Heads up, Seattle.

Let me get this straight. It's going to be 70s and sunny in New York this weekend and I'm headed to Seattle, where the frigid rain drops chase you down the street just so they can drip down your neck?


We're going to make it work. We're armed with pages of recommendations, a reservation at an awesome-looking hotel and a rental car. We are off to the airport tomorrow afternoon, when the lovely Kelley will come to stay at our place to watch Oscar and the garden. I think it's funny that's she's so nervous, but I think we all know I'm going to have to kick her out and steal my cat back from her at the end of this vacation.

Posting here and over at Birdless will be light for the next week or so. Happy weekend of Easter candy, all!



I have a mystery gift-giver! Today we came home to a surprise envelope addressed to me. No note, only a brown robot cat tee-shirt. Who sent this?!

There's also some Japanese writing on it that we can't figure out. Can you? And if you sent it, THANKS!

Way back in the 1600s...

This weekend, despite the insanely cold weather (and insanely cold rain), Anne and I took a walking tour of Colonial Manhattan. Anne and I are TROOPERS. We got our cold winter clothes out and rocked this Sunday morning walk. Here she is looking cute below her home state:

It was so fun and I feel like I learned a bunch (even though next time I'd like to try one with this company). Kind of wishing I could take off all week and just do tour after tour. O, RETIREMENT! When will you come?!

More pix of our tour on Flickr.


Feast de Voyage: Paris

Heading to Paris? Want to head to Paris? Want to want to head to Paris?

My Paris recommendations are up on Feast de Voyage. To get there, click on that handy little link below the header on the page. Or that handy little link in the last sentence. Voila!

Nora Barnacle's house, Galway.

Next up is Ireland, a special request from a friend traveling there this summer. Coming soon!



This morning is a writing morning and I'm curled up on the couch with a mug of chai to the right and a sleeping cat to my left. It's picturesque. Except that there aren't many words on my page and though I'd like to explain this away as slow process, it feels more like failure.

My sister visited two weekends ago and I explained how hard it was. "It's like going to the gym," I said. "You feel great afterwards, but it's hard work while you're doing it."

"So Jenny, why are you doing it?"

I didn't have a good answer.

What compels the dream of writing to stick to some of us? Like someone's thoughtlessly dropped gum that attached itself to the bottom of my shoe, it's been lodged there since I was a kid. Writing. Being a writer. Telling stories. It's constant, this game of chicken with a totally intangible goal; it's me against writing all the time. And I don't quite know how to get rid of it.

I thought the answer had something to do with actually getting something out on paper, setting goals and meeting them. It alleviated the pain for some time to have pages in front of me, something to show my classmates, a document with words and words. But now I'm stuck (even though I spent 30 minutes telling Kelley last night that I wasn't) and it feels too hard and too made up and directionless. What am I doing?

Then I come to this blog and see how much easier it is, how much the wheels are greased already, how the words and thoughts come forward because I'm not intimidated by them. And that is both reassuring and frightening. Can I only write blog entries now? Have I zapped my writing stamina so short that a few hundred words and a photo of a cat is all I can muster anymore? And yet arguably, a blog is a way to reach people in a way that the long-cycled published fiction is not.

Maybe I'll go back to non-fiction, I often think. It's so much easier for me. But who dreams that, who says they'll become Sedaris or Didion or one of the few random writers whose nonfiction essays made it big?

I stare at Writing across the chess board and ask it which move it will let me take from here. It looks at me knowingly. Checkmate. For now.


Die Frau und ihr kinder.

This morning on the subway, a German woman with a baby girl sat next to us. The baby was into pointing at things.

First, she pointed at me. "Yes, that lady has blue earrings. Very nice blue earrings," the German mama said.

Then at her mama. "No, mama has no earrings."

More pointing. "Yes, that man is reading a book."

Tiny finger off in a new direction. "Yes, so many people in this train. So many! They all have umbrellas!"

