End of Summer

The end of summer has been a bit of a blur. Like most people probably, at the turn of September I found myself asking, What the hell, already??

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With three workshops, a party, and three weddings this season on top of our usual summertime busyness at the Inn, I found myself slipping out of maternity leave and into work even more than I had with Amina.

Hosting a little party for some of our Artist Residents aka totally nailing a no-work maternity leave. *slaps forehead* (It  was  super sweet and fun though.)

Hosting a little party for some of our Artist Residents aka totally nailing a no-work maternity leave. *slaps forehead* (It was super sweet and fun though.)

I felt guilty and annoyed and did some beating myself up over it then reassessed, recommitted, and have all but submarined entirely into family and writing life and will continue to do so until the end of the month. (So many high-fives to our Innkeepers Lexi and Hannah!)

Don’t get me wrong— it has absolutely been snuggly and special and fun, my could-have-been-better work boundaries and all!

And the big September thing we’ve actually all been looking forward to:

A huuuuuge congrats to Steven and my dad on the launch of AstroNuts!

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Meet book one of the three part AstroNuts series which just came out this week! 200 pages of full color, craaaazy illustrations that combine Steven’s digital drawings with old paintings, engravings, and more from the @rijksmuseum all telling the wacky tale of four mutant animal astronauts in search of a new, Goldilocks planet because humans have ruined this one with our climate crisis. It’s real science! And completely, wonderfully ridiculous and hilarious too. (Pick one up for the 7-12ish year old readers in your life wherever books are sold. Like here!)

And one more shout out to Steven and my parents, without whom this maternity leave with Felix wouldn’t have been nearly as a) possible and b) fun! It takes a f*cking village guys.

Hiring! Artist Residency! Workshops!

SO MUCH good stuff going on at the Spruceton Inn this fall:

Ain't no Sunday Scaries here. Not when you're behind this Front Desk & Bar hanging out with the coolest, nicest guests around! SO COME BE AN INNKEEPER WITH US! 30-40 hours per week. No hospitality experience necessary.  Ideal start date is mid-November but if you're worth it we'll wait. More details about the position and online application here.

Applications open September 1st-30th for our 6th annual Artist Residency! We're awarding about 7 artists a free room for a week this winter, no strings attached. Learn more about the program and how to apply here.

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Aaaaand registration is open for our two fall workshops!

Btw, workshop teacher Chloe Caldwell (who was also a 2018 Artist Resident!) just published the most beautiful piece on being a stepmother in the Times. I 100% cried when I read it.

See you for some of this fun soon?

Don't Touch The Art, But Definitely Talk To It

We popped over to North Adams to meet up with our pals Noah, Rebecca, and little Mina. They live in Egypt but were visiting family in the States so we planned a quick night halfway between us. I was also super excited to stay at Tourists Welcome and visit Mass MoCA for the first time!

We went to the museum upon arrival and oh my goodness, everyone should go to a contemporary art museum with a toddler. Like with so many activities with kids, experiencing art with one makes you slow down, become more curious, less judgmental, less self-conscious about whether you’re “getting it”…

First thing we saw when we walked in was a video piece featuring a bulldozer. Amina was like, Yes, art is AMAZING.

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It also cracked me up when we told Amina we couldn’t touch the art and she tucked her arms up like this for the entire Trenton Doyle Hancock exhibit:

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And while I loved the Sol LeWitt show for many reasons entirely unrelated to children, it was pretty damn cute to watch Amina spot her pals Circle, Square, and Triangle from her beloved books about them.

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Back at the hotel we reunited with our real-life pals and hung out in the main lounge with them as it drizzled outside, catching up as our rooms were readied. The space is very trendy, very cute.

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Same with the rooms, though oh my goodness the guy who checked us in accidentally cracked me up so hard—

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He was pointing out that the TV is hidden with a drop cloth sleeve, a design choice I completely understand as my least favorite part about having a TV in the house is how it looks like an ugly black box when it’s turned off. And in describing this he said, “The hotel puts a burlap sac on the TV because they want to keep the room bland.”

