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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

“Fifteen hundred calories? Oh, I can’t do that.”

“Huh?” I murmur barely looking up from my menu.

I drove my daughter, Ava, down to the States a couple of weekends ago to visit family friends. As previously mentioned, Ava had just turned thirteen and one of her wishes was to head down to Everett to visit close friends that moved down there a couple of years ago.

Our family is lucky enough to live just a ten-minute drive to the US border and are able to cross frequently to get cheap gas and the odd, umm, bottle of wine. We can be there and back within 20 minutes, give or take.

Thankfully, Everett is also a short drive. What’s two hours between friends?

Being that this visit, or anytime we get to visit them, is cause for celebration, we headed out for some afternoon delight. In this case, that refers to shops, eats and admittedly, drinks.

So there we sat, at a glazed wooden table inside The Cheesecake Factory, where we were promptly handed a library. A library? (I sense confusion from behind my lit screen) Yes, maybe not a literal library, but it was definitely a full array of reading material, sporting page upon page of, what proved to be, very valuable information.

My friend and I have both been on somewhat of a health kick since the start of the New Year. No resolutions mind you, just a few minor cutbacks and cutouts.

On that note, we were both thinking greens, of course.

My nose buried in the menu, I was perusing the oodles of scrumptious components that miraculously constituted a salad when I heard her repeat,

“I can’t do fifteen hundred calories for one meal…one item. I just can’t.”

“I thought we were talking salad, crazy girl. I’m having the…”

“That is a salad. Fifteen hundred calories for one salad.”

I tut. “Well, I’m going to have the Asian. It sounds nice and light.” I don’t even ask her what kind of crazy ‘salad’ she’s considering.

“Oh my God, the Asian is eighteen hundred!” She proceeds to release that guttural cackle I miss out on having to communicate with her mainly over text and email now.

I grab her menu, even though it’s the same as mine and squint even though I’m wearing my glasses.

“Good Lord, you are right. It does say that. Is that even legal?”

Luckily we eventually found, amongst the documentation laid out in front of us, a menu entitled – Skinnylicious.

It included listings of the regular menu items, complete with alterations, and grouped into uncluttered calorie categories such as: Salads Under 590.”

Dreamy, right?

This meant we were able to happily order our respective salads and the non-Skinnylicious item, Pineapple Upside-Down Cheesecake.

Knowledge is power, my friends. It’s also delicious.

Pineapple Upside Down Cheesecake

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There’ll be hell to pay for this post. I will have all happy holidaying nature-lovers in a tizzy. Thor will rain down and strike me with his what are you thinking? club. I’ll be frowned upon by the Gods of all things multi-wheeled and RVQ’d and I hang my head in shame. I do.

But, as I watch my husband drip with sweat, nip his fingers, work harder than a pack mule and swear bloody murder over and over, my mind meanders across the fence to the other side where dark things grow.

Shaded tendrils of twisted tarnish creep and curl around my closing throat. Vicious vines slither through the naughty nooks and corroded crannies of my mind.

“Why?” They hiss.

We have a lovely backyard, a wonderful deck, running water and a conveniently located fridge and yet….sigh, and yet, we pack up everything including the kitchen sink and putt off into the wild blue yonder to snooze on gritty sheets and feast from swampy coolers. We cram our clothes into damp outside wardrobes and eat off paper and perfunctory plastic. It takes ten times longer to do things and the room service bell is long out of order.

Gearing up for a camping trip takes days and decamping, even longer and somehow, after six years of owning a tent trailer (we used to tent – shudder), we still don’t have it down pat. You’d think we’d be bursting from the Velcro seams at this point, but somehow there’s always a ten yard dash before every excursion which includes us whipping out the worn and weary Visa at least twenty times over.

So, back to the why. Well, like I said, it’s that blue yonder thing, the dream that we’re free as birds while living under an azure sky. I’m not a nature girl by any means, but there’s something to be said for cooking in the open air and sipping a cider while flipping the morning’s flapjacks. At what other time is booze before breakfast ok? Well, pretty much never.

And, as parents, we take solace in the knowledge that the teens we now drag along will one day look back and have memories they will probably distort, but at the very least, cherish. The swearing, sweating and screeching, the worrying, working and waiting, worthwhile. We’re learning what life’s all about and passing it on, but most importantly, we’re bonding. Our little family is growing into a well-oiled machine, albeit slow and somewhat painful.

I guess swampy and gritty bring out the rainbows.

Our home for the next ten days

Our home for the next ten days

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Your guess is as good as mine.

What could possibly keep her from practicing her passion and fortifying her future? She has been in Maui for a week, but that wouldn’t stop her. She’s more motivated than that…isn’t she? She comes from pretty tough stock and I’m sure a touch of wonderful weather and a brilliant blue bay wouldn’t hold her back.

Westin Pool

I know her pretty well and snorkeling, sunning, swimming and a few pretty Pina Coladas could not stand in her in her way.

Maui Beach 1

Pina Colada

But as I flew home with salt on my skin, sun in my heart and memories on my mind, I looked at my family and I knew, Hazy wasn’t stopping, she was simply letting me live.

Sunset

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Well, it’s pouring.  No, let me change that to bucketing.  For some, a depressing downer of a wet day, but for me, a perfect opportunity to hole up fireside and delve into post number fifty-one.

I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to come to this place and point for inspiration.  After all, I love this lady, her story, her blog and her wonderful book.  She came highly recommended by a friend of mine a few years ago and let me tell you, one taste and I was hooked.

A ‘foodie’ I am not, but I do eat the stuff and I find it’s much, much better when delicious.  (Simply picturing me winking here is sufficient because when I actually do it, I look a bit like my back just went out)  I digress…

This Superwoman does it all; blogs, cooks, writes books, snagged a husband is a wife, runs businesses, grows babies, photographs all of the above and looks fabulous while doing it.

