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Kate Rockwood (33 posts)
We all have some thing we yearned for in childhood that still makes the heart ache a bit. For my sister, ponies made an appearance on a staggering number of birthday and holiday wish lists. For me, it was sleepaway camp. I was a sucker for young adult novels that revolved around cabin bunk beds and macramé, and I watched The Parent Trap on a near-constant loop as a preteen.
Overnight camp—as opposed to the tepid day camp I attended one summer with other kids from my neighborhood—promised the possibility of reinvention. You could be anyone you wanted, far from home and stripped of your usual surroundings. Friendships seemed easier and deeper. Learning some cool skill, a given.
But attending camp isn’t a dream I have to pack up and stow next to "be a famous tap dancer" and "invent a no-brush hairbrush." Attending camp as an adult can be a powerful tool for expressing yourself. In fact, packing your bag as an adult means more than the friendship, skills-building, and personal freedom I coveted as a kid. As an grown-up, you can choose a camp that fits your interest—whether that’s surfing the seas or cooking up seafood. Check out these six retreats worth writing home about...
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For cozying up with the ones you love: "As kids we didn't have a television at home, but we did have a record player. After school I'd sit by the window while my mother, who loved Elvis to bits, played 'Love Me Tender.' For me, this song still captures that feeling of being little and secure, thinking the world was perfect and simple."
For a mood boost:
"There's a tradition in Ireland that on St. Stephen's Day, the day after Christmas, kids go house to house singing for money or candy. Once I got older, I realized people are more generous after a few pints, so I started singing in pubs. 'My Irish Molly O' was always a good song—it's strong and boisterous."
For a little nostalgia:
"I have such great memories of singing Marty Robbins's 'El Paso' in the car with my dad, who enjoys anything cowboy related. When I brought my husband home to Ireland, he was wearing a cowboy hat, and my dad was totally impressed. Now I love listening to this song with my own kids."
For feeling young:
"I often put on the Smiths to relax—especially 'There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.' I loved them as a teenager, and when I listen to them now, I'm instantly transported to adolescence. I think, 'I'm young!' And then I look in the mirror and go, 'Oh shit, wrinkles!'"
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Power Shot: Nothing dampens a day like realizing your phone is completely out of juice. The Innergie PocketCell is a sleek rechargeable battery that can quickly power up your portables, giving you another 15 hours on your cell phone or 4.5 hours on your iPad. Toss it in your purse and you can finally stop hunting for outlets while you’re out and about. ($80)
Health Boost: In this month’s O mag, Dr. Oz discusses the health benefits of walking 10,000 steps a day, and mentions that the Fitbit pedometer is particularly good for people who like to dig into their data. The company’s new Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale takes tracking even further, letting users record their weight, body mass index, and fat percentage over a period of time. It even syncs wirelessly with users’ online accounts, so comparing steps taken with pounds lost is super-easy. ($130)
Sneaky Peek: Have I ever wasted time at work daydreaming about what kind of frolicking antics my cats must be up to, at home alone all day? No comment. But let’s just say that the DropCam is all kinds of intriguing for people who want to spy on their own homes: The tiny camera is a snap to set up, it has night vision and recording capabilities, and you can watch the video in real time on your iPhone, Android, or Kindle Fire. Watch out for the two-way audio, though—my cooing scared the cats. ($150)
Game On: My five-year-old niece adores the iPad, but watching that pricey piece of machinery dangle from her diminutive hands is enough to make my own palms sweat. Enter the GameChanger. This clever docking station turns the iPad into a stationary board game, with two fold-out sides that are touch sensitive. Different “game skins” make it easy to switch between the two available games, Scholastic’s Magic School Bus and Animal Mania, with more skins in the works. ($60)
A long, stressful day at work or canceled dinner plans is all it takes for me to toss my eat-healthier resolution out the window and dive, frazzled and hungry, for the nearest take-out menu. And a household of specific dietary needs (vegetarian for me, gluten-free for my spouse) only adds another hurdle to getting a quick, no-guilt dinner on the table. Luckily, the freezer aisle has expanded way beyond salisbury steaks and limp lasagna, to flavorful meals that also cater to special diets. Whether you're gluten-free, dairy-free, or vegetarian, you have more healthy options than ever before. Here are six brand new ones worth considering:
Evol Bean & Cheese Enchilada Bowl (vegetarian, gluten-free)
Mourning the loss of burritos on your gluten-free diet? Dry your eyes and open wide: Evol layers pinto beans, cilantro-lime rice, cheddar cheese, and roasted corn between layers of corn tortillas.
Healthy Choice Grilled Mediterranean Vegetables and Rice (vegetarian)
We love the uptick in non-pasta options for vegetarians in the frozen aisle. This entrée, part of a new line inspired by Top Chef, spotlights grilled eggplant, broccoli, and tomato over barley and rice.
Amy’s Teriyaki Wrap (vegan, gluten-free)
Take a break from Amy’s much-beloved mac-and-cheese and try this tasty mix of organic tofu, brown rice, and broccoli. The wheat-free wrap, made from rice and garbanzo flours, has a rich flavor and slightly spongy texture, which keeps the filling moist.
