Posts Tagged ‘vacation’

idaho view boise mountains treasure valley

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself on a westbound plane, traveling way past my usual west Texas destination. Some beloved friends of mine moved from Boston to Boise last spring, and welcomed their second daughter right after Christmas. So I hopped a plane to the “big sky” country and spent several days soaking up time with my dear ones and exploring a brand-new place.

abi katie boise state house

Abigail and I, and our respective husbands, have been friends since our college years. We all – plus our friend Shanna – moved to Boston together in 2010, and the five of us got one another through that first difficult year (and snow-covered winter). I’ve missed Abi dreadfully since they moved, and we hardly stopped talking the whole time I was there.

We spent an afternoon wandering downtown Boise: visiting the Capitol (above), Goldy’s for a delicious brunch, Rediscovered Books for copies of the new Flavia de Luce mystery, and Snake River Tea for some afternoon caffeine.

rediscovered books boise bookstore interior

Of course, a main object of my visit was meeting this little lady.


Miss Genevieve is a sunny little thing – happy to snuggle or just hang out, and fascinated by her big sister, Evie. We had lots of cuddle time while watching the Olympics, and I think we’re going to be friends.

On Saturday, Abi and I drove with the girls up to Table Rock, high above Treasure Valley, where Boise sits. It was cold and windy – more so than we expected – at the top, and Genevieve was not impressed. (Poor baby girl.) But once Miss E adjusted, she was fascinated by the views and the rocks. “I want to go to the edge!”

katie evie table rock wind

We all had a delicious dinner at Fork that night, and we spent most of Sunday out in nearby Caldwell, where a lot of Abi’s extended family lives. I’ve known Abi’s parents for years, and it was so fun to see them and slide right back into the cheery family chaos at their house. I loved seeing Abi’s sister Bailey, who is my friend and a former student, and meeting a few other relatives I’d heard about over the years. Also: white chicken chili + Olympic speed skating + cheesy jokes from Abi’s dad, Allen = feeling right at home.

It wouldn’t be a Katie-and-Abi weekend without lots of tea. This was Sunday afternoon: Earl Grey, of course. We both love it, but Abi is an Earl Grey connoisseur.

afternoon tea teacups tray

There’s a little park around the corner from Abi and Nate’s house, and I went for a couple of runs there. It was my first time running in high altitude (Boise is about 2,700 feet above sea level), which was a challenge. But I loved the mountain views and the pink sky.

boise park pink sky pond

Mostly, it was so good to be together: washing dishes, cooking dinner, watching the Olympics, talking and talking and talking. We folded laundry and made scones, and Evie climbed into my bed to cuddle on a couple of mornings. Nate gave me the tour of his workplace and we traded stories about work and church and classes. And Abi and I talked about nearly everything under the sun.

I’d never imagined myself hopping a plane to Boise. But after this visit, I can say for sure: I’ll be going back.

abi gen smile


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halifax harbour j k

After our glorious five nights/four days in PEI, the hubs and I headed to Halifax for the weekend. We’d never been there, and we thoroughly enjoyed checking out this smallish, vibrant city on the water.

halifax harbour dusk

I’ve said it before: on vacation, we like to wander and we like to eat. That is exactly what we did in Halifax, for two days.

We arrived on a Friday afternoon, checked into our Airbnb apartment, and immediately went a-wandering. We found the Halifax Common, and a few streets away, DeeDee’s ice cream.


(J’s berry-swirl ice cream happened to match his polo.)


I had raspberry passionfruit sorbet, which is as tart and delicious as it sounds.

We strolled the neighborhood a while longer, then drove down to the waterfront that evening for dinner at the Bicycle Thief.

bicycle thief sculpture halifax

While we were waiting for our reservation (it was crowded), we walked along the harbourfront. Live musicians, food trucks, cool old ships, and lots of families out enjoying the lovely evening.

ships halifax harbour

When we did have dinner, it was delicious. I had a truly amazing lobster-corn chowder with new potatoes and bacon. (Also: their bread is focaccia and it’s homemade. Yum.)


We sat outside, and the view was as fantastic as the food.

bicycle thief restaurant halifax

We wandered around town in the long dusk, and split a decadent chocolate torte with raspberry sauce at the Middle Spoon. I could not get a good picture, but it was scrumptious.

The next morning, we headed to Annie’s Place for breakfast.

annies halifax

Annie herself welcomed us, and we had huge chai lattes (not that either of us were complaining) and excellent eggs, bacon and toast.

