I Love Lamp: The Garden Grows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After our first summer of use we decided two things:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This + That: Mon, April 27

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

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

I Love Lamp: New Studio For Steven And….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This + That: Sun, April 5

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

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

I Love Lamp: Bathroom Upgrade Begins

The last room upstairs that I want to do a little DIY changing to is the bathroom. Nothing major– just a paint job, maybe some new fixtures. A minor face lift that matches our style. Here’s what it’s been looking like for a while now, minus a few towel racks and TP holder which we removed before I took these photos:

Not terrible. Just a little cluttered and little beige. And more than a little odd that the shower curtain has to be so low because of the angle of the roof. One day I’d like to make that a standing shower with a door but that’s “one day”, aka not now.

So for now it’s a fresh coat of white paint (surprise!) and some decluttering.

First coat went on and things look decidedly brighter. Naturally it was a total pain to paint around the fixtures but I just didn’t feel quite up to removing anything that large.

While that was drying I hung a wire rack in the closet just outside the bathroom (where we store our “adventure” gear, aka tents and rock climbing gear etc):

Wow! That might be THE most fascinating photo I’ve ever posted, here! Hahah! Oh man. Anyway.

Next I put up the second coat and…

It was too blue. I accidentally bought the “high hiding” version of the white that I’d used in the rest of the house and it just ain’t right. This photo maybe doesn’t do it justice but it makes the sink, toilet and tub look like a dirty cream and it makes the brown tiles of the shower look super dark. I was a little miffed, and lied to myself for an evening pretending that I was fine with it. Watched the sun set from the bathroom window–

And decided to go back to the hardware store next week. If I’m gonna do this I’d like to do it right. Besides, it gives me some more time to find a medicine cabinet and/or mirror which will all give the room a bit more punch while solving the clutter problem.

Not a big deal, just a teeny bit annoying. But I’m willing to be patient about it because I’ve realized: this and my closet are the lights at the end of the upstairs tunnel, you know? Or as Steven asked me the other day, laughing, “What are you gonna do when you’re done painting things?”

I don’t want the answer to be “repaint things”, so I’m gonna do it right!

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

Hotel Movies

Unsurprisingly, I’m a bit of a sucker for movies that take place at hotels. When Hotel Transylvania came out, I went to an 11am Tuesday showing, alone, on my day off (I was working at NU Hotel at the time) and I’m only slightly ashamed to say I quite literally laughed and cried.

And my heart went out to pour Dracula as he was trying to greet his arrivals and get folks happily checked in when in comes this human dresses as a zombie who is about to eff up his entire operation! Seriously. I was totally admiring Dracula’s customer service.

When Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel was released we’d already moved out here where the nearest theater is about an hour away so I had to wait to rent it, and when that Netflix DVD appeared in our mailbox I probably squealed aloud.

I know it’s no longer cool to like Wes Anderson but I don’t care. That film was beautiful and funny and odd and totally fucking delightful.

I was also deeply impressed with Ralph Fienne’s character’s concierge abilities. I mean, he’s dealing with Nazis for godsake! And the way he brings Zero Moustafa (Tony Revelori) up the ranks from Lobby Boy is just damn good management. (Plus, you know I think Tilda Swinton can do no wrong, so.)

And of course, one of the ultimate hotel movies–

No! Not The Shining! Yes I saw it, but I’m refusing to put it in this happy little round up of mine because it’s terrifying. And yes, loads of people ask me if I’ve seen it, if it was filmed in the Catskills… Which it wasn’t by the way. West Coast. Very far away. Anyway!

Lost In Translation! Which I suppose you could say is almost more of a love letter to Japan as opposed to hotels, but still. The hotel is very much a part of the film and how the characters interact with each other.

I think the last time I saw it was on a bus ride in Colombia. Because why else would we have dressed up Steven as Bill Murray in the poster at that random hotel in Colombia?

I’m realizing right now that’s a lot of leg.

Onto the next film! I’d walked by the copy of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in our movie rental store back in Brooklyn many times, never quite able to convince Steven to watch it with me. Then one night he went out to the bars with some dude friends and I stayed in and watched it and… cried my eyes out.

And oh my GOD in Googling this movie poster I just realized there is in fact a SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL playing in theaters RIGHT NOW! How did I miss this??

But back to the first one– I remember my heart going out to Sonny as he was racing to meet all the various needs of his elderly guests and sometimes failing rather spectacularly.

I also remember admiring the perfectly charming patina of the supposedly run down hotel then having to remind myself that that’s a movie set.

I’ve been to run down hotels in India and there is nothing charming about them. Although I just took a quick peek at photos from my last trip there and while the whole thing left me feeling totally wrung out, from this distance, I can now safely admire the experience of say, taking a sunrise boat down the Ganges in Varanasi.

So those are some of my favorite hotel themed films. I’m sure there’s more, but I should probably get back to running my own hotel, eh?

This + That: Tue, March 17th

1. Can finally see our stairs again after the big melt. / 2. Dropped a friend off for the bus in Phoenicia. / 3. Got a latte while waiting for a prescription to be filled and overheard lots of weather talk. / 4. Pooping dog juuuust out of the frame. / 5. Decided to listen to the entire “Idler Wheel” Fiona Apple album while doing nothing else but laying on the floor– wanted to treat her lyrics like reading a book. This might have to be a new thing I enjoyed it so much. / 6. Leftover cornbread for lunch. / 7. Had some trouble getting the wood stove going. Always makes me feel incompetent. / 8. Warmer weather = cluster flies. / 9. Getting my snob on aka practicing French by reading Camus. / 10. Was interrupted by a flash in the window– part of a box that covers some exterior pipes flew off. Struggled to get that back on in the terrible wind. / 11. So THAT’s where the swing went. / 12. Took Waldo in the pine trees after swinging by the front desk to chat with our assistant Colleen. / 13. Happy hour.

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