Travels | How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Now, you could argue that summer never really got underway here in Bremen — and I would definitely have to agree. But summer in the sense of life slowing down a bit, longer days, and the anticipation of traveling and see friends was alive and real in these parts. After spending all of July trying to catch up from the spring and prepare for fall at work, I was very happy to take off for two weeks at the beginning of August for a little tour of the East Coast, seeing some of my favorite people and places.

My first stop was Northampton, Massachusetts to visit a good friend, see her new hometown, her new home, and meet her lovely daughter. It was a crazy long travel day, involving flying to Frankfurt, then to JFK, then getting into the city, then taking an Amtrak (somehow I managed to forget over the past 9 years since I left NYC what a hell hole Penn Station is) up to Connecticut, then another to Springfield, MA, and finally a cab to Northampton. I arrived there about 24 hours after my alarm went off in Bremen that morning. But I’m not complaining — especially since I got super lucky on the Frankfurt-JFK leg of my journey and was bumped up to Business Class by Lufthansa — heavenly! I savored every single second of it because, seriously, how often does that happen?? And on a transatlantic flight, to boot?

In any case, I really loved wandering around Northampton and enjoying some of my favorite spots from previous visits up to Western Mass.  Highlights included enjoying fresh, locally grown produce with every meal, early morning jet lagged induced runs, eating pie for breakfast, and an evening walk to the Smith College gardens.

Love these quaint New England homes, don't you? ?

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Good morning all! This is my last morning in Northampton, so let me share this beautiful mural of the women of Northampton with you. If you follow my InstaStories, you might have seen the video of the whole length of it yesterday. So lovely!

After arriving late Wednesday night, my friend and I were off on Friday morning to drive down to Dutchess County, NY for a reunion of some grad school friends (just like last year!), stopping along the way to pick up another friend in the Berkshires. I must say that once again, our AirBnB selection was a smash hit!  The house and the surrounding gardens were breathtaking! There were four bedrooms and four bathrooms, which was more than enough space for the eight of us. There was a huge dining table and kitchen, two different outdoor lounging spaces, plus a hot tub (which we made use of the second night), and fire pit for roasting marshmallows (which we made use of the first night). We went for a run on Saturday morning, lounged through the afternoon with lots of rosé and some homemade margaritas, and just like last year, we hired a personal chef to come cook us dinner on Saturday night (so decadent and so wonderful!).

That weekend was so good for my soul. It’s rare to find kindred spirits and I am so grateful that we all met almost exactly 15 years ago, and for every minute we can spend together. Life can be difficult in so many ways — and that’s not something that any of us can change — but it makes my heart swell to know that there’s this group of women who will celebrate and support each other through all of life’s up and downs.

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A perfect dinner table for eight kindred spirits. ??

Already back in city, but still feeling like my soul is full from time with good friends. ?

Early Sunday afternoon, after a round of ice cream sandwiches and not a few tears, we all parted ways again. This time, I headed down to NYC with two friends in a classic, red Ford convertible — with the top down, of course. After spending the afternoon having a late lunch together in Bryant Park before my friend’s flight back across the ocean, I made my way up to Morningside Heights — which is nearly always my home base whenever I make it back to the city, thanks to a good friend’s generosity and guest bedroom!

Unfortunately, I had already started coming down with a cold on Sunday, so I stocked up on some heavy duty cold medicine (yay, USA!) and went to bed early. I felt pretty terrible all day on Monday, so I just slept and rested all day. But I started feeling a bit better over the next couple of days, and luckily was able to meet friends (from Bremen — wow, worlds colliding!) for Ethiopian food, saw the Calder exhibit at the Whitney, found my favorite strawberry and basil popsicles on the Highline, visited the Oculus for the first time, met a friend for Mexican food in Chinatown and ice cream on the LES, and saw Dunkirk at an IMAX cinema. I always feel at home in the city, and this visit was no different — thanks NYC for always holding your arms wide open for me!

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Despite a pesky cold, I did manage to pack in plenty of fun here in New York!

I'm craving a little West Village sunshine this morning, how about you? #augustbreak2017?

