Many thanks to the team at Buffalo Magazine for my latest assignment! I had a blast while profiling a Western New York couple for the magazine’s “Real Weddings” series. You can find the piece - and the rest of the magazine’s October issue - in print right now. It’s also available for your enjoyment online.
I’ve heard word that the summer months are supposed to move about at a slightly more languid pace, but that’s been far from the case this year - and it’s been pretty great.
The team at Buffalo Magazine recently asked me for tips on how to explore my adopted hometown. The resulting piece focuses on the section of greater Boston in which I spend most of my time: Cambridge and Somerville. I introduced readers to “Camberville” in Explore Cambridge and Somerville Like a Local.
How often is a writer able to reconcept the very basics of how product copy is positioned on a massive e-commerce website? Over the course of about five weeks this summer, I created product copy best practices for a new website, and then used those principles to create consistent and authentic customer-facing copy for about 25 products.
And finally, the approach of fall means that this year’s Copywriting Conference will be here before we know it. Or, more accurately, I will be there. I’m looking forward to getting back to London for my third straight CopyCon, and this year’s lineup of speakers and sessions is looking like its strongest yet.
Are you ready to OWN THE NOW?
With that question, Vistaprint introduced the first results of a huge internal undertaking. Since the summer, I’ve had the chance to conceptualize, spitball, test, and collaborate with myriad partners to help bring OWN THE NOW to life. And I crafted copy for key areas throughout the Vistaprint website (including the homepage, About Us, Deals, New Arrivals, and a special OWN THE NOW introduction page).
Here’s to its debut, and to what comes next!
Are you ready to check it out? Start here.
I recently had the wonderful opportunity to dive into the WNY beer, wine, and spirits scene for a story in Western New York Wedding’s “Local Love 2019” issue.
You can check out the finished product - Signature Sips - by clicking here. Thank you to the WNY Weddings team for such a fun assignment!
First things first. Yes, I did do something different with my hair.
And got married. (That was in August.)
And am in the midst of getting my name changed, hence the new situation on the top left corner of my website. (This is ongoing.)
And enjoyed a mix of work and play during a week in London. (That was two weeks ago.)
But yes, I also cut my hair for the first time in four years. And I’m proud to report that I waited a full week and a half after the wedding to head to the salon. (That is patience!)
The theme of this? There’s been a whole lot of change over here, and it’s been an incredible exciting period of time!
And there will be even more to share soon: I’ve been able to partner up with some fantastic clients in my freelance work, and I’m excited about the results.
Do you have freelance needs for your projects? I’d be happy to discuss your needs and what I could bring to the mix. Let’s connect at LinkedIn and have a chat!
I recently spent a week in Barcelona. It was my first time in Spain.
During the commute "home" from work to my small rented flat one afternoon, I stopped at a local market to buy a bag of cherries and a large bottle of water. I smiled at strangers along the way to try my best to make up for my linguistic shortcomings. Upon arrival at the apartment, I settled into a chair on the tiny balcony to eat cherries and watch life unfold around and beneath me.
One of many moments I'll treasure from this adventure. Here are a few others!
Two years ago, I rode in a minivan along the narrow streets of a Brazilian favela (shantytown) en route to a community center. Upon arrival, I learned about how adolescents were learning skills - boxing, juggling, and aerial arts among them - to stay off the streets and, hopefully, out of gangs. I saw artistry, grace, and a passion to learn and create beauty.
Around the same time, I listened to a Serbian woman describe how she and her fellow Romani (gypsies) were slowly and methodically working to break down prejudice. As a woman and a gypsy, she knew that she faced double the challenges. And that it wasn't going to come easily. But she'd seen moments of success, of traction. And so she and her fellow advocates were going to continue to break down the stigmas, moment by moment.
Eighteen months ago, on the island of Java, three generations of a Muslim family welcomed me into their home for dinner. The meal was sensational, and our hosts sweet, welcoming, and funny. My group asked about daily life in Yogyakarta. Family members had questions about the United States. One of the grandsons discussed his dreams of becoming a pastry chef. As we walked about their neighborhood, one of the women took my hand and squeezed it. I squeezed back.
