Found: A Great And Unexpected Alarm Clock


I’m not really a morning person in the first place, but the shock of waking up to a blaring alarm somehow always felt a bit like adding a tiny insult to the daily injury of waking up before I’m ready to face the day.  A few weeks ago I bought a fitbit at Costco, mostly because my husband has one and I like competing on our daily steps. I was also fascinated by the sleep data Tim was recording every night and somehow wanted in on this window into my subterranean sleep life. I’ve really enjoyed having it and definitely am walking more than I was before.   All of this is well and good and I’m sure many of you have fitbits and enjoy the data-watching as much as I do. However, the best part about the fitbit, in my mind, is the ALARM feature.  It vibrates against my wrist at 6:45 on weekdays and manages to not only completely wake me up (I’ve traditionally been a remorseless snoozer) without the blaring nature of a typical alarm.  Best of all, it doesn’t wake up anyone else.  And, if Tim has to wake up early (like 5am) his alarm doesn’t wake me up.   In any case, if you have a fit bit and you haven’t tried it – and if you’re an anti-alarm person, give it a try! PS my two cents: I would not recommend the fitbit I have – the Flex – the strap is ANNOYINGLY hard to close.  I like the one Tim has – the Fitbix Charge HR – it has a normal “strap” and is also a watch, which I find I keep wanting.  It’s a little wider and larger, but, I think worth it for the daily annoyance of putting it on.


Read This! Fairy Tales and A Gripping Radio Lap


I went on a reading bender this weekend and read these fantasy / fairy tale retellings and enjoyed them all:

The Cold King by Amber Jaeger: There is nothing I love more than a Beauty and the Beast re-telling and this is a goooood one, folks!

Bound by Kate Sparkes:  Second to Beauty and The Beast retellings, I love any story that features healers with a bit of magic / journeys on horseback / a good romance.  This has all three, told in a compelling, readable way. I’m on the second in the series now.

 The Seventh Bride by T. Kingfisher : Sort of a Bluebeard retelling but definitely with more of a horror bent than some I’ve read.  As a gentle warning to long time readers, it is a little bit more gruesome than the books I typically recommend, but, I really enjoyed it for its very down to earth heroine who keeps her wits about her in some very chilling times.

Then, I just listened to this gripping Radio Lab about an urban voyeur.  Insert eyeball emoji!


3.30.15 – Daily Dose of Green

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Click through for lots more photos of the amazing house and gardens at Middlefield by Gil Schafer and Deborah Nevins.

Hey! It’s Monday! Don’t you wish we were sitting in adirondack chairs looking at this view and talking about everything and nothing while we drank our coffees?  Then, at some point, we’d take out our kindles and read whatever we wanted with no interruptions? CAN YOU IMAGINE?? HA! All I can say is we all need our dreams and they might as well be good dreams.

PS: Since fantasies only take you so far, and it is Monday, I’ll include this article on the scientific case for cold showers.  I’ve been thinking about it non-stop and trying to put it in practice – let me say cold showers are indeed COLD.

3.27.15 – Hello, Crocus, Clusters of Hammocks

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I visited a friend and long time reader of the blog last weekend and she looked at me with a sigh and said “I’m getting tired of seeing that cashmere dress every time I check for a new post” and that’s when I knew it was time to climb back up on the blogging horse. Nancy is always reminding me that life is full of cycles – of growth, of rest, of struggle and of ease.  So I guess that applies to my blog too, that it has it’s own bizarre life cycle of activity and rest. I’m not sure I totally understand the cycle but I’m giving over to it and making it ok that sometimes I take a break.  A few of you have emailed in the last couple of weeks, checking in and telling me that you missed my posts (mostly, it seems, my book recommendations! ha!).  Whenever I stop blogging it’s usually because I’ve started to feel that I’m talking to an empty room.  So I appreciate all your emails and the enjoyment you may take, small or large, from what I do here.  My crocus are pushing through the soil of my window box, so I take it that spring is around the corner. 

