Monday, September 1, 2014

Day 93: How I Spent My Summer

Well, folks, today is Labor Day or, the official end of summer. I can't believe how fast my three months until real life rushed by. And now Real Life is hitting me square in the face: I start my full time job tomorrow. I'm ready and I'm excited. But I will, of course, miss the leisurely life I've led this summer, sleeping in as late as I like, watching all the Bravo and TLC shows I could stomach, taking long walks with Ginger in the middle of the day and spending as much time as possible in Westhampton.

To wrap up the summer, I thought I would take stock of what I did this summer. Here is what I did, in order by how many days this summer I spent doing each activity:

  • Spent time with Shawn
  • Spent time with Ginger
  • Drank wine
  • Cooked a lot of meals
  • Spent time at the Westhampton share house
  • Played Cards Against Humanity
  • Lunch and brunch and dinner and drinks with friends, catching up
  • Went to the beach
  • Went to wineries (in California and Long Island)
  • Went to John Scott's Surf Shack (our favorite restaurant in Westhampton)
  • Ate ice cream
  • Visited California
  • Celebrated our first anniversary
  • Traveled to Florida to visit with the in-laws
  • Learned how to golf
  • Traveled to Newport
  • Took long walks with Lauren around the city
  • Visited Jennifer in Rhode Island
  • Visited Erin in San Francisco
  • Visited Bri and my family in Pennsylvania
I am so grateful and happy that I had the opportunity to spend so much time with so many friends and family members and that I was able to travel literally around the country to see so many people and do so many fun and new things. Sonoma and Napa were incredible, and Shawn and I have definitely decided to return someday soon. Newport was quaint and lovely, exactly what we wanted for our official anniversary celebration, though many other unofficial celebrations followed after on the actual date of our anniversary and beyond.

So, the summer is over which means I'm signing off for now. Maybe I'll find some other way to re-purpose this blog in some way soon.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Day 90: Take Ginger to the Beach

We couldn't spend an entire summer in the Hamptons without at least attempting to bring our dog to the beach once. Dogs are not allowed on most public beaches, but since we started parking at a friend's rental house and using their basically private beach last week, today seemed like the perfect day to bring Ginger to the shore.

We set up a little umbrella tent so she could lay in the shade and made sure that she had plenty of water to drink. Not surprisingly, she didn't go within 50 feet of the ocean...she wouldn't even walk over to the edge where you could see the waves crashing. Despite the fact that she tried on several occassions to eat sand, I think she had a good time.

We only stayed a couple hours, but it was a fun experiment. Maybe next year Ginger can spend a few more days with us on the beach.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Day 89: An Amazing Night of Food and Wine

"You should write about this," Shawn said, gesturing around the restaurant's outdoor patio.

I bristled -- in the way that a writer who has heard that same directive from too many people who have no business offering that advice would.

"This is what I want to remember from this summer," he continued. "This is what I want you to remember. I will forget, so you have to remember for the both of us."

And I agreed, because I knew he was right. I am the record keeper in our relationship. I keep journals and make photo albums to remember our travels and adventures. If I wanted to remember tonight exactly as it was, I was going to have to be the one to write it down.

Tonight was a surprising experience filled with delicious food and incredible wine that neither one of us was expecting when we strolled into Westhampton's fanciest and most in-demand restaurant without a reservation. We managed to effortlessly find two seats at the outdoor bar, probably because it was 7:30 on a Thursday night (though since its Labor Day, the place was still packed and there was no way to get table). We planned to order a bottle of wine, some appetizers and fresh fish entrees, and possibly (most likely) dessert, then head home to our dog where we'd likely open another bottle of wine and fall asleep drunk, full and happy.

But what ended up happening was a seemingly endless parade of delicious, fresh food and surprising wine pairings that were hand delivered to us by the restaurant's manager for no real reason at all. He took a liking to us. We were just a young couple who love food and wine and appreciated the delicacies and flavors he was offering up. It transported us back to our honeymoon in Europe a year ago, and we vowed that no matter the real timing, we would always remember the night as a celebration of our first anniversary. It was that special and unique.

It all started when Shawn wanted to order a bottle of wine. The bartender who was serving us brought over the manager/sommelier. He introduced himself to us and I think he got excited as Shawn described what he likes in a wine, then started telling him about our recent trip to Sonoma (a favorite anecdote of Shawn's when he's talking to people about wine). He brought us our pinot and decanted it for us, then brought us another glass of red, a Bourdeax style from Mt. Etna in Sicily, as our scallops appetizer and cheese plate arrived.

Later, he brought us an effervescent, crisp white and then an extra course -- house made fettuccine in a butter sauce with truffles grated right there in front of us.

Next, we were treated to fresh caught local black sea bass with a delectable kick of lemon zest, accompanied by a light Italian rose.

Eventually, the entrees we had originally ordered arrived and we found some room to eat them -- a big, meaty piece of baked swordfish for Shawn and cod with lobster sauce and mashed potatoes for me.

