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Posts Tagged ‘daily life’

august break 2015

It’s already August (how can that be?) and Susannah Conway is hosting her beautiful August Break. I’ve loved playing along the last two years, and I’m excited to participate again.

First up: a red-and-blue weekend breakfast.

cherries toast breakfast

Blackberry sage tea in my favorite mug, toast with butter and blueberry jam, and fresh cherries.

Happy August, friends.

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parnassus cooking travel section bookstore

It took me a long time to realize this, and even longer to admit it. But I am a person easily overwhelmed by too many choices.

Give me a couple of options and I’m fine. English Breakfast or Earl Grey? Chocolate or vanilla? Red or white wine? I can make a quick, painless decision when the options are few. (Chocolate and red wine, always.)

But put me in front of a vast array of choices – booking a vacation rental on Airbnb, grocery shopping without a meal plan, clothes shopping of almost any kind – and I start to panic, then shut down.

I realized this again recently, when I headed to the mall to run a few errands. I only go to the mall about three times a year, but I needed to go to Target, which is attached to our mall. I also had two store coupons that were about to expire, and I was looking for a dark gray cardigan to replace my ancient one.

All of the above were fairly simple transactions. I bought the items on my list at Target (though I still spent more than I intended to), used one store coupon and decided to toss another, and searched for a gray cardigan (to no avail). The overwhelm set in when I decided to do a little extra browsing – and couldn’t find anything I liked.

strawberries

I love browsing and having a ton of choices in a few specific settings: the farmers’ market, the library, the bookstore, the florist. Mostly because I know that a lot of the available options are things I will definitely love. (This is one reason I love a good series, literary or otherwise: it eliminates decision fatigue.)

At my favorite stores, it’s easy for me to zero in on what works. I enjoy consignment shopping because the options aren’t endless (and I can look for my favorite brands). I can also shop with a few specific items in mind. But a department or big-box store with too many choices is a recipe for disaster.

I do like to try new things: a different style of dress or shoe, a new flavor of ice cream or (nearly always) a book I haven’t read. But it’s amazing how helpful this bit of self-knowledge has been.

Sometimes, when I’m faced with a dizzying array of choices, it helps to narrow them down: to choose from four flavors of frozen yogurt instead of 20, or limit my shopping to one or two stores. I can usually find what I’m looking for, and I’m left feeling much less frazzled.

Of course, there are some things I never get tired of buying, and sometimes the decision-making is part of the fun. But for those times when it’s overwhelming, I’m doing my best to remember: narrow the choices.

Do you struggle with decision fatigue?

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stripes silver flats

Summer, as I keep saying, is in full swing around here. And while I am loving the chance to wear skirts and sandals as I hang out in Harvard Yard or walk to the farmers’ market, I’ve also had a few Big Meetings lately. Between the heat, the humidity and the importance of said Big Meetings, I’ve found myself facing an all-too-familiar dilemma: what to wear?

I am not what you would call a fashionista. I grew up taking fashion advice (sometimes gracefully, sometimes grudgingly) from my trendy mom and sister (and borrowing their clothes). I still inherit hand-me-downs from either Mom or Betsy on my occasional trips home. (Those pieces often end up becoming my favorites.)

One of the things I love about working in higher education is its mostly-business-casual dress code. I do not own a suit, and I wear heels about three times a year. In the winter, my style uniform is a snap: a dress or a sweater-and-pencil-skirt combo with tights, my knee-high black boots or booties, and one of my many scarves. But summer is too hot for leggings and boots – and I struggle to feel like myself in pantyhose and blazers. So I’ve spent a little time lately figuring out my version of summer power dressing.

I suppose it’s no surprise that some of the elements I love year-round – stripes, cardigans, my favorite “brave” necklace, the silver hoop earrings I wear every day – figure into my summer power outfits. I’ve splurged on a couple of “dressier” dresses and dusted off my one pair of not-too-high black heels (though I carry my silver flats in my bag). I’ve spent more time ironing lately than I have in a long while. And I’ve remembered – again – that the most important element is confidence. I don’t need to buy designer clothes or rush out and buy a suit. I simply need to look – and feel – like the most polished version of myself.

