Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Cozy Cafes in New England

In tune with the chilly temperatures, the blanketing snow, and the blustery days, here is a roundup of cozy cafes for conferring with friends, cuddling up with a romantic partner, reading or writing the day away, drinking something warm and eating something sweet, and reveling in their inviting atmospheres.

The Thinking Cup. Dimly lit, with decadent desserts and all manner of mouthwatering items on offering.  The warm macadamia nut milk with honey added- so good.  Love this place.  The lavender and chocolate macarons are also bomb.  Its my go-to writing spot.

Tatte.  With a mouthwatering sweet display and very Instagram worthy atmosphere, this is a great place to go for meeting a friend and a tasty treat (lines out the door aside, the one not insignificant downside to this place).

1369 Coffee House. European-esque, small wooden tables with little lamps and candles atop their surfaces throughout the cafe.  With scrumptious sweets, sandwiches, salads, and breakfast items on offering.  Love this locale for conferring with a friend.

The Map Cafe in Boston Public Library.  Another dimly lit, inviting, enticing cafe.  With vast ceilings boosting intricate detailing, and an extensive afternoon tea menu, in addition to a plethora of sandwiches, salads, and pastries available.  The best part?  Its attached to the library!!

L.A. Burdick Chocolates.  The inside is eye catching and artisan looking.  With all manner of imaginative and intricate chocolates on display.  Their desserts in the cafe section, though a tad pricey, come in a unique array of flavors and shapes.

Three Little Figs.  Though its a bit out of the way, this bright, white and vivid blue themed cafe (feels very Grecian) with small tables and window seats abound, offers toasts with fun toppings, grilled sandwiches, salads, pastries, and soups.  A lovely place to come and hang the afternoon away.

Darwins Ltd.  This quiet, colorful cafe has an entire sandwich (as well as breakfast) menu, a boatload of pastries and sweets, an extensive tea and hot drink menu, and with three locations in Boston.

The Beehive.  Though not really a cafe...more of a bar/restaurant, but with glam, shabby chic, totally cozy and unique atmosphere.  This is a great locale for drinks, appetizers, and getting together on a weekend night out.

George Howell Coffee.  Trendy, bustling, though a great place to sit and chat, as well as read and write, this bright, intimate cafe is a sweet spot in Boston worthy of spending some time.

Caffe Nero.  Granted, its a chain, but its the most atmospheric of chains there is.  Akin to an inviting, slightly worn through stately, comfy cozy library or bookstore.  The inside is fun and eye catching, the light fixtures are funky and trendy.  The macarons are surprisingly good- especially the chocolate one, which is decadent and fudgy.  And prices, fair.  Its a nice spot for an affordable hot drink and sweet.

Render Coffee.  While the inside is no frills and somewhat small, its heavily wooded and inviting.  The sweets on offering here are good, especially the almond croissant, with its interior laden with a sweet paste.  The heavily windowed alcove makes a nice spot for sitting, with views to the red bricked neighborhoods outside.

True Brew in Concord, NH.  A charming little cafe, with outdoor seating that entices on the happening brick lain patio during warmer months.  Board games on offering for playing inside while drinking something warm.  They have an extensive tea menu, and tasty treats available, as well as breakfast and lunch sandwiches.  There is another small, additional locale housed within the Gibson's Bookstore in Concord too.

Book and Bar in Portsmouth, NH.  Oh my gosh, one of my favorite cafes ever.  Hybrid bookstore and cafe, I cannot imagine a better pairing.  The cherry on top, this one sells used books, and in awesome condition.  The drink menu here is interesting and intriguing, they have a decently sized food menu, and aisles and aisles of books for ones perusing pleasure.  I could spend a few hours in this place, no problem.

Crackskulls in Newmarket, NH.  While slightly cramped and a bit worn, this is a cool little spot.  Artsy, with several overflowing bookshelves in the back, scrumptious looking sweets available, and an intimate feel.  Plus, its right in downtown Newmarket.  Cant get much better than that ;-).

The Local Moose Cafe in Manchester, NH.  Heavily wooded and no frills in terms of appearance, this spot made it onto the list of "best coffee shops in every New England state."  With delicious donuts on offering (in cool flavors such as orange blossom buttercream or pistachio cream cheese), to a list of brunching foods and snacks, its a sweet little spot to be sure.

