Little Anne’s Big Adventure, Plus Pete: Part 1

2016 has really taken me places. From Hawaii to North Carolina, with stops in Portland, Rhode Island, Philadelphia and Nashville, I’ve traveled more this year than ever and for that, I’m pretty grateful. I haven’t always appreciated travel in the way I do now, trips to Alaska and Prague were lost on me (due to a. being five years old, and b. being a twerp high schooler) and traveling to the cape has become so comfortable, so familiar, that it hardly feels like travel at all. So NOW, with the promise of a money train that arrives on time every single Wednesday morning (i.e. a paycheck) and a very generous vacation policy, the world is quite literally at my fingertips. Travel near or far, is a beautiful thing, whether across the globe or to a neighborhood next door.

All of this of course relevant because I recently returned to Boston from a two part vacation to Nashville, Tennessee and North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains. My brother Pete came, too.  

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Nashville was cool but not necessarily my favorite place in the world. If you’re headed there soon or thinking about it, here are some of my favorite places to eat spots.

  • Five Daughters Bakery: Go here, eat these donuts, thank me later. I never used to really consider myself a donut person, but honestly, I’m not a monster so who am I trying to foimg_6582ol? I’m a donut person. Donuts are good and these shouldn’t even be in the same category as your average donut. The 12 South location was just a block or two away from our Air BnB, so I was lucky enough to be the first in line on a quiet Thursday morning, opting for the sea salt chocolate frosted and a coffee from across the street at Frothy Monkey. I took a video of the experience aka me eating a donut on a sidewalk by myself, cause I literally couldn’t wait to eat it, and if you missed that, well I’m really sorry, cause I didn’t save it and it was out of this world. Neon signs, subway tile and a whimsically painted brick wall were icing on the cake, or frosting on the donut, if you will.
  • Martin’s BBQ: It’s too soon to talk about this, the memories hurt too much…still mourning the loss of Martin’s in my life. The corn bread was weird but the beer was good and the everything else was…just…I can’t. Go here, to the downtown location and sit upstairs in the partially uncovered beer hall, at a picnic table near the pit room. You will be so happy and so well fed nad hopefully you will take a selfie with your brother as nice as this one: img_4857
  • Yazzoo Brewery: We stopped here to kill some time before a nearby Darlingside concert (not country, but take a listen because they’re great) in The Gultch and it was fantastic. A really informative tour of the local brewery and good beer. Go here, do this.
  • Hattie B’s Hot Chicken: The line moves quickly so don’t even think about turning img_4773away. Also, hot chicken is HOT, so don’t try to be all tough and fearless. Order medium heat, plus one hot tender, to see what all the hype is about and you will indeed see what all the hot chicken hype is all about. Again, you can thank me later. As far as I’m concerned you can’t go wrong with sides so do your thing and enjoy.
  • Pinewood Social: Cool place, good drinks, v instagrammable, fancy lil’ bowling ally in the back and a good playlist streaming through the speakers (not country). We didn’t eat here so…moving on.
  • Grand Old Opry: Gotta do it! I wish someone had told us how very far outside of the hub of Nashville it is (maps too, I img_4629could have checked a map…) and I’m still not exactly sure what it is or why it’s so iconic (is it too late now to say sorry?) but we celebrated the Opry’s 91st birthday (!!!!) with THE Brad Paisley (sorry, who? jk) and witnessed a “G.O.O moment” with coutry music rising star, Mo Pitney. If that isn’t worth the $30 Uber I don’t know what is.
  • Oh! and Edley’s I almost forgot about Edley’s: Our very first meal in Music City, nestled right in the heart of 12 South, where we (aggressively) ordered a heaping plate of BBQ nachos, 3 carnitas tacos, a pulled pork platter + sides and sweet tea and bourbon x2. It was wonderful, maybe even equally as good as Martin’s, and a very good way to start the trip.

