Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A sign of the times

Yesterday when I went to get gas the guy who pumped it for me (this is NJ after all, where it's illegal to pump your own gas) came up to my window and said "Are you from Massachusetts?" (Yes, I still have MA plates...). I said, "Well, I was living there, I just haven't gotten around to getting NJ tags." He said, "Oh, I just got my Master's from UMass Amherst".

Maybe it's just being in Princeton where it feels like an above-average number of people are over-educated for what they're doing, but I think this isn't the only instance of someone being highly over-qualified for the job that they're doing.

Here's an interesting story related to this from NPR.

There have been many times that I've joked about moving back to MA and taking a job at Starbucks or Trader Joe's just to get the health insurance, but in reality, I think I would be pretty unhappy. I've always wanted to feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in what I do for a living, even if I don't want it to define who I am. When someone asks me "What do you do?" I don't want to have to answer "I'm a barista at Starbucks, but I have a Masters in Library Science" (Not that there's anything wrong with being a barista, it's just not what I want to do).

It's funny, right, how when people ask "What do you do?" that we always tend to answer with our job title or description: "I'm a librarian" or "I catalog images". I would love to start answering this question with "I play guitar sometimes", "I grow some of my own food", "I play mini-golf with my nephews", "I try to appreciate the little things in life".

So, my friends, What do you do?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Surf City Surprise

On Friday night I found out from my parents that my cousin Matt had invited us all down to the beach for the weekend. His company was renting a house there for a couple more weeks, but the project they were working on was finished, so he had access to an empty, beautiful 6-bedroom beach-front property. We all jumped on the chance for that, especially because the weather forecast was for the high 80s and sunny both days. My parents, brother, sister-in-law, 3 nephews, me and my cousin all got to hang out for about 24 hours of seaside fun.

This is the view from the deck of the house (not bad, huh?):

On Saturday morning before they left, Jill told me that the boys were all wearing their swimsuits and had goggles on, ready to go. Nathaniel was the one who spent the most time in the water, and that was just getting up to about his knees at the most. But if you notice here, he's still wearing his goggles:

I wasn't planning on getting very wet because the water was quite cold, but when Sebastian came up and said "I lost the blue boat in the water!" what was I supposed to do, but wade into the waves and get it? So, living up to my reputation as coolest Aunt ever, I rescued the boat while getting drenched. My pants were originally rolled up, but they unrolled while I was trying to catch the boat in the waves:

Emmy preferred just to watch the water and take everything in. He really enjoyed the feel of the sand in his hands and toes, and the lack of fellow beach goers meant that it was OK for him to throw the sand if he wanted to, which he did.

On Sunday morning I woke up to this amazing sunrise. This is the view from the deck:

Emmy is also an early bird and we had a nice time watching the sunrise together. We talked about the birds on the beach and the colors in the water and in the sky. It was such a lovely way to start the day.

Every town has its watertower:

Much of the morning was spent on the beach. Here are Mom and Dad taking a walk and enjoying the waves crashing:

Sebastian was a little under the weather, but still got out to enjoy the beach and he loved lounging on the deck and watching the water. He was living the high life here eating breakfast with my cousin Matt's sunglasses on:

We headed out for a great game of mini-golf around 10 am. John, Dad, Matt, Nathaniel and I all took turns actually playing the game while Sebastian and Emerson wandered around the course playing their own version of the game. Emmy got a hole in one every time by simply hitting the ball once and then picking it up and dropping it in the hole. He was thrilled with himself.

Here's Emmy, Matt, Me, Nathaniel, Sebastian and Dad after our game:

The only bummer was the the arcade wasn't open yet, so we didn't get to play any Skee-Ball. We did, however, stop for ice cream on the way out of town. It was such a lovely impromptu weekend at the beach. I'm already looking forward to our time in Cape May in August!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Front Porch Planting

One of the best features of my apartment is the little front porch. This spring, I'm taking advantage of it's copious amounts of sunshine to grow some plants. I took a personal day today and bought a rosemary plant, a tomato plant, a flower plant, a wall-mounted planter and some pots.

