All posts in: adventures

15 Sep 2013

seven things about rome, before i forget them


International travel was about as stressful as I imagined it would be, although I admit the stress was entirely me-related and not travel-related. There was airport confusion, haggling with cabbies, disorderly airport shuttles, and a missed train, but the anxiety surrounding potential problems was far greater than the actual experience. We made it through airports, into and out of cabs, and boarded the next train. It was important to me that I, oh, enjoy my honeymoon, so I actively tamped down the worry-frenzy, with mostly good results. And there were surprising conveniences along the way. Tolerable jet lag. An car service that took online requests and showed up on time to drive us to the airport at 5 a.m. How all you have to do in European airports is hand over your passport and people wave you on to your next destination. Complimentary airport meals, with little bottles of wine! It wasn’t all horrible. And you will note that we both lived to tell the tale.

We spent our first two nights in the Hotel Campo de’ Fiori, a very nice place to stay with numerous amenities but oh, the roof. The roof! The best part was definitely the roof. Comfy chairs, a canopy to keep off the sun until evening, multiple levels and seating areas,  and the breeze and the noises from the piazza below and the view, the view! Nobody else who was staying at the hotel wanted to spend any time up there, so we had a private Roman rooftop. No big deal. We ordered pizzas and desserts to go, scouted out 3 euro bottles of wine, and dined and drank al fresco while the sun set over the Vatican.

No big deal.

A few weeks before our trip, I logged onto my favorite food blog in search of a recipe, and saw that Deb had just returned from Rome. More importantly, Deb had just returned from Rome and she had found a cold coffee drink that happened to be served at a coffee shop within a mile of where we stayed. Just around the corner from the Pantheon, Tazza d’Oro was our Roman caffeination location. Coffee wasn’t too hard to come by in Rome, if you want a shot of hot espresso standing up at the bar. If you are a spoiled American with an automatically reloading Starbucks card and the weather is in the high 80s, then you want a giant vat of heavily iced coffee. Tazza d’Oro did not have any vats of American coffee, but those little espresso granitas were a delicious substitute. I eventually figured out the secret of Italian cold coffee – if you’re lucky, your barista might shake up that hot espresso with some ice and serve it to you that way. On our last day in Rome, we went back to Tazza d’Oro and I ordered a shakerado… which was served to me in a martini glass.

No big deal.

I think I am starting to reveal my secret intentions for our honeymoon. An exciting journey across the ocean to spend priceless time with my new husband? Or ten days of Eating Like I Never Have to Fit into a Wedding Dress Again. Prosciutto and cheeses and wine and pasta and pizza and gelato every day. Unless, of course, it was a two gelato day.

For one of our rooftop dinners, I claimed exhaustion and sent the boy out to fetch sustenance – he came back with a seafood pizza, complete with octopus suction cups and clams still in their shells. To get from Piazza Navona to our second location – an adorable Air BnB apartment – you had to walk between two restaurants advertising something called a Tartufo: the restaurant on the left boasted the best gelato and desserts in the world, the one of the right had signs warning of dessert imitators, they were the home of the first and best Tartufo in the world. Don’t even get me started on the wine… so, so good. So, so cheap. Rome: a wonderland of sugars and carbohydrates.

On our second day in Rome we decided to take a long walk to the Termini train station, to see exactly how much fun we would have lugging our baggage across town to get on our train to Venice the next day. On the way home, I told The Boy to take us home whichever way he desired.

Rome was like Boston in that respect – the roads never parallel, always twisting off in strange directions, and often leading past beautiful architecture or something truly ancient.

I didn’t know this yet, on that second day. I was truly surprised when he led me off the street and up a strange flight of alley stairs, took a sharp right and there was the Colosseum.

We took off for Venice just a few days after arriving in Rome. Two notable events involving our return to the mainland.