Nashville is a great place for eating and Pete and I like to eat so the above list should come as no surprise to many of you. We opted mostly for good food, completely bypassing the country music museums, hall of fames and historic venues (aside from the Grand Old Opry) and most times, we could be found discussing dinner plans before lunch time. Neither of us country fans, despite a childhood filled with Willie Nelson, George Strait and Garth Brooks from dad’s car stereo, the fame of Nashville was a little lost on us. That said, we did explore the Vanderbilt campus, mingled with locals at a Penn State game watch and peddled a pedi-tavern near the Country Music Hall of Fame, so I mean, it wasn’t img_6583completely lost. You can bet we also hit Loveless Cafe and Biscuit Love (order the Bonuts, skip everything else. Jk order everything else, too) and a few honky tonks on Broadway, Acme Feed and Seed, a favorite for some good tunes (again, not country) and some kind of delicious frozen beverage available on the roofdeck. We drank beers and Bushwacker at Winners and Losers, downed some classic, southern Pickle Backs and ate as much fried chicken and biscuits as we could possibly handle (which ended up being slightly traumatizing so maybe quit while you’re ahead on the fried chicken and biscuits).

We were pretty ready for some wholesome, fresh air fun in the Smokies by the time our days in Nashville came to an end.  More on that next time. Go book you flight to Nashville and eat some extra BBQ ribs for me.

 

 

on change

Let’s pretend you’re reading this in the beginning of September, because that’s when I wrote it and forgot about it until now. I hope a lot of it still applies, I think it does. 


Tonight I went to yoga. This morning I had a moderate panic attack.

Let’s rewind.

I’m a summer girl, through and through. You’re like, ok tell me something I don’t know. Summer is an escape. Always has been, always will be. In high school I fled for the Bay State as soon as the clock struck 2:10 on the last day of school, leaving everything and everyone in my wake. For three all-too-short months, I beached it up, worked it out, made some money and fell in love, far away from my actual home. For three months or so, I left life as I knew it, poof, gone to Eastham in the blink of an eye, to a place that has always felt much more like home than my actual home.

For three all-too-short months, you  could and always can count on finding me at Nauset Light Beach; down the stairs and to the right, past the second life guard chair. For a few summers, some of the best summers, just beyond the big black rock. Where the cell reception is terrible and the days are endless, you can find me moving my beach chair with the sun, first east towards the Atlantic and eventually, when the day is done, west towards the dunes, watching families pack their things and haul themselves up an unlikely flight of stairs single file, one by one, the day is done.

A lot has changed between now and then. By ‘then’ I mean, those endless yet all-too-short three months of just summer and by ‘now’ I mean, a routine I’ve come to master, 48 hours to soak up the sun, 7 efficient days in the office and as many vacation days as I can spare before the first autumn leaf falls. Between now and then I graduated high school and then college and then began my first job. I moved from my parents house to a dorm room in Philadelphia and from that dorm room in Philadelphia, a home in Boston..err..a few different homes in Boston. I’ve made friends and lost touch with friends and I myself, between now and then have, inevitably, changed.

In the summer I run. Not literally as in feet to pavement, who do you think I am, but figuratively, as in I run from people, from places, from decisions and choices, from responsibilities and electric bills and messy rooms and deadlines and dirty dishes and reality. I run to a place that is familiar, easy and safe and also pretty nice to look at. In this way and many others, I am so very lucky, that’s not lost on me; to have a place that I can run to and somewhere pretty okay to return to (I’m lookin’ at you, City of Boston).

Because when you run, both literally and figuratively, you typically return to the point at which you began. Only now, you’re a bit different. You’re recharged and exhilarated, you’re tired AF and you’re out of breath. You probably don’t feel it right away but you’re stronger now and you know that. For those few miles, you put it all behind you. You’ve been challenged and you’ve changed and when all is said and and done, you’re right back where you started, only this time you’re a stronger, healthier, happier you. You ran away and you came back better.

