New England Weekend

I spent the weekend in Massachusetts and it was one of those perfect late summer/early fall weekends where the leaves are just starting to turn and there’s a breeze in the air, but it’s still warm and sunny.

I got to have a long lunch with an old friend who was my roommate when I lived in Boston about a billion years ago. Walking down Newbury Street and into the Common with her felt oddly like time traveling. She’s the best kind of friend—one for whom the years just fall away as soon as you sit down across from them.

The rest of the weekend was spent getting in as many chubby thigh squeezes as possible with my sweet nephew, Patton. I know I’m biased, but I seriously think he’s just wonderful. He’s all giggles and wonder and play—with just a tad middle-of-the-night screaming charm tossed in.

We went to a dairy farm and its cheese shop, bought still-warm apple cider donuts at an orchard, and went for a late afternoon hike in the woods. Which all seems like exactly what you’re supposed to do on a New England fall weekend.

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I recently started working for a company that has half a million employees. So about the same as a mid-sized US city’s metro area. I’ve said the words, “Hi, I’m Sarah,” what feels like around 40 billion times in the last two months. So this is hashtag goals, as the kids say.

Point of Pride

There are several things about myself about which I’m unreasonably proud:

I have an incredible sense of smell. I have a longstanding claim that I can smell ants. Some people (read: most everyone) don’t believe this. But that’s just because they don’t have my nose. I’m confident that if dogs could talk, hound dogs would be like “Oh yeah, ants, that’s an easy one.” I would relate well to hound dogs.

I have an internal compass. For a long time, I didn’t even know this was a thing that most people don’t have. At any given moment, if you ask me which of the cardinal directions I’m facing, I can probably get very close. My mind just thinks that way. I arrive at an intersection and I can tell you which corner is the “northwest corner” before my brain thinks “the corner on the left.” I use this skill mostly to be obnoxious when I’m supposed to be navigating for someone who isn’t Magellan.

Don’t worry. While there are many, many, many more things about which I’m overly proud, I’ll stop there. The point of this was to share that this weekend one thing about which I’m very proud was shattered.

I’d always thought that I didn’t suffer from seasonal allergies. Sure, put me within 100 yards of a poison ivy vine and I instantly have a rash. And I’m pretty sure that I’m allergic to octopus. But things like pollen? No big deal.

Until now. The last few weeks I’d been feeling a little like I was catching a cold. Then, yesterday morning I woke up with both eyes swollen shut and my face twice its normal size. I looked like someone had beaten me. Knowing that I don’t have seasonal allergies, I felt certain is was a fluke incident and went outside to do yard work.

This is when I almost died. My throat squeezed up, my eyes closed shut, and I began sneezing like a crazy person. As it turns out, I’m allergic to ragweed—something that’s in peak season in Charlotte right now. Several drugs later, I’m feeling (and looking) significantly better. But my ego has taken a real hit. I was really in denial until I took my first Claritin ever this morning and now feel better than I’ve felt in weeks.

So, I’m now a person who deals with seasonal allergies. I can’t be smug about it anymore. Which is really hard because I like being smug. But on the upside, the drugs are helping to clear up my exquisite sense of smell.

 

Listen Up

I’m obsessed with Audible. I’ve been listening to books on it for a few years, but mostly on car rides and places where I couldn’t read. But I’ve recently had a breakthrough. I can download a fun, fictional novel on Audible and then do all the things that distract me (and my teeny, tiny attention span) from reading WHILE I’m listening to it. I go on walks, do yard work, cook, paint my nails, play with the dogs, browse online, catch a flight, eat a meal, act like I’m paying attention when someone else is talking… everything…. all while listening to a book.

I realize this isn’t exactly new information. But for me it’s been a game changer. I no longer have the attention span/time I once did to read. But I totally have it to listen to someone read a juicy novel to me. The two at the top are my latest downloads and I really enjoyed both. They’re thriller mysteries and hold your attention.

Slaughter’s gets predictably (for her) violent and overly descriptive of violence. Seriously, I hope that woman is in some kind of therapy. But it’s a story of mystery in a small Southern town that folks in the olden days of print would have called a “page-turner.”

The Secrets She Keeps was especially fun. There were some unexpected twists and I loved the character development. That it takes place in London (best city ever) and is read by someone with a British accent (best accent ever), are just added bonuses.

