Twenty-Eight at Spaghetteria

I have officially been alive for 28 years. I wanted to share something profound here – droplets of wisdom or wise old words. But today, I don’t feel like looking back. I don’t want to dwell on twenty-seven or twenty-six, twenty-one or the past. I am sitting here in a clean, ironed shirt, wearing red lipstick with pearls in my ears, and I just want to be. I want to experience the happiness that is pouring from my chest. I want to glow and grow, and hold the present moment in my heart. Birthdays are great because they give us pause to reflect – to establish our own personal resolutions. This year, I will live in the moment. I will not fear the future or hold on to the past. I will appreciate my surroundings, my friends, and the small moments that are often overlooked. IMG_3564Yesterday, my 28th birthday, was a day filled with countless honey-sweet moments. All summer, I’ve been inviting different girlfriends over for dinner on Wednesday night. I’ve coined the evening ‘Woman’s Wednesday’, and I’ve been lucky enough to share my dinner table with some brilliant ladies. As my birthday fell on a Wednesday this year, I decided it was fitting to invite a bunch of my favorite girls out for a big family-style Woman’s Wednesday dinner. Another favorite Wednesday tradition of mine is eating pasta. Growing up, my big Italian family would gorge on spaghetti and meatballs every Wednesday night, so for my birthday this year I asked the girls to meet me at Spaghetteria for massive plates of handmade pasta, crisp Italian wine, and deadly sgroppinos. Continue reading

Villandry, London

One of the many reasons I love London is because they freakin’ rock the brunch scene. In my opinion, a good brunch menu should have a handful of healthy options (think hearty salad, fresh fruit, homemade muesli, yogurt), the absolute breakfast basics (croissants, jam, fresh bread, porridge), a selection of morning cocktails (especially mimosas), some classics for the mainstream (eggs benny, buttermilk pancakes), and a few ‘wow’ entrees that go above and beyond your average breakfast expectations. Bakers and Roasters and Little Collins tick all the boxes here in Amsterdam, but otherwise, an exceptional breakfast spot is hard to come by in the ‘dam. However, in London, almost every brunch establishment knocks it out of the park – inventive mimosas, flaky croissants, and all.

On my last Sunday in London, Roshni and I popped out to meet up with Emily. The three of us lived together in Leeds, and haven’t all been in the same room since 2010! And what’s the best way to reconnect? Over brunch of course! We set off for Villandry on an ironically wet morning.
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East Ender in Portland, Maine

While in Maine I tend to live on oysters and lobster. Social gatherings almost always involve wine, a terrace, and a platter of icy cold saltwater clams. And while oysters are a social treat, I find lobster to be a very comforting food. Lobster tastes like childhood, like summertime, and like home. If given a choice, I would happily dine at a seaside lobster shack every single night of the week. For this reason, rarely do I step it up in the culinary department while in Maine. I can get hearty meals with delightful flavors in Amsterdam, so I tend to stick with the seasonal Maine delicacies you can only find in New England – lobster by the bucket, sweet corn on the cob, oysters, wild Maine blueberries . . . yum!

However, when the lovely Amie invited me to the East Ender in Portland for her birthday, I was excited to give it a go. The East Ender is slightly more fancy than the dinning experiences I’m used to in Maine (think picnic benches and ketchup packets) but they still have that fresh farm to table Maine flavor I love. Amie is an excellent friend, and I have to say, she has excellent taste as well!

IMG_1973The space at the East Ender is adorable. It captures Portland’s historic seaside charm, with bright pops of blue, exposed brick walls, nautical menus, and twinkling fairy lights.    Continue reading

A Taste of Home

I’m so behind on blogging. Like, embarrassingly behind. I have two more Maine posts, three London posts, a delicious Amsterdam restaurant recommendation, and a trip to the zoo to share. I am strongly determined to catch up. But at the same time, I appreciate the lag. Going through Maine summer photos in late September makes me smile. These memories are precious and I am glad to have cause to visit them again. I mean, just look at this dreamy lobster roll . . . . IMG_2258If that doesn’t make you lament summertime, I don’t know what will. Double drool. I’m going to try and wrap up the Maine posts in the next two days, so without further ado, here’s a very big and delicious taste of New England.  Continue reading

Green Label Art Gallery, Amsterdam

As much as I love a good whirl about the Rijks, artistic inspiration can be found in many places, from a world-class national museum to an inconspicuous little gallery on the Prinsengracht. IMG_2989Two weeks ago, I went to see a funk-cool installation curated by the Chaotic Bastards, a Dutch foursome who called for digital street art submissions around Europe. Artists uploaded their work to Instagram with the hashtag #GreenLabelGallery, and the Chaotic Bastards chose their favorites. Continue reading

De Parade, Amsterdam

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.IMG_2515 Continue reading

Granger & Co, London

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. IMG_2843But before I tell you about the eggs, let me tell you about London . . . .  Continue reading

Boothbay, Maine

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:IMG_2126 Continue reading

A Day in Dublin

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 . . . . IMG_2687. . . . bacon, eggs, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, beans, sausage, Irish breakfast tea, and a rainbow of puddings. Continue reading

Trusting

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