Tuesday, December 27, 2011

"There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays"*

M & D's wreath

After a lot of drama on Friday baking five dozen cookies/cookie bars (not including the two batches of dough that I had to throw away), I headed to my parents for Christmas Eve/Christmas/Boxing Day. And it was a lovely time spent catching up with family, eating delicious meals, going to the movies (We Bought A Zoo - cute!), and sitting in front of the fire. I hope that yours was equally enjoyable. (Although, I think that I am getting a post-holiday illness: URGH! Hopefully a good night's sleep will stop it in its tracks.)

*I am rather partial to the Perry Como version of this holiday tune

Monday, December 19, 2011

NPR's Holiday Favorites

It isn't really Christmas until you listen to writer David Sedaris recount his experience as a Christmas Elf at Macy's. My favorite part? Where he sings "Away in a Manager" in the style of Billie Holiday. The first time I heard that, I was in the car and nearly swerved off the road.

"I Stand Outside this Woman's Work" *

There is nothing quite so wonderful as a wintery Sunday, visiting with friends,

sitting by a fire,
Roaring fire

snuggling with a baby.

A big shout out to PunkRockMom, CG, and the Niblet on the arrival of the Sprout!! Yay!

*lyrics by Kate Bush, This Woman's Work (one of PunkRockMom and my favorites!)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"Catch me when you Can Mishter Lusk."*

So I have been playing catch up with my DVR and just finished watching the first series of "Whitechapel", starring Rupert Penry-Jones, Phillip "Shake me up, Judy" Davis, Steve Pemberton, and Alex Jennings. Really enjoyed this first series and am about to start watching the second one, although the reviews I have read on line say that the second one isn't as good as the first.

I have always been drawn to the mystery of Jack the Ripper, although at the same time it scares me to death. There is something about the combination of the seedy underbelly of Victorian London and unsolved serial killings that just is so tantalizingly awful. What's not to love about a century year old conspiracy theory, especially one involving the Masons and the Royal Family, including Queen Victoria herself!?!

I have watching a number of Jack the Ripper films and read several books on the subject, although I had to stop reading Patricia Cornwall's Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper—Case Closed and actually physically remove the book from my house because it was creeping me out. Shiver. I really liked both the graphic novel From Hell and its film adaptation, but I can totally understand why author Alan Moore was upset by the film and chose to distance himself from it. (They are two very different things.) I really liked the original take on the Ripper "murders" that they took in "Whitechapel" and am looking forward to watching the second series.

*from the infamous Jack the Ripper "From Hell" letter

Monday, December 12, 2011

"On Christmas night all Christians sing To hear the news the angels bring"*

Image from Tom Smith website
If you are an Anglophile like me, you are probably already familiar with the British tradition of Christmas Crackers at this time of year.

The famous Aunties introduced our family to crackers about 15 years ago. (There are some hilarious photos of us in the crowns that year. Those photos will NOT be making an appearance here. You now know that they exist; that's enough.) We couldn't figure out that year how to make them "crack" properly. (What we didn't know was that you aren't supposed to pull the cracker apart on your own; we have since realized that you are supposed to do that with a partner.)

I had been buying crackers for holiday festivities at my apartment at the Christmas Tree Shops ("don't you just love a bargain?"), but the crackers I got there were filled with this confetti that, no matter how many times I swept or vacuumed, would still turn up months later. I was looking for something a little less confetti-y. I had read somewhere (Twitter, maybe?) that you can often get really nice quality crackers at TJMaxx. I stopped by the one in my neighborhood the other night after work and was simply delighted when I found some gorgeous Tom Smith crackers. (Tom Smith holds the Royal Warrant from the Queen and makes the royal family's crackers.) I got a box in silver and also got some with a holly pattern. (It was a dozen for $10, which I thought was a very reasonable price.) I am going to try to go back and get one more box to bring home to share with the family on Christmas day.

* Lyrics from The Sussex Carol

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"Don't Leave Me Hanging on the Telephone"*

Image from Apple.com
I had been hemming and hawing for a while now about replacing my old cellphone and making a switch to either an iPhone or an Android. So after my old Motorola Krazr crashed three times during a work event after I purposefully charged it overnight, I finally gave my old phone the heave-ho and picked up an iPhone 4 this past weekend. It is black and shiny, and I got it a cute case with travel labels on it (London!).

