This is just to say that reading on the porch, with my morning coffee poured out of my new French press, and a book about self-improvement, in 78-degree sunshine (shade really) is a simple delight that makes me glad to be alive.
If you know one thing about me, I hope it’s that I’m passionate about life and the people I love.
If you know two things about me: see above, plus I’m from New Hampshire (Granite State represent!).
But if you know three things about me… #3 may very well be that I have a serious sweet tooth.
I will skip dinner if it means saving room for pie, eat ice cream even in the dead of winter, try every brownie recipe you’re working to perfect. From Turkish delight in the food halls of London to chocolate croissants in Paris to caramel iced coffee on the banks of the Charles, I’ve loved it all.
And for March, I’m trying my darndest to go without.
I was inspired by my coworkers and this NYTimes article, and by the notion that cutting out added sugar for a month will reset my idea of sweetness. So far, that seems to be true – even butternut squash seems sweeter than it did before.
And it’s also made it perfectly clear just how much sugar is in everything.
I read Salt, Sugar, Fat a while ago and learned about the unfair advantage these ingredients have in modern food, and this month has shown me all the secret places sugar is hiding. Not just in dressing and jams, but in frozen bagels, chicken sausage, and crackers. Plus, it’s nearly impossible to buy yourself a snack in a coffee shop without drowning yourself in sugar, even if it’s through a “healthy” granola bar. And what do you bring to your friends who just had a baby or your overwhelmed coworkers but pastries and cookies and other sorts of overly sweet treats? And what do you eat at the movies?? (Confession: seeing about eight movies and theater productions in a month where I ate a bag of candy each time is part of what prompted this.)
I’m two weeks in with two weeks to go. My criteria is avoiding sugar (and related sweeteners, like honey and corn syrup) as an ingredient. So fruit is a go, and bread without added sugar and such is fine. But honey mustard and that delicious Skippy peanut butter are off the menu at least until April (and maybe longer). Learning to have coffee without copious amounts of sugar has been the hardest by far – and has taught me that I need to seek out better coffee, if I was trying that desperately to mask or improve the taste. (Goodbye office K cup coffee, hello Cafe Nero cappuccino!)
I’m joined in this quest by my mom, sharing moral/menu support from NH, and my roommate, Katie – so glad she agreed to this weird experiment because watching someone else have dessert when I am not would be my downfall for sure.
Have you ever tried going without sugar or addressing other cravings? What would be the hardest for you to give up?
If you watched last night’s debate, you might have woken up today stressed… scared… mad as hell.
I’ve got the cure for what ails you – and it is GOTV.
GOTV aka Get Out The Vote is the period before an election day when persuasion and identification are done and you shift to getting your supporters to actually cast their ballots. Depending on who you talk to (and your absentee voting regulations) it starts between a month, a week, or a weekend before E-Day. In other words: it’s here. And you should be a part of it.
If you need extra convincing, here are my top 5 arguments in favor of you (yes, you) volunteering before the election:
- It’s good for your health. Seriously! We are about to head into winter and overeating, undermoving season (IMHO). What better reason to go for a long walk, clipboard and packet in hand, to truly stretch your legs before you’re cooped inside for months? (Confession: campaign snacks are also fun, especially the chili my mom makes for our local office each cycle.)
- You get to work alongside awesome people. Whether its union leaders phone banking by your side or a canvassing buddy who was born before women could vote OR Chelsea Clinton, Bruce Springsteen, Joe Biden, or any of the other dozens of celebs I’ve met on the trail, there are such fun people ready to pound the pavement. All they need is you by their side!
- There are still undecided voters. It may be hard to believe in these intense times, but there are still people deciding IF they will even vote. You calling voters or showing up at their door, reminding them of polling hours and locations, could truly be the tipping point that makes them cast a ballot.
- It’s the cornerstone of our democracy. This sounds dramatic. IT IS DRAMATIC. It hasn’t been 100 years since all Americans could vote without fear of violence and aggression. Voting – and helping others vote – is a tribute to what this country stands for, and an investment in the future.
- You can be confident you did everything you could to secure a victory. I’ve had elections where I got to celebrate being on the winning team (see: Hillary for NH in the ’08 primary) and those where we weren’t so successful (see: Hillary for NH in the ’16 primary). But no matter what the outcome is, volunteering for GOTV is your ticket to show that you left no stone unturned in the quest to see your issues win. All in is a better place to be, trust me!
So what are you waiting for? If #YoureWithHer, click here to find a volunteer opportunity near you. Or google your favorite candidate’s office and “volunteer”. Down-ballot races determine how your state, county, town lives, and they need your help too.
