Home for the Holidays

I live in a teeny tiny town in a part of the state that’s largely ignored. For whatever reason, the south coast of Massachusetts has lagged far behind other areas in terms of commerce and development. Even tourism–which the region is prime for because of its beautiful landscape and miles of shoreline– is basically nonexistent in comparison to other parts of the state. We don’t get the crowds that flock to the cape. And we don’t have enough industry to support any significant growth in the year-round population. So that all translates into fewer amenities for those of us who call the South Coast home.

It’s pretty sleepy, but a few times a year our little community comes alive with a spirit that’s bigger and greater than anywhere else I’ve lived. There are three town events that bring us together- a town party in August, a big Halloween celebration in October, and my favorite by far, the Christmas Stroll in December.

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At the Stroll, Santa comes chugging in by boat, and then spends the rest of the afternoon spiriting kids through the village in a horse-drawn hay wagon. The town is packed with people of all ages milling in and out of the festively decorated little shops that are offering good cheer. Sounds of the season (in the form of the elementary school band) waft through the air as you greet friends and neighbors at every turn. Yes, it’s like a Norman Rockwell painting come alive. And I’m not even kidding.

I love to travel, and I often think longingly of all the years I lived in the city (and count the ones until I can return) but there’s no place I’d rather be on a cold December afternoon than in the middle of this picturesque little village, listening to my son pound out Jingle Bells with the rest of the 4th grade band, standing elbow to elbow with friends and neighbors as we sip spiked cider and watch our teenagers flit from here to there, arms linked and smiles wide. It’s like for one day, you can forget about everything else that’s happening outside of our 26 square miles and just be joyful.

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Hey there Jaime!  Always happy to see you!

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It’s called the Stroll because you do a lot of strolling.
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We’ve got a few pretty little shops like this. This is Kates Simple Eats. You can go there and eat, and it’s pretty simple. But also pretty great.

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The fourth-grade band plays first, followed by the more accomplished 5th & 6th graders. It’s kind of like when the Lumineers opened for U2 at Gillette this summer.
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The set is kind of interesting- they play all the Christmas classics like Mary Had a Little Lamb, Twinkle Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and Row Row Row Your Boat. But then they do end with a resounding rendition of Jingle Bells followed by the finale of the crowd pleasing Little Drummer Boy. Well, at least I think it was Little Drummer Boy.
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My son plays the drums. He practices at home a lot. It’s awesome.
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Hi Santa. We’ve all been pretty good this year. Ok, well not ALL of us. But most of us. Some of us. All right, honestly, NONE of us have been good this year. But 2017 was awful and brought out the worst in everyone. We promise to be better in 2018.
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I love decked halls.
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And I love Prosecco in my cider.
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Cocoa, cookies and Santa hats for all, except that guy. He didn’t get the memo, I guess.
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If you had cider or cocoa at every single shop you might just float away or at the very least feel like I do today (which is not so good).
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We draw all the big names in entertainment…
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Big names and holiday stars…even Rudolph! The Grinch comes too, but I avoid him because: good vibes only.
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It’s really amazing and wonderful to see so many people on Front Street. This is approximately 2000% more foot traffic than you see on a normal day.

This year it’s especially important to embrace the feel-good days.  The days filled with small moments that make your heart swell. A smile exchanged, a laugh shared, a warm hug- the little things that are actually bigger than you think.

Community matters and communities united in a common goal can do so much. If we all commit to focusing on making positive changes and respecting and supporting each other, the world will be a lovelier place for everyone. We can and should commit to core community values that instill in all generations the importance of inclusion, acceptance, tolerance and living joyfully. Yes, John Lennon- we can all shine on, like the moon and the stars and the sun.

I see London, I see France…

This Thanksgiving we traded turkey, stuffing, and mashies for wine, cheese, bread and surprisingly good pub food. Bucking tradition to travel this year seemed to be a trend if my friend’s Insta and Facebook feeds are any indication. Lots of people headed north, south, east, and west to celebrate sans pumpkin pie or a doze in front of a football game. We opted to spend a few days in Paris and London before heading down to the middle of France, where we are fortunate enough to have lots of family to spend time with and a house to stay in. Our house doesn’t have wifi or a tv so an extra bonus is that the kids actually have to talk to us! Woohoo!  They pretend to be annoyed by it, but it seems to me like they might actually enjoy our company.  I know–weird, right? Anyway, here are some highlights and recommendations from our latest family adventure.

