Category Archives: Comin’ in Abroad

pretty much my travels to foreign places

Motivational Monday

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Happy lucky ’13 everyone! I’m starting this first Monday of the new year with an inspirational quote by Helen Keller:

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.” 

I think it’s pretty fitting to begin the new year (albeit 7 days late) with a new message. After a very tough year, I want to be more optimistic in life, start believing in myself, knowing that it will all turn out well.  

I rang in the new year in style – at my sister’s winter wonderland wedding! We had a great group of friends, lots of pairs of boots, and an exorbitant amount of beer to help us end 2012. I couldn’t be happier to welcome this shmo into my family, although he pretty much already has been his whole life! That’s right folks, their story is almost too cute to tell, so I’m going to sum it up but saying “they started sleeping together when they were 2” 🙂

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ImageImageImageThanks Meg for some of the pics!! Love you mean it

 

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The First of Fall

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The First of Fall

Some good looking gourds

Let’s not even mention the amount of between now and my last post. It’s embarrassing.

Welcome, Autumn! It’s been a long ~9 months without you, and finally you return with crisp, cool air, a pumpkinspice smell coming from Starbucks, and opportunities to whip out the tall boots once again. Yes, I’d say this is my favorite time of year with spring and summer a close second and third. Winter is only good until January 5. Then I’m over it and I become jealous of a bear’s ability to hibernate.

Two weekends ago now, I kicked off the change of seasons in style, starting with a barbecue in our backyard. We were celebrating the arrival of our roommate Jane (almost a month late, but better now than never!) and we invited our friends from every corner of Boston. Jane, Rosie and I started the morning off with a workout because we knew how much eating/drinking was to follow. After a trip to the grocery store and a B double E double R U N, we cleaned the apartment from top to bottom. It looked good, lemme tell ya. And look at this spread!

The Christmas tree really adds to the appeal

We made salads galore  – pasta with pesto, quinoa/veggie salad, chips of every kind, and M&Ms to top it off. Later in the night, the men manned the grill for burgers and hot dogs.

Roomies 🙂

I was glad to see so many people there, including some friends from Canada who live so close to me now! It’s crazy how two of my worlds are colliding now 🙂

Beer pong was played on my fancy travel beer pong set that I won at a Christmas party last year – definitely the right Secret Santa present for me! We also played a game of Rosie’s called Spike Ball, a combination of four square and volleyball, where you and a teammate have to spike the ball on the net to the other team, trying to make them drop/lose control of the ball. It took us a while, but it turned out to be a really fun game! Disclaimer – this game takes both hands and lots of coordination. Not for drink-holding. A night spent outside with some good friends? I’ll take it!

Sunday, after cleaning up beer bottles and nursing a slight hangover, I made my way to Meg and Dave’s for some apple picking up in Stow, MA to a farm called Sherburne Farm. It was a beautiful morning, so as you may have guessed, the farm was PACKED! I have never seen so many kids, babies, and strollers in one place – it was crazy! But as soon as we got into the apple orchard, everyone cleared out, and Meg, Dave and I could pick our apples in peace. Apples as far as the eye could see! No granny smith apples which are one of my favorites, but we got plenty of McIntosh’s, Empires, Cortlands, and Macouns. We filled our 20 pound bag of apples pretty quickly, so we explored the rest of the farm. Some cute animals for the kids (read: Brita) and a hay maze for the kids (read: Dave).

Perfect apple picking weather 

pony

Presh little pony

To end the day right, we got some homemade apple cider donuts that didn’t last very long in my apartment. There’s nothing quite like fall 🙂

Sugar covered delights

Nature Calls

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As I sit here watching Project Runway wishing I could pull off a a peplum skirt, I’m thinking about how long it’s been since I’ve posted. Almost 2 weeks have gone by, filled with many things to be happy about, and I haven’t told you guys about even one!!! Shame shame shame, Brita. I shouldn’t keep these happy things to myself – it’ll never happen again.

