Hi and happy 2022!
The year is getting off to a rather late start for us here at the Spiegel residence. For one, Christmas is still up. Our tree is looking rather droopy, yet Jared is still waking up and turning the lights on most mornings, which makes it slightly less depressing.
X has been out with Covid since last week, which has made for a somewhat disappointing start to the new year as I’ve found myself busy with a lot more laundry and housework than the deep creative work I had planned. Ending 2021 with a break from writing and basically everything else had left me feeling energized and ready to hit the ground running – but alas, that’s just not how 2022 has played out so far.
Yes, we’re all dreadfully tired of Covid. I’m almost jealous of those who finally just bit the bullet with this Omicron wave and now can go on about their daily lives, to some degree. But because of baby V we still are trying our best to avoid it. Living in a house tucked away in the woods helps.
I read somewhere that, astrologically, the year isn’t really kicking off until February anyway – so we can all use January to ease into 2022 more gently. Feels about right, don’t you think?
Whenever I am able to take a break from creative work I am reminded how powerful and necessary rest is to the process. Which increases about tenfold when you’re also taking care of a baby. I’ve mentioned before that writing hasn’t been easy for me in these early stages of motherhood. Most days my brain feels too tired to think, and writing often feels like a struggle. Taking a break from it all had me wondering: What if I let this go for now? It’s something I’ve discussed with my coach… what if I used this time to work creatively just for myself, without the need to share it?
In the end, taking a break was what I needed to feel reinvigorated about writing again. But I have more to say here, so stay tuned.
Speaking of breaks, I also took one from Instagram over the past couple weeks. Which gave me a chance to do some deep thinking about not only my own relationship to it, but what is has done to our society. Our constant need or desire to share every detail of our lives. If you didn’t post, did it really happen? Is this even a joke anymore?
Part of me is bored with people complaining about Instagram but another part feels like I have something to say about it because I think there are folks out there who would relate. I know this is one of the reasons I choose to write: to put a voice to the truth that people feel but don’t know how to articulate. It’s something I want to keep working on this year and in weeks to come. Should we talk more about this? Let me know.
And speaking of weeks to come, I am running with a new format for now, which is a monthly issue (this one that you’re reading) that will continue to be free and published the first Sunday of the month going forward. Here you’ll find a monthly letter from me accompanied by a handful of sections below offering respective updates, tips, and the like. Most of the other weekly posts and essays will be accessible to paying subscribers only.
I’d love your feedback on the new format as well as any thoughts or requests you may have in general. What would you like to see/read more of? I made a super simple, anonymous feedback form here, or feel free to simply reply to this email.
I hope you are feeling rested and rejuvenated, however much possible given our current state of affairs.
Wishing you a gentle, loving start to the new year.
In the Studio
I’ve really been enjoying this newsletter featuring lessons in storytelling, reading, and writing with writer and Syracuse writing professor George Saunders.
On the painting front, I recently had the opportunity to take a private Zoom lesson with an instructor I previously attended classes with in the city. It was eye-opening. I will need to write more about this in the future – but she really opened me up to painting in a new way. More slowly, in layers. Showing me that I don’t need a three-hour chunk of time in order to paint.
Hudson Valley Life
One of my most popular posts last year was this one, and when doing Q&A’s I’ve also received a lot of questions geared toward what life here in Hudson Valley is like. So I thought this might be an area of interest?
I’m excited to announce that I made a new friend who lives in our town! And she has a baby! And, her husband is also an entrepreneur with *very* similar interests to my own. Not to put too much pressure on our relationship 🤣, but this has me feeling very reinvigorated about living here. We met on an app called Peanut which is like Tinder for new moms.
This week, I’m starting a music class with V in Katonah, which is a neighborhood in Westchester where we’ve considered buying a home. I thought this would be a good way to get a feel for the vibe of the area. Wish us luck!
Violet turns 6 months old this week, which I cannot believe. It’s so much harder putting away her 3-6 month sized clothes for some reason. Maybe because 0-3 was the newborn phase and I was more eager to be out of there? LOL. There really is an incredible sweet spot that starts at that 4-month mark. Something shifts as they become more than just this (albeit incredible) thing you’re keeping alive. They start to become their own little person, but what’s more is that the relationship begins – into one that is more reciprocal.
We’ve recently started solids (we’re doing baby-led weaning, a style of eating where you allow the baby to “lead” by feeding themselves) which has been a lot of fun. Much more fun than teething, which has led to bitten, bleeding nipples and bottle refusals as of late. 🥴
It seems she’s going to crawl any day now so I have now officially given up on my home belonging to me. This is V’s house now. Enter the giant plastic castle and brightly-colored playmat that is currently staring you in the face the second you open our front door. More proof that I really, really love my daughter.
From My Country Kitchen
In other words, what I’m cooking lately! It is most definitely soup szn and for that I like to keep homemade chicken stock in my freezer (purchased from our local butcher), because then you can make soup with just about whatever you have on hand. (If you don’t have homemade stock, try using Better Than Bouillon in lieu of boxed stocks; I find it much tastier and less artificial). The other day I made a soup with ground turkey, white beans, and greens. I used the ground turkey without rolling it into meatballs which is what I would have done before. So much easier. Do let me know if you’d like more details on how to throw together simple soups.
I really like NYTimes Cooking these days for recipes and overall inspo – definitely worth subscribing to. I also love their weekly newsletter, which is free. I tend to use recipes more for inspiration or as a base, but here’s one I pretty much stuck to verbatim that I will definitely be making again: Sheet-Pan Roasted Chicken with Pears and Arugula. I never would have thought to use pears in this way, and the spices/cilantro took things in a different direction that I might have gone (I think I omitted the fresh ginger), plus I loved the idea of tossing arugula on top of the sheet pan to serve.
A lot of parents/moms love audiobooks for staying sane while taking care of bb, but I haven’t had much luck with it yet. I finally logged back into my Audible account and have been listening to The Practice by Seth Godin. I like the ideas, but if you’ve read as much on creativity as I have, it doesn’t really feel like anything new? So far it feels like a listing of inspiring quotes or shorter bits, which I suppose is good for the type of unfocused, choppy listening I want to do. Here’s a little gem 💎 I jotted down: “Decisions are good even if outcomes are not.” My husband and I have talked about this many times; an area of strength for him and less so for me. A subject to explore further sometime, perhaps…
I have also started reading Art & Fear, which has been on my bookshelf for a while. Enjoying it so far, and also great for reading in bits here and there.
And wow, it’s been a while since I’ve watched a film I’ve really liked… excited I have two to share! Don’t Look Up – this one is so smart, and so accurate, it’s terrifying – and The Lost Daughter, which I found to be a hauntingly beautiful portrayal of the tensions of motherhood – specifically, the working mother.
A couple things of note for the new year! First up, I am loving this 2022 planner. It’s helping me stay organized and feel more human. I like the compact size and, of course, I got the lavender color. It has lots of room for notes, so I’ve been using it to jot down quotes, ideas, any inspiring bits I pick up here and there… even little memories of things that happen with Violet.
Another purchase I’m enjoying is this daily art calendar from the Met. Each day baby V and I look at the piece of art together and I talk about it with her. One thing I miss about the city is the ability to pop in and out of museums and galleries with her, so this is our little version. A simple way to inject art into our daily life.
It’s been a very long time since I’ve bought a cookbook. Excited to delve into this one, written by the beloved Sahadi’s Middle Eastern market in our old neighborhood in Brooklyn.