Went | Tanglewood in Lenox, MA

Yesterday, Mike and I headed west to Tanglewood for a live taping of Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! The drive was long with traffic and a pitstop for homemade tuna sandwiches and McDonald's ice cream cones, but nothing worse than the final mile and a half stretch. Tanglewood is a beautiful campus of venues made famous by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The puzzling detail about this place that fits over 8,000 people (the number of people at the show last night) is that it's on a small two-lane residential street in Lenox, MA. Just some more of that New England charm, I suppose. 

When we finally made it through the traffic, we sat in our seats just as the panel was coming out onto the stage. Though we'd both crossed our fingers and toes for Paula Poundstone, we were still excited to see Charlie Pierce, Amy Dickenson, and Tom Bodett. The special guest was classical pianist Emanuel Ax who surprisingly made us laugh until we cried. Seriously, I've only seen Mike laugh that hard when we saw Louis CK and Sinbad live. Who knew Emanuel Ax had it in him? 

I wasn't as big a fan of WWDTM as Mike was or as I am now. Something about seeing these familiar voices in person (Carl Kasell, hello?!) made me a lifelong fan. As we walked out, Mike complained that his cheeks hurt from smiling so much, saying, "If they're ever back around here, we're going again." 


Went | The Aloha Stadium Swap Meet

My nephew had a football game Saturday afternoon, so we figured the Aloha Stadium swap meet was a good way to kill some hours before the game. I wanted to find myself another lava lava (what my family calls a sarong), and see if they had any good souvenirs. 
Before we left, we rented some boogie boards for our Sunday trip to Waimea Beach. 
The swap meet did not disappoint. It was so hot, but we cooled off with shave ice, frozen bubble tea (the taro was delicious!), fresh cut mango and pineapple as we dipped into each tent. We ended up buying mostly food: macadamia nuts, taro bread, guava and coconut cake, and fresh cut coconut, but the day was worth it. Afterward, we all piled into the car and my nieces were asleep within minutes. 
This last photo makes me laugh because there's an almost identical picture of me and my older sister, Bea. We're at Six Flags, and I'm staring at the ice cream she's eating while eating my own ice cream. It was fun getting to see the sister relationship as these two get older. 


On travel, highlights, and jumping off of rocks.

Coming back from a long trip away, people always ask for the highlights. My friend Crysty, after a summer in Beijing reporting on the summer Olympics, told me, "I have so many stories, but they'll have to come out naturally. As I remember them, I'll tell you." It's only been two days since Mike and I got back from visiting my sister, brother-in-law, two nieces, and nephew in Hawaii, but I've already relived so many of my favorite moments on the grass in front of the MFA with Jenna and Katharine, or on the phone with Meg and Bea. I've always been a self-proclaimed homebody, so this deep love of going to new places feels like a secret part of me that I've been able to explore in the past few years. I always assumed that student loans and the lower end of the salary spectrum would keep me from seeing as many new places as I'd like, but every year I prove myself wrong.

So much of the trip felt like the highlights, even the next to the last day that we spent almost exclusively inside Nessa's house preparing food and watching a movie and hiding from the sun. I love the version of me that notices the moon; the girl who rolls the windows down as soon as the car has started, wraps her hair around her fingers and turns the music up. I love it when I am dancing in the living room trying to make my niece laugh, when I find myself genuinely impressed by the people my sister's kids have become in the months since I have seen them. I always bring so many books when we go to the beach, forgetting that I will always prefer to be among the waves rather than baking on a towel squinting into a book. I will stand at the top of a 40-foot rock, knees locked, calves weak, breath shallow, and then I will step forward, I will pinch my nose, and I will step off. I will yell, "Shit!" despite the crowds of children. I will apologize to the dad bobbing near me when I surface, pick my tremendous wedgie, and swim to the shore, still shaking.


Back from Hawaii.

Oahu is one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited. Beyond the ecstasy of being on vacation for a week and a half, I woke up early each morning ready to see more. We left defeated by the sun, our hearts and bellies full. We arrived on Wednesday night, and by Thursday morning we were exploring Hickam Air Force Base and Pearl Harbor, where my sister and her family live (it's fitting that Oahu is known as "the gathering place"). We visited the beach on the base, which was a nice first taste of the beautiful beaches we would see over the following week. My sixteen-year-old nephew complained about how crappy the beach was, but even the crappiest beaches on Oahu beat out the nicest beaches on the east coast. 

Before we left, Mike and I had a loose mental list of the things we wanted to do like drink a pina colada on the beach, jump off a rock into the ocean, hike up a mountain or crater, watch the sun rise and set, eat fresh sushi, to name a few. I can happily say that I feel like I soaked up as much as I could in the time we had there. We're already planning to go back before they're transferred somewhere else.


Where we're headed.

