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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2018 Wrap Up

This year we got SLAMMED with wild weather, hosted 12 amazing Artist Residents at the Inn, took an unforgettable trip back to Morocco, renovated our barn, spent most of the summer in the garden and the creek, hosted loads of friends for visits, hosted five weddings at the Inn (and Seder and Thanksgiving!), watched the construction of my parents’ house across the street wrap up, snuck off for quick trips to Maryland and San Francisco to name a few, read Go Dog Go nine thousand times, hired two super rad ladies as Assistant Innkeepers, put the babe on skis and oh so much more!

Looking back on 2018, I’m most grateful for how much time I get to spend with Amina and Steven. I didn’t know what our work/life balance would like once we had a kid, but both of us working essentially from home and having such an amazing team at the Inn has meant that I don’t feel like I’m missing a moment of anything really.

Here’s to more growth and fun in 2019!

Another Itty Bitty Motel

Last weekend we headed further upstate for a dear friend’s wedding and stayed at The Brentwood in Saratoga Springs. It was so cute and and SO MUCH FUN to sit on the other side of their itty bitt bar and talk shop.

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We’ve stayed in plenty of other hotels since opening our own, but not one that was this similar in size, spirit, and style. They’re 12 rooms to our 9, a 6 seat bar to our 3. After the wedding festivities, we put Amina down for the night and snuck over to the bar for a sip of something and talked with the Innkeeper/bartender about all the funny, strange, and particular things that go into running places like ours. It was really a delight.

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Before we arrived I told Steven that he was going to have shut down any comparison whining I began immediately. I was worried I’d arrive and be like, “Ugh, look how much nicer their XYZ is and how much better their ABC is.” But maybe because I’d expelled the worry aloud already, or because the wedding was so dang lovely, or who knows— either way, I truly just enjoyed myself there and was able to share tales without being tempted to compare what we were up to in any kind of toxic/bummer way.

The next day we took our time heading home, stopping at the Asian Supermarket in Albany we’d heard so much about—

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JOY OF DUMPLING JOYS! We bought so much.

Then we stopped in the town of Catskill where I honestly don’t think I’ve been in a few years despite it being only an hour-ish away. We stopped in lots of sweet little shops and caught the tail end of some live piano to Charlie Brown Christmas at the Hi-Lo.

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Then of course we had a dumpling feast once home.

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Sometimes it can feel like a lot of effort to get it together to leave for a quick trip— setting the hotel up, arranging Waldo care, getting all our stuff packed, staying flexible but reasonable with Amina’s sleep schedule etc… but it’s always worth it.

Where should we head to next?

Sometimes

This might seem odd to confess on the heels of that NY Times piece, but: sometimes it feels really hard to live out here. Everything is far away. Everyone is far away. Especially all my friends from other parts of my life. I think it’s amplified by having a baby of course. It’s a time when you both desperately need community and when it’s simply really hard to get out of the goddam house.

At least we’ve got some sunshine today though! And the sunrise was quite beautiful.

Weddings at the Spruceton Inn

Last year we hosted five weddings at the Inn in the new (but yes, very old) barn. This year I think we’ll only do four maximum. They are, unsurprisingly, a TON of work and we enjoy being a hotel first and foremost.

All that said, how dreamy are these pics from a wedding we hosted here last September? Thank you Map & Compass Photography for sending them along! And thank you Maria & Jake for getting hitched here!

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Baby Amina in the NY Times!

Ok, so the article isn’t actually 100% focused on baby Amina, but she IS in the lead photograph!

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Steven and I were among a handful of folks interviewed about why we chose to leave NYC and head way out to the middle of nowhere instead of, say, the suburbs. We spoke to the reporter for about 45 minutes each, then about a week later a photographer came out for pics.

Naturally we were SUPER EXCITED about the exposure for the Inn. And just as naturally we were SUPER NERVOUS that we each said something incredibly dumb and embarrassing that would wind up in print forever… but I think we did ok!

*Wipes forehead of worry-induced sweat*

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There’s talk of how much further your money stretches out here, how enjoyable it is to live in such proximity to nature. And the word “hipster” is used only once. Imagine that!

You can read the whole thing here.

Bookshelf: Weird Winter Collection

I’ve been digging into an odd assortment of books lately.