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First of all, fly Iceland Air. It’s usually the least expensive way to get to anywhere in Europe, they have nice new planes, and the Keflavik airport has cool Icelandic gear for sale, and really, really, really expensive but drinkable coffee. This was probably our 12th trip via Iceland, but all we’ve ever seen is the airport. We need to fix that because Iceland is pretty amazing (you can tell from the flyby and also the 20 infomercial “documentaries” available during your flight). Even the safety video is so beautiful it makes you want to stay.
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We flew into Paris and stayed overnight with my husband’s cousin. This is the entryway to her apartment. I took a picture of this because I love the floor, and the doors, and also I just love that it’s in Paris.
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But then you have to climb 4 flights of these stairs with all your bags because the elevator is only meant for really skinny French people with no luggage.
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This is Martine- our welcome committee and the cutest dog in Paris. I am also convinced she can jump higher than any other dog anywhere. She’s like a circus dog. You can’t tell from this picture because she’s pretending to be calm, so you’ll just have to believe me.
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Friday mood.
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Rue Montorgueil is my favorite street because there are lots of cafes and restaurants to choose from and if you’re wandering in the middle of the road half-dazed from lack of sleep you won’t get hit by a car because it’s pedestrians only.
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We decided to combat our jet lag by walking from Les Halles to the Eiffel Tower – not a short stroll even on your best day, but you get to see lots of Paris landmarks, like the Louvre.
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My kids were mortified that I took a picture of this statue because he’s naked but he looked about as tired as I was just then, so I felt like he was a kindred spirit.
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The Musée du Quai Branly has an exterior living wall so you can experience something cool as you walk by even if you don’t have time to visit the museum itself.
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You even get to see art, like this Olmec piece!
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Everyone loves Paris in the springtime, but Fall is pretty great too.
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The next morning we headed to the Garre Nord pretty early so we could catch our train to London. Yes, that is a bear with wings. The French are interesting.
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We dumped our bags and headed out to explore London town. Wild food and festive aromatherapy- what more could you ask for?
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So many pubs, so little time.
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Rokit is the best vintage store in London. My daughter loved rummaging through the old t-shirts, shoes, coats and other goodies. I spent most of the time alternating between feeling like I’d found old friends and feeling depressed because vintage now means all things from the 80s.  By default, I think that makes me vintage too. Sigh.
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There’s always something to celebrate in London! Girl power! Also, cheese!
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Lunch was in a pub. Isn’t this cute? Plus the pints were tasty. And the food was good. Yes, really.  We were the first ones there because we were on Paris time (or Boston time?) and we were hungry!
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Every time we visit a different city, or country, or really anywhere that’s not home there seems to be some sort of car show or exhibit happening. Even though my husband is a huge, huge fan of all things automotive he swears this is just a coincidence. But I’m not convinced because it happens every. single.time. Case in point- the Ferrari: Under The Skin exhibit opened at the Design Museum just days before we arrived. I wanted to go there anyway, and I did think this particular exhibit sounded pretty good, so win, win.
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This is how Ferrari’s look before they become actual cars.
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Ferraris really are beautiful…
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Vroom vrrooooom
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I love race car driver helmets. I don’t know why, but I do. I also love race car drivers. Have you seen Rush? No? You should, and then you’ll love race car drivers too.
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The rest of the museum is worth a look too. I mean, the building alone is an inspiration.
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See?
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Designer, maker or user- which one are you?
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Ah- the design love triangle. Can’t have one without the others…
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Design is everywhere and influences everything. Think about that.
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Life in a nutshell.
THE UNION TAVERN, CLERKENWELL
How lucky are you when a really great place like the Union Tavern is right across the street from your hotel? Dinner spot!
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Haha- no! We didn’t stay at the Ritz but on our second day we met our friend Paul right outside because it was close to the tube station.
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We didn’t even mean to, but we got to see the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace- or more accurately we got to see the backs of heads of tons of people watching the changing of the guards.
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Eh, hello there Queen Elizabeth.
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We spent some time on the South Bank of the Thames. Insider tip: get the Fast Pass for the London Eye and plan to explore a bit while you wait for your timeslot.
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Blue sky and sunshine in London? Yes, it happens!
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My daughter would not be happy if she saw this picture, but she’ll never know so…heh heh.  Anyway, this was lunch at Wagamama. I have a hard and fast rule to never eat in a restaurant we can go to at home when we’re away, but everyone loves Wagamama, including me. Rules are meant to be broken anyway, right?
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But then when we left Wagamama we saw this place – the British think of everything! Lunch in an igloo? We could have done that! But yet, I wonder how steamy it gets in there with 5 people breathing and eating and etc?
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Watercolor view of Big Ben and Parliment. Big Ben was under scaffolding, but still pretty.
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I am in love with books. Like completely in love. So, it was really fantastic to discover Books Under the Bridge. A tiny piece of heaven.
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Browsing is so much fun…
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I also love old maps, and they had loads.
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Say hello to Liam Flanagan. He’s living my son’s dream.
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We were going to ride some city bikes, but we ran out of time. Good to know they’re here though.
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The Brand Academy is definitely worth a stop- chock full of products made by emerging artists and designers. Good stuff!
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All the colors.
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If I weren’t a procrastinator by nature (and if I’d brought a bigger suitcase) I would have picked up some Christmas gifts…
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Holiday market finds- love me some colorful lights.
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Here’s Paul! We hadn’t seen him in eons- so it was great to spend the day with him, and get yelled at together by ornery baristas at Nero Coffee.
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I actually hate Ferris Wheels and looking up at this extra, extra tall one felt really intimidating BUT…
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You can’t skip the London Eye, so up we went!
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And it’s so worth it! You get your own personal pod (well shared with like 10 other people) and you feel like you’re headed to outer space.  The views are unparalleled.
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Mid-flight selfie fail.
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The group below us was having a champagne party. Dang it, we were one pod too early…
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Here I am channeling Mary Tyler Moore.
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And this is that unparalleled view I was telling you about.
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That was fun!
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Just walking around is a feast for the eyes, especially when the sky cooperates and gives you this.
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You know there aren’t actually phones in these things anymore.
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Here’s my pretty little London pic.
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Buckingham Palace at sunset…
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Shop goals! When I was in the business of flower making I dreamed of having a shop like this…
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The kids wanted to know how many pubs we were going to visit. Answer: as many as we could fit in (which was 6 in two days).  When in London…
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Being in London near Christmas is extra great because this town takes it’s holidaying to the next level.
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It was only November 19 but there were lights and festive decorations everywhere.
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It made me feel a little anxious and inadequate actually because I know my own decorating won’t be done til approximately Dec 24th.
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Dinner Sunday night was at The Wilmington. We opted for the traditional Roast. I can’t tell you how amazing the food was, you will just have to go and taste for yourself.  Yorkshire Pudding and all the rest.

