Tips for surviving – and winning – a pillow fight

Earlier this month, I joined hundreds of other people in Cambridge, MA for an all-out pillow fight.  Now, three weeks later, my bruises have faded and I have some lessons to pass on.

Boston Pillow Fight 2011, Photo by Lauren Frohne

  1. Arrive early.  Or at least don’t be late.  The anticipation of slowly gathering in the middle of the park with hundreds of other people with pillows in bags or up their sweatshirts was the highlight of this event.  And that moment when the air horn went off and all hell broke loose made my day.  Get there early for the full experience.
  2. Do not wear open toed shoes or sandals.  Sure, the cobblestones kept me from getting muddy and sliding around, but my Tevas did not provide adequate protection from other people’s giant feet.  My toe has finally turned a lighter shade of purple, but this footwear was not a wise choice.
  3. Do not pass up a challenge.  You may be looking to hit someone your own size, but those 6-year-olds have got  a mean swing too, and they showed up for a purpose.  Just play nice, regardless of age, and watch out – their heads may come up to your armpit but anybody with a pillow can take you down if you’re not on your guard.  Pillow fights: the great equalizer.
  4. Bring a sturdy pillow.  This sack of feathers, foam, and cloth isn’t just your weapon, it’s also your only protection from all the other pillows out there.  I used mine as a shield more than I used it to hit people!
  5. Don’t be afraid to go alone.  This applies to all areas of life.  When fun, crazy, free things happen in your community, don’t let the fear of going alone cause you to miss out on a good time.  This is a lesson I have to remind myself about often, but this afternoon did a great job of showing me that life is too short to let anything get in your way.  By all means, drag convince your friends to join you, but then go anyway.  It turns out that despite the number of people who came in groups (and tried to circle up in defense of each other), it’s really hard to stick together in such a crazy scene/world, and it’s fun to be responsible for only yourself now and then.  And the payoff is worth it.
  6. Put down that camera.  Another lesson I learn over and over.  But here, it was more of a necessity if I wanted it to live to see another day.  Luckily, other people took great pictures of the event, like the one above, and I got to have an amazing time seeing the whole scene, not just the view through my lens.

This was my first pillow fight, but it certainly won’t be my last.  Meet me there next year – I’ll show you the ropes.

Half Price Fun

In addition to the list I have going here, I have a separate list of things I want to accomplish in Boston in the near future.  I love being a tourist in my own city (with the perk of actually knowing where I am most of the time and understanding that more than just the B line goes to Fenway Park – seriously, folks?  Read the signs!).  Included on that list are sites of historical and literary significance, cultural events that I’ve somehow missed before – I saw the Boston Marathon for the first time last spring! – and food that I have been dying to taste.

I am a step closer to checking one thing of my list today; thanks to Buy With Me, I’ve committed to visiting the Mapparium in the next six months!

Though I have spent a decent amount of time wandering around the Pru/ Mass Ave area, I have never been inside the Mary Baker Eddy Library.  I’ve eaten ice cream while watching kids play in the fountain, pondered the strange architecture (castle-like church on one side of the reflecting pool, hideous windowless monstrosity on the other), and taken silly pictures in front of the library columns.

Now, that will finally change since I’m locked into two tickets to the Mapparium for $6, half of what they usually cost.  The Mapparium – a giant stained glass globe that you walk inside, and which has not been updated since 1935 – is open weird hours (10-4, Tuesday to Sunday) which have never matched up with my schedule before, but now I have a real reason to go.  I find that getting coupons or spotting deals is the last push I need to get me out of the house and trying new things.  And for $3 a person, this is a cheap afternoon date with my guy or one of my best friends.  Love it!

Now, off to have other adventures closer to home.  Enjoy your lukewarm weekend!

(Note: I don’t get anything from BWM for mentioning them here, but I get some online credit if you sign up on the link above [as does everyone who introduces new people].  Through this link or another, I highly recommend joining!)

Books, glorious books!

As the sunlit hours grow shorter, the appeal of curling up on the couch under a quilt with a good book and the a (dvd) fire roaring grows.  This weekend, an overdue book led me on an adventure that satisfied all my bookworm needs.

I headed downtown for the first time in weeks to return Homer and Langley (a great book about humanity, hoarding, and brotherhood, based on a true story) to the Boston Public Library.  The BPL is host to some great free events and interesting exhibits, so I dropped off my book and wandered around.  And that’s when I saw it; a sign bearing two of the greatest words in the English language:

Book Sale!

Eureka!  I found my way to the basement of the McKim building where I landed in my own sort of paradise – a room full of library cast-offs and used books, all going for a buck or two (for hardcovers).

I found thrillers, travel books, an advance copy of a novel about what would happen if Jesus ran for President, stacks of identical books that were clearly book-club fodder once upon a time, and a collection of Dickens’ books that was missing all my favorites but was sitting next to a copy of “The Little Peppers and How They Grew,” which made me happy.

I ended up with an eclectic collection for a mere $7 – a Girl Scout Handbook from 1958 (Hey Mom, I can make a yarn doll with it!), a book about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, “Other Statues of Boston” (which, to be honest, I purchased because I loved the extremely strict stickers on the front which decree that it is NOT TO BE TAKEN FROM THIS ROOM, but it’s actually really interesting,) a short self-exploration/ chick-lit novel, and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which I’ve always intended to read.  It also falls into a class of book that I think should only be purchased used, a class that includes Atlas Shrugged (save your money…), and On the Road (this book deserves to travel before it lands on your shelf).

