31 August 2012

Allston-Brighton Christmas

As I gear up to move tomorrow I am preparing to join in the mass chaos that is September 1st in Boston. Here in Boston, housing leases begin September 1. Which means that approximately 70,000 (give or take a few) people will relocate this weekend. I am among the lucky thousands who have to deal with moving, packing, taking multiple trips, and wretched traffice this weekend. I am also among the lucky thousands who for next to nothing could outfit the better part of an apartment with furniture found on the streets.

A good friend of mine posted a link to this article and I thought that it was amusing enough to merit me actually copying and pasting it here so that you actually read it (I know no one likes to actually click on links in blog posts...)

" 'Twas Days Before Allston Christmas"

The following is a Boston.com homage to "Allston Christmas," an unofficial holiday in the Boston neighborhood that falls on the days before and after Sept. 1, when thousands of apartments change hands. Amid the upheaval, countless household possessions – from TVs to furniture – are left curbside as trash, but many of the items are snatched up and reused by other residents:

'Twas days before Allston Christmas, when all through Gardner, Ashford & Pratt,
Every creature was stirring, many a rat.
Packed boxes were left by the door without care,
In hopes that a rental truck soon would be there.

Each student was restless on a creaky, old futon,
With visions of free stuff -- furniture redistribution.
And workers for UHaul, Budget, Penske and Hertz,
Knew they were in store for a long September first.

Out on sidewalks and lawns will rise much clutter,
Tenants will spring from their bed to see what to plunder.
Away out the door they’ll fly with a flash,
Tearing through piles of someone else’s trash.

The bright sun beaming on fallen possessions,
Giving them luster of newness shone down from the heavens,
When, what to wondering eyes should appear,
But a used microwave, and a six-pack of stale beer.

Though a city garbage truck driver rounds the streets in a cinch,
Snatching up items, he’s the Allston Christmas Grinch.
More rapid each year the sanitation crew has came,
They’ll whistle, and shout, and call out each street by name.

"Now Park Vale! now, Glenville! now, Harvard and Linden!
On, Cambridge! On, Highgate! on Comm. Ave. and Brighton!
Clean up that porch! Tidy up this sprawl!
Take the trash away! Trash away! Trash away all!"

They warn that from the refuse trouble could fly,
When that nuisance makes a new home, it may multiply.
So bright orange stickers warn residents to avoid the debris,
The rubbish could be full of bedbugs, even a flea.

But still there are those who ignore what crews advise,
For they are desperately in need of cheap, new supplies.
They’ll poke their head in whatever’s around,
Down the streets and alleys they will abound.

They’ll be drenched all in sweat, from head to foot,
And their clothes will be tarnished with stains and soot.
A sofa or mattress flung over their back,
They might look like a sad sight, but misery they lack.

Their eyes -- how they’ll twinkle! Their dimples how merry!
For each has just become a proud beneficiary.
A new table, TV, even a guitar,
They’ll have saved some bucks to spend at the bar.

The roads will be clogged, drivers gritting their teeth,
They’ll be honking in traffic, no matter the street.
Moving trucks idling and parked wherever,
As pedestrians cross with trash and treasure.

Parents will visit for a day to help out,
When the moving is done they’re likely to pout.
They’re sad to leave their children behind,
Especially in a place so unrefined.

This time of year, there is chaos nearby,
Mission Hill, Fenway and Camberville all apply.
But there is no place quite as anarchic in Boston,
As the ‘Rock City’ village, the neighborhood of Allston.

So for those with no move or dumpster-diving plan,
Retreat from here soon, while you still can.
But for those preparing to partake in this local rite,
"Merry Allston Christmas to all, and to all a good-plight!"

30 August 2012

Sap, what gets out sap?