A year ago, I made my first introductory strolls along the streets of Paris. Life unfolded all around me: Couples walked with their arms around each other's waists, friends exchanged kisses on the cheek as they sank into outdoor seats at neighborhood cafés. Six months after gunmen tried to cripple the Parisian lifestyle, that legendary joie de vivre was on full display.
About eight months ago, I marveled at the confluence of cultures, languages, scents, and sounds that make up everyday London life. History and innovation came together all around me - in the food, the architecture, and the philosophy. And while I was delighting in how exciting it all felt, I loved most the fact that the vibe was straightforward. Of course London was an ever-developing tapestry of experiences. It was and would always continue to develop, adapt, and grow even richer.
What I know of the world is that there is good. Amazing people looking to connect and learn about themselves and about others. And no matter what happens, and no matter who tries to instill fear and a thirst for isolation, we should get out there and experience it. Build relationships, not walls. Create connections rather than discord. Travel instead of hide. Feel, not fear.
Over catch-up drinks a few weeks ago, a friend and I were discussing her upcoming trip to the Czech Republic, a country that ranks high on my list of places to which I'd like to return. I thought it worth mentioning to her a particularly notable local dish – so that she could either seek it out or make sure to avoid it entirely, depending on her travel objectives.
“It’s beef served with a creamy gravy and dumplings, which is pretty familiar, right? But then you have the condiments. There’s cranberry sauce and … whipped cream.”
The puzzlement on her face perfectly matched the expression my travel companion had in Prague, as the dish – known as svíčková – was set down in front of her.
For the record, the dish wasn’t terrible – unfamiliar to my American palate, for sure, but certainly worth trying – but it wasn’t one that would rank among my top travel picks. But the conversation did get me thinking: What are the dishes that I’ve loved most during my international travels? After some time to contemplate, I’ve compiled them below, as well as information about how you can experience them for yourself should you be giving your passport a workout.
Grand Marnier Soufflé
Chez Dumonet Josephine, Paris, France
I relished every single morsel and moment of our dinner at Chez Dumonet, from the warm and welcoming service to the last sugar crystals of this incredible soufflé.
I’ve never felt quite so out of my element as when Matt and I arrived in Jakarta. After nearly 27 hours of travel, I didn’t know what day it was. What time it was. Where within Indonesia’s massive capital city I actually was. But I did know that I was excited to explore and sample the local cuisine. Rice. Sambal. Fruit. Yes to all of it, please.
The only reason rendang is at the lowest spot in this list is because I only experienced a small bite of it while in Indonesia itself. Our tour group popped into a small Indonesian restaurant – the kind with the white bowls and servers of deliciousness stacked in the front window to entice passersby – and were given a brief chance to sample the goods. Rich, smoky, spicy, and decadent, the flavors unleashed a slow burn in my mouth that left me wanting to come back for more and introduced me to the incredible food I would experience for the next two weeks.
While I can’t recall the name of the specific restaurant we popped into, I can tell you that those in the Boston area should keep an eye out for what Kaki Lima is up to. This incredible team is in the midst of a six-month residency at Wink & Nod, and up until recently, the menu included rendang. We've been twice already since they kicked off the residency in March. I'd love to see rendang back on the menu, but everything they create takes me back to Java and Bali.
Indonesian food should be a bigger deal in the U.S. than it is. Don’t waste time. Get a taste of it now.
I’m a pretty equal opportunity bread lover. Rolls, baguettes, croissants … whatever it is, I’m on board. Warm it up and I’m done for. But I’ve always had a particular soft spot for the large soft pretzel. I keep mine simple – big grains of salt, please – and love to save the twist in the middle for the very end.
I happened across the motherload of soft pretzels while exploring an outdoor market in Salzburg. And while there were many covered in cheese, dusted with poppy seeds, and other pretty adornments available, I went for the classic.
