Field Trip: American Players Theatre, Spring Green, Wisconsin

Monday, July 27, 2015

When I first heard there was a beautiful outdoor theater about an hour west of Madison I kind of scratched my head in disbelief because, an hour west of Madison? Is there actually anything there? I mean, go 20 minutes outside Madison and you're basically surrounded by farmland. But, I was happily proven wrong. Stephen and I went out to American Players Theatre on Saturday to see Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire and it was quite a memorable experience.

Let me start by saying I love plays/musicals/ballets/shows of any kind. (Fact: the number one thing I miss about my job is seeing Broadway shows on work trips—so, that's right, I don't really miss my job.) So, I went into this show really wanting to like it. I was not disappointed.

Let's start at the beginning. We drove a little less than an hour west of Madison (very easy drive—essentially take 14 the whole way) to the theatre in Spring Green, Wisconsin.

We packed a picnic lunch including sandwiches from Fromagination and green beans and Door County cherries from the amazing Farmers' Market and ate it on a picnic table. APT has many designated picnic areas, including grills and a concession stand. You're also welcome to BYO adult beverages. We certainly felt a little out-performed by some of the fellow picnic-goers (table cloths! Hot dishes! Glassware!) but we still had fun eating outside.

(As you can surely tell by this very necessary shot of me, a sandwich, and a water bottle.)

Then, we hung out outside (I did a little reading) before the show started at 3 p.m. I will say this: it was hot! So if you're planning a trip there, be sure to check the weather before you go. We each brought a water bottle (they sold bottled waters for $3.50 each, yikes!) and lots of sunscreen. We reapplied, as the theater is completely outdoors. (This reapplication also made me feel like an extra responsible adult.) They provided bug spray, which was nice, I imagine the bugs become more of a problem for the later shows (when the sun, surely, is less of a problem).

From the picnic area, it's about a quarter-mile walk to "Up-The-Hill" theater. There's good signage and it's an easy, pretty walk through the trees. Though the walk is (you guessed it) uphill. (There's also a shuttle provided for those for whom this walk is challenging.)

At the top of the hill, there are restrooms, concessions and a gift shop, and, of course, the theater! The theater has 1,140 cushioned seats and it's all entirely outdoors. This means many people were fanning themselves with the program throughout the performance. Since A Streetcar Named Desire takes place in New Orleans, I just pretended the heat was an extension of the performance.

Have you seen A Streetcar Named Desire, either a version or the play or the famous movie with Marlon Brando? I had not, so went into the show relatively blind to the story line. (The only line I knew was "STELLA!") I enjoyed the play in the way I enjoy a classic book—it gave me a lot to think about afterward. There was beautiful symbolism, lovely language, and lots of tension between characters. I will say, though, most of the characters are full of vices, and therefore not particularly easy to like. It is certainly not an uplifting play, but a very thought-provoking one. (I had previously read Williams' The Glass Menagerie so was braced for tragedy.) Here's a shot of the stage from before the show:

If you're from Madison, or the surrounding areas, you should definitely check out the American Players Theatre for a day trip! They're performing The Merry Wives of WindsorPride and PrejudicePrivate LivesOthello, and, of course, A Streetcar Named Desire this season in their Up-The-Hill Theatre. (Links to summaries.)

I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the play, by Blanche DuBois. Have a "magical" Monday, friends ;)

5 Lessons from Living with My Boyfriend

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Come August 1st, Stephen and I will have lived together for a whole year. While this by no means makes me an expert on cohabitating, I thought it'd be fun to reflect back and share some "tips" for those of you considering moving in with your significant others. (I'm sure it will just be amusing for those who have been doing this for years—I know I still have a lot to learn!)

1. Start on Equal Ground

Stephen and I each moved in from our own apartments to our new apartment, and even though that meant but a three-block move for me (from a 2 bedroom downtown, to another 2 bedroom downtown, womp), I would definitely do it again. We started living together in our place not his place or my place. There was no sense that one of us was intruding on the others' space/routines/life—we were choosing to enter the same space, and make a new life, together.

2. Purge (lots of) Your Stuff

I wish we would have purged more stuff initially. Obviously, I am a big fan of the Marie Kondo method but we should have been more stringent at first. For example, since we were merging two kitchens into one (small) one, we had way too much glassware. As in, we had to repurpose a shelving unit for mugs and then still had some permanently on the counter. In preparation for our upcoming move, we finally got rid of unnecessary glassware (but don't worry: not this glass), and I wish we would've done it ages ago (upon moving in rather than upon moving out).

But, whenever I make good decisions I always wish I would've done them sooner. Learn from our mistakes, and consolidate belongings. (Also, at one point we had four cheese graters. Not surprising at all if you know us, ha!)

3. Don't Correct the Person Doing the Chore

We don't have a ton of "house rules" but we have one that I love: If you're not doing the chore, you don't get to correct the person who is. Ex. I never put dryer sheets in the dryer (its against my nature), but he doesn't get to correct me because I'm doing the laundry. And, when he takes out the trash without first scooping the cat litter (gasp!), I don't get to correct him because he's taking the trash out. This works very well for us—no one wants to be critiqued constantly when they're doing a chore that benefits both people. Give it a try! (Even with a non-S.O. roomie!)

4. Wunderlist is a Godsend

I talked about Wunderlist in a list of Fun Free Apps a while ago but its eternal usefulness bears repeating. No one wants to exchange one million texts about "We're out of hand soap." And "I'm going to the store do we have milk?" Wunderlist is an easy and (dare I say) fun way to conquer the banality of stocking a home together. No more walking to the store and cursing yourself (or your partner) for leaving the grocery list on the fridge!

5. Adopting a Pet is More Challenging—and more Rewarding—Than I Anticipated

Although it's hard to believe since I've nearly come to crazy cat lady status at this point, I was not the driving force behind adopting Tywin, Stephen was. He was the cat person through and through, and I was resistant, but thought to myself "If the compromise of this relationship is a furry ball I guess I can deal." Flash forward ten months, and I'm obsessed. Of course, I was also surprised at the amount of work "raising" a cat entails. From vet visits to "incidents" (he has ruined a pair of my Steve Madden flats!) to the occasional middle of the night/early morning wake ups, you should be ready for a larger time commitment than anticipated. Still, it has been a wonderful thing to take on together—and I'd do it again in a heart beat.

Do you live with your significant other? Any other tips for cohabitating? I'm all ears!

p.s. Check out Mackenzie's post where she talks to 10 women about the big move-in. It was the inspiration for this post and is definitely worth reading!

Field Trip: Madison Farmers' Market

Monday, July 20, 2015

If you're thinking of visiting Madison, Wisconsin, let me strongly suggest you do so in the summer. (Unless you're one of those lunatics who loves snow, in which case, anytime between early October and late April works.) (Sometimes May.) (For the record, I know and respect many of those snow-loving lunatics, but we must agree to disagree.) (There's nothing quite as artistic as using four tangential parenthetical phrases in a row, don't you think?)

ANYWAY, June, July, and August are the three months where Madison shines down upon its residents and reminds us why anyone settled here in the first place. It's beautiful. I can hardly go for a run without snapping a lovely lake shot. If you do come in the summer, be sure to spend a Saturday here so you can enjoy the wonder of Madison's Farmers' Market.

The whole capital square is blocked off to traffic and replaced with tent after tent of homegrown veggies, fruits, flowers, honey, etc. There's delicious homemade scones, breads, and cookies. There's locally raised meat. And honey. And herbs. And everything, really. A few more pictures from this past Saturday:

These are the first black raspberries I have seen this year!

You can get any color potato that your heart desires.

Same goes for heirloom tomatoes!

And it wouldn't be Wisconsin without a plethora of cheeses. (Most tables offering free samples!)

And of many flowers. I snapped this photo at my first market of the season.

Since everything's homemade/grown in Wisconsin, it's fun to see the seasonality of the fruits and veggies (e.g. we aren't quite to sweet corn season yet, but I can't wait! Also, delicious apples will come in the fall.) This Saturday we bought beets (roasted beet recipe here), fingerling potatoes, Door County cherries (first photo) that were amazing (worth the $5!), radishes, and green beans.

If you're visiting Madison anytime soon, definitely pencil in the farmers' market to your itinerary. (And don't forget your cash!) If you live in Madison and haven't been to the farmers' market yet, what are you waiting for? :)

p.s. Another fun Madison activity? The Olbrich Botanical Gardens.

Cats Don't Have Body Image Issues—And Other Life Lessons from our Feline Friends

Thursday, July 16, 2015

It has now been over 9 months since we adopted our little kitten Tywin! Can you believe it? I thought I'd use this post to share life lessons I've extracted from having him around:

1. Nap anywhere you'd like, whenever you'd like.

 Cats don't beat themselves up for taking naps. They don't lament the could-have-been productive hours spent chasing z's. They don't awake from their slumber with a sense of guilt, admonishing themselves for midday laziness. They just sleep. 

(In this pic, he's sleeping on my legs that are wrapped in a blanket)

2. Anything is a toy once you set your mind to it.

If you are an indoor cat (as Tywin is), you're entire life is, really, quite confined. You don't get to gallivant around Europe backpacking with your boyfriend. You don't get to try a new restaurant every weekend. I mean, really, you don't even get to catch the birds you longingly watch out the window. But, that doesn't stop you from making the most of your surroundings. A shoe string? A toy! A nectarine? A toy! Behind the toilet? A place to explore! A box? A new piece of furniture!

If only I could view slight changes to my environment with as much enthusiasm.

3. Cats don't have body images issues.

Cats do not look in the mirror and immediately start to pick apart their own appearance. In fact, cats don't really understand the concept of mirrors, from my experience. They do not count the calories of their dry food, or turn down any offered treats. They don't get mad at themselves for eating an astronomical amount of wet food (really, I didn't mean to give him that much that one time). Cats just eat.

Well, it's seeming I'm hitting the critical limit of sharing too many cat pictures in a single post—so I'm going to share two more and call it a day. If you're considering adopting a cat, I highly recommend it. Also, if you're in Madison, feel free to email me. I volunteer at a shelter so could help you out (I am a big fan of #adoptdontshop)!

Happy Thursday, friends! xx

p.s. Still hungry for more cat pics? Here's my 2 week update (he was tiny!) and my 2 Month Update.

Advice on Writing, Volume 4

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

For me, trying to write every day is a bit like trying to run everyday.

Some days, when I lace up my shoes and go for a run I naturally have an energized stride. I zip along in cruise control, getting lost in the music and the scenery and my thoughts. Before I know it, one, then two, then three miles are behind me! I did it. And all at a respectable pace (for me).

(Photo from my instagram)
Most days are not like that.

Most days, running feels a bit more step by step. With every stride, I'm constantly reminding myself, "pick your knees up higher, keep breathing, keep going." With every ten steps, I'm wondering how far I've gone.....It's only been a half a mile?! Step. I've been running forever. Step, step. Will I ever be done running? Step. Can I actually survive three miles? Step, step. What's the point of running anyway? Step.

Writing is like this for me, as well.

Some days, it seems I'm a well of ideas, and the words flow out of me. The blank page beckons my thoughts, my sentences, my paragraphs, my entire chapters. I was born to get the words onto the page. The very words, surely, have been dormant inside of me for years, and are now eager to get out, to form insightful sentences and compelling stories. Nothing could be more natural.

Most days are not like that.

Most days, writing feels a bit more word by word, sentence by sentence. It is unduly difficult to extract each word from my brain and then transcribe it to the page. It's a bit like writing calligraphy with my left hand. In Arabic.

The path between my head and my typing hands seems impossibly long. And are the words any good, anyway? Sentence. Where am I going with this? Sentence. I'll probably just have to scrap this whole chapter. Sentence. Or maybe this whole book. Sentence. I'm hungry. Sentence. Maybe I should start job searching online. Sentence. But who would ever hire me anyway? Sentence.

So, I suppose my amateur unsolicited advice is this: Get through the bad days. Better yet, embrace them. Despite how painful they can be, they are the very days that will lead you to the good ones. Maybe you have to write eight terrible paragraphs to lead you to one beautiful sentence. Maybe you have to write an entire bad book to lead you to an okay one. Whatever you do, don't stop.

And, when you can't possibly write another word, when you are absolutely certain you will never again be able to form a coherent sentence on the page—go for a run. Seriously.

p.s. The book all aspiring writers should read.
p.p.s. Advice on writing, volumes one, two, and three.

Cute Jewelry Trays

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

I have many "endearing" habits making me a less than perfect roommate. One is that I leave jewelry scattered about around the apartment like candy at a parade.

(Important sidebar: I adore the term "endearing"—why practice self improvement? Just take your most annoying habits...and label them endearing! Bad driver? Endearing! Never take down the trash? Endearing! Terrible sense of direction? Endearing! Thus ends my self help book proposal.)

Anyway. Cute jewelry trays are a nice way to make your randomized jewelry placement seem more intentional. Exhibit A:

(I've been using my little sister's tray for my daily jewelry while I've been at home for the week. Thank goodness we have so many J's in the family.)

What I've found best to do is note where you organically place your necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and rings, then buy trays and put them in all those places. Interior design at it's finest, ladies and gentlemen.