1) We got into Rome late. We missed our train coming back to Venice and were late to meet our Air BnB host. Exhaustion. Frustration. After settling into our little studio just outside Piazza Navona, we wanted to veg out on the Internet and cool off with the AC, both of which were selling points for this particular abode. Oh, and drink a bottle of wine. Unfortunately, the AC was subpar, we never did figure out how to connect to the Italian wifi, and it’s impossible to buy a bottle of wine in Rome after 9 p.m. We settled for sickly sweet limoncello over ice, in bed, while we watched the one new episode of Game of Thrones we’d downloaded in Venice.

Which was The Red Wedding.


2) Venice has no cars. Rome has billions of cars and zillions of scooters, and they all love to drive down little twisting roads you thought were pedestrian alleyways.

What I’m trying to say is that we almost died seven or eight times.


We had never been to Europe. We had never taken a long vacation together alone. We had never spent so much money on leisure, entertainment, and vino della casa.

But I suppose we also had never been married, either. Roma was our first destination, our first challenge. The first place we spent time together as married people.

It will probably be difficult to separate my fond memories of Rome from my fondness for this boy.


31 Jul 2013

goodbye, goodbye

Moving is eminent. In 24 hours, we will be carrying our belongings down three flights of stairs and awaiting our movers. Still feeling no big deal about it, but last night I got hungry and started having some thoughts.

My first thought: “Man, we are moving in a day and have no food in the house. What am I going to eat for dinner?”

My second thought: “Man! We are moving in a day! And that means this is our last chance to get our favorite Thai/Vietnamese take-out!”

An hour later, I was walking down the street with my Spicy Basil Fried Rice with Duck Tofu and Khmer rolls, headed home to eat and pack.

But then I passed by my favorite burger joint and started having more thoughts:

“Wait a second… when am I going to have my one last Grass Fed burger?”

“Are there even any days left??”

“How in the world am I going to do a Whole30 ever again without Grass Fed burgers???”

“Why am I moving????”


Boston is a city of neighborhoods, and I’d forgotten just how much I loved mine. We moved to JP four years ago and never wanted to live anywhere else. We are close to public transit. We are close to bars and restaurants. We are close to a big, beautiful park with running paths. JP is full of kids and dogs and hipsters on bikes. It’s a beautiful place to live. This is a very reluctant goodbye.

However, I am finding that saying goodbye to my apartment is so, so very easy. And therein lies the rub: we can’t afford a nice place in JP. Or, more accurately, we are unwilling to sacrifice our budgetary priorities in order to pay for a nice place in JP. We’ve been living in a spacious but overpriced shit-hole for a year.

Goodbye, crooked kitchen floors that slams my refrigerator door shut with unnecessary force.

Goodbye, grungy carpet that fills up our vacuum with filth Every. Single. Time. We. Vacuum.

Goodbye, shower that is too short for tall folks and sprays water all over the floor and onto the walls of bathroom to disgusting, mildewy results.


Goodbye, people who live in the house right behind ours who have recently bought a table specifically designed to play dominos on and parked it at the end of the driveway (right below my bedroom window) and now play exclusively between the hours of 11 p.m. and 4 a.m.

Goodbye, dozens of extension cords snaking all over every room in order to plug in those extraneous electronic accessories like “lamps.”

Goodbye, pushing our laundry to the laundromat in a metal cart.

Goodbye, landlord/slumlord who neglected to take care of a 100 year old, completely dead tree on his property and instead waited for it to FALL INTO THE STREET and ON TOP OF ONE OF HIS TENANTS’ CARS.

Goodbye, gang wars and gun shots and living somewhere where your friends are a little freaked to come over because they are worried that their new Vespa might get stolen off the street. Because last time they came over, their new Vespa got STOLEN OFF THE STREET.


Goodbye, you crazy JP apartment. You will remain in horrible, hilarious memory for the rest of our lives. We are onto greener pastures. Greener pastures with a dishwasher.



17 Jul 2013

reading in roma

Hello there!

I am now a married lady. So that is a thing. More on that when I admit that it happened and it wasn’t just a crazy, hazy dream.