I picked the 4 over the 4S because of the battery problems reported with the 4S; I have had enough of those for the foreseeable future! I went with AT&T because I could use it in Europe, for all the European traveling I do. ;-) Actually, I went with AT&T because our office tech support, who is hooked on all things Apple, recommended that. (And I was glad I went there because the salesman was really nice, knowledgeable, and helpful. Thanks, Mike, in Chestnut Hill!!) So far, things are going well with it! ::knock on wood:: If you think that there are an apps that I should add to my phone, please let me know!


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Good-night, sweet ladies; good-night, good-night." *

Just saw this photo on Entertainment Weekly's website in a "First Look" at the new film Effie about Euphemia Gray Ruskin Millais, the child bride of Victorian art critic John Ruskin, who left her husband for Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais. Dakota Fanning plays Effie, Greg Wise plays Ruskin, and Tom Sturridge is playing Millais. (Lots of other Brits like Julie Walters, Derek Jacobi, and the awesome Emma Thompson!)

Doesn't Fanning look like she could be the model for Millais' famous painting of Ophelia? (Even though the model was actually the beautiful and tragic Elizabeth Siddal, who would marry Millais' fellow Pre-Raphaelite, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Also, she caught pneumonia from lying in bathwater while modeling for the painting. True fact.)

This reminds me that I still need to watch "Desperate Romantics"! And with that, I am off to bed!

*Ophelia, Hamlet, IV.v, William Shakespeare


One hundred thirty-seven years ago today, the Right Honourable Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill KG OM CH TD PC DL FRS was born. I like to invoke one of Churchill's WWII catchphrases, "KBO" ("Keep Buggering On"), whenever things start to get tough.

The last time I was in London, I visited the Churchill Cabinet War Rooms for the first time. I loved that museum; I learned SO much about both Churchill and the war. It gave you a real feel for what Churchill's HQ was like during WWII, the most chilling part being the sounding of the air raid siren. I remember remarking to Je Gilde as we left that London during the Blitz seemed like New York during 9/11 - every day for eight months! I definitely want to go back to the museum the next time I go to England... which is a subject for another day...

I am also a fan of FDR, so I put together this little inspirational graphic (from images I'd found on the internet) to leave on my desktop when times are particularly frustrating at work. It actually helps keep me going (and keep things in perspective too.)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Encounters with Nature (and Dinner)

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day. On "Black Friday", Sisters K & B and I went for a long walk in Sister B's new neighborhood, where we encountered this fellow. I think that he knew what we had done to one of his brethren the day before; he was giving us "the eye". (Actually, he GOBBLED at us. It was both hilarious and a bit frightening. I'll be honest: I was taking picture after picture, but I was ready to flee if he came after me.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid / Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire"*

We had some really unseasonably warm weather this November, and, on one warm Sunday earlier in the month, I took my camera for a walk through Mt. Auburn Cemetery. When I was a kid, after church on Sundays, my dad would sometimes take us for a drive through the old cemetery in our town, and we would try to find the oldest grave marker. It would get us thinking about what life would have been like for that person: were they born in America or were they immigrants? were they alive during the Civil War? during the American War for Independence?

Because of that, I never think of graveyards as spooky, well, at least not until it starts getting dark...I think I spotted a number of those Weeping Angels from "Doctor Who" on my walk.... EEK!

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Mount Auburn Cemetery

*Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, Thomas Gray
The full stanza reads: "Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid / Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;/ Hands that the rod of empire might have swayed, / Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The One Where I Impart Some of My (Limited) Cooking Talent

It should come as no surprise to anyone reading this blog that I am not what you'd call "culinarily inclined". I don't particularly enjoy cooking. I do enjoy eating good food and do enjoy sitting in the kitchen, drinking wine, keeping other people company while they are cooking. If something is easy, I don't mind doing it, but I am much better at mixing cocktails and pulling together a tasty compliment of hors d'oeuvres than whipping up a meal. (My true calling is in ordering good food; hence my profession in event planning.)

When I was in high school, we had a really tough chemistry teacher who used to set an assignment every year that the students would have to make fudge (as in chocolate fudge) at home, write up a report of their observations while making it, and then submit both for a grade. Now the point of this was to observe boiling point, pressure, and a bunch of other things I don't remember.