In a lot of ways that’s what’s happens when summer is over. When you’ve stopped running and you’ve returned right back to the point at which you began. You’re refreshed but you’re tired and, inevitably, you’ve changed. You might not feel it yet, but you need to know it.

And so this morning, September 1st,  I had a panic attack. I feared that change, in myself and in the seasons. The change in my routine and in my surroundings. I didn’t want to face the end of summer and the real world ‘stuff’ that came with it. I wasn’t ready to stop running.

But tonight I went to yoga. I dragged myself away from a very intense season 4 episode of Grey’s and went to yoga. When I started class my mantra was ‘change’ because I knew I needed to face this thing head on. By the end, the word I heard repeating over and over in my head was ‘accept’. ‘Change’ was happening whether I liked it or not. I realized in that class that I wasn’t the only one feeling this anxiety and this looming dread of summer’s end. Everyone seated around me was transitioning too, into new apartments, new jobs; a new season. We all felt change, in ourselves and in our surroundings. Feeling a little bit sad and a little bit excited. A little bit ready for change and a little bit not at all. And all we could do was accept it.

Change is inevitable. Seasons come and go. Fall arrives after summer and we stop running. We walk slow, we watch the trees change color and we burry our noses beneath much too large scarves and bundle up in winter jackets. We are changed and we are better and we accept that the only way to move is forward, until summer begins again, and for three all-too-short months, we can run.

PS I basically never write about food anymore so UOAP needs a new name. How do we feel about Refined Ramblings? ‘Cause basically all I do here is ramble and I feel like I ramble well, therefor, one might say those Ramblings are Refined. Corny? I don’t know. 

Life Lately

I suppose I’m not the only twenty-something who feels like this. Stuck. Complacent. Content. Unsure; a mix of words and feelings that don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. No longer a Recent College Graduate, but still very much navigating PGL (Post-Grad Life, is what the kids are calling it these days). No longer “new” to Boston, but still very much discovering, exploring and growing comfortable in my new home. Independent in the sense that I’m fully capable of lifting my own air conditioner unit and securing it safely (I think) in my bedroom window. Not very independent at all in the sense that I am fully dependent on trains, planes and (my brothers) automobile to move me from Point A to Point B. My job is no longer as glamorous as it once seemed and that New Car Scent-effect that my neighborhood once deceivingly emitted has been replaced by an overpowering stench of garbage, because in Brighton, as it turns out, every day is trash pick-up day.

On weekends I hang out with my parents because they were smart enough to know that a beach house would keep their children close. Although, I’m not so sure how much they welcome the dinner-seeking, laundry-toting visits from yours truly, as of late. When people ask me what I do in my free time, I have no idea what to tell them. I’d like to say something interesting like hike, travel or throw pottery, even running sounds interesting enough. Truthfully, with the under five hours (on a good day) that I’m allotted between leaving the office and crawling into bed at a reasonable hour, I’m nursing my indoor cycling addiction (in a tireless attempt to drop my “college beer weight”), painting my nails in Essie’s newest hue, catching up on The Bachelor, washing an always present pile of dirty dishes or waiting in an obscenely long line of fellow twenty-something’s at Trader Joe’s. None of this exciting, none of it interesting and the Bachelor bit, quite embarrassing to admit. I’m busy, sure but busy doing what, I’m not exactly sure.

Life lately is a balancing act, but isn’t it always? An attempt to nail down a solid “routine”, one that involves doing something productive with the early hours of each day and checking off items on a never ending to-do list by night; pay electricity bill, wash bed sheets, send wedding rsvp; #adulting.

I guess this can only be described in one way; my Twenties. And I guess that means I’m not the only one feeling this funk. I don’t mean that in a bad way. I should note, this feeling includes the fun stuff, too. The unpredictable nights with new friends and the predictable nights with old friends, the work perks, the beach days, the freedom of living on my own, the decline of catty girl-drama and boyfriends, tests, exams and papers. It’s all clumped together, in this very weird, very wonderful way. The world at our fingertips. Each moment, each new experience, mixed together to make up this very ambiguous thing that we call our Twenties. A time in which we, at least I’m assuming we and hoping we, keep plugging along, taking each thing as it comes, never really knowing what happens next, never really knowing just how to react, what to do now, what to say when.