I took a bite and then went back to buy another one for later, when I’d returned to my Danube river ship. Hearty without being dense. A good crust to bite into, but soft and satisfying inside. Big flakes of salt that melted on the tongue.
These pretzels are the reasons I’ve stopped buying pretzels at sporting events. They can’t even compare.
By the time I sat down to try one of Bulgaria’s most-celebrated national dishes, I was convinced that it had been over-hyped. For at least two days, I’d been hearing about it. Shopska salad this, shopska salad that.
Fast-forward to my return from Eastern Europe, when all I could do was talk about shopska salad.
This seemingly simple combination of four ingredients – roasted red pepper, tomato, cucumber, and sirine cheese – is a near-perfect marriage of flavors. The brightness of the sirine (the Bulgarian version of feta) enhances the sweetness of the red pepper, which plays nicely off the tomato, which makes the cucumber pop … if I was limited to eating only one kind of salad for the rest of my life, this would be it.
French Onion Soup
Le Comptoir de la Gastronomie, Paris, France
During a return visit to Paris in December, I embarked on a one-woman quest to find the city’s best onion soup. And while this required me to sample bowl after bowl after bowl of delicious soup – the struggle was real – I persevered until I found it.
We’d planned an indulgent dinner (ok, fine, one more indulgent dinner) for our final night in the city. While I’d thought that the meal was intended to celebrate another wonderful visit to our favorite city, it turned into something else: Since Matt had proposed earlier in the day, it became our engagement celebration dinner.
Perhaps my mood – giddy doesn’t even begin to describe – influenced my dining experience a little, but our evening at Le Comptoir de la Gastronomie would have been magical even without that element coming into play. Nestled in the 1st arrondissement, the small space embraces its cozy quarters with gusto, with accents of red velvet, a quirky assortment of non-matching chandeliers, and shelves that encourage a visitor to look up and around.
The restaurant is known for some of its more decadent main courses, and Matt still raves about the foie gras ravioli served in a truffle cream sauce. But I continue to lust after the onion soup. The broth was light, but packed with an incredible depth of flavor that I hadn’t quite found anywhere else. The cheese was just the right kind of salty and inviting, and the crouton had a bit of sweetness to it that kept me going back in for more.
Other takes on the soup that I’d experienced – in Paris and back home – were all delicious, but also super rich and filling. This was perfect: flavorful, exciting, and a wonderful introduction to the meal to come. And it left me wanting so much more.
The best thing I’ve ever tasted during international travel is a tall glass of strawberry juice that I drank during a lunch on the Indonesian island of Bali.
My tour group had just finished visiting Ulun Danu Bratan temple and stopped by a nearby restaurant. I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to order strawberry juice had our guide not recommended it – the man had good taste and had yet to steer me wrong. When the thick juice arrived in a large glass and straw, evoking thoughts of a ‘50s diner-style strawberry milkshake, I couldn’t help but smile.
Then I sipped. Total gamechanger. It was sweet, but accompanied by this incredible punch of tartness that woke up my entire mouth. I could feel and taste the pulpy bits of the fruit – hear it even, as it made its way up the straw. The simplest possible thing – a glass of juice made from a fruit I’d eaten every year for my entire life – was making me think of strawberries in an entirely new way. Familiar yet fresh. Exciting yet comfortable. I had consumed a third of the glass within two sips and couldn’t get enough.
I feel better about the world knowing that Balinese strawberry juice exists. And yet there is a little part of me that despairs that there are 10,045 miles standing between me and the single best thing I’ve ever tasted while abroad.
Yes, I mapped it. It was that good.
With a site redesign comes an opportunity to reflect ... and update on what has proven to be an extremely eventful past six months. So let's run through it quickly, shall we? Since crossing Abbey Road last fall, I ...
- Returned to Paris, as I couldn't (and still) can't get enough.
- Got engaged. In Paris! (I told you, that city is ALWAYS a good idea.)
- Said goodbye to my sassy, wonderful grandmother (one of the most influential people in my life).
- Transitioned into a wonderful new position at a new company.
