Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Safari #48: A Wee Bit of Scotland

In Boston, anything Scottish is hard to find. Until now.

The Haven, located in Jamaica Plain, is Boston’s only Scottish pub serving traditional food and drinks. As a lover of craft beer, I really enjoyed trying BrewDog Dogma (a honey infused ale) and Merlin’s Ale along with some traditional Scottish foods like bridies (pastries stuffed with meat and veggies), deviled eggs, and haggis (when in Rome folks, when in Rome).

During my visit, Jason (the owner) and his son Oliver graciously shared some Scottish Christmas traditions such as the Christmas Cracker (a toy containing a joke and a prize) and paper crowns. It made my visit all the more memorable.

I hope to return again soon.

*Special thanks to Jason, Oliver, @layersmarketing, @blumie, and @TheMightyRib for a wonderful evening.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Safari #47: Pasties, Pointe Shoes, and Whips? Oh Yeeaaaah!

If you’re at all uncomfortable with sex, you might want to stop reading. And when I say sex, I mean stripper poles, pasties, dildos, rhythmic simulations - all of it. If you keep reading, I might offend your delicate sensibilities...
If your “proper” self decided long ago that the Slutcracker wasn’t for you, you might want to reconsider. This safari traveler recently attended an amazing, eye-popping performance.

Now in its fourth run at the Somerville Theatre, the Slutcracker combines elements of the traditional Nutcracker ballet with burlesque, fetish, and free flowing hormones. The show deals with its risque topic using humor all the while proposing the idea that sex (gasp) - however you may like it - is meant to be enjoyed (double gasp).

The show is an enjoyable exploration and a reminder that we take ourselves way too seriously. It was shocking, titillating, and completely hilarious.

Thank you to the cast for showing me such a good time.

My Tips:

  • Go with the Right People. The faint of heart will not be impressed. Choose carefully to ensure you have a great time. 
  • Buy Your Tickets Early. This show continues to grow in popularity. Figure out when you’re going, and buy tickets ASAP. 
  • Beverages. Did you know that the Somerville Theatre serves alcohol? I didn’t, and it was a nice surprise. 
*As of this posting, there is one last performance on New Year’s Eve at 7pm.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Safari #46: Cambridge Antique Market

If you're an adventure seeking Bostonian, chances are that you've already visited the SOWA open and vintage markets, which are great places to scope out hand made goodies and unique vintage items.  I'd like to suggest another great spot for vintage shopping - with free parking and a T station nearby.

The Cambridge Antique Market - located in North Cambridge - offers an unbelievable blend of vintage items including furniture, housewares, artwork, novelty and print items, collectibles, clothing, and jewelry.  With five floors, you are guaranteed not to leave empty handed.  I was shocked at the amount of Danish mid-century housewares and collectible glass - both passions of mine.

Today's trip was for a secret santa purchase for a co-worker who enjoys 1950's novelty items.  I had a hard time choosing between vintage comics, toys, and other chotchkies.  In the end, I selected a cute pair of salt and pepper shakers.  I think she will adore them!

What have you purchased recently?  And what did you love about the item?

Before You Go

  • Getting There. Parking is free and onsite.  The Lechmere T station is only a few blocks away.
  • Be Prepared.  Every floor is FULL of items.  You can easily spend a few hours shopping.  Each floor has restrooms for your convenience, and the 5th floor has a small seating area.
  • Floor Attendants.  The tables and display areas in the market are open for your perusing.  When you're interested in buying an item, find one of the market attendants on the floor (a person typically carrying a large, black, electronic clipboard) to put aside the item for you.  When you're done shopping, head to the registers on the first floor to pick up your items and pay.
  • Like Bicycles?  I didn't get a chance to see the basement, but rumor has it that the market has one of the best selections of vintage bikes. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Safari #45: The Revolution Will Be Typed

When I first heard about the Boston Typewriter Orchestra, I couldn't believe it. I dropped everything to see them last week.

I'm so glad I did.

The "orchestra" uses old typewriters to create rhythmic songs using keystrokes and percussion.  Add to the mix playful skits and comedy, and you have a unique combination unlike anything you've ever seen.

My Tips:
  • Sit Close.  To get the best view and sound, try to sit as closely to the performers as possible.
  • Like Rhythm? If you enjoy performances like Stomp or the Blue Man Group, you will definitely enjoy the orchestra.
  • The orchestra has limited engagements.  Please check their Facebook page for performance schedules and announcements.
  • If you'd like a peek at their performance, take a look at the video below.  Enjoy!

