How to Travel to ANY Destination!

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
– St. Augustine

We have a dry erase board at work that we use to ask each other different questions every month. A few months ago the question was, “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?” It’s an innocent enough question, but it actually really bothered me. And it bothered me because of one word: if.

As I literally found myself writing a public service announcement response about how attainable travel really is, I thought better of it and decided to write here instead. So let me just state the obvious: Traveling to your favorite destination IS possible! 

The problem with the word “if” is that it qualifies travel as this mysterious thing that only happens to really rich/lucky people and is something that is never going to happen to you. Don’t accept that. You get one fucking life. ONE. You CAN be a person who travels to a place they read about in a magazine, or saw in a movie, or heard about through a friend. Like anything in life, you have to make travel a priority and you have to come up with a plan. Here’s what you do:

Step 1: Pick the destination in your mind. That’s all you have to do for step one. Just know where you want to go.

Step 2: Do some research. Figure out the cost of flights, hotels, rental car, and any activities you might do there. You’re just ball-parking at this point—no need to get exact.

Step 3: Get real about your money.  Now that you know how much the trip could potentially cost, look at your finances. Do you have that much money in your bank account? If yes, awesome! If not, time to analyze. Excluding bills, what are you spending your money on? Look for items that you could curtail, like that $5 Frapp you buy each morning. Expenses that don’t seem like very much in the moment add up over time. A $5 coffee each morning = $35 a week, $150 a month, or $1825 a year! That’s like an entire trip right there! Maybe you have an online shopping habit, or maybe you go to the movies each weekend. Whatever it is, ask yourself, “Is this more important than traveling?” If it is, I have no time for you — goodbye. If it’s not, read on!

Step 4: Setup a savings account JUST FOR TRAVEL.  Did you gasp at this idea? I know, me too when I thought of it originally (note: I did not invent this idea). When my partner Dan and I were first getting into travel and doing these same steps, we knew we had to do something different than saving money in our bank accounts. If we saw money in there, we were going to spend it. So I had the idea of us physically withdrawing money every paycheck and putting it in a “travel jar.” Beside this being a really dumb idea if we had been robbed, it was also foolish because it meant the money we were saving was not gaining any interest. So instead we looked for a savings account with a high interest rate. We landed with an online bank and a 1% interest rate. I highly suggest using a different bank than the one you keep the rest of your money in so that you are not easily tempted to use it. What you want to do is pretend this account doesn’t exist or that you don’t have permission to access it. I love my bank for this reason because I don’t have an ATM card…BUT if shit hits the fan, I can do an online transfer to my other bank in a couple days.

Another tip is to open a credit card that earns travel points. There are lots out there that help you earn miles, or will even forgive travel related expenses.

Step 5: Start saving money. Some people will interpret this sentence as, “DEPRIVE YOURSELF OF EVERYTHING.” But that’s not what I’m suggesting. What I’m suggesting is little improvements here and there. Think back to step 3 and how much you’re spending on non-essentials and decide on a number that is doable for you. I don’t care if you can only afford to save $9 a paycheck–do it. Go to your HR department, give them that magical number and setup a direct deposit. You will be shocked at how quickly this money adds up!

Step 6: Get obsessed with savings. You’ve got your travel savings account, you’re making regular deposits, and now it’s time to get obsessed with saving money. How exactly do you do this? Challenge yourself to make deposits whenever possible and then be really proud of yourself when you do!

Let’s pretend you were thinking of going out to dinner. After booze and food, your meal might have cost you $25-$50. Let’s also pretend your plans fell through and now you’re making dinner at home. Take the $25-50 you would have spent on that meal and deposit it!  Here’s another scenario:  you just got a raise at work. Guess what? You survived on the amount you were making before. Time to invest the difference. Calculate your increase per paycheck, go back to HR, and change the amount you are depositing into your travel account. Again, I don’t care if you’re only make .38c more per paycheck — deposit it!

Step 7: Get prepared to actually use some of your time off. I can’t tell you how many people I know who lose PTO by the end of the year because they didn’t take enough days off. What the actual fuck is wrong with these people!? They’re PAID vacation days. They are one of the perks of your employment! If you are one of these people, first of all, I feel sorry for you. Secondly, what are you worried about? That the office is going to fall apart without you? That your boss will deny your request? If you have a good boss, they will understand the importance of taking time off. It’s not just some cush benefit; we receive time off to RESET so that we can come back and continue to do our jobs well. We are not doing ourselves or our organization any favors by being overworked, super grumps. So use it!

Step 8: Be flexible on the timing of your trip. Did you know timing can greatly affect how much your trip costs? A recent study said that the best time to book domestic flights is 54 days out; the booking window for international flights varies greatly.  Even the day of week you fly on matters. I highly recommend using Google Flights to try different days and months.

Another factor is that every destination has a peak tourist season.You can save yourself a lot of money and avoid big crowds by booking off-season. For example, Italy’s peak season is May-August. Dan and I have visited twice: once in April and once in late May/early June. The trip we took off season saved us upwards of $500 per person!

But let’s be honest — sometimes you are choosing a location because of the season. For example, you might be booking a trip to a Caribbean island to escape winter. In that case, understand there’s not much you can do and get used to the idea of paying a premium.

Step 9. Keep your eyes peeled for deals. There are tons of travel websites out there that offer vacation packages. They often come up suddenly and disappear just as quickly. But if you can find one, bundling your airfare and lodging will save you so much money! I personally swear by Travelzoo. They release a weekly email called The Top 20, which features the best deals they’ve come across from each week. I’ve booked at least three vacations through them. Remember how I said we found an off-season deal to Italy? That was through Travelzoo: 7 nights, airfare, hotels, and rental car for a total of $699 per person. Literally less than the price of one airplane ticket to Italy. You can also try the vacation bundle options at Priceline, Kayak, and Travelocity (or a million other sites).