We spent most of the day exploring after that. First up was Woozles, an utterly charming children’s bookstore down the street from Annie’s.

woozles bookstore halifax

We didn’t spot any Heffalumps (or Woozles), but there were plenty of gorgeous books.

woozles interior

We also stopped by Bookmark – I’d been to their Charlottetown store, but enjoyed exploring this location.

bookmark halifax

The Halifax Public Gardens are close by, and they are gorgeous.

halifax public gardens

We’d heard the Halifax Central Library was worth seeing – though, to me, a library is always worth seeing. This one did not disappoint.

halifax central library

We ate lunch at the Seaport Farmers’ Market, then wandered back downtown, popping into more fun shops, including The Loop, a sweet little yarn shop.

loop yarn store halifax

For dinner that night, we ate at 2 Doors Down – really good pub food and local Nova Scotia wines.

two doors down halifax wine list

We weren’t quite ready for dessert, so we spent a while playing board games and eating popcorn at the Board Room Game Cafe. A Canadian friend had told us about this trend – it was so fun.

jer board room game cafe halifax

We capped off the night by splitting a slice of cheesecake at Sweet Hereafter. (It’s J’s favorite dessert.)

jer cheesecake sweet hereafter

We had to hit the road on Sunday, but stopped at Coastal Cafe for brunch first. J’s face says it all. (The huevos were amazing – some of the best Mexican food we’ve had outside of Texas.)

jer brunch halifax

Halifax, you are charming. Cheers!

halifax mural

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pei sandstone cliffs

The shore road was “woodsy and wild and lonesome.” On the right hand, scrub firs, their spirits quite unbroken by long years of tussle with the gulf winds, grew thickly. On the left were the steep red sandstone cliffs, so near the track in places that a mare of less steadiness than the sorrel might have tried the nerves of the people behind her. Down at the base of the cliffs were heaps of surf-worn rocks or little sandy coves inlaid with pebbles as with ocean jewels; beyond lay the sea, shimmering and blue, and over it soared the gulls, their pinions flashing silvery in the sunlight.

“Isn’t the sea wonderful?” said Anne, rousing from a long, wide-eyed silence.

Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery

pei north rustico harbour

On our recent return to PEI, the hubs and I stayed in a tiny village on the Island’s north shore. We were just a few minutes’ walk from the beach in one direction and the harbor (above) in the other. And though we did a bit of driving around the Island (lunch in Summerside one day, dinner in Charlottetown another night), we spent most of our time as close to the water as possible.

“You’ve made a beach bum out of me,” J said recently. I laughed and pointed out that I didn’t do anything: our trips to San Diego and PEI are wholly responsible for that change. The red beaches of PEI’s north shore, in particular, have completely captured our hearts.

pei north shore beach prince edward island canada

The Island’s north shore is quieter than the south; there are fewer towns, more long, unbroken stretches of beach. These comprise plenty of soft red sand (the Island soil contains so much iron that it oxidizes on contact with the air), and an occasional outcrop of sandstone cliffs (as in the photo at the top of this post).

I love visiting both the sand shore and the rock shore that L.M. Montgomery writes about in Anne’s House of Dreams and Rilla of Ingleside, but for spending an afternoon, the sand shore is my favorite. The sky is wide and open, the far red cliffs topped with lush green. As for the Gulf of St. Lawrence, I have to quote Jane Stuart: “I never thought anything could be so blue.”

gulf of st lawrence beach pei

We took a guided kayaking trip around the north shore one night, which was exhausting but wholly enjoyable, and a couple of late-evening walks to watch the sunset. But mostly we sprawled out on the sand with our books, getting up occasionally to splash in the shallows or toss the Frisbee. We came home with sand in the folds of our shorts and tote bags, but I didn’t mind. Those hours on the north shore, walking through the foamy waves and sinking into the sand, restored my soul.

katie pei beach

More PEI photos and stories to come.

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pei north shore beach prince edward island canada

Two summers ago, the hubs and I made a 600-mile drive from Boston, to fulfill a long-held dream of mine: visiting Prince Edward Island, land of (quietly) spectacular seafood and sunsets, and of course, the home terrain of a certain red-haired heroine.

A few weeks ago, we went back. And – I am happy to report – it was as delightful as we remembered.

pei fields prince edward island canada

PEI is gorgeous: it’s a green, quiet, bucolic place, a mix of furrowed red fields and meadows and glimpses of the bright blue sea around every corner. There are charming villages, trim farmhouses, and so many patches of lupines by the roadsides that I was always on the lookout for Miss Rumphius. I was also expecting (naturally) to run into Anne Shirley herself at any moment.

