Paris is divine. Even more so than I expected.
Paris is divine. Even more so than I expected.
Who doesn’t love coffee? Nobody that’s who. Unless you count people who have never tried it, only tried it once, or lie to themselves on the regular. Because let’s face it, coffee might be the absolute best thing anywhere on this planet.
Now that we’ve established that…
Coffee and I go round and round. I have always been a tea drinker (black tea is right up there with my love of coffee), but it hasn’t been until the last year that I have fully embraced coffee (I blame YOU Le Creuset french press - which I highly recommend by the way). I always told myself that if I turned to coffee there would be no going back. I would be caught in the dragon’s jaw, hanging by my achilles, helpless at the bottom of a crevasse. Black tea was my denial.
I didn’t want to drink coffee because I didn’t want to need it. But it became pretty clear that I needed my black tea in the morning or a serious headache would kick in. So I stopped drinking caffeine for much of last summer. It was fine, I was fine, but it wasn’t great. It wasn’t like I learned to love my mornings in a different way. I just learned to not really wake up and feel peppy until 3pm, if at all. Eventually I went back to my tea.
And then September came along and I was working full time and still in grad school and working on my thesis and the office coffee carafe had a way of never being empty and I had a way of always feeling tired (I wonder why?!). So I quickly became a slave to the caffeine. And I quickly started getting headaches if I got to that coffee machine even one hour later than usual.
Don’t worry, this has a happy ending my friends. Grad school ended, I finished my thesis, and I started getting more sleep. I stopped drinking coffee regularly and started a new habit of beginning my day with a mug of hot lemon water. I am still drinking coffee almost daily, but I don’t drink it at the same time every day, which seems to be the dependent factor in all of this (although drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep seems to be some sort of miracle cure for anything that ails me).
I don’t begrudge you your five cups a day, or your 5pm cup, or even your 10pm cup if that’s how you roll. I’m just glad I’ve sort of figured out how to have my coffee and drink it too, if you know what I mean.
Last spring I was in class (ugh god remember grad school?!) talking with another long distance runner. She mentioned that she was trying to eat less sugar but just couldn’t resist that big bowl of ice cream after dinner, especially on a day she had put in a lot of miles. I mentioned some of the habit changes that have worked for me and she was interested it trying them. Here’s the trick that has worked for me - replace the sweets with food you really like; pretty simple and straightforward.
For the past couple of years I have made an effort to keep frozen berries in the freezer (usually raspberries, something I can’t get enough of). These have become my go to instead of cookies or candy. I can go back for thirds or fourths if I want and it’s still good for me. I also make smoothies and freeze them, which is especially nice in the summer, and an idea my classmate particularly liked as an ice cream replacement.
During the work day I’ve tried to take the same approach of finding foods I love. I snack on things like fancy olives, artichoke hearts, cheese, avocado, and of course, frozen raspberries. A lot of these things I keep at work so that I have them when I’m hungry.
I am not someone who thinks sugar should be completely avoided (I finished the end of a pint of Ben and Jerry’s last night), but it should be had in moderation, in small amounts. I also notice that I’m happier and feel physically better when I’m not eating a lot of sugar. On top of that I pretty much steer clear of calorie-free sweeteners (even Stevia) because I’m not interested in such processed ingredients. To each their own.
If you’d like to cut some of the sugar out of your diet try replacing it with some of your favorite healthier snacks instead. Focus on what appeals to your palate, instead of trying to force down carrots or cashews if they’re not your favorite.
My travels in the past have been sporadic. Three out of the four years I was in high school I went out of the country (Scotland, Germany, Belize). In college I went out to the West Coast for the first time and experienced other states I had never been to (Colorado, California, Missouri, Tennessee). I went over to Europe again (Italy) right around the time I graduated, and after college I experienced a few more new states (South Carolina, Arizona, Pennsylvania), and had another great trip out to California. But from about 2009 through half of 2012 I did almost no traveling. While I still dreamed of all the places I wanted to visit, I forgot how amazing traveling is. I listened to those who said that money was better spent on practical needs, especially while financing my own way through graduate school.
