Come Work at the Spruceton Inn!

We're hiring at the Inn again! Expanding our team to include an Assistant Innkeeper. 30ish hours per week doing a little bit of everything because you've gotta wear all the hats out here. 

The whole team! From left to right: Brett our Managing Innkeeper, Gary our Grounds Manager, Steven co-owner, me (duh), and of course Amina the baby and Waldo the dog who are both super cute but not exactly  useful  at the Inn...

The whole team! From left to right: Brett our Managing Innkeeper, Gary our Grounds Manager, Steven co-owner, me (duh), and of course Amina the baby and Waldo the dog who are both super cute but not exactly useful at the Inn...

pics together.jpg

More details about the position, including how to apply, on the Inn's website here. Don't let my most recent post about the massive snowstorm scare you, haha! Read further back and you'll see, it's pretty damn great living and working out here. 


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. 

hotel in snow long.jpg

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. 


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.

snow coming sideways.jpg

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.


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!) 

three pics.jpg

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.


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.

woo stove stuff.jpg
fold out bed.jpg

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… 


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.


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.


Bookshelf: Reading With a Newborn

In the last few weeks of my pregnancy I read greedily. (See my picks here.) I was so afraid that I would never be able to read a book again. Ok, if not ever again then at least not uninterrupted again for a really long time, and not at the cost of taking a nap I desperately needed instead for a really long time, ya know?

I did most of my summer reading in the garden. *Sigh*

I did most of my summer reading in the garden. *Sigh*

So I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out I could read with a newborn! I just had to read a little differently.

First off, physical books were just about impossible. Hardcovers in particular, because they're awkward and heavy and pointy and always trying to close themselves and in those first few weeks Amina felt so... delicate and breakable and nursing her was still a bit of a two handed dance each time. So I switched to ebooks on my phone and it was a GAME CHANGER.

Second, the only remotely sensible time to read was in the dark in the middle of the night while I was nursing and trying oh so hard to simply STAY THE F*CK AWAKE as she ate. So again, ebooks on my phone were the way to go.

So here is the pretty bizarre collection of books I read in the first month or so of Amina's life, as the rest of the world slept soundly around me:

Books with a newborn.jpg

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. This was required reading at my middle school for my brother but somehow not for me and I've always meant to give it a go. (He hated it, but I think we have literal exact opposite taste in books, so.) I wound up really enjoying how brief the chapters are, how much like poetry they read, and the fact that there isn't much of a through-narrative I had to keep track of. All very handy for blurry reading.

At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson. I'd tried this two different times since it came out and was intrigued but just didn't have the patience for it. Figuring I had what felt like ALL the time in the world as I fed my adorable milk monster through the night, I was able to actually enjoy meandering through the history of a traditional English house. Really it should be called 10,000 Facts About English Sayings And Objects In Your House That You Can Share At Cocktail Parties. Or, People Really Weren't That Into Privacy Until Recently.

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick. Ok, first I have to say that I CANNOT with the title and I CANNOT with the pose and the outfit on the cover. However, the inside? Hilarious! Oh so personable, with such an enjoyably sassy voice. It's a kinda fascinating window into that awkward time in someone's career right as they're starting to make it big but they're not there quiiite yet and there's no guarantee they will be and they're still living with Craiglist roommates but also going to the Oscars... By the time I finished I thought Damn, I want to be her friend. (You hear that Anna? Are you out there..?)

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae. Steven and I really liked Season 1 of her HBO show Insecure and so this seemed like a good idea. I probably shouldn't have read it right on the heels of Scrappy Little Nobody because I was getting a little awkward-storied-out. Which is totally my fault, not the fault of the book. So I'm going to officially recommend it because I did enjoy it despite that. Though my god, it sent me back to 6th grade in some really visceral and yes, awkward, ways. 

A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn. In an effort to tack away from funny-memoirs-written-by-accomplished-women and head back towards the land of tidbits-of-history where grey haired white men like Bill Bryson roam in sweater vests with snifters in hand as the elucidate you on this or that matter I chose this book. Which funnily enough was also required reading at my middle school. (Yes, I went to a pretty progressive school.) But OMFG THE HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES IS DARK AND SO F*CKED UP. I mean, I knew this. I knew this! And like I said, I'd already read some of it for school back in the day but my god. Everything awful is so much worse when you have a little baby! I think I probably cried my way through three chapters and then was like, F*ck it, this can't be good for me or Amina. She doesn't know I'm reading-- she doesn't really know anything right now-- but she can probably feel that I'm crying and that's not not exactly the cozy, welcome-to-the-world vibe I'm going for. So I'll have to finish this one another day.

