Nearly 2 months ago, my friend Nick Dawson encouraged me to apply for a scholarship to the Stanford Medicine X conference. I didn’t think I had a chance, but the conference sounded so exciting that I decided to give it a shot and whipped up an application. The deadline for the award announcement passed, and I never heard anything, so I chalked it up to a miss. And then last night I got an email saying I’d been awarded a scholarship! My name is up on the website and everything.
According to their website, “Medicine X is a catalyst for new ideas about the future of medicine and health care. The Medicine X initiative is designed to explore the potential of social media and information technology to advance the practice of medicine, improve health, and empower patients to be active participants in their own care. The “X” is meant to evoke a move beyond numbers and trends—it represents the infinite possibilities for current and future information technologies to improve health.”
They’ve got Michael Graves as a keynote speaker! A man I wrote about in my application without even realize he was going to be at the event. They will also have IDEO, which is a company mentioned in every business book ever written. As a designer who is also getting her MBA, I have immense love and appreciation for IDEO. Plus I’m hoping to meet up with some awesome people. Some I know from Twitter and communities like #hcsm and But You Don’t Look Sick.
Now it is not a full ride, but it is significantly less than the over $1,000 fee for normal attendees. I still need to cover accommodations and travel costs, but I’m hoping some lovely friends in the area will let me couch surf. I’m so excited to be going and the bonus is that since I’m already going to be flying to California, I have the perfect excuse to spend a couple extra days bumming around my favorite state. (I haven’t been back since the Lost finale.) I’m hoping to be able to fly out of LAX and spend a day or two in my old (preschool) stomping ground.
This week I got some bad news about the current state of my health, and this positive health-related news is really cheering me up.
A few weeks ago, I spent a long weekend in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. My mom has been a bunch of times (with my dad or just with her friends), but this was my first visit. It is about 3 hours from where I live on one of those nice drives that doesn’t see much traffic. I took a Friday off work and spent two nights in town.
The main town is extremely small. There is a main street with shops and restaurants, and a side street with a collection of shops. There are a few things outside of this 2-3 block range, mainly restaurants, spas, or places to stay. The shops in town fall mainly into the following categories: gift shops, art gallery/shops, new age stuff, antiques. The main attraction is town is the natural spring water and spas have been built all over that offer whirlpool baths and other spa services like manicures and massages. There is a small arts community and you can see dramatic performances, art done by school kids, or even catch a movie (only on the weekends) in the renovated theater. There are also a bunch of nature-related activities to enjoy nearby, like hiking or fishing, but I cannot speak to those based on this trip.
I stayed in the least creepy B&B I could find: Brookside Manor. It is in an old house, but is only a year into its life as a B&B. The decor is country/antique but not overdone. I couldn’t relax in a B&B full of lace and creepy dolls. The rooms also have really comfortable beds and modern bathrooms with jacuzzi tubs. There was not a full breakfast, but a sort of plus-sided continental breakfast.
The best meal I had was at Lot 12 Public House. It is an upscale American farm-to-table restaurant and is a real gem for the town. My only regret was that I went their my first night and spent every meal after wishing I was back at Lot 12! If you plan to go, make reservations.
Since I have never been to Berkeley Springs, I wanted to sample the different spas. The State Park operates a spa. The park itself is very small, just one block. You can get massages and other treatments in one building, but I opted to get a “Roman Bath” which is in the second building. It was $35 for one hour. You get a private room, with a large titled, walk in mini swimming pool-like arrangement. The pool dimensions are probably 5 feet by 10 feet. It spans the width of the room, and there is just a small area for a chair outside of the pool. You are allowed to have up to two people into these pools. The water was a little over waist high, and warm but not hot. I basically just hung out, and read a book for a while. The facility is somewhat run down and not fancy. It seemed clean enough, but definitely had more of a YMCA locker room feel than a day spa feel. Still for the price, I would go back.
I also went to Atasia Spa (caution – website has sound) for a 15 minute whirlpool bath and a massage. This is a more traditional day spa, with a fancy reception area, small gift shop, and locker rooms with a shower and amenities like a hair dryer. An attendant showed me to a locker, gave me a giant fluffy robe and told me to step into the hallway when I was ready. It seemed like they had three separate rooms for whirlpools. The rooms were tiny with low lighting and wood paneling (like a sauna, not a basement). This tub was one of those large, jetted ones that is more like a personal hot tub than a bathtub. They turned the jets on for 15 minutes and when the bubbles stopped, that was my cue to head upstairs for my massage. There were two different waiting areas with couches, futons, and chairs for you to wait for your massage, or to chill out after having a massage. These areas had low lighting and typical spa instrumental background music. The massage itself was awesome. The massage therapist used a variety of techniques, including hot rocks and hot towels on my neck. I would recommend this spa if you are interested in massage or other more traditional services.
On my last day I went to the Five Senses Spa at the Country Inn for a whirlpool bath. I had a terrible experience, which started with them calling me at 12 to say I was late for my 11:30 appointment. My appointment was for 1:30 by all records I had. The receptionist was not there, and when someone did show up, they gave me the room where the tub water had been sitting since 11:30. They assured me it was still warm. The actual spa rooms were nice, but I would not bother going there again.
On my way home, I stopped at Frog Valley Artisans, and bought some jewelry and a metal star sculpture. Then I ate brunch at Panorama at the Peak (caution – website has sound), enjoying the locally sourced food and the fantastic view.
One of my good friends who now lives in NC drove up for the weekend and we spent one night in DC to do touristy things. We stopped at my mom’s for dinner Sunday night on the way back to my place and then I had to drive for about 20 miles in a scary snowstorm with very low viability. Of course the snow all melted the next day.
Have you seen the shots from the Orla Kiely NYC store? It’s set up like a little house. So adorable! I’m excited to see all the mugs and paper products in stock, because that’s probably all I’ll be able to afford! (All images from their Facebook page)
Ever since I heard Orla Kiely was opening her first US location in NYC I have been planning to make a trip up to check it out. I absolutely love her stuff, even though I’ve only bought two Etc line purses (both on sale) and one mainline bag that my parents kindly splurged on for a Christmas gift. I would love the chance to even just try on the clothing, even though that is out of my budget. At least her bags last a long time and are something I can get a lot of use out of (I don’t mind if that don’t always match my outfit).
I looked into the discount trains, but I don’t think my personality would do well on a train, plus they don’t save you any time. I found I can take Amtrak for about $100 round trip. I can leave in the early morning, arrive in NYC Penn Station (which is a great hub for the subway) by late morning and then catch a train back that night. That will give be 10-12 hours in NYC and hopefully I can sleep during the train ride, which is about 3.5 hours.
I’ve started a Google Map of places I want to hit up. I need to confirm when/if the Orla store is actually opening. But I’m hoping to hit at least one Anthropologie as well as some more budget-friendly shops like H&M. I’m not actually budgeting a lot of spending money for the trip. It’s going to be more window shopping than anything, but hopefully if my student loan money comes through I will be able to pick up a few things. [This is the annoying thing about being sick, because I had a nice chunk saved and it's basically all gone to medical bills.]
I’m bringing my mom with me and she wants to visit the World Trade Center memorial, but that requires tickets that I’m not sure are even available. I’m also hoping to meet up with at least one friend for lunch. I’ve got several friends in that area. I haven’t been to NYC since 2007, and I used to go up multiple times a year, so it will be really nice just to be back.
Everything on Martha’s Vineyard is extra expensive, which I think is due to the fact that a lot of rich people either live or vacation there and the remote nature of the island (there’s no bridge, so you have to have a ferry, or fly). It costs about $90 to take the vehicle ferry one way, so you can’t just pop over to the mainland to run to WalMart. Plus any vacation spot is going to jack up their prices for souvenirs or forgotten essentials.
The island is home to fancy preppy brands like Vineyard Vines, so I didn’t plan to get a bunch of traditional souvenirs, but I did manage to find a good consignment haul. The shop I scored at is called Martha’s Closet and it’s in a small shopping center in Vineyard Haven (near award winning seafood market The Net Result). The other store was near this bike shop in Woods Hole, on the mainland, but I can’t find it online (and the shop wasn’t as good).
Please excuse my face in these pictures. I’m not sure what was going on.
Velvet is one of my favorite brands (except when they make those super crazy slut dresses) because their dresses are super comfortable and versatile to dress up or down. My local consignment shop sells Velvet brand dresses for around $60. I scored this dark purple one for $25.
This top is a silky material, but I think it’s synthetic. It’s by a brand called Strawberry that I’ve never heard of. It’s not the best top, but it fit nicely, would be good for work, and was under $10.
This skirt was from Express and isn’t cutting edge fashion, but it was on clearance for $1.50, so even if I just wear it to church, I’ll feel like I got a good deal. It’s black with white and red dots and a nice comfy elastic waist.
This is an Anthropologie stretch mesh top by Moth paired with a fantastically comfortable super-soft stretch denim skirt.
Everything above (plus the pink top seen in the last post and a long skirt that I haven’t photographed yet) came to $75, and they don’t have sales tax on clothing.
And here’s the one outfit I got from the Wood’s Hole shop. It was on clearance too, for about $12 for both pieces. It doesn’t fit me perfectly (the top could be tailored a little better), but the skirt fits great and only $12!
Next time I’ll write about the few small new items I picked up.
This past week I drove up to Martha’s Vineyard with my mom to celebrate her birthday. It’s a big milestone, which I’m not allowed to announce to the public. She named me after Carly Simon, and we’ve always wanted to go to Martha’s Vineyard, but typically spend our beach time at Virginia Beach, or occasionally the Outer Banks, or (thanks to a generous friend with a vacation home) Florida.
I started planning the trip in January, keeping it a surprise from Mom up until about a month before. I booked a lovely cottage a bit out off the main tourist area in Oak Bluffs. We drove up Saturday, spent a night in a hotel we found along the way in RI, then caught the vehicle ferry on Sunday and drove around a bit before checking in to the house.
We spent a lot of time relaxing. The island is fairly small, about 25 miles across as far as I know, but there are several different towns. We visited most of them within the first two days, to get an idea of places we wanted to visit again, and scope out the different beaches. Oak Bluffs, where we stayed is famous for the gingerbread cottages. People used to literally camp out in that area for religious revivals. Eventually they built a permanent place of worship and permanent houses. The houses have a lot of character and are really big out by the waterfront, but very tiny and close together built in concentric circles around the Tabernacle. We wound up their on our last night, due to a wrong turn, and it was sort of magical. Tiny little storybook cottages, at dusk, all decorated with fancy colors and trim. Adorable porches and lovely landscaping. Some even had kerosene lanterns (which I was told have caused fires in the past).
We spent all our beach time in Oak Bluffs, down from the ferry dock. Sadly none of the public beaches have bathhouses, or restrooms, or even little foot showers like they do in Virginia Beach. Oak Bluffs had a public restroom a few blocks away, so that’s why we stayed there. The water is calm (we only had small waves one day when storms were on the way in) and surprisingly clear. There are a lot of rocks on the beach and very few shells, but once you get out into the water, the sand is smooth. There are a few sandbars, so you can go out fairly far and still only be in waist deep. One day I even found a live conch!
Two other towns are Vineyard Haven and Edgartown. These towns are fairly similar, both offering several blocks of shops, restaurants, and pretty houses. They both have waterfronts and beach areas. Every single harbor in the Vineyard had tons of beautiful sailboats of all sizes. I think I preferred Vineyard Haven over Edgartown. Some shops appear in multiple locations, like the famous Black Dog which sells anything you can imagine with their logo. They also have a bakery cafe in Vineyard Haven that got great reviews, but didn’t look impressive to me.
Vineyard Haven is home to the awesome ArtCliff Diner, which is open from 7 am until 2 pm and serves breakfast that is delicious – homey but with enough of a twist to put it miles above Cracker Barrel and other chains. They have a real chef running things. They have specials like seafood risotto. We went their twice to eat and once on our way to catch the ferry home to grab giant scones to go. They make sweet potato scones as big as a salad plate and as light as a cloud, with mouthwatering honey butter. I’m seriously making myself sad just thinking about not getting to eat there again.
We also went to two different farmer’s markets, one in Vineyard Haven and one in West Tisbury. We scored a savory chicken pie, which made a great (cheap) dinner one night. We weren’t in the market for vegetables, or jam, or alpaca-wool products, but all that stuff was for sale too. The West Tisbury market was my favorite, for ambiance, but we actually didn’t buy anything there.
One night we drove to Menemsha to watch the sunset. This is a popular activity and the parking lot was nearly full almost an hour before sundown. There are two little seafood shacks nearby and another one (serving more fried foods) just down the road. People get their take out, bring wine (you can drink on the beaches, which is fun) and enjoy the show. This was a nice relaxing evening.
A little further out from Menemsha is Aquinnah (also known as Gay Head) which has the famous cliffs. They also have a beach, and a few seafood shacks, along with a couple souvenir shops. There is a Native American Cultural Center, but it was closed when we were there. The gift shops sell some Native products, especially Wampum, which is made from the purple and white shells of the quahog. In the past, these beads were actually used as money for trade.
We took a trip to Chappaquiddick on one of our last days on the island. You have to take an extremely short ferry ride over from Edgartown. It probably took 5 minutes. The area is very secluded and great for hiking and biking (we mainly drove around and walked a little bit). There are several beaches for swimming and at least one that is just for fishing. I found wild blueberries and ate a handful with no ill effects aside from about 10 mosquito bites I got in the are. We sat on the beach and ate sandwiches that we brought in a coolers.
We drove home early Sunday morning and had exceptional luck with the traffic until we ran into the storm that hit most of the east coast. It seemed to follow us and was really scary. At times I could barely see. I never actually had to stop and we made it home safe and sound. I would much rather have rain on the way home than on vacation, so we got very lucky there!
The trip was a splurge for a special occasion, but I really hope I can go back again someday.
I spent the weekend at the beach. My friend Samantha put on a fabulous party that included a wedding.
I’ve known Samantha since we lived on the same hall our Freshman year at James Madison University. We were both art/graphic design majors, but I don’t think we ever had a single class together. She’s from Richmond, so I spent time visiting her (and sometimes her family) on breaks from school. Now she’s a badass web designer in Northern Virginia, and basically who I want to be when I grow up.
Samantha met Jim at a conference they were both working (they are both designers) Jim proposed to her at SXSW. Her engagement ring is a black diamond. This is a cool couple we are talking about here.
I know Samantha stressed about the wedding planning. She’s extremely thoughtful, so naturally she wanted everyone to have a great time. There was no bridezilla stuff. Samantha and Jim spend their rare downtime at the beach, especially the Outer Banks area. Samantha got the idea to have the wedding in Frisco, on Hatteras Island.
They rented a huge house (The Love Boat) where they hosted a beach barbecue Friday night. The wedding ceremony was held on Saturday, in the sand at the water’s edge, just before sunset. Cocktail hour was around the pool and then the guests moved around the back of the house, under a tent, to eat, drink and dance. I am pretty sure Samantha was on the dance floor for every song. It was great to attend a wedding where the bride and groom are actually having a fantastic time.
The wedding decor and ephemera were all DIY by Samantha and Jim. They designed the invites, program, website. Even wooden signs directing guests where to park were designed in the same hand-drawn font. Samantha decorated with tiny multicolored vases on each table, paper lanterns, strings of white Christmas lights, and old family photos pinned to makeshift clotheslines strung between trees. There was a guest book that encouraged doodles. The favors were custom printed mini notebooks and pencils and tote bags (again with a complementary design) filled with treats for a day at the beach. I think the tote bags are especially cute/cool/nerdy since they so strongly evoke a design conference to me.
Samantha seemed both genuinely surprised and happy that I made the trip down for the wedding. I wouldn’t have missed it.