But I’ve always been a dreamer and I’ve always imagined myself soaking up places that feel new and exotic to a first-timer. One of the most important realizations I have come to in my life is how much you can grow and experience when you’re slightly out of your comfort zone. I used to be terrible at that, but with a little practice I have learned to see it for what it’s worth.
My visit to Montreal last summer added another new city to the list and shifted something in me. I’d never been that comfortable having so much time to explore a new, foreign place on my own. I had the opportunity to run up and down those long hilly streets, go food shopping in a small market where no one spoke English, sit out on the patio on a sunny June morning with my breakfast, greeted by the neighbors in French. There were spontaneous, unplanned adventures, which are truly the best kind.
And then two months later I was on the West Coast again, this time in Seattle and Port Townsend. I will never forget that big beautiful mountain and that bright blue moon. But that was it for a while. There were other things to worry about, like finishing grad school, which was important and deserved some focus.
Through all of these trips I have always had dreams of Paris. How could I not? Doesn’t everyone dream of Paris? Even those who have been there multiple times? And maybe it’s cliche to think about, but I have strong family ties to France, and as far as I know no one in my family has been back to the motherland in decades. So there’s also this desire to make the trip because it feels like a sort of pilgrimage. I want to imagine my Nanny and Pappy in their rightful surroundings, Nanny in her starched blue knee-length skirt and white blouse with a little embellishment at the neck, and Pappy in his suit and tie, both white-haired and smiling in front of a stoic French monument as if they hadn’t had children yet, didn’t have responsibilities, weren’t starting to worry about their health.
And so, on a Sunday morning in early November a plan hatched, gently out of its shell. In just over a week I’ll be in Paris. I am filled with excitement and anticipation. I’m amazed at the ability of dreams to come true if you just do it. You make the decision. You save a little money. You shop around. You book something here, something else there. You check item after item off your list. You prepare yourself for what will be unfamiliar. You focus on the excitement. You make glorious plans.
In less than a year I will have been to 3 countries, and what it proves to me is that it is possible to live a life, do the things you need to do, do the things you want to do, save for the important stuff, and still travel. I take comfort in the knowledge that the years ahead hold more travel and more dreams, and those moments when they are realized.
Time to start packing my bags.
The picture I had on my first license was terrible. I had just turned 16 and I hadn’t really started plucking my eyebrows yet. I didn’t know about hair straighteners and it was March and I was wearing a turtleneck sweater. When I last renewed my license I was 21 years old. It was the end of August and I was still putting Sun In in my hair. I was tan. I was allowed to click the photo button, and see myself in the screen. It turned out to be the best picture that has probably ever been taken of me. The kind of picture you look at and think no, that cannot be me. The kind of picture your friends gasp at, the kind of picture that makes the bartender do a double take and ask for back up, because it just can’t be the same person.
I always knew when it came time to renew my license again I would never live up to that picture. Last Wednesday I went to the DMV, and I made a couple of mistakes (aside from not knowing I had to bring my passport or birth certificate). I waited too long to renew it and now that my birthday was days away I had to go. I should not have showered right before, because my hair is at its worst while its drying. I should have gotten more sleep. No one looks their best in the winter; I should have gone in the summer. I should have gone in August.
When I left the DMV Wednesday morning I thought three things: 1) It could have been worse, 2) At least I still have my passport picture (also taken when I was 21 and tan), and lastly?
None of this really matters, at all.
In six years I will be in front of that camera again, changed from the adventures that are eagerly awaiting me, and hopefully a little less concerned about the small stuff and proud of the big stuff.
One of the things I did on my birthday was order seeds for this year’s garden. I am particularly excited about the Pattypan squash, the carrot mix, and the four types of flowers (including nasturtiums and calendula for fancy girl salads).
I’m also psyched about the Beneficials Mix, “comprised of alyssum, bachelors buttons (which grew like wild last summer and filled my apartment with cheerful fresh bouquets every few days), borage, gem marigold (also edible), dill, fennel, caraway, parsley, golden marguerite, ajuga, basket of gold alyssum, and Rocky Mountain penstemon.” This beautiful and useful mix is meant to “attract and maintain a diverse population of beneficial insects to help manage pests in the garden” and something will be blooming from Spring to Fall.
I’m clearly planning on having the nicest raised bed this summer.