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I went home this weekend, to to be with my family and to see friends. I needed a mini-break, as they say in England. A small vay-cay. Some R&R.

I traveled home to remember what wide-open spaces look like when you’re driving on a lonely highway and you can see that point way out in the distance where the earth meets the sky.

And to remember what the cool, clear, fresh air smells like, almost minty and piny and cold in your lungs, but then warm. Spring in Wyoming means five different weather patterns in four hours—pouring rain, gale-force winds, blizzard snow (it didn’t stick, but it came down with a fury), beaming sun, and sad grumpy drear.

It felt good to be there, surrounded by things I know, people I love, small moments here and there that reminded me where I came from and why I am who I am.

I am eternally grateful, and immensely blessed.

But on my way back, I caught myself saying I was going home. “Oh, it will be good to be back home,” I said. But hadn’t I just come from home? Is Massachusetts now my home (say it ain’t so!)? Can I have two homes? Or three? Or four? Not actual buildings, but spaces—or feelings of all-is-ok-ness, one-ness, whole-ness. Is that what I meant by “going home”?

What is home? Where is it? Or who?

Before leaving for college, my parents told me no matter where I roamed, Wyoming would always be my home—Wyoming, my native land of the vast sky and big prairie. Snow in all seasons and drive-up liquor stores. Fly-fishermen and eagles on fence-posts. Mountains, streams, and antelope. I left Wyoming to see something new, to go someplace with “less dirt”. To widen my mind and my purview.

When I got to Mount Holyoke, home was where my bed was—

every year in a different place on campus, each room a special place for me and my thoughts, my books, my music. I felt good there, like I belonged. Like I was intrinsically connected to the place and the people there with me, those who came before me, and those who would come after me. Each year was new and different.

shannie, 1st year roommate. we broke the light. thelma & me.

But every late August, when I stepped back on campus, I felt like I was right where I needed to be. Soon I’d see my friends and we’d fall right back where we left off the previous year. It was a place of shared experiences, of self-seeking, of togetherness.

Then during the summer I went back to “home-home” as I called it. Back again to Wyoming, to my family, my room, my bed, my dogs.

My first job out of college was really when I first set up my own space that was really and truly mine, my new apartment. My walls, my kitchen, my art space.

And now Mark and I have a home here, in Watertown,

with our dog, our bed, our pictures.

I’m at home with Mark, in his hug. With his laugh and warm smile.

We feel good here, all together, “at home” in our 1200 square feet of room, and beyond that space the life we’ve shaped with one another.

All of this, and yet still I’m not certain. What IS home?

Is it a warm blanket? a friendly hug? where your family lives? where everyone knows your name? Could be… Surely it isn’t only the things around you, in your life, or the space they fill. Is it the people? Or is it just where you are, in that moment? And there, could it be many places?

Perhaps the answer is that home is where you are, where I am, where we are together, and that home will be ever-changing, ever-moving, because life is ever-changing, ever-moving. And in that movement will always be a constant space where we feel good, we feel like our true selves, we feel like we’re whole. And all those spaces will always be there, waiting for us.

I feel good knowing this. I feel calm. I feel at ease.

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I love Starbucks.  Sorry.  I do.  Ok. Coffee houses generally.

But Starbucks particularly because it’s near and frankly, I haven’t found a coffee house in town (Belmont or Cambridge) that is 5 minutes away from my home or workplace AND isn’t full of jerk-face judgmental hipsters or super-yuppies (ok… I’m definitely being too judgmental myself and I know that any Starbucks at any point in time can also be full of, or run by, jerk-face hipsters and/or super-yuppies, but whatever. It’s my blog I can say what I want, believe what I believe, and like what I like. And come on. You know what I mean, right?)

ANYWAY.

This post is not about hate.  This post is about love.  The love of coffee.  The love of getting EXACTLY what you want and experiencing pure happiness for just five minutes of your day.

Really.  Can you think of any other place where you can, for $5 (more or less), get happiness in a cup?  A pick-me-up.  A sugar fix.  A cool treat.  A warm ……. hmmmm 🙂  And you can get ANYTHING you desire, come to find.  There’s nothing they can’t/won’t make, and they aim to please.  Step inside your local Starbucks (or awesome local non-hipsterfied coffee stop–try Tunnel City Coffee in Williamstown, MA or The Metro Coffee Company in Casper, Wyoming) and just listen to the requests, all served up quickly and with a smile (mostly):

“Tall non-fat caramel macchiato frappucino, EXTRA caramel.”