Let’s start with 2 weeks ago Sunday – I was on a crafty kick and wanted to get inspired. What is more inspiring than an sunny afternoon at a crafts fair in the city? Pretty much nothing. It’s called SoWa, kinda like SoHo but it’s South Washington Street in south Boston. Morgan, Katherine, and I ventured there with ideas in mind, and we were welcomed by lots of fun booths. But first, the garage we parked in inspired us to take some hipster pics.

Hipster stance? Katherine’s got one…and a tire!

We didn’t make out as well as we had hoped. Katherine was looking for furniture at a reasonable price, I was looking for awesome jewelry and scarves (it’s almost fall, as we all know), and Morgan, well Morgan being the chef that she is, was interested in the food trucks. And for good reason! We tried popcorn, honey, the BEST gingersnap cookie I’ve ever had, and locally made sandwiches for lunch.

This is where the cookie was made – and how fun is the name “Rollin’ in the Dough” for a bakery???

I’ll take them all, thanks.

Lots of local produce.

I didn’t get much of anything that stayed with me more than the few hours (if you know what I mean….) but I know I want to go back to the SoWa market before it closes at the end of October! If only just to get another one of those gingersnaps.

Most of my happy times recently have taken place outside. I want to take advantage of the beautiful weather before the winter substitutes shorts with long underwear. The weather has been pretty darn perfect too, so spending 8 hours a day inside at work has pushed me outside on the nights and weekends. Last week, I went for a longish run around the Charles River after work. Well, me and 3/4 of all of Boston – it seemed like everyone was out that night! And with good reason….

This city has my favorite skyline. Sorry NYC.

Can you get more Boston than this?? Rowing and everything!

I could run forever with a view like this.

Let’s hear it for the iPhone camera! I probably stopped about 15 times to take pictures, and maybe once because I took a wrong turn and ended up on busy road. But that aside, I found my way back after being rejuvenated with a healthy run and perfect evening views from the river.

I went south of the city to SoWa, into the heart of the city on my run, so naturally I had to go north of the city for a hike. Anna, one of my oldest friends who I know from Canada, just moved to my neck of the woods, so we got together for a jaunt in the woods. It’s strange to see her outside of camp, but I’m willing to get used to it 🙂 We took Blanche (my trusty Subaru) to the Blue Hills, about 30 minutes north of the city, to hike the Skyline Trail. Along with awesome conversation, we found some stellar views of the city from a far. Check these out!

The perfect day to be on top of a mountain.

Boston from the Blue Hills

Our trip was very impromptu and we didn’t plan it much, just followed the blue dashes on the trees until we got here which took about an hour. At the top, we asked a fellow hiker to take our picture for us and spent a good part of our time there sitting on a rock just chatting, not unlike how we spend our time in Canada. Because we didn’t know where the other side of the blue trail ended up, we decided to back track until we got back to the car. It was a good idea. I’m so glad Anna is here and that we now know a good spot to get out of the city and into the wilderness, even if only for the afternoon.

Found this along the way. John really knows how to use a knife in a tree…

There’s that kind outdoorsman now!

 

Old friends in new places 🙂

Forecast for this weekend is looking bright – I can already smell a barbecue on Saturday and potentially picking them apples on Sunday. The outdoors makes me feel productive and re-energized after a long week. With autumn palpable in the chilly air, a whole new array of activities will begin – can’t wait!!

Not-So-Laborious Day Weekend: Part 2

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The weekend festivities continue.

I got back late Saturday night from The Cape and jumped right in bed. I couldn’t even get through half of my all-time favorite movie – Shakespeare in Love – without passing out because I was so tired from a long, and exciting, day. Sunday morning came, and it was one of those mornings that called for a good run. By noon, I had run 3 miles, showered, and started driving to Morgan’s house in northern Mass. I would say that is a productive morning!