Step 10. Make a more concrete budget. In step 2, you researched ballpark prices of airfare, lodging, car rental and activities. Now it’s time to get exact prices. You should have an idea of when you want to travel, so start plugging in some dates and times to get costs. Try different websites, different days of the week, and different months. Think about the activities you want to do while you’re there and get some prices. When you’ve collected all the pieces, make a budget that includes:

  • Anything you need to buy for your trip. For example, do you need a passport?
  • Transportation to/from the airport
  • Airfare
  • Lodging
  • Car rental or public transportation at the destination
  • Activities (entrance fees, tickets, etc)
  • Food and drink

After making this budget, you might find you still don’t have enough money. And that can discouraging, but it’s part of the process. Keep saving! When you finally do have enough to take this trip, you will appreciate it so much more.

Step 11. Pull the trigger! When you’ve finally saved enough money to get to the destination of your dreams, pat yourself on the back! You set a goal for yourself and you did it! Tell work you’re finally going to take a freakin’ vacation. Then book that trip and have an amazing time!

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain


10 Things I Love About Target

If you’re living in Vermont then you likely heard the BIG news today – no, it’s not about Ben and Jerry’s, or pot, or skiing. Are you ready…TARGET IS COMING TO VT! YAAAAAAAAAY!

That’s right, the only state in the country without a Target store is finalllly getting one. It’s been, oh I don’t know, 500 years since we’ve been asking?  Target will be going in at the University Mall sometime in 2018. It’s not going to be a large Target – I guess they are trying a new smaller model for more rural communities like ours – but hey, a Target is a Target, right? No more having to take the expensive ferry to Plattsburgh, NY to shop in one, or drive all the way to New Hampshire. Now you can take that gas and ferry money AND BUY MORE THINGS AT TARGET!

So in honor of this exciting news, here are 10 things that I love about Target.

1. Those big, red concrete balls out front. I don’t know why, but as soon as we park, I start RUNNING to those balls like I’m metal to a magnet. Weeeeee!


2. There is almost always a Starbucks inside. Why, yes, I would love to pump myself full of caffeine to become even more excited about this shopping experience.

3. Their Carts. I’m normally a person who HATES pushing a cart. I always end up with that one that has a wonky wheel, or makes a super embarrassing high pitched squeal.  But the carts at Target…oh MAN. They are next level. They literally glide. It’s MAGIC.


4. The store is clean, bright and well organized. Yesss to not having to shop in a complete dump just because you’re getting good deals. Wally World, I’m looking at you.

5. They have super cute home décor stuff. Unexpected, right? I’ve purchased everything from candles, to shower curtains, to an outdoor couch from Target. And none of it looked like it came from a department store.

6. It allows me to be efficient. I can pick up a new bra, cat food, stationery and a car battery, all in one swoop! Without Target, I’d have to go to four different stores to get all of those items.

7. Their cartwheel rewards program is baller good and saves you lots of money. I follow a couple couponing sites and they are always sharing the amazing deals you can get at Target. I can’t wait to sign up for Cartwheel and try myself!

8. That bargin section at the beginning of the store with seasonal items you didn’t even know you needed. The joy a $1 pack of pencils brings to my life cannot be understated. This section starts your shopping experience off right!
9. Their employees are so friendly and helpful. Wow, people who don’t look like they want to kill themselves AND actually know where things are in the store? Unheard of.

10. Their branding. That cute dog Spot, the iconic bullseye (so simple, yet so effective) and their entertaining commercials make me want to go to Target always.

2016: My Year in Review

Sometimes I can be hard on myself. I tend to get to the end of a year and think, “I didn’t do this” or “I never got around to that.” This year, as I sifted through the 1,300 photos on my iPhone, I realized I actually had a really phenomenal year and that’s worth celebrating!

1. I met Hillary fucking Clinton. Sorry, Dan, that had to be number 1.

2. I read 20 books.

3. We spent my birthday at a relaxing Spa.

4. We went “across” with my Mom. CAPPA.


5. We flew over the Atlantic Ocean for the first time.

6. We visited Europe…twice…!


7. I learned some Italian.

8. I ran 2 miles, two days a week, for most weeks.

9. I wrote more here on my blog.

10. I danced on stage with Morris Day and the Time.

11. We saw Pearl Jam, The Dixie Chicks, Brandi Carlile, and Rev Run in concert.

12. We spent a week on Martha’s Vineyard and celebrated Dan’s 37th birthday.

13. We went to the Warren Fourth of July Parade for the first time and Dan won $75 worth of cheese.

14. We hiked, walked and ran with Sadie more this year.

img_7409 img_7410
15. We kayaked and fished.

16. We saw 4 Lake Monsters games.

17. I won 99 $1.00 bills at Breakwaters.

18. I also won a year of flea prevention medicine for Sade, ha.

19. I spent a lot of time with family.

20. I baked countless breads, cookies and pastries.






21. We gave our greenhouse a makeover.


22. We installed new basement windows.

23. I cuddled (a lot) with Brody and Sadie.sadie-brody-cuddling
24. We spent some QT with friends.

25. We played on a softball team and donned jeggings.softball
26. We ran a 5K and had to eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in the middle of it (and yes I realize how counter productive this was to #8)

27. I became very close to the cat next door, Lily.


28. I got to see one of my best friends have a baby (note: not *literally* see) and become an honorary Auntie.

29. We visited Portland, ME.

30. We went to Hampton Beach.

31. We had awesome foliage and went on a leaf-peeing adventure to the NEK.

32. I got *really* into nail art.

33. I developed a new-found appreciation for both my dad and Sherlock Holmes.

34. We made teacup bird feeders and became bird watchers.

35. We got lots of snow in December and I continued trying to learn how to snowboard.

36. I got to honor a close friend and coworker with a goofy video.

37. I became a Nasty Woman – ok, let’s be honest: I always was one, but finally got the t-shirt to prove it.img_9507

38. I organized a drive for period products for a domestic violence organization.period-products-drive
39. I rekindled an important friendship.


40. And…I finally hit that mother f-ing jackpot on Candy Crush.


What a year!

The Bubble Bursts. Trump Wins.