I am also on vacation, which is a thing I haven’t experienced in quite some time. Our little jaunt to Chicago felt a bit like a vacay, but technically I was there on business. Vacation, I think is, is a time when you do not have to go to work for a predetermined period of time and your only job is to engage in leisure pursuits. Bonus points if you are getting paid via “vacation hours.” It doesn’t quite count if you are going home to Michigan to stay with your family, especially if you have to plan a wedding while you are there.

My life has been void of such an experience for a number of years, so… yes, vacation.

But did I also mention that I haven’t been able to read for a few weeks now? It’s been bad, friends. All this talk of plane reading, ALA ARCs, summer reading lists? All for naught. This Summer of Nonsense has rolled me over and my attention span is the primary casualty. I couldn’t follow podcasts or audiobooks or watch movies. I couldn’t read anything that isn’t Clash of Kings on my iPhone.

It’s too soon to tell if I am completely cured, but I am on vacation, you guys. And my hotel has a roof terrace. So this is what I am up to.

This particular beautifully illustrated galley is Susann Cokal’s The Kingdom of Little Wounds, which, twenty pages in is just as dark and Game-of-Thronesy as I’d hoped it would be. But really, I wish I had brought a hundred books about Rome. This city is ridiculous, and I just want to know e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. about it.

And now, back to the honeymoon.




26 Jun 2013

conference, ahoy

Remember this conference I couldn’t decide about? I decided to go.

Have I ever written about Yes-Life here? No? Well, when I was in grad school I kept accidentally acquiring fabulous new ways to spend my time. Okay, fine, they weren’t all fabulous, but some of them were lucrative. Okay FINE 12 dollars an hour isn’t lucrative, but whatever. Opportunities for jobs and internships and classes came my way, and every semester or so I had a big freak-out about whether I should turn down said opportunity because I just Didn’t Have The Time.

Pro and con lists were made. Anxious discussions were foisted upon friends, family, and that poor, poor boy of mine. Tears were shed. Decisions were made, then backtracked, then made again. More tears. More lists.

One semester, I had another internship opportunity that I was too busy for. I started to make the lists and the spreadsheets and do my usually mucking around in indecision, but after a few days I got sick of myself. I decided to just say yes. Yes. That’s it. Yes. The rest will work itself out. And it did.

I won’t say I’ve taken this on as a life philosophy or anything, but anytime I find myself wallowing in a decision for more than a few days, I remind myself that it’s easier to say yes. The anxiety is in the deciding, not in the doing.

So I just-said-yes to ALA, and tomorrow I leave for Chicago. All things go, all things go. My strategy is to have fun, to make the trip feel professionally worthwhile, spend as much time as I can with my favorite people, and come home with zero free books. Because I’m moving. And I figure I’ll come home with at least four or five more books than I aim to, so if I aim for zero, I’ll minimize the damage.

Plane reading, you ask?

  • Roomies by Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando (it’s good to have friends in high places. and by high places I mean, who went to BEA)


18 Jun 2013

fever pitch

On Sunday The Boy and I walked home from the train station feeling mutually lifeless. Drowsy. Spent. A fun-weekend-with-houseguests-and-friends hangover – happy feelings tempered by exhaustion, a looming dread related to the amount of dishes, laundry, and grocery shopping you haven’t been doing. Maybe a touch of an actual hangover?

The topic of “alright what do we have to do today” came up quickly. The dishes. The laundry. The grocery shopping.

“Will life be simpler,” he asked me, “once we move to a smaller apartment?”

I laughed, for a dozen reasons. “When we move to a smaller apartment” is also once we are married and home from our honeymoon. It is also when we no longer have to deal with our questionable landlord, when we get our annual raises, and when we will have… well, moved. Past tense.

