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Posts Tagged ‘adventures’

sandals rocks beach

Angles and curves. Rocks and water. Exploring a new beach on a weekend adventure in Rhode Island.

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tulips-public-garden

This week marks five years since we landed in Boston, after a month of so many good-byes (and so much packing) in our West Texas college town, and four days of driving a moving truck cross-country.

We arrived at nearly midnight on day four, parking our unwieldy truck in the driveway of new acquaintances whom I hadn’t yet met (though J had). Our college friends Nate and Abigail, who had moved a month before we did, came to take us to their house, where we crashed in their living room for the night. Abi ran down the sidewalk to greet me, and I nearly collapsed into her arms. We had made it. It was an end, and a beginning.

The next day, we moved into the apartment Abi had helped J find, when he flew up for a weekend to meet his new boss and scout out a place for us to live. Our landlady, Gina, showed us around the empty rooms: creamy walls, wood floors, plentiful windows. “I hope you’ll be happy here,” she said simply.

We never had a set timeline for our Boston adventure. We were hankering for something new after nearly eight years in Abilene (where we met and fell in love and earned our college degrees), and J’s job hunt had foundered in Texas, leading him to cast a wider net. We figured we’d be here for three years or so, till he earned full licensure as a marriage and family therapist (with the necessary hours, supervision and mounds of paperwork), and then we’d see. We moved here knowing exactly three people (all fellow Abilene transplants), and we had not the first clue about what it would be like.

Five years in, I can say with certainty: it’s been a messy, rich, full, glorious adventure. And it has been hard.

We have loved exploring Boston and New England: gorgeous, historic, charming, so utterly different from the Texas plains where I grew up. We have delighted in apple picking, trips to seaside towns, the ease of driving to other states and even to Canada. I have gloried in the bookstores, the green public spaces, the farmers’ markets, the wonders of Harvard.

harvard yard autumn light leaves

Our community here is much smaller than in Texas, but we have made some firm and dear friends. (We could not have survived, in particular, without Nate and Abi, or without Shanna, another college friend who lived in Boston for a while and then moved to Atlanta.)

I am deeply grateful for colleagues and writer pals and the small but tightly knit community at our church, who have been our lifelines over and over. Many of them are fellow transplants, who remember what it’s like to be strangers here, who have walked alongside us as we built a life from scratch in this exciting, frustrating place.

Because Boston – despite its appeal in a thousand ways – is not an easy place to live. It is full of snarled roads and complicated public transport, elaborate parking regulations and surprisingly insular communities. It is hard work to build a life here if you’re not a native, if dropping your r’s and shoveling snow don’t come naturally. It can be lonely and isolating, and for a good chunk of each year, it is cold and snowy. We miss our families, the soul-deep friendships we left in Abilene, the spicy Tex-Mex food that doesn’t seem to exist up here (outside our own kitchen). Our life here is rich and lovely, but it has never gotten to easy.

I get asked a series of related questions often: What brought you to Boston? Where did you live before? Do you think you’ll go back to Texas one day?

The answers to the first two are simple: a job and a new adventure; West Texas (and Oxford). The last one is more complicated. We’ve never been sure how long we planned to stay, and we’re still not sure. Three years after I wrote about being in the middle of our time in New England, we are still there. We knew when it was time to move up here – trusting our instincts and taking the leap – and I believe we’ll know when it’s time to go.

The gift, and possibly the lesson, of this time in Boston has been to pay attention: to accept the gifts of the present moment and not get too caught up in wishing for what was, or what may be one day. The constant challenges of living here are an ever-present reminder to be here now. We may not stay forever – and every winter I wonder why we moved here at all – but we are here now. This is our life. And it is challenging – and good.

Happy five years, Boston. We are grateful for all your gifts. And we’re not done with you yet.

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Recently, my friend Abigail had two questions for me: “What are you doing this weekend?” And “Do you want to go to Maine with me?”

