Beverages

Little Adjustments, Big Impact

I am not a fan of productivity hack culture. I find most of the ideas hawked by self help authors, podcasters, and vagabonding entrepreneurs to be less impactful than they seem and more work than they’re worth. I’m especially skeptical when it becomes obvious that the productivity hacker in question doesn’t have a clear vision of why they’re saving all that time. They just seem to be wedging more work and more hacks into the day, rather than taking that extra time and using it on something meaningful to them.

However, there are three tweaks to routine that my husband and I have made together that have moved us forward on three important shared goals: to read more of higher quality stuff, to get more, better sleep, and to spend more, better time together. If you share any of these goals, I’d recommend considering the following small changes to your routine.

1) No phones in the bedroom.

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I resisted this one HARD, you guys. And I made all the excuses you’re probably thinking of. My phone is my alarm clock! We don’t have a landline! I like to check email and social media in bed as a transition into my day each morning!

But the fact of the matter is that having access to our phones in bed meant that we were accidentally staying up too late and spending lots of time technically in the same space but ignoring each other. Plus, I was more likely to run late in the mornings because I got distracted scrolling through somethingorother before I even got out of bed.

We used the occasion of moving into our new master bedroom to start with a clean slate - and light assisted plug in alarm clocks. I have read more books in the last year than I probably did in the three preceding it, but I have to confess… if it’s a REALLY good book, I WILL stay up!

2) No drinking during the week.

I have never been particularly concerned about my relationship with alcohol. So when I read an article about the idea of only drinking on weekends, I resisted this idea too - what fun would it be to give up the pleasure of sharing a glass of wine to unwind at the end of a rough day? 

A little moderate abstention makes The Best Martini In The World all the more delicious!

A little moderate abstention makes The Best Martini In The World all the more delicious!

But the fact is that two things are true. The ritual of drinking causes me to check out mentally with the first sip - which means that any time after that is a wash in terms of any meaningful activity, including reading. And even one drink makes me more sluggish in the morning.

So, I brought up the idea to my husband and he agreed to give it a go. We have used the same rules from the article - abstain on school nights except for social events and vacations - and the better evening and mornings are totally worth it. I even dropped about five pounds without thinking about it!

3) Close the office door on evenings and weekends.

I have a nasty habit of retreating to my home office whenever I’m bored to check email, scroll through social media, and basically doodle around and waste time. I hate that I do this, but I couldn’t find a way to stop myself. Until that is, I was having coffee with Alexis Haselberger, a time management and productivity expert, and she told me that she physically closes her home office door to be able to focus on her family and personal life.

We’re still testing this one out, but early signs are good. We’ve been spending at least a couple evenings a week curled up on the couch with the dog between us and either noses in books or both looking over a laptop to do some planning. A far cry over retreating to our separate spaces to consume separate sources of media!

What seemingly small adjustment have you made that had a big impact on your life?

LMW

The Well Organized Wedding

As of July 10, I will have been married for eight years. Time really does fly when you’re having fun! Quite a bit has changed in wedding trends since then, but the basics remain the same. In the spirit of wedding season, I wanted to share a few tips that I think will make your entire wedding experience run more smoothly.

1) Cut out unnecessary extras.

The wedding industrial complex is so real. Weddings are high stakes events: you only get one and you want it to be perfect. This makes you extra vulnerable to the marketing of products you don’t need. Companies know this, and they prey on your emotions.

I am here to tell you that there are three things you should not skimp on for your wedding. Get these three on point and yours will be a party everyone remembers for decades to come:

Food. Booze. Music.

And there’s no need to complicate it, all of those things just have to be high quality and plentiful. If you feed people delicious food, provide tasty options for drinkers, and have music that makes people jump out of their chairs to dance, no one will care about anything else.

Look, no favors! All photos by the incomparable  Timothy Teague .

Look, no favors! All photos by the incomparable Timothy Teague.

We cut unnecessary extras, and we had a gorgeous wedding with zero regrets. For example: favors. Think about the last wedding you went to. Do you remember the favors? Did you keep yours (or if it was edible, did you eat it)? If you skip favors, you’ll save hundreds of dollars and a couple giant trash bags going into a landfill somewhere - not to mention the time and effort of putting them together.

