Jamaica: 100 Memories

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Oh, friends, we’ve been back from Jamaica for over a week. That beautiful island of sunshine, smiling people, lush greenery, and the bluest of blue shades is just the faintest of memories now.

However, while we were there, I kept a simple running list of wonderful things that happened each day. Last summer when I was on the Cape for two weeks, I kept a similar list and found it to be such a great way to capture the feelings, thoughts, and special moments of my vacation. Turns out I wrote down 100 memories from our nine days in paradise. Here’s the entire list:

  1. handling both the flight to Orlando and the flight to Montego Bay with confidence and ease (see my posts on my fear of flying journey)
  2. watching Frozen on the plane and loving Olaf’s summer song
  3. feeling my heart soar when I saw the Caribbean blue of the ocean when we landed in Montego Bay
  4. thanking the awesome resort message board for alerting us to the glory of the new arrival escorts through Club Mobay — 20 minutes from plane to lounge, bypassing a two-hour wait in immigration!
  5. drinking my first Red Stripe in the resort lounge and then spilling it all over me — as usual — before we got out of Montego Bay and not caring one bit
  6. enjoying the 90 minute drive to Negril 
  7. after checking in, heading right to the bar for my first Dirty Banana and seeing the giant pile of fresh bananas waiting for me (last year they used MIX)
  8. having my disappointment at being housed in building 1 instead of building 2 replaced with joy when I saw our view (half ocean and half our beloved garden)
  9. enjoying our first sunset of the vacation, drinks in hand, and feeling the stress just leaving my soul
  10. eating a wonderful lesiurely meal at Heliconia on lobster night
  11. having both papaya and sour sop juice — two of my favorite things! — for breakfast
  12. establishing my drink rotation for the trip on the first full day (Dirty Banana, Piña Colada with rum float, Miami Vice, Hummingbird, Purple Rain, Jamaica Smile, with a Dark and Stormy thrown in where needed. Repeat.)
  13. trying a new-to-me drink, a Jamaica Smile, (layered: strawberry daiquiri then piña colada then topped with a rum cream float)
  14. seeing a hummingbird while drinking a Hummingbird (seriously!)
  15. sharing jerk chicken and a jerk burger with the Mr. at lunch
  16. decorating my pool float with flowers I found
  17. wearing the first of many (!) caftans
  18. picking the theme song for the vacation (The Good Good by Snoop Lion)
  19. eating three desserts … at lunch
  20. taking the snorkel gear out and seeing eight starfish and a school of fish right before sunset
  21. wearing a carefully curated delicate Caribbean bracelet stack
  22. enjoying a delicious cup of espresso at the bar after dinner with the Mr.
  23. seeing a grey heron on my morning walk
  24. discovering Rick’s Cafe retweeted my sunset photo
  25. being selfish and take three giant, super ripe pieces of papaya for breakfast
  26. finding more sour sop juice waiting for me
  27. scoring the perfect piece of crispy bacon
  28. watching a butterfly land on my knee … twice!
  29. seeing a huge white egret fly over my head, but no one else seeing him
  30. seeing a large hummingbird — another one!
  31. enjoying my first grilled snapper sandwich at lunch while staring out at the ocean
  32. trying another new drink, Ellie Smile, which is a dirty banana with apricot liquor
  33. inhaling the amazing coconut chicken soup and green papaya salad at Lychee
  34. sitting on the tree swing with the Mr. while watching a movie on the beach
  35. loading up on guava juice, fresh papaya, coconut French toast, and sugar cane for breakfast
  36. walking the full length of the beach (and, sadly, discovering that my beloved Office of Nature is no longer there)
  37. seeing a crab scurry on the beach
  38. being completely taken aback by the Mr. spotting one of our least favorite people from previous trips on the beach and laughing afterwards by how funny it was that I shouted “Holy shit!” a little too loudly when I figured out what he wanted me to look at
  39. sipping pineapple orange water
  40. adding some spicy oil to my fried snook at lunch (and then looking up snook on the interwebs to figure out what I just ate)
  41. slowly eating my sour sop SORBET
  42. hearing and then seeing a Jamaican woodpecker
  43. enjoying a less crazy than usual catamaran cruise to the cliffs and singing along to Sean Paul on the way home
  44. being amazed by how close the giant white egret allowed me to get on my morning bird stalk
  45. spotting the turtle in the pond — my only sighting of this trip
  46. discovering that Edge of Water, the next book in Elizabeth George’s YA series, was automatically delivered to my Kindle
  47. enjoying the delicious combination of a juicy papaya, boiled banana, and passion fruit juice
  48. spending a gorgeous clear and quiet morning reading by the pool
  49. cheese fries!
  50. floating around the pool on floaties with the Mr. while calling out  ”Rose!” and “Jack!” anytime we floated away from each other
  51. being followed around the ocean by a school of fish (I could do that forever!)
  52. seeing 20 starfish during our daily pre-sunset snorkel  (The Mr. is THE best starfish hunter!)
  53. enjoying our dinner at the fancy restaurant, Otaheite — especially the salmon and artichoke mousse, rum drenched shrimp, mango sorbet, and the coffee press of Blue Mountain coffee
  54. grabbing a coconut and enjoying really fresh coconut water
  55. scoring a front row seat at the pool with an umbrella
  56. cheering on the Mr. while he saved a drowning bee in the pool — we named him Beejesus
  57. soaking in the hot tub
  58. discovering there were hard tacos and grilled snapper for lunch
  59. enjoying the glass bottom boat ride over the coral reef
  60. seeing the Sargent fish and a stingray
  61. during our daily snorkel, seeing some sort of creature before he buried himself in the sand
  62. taking a wonderful nap before dinner
  63. devouring grilled snapper with lime. butter. sauce.
  64. spending my fourth birthday in a row in Jamaica and thinking how really, really lucky I am
  65. before leaving the balcony for the day, watching a white egret fly over my head, seeing a Jamaican woodpecker land on the tree in front of me, watching two little yellow bananaquits build a nest, and watching a cat play with a lizard
  66. getting my favorite seat by the pool on my birthday
  67. discovering that they had boiled dumplings for breakfast on my birthday (the ONLY day they served them)
  68. indulging in jerk chicken, cheese fries, and cocoa bread for my birthday lunch
  69. finally learning I could get a fresh papaya daiquiri (!!)
  70. eating an ice cream cone in the hot tub
  71. heading to Rick’s to watch the cliff jumpers and the sunset
  72. getting a coveted table IN the pool at Rick’s 
  73. watching a really cool and fiery sunset while drinking Red Stripes
  74. meeting other people from Boston as we watched it and learning they lived in the town over from us and were staying at the other Couples resort in Negril (clearly, our Bizarro friends)
  75. enjoying my birthday dinner at a table by the beach with tiki torches
  76. indulging again in the sour sop sorbet
  77. drinking as much guava juice as possible
  78. eating fried plantains for breakfast
  79. sitting on the other side of the pool for a change and being able to stare at the Caribbean blue ocean all day
  80. listening to a lovely quartet playing mellow music at breakfast
  81. really savoring the last Dirty Banana of the trip
  82. spending our last day just chilling by the pool, listening to tunes, floating on the pool floaties, and watching the palm trees sway in the breeze
  83. spending our resort credit on coffee, coffee, and more coffee
  84. also getting a cute clutch from the resort store and a blue and white polka dotted frog, which I named Jerk
  85. finding a banana flower (!!) and bananas on the other side of the resort 
  86. discovering a staircase I never knew was there and getting an awesome photo for my lighting series
  87. enjoying a chocolate ice cream cone
  88. finishing our trip the way we started it: with a lovely dinner at Heliconia, this time with beachside seating
  89. enjoying one more Caesar salad with shrimps (yes, shrimps!)
  90. getting lobster tails that were so easy to remove from the shells this time and enjoying every last bite of them
  91. experiencing a really good night’s sleep
  92. getting first dibs on the fresh papaya (the upside of having to get up early to leave the resort for the airport)
  93. trying callaloo at our last meal
  94. seeing new things on the Ride of Great Sadness to the airport
  95. bypassing the giant security lines at the airport with our Club Mobay departure escort
  96. seeing and quickly buying my favorite brand of rum cream to take home with us (Sangster’s!)
  97. getting seated at a private table in the quiet room at Club Mobay
  98. being surprised by how good the last drink in Jamaica was, a guava daiquiri at the Jamaican Bobsled Cafe
  99. messing around with the bobsled on display next door
  100. starting the planning for our return trip next year!