What are your tips for summer power dressing?

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pool view lounge chairs

When I was a kid, summer meant long, sun-soaked, chlorine-scented days at the local pool, where my mother flipped through magazines on a lounge chair and my sister and I turned flips and did handstands and tried all kinds of tricks off the diving board. (I never did learn to dive properly, but I could do cannonballs and jackknifes with the best of them.)

We slathered on sunscreen and let our toes get pruney from staying in the water for hours, usually until Mom called us out to eat lunch or an afternoon snack. On the weekends, my dad would go with us too, and we’d take turns riding on his shoulders or playing keep-away with a squishy Koosh ball. Once or twice, my sister’s blonde hair developed grass-green streaks from all the chlorine, and we all sported serious tan lines, despite all that sunscreen.

I don’t get much time by the pool these days, for various reasons – chiefly the demands of work and other obligations. But earlier this week, I drove out west of Boston to visit a friend who works at a health club. Its campus boasts two large, beautiful outdoor pools, and I lounged by one of them (in the shade) until she was free to join me for lunch.

book magazine poolside reading

I’d brought plenty of reading material: in addition to the novel and magazine above, I’ve been rereading To Kill a Mockingbird (again). Mid-morning, I bought a plastic cup of lemonade from the snack bar, sipping it as hazy clouds drifted across a pale blue sky. I listened to the splashes and squeals of kids playing, the rhythmic sloshing of adults swimming laps. I remembered those long-ago carefree days, when summer stretched out before us, sparkling like the summer sunlight on the water.

Just for a few hours, I had nothing else to do, nowhere else to be. It was a rare, quintessentially summery treat.

Do you get to hang out by the pool in the summertime?

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strawberry popsicle

The long, lazy summer days are finally here – but they’re slipping away alarmingly fast. It’s been a while since my last “right now” post, so I wanted to take stock of what’s happening around here in this season.

Right now, in mid-July 2015, I am:

  • starting many mornings with the Yoga Studio app and then a cup of ginger peach (or blackberry sage) tea in my favorite cobalt blue mug, a souvenir from the Ground Floor many summers ago.
  • listening to the You’ve Got Mail soundtrack (still so good), construction noise outside my apartment windows, and lots of Taylor Swift.
  • hanging out at Darwin’s a few times a week, writing and people-watching and drinking (more) ginger peach tea.

darwins cafe cup

  • making anything for dinner that doesn’t involve turning on the oven: pasta with fresh veggies, pita wraps with hummus, chicken burritos, zucchini quesadillas, a few salads.
  • eating all the summer fruits I can handle. (The berries are back at the farmers’ market, and I am one happy girl.)

strawberries

  • scheduling “coffee” dates which are really lemonade or fro-yo dates. (It’s hot!)
  • spending Sunday nights in Ryan and Amy’s backyard, where we grill various meats (and pineapple), eat guacamole and fruit and ice cream, watch the kids run around, and pet Telly, the world’s sweetest dog.

sunday night backyard

  • snuggling my friends’ new baby, Evie, whenever I get a chance.
  • loving the flowers of summer – peonies, Gerbera daisies, sunflowers. (My friend Kate says you can chart the seasons by the most popular flowers on Instagram. It’s true!)

peonies

  • walking along the Charles River Esplanade about once a week. It’s green and gorgeous down there, and I am always watching for ducklings.
  • wearing dresses and skirts during the day, shorts on the weekends, sandals and comfy flats all the time.

stripes silver flats

  • watching a little Modern Family with J and an occasional episode of Veronica Mars by myself.
  • reading lots of great nonfiction – Mission High, Consider the Fork, Between You & Me – and a stack of mysteries.
  • drinking gallons of lemonade.
  • savoring lots of ice cream. We are recently obsessed with Talenti gelato.
  • thinking about another getaway with the hubs, maybe in August.

