As a person who considers the first day of the month or week as a clean slate waiting to be filled with my best intentions, you’d think that I’d be all over New Year’s resolutions, but you’d be wrong. Maybe it’s my basic lack of interest in doing what everyone else does. I really don’t like being a cliché, you know? Of course, I do consider how I might improve my navigation through life and a new year certainly provides an excellent opportunity to implement changes. Here’s what I’ve come up with for 2018:
- Amex for groceries. I know people who pay all their bills with credit cards for the purpose of earning rewards and I’m going to dip my big toe into that pool of potential points. I always pay my balance in full, but have to admit that it feels weird to purchase necessities with a credit card. I’m curious to see how much more quickly I can earn rewards and think it makes sense to try this for a full year as an experiment.
- I’ve got some new cities in my sights for 2018 and I really couldn’t be more excited. What can you share with me about Rome, Salzburg, Vienna and Prague?
- Decluttering and simplifying my living space. Do I really need all of the clothing I own? If I’m not using it, do I really need to keep? It seems like life would be more pleasant without as much stuff – contrary to what many believe but an idea I’m hoping to embrace. Maybe this book will help? (Thanks, Lori!)
- Increasing contributions to my 403B. As a teacher, I’m fortunate to have a clearly defined salary schedule and I appreciate that. Since I’m in the last 10 years of my career it’s time to start upping my contributions to my retirement account. I don’t imagine myself completely giving up working before I’m 60, but I need to make hay while the sun shines and that means socking away as much as I can while I’m still earning a good income.
- Yoga at least once a week. Mentally, physically and spiritually I need it. And really – how often can one address all of those areas in one place in 75 minutes?
What’s on your list for the new year?
As late fall inches closer to winter and the days get shorter, I’ve fallen in love again with running. Last night’s run was pretty satisfying. My thoughts were as strong as my legs, the temperature was perfectly crisp and the air was scented with wood smoke. It was a pleasure.
Sometimes running feels really difficult. It doesn’t always bring satisfaction, which is frustrating because when you work really hard at something you kind of expect it to get easier and feel good. But, when your right glute continues to scream and your left knee decides to tweak and it’s dark and cold, well, running can suck.
Last night, though, nothing hurt. My feet were warm, cradled in new socks, and didn’t seem to mind pounding the sidewalk for 5 miles. The comfort with my physical self freed me to consider my state emotionally and mentally – where I’m at and where I want to be. Am I satisfied with my one precious life? How can I make it more fulfilling? Do I need to make changes?
It’s just about time to flip a page on the calendar for the last time for the year. 2018 is right around the corner and I’m already looking forward to it. Every day we get a new chance to fall in love, every new year brings with it the possibility of it being the best one ever. I’m getting ready. Are you?
Ever since the news came out that I was selling Lark + Lily, I’ve been asked what I’ll do with all of the time with which I will find myself. Because my love for the hospitality industry remains, (and may in fact become stronger than ever once I no longer bear the business responsibilities), I’ll continue to work a couple of nights a week. As for the rest of the “extra” time, here’s what I’m going to do:
Hang out with my kids
Cook more interesting meals
Participate more politically
Dust my house
Take at least one yoga class a week, every week
Write more – blog posts, letters, cards, poems
Go to more events and shows
Try to amp up my running a bit
Work on my yard and house
Go out for cocktails
Spend some time eliminating possessions which do not bring me joy
Learn how to sell some of said possessions
Entertain at home
I started this post the day I returned from a quick weekend away at the beginning of a week that ended up feeling really long. I’ve got a folder full of these aborted writings, but I decided to revisit this one after catching up on last Sunday’s New York Times. The featured magazine was about travel and the editor’s letter grabbed me and wouldn’t let go, something that doesn’t happen often enough. Her words kept kicking around in my head and joined my own thoughts with a serendipity I couldn’t ignore.
Deborah Needleman said:
“Why is it that we can’t just do nothing anymore? Somehow “nothing” equals guilt….”
“I slept as late as I wanted, exercised when I felt like it, ate alone at restaurants…”
“It certainly was a journey, in the personal sense of the word, not just to another part of the world, but to another part of my psyche.”
Now, my own words…
My body aches and I’m about as tired as I recall ever being, but it is a sweet exhaustion. It was a great weekend. I highly recommend 72 hours of alone time in a new city as a means of recharging and getting back to a rhythm that is solely your own.
Traveling solo is both an exercise in self-improvement and an acknowledgement that you’re ok. From the reaction I received each time I explained that I was going to Chicago, alone, and my plans were basically to eat, run, nap and see some new things, I don’t think enough people are comfortable, much less excited by, the prospect of a loosely defined personal escape. Not being dependent upon any one but yourself is a condition that can be interpreted as freedom or a burden and I guess it depends upon perspective. I suspect you know how I perceive it.
We have lives that are busier than ever, connected to multiple platforms and constantly within touch. Taking some time for our own pursuits shouldn’t be a luxury that is too often perceived as foreign. While this trip had originally been conceived as a trip to celebrate a number of my friends and I achieving a milestone birthday, when schedules and commitments didn’t allow that to materialize, I continued to approach the weekend with excitement. I felt remarkably fortunate* to be able to spend three days exploring a new city, but even just two hours at the mall, or in a museum or outdoors can seem like a getaway. It isn’t about how far you go, it’s more about how close you get to yourself and your personal pace. Do it.