I have lots of photos, too, friends. Of course I do.  Check back later this week for the visual companion to these memories. Irie!

 

March?

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I have only posted one thing in March. So here goes …

  • The Mr. and I were in Jamaica last week and all I did was float around on my pool floatie and drink fruity cocktails. AND I LOVED IT. Photos and post soon come.
  • I am now at the far end of the “early 40s” after celebrating my birthday last week. Next year, I officially enter my MID-40s. What the what??
  • This week I almost got off at my old T stop out of habit. Geez.
  • I’ve been pinching myself every day on my boat rides to and from work. My favorite part? Watching the planes take off and land as we pass the airport. (Photo above is the dock where we catch the boat in Hingham. It’s closer than the T stop was in Boston. Really.)
  • Speaking of landing, our pilot came in a little hot on our return trip to Boston. I was getting panicky and screamed (in my head), “SLOW THE EFF DOWN AND THROW UP THOSE WING FLAPPY THINGS!!” The Mr. noticed nothing.
  • Also related, from the outside takeoffs look exactly how they feel from the inside. Landings do not. All that jerking and speeding up and slowing down and wing dipping looks smooth as glass from my boat seat.
  • It was weird to sit in my winter coat on the Salacia (the boat they use for Ptown in the summer and for some of the busier time slots for the Hingham ferry). AND the Salacia has a new bar. 
  • My new nail lady’s name is Swan. 
  • I’ve noticed the South Shore accent is different from the Boston accent. More Kennedy than Southie.
  • I still haven’t driven the car out of the Shipyard. And the first time I drove it, I couldn’t start it (and I silently cursed the Mr. and his fancy key that can only be used with the right starting sequence.)
  • Wedges are not good for driving cars with fancy keys OR for walking up and down steep, sloped docks.
  • Alma Nove is our new 75 Chestnut. Cozy with a great bar and yummy food.
  • I haven’t seen a Wahlburg yet. Stop asking.
  • I requested an application for a rescue dog I’ve been obsessing about since before we moved! 
  • We got to keep our 617 area code! Good thing. Now we don’t have to get our tattoos removed. 
  • We started working on our Hingham gang sign. The Mr. rejected my first attempt at forming an H with my middle fingers. The latest draft looks way less hood and way more Spartan cheerleader.
  • We have to DRIVE our trash to the trash building. Which I will only do in the daylight. Because zombies. 
  • We’re about to book our next trip to Jamaica. And it’s gonna be big. More on this soon!

"We’re car people now."

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We made it to our new home! Having the hardest part of the move behind us feels great and we’re ready to settle in. A few observations from the past few days:

  • It took over 8 hours but somehow our amazing movers did it! They were even RUNNING with our heavy boxes. And charging up three flights of stairs at our new place. Gentle Giant has moved us three times and I cannot give them enough praise! 
  • Adding “elevator” to my list of things I’ll miss. 
  • As soon as the movers left, we headed out to get some snacks and drinks. There was a HUGE line at Wahlburgers so we went across the street to Hingham Beer Works. It was 5:00 and there was a 20 minute wait for a table. What’s up with that?? Do people eat early in the burbs?? 
  • We’re super close to the water and you can feel the salt air when you’re outside our place (which I’ve started calling Wisteria Lane). It’s also wicked cold here by the water. Brrrrr!
  • Great news! We’re in the flight path of the planes taking off from Logan. Not quite as frequent and close as our window in Boston but I was super happy to see that!
  • Did I mention we have a lanai?? It’s really a balcony, but I’ve decided to call it a lanai after watching so much Hawaii Life.
  • On Sunday, we hopped in the car and ran some errands. We had to get a snow shovel (for real!) and some things for the house. We laughed at ourselves most of the morning — wandering around Lowes and Bed Bath and Beyond feeling overwhelmed and completely lost. And the whole parking the car in the parking lot and then finding it afterwards thing? Hilarious.
  • We have the most awesome grocery store right across the way. We went to Fresh Market twice this weekend. Oh how I love it! It’s like a Whole Foods but you can buy Coke Zero there. And yummy cheese rolls.
  • We had no cable or internet for three days so we tried to go over to the clubhouse to watch the Oscars, but there was a baby shower in the room. Who has a baby shower when the Oscars are on? We went back home and popped in The Departed DVD and shouted “are you a cawp?” about 50 times.
  • The sun pours through the windows in the afternoon and we’ve seen some wonderful sunsets. I cannot wait for it to get warm!
  • I broke not one nail, but FIVE. FIVE! And right before our trip to Jamaica. Heading to my new nail salon to see if they can some how make them look decent before we leave on Friday.
  • Before we moved, we threw everything for our trip in our suitcases, but I am particular about my vacation packing. (For a reminder just how particular, I point you to this post from last year.) So I repacked them this week. Feeling better now that that is almost done.
  • We can hear the boat horn from our house! 
  • My flexible schedule has been very helpful this week as I have worked from home. Tomorrow I have to go in for a number of meetings and get to try out my new commute. The Mr. has been texting me “I’m on a boat” on his way to and from work.
  • Even though I have a million things to do (nothing like squeezing in two weeks of work into three days while unpacking your new home and packing for a trip away and also figuring out where everything is in your new town), I am SO excited for Jamaica. In fact, I am THIS excited!

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What I Won’t Miss

Today is our last day living in Boston. I’m sad. All I want to do is sit on the couch and watch movies, pretending that life isn’t about to change. Shortly, I’ll have my last Friday morning dance party in the one tiny corner without boxes in the now barely recognizable Juniper Disco Lounge. And then I’ll start packing (sigh. again.) So to help me through this part of the move, I’ve made a list of all the things I won’t miss about our life here.

What I won’t miss:

  • our dimly lit, tiny kitchen, with it’s small sink and small dishwasher
  • the MedFlight helicopter that flies over our building at least once a day to land at MGH next door — It usually happens at 2 am and it always means something bad has happened to someone, somewhere. It’s loud and it’s scary but it’s also a reminder to be grateful for being safe and sound and healthy in your own home at that moment.
  • the child next door who screams all day and all night — We went for years in this building living next to quiet neighbors until last year when the two-year old boy moved in. His parents use the hallway and the space right outside our door as an extra room. In fact, he’s screaming right now. 
  • the laundry room and the chatty guy that is always there — One of the best things about moving: we’ll have our own washer and dryer again! No fighting for machines. No one talking to you at 7:00 am on a Sunday morning about your laundry cart (ours is pretty awesome and everyone wants it — we really should have auctioned it off to the highest bidder.)
  • all those 20-something faces and high-pitched voices — Boston is a giant college town filled with young people. I’m ready to be around some adults. Who talk to each other using their inside voices.
  • the heat and the AC on the same system — Twice a year, we would either freeze or sweat in shoulder season waiting for the building to make the switch.
  • having the Nashua Street Jail — the one where the Craigslist Killer offed himself — across the way and being able to see the prisoners standing around looking out at you — We can see the basketball courts clear as day from our window. It can be a bit unnerving.
  • it never getting completely dark at night … or even remotely dark — The city lights are always on. Always.
  • tourists asking for directions — There can be 100 people on the street and the tourists will walk past all of them and make their way towards me. 
  • the awful fire alarm going off at the most inconvenient times and having to walk down 10 flights of stairs — That, my friends, is when living in the sky sucks.
  • all the people — After awhile, you just get run down. Having to talk to the cab driver (ugh!), fighting your way onto the T to get a seat, not ever being alone except in your own home.
  • not being able to have a dog because the building prohibits them — We’re already on the hunt for our new family member! The Mr. tells me every dog I pick out looks like Tipper. 

Next stop: Hingham. Or the couch.

What I’ll Miss

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We move to Hingham at the end of this week. On Saturday. We’ve already seen our last Sunday here and today is our last Monday. Tomorrow will be our last Tuesday and, well you get the picture. It’s bittersweet leaving the city after so long, but I’ve moved past the complete freak-outs (“what are we DOING?”) and am really, really ready for this. It’s been stressful, but nothing soothes me like a good list. I have a couple for you this week.

A few things I’ll miss:

