Author: Lauren Oster

8 Seriously Cool Subscription Services to Give This Year

In 2015, as Facebook algorithms remind us to ping each other with birthday e-cards and Amazon gets closer to making deliveries by drone, the idea of gifting someone a jelly of the month — an anything of the month — feels quaintly retro. Strike that: It feels right. Send your favorite humans some good-old-fashioned, curated-and-dispatched-by-real-people, recurring snail-mail love. (It doesn’t have to be jelly.) 1. Vinyl Me, Please The “best damn record club today” kicks off your recipient’s new bespoke music library with one of their special-edition color LPs (think Wilco’s AM in swirling marigold, or a limited-edition clear pressing of Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear). Each month thereafter, they’ll send a new album, a 12”x12” art print inspired by the album and a custom cocktail recipe pairing. Starts at $99 for 3 months + 1 bonus album, vinylmeplease.com   2. One Story Your favorite bookworm might now prefer an e-reader to full-sized tomes — I get it, I nearly dislocated my shoulder trying to read War and Peace on the subway a few years ago …

Snow & Steam — A Couple’s Tour of Iceland

I saw Iceland for the first time in a friend’s photo: she and her rock-star girlfriend were luxuriating in a pearlescent hot spring surrounded by snowdrifts and billowing steam, explorers on a magnificent alien planet. My husband and I finally explored those hot springs and snowdrifts for ourselves five years ago, and we promptly fell in love with them; we went back two years ago, and we’re planning to go again next winter. We try to play it cool by alternating trips to Iceland with trips to other countries, but the truth is that we daydream about moving there. “Iceland” is a misnomer, and a deliberate one at that: the Vikings gave it a nasty-sounding name to trick other Scandinavians into steering clear of it and settling instead in “Greenland” (which actually is kind of a frozen hellscape). Iceland is green, gorgeous, and breezy in the summer, and temperatures in the spring and fall hover around what you’d expect in New York City, though the daily mini-seasons, when storms blow in and out and the …

How I Became a Professional Cat Lady

My college roommate and I met our cats at side-by-side animal shelters in San Francisco. Her tabby, Zeke, went home with her that very day, and my black cat, Chuck, also went home with her, as I was still scrambling to get into an apartment. (Here’s to you, Jen, for letting my cat crash with you for a month; thank you for keeping your cool that time he peed on your duvet.) Thus began 15 years (and counting) of what my husband calls “My Cat Goes Mrow” — that is, long conversations in which Jen and I mostly swap Zeke and Chuck stories. You could argue, and I do, that they’re the beast-shaped filters through which we tell each other about all aspects of our lives, but I can admit that they tend to follow the format he identified (“My cat goes ‘mrow’!” “My cat goes ‘mrow’!”). My Cat Goes Mrow is having a moment — call it a decade, really — right now, as you may have noticed. (Robert De Niro certainly noticed when …

The Trip and the Tribe That Changed My Life

A coworker of mine used to give me shit about my fondness for getting together with my “Hawaii girls,” a group of writers I met in the Aloha State. A mere week after our group parted ways, we were planning our first reunion. “Don’t you guys have friends of your own?” she asked. “Of course we do,” I replied. “We just really, really like each other.” Last June, bleary from a pre-dawn call-a-car ride to the airport and a turbulent connection from New York City to Atlanta, I plunked down in my seat on a massive jet for a nine-hour flight to Honolulu. The woman beside me looked strangely familiar. Had we met somewhere before? “You look like you might be on the Starwood trip,” she said. “I’m Kafi—I am, too!” Kafi is a fellow writer, and she and I were both headed west to check out Starwood Hawaii’s health and wellness programs. Nine hours is a long time to share an armrest, and by the time we touched down we’d told each other the stories …