Two weeks ago, we were in London on another one of our cheap travel adventures. We had booked the deal weeks before Brexit and were pretty happy that the timing worked out in our favor. But besides a cheap (er) pound, we weren’t sure what to expect over there. Would Brexit be all that was talked about? Would the pubs be crowded with people drinking away their sorrows? It was hard to know what would happen.

One night, I got accidentally hangry and we ran into the first restaurant we could find. It was busy and the only table available was a shared one in the back of the restaurant. I grumbled, but we accepted. Towards the end of the meal, our British table-mates chatted us and asked where we were from. We had joked before the trip that we would lie and tell people we were from Canada in order to avoid talking about the presidential election. But we found ourselves nonetheless confessing “Vermont.” Instantly the conversation turned to the topic we had hoped to avoid.

“You aren’t from TRUMPLAND, are you?” our British friends laughed.

“No, definitely not!” we replied.

“What a joke your country is right now!” and we agreed.

It went on like this for a little bit—them sharing they had seen Trump say  X offensive thing, us laughing nervously while trying to make it clear we weren’t supporters. Finally Dan was able to pivot to their current crisis.

“Yeah, so what about Brexit? What a disaster that was, huh?”

It was like the music in the room stopped. Instantly their moods changed. Their faces grew stern. “Actually, no. We think it’s great. We think it’s just what this country needs,” they told us. Open mouth, insert foot.

Trump winning yesterday is that interaction all over again, but on a massive scale. I had naively assumed the majority of Americans didn’t support him, that there was no way he could win, and that if he did, I wouldn’t personally know anyone who was happy about his victory. But it turns out, I do know Trump supporters:

-My friend from college who outed herself the day after the election. She said she was offended by the news because there are plenty non-white, non-males who supported him, including herself.  She is not only a college educated female, but half Mexican.

-My best friend’s parents. They are hardworking, good people, who own a local business and are constantly donating food or gift cards from their restaurant to non-profits, schools, and youth sports teams. They even recently held a Calcutta fundraiser for one of their former employee’s grandsons who is sick with leukemia.

-My aunt, who is one of the people I love and respect most in the world. She is smart, reasonable, and is another example of a big-hearted person who constantly goes out of her way for others.

I struggle to understand their decision—to understand how I can like these people when they voted for the exact opposite of everything I believe in. It hurts. It’s hard not to take their choices personally.

But if I play the devil’s advocate for a minute, voting is just as personal a decision as say abortion, the issue I work every day to protect. If these people, these good humans, could find something appealing about Trump, it shouldn’t surprise me that 59 million other Americans could, too. Do I think that all 59 million are the same caliber of decency as my friends and family? No. In a lot of ways, this race, this candidate, granted permission to the racists, sexists, xenophobes, and homophobes to come crawling out of the closets and spew hatred. And I believe that a big chunk of his voters love that renewed hatred and are thriving on it now. But I also have to believe that there are people in this country who are aching for change and for one personal reason or another, truly believed Trump is going to bring that change.

I’ll be the first to admit that I live in a sheltered, unique bubble. I work with nearly all women who share the same belief system. I love a man who has the same political leanings. And I live in a state where the majority of people overwhelming voted for the same candidate that I did. To say my bubble burst on Wednesday morning would be an understatement.

I was devastated. I was in disbelief. I had supported Hillary since the Obama primary. I bought her bumper sticker, tshirts, shared her social media posts, and even forced my way through a crowd to meet and shake her hand at a rally. I endured as a minority in my own state of Vermont through Feel The Bern, staying strong to my convictions and saying, “I’m still with her.” By Election Day, I was confident she was going to win and convinced I’d spend the night celebrating our first female president. I wore my pink Hillary shirt, took selfies, smiled all day, and even bought a giant tub of party mix to figuratively and deliciously mark the occasion. [I know now that was what jinxed it. #thanksobama]

The day after [so yesterday-wow, that seems like a long time ago-] was like mourning a death. Our office felt like a funeral home. We hugged, we cried, we supported each other, we went through the stages of grief. Everyone wore black. It was more of the same when I got home, plus frantically reading and watching everything we could get our hands on to understand how this happened.

I don’t know what else to do. I see people just like me protesting across the country and I just—can’t. I’m tired. I’m defeated. Most of all, I think if the roles were reversed, I’d be calling the protesting side “sore losers.” And because Hillary has been nothing but the epitome of class about this whole outcome, I personally don’t think protesting is the right move.

I’m trying instead to be there for my coworkers and friends. To ask how they are doing or give a hug. I’m trying to do one nice thing a day for someone. I’m trying to take care of myself. Mostly, I’m trying to understand the “other side.” I’m trying to put myself in their shoes. And let me tell you – so far it feels like squeezing my size 10 into a pair of 5’s. Uncomfortable. Before you get all, “Wow, that’s so noble of you, Amy,” let me just make one thing clear: for every one of these good moments, I still have two that involve screaming at the TV or throwing my phone. I still cry. I still worry about nuclear war, about my organization folding, about women’s rights going out the window, about me losing my job, about the KKK, about the rights of my LGBTQAI friends, about the safety of my non-white friends, etc. etc. etc. I’m not over this. I don’t know that I will ever be over this. But I am trying to understand it, and maybe if we all do more of that, we won’t ever be here again.

Thoughts while going for a walk in the woods and being female

Who will be in the woods?

Is it too dark/too early/too late to be taking this walk?

Is it a bad idea to be wearing these headphones?

Does someone know I’m out here?

Is that parked car suspicious?

Are those two guys sitting inside that car suspicious?

What would I do if they got out and started chasing me?

Would I scream?

Would I run?

Would I be able to run fast enough without my inhaler?

Would they say I was asking for it because I’m wearing these black yoga pants and this cut off sweatshirt?

Would I try to talk them out of it?

Would I lie and say I had my period?

Would I lie and say I had AIDS, like I saw in a movie once?

Would they believe me?

Would they have a gun?

Would my dog even understand if I was in trouble?

Would she attack them?

Would she run home and get help, like Lassie?

Would I fight tooth and nail?

Would I succumb and let it happen?

Would I survive?