So on Monday I met a friend for lunch at an awesome restaurant called Veggie Planet.
While I was waiting for the bus to come to take me to Harvard Square the tree I was standing under dripped sap on my head. So I arrived at lunch with a nice sticky patch in my hair. Luckily, the sap was clear, so it wasn't super apparent to other people. I did manage to wash the worst of the stickiness out, but I couldn't get all of it. Some research led me to discover that if you put peanut butter over the sap, and then blow dry it till it's melty the sap combs right out. This worked very well for me. Granted not for about 8 hours till I got home from work, but that's beside the point. Peanut butter removes tree sap from hair.

Back to Veggie Planet. It is a delightful little hole-in-the-wall vegetarian/vegan restaurant in Harvard Square. And their food is pretty cheap! I had a delicious black bean and monterey jack pizza. So good! I'm becoming such a fan of these cheap, fresh, vegetarian places.

29 August 2012

Buying single use bottled water is like driving a hummer

Several weeks ago the library showed the movie Bag It. I happened to be working at the time that they made an announcement that the movie would be playing downstairs. So I looked it up to see what it was about and was intrigued to find it was a documentary about plastic bags. So I promptly put it on hold to watch at a later date.

I sat down this afternoon ready for a nice documentary about plastic bags and ended up being completely enthralled. The movie really made me think. 

Here are some of the things I took away:

 "[grocery sacks] are a convenience for a couple of minutes, a couple of hours. And they remain an environmental burden for hundreds of years."  Are they really worth the convenience if we're going to be fighting them for that long? Sure they're "disposable" so throw them away, but where is "away"? And what does "disposable" really mean?

Because the process of actually recycling a lot of plastics is a messy obnoxious process many plastics that you and I recycle end up in asia where low wage employees cherry pick the things that can actual be recycled. The process to melt them back down is messy, toxic, dangerous, etc.

 There was more plastic produced from 2000-2010 than in the entire 20th century. Most of that plastic goes towards single use items that will end up in landfills or the ocean.

Plastic doesn't bio-degrade, it photo-degrades. Which means that the sun breaks it down and then fish mistake it for food.

It's estimated that plastic kills 100,000 marine animals each year.

Imagine if every morning your breakfast was a bowl of cereal and half the stuff in the bowl was little styrofoam pellets and half of it was cereal. That's what its like for some animals in some parts of the ocean.

BPA is really scary.

It's not about being against plastic. It's about being against stupid plastic--silly, stinking, toxic stuff.

Plastic is incredible stuff, but it's not supposed to end up in our oceans or our bodies.

Don't put plastics in your microwave.

Single use plastics are just instant garbage.

When you don't use a lot of plastics, you eat better.

As I was watching this fascinating documentary this afternoon I felt a little bit sick to my stomach to realize just how much plastic I use on a daily basis and how much I am contributing to environmental problems the world over. It makes me want to run out and never use plastic again. Of course that is a little bit unrealistic. Nearly everything in my life is made of plastic, from the bottles my shampoo is in to my toothbrush to my T pass. However, there are things that I can do. I am going to make a concerted effort to not use plastic grocery sacks (or any other plastic bags from stores) any more. I have reusable bags, why not use them?
 I also want to cut way back on single use disposables (things like bottled water, plastic cups, etc.) So, for this next week I am going to try to be single use free. The movie suggested going single use free for an entire day, just to become aware of your habits. But since I know I don't drink things like bottled water I'm going to try to be single use free for a whole week to get a better idea of where I'm using "disposable" plastics.

28 August 2012

Beware the full moon

When I first started at the library someone mentioned to me that it tends to get kind of crazy around the full moon. I know it sounds weird, but that's what she told me. And she was being serious. I made a mental note and didn't think of it again for a while. Craziness comes and craziness goes and I didn't pay much attention to the cycles of the moon--until last month. The week of the full moon was out of control. Things went wrong, computers went down, patrons had problems, very much a Murphy's law week.

I believe in the full moon now.

Yesterday, one of my more superstitious colleagues came up to me and mentioned that the full moon is on Thursday, and that typically we have troubles for the three days before and the three days after. Which puts us at "full moon" starting today.