My favorite color? Really anything vibrant and full of life! #augustbreak2017 #LarryBell #WhitneyMuseum?

While there was no upgrade to business class on my flights home, I couldn’t have been happier after my wonderful trip, and I’m pretty sure I was glowing the whole way home.

What have you been up to over your summer vacation? 

Books | So Far in 2017

Books | So Far in 2017 | No Apathy Allowed
Via Goodreads

It’s that time of year again…time to talk about the books I’ve read so far in 2017. They are definitely fewer in number than this time last year, but maybe there are a few you might want to add to your own to-read list?

While the Gods Were Sleeping: A Journey Through Love and Rebellion in Nepal, by Elizabeth Enslin (***). I added this memoir to my to-read list after my trip to Nepal in November because I had seen other hikers reading it, and it was recommended by a friend living in Nepal. Enslin details life in her Nepali husband’s remote village in the 1980s, particularly focusing on her pregnancy and the difficult birth of her son. Her descriptions felt very vivid to me and I really appreciated her reflections on daily life. Still, the book didn’t always completely convince me, which is why I gave it three stars. That said, it only took me two weeks to tear through it!

March: Book One by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, drawings by Nate Powell (*****). You may remember a certain president insulting a certain civil rights leader earlier this year. This inspired me to pick up the first graphic novel (in a series) based on John Lewis’ memoir (which I also read this year, see below). This first book focused on his youth in rural Alabama on up to his days participating in sit ins at lunch counters and protest marches. I don’t think I’ve picked up a graphic novel since reading Persepolis about a decade ago, but it was definitely a refreshing change!

Arrival by Ted Chiang (***). I have to admit that I didn’t read this entire collection of short stories, but rather just “The Story of Your Life”, which served as the basis for the film Arrival (which I loved). I was hoping to gain a little more insight into the questions that still remained for me from the film, but it didn’t really work out that way. The story is still wonderful, but is told in a slightly different way that wouldn’t translate to film very well. Personally, I was moved much more by the film than the short story, but if you were a fan of the movie, I would still give it a shot.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (*****). I was expecting a bit of a repeat of All the Light We Cannot See with this book — which wouldn’t have been a bad thing — but Hannah’s novel definitely came into its own. It’s a story of two sisters involved in their own ways in the French Resistance during World War II, set both in Paris and the French countryside. An absolutely incredible tale of what it means to survive and what it means to resist. While many novels set in this time period end once the war has ended, this book dares to tell the tale of the aftermath for families, relationships, friends, neighbors — and how everyone had to live with the difficult choices they had made. Very moving!

Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement by John Lewis and Michael D’Orso (****). Lewis’ memoir offers the most solid background and commentary on the civil rights movement that I’ve ever read. If you want to get beyond the sound bytes that we’re taught in school or hear about on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, then this book offers a real behind-the-scenes look, with all the detail and complexity that such a historic and complicated period of American history deserves.

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant (****). I really enjoyed Lean In, so when I heard the Sheryl Sandberg had written another book — this time about coping with the grief of the sudden loss of her husband — I was all over it. The book is very thoughtfully written. If you’re in the midst of grief, or are trying to support friends or family who are, this is a great resource.

The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra (*****). Without a doubt, if you only read one book this year, make it this one. Technically, it is a collection of short stories, but each story is so finely intertwined with all of the rest the collection, that it almost reads like a novel. Starting with a Soviet censor in 1930’s Leningrad, you see with each progressing story how his decisions rippled across time — from the gulags, to a modern day mining town in Siberia, to war torn Chechnya. For as horrible and as harsh as this period of time and these locations are, Marra’s stories are absolutely beautiful. (Also, don’t miss his debut novel A Constellation of Vital Phenomena.)

So that’s it so far! I’m currently about half-way through The Idiot by Elif Batuman, which I’m kind of loving for its very familiar (to me) portrayal of a girl’s first year at college in the mid-1990s. Also on my to-read list for the rest of the year are: You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir by Sherman Alexie, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Sanders, and The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein.

What have you been reading lately? Is there anything I should add to my list?