Special thanks to Eric Andersen and Dan McCune for joining me!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Safari #44: Concerts at the New England Conservatory

In the four years that I have been living here, one of the biggest items on my Boston bucket list has been attending a performance at the New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall.  The free, open performances highlight NEC's talented students and faculty and allow the public to gain an appreciation for classical music in all of its forms.

I've seen numerous performances of classical music, but I've never been able to watch the musicians as closely as I could at Jordan Hall.  The vibrating, pulsating music together with the postures and expressions of the musicians made for an exciting and passionate performance.  To watch so closely made me feel like more than just a spectator.

For a moment, I felt as if I was in communion with the sound.  It was exhilarating.

  • If you're looking to enjoy more classical music or simply to become more aquatinted with it, let NEC be your guide.  All you need to do is lend them your ear.  
  • The performance I attended, The Aura of Mahler, was part of a series of performances for Mahler Unleashed, which began in September.  For more details, visit the NEC's website.  You can also follow NEC on Twitter to learn more about upcoming events.
  • Curious about other bucket list ideas?  Check out the Evolving Critic's blog.
*Special thanks to the Evolving Critic for recommending this trip and doing it with me.  You are a great partner in crime, my dear sir.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Safari #43: Pie in the Sky with Community Servings

With the holiday season fast approaching, many are turning their eyes and thoughts outward and thinking more about giving back, volunteering, and participating in their communities.  Similar to my trip to the Greater Boston Food Bank last year, I'm hoping that this post gives you ideas for giving back this holiday season and well into the new year.

I recently volunteered for Community Servings, an organization that prepares and delivers meals to the critically ill.  Every Thanksgiving, they host an event called Pie in the Sky, where local bakeries and pie sellers come together to sell freshly baked pies.  Each pie costs $25 and will feed one critically ill person for a week.  This year, I worked at the Box Party, where I helped to label and bundle pie boxes for delivery to local bakeries and restaurants.  It was a great experience, and I can't encourage you enough to participate in any way you can!

If you're interested in purchasing a pie for your Thanksgiving table next week, visit http://www.servings.org/events/pies/ and make your purchase before the 19th! (less than three days away!)

Other Ideas for Giving Back:

  • New England Center for Homeless Veterans - Located near Government Center, this shelter prepares daily meals for homeless veterans.  Visit the website to learn more about registering and signing up to serve food.
  • Do You Like to Run?  Volunteer with Back on My Feet and help homeless people regain confidence and self-esteem.  If you're already going out for a run, why not do it with others?  Visit their website to learn more.
  • Are you a Hair Stylist, Yogi or Techie?  Volunteer at the Boston Living Center and provide support to the HIV/AIDS community.  Volunteers can serve meals, but the center also welcomes those who can also provide additional services like hair styling and meditation.  Have an idea for a service?  Tell them about it!  
  • Don't Know Where to Start?  Visit the Boston Cares website to search for volunteer opportunities in the greater Boston area.

Last but not least, always remember that two helping hands and a few hours will resonate with any organization you wish to volunteer for.  If you can't offer your hands, try making a donation to one of the many community-based charities in the greater Boston area.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Safari #42: For You I Feel Lucky at The Hallway JP

The Audience Gathers.
On Tuesday, November 8th, I headed over to the performance of "For You I Feel Lucky" at The Hallway Gallery in JP.  Jessica Gath, a local artist, was scheduled to perform.  I had no idea what to expect when Jessica asked me to refer two family members or friends she could interview about me prior to the show.  I was excited to find out.

The Performance Begins.
Jessica used the interviews to weave together a story about the audience.  Through the voices of the interviewees, Jessica helped us to remember how loving, kind, and special we all were.  She created a community bound together by our collective memories. For us, she felt lucky that we had all of these wonderful people in our lives.  She felt lucky to be able to share it with us.

Thank you, Jessica.  

Note: The Hallway in JP has regularly scheduled events throughout the year. Please visit the website for more information.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Safari #41: Pretty Little Delicious Things

As we've discussed before, Bostonians love beer, and this one continues enjoy a brew or two every now and then (ahem).  I recently attended an event that featured a local brewery and an organization of women who love craft beer.  Did you just say to yourself, "Wow, ladies who love craft beer?"  I thought so. Read on (and gentlemen, take note).