Did I tell you we're going to Hawaii? My brother in law was stationed there this past February, so Mike and I are taking advantage of having family on O'ahu, and we're going for a little over a week, starting today. I'm not the best at planning vacations—my strategy is to play it by ear—but we've been slowly wading through a couple of travel books on O'ahu in preparation. I'm immediately drawn to the history and cultural sections of the books, so while Mike is figuring out which beaches we should visit and where to find the best cliffs to jump off of, I've been filling him in on proper lei etiquette (don't take it off in the presence of the giver as that indicates you're rejecting the giver's affection; don't throw it in the trash, instead, take it apart and scatter the pieces with which it was made back to the earth), and the native Hawaiians' struggle with independence (still ongoing today).

This will be my last post until we get back, but I will bring you back stories and pictures and more freckles than you can shake a stick at. Enjoy these last days of summer; write down what you see, what you feel, what you hear beyond the whirring of your window fan.


Went | Vermont: Sugarbush Farm & Killington

On Saturday we loaded up the car, picked up two friends, and headed up 93 toward Vermont. Usually it's just me and Mike in the car headed some place, but it was a nice change to have Katharine and Konrad along as well. We stopped at Sugarbush Farm in Woodstock, where we sampled almost every cheese they make—ranging from cheddar with jalapeno and cayenne (my favorite) to cheddar with sage and cheddar aged up to 98 months. After following a slightly paved road into the woods, the trees cleared to reveal the largest barn I've ever seen and what looked to be just someone's house. We visited with the horse, goats, chickens, and a month and a half old doe-eyed calf out front, then made our way into the farmhouse where a woman was waiting to cut pieces of cheese up for our enjoyment. It wasn't a fancy storefront, in fact, the tasting happened right where the magic does: vats of coating wax stood alongside the makeshift tasting table. She didn't flinch as we asked for taste after taste of delicious cheese. Then she moved onto the maple syrup, pouring us bits from the lighter, early season syrup to the late season, dark Grade B syrup.

We made our way back into the store area, where we loaded up on cheeses for the night, maple syrup, and more tasting. I opted for a small block of Mike's favorite—cheddar with onion—while Konrad got a sampler of the jalapeno, aged cheddar, and cheddar with sage. There were also $1 bags of cheese ends, so I got some more jalapeno and some cheddar aged 36 months. After our mini lunch, we toured the maple syrup room, walked around the beautiful grounds, and headed out.

Next, we passed through the downtown area of Woodstock for ice cream. The only reason to go anywhere is to try the local ice cream. We walked around a street fair, ate a pulled pork empanada with chimichurri sauce (yumm), fell in love with the town, bought even more food, then ate ice cream. Katharine and I split a cup of salted caramel and a cup of mint Oreo. I was pleasantly surprised that the mint ice cream wasn't green, and we all stood around mm'ing and talking about how ice cream is one of the best things in life (that might've just been me, but nobody disagreed).
That night we grilled up burgers and hot dogs and had a big family style dinner. A couple of the nerds guys had heard about a meteor shower, so we dragged blankets onto the back porch and watched the sky until our eyelids got heavy. 

Can I just say that one of my favorite things to do on vacation is to wake up before everyone else, brew a big pot of coffee, and read on the porch? On Sunday morning, I did just that. Everyone woke up slowly, and we gradually made a big breakfast of homemade cinnamon rolls, scrambled eggs, and cheese toast. After our breakfast of champs, we headed over to Pico and did a mile hike. The trail was just enough to know where you were going, but also made you feel like you were making your own way. This particular stretch made me feel like I was hiking into a storybook...
I love these ladies.
We ended up staying a good three and a half hours longer than we intended on Sunday, rounding out the perfect day with a long sunny lunch at Lookout Tavern (I recommend the salmon sandwich!). Despite the late hour, we took advantage of the free bubble hockey, cheap Buck Hunter and pool table. I'm always surprised at how even a short three-hour drive from home can feel like a much needed vacation. 


Thoughts on a week alone.

I cried when I got home on Sunday night and Mike wasn't here (I mean, not like it was a surprise or anything). I cried because I'd just been on a five and a half hour bus ride after a whirlwind weekend in a city that scares me, with friends I hadn't seen in a long, long time. I cried because it was over and I still had to wait a week to cuddle with Mike and catch up on our weekends apart. But something happened between Sunday night moping and Monday afternoon grocery shopping. I went to Trader Joe's and stocked up on wine and beer and cheese and crackers and came home to watch Gilmore Girls and eat rotisserie chicken and asparagus. I spent my nights cutting sewing patterns and meandering through the library and eating fucking cheese and crackers for dinner if I want with a side of ice cream. And wine. There has been plenty of wine.

You know, this week has been a great recentering for me. It answered the question: what would you do with your time if you had no obligations to anyone else? Even if just for a week. I can't wait for Mike to come home, but this week has reminded me how much I value alone time, how sweet a lamplit, made up bed with two books on it can be. How sitting in silence or blasting music and singing loudly can be just as much fun alone.

Mike comes back tonight. I've stockpiled movies from the library and we have plenty of fix-ins for meals and snacks for the weekend. I'm enjoying my Friday morning in a quiet coffee shop with my last latte + almond croissant indulgence for a while. I look forward to getting reacclimated to having Mike back, but I'm enjoying these last few moments as well.