The life.

I’m sitting in an expensive coffee shop in Palm Springs. It’s 119 degrees outside - an unbearable heat - and so we’ve been chased indoors, to used bookstores and cafes like this one during the long, hot hours of the afternoon.

Across from me sits my husband, formerly my fiance and previous to that, my boyfriend. (Further back still, he was “cute-guy-I-worked-with,” but that’s a while ago). He’s drinking a vanilla latte; three weeks ago he would never have ordered this, but our honeymoon has brought out all kinds of new habits in our lives. Coffee drinking is one of them. We can’t drink it without filling the cup halfway with milk and adding at least three packets of sugar, but we’re having fun with it. This morning Chris went back to the room after breakfast while I stayed and finished my cup in the hotel restaurant. I sat and sipped and appreciated the culture of it. Coffee, so far, seems to be another lovely excuse to sit quietly and contemplatively after a meal or in the company of an old friend. Much like wine, a cup of coffee (even better yet- a little French press pot to prolong the moment) gives you an excuse to cozy down into a big chair and wonder about the world.

We’ve seen quite a bit on this trip. I resisted the temptation to sit and write every night, wanting to record the memories before they faded into one general “roadtrip.” It is our honeymoon, after all, and letting go of reporting life to the minute detail on Twitter or Facebook (or this blog) was a big part of our intention. For the most part, we’ve steered clear... and for that, we have been rewarded with full minds and relaxed postures.

I’m sure that this honeymoon wouldn’t be right for everyone, but I’d like to submit that it was PERFECT for us. It has been an adventure, each day offering the most fun things we’ve never allowed ourselves before. For example, one day we woke up early to go horseback riding through the forest and onto the beach. And from there, we drove to have lunch overlooking the California coastline. And then we went to a castle. We finished by eating steak in the most ridiculous dining room we’ve ever been in. AND THAT WAS ONE DAY.

After 8 or 9 days of that, we rolled into Palm Springs and spent all of yesterday in the pool. Laying around by the pool and reading did not sound like the honeymoon we wanted (I would be bored in 4.3 seconds), but somehow finishing the trip with 3 days of this is perfection. This morning I bounced between sitting and reading for 15 minutes and then jumping in the pool for 10 to cool off. It was the most perfect combination in existence and it sure didn’t hurt that we were in the most beautiful hotel I’ve ever seen.

This morning after I took the final sips of my coffee, I signed the bill with my new name. I finished my coffee and I signed a new name and I went to find my husband to go swimming in the 119 degree heat. And then I pinched myself because, this? This is the life. This is my life.

And I can’t wait to tell you all about it.



P.S. We're honeymooning in blissful Oregon right now (headed to CA today), but wanted to post this preview from our photographer. So much to write about our wonderful wedding, but right now I have to go wade in a river and watch for elk. (Seriously!!!) More from me when we get back in a few weeks!


Les livres de 2011: round 4

Ahhh book reviews. Remember when they used to happen? Well they're back!

23. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
I read this book because I was so into Mary and Loving Frank. It's a similarly structured plot: the life of a man who was incredibly famous/talented/influential told from the point of view of his wife. In this case, we're talking Hemingway and we're talking sweet Hadley, his first wife.

Even though Hemingway is pretty much a bastard, I finished this book being REALLY into him. I sympathized with Hadley for sure, but as soon as I closed the cover I went on a mission to the used bookstores in my neighborhood to buy up every Hemingway book I could find. This was a great story and would be an awesome companion read to The Sun Also Rises, which he was writing during his marriage to Hadley. Looking for a related movie recommendation once you finish this? Try Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen's most recent film. We loved it! 
Bookstore in Madison, WI.

24. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
This was my third time through this book. I took a really cruddy American lit class in college for my English major and I hated every book we read but this one (i.e. Death Comes to the Archbishop... DEATH COMES TO MY BRAIN was more like it). But The Age of Innocence blew me away, so much that I literally wrote "WHATTTTT?????" on the last page of the book. My 20-year-old self couldn't believe it ended the way it did. I considered the ending as tragic as Romeo and Juliet!

When I read it again a few years later, I didn't feel quite as extreme about it. And then this time, I thought "you know, that's just life. Sometimes people don't always end up together." I consider this a sign of my maturity. 

