we bought a zoo {blackberry old fashioned}

I bought a house. Upstate. In the country.

There are crazier things this city-slicker, born and bred Brooklyn gal could’ve done, but right now I’m drawing a blank. Towards the end of last year I started giving thought to buying a place I could plant some roots with the girls. Not necessarily a full-time, big-time move, but more a place we could recharge our batteries on a regular basis.

On my own, and with the girls, I’ve traveled a lot this past year. I watched pita bread being baked in an outdoor, clay oven in the mountains of Morocco. I had a snowball fight in Paris at midnight. I walked the snow-covered beaches of Normandy, listening to razor clam shells crackle under the heels of my boots.

What I haven’t experienced since August 7, 2011 is a sense of home; a place where I could always find my center. Suddenly, I find myself battling fleas—so.not.kidding. There have already been a few “holy heck” moments, realizing that I now own a house, and all the responsibilities that come with it. The back drop as I drive the winding road to our house is filled with cows, horses, deer, and roadkill every few miles, to which I teasingly bellow “breakfast” to the girls buckled into the backseat.

No, it’s not really a zoo, but it sure feels like it.

Remember that seen where Matt Damon explains the simple of act of buying forgotten butter means driving 18 miles roundtrip? Well, that was me when I discovered fleas hopping around one part of the house, a gift left by the previous owner’s dog. In we all went, back into the car, driving two towns over to the local hardware store for some flea foggers. I’m sure there are more environmentally safe methods, but I panicked and opted for Arnold Schwarzenegger instead of all-natural. I set off the fogger, fled through the back door, and let the painter know what to expect when he came the next day. The itching from the bites around my ankles will wear off long before the feeling of fleas tickling my skin.

This is going to be a crazy ride, no doubt. I will have moments of anxiety, and a perhaps even get a nick or two when I attempt to teach myself how the lawn mower works—hopefully all my toes will stay intact, or that’s going to cramp my style during sandal season.

Right now, though, I’m just going to put my hands in the air, let go, and enjoy this moment.

Blackberry Old Fashioned

serves one

music pairing: Dynamite by Taio Cruz

We recently spent a couple of weeks in Southold, Long Island. The farmstand down the road, Country View, kept us in steady supply of some of the best blackberries I’ve ever eaten. I made conserves, compotes, ate them by the handful, and then the idea popped into my head one night to muddle them into a cocktail. If you make conserves, you can also make this cocktail, or just mix it with seltzer for a yummy homemade soda.

5 whole blackberries

1 slice of fresh lime

1 teaspoon (3 grams) granulated natural cane sugar

1 ounce (30 ml) bourbon

2 ice cubes

1 ounce (30 ml) seltzer water

Add the blackberries, lime and sugar to a rocks glass. Use a muddler, or the back of a wooden spoon, to mash the fruit mixture, until it releases its juices. Add the bourbon, and stir with a spoon. Add the ice cubes, top off with the seltzer, and give it another quick stir before serving.



  • Anya

    I had the same problem with fleas in an apartment during grad school– the only thing that worked was rubbing a big tub of boric acid powder (Borax, basically, from the pet supply shop) into the carpet with a broom. Dries them up, and OK for humans (we wore socks to be on the safe side, though). Congrats on your house! 🙂

  • Jessica @ Burlap and Butter Knives

    Jessica @ Burlap and Butter Knives: I am elated for you!! Utterly thrilled at this new path you are taking; it is truely “the one less traveled.” 🙂

    I have a very strong feeling you will completely blossom and really come into who YOU are, in every sense.

    There is no better place to “find yourself”, than lost in the woods.

    xoxo <3

    July 31, 2013

  • Morgan

    Jennie, so happy for you and the girls… ! Praying that this chapter is full of blessings for you. And – the drink sounds yummy! Making it this weekend.

  • Sarah

    From a city girl (much smaller mpls) who moved to her own zoo in upstate New york to another I wish you the best. I hope that roots are sown and peace is abundant! Congratulations

  • Lori

    Congratulations, Jennie. You have such an adventurous spirit, this will surely be a fun ride and above all else it will once again show your girls how you live life to its fullest. I hope your new home is filled with years and years of good times that become cherished memories.

  • Stacy | Wicked Good Kitchen

    Congratulations, Jennie! So proud and happy for you and your girls. (Just saw your tweet and had to drop by. You are now in my blog reader.) Just think of the memories you will be creating for them. May all your hopes and dreams come true! xo P.S. Your cookbook is one of my all time favorites from food bloggers. Definitely the most gorgeous, too! ♥

  • Tracey A

    Good Morning Jennie!
    Well how bout that, girlie girl? Good for YOU!
    I can’t wait to hear more.
    May your bites be subtle, your housewarmings many and the memories be happy,
    Wishing you a flealess day, hugs and the smell of cut grass,

  • tammy

    Not exactly the housewarming gift you were expecting! EEK! Looks like you championed the little buggers like a pro though, just as you have championed every challenge before you. (i would stay away from creative dinners with roadkill however – ha!) As far as I can see you cut a direct and clear pathway to your dreams and I for one am in total admiration. A country retreat is ultimately a dreamy and wonderful blessing that I know you and the girls will enjoy and cherish over and over again. Congratulations!!! May it bring you many happy memories and much laughter. Love you gorgeous girls!!!