But I think the main reason we were so excited to be back is a little different: PEI is ours.

lupines pei flowers

Most of us, I think, have places like that: a handful of spots on this earth that call to us, that feel completely right. (Oxford is one of those places for me, as you know if you’ve been reading this blog for a while.) There are other patches of ground I really love: the Aran Islands on the west coast of Ireland; the tiny village of Whitby in northern England; Harvard Yard, which I get to walk through all the time. Those places belong to me, though I am usually happy to share them.

But my husband and I also have a few spots that are ours. They speak to both of us in that bone-deep way, sneaking into our souls and filling them with peace. Two years ago, we both fell so completely in love with PEI that when we left, we looked at each other and said with absolute certainty: We’re going back.

Anne wrote a post a while back about choosing to love certain places: how you have to put in a bit of effort to make them yours. The vacation home you return to year after year; the restaurant you visit on special occasions; the coffee shop or bar where you’re known by name. (Once again, my experience with Darwin’s comes to mind.)

In the case of PEI, this means rearranging our schedules and making a 12-hour drive across New England (and New Brunswick, and part of Nova Scotia) to reach a place we both adore. And this time – gloriously – it did feel like ours.

We stayed at the same guesthouse where we stayed two years ago, and our hostess, Patty, came down the steps to greet us with smiles and bear hugs. We revisited a few favorite restaurants: The Mill, Carr’s Oyster Bar, the Blue Mussel. We spent hours soaking up the sun and wading in the shallows on the Island’s red, sandy north shore. And it all felt, not only relaxing and lovely, but familiar. Like coming home.

k j pei beach

I’ll have much more to share about PEI soon. But for now, I will simply say: I’m so glad we went back. I’m so glad we are putting in the effort to make it ours.

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On margin

daffodils dachshund table

Recently, my husband and I took a weeklong road trip to Canada, to celebrate the end of a long, full spring season (at work and at home) and so I could take a break between jobs. We had a glorious time, and I promise I’ll tell you more about it soon. But I’ve been thinking about how I also loved having a few quiet days at home after we came back. My husband headed straight back to work on Monday morning, but I had a couple of days to sleep in, catch up on laundry and putter around the house. I had some margin.

I started my new job at the Harvard Kennedy School last week, and I am thrilled to be back among colleagues I already know, at a place I already love. I’m easing in, with a couple of days at work, a long weekend for the 4th of July, and a short workweek this week. And I am so happy about it – not just because it’s summer and things are therefore a little slower, but because it gives me some margin. Some room. Some breathing space.

I’m a classic type-A overachiever, and I live and work in a culture that prizes hustle. When the occasion calls for it, I can hit the ground running and keep up a hectic pace, for days or weeks on end. That’s what I did during my temp gig at the central Harvard Public Affairs office this spring. Commencement season around there is a maelstrom, and I was right in the thick of it.

But that’s not how I like to operate. When I can get it, I prefer a little margin.

This spring, I jumped straight from one temp gig to another with only a weekend in between. After our lovely weekend on Martha’s Vineyard, it was full speed ahead at work for the entire month of May, while still trying to figure out my next step. And although early June was quieter, it involved a lot of tying up loose ends and handing over tasks and projects to my replacement, before I took my vacation. I haven’t had a lot of margin lately.

I’ve been doing my best to snatch breathing room where I can get it: solo lunch breaks with a sandwich and a book, a quiet evening at home with dishes and a podcast or another book (or three), and in rare cases, half an hour scribbling in my journal after my husband goes to bed. But I’m looking forward to a little more margin in my life this summer. There’s still a lot of change and adjustment ahead on the horizon, but I am hoping for more space – physical and mental – during these long, sunlit days.

Do you find that margin is necessary in your life? How do you make sure you get it?

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marthas vineyard map ma

Recently, the hubs and I hopped on the ferry for a weekend on Martha’s Vineyard. We’d heard a lot about this lovely island off the coast of Massachusetts, but we’d never been there. And – I am happy to report – it was an utter delight.