This amazing event happen every two months, on the first Saturday from 10-4 in the BPL Central Library’s McKim Building.  The dates for 2011 have already been posted:

  • February 5
  • April 2
  • June 4
  • August 6
  • October 1
  • December 3

Look for me there – now that I know about this event, there’s no way I’m missing another one!

PS:  If you’re a die-hard, you can even volunteer at the event by emailing

Sally and the Chocolate Factory

The free food gods are smiling on me lately; in one week I was treated to free beer, free truffle fries, and free chocolate.

The last was courtesy of Yelp!, where I am an elite member and my roommate K was my plus-one as soon as I got an invitation that mentioned the the word “chocolate.”

One night recently, we made our way through the rain over to the Taza Chocolate Factory, just a short drive away still in Somerville.  Usually, visitors here get a tour of the place and samples of some of the chocolate, but at this event we were treated to a full banquet.  Drinks featuring chocolate extract courtesy of Russell House Tavern, finger food from Cuisine en Locale, and all the chocolate we could eat.

Between K and myself, we tried every single bar they made and revisited the chocolate nibs container a few times before settling ourselves in front of the chocolate covered cashews (a-mazing).  Then we got the behind-the-scenes tour of the factory, moving from one great smelling room to the next.  We got to see the raw cacao beans in giant bags, the cool packing room, and then my favorite- the room where the magic chocolate actually happens.

Alex holding a hand-cut grindstone

Here, Alex – the owner – explained to us how he studied the Mexican chocolate process for years before bringing back the best ideas and starting his own factory.  As with good beer, his chocolate consists of the minimum number of ingredients:

  1. cacao
  2. sugar

That’s IT.  The amount of each ingredient varies between batches and other ingredients get added now and then, but they keep it real at Taza, which is why the result is so incredible.  The process is simple and pure (how often do you get to see the grindstones used to make your food?), the business is locally owned and they work directly with the bean growers to make sure everything is being traded fairly.

The only thing better than chocolate is getting it for free and knowing that part of the reason it’s so sweet is all the heart and soul that went into it.

And the sugar too.

Click here to reserve your spot on a free Taza tour!  And take me with you when you go!

Free Beer!

No, really.

On my last weekday before my new job, my Dad joined me for a Friday treat- a beer tour at the Sam Adams Brewery and lunch at Doyle’s.

If you’ve ever met me, you know how much I love free things, especially nerdy free things.  I think that a free beer tour is just on the edge of nerdy and cool, since I actually like walking through the brewery and hearing about the process even more than the free beer (there, I said it).

The Sam Adams Brewery in JP is actually a research and development brewery, where only about 1% of the company’s beer is made.  The bulk of the beer is made in either Cincinnati or Pennsylvania, but all the varieties start here in Beantown, where the company was founded.  Sam Adams’ claim to fame, according to this tour, is that they were among the first American breweries to abide by “Reinheitsgebot,” the German beer purity law.  It dictates that beer should be made of only four ingredients:

  1. Hops
  2. Barley
  3. Yeast
  4. Water

Any modern brewery obviously misses this distinction on beers that feature specialty flavors (cherry, chocolate boch, etc.) but for all their “normal” beers, they use only these ingredients, in different combinations and with some variations in the process.  (At this point in the tour, the guides usually talk some smack about other beers which are not as pure, and which use fillers that kill the flavor.)

After going on three tours here and hearing every single guide tell a story about eating barley and beer for breakfast (“It’s like grapenuts that give you a buzz!”) I am starting to doubt the validity of these stories.  But overall, the tour is informative, engaging, and entertaining, at least the first two times.  For a free event in Boston, this is a good one for groups of all sizes and varieties, and they even have local root beer available for those under 21 in your crowd.

A word of advice: get in the back of the group on part 2 of the tour so you can be near the front when you go into the tasting room.  By sitting here, you get to try all the beers first, which means you’re sure to get a full (7 oz) glass on each of the three samples.  I really like the Boston Brick Red (pictured here) and since you can only get it on tap and only in Boston, it’s a treat to get a glass here without having to specifically seek it out.

I still need to check out the Harpoon tour and see how it compares.  What breweries/wineries have treated you the best and taught you the most?

Power Ten

Once upon a time, I used to wake up at 5:00 in the morning to pile into a van with a bunch of other sleepy gals to drive to the river, heft a heavy boat over our shoulders, and slide across the flat water of the Connecticut River.

This weekend, I experienced the next best thing as I cheered on the MHC crew team at the Head of the Charles.

Love that dirty water!

We watched from the banks with our moose calls and hot chocolate, saying hello to everyone and anyone who was wearing MHC crew attire.  From the shore, it’s hard to tell how each boat is going because of the staggered start, but we analyzed all the stroke ratings, the smoothness of the catch, the sound of the oarlocks.  It was almost as good as rowing, and we even got to sleep late and go out to brunch first!

[For the record, a power ten is when the coxswain calls out for you to crank it out and row your hardest for ten strokes.  It is very effective, but always made me upset because after rowing a hard ten, I wanted to row an easy ten and they just expect you to continue to power through!  This, along with the early start time, is why I am no longer a crewton.  Also, my wrists were shot after three semesters.]

More updates soon, including about my new JOB!  YAY!