After London, we headed back to France. I think I’ll share some pics of that in a separate post because this one is getting kind of long, dontcha think? Stay tuned…

Trippin’ down the PCH during a really crazy week filled with things I want to ignore but can’t…

FullSizeRender (30)Yeah, so we were on vacation last week when the awfulness of Charlottesville unfolded. The fact that it happened is sickening and disheartening, but the worst part is that our “President” couldn’t muster enough dignity or human decency to call it what it was or disavow those who were responsible. Ugh. But as I said, we were on vacation when he was not doing what he should have been doing if he were any kind of real leader or moral upstanding citizen. Sooooo… instead of going on and on about how disgusted I am with his response(s) and the state of the White House in general (except bye-bye and good riddance Bannon, you pillar of racism!!) I am going to show you some really pretty pictures of the really amazing road trip we took while all that was happening.  And yes, I do feel a little guilty for experiencing so much beauty during such a dark time, but I also feel like it was a constant reminder that there IS good in this world; that there are really decent and lovely people out there. Also it was really nice to escape to the Pacific Coast and gaze out over the beautiful ruggedness of the cliffs and be hypnotized by the vast sea and just disconnect from everything for a little while– to recharge and renew my resolve to be better and to do more to help ensure the world is a nicer place for everyone.

We drove from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 7 days- here are the highlights and places I recommend you go to if you ever find yourself driving down the PCH and the 101.

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I haven’t been to Lombard St in 20 years. It’s still as twisty as ever and lots of people were either driving down it or walking up it. We just took pictures of it. I like the view from the top.
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This is where the streets of the world meet the avenues of the mind.
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City Lights has books, but also so much more. You really just have to go to see what I mean.
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Chinatown was cool! We were going to have Dim Sum, but then we ended up finding a good sushi place on the other side of Union Square, so we didn’t really experience it like we should have…but it’s ok because the sushi was really good.
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I went for an early morning run down the Embarcadero.  It was beautiful and I met a lot of homeless people (not really, but I did befriend a cute homeless dog).
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They don’t call it Fog City because it’s sunny…
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One day we rented bikes and rode from the Ferry building all the way down the Embarcadero, past Fishermans Wharf and up through the hilly (!!!) Presidio, then over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito.  My calves and my buns still hurt from the memory.
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While we were waiting for the bike rental guy to show up we checked out the Ferry Terminal Farmers Market.  It was fabulous- fruits and veg, coffee roasters, baked goods, meats, cheeses, live music and YES!! flowers. Flowers make me happy.  Especially when they come in tin cans.
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This isn’t Muir Woods but it looks like it, right? It’s Andy Goldsworthy’s installation in the Presidio. I thought it was amazing. My kids thought it was just a bunch of tall trees and logs.
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This is in front of Lucasfilms headquarters which is also in the Presidio.  It’s the world’s largest, and also the world’s smallest Yoda fountain.  It might be the world’s only Yoda fountain (but I’m not really sure).
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It was still very foggy which might have been a good thing because riding over the bridge was a little scawwwy.
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There were a ton of people in Sausalito, but we muscled our way through the crowds and rode down the road out of town to check out the houseboats and that was pretty neat.
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Habitat goals. Also #supportthearts
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I could totally live here.
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We took a ferry back from Sausalito because really a one-way bike ride over the bridge is plenty. Plus…that view.
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This was my Rice a Roni moment.
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I left my heart in San Francisco (no I didn’t, but that’s a good caption for this pic, isn’t it?)
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One of my favorite stops was in Pescadero, CA. It is a little tiny town in between here and there and there’s not too much to see but they have this brekkie spot that was pretty awesome.
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Pretty awesome, as I said.
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Actually, there was something to see in Pescadero…this sweet ride in front of this cute coffee shop (which is across the street from the not cute, but awesome breakfast spot).
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We tried to drive all the way down to Pfeiffer Beach but the road was still closed. We did manage to see some beautiful sites in Big Sur anyway.
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Ahhh… so pretty.
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Did I mention how pretty it was?
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Super, duper pretty.
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We like to ride into town with the top down…
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We drove the Pebble Beach 17 Mile Drive but no one was really impressed.  My son pointed out that this cypress is actually not that lonely because there are other trees really close by (cropped out for effect).
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We were lucky enough to be in Carmel for the start of the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The streets were filled with millions (billions?) of dollars worth of beautiful cars.  I love the Porche 911 most of all.
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I also have a soft spot for VW’s (especially buses). True story: We had an orange VW bus for a few years when I was a kid and when my parents sold it I cried.  I still miss that car. We drove it up from Georgia to New Hampshire and my sister and I both got food poisoning at South of the Border. Also, we bought fireworks but we couldn’t light them in NH because it was illegal. But my dad might have anyway. Ah, memories…
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Indeed.
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Quick stop in Santa Cruz…
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We saw surfers, sea lions, and even a giant whale.  It was kind of great.
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We all LOVED San Luis Obispo. What a fun, laid-back cool ass town! We stayed here and you should too, if you like hip, loft style apartment living.
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We saw the SMEG and immediately felt right at home, except this one is black and ours is orange, so this one is way cooler.
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Every apartment comes equipped with one of these, and there are stacks of records to choose from.  We took turns playing d.j.
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Here’s my daughter, she liked the free Wifi.
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Feeling good in SLO
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I liked this building. I hope Cody Johnson had fun playing there.
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Also, I liked this coffee shop (Kreuzberg).
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Except I got chai instead of coffee.
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Bubblegum alley is really gross.
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Really gross.
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We went to Pismo Beach and caught some waves. This is me surfing (just kidding).