*I can’t tell you how many times I wondered to myself how I ever got to be so lucky.
image: Flicker by ph4nn1 Chicago Skyline Panorama
Last summer I made plans to go to Niagara Falls and Toronto with my kids for a few days. We’d never been and it seemed like a cool and economical getaway. I made hotel reservations and enthusiastically crowd sourced for some tourist recommendations. Then my two older sons got jobs. Plural. Not one to complain about employed children, I cancelled the trip and instead took my youngest down to NYC for a couple of days. That slacker doesn’t have a job, but I suppose he is only 11. Soon enough, little man.
A few weeks after the change in plans, I ended with both a Southwest voucher and a credit on my credit card, a situation which I immediately interpreted as a sign from the universe to buy a plane ticket. I reached out to my posse of friends, a number of whom were also celebrating a milestone birthday this year, to gauge interest in taking a weekend trip somewhere. While there was interest, it didn’t translate into action, so I decided it was time for me to take my first ever multiple night solo – Chicago, here I come!
So, I’ve got three nights in Chicago coming up in a few weeks and I’m a bit overwhelmed by all of the things there are to do! The luxury of traveling alone means I can do whatever I want, whenever I want to, which is pretty amazing. Knowing myself, I see my days being structured kind of like this:
- Wake up, get out and do something.
- Go back to the hotel for a nap.
- Take a run.
- Take a shower.
- Go out and eat something tasty.
I imagine there will be alcohol involved, at times, too.
The two things I definitely want to do are the architectural boat tour and an art museum or two. I know there are a million places to eat, but I’m most interested in places where I can eat at the bar.
What can you tell me about Chicago?
I sent out some invitations to a party I’m throwing to celebrate my 50th. The guest list was challenging – there are so many people I want to raise a glass with, but space is limited and I want to relax and enjoy the event rather than feel pressured to entertain. I ultimately decided to not give in to the reflex of obligatory invitations and instead only invited people who bring joy. I’m lucky enough to have many such friends in my life. Speaking of bringing, I didn’t specify “no gifts,” as I’ve seen on some recent invites I’ve received. I like presents, but hope no one feels that gifts are necessary.
Speaking of presents, I bought something for myself. I’ve had an idea for a piece of jewelry for many years but hadn’t been able to squirrel away the funds to bring my vision to fruition. Not going away for our usual two weeks this summer, resulted in a surplus in summer funds and thanks to Elissa Halloran (for the referral) and Siobhan Byron (for the artistic skill), I now have a fantastic piece of jewelry created from a few pieces which had been occupying space in my dresser rather than on my body. Behold my new necklace forged from a single diamond stud (remember, I lost the other one? Twice.), a pendant that had once hung from a gold herringbone necklace and a pair of vintage earrings. Isn’t it stunning?! Go see Siobhan at Nahbois in Troy and get yourself something. You deserve it.
Unlike the remarkable beauty of a special piece of jewelry, sometimes stunning has negative connotations. It seems that our world is filled with surprising and devastating tragedies, such as the recent earthquake in Italy. While I had originally intended to feature three of my personal favorite not for profit organizations as potential recipients for September’s Cocktail of the Month at Lark + Lily, I’ve decided instead to focus exclusively on Amatrice. We’ll be offering a classic negroni cocktail, as well as an Amatriciana pasta special, with a portion of the proceeds earmarked for earthquake relief. I’ll continue my birthday celebration through October when we’ll return to our usual format of three organizations from which to choose. We all do what we can and I hope you’re able to help support causes which are meaningful to you. Stop in and help us to help those in need.
When I mentioned to friends last week that I was heading down to the city for a couple of days, they suggested that I visit Governor’s Island. Although I often stay downtown in the financial district, I’d never really considered taking the ferry to any island other than Staten and knew nothing about Governor’s Island. Our proximity, though, and the budget fare ($1 each way), made this excursion too appealing to deny.
Monday morning we made our to the dock for the 11:00 a.m. boat. It was a cloudy morning, but dry, and the super quick boat ride was comfortable and refreshingly lacking in diesel fuel aroma. We docked and made our way to the bike rental tent, which was just a bit to the right of where we had disembarked. Within minutes we were set up with 3-speed cruiser bikes at a cost of…zero. Yes, the first hour of bike rental was free. Talk about budget friendly!
We took a quick spin around the island, pausing to capture some pictures of our favorite lady in the harbor, and got the lay of the land. We saw the newly completed “hills,” along with a beautiful wildflower garden, amazing residences and brick dormitory looking buildings and an area that has been utilized as a training site for firefighters. I kept imagining how cool it would be to live on the island in one of the historic looking homes…amazing.
On our second lap around, we parked our bikes and climbed the hills to get the best vantage point of the southern tip of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island. The skies were clearing at this point and it was just so easy and mellow – no crowds, no stress, barely any expense. Phenomenal.
After an hour and half or so of island living, we made our way back to the dock and returned to Manhattan, satisfied with our adventure and pleased to know of another inexpensive option for exploring the city. I’d definitely consider going back again to spend an afternoon or take in an event. On the weekends there are a variety of food options, including food trucks, to sample or you can pack a picnic and go total low budget. Thanks, Colette and Steve!