Massachusetts Girls Pint Out (GPO) is an organization dedicated to exploring the amazing craft brew scene in the greater Boston area.  They (Rebecca, Kristen, and Julie) organize events including brewery tours, private tastings, and social gatherings all in the spirit of enjoying good beer, supporting local brewers, and making new friends.

It was a pleasure to meet the founders of Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project (Somerville, MA), Dann and Martha, at Scholar's a few weeks ago.  Although I wasn't able to stay for the entire event, I did get to sample the infamous Jack D'Or, St. Botolph's Town (dark brown ale), and Baby Tree (an abbey-style quadruple).  For the record, Baby Tree is the BEST beer I've tasted in a long time.  If you see it on tap (or any of the Pretty Things beers), try it.


  • If you're a lady and a craft beer lover, visit the GPO website or follow them on Twitter to learn more about upcoming events.  There is one planned for December 13th at the Harpoon Brewery.  
  • If you're a guy who likes girls who drink craft beer, you might want to see where the ladies are headed next.  Just sayin.

p.s. Are you a craft brew lover?  What have you tried recently, and where did you try it?  Share in the comments!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Safari #40: Honk Fest

Activism has a sound and a rhythm all its own.  Instead of words, others choose music.

'Honkers,' members of acoustic, mobile street bands, use their instruments and their collective spirit to rally the masses and bring people back to the streets.  This fusion of creativity, openness, participation, and community building takes place every year in Somerville at the Honk Festival.

Upon exiting the Davis Square T station, music could be heard and felt from every direction.  Collective singing and drums brought us to Davis Square Plaza where AfroBrazil, a 12-piece percussion ensemble, gave a thrilling, participatory performance.  With hands in the air and whistles blowing, AfroBrazil made it impossible for the crowd to remain still.

Next, we headed to Statue Park for EE -Environmental Encroachment and What Cheer? Brigade.  The rhythms, improvisation, and diversity of performers and instruments all working together to create amazing sounds left my ears wishing for more.

Safari travelers - there are no spectators Honk.  Release yourself and let the experience be all your own.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Safari #39: The Paramount Theatre

When was the last time you saw something so inspiring that it made your creative spirit glow?

Laurie Anderson's performance, Delusional, was unlike any other performance I've ever seen.  For those of you not in the know (and I wasn't until the show), Anderson is considered to be one of the greatest American performance artists.  Her performance was an extrasensory, multimedia experience full of amazing music and visualizations. She is multitalented (musician, artist, poet) and uses multimedia to tell you a story.  Delusional posed multiple questions, and some of the answers I've found are still resonating with me tonight.  Because of her, I'm embracing my peripheral vision.

Anderson's performance was held at Paramount Theatre - another first for me.  The Paramount was opened in 1932, named for the Paramount Pictures films it showed.  The theatre closed in 1976, but after much effort to revitalize the Downtown Crossing area, it reopened in 2010 with funding  from Emerson College.  The rehabilitated art deco interior made my jaw drop.  It was a pleasure to sit quietly a few moments before the show started to simply stare at the ceiling.

Many thanks to @EvolvingCritic for the special invite!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Safari #38: How Do You Like These Apples?

With the freedom to use public transportation and access to walkable, open spaces, the thought of getting behind the wheel has simply become foreign.  I'm realizing however that there are many beautiful places in Massachusetts, and by staying only in the greater Boston area, my safaris are missing out.

My recent articles on apple picking and fall foliage have inspired me to get out of the house.  This past Sunday, I jumped in the car and headed to Lookout Farm in South Natick.  Founded in 1650, the farm  is believed to be the oldest working farm in the country.  The farm includes a store, children's play area, concession stand, and a pick your own orchard that includes apples, pears, peaches, and pumpkins.  It was idyllic, picturesque, and a great way to spend a warm Fall day.

Best of all - the apples.  I picked Jonagold and Golden Delicious.  They are large, crisp, and simply perfect.  Which orchards have you been to recently?  Tell me about your trip in the comments below.

  • Find a Farm Near You.  There are a number of pick your own farms in Massachusetts.  Visit the pick your own website to locate a farm near you.
  • Choose Your Shoes Carefully.  The orchard was damp and muddy in some areas.  Boots or comfortable shoes are the best for making your way around.
  • Cost.  Prices per pound vary, and some farms also charge admission. Despite the cost, go for the experience.  I was reminded of my childhood in Ohio on the family farm.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Safari #37: What the Fluff?