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The Summer Book by Tove Jansson was recommended to me by a hotel guest and I found it completely charming. Easy to read but so thoughtful. It’s mostly about the relationship between a grandmother and a her 5-ish year old granddaughter. Full of insights that at first seem to simple and obvious but continue to resonate with you.

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Lake Success by Gary Shteyngart was also pretty easy to read because he’s a compelling storyteller. That said, I found the main character—a self-obsessed finance exec on the down and out— to be wildly irritating. Which I’m sure is part of the point. But when I finished the book I did breathe a bit of a sigh of a relief to have him out of my life. To anyone out there who hasn’t read any Shteyngart, I highly recommend starting with Super Sad True Love Story.

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Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver. The Poisonwood Bible is one of my absolute favorite books, so unfortunately I think every other book Kingsolver writes has a nearly impossible challenge of meeting those expectations. That said, I’m a sucker for books that take place in the same physical spot but over different periods of time, so I definitely enjoyed that element of this book. Like with Lake Success, I found most of the characters to be kind of irritating in all honesty. I also had limited patience for all the, “Oh Trump won’t win, he can’t!” talk in both this book and Unsheltered. I don’t find the dramatic irony entertaining at this point in time. We’re still too deep in this mess.

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After slogging a bit through those last two books I was like, gimme something I’ll binge read in a day. Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers it was. Loads of suspense, switching between points of view just when you started to find one character’s flaws suffocating, some interesting thoughts on the world of “self-care”. For some reason, Big Little Lies struck me as more plausible, but I still thoroughly enjoyed devouring this book in a day.

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I’ve known about the Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel for years, and a reeeeally strange variety of people in my life love it. Most of whom read it at a pretty young age. It’s “prehistoric” fiction, looking a clan of Neanderthals who take in an orphaned Cro-Magnon girl. Lots of nature descriptions, lots of early religion. I haven’t finished it yet, but there’s apparently also a fair deal of prehistoric sex to come as well which was definitely what stuck with a lot of my friends, haha! So far it makes me want to eat beef jerky and go for long walks across grassy plains.

Returning to San Francisco

Winter arrived in full force just in time for Thanksgiving.

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We’ve been trying to do our usual lean-into-the-seasons-and-enjoy-what-they-have-to-offer… even if that offering is a measly 10 degrees and wind-chapped cheeks. Getting the babe on skis has been hilarious for sure too.

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Luckily, in the face of all this early snow, we’d had a three night trip to San Francisco planned!

Yes, we were willing to fly across the country with a 15 month old just to get some sunshine and Mexican food.

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Ok fine, we were also going see some of my very best friends in the world and their babies, but sunshine and Mexican food were a close second!

We booked an Airbnb just two blocks from our old apartment in The Mission where we lived in 2008-9ish. I was a tiny bit bummed to not experience a hotel as a guest, but renting a whole apartment made much more sense for this trip, especially since we also bunked up with pals and their kiddo.

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Literally all we did was eat, walk around, eat some more, repeat. AND IT WAS GLORIOUS. Amina is a voracious and enthusiastic food fan, so it was an absolute delight to bring her to all our favorite spots like Ritual Coffee

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And of course, Taqueria Cancun

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Since we had a living room and kiddos who were all tucked in bed by 8pm we also did take out from Delfina Pizza, Yamo Noodles, and Mission Chinese. (For the record, I am 100% salivating right now as I type this just remembering all these meals.) It was such a treat to eat such a variety of amazing food and to not have to cook anything ourselves. It was basically the exact opposite of our daily life here.

Also filed under “opposite of daily life here” was being able to meet with editors in person (Steven went to Chronicle Books to meet up with his whole team there) popping into bookstores (like our pal Leef’s spot Mission Comics and Art) and taking Amina to playgrounds. Girl had never been to a playground before.

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She would alternately get happily lost in playing and then suddenly become STUNNED by the fact that there were other children around. (As pictured above.) It was pretty hilarious.

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There was a little bit of that same time-traveling feeling we had back in Morocco. When we were living in San Francisco we were hustling so hard. We’d just returned to America after years abroad and sold our first book but I was also nannying and Steven was working at galleries and we were selling our art however we could. We biked everywhere and danced and drank our faces off definitely not just on the weekends. A life of some stability, with careers and reliable income and oh my gosh kids, it all seemed EONS away. And in a way it was— that was ten years ago. So it was just kind of… occasionally freaky feeling to be standing somewhere, holding Amina, and to remember standing in that same place ten years ago feeling somewhat different, but also very much still the same. Still me. Still here with Steven. Still with these other wonderful women in my life, even if we now live 3,000 miles apart.