Make this be the election you GOTV for the first time. I promise, you’ll love it!
We’ve been back from our Icelandic trek for a week and I still look up at the sky as I walk home at night, thinking I might catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
It was the best kind of vacation – time in nature, delicious food, friendly people, and THERMAL POOLS. The bar for relaxation is now set so high that I’m only going to trips that involve cheap and beautiful hot tubs from now on.
I want to tell you everything about the food, our geysir and foss filled road trip, and my definitive ranking of all the thermal baths – and I will by the end of the month! For now, here’s a picture of the city landmark, a church so pronounced you can use it as a compass to navigate your way through the streets: Hallgrímskirkja.
About this time 13 years ago, my mailbox was flooded with wave after wave of college brochures. From near and far, everyone was sending beautiful campus scenes and course options my way.
Among the massive piles of mail was a three page spread from a liberal arts college in Western Mass. It showed women rowing – a team of strong individuals out on the water with the mist rising around them. I kept it while I recycled most of the rest.
Many college visits and applications later, I visited that place. I met those nerds, sat in their classrooms, debated whether Hillary Clinton would run for president and if Harry would defeat Voldemort. And I chose that school for my college education.
This weekend, I went back to Mount Holyoke with one of the best treasures of my time there – my friend Kate (she of Mount Washington hiking fame, loyal readers) – to celebrate the thing that brought us together: 40 years of rowing on the Connecticut River.
Kate coxed our 8 (the O’Malley) and we rowed up and down the river. A flood of memories washed over me. How carrying the boat seemed easier now but stretching my legs right seemed harder. How to lock the oar for the catch and keep good swing in your slide. The commands I know from muscle memory – just like I remembered that one place where your thumb rubs on your outer hand and will DEFINITELY turn into a blister. And how amazing it feels when the boat glides across the choppy water of a New England river.
At night, we celebrated the christening of a new boat – blessed with champagne and river water – in honor of fellow alum and Olympian Mary Mazzio. At the dinner that followed, she told us about how getting through excuses and focusing on herself rather than her competitors made the difference in her success. And she reminded us that pull ups are “money in the bank” and was appalled at how few of us could do them. Sorry Mary!
I feel like I was blessed with river water myself this weekend. It was a beautiful reminder of the best decision I ever made – and all I gained from that charming, powerhouse of a college. And to think… it all started with this poster.
This post is dedicated to Ryan – happy cruising!
In January, my sister Kat brought our family on our first-ever cruise as part of a writers’ conference where she was a member of the faculty. Only mom had been on a cruise before, back in the era of perms and festive centerpieces made of lard (yes, really). It was a new adventure for us all – I imagine that people who don’t fly often feel the same way about planes. The small tv and its limited channels! Small nut-free snacks! A teeny bathroom!
This trip – on Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Sea – had similar exciting and uncharted territories, and we loved exploring them all. Here are some of the top things I learned along the way:
ONE: You can ask your steward and waiter for anything. When Kat and I arrived in our room, the beds were together as a queen. And while that seemed cozy, we knew it would not be fun for the long term. So we asked our steward, Nicholas, to separate them for us, which he did in a heartbeat, and they were perfect by turndown service. (Mark that as the #1 thing I wish I could take home from cruising – such a treat!)
TWO: Eat your dinner. And then some. Dinner is absolutely positively not to be missed. Bring some nice clothes to dress up and make an evening out of it (I recommend getting the early seating if possible so you can then scurry over to the evening entertainment). Our table consisted of my family, the tour hosts, a nice young couple, and a rotating cast of writers. The waitstaff was SO friendly and nice. Maybe a little TOO nice. When we couldn’t decide between options, our waitress encouraged us to try them both. It got to the point that by the end of the cruise, every person at the table was ordering an average of 5 items for a 3 course dinner. 3 desserts, 2 salads, steak and lobster… it was downright absurd. I think we all wanted to know if there was a limit, and the answer was a definitive NO. Whether or not you’re going to order the entire menu, feel free to ask a lot of questions – it’s especially useful to know which options are for one night only and which are going to be available tomorrow (you know, for everyone else who plans their food a week in advance).
THREE: Embrace your inner tourist. Cruising is basically summer camp. By the end of the week, you’ve seen the same people all over. You know who lost at Bingo and who can kill it at karaoke, and who was supposed to go snorkeling before it started raining. But to get there, you need to go to the ship events – especially in the beginning. Every trivia night, stage show, belly flop contest is part of building a cruise community of ship-bound weirdos. Our family won trivia and dad put up a good fight in a musical contest. We also learned choreographed dances, laughed our butts off at “game shows”, and went to an art auction- highly recommended, especially if you will never go in real life. Mark everything you’re interested in on the daily schedule and then check them all out – you might find something you seriously love!