No monogram, no problem! (Cake by  Robyn Loves Cake , it appears she has moved to Orlando so check her out, Florida brides! The cake was SO good.)

No monogram, no problem! (Cake by Robyn Loves Cake, it appears she has moved to Orlando so check her out, Florida brides! The cake was SO good.)

We never even considered having specialty champagne flutes and cake cutting utensils. Cake cutting takes about five minutes, and the pictures are just as beautiful without an engraved monogram. Plus, if you do drink champagne at home, it’s far more practical to have a full set of glasses on hand that go in the dishwasher so that you can pour bubbly for all your guests and clean up easily after they leave!

This one's framed in my living room. Dress and veil by  Peter Langner  via  Marina Morrison , suit by  Ralph Lauren , tie by  Thomas Pink .

This one's framed in my living room. Dress and veil by Peter Langner via Marina Morrison, suit by Ralph Lauren, tie by Thomas Pink.

We also didn’t take engagement pictures. My sister snapped a few pics of us so that we had something to put on our website, but that was it. Our rationale was this: we knew we would get beautiful photos from our wedding, and exactly how many photos of yourself displayed in your own home do you really need? I think it’s lovelyto have one or two framed wedding photos, but I much prefer being surrounded by pictures of my family and friends than glamour shots of myself!

2) Hire a day-of coordinator, or, if you can swing it, a full-on wedding planner.

When I got engaged, I strongly suggested (well, more like insisted) that we hire a wedding planner. To say that my parents, who had very generously offered to foot the bill, were not wild about this idea was an understatement. They have thrown many parties before - what could possibly be so hard? Plus, why waste the money?

It did, in fact, rain on our wedding day! My planner had the staff (enthusiastically assisted by my dad) out there cleaning off the dance floor plus a backup plan in place, and it became a funny story to tell instead of a disaster.

It did, in fact, rain on our wedding day! My planner had the staff (enthusiastically assisted by my dad) out there cleaning off the dance floor plus a backup plan in place, and it became a funny story to tell instead of a disaster.

Fast forward to the day after my wedding, and my parents are the biggest evangelists of wedding planners that you will find. Weddings, even if they are small and simple, have a lot of moving parts, and if you want to truly be present and enjoy your day, you don’t want to be the one dealing with them. 

I talk a lot about organizing being a way to buy yourself quality time with the people you love. On no day is that more true than your wedding day! And this is also a place, much like organizing, where you want to look to your friends and family for referrals, and be aware that you get what you pay for!

3) Someone is gonna get weird. Be prepared.

Again, a wedding is high stakes. Everything from the amount of money spent to the numbers of people involved to the fact that this is (ideally, anyway) a one-time only event conspires to spike everyone’s stress. So it makes sense that someone you’ve always been able to count on to behave a certain way suddenly veers off in a totally unexpected direction.

Classic suspects for this kind of behavior are brides themselves, moms, and wedding party members, but sometimes it’s a special guest star like a groom, dad, or random aunt. You won’t be able to predict who your weirdo is, but once they surface, you’ll realize this is happening to you!

It doesn’t matter who it is, or what they’re doing that’s so inexplicably off kilter - what matters is that you understand that this person’s unusual behavior is probably coming from a good place and will pass once the wedding is over. If you can, be patient, listen, and try to figure out compromises.

Engagement is a joyful time, but there’s also a lot of pressure involved. If you’re getting married soon, I wish you low stress, helpful friends and family, and the wedding of your dreams!

LMW

Weekly Peek 1/5/18

Happy New Year!

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In the grand tradition, friends of ours hosted the annual New Year's Eve dinner party.  There was champagne, there was caviar, there was a sous vide machine, there was a kale salad and a gluten free dessert (because after all, we live in San Francisco), and there were dear, dear friends I am so lucky to have in my life.  There has been both great joy and tremendous loss for people very close to me in 2017, and I'm just grateful to be there with them through it all.

When Life Gives You Lemons...

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About two and a half years ago, we bought our house.  A bit more than two years ago, we moved in.  Renovation plans were ready about a year and a half ago.  We broke ground a year ago.  And if you've ever done a home renovation before, you probably know what I'm going to say next: the project is still very much underway! I'm super pleased with how everything is going, but as they say, it just takes a long time.  "Twice as long and twice as much" is the saying, I believe.