BLAND!

Orrr what design snobs might call “minimal”?

I really had to stifle my laughter.

I don’t know, maybe it’s not as funny to you, but people talk to me alllll the time about how our Inn is so “minimal” and how much they love it for that reason and how that’s so chic etc. This moment was just such a great reminder (much like the whole museum with Amina) that one person’s “minimalist design” is another person’s “bland”. That sometimes we all take ourselves waaaay too seriously.

Anyway! It cleared up in the afternoon so we were able to get in some pool time and grounds exploring too and the next morning was beautiful as well.

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It was quick trip, but totally delightful nonetheless.

Hot tip if you head out there yourself: when you buy admission to Mass MoCA you can go the next day too at no additional cost. You better believe we went back in the morning so we could see Amina’s I'm-not-touching-the-art-arms in full effect again:

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We even got the bonus experience of watching her make bird noises at this sculpture in a room full of very serious art appreciators.

Oh the unexpected joys of parenthood.

I Love Lamp: Back Deck Is Mostly There!

The fence hasn’t been stained yet and we’re still not sure sure about the furniture lay out etc and the ground outside needs to be re-graded but I just couldn’t wait to show you a little of how the back deck is looking right now BECAUSE WE ARE IN LOVE! Seriously. We live there now.

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This morning our pal Theresa came over with her wee ones Frankie and Lulu. Frankie and Amina were born about 7 hours and only 20 feet apart so it is the sweetest freaking thing when they get together.

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The space is baby and dog heaven. Enclosed, right off the kitchen, plenty of space to rumble, fresh air. It’s grown-up heaven too! We’ve been having morning coffee out there, reading and nursing out there, eating dinner out there…

They poured the gravel the day I went into labor, came back on Monday two days after we got home to pour the cement, then finished the fence the next day. (!!) While construction right off the house might have been some folks’ newborn nightmare, it was weirdly comforting to us. We love a good home improvement! And Amina ADORES cement trucks so I am not remotely exaggerating when I say she was visibly more excited by the two that came than the arrival of her sister, haha!

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Her sister, about whom, she is getting more and more curious and sweet with each passing day. Amina has been giving Felix kisses before she takes her afternoon nap, pulling off her socks to touch all her tiny toes, offering to share bits of her meal with her. This morning she said yes to having her in her lap and we pretended to eat the bananas off her onesie and I just about cried it was so tender.

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Aaaand I just heard her wake up from her nap! More soon.

Welcome Baby Felix!

Meet Felix Willow Weinberg!

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She’s our solstice babe, born a mere 20 minutes after arriving at the hospital. (!!)

Everyone is doing great. It is so, so sweet to see Amina and Felix together. Currently, Amina’s main way of interacting with her little sister is to a) show her her favorite books and b) touch her tiny toes.

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It’s been summery and wonderful since we got home— warm days, dramatic thunder storms, spectacular sunsets.

AND there’s been some serious progress made on the back deck! Here’s a little sneak peek:

More baby pics and more deck pics to come. For now I should probably go take a nap since that’s what all the little ones are currently doing, right?

I Love Lamp: Back Deck Begins

Today was the first official day of work on the back deck, and like with the kitchen, it was probably the loudest! It was gonna take no less than a jackhammer to get the top layer of that awkward concrete pad off.

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Technically the work began yesterday when the electrician came and moved the generator.

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But believe it of not, that just didn’t feel quiiiite as thrilling as the jackhammered pad.

Amina was vaguely curious about the demo, but seemed much more thrilled by running around the barn—

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And being the one in charge of Waldo’s leash.

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Also: HOW BEAUTIFUL OUT WAS IT TODAY??

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Oh summer, you are so lovely.

Summer and Fall Workshops at the Spruceton Inn

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Details including workshop descriptions, schedules, rates ($200-$675), and how to sign up on the Inn’s website here!

