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happyweekend

how is it possible that this week felt long when it was in actuality quite short? last week, i worked just one full day, and a “half day” from montauk (which doesn’t really count, right?), and this week, i worked just monday-thursday. and yet, by 3pm on thursday afternoon, i was ready to call it quits. things have been a bit slower at work as of late, and that always makes me feel sleepy and all together unaccomplished. after a week away from my usual workout routine, it was really nice to get back into the groove. in just 4 days, i managed to squeeze in 4 bar method classes and 2 soul classes, which makes me feel like much less of a lump – a lump who’s eaten a shit ton of ice cream cones lately, i might add. next week i’ll have another 4 day week that’ll likely be just as slow, given that it’s pre-labor day, and after that, it’s back to the daily grind of 5 day work weeks with no summer fridays in sight for a very long time. but at least it’s almost fall, and i’d be lying if i said i wasn’t super excited to get back into my cozy sweaters and leggings uniform. i’m a bit sick of my maxi dresses, and there’s really nothing more comfy than a giant scarf. here’s to autumn and apple picking just around the corner!

anywho, now that i’ve given you that boring update, below are a few things i liked this week.

keeping starbucks stores unique. on how a coffee chain that might seem like a sea of sameness works hard to differentiate its retail stores.

a hilarious critique of people who live in brooklyn. my brooklyn friends, i love you, but you really do talk like this, at least, a lot of the time.

hitting the rest button in your brain. hint: going on vacation but still checking your instagram feed every ten seconds does not count.

my photo went viral. this piece broke my heart and put it back together all at once. here’s to us defending one another and building each other up instead of breaking one another down.

the business of taylor swift. on her carefully calculated image, and the fact that she changes her hair every two years. plus, is her new video racist?

actor jesse williams talks about the michael brown case.

jessie randall of loeffler randall’s beauty routine (with a soulcycle shoutout!).

and, just for good measure, some good advice from jenna lyons on getting old (hint, eat ice cream).

PS: i’m currently reading this book and i can’t put it down.

jpegthis past weekend, i went home to see my family, and as jewish families do (see: trailer for the film below), we got into it at dinner one night. you know, guilt tripping, a little bit of crying, a little bit of yelling. we love each other dearly, but sometimes (again, see: trailer for the film below), we work through our issues by shouting at each other, or taking little digs at one another, or just plain crying at the dinner table. what can i say? it’s how i grew up, and it’s all i know. during our little session of somewhat-shouting-somewhat-crying-everyone-annoyed-and-a-little-bit-sad, my mother offered up this little gem of wisdom about my somewhat miserable childhood: sarah never had a lot of friends growing up! so she got lost in books instead.

and rather than defend myself, i just nodded, and agreed. because, well, it was true. i was an overly sensitive child prone to calling up my friends in first grade and telling them that they’d hurt my feelings by not sitting with me at the lunch table. and you know what? first graders don’t give two shits about hurting anyone’s feelings. they barely know what feelings are. and you know what else? if they wouldn’t sit with me at the lunch table, then they weren’t really my friends – but it took me a long time to figure that one out.

but i digress. the main point here is that as a child (and really, up until now, or, okay, still now, even as a grown woman), books were my escape. they gave me the friends i couldn’t find in the real world. they gave me the courage i didn’t have as a shy child who might as well have had doormat stamped across her forehead. they gave me the vocabulary that won me the third grade spelling bee, much to my male opponent’s chagrin. they gave me adventures i couldn’t very well take on my own in my bedroom. they gave me an imagination bigger than the one i was given, and most importantly, they taught me how to write.

they taught me that i wanted to write. it took me a long time to figure out who i was in the world (and if we’re being honest, i’m still figuring it out), but i have always, always, known that i wanted to write. one might think that as i grew more confident, and figured out how to pick up on social cues, and how not to get my heart stomped on, and how to go out and have fun, i would have left my books and my voracious reading habit behind. but one would be wrong. if anything, i read more now than i did as a kid. even in college, while everyone else complained that they had so much required reading they couldn’t bear to pick up a novel, i read. and now that i live in new york, and commute each and every day, i read even more. i read on my way to bar method in the mornings. i read while i walk down the street (annoying, i know). i read in the elevator, on the subway, on the bus. i read while i wait for the dentist to call me into the exam room. i read everywhere. generally, depending on what i’m reading, i go through about a book a week.