First off, can I just say that I considered asking this Frau for her digits so I could call her after giving birth one day and have her nanny my kids? BEST PARENT EVER. So interactive and attentive and... caring. A refreshing example of parenting after seeing so many moms and dads ride the subway with their kids while wearing headphones. This makes me want to die every time I see it. Yes, please, send the signal to your OFFSPRING that they are less important than THAT SONG. Sigh.

When we got out of the subway, I told Chris what she'd been saying. "Doesn't that just make you love Germans?" I said. "You know that kid has some wooden toys at home alongside her functional leather booties."

For ten seconds, it made me want to take a German class again. Then I remembered all the projects that I have going on and I chilled out. But man, German vocab in the morning. So fun!


Birdless in Brooklyn!

I've been wanting to post a bunch of pictures and garden talk on this blog but have been hesitant because it's kind of... well, niche. I mean, you don't come here for the garden pix, do you? You come here for the photos of Oscar.

Happy sun cat allowed outdoors.

Unhappy indoor cat after he tried to sneak onto the neighbor's deck.

So I thought about it a lot yesterday, while I was re-potting sugar peas and wandering around garden stores along Atlantic Ave and I decided that one of the things I wrestle with in New York City is the challenge of feeling connected to nature. Even though we are lucky enough to have an awesome deck, it's still made of concrete. And there still isn't a way to step out of my building and magically be around trees and ponds.

Like my writing teacher says, it's the things that we're trying to work through or figure out that make the best motivation to write. And so! I decided to make another blog, this one dedicated to finding as much nature as possible in the city. It's about urban gardening and growing seeds inside and taking walks in parks. It might also be about the birds who come to eat at our bird feeder, if any ever arrive. And so with that spirit in mind, it's called Birdless in Brooklyn.

As most new blogs, its design is a suck-tastic Blogger template and it has (shudder) a blogspot address. Well, nothing's perfect, right? So follow along there if you're so inclined... there are already a few posts up for your viewing pleasure.


Feast de Voyage (pronounced VOY-AHHGE)

We're headed to Seattle in two weeks on a 5-day romantic getaway complete with Easter candy for the plane. Why Seattle? Is there any other city that you mention these days that DOESN'T cause mass hysteria because it's so effing cool? No. There's not.

I began my travel strategy planning a few weeks ago when we bought our tickets, which went like this:
1. Write to anyone I know who has ever been to Seattle and get advice about what to do
2. Study the map of Seattle to get to know its shape and my geographic bearings
3. Look for books that take place in Seattle and order them from the library

Et voila! Le plan.

In the meantime, I've been thinking about how much effort it is to seek out all this kind of information and wishing that I knew of a blogger that could give some good, tangible advice about traveling in Seattle (or other cities, for that matter).

Then I thought about how often people say to me "hey, you lived in Paris... where should I stay/eat/hang out?" or "hey, didn't you go to a country like... Hungary? How was that?" So I decided that I am a good candidate to be that person, if only to centralize my traveling advice for my buds. Et voila! New project!

So this is a heads up that there will be a new section coming soon over here at Feast of Love. The travel section will be inspired by the book I made my brother for his graduation last summer. Think recommendations for where to eat, sleep, shop and spend your money. I've done so much traveling that I'm psyched to kick this off and share with you the BEST places to go. Because you probably (even secretly in your deepest heart part) are itching to go away. No?

Feast de Voyage. Word.


9 days old.

I know, I know. I'm the girl who always posts about her plants. But guys. LOOK AT THEM!



This weekend, my sister Katie came up to visit from Baltimore. It was good to have that chica to hang out with, come with me to Zumba class and shop antique stores despite the rain. It's also good to bring your sister with you when you go to a new salon for a new haircut. See below:

Haircuts never look as good the second day as they do the day you have them, but I am trying to work it out. In the shower this morning, it felt SHORT. While preparing dinner, I caught a glimpse of myself in the window and it looked SHORT. I am trying to get over that because, well, it looks so much better than it did before. Even if it is SHORT.

