Category Archives: NJ + NYC

Hue

On our walk

Nelson and I have been taking long, rambling walks that often leave me asking for directions and scratching my head. Without mountains in the west as a compass point, I’m frequently lost. It is delightful to be without a timetable; we wander, we talk to neighbors, we closely examine flowers and trees with which we are unfamiliar.

On our walk

And one of us does a lot of playful yipping at other dogs.

(What? I like dogs).

I am eager to get a library card here to research the flora and fauna of our neighborhood. It the last two weeks, the colors have so changed. The pale, delicate pink blossoms of cherry trees have fallen, wilted and blown away, ashen along their edges. In place, these flamboyant fuschia bushes have come to life — including one in our yard. Azaleas, perhaps?

On our walk

This red tree catches my eye in the evening. If you see it just in the right light, it appears to be illuminated from within.

Fire Tree

Fire Tree

These flowers are dainty and sultry — in their own Georgia O’Keeffe kinda way.

On our walk

And oh, how I love the moss growing on these giant old trees. Everything is just so very, very green. Makes a desert girl reconsider her understanding of the color itself.

(There is some very navel-gazy-blog essay that could but won’t be written about being named after a shade of green, only to move to a land to better understand both the hue and myself. You’re welcome.)

On our walk

This week, I’m researching gardening organizations and trying to find a New Jersey planting calendar. And sweet talking our landlord into letting me use a bit of additional space to put in some rows of vegetables, including transplanting my potted, rambunctious teenager tomatoes and peppers — their limbs reaching out with adolescent awkwardness.

Happy exploring to you, amigos.

~K

Finding the Perks

I’m working on blogging ideas about community, neighborhoods and what identifies us regionally in the US. Of course this comes with trying to figure out the nuances of living in such a different place. Arizona to Colorado was a leap across state and seasonal lines. Colorado to New Jersey is a mind-boggling, culture shifting, honk-your-horn-just-in-case voyage catapult into a new life.

Thrift

I cannot believe how big the United States is. More precisely: I cannot get over how many distinct groups of folks — living in different types of homes, speaking varied dialects (much less languages), in vastly contrasting climate zones — there are under one flag. (And that isn’t including all those territory folks, folks I haven’t yet had a chance to visit. Related: hi, Guam! Hola Puerto Rico! Hey there, Marshall Islands.)

I loved living in Golden; and northern New Jersey is certainly growing on me. The landscape is stunning; countless shades of green, foggy mornings, woodpeckers, bears, possums and all kinds of other woodland creatures I only otherwise know from movies like, “The Hedge.” (Gila monsters? I know a gila when I see one. Possums? Kinda look like a big, scary ferret. Especially considering I only “see” them when they are partly smushed and fully dead on the side of the road. Add raccoons to that list too. Little trash-loving, blindfold-wearing bandidos.)

Perk of living in a fancy neighborhood: kick ass thrift stores. They call them “thrift boutiques” here and with good reason. There are no nickel and dime bins, but instead clothing sorted by designers. And the prices work out nicely for someone trying to make a living on book sales.

Remember those fantastic champagne coupes I was wanting in Denver? Well. How about these babies found at the “boutique?” (Along with that hand-stitched vintage linen.)

Thrift

God bless you, New Jerseyians. Jerseyites? Jersies?

Tomorrow, I start interviewing for jobs. My new interview outfit, via the “boutique” J Crew and scarf racks:

Thrift

I’m kinda digging the trees and green in the backyard. And the open window. See? More perks.

Jersey, we are going to fall head over heels for each other. With any luck, in designer heels from the “boutique.”

~K

 

 

What You Can

Meal Planning

My new kitchen is full of color, and is my favorite room in the house. It is wacky, fun, and space-challenged, but all together perfect. I’m not working yet, and so each afternoon looks a bit like a scene from a 1950s television show. I usually wear a dress and apron, and am elbows deep into a new recipe until the moment D gets home from work. He goes outside to throw the ball with Nelson, while I put whatever odd concoction we’re eating on the table — which has been set since after breakfast.

Meal Planning

What? I’m a writer. Procrastinating is an art, people. And we have to eat…

Yeah. I realize this little routine isn’t going to last long. We’ll be throwing frozen chicken breasts into the Crockpot before scooting out the door to our respective careers soon enough. But, while I’ve got the domestic mojo flowing, we are all enjoying it.

