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a little extra light


So! Daylight Savings has absolutely wrecked me this year. (It usually does.) I hate to think where I'd be mentally if I didn't have a new job—I'm really enjoying it, and during the time of day that's always hardest for me (at, like, 5:00—you know, when the sun starts setting...), I'm normally wrapping things up after a nice day and looking forward to the commute home. My mood normally picks up around dinnertime—because food!—and at that point I'm at home, anyway: warming up a meal, asking Aaron and my husband about their days, and generally forgetting the fact that it's dark as Hades outside AND WILL ONLY GET DARKER. Until December 21. 

Something that has helped immensely: A few weeks ago, we (and I mean my husband, under my artistic direction) painted our entire bedroom white. And it's white white—he did about three coats before I declared it adequately white. I'd been toying with the idea for a few months, but thought it might look too sterile, particularly since all our furniture—and curtains, and rugs—are white. (I've always enjoyed color, and most of our bedrooms in the past have been quite dark.) But in the morning nowadays, our entire room is flooded with sunlight—it's been a relief to be able to begin the day there. And during the weekends, which are unexpectedly a bit harder—since the day feels like it ends at sunset and I don't have the distraction of work—I spend some of the afternoon in there, which is basically like sitting in a bright white box, notwithstanding the weather outside. Light therapy, indeed. 

Some other things distracting me from the fact that it's now fully dark at 5pm, portending a frozen, miserable, dark and dreary winter: 

This peppermint cake, an ambitious (doomed?) project for Christmas.
And let's also talk about this apple-pean bourbon-caramel pie, which is totally doable for Thanksgiving. As Aaron would say, "...Oooh, my!"
This green perfume (still my favorite after five years and counting), which is like an aggressive punch of spring to the face each morning. 
This new alarm clock: cheap and cute, and makes an adorably wheezy sound when dropped (or pushed off the nightstand) repeatedly.
This tea, whose light grassy color always perks me up during the afternoon slump at the office.
This super casual (and super delicious) Ethiopian restaurant, where we ate on a random weekday last week with some new friends.
(And this cheekily-named whiskey bar around the corner, where I had a nice rye before walking home.) 
And, of course, spring. It'll be back.


on going back to work


As you may have noticed from my last post from a full week ago (oops....), I went back to work! Thanks for your comments and e-mails last week: I intend on keeping up with the blog as a creative outlet so hopefully I'll find the time to update just as regularly!

I don't think I've ever really explicitly mentioned this on the blog, but not that many years ago, I used to be a corporate lawyer. (I guess, technically, I still am a lawyer.) I worked at a really big law firm in Manhattan, doing securities and M&A work, and—while I had the apparently anomalous experience of genuinely liking most of the people I worked with—the job took a mental, emotional, and physical toll on me, as is pretty typical in this line of work. I was lucky to be able to quit (without a back-up plan) about a year and a half into it: the hours and substance of the work became something that wasn't tenable. I intended to look for another job right away, but personal circumstances (a wedding, a pregnancy, a baby, and an international move to Istanbul within an eighteen month span of leaving the firm) meant that I somehow found myself as an expat stay at home mom in Turkey, feeling a little professionally lost. And work has always been a big part of my life, so that meant I felt a little lost in my personal life as well.

Of course, we had a wonderful time in Turkey—and I had my patient husband and beautiful son, to boot, but a nagging part of me always wavered about staying at home. Long before I actually had a kid, I always told people that I'd like at least the option to stay home for few years as I navigated early motherhood. Clearly, I was lucky enough to be able to, and that kind of financial flexibility was never something that I took for granted or didn't appreciate. But, inside, I knew it wasn't something I wanted to do for the rest of my life, or even until Aaron started kindergarten. The problem was, I didn't know what I wanted to do. I didn't want to go back to practicing corporate law again, but the thought of starting from scratch was so overwhelming. Plus, I was really sensitive about the fact that I'd already been out of work for a few years to care for a baby, which made me (unreasonably) think that a lot of potential employers would simply write me off. But that difficult interlude in Istanbul was really worth it: because I didn't have many distractions around me, it forced me to reevaluate whether or not I wanted to return to work (yes) and what type of things I'd be interested in. 