But the thing is we do keep plugging along. We do get by; sometimes tragically and most times triumphantly. We surprise ourselves. We install our own air conditioner units and we learn the importance of a 401k and the daunting task that is “doing taxes”. We grow, we adjust, we change. We move quickly, so quickly, without even realizing it. There is so much to accomplish, so much to become. Sometimes I feel like I’m running from something, running towards something, and all the while standing very, completely still. We keep going. We figure it out. Our Twenties, it seems, while weird and wonderful, are the most integral part in getting us to wherever we’re going. And maybe that explains why they’re so very weird and so very wonderful all at once.

So make them count.

Marathon Day 

It’s Marathon Day! And tradition brings me to Tatte Bakery, this time on the Brookline/Boston border, just a few miles from the finish line. Tradition because on this Monday last year, my first Marathon day as a Boston resident, I headed inbound early to stroll the sleepy city before the runners hit the pavement and ended up at Tatte Beacon Hill for a cup of coffee and a cinnamon bun in the rain. Last year was cold and rainy and I think the marathon was probably sandwiched between snow storms number 3 and 4 but that’s not really what I remember when I think about that particular Monday morning in Boston.

Instead it’s the bright yellow daffodils in their electric blue pots that lined every sidewalk, sat on every stoop and took up space in every shop window and on every café patio, standing tall despite April showers of sleet and snow. I remember not the grey skies but instead, the feeling of comfort and protection that fell over Boston like a blanket, by way of police officers, medical staff and security personnel. I remember the people. So proud of their runners and of this city, their city. In Boston, on Boylston Street, by way of  Cambridge and Hopkinton and all around the world. I remember the tiny handwritten notes sprinkled across every neighborhood, tied up and twisted to fence posts and light poles, “No more hurting people. Peace.” and the pipe cleaner peace signs that freckled every path in yellow and blue reminders of love and strength and resilience. I remember feeling humbled and impressed and so very proud to call this place home, to be among these people, to stand with them and root for them.

That morning I ended up spending more time than I had originally planned in the heart of the city, in typical ‘me’ fashion, strolling the streets solo with no particular route to follow or destination in mind. It was raining and I was cold but eventually I found myself standing in a crowd on Hereford Street sharing an umbrella with a neighbor, watching the runners just before their final left on Boylston. When they say nobody runs like Boston, this must be what they mean. Drenched in sweat and smiles, rain was the very least of anyone’s worries. There was laughter and high fives, big hugs and loud cheers for friends and daughters, dads and strangers. The energy was powerful, exuding from the sidewalk and from the road, despite April showers of sleet and snow.

And so I’ve been here, at Tatte Brookline, waiting for this sleepy city to wake up, watching voulunteers arrive and cheer stations become alive. Lord Huron in my earbuds and sunshine peeking out from behind St. Mary’s Street, just one single ray, just enough to hit my face, the only sunny spot on the patio for now. This years Marathon Day temps are predicted to hit 70, a magical thing in Boston, when winters’ chill is finally thwarted and outdoor seating becomes more sought after than space to stand on the T. It’s a rebirth of sorts, something I imagine the whole city waits for, when winter scarves have lost their cozy appeal and flip flops are begging to replace clunky boots and wool socks. It feels fitting that this magical time happens to arrive on  Marathon Day, providing an added bonus on this so very important day, an extra dosage of good vibes and vitamin D.

There’s something about today that gets me up and out of bed pretty quickly, rain or shine. It’s a mixture of curiosity and excitement and fear of missing out. It feels like part of my duty, as a girl who now calls Boston home, to be here, rain or shine, along the route with so many others in proud of support of everyone running today’s race, in proud support of Boston.