  • living in the sky — I’ll miss this the most. 
  • the view from our windows — The Charles River. Storrow Drive.  The Green Line. The Zakim Bridge. The traffic on 93. The nightly light display on the Garden roof. 
  • sitting on the couch and watching the planes take off and land — Especially the early morning line-up of planes in the distance, like fireflies, one after another.
  • being able to do anything after work and not having to worry about the last train, boat, T, bus, etc. home — Convenience! No limitations!
  • not having to worry about the weather because someone else shovels everything
  • being able to walk to everything
  • the white squirrels in our neighborhood
  • the whoopie pies at J. Pace next door
  • Thoreau Path and the Great Lawn in our neighborhood — Despite being smack dab in an urban area, our neighborhood has lots of open space and walking paths.
  • the quick walk to and from the Garden — We have three concerts coming up this year and I’m seriously considering getting a hotel room, which I have now learned are ridiculously expensive in Boston.
  • not having to worry about a car — The last two weeks with a car have reminded us why we got rid of the car in the first place. Necessary for coastal town life, complete hassle in the city!
  • being able to walk to and from the boat to Ptown and how freaking easy that trip is — It will still be manageable. I just need to take an extra boat. Returning on Sunday when the commuter boat doesn’t run will be interesting.
  • the original Juniper Disco Lounge — I’ll launch the new version in our new place but I had just gotten it to a place where I really LOVED the way I felt when I was in there. 
  • taking a cab everywhere
  • our favorite concierge and the crew in our building
  • being able to make our own super secret West End (our neighborhood) gang sign — Make a “W” with three fingers, turn it on it’s end like an “E.” Yeah, we amuse ourselves with that one. And “H” doesn’t quite work the same.
  • the family that owns my current nail salon — I’ll miss them. I’ve watched her have two babies in the time that we’ve been here and they are always so wonderful to me. 
  • the pool at the Clubs at Charles River Park — It’s the biggest outdoor pool in Boston and it’s pretty awesome. Could use a bar, though.
  • living next to the world’s best hospital, just in case, and having lots of doctors in our building, just in case
  • being able to get any type of food delivered to our home at any time — Maybe I’ll miss this the most.
  • Yappy Hour just down the street in the summer — Of course the irony here is that we will actually have a dog to take to Yappy Hour.
  • having Pizzeria Regina and Ernesto’s from the North End as our standard pizza joints — Spoiled!
  • being able to decide at the last minute to go to the Pride Parade, a walk along the Greenway, to the MFA, or whatever — It’s been so nice to be able to do whatever we want to do without much planning. 
  • being able to say, “You know that sign that says ‘If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Now’? That’s where I live.”

Around here …

Just popping in for a quick update. Twelve days until we move and it feels like time is c r a w l i n g. We’re ready for the chaos to be over and to be settled in our new home. In the meantime, here are a few things going on around here:

  • My new point and shoot camera is awesome! That photo above was taken from our place on the 10th floor while it was still snowing.
  • I seem to have the same problems with packing that I have in life. I eagerly start packing a new box, get bored with it, and move on to a new — much more exciting — box. There are half-packed open boxes all over the house.
  • We had our annual Denial Night on Friday. Sometime in February every year we pretend it is summer. Giant fruity cocktails, lobster, and ice cream cones. 
  • This weekend I watched Dallas Buyers Club (clearly some amazing performances but, more importantly, the film itself is a great character study of a jerk who ends up doing good things). I also viewed some of Season 2 of House of Cards (Please explain to me why am I rooting for the Underwoods! Why??).
  • So Walking Dead fans, I’m sure you all discovered Talking Dead ages ago. I wish it was a 24-hour show. All Dead, all day. 
  • I tried using coconut oil on my hair as a deep conditioning treatment and it was a success! Much less frizz the rest of the week. Smelled good, too. (Instructions: Saturate your hair with coconut oil. Pin it up and place a plastic shower cap over it. Relax for 15 minutes. Wash out thoroughly.)
  • We realized we will be without cable AND internet for the Oscars this year. No idea what we are going to do!
  • I finished reading my book club’s next book, The Book Thief (tears, tears, tears!) and picked up The Year of the Gadfly where I left off some months ago and am totally engrossed. 
  • We bought a car. It’s blue. It has a fancy key and heated seats. I’ve only seen it from our 10th story window as the Mr. drove it off to get inspected and park it off-site for the next two weeks.
  • Sean Paul released a new album today. 
  • Instead of packing it with the rest of the glassware, the Mr. left my special rum cream glass out for me to use. I married the right man.
  • We’ve lived in this building for eight years and the staff that works here have become like family. My favorite concierge is on maternity leave right now and I’m not sure she’ll be back before we move. I’m super sad I won’t be able to say goodbye to her.
  • Jamaica soon come. I’ve been stalking our resort’s message board like I usually do around this time. Even though this will be our fourth trip there, I always find great suggestions on the board — like when the starfish gather in the swimming area of the beach and a suggestion to add a rum cream float to a pina colada. (I also finally put together a video from last year’s trip! My favorite part is our trip down the beach to the Office of Nature for some awesome lobster — starts around 8:10.)

Random No. 53

Some of the randomness on my mind lately …

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photo: Ginny Branch

Prop Styling — It’s an actual job. Why didn’t anyone tell me? When I was in high school I’d create little tableaus in my room — a vintage picnic basket here, an LL Bean boot there. I mean … it’s a JOB! I could have been doing this the whole time. Sigh.

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Tips and Tricks for Taking Dreamy Photos eBook — I only recently discovered Vivienne McMaster who has such a cool perspective on using photographs to improve your sense of self. She also takes awesome photos and her ebook has great tips for how you can take awesome photos, too!

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Reelagram Don’t you all wish you had kept your View Master? Now you can get a new one, with your instagram photos. This would make a fantastic gift to remember a special day or an awesome vacation. 

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All Things Moomin tumblr — Did you read the Moomin books as a kid? I’m planning to revisit these sometime this year. And now I realize why I was so enamored with Shmoo — must have been a Moomin-thing.

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Sherlock — I’m sure you’ve all been obsessively watching this season of Sherlock. And I’m guessing, like me, you’ve been rewinding and rewatching each scene to see what you missed the first time around (almost everything). But I’m pretty sure you haven’t been practicing saying “Sherlock” the way Alan Cumming says it in the intro. And, yes, I have. I assure you it’s impossible to replicate. Anyway, let’s hope Season 4 hurries the hell up!

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These necklaces — All three are going to Jamaica with me next month. I just love a pop of color against black and white. So fun and whimsical!

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This GIF — Daft Punk in their dress whites. Clapping.

A Football Confession {and SNACKS!}

I own two articles of sports apparel. 1) a Red Sox hat and 2) an Eagles tshirt. That’s right. I am not a Patriots fan.

I grew up in Pennsylvania watching the Eagles every weekend with my dad. I had an Eagles pompom hat which I wore to school even though I was surrounded by black and gold. I had an Eagles pennant on my wall. #31 was my favorite player. I hate Dallas. When the Eagles and Pats played in the Super Bowl, my whole family gathered at my sister’s to cheer on the Pats and every time the Eagles scored I’d call from our place in Boston, let the phone ring once, and hang up. (Oh, shut up! Who cares how it ended!) 