Marshmallow fluff is the Nutella of New England.  As an Ohio-raised transport to Boston, my first thought upon encountering fluff was, "You're supposed to eat that with peanut butter?"

If you're looking for a venue to help assist you in dismissing your predisposition to fluff, head to the annual Somerville Fluff Festival in Union Square and sample the traditional fluffernutter (a sandwich with peanut butter and fluff) or a multitude of fluff-inspired confections like whoopie pies, smores, and beer - yes, beer.  The Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project (Somerville, MA) served it's flagship brew this year with a topping of malted fluff and called it the Fluffelmouse.

Even if you're not open to sampling fluff, the festival is a great place for people watching and reveling in good, old-fashioned Americana.  Costume and food contests, live bands, and children's activities keep Union Square abuzz for hours.


  • Just Do It.  A fluffernutter is $2, so there's no harm is taking a little bite.  
  • Take public transport.  With the road closures and increased traffic, your best bet (where possible) is to let the MBTA buses transport you there.
  • Bring your camera.  With all of the excitement and costumes, this is a great place to people watch.  I really enjoyed the vintage T-shirts pulled out just for this occasion.
*Images graciously borrowed from http://unionsquaremain.org/tag/fluff-festival/

Monday, September 5, 2011

Safari #36: What Speaks to You?

I have always believed that “things” can speak to us – a beautiful song, an interesting image, an object with a history. I’ve found many objects full of history recently at the SOWA Vintage Market (560 Harrison Avenue, South End). I'm making this special entry to tell you about it.

I was sorting through a pile of $5 rings, and one in particular stood out to me.  The design, patina, materials (copper lined in sterling silver), and a marking (“Orb Handwrought”), led me to believe that there was something special about it.

Upon initial research, I learned that Otto Robert Bade (the O-R-B), a Pennsylvania coppersmith, created my ring. Bade later moved to New York City and worked in the Rebajes Studio. Francisco Rebajes, a silversmith originally from the Dominican Republic, founded the Studio in the 1950’s.  Over the years, Francisco and Otto, working in their respective materials, created many wonderful pieces of modernist jewelry that still survive today.

It’s hard to believe that from a random pile of rings, I found this one.  My heritage is Dominican, so learning that the ring was made in a modern jewelry studio founded by a Dominican is truly inspiring. Second, given the age of the ring, I never thought that Mr. Bade would still be alive today; he is (aged 88) and lives with his wife at the relocated studio in New Hope, Pennsylvania. 

After finding the ring Mr. Bade made so long ago, part of me wants to contact him to tell him about my find and to thank him. I may just do that.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Safari #35: The Mapparium at the Christian Science Center

Many Bostonians are familiar with Christian Science Park - the lovely fountains and large reflecting pool are a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of the working day.  Few actually enter the adjacent Mary Baker Eddy Library to to visit a little known wonder - the Mapparium - a three-story painted glass globe located within the library.

With construction completed in 1935, the Mapparium's view of the world is frozen in time - and reminds viewers of how much the world has changed for the better.  I was in awe from the moment I entered.

Tips for your visit:

  • Admission is only $6.  Guided tours are 20 minutes and also include a multimedia presentation.
  • Whisper Away.  Go with a partner and test the Mapparium's acoustics.  Occupants can communicate with each other by standing at opposite ends of the room and whispering.  The acoustics will carry your conversation - privately - across the room.  Stand in the center,whisper, and hear yourself speak in surround sound.  
  • Learn More About Mary Baker Eddy.  While I do not follow the beliefs of Christian Science, I did find the history of Mary Baker Eddy's life, the philosophy's founder, very interesting.  The self-guided Quest Tour on the second floor of the library will offer you a great introduction.

Images kindly borrowed from AtlasObscura.com and Boston.com. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Safari #34: Yoga on the Esplanade

We've been enjoying some amazing weather this summer in Boston, and sadly, it's almost to a close. Labor Day weekend is nearly upon us, and if you're still looking for a way to enjoy the outdoors, head to the Charles River Esplanade. For the past month, I've been taking free yoga classes every Wednesday night. If you're looking for a new experience and a way to enjoy low-impact exercise outdoors, these classes are for you.
The Charles River Esplanade Association, formed in 2001, is a non-profit organization that offers free summer programs along the river. The classes I've been taking are part of the Healthy, Fit, and Fun Series, which also includes Zumba, running groups, and fitness boot camps. One of the most popular Esplanade Association events is “Sundays in the Park” where free activities are held on select Sundays all along the walkway. Activities include individual and family yoga, volleyball, badminton, and other lawn games for children.