What would I tell my friends and family?

Would they question why I was on this walk?

Would they scold me for going alone?

Would they say I should have carried that pepper spray with me?

Would they say I should have known this could happen?

What was that noise?

Is someone behind me?

Should I take out these headphones?

Should I walk faster?

Am I almost out of the woods?

That Time I Danced with Morris Day and The Time AND COMPLETELY EMBARRASSED MYSELF

“Do you wanna go up stage and dance?” Dan asked me.

“YEAHHHHHH!,” I shouted back instantly over the loud music, not thinking for a second what that actually meant.

“OK, wait here,” the large, muscular security guard said to me, as he corralled me towards the others.

It was a beautiful Friday night at the Waterfront and let’s just say your girl had been taking advantage of the open bar. Taking advantage of all the offerings, really. Dan’s company parties are known for being epic and include a concert with bands you’re shocked are in tiny Vermont. Coming from the non-profit world where we can’t even afford an extra roll of toilet paper, it’s part shocking, part exhilarating to see how the other half lives.


We spent the first part of the party mingling, rocking our “flashback” outfits, and seeing what other crazy things people had on. My favorite was this dude who was just straight up dressed like The Ultimate Warrior for no reason other than it’s the Ultimate Warrior and you don’t need a reason. We saw a woman dressed as Riff Raff, complete with braids and a tin foil mouth grill. We saw people wearing afro wigs and sequins. We saw men in mesh shirts, and some men with no shirts at all.  We saw women in rainbow tutus and ponytails on the sides of their heads. These people took their parties seriously and for the first time in my costume career I almost felt under-dressed.IMG_7681

In retrospect, maybe I shouldn’t have started the night off with a Heady Topper, an 8%, 16 ounce beer known to knock lightweights like me on my ass. But what the hell. It was Friday night. I probably had 1/4 of a can left when I hopped in line to get one last free beer before open bar closed.

“Are you out of Heady Topper?” I asked the bartender.

“Yeah, sorry,”he replied.

“That’s OK. I’ll take a Corona, please.”

He looked at me like I had two heads.

“Do you want ONE…or do you want TWO?” he asked.

Unsure if this was a trick question or not, I hesitantly replied, “Two?”

“Smart girl,” he said as he handed over my two Coronas.

And then I was the girl at the party with three beers.


Morris Day and The Time (MDATT) were about to get started, so I took my three beers and what was left of my dignity, and followed Dan up to stage right. For those of you unfamiliar with MDATT, he was Prince’s band competition in the movie Purple Rain…and for those of you unfamiliar with Purple Rain, just turn on VH1 because they’ve played it about 1674 times since Prince died in April. MDATT are a really fun funk/soul band, who are full of attitude, style and extremely talented musicians. They keep it old school in all the best ways with synchronized dance moves and attire.IMG_7697

Morris himself was rocking a diamond rhinestone mauve suit, a gigantic diamond ring, and at least 3 million carat diamond watches ON BOTH WRISTS. He was everything my 3rd grade, bedazzle enthusiast’s heart could ever hope for and I couldn’t look away. I also couldn’t really feel my face.

So anyway, there we were–Dan with his N/A beer, me with my collection of empty cans and my buzz, and Morris with his diamonds–when Dan asked if I wanted to go up on stage and dance. And I stupidly agreed.

As I was being ushered by the security guard to the other dancers, I saw Dan stay behind.

“Wait, wait,” I said shouting to Dan over the loud music. “Aren’t YOU coming, too?”

He also looked at me like I had two heads.

“Haha, no way, babe,” Dan laughed and smiled. “Just you ladies.”

What the hell had just happened?! It was as if Dan and the security guard had made some sort secret agreement when I was being blinded by Morris’ bling. I instantly regretted my decision and considered bolting.

“Hiii! Are you Dan’s girlfriend?” some of the other girls asked me. “It’s so nice to meet you!!” They shook my hand and introduced themselves as they danced in place.

Fuck. They’re all so nice. I can’t leave now,  I thought to myself.

“So anyone know what we’re doing?”I asked the rainbow tutus girls, trying all at once to both play it cool and desperately obtain information.

“I’m not really sure!” one of them smiled back at me, no fear whatsoever in her voice.

There’s still time to run, my brain said.

“I think they just want us to dance!” one of the other girls cheerfully replied.

She was trying to make me feel better, and I really appreciated that, but instead she inadvertently set off a chain of questions I knew I couldn’t ask aloud: How will I know when to go on stage? Is there a certain dance I’m supposed to do? Is there a certain move I should absolutely NOT do? Where am I supposed to stand? Will we all be spread out or assigned a spot? Are we dancing for just one song? Are we dancing for SEVERAL songs? Oh my god, what if we’re dancing up there for the rest of the night?! WHY aren’t the other girls nervous? WHY DID I AGREE TO DO THIS?

“Ok, ladies, follow me,” the guard said as he began to lead us backstage.



Just as I was about to have a panic attack, I instead starting feeling all of the positive effects my friend Alcohol is known for. You know, Alcohol, right? He’s the one who tells you that dancing on stage in front of 2,000 of your boyfriend’s coworkers is a GREAT idea. He tells you that you are A FABULOUS DANCER.  He points out that YOU LOVE TO DANCE.  And he reminds you that YOU TOOK ZUMBA CLASSES FOR 3 YEARS so OBVIOUSLY you are MORE THAN PREPARED FOR THIS MOMENT, and quite possibly, YOU SHOULD HAVE AUDITIONED FOR AMERICA’S GOT TALENT BY NOW.

Well shucks, Alcohol. I don’t know about that last one. But you’re right! I’m going to relax and have fun with this.

So that’s the mindset I had as I drunkenly went on stage with a dozen other girls to be MDATT’s back up dancers.

A band member I will refer to as Jamie Foxx casually ushered us to our various places on stage, as he danced and spun around. And before you say I’m just a white girl being racist, let me assure you, this guy is so much the splitting image of Jamie Foxx that I almost asked him if he was going to sit at the piano and cover a few tunes from Ray. But there wasn’t any time for questions because I was there to dance and act like I knew what I was doing.

