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A Very New England Thanksgiving

Can I just say... a Bostonian November is what blogger dreams are made of?! Lingering foliage, representing all the hues of fire. Clear, blue skies with a bite in the air. Christmas tree farms on the coast, lit with simple garlands of festive white lights, looking like a page out of a Madewell catalog. Strolling down Newbury Street with my sister, admiring the charming brownstones while counting down the footsteps remaining to Shake Shack. Greasy fingers in a little shack off of the Massachusetts coast, crates on crates on crates overflowing with fried onion rings and fat, buttery lobster rolls and fried scallops and clams and bright red lobsters.

New England in the fall makes my heart sing. It's so classically Americana, almost like how a Thanksgiving was always meant to be celebrated, in quaint homes made of stately brick and black shutters, leaves piled high and raked to the side of frontyards. "This is the type of neighborhood I imagine is trick-or-treating gold," I commented to my brother-in-law.
My brother-in-law's family graciously invited ours up to New England for the long weekend, and spent the entire time proudly showing us around their beautiful hometown.

We started at the top of Prudential Tower, admiring Boston's wide expanse. Dan's father, a true Boston native, told us about the storied past of any building, park, or street we pointed out from way up high. It also felt overwhelmingly profound to be in a city so important to our country's beginnings on this holiday of thanks and in light of the election–the observatory highlights immigration and Paul Revere and America's firsts and the Freedom Trail, and it was all a bit sobering.

Seattle Stopover and a Gratitude List

Three cities, seven days. That right there describes my Thanksgiving week. For the most part, I was in Boston–comically without appropriate cold weather wear, might I add #californianwimp–with my family and my brother-in-law's clan celebrating Turkey Day. But because I was feeling particularly ambitious about pursuing quality family time and also (mostly) because I was missing my furry nephews something bad, I decided to pop on over to Seattle to crash at my sister's for the first half of the week. What can I say–I can never resist America's northern corners.

So, if we're talkin' "thankful" as a general theme, then a job with the flexibility to work remotely has got to be at the top of my gratitude list. And donuts, too. Donuts do well on this list, especially the creamy custard-filled, sugar-coated donuts from General Porpoise.
Hard-working, kind, brilliant coworkers who I'm genuinely grateful and excited to see every day–that goes on the list too. I like them so much that I managed to peel myself away from the aforementioned furry nephews to make it to our "Work from Seattle" cafe day. Also, the fact that enough of us were in Seattle to warrant a workday there is kind of incredible... really speaks to Seattle's allure, doesn't it? 
Sweet, cuddly furnephews who trick me into offering them double doses of treats OBVIOUSLY I'm extra thankful for. All the furry friends in my life who bark and meow, actually, but these two have me wrapped around their dainty little paws and get a special mention. 
My sister's apartment with the insane view that makes me go "wow" and dart outside every thirteen minutes for a photo of the Space Needle under sliiiiiightly different lighting. Waking up to this scene is crazy unreal. Never gets old, no matter how many times I visit.

Magic, that comes in the form of Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them as well as the chocolate-drizzled popcorn that accompanied it. A total goosebumps filled two hours that brought back many memories of waiting in line for Harry Potter movies in high school, countless nights hidden under the covers reading the latest installment. 
Fancy schmancy dinners at chic steakhouses.

Crunchy, salty fries dunked into aioli.

Rainy day hotpot lunches with siblings who scoff at the idea of sharing. Go big or go home, as we say.

Cooking with them too, all crowded around the pasta bubbling away on the stove. 
Most of all, I'm thankful to have the means to do something as perplexing as waking up at the crack of dawn to fly to Seattle for a couple of days and see my sister and brother-in-law who I'd see two days later in Boston. I'm thankful that I have these good, loving people in my life who I'd endure seven-hour flights (and more) to see. I'm thankful for warm hospitality and an abundance of food always and modern technology and lively cities to explore and my own cozy bed to return to after the excitement and the travels. So very thankful.

And lest you forget, know that I'm thankful for you and for this small slice of the Internet to come to and share my adventures with. How / Where did you celebrate Thanksgiving (if you celebrate)? What are you thankful for? What's your pie preference?

Here's Where I'm At

A few days ago, I was on the phone with my best friend and I found myself telling her about how the pace of my life changes every so often. Some seasons, it's slow and easygoing. Others, it's like being in a time warp–sitting down one night, realizing the date, and being like whoa, what. Where did this entire month go.

Now? Now, you've caught me smack in the middle of the two. The last several weeks have been a season of Crockpot meals and vats of chicken pesto pasta, chilly mornings and busy workdays and 5pms that feel like 10pms and unwinding to the patriotic opening theme of the West Wing. I swear, this show has taken over my life and I'm perfectly content with it. There's been grappling with post-election thoughts, and what I can do in my little bubble to make this country a better place, and conversations with colleagues and friends about what it all means. I've been playing with other people's dogs and using weekends to catch up on work in cafes all over San Francisco and writing travel blog posts and falling into Reddit rabbit holes of Fall TV discussion. It's been slow, it's been routine, it's been a lot of time spent in my head.
And as for what's next... well, things are speeding up. Going from 0 to 60, if you will. What with planning to be on the road as much as I'll be home (I'm in Seattle for half of this week, flying to Boston for the second half, and then will be back in Seattle for Christmas), holiday parties, having friends in town, ramping up the festive, major life changes like possibly apartment hunting (in San Francisco) (HELP) (this is what nightmares are made of) up in the air... let's just say that it's a darn good thing these previous weeks have been all about saving up mental energy. Looks like I'll be needing it.
It's going to be 2017 before we know it, that's for sure.

How are you? How's life? Is it a fast or slow season for you right now?