So, who will I be routing for on Sunday? The Seahawks. Cause I like Pete Carroll. We sat next to him at a Cape Cod Baseball League game in Chatham one summer. He seemed very nice.

Anyway, I’ve been making snacks for our football watching this fall/winter. If you’re looking for something to make for this weekend’s game, here are a few ideas!

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Beer Dip  — I love cheese dips that have actual chunks of shredded cheese in them. I suggest adding some bacon or ham to this for a little more oomph.

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Browned Butter Rosemary Popcorn — It’s a little labor-intensive making the browned butter but it is worth the investment.

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Sea Salt Honey Butter Popcorn — This recipe is so easy and so tasty that it has become a regular snack option in our household.

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Pizza Wheels — The trick is to roll the dough as tight as you can. The cornmeal crust makes all the difference!

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Toasted Almond Parmesan Dip — Surprisingly yummy and really easy to make.

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Cheese and Onion Monkey Bread  — Note: do not use all the butter called for in the recipe! And oregano would be a great substitution for the thyme.

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Fried Herbed Almonds — Such an easy recipe! You need to salt the hell out of them and I would recommend considering rosemary as a substitution for the thyme.

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Butter and Rosemary Roasted Chestnuts — Granted, these were seasonal but this recipe from Bon Appetit was so so easy and completely delicious!

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Buffalo Chicken Dip — Another confession. The Mr. made this one. If you love buffalo sauce, this is your football snack!

Random No. 52

Some of the randomness on my mind lately …

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Ana Frois etsy shop —  I don’t know what it is about this Portuguese artist’s illustrations, but I just love them! This one is my favorite and I’m totally not a trees-and-mountains kinda girl.

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Photos of Diane Keaton’s home — You all know Diane Keaton is my idol and I want to be her. Now, even more so. She just posted photos of her home on her Pinterest board. Such style!! I mean, look at the address sign on the wall above. And that enormous door. She is the coolest.

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Another Head Like an Orange GIF — I just can’t enough of this one! That teeny, tiny nose is so adorable. It is like a poppy seed. I want to touch it.

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My gold fuzzy lined boots — They’re gold. And fuzzy inside. Gold. Fuzzy. Gold. Fuzzy. And it looks like they are on sale right now on Tretorn’s website.

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That Gabby Douglas movie on Lifetime — Gymnastics!! I was a fanatic when I was growing up. Constantly doing cartwheels and handsprings. I even have a scar on my foot from running into the furniture. Who cares that I could never do anything backwards! Lifetime has another fab movie out this weekend about that awesome Gabby Douglas. Cannot wait to see it!

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Salt Cellar on Newbury Street — When my niece was here, we got mani/pedis at Miniluxe on Newbury Street. Right next door there is this little salt shop where you can taste everything! So, so fun! We left with tiny jars of black truffle salt (which I am putting on everything), a mesquite smoked salt, and a vanilla salt. All are really, really good on popcorn.

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The Life: an update

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Oh, man. I did it again. It’s been all real life around here lately and I haven’t been keeping on top of this space. Let’s get up to speed.

  • My niece stayed with us last weekend. She’s 13 and she loves makeup. Somehow I completely forgot about that whole thing at that age. (I was more of a bubbles, suds, and soaps girl, myself. Pisces and all that.) There’s something really special about being an aunt to a young girl who is interested in everything the world has to offer. Girls her age need an adult woman to talk to who isn’t their mother. She had a lot to say that weekend and I listened closely to every word!
  • I am so glad I bought that extra warm long down coat with a faux fur hood in WHITE last year. And these Tretorn bootswhich have helped to keep the style quotient up while keeping my tootsies dry. Winter, you are being a jerk.
  • I’ve been alternating between #altsummit and #negril on Instagram this past week. Those blogging ladies sure know how to have fun in Utah. And, gosh, does my favorite place in the world look so warm and relaxing!
  • The move is becoming very real. Our movers dropped off our packing boxes this weekend. I cancelled my monthly T pass that I’ve had for 18 years and ordered a commuter boat pass. And later this week, I have to cancel our pool membership. Letting go of this life we’ve built in the city is really hard. 
  • And speaking of that, please stop telling me I’ll love it in the suburbs. I’m moving to a COASTAL TOWN
  • Anytime I see the last name “Groff” I immediately want to know where the person was born. Us Groffs all pretty much grew up in the same place. That includes one of the stars of Looking, Jonathan Groff. Turns out he’s a hometown boy.
  • Confession. I bought a new point and shoot camera. I know, I know. I totally upgraded to a real camera this summer and then completely stopped taking photos. It’s just too big to carry around with me every day so I needed to go back to my compact-sized version. I’m hoping that will get me back in the groove.
  • A little note about this trend toward dark, filmy photos a la KinfolkI like it. I do. But everyone in the whole world seems to all of a sudden adopted only this one aesthetic. I like bright colors and lots of white space. There is nothing better than a bright blue sky and I refuse to cloud it up on purpose with one of those filters. (And while I’m at it, that acoustic-y, folksy, twangy music is the worst. They need to stop that. And that triangle pattern stuff that is on everything these days.)
  • So many people ask me for recommendations for their visits to Provincetown so I made a mapped Pinterest board with all my favorites (and some super secret insider tips). I’ve also started a mapped board for our new home on the South Shore and have continued to update my Boston Undone board, listing all the things I have yet to do in the city.
  • I finished packing up 890 books for donation! During my purge I also found 25 bookmarks, a street map of Rome, and some cards from restaurants we visited in Mallorca.
  • My Jamaica outfits have all been carefully planned and styled. I do want to say that it is like a sport to me. I collect things all year round. There are clothes you can wear in the Caribbean that you just can’t wear here. I was lamenting to the Mr. how it didn’t seem that our fellow resorters put as much effort into their stylings (and I was kinda bummed about it). He said, “well, I appreciate it!” Aww, Schmoopy!
  • I also started my Summer List! There are some cool things I didn’t get to do last year and moving to the coast is opening up a whole world of possibilities. It is going to be fun! (Especially since, after Jamaica, I won’t be doing much traveling until after the museum is open.)
  • It has been so DRY! We’ve started boiling pots of water (with cinnamon and clove) on the stove to try to add some moisture back to the air. And I have been bathing in this. I slather about an inch of it on my face every couple of hours. 