Patio tomato in the blue pot, rosemary in the orange pot and basil, chives and parsley in the metal planter (they'll be transplanted into bigger pots soon):

I also spent two hours at NTB waiting for my serpentine belt and oil to get changed and used that time (when not complaining about how f-ing long it was taking) to lay out my community garden plot. It's 10' x 10', so I'm hoping to be able to grow arugula, carrots, cucumbers, yellow squash, red and yellow bell peppers, sunflowers, tomatoes, bush beans and possibly pumpkins. The plots haven't been roto-tilled yet, so for now I have to be patient and just enjoy what I have growing on my front porch. I am SO happy it's spring.

When I got home from Boston the rhododendron near my front steps was in full bloom:

And these are some pansies that I planted a couple weeks ago:

Brunch, Music and Sunshine

On Sunday morning, Lee and I headed over to Mark and Christi's house in Roslindale with fruit salad and instruments in tow. Christa met us there and we proceeded to have a delicious meal of breakfast burritos, blueberry crumble, fruit salad and great conversation. After some catching up and enjoying our breakfast, we headed out to the front porch to enjoy the sunshine and a little bit of music.

I convinced Christa that she could learn a few chords on the ukulele that I brought. Here she is concentrating on a C chord:

And here she is mugging for the camera. This photo cracks me up so much.

Lee enjoying the warm sun with my little guitar:

And Mark showing off his banjo skills:

Mark and Christi were excellent hosts, as always.

After brunch I dropped Lee off at his place and headed back to Princeton. The worst part of these amazingly fun trips is when it's finally time for me to leave. I packed in so much good stuff on this trip and I already have plans to be back for a visit in July, if not sooner. Thanks to everyone I got to see for making it such a fun trip!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Home Fries, Shepard Fairey, Sweet Treats and Guitar Strings

On Saturday morning Matt and I met up and went to breakfast at the South Street Diner. We ended up grabbing two seats at the bar and had the best view of the grill. The guy running the grill was a master of his craft. The standout part of the whole meal was the side of home fries. They put a secret blend of spices on fried fresh potatoe wedges (not frozen) and they were wonderful. The folks next to us at the bar asked what was in the seasoning and one of the employees said "I'd have to kill my mother if she got her hands on that". And to further throw us all off, it's kept in a canister labeled "Cinnamon".

After our big breakfast of banana pancakes, french toast and home fries, we walked over to the Institute of Contemporary Art. Right at the front of the museum there is a collection of framed, reflective colored glass that is really fun to photograph.

Our main purpose for going to the museum was to see the Shepard Fairey exhibit that is up through August. He's the guy who did the famous Obama poster that's been in the news lately. The show was an expansive overview of his 20+ years of work. There were many rooms with different themes, but one of my favorite rooms had 3 HUGE murals, each on one wall, and then the 4th wall was full of framed posters from throughout his career. I enjoyed sitting on a bench and taking in all of the different posters. I couldn't take photos in the show, by they had this in the lobby of the museum:

We also took advantage of the museum's location on the waterfront to have a snack while looking out at the water. It was a bit chilly though, so we ended up heading back inside.

Lee picked us up at the museum and the three of us headed to Brookline to indulge in some cupcakes, do a little used book shopping and stop at Trader Joe's. We first stopped at the Japonaise Bakery and Cafe to try some of their sweet bean treats.

We were hoping for a donut, but since they were out we settled for this filled cake, which was delicious! The other one is a mellon flavored cake, which was also very good.

We moved on to the Boston Book Annex and were amused to see this as we walked in the door:

We drove a little bit up Beacon Street to Coolidge Corner where we found a great parking spot and went to the Brookline Booksmith (where Matt had never been!). After that we went on to Party Favors, which has won the Best of Boston award for cupcakes many years in a row. Even when I lived in Brookline, I never tried their cupcakes, so it was high time we made the trip.

Lee got a little chocolate one with a purple flower (he picked it out himself) and Matt and I split the special cupcake of the day: Blood Orange and Chocolate.