We drove down to Woods Hole (slightly over an hour from our house) and caught the ferry, which takes about half an hour and afforded us these beautiful views.

ferry view martha's vineyard ma

After landing in Vineyard Haven, we grabbed a late lunch at Waterside Market, which included this delicious clam chowder.

clam chowder martha's vineyard waterside market

The hubs had found us a cottage to rent (via Airbnb), about a ten-minute walk from the center of town.

little lobster azaleas mv

It was clean, quiet, spacious and lovely. (Also: there were resident wild turkeys.)

little lobster cottage martha's vineyard

We spent Friday afternoon strolling Vineyard Haven, which (of course) included a visit to Bunch of Grapes Bookstore. (I want a clock like this.)

time to read clock mv

bunch of grapes bookstore marthas vineyard ma

We also popped into Mocha Mott’s for a snack, and found several kitchen treasures at LeRoux. But the greatest triumph of the afternoon was Island Music, where I bought J a birthday ukulele.

jer ukulele

That evening, we walked down to the Black Dog Tavern for dinner.

black dog tavern vineyard haven marthas vineyard

A wonderful evening: hot, fresh bread; delicious fish and chips; harbor views; and all kinds of cool nautical memorabilia.

katie black dog tavern mv

After sleeping in the next morning, we ate the (delicious) bagels our host had left for us, and caught the bus over to the next town, Oak Bluffs. (The island bus system runs between all the towns, and we found it reliable, clean and affordable.)

oak bluffs harbor martha's vineyard

We had lunch at the Martha’s Vineyard Chowder Company – my second bowl of clam chowder in 24 hours. (Delicious.)

A friend had told us about the famous gingerbread cottages, so we spent a while wandering around among them.

gingerbread cottages martha's vineyard

They began life as tents, then tiny shacks, built by Methodists who came over to the Vineyard for summer camp meetings. The open-air tabernacle is still there, but the cottages have evolved into candy-colored charmers.

gingerbread cottages

After all that walking, we treated ourselves to ice cream from Ben and Bill’s. We did not try the lobster ice cream (yuck!) – but the mint chip (mine) and strawberry (J’s) were delicious.

jer ice cream mv

Later, we rode the bus down to Edgartown, which was mostly still closed up for the season – though the harbor there is also lovely.

edgartown harbor mv

Dinner that night was delicious takeout pizza from Wolf’s Den in Vineyard Haven. Then we walked back to the Black Dog for pie á la mode. As you do.

Sunday dawned grey and chilly, but it was perfect weather for brunch at the Art Cliff Diner.

scone art cliff diner martha's vineyard

Now that is a SCONE. We split it, so we could have room for our main dishes. Mine was the Green Monster: a concoction of eggs, spinach, cheese, salsa and fried tortillas. Yum.

green monster brunch mv

Such a lovely weekend – quiet, peaceful, delicious. A perfect getaway with my favorite guy.

jer katie mv ferry

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katie jer maine view

To celebrate being married for seven years (and because we really needed a vacation), the hubs and I recently took off for a little trip to Maine.

When we go on vacation, we like to wander and we like to eat. (I also like to sleep in and poke into every bookshop I can find. My morning-person, not-quite-so-book-nerdy husband handles both of these things with great patience.)

studio apartment rockland

We rented a tiny studio apartment in Rockland, a short walk from downtown. There was really just enough room to turn around (or snuggle on the loveseat watching Modern Family on DVD), but it was all we needed for a weekend.

rockland maine main street

Mid-coast Maine is full of little towns with ridiculously cute Main Streets. We browsed the shops in Rockland and Camden to our hearts’ content: books, toys, yarn, T-shirts, cool things carved out of wood.

camden maine harbor

The harbor views are stunning.

camden maine public library

We also explored the Camden Public Library, because I cannot resist a beautiful library.

camden maine library interior

We had a delicious dinner at In Good Company, where we shared several small plates: deviled eggs, stuffed peppers with goat cheese, crusty baguette with fancy butter and thin slices of Parmesan.


We also had bowls of gingery carrot-beet soup, and finished with lemon cake drizzled with lemon-thyme syrup.

lemon cake

A little bit fancy and a whole lot delicious.

ocean view mt battie maine

On Saturday afternoon, we drove to the top of Mount Battie, just outside Camden, for some truly amazing harbor views.

jer mt battie view

This spot supposedly inspired Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem “Renascence.”

jer lulus ice cream

Ice cream, of course, is an important part of vacation. The wild blueberry ice cream at Lulu’s, in Rockland, was delectable. (J is enjoying strawberry-balsamic sorbet in this picture.)

Sunday was rainy, windy and cold, but we braved the elements and drove to Belfast to meet our friends Isaac and Katelyn for dinner.

friends dinner

We hadn’t seen them in a year, and we spent hours catching up on our lives, first over cups of tea, then over Italian food and glasses of red wine. The best.

We drove back on Monday (stopping in Portland for lunch), relaxed and so happy after four lovely days together.

selfie mt battie

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