Landmarks Orchestra at the Hatch Shell
  • Cover Your Downward Facing Dog. If you've never done yoga before, take your cue from other yogis and wear form fitting clothing. Given the number of positions you'll be bending and twisting yourself into, you will need your clothes to stay put.
  • Enjoy Treats. Representatives from Vita Coco and Luna Bar are onsite offering free coconut water and health bars to refresh and energize you after class.
  • Give Back. With all of the money you're not spending on yoga classes (ahem ahem), make a donation to the Esplanade Association and help support them as they continue to offer free programming to residents. Visit http://www.esplanadeassociation.org for more information.
  • Don't Let the Relaxation End. Whether you're with a group of friends or by yourself, take a short walk over to the Hatch Shell and relax even more with free outdoor concerts from the Boston Landmarks Orchestra. Not to worry if you don't have picnic supplies - concessions and chair rentals are available onsite. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Safari #33: Sand Sculpture Festival at Revere Beach

1st Place Winner
The Sand Sculpture festival at Revere Beach is so much more than childhood sandcastles; the sculptures will leave you breathless and full of wonder.  If you haven't been to Revere Beach before, let the sand sculpting festival bring you there.

The festival, one of the largest in the country, is held annually and draws an international field of entrants.  It includes live music, concessions, and of course, good, old-fashioned fun.

2nd Place Winner
After viewing the sand sculptures, be sure to check out the open beachfront; it's perfect for long walks and playing in the surf.

  • Go Early - The festival draws quite a crowd.  Head over on the earlier side to get a birds eye view of the sculptures and to avoid some of the heaviest foot traffic.  Be sure to check the schedule - fireworks are part of the finale.
  • Sample Local Flavor - Many visitors during the sculpting festival can enjoy cuisines representative of the many different ethnicities in Revere.  Will this be your day to sample cherrystone clams or perhaps arroz con pollo?
  • Learn more about Revere Beach's History - Founded in 1895, did you know that Revere Beach was America's first public beach?
  • Get There Easily - Take the MBTA's Blue Line to the Revere Beach stop.  The beach is only a few steps away from the exit.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Safari #32: Lantern Festival at Forest Hills Cemetery

Lanterns at Dusk
Saying goodbye to a loved one who has passed away is never easy, but the Lantern Festival at the Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain is lovely opportunity to remember them.

The Lantern Festival is based on the Japanese Bon Festival, a Japanese Buddhist custom that honors the spirits of the deceased. During the festival, it is believed that the door to the ancestral world opens, allowing messages from family members to be sent to the other side.

Using decorative lanterns, participants can write messages to their loved ones, and calligraphers are available to inscribe shades with messages in Chinese or Japanese characters. At dusk, the lanterns are lit and then launched on Lake Hibiscus, the cemetery's central lake. Volunteers are available to assist you with lighting your lantern.

Calligrapher's Table
The lantern launch attracts many local photographers as the sight of the lanterns on the lake is simply beautiful. Combined with the setting sun and high moon, the collective glow during my visit created the perfect setting for reflection.

Before You Go
  • Bring a Picnic. Blankets, food, drinks, mosquito spray, and a flash light (for finding your way after dark) are highly recommended.
  • Show Up Early & Make a Lantern. The lines can get long, so arrive on the earlier side to allow for enough time to pick up a lantern shade and visit the calligraphy table. 
  • Drive or Take Public Transport.  The Cemetery runs adjacent to the Forest Hills T station where the Orange Line and many buses are available.  Parking is also available onsite for $10.
  • Be Respectful. Remember that those who have created lanterns are offering messages and prayers to loved ones. Keep loud voices to a minimum. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Safari #31: Exploring Boston's Emerald Necklace

I love Boston for the simple fact that you can just put on your shoes and head out of the door - many times with no destination in mind.

The next time you're up for a bit of exploring, check out the Emerald Necklace Park System.

Beginning on the Boston Common and ending in Franklin Park, the Necklace includes of some of the most beautiful outdoor spaces you'll see in Boston.

Landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmstead created the park system to offer residents a retreat from city life and the opportunity to gather together in open, picturesque spaces.  He wanted to encourage residents to enjoy the outdoors for both recreation and relaxation - and each park offers great spots for both.

Here are a few of my favorite gems:

  • Public Garden Swan Boats - Did you know that the same family has been offering Swan Boat rides since the 1870's?  These foot-pedal powered boats offer a quaint and relaxing view of the Public Garden as they pass shores flanked with sweeping, Weeping Willows.
  • The Riverway - running between Fenway Park, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Longwood Medical Area, the Riverway stretches along the banks of the Muddy River offering a great outdoor space for runners looking to log some serious miles. Over the course of our walk, we saw countless numbers of runners all looking for serenity, tree coverage, and flat to moderate trails.
  • Jamaica Pond - with a 1.5 mile trail, the pond is great for running, walking and the like.  With benches and a lovely shoreline, the pond is a great fishing spot.  Every spring, the city releases thousands of fish into the pond - marking a yearly festival where first-time fishers can learn the ropes.  The Pond House also offers boats and kayaks for rent along with conveniences such as restrooms and water fountains.   

Before You Go

  • All parks within the Emerald Necklace are free and open to the public.  Some conveniences, like kayak rentals at Jamaica Pond, do charge a fee.  The Frog Pond Visitor Center, Esplanade, Jamaica Pond Boat House, and Franklin Park all offer public restrooms.
  • The Emerald Necklace Conservancy website offers park history, maps, and events, including Summer Sundays in the Park featuring the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  The first one begins on Sunday, July 12th.
  • The volunteer center offers free tours on Tuesdays and Sundays.  Check their schedule of tours to find one right for you.
**Special thanks to Anulfo Baez (aka @EvolvingCritic) for allowing me to accompany him a journey to complete his Boston Bucket List.  I was happy to join you!  Thanks to you, I've already done Trinity Church and will soon check out the Lantern Festival in JP ;)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Safari #30: I'm Such a Little Shucker

Loyal readers know how much this Bostonian loves oysters, and when I heard about free oyster shucking lessons in the North End, I just had to do it.  Friends, it was uh-mazing, and one of the BEST things I've done in a long time.

Mercarto del Mare (aka The North End Fish Market) is located at 99 Salem Street in the North End. Owners Liz Ventura and Keri Cassidy followed their food dreams and left the corporate world to open the North End's only fish market.  Mercato del Mare has been open now for nearly 3 years, so if you live in the North End and haven't been, be sure to get going.

Liz conducted the afternoon's lesson beginning with a description of the oysters of the day (Summer Side - PEI, Kumamoto - Washington State, and Blue Point - Connecticut).  After we put on our gloves and learned about an oyster knife (a dull knife with a curved tip), the lesson began.  Liz's easy to follow instructions had us shucking and eating in no time. Once we learned the steps, the only question left on our minds was what oyster to open and eat next.

My tips:

  • Arrive early.  30-minute lessons are held every Saturday from 1 to 3pm, every hour and half hour.  Given the market's small size, it's best to arrive early and claim a spot.
  • Dress appropriately.  Oyster shucking is not particularly messy but you may get a little splatter on your clothing.
  • Pay for what you eat.  The lessons are free, but the oysters themselves cost $1.75 to $2 each.  Eat as many as you can shuck.
  • Buy food at the market.  The store also serves ready to eat items.  The sushi looked delicious.
Special thanks to Fred, Mikki, and Arturo for a great afternoon!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Safari #29: Boston Waterworks Museum

Today, I visited the Boston Waterworks Museum to learn more about the history of Boston's municipal water system.  The museum itself was once the high service pumping station responsible for pumping nearly 15 million gallons of water per day to the residents of Boston.

In the mid-1800's as Boston's population continued to grow, the need for clean drinking water also increased.  Pollution, industrial waste, and disease were all threats to general health.  The pumping station and associated network of reservoirs helped to provide residents with clean drinking water - straight from the tap.

If you have visited Trinity Church or the Boston Public Library, key aspects of the museum's design will appear somewhat similar.  Built during Boston's Golden Age, the museum and nearby grounds incorporated city planning, beautiful architecture, and natural materials.

I'm fairly certain that your reaction upon first glance at the pumping system will be exactly the same as mine.  It is an awesome and beautiful sight to behold.

