For the past two years we’ve lived in the garden apartment of a sturdy, thoughtfully restored brownstone on one of those quintessential Brooklyn blocks. A leafy stretch where a perfect kick-line of brawny brick homes crowned in regal cornices lead to the park. It’s been a charmed run, and we know it.
We’ve been lucky enough to have more than landlords living above us, but friends, too. Even if we are an unlikely match. Us: hailing from the Midwest, writers and vaguely Christian. Them: Russian-born immigrants who are doctors and Jewish. There’s a sitcom in there somewhere, complete with an episode where the parents come downstairs to raid the honey baked ham and shrimp cocktail we had on offer at our Christmas Eve party.
We share the usual neighborly provisions of sugar or eggs, and we watch one another’s children in a pinch. Having doctors on call was helpful when our toddler took a temple-leading leap into a coffee table. And they appreciated help from an in-house editor to review speeches for their oldest son’s bar mitzvah.
Beyond that though, the above shots are a glimpse at just how much we’ve blended lives and learned from one another’s stories, traditions and cultures. One holiday evening we lit the Christmas pyramid and two menorahs in the window as we discussed the significance behind those stories and the importance of light. We popped open Christmas crackers (a UK tradition) and swapped the silly jokes inside as we passed around plates of latkes (three glorious kinds), pickles, Russian herring salad and my new favorite: pirozhki.
And despite the fact that the house is being sold and we’ll all be moving, I hope that we can make this gathering a holiday tradition for years to come….
With somewhat regular desk jobs (translation: less free-roaming vacation time) this past year, summer travel was more about the long weekend away and revisiting tradition. Some old, like time spent at the family cottage (100 years old this summer!) in Bellaire, Michigan.
Others newer, such as the three-summers-old tradition playing castaway on Cuttyhunk Island off the coast of Cape Cod. This year we loaded up on groceries, wine and diapers and stayed for one whole blissful week on island.
And, something we hope that will become a tradition, an escape to the Floating Farmhouse, in Eldred, New York, for the birthday of a dear friend. The meandering drive along two-lane roads trimmed with farm stands by way of New Jersey, with a jog into Pennsylvania and back over the New York state line to the Catskills, made it fell like more of an adventure than the easy two-and-a-half hour journey it was.
This 200-year-old farmhouse was artfully revamped to blend the existing structure – wide wood floors, exposed beams, rustic wall planks – with new elements. Most notable was the open kitchen with its wood-burning pizza oven and soaring wall of windows facing the pine-dense forest. Ok, we were all ga-ga over the deep soaking tubs, vaulted ceilings and generous porch perched on the muddy pond, too.
Frogs croaked their creaky songs at night on the pond. A black bear sauntered through the woods in plain sight. People wandered out to the gazebo with coffee in hand and a book, or rocked in the hammock. Frisbee breaks were mandatory and frequent. Like a group of test kitchen chefs, we worked on perfecting a pizza crust recipe. We lazed for hours on the loungers surrounding the pond. And we laughed, a ton. It was filling on all levels. And I can’t wait to get back there again next summer…or, in any season, for that matter.