“Grande soy vanilla latte with two shots of espresso.”

“Three shots of espresso in a large cup with ice.”

“Medium iced coffee with two pumps of peppermint, leave room for cream.”

“Venti sweetened green tea.” (Yes, not coffee, but you can have tea too!)

The combinations are seemingly endless.  And it’s such a simple business plan:

Give the people what they want.

For me, in the absence of a Tunnel City or Metro Coffee, I’ll take a good friendly Starbucks any day.  Like today.  And believe me, I’m not against the local coffee spot and I fully understand the impact Starbucks has had on the world.  I DO.  I get it.  I love the community feel of local coffee places–how you can run into people you know, or how if you go enough your barrista/o will know your drink.  They might play music from area bands and serve local bread or desserts.  And I would go to one if I could find one I liked.  And Yes, I’ve tried Darwins in Cambridge and it just doesn’t do it for me (although they do have good sandwiches and Iggy’s Bread of the World there… MMM… the bagels are especially fine and they toast ’em up right and give you a nice schmear of your favorite cream cheese–but I digress, this is not about bagels, it’s about coffee etc.).

If you live/work in Belmont or Cambridge (Harvard Square area) and have suggestions for coffee places to try, let me know.  I’m open so  long as they give the people what they want.  Happiness in a cup. Their way.  With a smile.  (And maybe some free internet too!)

… and we’re grilling pizza.  So much has happened since we’ve last written, but I’ll give you the short of it:

1. we got hitched!

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2. we moved!  to a cute little house on a quiet road further in to Belmont, where Gordon can hunt rabbits and we can listen to nothing but the chirping birds and the kids playing in the street.

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Dining Room

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Sun Room

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Living Room

—-

Anyhoo… it’s too damn hot outside today and turning on the oven seems unthinkable.  But darnit, I want pizza! So we’re grilling.  Here’s a nifty little video about how to do it yourself, thanks to Allrecipes.com: http://allrecipes.com/HowTo/Grilling-Pizza-Video.  I’ll post pictures when we’re finished… unless it doesn’t turn out and we’re walking down the street to get a pizza pie at Thiago’s… [Edit: grilling pizza is simple and well worth the effort… sorry Thiago’s,  we’ll have to see you when grilling season is over!]

So yeah.  We highly recommend grilling your pizza.

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First, you put the pizza dough (we got ours at the grocery store pre-made at the deli! or if you’re really brave you can make your own) right on the super hot grill.  It’s easiest if they’re kinda small so you can flip them.  You’ll notice one is slightly smaller than the other and oddly shaped… this is because someone dropped the dough on to the grill.  I’m not naming names but it wasn’t me and Gordon was staying cool inside.  Luckily we were able to whisk it off and re-shaped it and laid it on there just in time.

Then we let them sit for a couple of minutes.  And it really only took a couple of minutes.  They rise up and get nice and bubbly.  But you can take a fork and poke them so they’re nice and flat.  Then we flipped them over with tongs (or you could use a spatula, or both if you need the extra help to get it over) and quickly started putting on the ingredients!  We did homemade basil pesto, tomatoes, and mozzarella.  Feel free to get creative here.

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Here Mark puts on the ingredients (he made the pesto–it was AWESOME!)

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I wanted my turn too.  Hurry Anna!  Hurry!  They’re cooking fast!

Then we shut the door and let them cook for a couple more minutes.  It was really hot outside… and the grill was hot too.  At least it wasn’t so hot in the house. We couldn’t wait for these to cook up fast so we could eat them. Woo Pizza!

Here’s the finished product:

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With a nice salad of red leaf lettuce, apples, and balsamic vinaigrette, this meal was really one of the best of the summer.  MmmmmmmM!

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Hopefully you’ll see more of us here now that we’re settled in and nesting in our new digs.  Until then, welcome back to Le Petit Éléphant, now on Winslow Road.  We’ll get to changing the banner soon, don’t you worry.

Anna has gotten us back in full-blog mode, and there’s lots to report on. What a few weeks it has been! Last weekend we were in beautiful (cold) Killington, Vermont with college friends of mine. It’s an annual tradition, thanks to our wonderful host, Jessica. My highlight is always making fires — I love every aspect of it, and it’s not the sort of thing you get to do very often in a city apartment these days. The only minus is having to wash every bit of clothing you brought with you because you smell like a campfire. A small price to pay, in my book.