Everything was going great (read: completely mediocre) and I was actually enjoying myself. I waved to Dan, I smiled for the cameras, and I shook, shook,  shookmy salt shaker (whatever the hell that means).

Just when I thought the song was over and I was congratulating myself for not completely embarrassing myself, I COMPLETELY EMBARRASSED MYSELF BY HUGGING MORRIS FUCKING DAY. 

You know how certain songs sound like they are about to end…? The last note of whatever instrument is dragging on…and people in the audience have started to clap…and the singer has his hands in the air like he’s waiting for that one final note to indicate, this song is over…yeah, all that was happening.

Morris had turned around to face the band and was standing directly in front of me. And like a cast member at the finale of a Saturday Night Live episode, I was overcome with emotion and the weight of our performance. See also: drunk. So I stretched my arms out to him, cocked my head to the side and conveyed through gestures, Heeyyy, did we all just kill it up here or WHAT?!

The look on his face can only be described as absolute terror.

Turns out the song wasn’t over! It was just one of those songs with a weird dip like November Rain. I had completely screwed up his routine.

Immediately Jamie Foxx came over to pull me off Morris and put me in my rightful place, with a look on his face that said Nobody touches Morris Day and all of his diamonds. I was mortified.

But that wasn’t even the worst part! Because the song wasn’t over, I HAD TO KEEP DANCING and act like nothing had happened. So I stayed up there, fake smiling, my face beet red, doing the 4 Zumba moves I could remember over and over again, acting as if hugging Morris had all been part of the plan.


8 Things America Could Learn From Italy


Venice, Italy, romance capital of the world ❤

We just spent 10 amazing, romantic and unforgettable days in northern Italy. It was the first of many new experiences for the two of us – first time traveling across the Atlantic
ocean, first time in Europe, first time driving in another country, etc. We drove a total of 1400 kilometers, visited 14 towns/cities, walked an average of 9 miles per day, and consumed enough gelato to fill a Baskin Robbins.

When we weren’t stuffing our faces with ice cream, biscotti, wine, spaghetti, pesto, bread, cheese and cured meats, we were observing the culture and the world around us. Turns out there’s a lot we could learn from Italy.

  1. Affordable food and wine—ok, so the wine prices were actually more like highway robbery and I was the bad guy. Restaurants had house wine for $1-2 Euro/glass! At one restaurant, the half bottle of wine I ordered cost the same amount as a liter of bottled water – a whopping $3.50 Euros, not that I would ever drink a half bottle of wine by myself…

    Drinkin’ at lunch

    Breakfast was our cheapest meal of the day. We would get two cappuccinos and two cornetti (croissants), and consume them at the counter. Stuffed with chocolate, nutella, or fruit, the cornetti were just out of the oven and were buttery and delicious. We’d hardly talk to each other as we savored each bite and washed them down with delicious, foamy cappuccinos. Then we’d laugh uncontrollably when we’d get the bill: $5 Euro total. We’d be lucky if we got change from a twenty if this was what we ordered back home.

    Cappuccini & Cornetti

    Cappuccini & Cornetti


    One of the many storefronts that lured is in! Florence, Italy

    Dan was excited to be surrounded by meats.

    Dan was excited to be surrounded by meats.

    Lunch usually meant we were out exploring (read: walking) and our  meal would be on the go. Sometimes we’d sit down for lunch, but often we’d be draw to whatever tantalizing creation was in a storefront window: Freshly baked panini with slices of mozzarella and pancetta…pizza or focaccia topped with olives and prosciutto…cured meats and cheeses hanging from the ceiling…It all came to less than $10 Euro per person and included a drink.

    Dinner was the one time of the day where we spent more money on food…but mostly because Italians believe in eating 72 courses. See #2 & 3 for more deets on that!

    Eating and drinking like this makes you realize how unnecessarily expensive stuff is in America! We visited a local grocery store and purchased giant jugs of sparkling water (frizzanti) only to learn they were .25c. Twenty five cents. But then again, why should water cost more than that?

  1. Paying restaurant workers a livable wage instead of tips. When I was a server ten years ago, I earned $3.65 per hour. Everyone in the industry told me it was normal because I’d make it up in tips. They failed to mention and I was too naïve to think about what would happen on those days I didn’t make it up in tips…the days when the restaurant was dead, when you got cut early, when after you paid out the bussers and dishwashers you were walking home with $20 in your pocket. Those were scary days and I was just a single person—I couldn’t imagine living off from that and having a family to support. But Italy gets it. Their tips are rolled into the price of your dining experience and in fact, it’s considered taboo to leave more than a 5% tip. We learned about tipping the hard way during our first dinner in Montecatini Terme, our home base city for the first half of our trip. We went took the funicular, this old, red railcar, up to the top of Montecatini Alto and stumbled upon the most adorable B&B that served dinner.
    Funicular In Montecatini Terme to Alto

    Funicular In Montecatini Terme to Alto

    We were overcome by the charm of the restaurant, the glass jars of biscotti that decorated the tables and the smells and sights of everyone eating around us. So we did the full on “Italian meal” – antipasti, primi and secondi courses, complete with wine. Our bill came to $84 Euros (again, think of us laughing uncontrollably over the ridiculously low price). We read that if you had exceptional service, you could leave a Euro or two. So we left $90 Euro and walked out. A moment later, the owner of the restaurant came running outside, our six euros in hand, telling us, “You forgot your change!” We couldn’t believe it. “Welp, I guess the guidebook was right!” we thought. From then on, we didn’t try to tip again.

    Casa Di Gala Di Simona Bar5onti

    Dinner night one at restaurant Casa Di Gala Di Simona Barsonti

  1. Taking your sweet-ass time to eat a meal with someone you love. If you picture sitting down for a quick bite to eat in Florence or Venice, and being on your merry way, you better go to another country. Italians consider dining an experience, an experience you better have adequate time for. They want you to relax, enjoy delicious food and wine, digest, enjoy more delicious food and wine, talk to your sweetheart, look around, enjoy even more delicious food and wine, do even more talking. It was common for dinner for last 2-3 hours.