So February starts at the end of this week, friends, and it is going to be hectic for us! Packing, and moving, and leaving for Jamaica only 6 days after the move is going to take some serious focus time. I’ll try to drop in here as I can, but, just think, when we get settled, I’ll have a whole new world to share with you!

Random No. 51

Some of the randomness on my mind lately ….

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Unroll.me — Friends!! This is a life-changer. I signed up over the winter break and learned I had 790 email subscriptions!! How does that happen? I unsubscribed to over 400 of them and the rest of them are delivered to my inbox in ONE easy email every day. I’ve been averaging about 40-50 emails consolidated into that one email each day. SO awesome! 

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That Mitt Romney documentary on Netflix — So you may have gathered that I am NOT in the Mitt Fan Club. The film was made by a family friend so I’m sure it will be a rather sympathetic portrait. But I am intrigued by what it is like to lose something you were absolutely certain would be yours. Debuted at Sundance and will stream on Netflix starting Friday.

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Lucy Jane Totes etsy shop is back! — It felt like she was gone for SO long. I own three of her bags and I cannot recommend them enough. Her medium purses are the best! They look small but you can really shove everything in there. The large beach totes are perfect for the summer, too!

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My new camera strap — I love my new nautical preppy camera strap! 

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Lance Bass’s new single — And, more importantly, that photo right there above! Look how cute his shoes are! I have always been cheering poor Lance on. The worst dancer in NSync, he always seemed behind the other boys by a step or two. And he seemed so uncomfortable. Well, gurl has come into her own! He’s making music with Snoop Dogg Lion Dogg Whatever.  I’m guessing I’ll be hearing it a lot in Ptown this summer. After it gets a proper remix. 

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True Detective on HBO — Have you seen this show yet? What the what??? Matthew McConaughey is blowing me away with his creepy ways. And what is going on? Why are the cops interviewing them 10 years later? What happened to them? I’m so hooked. 

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Wahlburgers on A&E — Marky Mark appears to have become my spirit animal. He’s popping up everywhere in my life. From brunch this weekend to his new reality showwhich is filmed in our new neighborhood. Like RIGHT NEXT TO US. So if you want to catch a glimpse of our new hood, watch the show tonight. And with that, I’ll leave you with my moving-to-the-burbs theme song. Donnie D, break it down … 

The Year of the Book

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In preparation for our move to Hingham, we’ve been going through our stuff and deciding what to donate, what to throw away, and what is worthy of the trip to our new home. I’ve been weeding my massive collection of books with the goal of cutting it in half. So far, I’ve packed 448 books for donation. And I am not done yet!

I thought I’d have a hard time doing this but it’s been a rather soul-cleansing process. I cleared out all my self-help books. I’m not feeling the need to read about anyone else’s recommendations for a well-lived life. That inner voice is pretty developed at this point. All the business books have gone out, too. (Except Seth Godin. I like his stuff.) I’ve gotten rather sick of the theory-of-the-moment and am finding my own instincts are working for me right now. I also parted with a ton of fiction books whose plots intrigued me at one point in my life but just aren’t speaking to me anymore.

The books I’m keeping seem to fall into these categories: food, the ocean, travel to or life in warm exotic places, Italy, Spain, mysteries and/or books that have a secret at the center of the plot, and authors who tell really, really good stories. And I want to read them all!

I just finished book 698 in my quest to read 1,000 books. I’m hoping to move closer to that goal by the end of the year. Clearing out all the extraneous book distractions will certainly help. As will the longer commute to work (the year I read the most books — over 100 — I had an hour every day of uninterrupted commute time. Always a silver lining!) Here’s my rolling list of books I’d like to focus on in 2014:

  1. Faith — Jennifer Haigh
  2. The Book Thief — Markus Zusak  
  3. The Year of the Gadfly — Jennifer Miller 
  4. Stronger — Jeff Bauman
  5. The Goldfinch — Donna Tartt (currently reading)
  6. Just One Evil Act — Elizabeth George (currently reading)
  7. The Scarpetta Factor — Patricia Cornwell (currently reading)
  8. Before I Go To Sleep — SJ Watson 
  9. Bel Canto — Ann Patchett 
  10. The House on Oyster Creek — Heidi Jon Schmidt
  11. The Magicians — Lev Grossman
  12. The Blue Zones — Dan Buettner
  13. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle — Haruki Murakami
  14. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay — Michael Chabon
  15. West of Then — Tara Bray Smith
  16. Sea Glass — Anita Shreve
  17. Year of Wonders — Geraldine Brooks
  18. An Embarrassment of Mangoes — Ann Vanderhoof
  19. On the Vineyard — Jane Carpineto
  20. The Art of Racing in the Rain — Garth Stein
  21. The Lobster Coast — Colin Woodard
  22. The House on the Lagoon — Rosario Ferre
  23. The Creative Habit — Twyla Tharp
  24. Summerland — Elin Hilderbrand
  25. Unbroken — Laura Hillenbrand
  26. Daring Greatly — Brene Brown
  27. Wonder — RJ Palacio
  28. Maine — J Courtney Sullivan
  29. Her Fearful Symmetry — Audrey Niffeneggar
  30. The Night Circus — Erin Morgenstern
  31. Poseidon’s Steed — Helen Scales
  32. The Gardens of Kyoto — Kate Walbert
  33. Little Bee — Chris Cleeve
  34. The Night Villa — Carol Goodman
  35. The Vanishing Act — Mette Jakobsen
  36. Underwater to Get Out of the Rain — Trevor Norton
  37. The True History of Paradise — Margaret Cezair-Thompson
  38. Agorafabulous! Dispatches from My Bedroom — Sara Benincasa
  39. Arcadia Falls — Carol Goodman
  40. Until I Say Goodbye: My Year of Living With Joy — Susan Spenser-Wendel
  41. The Madonnas of Leningrad — Debra Dean
  42. Shark Dialogues — Kiana Davenport
  43. Why Some Like it Hot: Food, Genes, and Cultural Diversity — Gary Paul Nabhan
  44. The One and Only Ivan — Katherine Applegate
  45. The Interestings — Meg Wolitzer
  46. Hide and Seek — Clare Sambrook
  47. The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking - Brendan I. Koerner
  48. The remaining books in Lois Lowry’s Quartet series: Gathering BlueMessengerSon
  49. How to Eat a Small Country — Amy Finley
  50. All Decent Animals — Oonya Kempadoo
  51. This is Paradise: Stories — Kristiana Kahakauwila
  52. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves — Karen Joy Fowler
  53. The Bone Season — Samantha Shannon
  54. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock — Matthew Quick
  55. Cockpit Confidential — Patrick Smith
  56. Global Mom: Eight Countries, Sixteen Addresses, Five Languages, One Family — Melissa Dalton-Bradford
  57. Love with a Chance of Drowning — Torre DeRcohe
  58. Inside of a Dog — Alaexandra Horowitz
  59. The Red BookDeborah Copaken Kogan
  60. Dog Songs — Mary Oliver
  61. Eleanor & Park — Rainbow Rowell
  62. We Have Always Lived in the Castle — Shirley Jackson
  63. Fruit of the Lemon — Andrea Levy
  64. The Long Song — Andrea Levy
  65. In the Woods — Tara French
  66. The Edge of the Water — Elizabeth George
  67. Life After Life — Kate Atkinson