...Make Lemonade!

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However, there's always a silver lining!  Or in this case, two.  First: we got our washer and dryer hooked up again, which means no more trips to the laundromat for me every Saturday.  I always try to be grateful for things like running water and appliances but man, I am dancing a jig while folding my towels these days.  And second: I decided to turn a piece of plywood blocking what will no longer be a doorway into a place to display our holiday cards.  There's no big secret: I just cut some ribbon and used push pins and clothespins, all of which I had lying around.  I don't keep holiday cards year to year, but I love sending, receiving, and displaying them during the festive season!

Think Snow

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Last January gave the Sierra Nevada mountains a month of snowfall so epic that Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows had t-shirts made for all the staff emblazoned with "Janu-buried!"  This year... not so much.  Snow is pretty thin on the ground as I get ready to start my patrolling season.  Here's hoping for some of those famous Sierra storms to start rolling through!

What I'm Reading

Wrapping up a few holdovers that stuck with me at the end of 2017...

We Might As Well Talk About Taylor Swift's New Single

The Fug Girls are some of the smartest pop culture critics out there, and their take on Taylor Swift both resonated with me and brought up points I hadn't even considered.  I doubt Taylor will ever read this... but I sincerely hope she does.

Elaine Welteroth, Teen Vogue's Refashionista

I wasn't the only one who noticed that a lot of the best written, most intelligent articles bubbling to the top of my social media feeds in mid-late 2017 came from Teen Vogue.  It's all due to their excellent writers and this woman, who I greatly admire.

Why I Finally Gave Up My Nightly Cocktail

There's a strong argument here that hits home with me.  The concept is being taken under consideration in the LMW household!

How the Sandwich Consumed Britain

I'm actually obsessed with the type of sandwich this article discusses: individually packed, cut into triangles, fillings generally mayonnaise-based.  So of course I greatly enjoyed this deep dive into why these particular meals became so popular and how they're made and distributed.

Weekly Peek - Trip of a Lifetime Part 2

I keep telling people that the week my mom and I spent at Arctic Watch may have been our favorite trip of all time.  I think part of the reason is that it caught me so by surprise. I honestly didn’t know you could actually go there, much less how you would do it.

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What made it so special?  I think it was a combination of the vast, barren natural beauty of the landscape; jaw dropping wildlife sightings; incredible people who are polar experts and delight in sharing their favorite place on earth with visitors; more creature comforts than you deserve at that latitude but not enough to feel too guilty about it; the ability to truly disconnect from the outside world and be present in the series of unique moments you experience; and being presented with countless opportunities to say yes to adventure.

We decided expedition parkas must be yellow so that the guides can keep track of the hapless tourists.

We decided expedition parkas must be yellow so that the guides can keep track of the hapless tourists.

This is a musk ox.  We met his live brethren later in the week!

This is a musk ox.  We met his live brethren later in the week!

As I explained in Part 1, we added a stopover in Calgary for the Stampede to our itinerary before meeting up with the tour group in Yellowknife.  The night before we left, we were given our expedition parkas (included in the trip fee) and our Muck boots (a loan for the duration of the trip).  You’ll see us wearing those boots in every picture for a reason: they are waterproof, warm, and extremely comfortable.  I hiked all day in those suckers and had nary a hot spot.

Sea ice on Somerset Island

Sea ice on Somerset Island

On the runway at Arctic Watch

On the runway at Arctic Watch

Bright and early in the morning, we loaded onto a bus to the airport, where we boarded a charter flight on a Dash 8 plane.  The pilot pointed out when we crossed the Arctic Circle – which, by the way, was before our halfway point refueling spot.  Arctic Watch is on Somerset Island along the Northwest Passage, and as we landed on a dirt runway with only some all terrain vehicles and a wind sock to be seen, it truly felt like the end of the earth.

Arctic Watch as seen from the runway

Arctic Watch as seen from the runway

Closer view of the main tent

Closer view of the main tent

At Arctic Watch, every day is an adventure.  You find out the options first thing in the morning and sign up for your choice (my mom and I were totally those people who hopped up to make sure we got our first pick since there was limited space on many of the excursions…). Many activities involve motorized vehicles, either ATV’s or this giant beast called a Unimog that they use to haul you to jumping off points for hikes.  After a day of, as my mom described, yet another peak experience, you come back in the evening to hang out in the great room and then go to dinner.  There’s not much activity after about 10pm – everyone goes to bed since the days start on the early side.

