Sunday, March 11, 2018

Lovely Reads #5

Sunday mornings are meant for coffee and perusing articles of interest. Whether it's the news, your latest book, or your favorite magazine, a Sunday spent with meaningful-to-you words and images can set the tone for your week. 

Here are some of the items that crossed my radar this week:

Overlooked: 15 Women We Overlooked in Our Obituaries
Better late than never, I guess. Thanks to The New York Times for recognizing these 15 remarkable women. Kudos for adding a form for readers to nominate other remarkable women. 

10 Places to See Cherry Blossoms in the United States
If you can't get to Washington DC to see the blossoms yourself, here are other locations that will put you in a Spring state of mind. Via CN Traveler. 

If Literature's Complicated Men Were on Tinder
This is a treat, via McSweeney's Internet Tendency

How You Can Stop Animal Abuse in the Tourism Industry
Thanks to Nomadic Matt for keeping this issue a topic of conversation. File this under know better, do better. 

Unlock your Hip Flexor: 5 Stretches to Reverse the Damage of Sitting
I can see why they say that sitting is the new smoking. Trust me, you'll feel better. Via Paleo Hacks. 

Just curious about this one...

If you read something noteworthy this week, drop a link in the comments. 

Have a great week friends. 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

While I Wasn't Blogging: Catching Up

After a blink-and-it's-gone-February, I feel like I have finally settled into 2018. Clearly, I have lost my pace when it comes to writing and blogging, but not for a lack of ideas.

While I wasn't blogging... 
  • I finished the first semester with my new students from Spain and France and welcomed a handful of new students from Italy for the second semester (and transitioned into second semester with my Spanish and French students). 

  • I broke out of my comfort zone and decided to try CrossFit. I feel like the work I had been doing with my trainer prepared me for this transition. I'm getting stronger every week I love the variety with each class and the motivation from the CF community. I even registered for the Open, the annual CrossFit Games. It feels great to be part of a team and I love seeing what my body can do now that it couldn't when I first started in January. It's all about progress, not perfection. 

  • I started keeping my nutrition on point with whole, unprocessed foods and looking at macronutrients instead of calories for changes in body composition over weight loss.  I've been working with a nutrition coach who monitors and adjusts my numbers (if needed) every week. I'm in week 11 and down 9 pounds and 10 inches. It works. 

  • My husband and I have been delving deeper into real estate investment and are closer than ever to buying our first property. Positive energy welcomed. 

  • We've been planning summer travel. My niece will be here in June, so I'm looking forward to some quality time including her first trip to NYC. We're also thinking about where we want to travel while we're in Spain this summer. And as always, I'm checking out flight deals for unexpected long weekends away. 

Life is good. I'm outside more, meeting friends IRL whenever possible, reading more offline, doing my thing. I'm excitedly awaiting spring, in spite of the nor'easter knocking on our door. 

Ideas are swirling like butterflies. I need to follow a couple of them and see where they lead. 

What's new in your world? Any new challenges or pursuits? Inspire me. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Remembering 2017 and the lovely moments that were

I've thought about a 2017 recap for a while, but it never really came together. In spite of the chaos of the world around me, my inner world remained fairly even-keeled. I'm grateful for that. 

The year started with friends on a snowy New Year's Eve and ended quietly at home on the couch...just him and me, and Gracie, who was not happy about staying up until midnight. 

It was a good year. 

In January, we found a great hotel deal and ventured to Manhattan for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and paid homage to John Lennon's peacemaking efforts in Strawberry Fields. 

We flew south in February for my brother's Gulf-side sunset wedding and soaked up a lot of sun that we wished we could have bottled for our frigid New England winter. 

March was quiet; the blizzard brought some snow-day snuggles with the pup and the hubs and with the hope that Spring would make her appearance sooner than later. Nope. 

In April, I traveled to Milwaukee for WITS17, the Women in Travel Summit. From food tours to a party at the Harley Davidson Museum and selfies with the Bronze Fonz, MKE treated us well and seeing my travel friends was rejuvenating. If you're a woman who loves travel, WITS18 takes place in May in Quebec City! Join us!

In May, we celebrated five years of marriage and ten years together by sharing an ice cream at the place where we met. 

Later that month, we traveled north of the border, to enjoy a long weekend in Montreal. Great weather, great food, great company. A lovely weekend, indeed. 