right now, though, i’m reading donna tartt’s the goldfinch and man, is it slow going.

one of my absolute favorite books i’ve read in the past few years is jonathan tropper’s this is where i leave youit’s the story of a group of adult siblings, each one with their own baggage and bullshit, who come home to sit shiva for 7 days following their father’s death. i won’t give away more than that, partially because the trailer below will do the story justice (as the best book to movie transformations do), and partially because i am telling you, you should read this book. this book made me laugh. it made me cry. it made me feel like my family wasn’t so crazy after all. after finishing it, i went on to read each and every one of tropper’s books (plan b is another favorite). when i heard they were turning this is where i leave you into a movie, i immediately called my friend sara (also known as my literary bff) and reported that we would be getting our asses to the theater on opening night. then the movie was delayed for a year or two, and i heard no word of it.

and all of a sudden, the film is made, and there’s a trailer to watch. and it’s as wonderfully funny and heartwarming and smart as i remember the novel being. see for yourself.

 

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good lord, i need a break from life. my trip to LA can’t come soon enough. i can’t wait to be on a plane, humming phantom planet to myself, dreaming of planting my toes in the soft hot sand. this week was a busy one at work, though i did my best to take it easy, socially, with just a few dinners out here and there. i started monday off with a killer 7am soulcycle class with my girl isabel, and let me tell you, tapping it back is a LOT harder at 7am than it is at 8am (which is my usual weekday time slot). i managed to get to bar method 4 times and soul 3 times this week, and i’m taking my friend sara to try bar this sunday (!!!), which will make a total of 8 workouts. killin’ it. except not, because i’m currently stuffing a bagel in my face. hey, it’s friday, right? other things on the docket for the weekend include a going away party, brunch, and seeing divergent (!!!!!!) with some wonderful ladies and a whole lot of overly-buttered popcorn. i also need to get some work done over the weekend (sad face, no fun), and really need to clean my closet and do my taxes. does anyone else feel like they need more hours in the day (or more days in the week)?

things i liked this week: 

can you handle it when your best employees quit? having quit my old job for a new one, i found this an interesting read. not because i consider myself a “best employee” but because i did in fact wonder whether my managers questioned how their actions influenced my choice to go somewhere else.

 behind the design of the grand budapest hotel. wes anderson does it again. GBH is stunning, and this article talks about how the folks behind the film created the eye candy we see onscreen. interesting stuff. did you know that the movie was filmed in germany, though it takes place in a fictional european country? or that the “hotel” is actually a department store? i love this sort of behind the scenes look. it’s so fun to see how

a new orleans apartment tour. looove this home tour from the everygirl. what i’d give for a home that size, and a home with exposed brick. the everygirl has really been killing it lately, especially with their home tours. i’d secretly love to have my humble little apartment shot and featured, but i don’t think it’s quite chic enough to match up with the ladies of TEG.

cake in a jar is a thing. i mean…what a genius idea. why didn’t i think of that? for the record, “why didn’t i think of that” is also my response to baked by melissa. MINI CUPCAKES. THE GIRL HAS MADE A FORTUNE ON SMALL CUPCAKES. who would have thunk?

rowing is back in vogue. okay, maybe it was never really in vogue in the first place for greater society, but for me, the girl who spent her high school years as 3 seat, rowing was the shit. i decided not to row in college (5am wakeup times weren’t exactly my cup of tea), but have toyed with the idea of getting back into here in NYC (unfortunately, to row on a team here in the city, you have to wake up at 5am….and trek to harlem). cityrow is a new group fitness studio that combines rowing on the ergs (indoor rowing machines that mimic the motions you do on the water) with mat work. i’m intrigued.

the circle. tomorrow my book club will discuss dave eggers’ latest novel, a societal critique of all things social media. the book centers around mae, a naive college grad who thinks she’s won the life lottery when she’s offered a job at the circle, a fictitious magical company that’s essentially google + apple + facebook + twitter + every other smart startup you’ve heard of, combined. as someone who’s pretty connected to social media, i found the book fascinating. a good read, especially if you’re an eggers fan.