What are you up to right now?

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Seven years

katie jer beach san diego

Yesterday we celebrated seven years of marriage.

It feels like a lifetime (especially since we have been together for nearly 12 years) and a moment, all at once.

We met when we were 18, started dating when we were 20, got engaged at 23 and married at 24. Together, we have weathered most of our undergrad years (in the same town), graduate school (5000 miles apart), a cross-country move, multiple job changes in Texas and Massachusetts, and (most recently) a record-setting New England winter. We have welcomed new nephews and a niece, mourned the loss of friends and family members, served on worship and ministry teams at two very different churches, and traveled to (so far) four non-U.S. countries and multiple states together.

I keep returning to Lindsey’s words from last summer: “Marriage is about abiding. It is about remaining near.” As our careers and other obligations pull us in different directions, the constant work of marriage is to stay near to one another, to pay attention and take care of each other and be kind.

My mother once told me she married my father because he was the kindest person she had ever met. I am glad to be married to a man who is also deeply kind, who is funny and handsome and musical and hard-working, who makes me laugh and whose eyes light up when he sees me.

Happy anniversary, love. Here’s to many more.

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harvard yard memorial church view

It’s summer – peak tourist season in Cambridge. Flocks of visitors, laden with maps, cameras and water bottles, trail around after Harvard student tour guides, who wear straw Panama hats with crimson bands. I get asked for directions at least twice a week.

I admit I tend to roll my eyes at tourists who stop dead in the middle of the sidewalks, but I have a little more patience for their directional queries. Navigating Harvard can be…complicated.

lowell house tower

Harvard reminds me, in so many ways, of Oxford: a storied university set right in the middle of a bustling town, with wrought-iron fences, hidden green quads and elaborate carvings on the corners of buildings. People come to both places and say, “Where’s the university?”

The answer seems like a cop-out, but it’s the truth: “All around you.”

sever hall harvard

Nearly every spire you see in the Square – with the exception of a few churches – belongs, or once belonged, to the university. Some of the undergraduate Houses are marked by colors: blue for Lowell, jade green for Eliot, gold for Adams.

memorial hall harvard

Memorial Hall (above), adjacent to Harvard Yard, invites frequent comparisons to Hogwarts, while Memorial Church’s spire reaches toward the sky, tall and white and proud. Many brick buildings around the Square – and a few modern glass-and-steel ones – are also part of Harvard.

But the heart of it all – and the place where I usually direct tourists – is the Yard.

harvard yard autumn light leaves
Harvard Yard is technically two green spaces: Old Yard, surrounded by red-brick freshman dorms and featuring the statue of John Harvard, the university’s namesake; and New Yard, bordered by Memorial Church and Widener Library, the College’s main (imposing) library. In the summer, brightly colored metal chairs dot the grass in Old Yard; in the fall, the trees in both Old and New Yard are a kaleidoscope of vivid autumn leaves.

Even though my office is two blocks away, on the campus of the Graduate School of Education, I come back to the Yard over and over again.

This patch of ground is where undergraduates live during their first year at Harvard College, and the site of President Faust’s office (in Massachusetts Hall, the oldest extant building on campus). New Yard, renamed Tercentenary Theatre when the university reached that milestone, is where the Commencement exercises take place every year. Beginnings and endings, all tied up together.

widener library harvard convocation

I’ve loved working at the Ed School, a little removed from the bustle of the Square – but I also love walking over to the Yard, to feel a part of the life that travels through it every day. I love to sit on the steps of Memorial Church, my back against one of its wide wooden pillars, or perch on the steps of Widener Library, watching the constant traffic flow: tourists and students, faculty and parents.

widener library view harvard

The Yard makes me feel a little closer to the 379 years (and counting) of Harvard’s history. I never get tired of coming back here, feeling the pulse of history under my feet – and watching the future take shape right in front of me.

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