Tomorrow, dear friends, I am starting a new routine. Earlier, I told Katie that I was excited to start it. "Sometimes," I said, "I feel that my life is a succession of finding ways to get excited and motivating myself to do things I do not want to do."

Starting tomorrow, my weekdays begin at 7am. Some days I will go to the gym and others I will write. It seems I have to get Down To Business with my writing self. She is not very motivated lately and finds lots of other things to distract herself. Like planting gardens and petting Oscar and taking bubble baths. I'm hoping that the habit of getting up at the same time everyday will help me be more productive. Sigh. Story of everyone's lives, right?


Tiny tinies.

Broccoli and sweet pea plants leading the race so far; they've only been growing for five days. Seed + water + soil + sun. It is amazing to me that that's all it takes.



Les livres de 2010, round 2

My reading since the last one of these posts has been a little scattered. Part of that is the fact that I'm now in a writing class, which requires me to do a fair bit of reading and workshopping each week. Another (significant) part of this is that I happen to have stumbled upon a million books in a row that weren't worth reading. Even though I only officially finished reading these three books since January, I started at least a dozen more.

The good news for you is that the ones I'm about to write about were the really good ones. Without further fanfare, here are the next few books in the 2010 read-a-thon:

4. When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin Yalom
I have a hard time walking into the library, picking up my books on the reserved shelf, and walking back out. The night I picked up this book went a little something like this:
"Jen, are you coming to the happy hour?"
"Oh yeah, I just have to pick up one book at the library." Mentally noted that ONE BOOK was the limit for my already packed-bag.
Got to library. Chose 4 books in a crazy "this stuff looks too good to pass up!" frenzy. Arrived at the bar 30 minutes later as if I just got out of study hall.

I was attracted to this book because I spent a lot of time last year reading historical fiction and I loved it, the way you simultaneously learn something tangible about the world, all the while being entertained by a compelling storyline. Yalom's book was exactly this- a novel about a possible friendship between Nietzsche and Josef Breuer. Breuer was one of the first doctors to use the "talking treatment," what we know as modern therapy today.

The story took place in 19th century Vienna (and perhaps inspired my Vienna-driven-30th-bday wish) and I just loved it. What a cool thing to have two high-powered philosopher types trying therapy on each other. Nice one, Irvin Yalom.

5. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
Another one of the rando-grabs from the front table at the library. I read this book in a day. Well, to be more specific, in a morning subway ride, evening subway ride, and two-hour lounge on the couch one night after work.

I wrote a little about this in a previous post, but McEwan nailed this book for me. You know while reading it that it's a tiny book. You can feel, as you flip through the pages, that the story is not going to be resolved. Or, I should say, not resolved to the depth that you want it to be.

This love story is such a tragedy; COMMUNICATE with your partners, I beg of you! I was so pissed at the characters (as I always am with Romeo and Juliet), but the story rang true. There was an especially poignant end that zoomed through the characters' lives and told what happened for the next 60 years after the initial scene. And this is really how life works, isn't it? We sweat and slave over one moment or one relationship and the reality is that we go on to lead long lives afterwards. Each day lived lowers the percentage of time we spent on the relationship that haunts us. Smart stuff.

6. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
I'm about to go on some kind of adjective-heavy rampage about this book. I read McEwan's book at the beginning of February and then a month passed before another book stuck. And boy, did it stick. I'd reserved this one at the library because I had been so in love with The Time Traveler's Wife (though, needless to say, NOT the movie) and I had curious expectations for this one.

HOLY CRAP. Here is what you need to do. Start coughing. Call your boss. You are too sick for work. Go buy this book. Put a take-out restaurant on speed dial and churn through this 400-page ghost story all day. It is seriously good, guys.