Mog.

Mog.

Mog selfie!

Mog selfie!

And those peak experiences?  It started our very first day, when a few of us walked along the ATV trail to a spot overlooking the bay and realized that what had looked like whitecaps in the water was actually a pod of 400 beluga whales.  Later in the week, we went down to the shore after dinner and stood just yards from them as they played and itched their shedding skin on the rocky bottom of the river mouth.

Whitecaps?

Whitecaps?

Nope, belugas!

Nope, belugas!

My mom and I went on a kayak trip one day.  It was incredible enough that a beluga whale bubbled right under our boat (I won’t lie, we shrieked, and then shrieked again when our friendly guide Alex informed us that meant the beluga was not pleased) and then paddled close enough to see seals on the sea ice (and I also almost got us stuck on said sea ice, it is wily).  But then we got out of our kayaks and walked up a beautiful, dramatic canyon with a waterfall in it, and Alex very unceremoniously walked in and swam in said waterfall in his dry suit.  So of course, we all had to give it a try! 

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Left: suited up to kayak one day, hike the next.  Top: lovely view from pretty much anywhere on an ATV drive

Left: suited up to kayak one day, hike the next.  Top: lovely view from pretty much anywhere on an ATV drive

Another day, we were supposed to all go on a rafting/stand up paddle boarding adventure on the river.  I was FIRED UP for this, and super disappointed when, just as we were arriving from a Unimog ride and short hike, the wind came up and the whole thing had to be scrapped.  The day was saved by guide Dave who offered to take anyone willing to keep up with him on the 8 mile cross country hike back to camp.  Two other women and I took him up on the offer, and it was so worth it.  He showed us hidden canyons, wind-barren hilltops and lakes, and actually breathtaking vistas (I say actually because we were literally leaning into the wind).

Inside the great room

Inside the great room

Some toothbrushing realness inside our tent

Some toothbrushing realness inside our tent

So here’s the nitty gritty.  There is one flight a week that lands on a dirt runway: the same plane that drops you off delivers all the food and picks up last week’s guests.  The camp itself is a group of semi-permanent white tents (the white part is important).  Each pair of guests has their own small tent with beds (fleece sheets and giant duvets, SO cozy), hanging storage shelves, a small sink console, and a marine toilet behind a zipped curtain.  The heat only goes on for 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening, so you're not exactly hanging out in there.  The main complex houses a great room for gathering, dining room and kitchen that seats the whole camp at long tables, gear storage areas, the staff office, and ladies’ and gents’ bathrooms with sinks, showers with changing rooms, and marine toilets.  So yes, to shower, you pack up your stuff just like in college and mosey on over to the main bathrooms.  Some guests waited a couple of days before attempting, but there was plenty of privacy and hot water to go around, so my mom and I took full advantage every day.

The 24 hour daylight thing is actually crazy in real life.  The sun doesn’t appreciably dip at any time of day, and it’s not really ever overhead, it just looks like a pretty consistent 2-3 pm on a fall day… all day.  This continues to be weird every which way you encounter it: when it’s 10:30pm and you’ve had a full day but you’re not tired, when you wake up at 3am and it looks like you’ve slept til noon, when you realize there isn’t a single electric light in the entire place (remember – white tents!).  The first night, my mom debated whether or not to wear a fleece hat to bed and decided to keep it right next to her in case she needed it in the night… as she carefully positioned the hat, I pointed out: “it’s not like you won’t be able to see it!”  We dissolved into semi-hysterical giggles.

A gourmet picnic in the high Arctic... only at Arctic Watch

A gourmet picnic in the high Arctic... only at Arctic Watch

We died upon realizing that the keg is outside unrefrigerated because... Arctic.

We died upon realizing that the keg is outside unrefrigerated because... Arctic.