It did.

Tonight has been a little bit out of control. Seems like nearly everyone and everything has had some kind of issue. It should prove to be an exciting week. I'm a little afraid for it.

27 August 2012

Inspiration--a fleeting fancy

I read this blog post as I was catching up on my google reader tonight. I thought it was pretty fantastic. And very true. I've definitely been feeling very inspired lately, but it does wane quickly--especially as I find myself with many errands to run and much life to catch up on.

I also enjoyed this post from the same blog (I was a bit behind in my reader...) Simplicity is a challenging thing to catch. You have to work so hard for it and it's always a little elusive. 

24 August 2012

The Artist

I know I'm more than six months behind on this, but this week I finally watched The Artist. I was amazed at how riveted I was. I knew it was good, it came to me highly recommended, but at the same time I didn't expect to have to put down everything I was doing and just watch. I guess in some ways I shouldn't be surprised at how much I enjoyed this film. I love French cinema--apparently even if it's in English, and if I didn't realize it was a French film till after the fact. I always forget how much I love watching good movies. I really need to make more time for that this fall. I miss my regular attendance at the International Cinema.

23 August 2012

Broccoli Pizza!

You probably remember my zucchini pizza mishap from Monday. And you probably remember that I had planned on making broccoli pizza. So today that's what I did. And I learned from my mistakes:
1. I didn't use red sauce
2. I seasoned my broccoli
3.I pre-steamed my broccoli so it was basically already cooked when I put it on the crust (maybe next time I'll roast it, I bet that'd be pretty tasty)
 And the result was about a hundred times better. I think that zucchini and yellow squash pizza (when properly made) is still my favorite, but this was pretty delicious too. And I will definitely be making it again. Maybe even with the other bit of crust I have in the freezer.

22 August 2012

Arizona Sunset

An Arizona sunset in Massachusetts
When I think of Arizona one thing I think about is their awesome sunsets. Arizona has beautiful sunsets with lots of color. Much like the above picture. Only, this was taken on Sunday evening in Allston, MA--hence the not so picturesque surroundings. It was a gorgeous night too. Actually all week has been beautiful. Low 80s, low humidity, during the day, cool enough for a jacket in the evenings/early mornings. It doesn't get much better than that.

21 August 2012

Sweetened Condensed Milk

I would like to publicly thank all the people who have brought sweetened condensed milk to my life. I was really missing out before.
Amish oatmeal, strawberries, and sweetened condensed milk
Thank you!

20 August 2012

pizza, pizza

Today I made more zucchini pizza. I wish that I could say that this one was as delicious as the others that I have made this year, but I confess it was not. 'Twas my own fault though. I've had a container of pizza sauce in the freezer for a while and I decided to pull it out two or three days ago and I had plans to make a broccoli pizza with it. So that was my plan for today. I've found that things go bad a lot faster here in the summer, so I've been a little nervous that my sauce would go bad before I got to it. So today I pull it out and get out the broccoli and as I'm rooting around trying to find the cheese I find 2/3 of a zucchini left over from making bread yesterday. So I decided that I should make pizza out of it. Of course the red sauces doesn't really go with the zucchini pizza, but for whatever reason I decided that both leftovers just had to be used today. When I stirred up the sauce it was super watery (obviously a by product of having been frozen). And there was at least twice as much as I needed. Nevertheless. I spread all of it on my crust and hoped for the best.

Yeah, it stuck to the pan something fierce, and the crust sogged out almost instantly. I think that in the future we'll quit trying to make dumb decisions like that. It tasted ok, very much like breadsticks with slices of zucchini on top. I'll get around to making my broccoli pizza another time. And I probably won't use tomato sauce, which somehow I think will be ok.

18 August 2012

To be prepared or not to be prepared?

Here's an interesting article I found online last night. I thought it was interesting.

