Happiness Is…{getting away}

Do you see a trend here?  6 months ago I had an identical title for my happiest post of the week; JDubbs and I just love taking a weekend away here and there, just the two of us.  In March we went to Montreal, in June to Bristol, VT, in September to Bermuda, and for New Year’s Eve, JDubbs kidnapped me for a surprise trip away to Stowe, Vermont!  We live such crazy busy lives that although we make time to have dinner together and talk several times a day, we need distance from our computers, families, and everyday life to help make the connection even better.  We both know it, so we embrace it and make sure we find time for it.  And when that weekend away comes as a completely spontaneous surprise, it’s even better!

It took a bit of finagling and even some straight up lying by members of my family, but I was truly shocked when Jason came to pick me up on Saturday morning at the gallery where my photos are going to be displayed tomorrow (more on that later!) in his car, with no kids, and the GPS heading north!  My bags were packed almost perfectly (no hairbrush), and he was willing to stop and buy me a new shirt if none of the ones he brought were appropriate.  Plus, he got us tickets to see one of our favorite bands play at a great New Year’s Eve party that rocked out all night long!

Thoughtful, surprising, exciting, romantic.  I know I tell you all the time, but JDubbs is pretty much the perfect husband and you should all be jealous.  Well, at least I think so!

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To celebrate his birthday last week, JDubbs and I got away for 4 days to the incredible island of Bermuda.  He and I have traveled extensively across the country and have been to 7 countries together, but we were both incredibly pleased with our stay there.  How could we not be, when our days were spent like this?

The serenity of Harrington Sound, literally at our doorstep, as we read and enjoyed each other’s company and the days faded into twilight was some of the happiest times we’ve had as a couple in a long time.  We all know what the pressures of real life and family can do to a couple who are both trying to make something of themselves at work and make time for themselves as individuals; it can be a daunting task to have the energy to reconnect at the end of every day.  Luckily, we had several days with just the two of us to recharge as individuals and as a couple; what could bring me more happiness than sharing time with my love?

More on all this tomorrow–off to continue to bask in the glow of serenity!

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We’re In Love. Get Over It.

Friday was JDubbs’s and my fourth wedding anniversary.  We didn’t do anything elaborate, but when you have two kids under three and the younger littlin’ just got three teeth at the same time (including one molar), getting out to dinner a mile and a half away is a blessing and as much a present as we could ask for.

I didn’t bring my camera.  We turned our phones to vibrate and didn’t ask the waiter to take our picture.  So on the way out, wearing my brand new big city jeans and over-the-top high heels (because where the hell else am I going to wear them?), we took a few photos to someday remind our kids that both of their parents were once attractive and that their mother did not, in fact, always wear capri sweatpants and actually did take the time to flat-iron her hair.  Rarely.  JDubbs was thrilled.

As annoying as my shutterbug-ness may be, I want to capture the physical us at this age and this stage, when our kids are too young to remember but we’re young and vibrant and energized and happy.  I know that they will know that we love them and each other more than anything in the world, but you know those pictures of your parents from when they were young and in love?  You know you love ’em, and I want to make sure we take them, just in case our kids love ’em, too.

We ate dinner at a spot we always mean to go to but always overlook, even though we could have literally walked home (though definitely not in those shoes!).  The food was fine and the wine was great, but the brilliance was in the details.  The perfect summer temperature–not too hot, not too cool, with a slight breeze and ceiling fans as we sat on the porch outside.  The perfect time of day–the sunset reflecting off people’s wine glasses and the way it cast a golden halo around the diners’ heads made me itch to capture it with a camera.  Twilight as it fell.  More wine.  Great conversation.  Laughing.

What set the evening apart from other dinners out was a little book that I thought we had lost; it would have been catastrophic had that been the case (and not only because our passports were tucked inside).  We couldn’t find it for three years, and then I stumbled upon it in a place where I had looked a dozen times.  The travel journal we kept while on our honeymoon.  The one that catalogs every day, meal, adventure, disaster, discovery, serendipitous left turn or fortuitos right that made our honeymoon cruise of the Greek Isles, Croatia, Turkey, and Italy the unbelievable and ideal honeymoon.  We didn’t write it in religiously every day; just when we had a moment before dinner, after drinks, by the pool, on the airplane home.  The Acropolis in Athens.  The guided tour of the walls of Dubrovnik.  Taking the bus and finding the perfect beach in Mykonos.  The private boat we rented around Capri, from which we leapt and swam through the Green Grotto.  The name of the serenader in our gondola in Venice.  The details, all there.  In our words.  Irreplaceable.

