Wander: Keep At It

Japanese flourishes at the Berkshires Shirakaba.


My dad, a successful salesman, left me with three very sound words of advice: Persistence Pays Off. I never had the patience to adopt this mantra. Nor did I understand (or think I had what it took) to truly keep my head down, ignore linear time, abandon the need for instant gratification and just keep at something. Until now.

Five years ago, while sharing a cheeseburger at Diner my husband and I stopped our wrestling with the what-ifs and decided to move to New York. It’s that convincing of a  burger. Plus, I was motivated by an inkling to make a career change. A change which is happening now, still very slowly, but there has been an evolution of sorts.

It’s hard to know when to consider a path complete folly or worth continuing down, especially when you’re defining things for yourself. In veering off my other career path, I’ve found that this new one isn’t guided by promotions, an office with a window, performance reviews or raises that signal progress.

So I’ve established my own benchmarks. And the one I set, the one that meant ‘Ok, you’re really doing it now, keep going’ was rather lofty for a no-name cold-calling writer: a story in The New York Times Travel section. For every year that I continued to send proposals (some were answered, others were not) I would return to my dad saying “Laur, persistence pays off.” I just kept hoping he was right.

Well, he was. I did eventually have a pitch accepted and was assigned a story. I think the most real moment of being published occurred the week after the piece ran when I snagged the section from a pile of papers plunked down on the curb left out for recycling day.

I was thrilled to write the piece which balanced my fascination of Japanese culture, love of an off-beat adventure and need to travel a little closer to home as a parent. And people were immensely supportive of my little moment in print. Being published, or more importantly realizing all that persistence-pays-off business is true, also marks that I’ve arrived at a place where I better understand my dad’s wisdom. It goes without saying that I wish he could have been here to see the story in print, if only for me to be able to tell him that he was right.

Gift: Life’s a Picnic

Outdoor concerts, impromptu dinners in the park and cocktails on the beach––it’s picnic season. An alfresco-ready basket, bag or box makes a thoughtful, useful gift for the hosts you’ll drop in on this summer.

As the lucky recipient of a colorful melamine bento box like this I can say, with confidence, that this is the perfect gift for friends who dine outdoors. The dividers in the top tray are just right for olives or other nibbles, and the impressive presentation makes everything taste just a little more interesting.

Timeless picnic hampers remind me of packing into the sticky Oldsmobile and piling out into the cool grass at a local park or taking a windows-down mini road-trip from the Chicago suburbs to someplace more exotic…like Milwaukee. Etsy hosts a feast of vintage baskets and hampers in beautiful condition.

Loaded with all the compostable gear you’ll need––from napkins to serving trays––the portable picnic packs from Boxsal are eco-friendly chic. Half the fun is choosing a theme: Office Escape (in a sneaky briefcase), Today’s Date (icebreakers included to combat awkward lulls in conversation) and Urban Picnic Box (disguised as a boom box).

I like this smart, compact insulated Metro Basket. It appears easy to tote, and it would fit nicely into a bike basket. And, if you really want to get fancy it can be monogrammed too.

This lightweight Picnic Pack is always prepared for cocktails on the go. It fits two bottles of wine, sturdy glasses and a cheeseboard––hello happy hour. 



Wander: Madison, WI

Five years ago we set out in a wobbly caravan from Chicago of one car stuffed with people and plants, a borrowed pick-up truck and and a crammed U-Haul truck to move my best pal, Lauren, to Madison, Wisconsin. She was accepted into a prestigious PhD program for Education and her new location offered a very good reason to visit Madison. Plus several other incentives for returning––cheese curds, small batch brewed beer, lake views and most importantly, the excellent people that came to shape Lauren’s world there.

Last month Lauren graduated with incredible honors and something rarer still––a teaching position at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. It was truly bittersweet for me to leave Lauren’s remarkable community of friends and Madison itself following graduation, so with that, here is a little love letter for my best friend (a PhD!) in the form of a travel guide which I wrote for New York Magazine.

Looking forward to exploring Lincoln, NE next. But, until then, On Wisconsin!