It's not the first time I've heard about being over-prepared. Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan put it well when he said that "'being prepared' can sometimes be a euphemism for being scared to let go. How much we carry--whether it is on our bicycle, in our bag, or in our home--is often directly related to how little we trust in life to guide us well, and in others to help us out in a pinch."

I really like that idea--that being overly prepared illustrates my faith in the world to help me out. It turns out that I don't really trust them. But I want to change that. This weekend I am going to clean out my bag and take out as many of the things that I keep in there "just in case" as I can.

17 August 2012

End of class

Today class ended. I'm actually pretty bummed about it. The class was awesome. I made some new friends and met some great people. And I learned a ton. I forget how wonderful it is to work with my hands. I love bookbinding. I'm already looking forward to the next class that I can take. Sadly, it won't be for a while, but hopefully I can take some more classes while I'm here in Boston.

16 August 2012


Remember the movie Mona Lisa Smile? And how it was about a conservative college for women--Wellesley? Today, for our last official day of class we took the commuter rail out there and visited the special collections, conservation lab, and book arts lab.

Wellesley is I think the most beautiful campus I have ever seen. There could be more beautiful college campuses out there, but I haven't them yet. I kept having to remind myself that this was a college, not a park. So gorgeous. And the architecture is fantastic. Such beautiful buildings. The insides were great too. The special collections and the labs we saw were stunning, very elegant. I can totally understand why women would want to go to school here.

We also had the opportunity to have lunch on campus. On Thursdays they have lunch for some staff group in the faculty club. It was a nice buffet, with nice dishes, that we enjoyed on the patio overlooking the beautiful lake. And the humidity managed to burn off a bit so that it was wonderfully pleasant to be outside.

It was a great day. Besides, we got to handle some pretty awesome books. There was one that was mid-nineteenth century prints of Italian countryside dedicated to Prince Albert, with some spectacular endpapers and endbands. We saw an awesome Parisian study bible that I think dated to the thirteenth century. And we got to handle a pretty nice incunable, and so many other great things. I do love field trips.

And the conservation lab and the book arts lab had windows! I know that sounds funny, but it is amazing what windows will do. It really says something about an institution that it cares enough about conservation to put the lab in a space with windows. And it is truly a beautiful lab. And I've never seen anything like their book arts lab. It's a far cry from the ex-grocery store/warehouse I learned the trade in.

I felt like such a tourist as I took pictures today. But I confess that I don't know when I'll have time to upload them. In the mean time, enjoy this picture I found online:

15 August 2012


Today marks mid-way through August. I'm not entirely sure how to feel about that. The first part of this month has absolutely flown by. It feels like it was June yesterday and yet this morning feels like days ago. But anyways, I just wanted to check in on my two August goals.

I've been off Facebook for a couple weeks now and it feels pretty great. I'm not sure that I'm ready to give it up entirely (it does have its uses), but I'm definitely not missing wasting my time on it. Every once in a while when I'm bored and sitting at my computer I'll think about checking it, but I've been able to resist the temptation. Now just to keep it up for a couple more weeks (I'll actually be home sometimes in these next couple weeks so we'll see if keeping my goal is any more difficult).

In terms of clearing out the junk that I own I've only been halfway successful thus far in the month. Since I have been in class I just haven't had the time I wanted to devote to it yet. That will be changing next week. And I plan to clean mercilessly. That said I have unearthed two smallish boxes of stuff that will not be making the move with me. Now only to come up with a few more boxes of stuff to get rid of.

14 August 2012


I think I've talked about the awesomeness that is Haymarket. So a couple of weeks ago I bought 3 lbs of strawberries for $2. That's a pretty amazing deal, that I just couldn't pass up. On my way home that day I stopped at the grocery store and bought pectin and then proceeded to make jam. I love strawberry jam, but only if it's homemade. I have been ruined to store bought strawberry for the rest of my life. And freezer jam is so incredibly easy. It took me an hour and I made three tubs of jam. By far the "hardest" part was crushing the strawberries. It was also the part that took the majority of the hour.