Abi’s co-worker and friend, Lisa, was getting married in Maine, and Abi and her husband had planned to go, but then he couldn’t get that Saturday off work. She really wanted to go, she said, but she wasn’t eager to make the four-hour drive alone. Would I be up for a one-night getaway to a tiny Maine town, complete with an outdoor wedding?

I was.

abi katie harbor

Abi and I have been friends since our college days in Texas, when we sang in our school choir and on our church’s praise team together, along with the men who would become our husbands. (Together, the four of us make a perfect vocal quartet. She’s a soprano married to a bass; I am an alto married to a tenor.) They moved up to Boston about a month before we did, and I am constantly, deeply grateful for the presence of a longtime friend in a city that still feels new and overwhelming at times.

Bonus: she’s available for fun adventures like this one.

We left on Saturday morning, whiling away the miles with conversation. (We can talk for hours, and do, when given the chance.) We reached our hotel just after 2 p.m., and after a flurry of check-in and clothing changes and primping, we hopped back in the car and headed down a few country roads to the farm where the wedding was being held.

We arrived at 2:55, a little nervous because the wedding was supposed to start at 3. But we needn’t have worried: we had ample time to hang around, drinking lemonade from mason jars, before the ceremony finally started around 3:30. (It was, shall we say, a laid-back affair.)

abi katie wedding

We hung around in the wedding tent (above), enjoying cold hors d’oeuvres, then dinner, and some serious dancing. The party was still revving up when we left – but we were ready for a girls’ night in. We changed into pajamas and flipped through InStyle magazines and talked until midnight. And in the morning, we headed out to explore Camden.

downtown camden maine

We enjoyed breakfast at Boynton-McKay, which included buttermilk biscuits, a delicious omelet (for me) and steaming cups of Earl Grey (for both of us). Fortified, we spent several happy hours strolling downtown, poking into adorable shops.

We visited three bookstores, including Stone Soup, a tiny rabbit warren of used books:

stone soup books exterior camden maine

stone soup books interior camden maine

Abi (who teaches preschool) was ecstatic to find the children’s section:

stone soup used books camden maine

She bought a couple of picture books. I scored a vintage E.M. Forster hardback and a Trixie Belden mystery – I used to love reading about Trixie’s adventures with Honey, Jim and the rest of the Bob-Whites.

After visiting Once a Tree (where I bought a gorgeous, Maine-made wooden cutting board), we headed down a side street for some harbor views:

camden maine harbor boats

We couldn’t pass up the Owl & Turtle Bookshop, with its hilarious sign out front:

owl turtle bookshop sign camden me

And its animals keeping watch over the door:

owl turtle bookshop sign camden maine

The interior is also charming:

owl turtle bookshop interior camden maine

We grabbed some sandwiches (and a blueberry crumble bar) at Fresh Bakery, and then, regrettably, it was time to hit the road.

We hit some heavy traffic on our way back – it took us an hour more than the trip up – but we chatted and snacked and laughed our way back to Boston. We felt the way you feel after the best road trips: tired and hungry but content, sated with sunshine, good talk and the glow of a weekend adventure together.

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To celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary, J and I hopped in the car for a long weekend on Cape Cod. The weather was mostly grey and rainy, but we managed to have a wonderful time anyway.

We stayed at the beautiful Ashley Manor in Barnstable:

ashley manor front

ashley manor living room

Our hosts, Vince and Pat, were so friendly and helpful (and they cook a delicious gourmet breakfast). Pat even showed us the house’s secret passage, which was used to hide Tory sympathizers during the American Revolution. (The original house was built in 1699.)