One of the warnings she gave was not to make the fudge on a rainy or overcast day. The assignment was set in the winter. In New England. Fine days were hard to come by. Even with the help of my mother, I made three terribly grainy batches of fudge, but I DID observe how the boiling point was affected by the lower pressure. While I knew that my paper would be okay, I knew that if I turned in a bad batch of fudge, my grade was going to get hammered, and this teacher was very reluctant to give high grades.

Our Latin teacher, who was a caterer on the side and who knew that we were all having a difficult time in chemistry, gave those of us in Latin III a sure fire fudge recipe that didn't involve boiling sugar. It is SUPER EASY and DELICIOUS, and I am passing this recipe on to you today. I just made some to bring to Sister K's for Thanksgiving.
Mr. McCreesh's Super Easy Fudge
  • 2 cups of chocolate chips (or 1 cup chocolate chips and 1 cup of peanut butter chips)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla (I omit when using chocolate AND peanut butter chips)
  • 1 can of sweetened condensed milk (I made this with the light kind recently, and I didn't notice a difference in the taste.)
  • 1 brownie pan, greased (you can use butter or non-stick cooking spray - guess which one tastes better?)
Heat the condensed milk in a double boiler until it is really runny. (I don't have a double boiler so I use a metal bowl fitted into a pan of boiling water. Same difference.) Stir in tthe 2 cups of chips until they are fully melted into the condensed milk and the mixture starts to thicken. Quickly transfer the soft fudge into the brownie pan and spread it out in the pan to set. You can top the fudge with decorative whole nuts or you can add chopped nuts to the mixture itself. (I prefer it plain.)
(This time, I pre-lined my pan with aluminum foil for easy traveling, but it made things a bit messy. I wouldn't do that again.)

I think that my project got a "B" from the really tough teacher. From my dad, it got an "A++". I think that he will be pleased when he sees that I made this for him!

Monday, November 7, 2011

"People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people. "*

As a bit of a precursor to Guy Fawkes' Day, on Friday, the Fourth of November, the 'Tute got a visit from the character V from the graphic novel V for Vendetta. It was rather all a bit "meta" as V spent most of the day reading that very same graphic novel. (I have to be honest, I actually took a lot of geeky delight in seeing V down the hall every time I popped out the office. Hee hee!)

MIT Hack: "V for Vendetta" Guy Fawkes' Day hack MIT Hack: "V for Vendetta" Guy Fawkes' Day hack

*V for Vendetta

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"A strange twilight world opened up before me, and I felt as the first man to set foot on another planet, an intruder in this mystic garden of the deep."*

For many years now, I have totally been in love with the Steampunk aesthetic, although I am not "steam punk" myself. ("Victorian England + technology = what's not to love?" as far as I am concerned.) It has popped up in recent films like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Golden Compass, and Sherlock Holmes, and it looks like the new film Hugo (an adaptation of the great book The Invention of Hugo Cabret) has a Steampunk element to it. Of course, one of my favorite tv shows, "Doctor Who", has a Steampunk vibe, especially the last two series, and ScyFy's "Warehouse 13" has had a lot of Steampunk references since H.G. Wells returned the the Warehouse.

It has been really great seeing Steampunk getting more coverage. There was a great episode of Boston's "Chronicle" about Steampunk back in the spring. In the last few months, I have seen at least three separate television bits covering Steampunk: one on PBS, one on IFC (again, on Steampunk in Boston!), and, most recently, on "CBS Sunday Morning" (which, despite what some of my friends say, isn't just for old people).

Watch Off Book: Steampunk on PBS. See more from PBS.

*20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (whose works are a big influence on Steampunk)

Monday, October 31, 2011

"If you don't like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes."*

I was visiting my family down in Connecticut this weekend for what I thought was going to be a weekend of leaf peeping, photography, and apple cider drinking. Instead, there was a blizzard which dumped close to a foot of heavy, wet snow, pulling down trees and power lines.