As someone in a writing class, I was in awe at how Niffenegger builds this elaborate plot. It's effortless. You can feel a novel being created and you can feel why it's a novel and not a short story. This is a big story! It needs 400 pages to be told! And even at 400 pages, I wished there was more. I was literally sad to read because I knew there were less pages left to discover each day. And the truth is that I read this in 3 days flat.

The story is about 20-year-old twin girls who inherit an apartment in London from an aunt who has just died. There are some strict conditions to them getting the apartment (they have to live in it for one year minimum, etc) and they head over for a year of parents-free living. Cue ghosts, cemeteries, twisted minds, historical figures (Skersh, the whole thing happens near Rosetti's grave!) and awesomely complex characters. I cannot recommend this book more.

Once again, books prove the theories of love. When you know, you know, and you read the thing in .5 seconds flat. When it's not connecting, it's not working and you should move onto something else. I have about 15 minutes once I get in bed before I'm too sleepy to read and I'm not going to spend my accumulated few hours of reading per week on something that doesn't interest me. (All that said, there were nights when I was up well into the AMs with Her Fearful Symmetry).

And so the reading continues. What are you guys dying over in the subway lately? I always check out the books in the comments, so... leave 'em!


Oscar waiting for the Oscar's


When my Nana died almost three summers ago, she left behind a ton of dead African violets and one that was on its last legs. I took the plant home, hoping to bring it back, and also bought a new one. For the memories. In case the other one died and I had a nervous breakdown about death.

It turns out, the violets are enjoying their time here in our new living room. As proof:

Double blooming violets! What are the ODDS? Seriously, I'm about to run out and get a lottery ticket and let it sit on this window for a while and soak in the good vibes. Happy to report that Nana's violet and the replacement violet are both thriving and blooming. Cue sentimental music.

It was a stunningly beautiful weekend here in Brooklyn, and just in the nick of time. I was about to move to Mexico and telecommute from the beach. Since Chris was off gallivanting in Wisconsin (though, surely one does not gallivant in Wisconsin), I decided to start our summer garden. There are a couple of garden shops in the neighborhood and I scoffed while passing them all winter. I imagined that they sold bonsai trees and other boring, expensive greenery. Well I'm eating my words now! And also hopefully eating my garden harvest all summer long! My new friend Emily (at Dig on Atlantic) gave me some very specific advice about which veggies to grow and how to start.

The official list is: broccoli, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon, sunflowers, basil, cilantro, oregano, cucumbers and sugar peas. I did some googling yesterday about buying a blueberry bush, but will hold off on that til we're officially out of frost season. For now, these seedlings are snug as bugs in their new homes. Hopefully le chat will stay out of their way.

To plant seeds, Emily said you can use old egg crates (shown above) or, if you're watching your cholesterol, buy some simple little fabric pots. I had two old litter boxes that we're no longer using, so I organized them all in those. I imagine you could also use shoe boxes or even long plates.

After a long and trying week, it was so good to start things, to see the beginnings of baby plants and to start the growing. Literally. And figuratively. As a bonus, growing a watermelon is one of my Feast of Life list items, so we'll see if we can get that polished off this summer!

Who else is doing gardens this year? And what are you growing?


Questions to which there are no answers.

Sometimes I get a hankering for Brussel Sprouts. Why are they so crunchy and delicious?

I have an anti-wrinkle moisturizer and often forget to put it on my nose. Will I end up with a perfectly smooth face with a mega-wrinkly nose?

I started reading The Picture of Dorian Gray on January 1. I still haven't finished. Why can't I get on board?

My gym supplies people with towels to use when working out. I suppose this is so you're not sweating profusely on the ellipticals. The past two times I've gone to the gym, my towels have smelled like Fritos Corn Chips. Reality or wishful thinking on my part?

The dog down the hall is named Truman and he is, as his owner says, "a leaner." This means that he tries to lean all over you whenever you share the elevator with him. He has a giant bushy tail and adorable smiling face. How long til I steal him as a companion to Oscar-loo?