We polished off our bottle of pinot and ordered poached peach for dessert. It came on top of pound cake and ice cream, topped with tart raspberry sauce. We ate it all in seconds. Then our manager friend appeared with pieces of dark chocolate and dessert wine. We were drunk and giddy; flush with that special feeling of being pampered and treated to the best for no reason at all.

It was a one of a kind evening that we can never hope to replicate. But we were grateful to experience it and to be in the right place at the right time to take advantage of a stranger's gifts and willingness to surprise and delight us. We felt so special and happy, which is exactly what you want from a night out.

This was the first night in Westhampton that we went out for dinner instead of staying home, grilling and drinking wine. I'm not sure another night out can ever top this one, so it's a good thing that we'll probably just stop here.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Day 85: Never Forget

Today I was standing in the kitchen of our share house in Westhampton, cleaning up from breakfast and the weekend and getting ready to go to the beach. The sun was shining, the sky was blue and it was otherwise a normal, beautiful day.

I was alone with Ginger, and Shawn had left his computer on the table, playing a random playlist of songs on Spotify. A song started to play and it made me stop what I was doing. It was a song I have only heard a few times in my life; a song that was popular when my mom was young, which I last heard played as part of a slideshow at my aunt's memorial service two years ago. I don't believe in coincidences, but I do believe in messages from "the other side." Stop reading now if you just rolled your eyes -- I'm about to take this post into Long Island Medium territory.

I believe that the song was a message from my aunt. She picked a quiet time, when I was alone and in a contemplative mood, to send me a little sign that only I would recognize as her saying hello. I don't know why she chose to reach out to me today in that way, but it made me feel her presence with me. It reminded me that she is by my side always, caring for me and my loved ones, watching over us. And, of course, I started crying hysterically. I don't know how to process these memories. I wish they made me feel happy and loved, which is how I think my deceased loved ones intend them, but the pain of their loss is still too fresh. I am instantly filled with an immediate and deep feeling of loss and sadness. I don't know when this will go away. I don't think it ever will. Today, in the middle of a beautiful day in a beautiful house, I cried and cried until it felt like I could never stop.The crying didn't make me feel better, I just kept feeling worse and worse.

I don't go searching from messages from the beyond, but I'm certain they are everywhere. On September 11 every year in NYC, to me the air feels heavy with them. When I was planning my wedding last year, I felt the love and support from my late grandmothers and my aunt all around me, in ways I could not express, but felt comforted by. These feelings make me miss the people who I have lost more, but it helps me to never forget them.

Beach day with my mom, aunt and cousin 20+ years ago

The last time I got a message from my aunt, loud and clear, was at my wedding. That was exactly one year and one week ago today, so maybe that explains why she chose today to send me another message. At my wedding, just a few minutes after Shawn and I exchanged vows, I tripped over the train of my dress and went tumbling down a steep stone staircase. I landed in soft grass with just a couple scrapes and bruises -- I didn't even have grass stains on my dress. It was a miracle that I wasn't more badly injured. I was shaken, but I managed to regroup and I tried to act like nothing had happened. Minutes later, my entire extended family gathered nearby because we were going to take photos together. I looked into the crowd, where all my cousins and aunts and uncles were gathered. Without thinking, I looked quickly for my aunt. Before I could self-correct and remind myself that she is no longer with us, I swear I saw her. Maybe it was the sunset that clouded my vision. Or maybe my adrenaline was pumping and I wasn't thinking clearly. Maybe I saw one of her daughters and thought, for a split second, that it was her.

I was hesitant to share these experiences here, in this public forum. But the truth is, I don't care if you believe me or not. I know what I saw and I know what I feel. I still often feel the presence of my loved ones who are no longer here in the physical world. The next time you find yourself in a quiet moment, take a deep breath and listen closely to the world around you -- and you might feel a message from your departed loved ones, too.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Day 81: Embrace The Sweat Stains of Life

I'm hard on myself. I expect nothing less than perfection -- I always want myself to be happy, fulfilled, loved and skinny; to look chic and put together; to live up to my potential; and to make the most of the gifts that have been given to me. It's exhausting. And the standards I set for myself are impossible. So if I expect the impossible of myself, then I am setting myself up for failure. Every. Day.

So, now that I've diagnosed the problem, I'm halfway to finding a solution, right? No, I think that is yet another lie I tell myself. Changing my thinking and outlook on life has been a long process and is something I will probably be working on forever. I am an imperfect being; now I have to accept that about myself and cut myself some slack.

If I could stick to my goal of meditating daily (there I go again, beating myself up again for not following through with something) I would use the mantra that my therapist gave me four years ago: I am good. But since I don't repeat this mantra as often as I should, sometimes I need something to remind me to be nicer to myself.

Today, that reminder came in the form of a sweat stain.

I was en route to meet a friend for happy hour drinks. Once again, I had been hard on myself while getting dressed -- nothing fit me right, I felt fat and dumpy -- but I had tried to lighten my mood by wearing a favorite new shirt. As I got off the subway -- feeling slightly sticky in the early evening heat and humidity -- I spotted a woman walking in front of me. She looked impossibly put together in a royal blue shift dress, cork pumps and a big leather purse. I saw her and instantly kicked myself -- she was obviously still dressed up from a day at the office, but on my best days at the office I never look that good. Especially after sitting at a desk all day, my clothes and hair are rumpled and I'm most likely ditching the heels for flats before walking out the door. Why wasn't I brave enough to traverse the cobblestones of Soho in three inch cork heels?