It was in Istanbul, of course, that I started this blog. As a direct result, I got some work freelancing for a travel publication, which eventually turned into more freelance gigs at various other publications and companies. It was really encouraging, and when we moved back to the States last June, I started looking for full-time gigs in earnest. Although I didn't like my experience of actually practicing law, I do like the topic of law itself—and I noticed that I really liked editing and writing, which is something I've done—at times more, at times less—my entire life. So, in a total "duh!" moment, I looked at legal editing jobs. Whoa.

Guys: Job. Hunting. Sucks. I didn't hear back from a lot of places, which I was prepared for but certainly not pleased by, and in the middle of looking at jobs, I found out that while I'd passed the first stage of the Foreign Service exam, I didn't—not unsurprisingly, given how choosy the State Department is—manage to pass the second. That entire application had been a shot in the dark (it was  pretty much a "because it's there" move on my part), but while it wasn't something I was truly interested in, it still was a bit of a letdown and didn't do much to boost my confidence. Last June, I also took a train down to Washington D.C. from New York for a terrible and stressful job interview. It was a company that seemed really great at first, but the interview was belittling and made me feel dumb, unprepared, and like I was never going to find a job. I was floored by how badly it went. Afterwards, I had a few angry gin & tonics at Union Station before my train, and may or may not have eaten hot dogs the entire Amtrak ride back to New York. But nobody ever said it was easy to adult. These things happen. At the end of the day, it seemed like a really pathetic thing to get bent out of shape over, although—as an inveterate people-pleaser—such particular sensitivities are my M.O.

And then: I got a job! As an associate editor at a nonprofit, working on their magazine and other publications! When I went in for my initial interview, I walked out on cloud nine: the people were amazing and friendly, the office was beautiful, the interview had gone swimmingly and comfortably, the organization did fantastic, interesting, worthwhile, and intellectually stimulating work that was right up my alley in terms of law. So, kind of a dream. And I'm happy to report that the first week of work has reflected exactly my first impression of the place. It's such an amazing feeling to look forward to work, and be excited to get to spend time with your coworkers and bosses. 

I'd like to keep my work completely separate from this blog, so this will likely be the first and last time you'll hear me talk about it. Consider it an explanation in case things are quiet here for the next few weeks, or if I mention it offhand. Plus, I'm just about ready to burst with excitement for jumping into this new job—for going to an office! chatting with adults! getting to know my colleagues! working for a fantastic cause!—that it was hard not to share.

Have a wonderful rest of your week! Onward and upward, as they say. 


a story about a diaper bag


Once upon a time, for a few months, I had an attractive, dark brown leather diaper bag that I loved. (It was not really a diaper bag, but a men's satchel that did double duty as a diaper bag.) While being an idiot in Barcelona, it was stolen by a smooth-operating thief who snatched it and ran out of the cafe. For a few months afterwards, I used a smaller satchel that I'd bought in Istanbul as a diaper bag, but it wasn't really cutting it. The bigger Aaron grew, the more things I needed to stuff in it—toys, books, extra wipes—and it was woefully overstuffed, and practically bursting at the seams. 

Last month, Lily Jade sent me the wonderful Elizabeth tote (I have it in camel), and it's spent almost everyday since then either on my shoulders or hanging off the stroller handles. There are a number of reasons it's taken the place of the two or three bags I rotate through—it can be worn crossbody! or as a backpack! it's got a removable inner pocket! a travel diaper pad! it's big enough to hold my laptop!—but the biggest reason? It doesn't look like a diaper bag. When I'm out and about without Aaron, I find myself unsnapping and pulling out the removable pocket, which generally holds all his diapers and wipes, and going about my day. So many women (on and off the playground) have complimented me on it—and when I wear to the occasional happy hour or dinner (or, um, date nights at bookstores), nobody's the wiser.


A little segue: after two wonderful, exhausting, bewildering, exhausting, exhausting, and very lucky years spent home with Aaron, I'm heading back to full-time work this morning. (More on this later). It's something I'm incredibly excited about—particularly given the career change—but, at the same time, it's a bittersweet feeling to leave behind morning trips to the playground, cozy walks during winter, quiet afternoons at home. (I mean . . . I understand these things will still all take place on something known as "the weekend," but let me be dramatic here for a minute.) I'm cognizant of how lucky I am to have been able to spend those precious early years with Aaron, and to have found an opportunity that will let me jump back full-time. As a result, I'm trying not to dwell too much on these feelings: I know the next several weeks will be a bit of a transition period, as I try to juggle motherhood and work and everyone gets used to a new rhythm at home. But still.

