Well, here we are again! How is it Friday already?
M and I have safely returned from a wonderful pre-baby trip to Paris and Amsterdam, some of the details of which I’m excited to share with you soon! We also did a quick turnaround to join my family in Lewes, Delaware, for a beach weekend that, due to the weather, didn’t actually involve the beach, and then M left for a three-day work trip to Michigan. Now, I’m in Chicago for a whirlwind work trip of my own, returning tomorrow. Needless to say, it’s been a busy couple of weeks!
Nevertheless, there are a few things that I’ve loved over the course of the past week that I’d like to share with you!
Over the course of our week in Europe, we devoted a lot of our conversation to talking out our vision for our future travel: where we would like to go next just the two of us, which destinations would be best for our first trips as a family, at what age we felt comfortable taking kids to different places, what sort of strategies we wanted to employ to facilitate travel and our kids’ enrichment from it, and what our mission as a family would be when it comes to seeing new places.
M sent me this article a day or so after we got home from Amsterdam, and from a timeliness and vision perspective, it couldn’t have resonated with me more. I appreciated author Emily Glover’s candor about how traveling with her kids isn’t easy – routines are hard to maintain, children get sick, it’s more difficult to relax, you may have to nix planned activities in favor of nap time or more kid-friendly pursuits.
I also found, however, that her reasons for committing to family travel despite these challenges really spoke to me. One of the major objections to taking young children on vacation is that they won’t remember the experience. “Why waste your money?” these folks would argue, with the common and understandable opinion that spending hard-earned dollars on a plane ticket for a kid who won’t remember London is the equivalent of flushing those dollars down the toilet. On the contrary, Glover argues:
“Even if they are too young to remember the details, I believe each new experience gives them a frame of reference that will live in their subconscious.
Even if they feel challenged by sitting still on airplanes, I know they are learning patience.
Even if they are nervous to try something outside of their comfort zones, I know they are getting bolder and braver…
… I realize that the best part of traveling is what lives on in our hearts from the experiences.”
It’s a beautiful sentiment, one that excites and energizes and inspires me. Whether it’s through a low-key family weekend at the Delaware beaches, a jaw-dropping national park in the western United States, or a crowded and chaotic street market in Thailand, I can’t wait to see how our hearts are changed and impacted and how our family grows through new experiences.
There’s something incredibly romantic about train travel, isn’t there? Ok, maybe the Amtrak that you use to get from Philadelphia to New York City or that regional rail line you ride to work doesn’t exactly fill you with the warm fuzzies, but for many people the idea of taking a train trip across Europe or Canada or parts of Asia is enough to inspire a feeling of longing or awe. Imagine chugging through gorgeous landscapes, hugging the sides of mountains as green valleys drop away before you, or rambling through idyllic towns and villages with names you can’t even begin to pronounce! In some places, like Alaska, the train takes you through wilderness that is inaccessible by car, allowing you to truly appreciate the natural beauty of the land in a unique and otherwise difficult way.
Now imagine you could journey through one of the most scenic regions of Japan upon the most luxurious train in the world, eating fancy gourmet meals, sharing a drink in an exquisite wood-paneled lounge car that evokes another era, and then retiring to your private suite to be lulled to sleep by the train’s gentle rocking. That’s exactly the experience offered by Seven Stars on the Japanese island of Kyushu, the subject of the article and video linked above.
While I am not a luxury traveler, I am certainly not immune to dreaming about having the means to enjoy indulgent international experiences. I also, as I have mentioned a number of times, just appreciate beauty and craftsmanship, something this train has in spades. I think a luxury train trip like this one may have just made its way onto my ever-expanding bucket list.
3.) Getting back to my roots.
As many of you know, I grew up on a farm in rural Pennsylvania, the product and beneficiary of a long tradition of connection to the land, pride in community, and hard work. From spring to fall, my family spent many separate days “putting up” various foodstuffs – canning, freezing, and otherwise preserving them for the rest of the year. It usually started with homemade strawberry jelly in June, and by the time we sealed the last lid on the apple butter in October we were ready for the cold weather to come. In between came peas, green beans, peaches, applesauce, pickles, salsa, other jellies, corn, tomato sauce, and more, not to mention meats from the local butcher.
Though I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time – it was such a normal practice in our community – I was so blessed to grow up with such an abundance of fresh, locally-sourced food. My dad still likes to tell the story of how I came home from one of my first days of elementary school and reported that the cafeteria didn’t serve “real” peas; I didn’t understand why they had a brownish hue because I’d never eaten a canned vegetable before.
Now, living in the suburbs, it’s harder to keep those practices alive with the limited storage and food prep space in our apartment. Local farmers’ markets can also be prohibitively expensive, especially those that capitalize on the allure of fruits, vegetables, and other foodstuffs produced by the Amish, making it hard to economically purchase the quantity needed to preserve.
Thankfully, my parents still take the time to put up a number of foods, albeit on a smaller scale than when they had three kids at home. Thanks to our family Beach weekend conveniently coinciding with peak corn season, I got to spend Monday with them “doing corn.” My mom had found a farmer near their house in Lewes, Delaware, who was willing to sell sweet corn in bulk, so my dad and I went out and picked ten dozen ears for about $2 per dozen.
The rest of the morning was spent husking, “silking” (brushing off the corn silk), boiling, and blanching (plunging the ears into icy water to stop the cooking process) the ears before we cut off the kernels and scooped the corn into quart-sized Ziploc bags to freeze.
Overall, it was nice to get back to my roots a bit, and I couldn’t help but be excited to pull bags out of the freezer and enjoy fresh sweet corn as a side or in a soup come winter. It was also enjoyable to spend the extra time with my parents, sharing stories and catching up as we shucked ears on overturned five-gallon buckets, reminiscing about the scorching hot August days of my childhood when we picked and processed between 45-50 dozen ears to feed our family.
I desperately want my kids to grow up appreciating real food and the rewarding work that it takes to prepare and preserve it. I want them to enjoy the health benefits of local and non-processed fruits and vegetables, and I hope that passing down the traditions of my own childhood will bring value and perspective to their lives. Since it’s not looking likely that a move to a more rural area will be in the cards for us, I know it will require a little more work to create these experiences. It is, however, work that I’m willing and excited to do.
That’s all for now, folks! Like I said, I’m in for a busy couple of days here in the Windy City, though I’m hoping to be able to experience some of the incredible food for which the city is famous. (I was quickly corrected, though, that deep dish pizza is “only for tourists” and that true Chicago-style pizza is something else entirely. More on this as it develops.)
I wish you all a fantastic week!
What have you been loving lately?
What is your dream luxury travel experience?
What are some of your favorite family traditions around food?