 

Weekend at Pawleys

I read a quote recently that said, “Do more things that make you forget to check your phone.” That was this weekend.

My friends and I sat in the warm sand, around big tables, in porch rocking chairs, and on sunny docks—having long conversations, eating way too much food, and soaking in what I think is the most beautiful place on earth. If a soul can breathe a sigh of relief, mine did this weekend.

 

Minneapolis For A Minute

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Often, the mentality with work trips is “Sure, this may be a cool city I’m in, but I’m just in the airport, the bland hotel nearby, and some windowless conference room.”

It happens. In general, traveling for work is not glamorous. But I try really hard, even when I’m on a tight schedule and pretty fully booked, to squeeze in a taste of wherever I am. Such was the case on a 24-hour trip I took to Minneapolis this week to give group presentations (in one of those windowless conference rooms about six minutes from the airport).

I did a little research beforehand (mostly playing around on Instagram) and headed to an area of town that seemed fun. Here are some cool places I checked out (there were tons more in the neighborhood) in case you ever have a few extra minutes in Minneapolis:

I’m probably not cool enough for Spyhouse Coffee. Everyone inside this hip coffee shop had that laidback Midwestern vibe meets Brooklyn hipster thing going on. But the Spygirl Latte, which is made with lavender and honey, was creamy and perfect and I’d travel back to Minnesota just for one more warm mug of that.

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Glam Doll Donuts seriously feels like you’re in a grown-up, pink-soaked dollhouse where donuts are served. It’s a fun spot and the made-from-scratch donuts are mindblowing. This “Night Moves” donut was made with blackberry hennessy icing and blackberry jam. Next time I’m trying the one with the dark chocolate bourbon filling.

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Greater Goods gift shop was adorable. It’s a bright and cozy shop where they give back a portion of all their proceeds to a different local charitable organization each year. I loved their stationery and candles.

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My favorite stop (predictably) was GYST Fermentation Bar. I want to pick up this restaurant and move it about one thousand miles to the southeast. Dedicated entirely to fermented foods, the modern and cheerful restaurant (pictured at top) features cured meats, artisanal cheeses, wines, pickled veggies, chocolates, breads… basically all of the world’s greatest foods. My dream meal would be ordering their “Motherboard” and a bottle of wine to split with friends.

Uber Education

I love Uber drivers. I’ve had some terrible ones—a guy who I’m pretty sure was drunk and who kept referring to liberals as “snowflakes” comes to mind. But also some really great ones. Last night was a great one.

Thomas picked me up in downtown Minneapolis where I am on a work trip to return me to my hotel after dinner. He immediately began sharing his entire life story with me. He’d been in Minneapolis for 20 years, ever since he’d moved here so he wouldn’t have to raise his children in his violent Chicago neighborhood.

Thomas was an older black man who admitted early in the ride that his rather large girth came from a love of Southern cooking. His mother lives on 40 acres in the middle of Mississippi and he is confident she’s the greatest cook on earth.

I’m fascinated by the kind of insane cold that Minnesota deals with, so I asked Thomas about it. He told me about massive snow drifts and “cutting temperatures.”

“You know, the worst part is every winter as it gets cold you start hearing the stories of the homeless people who die,” he said.

I nodded sadly. “Yeah, I can’t imagine how hard it would be to be homeless in that kind of weather,” I say.

He nodded, then said winking, “Of course, they find their ways to escape it.”

I nodded, not knowing what he was talking about.

He went on, “I don’t want to say what they do, but you know what they do.”

At this point I’m thinking that perhaps Thomas is alluding to homeless people breaking into places to stay warm. I nod again.

“I really shouldn’t say what they do, but we all know what they do,” he said. Then he paused and said matter of factly. “They get with a fat chick.”

Thomas feels certain that accepting the sexual advances of overweight women was the primary method for homeless men surviving the Minnesota winter. “I mean, the other thing with a fat chick is that she knows how to cook. So you won’t be hungry. And you’re out of the cold. So you do what you have to do.”

His logic seems sound. And Thomas seemed like he knew things. I feel like as far as Uber rides go, this one was especially informative. So, I’m passing on my newfound knowledge. Now you know.