Posts Tagged ‘luxuries’

pain au chocolat croissant mimosa brunch

In case you weren’t aware: winter has arrived.

It’s cold. And by cold, I mean snowy and sharp-edged, with slick patches on the sidewalk and bitter wind chills as I walk through Harvard Square in my down coat. (We have, thank goodness, had mostly blue skies this week.) The weather forecast is calling for more snow – though we don’t know how much – this weekend. And I am resigning myself to slogging through my least favorite season.

By now I have all kinds of tricks for coping with Boston winters. (I ought to, after surviving five of them – though last year’s record 110-inch snow totals nearly broke me.) In addition to the totally virtuous ones, like my light box and Vitamin D pills and plenty of citrus fruit, I’m employing another coping strategy: treats.

I’m not a big spender, unless you count plane tickets every so often, or the occasional weekend in New York. But I have a deep and abiding love for small luxuries, and I find them especially important in wintertime. On these days when the sun sets before I leave work and the wind blows my hood back from my face, it’s often these little treats that are saving my life.

The photo above is from New Year’s Day: the hubs and I splurged on a brunch date at Gaslight, in Boston’s South End. We munched pain au chocolat and sipped mimosas and savored our entrees. It felt like a treat, being out in the chilly city together, and trying new dishes to kick off a new year.

This past Monday, I had the day off work (thank you, Dr. King), so I met a girlfriend for lunch at a cozy pizza restaurant in Brookline. We sat in a sunny window alcove, and split a pizza topped with butternut squash and creamy ricotta. Afterward, I had a long browse through the Booksmith, and popped into the Starbucks next door for some chai. The crowning luxury of the afternoon was a pedicure, in a bright coral shade aptly called Snap Happy.

tulips candle dog table

Most of my days don’t have quite that much room for indulgence, but I still manage to slip in a small pleasure or two: a bouquet of fresh flowers for my dining-room table, half an hour with a good book, a morning chai or a mid-afternoon cookie from Darwin’s. Sometimes I take a walk over to the Yard (if it’s not too frigid) to soak in the sunshine and gaze at my favorite buildings. And the electric blanket the hubs bought me a few Christmases ago is a treat when we snuggle down in bed every single night.

How do you treat yourself during the winter?


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scone tea journal l'aroma cafe boston

Periodically, Alyssa (she of the lovely memoir Coming to My Senses and the occasional blog post about perfume and other stuff) tweets a bit of wisdom that sets my brain spinning. The most recent one read like this:

Again and again, it’s the thing that feels like a random extravagance that turns out to be the key to it all.

She was speaking about a trip to New York, taken ostensibly for research purposes, but mostly for the sheer joy of it. While most of my trips to NYC feel like splurges (I am still overawed by the city’s glamour, its variousness, its size and beauty), I realized this is true for me in other instances, large and small.

For instance, my life changed when I started using real, actual Parmesan cheese instead of the powdered stuff from a can. I know. But the powdered stuff in the green can was familiar, and until I started making my own pesto, I had no impetus to buy the real thing. It’s more expensive, but – I know now – infinitely more delicious. I am never going back. (Ditto on the homemade pesto. Beats the jarred stuff by a mile.)

I’ve taken similar leaps and splurged on good shoes, the perfect (natural) face wash (which has done wonders for my skin), and other small, well-made things which have had a tangible effect on my life. But this concept goes far beyond the material or the mundane.

For instance: I did not think I could afford to travel to NYC, by myself, to the Integrate Retreat in spring 2010. It felt like an extravagance to fly somewhere exotic, without my husband, to spend a weekend writing and talking and thinking about creativity. But I had a free plane ticket, and I took a deep breath and splurged on the retreat tuition. That weekend changed how I saw myself, and how I thought about my work. (And I met a handful of lovely women, some of whom I still see around the Internets from time to time.)

chocolate room group

Several years later, it also felt like a random extravagance to hop on a bus to NYC and spend a September weekend with Allison (whom I had not, at that time, met in person). But by the end of the weekend I was newly in love with the city, and Allison and I had gone from Internet pen pals to firm friends.

NYC Sept 2011 118

The biggest extravagance in my life to date (for which, five years later, I am nearly done paying) is the year I spent in Oxford, earning a master’s degree that turned out to be totally beside the point. I was – I am – in love with Oxford, with England, with window displays of bright patterned teacups and warm scones studded with dark currants or golden sultanas, savored at small round tables with steaming cups of tea.

queens lane tea journal table

Most of all, I was in love with the idea of returning to my favorite place in the world, by myself, for a whole year. Although there was no way I could afford it, I applied to graduate school and took out loans and found housemates via the Internet, and hopped on a plane. And it has enriched and informed every day of my life, ever since.

new college quad

There’s a place for frugality, of course, a place for budget spreadsheets and careful planning and bringing your lunch to work instead of eating out every single day. There’s a place for enjoying what you have, for practicing contentment and care-taking, instead of always grasping for the next thing.

But there is also a place, once in a while, for a dazzling splurge, a sparkling luxury that either elevates the dailiness or takes you far outside it. And sometimes, those reach-for-the-stars extravagances illuminate the dailiness in ways you could never imagine.

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1. The perfect chai latte.
2. Inner peace and calm. (Constantly.)
3. The perfect journal – lined, medium-weight pages, a pretty-but-not-twee cover, the right heft in my hand.
4. Delicious, healthy, easy recipes for weeknight dinners.
5. A vintage edition of The Hobbit, to match my Lord of the Rings set.
6. High heels that don’t hurt.
7. Skirts that make me feel as chic as Mary Tyler Moore.
8. Energy boosts during the workday.
9. That snapshot from my grandparents’ wedding – in a drawer somewhere, I’m sure of it.
10. The motivation to organize the filing cabinet.
11. Extra money. (Anyone else?)
12. Ideas for blog posts. (Always!)
13. Uncluttered time to write.

What do you try to find?

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