The food (by Toronto based chef Justin Tse) is incredible.  It’s the kind of food I want to eat all the time: great ingredients, freshly and simply prepared.  Plus they have an espresso machine, as well as beer on tap and a selection of great Canadian wine.  Even the packed lunches hauled by the guides on all-day excursions are incredible: a different soup every day, each of them to die for, and make-you-own sandwiches on this delicious homemade bread.

Above all, the people are what make Arctic Watch.  The Weber family runs Arctic Watch and they are the consummate polar experts.  They also hire an incredible staff of friendly, experienced people who truly love the Arctic.  Theirs is a uniquely adventurous life, and I have to admit that although I love my mostly urban life, I’m more than a little jealous.

You won't believe it until you see it.

You won't believe it until you see it.

A trip to Arctic Watch is a once in a lifetime opportunity, for those of us who are even lucky enough to go in the first place.  It’s expensive, it’s remote, it’s a major commitment.  But if you ever get the chance: man, do not pass this up.  Go.

LMW

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Weekly Peek - Trip of a Lifetime Part 1

Sometime's life's best experiences take you by surprise.  It's why I've made it my personal policy to always say yes to unique opportunities.  So, when my mom emailed me the link to a Stanford Travel Study trip to an eco lodge well north of the Arctic Circle and told me my dad couldn't go, I just said, "let's do it!"

By saying yes to adventures, you also often encounter an amazing amount of serendipity.  The best way to get to Arctic Canada from the west coast of the US is to fly through Calgary, and our dates perfectly aligned so that we would be there for the final weekend of Stampede - one of the biggest rodeo events on the planet.  Obviously, we took this as a sign and extended our trip!

I can't do justice to this trip in one short blog post, so I'm going to break it up into a couple of parts.  Today: our adventure at the Calgary Stampede and exploration of Yellowknife, the jumping-off point for our Arctic expedition.

Calgary

My limited knowledge of Calgary came from stories I've heard about Stampede from horsey people (I briefly learned to ride gymkhana races in another life) and the Disney classic film Cool Runnings about the 1988 Winter Olympics.  As it turns out, Calgary reminds me of a hybrid of Denver and Houston: a modern city built on oil money in the middle of the plains featuring a high rise downtown and significant suburban sprawl.  There's clearly a lot going on there as evidence by the modern indicators of prosperity: a burgeoning food scene, a million condo buildings going up, and plentiful Ubers.

We had a great dinner at Rouge (fresh, local ingredients prepared expertly on the pretty patio of a historic home in the beautiful Inglewood neighborhood) the first night, followed by the heroic portions and epic kimchi hollandaise of brunch at Anju the next morning.  Appropriately fortified, it was on to the Stampede!

Our seats for the rodeo (that guy is about to go flying over the stands)

Our seats for the rodeo (that guy is about to go flying over the stands)

The Stampede Spectacular

The Stampede Spectacular

Calgary Stampede is basically a combination of a huge rodeo and a massive state fair.  All the fried foods you could ever wish for are on site, plus tons of agricultural exhibits and acres of livestock barns.  My mom did her research ahead of time and got us tickets in the stands to the actual rodeo events in the afternoon, which were so worth it: I had never actually seen bronco or bull riding in person, and it was so thrilling I watched most of it through my fingers.  We each picked a decadent fair food for dinner (spicy custom mac and cheese for me, poutine for my mom in honor of our Canadian hosts) and followed it up with fried cookie dough to share which was EVERYTHING wrong and delicious in this life!  We rounded out the evening by watching the Stampede Spectacular, which was basically a mini version of closing ceremonies at the Olympics.  We were both impressed by the theme of the show - "We Are Better Together" featuring many of the cultures that make up modern Canada and enthusiastically supported by the crowd - and wistful that such a progressive theme would never be featured at a similarly rural/conservative leaning event at home in the US.

If you go to the Calgary Stampede:

  • Book your hotel early.  We booked months ahead and the boutique hotel my mom wanted was already full so we ended up at the Fairmont.  It is perfectly fine, but overpriced for a relatively under-remodeled old hotel (good bathrooms though!).
  • Dress for the heat and potential thunderstorms.  We both wore light cotton sundresses and flat shoes and carried rain shells and although we wilted slightly we were happy campers!  If I had tried to cowgirl it up in jeans and boots I would have been sweltering, and I felt for the riders in their heavy leather chaps.
  • Once you're at the Stampede grounds, plan to stay until you go home for the day.  The lines to enter only increase as the day goes on.
  • Fly Air Canada if you are a United customer with status - Star Alliance gold gets you into priority check-in and security lanes as well as the Maple Leaf Lounge.  Bonus: Global Entry also works for immigration in Canada, both arriving and leaving! 