I’d like to say I adore this (insert one specific thing about her here) the most, but I can’t.  The whole package is just crazy palatable.  Her writing style is seducingly smooth; her subject matter, quite literally devourable.

Spending endless hours in the scullery, or simply eating what comes your way, this master of many trades will arrive at your heart’s doorstep whether she journeys there mentally or digestively.

The site: Orangette, the heroine: Molly Wizenberg.

Molly started her blog in 2004 and published her book in 2009.  Her blog is still going strong and her book is a must-read.  She connects food, dishes and recipes with reflections and her descriptives will have you salivating.  The cuisine is undeniably delectable but honest accounts of her days in Paris, her father and his passing will have your heart aching.

Her very first blog post is here and a glimpse into her book can be found here.

This post wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t acknowledge her grace and generosity.  In March 2011, I emailed Molly, asking if she’d meet in an alley at Delancey (which she happens to own) during one of the nights I’d be in town.  I never expected an answer, but thought it would be a good story, me explaining the nutty thing I’d attempted to pull off.

As luck would have it, she replied.

Within an hour…maybe less…I had an email from Molly Wizenberg saying; “Sure.”

I was ahh-mazed, ahh-stounded and ahh-bsolutely freaking out.

*Side Note: I am in no way encouraging anyone to follow my lead.  This was over a year ago and ‘Mrs. Wizenberg’ has since started a second book, had a baby and opened another bar/restaurant (named Essex, FYI) and is, presumably, much, much busier than she was way back then.

I was very touched by her kindness and will never forget the evening or the experience.  If you ever happen to read this, oh great one, I thank you from the bottom of my writer-reader heart.

By the way…the food just happened to be top-notch.

Molly and Hazy hangin’ Delancey style.

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We’re not always at our best.  I should speak for myself, I suppose, but I like to think I’m not alone.

We get busy, we get tired and we get sick.  We. Get. Swamped.

But, for some reason, we plod on.  Why?  Perpetual responsibility looms, but we can skirt it.  Obligation drags us out the door, but we know we can avoid it.  We can hide from those things for a day or two.  Heck, some people manage to hole up a lifetime shirking the albatrosses of society.

Nope.  Although we bear those crosses, they are not why we get out of bed every day.

The mover, the maker, the motivator and shaker is purpose. Purpose comes home, slumps into a chair and says; “I’m rusty. Anoint me.”  Oil it and it’ll stay.

We can direct it.  We can twist it.  We can stretch it to the ends of the earth. It’s ours to dress in cute little hats.  We own it.

Its varieties are infinite; a drive to stand on top of the corporate world, an itch to ‘pwn’ domesticity (go figure), a stubborn bug to travel from country to country, a will to be a fighter pilot or an itch to be…oh, I don’t know…the greatest writer there ever was.  Ring a bell?

No matter what it is, whatever it may be that floats our boats and has us hanging on (if only by a slowly tearing page) our individual purpose which, by the way, magically translates into passion, is what keeps us going when the chips are down.

No, we may not always be at our best, but when purpose knocks, wet its whistle and you can’t ever be at your worst.

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Sometimes, and let me be clear, only sometimes, I don’t think I’m bitchy enough to be a writer. (That alone should be enough to spark more interest in my blog than usual)

I was on a plane to New York last week. My daughter and I pre-booked our seats and got to the airport (absurdly) early for check-in. Long story short, we were well prepared and took every measure to insure we were sitting together and that my girl got the window seat she’d been dreaming of.

As we approached our seats, we were met with a stare of frigid disappointment. A mother sat with her tot on her lap and said;

Oh, we were hoping you wouldn’t be together.”

“Sorry?” I asked, confused.

“My son and I are seated apart, so we were hoping you were going to be able to switch with us.”

“Ah,” I said in an understanding tone. I looked at the little boy, no more than three. I could feel her pain.

I turned to my daughter, only a child herself, and was met with her pleading eyes, but before I could say anything, she relented; “It’s okay, the little boy can sit with his mom.”

I could see she was troubled, only being eleven, but sensing the gravity of the situation, she knew he needed his mommy just a little more than she did.

“Are you sure honey? I asked. “You don’t have to switch if you’re worried. The seat’s yours after all.”

As we were having this conversation, a mere formality, the outcome of which we already knew, we were interrupted by the woman; “’She is just that much older. My boy really needs to sit with me.”

As I absorbed what she was saying, the flight attendant piped in; “Yes, she is older. I’m sure she’ll be fine.”

Amidst the blink of an eye, and some unnecessary tongue flapping, what had started as empathy for the woman and her child was now bordering on resentment and flirting at the edge of anger within me. I was being bullied.

“It’s alright,” I answered, slightly exasperated. “We’ll change seats.”

We settled into our new digs and I leaned back, glad to be out of the limelight. An aisle separated my girl and I. We looked at each other and smiled. No big deal.

Two hours in, she reclined her seat, startling, but not (even close to) disrupting a woman behind her. The woman’s wild curls bounced and her eyes widened behind her very round, thick-rimmed glasses.

With a cluck of her tongue, she looked down her nose and over her specs at the person next to her.

“This is why I wouldn’t switch with them in the first place. I’m a writer”, she claimed with an exasperated tone while stroking the keys of her laptop. “And you see”, her voice all high and mighty, “I still can’t get any peace!”

So, maybe Ava and I couldn’t cuddle, whisper or giggle and perhaps she couldn’t rest her head on my shoulder while she was sleeping and she obviously didn’t get her much anticipated window seat, but we were going to New York, we did hold hands during take off and landing, we had the comfort that came from doing what was right and I would still be a writer…bitch or not.

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