This photo from Deborah Needleman’s Instagram caught my eye this week while I was looking for images of her amazing garden.  Who doesn’t love a hammock?  But three, together? Seems like pure bliss.  Dreaming of summer days and relaxation from a currently grey and rainy NYC.

PS: Some book recommendations:

The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr I usually avoid short stories, since they leave me feeling like I didn’t get enough food at a cocktail party, but Doerr’s stories, especially the first, The Shell Collector are ELECTRIC. I’d say they are like getting hit by lighting but that sounds unpleasant.  So maybe it’s like riding a unicorn?  Not sure, so I guess you’ll have to read it and let me know how to describe them.  In any case, highly recommend!

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel  This is a post-apocalyptic story that features a traveling caravan of Shakespearian actors – any story with a caravan hooks me!  This took me a few chapters to get into it but once I did, I couldn’t put it down.

Small Victories by Anne Lamont  This is a collection of her work published elsewhere and so some of the essays are a little dated. I’ll admit I skipped a few of the essays that date to the Bush administrations, but, I like Anne Lamont because there is always one “truth arrow” in her writing that hits me right between the eyes and I think “yes! yes! she’s so right!”.  I was raised in a pretty agnostic household, so I always fascinated to read about people and faith and how faith sustains them.

I promise it won’t be another six months before I post again.

11.20.14 – Wardrobe for The Polar Vortex

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A little PSA from frozen NYC: Uniqlo’s cashmere dress is amazingly flattering and so cozy without being too hot (my constant problem with cashmere) and $129.  NB: My sister braved the seizure inducing lights of the midtown store with me and raved about how this could be a great holiday party dress.  In my reality, I’ve been wearing it to walk the dog and school drop off.   Still – hi or low, this dress is a new favorite around here.

11.15.14 – Down the rabbit hole


I’ve been down the rabbit hole this last week – the Japanese organizing rabbit hole to be exact – reading and then implementing Marie Kondo’s practical, funny, spiritual guide to decluttering your home.  Joanna blogged about it last week, then a friend tweeted about it and finally I saw it in front of the register at the bookstore when I was checking out.   I bought it and read it in a day – I highly recommend it.

One aspect of this book that is very different from other organizing books/methods is that Marie connects to objects on a spiritual level and sees home as a spiritual place – for example, she thanks objects daily (her wallet, her worn out shoes, her sheets) for their help. While she doesn’t make the connection explicitly, I found myself thinking a lot about gratitude while reading her book and then decluttering the house.  I realized I’d slipped into an adversarial relationship with my house and many of my belongings – between moving and keeping the house organized (which often feels like a losing battle / a task for Sisyphus) somehow I’d lost some sense of fundamental gratitude for the apartment that shelters my family and the objects that we use everyday.   So getting back that gratitude was probably what I most appreciated about the book.

Marie warns, and I found this to be true, that her decluttering method can be emotional – there are reasons we all hold on to things long after we should have let something go.  The book goes deep – for example:

“The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life” and “The process of facing and selecting our possessions can be quite painful. It forces us to confront our imperfections and inadequacies and the foolish choices we made in the past … the things we own are real. They exist here and now as a result of choices made in the past by no one other than ourselves..This is why I’m against both letting things pile up and dumping things indiscriminately.”

If you’re not interested in the spiritual life of objects (no judgement here!) never fear – there is lots of practical advice in the book – from what do to with all those mystery cords that seem to be ever carried in with the technological tide to how to make the most of your closet space to how to fold clothes.

I will also note that she does not address households full of children’s toys nor what to do if you live any kind of creative life – art supplies – ideas for projects – inspiration books/papers/materials.  Her advice on paper is to simply throw it all out – which might work if you’re talking about 10 years worth of phone bills, but isn’t as applicable to any kind of creative process (at least, I don’t think so).  In any case, if you embark on this decluttering adventure, let me know!