Yellowknife

The official Stanford Travel/Study trip began in Yellowknife, Northern Territories, because it has Canada's northernmost airport served by major commercial airlines.  We really didn't know what to expect here, to be perfectly honest.  It's a bigger city than we imagined, about 25,000 people, and has a definite frontier town feel.  It's built for the harsh winter weather: buildings are square, sturdy, and no-nonsense.  The biggest industry in the area remains mining, so there's cash on hand - as we saw in our exploration of a very high end grocery and homewares store - but the legacy of mistreatment of First Nations and Inuit peoples is also pretty obvious in the form of substance abuse issues and social stratification.  Food and alcohol are expensive, since everything must be trucked in over vast distances: a head of organic broccoli was on sale for $7.95 CDN!

Looking over old town Yellowknife from the Bush Pilots Monument

Looking over old town Yellowknife from the Bush Pilots Monument

View across Frame Lake to downtown

View across Frame Lake to downtown

Looking back towards downtown from the Bush Pilots Monument

Looking back towards downtown from the Bush Pilots Monument

Inside Bullocks' Bistro

Inside Bullocks' Bistro

Yellowknife is less a tourist destination than a jumping off point for adventure excursions, but we had a day and a half there and had a great time!  Our first day, we walked into the historic old town and poked around - and were somewhat gobsmacked to realize that Yellowknife's pioneer heyday was pretty recent as in the 1930's and 1940's!  The second day, we did the hike around Frame Lake, a very pretty and well marked trail that borders the newer downtown, and visited the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre which has really high quality exhibits.  That evening, we met our travel group, got fitted for boots (more on those later), picked up our expedition parkas, and then headed out for dinner at Bullocks' Bistro.  This is one of those places with extreme amounts of local character, and also the best fish and chips I have ever had in my life - and I have spent more time than the average bear in the UK including sampling of various types of fish and chips!  On the way home, it felt so early - at was probably 8:30 p.m. and fully sunny - that we stopped off for a beer at Northwest Territories Brewing Company.  A great spot (we ended up coming back for dinner on our way back through Yellowknife at the end of the trip), and I recommend the Amber!

That would be PM.

That would be PM.

The view from our Explorer Hotel room

The view from our Explorer Hotel room

This was where we realized that the long northern days were going to be weirder than we thought.  In Yellowknife, the sun does set at midsummer, but it only really ever gets dusky.  As a trip host told us, she hadn't seen stars since early May!  So, we easily lost track of time and found ourselves rushing back to the hotel after 10p.m. to make sure to get some shut-eye before our early-ish departure the next morning!

If you go to Yellowknife:

  • There's no need to dress up.  I felt overdressed at the hotel restaurant in jeans with a nice top, and we bummed around during the day in workout clothes and our finest Patagonia outerwear and fit in just fine.
  • If you want to sleep properly, close your curtains!  It may feel at 11pm like it's about to get dark... but it won't.
  • If you're patient, everything is walkable.  Taxis exist, but we were perfectly happy walking everywhere.  Nothing you want to see or need to do is more than a mile away.
  • Lodging options are limited.  We stayed at the Explorer Hotel, which is supposedly the best in town.  Facilities are what you would expect from a big city Holiday Inn or similar, rooms are less recently remodeled but perfectly fine with comfortable beds.

To see even more photos from this epic trip, be sure to follow me on Instagram.  I'll be back with more on our Arctic adventure next week!

LMW

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Weekly Peek

I’m Feeling Very Olympic Today

 (Bonus points are awarded to those of you who recognize the movie quote, and aren’t horrified by my truly terrible taste in film.) I just joined the Olympic Club, the oldest amateur athletic club on the west coast.  Other than socializing and using the truly impressive gym facilities, I plan to ski for their championship winning team.  Although I'm an expert skier I have virtually no race experience, but apparently there are handicapped levels, so I’ll be able to contribute in some way.