So enjoy today, friends! Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, be kind, be happy, be thankful. Get outside, cheer someone on, be a friend to a stranger. Spring is here and summer is just around the corner. We’re almost at the finish line.

Little Anne’s Big Adventure

Remember that time in January when I was like “HEY! 2016 is gonna be my year! I’m gonna travel more and go to sleep earlier and blah blah blah”?? Well…one of those things can be checked off the list and it’s not go to sleep earlier. 

I’m back in the office today after an incredible trip to Hawaii, feeling anything less than sad to be back in Boston. Perhaps the post-vacay feels just haven’t quite caught up with me yet and despite 671 unread emails, plus the torrential downpours that welcomed me home, I’m feeling so glad to be back and so grateful for the experience.

My time in Hawaii, at the risk of sounding cliche, was a life changing one. I hesitate to use “once in a life time” because I’m not so sure I’m finished over there. I also hesitate to write this post, unsure that I’ll be able to find the right words to describe my 5 days in paradise, unsure that I’ll be able to do the sights I saw and the food I ate and the people I met, any justice at all. Which is, for me, a new feeling of uncertainty, when experiences can’t be translated into words, no matter how many times you pick-up your lap top and begin to punch the key board. But here’s my best attempt…

Day 1, I arrived on Big Island having successfully survived the flight that everyone said would be unbearable. To all of those people, everyone who immediately launched into horror stories of painful and endless flights to Hawaii, complete with delays, obnoxious in-flight neighbors and bad food, (and let me tell you, it was a lot of people), did any of you happen to like, open your eyes when you stepped off the plane?? I mean really, the endless blue sky, the 50 degree temperature jump, the PALM TREES, the friendly people?! Did none of those things eliminate every negative thought that might have snuck into your mind during your journey to paradise??? What I’m saying is, the flight didn’t phase me one bit and my arrival on Big Island began with an immediate swap from sneakers to flip flops, a quick application of sun screen and lots of pictures snapped of palm trees.

With some time to kill before Brae’s arrival from the East side of the island, I headed into the village of Kailua-Kona, back pack strapped in and rolling suitcase trailing every step. My cab driver dropped me off at a hostel in the center of a small, tourist town. “You’re going inside right?”, I wasn’t. He looked at me quizzically, I shrugged, he smiled and wished me luck and I headed down the street, towards the water. I walked parallel to the Pacific Ocean, in somewhat of a shock that I had finally arrived, unsure exactly of what I was looking for or where I was headed. I stopped at a waist-high stone wall, separating busy sidewalk traffic from the peaceful ocean roar, swung my feet over the edge and rolled my suitcase close by. Surrounded by so many unfamiliar faces, in a brand new place so very far away from home, I found comfort watching the waves roll in, one after another, hitting the shore in the familiar way that they do, whether on Nauset Light or some sandy spot in Hawaii. Groggy from the flight, I sat and watched the surfers for about an hour, feeling a mixture of disbelief, that I had actually booked this trip and made it to Hawaii, and pure elation, that I had actually booked this trip and made it to Hawaii.

Day 1 (my first full day in Hilo) was the only kind of day I had really planned for; a beach day. Beach towel, sunscreen (evidently, not enough) and trashy mags all packed up, we headed to a black sand beach off the coast of Hilo Bay. On this day I swam with Honu, the Hawaiian word for sea turtles, caught a pretty wicked sunburn, and made a new friend. I laid beneath palm trees and didn’t care how sandy I got, which for me, is pretty much the definition of letting go. Beach day started with an acai bowl, a berry smoothie blend topped with coconut, granola, cacao nibs, bananas and berries, and was followed by my first Poke bowl (top 5 best meals I’ve ever eaten…ever). To clue you in, a poke bowl is to sushi, as a burrito bowl is to a burrito…only better. Today was a lot of sun, sand and food, which fulfilled just about all vacay criteria that I had planned this trip around.