    Mussels, prawn and scallops and pasta. Can still taste it.


    “Seafood salad” is a little different in Italy, ha! Cinque, Terre, Italy.

    Often when we were eating dinner, we’d notice empty tables around us reserved for a few hours later.  We’d witness the restaurant turn away patron after patron, saying they were fully booked.  The go-go-go, make-as-much-money-as-you-can Americans in us couldn’t believe they weren’t seating people at those tables. Surely they could sneak a table in before the reservation? But that was the point – they don’t want to sneak people it, they don’t want to rush and they don’t want their customers to feel rushed.  This concept took some getting used to. We found ourselves wanting the service to be faster and to just get our bill already so we could move on to the next thing. But by the end of the trip, I think we both realized how nice it was to slow down, actually taste your food and really enjoy the company of the person you were with. I wish we could this more back here in the states.

  2. Frequent reststops–with real food–on the Highway (Autostrada).


    Grabbing a cornetti on the highway!

    When we landed in Milan after an 8-hour red-eye flight, our adrenaline was pumping and we were eager to pick up our rental car. It took us about an hour on the Autostrada to realize just how hungry we were. Because we had no idea what types of restaurants were around us, we decided to pull into the next rest stop for some snacks, our expectations low. We were shocked to open the door of The Autogrill and find a full coffee bar, a sandwich counter, pizza, every beverage imaginable, candy, souvenirs, wine, beer, DVDs, CDs, etc.”Oh my god,” we said simultaneously as we migrated toward the sandwich counter. “Look at all of this foooood!”We ordered two prosciutto and mozzarella sandwiches and went to a nearby table to consume them. They were so fresh and real that the bread was still warm and our faces were dusted in flour. We said nothing to each other as we devoured our first Italian food, occasionally  getting out an “Mmmm,” or a “Wow.” It was a religious experience. But we still weren’t convinced that all reststops in Italy were like this. Maybe we had just stumbled upon a large one? Maybe this was just a fluke?Not only were all reststops just like the first (some even larger than the first), but they were frequent on the highway, popping up about every 30-50 KM. Each came complete with a restaurant, as well as gas & diesel. I thought back to our pathetic attempts at rest stops here in Vermont. There are maybe 3 the entire length of I-89 and the only food they offer is junk from a vending machine and a few ounces of free coffee. And if you have to pee, you better do it while you have the chance or risk having to hold your urine for another 1-2 hours. Once again, Italy set quite the example to take after.

  3. Color coordinated driving signs. If you’re still reading this, you’re likely wondering why I’m now talking about driving signs and asking when I’ll get back to describing the food. Hold tight, partner. One of the most helpful things we discovered as first-time drivers in a country that spoke a different language was that the Autostrada signs were green and routes were blue. If at any point we got turned around, all we’d have to do was look for a green sign to get us back on the highway. This can be helpful when say, you’re approaching your 50th rotary in a 10 KM stretch. To avoid a National Lampoon’s European Vacation moment, Dan just followed the green signs to get us to the Autostrada. We probably went through 100+ rotaries on our trip and only messed up on two. As the Navigator, I was pretty proud of that stat! BTW, another helpful driving tip is to download Google Maps and use their “Offline maps” section. You select the region you want and can then get turn by turn directions without using data on your phone.

    We pretended this was our car. Florence, Italy

    We pretended this was our car. Florence, Italy

  4. Paying $1 for clean bathrooms. I dreaded the first time I had to pee in a public place in Italy, like the train station or a city center, thinking about how dirty and disgusting they would be. I was also pretty annoyed to learn I had to pay $.50 to $1.00 to use what I thought would be a gross “water closet”. IMG_6461IMG_6460But I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the places that charged did so because they had staff on hand cleaning the stalls non-stop. As a result, I experienced some of the cleanest public bathrooms ever in Italy. I thought back to all of the nasty Starbucks bathrooms I’d used over the years, or urine soaked stalls at bars and restaurants. After a few days in Italy, I was happy to pay for a clean experience And speaking of bathrooms…many faucets there were operated by a foot lever – um, genius! Why don’t we do that?!
  5. Literally the freshest food you can imagine. Vermont really prides itself on sourcing local food whenever possible and supporting area farmers and their families in the process. Italy on the other hand, fresh and local is all they know and do. The basil in your pesto was picked and ground that day, the bread on your table was baked that morning and the prawn on your plate was caught that afternoon. Everything is fresh and it changes the way your food tastes. Eating simple things like a tomato salad, I’d think, “This is the best tomato I’ve ever had!”And it probably was. Lack of processed foods has to also be a contributing factor to why no one was overweight there. That and walking everywhere. Italy also proved that you don’t need to create elaborate, complicated meals. Meals with a few fresh ingredients were some of our favorites. We’re going to try to bring that concept back home.

    Fresh off the boat seafood. Venice, Italy


    The most amazing pesto we ever had/will ever have in our lives. Cinque Terre, Italy.

    8. Displaying love and affection, even for acquaintances. It’s well known that Italy is considered the romance capital of Europe. After spending an evening in a gondola on the Grand Canal in Venice, I can vouch for that. But what I didn’t know is just how affectionate Italians are to their friends and even acquaintances. Every meeting I observed came with an embrace, kiss on the cheek and huge smiles. One of my favorite memories of the whole trip didn’t even involve us. We were walking around Venice, stuffing our faces with fill-in-the-blank-snack-cause-it-had-been-two-hours-since-our-last-meal-and-we-were-fucking-starrrving, when I saw a woman with two young children approach an older man with a cane. I watched their interaction, trying to figure out how they knew each other. It felt like they were not family, but maybe neighbors, or someone she knew several years prior. The woman and the man hugged, and made chit chat. Then the woman introduced the man to her children, and this is where the man began to beam. He bent down to each of the young children, cupped their faces in his hands, kissed them, and told their mother what I can only assume was something like ‘they are so beautiful.’ He kept talking to the children, smiling and laughing, hugging their mom in the process. It was all so beautiful and so genuine.