The Schoolhouse Cafe in Warner, NH.  Just like the name implies, this restaurant is housed in, none other than an old schoolhouse.  The food is super yum.  From thick, buttery, fluffy pancakes, to omelets, crisp slices of bacon, and homemade sweets such as whoopee pies for sale to take with you.  Homemade and homey, highly recommend this spot for breakfast.

The Black Forest Cafe and Bakery in Amherst, NH.  This succulent spot has an extensive menu, from lunch and dinner, to Sunday brunch, cakes, tarts, pies, and pastries, cookies, and a lengthily list of portable sweets.  An awesome additional aspect?  Its cozy and cute. This one also made the list of "best coffee shops in New England."

Riverwalk Cafe and Music Bar in Nashua, NH.  This is an artsy, intimate, funky, and cool spot.  Another one that made the list of "best coffee shops in New England."  With live music playing often, and an extensive breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu (mostly made up of sandwiches, though with other stuff sprinkled in too).

Last but not least, Crust and Crumb in Concord, NH.  This place has decadent, absolutely phenomenal treats, and a sweeping offering at that.  From cheesecakes to whoopee pies in all manner of flavorings, brownies, flourless chocolate cake, cookies, muffins, bars, and even savory snacks.  One of the best bakeries I've sampled in a long time.  Everything here is superb.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

What is Commitment really? Hint: its not marriage or living together.

With regards to commitment in our culture, we tend to base our assumptions of such on what we see outwardly and simplistically. 

If, say, a couple is living together or married, they are far more committed than a couple who is "just dating."  But, those who are married are "more committed" than those who "just live together."  We have hierarchical, unspoken tiers for assessing the seeming level of commitment between two people, based mostly on their hitting certain outwardly observable "milestones" that every "legit" relationship must meet, at some point, in order to be the "real deal."

When we compare a married couple to those who are unmarried (regardless of longevity of the relationship), we automatically label the married couple as more "legit," authentic, and more committed, simply by means of their having that status and title.  Somehow, it automatically carrying more weight, garnering more respect, seen as the pinnacle of relational authenticity.

Yet, none of the above actually has any bearing or symbolism, nor is it implicit of the true level of commitment between two people.

First off, these shallow means of commitment assessment between others are misguided and silly.  Consider all the marriages out there which are largely miserable (as in, sure, they may have sporadic, happy moments, but by and large, the relationship isn't a great one).  Consider the marriages that, whether they love one another or not, are stressful, glaring mismatches.  Or, the marriages that have reached their natural conclusion, as many relationships (both romantic and platonic do), yet the two people within cling tight to such, regardless.  Consider also, the marriages that are complacent, resigned, dull, and uninspired.  The ones that stay together mostly out a combination of laziness, fear, shared history, and comfort.

Folks, marriage is not the pinnacle of relational status.  It being held up as the utmost, golden standard of relationship statuses is a mirage and misguided.  Its a status and image which doesn't necessarily reflect any authentic truths within the actual relationship.

Just because two people are married tells us absolutely nothing about: their love for one another, their actual level of commitment to the relationship, their respect or treatment of each other, the health or satisfaction of their relationship.  A marital status gives us no insight to any of this, and is by no means, in and of itself, an indicator of relationship success.

Of course, many people marry and have healthy, incredibly happy marriages.  Just as many though, do not.

Delving further into the topic of commitment: one can get married and yet, be largely lazy within the relationship.  Absent.  Distracted.  Unwilling to move an inch towards any semblance of change or growth ever.  Fairly disengaged.  Unhappy.  You name it. 

Simply by means of regurgitating vows and signing the document does not actually a commitment make.  That one moment is not indicative of a continued, regular, active commitment to someone.  While marriage and commitment can be connected, they are not a synonymous thing.  Many people marry and are crappy partners, are not especially actively engaged, nor authentically emotionally committed to the partnership via their actions.

Same deal with shacking up.  We assume that because a couple moves in together, they have ratcheted up the commitment.  That, "whoa, they are getting serious."  Or, "wow, they are really committed now."  Yes, and no. 

Sure, literally, moving in with someone makes it much harder to extract oneself later.  The more entwined your life becomes with someone else, the more difficult emotionally and in actuality, it becomes to later on leave if need be.  There is a common concept in which people who live together often "slide" into marriage, even when some 30% of them have major doubts.  But because breaking up and moving out seems too daunting and terrifying, they stay, and marry, to often down the road, regret it.