Also: if you think the captain is taking pictures right now, don’t listen to the people who tell you it’s later. You WILL miss it and make your family basically stalk the captain so you can get a classic shot together.
FOUR: Plan your excursions strategically. Better to book early and cancel (24+ hours before and you get a full refund for most) than to find out that the one you want is all full. And when you do book, go for excursions that start as soon as you get off the boat.
We tried both options (not intentionally): in Cozumel, we got off the boat, found our tour group, and spent the morning at ruins and getting an island tour before going off on our own for shopping downtown. In Grand Cayman, we ate and wandered first before going back for our snorkel adventure. Rushing to get back for the group outing was not fun – we lost a lot of time because we wanted to make sure we didn’t miss the next phase. We preferred having the afternoon free so we could manage our own return to the ship, instead. BUT! There is a plus side to doing the ship-led adventure last – on our trip, some people got extremely delayed when their snorkel boat was unable to dock in high winds. The only reason the ship waited for them (instead of making them fly to the next port!) was because they were on a ship-led trip and thus were guaranteed not to miss the departure. Definitely something to consider when planning your day out (and do go out – the ship will be there when you get back!).
FIVE: Pack like you’re camping. Weird, I know. But I assumed that there would be at least some nice shampoo in the shower, and there was only an all-purpose soap. Similarly, I wished I had a small bag (really a clutch) for holding my keycard and camera as we ran around the ship in the evening. Specifically, make sure you bring:
- Your own shampoo, soap, face wash (along with your sunscreen, pain meds, etc.)
- Seabands (so cheap on Amazon, so expensive on the boat)
- A lock for your backpack (this makes me feel much more secure when I travel anyway, especially since your cabin door will sometimes be open for cleaning)
- Your own bottle of wine (check your ship for limits per cabin)
- Sunglasses and hats (I bought a new hat on the ship to get into the vacation style)
- A good book (their excuse for a library was weaker than I thought possible)
- A to-go cup if you like to travel with your coffee. The ship mugs are TINY.
- Your FitBit, to give you extra inspiration NOT to take the elevator (but… it’s right there!)
- Cozy shawls and cardigans for the cold sea air at night. The constellations are great if you’re warm enough to stay out and look for them!
- A small bag so you can tote around all of the above rather than having to bring your book back to your room before trivia, etc.
Bottom line: our first cruise was a huge success. It also opened my eyes to how fun an all-inclusive really could be – all this plus NOT feeling like your stomach was in knots! But falling asleep on the ocean and waking up in a bustling tropical port is a delight, as is a week of limited (but lovely) choices and forced relaxation.
What do you wish YOU had known before your first cruise?
Travel is great – seeing new places, reconnecting with old friends, having adventures. But part of the spark of travel, for me, is the joy of coming home and seeing my old space with fresh eyes.
When I’m on the road (or boat or plane or whatever), here’s what I typically miss:
- My humidifier. So lame but so necessary for my allergy-ridden head, to the point where I actually bought a travel version this week and had it shipped to my sister’s office. But I’m glad to be back with my real one now.
- My gym. Once again I carried a lot of exercise gear with me and never used it. Sure, tomorrow I’ll go for a pre-work run in solidarity with the marathoners, but there’s nothing like your home gym aka Tuesday Zumba classes.
- Leftovers. I LOVE LEFTOVERS. It’s one of the saddest parts of travel when I can’t bring food home from a great dinner and know that it will be there for me later in the week. Already remedied this: tonight’s Indian dinner is tomorrow’s lunch.
- My desk. Double monitors set to exactly the right height = work nirvana. Plus my awesome Boston officemates with whom I have a week worth of catching up to do.
- My daily talks with grandma. (Hi Booboo!) I have so many times in a typical week when I call my grandma en route to my next stop and we catch up about politics, Royal gossip, the drama at her retirement community, etc. When I travel, I usually fill that time either with other people or trying not to get lost, so it’s great to get home and talk more often.
- My roommate and our sweet apartment. That’s the deal when you live with your best friend – you actually miss them and the cute life you’ve built together. Plus, it’s necessary to check in once in a while so that before your bag is even unzipped… never mind unpacked… you can start planning your next trip!
What do you miss the most when you leave home?
*bonus points if you get the title reference