Berlin Marathon | Training Week 7

Berlin Marathon: Training Week 7 | No Apathy Allowed

So who knew that 7 weeks of Berlin Marathon training could sneak by so fast? Granted, I still have 11 weeks to go before the race on September 24th, so it isn’t exactly right around the corner — but things are getting real. My runs during the week are starting to surpass my “long” runs from early on in the training cycle, and I’m officially past half-marathon distance on the weekends now (which is a mental hurdle for me).

I have to admit, I haven’t been entirely satisfied with my training so far. Travel plus a lot of work and excuses made it easy for me not to get all my workouts in. But July is going to be my month, I know it! And this past week’s training went super well. I’m still not going as fast as I want to, but I still think I can get there…

Monday: Swimming, 30 minutes. It has been absolute ages since the last time I went swimming, and even though it’s not my favorite activity ever, it works wonders for active recovery and increasing my fitness. Swimming still causes a teeny tiny bit of anxiety, so I keep it relaxed and don’t put too much pressure on myself in terms of speed or distance. It’s all about just showing up and getting it done.

Tuesday: Hill training, 5 x hill.  Ok, Bremen really has no hills to speak of, so this was kind of an experiment to see if the inclines along the river would do the trick. While it got my heart rate up for very short periods of time, the overall fitness impact (according to my Garmin heart monitor) was next to zero. Guess I’ll go back to good ole’ interval training.

Wednesday: 4-mile easy run. Very relaxed evening run along Osterdeich and in the direction of the Weserwehr, plus 15 minutes of strength training.

Thursday: 7-mile pace run. I’m lucky enough to have found a running partner to help increase the pace a bit and make the miles speed by (literally and figuratively)! A round through Bürgerpark and the Stadtwald.

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 14-mile long run. To mix things up, for this run I tested out a new (to me) route. I ran up along the Bürgerpark and through the university campus to Blockland, which is a marsh area filled with running and biking paths. I don’t know why I’ve never tried running there! A friend and her husband showed me a 5-mile loop that they like, and these were my speediest miles of the run! On my way back, I discovered a shady bike path so that I didn’t have to run along the main street near the university again, and then I finished up by running down the other side of the park. Glad to have gotten the miles in without having to run multiple loops of the park.

So that’s that. I can’t promise that I’ll update here every week with my Berlin Marathon training, but I will try to share some highlights through the summer. Are you training for anything right now? 

Instawalk | Behind the Scenes at Theater Bremen

Instawalk | Behind the Scenes at Theater Bremen | No Apathy Allowed

Last summer, I had an amazing time participating in Bremen’s first organized Instawalk — and it was so successful that several more have been organizing since then! Last month, I was thrilled to join the group for a behind the scenes look at Theater Bremen. I have to admit that in all my years in Bremen, I have never seen any of the productions put on by the theater, but after seeing all the hard work and artistry that goes into a show, it’s definitely on my list of things to do.

We saw where they store the sets, walked through the carpentry and painting workshops, marveled at the texture and colors of the costume department, visited the rehearsal stages, and went backstage while they were setting up for a production. It really was an Instagrammer’s dream! So how about I stop rambling and show some photos already? If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll recognize most of these, but I’ve also included a couple outtakes just for fun…

Instawalk | Behind the Scenes at Theater Bremen | No Apathy Allowed

Instawalk | Behind the Scenes at Theater Bremen | No Apathy Allowed

Instawalk | Behind the Scenes at Theater Bremen | No Apathy Allowed

Instawalk | Behind the Scenes at Theater Bremen | No Apathy Allowed

Instawalk | Behind the Scenes at Theater Bremen | No Apathy Allowed

Instawalk | Behind the Scenes at Theater Bremen | No Apathy Allowed

We rounded out the tour with a drink at Noon, one of my favorite Bremer coffee shops, in the theater’s Kleines Haus. It was a perfect mix of being able to chat with familiar faces and get to know “new to me” Bremer Instagrammers.  For more on the Instawalk, check out this link. And many thanks to the City of Bremen’s social media channels for organizing the walk!