At first we weren’t going to read it, but it was a delightful way to pass the evening.  We read some with cocktails, some after our salads.  Some after our entrees and while we were considering dessert.  Some with our last drink before they started shutting off the lights.

Being the English major, I was the one who did the lion’s share of the writing, although I let him do Turkey because I just didn’t love it and didn’t have much to say other than “went to Turkey.”  But on my pages JDubbs commented on almost every one, leaving a detail I forgot or a smart-ass remark or just his two cents that yes, the gyro he got for less than two euros from a street vendor in Santorini really was the best meal of the trip.  And what was funny was that I would be reading it aloud to him, and he would interject with a comment or remark, and I would look down and the same words were written by him four years ago in the margin.  The trip was that amazing.   Completely imprinted on our brains.

The best part of my evening was when, similarly, I was making fun of something he wrote to find the same comment, written verbatim by me, on the opposite page.  It was so funny that I bust out laughing and yes, maybe I was kind of loud.  It was the way that he said it which was so him, plus the way I critiqued it which was so me, and just the hilarity of reading it again four years later that got me going.  Yes, I was loud.  Yes, this was a swanky place, made obvious by the fact that there was a retired member of the New England Patriots sitting directly behind me, and I got a few disgruntled looks from a grumpy table across from us.

I stifled my laugh and held up the journal and said, “It’s our anniversary,” by way of explanation.  I received no knowing looks of, “Oh, well, then. By all means, carry on.”  Nope, still glaring, so I continued,  “We’re reading our journal from our honeymoon.”  Me, gesturing with the journal.  Still nothing from the peanut gallery.   I continue.  “It’s hilarious.  We’re—” And I just cut off because it was obvious that they were neither amused nor forgiving.  And to that I said to JDubbs, “It’s our anniversary. We’re in love.  Get over it.”  So we carried on and they continued to grumble and we toasted to our happiness and didn’t give them a second thought.

Happy Anniversary, JDubbs!  I hope we are still as much in love and embarrassing ourselves in public for years to come!

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Happiness Is… {getting away!}

This weekend I was lucky enough to be spoiled like crazy by my husband, including a night away at the Inn at Baldwin Creek in Bristol, Vermont.  We were holed up there for 26 blessed hours, and my first impressions upon arriving:

…led me to believe that this was going to be a wonderful, rejuvenating weekend away.

And once we saw our room, a suite with a sunken bedroom complete with fireplace, fuzzy bathrobes, skylights, and jacuzzi tub, I was certain it was going to be a fabulous weekend!

And to top it all off, JDubbs had champagne and dessert sent up to the room, which we ate before dinner.  I really am the luckiest girl.

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Where Have I Been?

Hello, bloggy buddies.  I’m sure you’re getting tired of my on-again, off-again appearances here lately.  Just when I finally get my act together with WordPress and figure out how to upload my photos, I disappear.  Well, I had a good reason.  My birthday was on Friday and my husband, the stellar man that he is, has been treating me to a weekend to remember, and I only just now have a minute to sit down and reconnect with you all.

JDubbs surprised me with a spa manicure and pedicure on Friday before taking me out to one of my favorite restaurants.  His parents had the kids for the night so we were off duty and got to spend the night in the deep, restful kind of slumber that comes when you’re not half-listening for a baby or wondering if your preschooler is going to journey out of his new big boy bed.  Then yesterday, my mom, niece, and nephew came up to babysit for the night and we headed two hours away to really rural Vermont, to a cozy little inn…

where I’ve had time to read an entire book, take some photos,

eat some yummy food, and make a new friend.

Now, JDubbs is off at a cooking class, which I gave him as a Christmas present, and I am relaxing in a cool little cafe in town, people-watching, eaves-dropping on conversations, and wondering if there is any way I could surreptitiously photograph this man with the beard and suspenders without him noticing me.  Then home to tuck in my babies and start the week refreshed and happy, lucky to be married to such a thoughtful man and to have such great family who helps us find a little time for just us two every now and then.