June was a whirlwind. It began in Miami for a end-of-the-year teacher party rave like no other I have ever seen. Then after my birthday celebrations, it was time for the Tall Ships in Boston, an outdoor Jack Johnson concert, and seeing Wicked for the first time.

It was wicked good!

July brought us back to Europe, back to Spain to see family and friends, and back to Porto, exploring northern Portugal with our friend who visited us from the States. 

How about this sunset though?

In September, I was scheduled to spend time with a friend in Northern New Mexico, but bronchitis and costo-chondritis put my trip on hold. Luckily, by the middle of the month, the cough was better and we were able to spend time playing tour guide in Boston to friends in town for a long weekend. We ended the month cheering on our MLS home team, the New England Revolution, with friends who gifted us with tickets for one of their final home games. Go team!

In October, we were dancing in our seats at the Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull concert. 
So. Much. Fun. 

Then, I was lulled into participating in the 7-day black and white photo challenge and I realized that the pads of my dog's feet are heart shaped. 


We ended October with a fabulous Ray Lamontagne concert in Providence and rediscovered what a fun capital city this is to explore. 

In November, I was back in Miami for a quick weekend, eating some of the best Cuban food on Calle Ocho at Versailles, and later, swooning in the sunset of the Florida Keys. 

Then, it was off to Chicago, to learn the ins and outs of travel hacking. It was great catching up with my friend Mona, and she and I made a new friend in Rose. 

My husband and I had the opportunity to catch up with another WITS friend, Vicky, from Buddy, the Traveling Monkey, and then later, enjoy what was left of a warm fall day with drinks on a rooftop bar at a brewery on the Connecticut River in Brattleboro, Vermont. 

Over the Thanksgiving holiday week, it was time to cross the pond once again, this time to London. From Christmas markets to a historical sites to a night at the theatre to see Les Miserables, we had an amazing time. 

And then we were back in December. The month began with an Acoustic Christmas concert featuring the Goo Goo Dolls. Interestingly, there was no Christmas music to be heard, save for one carol from a warm-up group. Humbug!

There were enough fa-la-las later though, when we took my parents and my mother-in-law to a local concert featuring the Glenn Miller Orchestra

What a treat! This touring group is like a step back in time, playing the old Glenn Miller classics. 

If you're a fan of big-band music and you haven't seen this gem, check out The Glenn Miller Story, starring Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson. 

The following week, we were blessed to hear former vice president, Joe Biden, on his book tour in Boston. The conversation, moderated by Tom Brokaw, was a message of hope that so many of us needed to hear. 

After all of the holiday merry making, December ended and we ate our grapes at midnight, eager to greet 2018 with an open heart and excitement for the promise that the year will bring. 

While this post ended up being a lot longer than I had planned, for me, it was a fun look back at our year. I hope you have the opportunity to do a similar recap; if not in a public space like this, at least with those you love. 

No doubt, 2017 was not perfect, but it had its moments of love, laughter, and joy. 

It was a lovely year, indeed. 


Monday, January 1, 2018

Start Today...Joy Jar 2018

Happy New Year, friends. 

This is not my idea, but it's a good idea. Thanks, Liz Gilbert

Cheers to joy in 2018. 

Are you starting a new tradition in 2018? 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Earn 1000 Marriott Points with One Tweet

This weekend, I went to Chicago and attended Frequent Traveler University, a symposium of experts in the miles and points game. Workshops on everything from redemption programs to manufactured spending gave attendees tips and tricks to make everyday spending work for their practical and aspirational travel goals. 

One thing I didn't know was just how easy it is to accumulate points, both airline and hotel points when you're part of a loyalty program. For example, Marriott is running a promotion right now with the NFL called Extra Points Sunday. 

All you have to do is connect your Marriott account to your Twitter account before you play and reply to a question that's posted each week. 

Tweet your response with the hashtag #RewardsPoints and you will earn 1,000 points each week of the promotion. Questions are posted on Sundays and you have until 8:00 p.m. Eastern to answer. 

With points averaging about $.09/point, you're not going earn a free night, but every point counts. Earning $9 for a few minutes work is not bad at all. 

Happy tweeting!

I'm new to the miles and points game...any tips or tricks that worked for you? Please share in the comments. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Only a Kiss? Hardly. Guillermo Calderón's Kiss in Boston

We love to go into Boston for various events and when we saw that Goldstar was offering tickets to Guillermo Calderón's play, Kiss, it seemed like a great opportunity to see the Chilean playwright's socio-political drama. 