 

Fault in our Stars--Coveri am an avid reader, and have been since i was a little girl. i believe there’s no better escape (even with the advent of the internet, and streaming television, and twitter, and instagram, and facebook, and silly ridiculous things like snapchat) than a really good book. words have the power to transport you places, to take you out of your everyday and plop you down somewhere else. i might bitch and moan about my commute when it’s slushy and disgusting outside, but i actually highly value the hour or so of accumulated reading time i get each day. if you see me on the subway, chances are, i’ve got my nose buried in a book (and by book, i mean kindle). don’t hate me, i love a real book just as much as the next girl, but hardcovers are heavy and paperbacks take up space. kindle is little, and when you schlep the entire kitchen sink and then some around with you every day, you need every inch of bag space you can get.

but i digress. we were talking about how books can transport you into other places. they can also transport you into other lives. which is what happened to me when i read john green’s amazing novel, the fault in our stars, last summer. i was instantly, and i mean, from the first few pages instantly, intertwined with hazel and gus. every time i turned the page, i took another step into their world. because the book is incredible, i won’t spoil it for you (i’ll let the trailer below do that) – but know that this is a full-on immersive read that you’ll plow through in a single day. i loved this book. as soon as i was done, i was talking about it to literally anyone who would listen.

so you can imagine i was positively thrilled when i heard they were making TFIOS into a movie, and that they’d cast shailene woodley as hazel (she will be the PERFECT hazel). i follow john green on twitter, and he’s been releasing sneak peeks over the past few months, which should have prepared me for this amazing trailer. it didn’t, because there’s really nothing like seeing words come to life with music behind them.

ps: i warn you. you will need ALL OF THE TISSUES to get through this. 

yonahlossee riding camp for girlsanton disclafani’s first novel is “the yonahlossee riding camp for girls.” it’s an odd title, one that catches your attention immediately. the ingredients of the book sound as though they’ve been cherry-picked from two popular genres: historical romance, and YA fiction. happily, these are two of my favorite genres, and i’m happy to say that disclafani delivered on both fronts.

yonahlossee is set at an elite boarding school in the 1930s – a time when american was teetering on a financial cliff; many had already gone overboard – a place where girls are plucked from their wealthy, debunate-style upbringings and shipped away to the blue ridge mountains of north carolina.

our heroine is thea atwell, a precocious, beautiful teenage girl who has been banished from her idyllic florida home after committing what we only know to be an atrocious sin. so atrocious, in fact, that her family, including her twin brother sam, refuse to speak with her. thea is a fierce, passionate young woman, but also selfish, judgmental, and as we soon learn, self-destructive.

home schooled by her father, the only doctor around for miles, thea has grown up roaming the 1,000 or so acres of her family’s florida farm with her brother, sam, and her pony, sasi. their only other friend? a slightly older cousin, georgie, who visits the farm with his mother from time to time. uprooted from all that she knows, thea isn’t eager to join the girls at yonahlossee, but she soon finds her place at the school. her classmates are of another class; though thea has grown up wealthy, her florida wealth is nothing compared to that of those who come from up north.

disclafani’s smooth, fluid characterization of the other girls at the camp neatly fills the boarding school stereotypes: the popular girl, the odd girl out, the nosy one, the spoilt child…but they do so with grace. as a reader, you find yourself aligning with a girl or two – the one closest to your own character, presumably. none of the girls are perfect, all have their faults, and as such, they become interesting, if not exactly likable, characters.

as thea begins to find herself at yonahlossee, she loses herself too – in the arms of an older man at the school. her precociousness, her passion, her lust for life – all of these work against her, as disclafani spins a romantic page-turner that, while veering into soap opera territory ever so often, finds itself squarely in the realm of beautiful, perfect, literary fiction.

a must read, i promise. perfect for book club, or trips to the beach, yonahlossee is a can’t miss.