It was not only beautiful but delicious! It was so good that I couldn't sit down to eat it.

It had a wonderful chocolate cake with an amazing orange filling (and lots of it!). It was one of the best cupcakes I've ever had, and now I understand the hype and why they've won so many awards.

After a successful trip to Trader Joe's, Matt left us for other adventures and Lee and I headed to Mr. Music to get some guitar strings for my little guitar. He insisted that this was necessary when he asked me how long it had been since I changed the strings and I admitted to having never changed them and I've owned the guitar for at least 4 or 5 years. Our stop was successful and I left with a brand new set of Martin Steel and Silk Folk Strings.

We decided to continue our ridiculous day of indugences by heading over to Cuchi Cuchi for a fabulous cocktail. This place is amazing. They make handcrafted vintage cocktails with real muttled ingredients. No pre-mixed drinks here! We sat at the bar and watched the bartenders in action. It was fantastic, one of the women even muttled through the bottom of a glass. As the contents spilled out of the broken glass, she looked at us and said "Do you think I'm a little angry?" It was pretty impressive. Lee got a drink that consisted of Hendrick's gin with blackberries and basil (right) and I got a Singapore Sling (left).

We headed back to Lee's apartment to make dinner and play guitar. Lee made an impressive dinner: Pasta with arugula, basil, brocollini and smoked cheese, topped with grated parmesan. It was very tasty. And the highlight of the evening for me was when Lee changed my guitar strings and made my old, little guitar sound like a brand new lady.

She's still got tons of character, but she's a little easier to play and sounds so much brighter than she did with the old strings. We played tons of fun songs, learned a new Neko Case tune, ate pretzels and again managed to stay up until the wee hours.

Can't you tell I was happy with how my guitar sounded with the new strings?

What a fun day!

Honoring Allen Smith, and cheering for the Sox!

On Friday I drove up to Boston from John and Jill's house and got into town around 10:30am. I hadn't slept very well and decided to leave very early to avoid any rush hour traffic, so I was showered and out the door before 6:30am. It was too early to meet Lee for lunch, so I decided to take a nap at Sylvie and Miriam's apartment, and it was much needed and much appreciated. I slept so hard for over an hour that when I woke up I thought I was still in NJ and was late for everything. I was in such a panic, and then I remembered what the heck was going on. I went to lunch with Lee at Petsi Pies in Cambridge and had an amazing veggie panini with smoked mozzarella. We also shared a Whoopie Pie cupcake since part of the plan for the weekend was to enjoy (endulge in?) as many cupcakes as we could find. It was a good start to the cupcake quest, a rich, dark chocolate cake with whipped cream filling (not enough in my opinion) and topped with chocolate ganache. I forgot to bring my camera to lunch, so the only photo we have is from Lee's cell phone:

After lunch I headed over to Simmons to participate in Alumni Day and a toast to honor the life of Allen Smith, one of my favorite professors from graduate school. The speaker talked about the Future of Reference, which was one of Allen's favorite topics. After the lecture there was a toast to Allen which was delivered by an old friend of his, and it was very moving and made the crowd both laugh and tear up. He was a pillar of the program, having taught at Simmons for over 30 years, and will be sorely missed.

While I was on campus, I thought I might try to run into one of my favorite professors, Martha Mahard, and I found her working hard in the computer lab at the library school. It was great to catch up with her, and while I was there I also saw my good friend Peet who was just getting out of class. He and I decided to walk over to the Main College Building together where I had to attend the induction ceremony for Beta Phi Mu, which is the library school honor society. Peet was on his way out of town, so we just got to chat for a second (and snap this photo):

The induction ceremony featured a cocktail hour with good food, a little bit of pomp and circumstance and a chance to catch up with people I haven't seen since graduation. It was great to be back on campus and run into all kinds of people. It was also amazing to see how the new quad and Business school turned out:

All of this was under construction the entire 2 years I was at Simmons. It's so great to see the finished product.