    Gondola Ride. Venice, Italy

  6. Romance explosion! Tuscany, Italy.

    Romance explosion! Tuscany, Italy.

Italians know what matters in life: It’s not work, it’s not expensive clothes and cars (though Milan could have fooled us), it’s people and the relationships you create that matter the most. And if you can find a few good friends to break bread with, a family to laugh and share memories with, and a partner to love and go on lots of adventures with, well then that’s… bellissimo.

10 Signs You Might Be An Adult

It’s recently dawned on me that I am now an adult. I’m not sure when exactly this happened.

For the longest time, after every birthday I would think to myself, “Sure, I’m __ age, but I still feel like I’m 21.” And what a terrible age to name by the way. What does it even feel like to be 21? Continuously hung over? Like you have no fucking clue what you are doing or who you are?

Nope, I don’t feel 21 anymore. I am 32 and I feel every bit 32. It’s neither bad nor good. It just is. 

How did I know I’ve grown up? I guess it was the culmination of a lot of little signs along the way. If you are suffering from any of the following like me, I’m sorry to say, you too may be an adult.

10 Signs you might be an adult

10 Signs You Might Be An Adult:

  1.  If you have noticed more than a few gray hairs, are turning to box dye to cover your roots each month, and/or if your boyfriend has started to call you his “Silver Fox” because “They aren’t GRAY, baby, they are SILVER and they are so cool!”…you might be an adult.
  2. If you file your tax return and get a refund, and you gleefully spend that money buying new, energy efficient, double glazed, noise reducing…windows…you might be an adult.
  3. If you file your tax return and don’t get a refund…you might be a [rich] adult.
  4. If you find yourself calling college students “kids,” or if you recently received an email from your college saying they are deactivating your student email address because you graduated TEN YEARS ago and you are in serious denial…you might be an adult.
  5. If you remember a time when Facebook was only for people with a .edu email address or if you remember a time when Facebook didn’t exist…you might be an adult.
  6. If you hate all current music, call it “crap,” and take pity on the current generation for not knowing what good music sounds like…you might be an adult.
  7. If you watch an award show, or flip through a magazine, and cannot name even 25% of the celebrities, or worse, you think you know a celebrity’s name but you really have backwards (Tatum Channing)…you might be an adult.
  8. If you go to a high school basketball game and wonder why there are twelve year olds running around on the court, or see someone behind the wheel you are certain just escaped from a nearby daycare and stole a car…you might be an adult.
  9. If you unknowingly start sentences with the phrase,”Back in my day…” or “Damn kids, get off my lawn!”…you might be an adult.
  10. If you creepily watch the neighborhood teenage girls toss a softball back and forth in the road, bite your nails and pray they don’t hit your car, remember the time you shattered your aunt and uncle’s window playing softball, and then at the last minute decide, “You know what, my car is probably in their way. I’ll move it for them.”…you might be an adult.

Are you also suffering from Adult-itis? What are some of the symptoms you are experiencing? Leave them in the comments below.


I Work Ouuuut

Since January, I’ve made it my mission to eat better, exercise regularly, and eat less sugar. I knew I had to make a change because I was in a funk. I had reached that uncomfortable stage where even your underwear feels tight…where Exercising You seems like such a foreign idea that you can’t fathom how you ever once ran five miles, let alone two…and the stage where you can’t wait to get home at night so you can change into your favorite sweat pants and curl up with your favorite men: Ben & Jerry.

retro sugar-ad

I tend to do this every year. When summer ends and the days start getting shorter, I hunker down like a little squirrel getting ready for winter—only instead of burying my nuts all over the backyard, I’m baking breads, sitting on my ass, and coming up with excuses to not leave the house. By Thanksgiving, I’m on the Atkins Opposite diet and my major food group is carbs.  By Christmas, I’m still all about the carbs plus sugar. I tell myself I am getting into the “holiday spirit” when I bake sugar cookies, banana breads, and drink my weight in eggnog. By New Years Day, I’m 10-15 pounds heavier, my wardrobe is big sweaters, and I’m depressed—not just because of the number on the scale, but because eating shit food makes you feel terrible.

So like millions of other Americans, on January 1st I started to make changes. I reinstalled MyFitnessPal to count calories and exercise, went for a run (and surprisingly didn’t die), threw out a bunch of crap food, stocked up on fruits and vegetables, and vowed to not eat sugar.

Cutting out sugar was brrrutal. For one thing, sugar was a part of my every day routine, from adding sugar to my morning coffee, to eating chocolate at the office, to having dessert every night. It was so hard for me in the beginning to stop consuming sugar that I actually dreamed I was baking chocolate chip cookies and secretly eating them. I was addicted.

The other reason why it was so hard to give up sugar is because food manufacturers add sugar to literally everything. If you don’t believe me, look at the label of something random next time and I can almost guarantee you there is sugar, high fructose corn syrup, aspartame or some other sweetener in it. WHY oh WHY does sugar need to be in oatmeal, granola, yogurt, ketchup or spaghetti sauce? Simple: because it tastes good and will make you more likely to buy their product.

Because I knew it would be nearly impossible to stop eating any and all sugar, I just tried to make better choices where I could. I started to drink my coffee black, brought fruit and salads every day for lunch, and plucked the M&M’s out of my trail mix. I put the M&M’s I would have eaten into a plastic baggie and by the end of the week I was blown away by the amount of sugar and chocolate I would have had when eating a “healthy” snack. My chocolate drawer at work also accumulated quite the collection — Hershey kisses as gifts on Valentine’s Day, Andes mints from Christmas, assorted candy bars from a rep who dropped by…I threw them all into the drawer and forgot about them. Finally, I stopped eating dessert. This was hard because it was our routine to eat dessert several nights a week (hello, tight undies), but I found that having a cup of tea after dinner really helped. Eventually, I stopped craving dessert (and dreaming about it 😉 ).