We helped prepare Morgan’s house for their first annual authentic New England lobster bake! I had never even seen one of these before so I was pretty stoked for the experience, let alone the LOBSTER! Morgan’s family did extensive research on the topic and was prepared with everyone one needs for a lobster bake. Along with a back up plan of pizza 🙂 No need for that though, because it turns out lobsters can be cooked in the ground! Who knew?

Steps to a successful lobster bake:

  1. Dig a large hole in the beach – about 3′ by 3′ – and cover the bottom with rocks.
  2. Start a large bonfire in there with a ton of dry wood and let it burn down until it’s only hot rocks and ash.
  3. Layer the lobster bake racks (wooden framed squares with wire nets in the middle) filled with food into the hot hole. We had one layer of lobsta, one layer with steamers and taters, and the top layer was corn on the cob (expertly shucked by some of the prettiest, most talented corn shuckers around).

The makings of a late summer feast

Expertly done, I do say!

And in they go! Along with some preordered seaweed.

4. Cover the racks and hole with a soaking canvas and let the hot rocks and ash cook the whole meal with steam. The trick to this is waiting, for one thing, but you can put an egg on each corner of the top rack and when it is hardboiled, the food is cooked! So neat right? Well, for 20 hungry people, it is really anti-climactic when the egg comes up still raw.

The other guests arrived and the games began! Cornhole was the main attraction that night, along with some friendly family rivalry. Rosie and I snapped a few roommate pics on the beach while we waited for dinner to cook. I can’t believe it’s already been a year! Such a crazy time, but a great time 🙂

Describes us well!

And the wicked cool lobsta was definitely worth the wait!That night, the foursome (Me Rosie Morgan and Katherine) went out to a very local yocal bar for reggae night – such a good time! I love dancing to the bouncy, rhythmic tunes of reggae. The band and the excellent weather right on the water with some local characters was the perfect way to end the night.

Monday came – the final day of summer pretty much – and we spent it allllll outside! Pancakes were on tap for breakfast that morning, of the blueberry variety, and then into our swim suits we went! Most of the day and afternoon was spent by the pool, in the pool, and around the pool. Rosie and I even had one last swim in the ocean before it closes for the winter (as in the temperatures drop below 70).

Please excuse my pile of clothes, they seem to take away from the beauty of the landscape.

Love!

One stop at Katherine’s to catch the rays at her lovely casa was the best way to end the day. And a Skinny Cow ice cream sandwich.

The foursome

My girl!

Thanks to sooo many people for allowing me into your homes this weekend, because I certainly had a wonderful weekend! It was the perfect way to top off the summer, and I couldn’t have asked for better friends up here in Boston 🙂 Here’s to a great fall and winter as well!

Now onto fasting this week because I ate so much over the past 4 days. Hitting the gym today!

Labor Day Weekend: Part 1

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Turns out the key to a successful blog is consistent posting…I gotta step up my game hard. Luckily, I had a really exciting long weekend, and I can’t wait to tell you guys about it 🙂 This labor day weekend was 0 parts labor, 10 parts weekend. I treated it mainly as a last HURRAH for summer 2012, so I wanted to spend the whole time outside soaking up the sun one last time.

Weekend preview!

Friday, everyone got out of work early so I decided to take advantage of the perfect afternoon with a workout on the Harvard stadium steps to give my gluteus maximus a kick in the gluteus maximus. Usually, I do the stairs with Meg and some of her friends, but I’ve never done it without anyone else to motivate me to do one more section (of which there are 37). I found myself getting tired way faster than I wanted to, and it wasn’t just because of the stifling afternoon heat. Having another person doing the workout with you is much more exciting than doing it alone. Let’s face it – workouts get tedious every once in a while, so bringing someone along heightens the fun-factor of exercise. This solo sesh was not ideal, but I still got in half the stadium (18 sections up and down), along with 30 push ups and 30 tricep dips. And since no one was in the stadium other than me, some loud self-motivation was necessary towards the last, oh, 16 sections.