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Lost In Translation

Something you may not know about me.  I hate trying new foods.
I have to take the time to write a separate post about our jaunt to Montreal this weekend, but until then, here is a little anecdote from our trip that will provide some insight into the psyche of your friend Becky: I hate trying new foods.  Those who know me and are reading this are nodding their head in agreement.  The other day, my girlfriend Katharine asked me, as she was taking the last helping, “You’re not going to eat any of this salad, right?”  Mostly out of politeness.  She knows I’m an Iceberg lettuce girl and that mescalin crap isn’t getting anywhere near me.  I am the kind of person who will find something I really like on a menu, and order it every single time I go to a restaurant without fail.  Even if I know there are other really good things on the menu, I am so nervous that I won’t like what I order as much as what I have already had that I take the safe route.  I order what I know I like.  That’s just me.
This has happened to me before.  JDubbs and I had the most amazing honeymoon of all time: we took a cruise of the Greek Isles with stops in Croatia, Turkey, and Italy.  But mostly Greece.  You will find it interesting that while I was in Greece, the most ethnic food I ate was a Greek salad (which you will not be surprised to learn, is just called “a salad” there).  I ate a lot of pizza.  I had pizza in Croatia.  We skipped lunch in Turkey and we went back to the ship and I ate pizza.  I did try delicious new plates in Italy because I love Italian food.  And by new I probably mean I tried a new salad dressing or a new sauce on my penne.  I know we drank two bottles of wine in Venice but I can’t remember what food we paired with them.  The cheese ravioli I had in Capri is still one of the most amazing meals of my life, mostly because I was in Capri and the view was to die for.  Here is a photo of our restaurant where we ate with our tour guide after stepping off our private boat:
A little slice of heaven.
The point is that I have been to now seven countries outside the USA, not counting my layover in Germany where I ate a Royale with cheese at the airport McDonald’s, and throughout these adventures my fond culinary memories are pizza and cheese ravioli.  Not exactly ground-breaking stuff.  So when JDubbs and I followed a friend’s advice and headed to a small, local brewery in Montreal for lunch on Saturday, we were expecting bar food.  Brewery = wings, potato skins, nachos, right?  Well, not in Montreal.  Bien sûr.
We walked into this brewery and loved it.  Loved the atmosphere, loved the people.  Exactly our kind of place.  Until we seated ourselves and realized that the menu is in French.  Well, duh, Américains.  Vous êtes au Québec.  We were in Quebec, where they speak, of course, French.  Having traveled a bit outside of the US, I knew this, but in those same experiences, I have done just fine with my English and decent Spanish because English makes the world go round and everyone wants my American dollar.  They’ll speak some English.
Well, yes, our waitress did indeed speak some English.  Enough to say things like “veal brains” and “snails” when deciphering the menu.  Pizza and ravioli, remember?  I won’t even eat veal main body parts, let alone veal brains, and I will never eat something that doesn’t have legs, so you can imagine my delight when we got to the final item of the menu.  Crêpes, like your pancakes, the waitress said.  Perfect!  Pancakes it is.  She went to put our order in and left us the menu.  The pancakes came with a side of yogourt (we could figure that one out) and pommes puréeAfter a second of consideration, we decided that pommes purée must be pureed potatoes, like hashbrowns, because we’ve eaten pommes frites before and they are french fries.  Pommes must mean potatoes.  Since we were in Canada, cell phones were off due to roaming charges so I couldn’t even use that handy Google Translate app sitting so nicely on my homescreen.  I was sure I would be fine.  You can’t mess up pancakes.
Well, apparently Canada can mess up pancakes because although the crêpes looked delightful and the syrup was pretty legit, even to a Vermonter who has been syrup tasting recently, it was that freakin pommes purée and yogourt mixed together, which was some kind of rancid apple/yogurt disaster.  First of all, I don’t even like yogurt–something about the fact that the microbes inside it are still alive and all–and the apples were gnarly!  And I really like apple!  Who ruins a perfectly good pancake by putting crap all over it?  Yes, I know, healthy crap, but crap nonetheless.  I am American and I like butter in an alarming shade of yellow, Denny’s-style, scooped out of its tub with an ice cream scoop so it’s plopped right on my plate, melting into an artery-clogging pool of happiness.  No yogurt!  No fruit!
In my defense, JDubbs found the pancakes to be equally disgusting and assured me they ruined it with  something strange like sweet potatoes or something.  In my outrage, I told my family that in Canada they put sweet potato puree on pancakes, to their shocks of disgust and horror.  This idiocy all made sense, let me assure you.  Up until five minutes ago, I still thought pommes meant potatoes, so sweet potatoes worked.  It wasn’t until just now when I looked it up that I learned that pommes means apples, and so no wonder JDubbs thought it was gross, too.  He hates fruit! 
(Yes, you French-speaking readers, have a good laugh at my expense.  Especially you, Tammy, you Canadian!  It’s all fun and games until somebody serves you fruit)
So what did I do with my crêpes?  Not eat them, of course.  I cut them, smushed them, mashed some into my napkin and tried to make it look like I had eaten some of it.  I drank my French cabernet/grenache/syrah blend (no, actually, it was nothing like a California cabernet, thank you, waitress!) and then, when I thought for sure I would be drunk off one glass of wine because I was still so hungry and was drinking on an empty stomach, I did what I should have done in the beginning.  I ordered American food.  Fries.  Not French fries, obviously.  Just fries.
Our waitress was completely confused as to why I would order just “chips,” and had to make a special request with the chef, but out came my board o’ fries and I was as happy as an American in Paris.  Hooray for food I recognized!  Hooray for good old potatoes, translated, annoyingly, pommes de terre.  Apples of the earth?  Whatever, French language.  You made me think I was getting potatoes and all you gave me was apples.  Not cool at all.  We Americans take our carbs very seriously.
And, so, now you know me a little better, although you may like me less because a) I’m crazy and b) I wasted your time making you read about my lunch in Montreal.  But I assure you, this describes me to a T.  And if you don’t believe me, let me bring you back to July 2007, when we were in Katakalon, Greece, day 3 of our honeymoon.  JDubbs had lamb and a local beer for lunch.  Here is mine.