Sarajevo's Famous Little Teashop and a Hidden Lunch Spot

Staying in a neighborhood far away from the heart of a city has plenty of benefits. Chiefly, you're privy to a place at its most authentic, at its pinnacle of normalcy. But what a double-edged sword that can be!

Bright and way too early on our first full day in Sarajevo, we had a rude awakening. Literally. Stirred awake abruptly by the buzzer, which was as loud as an earthquake siren. The person pressing it was persistent too–they kept it buzzing for 30 seconds at a time for ten, fifteen minutes. To answer the obvious question, why the heck didn't you just answer it...? Short answer: there was no one in the entire country who could've needed us at 7am on a Wednesday morning. Mercifully, we drifted off again when the buzzing stopped... only to wake up VERY ANGRY 5 minutes later because it resumed. Fuming, we screamed into our pillows.

A couple of hours later, upon waking up on the right side of the bed this time, we decided to take a long, leisurely walk towards Old Town. This time, entirely by way of the path lining the river.
We passed the University of Sarajevo,

and admired the modern "festina lente" (make haste slowly) bridge marking the Academy of Fine Arts.
...and of course, it wouldn't be right if we didn't make a stop at the Latin Bridge, where the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, sparking World War I.

Standing there and gazing upon this spot, otherwise unmemorable, is entirely too sobering:
Cassandra spent her first month living in Sarajevo being a true pal and doing some meticulous research for us: again, our stay was to be a short one and so we hit the ground running. The best cevapi place, the best restaurants, the best cafes and bars and coolest landmarks–Cassandra drew up an impressive itinerary.

I've got to give it to her. She did an excellent job.

(She'll probably screenshot that sentence and hold it over my head for the next seven years, but... well-deserved, my friend, well-deserved.)
Our first stop:

Dveri, a most wonderfully hidden corner of Old Town. From the busy streets of Bascarsija, you duck into a long hallway that leads to a space resembling the Secret Garden, with a bit of a rustic touch. Local art and colorful dried goods posted at the corners, greenery hanging low, Dveri feels so very serene. 
Famous for their bread, we of course had to order a large portion of it. We each grabbed a sizeable hunk of the doughy pull-apart loaf, forkfuls of fresh tomatoes and feta from our simple garden salads, cheeses from our sampler plate, and a glass of cold, white wine to wash it down. All very much enjoyed!

Two large bowls of beef goulash, with homemade gnocchi. Ugh, so scrumptious. Cassandra and I scraped the bottom of our bowl shamelessly, and then reached over the table to polish off Hanna and Leah's as well. (Someone's gotta put this team on their back!)
Followed by steak served with herbed butter, potatoes, and a criminally DIVINE gorgonzola sauce. CRIMINAL, I tell you. We delighted in unctuous bites of tender beef, glistening in butter, and melt-in-your-mouth potatoes practically swimming in said butter.

But the best part?!

The gorgonzola! We went about dipping the steak and potatoes in it like we were supposed to, but then the meat started getting a bit too rare (we found that in the Balkans, they liked meat rare, no matter how well done you asked for it)... so then we started dousing gnocchi from the goulash in it and then eventually, we abandoned all decorum and simply started spooning the sauce into our mouths, fighting each other off.
Sadly, Leah wasn't feeling well after lunch, so we sent her home in a taxi and continued onward.

Stopping by the Sebilj Fountain first, a well-known landmark. Rumor has it if you drink from the southern side, you'll return to Sarajevo (which, seeing as we did last year... guess it works!) and if you drink from the northern side, you'll marry a Bosnian.
Next up was a truly special gem.

Cajdzinica Dzirlo, the most charming teahouse of all time. Dzirlo is exactly the kind of place you hope to find when traveling. It's not a well-kept secret... this teashop as been featured in the New York Times and travel TV shows, but I think the magic of it is its ability to retain its charm and 'hidden gem' feel despite its fame.

Hussein and Dijana, the owners, greet every guest with a handshake and warm smiles and engage everyone in conversation. Dzirlo's a tiny space, strewn with prayer rugs and colorful cushions and ottomans. There are shelves of tea every which way you turn, and relics from all around the world. It can fit less than ten patrons at any one time, and Cassandra's told stories before of how Dijana and Hussein corral strangers for group photos and how they turn away guests just to make sure previous ones don't feel rushed to leave.
We ordered three Bosnian coffees, which Hussein brought to us personally. Unprompted, he sat down and walked us through the proper way of drinking Bosnian coffee (once again) and then hand-selected a Bosnian travel book for us to flip through.

The Bosnian coffee took us the better portion of an hour to finish–in such a special place, we wanted to savor every taste. And so we bit off corners of sugar cubes lightly and enjoyed the bitter depths of the coffee, flipping through the book about Bosnia.

In between sips of the Bosnian coffee, we also tried a cold herbal tea that tasted suspiciously like fall. No other way to describe it. Cassandra nodded enthusiastically at this comment, agreeing with the sentiment and said, "just you wait–we're tasting the seasons!"

A creamy, frothy, thick drink akin to chai but actually made of dried orchid root. So hot that it burns your throat a bit, and tasting thoroughly like Christmas, it was the loveliest treat to share with friends (too rich to have all to yourself). Joyfully, I've discovered that a Mediterranean cafe next to my office serves salep and when I'm missing Sarajevo, I pop down for a mug full of this goodness.
(That's Hussein in the pink–a true host.)

Last week was a grim one to be sure, and it's days like the ones we spent in Sarajevo that remind me of all the good that's out there: warm hospitality, a rich mix of cultures and ethnicities and religion, respectful and enlightening conversations with people who have different backgrounds and viewpoints than you, and the sheer excitement over discovering new places and foods and ideas, and savoring their existence. Always a lifestyle to strive for!