 

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Santa Barabara’s Funk Zone is an artist enclave/wine tasting mecca/antique pickers dream.
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Here’s where we had our 11:00 am wine tasting and the kids had freshly baked scones. Win, win.
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Another winery. Very tropical, no?
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Obviously.
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This place made me wish we’d rented a U-Haul instead of a convertible.
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This store had only been open for two days when we visited.  I like that bag, and also everything else.
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Wine, yes wine everywhere in the Funk Zone. Yay for wine.
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And pizza.
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Onward to LA! We had a pretty sweet spot to relax and chill out at for a bit. And connect to Wifi, of course.
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Our pool didn’t have any chlorine- just natural stuff like copper and other minerals, so swimming in it felt really good, and also doubled as a bath. Time-saver!
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I took a lot of palm tree pictures. I don’t really know why except that this view seems very LA.
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Santa Monica Pier is prettier from afar, but it was fun to be up close too. This is the view from Muscle Beach where none of us did any pull-ups or anything. We just watched other people working out and then went and ate tacos.
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Here’s where we ate the tacos- Blue Plate. If you’re in Santa Monica, you should go here for tacos.
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And go at sunset- the view is insane.
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We spent our last night in Japantown. It was very sweet.
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And, we ate French ice cream in Japantown. I don’t know why except that it was there so we did.

Thinking of you Charlottesville and Barcelona!! #thereisonlyoneside #lovewins

School’s Out for Summah!!

FullSizeRender (17)In just a few short days my kids are going to be done with 7th and 3rd grades, and all I can think is- holy shit, where did the year go? Holy shit- where did the last 13 years go? And also, what the hell are they going to do all summer?  And, also, I’m really, really jealous of them. And, also, I haven’t even bought this year’s supply of sunscreen OR bug spray. And the bugs are supposed to be very, very, very bad this year. And also, I don’t think I have a bathing suit that isn’t stretched and faded to the point of being embarrassing.  And also, I haven’t even cleaned out our beach bag from last summer yet.  I shudder to think what I’ll find. A pound of sand? A half-eaten candy bar? A single water shoe? Some crab carcasses? Waterlogged magazines and books? Yes, probably all of that. And also, seriously, what are they going to do all summer? I mean, they are both signed up for sailing and camps here and there, but the days are long, and the potential for shenanigans is high, at least with my daughter.  My son, I’m not so worried about- I can picture what he’ll be doing in his free time:  read, lego, repeat.  But my daughter… well, I’m sitting here letting my imagination run rampant.

The summer I was 13 my parents sent me to Mexico City to visit my friend, Erin.  Erin was my next door neighbor when we lived in Panama.  We were inseparable in 5th and 6th grade. But, she moved right before 7th grade; her lovely family replaced with one with two bratty kids that weren’t nearly as fun. I made some hard-earned babysitting money off of them but that’s all they were good for. They told me I smelled and that I needed to shave my legs (which was probably 100% accurate but made me hate them all the more).  It was a long year without her. Also, I wasn’t too thrilled about moving to Alabama (after living in paradise for three years it seemed like a crappy hand to be dealt) so the Mexico trip was presented as a way to soften the blow.

I was only there a few weeks, but we did a lot.  The things I remember most are: stealing her parent’s car and joy-riding around the city; meeting up with her older brother’s friends to drink “cokes” that made me feel giddy and nauseous; making homemade aloe face masks that left us rashy; visiting like 200 museums with mummies and pyramid replicas; spending a dusty, hot day at some Aztek ruin that I didn’t appreciate at all; staying up til all hours of the night watching highly inappropriate movies; throwing up in her dad’s car on a windy mountain road heading to Ixtapa; eating tortillas hot out of the oven from roadside shacks; sneaking out and smoking cigarettes on the beach when her dad went to bed; throwing up in her dad’s car on a windy mountain road on the way back from Ixtapa; and wishing her cute older brother would get back from wherever he was already (I had a mad crush and he was the first and only boy I’d ever kissed). He never showed, but that was still the best vacation I’d had in my young life.

So this is why my mind is going to all places crazy right now. I do not want to imagine my daughter driving, drinking, smoking or kissing this summer. Eh gahhh!  But left to her own devices anything could happen, right?  She is the same age I was that year and look how I spent my time! It was probably a good thing that I moved to Alabama after that and spent a miserable year friendless and mopey, listening to Elton John sing Sad Songs Say So Much and pining for my old life.  It definitely tamed the wild side that Erin introduced me to.  But what’s going to tame my girl’s wild side? Wait, does she have a wild side??!! Ugh… I don’t want her to find out. Not yet.