Of course I could always treat myself to a new bag to celebrate this new phase, but I'm choosing not to: I already bring this bag everywhere, so why not to work? My new field is considerably less buttoned-up than my last one, but it still requires some polish, and this bag—which easily fits my laptop, papers, pens, a small make-up bag, and a pair of flats for my commute—is a perfect one for this job, too. So, today, this bag will be beside my desk in my new office, rather than sitting on a playground bench beside me, or swinging from the stroller handlebars as I lunge after Aaron on the street. This morning, I'll take out the little pocket inside that normally holds Aaron's diapers and snacks and trucks, and in will go my work things. And, when I get back home, Aaron's pocket can get snapped back in.


But! I forgot to mention the best part.

The bag is big enough for a little stowaway:



reading: career of evil

Just wanted to say . . . that after loving The Cuckoo's Calling and The Silkworm, I started Career of Evil, book number three in the Cormoran Strike series, as soon as I received it (temporarily put aside old Stonewall for now). And, it's just as fantastic as I thought: like settling back into the company of old friends. 


istanbul: a weekend guide

I thought about naming this post the "definitive" guide, which was kind of silly—this isn't definitive at all, it's just a list of some of my favorite places in Istanbul. But I have noticed that as friends and readers ask me for recommendations, my original two-page list has been whittled down to just a handful of my favorites that I can rattle off without thinking. Months after we've moved away, these are the places that are still on my mind—ones that I can't wait to revisit whenever we take Aaron there next. 

Part of this is due to the fact that there is SO MUCH TO SEE. And, I mean, if you're going to Istanbul, you know what most of that is. You don't need me to tell you to stop at the Hagia Sofia. (If you do we need to talk.) But because Istanbul is so big, a lot of places also don't make it to guidebooks, and for friends finding themselves in the city for a few days who'd like a more personal touch to their wanderings, I'm always happy to give it to them. 

So without further ado: 

Where to go for breakfast when you have a raki hangover and just can't deal: Cafe Kale, near Rumelihisari. I KNOW. I won't shut up about this place. I've written about it extensively here (and talked about it rapturously here), so I won't go into detail. But it's a no frills, gut-busting breakfast, for a good price and with a beautiful view, 

Where to go if you'd like to observe Istanbul's most glamorous set get sloshed on a rooftop: Mikla's rooftop bar. The drinks are about as good as you'll find in Istanbul (nothing to write home about), but the view! At evening! It's incredible. If you're in the mood for a luxurious or celebratory night out, it's a fantastic place. If you're looking to quietly catch up with an old friend, maybe go early. 

Where to go when you're a homesick Brit or American: As an American, the Bosphorus Brewing Company was about the closest we had to the kind of fare and beer we were used to back home. I'm kind of embarrassed to say that during our first month there, we went like twice a week, where I wept many a salty tear into their delicious duck salad (which they no longer apparently serve, a fact that makes me unreasonably upset, seeing as how we no longer live there). 

Where to go for dinner if you're planning a date, trying to impress someone, or just want a nice night out without all the crazy: Munferit is one of the most quietly beautiful restaurants I've seen in the city: it's also got a quiet bar with a reasonable selection of liquor (and the food is fantastic)!

Where to go if you'd like a break from the crowds at Hagia Sofia: Hagia Irene, just on the grounds of Topkapi Palace, is an Eastern Orthodox Church that's built on the grounds of a pre-Christian temple. Think haunting and quiet, with a ton of crumbling grandeur. If you're lucky enough to be in the city sometime during June, they regularly hold classical music concerts inside for Istanbul's music festival.

Where to go to shop outside of the Grand Bazaar or one of Istanbul's many malls: Bebek, a ritzy neighborhood north of the city center (just a short walk from where we used to live), is home to a few beautiful boutiques (my favorite, hands down, has always been Midnight Express). Plus, it's got the storied Baylan and Divan patisseries—and what's probably the most beautiful Starbucks in the world.

P.S. More old Istanbul tips, here.