Good to Know:

  • Free Admission.  Admission is free to all visitors but donations are always welcome.
  • Enjoyable Multimedia.  Interactive kiosks provide an amazing overview of the museum's history from engineering, architecture, and clean water health.   
  • Convenient Location.  The museum is near 3 Green Line routes (B, C, and D) and the 86 bus.  There are also a number of restaurants located in the area.
  • Take a Walk.  The Chestnut Hill Reservoir is conveniently located right across the street.  One lap is about 1.6 miles.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Safari #28: Boston CyberArts Festival - Trace with Me

On Saturday April 30th, a friend and I visited Zsuzsanna V. Szegedi’s installation “Trace with Me :: An Audience Participatory Performance,” part of the larger Boston CyberArts Festival, at the SubSamson gallery in the South End. 

In this exhibit, Zsuzsanna wanted to explore the idea of tracing a piece of art and then allowing others to attempt to re-create the piece with trace paper.  To trace the work, Zsuzsanna recorded her movements and then used glowing dots to mimic the movement of her hands.  The glowing dots were projected onto trace paper, allowing participants to follow the dots and recreate the image.

In the end, we saw many different images in our drawing, and in the process of creating, we saw first hand the role interpretation plays in the viewing and understanding of art.  The fact that we used different colors and shading techniques took our piece in an entirely different direction.

Even though I’m curious to know what Zsuzsanna’s original piece was, I don’t think it matters.  We created meaning for ourselves in this process, and perhaps this is what she had in mind.

  • The Boston CyberArts festival runs through May 2, 2011.  To learn more, visit http://bostoncyberarts.org.
  • Learn More about Zsusanna - Visit her website at http://www.zsuzsanna.com/ to view her works and find information on upcoming shows.  She told us about an exhibit opening June 10th near Fenway that will present the tracing idea to a larger audience.  Stay tuned.

*Special thanks to Jen Flynn, my art partner in crime!

Safari #27: Boston CyberArts Festival - Demo Shows and Chiptunes

The April 24th Demo Show and Chiptune concert, part of the Boston CyberArts 2011 festival, left me in complete awe.  It was truly an experience like no other.  Both visually and musically appealing, the show was a combination of electronic music, graphic design, expert computer programming, and a large dose of creativity.

Demos are computer programs written to exploit the limits of an older computer system such as Commodore 64 or Amiga.  With a restricted file size and other constraints, programmers, graphic designers, and musicians compete to create the best multimedia performance.  Some examples of the excellent work on display:
Chiptunes, a subgenre of electronic music, use video game system sounds, synthesizers, and other sound effects to create music.  Two local groups gave brief performances demonstrating the ability to create music with old Game Boy consoles, synthesizers, and live vocals.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Safari #26: Trinity Church in Copley Square

Just like the Boston Public Library, you may pass Trinity Church in Copley Square on a daily basis without ever thinking about stepping inside.  There are many reasons for you to visit - too numerous to list here.  I will however share two of them - architecture and stained glass windows.    

Architecture.  Trinity Church was the birthplace of a new architectural style known as Richardsonian Romanesque named after architect Henry Hobson Richardson.  Characteristics of this style include a large central tower, polychromatic rough stone, and heavy arches. This style became so popular that it was used as a basis for a number of public buildings in the United States.  It was also the first American architectural style imitated in Europe and Canada. 

Stained Glass Windows.  John La Farge was commissioned as the muralist to paint the interior of Trinity Church.  As the church was being built, stained glass windows were commissioned replacing the plain glass windows.  La Farge felt that some of these windows clashed with his murals, and he decided to design four windows himself.  With these windows, La Farge not only established himself as a stained glass artist, but he also raised the bar for stained glass as an art form.  He was the first to use opalescent glass along with a technique of layering the glass to allow for more depth and richness in the amount of color present.  The overall effect is amazing.  As the light changes over the course of the day, each of his windows takes on a different hue bringing an element of light and movement not found in any of the other windows.

