Happy Pub Day for FRED & THE LUMBERJACK!

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

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

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

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And how great is this all plaid case??

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

Spruceton Inn Artist Residency Applications Are Open!

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

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

Welcome Baby Amina!

Aaaaaaaand here she is! Amina Hemlock Weinberg!

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

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

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

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

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

Ok, back to the baby haze!

I Love Lamp: The Nursery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And in the garden--

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Simply enjoying the summer and each other.

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

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

I Don't Play Favorites But...

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

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

I mean, right??

I Love Lamp: Nursery Coming Along...

A little sneak peek of the nursery here for ya.

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

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

Spruceton Road

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

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

Bookshelf: The Argonauts

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

A good line or two:

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

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

Got me thinking about:

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

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

Consumed:

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

Put him back too of course.  

I Love Lamp: A Nursery Begins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WE'RE HIRING AT THE INN!

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

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

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

This + That: Tue, June 6th

Tuesday, June 6th 2017.

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

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

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

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

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

A walk in the woods. 

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Afternoon bar service for the overnight guests. 

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

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

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

Bookshelf: Homing Instincts

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

A good line or two:

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

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

Got me thinking about:

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

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

Consumed:

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

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

This + That: Thurs, May 11

Thursday, May 11th, 2017.

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

I Love Lamp: FINISHED KITCHEN!

Got our final inspection this morning so we are officially DONE with our kitchen renovation!

Wanna see some Before + After? 

No? Oh. You've clearly come to the wrong website. Wait, you said yes? Ok great! Here you are!

Facing south, right when you walk in:

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Facing west:

Facing east:

Also east:

Also west:

Kinda wild, right? We are so, SO happy with how it turned out. Big, bright, uncluttered. Lots of wood.

And oh my gosh THE BATHROOM. We have a second bathroom! And on the first floor no less! Here's the before. I'm warning you, it's scary as f*ck.

So scary my camera couldn't even focus! The room was walled off so we couldn't access it and yes, that tube going into the toilet was where the washing machine waste water went... I know, I know, it was such hellish little hovel but check it out now!

Previously, the only mirror we had in the house was a small circular one in the upstairs bathroom. This mirrored medicine cabinet is huuuuge which means I can actually see how huge I'm getting!

Aaaand because I got snap happy, here are few other views of the kitchen for ya!

We still have some last teeny tiny things to take care of-- mostly just deciding what goes in what cabinet. There's currently more out on that back L counter than there will be longterm once we figure all that out, and there's still some tape residue on the floor that's gotta be fully removed but really, that's all no biggie.

All in all, I think my favorite part (aside from the fact that everything actually works!) is just how open it feels without the drop ceiling. Sometimes I can't even believe it's the same space.

Lessons learned? Things I'm glad we did? Advice?

  • Stand in the space when you make decisions! Especially when it comes to layout. Walk from where your fridge will be to your island-- is that too far? Walk into the room-- where does your hand automatically go when reaching for the light switch?
  • Order what you can as early as you can. So much time can be lost on a project if you're waiting for materials to arrive! Think sinks, toilets, sconces, faucets etc. 
  • Spend your money on the big/longterm stuff like proper insulation and good appliances. And if you can time it such that you get your appliances during say, Black Friday sales like we did, all the better! You can always push out your delivery date up to two months if you aren't starting your reno for a while.
  • You can dress up inexpensive items and make them feel just that little bit classier. Ex: put Anthropologie knobs on Home Depot cabinets.
  • Certain things are relatively straight forward to change down the line, like wall color or counter tops. Other things you're pretty much stuck with forever, like floor materials or appliance placement. So make sure you're really certain about those not-so-changeable elements.
  • Stay true to the spirit of your original vision, but don't drive yourself crazy being a stickler. There are going to be things you want that are simply out of your budget (like marble counter tops *sigh*) or things that aren't in your original plan but wind up being way cooler (like a repurposed barn door island instead of a custom cabinet island). It's allllll part of that renovation journey.
  • Hire a team you trust. I can't tell you how many times we were faced with a decision and said, "Well, we think we want to do X but have also considered Y, what do you think?" Sometimes it's just a matter of style and is totally up to you, sometimes it's a matter of better functionality in which case it's really good to have a contractor whose expertise and experience you trust. 
  • And LIE TO YOURSELF ABOUT HOW LONG IT WILL TAKE. Otherwise you'll never do it.

Special thanks to all those friends who had us over for dinner throughout the process, to all those friends who listened to our inevitable renovation gripes, and to my mom for her expert professional advice along the way! And to of course the crew for doing such a kick ass job. 

For those of you who are curious, below is a list of where we got our goods.

Kitchen: Home Depot unfinished oak cabinets finished in an oil based poly by the team, Lowe's butcher block countertops, Anthropoligie knobs, CB2 wall sconces, Ikea chandelier, Winsome Wood stools via Amazon, Thor stove, Whirlpool dishwasher, Whirlpool fridge, Home Depot stainless steel sink, Signature Hardware spray faucet. Floors are partially sanded and polished cement, ceiling beams and floating shelves are Douglas Fir, island is custom made from our old barn door

Bathroom: Signature Hardware sink, Grohe faucet, CB2 sconce, Kohler toilet via Home Depot, Kohler medicine cabinet via Amazon.

I'll Tell You: Everything Will Get Done Because It Has To

The upstate focused website And North asked me a few questions about what it's like to run my own business in their collection of 5 Women-Owned Businesses We Love in Upstate New York

I'm often a little stumped at first when folks ask for general business advice. Everyone's path is so different, right? But I do stand by what I ultimately told 'em:

My mantra when opening the inn was "Everything will get done because it has to". I must have told myself that ten times a day because, frankly, there were points when it seemed impossible — this idea that all fifty thousand things you have to do to open your business will get done. And it’s not just the sheer amount of tasks, it’s the variety. There were days when I would spend the morning finalizing our liquor application, the afternoon ordering sample linens, and the evenings designing our website. That’s a lot of different hats. But that’s exactly what I wanted — to have my hand in everything. And you know what? Everything got done because it had to!

It's not the sexiest mantra but truly, it was the lighthouse that got me through some of those rougher, uncertain patches along the way. 

The Eagle Huntress

Steven and I watched the documentary The Eagle Huntress last night and I cried a thousand happy girl power tears. Have you seen it?? It's about a thirteen year old Mongolian girl who wants to be a traditional eagle hunter just like her dad and her forefathers, but of course there's a bunch of old nay-sayers blah blah blah who can all just SUCK IT BECAUSE SHE IS A BAD ASS EAGLE HUNTRESS. 

I mean, I don't want to give away any details, but really, this girl's determination is incredibly impressive. It made me think about what I was doing at thirteen and well... let's just say nobody bothered to make a documentary about, say, how much I wanted a boyfriend. 

Anyway, check it out!