Category Archives: Good Life

Visiting Norway

Here’s another email-turned-blog-post. I’m posting the information below just in case you’re making plans to visit (which I CAN’T RECOMMEND ENOUGH).

“Given your preferences and time allotment, I’d recommend going to Geiranger and Bergen. Geiranger is fairly small but offers stunning scenery and awesome hiking. There’s also a few local dives, like this AMAZING little chocolate shop called Geiranger Sjokolade. There’s a visitor’s center in the port area with plenty of hiking maps/guides. We did a pretty rough trek up to a waterfall (rough for me anyway…haha), but it was totally worth it. It seemed like every ten steps I’d turn around and the view was even more incredible as we got higher and higher. The snow melt was streaming from the mountains, and we’d stop for cool drinks of crystal water from little streams. Some of the hiking trails passed through people’s farms, so you’d open the gate, continue along the path with sheep and lambs (and the occasional llama) prancing around you, and then close the gate on your way out. Even as I’m writing this, I’m like there’s no way. Anyway, at the top, there was a grassy span above the waterfall that we relaxed on for a little while next to this rushing river. Then we hiked down the path behind the falls. So cool. Something else you might be interested is the Geiranger Fjord Center. It was under construction when we were there but the parts we could access were really interesting. There were these neat walkways along the river, a pretty shop and indoor exhibits. Geiranger has an excellent visitor’s site.

From there, or I suppose it doesn’t matter what order you do it, I’d definitely recommend Bergen. It’s Norway’s second largest city but hardly a metropolis. It’s colorful, hilly and cultural and also offers some interesting activities. We explored the outdoor fish market, the pedestrian shopping street, the arts district and Bryggen, the city’s antique wharf. There’s plenty of bakeries, restaurants, etc. and you can try interesting stuff like whale meat. There’s a stave church on the outskirts of town that’s pretty easy to access via local transportation (it’s a bit of a walk from the stop to the church, but depending on how badly you want to see it, it’s worth it.) Don’t miss the funicular up to Mount Fløyen, where you can catch a pretty spectacular view (I only know this from photos, because the day we went it was pea soup fog, but still a cool experience in my opinion.) Look out for all the street art, and don’t miss Skostredet, where you can check out galleries, vintage stuff, etc. I bought a tote at the Made in Bergen store, because I’m a sucker for totes. Bergen also has an excellent tourist page.

As far as transport between the two, I’d check out the Norway in a Nutshell routes and would highly recommend travel by train or even boat. The perspective of the fjords from the water is pretty outstanding.

One unfortunate note: everything is pricey, and our dollar does not exchange well. Not a huge deal, but just a heads up if you want to save.

Anyway, I’m excited for you. It really was other-worldly in its natural beauty. I highly recommend visiting, even before some of the more well-known European hotspots.”


Visiting Copenhagen

I suppose without realizing it, I wrote a blog post in the form of an email to someone who wanted to pick my brain about visiting one of the world’s coolest cities. I’m posting the information below just in case you’re making plans to visit.

“I think you all would love Copenhagen, and I highly recommend going. It quickly rose to the top of my list of favorite places, and I’ve been considering going back.

We flew Norwegian Airlines; my ticket was less than 600 bucks from JFK. You could also try Icelandair. They fly out of DC, and you can add up to a 7-day layover in Iceland, which is nuts.

I’d definitely recommend staying in an Airbnb. Here’s the one we stayed in: The host was present, so not sure if you’re into that.

The city has a ton to offer in terms of food. We ate at Noma, but that was a once-in-a-lifetime splurge. The staff there recommended Atelier September, but it was closed the day we tried to go. Still though, we figured if the staff at the world’s best restaurant recommended a place, it has to be good. Others we tried: The Coffee Collective and Meyers Bageri. Also, you must check out Torvehallerne. We walked through/ate here twice and still regret not spending more time here. A couple places we didn’t make it to this time but I hear amazing things about are Conditori La Glace and GRØD. Be sure to try a hot dog at one of the city’s stands!

As far as activities go, the city has several historic landmarks. We climbed to the top of the Rundetaarn, and I thought the Royal Palace and adjacent gardens were stunning as well as the city’s Botanical Garden. There’s a lovely (and pretty long) pedestrian street called Strøget that’s full of shops. One I’d definitely recommend visiting is Illums Bolighus. Also, be sure to check out Tivoli! We had a blast the night we went. We didn’t visit any museums, although I hear exceptional things about the Glyptotek. There’s a flagship Lego store in the city as well. Just for curiosity’s sake, I’d walk through Christiania, a sort of hippie, squatter, grunge neighborhood that has its own government. Lots of interesting sights and sounds to be sure. 🙂

Copenhagen is a great wandering city, so I recommend plenty of leisure time to explore as opposed to a rigid itinerary. The canals and gardens are lovely, and some of the architecture is stunning. We didn’t use the subway much at all, but the one time we did, I noticed it was pristine. Anyway, transport is available if you need it.

Gee, I’m tempted to check out tickets myself. Not sure of areas surrounding Copenhagen, although I’m sure there are plenty of day trip options. I did write a hotel in Malmö, Sweden, which is just a trip across the Øresund Bridge from Copenhagen. Even if you stayed in the city the whole time, there’s plenty to do.”

Visiting Martha’s Vineyard

I suppose without realizing it, I wrote a blog post in the form of an email to someone who wanted to pick my brain about visiting one of the world’s most beautiful islands. I’m posting the information below just in case you’re making plans to visit.

“As far as the Vineyard goes, they have a really inexpensive and efficient bus system that makes it easy to cover the island in a day. There are also Jeep and scooter rentals as well.

Not sure what ferry you’re taking, but if it’s docking in Oak Bluffs, sort of the island’s main hub, I wouldn’t miss the Flying Horses, which is the oldest operating carousel in the country (this may be more of a nostalgic thing for me since I’ve ridden it as a kid, but if it’s just you and your parents, you might want to just take a look and then move on…haha). The famous gingerbread cottage village is also in Oak Bluffs and definitely worth a walk-through. The town is very walkable and full of unique shops and restaurants. (There are no chains on the island save for a couple reduced-sized grocery stores.)

Here are some food recs:

Mad Martha’s ice cream (OK, my sister swears by Ben & Bill’s, which is also delicious, but you can get it on the mainland. Either way though, you can’t go wrong.)
Murdick’s Fudge
MV Gourmet Cafe and Bakery (THE APPLE FRITTER OMG)
Mocha Mott’s
Nancy’s (you can sit on the harbor and they have excellent seafood)

Of course, you’ll want to see some Jaws shooting locations. You’ll probably recognize a lot of the Amity Island town scenes in Edgartown, and if I remember correctly, you can see the infamous bridge/pond (from the terrifying scene with Brody’s son) from one of the bus routes, since the bridge is on the road that connects Oak Bluffs and Edgartown.

I also love Vineyard Haven (again, not sure which ferry you’re taking, and it might dock here too), which is the home of the original Black Dog restaurant. Whether or not the food is actually excellent or if it’s more of a tourist trap is debatable, but it’s basically a shack on the beach and is a cool experience IMO. The last time I was there I remember my food being delicious. There’s always a crazy wait though.

That’s what I’m most familiar with, but of course there’s tons more. There are plenty of biking paths, organic farms, lighthouses, beaches, etc. that you can explore. They have plenty of guides and tourist information should you need it too. There’s a pretty big art/film scene too, which I imagine you’ll enjoy. Also, if I think of anything else, I’ll pass it along.

Oh, and keep your eye out for celebs! My sister has talked with Maggie Gyllenhaal, and of course the Obamas and Clintons have vacationed there. My dad has seen David McCullough a bunch of times. Also, Carly Simon has a shop in Vineyard Haven.

Overall, wherever you go (at least on the Vineyard anyway), it’ll be walkable and beautiful with plenty of interesting, non-chain places to check out. Hope that helps! Didn’t mean to write a book…haha. Excited for you guys! The Cape is a beautiful place.”

On My Phone Dying During a Sunset

Today I ventured out for a post-Christmas run; my feet felt as if they were filled with the 20 pounds of peanut butter fudge I ate yesterday.

I headed toward the beach and then over the bluff. By the time I reached the harbor, the sun had completely set behind Nobska, but that saturated Cape light still cast its unmatched glow on the boats and water, and bright oranges still blanketed the horizon. I walked out onto the jetty to take a panoramic photo when my phone died.


But really, it wasn’t. I put my phone away and stood there breathing in the cold air, smelling its salt and feeling the chill in my nose. I turned my head to the right and to the left, taking in from the highest point of Grand Avenue to the harbor entrance then to the inner marina. The colors were rich and deep, from the royally blue water to the gradient sunset. The small, tired waves were my soundtrack, that calm ocean churn repetitively melodic. I stayed for a while, perched on the jetty. When I turned to leave, I felt guilty about turning my back on such a sight.

A Portrait in Words

The mail is inundated with them this time of year: the family Christmas photo. Your collection starts in the beginning of December and is a tapestry of information come Christmas Day. How much have we all grown or changed? Who’s missing from the photo and who’s been added in? So many implications from this one capture.

Real talk: We’re all smiles in those Petrizzo family pictures, but what you aren’t aware of is the cacophony of emotions surrounding that split second shutter click. The groans, sometimes silent and sometimes audible, when Mom or Dad announced that tonight we’d all dress in black sweaters and khakis, or when we were younger, matching Christmas dresses, to shoot our picture. The positioning, the trying not to laugh, oh, wait, the lighting is wrong, move over a smidge, stop fidgeting, cut it out! stop pinching your sister, knock it off! look this way, did you at least try to fix your hair, do we have to hold hands, your eyes were closed, I’m hungry, try again, I have to go to the bathroom, hmm not sure, stand here, your eyes were closed again…(If you look closely in one of our pictures, you’ll see I have red watery eyes from crying. Leah and I had gotten into a fight right before taking the picture. Oh, the teen angst!)

But that’s the funny and great thing about families, isn’t it. The groans and annoyances give way to smiles, put on at first, but then real, as you remember that these people are your greatest source of love and forgiveness on this earth, apart from God.

So, here is a word version of the 2014 Petrizzo/Sutherland Family Christmas Portrait. I’ll leave the camera work to my dad.

Dad – Affirming; intimidating exterior, but more sensitive than people give him credit for; provider; one of the funniest people I know; giver of practical life advice.

Mom – Affirming; sensitive to the needs of her children, physical, mental and spiritual; proves love with giving actions; a Renaissance woman; funny as ever.

Leah – The best encourager I know; a wise counselor; a caring, attentive mother; the first person I call when I’m in a panic about baking/cooking something.

Joe – The kindest brother-in-law; handyman to the extreme; generous giver of his time; probably up  there in the genius category with Einstein.

Evie – Firecracker; impish; curious; thoughtful; affectionate; matter-of-fact; intelligent.

Desmond – Sweet; sensitive; happy; puppy dog cute.

Natalie – Classy; great taste; sensible conversationalist; skilled at empathizing with others; sarcastically hilarious.

James – A welcome addition to a gaggle of sisters; complimentary; hard worker; helpful; a solid friend; knowledgeable.


As the lovely Brits say, Happy Christmas. I am overwhelmed with the blessings God has given me.

Let’s talk about Disney World.

So, several months ago, my older sister Leah contacted our entire family and asked if we’d all be interested in meeting at Disney World to help celebrate her and my brother-in-law’s 30th birthdays. We told her we’d think about it and then replied within .87 seconds with a resounding yes. I just got back, and I think I can speak for my family when I say we all had a blast together. I think I slept a cumulative 3.5 hours the whole trip (not really), fell asleep on the bus back to the airport and was catching up on rest for days afterward. Signs of an excellent vacation (for me anyway)!

I have a few thoughts and observations:

1. FastPasses are worth their weight in gold. Not going to lie, it was hard for me not to feel smug walking past a two-hour line to meet Anna and Elsa because my sister had reserved a time in advance. And so forms the Disney Black Market: how much would harried parents pay for an Anna/Elsa FastPass? I can’t pretend and say this thought didn’t cross my mind.

2. The Christmas decorations at Disney World are like already having the most delicious mocha fudge ice cream sundae and topping it with your favorite salted caramel cheesecake. Magic upon magic!

3. Some food highlights:

  • The Dole Whip at Aloha Isle in the Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland – creamy and pineapple-y. Definitely refreshing.
  • The mushroom pizza at Mama Melrose’s in Hollywood Studios – seriously so good. I tried my mom’s vodka pasta which was also scrumptious.
  • The brioche ice cream sandwiches from L’Artisan des Glaces in Epcot’s France Pavilion – I mean, come on!
  • The dinner buffet at Boma in the Animal Kingdom Lodge – lots of unique dishes and new culinary experiences. I’m still talking about the curried pasta salad and corn pudding.
  • The breakfast buffet at Fort Wilderness’ Trail’s End Restaurant – we got a little turned around trying to get here, so when we finally did, it was like we’d reached the Promised Land. My family did an excellent pillage job on the buffet, which included items like French Toast Bread Pudding with Pecan Praline Syrup and Smoked Brisket Eggs Benedict. What.

4. Disney World takes food allergies very seriously, which frankly, I found embarrassing, but I suppose it’s for the best. I tried to whisper to the waitress at Boma what I was allergic to, and she immediately went and got the chef to come walk me through the buffet. I was mortified, but my family thought it was cool. Again, I suppose it’s for the best. How terrible would it be to have to cause a scene with an EpiPen at Disney World?!

5. OK, what I’m about to say here will sound negative or that I didn’t have a good time, but bear with me. Despite being the most magical place in the world, Disney World can sometimes be a breeding ground for agitation and discord. We saw a guy full out yelling at his wife/girlfriend in the middle of a walkway; my mom saw a lady chew out her wheelchair-bound mother, berating her to not ruin her son’s day. Kids don’t magically behave and not scream their heads off just because they’re at Disney World (for the record, my niece and nephew were champs, and I’m not just saying that). The Monorail is often packed, as are the buses. And sometimes it seemed like the only moment’s peace you could get was in a bathroom stall. So, I say, pack some flexibility and a sense of humor! Find a seat and sit down. Get an ice cream or a coffee (there are fully operating Starbucks in Magic Kingdom and Epcot). Find a water feature and listen to the soothing sound of trickling water. Get plenty of sleep (kind of hard, but do your best!), drink plenty of water and eat snacks. Again, I don’t mean to paint a bleak picture at all. Just trying to keep it real.

6. When traveling, we all want perfect weather, perfect circumstances, perfect schedules, perfect everything. But this obviously never happens. That doesn’t mean “the entire trip is ruined.” Instead, we embraced the conditions as part of our experience. The night we had Extra Magic Hours in the Magic Kingdom, it was rainy and a little chilly, but, not to be deterred from a night of fun, I bought myself a Mickey Mouse hat and walked on basically every ride without a wait. My sister bought one of those emergency ponchos, which opened up the doors for a plethora of jokes at her expense. My dad was in his photography glory as he walked around the park shooting the castle and its reflections on the wet sidewalk. We headed back to the hotel that night with wet pants butts and some great memories.

In conclusion, I think Disney World has become Nostalgia Heaven for my 27-year-old self. Disney puts on some great shows, fireworks displays, rides and parades, and how could we not sing along at the tops of our lungs to some of our favorite songs from childhood. I loved spending time with my favorite people in the world in a place that is pretty universally appealing for all of my family members. Great idea, Leah!! So glad you suggested it.

(If you’re looking for more info, there are about a million other blog posts with very specific tips and tricks on how to navigate the parks, when to visit, what to eat, etc. Just hit up Google!)

Dolla Dolla Bill Update

All righty. About a month ago I posted this, and I’m here to tell you that I didn’t make it. BUT! Let me expound.

I didn’t end up in the green, but I still consider the experiment a success because of what I learned:

1. Granted, I could’ve budgeted more than $400, but it was easy for me to just settle on $100 per week. Now I ended up in the red, but I was far less in the red than I usually am simply from trying and being more mindful of my habits. I also established some spending and shopping patterns that I plan to keep implementing (e.g. buying produce only at a certain reasonable farmer’s market, topping off my gas tank once a week to make it easier to plan budget-wise, not grabbing random couple-dollar items at the store if I’m in a rush). 

2. I learned a little bit more about meal planning (which is hardly a large expenditure of effort or time, so don’t shrug this off just yet). It took maybe a half hour a week, if that, and I discovered lots of delicious recipes like this (the dressing!!!) and this.

3. Plain and simple, if I don’t like what I make myself at home, I will feel bummed at work during lunch hour and drive myself to the nearest Chick-fil-a. It was key for me to make delicious food that I enjoyed so I wouldn’t feel sad and deprived (sounds like dieting, doesn’t it?).

4. I don’t NEED snacks and treats like I think I do. (Sigh.) 

5. I spent more on gas than I thought I did, which is unfortunate but a fact of life I suppose. I do try to compound errands, make sure I do everything I need to do in whatever part of town I’m in, etc., but it is what it is.

Anyway, overall it was a learning experience, which I couldn’t ask for more, could I? I’m implementing habits and lessons this month, so we’ll see.

(Those in Greenville, S.C., I know I’ve said this before, but I can’t recommend enough the Rutherford Road farmer’s market for their insanely reasonable produce.)

Dolla Dolla Bill

I want to try something, and I feel like the more people that know about it, the more accountability there is.

I have a few savings goals currently in play, and also, my family is taking a vacation together in November. I’d like to be able to save enough spending money to not actually think about spending money. “Why yes, I’ll have the 24-ounce cut” or “Give me the extra-large.” “A dollar extra to add bacon? No problem.”

So, here’s what I want to do: After all my major bills are covered, I want to live on $400 until September 5th. That averages out to about $100 per week for food (including dining out…yikes) and gas, and maybe a few other household necessities like paper towels or toilet paper if I run out. I’d also like to be able to cover gifts for my sister Nat, who has a birthday on August 13, and for my dad’s birthday on September 1.

I’ve tried this before and do pretty well for about two weeks. But then a certain laziness and perhaps a binge effect sets in. Like when you’re on a diet, and you’re good for a week. But then you go all T-Rex on a cheesecake or wings.

The other catch is I do like to use credit cards to get points/rewards. I typically make a payment immediately, so the hard cash amount is deducted much like it would be if I used a debit card or the envelope system. But I do get a little LAZAY with this method.

I think my biggest problem is “Oh, what’s 10 more bucks?” I’ve talked about this before actually. We know that “just 10 bucks” several times over turns out to be a lot more than you planned.

Anyway, with this kind of monetary restriction, I’ll have to be a lot more intentional about my spending, but intentionality is a trait I want to apply to all areas of my life anyway, so good practice! I think this is totally doable, even without feeling like I have to harvest lawn clippings; I just have to be more thoughtful. If you have suggestions/recommendations/inexpensive (BUT DELICIOUS) meal ideas, pass them along.


What’s that, you ask? Norwegian pancakes! I went to an international party the other night; everyone picked a country (or region/state) and brought representative foods. I opted for Norway, having just been in May (More on that later! Still sorting thoughts…). We had taken a train from a small port town to a village called Myrdal on top of a mountain. The little station had wireless Internet access (because obviously) and a cafe, where I ate a delicious Norwegian pancake topped with sweet sour cream and raspberry preserves.

I decided to recreate this dish for the party. I used this recipe, only I nixed the ricotta topping and used raspberry preserves instead of strawberry. I also sweetened the sour cream. However, depending on how sweet your preserves are, adding a sweetener is optional.

They turned out delicious–I must say the batter is basically a liquid, and since I was opting for miniature pancakes (party foods!) as opposed to pan-sized ones (like a crepe), I added more flour to thicken the batter so it would maintain a circular shape in the pan.

Here’s the cool thing I learned, which I’ve basically been telling everyone: The recipe called for cardamom, which I don’t have in my spice cabinet. A regular-size spice container was $12 at the store. It says you can substitute lemon zest, but hello authenticity! I insisted on using cardamom, a spice commonly used in Scandinavian baking, but I didn’t want to drop twelve bucks when I only needed one teaspoon. Enter bulk spices! Turns out places like Garner’s, a natural supplement store in South Carolina, sell spices in bulk. (Earth Fare and Whole Foods might, but I haven’t confirmed this.) You can actually buy as little or as much as you need and pay by weight. I eyeballed a teaspoon, and it was only 89 cents. I look at it as buying a spice sample for a recipe that may or may not work. If it does and I plan on using the spice continually, I might invest in the $12 container. But if not, I only spent, in this case, 89 cents. I’m filing this away for future reference.

Here are the pancakes sitting naturally* next to a Norwegian hat:

*staged strategically for an Instagram


P.S. I do know ethnic grocery stores often sell spices for cheaper but not necessarily in bulk.


Fourth of July.

My childhood summers didn’t offer much in the way of schedules and structure, because isn’t that how it should be? But the Fourth of July was undoubtedly one of the best and most scheduled days of my summer, with several outfit and scene changes, places to go and people to see!

Breakfast, of course, but a quick one, because I had to don my meticulously prepared patriotic outfit and then make sure that my knee pads, wrist guards and roller blades were in sound working order for the neighborhood parade. Over we trekked a couple streets to join the growing Falmouth Heights crowd, complete with streamered bikes and costumed dogs, all in the colors of our flag, of course. Some announcements and the National Anthem and some instructions, and at this point I just wanted to get the show on the road. And then it would start and we’d weave in and out of the streets and onto Grand Avenue, which ran along the beach. Up Montgomery and past the gnome house, where the nice man would hand out entire Hershey’s Bars to all the kids.

The parade would begin to disperse, and I’d head home to change into my bathing suit, and most likely today we’d pack lunch to eat on the beach. Towels, chairs, toys, wagon, check! And off we’d go, waving to Bill on the way.

The beach was a crowded collection of even more towels, chairs and toys, with hardly a blank space of sand to be found. While I didn’t prefer it to be this crowded every day (where would we play pickle?), this is exactly how it was supposed to be on Independence Day. Hot sand and cool New England water, back and forth, back and forth. And then the ding of the ice cream truck, and then back to the water.

Hours would turn into minutes, and then the bright sun would begin to soften into that magic light of a late Cape Cod afternoon. The beachgoers were thinning out. Maybe we could squeeze in a game of pickle? Dad usually stayed at the beach the latest, and at his cue, I’d head home.

Cleaned up, wet hair post shower and another outfit, red, white and blue (if I was lucky enough to have kept it clean, the parade one). Dinner was seafood and steak and maybe strawberry pie for dessert. Back outside to play until we instinctively knew it was time. Time to grab your windbreaker or sweatshirt, something to sit on and our glow bracelets. Fireworks, fireworks, fireworks–it was time. We’d walk back to the beach to join the ten thousand others, waiting. Hold someone’s hand until I was old enough to walk on my own. Find a spot, find your neighbors. The sand was cold, but I didn’t care. There was the barge, there were the boats. And then we waited.

The first whistle, the first comet. Silence. Then, “the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air.” I loved the weeping willow ones, the golden sparks flowing down into the ocean. I could feel the boom in my heart, that pounding sound accompanying the colored stars. Everyone clapped and cheered when it was over; all the boats blew their horns. I loved the spent gunpowder aroma in my nose.

Gather the blankets, and head back home. Walk straight among the crowds, and you’d eventually find your way. And then, s’mores! Whose house this year? We alternated between the neighbor’s and ours. How many would I eat? I preferred my marshmallows well done, burnt crispy but gooey. Some preferred theirs toasted a light golden brown. But there were plenty of grahams and chocolate for everyone.

And then the day’s buzz would start to dwindle as the sounds of firecrackers grew further and further apart. That salty night air replaced the smoke smell, and I’d begin to fade. Time to head to my bed. I was already excited for next year.

This was a Cape Cod Fourth of July, and today I miss everything about it.