We spent Friday afternoon and evening wandering around Hyannis (kitschy but fun), catching a movie (Monsters University – we loved it), then enjoying seafood at the Black Cat. (Yum.)

black cat clam chowder hyannis ma

We wandered around Barnstable Village on Saturday morning, stopping for chai at Nirvana when it started raining:

nirvana coffee co barnstable ma

Of course, we visited several bookstores: Tim’s Used Books in Hyannis, Mary’s Bookstore in East Sandwich (where we chatted with Mary, who is adorable); Titcomb’s Bookshop farther along the same road; and Parnassus Book Service in Yamourthport. So many wonderful books.

parnassus book service cape cod

There was miniature golf on Saturday afternoon:

jer mini golf

And some delicious Italian food at Alberto’s on Saturday night. This is zebra striped lobster ravioli:

zebra striped ravioli

We finished it off with ice cream at Katie’s:

katies ice cream hyannis ma

Sunday morning found us on a marshy beach in Yarmouth:

grays beach marshes

We watched people fish for tiny crabs (with pieces of raw chicken tied to strings) and enjoyed the, ah, ocean breezes.

k & j grays beach

We ended our trip with lunch – and scones – at the Optimist Cafe in Yarmouthport:

optimist cafe scones yarmouthport ma

All in all, a perfect getaway with the man I love.

k & j ashley manor

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Recently, J and I hopped down to New York for a long weekend. I didn’t visit the city for the first time until about three years ago, and I find it endlessly alluring, no matter the season. It’s fast-paced, but there are pockets of quiet even in such a teeming metropolis. And there are a seemingly infinite number of historical landmarks, dazzling theatrical shows, delicious restaurants, fascinating bookstores, charming cafes…the list goes on and on.

We rented a lovely little third-floor walk-up apartment in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, complete with wee kitchenette (and teakettle!):

teakettle stove kitchen

On our first evening, we wandered the neighborhood and visited, among other spots, the Greenlight Bookstore – a light-filled space packed with fascinating books of all genres. (I snagged Ruta Sepetys’ new novel, Out of the Easy – wonderful young adult fiction set in 1950s New Orleans.)

greenlight bookstore brooklyn

greenlight bookstore interior brooklyn

After some (rather disappointing) Italian food, we headed to the Chocolate Room in Park Slope, because chocolate cures many ills:

chocolate room brownie sundae

That’s a delectable brownie sundae, and we both ordered hot chocolate to go with it.

chocolate room spiced hot cocoa

Warm and woozy from our dessert coma, we headed back to the flat and fell asleep.

The next day, we did a “vertical tour” at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, in Morningside Heights near Columbia. Madeleine L’Engle, my heroine, was the librarian there for many years, and I’ve always wanted to see it.

st john the divine cathedral nyc

We walked up (and up and up) a staircase that took us to the top of a buttress, eye-level with gorgeous stained-glass windows, and eventually up to the roof:

st john stained glass

After a stroll through Columbia’s campus, we settled on lunch at Deluxe, which we finished by splitting a strawberry milkshake:

milkshake

We then headed down to the Upper West Side, popping into Book Culture on West 112th on the way:

book culture shop interior nyc

A chill wind and tired feet led us to stop for tea and a muffin at Arte Around the Corner:

NYC 069

Refueled, we wandered over to the Museum of American Folk Art near Lincoln Center (a fun, quirky little find), then ate some delicious Indian food on the West Side and bought a few Insomnia Cookies to take back to the flat.

Sunday morning found us wandering the Brooklyn Flea, housed for the winter in the beautiful old Williamsburg Savings Bank building:

brooklyn flea nyc interior

Then we met our friends Duncan and Allison for brunch at Whym in the West Fifties. This was my choice – mixed-berry stuffed French toast, with raspberry curd. Heaven.

NYC 077

We spent the afternoon seeing The Mystery of Edwin Drood, a hilarious musical adaptation of an unfinished Dickens murder mystery. The audience gets to vote for the killer! Campy and fun, in the style of Clue. Afterward, we headed to The Little Pie Company for fresh berry pie and tall cups of tea.

NYC 082

The wind had kicked up by then – it was too cold to walk around, but we weren’t hungry for dinner yet. Allison suggested the Harry Potter exhibit at the Discovery Center in Times Square. It’s a little pricey, but such fun for Harry Potter nerds – it showcases props and costumes from the Potter films, including Quidditch gear, robes and wands, Hermione’s textbooks, several Horcruxes, and a huge glass case of sweets from Honeydukes and Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.

hedwig harry potter nyc

We shivered our way down to Don Giovanni’s for some yummy pizza, a glass of sangria, and some truly delectable chicken noodle soup, with spinach and tomatoes. Perfect for the bitter weather.