What I Did on Winter Break

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The first week back to work after seventeen days off is the worst. I missed my naps, I had to stay upright all day, and I had to actually talk to people. Man.

One of the things I heard in those conversations was that people didn’t get as much done as they wanted to. Isn’t that always what we think? Our plans are probably too grand and then we always feel like we failed. Or, more likely, we don’t count resting and relaxing or spending time with family as getting anything done. A couple of years ago I started listing everything I did on winter break to show myself just how full those days are and just how much I do “accomplish.” It always surprises me. This year’s list:

  • binge-watched these TV series: The Walking Dead (all 43 episodes! in 4 DAYS!! I was a MANIAC!), The Fall (liked it!)The House of Cards (first 7 episodes)
  • watched these movies: Prisoners (Good Lord! That movie!), Red 2, The Conjuring, Identity Thief, Despicable Me 2Elysium, Broken City, The Red Baron, Hyde Park on Hudson, Knuckleball!, Lincoln, Admission, The Heat, Which Way is the Front Line From Here/The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington, Savages, The Reluctant Fundamentalist
  • watched these movies again: The HolidayA Charlie Brown Christmas, Home Alone, The Muppet Christmas Carol
  • watched these holiday movies for the first time: The Christmas SpiritChristmas on the BayouChristmas in ParadiseFinding Christmas, The Twelve Trees of Christmas, Window Wonderland, Guess Who’s Coming for Christmas?
  • drank rum cream whenever I wanted
  • turned on all the Christmas lights as much as possible
  • got my hair cut and the greys colored
  • had drinks with the Mr. at Park
  • enjoyed a wonderful date night dinner with the Mr. at The Red House — lobster carbonara!
  • cleaned out the frig and freezer
  • washed all the serving dishes we own … twice
  • hosted family in our home for six days
  • rotated my collection of Old Navy flannel pajamas as my day-into-night wardrobe
  • ate all the awesome Christmas meals
  • cuddled with Tipper
  • popped the Christmas crackers and played charades with the family
  • had drinks with my dad and the Mr. at Forum
  • ate all the cheese bread and steaks with my dad and the Mr. at Fogo de Chao
  • showed my dad the Boston Marathon bombing sites
  • indulged in all the sweets at the Chocolate Bar at the Langham Hotel with my niece, sister, and dad — my favorite, a chocolate, banana, and BACON tart
  • took a family video and made a family GIF
  • made a fun end of year Flipagram about 2013
  • edited a gazillion photos
  • drafted 15 blog posts; posted 9 of them
  • removed all the wall decals (including my original Blik spheres … boo)
  • packed up 5 boxes and 9 bags of trash — move prep!
  • unsubscribed from 397 email subscriptions through unroll.me and put the rest into a single rollup email (freedom!)
  • read the very last issue ever of Locke & Key
  • read about a quarter of my book club book, Faith by Jennifer Haigh, which is set in a town that is clearly Hull and is written by a fellow Dickinsonian
  • did 12 loads of laundry (guests!)
  • celebrated New Year’s Eve early at our usual spot, Waterline in the Boston Marriott Long Wharf, and was home before the crazies came out
  • updated my LinkedIn profile with my new job
  • changed out all the calendars with brand spanking new ones
  • started a spreadsheet to track everything we need to do for our move
  • found a potential vet, kennel, and groomer in Hingham for our future dog
  • researched places to donate my huge collection of books (definitely not moving all of them with us!)
  • planned my Jamaica outfits and bought a few more things to add to the mix. (I said a few!) I’m going all Mrs. Roper this year — caftans and wooden bangles.
  • updated my VSCO grid
  • ordered in Chinese food for date night when it was too cold and too snowy to go outside
  • discovered Hawaii Life and Island Hunters on HGTV and will not stop using the term “lanai”
  • took down all the Christmas decorations 
  • watched the season premiere of Downton Abbey (it was pretty meh, right?)

I challenge you to keep a similar list for a weekend, a week, your next staycation, a single day even. You may just surprise yourself by how much you do and then maybe next time you can give yourself a break!

Sun, Sun, and Sun in the Dominican Republic

I know it’s taken me a while to get around to putting this post together. You’ll see why at the end.

The Mr. and I started a winter survival strategy last year by adding an additional trip to warmer climates right before the snow usually starts falling. With our annual Jamaica trip at the other end, we’ve created symbolic parentheses to our least favorite season. 