Why Bathing is the New Hotness

  When we chatted on the phone today, my mother reported that, thanks to Governor Jerry Brown’s stipulation, she and other California residents must reduce their water consumption by 25%. She now feels guilty about even letting the water in her shower run until it’s warm enough to stand beneath (though she catches the cold water in a bucket and uses it to revive her drought-flattened garden). I chuckled in sympathy and offered to bring a suitcase full of New York City tap water when I visit her later this summer. Then I went for a jog and cooled down in my second shower of the day, at one in the afternoon. It’s possible that I’ll take another when I get home tonight, if I walk home in the rain and need warming up (a cold front is sweeping through the city this week). I also might take one if I have trouble falling asleep—it’s so much nicer to go to bed when my hair is wet and my skin is a little damp. I …

Dr. Strangeloafer: How I Learned To Stop Wearing Leather And Love My Shoes

Some people, like me, give up leather because they don’t fancy the idea of wearing animals’ skin. Others are trying to go a bit easier on Mother Earth in general (even as a byproduct of the meat industry, leather has a massive carbon footprint and the chemicals used to process it are just as nasty as — and often much nastier than —the stuff that goes into faux leather).* For all I know, there may be a third, kinky group that’s just really into wearing plastics. Who can say? One constant: We all have to work a bit harder to find good-looking accessories. I’m no hippie, and I’m not especially interested in filling my closet with pleathery fast-fashion pieces that fall apart after a few wears. So what does a girl have to do to get some solid non-leather shoes around here? Consider a pair of high-fashion jellies.  For the last two summers, I’ve lived in a pair of black Melissa x Jason Wu “Artemis” sandals, and I’ve gotten compliments on them in Hawaii, Istanbul …

Free Bird: Learning to Work with Wild Animals

My voice goes singsong, as though I’m speaking to a baby or a small dog: “BEN, MY SWEETHEART!” With a series of high-pitched chirps like sneakers on linoleum, an apple-red cardinal swoops down and lands on my shoulder. He sidesteps over to my ear, gives it a quick nip with his beak and starts trying to pull out my earring. This is unquestionably the high point of my week. About a year ago, I was surfing around the cute-photo Internet and stumbled into a gallery of birthday parties for zoo animals — a weird, marvelous corner of the web where Komodo dragons are presented with frozen meat-cakes festooned with dead rats and elephants trumpet over dessert-shaped towers of vegetables. The zoo websites explained that the cakes were enrichment objects. Exotic animals and craft projects are some of my favorite things on this earth; why, I thought, I should make those cakes! [pullquote]I burrito-wrapped a swan in a beach towel and felt him stamp his huge feet with impatience as we tube-fed him.[/pullquote] It felt like …

Night Owl: On Keeping a Teenager’s Schedule in This Grown-Up Life

JULIET: Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near day: It was the nightingale, and not the lark, That pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear; Nightly she sings on yonder pomegranate-tree: Believe me, my love, it was the nightingale. ROMEO: It was the lark, the herald of the morn, No nightingale: look, love, what envious streaks Do lace the severing clouds in yonder east: Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops. I must be gone and live, or stay and die. Act III, Scene V is one of the loveliest parts of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: For one thing, the teen lovers are awakening after their first and only night as a married couple, after their sexy secret wedding in Friar Laurence’s cell. For another, they make arguing about whether or not it’s time to get up sound desperately romantic. It’s romantic to sleep in, everyone! Or so I argue, anyway. I’ve been a night owl for 36 years and counting. [pullquote]I try to float …

The End of Small Talk: I Called My Mother Every Day For 30 Days

The first few calls I made to my mother for TueNight’s 30-Day Challenge covered familiar territory: My youngest sister was visiting with her husband, so I filled Mom in on our adventures around New York City. She described the holiday meals she’d prepared back in California. We expressed reluctance to get rid of our respective Christmas trees. But after a week or so, I started to learn things about my family that I never before knew. On one occasion, for example, our conversation turned to catnapping. “Oh yeah, Grandpa loved James Herriot,” my mom told me, speaking of the publicity-shy veterinarian whose heartwarming stories of his country practice in Yorkshire sold millions of books in the ‘70s and ‘80s. “He loved James Herriot so much that when he and Grandma went to Cambridge on one of their trips, he grabbed a cat from outside their hotel and went to see him posing as a client.” [pullquote]The Challenge was undertaken with Mom’s knowledge: I didn’t want her to think I was suddenly in constant contact because, …