The snow began at 11:00am on Saturday. After the power flickered off and on again several times, my parents lost power for good at 4:15pm. I started a fire in their fireplace at 5:00pm when we finally agreed that the power was off for the duration. This is the view of the backyard during the storm. (Please note the dogwood tree in the lower left-hand corner which is doing an impersonation of a shrub.)
During the storm
This birch tree bended closer and closer to the house until it was leaning on the roof.
During the storm

All night long, the silence outside was interrupted by loud CRACKS, which were branches breaking off of the overburdened trees. It sounded like gunshots! The next morning, I went out to take some photos of the yard post-storm. (This is the pretty part.)
After the storm
After the storm

THIS is what was waiting for us at the end of the driveway. I didn't see how we were going to get out.
After the storm
After the storm

As the day progressed, the sun came out, and the snow started to melt. The house was okay, but the dogwood trees didn't make it. My parents lost a lot of trees in and around the yard.
After the storm

Some kind neighbors (with chain saws) chopped back some of the limbs to create a path around the fallen tree and wires so I was able to drive home to Boston, and my parents could drive to Sister K's where there was power, and more importantly, heat! It could be a week until my parents get their power back.
After the storm
Between storms Irene and Alfred and all the snow at the start of 2011, this has not been a good year for weather in the state of Connnecticut. Hang in there, everyone, and stay warm!

*Mark Twain, himself a CT resident had a lot to say about New England weather

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Can you fly this plane and land it?" "Surely you can't be serious." "I am serious... and don't call me Shirley."*

So the new tv show that I am hooked on is "Pan Am". It is the PERFECT kind of television program for a Sunday night. (Unfortunately, it is on at the same time as "Masterpiece", so I have to DVR it and watch it on Monday, but it is still good on Monday.) "Pan Am" takes you back to a time when air travel was actually something that people dressed up for and enjoyed, rather than strip for and endure, like we do nowadays.
I wouldn't want to be a flight attendant in this day and age, but these ladies sure make their job look glamorous (well, except for that drunk who hit on Christina Ricci), AND they get to fly all over the globe! And have cool clothes and fancy cars and drink cocktails in Paris and champagne in Monaco! (Yes, I am sure in reality it wasn't quite as fabulous, but that is why this show is on ABC on Sunday night and not on HBO on Friday night.)

The most fabulous time that I ever had on a plane happened when JR and I were stuck in London due to a massive Nor'Easter and all the flights into the East Coast were canceled. I HAD to be back for work event and spent hours on the phone with Virgin Atlantic trying to get us back into the US. (Travel Rule #1 from Auntie N who worked in reservations at American Airlines for many years: if your flight is canceled, even if you are AT the airport, get on the phone to the airline. Do not wait in line to deal with the people at the desk. Even if you are put on hold, you will get to a reservations person much faster if you call.)

We finally got re-booked onto the airline's first flight into Boston the next afternoon, and JR and I got to Heathrow SUPER early to make sure that we were on that plane. (Four hours early. I spent a LOT of money in the duty free terminal, mostly on Cadbury, but I digress.) As our flight started to board, we were pulled from the line by the gate agent, and the two of us exchanged looks of despair. We thought we were being bumped from the flight!! But my hours on the phone being nice (albeit somewhat desperate) to the reservations people provided us with an unexpected bonus: we were bumped up to business class!!! FANCY!!

We got to sit on the upper level of the plane in bulkhead seats with all the legroom in the world AND got free champagne AND sat across from the flight attendant who became our chatty friend for the flight (and who looked like Jude Law, a gay Jude Law, but Jude Law all the same.) JR listened to her (fancy new) iPod, and I read The Eyre Affair. It was awesome! Best flight ever!!

This is me being goofy in business class (you can see where they changed my seat assignment on the ticket).

*from Airplane

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Movie Night

For the last four years, I have hosted an annual Alfred Hitchcock Memorial Film Festival. It started out as something serious, but it developed into something more irreverent. Friends come over, and we watch two Hitchock films back to back. There ends up being A LOT of running commentary ala "Mystery Science Theater 3000" so we end up watching the movies with the subtitles on. At one point, we started writing down the funniest of the astute observations because, well, they were pretty funny. (For example, have you ever noticed how high-waisted Cary Grant's trousers are in Hitchcock films? You will now. And after a couple of G&Ts, you will find that hilarious.)

This year's theme revolved around Hitchcock's work with legendary Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman. We started off watching Spellbound and were then going to segue over to Notorious (also known as "No-No-Notorious" for you Duran Duran fans), but that didn't end up happening because we ended up talking about other stuff.