  • IlinaP

    So when can I come help you get settled? And shop! We get to shop for furniture, right? I hope there’s a guest room.

  • Kim

    Wow! Congrats, fleas and all. Working a lawnmower isn’t all that hard- it’s like vacuuming the lawn. I don’t have an affiliation with the company, but as a former Subaru owner, I’m putting in a plug because it’s a solid car that can handle snowy country (and suburban) roads really well. I think Amy is getting one so you can ask her about it.

    Wishing you much love and many good times in your new home.

  • amy

    I am so excited for you and the girls next chapter. This isn’t a getaway house? It is a home house?
    Mazel Tov and best wishes and blessings to your family.

  • Jennifer Perillo


    I love my Subaru. I was an Outback owner for a long time, and just swapped it for an Impreza hatchback. So fun, and sporty, to handle those country curves.


  • anthea pena

    so amazingly brave but doesn’t surprise me with how I know you from your blog & instagram. Best of luck & lots of fun!

  • anthea pena

    ps) hubby does renovations, large & small all over NY. Let me know if you need 100% reliable & nice helper!

  • Laurie

    I’ve been following you and your journey since your husband passed and feel like I know you and your family. This sounds like a fresh new start with lots of new adventures, Sounds like a new reality between the fresh air, the house upkeep and the new friends and neighbors you’ll all meet. Mazol tov and keep us posted!

  • Rocky Mountain Woman

    Despite all the issues I’ve had with my house, I don’t regret moving out here one bit.

    It’s wonderful to be an hour away from everything in my humble opinion.

    Pics! We need pics!

  • cindi

    So excited for you and your happy house adventure. I have been following your blog for a long time. Love the recipes but mostly love your writing voice! This new move is just what you and your girls need. I am raising six kids in the country and feel like this is the perfect place for a family. Yes, we do forget things at the store but have learned to improvise.

  • Denise

    Oh Jennie, I am beyond the moon happy for you. I remember talking about this when I saw you in the Spring, and am happy to hear it has happened. May this change in life bring a world of happiness and new adventures to you and the girls! I love everything about the place, from just what you wrote in this post, fleas and all. xxoo

  • Amanda

    For what it means coming from a complete stranger.. A big congrats. I can’t wait to hear about your home owner adventures, hopefully with a few less pest-y matters. 🙂

  • Cynthia A.

    Congrats on the new house! May it be a place of many happy days for your family.

    Many years ago we had an intense infestation of fleas (courtesy of a very ancient cat) while we had house guests so I can understand your desire to get rid of them ASAP. Hopefully your experience was a one time occurrence, but if not try wearing white ankle socks. At least you can see them as they start their micro attack.

    Also as someone who lives in the country (a 12 mile round trip to town) may I tell you that orange juice works fine on breakfast cereal? Really.

  • momofnine

    Sounds like a wonderful new adventure! Love your blog. Thank you for your inspirational writing and terrific recipe. I really enjoy fresh fruit laden drinks in the summer.

  • tea_austen

    Congratulations, Jennie–and all best wishes and excitement on this new adventures! That feeling of home and rootedness is a special thing.

    My city-girl mom moved to the country after my dad left, when she had me as a two-year-old and my nearly newborn brother. When I think how that must have been for her (chopping wood! raccoons attacking our chickens!), I am so impressed with her bravery and her desire to give us what she thought was the best. Just like you.

    If I could give you one piece of advice (which my mother never figured out): make friends with the neighbors! In the country you need people in a different way. But I am sure with your knack for cooking and gathering, this won’t be a problem (lucky neighbors!).

    Enjoy the moments, even the crazy ones. They make for excellent stories later 🙂

  • Saffoula

    Woo hoo- congratulations on this new chapter for you and your family. Looking forward to reading more about your country adventures.

  • Millie

    Congratulations on the house! I wish you lots of luck with it. I haven’t visited here for a little while, but I will return often to see how you are settling in to country life.

  • carol

    big news!! congrats on your new house, a move to the country, and planting some new roots… looking forward to the stories, photos & of course, more good recipes! very happy for you & the girls!

  • Adri // Life Nourished

    Oh this is so great! I can totally see you and your girls in the country planting new roots and continue growing as a beautiful family. And I am totally looking forward to the stories and recipes to come. Best wishes and blessings on this new journey.

  • amy

    I am drinking a blackberry old fashioned at the moment. I am thinking of you. I am so happy for you and your girls and your “zoo.” Many things have changed for me since my husband died, also two years ago this month. Things I never believed would ever happen. I learned, I persevered, I lived as fiercely as I could as soon as I found my strength. And now I also love again. I wish for you the same. Peace.