There are two more just like this in my freezer, yum!

13 August 2012

Clover Food Lab

One of my classmates introduced me to a delightful food lab in Harvard Square on Friday. It's called Clover. It is a fast food restaurant that makes food using ingredients that are as fresh as they can be, as local as they can be found and as organic as possible (which means a seasonal menu too). It also happens to only serve vegetarian foods, but that's just an added bonus. And it's reasonably cheap. They also have various food trucks around town. When we went on Friday I had the BBQ Seitan pita. It was delicious. Seitan is a kind of wheat-based protein. It has a kind of duck-like consistency to it and it seems to absorb flavor not unlike tofu. And it was one of the first times all week that I'd eaten a meal and not felt disgusting afterwards, or like I needed to go into a coma. In fact, Clover made such an impression on me that after I got off work on Saturday I stopped in and got a chickpea fritter pita. It didn't disappoint.
The chickpea fritter (courtesy of the internet). Doesn't that just make you hungry?

10 August 2012

Frozen yogurt is just so delicious

Last Saturday I spent an evening with friends in Jamaica Plain and we went on an adventure to the JP Licks that is down the street from their house. I walk past the JP Licks in Harvard square all the time but had never been inside. I learned that the JP Licks we went to is the original one. Yeah, the light bulb went on and I felt mildly foolish that I hadn't associated JP Licks with being from JP before. They have so many flavors, I wasn't even sure how to begin to choose something. They serve frozen yogurt there, which I kind of like better than ice cream (I know, I know, I still love ice cream, I just like frozen yogurt better) and they had black currant (!) flavored frozen yogurt. Normally, I just go for plain fro-yo and have them put some strawberries or kiwi on it. But the black currant was amazing! and for a treat I had them put on white chocolate chips which was even better. I do love me some black currants.

09 August 2012

The trials of books

So I was reading an article for class the other day and it had this interesting quote about books in it:

"...The trials and tribulations of books are equalled only by the trials and tribulations of mankind; their sufferings are identical with those of their creators, and, if they live longer, they are not immune from decay and death. They have been beaten and burnt, drowned, tortured, imprisoned, suppressed, executed, censored, exiled, condemned, buried; they are overworked and underworked, misused and maltreated, in every manner known to fate and chance and the most ingenious of miscreants and misguided zealots."

(I actually forgot to write down the name of the article I found the quote in, but the author, Clarkson, quoted it from Jackson, H. and Whibley, L. (eds.) A Companion to Greek Studies, essay by H Jackson, Philosophy, Cambridge, 1916.)
I have to admit that I rather agree with Jackson. Humans and books are terribly mistreated. Neither deserve it. And I found in a book about rare book librarianship another quote in the same vein:

"Paul Valery, who was not a bibliophile--few great writers are--begins his essay Literature in 1930, with the following sentence: 'Books have the same enemies as man: fire, damp, other creatures, time and their own content'." (The Rare Books Section of the Library by Pierre Breillat, 1965.)

On a totally different note. The rare books book also had an interesting quote about our culture. Several things that the book talked about kept me painfully aware that the book was written in the 60s, but this point I thought is every bit as applicable today as it was 50 years ago:

"And finally, what of the 'digest', so typical of a product of our superficial, hurried, disjointed, but encylopaedic culture? For, in an age in  which specialization increases daily, we are obliged to know something about everything." (p.21)

I think that "encyclopaedic" is an excellent word to describe our culture (though I will admit that superficial, hurried and disjointed aren't bad descriptors either). How many times have you been in a group where something random came up and nothing would do but to look it up online before conversation could continue?

08 August 2012


When I was a kid one of the candies that was always a treat to get and one that we didn't get very often was NECCOs. Those delightful little sugary wafer candies. I always remember liking the black ones the best. Mmm, black licorice (almost as good as black jelly beans). Since moving to Massachusetts I've learned that NECCO stands for New England Confectionery COmpany. And that their factory is in Cambridge. Unfortunately they don't give factory tours, nor do they have an outlet store. Which is a shame. Yesterday one of  my patrons came up and gave me a little mini sized tube of NECCOs. It made me so happy. And the black ones are still my favorite.