I’ve taken Stacey’s model and adapted it for our life. We eat most meals at home. Between the two of us, I’m either cooking or buying ingredients (cereal, milk) for 36 meals per week. My new goal is to feed us well — local produce, etc. — for less than $100 per week for these 36 meals.

Meal Planning

It’s working. This week’s menu includes several recipes from Wine and a Spoon, including chicken tikka masala and meatball soup.  Other standards in our weekly repertoire include a roast chicken (which eventually ends up in the soup pot to be boiled down for broth), lots of salad, and several bags of steamed veggies brought back to life with spices and a little butter. We eat a lot of leftovers too. (Risotto, meatloaf, soups — all taste better day two anyhow.)

Meal Planning

What is not included in that $100: wine. Ice cream. The random block of gourmet cheese one of us always seems to pick up during the week. The lunch out when we just don’t feel like eating leftovers.

The cost of living is considerably higher here, and I’ve never been much of a coupon/food sale shopper. I’m hoping this new routine of planning our next week’s worth of meals, and shopping once at the most reasonable market will save us time, money and the “what will we eat tonight/what ingredient am I missing” headaches.

I’m looking forward for it to warm up a bit so I can supplement this menu with our own tomatoes, peppers and fresh herbs. And for the BBQ to be fired up.

Another perk to all this budgeting and being a responsible adult? Eating out is way more fun when done sparingly. It seems like a deserved treat to visit our favorite sushi joint Friday nights.

~K

Em!

Mazio

One of my closest friends from college comes into NYC for work on occasion. We were able to catch up last night, with a bottle of wine and far too much food at Manzo. I was so excited for Emily and D to meet; they’d heard a lot about each other. As soon as Emily and I finished hugging, we dug in, telling long, complicated stories of our dorm room shenanigans. By the end of the meal, we had laughed until our sides hurt.

Or that stitch could have been the copious amounts of food we enjoyed.

Oh, NYC: you are such a pain in the butt to access, but the rewards are so sweet for those who succeed.

Mazio

This is still one of my favorite photos of us, from 8 years ago when she was studying in Boston and I was visiting. So young! Although that time we ate junk food poolside in Costa Rica in our bikinis was pretty ridiculous too.  Or the time we did shots of tequila right before she walked down the aisle in Mexico.

In truth, it says something of her patience that she still wants to be friends with me.*

Mazio

Also: I am really enjoying how many of my friends come through NYC for one thing or another. This is easing the homesickness quite a bit.

~K

 

P.S. Love you Fatty!*

From House to Home

House to home

There are a few things that make a house feel like home. My mama’s quilts on the beds, and the back of the couch — some of them worn thin from more than a decade of decadent napping. My brother’s pottery on the bookshelves, wedged between stacks of great stories begging to be read. A few pots of tomatoes and herbs, stretching their green leaves toward the sun on the veranda. Knitting needles with new projects. Dirty casserole dishes soaking in the sink, with the smell of simmering garlic, onions still lingering — a scent that doesn’t fade until the morning coffee is brewing. Handwritten letters in the mailbox, flag up. Handwritten letters received, with postmarks from the last place we called home.

Nelson, is burrowed at the foot of the bed, yipping as he chases some woodland critter in his sleep. A happy man rests, snoring next to him. I crack open the morning newspaper, dewy after being retrieved from the front lawn, pour a cup of that coffee, and settle in to a new day.

A new home. A new life.

~K

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Our Groove

NJ Hike

Nelson and I have been moping about for the last week, trying to find a rhythm to this new life. I’m fairly certain he misses his partner in crime, Chaco.  I’m also fairly certain I’m reading too much into it. (Hey! I’m at home all day with him and until he starts speaking back, I get to make up both sides of the dialog.)

NJ Hike

After several failed attempts at finding a good walking loop near our home — which is beautiful and wooded, and not pedestrian friendly — we adventured to a nearby state park. To my delight, we found a significant map of hiking trails, a lake, long stretches of woods where the cackle of birds overhead sounded like a soundtrack, and fresh air that left me delirious.

NJ Hike

Hikers know what I mean. When you reach a point in the hike, breathing in air so clean it smells sweet. You swear you can almost taste it, and you get a little dizzy breathing hard. We found that state of euphoria this morning. After a sweaty hour of climbing trails, we emerged from the forest with renewed smiles.

I needed to explore, feel my heartbeat pound and know I’m with nature. You can take the girl out of Colorado, but you can’t take the pacifist, mountain-loving, Birkenstock-wearing, folk song-singing out of the girl.