A Coke and fries.  In Greece.  I know.  I’m insane.  But, you know what they say,
When in Rome…eat like an American!
Wait.  That isn’t what they say?  Well, they should.  Before our trip to Bermuda in September, I will brush up on my important food groups before I embark:  pizza, cheese ravioli, and fries.  They speak English in Bermuda?  Well, I will learn how to say these things in several languages, just to be safe.
The more you know.
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Giving Thanks

Tomorrow is Thankgiving, and I know my fingers will be too full of delicious food and my brain will be too sleepy and full of football to give thanks properly for the myriad blessings in my life.  So I’ll do it now.
* I’m thankful for my beautiful and healthy family.  Yes, my family, like all families, has its members with aches and pains and twinges and discomfort, but there is no one suffering from a terminal disease or lying in a hospital bed, and for that I am especially grateful.
* I’m thankful for my beautiful and perfect children.  For my chubby little Em who could not be a better snuggler if she tried.  For my sweet Jax who today called me “Mama Bear” and when I asked him what that made him, replied, “the baby bear.”  I love them both beyond words.  Oh, and don’t forget Baxter.  I am grateful for how comfortable I am that he will always be there for my kids, as protector or pillow.  He doesn’t seem to mind either way.
* I’m thankful for warmth.  For my warm house, our confidence in warm water and warm food, and for our fireplace where there will soon be stockings hung with great care.
* I’m thankful for our house and the home we have turned it into.
* I’m thankful for JDubbs’s job and its ability to let me stay home with my kids while they are growing and soaking up every new thing that comes their way.  I wouldn’t change my situation for anything.
* I’m thankful for my friends, near and far.  Wherever we go, JDubbs and I seem to find our perfect matches and create a great circle of friends worth having for years to come.
* And of course, I’m thankful for my incredible thoughtful husband who always knows what I need, be it space, sleep, quiet, wine, Glee, a new lens for my camera, or a hug.
Or the car of my dreams.
My early Christmas present from my spontaneous and incredible husband.  The mini-van I’ve been needing, waiting and pining for.  Not many men would trade in their rugged SUV for a mini-van, knowing that their only other cruising option is a 7-year-old Jetta.  He will be a man with a mini-van.  But apparently the mockery that comes with that isn’t bad enough to keep him from making his wife unbelievably happy.  And for that, and him, I will always be so very thankful.
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