ANYHOW, Spellbound is the story of a woman psychiatrist (Bergman) who protects an amnesia patient (Gregory Peck) accused of murder while attempting to recover his memory. There is some really cool imagery in the film, in particular a dream sequence that was designed by surrealist Salvadore Dali. This film has some seriously hilarious moments, mostly unintentional, like the romantic way Bergman accepts a liverwurst sandwich and when the psychiatrist who is her mentor declares that "Freud is hooey". I particularly liked when Gregory Peck says that he has "never been to Rome." I countered that with "How about that one time on a Vespa with Audrey Hepburn?". (I thought it was funny. Maybe you had to be there.)

While this film isn't one of Hitch's best, it was entertaining. (I wasn't surprised to learn that Michael Chekov, who played the mentor, was nominated for a Supporting Actor Oscar - he was the best part of the film.) I still need to watch No-No-Notorious. If you want to see the Dali dream sequence, you can watch it over on Turner Classic Movies website.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Nothing like an Autumn Day in the Northeast

When I was in elementary school, we used to sing a lot of seasonal tunes in music class. (I'd like to think that they still do that.) One of my favorites for this time of year went like this (yes, I still remember the words):
Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.
The first one said, "Oh my, it's getting late."
The second one said, "There are witches in the air."
The third one said, "We don't care."
The fourth one said, "Let's run and run and run."
The fifth one said, "I'm ready for some fun."
"Woo-ooo" went the wind
And out went the light
And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight.

Here are some pumpkins in a patch that I saw yesterday down in Chatham. (I wish it were a little more practical to have a pumpkin/jack o'lantern in my apartment in Boston.)

Pumpkin patch

First Congregational Church of Chatham Pumpkin patch

Pumpkin patch

Saturday, October 1, 2011

As far as pumpkin patches go, this one looked pretty sincere*

Even though I have worked at the 'Tute for the last eleven years, this was my first visit to the MIT Glass Lab's Great Glass Pumpkin Patch sale. So many cool, unique glass pieces. I picked up a couple as gifts and one for myself. Really great turnout this morning, even with the rain. (Glad that I wore my boots though; the lawn was extra soggy.) I wish I had gotten a few more photos in situ, but my hands were kind of full. :-)

Great Glass Pumpkin Patch at MIT

Great Glass Pumpkin Patch at MIT

Great Glass Pumpkin Patch at MIT

*If you are not familiar with this reference, you need to rent "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown". This is not optional: it's a classic.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, Rosie Lea"*

When I went off to college, back in the early 90s, the school sent out a list of suggested items for students to bring with them for their dorm rooms (along with a list of banned items: like hot plates or lamps with halogen bulbs). One of the items on the list was a "hot pot". My mom ended up getting me something she thought was better than a hot pot: an electric tea kettle. More importantly, it was a Russell Hobbs electric tea kettle. Now I was a little disappointed about this first year because 1. I wanted to have what everyone else had and 2. all it could do was boil water (you couldn't make macaroni and cheese in your room with an electric tea kettle.) So I made a lot of tea, hot chocolate, instant coffee, and Ramen noodles in a cup instead and had to go eat my macaroni and cheese in the dining hall. (This was a wise move in the long term.)

By junior year, I was really happy to have my electric tea kettle. I had a core group of friends; I felt a lot more comfortable with myself; and everyone liked tea and hot chocolate while watching tv. I had grown to love that little kettle and was actually really grateful to my mother for buying it for me. It had become essential to my college experience. After I graduated from college and Sister K was about to "go up", I handed down the trusty Russell Hobbs kettle to her. Sister K and her friends LOVED the kettle. They referred to it by the name "Russell Hobbs" and acted like it was their own mascot. When one unfortunate person, thinking it was a regular kettle, put Russell Hobbs on a stove top, his little plastic feet were melted off. After this incident, Russell was promoted for bravery under fire to "Lt. Colonel Russell Hobbs".