Hot tamales, this Garden State is pretty:

NJ Hike

NJ Hike

Thirty minutes one way, I’m in midtown Manhattan. Thirty minutes the other: forest nirvana. I’m starting to think this part of New Jersey is a hidden gem where the residents appreciate shows like “Jersey Shore,” because it deters more folks from finding them, and the truth. The state seems to be known for orange tans and the violence of Newark. While I don’t doubt those things exist, there is a lot more to the story.

NJ Hike

I’m looking forward to discovering the many nuances of my new community.

In the meantime, I’m off to pilates and Nelson is snoring under the dining room table. I should let Phil the groundhog know it is probably safe to cavort outside today.

NJ Hike

“Ha ha ha! You will never be safe. Even in my sleep, I hunt you, you dirty rodent!”*

~K

*I might be losing my mind.

The Cottage

We are living in a cottage house on a property with 10-plus acres of groomed grounds. There are giant trees hundreds of years old, sweet neighbors, and a winding drive that goes from one home to the other. So the story goes, there is a resident groundhog named Phil, who Nelson cannot wait to meet in person.

Slowly, our home is coming together. A few photos of the color found in our yard and villa:

New Jersey

New Jersey

New Jersey

New Jersey

New Jersey

New Jersey

I’ve planted a garden, found a church and library, and joined a gym. I’m swimming long solitary laps that bring clarity and peace of mind, looking for a job and passing the afternoons on this patio, with dogeared novels in my lap. Late afternoon, I throw on a dress, pick up D from work, and cook dinner. Nelson runs around like a mad man in the house and yard, while we catch up.

New Jersey

So far, New Jersey is far prettier and more peaceful than expected. It is overwhelming in every good way to be living here, with him.

~K

Leap

D

We dated for a handful of months, keeping things quiet because we worked together. The first week of February, he was transferred to the East Coast and we broke up. I was distraught. I didn’t eat or sleep for the better part of seven weeks. Easter weekend in NYC brought us back together, at a crossroad: we could move to Arizona, where I had an excellent job opportunity. He could move to Denver, where I also had a couple job opportunities. Or I could move to the East Coast and find something new – knowing he already had a great job. While it took a while to agree on a zip code, we were certain we wanted to be together.

If there was ever a man meant to live in a big city, he’s the one. He grew up in Europe and still travels there frequently, is more at ease in a three-piece suit than shorts and a T-shirt. He LOVES New York, a quick train ride away. If I was willing to come east, he’d care for us. (Nelson included, of course.)

To the shock of many, I started packing. Here’s why:

  1. I love this man. And I am a complete and total sucker for love. He makes me better. My life is happier when we are together. We make sense.
  2. A fresh start. Although I’d just done this with a move to Colorado two years prior, it all sounded so very nice. I didn’t need all of this stuff. I didn’t need to stay in a job I hadn’t enjoyed for a long time — even if my clients were fantastic. I was being given a chance to free myself of both.
  3. I’ve never lived on the East Coast. And while I am a western girl at heart, it will be fun to discover a new place. I’m looking forward to upstate New York this summer, and road trips to states I’ve only ever seen on maps. Ben and Jerry’s in Vermont! Screaming, “live free or die!” in New Hampshire. Lobster in Maine, etc. {I am writing this from a Starbucks in New Jersey, wearing chunky turquoise, a jean jacket, and dirty white chucks. I’m surrounded by folks wearing black, puffy Burberry coats with plaid at the cuffs, or pressed Brooks Brothers with flashy links. Toto, we aren’t in Golden anymore.}
  4. A new career. I’ve got time and a bit of savings. I can plan this next job without that sense of, “holy Moses, I just got laid off twice in four months” urgency that led to the last. I have time to think about how I want to spend my time, in addition to finishing my novel.
  5. Maybe I’m just dreaming, but being closer to the capital of publishing gives me more hope for finding the right agent and editor for future novels.
  6. It isn’t permanent. We have dreams of living abroad and raising a family in the West. I want my closest friends and family nearby. My life is richer with community.
  7. Did I mention I love him? He is a good man. Plus, it is kinda fun to be spontaneous for the first time in my otherwise very planned life.

Thank you for all of the well wishes. Change of address cards hitting the post next week — as Nelson and I hit the open road, bound for New Jersey.

~K

P.S. Yeah, I moved to Africa when I was 20. But Jersey? THIS IS SCARY.