Check and check

There’s something ultra satisfying about checking things off a list.  Digging in that pen (or mouse) and saying “I OWNED YOU.”  Or just “one more done!” if that’s more your style.

When I started listing out my Five Year Plan, I knew most of the items were a reach, even the ones that seem easy (there is no good way to cook a chicken in our stupid erratic oven.  Allie, help!).  But I also knew it would be fun to accomplish them, to know I could come back here and cross them off, and add new challenges to the list.

I was just looking at another blog I used, back in the day, and found this list of things I wanted to do in Boston.  I haven’t seen it since I posted it in the summer of 2009, so I’m pretty happy with the progress I’ve made!  It’s nice to see that I really am living the life I set out for myself.  There are even a few things on there – the Mapparium, a tour of the statehouse, and the swan boats, for two – that I didn’t list there, but did care a lot about and recently checked off my internal list (more on that later).

Which of these things have you done?

Boston To-Do List (circa 2009)

  1. Take a tour of Fenway Park
  2. Have drinks at the Top of the Hub (done! went with the NH gang)
  3. Visit Bunker Hill (done! and climbed all 294 steps – phew!)
  4. Go on the USS Constitution (done! Hit my head coming up from below deck, swung in a hammock, had a grand old time.)
  5. See the Boston Pops (July 4, 2010 – double whammy!)
  6. Watch the fireworks over the Charles (see above!)
  7. Volunteer for the Boston Marathon (done! cheered on runners as part the Dana-Farber team in 2010)
  8. Go out to the Boston Harbor Islands (done! gone three times now)
  9. Skate at the Frog Pond
  10. Walk the Freedom Trail
  11. Cheer on MoHos at the Head of the Charles (done! – and even better, I got to cheer alongside my former teammates, some of whom are the best people I met at college)
  12. Host an awesome Oscar party (done! the red carpet stayed down for more than a month.  I think that says it all.)
  13. Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity (not as easy as it sounded)
  14. Take a dance class (does a salsa lesson count?)

And now, on to the next challenge – just as soon as I decide what it is.

Speaking of cheesy pictures…

And by cheesy, I mean Mac and Cheesy…

Sara and me, Faneuil Hall

I didn’t think anyone needed proof of just how much I love corny photo opportunities, but I thought I’d take this chance to share some of the “biggest” ways I’ve found to raise the cheese factor.  Sometimes in comes in the form of a giant nut, sometimes it looks like Katie’s favorite dinner.  And sometimes, it looks a heck of a lot more comfortable than my desk at the office.

On the greenway

I love running across random stuff like this in my everyday life.  Only the world’s largest hammock (true story) was intentional, the others just happened to be there.  This is what I love about living in a city like Boston.*  You never know when you’re going to run into something awesome that makes your day.

With Phoebe, City Hall

*The beer selection ain’t bad either.

Bonus: check out me and a huge native american statue on my November road trip.  How cool?

Also, ask sometime to see the pictures we took with giant Amish statues on our roadtrip to Hershey one summer.  They were BC (before this computer) but they really are a treasure.  Or something.

Summer fun for penny-pinchers

It’s going to hit 90-degrees today.  I ate ice cream for lunch yesterday.  Yep, summer has definitely arrived.

My summer plans involve sun (and sunscreen!), good food and drinks, and as much free fun (and air conditioning) I can manage.  Here are my top recommendations for free fun in Beantown:

  • Scooper Bowl – Happening right now at Boston’s City Hall, the Scooper Bowl is a chance to support the Jimmy Fund and cancer patients while trying a bajillion kinds of ice cream, just $8 for all you can eat.  If you go, try the key lime sorbet – it’s ridiculously good.  (Ends tomorrow, don’t miss it!)
  • Free Fun Fridays – all around the state, museums, gardens, and zoos are opening their doors for free admission on Fridays.  Check out the full schedule here – highlights for me include the Museum of Science and the JFK Library and Museum.
  • Author readings at Porter Square books – cool authors, a neat local bookstore, and free A/C.  The Fonz was there this past weekend – proof that the owners have good taste.
  • Classic movies at the Somerville Theater – this is two inches from my house, and I am excited about all these films (though I probably need someone to hold my hand during “JAWS”).  If you go for a daytime matinée to beat the heat, it’s only set you back $7.
  • Shakespeare on the Common – This year’s play is “All’s Well that Ends Well” and if last year is any indication, it should be spectacular.  (My Yelp! review of last year’s production was just highlighted in the latest Yelp! newsletter – check it out!)
  • Book sales at the Boston Public Library – I love these things, and haven’t missed one yet this year.  More on this month’s treasures soon…
  • Concerts at the Hatch Shell – the Landmark Orchestra, KC and the Sunshine Band, and more, all for free and within walking distance of the T. (Thanks, Jess, for telling me about this!)
  • Free evenings at the ICA – Check out the latest contemporary art exhibits for free from 5-9 every Thursday night.
Did I leave off any Boston summer treasures?  What awesome things are you doing this summer?

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 CWFBPL@hotmail.com.

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!