Obviously I’m really glad we took this trip. It can be easy to get intimidated by the logistics or traveling so far with a little one, and yes it was 1,000 times harder to do with her than it would have been without, but I’m pretty sure it was 1,000 times more fun to have her there too. I mean just LOOK AT THIS ENTHUSIASM:

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Ok, back to winter! Back to home cooked meals. Back to the mountains.

Taking a Walk

Guess who’s walking everywhere these days??

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She walked all the way home from the brewery the other day! And when she got home, SHE JUST KEPT WALKING. Because hanging out with Amina these days basically entails walking from room to room, picking things up, pretending to smell whatever it is, laughing, then continuing to walk around some more. *shrugs*

Also, hello blue sky. Good god we’ve missed you!

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Spruceton Inn Artist Residents 2019

We just announced this year’s Spruceton Inn Artist Residents and I am SO EXCITED!

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We had just shy of 300 applications this year and it was so hard to whittle it down to these eight, but HOLY SH*T SERIOUSLY I AM SO EXCITED about these eight!

In alphabetical order they are:

Kamee Abrahamian, visual artist & writer / Lucy Ruth Cummins, visual artist & writer / Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, visual artist & writer / Aditi Natasha Kini, writer / Christina Wood Martinez, writer / Jenny Rosenstrach, writer / Sofia Warren, visual artist & writer / Alexandra Zsignmond, visual artist

They’ll be shacking up at the Inn one at a time for 5 days each this January through March. I can’t wait to talk to them about their novels and cookbooks and collages and street art projects and cartoons and fine art and kids books and installations and and AND!

I Love Lamp: A Lil' Nursery Update

Ok fine, I admit it. I knew that having white on a nursery rug was a terrible idea from the start. But it was so cute! And so on sale! I briefly considered taking a pic to show you just how beige the entire thing had become, but look, you don’t need that in your life right now with all that’s going on, right?

Trying to learn from previous experience, this time I got the most washable kind of rug around: a bath mat. Voila!

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When I took it out of the packaging this afternoon Amina crawled right on top of it and started laughing and petting it. EXACTLY the kind of reaction I wanted from her. Also exactly the kind of thing you never get a picture of.

Oh, now you need your own? Cop yours right here. There’s also a white version for the especially brave.

Writers, Dumplings, Foliage, and Giggles

We hosted another workshop with Chloe Caldwell last week at the Inn. This time they got to meet in the barn which was rad! (Tables were completed just in time, haha!) Assistant Innkeeper Hannah and I sat in on the last night’s reading salon since we’d served dinner in there and they couldn’t kick us out ;)

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Speaking of food, Steven, Hannah, our other Assistant Innkeeper Lexi, and I all made dumplings last week in the name of “research and development” I’ll just say that you should probably keep the weekend of February 2nd clear…

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And today was such a beautiful fall day. Bright blue skies, the leaves starting turn, 60-ish degrees. I always get a little panicked at the end of summer, like I haven’t taken advantage of it enough. I do still wish there were just a few weeks more to splash in the creek and wear linen dresses, but I had a damn good day with Amina all cozy in our sweaters as we took care of odds and ends at the Inn and ran around town.

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Tomorrow is my first full day off in what feels like approximately three thousand years (it’s been closer to two weeks, but man has it been a wild two months) and I’m so excited to watch the movie My Family and Other Animals. Lexi lent it to me after we figured out we both love the book while bar tending together one night. (Thanks Lexi!)

I Love Lamp: DIY Birch Table

Amina and I were hanging out with Steven as he put together the birch tops for the two tables we’re building for the barn and I realized, I don’t think I ever showed you the one we made for my home office! (I know, I know, I’ll show you the barn too soon I swear!)

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The hardware store sells birch planks in 4’ x 8’. We trimmed this one down, doubled it underneath along the edges so it would be sturdy, poly’d the top, popped on some metal legs et voila!

When we made the table I also finally hung some art, got a carpet (Urban Outfitters, crazy good sale), and a lamp (globe with a concrete base of course).

