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first things first:  Jim is home.

He arrived safely in Boston on May 20 (that’s his Mom and nephew greeting him).  May 20 is also Anuj’s birthday.  May 20 is also the day I accepted a new job (remember I warned of etsy taking over our Brooklyn office space?  well they did.  but not before my company folded.  everything has turned out fine, though, as I got said new job pretty quickly).  But those are just icing on the JIM IS HOME cake.  We’re all so relieved.  Now he can begin to heal and process the horrible 43-day detainment in Libya.

Before I move on, let me just say that people have been unbelievable in this process.  Jim’s friends are truly some of the most resourceful, supportive, team-working people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.  And the strangers who signed our petition and Facebook page?  They held us up the whole way through.

Next: it’s spring.

The lilacs are in bloom. Peonies are working at it.  The grass is electric green.  I’m gearing up to get back into the garden.

Finally: Susan with chickens.

I love Susan.  If you don’t know her or her writing, then get a taste on twitter @susanorlean.  She lives not too far from us, and has completely charmed me with her writer-professor-farmer lifestyle.

I love this post by Susan Orlean in the New Yorker blog Free Range.   She, like me, finds more pleasure in tearing up weeds and dead plants and cutting branches than planning and planting.  As a writer, she, like me, prefers to edit existing material (oh how I love cutting scenes – even lopping one line of dialogue can transform a moment) than stare at a blank page and sweat.

Here’s an excerpt:

“In the spring, the sight of my empty garden beds gives me the horticultural equivalent of writers’ block: So much space! So many plants to choose among, and yet none of them seem quite right! After a summer of mad growth and ungovernable expansion, vines that trail on like bad sentences, small dry bulbs that erupt into sprawling, overripe flower mounds, I can’t wait for the fall editing session when I can get to work yanking out all the dead things, the ugly things, the mistakes and misjudgments. Planting is existential, boundless, aspirational. Closing the garden for the winter is like doing a math equation and getting it right, ending with something finite and absolute.”

Read the full post here.

On our drive home from Maine, we made a few stops.  First was LL Bean, where I wanted to check out their Signature collection in person.  The Signature is Bean’s attempt to have a hip, more slim cut and urban line, closer to that of the direction J.Crew has taken in the last few years.  Katy Elliot posted about it here.  Turns out, they don’t sell the line in the store, only online.

We did, however, pick up one of Bean’s cottage benches (in black) for our entry/mudroom, and it fits perfectly, though I’m second guessing the black as it’s turning out to be a dust magnet.  (pic is Bean’s, not ours) 

We stopped in Portland for lunch, and then visited my favorite showroom in town: Angela Adams.  Angela’s been enjoying a bit of a meteoric rise in the design world in the last few years.  You may have seen her partnerships with J.Crew

Or Ann Sacks

And more recently Anthropologie

But it’s her rugs I love, and have been lusting after for years.

Her designs aren’t for everyone – and not all of her designs are for me – but there are few that I find just beautiful.  And stepping on them?  Even Anuj was ooh and aahing.  Each hand-tufted rug has different levels of cushiness (made in India, natch).

Here’s pictures from our trip to her store.  Rugs as wall art:

(I love those dining chairs).

A peek of her furniture collection over one of her classic rugs, Ocean:

This one, called Canopy, is my favorite:

Here’s Angela’s inspiration pic for Canopy:

And here’s Jilly, a new design they had front and center in the store:

See the tufting?

The prices are beyond our budget, but sample sales happen about once or twice a year – only in the Portland store.  Anyone up for a last minute road trip?

View more rugs here.

Did I mention I don’t like white sideboards  ’cause I find them too shabby chic?

I lied.

This is Michelle Adams’ sideboard featured in this month’s Lonny.

I love it – not just because she has it professionally styled, and not just because of the ostrich wallpaper (although those things do help – I’m terrible at styling and could really use a Styling for Dummies).   I love Michelle’s sideboard for the same reasons I loved white painted furniture 15 years ago.  It’s casual, and beautiful, and authentic (as opposed to the ubiquitous veneers). 

Here is my sideboard last summer momentarily painted Gray Owl (a very white-gray).

After about 5 minutes of consideration, Anuj and I rejected the white for fear our home would scream ‘country’ circa 1992, and decided to go in a darker, more dramatic direction.   (Note the country circa 1992 candle holders.  Case in bad-styling point.) 

I love my sideboard.  But I’m just sayin’, Michelle Adams has changed (no, revived!) my position on white painted furniture.