07 August 2012

Antarctica on street view!

Last week I discovered that Antarctica is now available on google street view. It makes me speechless with joy.  It doesn't actually work on google maps quite like I thought it would, but the google website (below) is pretty neat.



06 August 2012


Every summer the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company performs a play for free on Boston Common. This summer the show is Coriolanus. Coriolanus is one of Shakespeare's lesser known tragedies and since I hadn't read it (or I confess, even heard of it) I checked it out the library and read it before I went to see the play. I know myself well enough to know that it takes several readings for me to really appreciate what Shakespeare is doing with his plays and so reading it before hand was definitely helpful. So on Friday night I headed down to Boston Common with my orange and brown striped blanket (that I happen to love despite it's ugliness) and enjoyed a nice play. It's a long play and so the other half my party left at intermission in favor of getting some sleep.

The actor playing Coriolanus was a little over the top and I can't say I was too sad when he died (sorry for the spoiler, but it is one of Shakespeare's tragedies...). The on stage fighting was a little out of control, though quite amusing to watch. It leaves you in little doubt as to why Coriolanus can repeatedly beat Aufidius in war, but it does leave you wondering how they're not both dead.

And the costuming for the show was a little bizarre. I never really figured out what decade/century the play was taking place in. It was definitely modern because the soldiers fought with machine guns and wore pretty regular looking fatigues. But, Coriolanus's son spent most of the play wearing a fairly nineteenth century looking outfit, or an outfit (with suspenders) that wouldn't have been out of place on a 10 year old in 1952. The mother wore powersuits. And the other noblewomen wore trophy-wife/high society kinds of dresses. The peasants (for lack of a better word) looked like peasants, mixed with gang members from the 80s, mixed with hard-hit depression era people. Overall, the costuming did make the play kind of timeless, but it was a little distracting.

03 August 2012

Aspirational Clutter

This was an interesting blog post. I feel good about it. I feel guilty that I feel good about it. I'm a librarian and a devout bibliophile. Nevertheless, I may just try to weed a small handful of my books (nothing too ambitious, maybe just 4 or 5 books...). But I would really love it if they all fit on my bookcase. It also reminded me of number 3 from this blog post. I mean, I have the best intentions, but am I really ever going to get around to reading that book? And if so, what would prevent me from getting it from the library at that time?

02 August 2012

Cinnamon Rolls

I've been rather remiss in posting about the food I've been eating. Not to worry, I have been eating, and I've even been cooking newish things once in a while. And (you'll never believe this) I've even taken a few pictures. Unfortunately, the taking the time to upload them onto my computer has not been high on my priority list. When it comes to uploading pictures of food to my computer or eating food, I have to admit I choose the eating. But you're in luck, I have a picture for you today.

A few weeks ago, around the time my bookbinding class started I made a batch of cinnamon rolls because I figured they'd freeze well and I would have instant breakfasts for a few days (or even a week or so). The cinnamon rolls turned out pretty well. I've been substituting whole wheat flour for half of the regular flour in several of my recipes lately and I'm a fan.

On a totally different note. Today in class we learned about gold tooling. It's pretty awesome.

01 August 2012


Here in Boston we enjoy dancing. And we enjoy dancing English country dances (you know Pride and Prejudice style). Normally we have two "cotillions" a year where we dress up and have a dance. But this year the gentleman and lady in charge of this event decided to host a mini-series. So about every other week for the last couple months we've had a mini dance where we've learned one or two slightly more complicated dances than we normally do at the big balls (and we've focused on a different region of the British Isles each week). At our dance a couple weeks ago we learned a Scottish dance. We videotaped it and put it on YouTube. I'd say that for having learned the dance in less than 2 hours we look pretty good.