The more you move, the more calories you burn, which is why having an exercise routine is so important. I set a goal that was doable for me – lift weights 2x/week; run 2x/week and try to move in some other way 1x/week, whether that meant taking the dog for a long walk, using the elliptical, snowboarding, whatever. But I also planned for rest days. I can’t stress the importance of them enough, not just to give your muscles a break but to give your mind a break. It was important to remind myself, “It’s OK, the world is not going to end if you don’t work out today.”

I’ve had three cheat days since January 1st and I have to say they all made me sick. In January, we went out to celebrate Dan’s soberversary and split a piece of chocolate cake. The sugaryness of it was overwhelming. It felt like I was biting into sugar cubes and was shocked that I used to be able to tolerate that much sugar and chocolate.


The second cheat day was for the SuperBowl and we went balls to the wall. Chicken wings, chocolate chip cookies, potato chips-everything and anything we hadn’t been eating. A couple hours after eating all that junk, I felt like I was going to throw up. All I could compare it to was a night of binge drinking, where you curl up into a ball, replay everything you consumed and ask whyyyyy, and promise the gods you’ll never do this again. The next morning I had the same symptoms of a hang over — nausea, headache, feeling tired, feeling like crap, and promising you aren’t ever going to do that again. I literally had a junk food hangover.

The third day was for my birthday. We were on our way to a casino early in the morning and didn’t have time for breakfast so we stopped at a McDonald’s. I ordered what I had eaten hundreds of other times: Egg McMuffin and Hashbrowns. 30 minutes later we were pulling into a gas station because I thought I was going to be sick. It didn’t even occur to me that my body could no longer tolerate that  food.

In December, aka The Month Where I Almost Got Diabetes, my skin was an absolute disaster. My face was breaking out non-stop and (TMI Alert) my back looked like a landmine. I would have Dan inspect my back and at one point he counted something like 20+ zits on my back, some of them the size of dimes. It was disgusting and pretty painful. But since cutting way back on sugar, I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my skin. It’s long been contested whether or not sugar is linked to acne…but I am a believer. Now that I’m eating a lot less of it, my face and back both look clear and healthy.

I’ve lost about seven pounds so far and 1-2 inches– except for my boobs, pretty sure I’ve lost a full cup size there. Thanks, Diet. Pants that I was popping out of in Nov/Dec are now baggy. I feel better and I feel stronger. I like seeing the definition and contours that are appearing on my muscles. I like seeing the progress I’m making – from being able to do 1 pushup, to now doing 10…to not being able to hold myself on a pull up bar at all, to now lasting 2-3 seconds, to being able to run faster and longer. It’s all progress and I’ll take it! I just hope I can keep it going all year long.



The Illusion of Celebrity Deaths

I do not understand the phenomenon of crying and grieving over a dead celebrity.

Inappropriately grieving celebrity deaths

Let me back up. I actually do understand this phenomenon quite well, but it’s probably more accurate to say I don’t participate in it.

My senior thesis in college was on the topic of Para-Social Interaction Theory (PSI) – the theory by Horton & Wohl (1956) that said one-sided relationships can develop between an audience member and performer in the media they are consuming, creating the illusion of a face-to-face relationship. In layman’s terms, you feel like you are friends with someone in the media and they meanwhile have absolutely no idea you exist.  A tame version of PSI may be tuning in to the same nightly news cast because you feel like you know the anchor and can trust the information they provide; An extreme version of PSI is the case of Robert John Bardo who stalked actress Rebecca Schaeffer for three years and shot her to death because she had filmed a sex scene.

When I was writing my paper in 2006, the web and social media were not the robust platforms they are today. Then, you’d be lucky if a celebrity had a MySpace page, let alone a website. But now, any media personality is easily accessible—or at least gives the illusion they’re accessible – making PSI and celebrity worship more rampant than ever. Whereas you may have previously written your favorite singer a letter or an email, and prayed to god they somehow saw it, now you can directly tweet at them. Instead of relying on People Magazine to snap two blurry pics of your favorite celeb on vacation, now you can visit their Instagram and see what they’re eating, wearing, or thinking, all in real time. Websites like Perez Hilton and TV shows like TMZ and Entertainment Tonight feed into our culture’s obsession with stars, and even local media personalities feel intense pressure to keep up an online persona.

Because we have access to celebrities through so many channels, it’s easy to feel like we “know” them on some level. That’s why you watched their wedding on TV, rooted for them when they went to rehab, and why you burst into tears when they died. At best this sort of thinking is delusional, at worst it’s dangerous.

Along with putting celebrities on a pedestal, our culture gives celebrities immortality and is then crushed when they die like the rest of us mere mortals. Grieving used to be appropriate for an untimely or tragic death. John Lennon, for example, dreamed of a world without hunger, possessions or violence and then was shot to death (by a fan who no doubt was experiencing PSI). That was tragic. But now whenever anyone remotely famous dies, regardless of the fact that they were a senior citizen with cancer or punished their bodies with drugs and alcohol for decades, it’s heartbreaking, it’s sad, it’s awful. You know what? It’s LIFE.

There’s no disagreeing David Bowie was a musical genius and a pioneer who broke barriers. I have mad respect for him and his extensive career. But his death still didn’t make me cry because I didn’t know him–none of us did. As his wife Iman said, “I am married to David Jones. David Bowie and David Jones are two different people.” Maybe you’d argue that his music was the soundtrack to your life—there for all of the bad and the good times. My question back to you would be, “Why does him dying change any of that?”

And as far as Alan Rickman is concerned—yes, he had a prolific, successful movie career, but you didn’t know him either. It seems so trivial to me that people are upset over his death when they’ll be able to see Rickman’s face or hear his voice anytime they wish by simply popping in a Blu-ray or adding Harry Potter to their Netflix queue. Can you say the same about a lost friend or family member?

If you’re still reading at this point, it’s likely you think I’m cold or emotionless. But you’ll be happy to hear there is something that makes me feel sad when a celebrity dies – it’s the fan who mourns the loss for days on Facebook, but cannot be bothered to attend a blood relative’s funeral. “No, I’m not going to attend the services,” they’ll say. “We just weren’t that close.”