play around on for now!

I'd love to get a big beautiful rug for the room... the sound is a little bouncy with all the wood, and come on, it would look amaaaaazing.

For now, rug or not, I'm more than happy to simply play an play and play as Steven works away upstairs...

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

This + That: Sun, April 5

1. Cookies for breakfast. (Hey, the've got oatmeal in them.) / 2. The snow melted. Then it snowed again last night. Sigh. / 3. Coffee at the Front Desk all morning. Checking folks out or sending them on more adventures. I closed that bar at 2am last night so I'm a liiiiiiitle sleepy. / 4. Steven and Waldo swing by to say hi. / 5. Housekeeping is a no-show so I spend most of the afternoon cleaning rooms. / 6. Still snowing. But at least it's melting! / 7. Sneak over to Steven's studio to read the latest version of a manuscript he's working on. / 8. Our neighbor brought us tulips for our anniversary the other day. (So sweet!) Next to our books on fly fishing it's like a little shrine to spring. / 9. Turn on the exterior lights and lock up the bar at 7pm after a visit with someone who wants to get married here and a few drinks with guests before they head off to dinner. / 10. Computer closed! Time to read more of Peter Heller's "The Painter" and watch Jeremy Wade's "River Monsters"! Yup. Got some serious fishing on the mind apparently.

(What is “This + That”This is “This + That”.)