Kiss, Calderón's first play in English, is about two couples who meet for dinner in Damascus, seeking respite from the war around them. The couples plan to watch their favorite Syrian soap opera, but things change rapidly. This play-within-a play touches on cultural and linguistic misinterpretations and the implications of those misinterpretations.  

If you're in the Boston area, Kiss is running through November 19th. Tickets are available at the box office and through Goldstar, a discount ticket service operating in major metropolitan cities around the United States. 


Friday, November 10, 2017

Flying through November...Literally

November is a great month for travel. It's considered off-season or shoulder season in many destinations and you can get great deals. The drawback? Throngs of travelers in the airport security line and on the road. 

November is flying for me...literally. This month, I am lucky to be traveling nearly every week and this is bliss to my nomadic soul. It's not for everyone, but for me, I'm almost giddy. 

Last weekend, I was in Miami, connecting with friends and co-workers, eating the most delicious Cuban food at Versailles, the most iconic Cuban restaurant on Calle Ocho... 

And later, savoring sunset (and a tasty frozen concoction) in Islamorada, in the Florida Keys. 

My TSA Pre-Check that comes with Global Entry, by the way, was worth its weight in gold in getting through the security line at MIA. While it doesn't help with international departures, it saves SO much time with domestic travel and when you're in international arrivals, the Global Entry program is a huge time saver as well. Just do it. Here's how

Next weekend, it's all about travel hacking as I join my friend and fellow WITS-er, Mona, in Chicago at Frequent Traveler University

The speaker line-up is impressive. From Tiffany Funk to Chris Guillebeau, there are speakers who will be offering their best in earning and redeeming miles and points to make every traveler's wish list a reality. It has been a few years since Mona and I caught up face-to-face, so this will be a real treat. 

And then, for Thanksgiving, we are crossing the Pond and spending the week in London. 

Despite traveling domestically for years and afflicted with wanderlust for a lifetime, London was my first experience with international solo travel. I haven't been there since 2009 and this will be our first time together, but we're ready. 

My husband wants a beer at Ye Olde Mitre Inn, I want to explore what's new at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and of course, we're hoping to score great seats at a show in the West End, like in 2009, when I got second row pit seat for Les Miserables. 

So, my friends, I will see you on the other side of November. What's new with you? How is your month going? 

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Woofstocking with Gracie and All-Sato Rescue

This weekend, Gracie and I took a road trip to a nearby town for a celebration of all things dogs.

The Woofstock Dog Festival is a benefit for the Buddy Dog Humane Society and features pet-centric vendors, K-9 demos, food, music, raffles, and plenty of nose-to-butt-nose interaction for our four-legged friends. 

There was also a reunion area for families to gather with their pups and seek out siblings who were re-homed with other families. 

While we were at Woofstock, we had the opportunity to meet with Gracie's rescue organization, All-Sato Rescue. This is an organization that is dedicated to the rescuing and re-homing abandoned and otherwise homeless dogs in Puerto Rico. The word Sato is slang in Puerto Rico for mutt. In addition to their rescue work, they strive to address the root causes of overpopulation, neglect, and abuse through education and advocacy and through low-cost spaying and neutering clinics.

It was wonderful to meet and thank volunteers from the partner organizations of All-Sato Rescue

We even picked up some Sato tee-shirt swag while we were there.

And we sent messages of love and gratitude to the rescue heroes on the ground in Puerto Rico. 

As you can imagine, rescue efforts in Puerto Rico are challenging with the damage caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. According to the organization's web page
We finally heard from ASR President, Edilia Vazquez, that she and the many dogs and cats that she is caring for are all right. We are slowly hearing from the many other rescuers that work with us and so far, every one of them is safe as well. But, things on the ground are very bad. Most of the island is without power and communications. The infrastructure is badly damaged, the airport is closed, and there are so many trees down that getting anywhere is challenging. The weeks ahead are going to be very difficult and we are not sure when we will be able to resume normal operations. Many of you have very kindly asked what we need most. Much as we need basic supplies--dog food, kennels, medications--delivery is impossible. Gift cards to local chain stores, like PetSmart and Petco would be much appreciated, as would monetary donations to cover what will surely be extremely high vet bills as we attend to the many animals that were injured during this ordeal. Your outpouring of support has meant so much to us. We couldn't keep going without you--you are giving us the strength to continue.
Our family is so deeply grateful for Gracie and the rescue work that All-Sato Rescue continues to do in Puerto Rico. We are blessed to be able to donate to this selfless organization and the shelter where we adopted Gracie. 