One Tequila, Two Tequila…

My husband took me and a couple of our friends to a tequila and mezcal tasting at The Battery a couple of weeks ago. The group consensus going in was that mezcal was preferred over tequila due to more flavor complexity, so we headed straight for Del Maguey, a mezcal-only producer that was the first to introduce the spirit to the US market.  The variations based on elevation, climate, and plant type are actually really easy to taste, and completely ruined us for the other brands we tasted later!  My husband also always insists that we visit the photo booth room every time we bring friends to The Battery, and you can see that the mezcal helped with photo friendliness...

Photo courtesy of iflysfbay.com - Yes, that's me!

Photo courtesy of iflysfbay.com - Yes, that's me!

Bucket List Item: Checked

I have always wanted to do indoor skydiving.  You know, with a vertical wind tunnel, dorky glasses, and a funny one piece suit.  So when I saw passes for two at iFly at the Counterpulse Magenta Party silent auction, I knew they had to be mine.  We finally found time to go last weekend, and it was a ton of fun.  The feeling of floating is so amazing - it's all the magic of a gravity free existence without the sheer terror of extended free fall.  I know of what I speak: I have actually been real skydiving, once, when I was 22.  My dad got it for me as a Christmas present and we went together (fun fact: my mom stayed buried in bed until he called her to report we were both safe on the ground), and I was so terrified that I screamed from the moment I exited the plane until the second my partner pulled the chute (I'm sure he was thrilled).  Bottom line on the iFly version: tons of fun, would do again!

Photo courtesy of Annette Blum

Activist Book Club

My amazing book club, which I've discussed here before, has also become a de-facto Women's March huddle for our little group.  And so, when we read about sending postcards to our elected officials because phone lines have been so jammed, we sprang into action.  One girl printed out the official Women's March postcards, one bought postcard stamps, somebody brought her impressive collection of washi tape, I contributed printed quote images and colored Sharpies, and we got our activist craft on.  We sent postcards to Senators Feinstein and Harris, our individual Representatives (we come from at least 3 Bay Area districts), and of course the Speaker of the House.  It's a small thing, but it led to great discussions about what we want our elected officials to actually do (as opposed to expressing general anger at the current state of things).

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you (somewhat belatedly, thanks to a temporary technological snafu)!  I hope you and your loved ones enjoyed your holidays.

We ended 2016 with a bang: hosting a NYE dinner party for some of our closest friends.  it's a tradition among my girlfriends that dates back to approximately 2007, when we couldn't really afford to go out on NYE and decided to make our own fun via potluck and cheap wine instead!  We've added friends (and courses, and pairings) over the years, but what stays the same is a relaxed good time with people we love, someone(s) staying over on an air mattress, and a bunch of hungover people in sweatpants eating whatever my husband can find in the fridge to fry the next day.

I'm starting 2017 on a great note both personally and professionally with some wonderful clients coming on board, interior design for our upstairs rooms really coming together, and major construction for our basement well underway.  Plus, the ski season is off to a great start (quoth the avalanche report: "snowfall now being measured in feet across the forecast area") and we have a couple of fun trips planned.  

At the same time, outside my bubble 2017 threatens to upset current stability where it exists and intensify problems that already plague our world.  The human rights of each person on this planet - regardless of race, gender, sexuality, citizenship status, religion, or any other identity that can divide us - are extremely important to me and I intend to use that principle to guide me in thoughtful action this year.  

I hope 2017 is getting off to a great start for you, and would love to hear about your dreams and goals for this year!

LMW

What I'm Organizing

Every year we host a holiday open house.  We had so much fun the first year that we kept going, and now it's turned into a major occasion for all of our friend groups.  At this point, people now have Holiday Party Friends: the people they didn't know before they started coming to our parties but now look forward to seeing every year.  

From Holiday Party 2012: picture taken in the kitchen of our old condo because let's be honest, that's where the party is.

It's never exactly easy to host a party for 60+ people over 6 hours, but it doesn't have to be a struggle either.  Here's how we do it:

1) We want a casual, comfortable vibe.  This means we go pretty minimal on the non-essentials.  Decor is limited to our usual Christmas decorations, glasses and utensils are disposable and ordered in bulk on Amazon, everything is served buffet style, and the soundtrack is jazzy Christmas carols from my husband's Spotify channel.