Yes, our “smaller apartment” will have a dishwasher, it will have laundry, and we will have fewer belongings and a little more cash. But we still have to do the work to get there, and once we arrive I’m sure that the first words we utter will not be “man, life is so SIMPLE NOW!” We will probably say something like “Man, wouldn’t life be SIMPLER if I had a place to put my cat’s litter box? Or if my couch would fit in my living room?”

Less than a month until the wedding and I think “fever pitch” is the best term for where we are at. It’s like I want to have a point in time I can look out for when things will feel back to normal, but there’s really not a normal to go back to. I’m busier than I can comprehend, busy, yet again, hurtling myself into a brand new situation. Will life be simpler? Will life be better? Will I have more time to do the things I like? Will all of those good dreams come true, but then I won’t be able to make myself happy enough to enjoy any of it? It’s exhausting, it’s dreadful, it’s hard to maintain energy/hope/sanity with this lifestyle, but I must get something out of it otherwise I wouldn’t keep choosing it.

Or more accurately, we keep choosing it. I am so so thankful I have this weird other person in my life, my partner, my mate, my boy. We probably shouldn’t keep encouraging the other person that moving is a good idea, that moving into a tiny apartment is a wise choice at this juncture in our lives, that living in Boston continues to be worth the sacrifice. One of us should be mature. Logical. Etc. No luck. We are just two fools, cramming our lives full of whatever we can get and of each other. We are getting married in a month and then taking off across the ocean and coming back and moving across town and then doing the laundry, the shopping, the dishes.

Maybe we’ll have so much fun, we’ll move again next year.

10 Jun 2013

a mighty weekend


  • Invented some questionable vanilla-cornmeal cupcakes with a lime buttercream frosting after work.
  • Accidentally watched a hockey game at a friend’s place. I sure accidentally watch a lot of sports in this here romantic relationship.
  • Forgot to bring invented cupcakes with me. Of course.


  • Ate a cupcake for breakfast.
  • Accidentally went to the Pride Parade.
  • Looked at three apartments
  • Left money and an application on one. Like all adventures in Boston real estate, crossing fingers it works out, but also hoping that maybe it doesn’t and we have to keep looking.
  • Made a domestic arrangement with The Boy – he would do all the laundry and buy all the groceries, I would make him a highly-detailed grocery-list and stay home and clean. It takes about 2-3 hours to do laundry, so that was a lot of cleaning. Good thing I had every single dish in the entire apartment to wash.
  • Did I mention that potential-new-apartment has a dishwasher? And free laundry in the building?
  • Made a broccoli salad. It was good, and I don’t even like broccoli salad.
  • Did a significant amount of wedding planning.
  • Watched the Season One finale of Game of Thrones.


  • Made waffles. Second weekend in a row. I was fitted for my wedding dress two weeks ago and had it taken in a smidge. Watch me have to get it taken right back out in a month.
  • Made salted caramel brownies.  A month or so ago, I made this recipe three times in two days with no issue whatsoever. This time, I burned the caramel TWICE, sending noxious smoke into the apartment while The Boy taught a trumpet lesson in the front room. Ahem.
  • Ran 2.69 miles. Got really sweaty and exhausted.
  • Flat-ironed my hair into an oblivion and trucked out to the end of the orange line for a barbecue with some of The Boy’s teacher friends. Ate two meals, three desserts, and drank what appeared to be an entire bottle of wine. Natch.
  • Force-read the last 50 pages of a book before passing the heck out at 9 p.m.

29 May 2013

my favorite nightstand

Usually when I visit Michigan I am relegated to the couch, but this time I bunked up with my favorite member of the Class of 2013.

I’m not just saying that because she called me out in her valedictorian speech. I think she is my favorite because whenever I looked over to check the clock I would see the cutest little stack of fairy-tales I’ve ever seen in the room of a 17-year-old.

Congrats to my favorite graduate, and to all of you inferior graduates too. May all your wishes come true, all your endings be happy, and may nobody ever ask you to dance all night in molten iron shoes.