Somehow -- probably because I was in flats and she was teetering along on the cobblestones of Soho in heels -- I managed to catch up to my style icon as we waited to cross Houston. As I approached her, I saw a flaw in her perfect dress. Right around the zipper on her lower back, I saw a sweat stain that was in various stages of drying and leaving a nice salty ring on the back of her dress. Suddenly, the image of my perfect day-to-night office girl came crashing down. This woman wasn't perfect. She may look more dressed up than me, and braver to wear heels, but she was human, too. She was sweating, or had been at some point during the day, just like me.

The message from the universe came through loud and clear: accept yourself as imperfectly human. And when life throws you sweat stains, just put on a pair of heels to distract everyone.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Day 69: Celebrate One Year of Marriage - Day 2

Today was so jam-packed, it really felt like two days in one.

First, Shawn and I woke up early to enjoy the breakfast buffet at our hotel. Then we did some exploring, walking down to the Bowen's Wharf to get our tickets for our 10 a.m. harbor sail. When we arrived to check in to our cruise, Shawn was surprised to learn I had purchased $30 tickets on a cruise with 20 other people instead of a $200 solo cruise, which is what he would have booked if he had been in charge. I can't think of something that better illustrates the differences between Shawn and me and how we view the world (and our bank accounts). A solo trip around the harbor would have been lovely, but it was totally unnecessary. We were perfectly content sitting on a boat with other people, drinking mimosa and snapping photos of the views. Shawn would have blown $200 more than me just for a personalized trip. When he realized what had happened, he admitted that this was why I was in charge of booking these sorts of things from now on. Enough said.

We were a little early for our sail, so we wandered around the wharf for a little bit. It was just opening up and there wasn't much activity, but we did find a small coffee shop tucked away at the end of one of the docks. Turns out, one of Shawn's friends knows the owner, and she made us two ridiculously amazing lattes, which we drank while sitting on Adirondack chairs on the dock, admiring the yachts in port.

Our sail was fun and beautiful. We had some wind, but the boat had to rely on its engines to get us back into port in time for the next cruise to leave. We drank mimosas and learned about some of the fascinating history of the area, including the waterside farm Jackie Kennedy's family used to own, the unique house owned by Joseph Wharton in Jamestown and a very cool self-sufficient house on an island with a three-year waiting list to rent.

It was about noon when we made it back to land, the perfect time for lunch! We ordered two lobster rolls (one hot, one cold) and giant drinks from the lobster place right at the end of the wharf, Aquidneck Lobster Co. The restaurant had been recommended to us by several people, and it was no surprise! The lobster was yummy, but we both agreed we liked the cold lobster more. And for some reason, Newport restaurants put dill on everything! I'm not a huge dill fan, so I'm not sure if I can deal with this this weekend.

After lunch, we walked back up the hill to our hotel. We had a lot of alcohol and lobster rolling around in our stomachs, so we decided to take a nap. When we woke up a few hours later, it felt like a brand new day!

Despite the fact that it was really hot outside, we decided to walk to the Cliff Walk. Well, Shawn decided that we would walk and somehow I thought maybe we would take a cab. But, after walking a few blocks, I realized we were really walking...and I sucked it up and walked the rest of the way with no few complaints. We started the Cliff Walk at the end, the Chanler Hotel. The Cliff Walk was beautiful, but we both agreed that we didn't really get it. From where we walking, we couldn't see any of the big houses. We just saw the waterfront and the town across the way. We walked as far as the 40 Steps and then headed for home -- another super long, sweaty walk.

We got back to the hotel, showered, and got ready for dinner. We trekked back down to Bowen's Wharf, this time I was in heels, which was the worst idea, ever. Actually, second worst. The first was wearing Toms with almost no support on our epic walk of Newport. But, more on that later....

We managed to snag seats at a busy bar at a waterside restaurant near where our sailing excursion had departed in the morning. It felt like so long ago! We ordered drinks and a cheese plate -- ensuring that by the time we got to dinner we were already well on our way to being full!

For dinner, we walked down America's Cup Ave to The Mooring, one of Newport's premiere restaurants. We sat out back on a porch overlooking the dock as the sun set. We ordered oysters, lobster from the raw bar, chowder and salad to start, then I ordered scallops and Shawn got surf and turf. We were basically full by the time our entrees arrived (the amazing bread didn't help, either) but we managed to force it down. There was no room for dessert though. We had to go home!

On our way home, through the dark and busy streets of Newport, I took off my shoes -- my feet were too beat up from the day of walking around Newport. I've also been battling a crazy cramp in my calf. I woke up on Thursday morning with it and it's still bothering me. I think it's happening because I've been walking around in my Toms, and today didn't help!

Despite the leg cramps and blisters, I'm enjoying our time in Newport so far. It's been peaceful and romantic and sweet to spend a little one on one time with my hubby. A girl could get used to this.