FullSizeRender (16)Our town isn’t nearly as exotic as Mexico, but there are similarities- there’s a beach for example, and boys, and cars.  We even have a museum of sorts. And we do kinda buy into that free-range-kid philosophy to a degree.  I like that both my kids have their independence and that they can take off on their bikes to meet friends at the general store, the beach, the playground, or any of the other local hangouts around town.  I do trust that my daughter will make good choices.  But we’re getting to the point where those good choices are going to be harder and harder to make. How much freedom do we give her? Enough to feel independent, but not enough to get into trouble? But what does that even mean? Here we are, entering into another phase of parenting and I am completely unprepared.  I don’t even have bug spray. And the bugs are supposed to be very, very, very bad this year…

 

Mom, then and now (and all of it beautiful)

FullSizeRender (6).jpg This is my mom (on the right) and her friend Barbara, back in -oh I don’t know- maybe the early 80s or late 70s. Back when to me, Mom was just MOM. She was just the woman who took care of me and my sister, the woman who made dinner, the one who cleaned the house, the one who left behind a cloud of White Shoulders perfume and a smudge of lipstick on my cheek when she and my dad went out on weekend nights. She drove me to the emergency room when I sliced my leg wide open on the neighbors swing set and was the one who helped dry out my favorite stuffed animal after I left it out in the rain one day.  She braided my hair for school and made me drink my milk at dinner. She was the one who let us get a cat, and then took care of it when we didn’t. She was Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy.

I knew she liked to drink Tab and smoke Kents, and that she stockpiled crime and mystery paperbacks. I knew that she missed her mom and that she loved to travel. She sang loudly and off-key in the car to music my sister and I hated, and she liked to make small talk with the checkout lady at the grocery store. She had a short temper but a great laugh that came from deep inside when she thought something was really funny. She hated her teeth and never smiled for pictures. She had an amazing sense of style and for a while she made most of her own clothes. She hated to exercise but once she took disco lessons and she had one signature move that she used over and over. When she went in the pool or ocean she never got her hair wet. She was a master at floating with a cocktail in her hand. She liked parties but hated that my dad always had to be the last to leave. She was the family Jeopardy champion because she was sharp and smart as a whip. She made tuna casserole for dinner way too often. She had a seemingly endless repertoire of idioms that she could wield on a dime as unsolicited advice or a spot-on reprimand. She liked daffodils because they were yellow and she seemed to know the name of every plant she came across. Her boarding school days didn’t do anything to dim her spit or fire but did instill in her a deep appreciation for and insistence on proper etiquette. I knew all of this, I saw all of this, but I didn’t see HER. All of these things were just things about my MOM that I knew.

I think sometime in my early 20s I started to think of my parents as people and I started to realize that I could have a relationship with them that went beyond the daughter- parent one. There were a few really good years there when my mom and I could have nice conversations over a glass of wine and really connect. I think if we had been contemporaries we would have been great friends as kids, teens, young adults. I think if she hadn’t gotten sick we would have been great friends as grown-ups. But she did get sick, and that’s where the trajectory of the story changes.

You see now, these days, Ceci struggles with the ravages of Parkinsons Disease.  And it’s a bitch.

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Over the 15 years that my mom has had this devastating disease it has slowly robbed her of many of the motor and cognitive skills that have always defined her.  She can no longer boogie down and sing at the top of her lungs while driving down the street. She can no longer tell you the name of every President and Vice President (and who ran against them) in the order they were elected. She can’t paint her toenails fire engine red and some days she can’t put her lipstick on straight. Cooking is a chore because getting dishes out of the oven is complicated. She can’t sew because her fingers don’t work that way anymore and sometimes she needs help putting on her shoes. She can’t string beads to make necklaces and she can’t refinish a piece of furniture when she gets bored of its current state.  It’s hard for her to turn the pages of a book. And there are days she can’t get out of bed. She asks the same questions over and over again, and she forgets things we already talked about. We don’t have conversations about complicated things. I can’t ask her advice when my own daughter has me at my wit’s end or when I feel overwhelmed with the everyday chaos of my life.

I feel like she’s lost so much of herself and so, subsequently, we’ve lost so much of her and sometimes that leaves me breathless. But then I think of who she’s shown herself to be, and with that, what we have been given– and that too stops me short. Because despite all of the challenges she’s faced with this disease, despite all of the limitations she now has, she doesn’t complain, she doesn’t give up and she doesn’t give in. I know she has bad days, and I know she gets frustrated and depressed. But she almost always puts on a brave face. She never says no, and she never says “I can’t do this”. She still travels, she still has dinner parties, she still goes out with her girlfriends for lunch or to the movies. She still tries. Every. Single. Day.

She is the epitome of grace in the face of adversity. She is resilient and brave and determined. She is a reminder that life doesn’t always turn out the way you expect it, but if you try, if you really try, you can make it work for you. Sometimes really shitty things happen that you can’t control, but if you have the right attitude and enough determination those things won’t destroy you. They won’t define you and they won’t destroy you.

Mom, I knew you back then, but I didn’t KNOW you. Now I know YOU. Getting to here from there didn’t happen the way any of us wanted, and I’d still change it for you if I could. But, it’s your life, it’s my life, and all of it’s beautiful even when it’s scarred and imperfect. Thank you for teaching me that.

Goals

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My house is a work in progress. When we bought it back in July of 2014 it was in a sad state.  It was built by a stone mason in 1957 and had some interesting features that we liked for their uniqueness and, as they say, the bones were good- so we made it ours, even though there were layers of grime, miles of wood paneling, scratched and worn floors, weird tile, funky windows, an overwhelming odor of stale oldness and a few stray cats living on the porch (and leaving interesting piles of you don’t want to know what on the floor).  The kids saw a house of horrors, my husband and I saw potential. This was nothing new; it’s our fourth fixer upper. I’d like to say it’s our last, but I have a penchant for rescuing sad, ugly houses and there are a few around here that I’d love to get my hands on, but that’s a different story for a different day.