I read this book for the Project Learn semester. Since I was focused on NYC, I picked up many more local references than I ever had before. I was inspired to take the Greenwich Village walking tour and I saw many of the places that Wharton wrote about - and even where she lived! 

Edith Wharton, you're a classy dame. And this book is definitely worth a read, if not three.

25. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Ok, so I already wrote a mini-review of this book in May but for the sake of consistency, here goes.

If you have ever had an inclination to be a writer or artist, this book will convince you that your life requires at least a year in Paris. It's what pushed me over the edge several years ago to move abroad yet again and Paris in the 20s is high on my list of places to time travel to, should the technology ever catch up with me.

As a memoir of his time in Paris, it's also the most direct way to connect with Hemingway. I find his memories completely endearing and you get the impression that he regretted some of the way things turned out with Hadley.

26. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Continuation of my Hemingway obsession in May/June. I'll admit that I was really surprised I didn't put this book down. It's a war story about the Spanish-American war and it reads... oddly. Like an old book and almost like a translation, but much of that has to do with the Spanish peppered throughout. 

But I puttered along and could not believe the ending. It was AMAZING. I made Chris listen to the final few paragraphs, reading them aloud late at night when I finally finished it. Holy sentences, man. The dude could write.

27. She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb
Every once in a while, I stop by my friend Leigh's apartment and we order takeout pizza and sit around with wine and catch up on life. It's great. The last time we did this, she forced several books on me on my way out the door, She's Come Undone included. 

This book read like a pre-cursor to Junot Diaz's The Brief and Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao. They're both really deep, far-reaching stories... but they're also both incredibly sad. By the second half of the book, I was getting pissed off. Could the author imagine any new horrible things to happen to this character? And oh! He could!

So I'm mixed on this one. Definitely a deep story that spans many years, but not exactly a pick-me-up plot.

28. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
I read this book when it first came out and my love of JSF, first ignited by Everything is Illuminated, grew exponentially. That love was vastly reduced when I encountered him in person at a New Yorker Festival event (he just came across really... jackassish). Nonetheless, my semester on NY piqued my curiosity for a reread.

I love the richness of the writing in this book. It's chock-full of personality, of tone and of the style of the main character's voice. It's the story of a young boy whose father was killed in the 9/11 attacks. I'm very picky about my 9/11 reading choices, mostly because it's such a political bomb that's evoked by everyone and their mother to pander to emotional heartstrings (see: politicians). So when an author writes about it, it better be powerful in a way that doesn't draw its strength from emotion.

This story accomplishes that. It is unique, touching and completely refreshing. Highly recommend it.

29. Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland
First things first: the writing in this book is terrible. Sucks! Horrific! I gagged on a few sentences! And I would have put it down many times if not for my raging interest in Tiffany lamps.

The book is another New York book. Based in the late 19th century, it's the story of Clara Driscoll, a woman who worked for Tiffany & Co. for many years as the manager of the women workforce. The ladies worked on large glass installations, like stained-glass windows. Though it was previously believed to have been Mr. Tiffany himself who came up with the idea for a Tiffany lamp, letters discovered earlier this century identified Clara as their inventor.

So if you can make it through the most awkward writing of all-time, you're going to learn a bunch about the lamps themselves. If you can't, I don't blame you.

30. The Women of the House by Jean Zimmerman
I totally loved this book but I literally can't think of one person I know that I'd lend it to. This book is the story of the Philipse women, originally of Dutch descent, whose guts and determination led to founding Philipse Manor (a town in Westchester). You're sleeping already, aren't you? I knew it!

If you're at all familiar with Westchester County, you might love this book. There are so many fun facts about the history of Manhattan and Westchester - most of them Dutch-related! For example, did you know that Dutch women didn't have to change their names when they married? And that they were entitled to the same education as boys? It wasn't until the English took over New York that we ended up becoming much more prim, proper and... dude-centric. Way to go, Brits.

I picked this book up randomly at a bookstore in Madison and loved it so much. It's a really unique point of view and I love that the author is a woman. Her admiration of these Dutch women shines through. Highly recommend!