We took the first flight out of Boston on a mid-November morning. So early that I had this little space all to myself. Even though we were up at 3:30 am, I was psyched for our trip! See face below.

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It was the first time we were able to keep our electronic devices on during takeoff so I popped in some Bob Marley and relaxed the 45 minutes to NYC and then the few hours to Punta Cana. And once there, we had an experience that made my heart soar! We disembarked out of the BACK of the plane, on to the tarmac, and into the palaba-style airport. SO AWESOME!

However, the experience inside the airport was the antithesis of Jamaica’s no-worries-mon arrival. I was STRESSED. People pushing, grabbing bags, luggage carts digging into the back of my legs, elbows jabbing. And then our transportation to the resort fell through and we had to rely on the kindness of one of the luggage guys to get us where we needed to go. I will admit it, I was rude to him. So rude. Luckily, the Mr. is much more trusting than I am and the guy totally saved our vacation. Despite how rude I was. Lesson learned.

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After about an hour’s drive, much of it on a disappointing stretch of highway (no water views), we arrived on the most beautiful beach with amazing resort grounds to match.

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The beach was so wide and the surf really intense. The first day we were there, I decided to take a walk on the beach while the Mr. snoozed by the pool. As soon as I set foot on the sand, I noticed people running and hotel employees with walkie-talkies rushing past me. And then I realized there was someone in the water and he was in serious trouble. I mean serious trouble. No one could get to him and he kept getting pulled out further and further. They had to launch a boat (that barely made it over the waves intact) to rescue him. I honestly thought we were watching someone lose their life. Needless to say, I did not venture past my ankles the rest of the trip. (And, people, use your brains! That red flag is there for a reason. Don’t you watch Dateline?)

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Luckily, the pool at the resort was incredible. It seemed to go on for miles! There were plenty of chairs and beds (yep! we took a very nice nap on one). Some had palabas, some did not. We also got in the habit of walking from one end to the other to cool off. There was also a separate quieter pool (bottom left hand corner below) that we never got around to visiting.

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The swim-up bar was in the middle of the pool, never too far away.

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And the rest of the resort was equally as amazing and had all sorts of activities like squash courts, pool tables, tennis and basketball courts, a giant chess set, archery, miniature golf, a casino, on and on. There were games and activities (like a pineapple throwing contest which the Mr. participated in and meringue lessons.) If you were bored here, it was your own fault!

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We may have had a few cocktails while we were there. The Coco Loco was my favorite — they would chop off the top of the coconut with a machete, pour the contents in the blender, add rum, add coconut milk, blend with ice and pour it back in the coconut. It tasted nutty and not so sickly sweet as some of my usual fruity favorites.

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There were 10 restaurants on the resort, one of them was right on the beach, Las Olas, which was just the perfect beach lunch place.

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They made pizzas there in a wood fire oven. They were quite popular! We also tried the Dominican rice (upper right hand corner below.) I will say the food overall here was hit or miss. Some of the meals we had were really good and some were just ok. I will say I very much appreciated the waiter at The Grill going next door to The Lobster House to get me some lobster to go with my steak. Service here was really good and everyone was very friendly.

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The resort also had a botanical garden that I went to visit every morning on my walk around the grounds. There was a small flamenco of flamingos, some beautiful and friendly parrots, and some of those gorgeous white egrets.

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I just love this photo and how you can see his feathers flying in the breeze. Beautiful, beautiful birds!

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One more look at that beach, the palm trees, and the surf!

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One observation I would like to share: I’m a pretty laid back person and I like to just chill most of the time. I found there to be a slightly elevated energy level here. I’d like to see more of the island to see if it’s the culture of the place. It may have been the high-energy salsa music and the energetic staff (quite different from the reggae music and no-worries-mon vibe of Jamaica.) 

So, why I’ve been dragging my feet on this post: I don’t support the Dominican Republic’s recent ruling to strip citizenship rights from people born in that country to parents who were there without documentation (read Haitians.) If you have no idea what I am talking about, please read this. While we had a wonderful time and would like to see more of the island, we’ve decided not to return until the government changes this policy.

A Simple Approach

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What did you do yesterday? I watched The Walking Dead marathon, looked for crossbow lessons in the area, figured out my outfits for our Jamaica vacation, emotionally supported the Mr. while he cleaned out some stuff in preparation for our move (meaning I shouted “Good for you, honey!” from the couch), ate yummy French onion soup the Mr. made, and never changed out of my jammies. An awesome start to the year!

Usually this time of year I’m making my giant list of all the amazing things I want to do in the coming 12 months. Learn more about Caribbean history! Read all of Mary Oliver’s poems! Practice making fabulous cocktail garnishes! Create 100 lists! Eat more kale! Make all the things on my super secret Secret Projects Pinterest board! 

This year is different, though. 2014 is going to be one monumental year and real life is going to take a lot of purposeful adjustments. I don’t think I’ve had a year where so many known changes are scheduled — with actual dates on the calendar.

  • THE MOVE. We’ve lived within the same couple of blocks for over a decade. We have to disentangle the life we’ve built for ourselves here. And move all our freakin’ stuff.
  • THE NEW HOME. We’ll need to set up our new physical space, establish new routines, lay down new roots, and build our new life. And we’ll spend a lot of time exploring our new area.
  • THE NEW PET. With the addition of a long-yearned-for dog, we’ll need to learn how to take care of it (“You walk it! No, you walk it!”), how to incorporate it into our family, and how to not feed it all the treats. 
  • THE ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME PROJECT AT WORK. We’re re-opening a completely renovated and expanded museum later in 2014. The enormous amount of planning and work that has gone into this is incredible and like nothing I will ever experience again. The year ahead is going to be intense, scary, exhausting, exhilarating, and not at all predictable.

So, even though all those things up there in the first paragraph sound fun, I’m going to take a pass on the grand list of plans this year. Just experiencing life right now is enough.

Although … I could learn to make just one teeny weeny lemon twist, right?