Seriously... I'm Kidding by Ellen Degeneres. Aggressive tack back towards funny-memoirs-written-by-accomplished-women gave me Ellen, because she always makes me giggle. And giggle I did! But this book basically felt like her stand up. And I only really like to watch stand up for like half an hour at a time, maybe once a month, so again, this was another kind silly choice on my part. So I actually never finished this one either but it so happened that by then Amina was no longer eating for such insanely long stretches in the middle of the night and so, I could suddenly stay awake without needing to read. 

All of which meant I could finally return to reading physical books at other times of the day again! So I jumped back into Ali's Smith Autumn, deciding to start from the beginning again and gosh I loved it. LOVED IT. 


It's tender without being cloying, absurd without being twee, experimental without being so just for the sake of it.  think I've recommended it to forty different people since finishing it.

So there you have it! Can't say this is my Recommended Reading For New Mothers, but it got me through!

New Year, New Sign

When we were getting ready to open the Spruceton Inn, all of our design decisions were made to fall within that sweet spot where style and budget overlap. Sure, it all would have been a lot easier with a larger budget, but in the end I think that the process forced us to really focus the vision of the place in a way that was helpful for the entire operation.

sistering beams.JPG
removing closets.JPG

Everything, from the website to the dishes to the window trim to the logo, had to reflect our guiding philosophy of a return to the simple pleasures in life. 


Which is how we wound up hand making our original sign with leftover paint on barn wood that had been laying around. You can see the whole post on that process here but basically we did it the super old fashioned way with charcoal rubbings, and it came out great.

hand painted sign.jpg

That said, over the past four years, some of our budget friendly choices have taken a literal beating. From the insane weather (hello NEGATIVE 35 with windchill last weekend!) to the constant wear and tear of strangers on vacation (you've never seen a bath mat so thoroughly murdered until you've washed hotel linens), it means some elements have required replacements and/or upgrades. 

Which is where our new signs come in!

It was the weather that finally took the old ones down. Rain, wind, and snow were all doing their damndest to wear away the paint which you can see was starting to chip just under "catskills" on this one here:

old sign.png

I looked into a few local companies that make large signs but they all felt a little lifeless in comparison to what we'd had. Then Brett, our Managing Innkeeper, said he'd heard of a local-ish guy who was a real sign artisan. Hand carving, hand painting, all that good stuff. His name is Roger Baker.

Being an unsurprisingly old fashioned kind of guy, Roger has no website, just a phone number we got from a friend and so we called him up and he came by that day-- drove a whole hour just to check out the place! And luckily he fell in love. With the valley, with the view, with how we had touched so much of the place with our own hands. He was ALL about the little wabi-sabi imperfections of our signs in particular and was dead set on not eliminating that from the new ones which just warmed by heart.

He hung out with all three of us for probably an hour at the bar, talking about everything from illustration to hand-gliding to how the Catskills have changed over the thirty-ish years he's been here. The next day he drew us a rendering, we made a few adjustments, and then we waited.


He sent us a few updates along the way which was a great window into his process. Like this one emailed to us that said "cutting out letters on bandsaw w all the little imperfections in the right places".


And these that showed us the pegs going in the back of the letters so they are easily removable for touch-ups and the stands drying and everything all assembled waiting to be painted:


On New Year's Day (my first in probably fifteen years not hung over, haha!) he came to install them. It was barely ten degrees but oh so sunny and I was a certain kind of nervous/excited that I hadn't felt since our early renovation days.

Roger Baker.JPG
Steven with the sign.JPG

Would I like them? We wouldn't exactly be able to return them...

Of course I'm happy to say I FREAKIN LOVE THEM.

the sign.JPG

They look simultaneously brand spankin' new and like they've been here from Day One. They look professionally made and perfectly imperfect. They are, in a way, my new guiding philosophy for the place. It's not that we're getting rid of our "simple pleasures in life" mantra. It's more that four years in, it's time to reinvest in this place while making sure that in our efforts to improve it we still hold onto the founding spirit of it all.

Our initial renovations were such a wild ride and everything was so completely new and exciting and a little bit terrifying. Now we know this place. We know our guests, we know our neighbors, we know people with whom to work, we know how we want to grow the business, we know we want to stay here longer than just a few years... It's all got me SUPER excited for our barn renovation. It's finally happening! For reals guys. I mean, we have 5 weddings booked for this summer SO IT HAS TO F*CKING HAPPEN. I'll do a separate post with progress pics soon, I promise. Just keep in mind that by "soon" I might mean like a month from now ;) 

Winter Wonderland

'Tis the season of cozy-as-fu*ck around here now.

IMG_6554 2.JPG
IMG_7075 2.JPG

It's muck boots every day, wood stove every day, baby all bundled every dang day.



Am I allowed to say that about my own baby? Because clearly I think she's the most adorable squishy cuddly fun bundle around. Honestly though, over the past two weeks I've become newly obsessed with her. I mean, I've always loved her. But something really did change around the three-month mark where she went from tiny animal we were taking care of to a little human with a personality and I CANNOT GET ENOUGH. Like, I'm considering waking her up from her nap because I want to kiss her. TERRIBLE IDEA! I know, I know, I won't. I'm just trying to be honest with you all, ok?