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I also juuuuuust cleaned up the pile of paperwork that had been sitting under my cork board for, oh, two months. It hadn’t gotten as bad as when we first opened, but it was cluttering up the whole feel of the space and starting to annoy me.

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And oh, that’s the baby up from her nap! Later.

Bookshelf: Recent Book Binge

I have been on such a book binge recently, picking up books back to back to back to back. Some real gems too.

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The Last Samurai by Helen Dewitt. So bizarre. A real challenge at first because of how it's written (no quotations marks, the narrators interrupting themselves, very long and detailed excerpts about Greek and complex math and all kinds of esoteric subjects) but I'm glad I stuck with it. She must be the most particular and frankly, fucking brilliant person. I haven't read anything quite like this before.

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The Folded Clock: A Diary by Heidi Julavits. So damn good. She's confessional but not cheap about it and the writing is deceptively simple but so spot on. She makes meaningful essays about seemingly mundane things look so easy and it all feels cohesive together. I have her debut novel coming in the mail any day now and I am so excited to read some of her fiction. I have such a huge literary crush on her right now.

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My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh. I don't get the hype. About halfway in I finally read the summary thinking there had to be something more to the book than this wealthy, beautiful, young white woman literally sleeping her way through depression... but there isn't really. The build up to 9/11 also felt weirdly... exploitative? Obvious? Moshfegh has such an impressive list of awards for her other writing, which of course does not mean everything, but what I'm saying is, I'm going to give some of her other writing a try.

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There Are No Grown Ups by Pamela Druckerman.  I'd picked this up rather dubiously, worried it would feel like one long ridiculous op-ed about how the French have better sex. And yes, there are many pages devoted to exactly that, but I also found myself pretty damn entertained. There's some shock value throughout, but some real tenderness too.

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Motherhood by Sheila Heti. Liked it sometimes. Hated it sometimes. The whole thing is an internal debate about whether or not she should have a baby. I wonder what I would have made of it had I read it well before having a kid of my own. Some of it was an interesting journey through someone else's mind, but by about halfway through it was all I could do to not shout OH MY GOD DON'T DO IT PLEASE DON'T DO IT YOU SO CLEARLY DON'T WANT TO DO IT! 

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How Should a Person Be? by Shelia Heidi. I read her novel right after because, like I mentioned I'm planning to do with Moshfegh's work, I wanted to give her writing another chance, especially in a different genre. Except I'm not so sure how fictional this novel is considering the main character is a write named Sheila who has a deep but tumultuous friendship with a woman named Margeaux and the book is dedicated to a woman named Margeaux. I don't know. It kind of reminded me of "Frances Ha" which some people went absolutely gaga over for how "realistically" it portrayed female friendship but I guess i just haven't had friendships like these so both works left me feeling...slightly annoyed honestly. (And for the record, I am NOT one of those women who has "just always gotten along better with men".)

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Little Labors by Rivka Galchen. I haven't finished it yet because it is so wonderful I am trying to make it last. Much like Julavits, Galchen is a fucking MASTER at showing you what seem like slivers of daily life but are actually windows into your entire life as a whole. On the surface, it's reflections mostly about early parenthood which is unsurprisingly extra meaningful to me right now. But unlike with On Motherhood Too Soon, where I felt like reading it was too soon and muddying my own experience, Glachen's writing has instead helped bring moments of my own life as a parent into better focus for me and made them even more delightful. Or at the very least funny. I highly recommend this one!

Mood

Feeling these colors and fonts today.

images via Pinterest, sorry for the complete and despicable lack of credits.

images via Pinterest, sorry for the complete and despicable lack of credits.

Feeling these short story collections aaaand the fact that I'm getting to read them in bed in the middle of the day on my first real day off in a while.

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Feeling our sleepy swim at Colgate Lake this morning where it was only the three of us.

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Feeling like I need to pop back into this space with a little more regularity too. See ya again soon.

Applications are Open for the Spruceton Inn Artist Residency

As of this morning, applications are officially open for our Inn's Artist Residency program so hop on it!

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Details, including how to apply, can be found on our website here

2017 Artist Resident Ping Zhu made these beautiful paintings when she was here that I think perfectly capture what our 32 previous artists have all described their time as being like:

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Looking forward to your applications!

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