Category Archives: friends

On Letter-Writing, II

2014 yielded 4 inches of letters.

2014 yielded 4 inches of letters.

A year ago, I read Simon Garfield’s book To the Letter and Lewis Carroll’s “Eight or Nine Wise Words On Letter-Writing” and was inspired to start writing letters again. Luckily, I had four equally dedicated correspondents, plus a few friends who send postcards when they travel (and sometimes even when they stay home).

Reading and writing so many letters this past year has been a pleasure, and it’s an activity I plan to continue this coming year. Letters are a different quality of communication compared to e-mail, talking on the phone, or social media; they’re a little more organized, a lot more thoughtful, and they have more personality. I’ve loved recognizing friends’ handwriting on envelopes when I pick up the mail, seeing what stamps they chose, what kind of paper and ink. I’ve sent and received beautiful and unique cards and postcards, and I’ve learned about more facets of my friends’ lives than I would have in any other way.

To my letter-writing friends, thank you. Here’s to 2015.

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Grown-Ups Night at the Boston Children’s Museum

Grown-Ups Night at the Boston Children’s Museum was a ton of fun. It was crowded with the inner children of mostly 20- or 30-something “grown-ups.” We played with golf balls and bubbles, saw animals, played with shapes, and climbed up and down the giant climby-toy. Why aren’t there playgrounds for grown-ups?

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How many ways can you move like a turtle?

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Handwriting Etch-A-Sketches in the kindergarten room

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Three-story awesome fun play climbing structure

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Boston skyline at night

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North African stew (adapted)

At our December book club meeting, our lovely hostess made a delicious North African stew. She had adapted the recipe from Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser (the original calls for lamb). She kindly sent out her adapted recipe, which I then adapted further, but not much. The ingredients and directions are below, with my adjustments in brackets.

2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic
2 medium onions, diced [1 onion]
2 medium turnips, peeled and diced (1/2 inch-ish cubes) [couldn’t find turnips, used parsnips instead]
2 medium Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced (1/2 inch-ish cubes) [1 potato]
4 carrots, peeled and diced
[2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and diced]
2/3 cup dried apricots
2/3 cup prunes
4-6 cups water or vegetable broth
Optional: chickpeas

[Note: Because everything is added more or less at once, it is handy to do the vegetable prep work beforehand, so everything is ready to go once you start melting the butter.]

Melt butter in large dutch oven. Add the onions, sauté 5-7 minutes. Add oil, salt, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, garlic. Stir for 30 seconds. Add vegetables and dried fruit. Pour in enough broth/water to cover the vegetables and bring to a boil. Lower the heat so the bubbles are sparse and languid; cover and simmer gently for 2 hours, or until tender. Some of the vegetables and fruits should have blended into a thin but flavorful sauce. Serve with hearty bread, couscous or rice pilaf. [I made Irish soda bread from the America’s Test Kitchen recipe. Yum.]

[Note: This serves at least 8. It also keeps well in the fridge for a few days.]

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French Macaroons at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts

Two friends joined together to get us a fantastic wedding gift: a gift certificate to the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. We chose a class on French macarons (and other pastries), and this was the result:

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Well: part of the result. There were about ten of us in the class, and each pair or group made two recipes: macarons, and some other kind of French cookie (Ben and I made Linzer cookies; other pairs made Madeleines, “cigarettes,” almond cookies, and a couple other kinds).

Each recipe made a huge batch, so every person got a bakery box full to take home.  We gave some to neighbors, brought some to our respective workplaces, and still struggled to finish them all. (We did finish them all though. It would be a crime to let all that sugar and butter and flour go to waste.)

We haven’t yet “tried this at home,” so to speak, but December is just around the corner, and December means cookie swap time.

Anyway, it was a fantastic evening and a wonderful gift!

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Opening Day at King Richard’s Faire

As much as it kills me to spell “Faire” with that “e” on the end…

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…we spent a day at King Richard’s Faire in Carver, MA, and it was great. It would not have occurred to me to go on my own, but it turns out the husband is kind of a fan of Renaissance Fairs (though he didn’t dress up), and since we couldn’t get down to any of the big ones in PA this summer, he allowed that this was a decent substitute.

To my surprise, everything was set up in a forest rather than an open field, so we were able to be in the shade for most of the day. Also, the first person we met when we entered was a tall man who walked around with a pewter tankard on his head. He had superb balance – we saw him later in the day and it was still there (and he wasn’t using velcro, and we never saw him spill).