2) The most important things are food and booze.  In order to not kill ourselves, we purchase pre-prepared where we can and stick to cold/room temperature fare.  We also condense the list of drink offerings to make it easy for everyone to serve themselves: we offer one signature cocktail (with the nonalcoholic non-fizzy ingredients mixed ahead of time so non drinkers can still mix up something fun), champagne, and beer.

3) I get obsessed about one thing: homemade desserts.  I learned to make and frost a layer cake before I knew how to boil water, so as weird and over the top as it sounds, I have a hard time being able to serve a dessert I didn't make myself.  Again, I don't want to go nuts, so I keep it simple and do things like cookies and brownies (Cook's Illustrated's molasses spice cookies have been a HUGE hit) that I can make in big batches.

4) We keep the party adults only.  The older we get, the more of our friends have children, and of course we love them!  But kids (especially the under-three set that dominate in our social circles) at this party would be a logistical nightmare: our house is so very not childproofed, it gets really crowded, and people are having a lot of fun.  I know I wouldn't want to be trying to keep track of a little one in that environment!

4) We keep traditions alive.  There's always some kind of clandestine liquor consumption going on, from a tequila shot bar to cherry cordial from Croatia mysteriously passed around in our bedroom to half the party trooping into our scary rats and bats basement area to sample my husband's whiskey collection.  My husband and I always wear plaid pants (can be spotted in photo above).  We always eat burritos before everyone arrives because we always forget to actually eat during the party. And it's always loud and warm and a bit of a mess and we wouldn't have it any other way!

Hope you're enjoying your holiday season!

LMW

Weekly Peek

Photo courtesy of yelp.com

Photo courtesy of korbinkameron.com

New Discoveries

One of my sorority sisters got married a couple of weeks ago in Sonoma, so ten of us decided to get an Air BnB house so that we could grill, chill, and lay by the pool all weekend.  We didn't plan to wine taste in favor of leaving our schedule open, but on Saturday morning my husband realized that the adorable hamlet of Glen Ellen was a) walking distance and b) in possession of several tasting rooms.  Off we went, and make two excellent discoveries: Korbin Kameron, a family run winery producing high end reds, and Kivelstadt, a fun startup embracing the weird, funky, and wonderful in wine (try the orange, it's crazy!).  Both places were super friendly, and we'll be back - we signed up for both wine clubs!

Photo courtesy of campari.com

A Light Beverage

I'm embracing the bitter in spirits these days - my new summer go-to is Campari and soda.  This is a classic you don't see people order a lot, probably because the bitterness of Campari is an acquired taste and an unexpected contrast to its festive bright red color.  But I find that if you add ice, soda, and a twist of orange peel, you have a refreshing summer drink that's neither sweet nor overly alcoholic.

Attempting (failing) to get Petunia to pose with the paw prints at Hopper's Hands at Fort Point

Walk the City

I'm so lucky to live in San Francisco, where we have plenty of parks and open space.  I've walked my dog in the Presido before and always wanted to go all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge but never found the time - until this past weekend!  We leashed up Petunia, grabbed a couple of friends, and set off on the ultimate urban hike.  The fog was just rolling in over the bridge, meaning that the Presidio was sunny and green, the bridge dramatic, and the weather just warm enough for a light layer.  After working up an appetite, we inhaled burrito bowls and tacos at Bonita, then moseyed up to Union Street for coffee at Wrecking Ball followed by a glass of wine at Wine Cask.  And even though the hill was daunting at that point, we did complete the entire loop by walking home, bringing our total for the day to just under 12 miles.  Bucket list item: checked!

Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe last weekend (in which I sadly did not swim)

Taking a Break

I recently had yet another abnormal mole removed (not cancerous, everything is fine!), leaving me with stitches on the back of my leg.  In order to make sure I don't rip the incision, I've been instructed to take it easy: walking ok, weight lifting not so much.  Oh, and I can't swim - excellent timing in the middle of the summer!  I'm frustrated, but doing my best to use the opportunity to work on my upper body and core strength (as I'm basically configured like T-Rex, I can always use extra work in this department) as well as my patience (which does NOT come naturally).  Looking forward to getting my stitches out next week!