The spot is almost impossibly beautiful in the winter, as is obvious in this picture:

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Hiking in the snow is always part of the weekend, and this year’s snow crop did not disappoint. We were waist deep in many spots. On Saturday, we braved the snow and ice in an effort to cross a raging frozen waterfall. We made it, though my foot slipped back in the icy water. To warm up, the two doctors in our group recommended a few glasses of wine. Done.

Anna and I also did some playing in the snow. A few freeze-frame captures:

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We highly recommend this. You will smile like this afterward:

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On our way back to Boston, we made a detour through Williamstown. Of course we got purple cow cookies:

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Tuesday there was this little national matter that we are just now starting to understand completely. Wow.

Then Thursday, we met Loyal Reader Mark, who’s just taken a new job at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, for a night of Mendelssohn. Guy peaked at age 20, sort of like a college football player who goes pro to early (insert Maurice Clarett joke here). Anyway, it was our first trip to Symphony Hall, and the world-renowned acoustics are as good as described. Thanks, Loyal Reader Mark!

This weekend, we have had the great pleasure of hosting our good friend Darryl, who made the trip from Gambeir, Ohio. For readers who know Ohio geography (there can’t be many of you, can there?), Gambier is roughly 30 miles north of my hometown of Granville. Right in the heart of Buckeye Country. Can you tell I’m just a little bit jealous?

Anyway, before Darryl got here yesterday morning, Anna, Sammy, and I participated in a volunteer event at the Boston Food Pantry downtown with the Williams Alumni Association. Wet met Jessica there, too (as she too had thankfully unfrozen from Killington). For those of you who have never volunteered at a food pantry, it is good and meaningful work. There were roughly 80 volunteers there, divided into two teams on assembly lines. Ours looked  like this:

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Within a half hour or so, as task-specialization kicked in, we were operating as a pretty well-oiled machine. Jessica was a loader (lifting boxes off of the pallets onto the line for sorting), Anna and Sammy were first sorters (inspecting the contents of the boxes, throwing out expired or opened products, and discovering the weird stuff that people thought were a good idea to give to a food pantry — pregnancy tests, anyone?). I was proudly the runner, meaning I did a little bit of everything. Like storing the hundreds of mops and brooms we received:

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If you have never volunteered at or donate to a food pantry, we’d strongly recommend it. In 3 hours, our group boxed up over 15,000 meals, but the Boston pantry helps feed over 90,000 clients a week. Drop me a line if you ever want to go. As a nice thank you, the Pantry gave volunteers beautiful flowers that had been donated by Trader Joe’s. They are sitting on top of my blogging desk now, and are a great reminder of the cycle of generosity that service creates:

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Lots more to report on soon, hope you are warm and well-rested wherever you are.

After Anna’s post on her triathlon, I feel a little silly saying that I played golf all weekend… but I did. And loved it all (except, of course, missing Anna’s and Molly’s successes!).

Three college friends (Dave, Brad, and Brad) joined me for the 48th Annual Williams Alumni Golf Tournament at the incredible Taconic Golf Club. It’s where I learned to play while working at Williams, and I realize now how spoiled I was.

About 240 players were in the tournament this year, and it always draws alums from across the class years. Teams of two compete in flights by handicaps, and each team ends up playing five nine-hole best ball matches. Brad N. and I ended up faring ok together in our matches, only losing badly to a team that hit a hole-in-one against us. Seriously. The guy had been playing 40 years and it was his first ace. Oh yeah, they also had three other birdies… best 15 handicappers I’d ever seen.

If you’ve ever played Taconic, the golf speaks for itself. The competition is incredibly into it, too, but in that fun, laid-back way that I like about Williams alums. Besides the golf, though, the main highlights involved hanging out on the porch post-rounds. Like this:

A typical scene after a long day of golf

A typical scene after a long day of golf

Among the things we did on the porch this year were:

– Drank about 6 pitchers of BBC Steel Rail Ale

– Ordered calzones from Colonial Pizza

– Talked about the Indians’ many injuries and slumping play with one of the team surgeons (Williams ’84… same guy who did Big Papi’s wrist surgery a few months back)

– Talked about the future of higher education with Texas oil executives

– Played bridge during a thunderstorm

– Were identified as “guys like us” by one guy who said his alma mater (Dartmouth) was being run by socialists (we did not inform him that, as we had arrived from Berkeley, South Beach, and Cambridge, it was unlikely we were, in fact, “guys like him”)

– Recapped nearly every good and bad shot we hit all day late into the afternoon

Anyway, it was a great time, as usual, and we’ve already secured our place in next year’s tournament by being the last teams to leave the clubhouse Sunday.

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