Our bus left on Monday afternoon, so we spent a leisurely morning strolling Park Slope (popping into cafes for tea when it got too cold). An utterly charming New York weekend. (Though I hope the weather’s warmer next time I go.)

brownstones brooklyn nyc red

What are your favorite NYC spots, if you’ve been there?

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Practically since we moved here, J and I have been intending to visit Newport, R.I. It’s only an hour south of our house, but for some reason we’d never made it there. Until a recent Saturday afternoon, when we decided to take advantage of the autumn sunshine and hopped in the car.

It was lunchtime when we arrived, and after wandering a bit, we settled on lunch at the Gas Lamp Grille, which was clearly still in the Halloween spirit:

gas lamp grille pumpkin newport rhode island

Our meal began with cups of delicious clam chowder, spiked with cayenne pepper:

gas lamp grille clam chowder newport rhode island

Mmmm. I could have eaten a tureen of the stuff. (Not pictured: warm pear salad with cranberries, walnuts and raspberry vinaigrette, J’s burger, and my spinach and garlic pizza. Amazing.)

Needing to walk off our lunch, we decided to hike up to the famous mansions on Bellevue Avenue, and we passed this darling place on the way:

flower cottage gate roses newport rhode island

(It’s currently on the market, but I’m sure it’s still way out of my price range.)

We toured the first mansion we came to, which happened to be the stunning Chateau-sur-Mer:

chateau sur mer newport rhode island mansion tour

No photos allowed inside, sadly, but the house is full of hand-carved Italian woodwork, lovely old books in leather bindings, hand-painted walls and ceilings, ornate furniture, valuable silver and china…it’s like Downton Abbey, the American version (and dates from roughly the same era).

We walked back downtown after that, and saw this funny (and rather unfortunate!) sculpture:

waves feet sculpture ocean newport rhode island

It was growing dark (and chilly) by then, so we ended our afternoon with cups of chai at the People’s Cafe, and drove home tired, but happy.

I love our jaunts to New England towns, but it had been a while since we’d played tourist in our own neighborhood, so to speak. I so enjoyed hitting the road with my love and seeing a new, interesting place together.

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Because birthdays call for a little extra pizzazz.

Because booking a room at a B&B and taking off in the car is one of our favorite ways to relax, unwind, explore a new place, and spend a weekend together without computers, chores, errands or other distractions.

Because we’d wanted to visit Northampton ever since we drove through on our way back from a day in Amherst last fall.

And because we love: bookstores, llamas, homemade ice cream, funky restaurants, charming Main Streets and red-brick college campuses.

We spent two nights at the Starlight Llama B&B, enjoying the lack of city noise and getting to know the resident menagerie:

llamas starlight bed and breakfast

peacock starlight llama bed and breakfast

llama starlight bed and breakfast

Seven llamas, six peacocks, a donkey, three dogs, a pair of emus, two goats, assorted guinea fowl, and a partridge in a pear tree. (Just kidding about that last one.)

We browsed the bookshops (of course!), including Broadside Bookshop in Northampton:

broadside bookshop northampton ma

And we drove up to the Montague Bookmill – “books you don’t need in a place you can’t find!”:

montague book mill books

montague book mill jeremiah

We ate yummy Italian food at Spoleto, delicious curry at the India House, and copious amounts of ice cream, mostly from local legend Herrell’s:

herrell's ice cream katie

herrell's ice cream jeremiah

And we walked around the campus of Smith College (quoting Danny Kaye – “They didn’t go to college! They didn’t go to Smith!” and Bing Crosby’s response: “Go to Smith! She couldn’t even spell it!”):

smith college fountain botanical garden

smith college northampton ma

In short, we had a lovely weekend. Just right for celebrating my favorite man.

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