Nothing quite compares to an autumnal New England fair. Imagine hay rides, candied apples, fried dough, bumper cars, and homemade pies. Now pair that with ox pulling, flower shows, craft fairs, baking competitions, starry nights, and musical acts . . . . a day at the fair in New England is an exciting and eclectic harvest tradition :) In Holland, I’ve yet to come across anything that quite compares, and this is probably amplified by the fact that I’m city-dweller. It’s hard to find that crafty, homespun fervor in the city. But two weeks ago, Amsterdam came close. De Parade is an annual theater tour that stops in Rotterdam, Den Hague, Utrecht, and finally Amsterdam, closing with a massive wrap party. There are over 90 different theater performances, played out across a giant fairground of picnic benches, pavilions, food trucks, bars, and dance parties. Continue reading
As I did a semester abroad at Lancaster University and later a master’s program in Leeds, I have a great handful of friends who still live in the UK. I mentioned a few of these brilliant women in a previous post, as I was lucky enough to spend the past bank holiday weekend with them in the Big Smoke. Today I’ll introduce you to my huge-hearted friend Nat, along with a tasty little brunch spot in Clerkenwell, London.
Granger & Co is a laid back and delicious foodie establishment that’s popped up in Hawaii, Australia, Japan, and now London. Bill Granger is the mastermind chef behind the chain, and is especially well known for his talented touch with eggs. But before I tell you about the eggs, let me tell you about London . . . . Continue reading
Pressed Words isn’t just my blog, it’s my diary. Sometimes I write for hours, and then publish the post privately. It’s a collection of adventures and thoughts for you, and even deeper notes and memoirs for myself. It’s been an excellent, therapeutic healing tool over the past few months, and I truly believe that in 10 years, when I have 3 kids and am living in some cookie-cutter neighborhood, I will look back at Pressed Words and will feel genuinely thankful that past-Ali took the time to document her travels and young adult adventures. But last night something weird happened, and it made me question whether I should use Pressed Words as a private diary in addition to a public forum. I published a note my Mom had sent to me, as a private post. The title of the post read ‘private’, as all private posts do, but five minutes later my mom sent me a text asking why the heck I had shared her e-mail on my blog. I looked, and it was still marked as private, but apparently a glitch had occurred and all of my e-mail followers were sent the private blog post. I actually got a few high-five comments from readers today saying how much my mom rocked (no denying, she is amazeballs) but either way, I was confused and annoyed, and definitely questioning my judgement in using Pressed Words as a private journal. The post could have been much, much, much worse, and the last thing I want to do is spam you with annoying Ali-thoughts that don’t make much sense.
I’m telling you this for two reasons. A) I am taking the leap and am going to start journaling with a good old fashioned pen and paper. I have terrible, scribbly handwriting and typing is so much faster (my thoughts tend to race too fast for a pen and paper) but I’m going to give it a shot!! Do any of your journal the old fashion way? Care to share some advice? B) My mom has been on my mind (if you couldn’t tell by the faulty e-mail post!), and this update is for her. She’s a sea-lady and loves the ocean. So even though I’m not posting her super-personal e-mail, I am writing this post for her, as deep sea blues and cyan skies always remind me of my mom :)
Meet Boothbay Maine: Continue reading
Last week I went to Dublin for a research project. We are working with an Irish brand, and were tasked to dig into the culture, uncovering points of pride, Irish characteristics, and unique insights that could only be gathered locally. So on Wednesday morning, a colleague and I left for the airport bright and early, with a long list of hypothesis to verify and a short amount of time to do so. I had a sneaky, personal Irish bucket list as well. Thankfully, it could be accomplished in one sitting, and read something like . . . . . . . . bacon, eggs, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, beans, sausage, Irish breakfast tea, and a rainbow of puddings. Continue reading
I spent this past weekend in London, visiting girlfriends. Roshni, a bomshell from India who is married to a British doctor. Emily, who was my flatmate and fellow American at the University of Leeds. And Nat, a British native who I’ve known for three lives and actually met way back when in Maine. All three of these women are in serious, but very different relationships. I’ve loved surrounding myself with strong and powerful women over the past few months, and this trip to London was no exception. Roshni and I drank tea and watched her wedding video. Em and I enjoyed brunch and discussed her upcoming relocation plans. And Nat and I sat in the dark corner of a pub, sipping cider and discussing Lithuanian men. I’m learning so many things, from so many bright and brilliant ladies. But they’re also inadvertently teaching me things about myself. Some of which I am sad to learn.