Anyway, so we’ve done a lot to the house. We took down walls, we reconfigured the living space, added a new kitchen and a second bath, converted a porch to a family room, built a big deck (outside living space is mandatory in a beach town!) and invested in millions of gallons of white paint. We’ve put a ton of time and energy into making this house a home. And it is great, it does feel like home. I love everything we’ve been able to do with it. But there was one little thing that we just never really got around to and it was driving me bananas.

When we bought the house we knew that renovating the weird and creepy basement would be a project for the future (possibly the far out future given everything else we needed to do). But, as I was looking for the different elements that would turn this fixer into our home, I found the PERFECT light for the stairwell going down to the basement. Everything about it was exactly what I wanted- the size, the style, the material, just everything. I did not know it was possible to care so dang much about a light. But, well, let’s just say it was love. True love!! So, I bought it.

And, it’s been sitting in our garage, still in it’s original box, for 2 1/2 years.  My husband started using it to store his car gear on, like a work table. No, no, no, no.

It does not feel good to leave something hanging for that long (ha- no pun intended). It was a project that I wanted to finish, but just never did. It’s like that one thing on your to-do list that you keep writing down week after week because it somehow just never gets done. The one you never cross off for whatever reason. I hate that.

If you leave something for too long, the desire fades and you end up settling for the way things are, not the way you want things to be. And, I think that’s a shame. I am at a point in my life where I don’t want to leave things as they are if I’m not satisfied with them. I want to be motivated to make positive changes. I do not want to avoid doing something because it’s hard. I no longer care about low hanging fruit. I want to climb the tree and go for the best that you find at the top. And, I guess maybe finally getting this light hung represented a little bit of that for me. A small catalyst.

So!!! We hung the light! It was a feat of balance, acrobatics and upper body strength- I didn’t think about the logistics of hanging a 20 lb light from a 15 ft ceiling over a steep, unforgiving brick stairwell, and you probably never have either. Yeah, it was not easy. But we did it, and we did it without killing each other (figuratively or literally).

It feels so good to cross that off the list. Every time I open the door to the basement I get a little happy flutter in my heart. Why? It does look damn good, especially with all that beautiful white paint (I do love white paint!) and maybe that’s part of it. But also maybe because for me it represents something more. It’s goals.

Being 13 in 2017

img_7002As a parent of a newly minted teenager I feel as though I’m constantly navigating land mines and making compromises that keep the beast at bay while simultaneously trying to encourage and nurture her to be the best and happiest person she can be. It’s not easy and a lot of the time I feel like I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. And, most of the time I’m worried that means that I’m doing her irreparable harm- that somehow my lack of expertise in this parenting arena is going to mean she’s never going to live up to her full potential. But tonight something amazing happened. Tonight I saw a rare glimpse of the complete and whole person my daughter is going to be.  And it was beautiful.

My daughter has a friend sleeping over tonight and they came home from school and proceeded to spend the rest of the day behind a closed door in her bedroom. This irked me to no end, but I thought I’d leave it be, mainly because I wasn’t in the mood to deal with the eye rolling and huffing that I knew would ensue if I suggested they do something a little less lethargic. Dinner time came and I asked them to come out and eat with us, fully expecting that it would be a rushed affair that they tolerated in order to get on with their night. But it didn’t play out like that.

Both girls started an animated recount of a few different things that had happened at school that morphed into a larger discussion about the current state of our world, how it’s talked about at school and what it means to them. I was so impressed with their impassioned opinions and that they had all sorts of facts and research to back them. I loved that our discussion included deciphering fake news from real, tolerating other people’s points of view, and ideas about how to combat injustice. And I really loved that they know how to use Snopes and that they read Politico! But most of all I loved that both girls were making some serious eye contact and were completely engaged in our conversation.

We generally have good family conversations, and with this current political landscape I’ve seen that my daughter can be passionate about critical causes and issues but it’s rare to have the type of discussion we had when she has friends around. I know that they are all deeply interested in what’s going on, but I don’t often hear them discussing it with each other. For me, that was the best part of the night. Knowing that their private teenage world has expanded beyond following social media stars, debating about what color Converse to get, and making musically videos shows me that there is a silver lining in everything. We might be in really tough times now, but these tough times are turning our teens into informed, motivated leaders of tomorrow.

I look at my daughter and I see the future. I want her to be 13 and not have to worry about what’s going on in the world too much, but at the same time I want her to know how important it is to be a responsible citizen and care about the world around her. Sometimes I’m not sure that message is getting across. But tonight, tonight was sheer validation that it most definitely is. Tonight I was reminded that she is a 13 year old girl, with all the frivolity and self absorption that comes with that, but she’s also a 13 year old girl with strong convictions, a big heart and a desire to do what’s right. And tonight I am breathing a tiny little sigh of relief.

Just a little thank you, Mr. President

p012513ps-034111The other night my daughter and I were watching a photo montage that someone, somewhere on some social media site had posted that documented the inner heart of Barack Obama’s presidency and I just have to tell you that it brought tears to my eyes. It left me with a gut wrenching sense of loss. And I can’t say my daughter was dry-eyed either. She’s 12, she shouldn’t be moved because she sees the President of the United States acting like a human being. But she was, and more than that… she was sad. She was sad because she, like the rest of us, knows what’s coming next.