Day 2 brought me to a parade in downtown Hilo and to a few massive waterfalls that literally took my breath away.  When I say that a beach day was the only kind of day I was prepared for, I mean that I was 100% unprepared for just about any other activity…and there were a lot of other activities. I scaled waterfalls and hiked across unstable lava rock in brand new flip flops and that one dress I packed, the one dubbed my “luau” dress, that’s still buried somewhere at the very bottom of my suitcase. My freshly manicured  hands clung to rocks and reeds as we made our way up slippery paths through rain forests and waterfalls and my toes stayed perfectly polished despite endless cuts and scrapes. Plus, it turns out, hair straighteners are VERY unnecessary while camping. On Day 4, at the top of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano, it’s peak the highest point in the state of Hawaii,  at a chill 40 degrees, I layered up in borrowed hoodies and warm pants and hiked to the summit, to watch the sun disappear into a layer of clouds that separated the top of the volcano from the rest of the world beneath us. Sharing one blanket and three beers, snuggled up against jagged rocks, the three of us watched the sun go down and the stars come up, marking the beginning of the end of another perfect day.

Days 3 and 4 were my favorite, although I hesitate to use that word just thinking about the events that took place during the days before and after. Each day is completely impossible to rank, all of them blending together to make one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Days 3 and 4 were really great days, filled with so many activities and new experiences, lots of laughs and pure, simple, happiness. Days 3 and 4 felt like one endless day. We began with a roadtrip, from Hilo to Kona, driving roughly 70 miles between two massive volcanos and nothing else. We tried and came very close to taking the road less traveled to a secluded beach but ended up turning around in fear of punctured tires and lost car parts. We watched the sun go down, pitched a tent and a few hammocks and settled in for a night beneath the stars. On day 4 I woke up on the beach, started my day with a very big swig from a water bottle which I realized just after the fact, was covered with ants, and went for a swim in the impossibly blue ocean. On days 3 and 4, I felt really lucky to be alive and so very happy to experience Hawaii with such seasoned professionals and dear friends.

Day 5 was the perfect finale complete with paddle boarding in Hilo Bay and pie! We traveled to the southern most point, stopping at two coffee farms along the way, drank a beer at the southern most bar, ate some loco moco and watched the sun go down while sharing three slices of pie and a bottle of wine. Day 5 was another really great one.

On day 6, my final few hours in Hilo (brace yourselves mom and dad), I missed my first flight home because, well…Hawaii and island time and live aloha, dude. A minor set back in my journey back to Boston that could have been a really terrible end to my vacation but actually turned out to be pretty awesome. It resulted in one bonus hug from my host and dear friend, Brae, an extra 40 minutes in Hilo, a hilarious sprint through the Honolulu airport, busted flip flop and all, and a beautiful view of Hilo’s Rainbow Falls.

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Standing at the gate unable to board my flight, I felt a very calm and unfamiliar feeling of “oh well” mixed with an all too real frantic feeling of “dad’s going to kill me”. There was just something about Hawaii that made peaceful content speak louder that frantic chaos.

If you’re still reading, thanks! I’ll admit, selfishly, I wanted to be sure I wrote this post so that my memories from Hawaii existed not only in photographs and in my head, but also in a very tangible space on the internet. This is probably one of my less exciting stories, I wasn’t too thrilled with the pics (not enough faces and food) and I still don’t believe that my words here do my trip very much justice at all but I am forever grateful for this experience, for the sights I saw and for the people that showed me around, welcomed me into their home and tried so hard to get me to stay forever, dropping me at the airport a mere 6 minutes before take-off…

Without one very special old friend and a few new ones, this trip would not have been anything close to what it was, so endless thank you’s to those guys. They truly put the “BIG” in Little Anne’s Big Adventure and gave me a whole lot of memories that I will cherish forever, and for that I am forever grateful.