After leaving Simmons, I fought through some Red Sox traffic to head back to Lee's apartment (where I stayed in his guest room, lovingly referred to as the Urban Orphan Refuge). We unloaded my car and then headed over to the Thirsty Scholar to meet up with some folks and watch the Red Sox game. It was again, a great opportunity to catch up with folks and ended up being a fun game to watch because the Red Sox won! Here's the crew: Stephen, Bill, Me, Josh (we all worked at Harvard together), Matt, Lee and Anders (who was my neighbor in Princeton and moved to Somerville!). Thanks to Stephen's partner Barbara (appropriately pronounced with a heavy Boston accent) for taking the photo:

It was a perfect evening, and ended with Lee and I staying up until almost 1:30am playing guitar and chatting. You can tell we both live alone right now because I think we were both excited just to have someone around to talk to (and let's face it, we're both Chatty Kathys when we want to be).


I stopped at John and Jill's on Thursday night on my way up to Boston. When I got there, Emerson was in a particularly chatty mood and wanted me to help him put these goggles on. When we finally got them on, he kept saying, "Is Bwoo" and then he would flip them up and say "Is NOT bwoo". It was hilarious to me, and he was obviously having a good time.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Eggs, Baseball, Board Games and Wii

I've mentioned it before, but one of the best parts of being in NJ is that I'm close to family. When I was at the studio in Chicago or at school in Boston, Easter weekend usually passed with just a phone call to family and then some photos emailed to me later that week of my nephews looking for Easter eggs. Well, this year I got to be in on the fun!

From my 2 year old nephew to my 91 year old grandmother, we spanned 4 generations and everyone had a good time. It was a beautiful day, although a bit chilly. We started the festivities with an indoor/outdoor Easter egg hunt. The boys lined up and when we said "GO!" Sebastian and Nathaniel were off like rockets scooping up Easter eggs (about 80 total were hidden!) and Emerson stayed on the deck not really knowing what to do. So we walked him around and helped him get some eggs in his basket.

Some of the eggs had quarters in them and some had candy. I helped Sebastian undo all of his eggs and he was very impressed with all of the money he found (totalling $3.75) and he said "You know what I'm going to buy with all of my money? A Wii with MarioCart!" Oh the days when a stack of quarters seemed like a million bucks!

After all the eggs were found, my dad, brother John and nephew Nathaniel and I played an entire 9 innings of Wiffle Ball and Sebastian and Nathaniel got in some batting practice with a wooden bat and real baseball.

After that, we got to squeeze in some Bananagrams and then watch the kids playing Wii, which is actually pretty hilarious. Grammy gets such a kick out of sitting on the little couch in what has become known as the Wii Room and watching these guys do all of the games they like to play.

Here's me and Nathaniel duking it out in Wii Boxing:

Nathaniel and Sebastian in the Wii boxing ring:

And Grammy and I having a chat while watching the craziness of Wii games:

Here is a great series of photos of Nathaniel, Dad and Grammy (Nathaniel's Great-Grammy):

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Neko at the Keswick

Last night I drove out to the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, PA to meet up with Kim and Mike at the Neko Case concert! I got there early and was happy that the box office gave me one of our reserved tickets even though they were under Mike's name. I was thrilled when I realized that we had tickets in the 5th row, smack in the middle. I got to see the opening band, Crooked Fingers who were pretty good, and Kim and Mike showed up in time to see their last few songs and enjoy a short intermission and then Neko took the stage!

She was great! She sang lots of songs from her new album, Middle Cyclone and a good mix of older songs, too. She played a great set and then came back for an almost equally long encore. The only slight downside was that her back-up singer, Kelly Hogan, was a little too chatty for our tastes, but it was an enjoyable evening overall. I especially enjoyed the little videos that played on a projection screen at the back of the stage during the songs. There were some with simple cut-paper silhouettes used to tell a story or some more fleshed-out, cohesive videos. I enjoyed both, but the cut-paper ones were my favorite.

The evening ended with a quick slice of pizza across the street and then Kim and Mike and I parted ways and headed home.

Here's a great video that talks about the making of the record and shows some concert footage as well as some of the cut-paper imagery I enjoyed so much: