Monday, May 31, 2010

Nubble Lighthouse, Cape Neddick, Maine

Whenever I take photographs of lighthouses, I feel a little bit like my favorite painter, Edward Hopper.

Cape Neddick Lighthouse, Nubble Light

Then again, I also feel a little bit like Helen Reddy in Pete's Dragon, too.


I grew up in a family that is very keen on jigsaw puzzle making. When I was a kid, we used to spend a lot of time on family trips and rainy days making puzzles, and I still enjoy doing that as an adult. My friends and I actually spent part of our Memorial Day weekend in Maine bent over a jigsaw.

One of my favorite puzzle companies is White Mountain Puzzles. They make really fun, regional puzzles, challenging without being frustrating, and I love the artwork. I have several of their 1,000 piece puzzles already: the Berkshires, the American Revolution, historic Massachusetts. They definitely get my endorsement, and, if I see the brand available, I gravitate towards it.

When we were in the grocery store this past weekend, I picked up lighthouses of New England, which I was hoping to do, but we didn't get to it. I plan to start it this week as something to unwind with after work.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Seven Things Making Me Smile

Once again, I am posting a list of seven things that are currently making me happy. This is to serve as a little reminder/pick me up for myself because things are a bit stressful at the moment.
  1. The new series of Doctor Who. Was a little concerned with all the changes this year: new production team, new cast, new TARDIS, new theme. That's a lot of "news" for someone not very keen on change, but I am really liking this new Doctor and the new series on the whole. It did take me while to warm up to Amy Pond, the new companion, but now I think she is pretty good. "Got my spaceship, got my boys, my work here is done." (She's no Donna Noble, though.)
  2. Today's State Opening of Parliament. Nobody does pomp and circumstance like the Brits. (I would love to have that Black Rod job, banging on the door and inviting the House of Commons into the House of Lords.)
  3. The Friendly Toast in Kendall Square. Meeting up with a couple friends there after work. They have a whole drink menu with concoctions named after Hitchcock films! They also serve breakfast all day long. Who doesn't love "all day breakfast"?
  4. Having an electronic organizer again. I finally replaced my dead Palm Pilot with an iPod Touch. I don't really understand how to use it yet, and I am sure that I could benefit from some "aps", but, for now, it does what I want (well, except for Bluetooth syncing with my laptop, grrr.) The reminder alerts are key.
  5. Series 2 of Lark Rise to Candleford, which I just finished on dvd. I tried to make it last longer by only watching one episode at a time, but I couldn't do it. I can't wait for series 3!! It is like Cranford with more delightful characters and a lot more episodes. Plus, the costumes that Julia Sawalha wears are simply gorgeous! Beautiful costumes are "my one weakness".
  6. Saturdays. I had become a bit of a "weekend hermit", so one of my goals for 2010 was to make sure that I had something to do with a friend for a significant portion of the day on Saturday, preferably out of the house. So far, so good, and SO FUN!!
  7. You are now able to shop on the Vera Bradley website! I was able to buy the bag I wanted to complete my travel luggage in Frankly Scarlet, my discontinued pattern! Can't wait to use it on a weekend away. (I used to be very anti-Vera Bradley back in the day, but now I totally love it. There is nothing like having a cheerfully colored bag.)

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

This past weekend, I headed out to the Home Depot, where I picked up some herbs for this year's "Urban Herb Garden" that lives on the balcony outside my bedroom widow in a collection of flower boxes. The HD was having a big plant sale with huge racks of plants set up in the parking lot; there were a lot of wonderful things to choose from. Fortunately for my bank account, I didn't have a shopping cart so I was restricted to buying only what I could carry in my hands.

This year's garden includes sage (one plant came back from last year and I augmented with some new plants), basil, rosemary (grown over the winter from clippings from last year's plant), chives, dill and parsley. The last two I am attempting to grow from seed. We will see how that goes. The weather here has been really quite good, a proper spring, so I am hopeful that the seeds will sprout soon. The plants smell wonderful, and the nice breeze that we had earlier in the week carried their scent into my room as I sat reading on Sunday afternoon.

I also filled a separate flower box with seeds for wildflowers, and a whole bunch of them are starting to grow, mostly nasturtiums and cornflowers, but also some that I haven't been able to identify yet. I am hoping that the flowers will attract some bees this year. Bees are a good thing in a garden.

There is something so uplifting about having the herbs right outside my window. Of course, I look forward to using them in cooking over the summer, but it is just nice to watch them grow. Even though I love living in the city, sometimes I really miss having a proper outdoor space. My little Urban Herb Garden is my microcosm of suburban bliss.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

This Old House

I am completely obsessed with houses, probably because I live in a flat, although my love for houses, especially old houses with great lines to them, started long before I "went condo". There are some wonderful old houses in New England to fuel my imagination: living in my own house (with a yard. and a garden. and a window seat in the living room.) So when I am out and about I like to take photos of cool architectural details on people's houses in the hopes that some day I will have a cool house of my own, with lots of neat little details and nooks and crannies (and yet still with central heating and cooling.)

These are some great houses I saw last weekend in Providence.

Architectural detail Architectural detail
Architectural detail Architectural detail

Monday, May 17, 2010

The City on a Hill

I spent most of Saturday walking around Providence, RI with my book club looking for things related to Roger Williams, a key figure in our most recent read: The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell. We started out with a nice lunch at The Duck and Bunny, walked up College Hill to Brown, down to Prospect Hill Park and the Roger Williams' National Memorial, along North Main Street past RISD to Waterplace Park before heading back to the Duck and Bunny and driving home. It was a beautiful day to be outside, and I took a load of photos of Providence.

I loved this book, but mostly I loved using it as a launching pad for improvements I would love to make to the teaching of history in the American school system. Personally, I would love to not teach history until the fourth or fifth grade and then start teaching it in conjunction with geography, literature, and music so students could see how things link together giving a broader scope of world history. Dates are important, but it is better to understand that Charles II was a contemporary of Louis XIV, and this was in the time leading up to the Salem Witch Trials. Before really studying history, the kids could learn basic social studies, state capitals, the US Presidents, and the Constitution.

Too many people in this day and age use pop culture, in particular TV and movies, to teach them history, when, in many cases, the episode or film has changed historical facts to make the story more interesting. (I am looking at you, Shekhar Kapur.) Case in point: I was sitting in a Renaissance England history class once in college, and the professor asked the class about the motivation of Henry V to invade France during the Hundred Years' War. Now, I will be honest, I didn't do the reading so I didn't know the answer, but I wasn't the only one who hadn't because no one was raising their hand. When one brave soul finally did, his hesitant answer killed me: "Because the dauphin sent him tennis balls?" The professor lost it and gave a good ten minute talk about why Shakespeare was not to be relied upon for historical facts.

I learned quite a bit from Vowell, in particular, the ideological dichotomy between the Plymouth Puritans and the Massachusetts Bay colonists, but even further, the nature of the differences that drove Williams, and later Anne Hutchinson, from the colony. The fact that she explains all of this with her sardonic wit and tongue-in-cheek style made for interesting reading. I also liked that even though she was clearly frustrated with the overall attitudes and behavior of these historical figures, she made them human and accessible. She even had me cheering for that crazy Roger Williams at one point! The only general criticism of the book was that the book wasn't broken down into chapters, and I would have liked an index too. A couple members of the club ended up getting the audio book as they found Vowell's style better suited to listening than to reading.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

Mother's Day was yesterday, and I went down to CT to visit my family and celebrate my mom with my dad and Sister K. Rather than sending her flowers this year, I made her a floral arrangement of tulips and peonies. I thought it turned out really nice, lots of bright pinks and yellow, and she really liked it. We spent a fun day of family togetherness: going to church, out to brunch, and then watching Seabiscuit at Sister K's place. It was a lot of fun, and I was sad to go, but I will go back again soon enough.

Mother's Day has been bittersweet in our family since the passing of my brother, and I received several notes from friends who were thinking of me this weekend. It reminds me, even though I am away from my nuclear family, that I have a really great urban family looking out for me here in Boston.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Derby Day

On Saturday afternoon (after spending the morning running errands), I met up with several friends for oysters and to watch the Kentucky Derby at Dante in Cambridge. It was a beautiful day so we sat out on the patio; however, we were saddened because all of the oysters were already eaten! (I felt like the Walrus and the Carpenter.)

We had just decided to leave in search of oysters, but before we could, we were approached by a man who was setting up an informal bet on the race. He had cut out the names of all of the horses from the newspaper, and for $5 you got to pick a horse's name out of an envelope. That was your horse for the race. If your horse won, you got $50; if it placed, $30; and if it showed, $20. Nothing was kept by the "house"; he said it was just to make the race a little more fun.

When I first heard this pitch, I was a little dubious, but "Miss Post" handed him the money without reservation. After some initial trading amongst ourselves, we each were settled with our horse. (Mine was Noble's Promise.) By the point that all of the horses/chances were sold, a good size group was gathered around the bar by the television and started comparing horses and exchanging pleasantries, which is unusual in buttoned-up Boston. The man running the game really got people pumped up for the race (this guy would really made a great game show host), and next thing you knew, everyone was cheering as the horses burst out of the gate, tearing up the sloppy course at high speed.

My horse was in the top three coming out of the gate as was D's, but both soon fell behind. Into the final stretch however, Miss Post's horse, Super Saver, pulled ahead and ended up coming in FIRST PLACE!! HURRAH!!! Fifty smackers!! To celebrate the victory, we bought a round of mint juleps, and E got some goggles just like the jockeys wear. Where these goggles came from, I don't know. At that point, I was so excited that she won that I didn't ask. (Later on though, I considered that the game show host was some kind of promoter, but that could just be the skeptical New Englander in me talking.)

Before he left, our host asked that next year we pay it forward. Wherever we are on Derby Day, cut out the names of the horses, put them in an envelope, and sell chances for $5. I think that I am going to to that. It really did make the race and the afternoon that much more fun!


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