- Got back into running.
- Kicked off wedding planning.
- Redesigned this site.
So there's been much to catch up on, and there are stories to be told. I look forward to sharing them and more with you in the weeks to come.
In the meantime, I'm presently available for select freelance opportunities, so don't hesitate to reach out via my LinkedIn profile and let's make some magic happen.
The Beatles and photographer Ian Macmillan had about ten minutes to shoot the cover of Abbey Road on August 8, 1969.
As the story goes, Macmillan stood on a ladder as the four musicians walked back and forth along the crosswalk. A police officer blocked traffic. Because the street surface was hot in early August, Paul alternated between wearing sandals and walking barefoot.
They managed to get the perfect shot: mid-stride, full of style, and incredibly relaxed.
My group of four—my father, uncle, aunt, and me—had about 30 seconds to recreate the cover of Abbey Road on October 11, 2016.
No stepladder. We handed our camera to a lovely guy in his mid-twenties, who stood on the studio side of the street; we followed up by photographing him doing the same thing with his girlfriend.
No police officer. It’s a busy intersection, and occasionally taxi drivers would honk at pedestrians. (How a driver could not anticipate Abbey Road traffic escapes me.)
Because Paul went barefoot, I went barefoot. The street surface is chilly in October.
Somehow, we managed to get as close to the perfect shot as we could: all four of us in the frame, full of excitement, and incredibly optimistic that we weren’t about to be run over.
End result? Brilliant.
Given Dia de la Revolucion de Mayo's focus on Argentina's national identity, it's only fitting to indulge in dishes most uniquely Argentinean in origin.
Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.
Last night's Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway was the kind you tell stories about. On a warm September evening, with playoff dreams on the line, a crackling energy was shared by a sellout crowd during Sunday night baseball. But my favorite moment of the night came early, before Hanley Ramirez blasted two home runs, and well before Mookie Betts wowed us in right field.
It was when a photo of my friend Steve appeared on the jumbotron, accompanied by the words "We Remember."
For so many of us, the first step in becoming a Fenway Park tour guide was very simple: Follow Steve Meterparel around the ballpark and try to keep up.
My first Meter masterclass came in April 2008. High off the previous season's World Series title, giddy about the return of a strong team, crowds descended upon Fenway to see for themselves the park that Ted, Yaz, and Papi had called home. Having moved to Boston the previous September, I was living out a dream as a brand-new member of the Red Sox front office on the weekends. And Steve was our ringmaster, the self-proclaimed "Matt Damon at 77" who would round up crowds of 100 people every hour and welcome them to the park with a stand-up set of puns, quips, and old-man humor.
What did one hot dog say to another hot dog at Fenway Park? CATCHUP. What? You're not RELISHING any of this are you? Man, I thought I was on a ROLL here.
If at first you don't succeed ... if at first you don't succeed ... skydiving may not be for you. No, let me say it how Vickie says it. If at first you don't succeed ... try playing second.
The second step in becoming a Fenway Park tour guide was very simple: Realize that you would never be able to get away with 75 percent of what Steve was doing every hour of every day.
The jokes were terrible. They were marvelous. By June, I could perform every bit in his routine. I knew well that the crowds absolutely adored groaning their way through every line that he had in his arsenal. And my fellow tour guides and I knew that he had each joke written on a carefully maintained, folded piece of paper that he carried with him every day. He took the work seriously, and he was brilliant at it. The stories he told were nuanced, informative, and delivered with an incredible energy and panache, and the crowds were mesmerized.
(See here for a sample. It's no surprise that Steve dominates the Fenway Park tour YouTube videos.)
I worked at Fenway for four years, from that first spring through summers, falls, and winter mornings with heavy snow and light crowds. He rarely missed a day. During that span, I became one of the innumerable people who came to love Steve. I became part of his Fenway family, and he came to know mine. And when my tour guide tenure came to a close, I continued to stop by when I could.