Reverse Vacay

Steven and I did the reverse vacay that most of our guests do— we went to Brooklyn!

Thank you Wythe Hotel for the loveliest stay and the little present for Baby Girl No. 2. What a wonder it was to sleep in until 8am!

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Thank you NYC for pizza by the slice.

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Thank you Roots Radical Salon and Persons of Interest for cleaning us up good!

Thank you Kings County Imperial for the best damn Chinese food.

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Thank you Mcnally Jackson for the book on books on books.

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Thank you Reynard for satisfying every pregnancy craving from fancy donut to harissa smothered sandwich.

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And thank you Mom and Dad for watching Amina so we could get away for the night before the wonderful madness of high season and the new baby both arrive!!

Springtime Means Frog Hunting and Property Improvements

It’s been a wet but fun spring so far.

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We’re trying very hard to not let the rain stop us from getting out there to frog hunt, fish, pick some flowers, hit the playground… I’ve been reading The Montessori Toddler and it’s giving me the extra push stay engaged and curious even when it can feel dreary out.

‘Tis also the season of property improvements before the summer rush at the Inn. I’ve been touching up scrapes and such in the rooms, getting screens replaced, repainting signs…

AND we expanded and re-graded our parking lot which sounds like such a snooze but it makes both me and Steven SO happy, haha!

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We’ve also got two house projects on the must-get-done-in-the-next-two-months list: Baby Girl #2’s room and a back deck for us all to enjoy!

Baby Girl #2’s room is slowly but surely coming together (pics soon!) and won’t take a construction crew to complete. The back of the house on the other hand has had quite a journey. Remember these pics from the first summer we lived here?

Here’s what it looks like now:

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That concrete pad basically serves as a spot to dry Steven’s waders on occasion and to get in and out of the basement. It’s awkward and unfinished and we really weren’t sure what we wanted to do with it longterm, but after completing the kitchen and having Amina, we realized it would be really lovely to have an enclosed outdoor space just for us.

What we’re looking to do is expand the footprint of it so it squares off the entire back of the house, then fence it in so it’s completely private. (We love you Inn guests, but you don’t really need to watch us drink coffee in our robes as we wrangle the kiddos, right?)

I am SO EXCITED. Obviously I’ll take pics and post about it as it comes along.

For now, we’ll just keep enjoying our outdoor blanket time and sunsets looking out over the new parking lot.

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We Should All Dress Like Toddlers

Seriously though. We should all dress like toddlers. Or at least like Amina dresses herself because girl is a sartorial INSPIRATION to me. I know I’m the one buying her clothes so I’m kind of giving her the supplies, but she is the one creating the art in these ensembles:

It’s kind of silly, but I really do look forward to seeing what she chooses every day, how she adds and subtracts to the outfit as the day goes on, (bandanas are BIG right now but seem to only make an appearance in the afternoons?), how she mixes all kinds of colors and prints and textures with abandon. I mean, why not put a bathing suit over tights and carry around a teapot given to you by your namesake? Maybe because it’s terribly uncomfortable and impractical, fine. Maybe we never actually left the house in that one. But all in all, dressing herself is absolutely a form of self-expression for her right now and I am loving what she has to say.

I Love Lamp: The House Lately

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

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

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

Oh Waldo. Always so classy.

Oh Waldo. Always so classy.

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

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

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

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

Bookshelf: Late Winter Reads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Austin Getaway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOOD & DRINK:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SHOPPING & ART & SWIMMING ETC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baby Girl #2!

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

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

Ok, back to hanging out with Baby #1!

Austin And/Or New Orleans Recommendations?

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

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

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

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Winter

Still very much winter out here!

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

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

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See ya for a drink here Saturday night?

Florida

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

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

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

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

It was actually quite sweet.

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

Ohhhhhhh it was delightful.

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We're Hiring at the Spruceton Inn

UPDATE: POSITION FILLED! Thank you everyone who applied. 

We're hiring another Assistant Innkeeper at the Inn

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