 

 

Rabbi Herschel Schacter

Rabbi Herschel Schacter leading the Shavuot prayer service for survivors in the Buchenwald camp in Germany in 1945.

i’ve always been weirdly, slightly obsessively into the holocaust. it sounds crazy, i know, but hear me out. my parents were raised by jews who had relocated to brooklyn from poland and russia a good ten years before the nazi party rose to prominence, so i’ve never had any personal connection to holocaust survivors. my mother used to tell me the story of her grandpa nathan, who came to america on a big boat at the small age of seven, clutching to the railings of an enormous ship as the ocean waters churned beneath him. nathan was sent to america by his parents, who fled russia during the pogroms of the early 1900s. my entire extended family, as far back as i can remember, was out of europe before world war I, and long before world war II. but they left behind friends, and neighbors, and lives – lives that would be shattered by the nazi regime just a decades later. my grandfather fought as an american soldier in world war II, and liberated a few of the smaller camps. as the head of his unit, it was his job to write letters home to the families of all the soldiers who lost their lives during battle. in addition to having to answer to the deaths of his troops, he also had to answer to the deaths of his people – to walk into those camps and see body after body, life after life, taken away.

i knew my grandfather as a stern, rather angry man with a violent streak. one night, at dinner, i put my elbows on the table. he reached across and rapped my knuckles with his butter knife, hard. “we don’t eat like that here!” he said. my mother pushed her chair back so fast it flew into the buffet behind her, and told her father if he ever laid a hand on me again, he could kiss his relationship with us goodbye. he nodded, but didn’t apologize. my memories of him are few and far in between. in photos, he can be seen smiling, but my recollection is that he did very little of that. he was plagued by the demons of the war; on D Day each year, he sat in his armchair and smoked his pipe all day long, speaking to no one. according to my grandmother, when they first met, he was a different man. indeed, his letters to her from abroad are long, romantic accounts of the rolling hills of germany and the long overnight train rides. they’re written in perfect slanting script, and contain no mention of the german mistress he took up while he was there. my grandmother’s favorite set of china was one that was reportedly given to my grandfather by this mistress; i don’t know if my grandma ever knew of its origin.

all of this is to say that while no one in my immediate family was a holocaust survivor, they were all deeply affected by it in their own ways. one has to wonder what it was like to be a nineteen thirties housewife deep in the heart of brooklyn waiting for your american husband to come home, knowing that he’s fighting a war against a behemoth that wants nothing more than to rid the earth of everyone like him. i never asked my grandfather what he saw at the camps, mostly because i got the sense that he wasn’t quite able to talk about it.

perhaps its because of my lack of connection to any survivors that i’ve always devoured any holocaust literature and material i can get my hands on. as a teenager, i read every work of historical fiction i could find on the topic; when i decided one day i’d be a writer, i told myself that i’d write the stories of survivors, to ensure that when they passed, their stories would live on. a rather lofty goal, looking back on it. when survivors spoke at my temple, i sat with bated breath, with hot, salty tears dripping down my cheeks and dotting my dress.

i continue to read every bit of holocaust literature i can find, and admittedly finished jodi piccoult’s newest book, the storyteller, on a crowded metro north train that probably wondered why i was sniffling loudly while i turned the pages. (sidenote: if you’re a jodi fan, you need to read this book). so, you can imagine that i was beyond taken by this new york times obituary of rabbi herschel schacter, the man who brought word of freedom to the jews of buchenwald. i beseech you to read the entire thing for yourself, and i dare you not to cry while you do so. but i was particularly moved by the passage below, which tells a story so symbolic of the holocaust and the damage it did to all those who lived through it. i could read this passage again and again – but then i’d be sitting at my computer in an open workspace crying to myself, and let’s face it, i don’t think my office would be too happy about that.

but seriously, please, read the whole thing. it’s important to remember the past, and i think the power of the written word is a pretty good tool to help us do so.

from rabbi herschel’s obituary:

In Buchenwald that April day, Rabbi Schacter said afterward, it seemed as though there was no one left alive. In the camp, he encountered a young American lieutenant who knew his way around.