gossip tuenight bruce jenner

The Gold-Medalist Rule: The Problem With That Bruce Jenner Cover

When I was a women’s-magazine staffer, I was the very last person to hear or share office gossip. Quite literally, my cube wasn’t close enough to anyone else’s to exchange whispers; I called my little corner of the floor The Land of Wind and Ghosts. I also took The Devil Wears Prada, which was embedding itself in pop culture just as I entered publishing, way too seriously: If I wanted to avoid becoming a magazine-world grotesque, I figured, I should keep my personal and professional lives separate and my secrets to myself. No nicknaming mutual enemies at Happy Hour or gently toxic GChats for me. Keeping up with celebrity gossip, on the other hand, was a small but significant part of my professional responsibilities. I was the research chief, queen of the fact checkers, and I had to be dead sure everything we said about the beautiful people was demonstrably true. I once spent a dark afternoon of the soul trying to confirm the spelling of an actor’s dog’s name. I had to scour the …

Don’t Forget to Call Your Mother… Every Day?

When I was in the first grade, my mother summoned me to our kitchen to take a phone call. “Hello?” I chirped, the chunky ‘80s receiver the same size as my blonde head. My classroom crush, a boy named Jamie, sang back in his best Stevie Wonder voice, “I just called / to say / I hate you,” and hung up. I never really forgave the telephone for that. I was a decidedly un-chatty teenager, my dorm phone gathered serious dust in college, and if unused cellular plan minutes were tangible things, I could swim in mine like Scrooge McDuck in his vault of gold coins. There are researchers stationed in Antarctica who use the phone more than I do. Big deal, right? Who makes old-fashioned calls these days, anyway? More than 40% of Americans don’t even have land lines, and many of us use our smartphones primarily for things like texting, shopping and taking grainy photos of our dinners. But the thing is, I left my mother, father, and sisters back in California when …

What to Get the Cat Lady Who Has Everything

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a woman in possession of a good cat must be in want of a bunch of cat-related holiday gifts. That said, all cat-related gifts are not created equal, and no one deserves a third copy of the Jingle Cats’ Meowy Christmas album. Celebrate the feline enthusiasts in your life with gifts that say, “I realize that if you’re interested in a bunch of Grumpy Cat stuff, you’ve probably already bought it yourself.” 1. Anatomical Heart Cat Toy These organic catnip toys are handmade in England from recycled wool and velvet. If Kate and William ever add a cat to the royal family, I’m guessing they’ll head to London’s Cheshire & Wain for supplies. Semi-realistic organs don’t strike your fancy? The company also sells toys shaped like gingerbread men, lobsters and turkeys — but c’mon, what’s cuter than a cat trotting around with a heart in its mouth? $14, cheshireandwain.com  2. KitNipBox Subscription Each month, the team at KitNipBox sends out a seasonally-themed assortment of handcrafted toys, all-natural treats …

The Beast with the Least: Taking Our Manx Home

Straight out of college, back in 2001, I took a job with the San Francisco SPCA’s animal hospital. Every morning I’d drive down to the Mission and spend the day processing new pets and arranging veterinary care for others. I saw homeless people with piles of donated towels they’d collected and brought in to use as payment for their beloved pets’ medical bills; I saw sweet old pit bulls covered with bite marks from when dogfighters had used them as bait; I saw a stone-faced lady lie down on the floor of an exam room when it was time to put her cancer-ridden Rottweiler to sleep. I’d cry the whole way home in the car every night. It was wonderful to spend so much time with animals — all I’d wanted when I was a little girl was to be a veterinarian — but the reality of so much suffering I was unable to prevent bowled me over like a wave. It was a kind of helplessness I’d never imagined, much less experienced. One day …