It was my first-ever Renaissance Fair and I enjoyed it. Because look:

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Jousting! For real! Well, not really for real, but there were knights (guys) in armor on horses, so even if the outcome was rigged and the falls were staged, it was still pretty cool to see.

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You don’t see this every day. Unless you’re in the habit of watching A Knight’s Tale on a daily basis.

In addition to the knights, there was a parade (including a girl on a pony with a unicorn horn affixed to its forehead, or as my friend said, “The happiest girl in the entire world”), games, people in costumes, turkey legs and mead for sale, bawdy wenches (seriously, don’t make eye contact unless you want to become part of the performance), a sad magician, and an impressive balancing act.

Oh! And baby tigers.

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Because why? Who knows! But when there are baby tigers, the “why” is less important that the “awww.” And the awe.

Here’s one about the pummel the other:

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So that was our day at the fair. It was a nice adventure, even if we didn’t see these guys or this guy.

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When September Ends

…and you realize that you haven’t written a single blog post all month…then it is time to summarize. Or, in the immortal words of Inigo Montoya, “sum up” (“Let me ‘splain. [Pause] No, there is too much. Let me sum up”).

I made oatmeal-apricot scones (twice, they were that good).

Saw some pretty snapdragons outside Cafe 1369 in Inman Square.

Took a ferry out to Spectacle Island and swam in the very, very cold water of the Boston Harbor.

View of Boston from the ferry on the way to Spectacle.

The beach was a little rocky. Someone took advantage of this to sculpt a mouse. (Sand mouse: it rocks.)

We had to take a closer look at the Duck House when we got back to Boston. Does it have the same connotation as being in the doghouse? Are the ducks in trouble?

Also, after eleven years of listening to the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, I finally saw them live…

…at Fenway.

And they were totally amazing and awesome and lived up to all my wildest expectations. They were followed by the Dropkick Murphys:

Who were also good, but who were not so mighty as the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.

We had a housewarming party, at which a guest made “chocolate death cake.” (It was amazing. And there was extra mousse.)

Made these peach muffins from a recipe in Good to the Grain. They were supposed to be ginger-peach, but I didn’t have any ginger. They were delicious nevertheless.

Apparently, if you turn the muffins sideways in their cups (see above) after you take them out of the oven, they cool without getting soggy? I’m not sure this made a huge difference. However, I would definitely agree with the “best when fresh” advice in the recipe; they do keep all right for a few days, but they are the opposite of lasagna (which is tastier a day or two or three after it is first baked than it is when it is fresh out of the oven).

Played at Mixed New England Sectionals. We came in second in our division! And had beautiful weather both days.

Post-frisbee, we added some additional illustrations to this pre-printed paper placemat.

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print. When I’m not reading or studying or writing for one of my three classes this semester (my last semester!), or playing frisbee, or cooking, or sleeping, I’m posting more often on my “professional” site (mostly library-related, fewer tirades against cable companies) and on Things I Put In My Container Today (fun for us, odd for you). I’m also keeping track of my reading on Goodreads; it’s mostly teen fiction right now because of my young adult literature class, but if you’re interested, I usually post reviews there. Finally, I am looking for a job! So if you know of any library jobs in the greater Boston area, let me know.

What I’m reading: Shatter Me, Tahereh Mafi
What I’ve been listening to: the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Barenaked Ladies, Motion City Soundtrack, Black Lab, Nick Cave, Eluvium

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Ducks on the Charles

Wasn’t I just wondering where July went? I have a feeling I’m about to be wondering where August went. We’ve been traveling a lot, and we moved last month, etc. etc. etc.

For those in the Boston area, did you know they do free movie screenings at the Hatch Shell every Friday night in the summer? We went last Friday and saw Tangled, the Disney version of Rapunzel. (Strange: Disney did all those other classic fairy tales – The Little Mermaid, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty – but never Rapunzel. Or Rumpelstiltskin. Or Hansel and Gretel. Okay, I guess they didn’t do them all.) Tangled, anyway, was better than I expected (despite taking extreme liberties, bordering on blatant falsification, in their representation of equine behavior), pretty funny, and worth seeing.

Also, the weather was pleasant, and we had a picnic and friends to share blankets with. And we got to see ducks on the Charles River!

What I’ve been reading: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle
What I’ve been listening to: Question the Answers, Mighty Mighty Bosstones; Stripped, The Rolling Stones

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