“Are there any Jews alive here?” the rabbi asked him.

He was led to the Kleine Lager, or Little Camp, a smaller camp within the larger one. There, in filthy barracks, men lay on raw wooden planks stacked from floor to ceiling. They stared down at the rabbi, in his unfamiliar military uniform, with unmistakable fright.

“Shalom Aleichem, Yidden,” Rabbi Schacter cried in Yiddish, “ihr zint frei!” — “Peace be upon you, Jews, you are free!” He ran from barracks to barracks, repeating those words. He was joined by those Jews who could walk, until a stream of people swelled behind him.

As he passed a mound of corpses, Rabbi Schacter spied a flicker of movement. Drawing closer, he saw a small boy, Prisoner 17030, hiding in terror behind the mound.

“I was afraid of him,” the child would recall long afterward in an interview with The New York Times. “I knew all the uniforms of SS and Gestapo and Wehrmacht, and all of a sudden, a new kind of uniform. I thought, ‘A new kind of enemy.’ ”

With tears streaming down his face, Rabbi Schacter picked the boy up. “What’s your name, my child?” he asked in Yiddish.

“Lulek,” the child replied.

“How old are you?” the rabbi asked.

“What difference does it make?” Lulek, who was 7, said. “I’m older than you, anyway.”

“Why do you think you’re older?” Rabbi Schacter asked, smiling.

“Because you cry and laugh like a child,” Lulek replied. “I haven’t laughed in a long time, and I don’t even cry anymore. So which one of us is older?”

i’ve been an avid reader for as long as i can remember, so i thought it might be fun to start a feature about the books i read, just in case you, as my lovely readers, feel like picking up a copy for yourself. it’s no surprise that as a writer, i devour books the way some people devour chocolate (or, okay, the way i devour chocolate…). others drink to get away, i read. since i was little, i’ve been inventing stories in my head, and i think my ability to do so comes mostly from the fact that i was a voracious reader as a child. you can’t write unless you read. a lot.

since i still hold tight to the dream of writing a real book someday, one that people pick up in the bookstore and hold to their noses, taking in the scent of the newly printed pages, i continue to read. a lot.

my ability to fly through books is in part due to the fact that i spend a good deal of time on public transportation each day. i recently invested in a kindle, and it’s the best $79 i ever spent. i’m partial to real books, but i have to say, when you’re lugging your life onto a crowded subway car each day, it makes a huge difference to read from an ultra-light kindle instead of a heavy hardcover. i recently discovered you can get kindle books from the library. this has changed my life. NYPL, i love you. now, for my recco.

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the paris wife by paula mclain

i should start this by telling you i have never been a fan of hemingway. i find his writing too bare, too simple, too stripped of emotion (i know he liked it that way and this writing style was intentional, but that’s never appealed to me). but now that i’ve read this (admittedly fictional, but based on history and his writings) novel about his early days, before he was ernest hemingway, the writer, i’m inclined to pick the sun also rises back up again. anywho, i won’t give any details away, but suffice it to say i loved this book (though the nytimes hated it), and while its (likely accurate) portrayal of women made me furious at times, it’s neat to see the man behind the mask.

Ernest Hemingway with his wife, Hadley

hemingway treated his wife like shit, for the most part, and she sat back and took it. he seems like quite a macho asshole to me – a guy who, deep down, was incredibly insecure and entirely selfish, with a singular focus on his career. little else mattered to him in the end. he thought he was entitled to the best the world had to offer, and took all that came his way, whether it belonged to him or not, whether it was right or wrong. if nothing else, the paris wife is an interesting look at what it used to mean to be a woman. i have to say, i’m not sure i could have lived in the twenties. sure, the glitz and the glam of the flapper era would have dazzled my senses, but quite frankly, it positively stunk to be a woman in that age. i’m oversimplifying, of course – but i just can’t imagine living in an era where women had no voice, no job prospects, and were simply meant to satiate their husband’s every desire. my, how the times have changed.