The video collage was just a series of pictures of him being the decent, respectable, good humored, intelligent, thoughtful man that he has proved to be over the past eight years. None of the content had anything to do with public policy, or climate change, or health care, or arms agreements, or immigration reform or anything like that. But it was a stark reminder of what we’ll be giving up when he leaves office. Because being President of the United States also means being the type of person that all of America and all of the world can look up to. A leader that kids want to model themselves after, someone parents want their kids to strive to be. A good, moral, upstanding, pillar of our nation who exemplifies our values, mores and ideals. Someone who truly believes in America and puts the nation first (or mostly first- it is politics after all).1d4de8e2-e62d-4ab5-ac07-b3e048f04785-620x372

I am not here to talk about what he did or didn’t accomplish as President (that’s a different post entirely).  I’m just trying to say that I will mourn the loss of a President and First Family that I can look up to and respect. The Obamas have been GOOD for America- because they showcase what’s good IN America. They are a loving, generous, grounded, close knit family who believe in each other and believe in making a positive difference in this world. I am proud that they are the First Family of this great country, because for me they exemplify what we can be as a nation. We can be inclusive, we can be tolerant, we can create positive change by taking good ideas and working together to turn them into actionable plans.

That’s why the sharp contrast of Donald Trump is so completely incomprehensible to me.  I simply do not understand how anyone- ANYONE- could support him even if they despise Hillary Clinton with every bone in their body. And, I get it- I can see that people do, and I’m not going to use this post to try to change people’s minds about her. I’ve done my research and I’m satisfied that I’ve vetted her enough to understand that she is probably the single most qualified person to run for office EVER, and I’ve researched all the right-wing propaganda and media hype and have found most of it can be completely debunked or found at least to be mostly untrue. I did that on my own and it’s not my place to tell anyone that they should do that too (although by the way it’s pretty easy). But what I would like people to think about is this… Donald Trump has absolutely no idea what it entails to be President of the United States- not from a policy standpoint, and not from a temperament standpoint. He doesn’t even seem to understand the laws of our nation or have a good handle on what our Constitution is all about. And furthermore, he’s a misogynistic, narcissistic hate-monger who continuously tears down the good people of this country and pits groups against each other to incite violence and instill fear. How on earth is that going to make America a better place than it is now?

We aren’t a perfect nation; we still have so far to go to get where we really ought to be… and what we need is a competent, qualified, sane leader who can at least move us in the right direction. Someone who, even if they aren’t quite the total package, is at least someone who has proved to be dedicated to her country, someone with more than 30 years of practical, hands on experience. Yes, politicians are self serving, but they are also public servants and I think it’s unfair to say that Hillary Clinton has spent her entire political career ONLY being motivated by personal gain. I mean, there are really so many other things she could have done to earn a ridiculously high paycheck. But she has chosen to remain in public service and be embattled, criticized and ridiculed and she’s done that, at least in part, for us.

What do we get with Donald Trump?  Just “not Hillary”?  That’s just stupid, because “not Hillary” is NOT good enough for us. We deserve better. We all deserve better.

So, anyway… I kind of got off track (this really ugly election tends to stir up this roiling uncontrollable urge to vomit my very passionate opinions whenever I have the opportunity) but as I was saying:  THANK YOU Mr. President, and THANK YOU Mrs. Obama for being inspiring and positive role models for my kids, for making me believe that the world CAN be a better place, and for making real strides in helping our nation become a welcome place for all people from all walks of life.  This election season has shown the worst we have to offer and has created a deep and ugly divide, and the bitter aftermath of it will surely test all of our moral fortitude.  But during these trying times we won’t forget the message you’ve given us: the beautiful message of hope.

 

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Cranberries Are Cool

img_4907  Hey, you know what we did today?  We went to the Makepeace Farms Cranberry Harvest Festival.  And you know what else?  It was pretty darn cool.  I don’t know why I was surprised by how many people were there or by how much there was to see and do, because on the South Coast of Massachusetts cranberries are a really big deal.  Like really, really big. Like huge.

I drive by tons of cranberry bogs on my way to work.  Mostly they just look like scrubby fields full of dried up weeds and sandy dirt, but once a year they come alive in glorious bursts of reds and pinks.  When the fields are flooded and the berries rise to the surface and they start to get corralled for harvesting- well, the colors are so vibrant, so striking, so breathtakingly beautiful that you might perhaps be so impressed by the sight that you are tempted to pull over and take a few compelling photos (hey, Instagram opp!) After all, it’s not something you see every day. But, 1) you feel silly doing that and 2) you are running late because you had another hectic, whirlwind morning of trying to get four people out the door at different times and 3) you’re for once lucky enough NOT to be driving behind an 18 wheeler or a Fed Ex truck on the narrow, winding back road that makes up 80% of your commute, so you don’t.  And it’s kind of a shame because it’s sooooo pretty and it will all be gone by the time you drive home.

img_4879Did you know that the cranberry is the state berry of Massachusetts? No you didn’t!!!  Well it’s true. Not only that but cranberry is also the official state color AND cranberry juice is the state beverage of Massachusetts. If you tell me you knew all of that I might have to call you a liar.  I mean, who knows that kind of stuff?  I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a state beverage. But I do now because I went to the cranberry festival!  I hope they ask this question the next time I go to Trivia Night at our local pub. Then I’ll finally be able to answer a question correctly.  Trivia is not my strong suit, but now I know something trivial! Hoorah!

