Camp is where the heart is

Imagine a place where the unthinkable becomes reality. Where anything, absolutely anything, is possible. Where the fish are always biting, the spotlights are always shining on you, and everyone is singing the same song (ignore the fact that it’s in wildly different keys).

That place exists in Ashford, Connecticut, and I’ve been lucky enough to get to go there. And recently, the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp got some national coverage in a way in whole-heartedly deserves.  [Click here for the video.]

At twenty-five, I still dream of returning to camp. Helping kids who are having a hard time make their dreams come true, giving them the power they lose when they’re sick, being part of a group hug when someone takes a risk and finds out that they are capable of even more than they ever imagined: if there is a better feeling in this world, I haven’t found it yet.

Take a stand

And cast your vote:

Which “Back to the Future” movie rocks your socks the most?

And don’t say them all – they obviously all rock.  This trilogy is one of the few sets of movies that I can watch all the way through or any part of on any day, in any mood.  It’s a timeless classic and yet always fresh.  And until I get my own hoverboard, I will always wish for Marty’s, just for a day.

What about you?  Which version of Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd do you want to hang out with/be?

Thanks

Cranberry sauce out of a jar.

The Thanksgiving Day parade.

Waking up to the smell of turkey cooking.

All night board game marathons.

Being able to laugh with my sister in person.

The feeling of being in a place where I am always welcome.

Dozens of the best friends a girl could ask for just a phone call away.

A grandmother on each side.

A family that makes me proud to call them my own, and cooks some of the best darn stuffing I ever tasted.

I am thankful to be able to be here to celebrate, and to start another year of giving thanks.

 

Listen up!

This Friday is the National Day of Listening, according to StoryCorps, a project of NPR that encourages people to sit down with their loved ones and talk, listen, record, and share the stories of our lives.  I promise you: you’ll never be sorry that you did, and you’ll probably have your best post-Turkey Day ever, and it won’t cost you a thing!

Here is my favorite StoryCorps story, part of a series that has been made into cartoons.

If that didn’t make you cry, at least a little, watch this one and try not to crack.

Sally and the Chocolate Factory

The free food gods are smiling on me lately; in one week I was treated to free beer, free truffle fries, and free chocolate.

The last was courtesy of Yelp!, where I am an elite member and my roommate K was my plus-one as soon as I got an invitation that mentioned the the word “chocolate.”

One night recently, we made our way through the rain over to the Taza Chocolate Factory, just a short drive away still in Somerville.  Usually, visitors here get a tour of the place and samples of some of the chocolate, but at this event we were treated to a full banquet.  Drinks featuring chocolate extract courtesy of Russell House Tavern, finger food from Cuisine en Locale, and all the chocolate we could eat.

Between K and myself, we tried every single bar they made and revisited the chocolate nibs container a few times before settling ourselves in front of the chocolate covered cashews (a-mazing).  Then we got the behind-the-scenes tour of the factory, moving from one great smelling room to the next.  We got to see the raw cacao beans in giant bags, the cool packing room, and then my favorite- the room where the magic chocolate actually happens.

Alex holding a hand-cut grindstone

Here, Alex – the owner – explained to us how he studied the Mexican chocolate process for years before bringing back the best ideas and starting his own factory.  As with good beer, his chocolate consists of the minimum number of ingredients:

  1. cacao
  2. sugar

That’s IT.  The amount of each ingredient varies between batches and other ingredients get added now and then, but they keep it real at Taza, which is why the result is so incredible.  The process is simple and pure (how often do you get to see the grindstones used to make your food?), the business is locally owned and they work directly with the bean growers to make sure everything is being traded fairly.

The only thing better than chocolate is getting it for free and knowing that part of the reason it’s so sweet is all the heart and soul that went into it.

And the sugar too.

Click here to reserve your spot on a free Taza tour!  And take me with you when you go!

Do Re Monday

Today’s musical gem combines two of my “favorite things”- romantic musicals and people singing in public.  I sincerely wish that it was more socially acceptable to burst into song at random moments in the day, though I am still figuring out how to make that a reality. If you’ve got a hint, let me know!

Duct Tape

Tonight’s lesson: be flexible, but be prepared.

With the way my life has been going lately, I have a tendency to over-schedule everything.  When I am going to see someone again, which exact hour I have time for the gym, where we’re going for dinner, etc.  When this happens, I tend to get too involved in my plan, and then I become my own roadblock to happiness.  I end up saying things like, “Well, no, I shouldn’t have another drink, I need to hit the gym later,” or “Sorry, I packed my lunch,” or “I should get home before too long.”

To make matters worse, it’s really easy to convince myself that I’m somehow not prepared for spontaneous events.  Maybe my shoes are too uncomfortable, or my jeans are too casual, or I feel weird that I wasn’t specifically invited.

But tonight, I decided to be more like duct tape.  Flexible, durable, and ready for anything.

I was at an event for my old job, a close-out party within a bigger conference about consumer issues.  I planned to stay for a bit, see some old friends, meet some new people, and call it a night.  Then, I got  a text from my boyfriend saying that he was at a movie screening right down the street and could meet up with me after my party to give me a ride home.  For once, rather than taking the easy way out and getting home two hours before his movie ended as planned, I rerouted and went to join him.

And you know what?  It was totally worth it.

I had so much fun, it didn’t matter that I never had a chance to eat dinner, and that I barely knew the friend he was there to support.  It wasn’t a deal breaker that my back hurt and my bare legs were freezing as I walked to the car after.  I could have let any one of those things stand in the way of having a great night, and for once, I didn’t.

Now, I need more of this.  Less planning, more fun.  From everything I hear, that is exactly what my twenties should be for, and I intend to make the most of it from this day forward.