Btw, that sweater/hat combo was mine when I was a baby. Yes, my mom saved it all this time. Thank you Mom!

Also on the baby front: returning to work at the Inn has been enjoyable in no small part because Steven has been a kick ass co-parent and we're so damn lucky he works from home. I think all in all having this flexibility keeps our stress level around child care down. I'm not saying it's 100% stress free but, for example, I might have Amina strapped to me and bring her into the bar for afternoon service--


--which I feel comfortable doing knowing that if she wakes up and is no longer down to be chilling in the Baby Bjorn I can just pop back into the house and pass her off to Steven, or he can cover me at the desk/bar for a few while I feed her. 

Like I said, we're really lucky we have that kind of flexibility. 

We're also getting to know her and her schedule better so we can kind of predict her disposition and do our best to set ourselves up for success. 

Ok, off to wake the baby and kiss her! I'M KIDDING. I'm just going to wait longingly with Waldo outside her room instead. 

Women + Fly Fishing + Other Things

I was SO EXCITED to see this NY Times article this morning on how more and more women are fly fishing and how fiiiiinally, more and more fly fishing gear companies are hopping on it. 

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 9.49.32 AM.png

Fly fishing was something I didn't really give much thought to until we moved up here and Steven became, frankly, obsessed. I've gone with him a bunch of times. Even took a lesson with local legend Judd Weisberg


It's become Steven's thing more-- his way to get into the woods alone-- and so I've drifted to other solo activities of my own. But when we do go I've found I prefer Tenkara Rod fishing on the little feeder creeks nearby to doing the whole waders/casting in big water thing. It's simply less of a to-do. Tenkara rods are a super lightweight Japanese design that telescope down to about 20" and have no reel so they're easy to say, bring on a hike but ANYWAY! I'm getting lost in fishing technicalities when what I really started this blog post to say is--

Well, a handful of things. And forgive me as I bounce from thought to thought perhaps a little erratically, but that's what I have the baby-is-napping-time for. SO:

-Reading that "women make up about 31 percent of the 6.5 million Americans who fly-fish... [and] in 2016, more than two million women participated in the sport, an increase of about 142,000 from the previous year" made both me and Steven go, I thought that was happening! But I couldn't tell if that was true across the board or if it was something I was simply more personally interested in these past few years.


-Waders for women DO suck... when they even exist! Fly fishing seems to have historically been for wealthy overweight dudes whose body types resemble Santa Claus; even Steven had a hard time finding a slim pair for himself a few years ago when he first started the sport. So I'm glad to hear that Patagonia, Orvis, and Simms are all working on designing waders for women and have decided to NOT, as the Patagonia fishing director says, "take a men’s wader and dumb it down and color differently for women. Women don’t want something that’s designed for a man. They want something that’s designed for them.” Yes STOP MAKING WOMEN'S VERSIONS OF SPORTS CLOTHES JUST SMALLER AND PURPLE WITH ABSTRACT FLOWERS ON THEM. It's so irritating! I mean, even my camping sleeping pad has fucking flowers on it. Whyyyyyy??

-So what do waders for women have aside from a different shape? A drop-seat so you can actually go to the bathroom in the great outdoors without having to strip all the way down. BRILLIANT.

-Weirdly, American fly fishing goddess Joan Wulff was not mentioned in this article. She's an important figure in the fly fishing community regardless of her gender. Steven actually got to meet her this summer when he had a trout painting show at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum!

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 11.56.54 AM.png

- I think Joan Wulff's Internet image suffers from the same thing that Joan Didion's does-- this black and white romanticization/sexualization of her youth over her actual talent. I mean, look at this pic of her from seventy years ago that's still one of the top Google Images of her:

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 12.03.10 PM.png

And look at Joan Didion's Google Image collection too:

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 12.04.50 PM.png

Lately my Instagram feed has been so awash with these supposed-to-be-feminist sexy-Joan-Didion-smoking-and-pouting posts that I literally cheered aloud when I saw this one of her via The Strand Bookstore BECAUSE IT'S FUCKING CURRENT AND REAL. THIS IS WHAT AN EIGHTY SOMETHING WRITER LOOKS LIKE PEOPLE.

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 12.12.59 PM.png

- All of this makes me think about how sometimes as women we tell ourselves that being sexy will do the job of initially getting us in the door and THEN we'll be listened to right? Riiiiiight. I mean, why else does the Orvis rep pictured in the NY Times article have perfect Hollywood beach waves that are the epitome of current female I'm-not-trying-but-actually-it-took-an-hour-to-create-this-I-look-like-I'm-not-trying-look?

