I love when worlds collide. I write a column for the fashion/beauty website The Coveteur and it’s usually about some gripe or peccadillo that’s been on my mind, but when Katie Becker, its beauty director (and a former work colleague) asked me to write about how the Berkshires influence my beauty and fashion life up here, I was thrilled. You can read it, complete with a product slide show in the link above, but I thought I’d repurpose it here, with a few local visuals. I’ll add a recipe at the bottom for good measure.
It’s 6 a.m. and the cacophony of caws, chirps and squawks from the birds outside has stirred me awake. I silently motion to our dog to join me and we slip downstairs. I let her out to pee; she somehow innately knows it is too early for barking, so, by the time I pour my coffee, there she is, at the door, waiting to be let in. I slather some turmeric and cumin ghee over a piece of toasted farmer’s bread, then we head out to the porch and listen to the world waking up.
Hold up. Did I just say “I spread ghee on my toast?” I never use ghee in New York. I rarely eat toast when I’m in New York. Do I think I’m starring in my own Nancy Meyers movie up here?
As a matter of fact, maybe I do. Although, unlike the houses Meyers shoots in, our slice of heaven wouldn’t quite live up to Meyers’ standards. Nails constantly popping up from the ancient floorboards, windows stick closed (or open), and a mice family lives within its walls. However, thanks to a curious odor that’s been permeating our parlor, a member of that family may have recently succumbed to a raccoon or squirrel.
I’d say our broker said it best when we took us on our first tour: “It’s not a hedge fund house.” Nevertheless, it’s our not-a-hedge-fund house and we can’t wait to return to it every weekend.
“You go up every weekend?” people ask. Yup. “All year round?” All year round. We’re not alone in this commitment; the weekly caravan to the Berkshires area is a growing club. We have drunk from its magic waters and we bow to its restorative properties.
Life just slows down when we’re up here. There is no TV, we live as herb garden-to-table as possible, and we’re in a deep slumber by 11pm. We do socialize, but dinners are often last-minute plans and the meals are almost afterthoughts when there is a nice chilled bottle of rosé or two to linger over out on the porch.
Not that we only sloth. I cue up that aforementioned Meyers montage soundtrack when I’m clipping herbs from the garden to make sage-infused tea or mint syrup, when I’m baking flourless chocolate chip cookies with almond meal that I ground myself and eggs from my neighbor’s chickens, or when I’m brewing a new batch of kombucha. Being up here inspires us to be more green and clean. We even have a compost. No, I mean, a real compost. That we manually roll ourselves. It’s in the backyard and flies are constantly surrounding it and it smells pretty grody. Still, we persist, because we know that someday it’ll turn into something grody that will help our herbs grow big and strong.
Some people chill out by feeling sand between their toes and I totally get that. We just happen to prefer feeling grass when we step outside, smelling pine needles on our hikes, and feeling our hearts beg for mercy when we leap into freezing depths of water at our local swimming hole. Maybe it’s because my husband went to school in Switzerland and I went to camp in Vermont or because I’m kind of afraid of the ocean’s undertow, we’re just not beach people. More and more brands seem to feel our joy, creating garments built for hikes in the heat or the rain, or grilling when it’s 20 degrees outside.
Maybe you remember the term “gorpcore” that took off last year as fashion insiders and influencers started slinging fanny packs over their Patagonias, and, with a look at the Calvin Klein, Gucci, and Prada fall 2018 runways, collabs like Opening Ceremony x Columbia, or the rain boots that got real-life practice at Dior Cruise 2019, this still seems to be going strong. In my closet, brands like The Lost Explorer, Aether Apparel Alchemy Equipment, and Huckberry make clothes for the great outdoors but with style that’s a bit more elevated than fleece vests and Tevas. And potentially better built for hiking my favorite stretch of the Appalachian Trail near my house than Prada boots—though I’m open to testing.
Since we’re only here on weekends, the beauty products that I originally filled our bathroom with were the B team, but their status has improved. Whether it’s the rural influence or my own evolution toward being more mindful, the weekenders have become some of my favorites. The sunscreens are mineral-based, the bug spray is DEET-free, the bath salts are sprinkled with dried flowers, and the sulfate-free shampoo comes in a cardboard container.
There is another bonus that comes with many of these products. Have you ever smelled 100% Pure Eucalyptus Body Scrub or Aromatherapy Associates Relax Body Wash? Rub Ellis Brooklyn Myth Excellent Body Milk into your arms or legs without swooning. Try not falling asleep after soaking in Follain Dream Bath Elixir. Light Formulary 55 Balsam & Fir Botanical Apothecary Candle and I dare you to go back to anything less pure.
Our bathroom is about four times the size of the one in our New York City apartment. It’s even got a clawfoot bathtub, so I do quite a bit of ideating in there. I pour in a few drops of Susanne Kaufmann Oil Bath, light a Red Flower Spanish Gardenia candle, set my tea on the nearby windowsill and spitball a few story ideas to the nearby crickets.
It took us decades to save up for our weekend home. Before I was the proud owner of a second mortgage, I’d take the train to Cold Spring or Garrison with a friend or two and find a hike to explore over the Hudson River. Making a full weekend of it has never been easier or less pricey thanks to Airbnb. Tiny slices of paradise are available to rent for a fraction of the price of a hotel room, so long as you’re cool with renting a fraction of a house, but what more do you really need besides a bed, a bathroom, a map of the nearby hiking trails and maybe a good restaurant reco or two.
Of course, with the glorious elements, there are the less enticing ones. We’ve seen bears walk through our yard and run in front of us on our hikes. We’ve had bats greet us in our kitchen, and—fun fact!— snakes really love our herb garden. I’ve lost count of the number of ticks we’ve found on our bodies, and our dog has tried to make out with a porcupine. Thankfully, she seems to have learned her lesson and—knock wood—hasn’t tried it again. So, as I sit here at 6:55 in the morning, looking out at nature’s green screen with those sparrows, goldfinches and crows yakking away, the only anxiety I feel is the fact that, come Sunday evening, we’re going to have to say goodbye to all of this. Fortunately, the dream can continue. There are plenty of ways to chill mountain-style without actually being there, and that’s by bringing those mountains home. And I don’t mean by domesticating that garden snake.
Roasted Cipollini Onions with Sage (serves eight)
- 2 lbs cipollini onions, peeled
- 3 T olive oil
- two handfuls of fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped, divided
- sea salt
Preheat oven to 400. Place onions in baking dish, then pour olive oil over them. Add one handful of sage leaves and sprinkle with about a half teaspoon sea salt. Mix well, then place in oven and roast for 30 minutes, stirring every ten minutes or so. Remove when they’re looking well caramelized. Sprinkle the uncooked sage leaves over and serve.