Lt. Colonel Russell Hobbs managed to survive to the end of Sister K's undergraduate career and on through Sister B's sophomore year, but sometime after that he went missing, presumed dead. We last heard that he was buried (with full honors) somewhere in the Connecticut River Valley. While K had Russell, I had bought a Russell Hobbs of my own, but he wasn't nearly as well made as his predecessor and ended up needing to be replaced a couple of years after purchase. (It was under warranty, so I got a replacement from Russell Hobbs, but then that replacement kettle died too.) I ended up switching brands and going with a Breville electric kettle, which has served me well for a number of years now (although the top is no longer permanently attached to the kettle, but that comes with a lot of use.).

At this point in life, I can't imagine NOT having an electric kettle in my house, and I have given them out as housewarming gifts to several friends. (They heat up fast and shut off when the water is boiled: what's not to love?) I was sad to read recently that Russell Hobbs products are no longer being made in Britain, but I will always remember that first little Russell Hobbs kettle fondly (Sister K does too).

*lyrics from "Have a Cuppa Tea" by The Kinks

Monday, September 19, 2011

"Take Me Out to the Ball Game"

On Friday, I went to my first Red Sox game at Fenway Park in 12 years. (As RECK pointed out several times during the course of the evening, I need to get out more.) I knew that there is more going on than just the game when you see it live. I had no idea just how much more was going on at the ball park. For example, they don't just walk around selling hot dogs and Cracker Jack, but beers and CLAM CHOWDAH in the stands!?! Who knew? Clearly not this girl.

There was so much going on around me that I had to remind myself to pay attention to the game. When a pop up fly cracked on the pavement 2 feet away from me, RECK looked right at me and said, "See why you need to be watching the game?" I was practically in her lap, trying to avoid getting clocked in the head! We laughed; we cheered; we sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and "Sweet Caroline". When "Shipping Up to Boston" started to play, signifying that Papelbon was coming out to close the game, RECK started jumping up and down in super fandom mode, and we were featured on the Jumbotron!

Thanks to JeGlide we had A-MAZING seats (you can tell how close we were from the photo - no zoom involved), and I had THE BEST time at the game. Definitely will be going to more games at Fenway in the future, although I cannot guarantee that I won't still curse the commute traffic as I head home from work on home game days.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11

Normally, I try not to dwell on things like this because I can get mired down thinking about them, but I wanted to jot down a couple of things as we mark this ten year anniversary of 9/11.

September 11, 2001 was a beautiful, sunny Tuesday, early in the fall semester, and I was busy getting ready for my first meeting event of the year, which was scheduled for later that week. I was the first one in the office, getting in around 8:30am.  I had been drinking coffee and checking email while messaging with JR when she said a colleague of hers just told her someone had flown a plane into the World Trade Center in New York.

Immediately, I opened up to Boston.com to see what was going on, and they had a headline with breaking news, but nothing else. That day was perhaps my frustrated day ever with the internet. No amount of "refreshing" would give me any more information. The same was true of CNN.com and the other news sites. And then the second plane hit the South Tower. It was evident that this wasn't someone flying their Cessna into the building (which I recalled had happened a couple years prior).  This was some BIG.TIME.WRONG.

By the time PunkRockMom got into the office around 9:15am, my frustration about the lack of information had reached a pinnacle.  We tried out the office radio, but couldn't pick up an AM/news channel. Just before 10am, she and I decided to go down to the lobby where there was a television to see what was on the news (the days before streaming on-line news.) We got there just in time to see the first tower fall.

After that, the day becomes a blur, trying to process what was happening in our country, including the crash into the Pentagon and in PA, while dealing with how the events of that morning impacted my job (all the back and forth communication resulted in the cancellation of the event, even before the planes were grounded.)  I vaguely remember going home after work and turning on the news and leaving the TV on for the rest of the night. There was so much to absorb, and there was an unreality to it all. The fact that the first plane had flown out of Boston was particularly disturbing.

The biggest thing I remember affecting me after 9/11 was the planes. We were used to hearing planes and helicopters from our spot here along the Charles, sort of ambient noise from the world, but the silence of the following week was eerie. When the military jets would fly by from Hanscom Air Force base, I would immediately tense up. Even after commercial flights were allowed back into US airspace, I would look up every time I heard a plane, just to make sure it wasn't aimed at a building. It took a good year or so before I stopped looking up. I didn't have to fly anywhere for the next six months, and, when I finally did fly out of Logan, I nearly broke down in tears at the check-in desk. I still go to the airport with a bit of trepidation, but I won't let it stop my from flying (especially to LHR).