If you are interested in helping All-Sato Rescue in their efforts to rescue and re-home dogs like Gracie, this link will help you do that. 

Or, if you are looking for other organizations for causes near and dear to you, there are many on the ground ready to help in all of the recently affected disaster areas of Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, the Virgin Islands, and other places in the Caribbean. 

Woofstock'17 was a huge success. Gracie came home tired and happy. We both did, and for me, a heart a little fuller with love and gratitude for those who work to help those so vulnerable in our world. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

For the Pups: 5 Durable Toys for Heavy Chewer Dogs

From the time our Gracie girl was a puppy, we searched high and low for toys that she wouldn't destroy in minutes. 

The plastic rings were good, but she destroyed the fabric middle ring by pulling on the threads until she unraveled it entirely. 

We tried subscription services with a heavy chewer option like Bark Box and we tried Rescue Box, which, at the time, had no such designation. While the treats were fun, the toys just couldn't survive. Our chewer went to town, persevering to the point of total destruction and near consumption. We had to take every toy away. She tore the felt off tennis balls. Rope toys? Forget it; she frayed them all and pulled the threads out of the braids. 

She didn't play with the toy; she tried to eat it. 

It became clear why we couldn't have nice things. 

In the beginning, even the leash was a casualty to our Gracie's teeth.

There would be no sweet stuffies for our girl; hard rubber would become our dog's best friend. 

As you can imagine, we have tested and tried many toys for Gracie, but the ones that survived are what you'll find here in this guide. These are toys that you will find in our home and in our yard. They are toys that work for our family, and if you have a heavy chewer as well, they may be a good fit for you as well. 

KONG Jumbler Ball Toy: This is her favorite outside toy. It comes in different sizes, but we get Gracie the extra large variety. The handle on top makes it easy to throw, and once she learned how to grab it and carry it by its handle, it made fetch much more fun. Bonus: it floats.

Despite its unique look (my naughty friends giggle when they see it), KONG Safestix is another fun fetch toy. In addition to fetch and tug, she also will chew on it like a bone if she's tired of running for it. This is also a floater. 

The JW Crackle Dog Toy is fun because it makes noise. It's not a squeaker, but a crackler. It must have the same type of plastic that water bottles have because that's exactly what it sounds like when she crunches it between her teeth. Some soft toys have water bottles inside them that make the same crackling effect; she can't have those. This toy is Gracie proof. 

Kong Tug Toy: We discovered this toy at Gracie's BFF's home. She wasn't keen on sharing it with the other dog, but she's always eager to share a side with us. 


Chew Toys: In terms of chew toys, Gracie also always has a few like this one. The other chew toys with plastic edges and edible centers don't work for us because she tries to consume them all entirely. We don't give her natural bones based on the recommendation of our vet. 

Gracie and her bff, Sasha

We all want what's best for our pups. As with people, our dogs have unique needs and personalities, and as we grow as a pack, we make decisions based on what we think is best for meeting those unique needs and personality quirks. 

Gracie might not have the cutest toys at the dog park, but she's a happy girl with a playful soul who adds a lot of love and joy to our little family pack. 

Do you have a heavy chewer? Any toys that you would recommend?

Friday, September 8, 2017

Three Things September...Playing Along

Sometimes tag games can be fun. As a reader, I enjoy reading about the people behind my favorite blogs, so I thought it would be fun to share some of the same information with you. 
I won't tag anyone in particular for a response, but if you're up for it, share your responses or at least one in the comments. Thanks!

Three things that are always in my car
A charging cable, extra napkins, a reusable shopping bag. 

Three things I always have on hand in the pantry or fridge...
Nuts, Dove ice cream bites, canned beans

Three shows I will always watch if they're on TV…
ER, Chopped, The Big Bang Theory

Three travel experiences I want to have...
Driving the Pacific Coast Highway, walking one of the routes of the Camino de Santiago, the Great American Road Trip with my husband.

Three things I won't eat...
String beans, organ meats, steak

Three things I always will spend money on...
Food experiences, travel in any form, stuff for our dog Gracie

Three things that are always in my purse...
My glasses, gum, a small notebook

Three things I love about my hometown...
Walking in the Public Garden and the Boston Common, cappuccinos and cannolis in the North End, the Boston theatre scene. 

What say you? What are your three things? Thanks for the post inspiration, Steph