He was a treasure. And when he passed away last October, at the age of 84, one of the most remarkable and distinctive voices within Fenway Park—a place that has been home to more than its fair share of characters—was lost. And I hope he does become what he always joked about with his tour groups: the first Fenway tour guide immortalized in the Red Sox Hall of Fame. The man has got my vote, and hundreds more.
Last night, the Red Sox said thank you to Steve. And while the game was one for the books, that moment was the greatest of them all.
I've got to get my hands on a bottle of Malvasia.
It's a well-regarded sweet white wine grown only on the island of Salina, one of the eight Aeolian islands on the waters between southern Italy and Sicily. I tend to be more of a dry white drinker, but the chance to sample something only created in one place on earth? Count me in.
How did I learn about Malvasia? I recently wrote the content for a new cruise vacation that makes a stop at Salina, as well as number of other spots along mainland Italy, its islands (I'm looking at you, Sicily), and Malta. Check it out here.
There are stories to be shared (and stories coming soon) about the two weeks I spent in Normandy and Paris last month. In the meantime, I share with you a rare image of yours truly in photographer mode ...
Listed in no particular order, ten things that have been shaping my landscape this month.
1) The West Wing Weekly: Thank you, Joshua Malina and Hrishikesh Hirway - with the creation of your new podcast, you have enabled me to get right back into my endearingly obsessive love affair with one of the single greatest television series of all time. Each week is devoted to a single episode of the show - the content is broken down, analyzed, discussed, and revered, unique perspectives and special insights are added to the mix. I, like many other listeners and devotees, am making a point of watching the featured episode each week to relive it again and keep everything nice and fresh for the discussions. It is absolutely delicious - and we're not even anywhere near Season 3 (the single greatest season of episodic television ever created).
2) Paris: In two weeks, I will wake in a small hotel in St. Germain. This doesn't feel real, nor do I expect it to until I walk through the doors to enter the airport. Travel never feels real until it's actually happening. In the meantime, I'm been working on my French, reading up, and getting extremely excited. For years, I've held onto a very simple dream: to enjoy a small piece of cheese, a fresh baguette, and a glass of red wine in France. It's going to be a moment.
3) Barre: In 2015, I got into the boxing ring. For 2016, it's all about stepping up to the barre. I'm about three months into regular classes at The Bar Method, and I'm finding the practice hugely beneficial physically and mentally. It's not just about the workout, it's about applying feedback in the moment, pushing oneself that little bit more, and making sure to take time to show up and focus on the practice.
4) Calm: I'd stopped and started guided meditation several times over the past year, but I've found the Calm app (and desktop platform) to be the right gateway platform for me. There's a fantastic assortment of programs available, with a lovely interface and an approach that clicks with me. It's even made morning subway commutes kind of pleasant. (I KNOW.)
5) Hamilton soundtrack: I'm hardly alone on this one, but it's important to note. Nine times out of ten right now, if I'm listening to music, I'm listening to Hamilton.
6) Yvonne's: I finally had an opportunity to check out the supper club now frequenting Locke-Ober's former Downtown Crossing space, and was absolutely delighted. It's a decadent space with an irreverent menu, but it comes together in lovely fashion. My French 75 was perfect, each of the small plates we ordered (including the Angry Carrots, a standout in both name and execution) were on point, and the service was warm and attentive. I look forward to return visits in the near future.
7) Postseason Hockey: While my postseason experience would be greatly enhanced with the presence of my beloved Boston Bruins, I'm enjoying the chance to celebrate the sport of hockey without the tension and stress of an emotional investment. Give me multiple overtimes! I say yes to puck luck! While my bracket was smashed the moment Anaheim was eliminated, I'm making the most of being along for the ride.
8) Steve Martin and Martin Short: A key item on my bucket list was achieved this month, as I saw two legends perform live. More than worth the wait.
9) The Celtics: Thank you, bandwagon, for scooting over and making room for me to jump aboard. I'll be sticking around. This team is fun.
10) Sushi Go!: My biggest takeaway from my first experience at PAX East was a fondness for this quick, easy, and downright fun card game.