A year ago I would have told you that I believed in commitment. My grandparents have been married for 51 years, and on their 50th wedding anniversary, I asked my Papa, “What’s the secret? How did you make your love last for 50 years?” His response? “We didn’t give up. So many people these days walk away when things get hard. There will be days, weeks, or maybe even years where marriage is difficult. The only way to make it work, is to keep working at it. To be committed to your commitment.”
As a romantic, I was somewhat upset. I had expected to hear that my Gramma and Papa were swans. That they always clicked, that they had moved seamlessly throughout life with an abundance of love. But I accepted my Papa’s answer with respect and consideration.
In the last year of my relationship with Ben, I did everything imaginable to make us work. I felt like I was constantly walking on eggshells. Trying to avoid certain topics. I consented to life decisions I didn’t necessarily believe in, but was willing to make work out of love and devotion. I would have done anything to make Ben smile, to have him adore me again like he used to. I was utterly committed to making us work. We were engaged. He had proposed. He had held had my face, looked me in the eyes, and told me that he wanted to spend his life with me. And I had believed him with all of my heart.
And so a lesson I have learned, is that certainty is not all that certain. That we cannot predict things in life. That commitment can cease. People can change. Basically, shit can happen. I feel wise for understanding this lesson, and openly communicated it to Ro, Em, and Nat this past weekend in London. Surprisingly, each time, this sentiment was met with an uncomfortable frown. Having a few hours by myself on the journey back to Amsterdam, I questioned why this might be. And upon arriving at Schiphol airport, I burst into tears.
I’m not wise or knowledgable. And I haven’t learned a great lesson.
I have just forgotten how to trust.
I put myself in a situation where I loved blindly, completely, and was betrayed. I dreamt a life that was shattered. I committed to someone who lied about being committed to me. And now I feel cynical. I don’t know if I believe in forever. Can I allow myself to rely on someone again? Is it normal for my sense of trust to feel crippled? Maybe 51 years is an anomaly. Maybe swans aren’t real. Or maybe, I just have a long road ahead, with a lot of healing to do.
I’m going to leave you with a note on trees. Random, yes. But incredibly brilliant and loaded with insights on life, happiness, and discovering trust. It’s been a long day, but this essay has really helped assuage my doubts before bed. If a tree can stand still, never look, and yet live in trust and flower year after year, I think I can too, for every crazy unpredictable season in this life. Continue reading
Summer is coming to an end. I had hopped that we would get a surprise August heat wave. But no, it’s been raining almost every day here in Amsterdam, and I can confirm that it is definitely now jacket weather. My feet feel chilly on the wood floor in the morning. I’ve busted out my fall clothes. And I’ve been drinking warm tea again – a sure indication that winter is coming soon. Despite the shift in season, I still have still have a few more Maine holiday posts to share. In fact, I’ve had such an active and fun summer, I have a LOT of photos I want to get up on the blog over the next few weeks. A back-log of happy memories and fading summer glory. Today, I wanted to show you the beach.
I am really lamenting this scene. Deep blue Maine sea hues, adorable fishing boats, and sunny blue skies . . . Continue reading
Morning Gloryville is the coolest thing to happen to breakfast since sliced bread.