However, living together (like marriage) says nothing of true commitment, both within the heart and in action.  Plenty of people live together and, as in the example of marriage above, go through the motions of their relationships and are even contented, but do not do the necessary work that comes with true commitment.

So, what is commitment really?  (An authentic, mature, true adult commitment).

--Commitment, like love, isn't a singular action or even a feeling.  Its a continual, consistent, regular display, as well as mindful and focused choices, and active engagement in the relationship.

--Commitment, as well as love, are both choices and actions.  Commitment is a verb.  It requires active effort, decision making, and conscious intent.

--Commitment, true commitment, is not premised on vows blindly followed, nor on convenience or shared history, nor on ease or security, nor on having married or shacking up.  Frequently, these instead become reasons and reactions that, instead of signifying commitment, people fearfully or lazily stay in relationships that are not good fits, or arent healthy, or should be concluded.

Instead, genuine adult commitment depends on both people in the relationship actively doing what they need to do, on a consistent basis, to attend to the relationship and to nourish and love one another.

--Commitment means doing at least half the work, regularly, of what it takes to be a great partner.

--It means being open to feedback and growth, as well as showing interest toward and pursuit of such within your actions.  It means not just talking the talk, but walking the walk.  It means seeing the growth and change within your partners actions.

--Commitment means being flexible, brave, and present in the relationship.

--It means being focused, giving, and open hearted.

--It means giving your partner the 5 As of love often, which are: Attention, Affection, Allowing, Appreciation, and Acceptance.  These 5 As are present, and frequently, in all truly loving relationships.  That includes not just romantic ones but platonic and familial.

All of the above?  That is legit commitment.  None of which has anything to do with marital status, living together or not, longevity of the relationship, or any of the other outward, simplistic markers we tend to use to asses such

People can be married, and not especially emotionally committed.  People can be living together and not be especially actively engaged in the relationship (aka committed).  People can be together for years and years, and be resigned, relatively satisfied, though somewhat disengaged and not really committed.  You get the picture.

And when any of the above aspects of actual commitment cease for longer and more consistently than brief occasions here and there?  Truly healthy, mature, insightful adults relieve their end of the commitment.  

Vows or not.  Marriage or not.  Living together or not.  Lengthily shared history or not.  Even love or not.

Healthy and mature adults will let go and walk away, when their partner is no longer bringing to the table what they need to be.

This is why wedding vows can be problematic and are, in a major sense, misguided.  In that they promise and prompt a sense of blindly following and staying, "no matter what."  ("I made a promise so I have to keep it, unhappy or not"- misguided and not especially mature, brave, healthy, or adult thinking).

This is not how mature or healthy adults function.  Instead, healthy adults leave relationships that are no longer functioning well, in which their partner is no longer doing the work (routinely and often) that they need to be, in order to be a great partner themselves.  Love or not, mature and healthy adults will walk when its no longer working.  Vows are dangerous in that they can keep people in denial and locked into relationships that arent healthy or no longer fit.

So, what is commitment really?  It isn't saying marriage vows, nor living together, nor "staying together for a long time which proves we are "committed" or "we have remained married for years so that is a badge of honor" (note: it isn't) even if resigned and unhappy.  None of this is commitment.

Commitment is an active doing.  A continual growth.  Focused intent.  Commitment is a verb.  One that should be apparent in your relationship, every single day.  Its an obvious and both outward and inner pursuit of growth.  Of continually seeking both being, as well as growing into the best partner one can be.

If your partner isn't doing these things frequently and on a regular basis, love or not, this is not a real commitment.  Its merely an arrangement which maybe to outsiders looking in, appears as such by our misguided societal standards.  A true commitment though has nothing to do with vows, or rings, or sharing an address, or longevity of a relationship.  It entails so much more.  And truly healthy adults let go and walk when their partner is no longer fulfilling their end of the bargain regularly.

Interested and want to read more in depth, both on this topic and others in relation to emotionally close, truly healthy, long term successful relationship?

Check out this article/book review: "How to be an Adult in Relationships."

Friday, January 25, 2019

31 Awesome Things in Life

1. Cookies and cupcakes.  Love the texture of both these bite-sized, sweet treats.  And available in all manner of exciting flavors.  The perfect accompaniment to tea (or any warm drink, really).  Fun to bake, sample the batter whilst doing so ;-), and of course, devour once they are ready!

2. Summer time.  Especially summer nights, or summer weekends.  Those seeming endless, carefree, balmy nights take on a romantic air, one laced with possibility.  And then weekends, sunny, laid back, the best.