9/11 is certainly a watershed in my life, in terms of the way that I think about the world, but it isn't the only watershed.  There are others; some more personal and some less. What I hope that what we take out of that day in September ten years ago is something positive rather than negative: a love of country, freedom, and each other, because what we were reminded of that day is that we are all in this together.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"I've been a wild rover for many a year And I spent all my money on whiskey & beer..."*

This time last year, I was touring around Ireland with Sister K. It was definitely a trip of a lifetime, and it was completely worth the early morning calls and hotel changes to see so much of the country in only ten days.
I have been thinking about that trip because 1. JR & RH are heading out today for their own trip to Ireland, and 2. the weather in Boston is doing a fairly accurate impersonation of the weather we had when we were in Dublin. (That is to say, it has been on the cold side and raining on and off for the last two days.)
I am a little jealous that they are getting to visit Ireland again, but I need to start thinking about my next big trip. Scotland, anyone? (I'd love to get Sister K to come with me, but we'd have to sort her out with the accent first!)

Photographs by Sister K (actually it is one panoramic photo by her, that I cropped into two photos)

* "And it's no, nay, never, No nay never no more,
    Will I play the wild rover No never no more."   The Wild Rover

Friday, August 26, 2011

"It's a tornado, it's a tornado going through the small town..."*

Email from my dad earlier today reads as follows:
Subject: Hurricane

Message: Do you have flashlights? Please forgive me..... Do you have a torch?
(The answer is, yes, I have several actually, as well as candles, and I stocked up at the grocery store earlier this week. I am also charging all devices tonight in readiness.)

Battening down the hatches (which in my case means bringing inside all of my window box plants) before the storm. Irene is supposed to hit at Sunday night/early Monday morning; I wonder if I will sleep through it. With any luck, by the time it gets to Massachusetts, it will be a tropical storm.

*line from Happy, Texas

Friday, August 19, 2011

All the cool kids are doing it...

So a couple of weeks ago, after reading about it on my Twitter feed, I signed up to get a Spotify account, and I can confidently say that I am LOVING it. I never got into Pandora Radio or Last FM because I wasn't interested in listening to referred music (even if it was based on music you indicated that you liked through some magical algorithm I can't begin to understand.) As I have said in other blog posts, my tastes in music are quite varied, and I have an extensive music collection to show for it. I can start the day listening to Muse, switch over an hour later to Dead Can Dance, play the soundtrack to Out of Africa during lunch, tune in to some late afternoon Katherine Jenkins, and crank the Smiths on the drive home.

The difference between Spotify and those other internet music services is that YOU pick the music you want to listen to from their extensive collection. The other day I listened to almost the entire New Order discography and looked up a bunch of old songs I loved in college. This is great for me because I tend to get random songs stuck in my head. Now, I can look them up, play the whole song, and be done with them. Or listen to them on repeat for an hour. The best part is that I don't have to commit to owning them to listen to the whole song (unlike with iTunes).

There are some great features on the player. You can tag favorite tracks to revisit, and you can create (or import) and save play lists that you can share with other Spotify members. This is great for me, because I LOVE LOVE LOVE making play lists (they are the mix tapes of the 21st century after all).

With a free account, there are ads, which isn't as annoying now that I am used to them, but at first their incongruousness made me nuts. You can also get a paid account, which has enhanced features, including the ability to listen on your mobile device or when you are offline. (Oh, the possibilities!)

If you have a Spotify account already, you can check out my top BritPop Anthems of the 1990s playlist that I created based on the list published in this week's Boston Phoenix and played on WFNX last night. And if you don't have Spotify, you might want to think about signing up. It makes me so happy to be able to find all these tunes in one place - for free!

(Okay, I just reread this entry before posting, and this totally reads like an infomercial. Sorry about that. I swear Spotify hasn't paid me for this endorsement; they earned it by have a killer product.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"Let's All Go to the Lobby... To Get Ourselves a Treat."*

Out of all of the appliances and gadgets in my kitchen, I think that the most beloved (and one of the most used) is my hot air popcorn popper. This Presto Air Popper has got to be at least 25 years old. (I think we got it shortly after Sister B was born, and it was to replace one that our family brought to our old vacation house.) Our family loves popcorn, and this popper got used all the time when we were growing up.