So today, I rounded up some of my favorite jewelry trays:


Jonathan Adler White Lacquer Tray (Design Darling, $34)
Daisy Place Square Dish (Kate Spade, $40)
Metallic Gold Glass Tray (J. Crew, $17.50)
Vintage NYC Skyline Trinket Tray (Nordstrom, $40)
Deep Sleep Trinket Tray (Anthropologie, on sale for $9.95)
'Not All Who Wander Are Lost' (Fringe Studio, Nordstrom, $16)

Where do you shop for your trinket trays? Can never have enough, in my opinion. ;)

p.s. The Anthropologie monogrammed ring dish above here. My sister got me the Wisconsin necklace above for Christmas. (Thanks, Becky!) You can find the gold necklace here and the silver version here.

A Long Weekend Without Wifi

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

I hope everyone had a Happy Fourth! I spent the long weekend at my parents' new cabin on the Allegheny River that is a whopping 400 square feet! It was my first time up there and I really liked it, even though there were 6 of us up there, 6 ft + in height :) It was not unlike a giant slumber party.

The cabin is right on the river, so there was fishing, kayaking, biking, and camp fires.

(This nearby bridge used to be a railroad, but is now a bike path offering beautiful views of the Allegheny River.)

Other than being with family and friends, the best part—I think—about the cabin is the complete and total lack of Wifi. Even phone service was a tad questionable. I did manage to post a few instagram shots and send some texts/brief emails, but that was about all my phone could manage. For four days!

I know bloggers love talking about "disconnecting" which, to me, always feels a bit funny. E.g. "Here's an instagram about disconnecting!! #offline" Wait, what? But, here I am writing a blog post about disconnecting. So. Human beings are balls of contradictions, in my experience, and I am no exception.

I think I now have discovered the only way for me to really disconnect, since I apparently don't possess an ounce of will power. Go somewhere where it just plain doesn't work, no matter how much you want to read blog posts, scroll through your entire facebook feed, and read all your new emails. This reminds me of a quote by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and, as he died on this day 85 years ago, I feel it's appropriate to share:

"What can we know? What are we all? Poor silly half-brained things peering out at the infinite, with the aspirations of angels and the instincts of beasts."
—Arthur Conan Doyle

He was talking about our collective addiction to Wifi when he wrote that quote, right? ;) I know it's a stretch, but I do feel like I just instinctively spend hoards of time on my phone/computer, even though I aspire not to. So that's why his words came to mind.

With all the offline time at the cabin, I finally cracked open Jane Eyre. And got to feel like I was more embedded in the present moment. (Milan Kundera would be proud.)

Plus, I ate a ton of popsicles.

I hope you all had a happy long weekend filled with popsicles, s'mores, and/or the dessert of your choosing!

p.s. We got some sad news that my grandpa passed on the fourth, so I'll be heading down to D.C. for a funeral this week, so posts will be light. But I did want to share a book review this week, so I'll work on getting that out, but no promises.

Sanibel Island, Florida

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A couple weekends ago, Stephen and I went to visit his parents in Sanibel. I want to share a million few photos from the trip. If you are considering vacationing there, I'd say: do it! It's a beautiful island on the gulf side of Florida. It has a tropical feel, despite still being part of the United States (not unlike Puerto Rico (which I love), but closer, of course!) We flew into Fort Myers, and it's only about a 45 minute drive from there.

On the tip of Sanibel is Captiva, a pretty tiny little island. This time we stayed on Sanibel since it was a short trip, but Captiva provides a more "Key West" feel.

Hope you enjoy the pictures!

This flower is in Stephen's parents' backyard...can you believe it? It's crazy to think the island is technically "Florida" because it really feels like the Caribbean.

I went shopping with Stephen's mom and found these Sperry flip flops which I love!! Their driveway is made of broken sea shells. (How cool is that?) Sanibel is, apparently, the second best shelling place in the world. (Isn't "shelling" a fun verb? It means what it sounds like, going out to find shells.)

We explored J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge where we saw crabs, pretty cranes and other birds, lots of jumping fish, and a spider that was so big I'm still trying to forget about it. We didn't see any gators though—the word on the street was it was too hot for them!

Then we headed to the beach to watch the sunset. As most islands do, Sanibel has a ton of pretty beaches. We picked one with a good view of the sunset this time of year!

It did not disappoint!

Overall, it was a very nice trip! Thanks to Mr. and Mrs. R for hosting us :)

Also, if you're looking for a delicious restaurant on the island, we enjoyed Traders.

I'm off to Pittsburgh for the long weekend to hang out with my family, so I won't be posting until next week. Happy Fourth to everyone! (And happy birthday to my middle sister, Grace! I will never forget the night you were born and I laid in the front yard, watching fireworks, waiting for my little sister to come home!)