When a friend first told me about the concept, I was a bit skeptical. I’m not a morning lady and often hit the snooze button (three, four, five times) every day. I therefore had no interest in rising at the ungodly hour of 6.30am to dance at a chem-free rave. But then I saw that there were free hugs at Morning Gloryville . . . Continue reading
If you’re ever in Portland, Maine for the summer, going to Peaks Island for Reggae Sunday is absolutely mandatory. It’s a quintessential Maine summertime outing, and it is not to be missed! The adventure starts on a ferry that departs from Commercial Street in Portland, and cruises through Casco Bay, passing lighthouses, fishermen, and sailboats along the way. Continue reading
I’m giving into temptation and blogging, even though it’s 12.25am and I should be winding down for the night. I just got in from work 30 minutes ago. I biked home from the office while listening to music. I locked my bike up outside, and I came up into the flat. I grabbed a big bottle of water from the fridge. I closed the curtains. I opened the mail, and I peeked on social media. I read a few articles online I had bookmarked throughout the day, and then I started getting ready for bed. Yes, it sounds really boring and super trivial, but this is my new normal. And today, it actually felt normal. Like there wasn’t a hole. Like there wasn’t supposed to be someone in the apartment, waiting to greet me as I walked in. I liked crawling into bed alone. I’m ok to close the curtains and turn off all the lights by myself. I didn’t have to worry about cooking someone else dinner, or getting home from work late. And today, all of these boring things that have maybe felt sad, or misplaced in the past, just felt normal. Like this is my life, and it’s totally cool.
I’m going to tell you something scary and new.
I don’t want to be in a relationship, and I really don’t care about getting married, having babies, being a family, being responsible, moving through life, thinking about what’s next.
Isn’t that crazy?
I remember being a senior in college, and having a conversation with a girlfriend about being single. Neither of us were in relationships at the time, and we were both concerned as we were 22 and solo. Can you believe that? 22 and concerned. Even when I did meet Ben, when we had our first, second, third, and fourth year anniversary . . . when he proposed . . . when he told me he wanted to spend his life with me . . . I felt relieved. Like I had sorted out something big that was on a list I was meant to tick off. I felt like I had achieved a milestone in my life that other people were typically worried about, or spent a lot of time searching for.
Oddly enough, after everything I’ve been through, I have this strange, grey feeling of complacency in my chest. Relationships? Meh. Kids? Meh. Boyfriends? Meh. I think this is the first time in ten years I haven’t really cared about finding ‘the one’, settling down, or moving on to whatever (whoever) is next.
I never really understood girls who liked being single. Who said they didn’t want a boyfriend. I just couldn’t comprehend it, and I always thought they had to be lying. That they were secretly sad they were single, that they felt lonely before falling asleep at night. But on nights like tonight, when I get home and open the post, surf the web, crawl into bed, and don’t talk to anyone else but myself in my head, I feel utterly content. And now I realize how narrow-minded I have been.
It’s probably because I’ve always felt lonely. Even when I was with Ben, some nights before I fell asleep, I would feel sad, because when I closed my eyes and started dreaming, I would be alone. But guess what? I live in Amsterdam, while all of my family and life-long friends live in the US. I have an apartment here, a job. I take care of myself, and I am completely independent. I am more alone than I have ever been in my entire life. And for whatever crazy-odd reason, I don’t feel alone. I don’t feel sad. I don’t feel like anything is missing.
Which makes me think, maybe I’ve been looking for the wrong thing all along. I’ve spent the majority of my adult life looking for the one, searching for love. Wanting to fill a hole, to find my other half. But maybe all I really needed to find . . . was myself. Maybe I am my other half. Maybe I am the voice of reason, the unconditional lover, the string that ties my crazy mind to the ground.
I’m 27. I’m single. And yet for the first time in my life, I’ve never felt more complete.
And that’s pretty fucking cool.
While in Maine, my mom suggested a family outing to the Costal Maine Botanical Gardens.
I’m sure I’ve made this apparently obvious over the past few years, but I LOVE flowers. I usually have a bunch of fresh peonies or ranunculus brightening up my indoor space, my balcony is adorned with white lavender and potted daisies, and I’ve been known to take road trips for the sole purpose of gazing at fields of tulips.
At the time of my mom’s suggestion, the Keukenhof was the only flower garden I’d ever visited. It’s one of the biggest and most beautiful spring gardens in the world, with a kaleidoscope of color, featuring more than seven million tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths. As the Dutch are known for their beautiful blooms, I was eager to see what Maine’s botanics had to offer in comparison.And so my mom packed us a delicious picnic lunch, and with my sister and gramma in tow, we hopped into the car for an early morning drive up to Boothbay, Maine.