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 12.20.41 PM.png

-At least that's better than the “cupcakes in waders” or “fly-fishing Barbie dolls" mentioned in the article, aka the women in bikinis holding fish who tend to dominate a certain section of women in fishing online.

-Then again, who am I to pretend I'm totally above that? We posted this pic on the Spruceton Inn instagram account right before we opened:


Yes, I really was fishing while wearing that. A mini skirt was good for wet-wading since only my legs got wet but I wasn't just traipsing around in only a bathing suit. HOWEVER, we deeeeefinitely knew it would get more likes than Steven in his suit. So, I'm just your average hypocrite.

- I sincerely hope Amina comes to like fly fishing on her own terms out here. We've been taking her since Day Three.

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 11.56.29 AM.png

What Have I Been Doing All Day?

There's less than a month left of my maternity leave, and today I started to feel noticeably anxious and sad about it for the first time.


While there have been a few tasks that have kept me tethered to the Inn work-wise (picking our Resident Artists, hiring new cleaning staff, paying bills, and maintaining our social media to name a few), for the most part it has been an incredibly successful transition away from the day to day operations (thank you Brett and Michelle!) and so, I have been able to spend all my time with this squishy, adorable, laughing-- and yes, crying-- baby.

And what a treasure it's been! I honestly don't think an hour goes by without thinking, "Damn, I'm so lucky I get to do this."

"This" being... what exactly though? Because sometimes it feels like it's, well, nothing. I'm barely getting the dishes or thank you notes done so I'm obviously not making art, not growing my business, not bettering my community. I'm not even napping when she's napping, so sometimes as I take stock at the end of the day I ask myself: But seriously, what the fuck did I do all day? Like literally, where did the hours go?

They went to breast feeding, to diaper changing, to giving baths when diapers changes go awry, to dancing to really loud Talking Heads with her in order to get her to nap, to walking down the road in the fresh air also to get her to nap, to several loads of laundry, to making ridiculous faces at her so she'll giggle, to making even more ridiculous noises at her so she'll learn to use her own voice, to swaddling and un-swaddling and re-swaddling, to reading her the news aloud (and usually stopping shortly because it's way too fucked up these days for a baby), to bouncing and burping, to more breast feeding and diapers changes and...

And all together that often feels like "nothing". But what I need to remember is that it is something.


It's raising a child. It's spending time with her that everyone says will go so quickly and holy shit it does, it DOES. Where have these past 10 weeks gone?? 

Oh right, see above.

I'm lucky (again) that when I return to work it will be literally in my own backyard and that Steven works from home 99% of the time. In some ways, that will make the transition to working-and-parenting easier. And in some ways I'm sure it will also be harder because I guarantee we're underestimating just how difficult it will be. All in all I think it'll be a "cross that bridge when we get to it" kind of thing. Like so much of parenthood it turns out. Because for all the thinking and prepping and reading and wondering--

in the mirror.jpg

--you of course have no idea what it's really going to be like until you're actually living it. 

So no more beating myself up about supposedly "doing nothing". I've got three more weeks of maternity leave, this precious "something", and I'm going to do my best to revel in it. And after that I'm going to do my best to revel in whatever new balance we create. Please hold me to it, ok?

Country Sundays

Even through we're about four years in to living out here, I still have a laugh at what our every day life has become. Back in Brooklyn we used to spend Sundays hung over reading graphic novels as we had some hair of the dog at a bar, or during football season, hollering at the game, also at a bar.

Today we stacked wood.


Amina napped the whole time-- she's not exactly helpful yet. But I will give her a virtual high five because SHE IS STILL NAPPING, which is how I'm typing this right now. 

Passed out in the stroller :)

Passed out in the stroller :)

But I kiiiinda can't wait until she wakes up because COME ON, HOW FREAKIN CUTE IS SHE??


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


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!


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:

pano before.JPG

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:

left halfway.JPG

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.

left after.JPG

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!

right after vertical.JPG

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.


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. ;)

pano after.JPG

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. 



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. ;)

pink sky.jpg

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

Photo on 9-26-17 at 1.22 PM #2.jpg

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.

Photo on 9-26-17 at 4.38 PM #2.jpg

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:

bookshelf pic.jpg

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.

IMG_3404 copy.jpg

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

Amina with Fred and The Lumberjack.jpg

(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. 

chainsaw page.jpg
dream page.jpg

And how great is this all plaid case??


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!

Artist Residency Application 2018 Matrix with type.jpg

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!

Amina's first outfit.jpg

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! 

Amina at the birthing center.jpg

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.

Amina and Casey outside the Inn.jpg
Amina and Steven in the hammock swing.jpg

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:

Amina and Steven stare off.jpg

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... :)


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. 


(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. 


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... 


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.


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??


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--


And in the garden--


Simply enjoying the summer and each other.

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


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. 


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.