When microwave popcorn first came out, our mother was an early adopter, but we kids weren't all that impressed. I have tried to make the switch over to microwave, especially since there is more portion control, but I keep coming back to the air popper. (Bonus: the kernels are less expensive than microwave packets, and the spray butters have fewer calories and fat and still taste better than the stuff you get at most movie theaters.)

Brother B made the best popcorn - mostly because he wasn't in a rush to get it done and start eating it. He cared about the process. He would get out the popper and the stock pot we used to catch the popcorn. Then he would melt a whole stick of butter in the microwave. Halfway through the popping, he would distribute some of the butter on the popped corn and shake on salt. When the corn was done popping, he would add the rest of the butter and more salt. Then he would put the top on the stock pot and give it a really good shake to make sure that the butter and salt had gotten on ALL of the popcorn. Nobody could make it as well as he did, and, as we got older, we would bribe him to do it. (This includes my mother, who can never resist popcorn.)

When I make popcorn for movie nights at my house, I make it the same way, and it always makes me think of Brother B and smile. My friend MEM gave me a special pink popcorn bowl, which is what I use when I am making it just for myself. Which I did last night... and Monday night... and might just do tonight as well!

*"Delicious things to eat; The popcorn can't be beat."

Monday, August 15, 2011

"Sky rockets in flight..."*

I had a wonderful time this weekend visiting with Je Glide on Nantucket. After dinner on Saturday night, she, her new Beau, and I went for a walk down to Straight Wharf with the hopes of being able to catch a glimpse of the fireworks on Jetties Beach scheduled for that evening.


Our perch not only provided us with a great vantage point for watching the light show, but we also got to see some A-MAZING yachts under the full moon.

Moonlight on the Dock

After the fireworks were over, we applauded and started to walk back to the car. To my delight, the folks on the yachts added their "kudos" by honking their ships horns. To borrow a quote from Singing In the Rain: "It was good and loud."

*I apologize if you have "Afternoon Delight" stuck in your head after reading this. I had that problem the other day, and it wasn't pretty.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"I'm not hungry anymore; isn't it glorious?"*

When I was a kid, my mom would recommend that my siblings and I watch certain films (usually old films), and we wouldn't watch them because we were stubborn and contrary. (And KIDS!) But invariably one of us would be sick and end up a captive audience to mom's film suggestions, and that one sibling would LOVE the movie. Then we'd all end up watching it and would ALSO love it so much that we'd watch it ALL THE TIME. (I don't know how my mom stopped herself from saying "I told you so" but she did...for the most part.)

One of those films that mom thought we would all benefit from watching is Charade. Now if you've never seen the film Charade, what is wrong with you!?! I would suggest that you go to Netflix and put it at the very top of your queue because it is WONDERFULLY GOOD. These are some of the reasons it is so good: Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, mystery, stolen money, murder, imposters, romance, and suspense, set in Paris, with a score by Henry Mancini. (Those are all very good things as far as I am concerned.)

If you have seen the film, you know that stamps play a part in the story. When our family went on vacation to Paris back in 2000, one of the things that delighted us as we were walking around the city was spying a storefront with the front window filled with stamps at the Place de la Madeleine. The shop was closed so we couldn't go in, but instead we three sisters had our photo taken in front of it with these huge grins on our faces. A Frenchman passed by us and, shaking his head, muttered, "Americans". After he was out of earshot, we all started to laugh. We really didn't care because of our love for Charade and because we knew it was really silly anyhow.

And, if you can't do silly things while you are on vacation, you need to take better vacations!

*Old Audrey Hepburn films make life better, don't you think? They always put me in a good mood.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Peace of mind is:

• Having outstanding questions answered, even if the answer wasn't the one you were hoping for

• All the dinner pots and dishes cleaned up and put away before going to bed

• Listening to the pattering of rain on the air conditioner as you are falling asleep

"Out in the street there was violence..."*

Truly saddened by the ongoing violence occurring in Britain over the last few days. My heart and prayers go out to the people of my spiritual homeland. I hope that there will be a swift end to the riots and that no one else will be hurt.

Palace of Westminster

*lyric from Electric Avenue by Eddie Grant (about the 1981 Brixton riot)


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