29 Apr 2013

spring things

1. April in Boston, man. It’s a dream. The sun shows up in the morning, birds chirping, etc. The sun is still up when I get out of work. Things are getting green again, flowers are everywhere. Lovely cool breezes and sunglasses.

On Friday, we ran the Southwest Corridor park and discovered there is a secret enclave between Mass Ave and Back Bay, a brick-paved throughway lined by flowering trees where rich people play tennis and walk their dogs. A secret city garden.

Yesterday, I wore a pair of shorts. And flip-flops.

Sure, I was a bit freezing when the sun went down, but oh, I can’t resist you, Boston in April.

2. April in other parts of New England – also excellent. Two of my favorite Boston friends invited us out to Newburyport for the day to attend the Newburyport Literary Festival. Junot Diaz being his genius self in the morning, some guy who lulled us to sleep in a darkened theater talking about the history of music and pianos, and Matthew Quick (Silver Linings Playbook) and Evan Roskos (Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets) riffing on mental illness and art in the afternoon. Good food, better company. When we got home, The Boy asked why we don’t hang out with these particular friends more often – “They are funny, we always have a good time, they make me feel good.” Agreed. That is my favorite part about living here – my universally talented, hilarious, and amazing friends that I am so lucky to have met.

3. Let’s talk about cleaning. Last week I had a lot of time on my hands, so I cleaned. I cleaned every day. I cleaned until my place was about 95% spotless. I’m still experimenting with time-monitoring apps, so I can actually tell you how much time maintaining a high-level clean cost me: 30 to 90 minutes. Every day.

And now that my routine is resuming, my house, of course, looks like a pile of garbage. Does it really take 30 to 90 minutes a day, EVERY DAY, to keep my home looking like civilized adults live in it? That is a daunting prospect. That’s a lot of manual labor (especially after a long work day), and would I choose cleaning over reading? Running? Writing? Going to bed early? Hanging out with those friends I keep going on about? Going outside and enjoying April in Boston? I don’t know, I don’t know. Perhaps I am doomed to live out the rest of my days in relative filth.

Or I need to find an apartment with a dishwasher.

4. Can we also talk about iced coffee? It’s my favorite thing, and it’s almost time to start cold-brewing again. I’ve been using Pioneer Woman’s method for a few years now, but holy crap that cheesecloth drives me nuts. Anyone sitting on an iced coffee secret? I suppose I could just buy a bigger iced coffee receptacle and cut the time spent wrestling with cloth to once a month?

5. I am still doing Required Reading, but that should be over by the end of the week. I’m looking forward to dipping into something new, something shiny. I want to read a beach book. I want to read the new Sarah Dessen. I want to read Animal Vegetable Miracle again. Maybe next weekend will include a book, a picnic blanket, and an iced coffee.

14 Jan 2013


In accordance with my self-imposed More Documenting credo, I have been filling three little notebooks with The Things That I Do. The red notebook is for books (because one list isn’t enough), the pink notebook is for meals (because I am in a perpetual state of Meal Planning Angst, unable to remember a single dish that I am capable of cooking).

But the blue notebook is filling up the fastest. The blue notebook is for TV shows, movies, and podcasts. And it’s telling a pretty ridiculous tale.

In the past two weeks, I have ingested:

  • 9 episodes of Breaking Bad
  • 7 episodes of Arrested Development
  • 5 random episodes of other TV shows
  • 3 feature films
  • 3 Netflix documentaries
  • 3-5 podcasts A DAY

In fourteen days. FOURTEEN DAYS!

Don’t worry, I have tidy excuses for all of it. And I am a consummate multi-tasker – the only inputs that are single-tasked are movies and Breaking Bad, the rest are coupled with more productive work. But FOURTEEN DAYS?!? Really??

I think that I started this little blue notebook not only because I wanted to keep track of my listenings and watchings, but also so I can earn some kind of metaphorical gold star for all the media I ingest. Credit for being culturally informed. But instead, I am feeling a little sheepish, like perhaps I am not able to sit in a quiet room, or worse, my brain is being filled up faster than I can process.