3. Fireflies.  Providing sporadic sparkles amidst an otherwise dark stretch of field or forest.  Magic.

4. Books.  You can find so much in books.  Knowledge.  Learning.  Life changing thoughts and ideas.  Entertainment.  Suspense and excitement.  Compelling people.  Explore new places, cultures, and differing experiences from ones own. 

For some bomb diggity book suggestions, check out Brunches and Books (blog).

5. Love letters.  Often, something you will keep and cherish for years.  A keepsake which warms your heart, with a special and unique aspect to reading the hand-written words from someone you love, and who loves you, which they took the time to write for you.  This is no small thing.

6. Travel and adventure.  It pushes the envelope of your sense of bravery and comfort zone.  Adds excitement and wonder to your life and being.  Turns you into a storyteller.  Enriches your life, both before the adventure, during, and years following (in your recalling and reminiscing on such).

7. Snow.  The glittering, brilliant blanket.  The lace-like look it offers trees on which it covers.  The silence that snow seems to shroud the world in.

8. Animals.  Studies have shown that when petting an animal, our stress levels go down.  How can one not love at least some type of animal(s)?  They are endearing, fascinating, and can offer us senses of comfort, understanding, companionship, and deep love.

9. Skiing.  The mixture of social interspersed with solitude this activity delivers, the best.  Alternating between barreling down a slope, the wind in your hair, a silent roar amidst your being, concentrating on the turning and bending of your skis and knees just so.  And then hopping aboard the chairlift and chatting with your companions, as well as retiring to the warm respite of the lodge for lunch or tea.  All of this, such fun.

10. Christmas.  To me, a holiday that invites thankfulness into ones life.  A sense of joy and celebration.  Delicious seasonal foods and fun celebrations.  A coziness and magic to this holiday.

The best place to experience this holiday?  Germany.  Where they have supposedly the best Christmas market in the world, people flying in from all over to revel in the atmosphere of these.

You can check them out here.

And, a specific one, the Heidelberg Christmas Market in Germany.

11. Surprises.  How memorable and such fun is it to be surprised by something personal and wonderful, from someone who loves you?  These can be things we never forget, and cherish for the whole of our lives, the memory and moment of such.

12. Being in a great romantic relationship (both, an emotionally healthy and truly satisfying one).  This can be one of the most enriching, fulfilling, growth inducing, and joyous experiences of ones life.  Again though, key words are "emotionally healthy and truly satisfying."

13. Cafes.  Cozy, inviting, ultimate people watching.  There is something about having a delicious warm drink (if its pretty, even better), coupled with a book or some writing, or meeting a friend and conversing, within a cafe that is just the best. Hence, why cafe culture in Europe is such a thing.

My own personal favorite list of cafes in Germany.

As well as favorite cafes in Boston!

14. Spending time with the people you have awesome connections with.  Those you both like immensely, feel understood by, who bring out the best version of you, and with whom you greatly enjoy to spend time.  This nourishes and fills the soul.  Can help you feel understood, loved, and supported.  Offers a sense of security and comfort to your life.  And can inspire you into both being and becoming your best self.  Even if its just one or two close friends you can see regularly, this is all it takes.  It isn't about the number, its about the quality.

15. Trying a new restaurant.  Sampling delicious new dishes, reveling in a novel atmosphere, people watching, getting dressed up and heading out, this whole thing can be an anticipatory, super fun evening experience.

Some of the most awesome restaurants I've tried in my travels...

16. Dancing.  The point isn't whether you're a "good" or "bad" dancer (many people feeling as though they are the latter).  Dancing, if you can mostly let go of what others think of you, can be such a blast (hint: studies show that people arent nearly as concerned with us as we think they are.  Most people are too wrapped up in themselves to be watching you ;-)).

17. Libraries.  Hushed and cozy.  Laden with all manner of stories, new knowledge for the taking, gripping reads, opportunity for further learning, chock full of life changing potential.  And lets not forget their romantic atmosphere, as though on stepping into a library, time falls by the wayside, ceasing to matter so much.

18. Experiencing a new place.  In tune with #6, this often, if we let it, can fill us with wonder, anticipation, and thrill.  The exploring of a novel place.  It can expand your mind, offering new ideas for ways of living and being.  Leaves you with resonating and poignant memories.  Arms you with stories to share.