11.5.14 – Wallpaper For A Tiny Space


As you walk down our long hallway about halfway down the space opens up (see floor plan here) into a small antechamber – the bathroom and master bedroom are off this odd little space.   I love it when there are little moments of surprise in an apartment – and I think this space is perfect for a fantastical, over the top wallpaper.  The suprise would be that you can’t see the space until you’re right on it – so to have it be something green and lush in an otherwise long, narrow, dim Upper West Side hallway makes me happy.  Right now I’m really into the idea of having the space be almost bower-like with some sort of leafy/green wallpaper – and wallpapering the ceiling too.  So if you’re standing in this spot it feels like you’re in some beautiful green garden.  This Cole and Sons wallpaper is a current frontrunner – I have a sample up right now – however the colors are much more muted – almost pastel – than in the image above.   I also like the floral wallpapers at the bottom – I imagine the space would be a little bit like an English garden.  Given that we’re due another polar vortex this winter, I’d take a little English Garden!

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Leaves, by Galerie

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Lonn by Duro

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Reverie by Little Greene

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Traily Plant Silver – Louise Body

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Wisteria, Farrow and Ball

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Midnight Garden, House of Hackney

10.31.14 – Tag Sale

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Cleaning out the apartment to make space for … space!   If you’re interested, email me at abbeynova AT  Everything is pick up in Morningside Heights.

1. Vintage Children’s Wallpaper – Schumacher double roll from the 1960s/1970s $100


2. Marble “ice cream” parlor table – 36 inches in diameter. $250  (this is a married piece – top and bottom from different sources).

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3. Lighthouse blueprint – $60 – 42 long by 21 inches.


4. Lighthouse blueprint – $60 – 42 long by 21 inches.



10.28.14 – Recent Good Reads


Here a few books I’ve read recently that I thought you might enjoy – the first is M.J. McGrath’s really readable mystery series set in the Arctic – I particularly like the third in the series, The Boy in The Snow.  I found the main character Edie compelling and competent, so maybe you will too!   The second was a young adult novel with a mystery at the center,  The Good Thief – a coming of age story with a complex world of characters that left me with good book glow.  What have you been reading?  Any recommendations?



10.27.14 – In The Kitchen – Japanese Chicken Meatballs


Last week a friend and I were talking about how we actually cook – day in day out, when we’re exhausted-by-life-it’s-a-weeknight-and-we’re-working-late recipes. Namely, our survival recipes.   These Japanese Chicken Meatballs are a favorite around here – they aren’t fancy but they are fast, tasty and something that both the 5 year old and the 35 year old will eat.  I like them because they are easy to double and easy to freeze (the secret of surviving any work week in my mind) and when I say they are fast, I mean like three minutes prep time and 20 minutes to bake.

Update: A few readers asked what I serve these with and the short answer is: lots of things and whatever I have on hand.  I make roast sweet potato fries and sauteed cabbage a few times a month and these meatballs often end up with either of those as side dishes.  This week I served with a side of pesto pasta (last night) and on a cheese plate as a finger food (tonight). 

Japanese Chicken Meatballs

Adapted From It’s All Good by Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Turshen

1 pound ground chicken (or turkey, or lamb)
½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, very finely minced
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce (I like this brand)
2 teaspoons good-quality maple syrup (I sometimes use a tablespoon of maple syrup)

1. Thoroughly mix the chicken with the salt, pepper, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and maple syrup. Roll the mixture into golf ball–sized meatballs. Bake in oven at 375 degrees for 2o minutes until the meatballs until they’re cooked through.  

Note: Gwyneth and Julia suggest pan frying these – that would probably make them tastier, but, I need that 20 minutes of baking in the oven to do things like drink wine, start the bath running for bedtime and prep lunch for the kiddo.  Also, I dislike cleaning the stove and pan after frying, especially during the week.