On the heels of my store-fantasizing yesterday, read this article in today’s New York Times about a couple in their late 30’s who live in a 750-square foot Chelsea apartment during the week, and a restored 1840 post-and-beam farmhouse on 13 acres in the Catskills on weekends. 

When Misha Mayers, the wife and mother to adorable twins, lost her Ralph Lauren job after returning from maternity leave (nightmare), she decided to open a vintage clothing store called Clementine, that she runs on weekends (dream).  

Okay, so I’m fudging the facts slightly, as they actually had the store before Misha was laid off, but decided to expand it by opening an online store which ended up saving them financially.  I think I’ve changed the order of events so they’d fit the way I imagine it will happen for me someday.  You know, when I have twins and then get laid off and then open my refinished furniture / Indian textile store somewhere in Columbia or Berkshire County.  Ahem.

To Clementine:

Look how beautiful it is…

Are we in Soho or the Catskills here?!

Dreams can come true, people.

(again, article  can be found here)

I am inspired, people.

I just returned from a book signing in Great Barrington where I briefly met Amy Cotler, local foodie, chef, and author.  Her book The Locavore Way is a great gift for the foodie in your life who already counts Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and The Omnivore’s Dilmena as favorites.

In The Locavore Way, Cotler breaks down seasonal eating, CSAs, local vs. organic, eating out, and includes a produce glossary and lots of simple recipes.  There’s a slight Berkshire/Columbia County slant ’cause she lives in Stockbridge, but she assures us that the book is for anyone who cares about food and health.

Anyhow, for the past several months Anuj and I have been toying with the idea of starting a vegetable garden this spring/summer.  I know, I know, we live in the country – farm country, no less – for two years and are only now considering it.  But keep in mind, neither of us are gardeners.  Sure we have gardening families (I grew up with a huge garden, both my parents have gardens, Anuj’s parents have a garden and my grandparents even manage to maintain an impressive if unwieldy one at their place in Maine that they visit less frequently than we come upstate) but somehow the gardening gene must have skipped our generation.   I think two things have kept us from starting a garden to date:

1. we’re lazy.

2. we’re scared.

The laziness I make no apologies for.  When we get here on Friday nights or sometimes Saturday mornings, all we really want to do is relax.  And if we’re inclined to cook (which we often are – though not as often as we should) we’ll just swing by the store or farmer’s market and pick up some fresh meat and produce and be done with it.  The idea of tending a garden just seems like an awful lot of work, and well, we work all week.

I imagine the people who have gardens don’t think of tending them as work, they think of them as fun or meditative or soul-enriching.  I have friends who work in community gardens in the city, which to me sounds like the most unappealing, thankless way to spend a Saturday afternoon: digging a two-by-two plot of dirt in a sweaty, sticky concrete jungle in the hopes that a few carrots and heads of lettuce will emerge?  No thanks, I’ll be inside drinking sun tea and looking at carrots in the latest issue of Bon Appetit.

Clearly, if we’re going to have a garden, we need to make some kind of mental shift.  Lord knows we have the setting for a garden.  We have the resourcefulness.  We even have the plot where the previous owners had their own garden.  And now we’re building the inspiration through our families, our friends upstate who make it look so easy, blogs of newbies like us, and books like Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and The Locavore Way.

As for Reason We Don’t Have a Garden Number 2: I can only speak for myself, because I’m not sure Anuj would say he’s afraid of gardening (in fact, he’ll probably get mad that I even insinuated it), but I am.  The idea of plotting and planning and buying seeds and digging and fencing and watering only once a week (what if we miss a weekend?) just fills me with dread.  It’s a lot of work.  And I don’t mean work work like I mentioned above, I mean there’s a lot of room for error and I’m afraid I’ll screw it up.  I am very organized, and love to plan things, but I don’t think I have the tender’s touch.  I can’t even keep a houseplant alive.  Try giving me an orchid – the flower that’s supposed to last forever.  I’ve got two dead ones on the terrace back in NYC as we speak.  (I put them there after they died, thank-you-very-much).

Nevertheless, my friends, I am willing to take the fear and the laziness head-on.  I really am.  I am willing to take a risk.  Maybe it’s just about starting small.  Plant only a few veggies.  Ones that’ll practically grow themselves.

What’s Doing in Columbia/Berkshire County

Find out what's going on in Columbia and Berkshire county:

Columbia county: CoCo To Do

Berkshire county: Rogovoy Report

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