At the halfway point

My real weekend started VERY early Saturday morning. While many of you were still dreaming of weekend possibilities, I woke up at 6:00am to beat the traffic to Cape Cod for a fun-filled day trip. Luckily, it was worth it because I made it to my destination in 2 hours flat without any car troubles or fist fights (Boston drivers are truly in a league of their own). A friend of Meg’s from grad school has a house on the Cape, and Meg and Dave were staying there for the weekend with her wonderful family. We got right to business as soon as I arrived – after a few local, handmade donuts, we could almost hear the beach calling our names.

We spent our morning floating on rafts playing with her three sons aged 11, 9, and 6. There is definitely a special place in heaven for the mother of 3 boys. As I never had a brother, I know nothing about boys growing up and man oh man, do they have a lot of energy! Always eating, chasing each other, and building or destroying things. They were all very well-behaved though, and I had such a good time hanging out with the little ones 🙂

Our afternoon consisted of a short nap, a long bike ride, and a delicious lunch from a local (very popular) food truck called Sunbird.  I ordered a hotdog with ketchup, while others had fish tacos or a market sandwich. YUM! The atmosphere at this place was so pleasing – colorful picnic tables, tons of potted flowers, and an awesome playlist of 60’s music blasting out of invisible speakers. We were jamming along to the Allman Brothers as we waited for our food, and I didn’t mind one bit!

A gourmet truck

For dinner, we went to another local food place called Mac’s on the Pier, known for their clam chowder. I ordered that, of course, and wasn’t disappointed. Others had fish and chips, a pork burrito (a little out of place, Meg), and fried clams. Sitting right on the water with the sail boats was the perfect way to continue my day at the Cape.

But it didn’t stop there! I decided to stay an hour or two later than I had planned in order to make the bonfire on the beach. They had gotten special permission and a permit to be able to fire up the ‘mallows on the beach, so it was a must attend event. We set up shop on the beach right before sunset. There were surfers in the water after sharks were cited in the area this week (Jaws much???) which didn’t seem like such a great idea, but definitely made for a good picture.

The highlight of the night was s’making s’mores s’on s’the s’beach. For some reason, these were a lot better than the ones I’ve had previously this summer. Maybe because it was my last one and I wanted to treasure the marshmallow-y goodness.

It’s hard to capture night landscapes on film, but instagram puts up a good effort.

I left after the sun went down and the moon began rising pink on the horizon – a gorgeous night spent on the beach! It was hard to take myself out of that situation, but duty calls back in Boston. What a great start to the weekend! More to come….

Oh Canada

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What makes me happy, you ask?

These islands

These clouds

This camp

These people

And these people

And definitely these people

Please excuse my brief sabbatical as I was out of touch in the Canadian territories last week. Every summer, we spend a week in Canada with family and friends, many of whom will become family pretty soon! This small part of the Bay is incredibly special to my family, especially now. We have known these people our whole lives: learned how to water ski with them, had our first kisses, attempts at camping, late LATE nights talking on docks, and the occasional swim in the nude if you will. The time we spend up there is always one of my favorite weeks of the year, as in I’m already counting down the days to next summer’s trip. Here are some highlights of the trip:

  • Sang “Is This Love” with my best friend at the Hootenanny (and yes by the way, it is love)
  • Played countless games of Wastebasket and Family, and learned about a new terrible card game called Cards Against Humanity. Great for the dirty-minded and easily entertained.
  • Dipped in the skinny twice.
  • Learned how to drive a boat!
  • Picnicked, picnicked, picnicked.
  • Drank enough Canadian beer to last me to New Years.
  • And saw almost every person that I wanted to see 🙂

It was a successful trip!

The week after we leave Canada is literally the worst week of the year. There seems like nothing to look forward to and you realize that you have to wait another 365 days until the next time you’re there. It’s pretty depressing. So I wanted to sum up the trip and start with this week, since maybe I’ll have a soul and actually find a reason to get out of bed in the mornings.

On the schedule for this week: Be Positive!

 

 

 

 

Maine – the way life should be

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Please excuse my three week hiatus. I beat off 4 assassins from a dashing young Australian man on the beach and they dragged me into solving a mystery in the depth of an African desert that would bring the world to a devastating end – a French conman was corrupting the Earth’s oceans with poison that would kill us all within days. You’re welcome. I needed every minute of those three weeks (especially those last few days at the end to run away with that same Australian to his villa in the Maldives to celebrate…obviously).

Wait, I’m confusing my life with Dirk Pitt. Happens more often then you’d think.

Anywho, we have so much to catch up on! The next two posts are going to include the things that made me happy in the last 3 weeks, but this one is going to be strictly about my vacation. Since this is my first summer as a “real person”, I treasure my vacations as if they were the aforementioned Aussie. Needless to say, I was excited. Every year, my family travels to a small town in Maine to spend July 4th on the beach. It’s like walking back into  time – there is one small store that sells everything from squeaky toy lobsters to salmon and couscous salads. There’s a marina, a nunnery, and a country club. And lots of beach 🙂

Tide pools appear at low tide – kids love them! Who wants to make a drippy castle?

They call this “Big Beach”. I wonder why.

One day, my godfather, an old friend of my dad’s, took us all on a sail on his boat. It was amazing! I enjoyed the scenery by sitting on the netting in between the boat hulls and ducking when the boom came in my direction (am I even making sense?). He was in charge of the sailing. I took so many pictures this day – the weather was perfect! – so I’ll show you some of my favorites:

Our faithful water and sailboat guide.

The happy couple on the nets.

I even had a Titanic moment with myself.

What? I’m supposed to be looking towards to far off sunset on the horizon and in the arms of a cute American on his way back home? Yea, well he missed the boat. Those dreams sank in the middle of the Atlantic, if you will.

Back to the vaca…Every Fourth of July, the town has a parade where people dress up their bikes, boats, fancy old cars, and dogs and parade down main street. Every year, we grab some coffee and bring it to the end of our driveway to cheer on the paraders. They throw candy to us onlookers- my favorites are banana Laffy Taffys. I’m pretty sure I’m going to love this tradition until the day I die. It’s so American 🙂

Later that day on the beach, D and I made a stellar sand castle, carrying on our 2nd annual tradition of making every kid on the beach jealous. Behold:

Complete with 4 chambers, 5 towers, a moat, and 2 bridges. Excellent views of the beach. Movie theater and recording studio in the basement. Offer ends at high tide.

Our last night, we celebrated by getting fresh Maine lobstas (wicked good) and eating them on the beach. There is nothing quite like cracking a lobster shell with a rock on the beach and then throwing the shells to the sea gulls. The gulls gotta eat.

Looks like the perfect table to me!

The sunsets here are out of this world! Boats and lighthouse provide a backdrop that even Winslow Homer couldn’t dream up.

“The Great Pond”…I guess they were lazy the day they named things here.

Those colors are electric!

It was a much needed week with a lot of time spent with friends and family. I’m glad we could all make it for the whole week. This is a very special place to all that went, and it definitely meant a lot – this year especially. Stay tuned for the next post about last week – here’s a little hint: it includes a real dashing Australian man 😉

Say goodbye, Lois the Lobster! She had a good life until everything boiled over and she cracked.

Delish!

Weekend Re-CAPE!

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Welcome to the last week of June! Wait….how did this happen? It feels like just yesterday I was packing up my wonderful car Blanche with my entire life to move to Boston. A looot has happened since then – where did the time go, friends? It’s been a really trying year to say the least, and even though we may want to at times, it’s obvious that we can never stop this train. Just keep going. All the more reason to focus on the good spots in life 🙂

She’s all set for an adventure! The night before I drove to Boston…

1. I’m grateful for the whole weekend at the Cape. It was my first time to Cape Cod (did anyone else like my clever play on words in the title???). It seems like a right-of-passage for every Bostonian to go to the Cape at least once and I don’t blame them – it’s beautiful! Em and D were a bit late in getting here, so we didn’t get on the road until almost 9pm. There wasn’t any traffic at that time though, so we made it there easily. After some hugs hello, we hung out at the house drinking Sam Adams’ Summer Ale with the fans at full blast (still roasty toasty up here).  We woke up on Saturday morning not to an alarm clock, but to the kiddos jumping on the bed. After a delicious fruit and yogurt smoothy for breakfast, we all hit the beach for a nice long morning walk. The clouds hadn’t quite cleared, but this beach was gorgeous! The houses around it were unbelievable! I’m sure they have some awesome views!

I wonder what the taxes on that house must be…

So many shells, so little tree!

We came across a tree towards the end of our walk covered in shells. It has become a tradition to string a shell onto one of the branches of this old tree – maybe for good luck? It would be riCONCHulous if I didn’t MUSSEL up the strength to adorn this tree with another one! What SHELL I wish for? 😉

We went back to the house for lunch and changed into our suits for the beach again! It was my first time in the swim suit this summer, so I was pretty stoked to get some good sun time. The girls and D stayed on the beach with the little ones. They are so fun to be around – and very eager to get into the water. “Will you go in yet?”, “Has it been 5 minutes?”, or “How about now?” was reiterated a few times….but we did go in with them! At the end of the afternoon, they’d been in the chilly water so much, their little teeth were chattering!!! Time to rinse off at home…

They built a lot of sand castles, but their favorite part was wrecking it!

I know I know, I’m really tan. It’s a tough job, ya know?

Saturday night, we all went out to dinner as a family 🙂 I love being able to call them “Family” now because my sister is marrying D. We’ve known them forever and now it’s finally becoming official! This may have been my favorite part of the trip – just a simple seafood dinner chatting and cheersing away the night. A few of us decided to grab a drink at a local bar afterwards (in walking distance from the house). It seemed like everyone knew everyone – such a small town! I loved it.

I left Sunday morning because I had to be back in Boston to work. And I was really bitter about it because it was such a GORGEOUS day!! Oh well, I have another vaca coming up in a week so I can’t complain 🙂

2. Nutritious and delicious meals. Today, after work, I had time to go to the grocery store. I worked out in the morning today because I got to bed early enough that I wasn’t still unconscious at 6:30am. It wasn’t too bad…maybe I’ll retract my statement from before about morning workouts?
I bought all the essentials I needed to make this quinoa and black bean salad:

yummmm

  • quinoa and black beans obvi…
  • red pepper
  • corn
  • green onions
  • cilantro
  • lime juice
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

It’s so simple to make – just throw all the ingredients together! I made enough to last me a few days in lunches at work. I think I should do this every Monday. I like feeling prepared for the week ahead because I hate scrambling for random food to eat during the day when I’m running out the door in the morning. I especially like this meal because it’s so healthy and full of protein. Quinoa is a super grain and it’s packed with all kinds of healthy vitamins and minerals that are so beneficial to your health. I’ve been trying to eat more protein in my diet because I can’t seem to stay full for very long, and quinoa is a really good way to incorporate good protein and fiber. Thanks quinoa!!!

3. I had a fresh mango for dessert. I wish I had taken a picture of it, but I was reeeally eager to eat it, and it was really messy (and I was watching the Bachelorette so I couldn’t leave the room to get my camera). Fruit in the summer time is hands down, bar none, most definitely, unerroneously the best thing ever. Pass me the berries, the nanners, and the watermelon, the pineapples and the cherries. I like them all! Such a good dessert too.

It’s going to be a busy week!! Happy trails 🙂