19. Feeling loved.  Is there any more awesome feeling?  There arent many.  This one tends to rank among the top for most.  Feeling appreciate, valued, liked, and loved.  These are some of the utmost feelings that people covet and cherish in life.  We all do.  Thus, decide to let someone know, today, that you love them and they are special to you.

20. Being truly, genuinely listened to by another personThis is far more rare than you think.  Most people are mediocre listeners.  Generally "listening" through the lens of trying to figure out how they will respond once you finish talking, or considering while you are speaking what they wish to say.  Or, even thinking of other things entirely while you speak.  Or, itching for you to finish so they can cut in with their thoughts/opinions on it.  Or, growing bored and their mind wandering.  Or, distracted by thoughts of their own.

None of this is listening.  Listening, truly focused and interested listened, takes intent and effort.  Most people are not great at this, but the good news, its a skill you can learn.  Become a good listener and people will flock to you.  You will never have a shortage of friends, if you become a great listener. 

(Side note: no one can be a great listener 100% of the time.  Even the best listeners have moments where they are distracted or poor listeners.  This is human.  Aim though to be a great listener 80% of the time).

21. Board games.  Such a variety available, for all people with all tastes in terms of game type preference.  This is a great activity, both with one other person, or with a whole group.  Its a connecting activity, a rousing and super fun one.  Game nights = laughter and silliness.

22. Birthday celebrations.  A chance to make someone you love feel cherished and special.  To recognize someone who is important to you. To surprise and delight a person you love.  And, when its your birthday, reveling in the one day every year in which others send you sweet wishes :-D

23. Watching someone for whom you care deeply, get married.  This can be a heart rending, incredibly moving, deeply meaningful and awesome thing.  When attending the wedding of a distant relative or of someone to whom you arent especially close, this can be fun, though doesn't tend to be quite so special for you as the attendee. 

But, when the person getting married is say, a sibling to whom you are quite close, or a best friend, or just someone you love very much, a wedding is a beautiful thing to attend and experience. 

Witnessing two people who love each other so deeply, they are committing to building a life together, in front of their loved ones.  This is an incredibly romantic thing and a beautiful intent.

24. Swimming.  Refreshing, relaxing, sometimes even a respite, all while getting in a semblance of exercise.  It can also be playful or romantic, depending on with whom you are swimming.

25. Being gripped by a truly phenomenal book.  One of the most marvelous feelings, to be in the midst of a story/book which you cannot wait to get back to, re-open, and delve back into.  Anxiously awaiting work to conclude, or the time of day to come when you can climb back into this world with which you have become invested and enmeshed.  This is the best.

26. Seeing a friend again whom you haven't seen in a long time.  This can be such an exciting, joyous thing.  Akin to slipping on a favorite, cozy sweatshirt or much loved blanket.  Reuniting with someone to whom you have been quite close, though haven't seen in a while.  Like eating ones most loved comfort food dish.

27. The feeling of accomplishing something or completing a major goal.  Filling your soul with a sense of happiness, a sense of accomplishment, meaning, and even awe.  Its a fantastic feeling, doing something which you've intended and/or longed to do, something that may have been challenging or daunting and instead, realizing you made it happen.

28. Feeling as though you've made a difference in someones day.  Brought them joy, or good feelings.  This is a sensation that will fill your own heart with a sense of meaning and happiness.  Knowing you have brought meaning and a lift to someone else. 

Go out of your way to do this today :-).  Decide to do something nice for someone.  It can be small, but unexpected.  Even better, do it for someone to whom you dont usually talk or interact with (maybe a colleague whom you know a bit and who seems nice, but who you haven't really spoken with much).

29. Fireplaces.  Is there anything more cozy?  Not much.  And that hypnotizing quality of crackling fire and flames.  Sitting by a fire is quintessential romance and coziness, almost luxurious.

30. Brunch.  In my humble opinion, the best meal.  Setting the tone to your day with a plate full of pancakes, sides of bacon and eggs.  Or, french toast as the centerpiece.  Potentially Greek yogurt with a swirl of honey and berries on top, as an aside.  Orange juice or a smoothie.  The comforting warmth of oatmeal.  The list of possibilities going on.  Brunch = the best.

My favorite brunching locale ever.

And, last but not least...

31. Romance and magic.  Two essential ingredients to an amazing life, both every day in your daily experience, as well as over the big picture of your life journey.  Both are out there in abundance, if only you choose to see and cultivate them.  Decide to both, see the magic and romance in things, as well as actively seek and create it yourself.