31. Inside the Apple by Michelle Nevius
Dude, there ARE a lot of New York books in this set of reviews! I'm going to make a bold statement here. Inside the Apple was, hands-down, the BEST book about New York that I've ever read. Here's why!
  • It was concise. Every other history of NYC is so long that I only get through the Dutch era before I stop reading. This means that I'm basically an expert of Dutch New York (kidding... sort of.), but that I know absolutely nothing about the 19th and 20th centuries. This book sped through 400 years of history in less than 300 pages. Love it.
  • It was relevant! The book is written in short little 1-2 page chapters about random buildings, stories and people who were important in New York. 9 times out of 10, I knew the exact building they referred to. 
  • There were walking tours at the end! You know that I love a good walking tour. My recommendation is to read the whole book and then plant yourself in a part of the city you're interested in, then do the tour. I think it'd be too overwhelming to read the history WHILE you're standing outside the buildings themselves. 
This book was a total winner. Coming to NY? Live in NY? Buy it so you can mark it up and visit your favorite landmarks the next time you're in town. 


Easing into the rest of our lives.

We've got less than a week to go. We've got a forecast that's hovering at 30% chance of precipitation. We've got a plan to get the dress, get the sound system, get the violet plants, get the hell out of Brooklyn on Thursday morning. We've got two days left of work.

What don't we got? NERVES!

That photo is me at the Transit Museum this morning. If I can wish one thing for each of you, it's that you are relaxed enough the weekend before you get married that you can visit the Transit Museum together and take funny pictures in all the old trains.

When our kids throw us a 35-year anniversary party, I hope they remember to look at this blog to get a sense for the anticipation we were feeling. I'll be the first to admit that maintaining excitement about getting married over a 10-month engagement isn't feasible. You have to be a productive member of society, so you can't spend all day every day talking about HOW AWESOME THE FLOWERS WILL BE. AND THE FRIENDS! AND THE CAKES! You have to take it down a notch... you have to live life as if it's completely normal.

But then you're less than a week from marrying your best friend and the excitement bursts through in little explosions at random moments. When you're signing your name at Trader Joe's, you think about how the next shopping trip could be with your husband. FIREWORKS! Or when you're sitting on the couch together eating quesadillas, talking about who you're most looking forward to seeing and what moment you're anticipating the most (him: seeing his bride for the first time, her: pronouncement of man and wife). FIREWORKS! When he gives his seat up at Starbucks to a woman who walks with a cane. FIREWORKS!

Wedding hammock, a gift from my sibs.
Last night, antsy about what to read next and not yet ready to commit to a biography about Cornelius Vanderbilt (yep. I know. NERD.), I picked up Committed again. That Liz Gilbert, man. She makes me want to reread her infinity times just to spend time with her charming, witty and best friend-ish brain. I feel good spending my final few days as an unmarried reader in her capable hands.

What else? The semester on NY was highly undocumented, wasn't it? I'm sorry about that. Believe me when I say that I was buried in New York history all summer and that I'd like to post more about it, but we'll have to see how time works out. August has always been planned as my summer vacation away from Project Learn and I'm very excited to roll back into my fourth semester come September. More to come on that.

One week from now we'll be at the airport to leave for our honeymoon. We're taking a roadtrip down the Pacific Coast from Portland, OR to Palm Springs, CA. We have plenty of time to explore places abroad and plenty of beach vacations when kids come, but for now we wanted a domestic roadtrip adventure for the two of us. We're so, so excited to start things off in Portland, a city that we visited almost a year ago and one that has lodged itself deep in our hearts.

Then we head down the Oregon coast, down towards the Redwood forest, through San Francisco (wooo!), Carmel, Big Sur, Santa Barbara and then a swing over to Palm Springs to complete the Ace Hotel portion of our love story at the fourth and final Ace. Then we're flying to Milwaukee where Chris' family is hosting a party for those people who couldn't make the NY wedding and THEN we're coming home. It's going to be 3 weeks of crazy awesomeness. We don't even have the volume of underwear to support such a long trip!

Sometimes I wonder what happens when all of this is over, when our friends and families are back in their states and countries and the honeymoon registry is closed and we've got tons of photos to remember everything by. I would like to say that we'll come back to plain old life, but if you know anything about us, you know that plain old life isn't something we're big on. We've got lots cooking over here: Camp Mighty later this fall, a trip to Japan next spring, French classes for Chris (his bday gift!) and miles of road ahead of us. A long, long road of life to be lived.

We are ready to live it.