Yep, we sure do love cranberries here in Massachusetts.  Yum, yum.  Actually, can I be totally honest?  I actually don’t really like cranberries. While we were waiting in line for the wagon ride to take us out on a tour the woman in front of me offered me a raw cranberry.  She had a huge cupful.  I don’t really know how she got them, because there were signs posted everywhere warning people not to go in the bogs or take the berries so I knew she couldn’t have done that, because everyone follows the rules right?  Anyway, as she asked me she was popping them in her mouth like m&ms.  Have you ever tasted a raw cranberry?  Ugh, they are the most sour, most off putting, face puckering berry imaginable. And it’s sad because they look so tasty. But it’s a trick. They are only palatable if you boil them down to jelly and add like 16 cups of sugar. I can’t imagine anything worse than eating them raw. And I always pass on the sauce at Thanksgiving (unless my mom makes it- hers is ahMAZing because it has nuts and other stuff like apples and random things so it doesn’t taste like cranberries at all).  And also, by the way, they aren’t great for making garlands for Christmas trees.  I tried that one year because I saw it on Pinterest and let me tell you, it’s really hard to get a needle and thread through those suckers. But anyway, lots of people love them, and they are a very important fruit. Obviously.

So, it’s kind of cool that we live in the cranberry capital of the world.  If it weren’t for our little corner here, Thanksgiving across the country just wouldn’t be the same. And we wouldn’t have craisins.  Oh- also something interesting I learned today- craisins have only been around for about 10 years but they are now the number #1 cranberry product sold worldwide. Craisins are made from the skins of the berries that are used to make juice. The skins used to just be thrown away, but then some genius thought- hey these dried up skins look like raisins, so let’s keep them and call them.. hmmm.. what will we call them?  Ah! I know- craisins! Because it’s a cranberry raisin! And that’s how the craisin was born.  In case you were wondering.

Perhaps you will find yourself here in southeastern Massachusetts one day in early October. If so, please do check out the festival. Or just drive by a bog or two.  I promise that you will never look at a cranberry (or a craisin) the same way.

Closing In

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I haven’t written much about the Boston Marathon lately, but don’t be fooled.  It doesn’t mean it hasn’t been on my mind.  In fact for the last four months it’s been at the top of my mind almost every day.  Because once again I’m training to go the distance, run 26.2 miles and cross that finish line on Boylston St.  Only this time it’s different.  I can no longer say with certainty that I am actually going to see that blue and yellow stripe under my tired, aching, blistering feet.  Way back in November of 2011 when I decided that running the marathon for Boston Children’s Hospital would be a good thing I had no doubt whatsoever that I would make it.  I’m not a fast runner, but I’m solid and the distance didn’t scare me.  I wasn’t out to set any records, just check off a bucket list item and help an organization dear to me.

Little did I know then that there would be so many obstacles in the way.  Freakishly hot weather, acts of terrorism, those thoughts did not cross my mind as I filled out the paperwork to apply for the BCH team that first year.  I thought, ok I’ll train, I’ll raise the money.  I’ll do this one step at a time.  And I did that.  The first year my training was great- mild weather, no injuries, no illness, just steady progress toward a goal.  I felt good, great, confident.  Right up until about 24 hours before the race when the BAA started sending out alarming emails about the dangers of first time runners participating in the marathon.  What? Not run?  Impossible.  I’d put in so much time.  But alas, my fear won out and I didn’t even cross the start that year, let alone the finish.  You can read about that here.

Ok, so there’s always NEXT YEAR right?  Right.  I had a number, I was in.  I signed up with BCH again, because I figured I might as well raise money for a good cause if I was going to put in all the effort again.  I trained.  I trained through a few minor injuries and a lot of snow, but I did it.  Logged all the miles I could and I was ready on April 15.  I will never forget the feeling of accomplishment I had as I lined up in my corral in Hopkinton.  I made it! It was really happening!  Me, running the Boston Marathon.  The marathon of all marathons.  And to boot it was a perfect running day- crisp, sunny, beautiful.  Until it wasn’t.  You can read about that here.

After the marathon bombings my husband and I were shaken to the core.  This wasn’t something we saw on the news or heard about second hand.  We were THERE.  It happened to us.  It is still incredible to me that this our reality.  I never in my life imagined being part of something so horrible.  There are still so many emotions tied to that day- grief for the victims and their loved ones, survivor guilt, fear of a repeat act (somewhere, anywhere) and the realization that bad things can happen. Do happen. Right in front of you.  We can no longer look at the world entirely through rose colored glasses. And anger.  Lots of anger that two cowardly, ridiculous, evil people could wreak so much havoc on so many lives.

That’s what drives me to finish the race.  I WILL finish the race this year. I will finish it because I am strong and healthy and able. I will finish it for Lingzi Lu, for Martin Richard and for Krystle Campbell. I will finish for all those whose lives were forever changed that day. I will finish because so many of them are still struggling, and will continue to struggle for a long time. I will finish because I love Boston and all that it represents to me (family, home, love, life). It might not be a pretty race for me.  Training this year has been a constant test of my dedication.  I’ve run through sub zero temps, a polar vortex, mountains of snow, ice, hail, driving rain, the flu, an upper respiratory virus that would not go away and a nagging, lingering ache in my foot from last years injury. But I am determined to make those last two turns- right on Hereford, left on Boylston. I could be crawling by the end. But- on April 21: I. Will. Finish. The. Race.