Trivia is also weirdly memorable. Why, despite considerable effort, could I never memorize the Pythagorean thereom in school, but I can still recall from history class that Abraham Lincoln was the tallest U.S. president (6'3") and James Madison the shortest (5'4")? Our brains, it seems, have an endless capacity for quirk. And isn't quirk more fun? Aside from a bright smile and a warm hug, I'd argue that nothing trumps trivia when you're making small talk. So imagine my delight, as we enter the Month of Making Yueltide Small Talk, at cracking open the new book Listomania: A World of Fascinating Facts in Graphic Detail, an engrossing (and sometimes gross) buffet of trivia.
From the top 14 beauty-queen scandals through history to the countries with the greatest number of Nobel Prizes per capita (go, Faroe Islands!) to the most popular ways locals from around the world eat their hot dogs (think: shrimp salad, sauerkraut, carrot sticks), the book touches on topics both significant and, well, trivial. To prep you to deliver a surprising left turn to the next "So, where are you from?" question, consider these random bits: It takes 30 seconds for killer whales to mate, 21 days to sun-dry a grape into a raisin, and 5 months for a newborn to recognize its own name. You can thank us post-party.
So when I met Daniel Hebet at a macaron-making demonstration in southern France, I had a few questions. (To start, why do my macaroons come out like broken jelly bombs while yours are perfectly airy, brightly hued confections?) Hebet cut his teeth at Ladurée, the famous macaron shop that opened its Parisian doors in 1862, and he's now the owner of the Michelin-starred Les Jardins du Quai in Provence. (It's from there that he leads cooking demonstrations for Trafalgar Tours.) As we whipped up a batch of perfectly shaped, perfectly baked macarons, Hebet shared these secrets, which will work with any macaron recipe you favor.
So when Rebekah was diagnosed with celiac disease—an autoimmune condition that requires you to scrupulously avoid eating gluten—it was a deep blow. Bread and pasta were immediately off the table, but so was birthday cake at office gatherings and the cookies-and-cream ice cream at a neighbor’s dinner party. When it came time to pick our wedding cake, our options narrowed to a precious few (though we found a place that knocked it out of the park). And when our foodie friends came in to town last year, obsessed with trying out the cookies and pies at a hot new bakery, the only thing Rebekah could buy was a tiny tub of artisanal butter and then watch while everyone moaned over the buttery pastries.
Sure, gluten-free baking recipes exist, but most of the fava-bean flour and xantham-gum experiments we tried were arduous, and the results disappointing (“Is this cupcake supposed to look gray?”). And how do you figure out how to swap wheat flour for tapioca and rice flours in Grandma’s rosemary loaf?
But Stephanie Izard has a funny way with everyday ingredients. The only woman to win Top Chef--and also one of the 15 breakthrough stars we profiled in October's O magazine--Izard is the chef/owner of the Girl & the Goat restaurant in Chicago. Her cookbook, Girl in the Kitchen, hits bookstores this week, and it's a riot of unexpected pairings (shallot custard with apple-endive salad; pear-pistachio-parsnip soup; artichoke and strawberry panzanella) and lesser-known finds (kohlrabi, anyone?). Izard's collection looks so mouth-watering that when my wife settled on a fungus-heavy recipe, I decided to give it a go. Someone who thinks apples are equally at home in a pork ragu as a bacon-studded macaroni and cheese might have something new to show me about mushrooms, I figured.
Key lime with graham crackers and raspberry swirl. Cinnamon-cotton candy with gummy bears. Sea-salt caramel and butter brickle. eCreamery makes the question "vanilla or chocolate?" seem like child's play. The Omaha ice cream shop, started by friends Abby Jordan and Becky App, churns out a dozen-plus fresh flavors daily. But it's their web site, where you can build your own custom flavors, that got our gelato-lovin' heart pumping.
How it works: Choose your base—dairy-free sorbetto, rich gelato or classic ice cream—and then pick one or two of the more than 40 flavors to infuse into the base mix. (Ice cream experts on-site tweak the ratio, to make sure subtle lavender still sings through a heavier chocolate.) Options range from adventurous (chipotle, stout) and nostalgic (birthday cake, butterscotch), to straightforward stunners like blueberry and cardamom. Next comes the fun part: agonizing over the mix-ins (walnut brownies, cherry swirls, candied ginger, malted milk balls...the list goes on and on). Four hand-packed pints are shipped, bearing your label. May we suggest: "Hands off!"
Our best creation: Coffee and sweet cream gelato with a luscious caramel swirl and crunchy bits of chocolate espresso chips.
Signature Trail Snacks
No more picking through a store-bought bag of trail mix and leaving the lonely walnuts behind? Sweet! Mother-and-son team (and health nuts) Ava Bise and Anthony Flynn started YouBar after years of making protein bars at home. This design-it-yourself business has since expanded from bars to protein shakes, cereal, and—our favorite—trail mixes.
How it works: Of the 40-odd ingredients offered—chia seeds, black licorice, wasabi peas, sundried tomatoes, candied ginger, organic dried fruits—you can blend up to 21. Nutritional information appears on-screen as you make additions, many of which are organic. Trail mix ships in individual snack packs.
Our best creation: A salty-sweet-crunchy-chewy symphony of pistachios, peanuts, organic soynuts, dried cherries, organic flaxseeds, sesame sticks, and dark-chocolate covered raisins.