So I will limit my aural intake, because I am a person who likes limits. I will make up an arbitrary rule to help me achieve this because I am a person who responds strongly to arbitrary rules.

From here on out, podcasts are for Outside of the House and audiobooks are for Inside of the House. And the walking in between is for thinking.

Not for stewing, not for planning, not for obsessing, not for worrying. Just thinking, while I walk, stopping only to contemplate a nice view.


28 Nov 2012

david macaulay and the eternal city

Each night, hundreds of exciting things are going on in my fair city, and even when I am expressly invited to partake in in one such activity, I usually weasel my way out of it. It’s cold/It’s far away/I am not feeling well/I had a long day/I am a insistently joyless human. Et cetera.

However, when I have an hour to kill in downtown Boston, and a man of known genius is showing up for a free lecture during that exact hour, and once, this man of known genius welcomed myself and 20 other giggling girl classmates into his lovely Vermont studio?

I go.

Quick bio: David Macaulay is a trained architect, an illustrator, a children’s book creator. Although he is most well-known for his books of narrative architectural nonfiction (Castle, Pyramid, Cathedral, etc) and his gloriously informative and clever reference tome The Way Things Work, he also won a Caldecott award for his 1991 Black and White, and also won a Macarthur Genius Grant.

I have no idea what Mr. Macaulay will be speaking on when I arrive. The crowd is not nearly as filled as I would like, but there are folks present, including an exuberant man who laughs – no, he guffaws – at Mr. Macaulay’s every joke. But I am pleased when his Powerpoint flips over to a document camera, and Mr. Macaulay begins to draw as he speaks, a Roman square.

He can communicate verbally and visually, effortlessly, simultaneously. A wonder.

The rest of his presentation might be confused with a vacation slideshow. Mr. Macaulay has gone to Italy more than once, and has taken pictures in the way that a trained architect might – noting interesting buildings, features, arrangements. This is old territory for him: he has written and illustrated not one but two books for children about Rome.

But still – it was someone else’s vacation slideshow. A Man of Known Genius’s slideshow, but a slideshow nonetheless.

However, as a Man of Known Genius is wont to do, Mr. Macaulay dragged me along through his trip, through his city, through his thought processes, and then suddenly, suddenly, suddenly the only place I’ve ever wanted to visit in the world is Rome.

He talks about the bones of human existence – the buildings and streets that rose up as a way to structure human life, to allow people to share and sell the things they need, water, food, to bring them together.

This structure exists underneath our usual perception, at once invisible and absolutely physical. Walls, cement, columns, cornices, streets, fountains, sidewalks – they take up space, but we don’t see them.

He talks about why he goes through the hassle to take his kids to Europe. “To imbue these places with memories of family.” To allow his children to see, in the walls and the details, themselves and their human role in the larger public history. The world not as a playground in which they have been plopped – free to explore, play, destroy – but an organic, changing human fabric. You exist in a larger context, your kids exist in a larger context, and for Mr. Macaualy, Rome brings all of this to the surface for adults and children alike.

A good ten or fifteen minutes after I dropped my skepticism and fell under the spell of Rome, I had a second realization – I am going. I am going to Rome.

Or at least, it is possible that I am going. Watch me second guess. But at the time of this lecture in early October, it had been a few months since The Boy and I sat down and talked about a honeymoon and landed on Italy, on Rome. I am second-guessing – we won’t have the money, we (read: I) won’t have the balls, I will defer and take a nice beachy, resorty, all-inclusive trip.

I would be excited to go to the beach, to take a cruise. I am scared, however, to go to Europe.

But maybe I am afraid to see myself as a part of a larger, human, organic fabric.

And maybe I will go to Rome.

In case you doubt Mr. Macaulay’s Known Genius, here is his Ted Talk. On Rome.

(And back from 2008 when Ted Talks were not so generously distributed across the human population)

(For what it’s worth)