  • Visit the website to find more information about taking a tour.  My tour was with docent Anulfo Baez, who has volunteered at Trinity Church for the past four years.  His tour was informative with a keen eye to the art and architecture. 
  • Visit the basement.  Not only is the remodeled basement the location of a gift shop, classrooms and other offices, it also highlights the architectural and structural engineering feats the church overcame to be built in Back Bay.  You can get a small glimpse of the stone foundation which supports the four large pillars in the church.
  • Keep your tour booklet and visitor's tag.  These will allow you to gain re-entry.  Be sure to come back as La Farge's largest stained glass piece, Christ in Majesty (pictured above), is soon to be re-installed.  At the time of my visit, it was offsite for a cleaning and light restoration work.
  • Attend a Friday afternoon organ concert.  The acoustics in the church were built for music.  Concerts are free every Friday from 12:30 to 1pm.  Seating is limited so plan ahead.
Image Credits - Image of Christ in Majesty borrowed from http://nbmaa.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/collection-highlights-lady-of-shallot-by-john-lafarge/

Monday, March 28, 2011

Safari #25: Mixing It Up with the Boston Shaker

How many times have you had a great cocktail at a bar and wished you could make the same thing?  Enter the sentiments of Adam Lantheaume, owner of The Boston Shaker, who simply wanted to explore his passion for creating amazing cocktails - at home.   Knowing how difficult it can be for everyday consumers to purchase bar quality supplies and ingredients, Adam saw the opportunity for a new boutique store.

Located at 69 Holland Street in Davis Square, The Boston Shaker offers an amazing selection of bar supplies, measuring utensils, stirrers, and the like.  You'll also find a hard to beat assortment of bitters, syrups, and other cocktail accoutrement.

My travels last week brought me to the Shaker's doorstep to attend a Brugal rum tasting (that's Dominican rum for those of you not in the know).  The Shaker offers similar events either in the store or in other spots around town.  The event also featured cupcakes from local Somerville great Kickass Cupcakes (you're missing out if you haven't tasted them before).

  • Take Classes - Do you want to know more about bitters?  I do.  Visit the website to view upcoming class schedules.  
  • Strike up a Conversation.  Adam is knowledgeable and friendly.  Strike up a conversation with him, ask questions and get informed answers. 
  • Follow The Shaker on Twitter.  Learn more about special events and other great goings on.
*The Boston Shaker logo graciously borrowed from the website.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Safari #24: New Year's Lion Dances in Chinatown

According to our calendar, we're nearly three months into 2011.  However, if you're looking at the Chinese calendar, the new year began on February 3rd.  In Chinese communities around the world, celebrations have been taking place in the form of festivals and parades.  One such celebration happens every year right in Boston's very own Chinatown.

Firecrackers, banging gongs, and excited crowds drew me to Chinatown to watch the new year's lion dances.  These traditional dances are performed to bring good luck and fortune to local businesses and to showcase the martial arts skills of the lion dancers.  Kung Fu practitioners from local martial arts schools compete in the hopes of receiving a prize from each business.

Vegetables and fruit are left dangling from outside the doors of each business, enticing the lions to visit.   Two dancers perform the dance, with one controlling the head and the other controlling the tail.  Three musicians playing cymbals, drums, and a gong and accompany the lion.  To top it off, a little Buddha escorts the lion as it visits each business throwing firecrackers and causing mischief.

If you're interested in visiting Chinatown for next year's lion dances, here are some tips:
  • Drink Tea and Eat Dim Sum.  Since you're in the heart of Chinatown, visit a local restaurant to partake in Yum Cha, which is the tradition of drinking tea and eating small plates of rich foods like pork dumplings, noodles, or chicken feet (if you please).
  • Take Your Time.  The dances last all day (typically 10am to 5pm) with different martial arts troupes making their way through the neighborhood.
  • Bring Earplugs.  If you're sensitive to loud noises, you may find the firecrackers to be a little intense.
  • Check out Banksy's GraffitiUpdate - it's no longer there.  As is the nature of graffiti art, it was painted over.  Yes, the one and only put one of his stenciled images on a wall in Chinatown.  The graffiti is located on Essex St between Washington St. and Harrison Ave.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Safari #23: The MFA's New Wing - in Context

Context is everything - the time, the place, and the setting working together to bring you a well-rounded understanding of an object or event.  I recently visited the new Art of the Americas wing at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) alongside a docent from Context Travel, a company that specializes in unique tours which do exactly that.

I had the pleasure of taking a stroll through the new wing with Tricia Hastings, an engaging and knowledgeable docent who made the experience of visiting the new wing take on a different dimension. In the three hours I spent with Tricia, I learned more about the museum than all of my individual visits combined.

As a non-Massachusetts native, Tricia's tour of the John Singleton Copley gallery was incredibly informative for me.  While Copley was initially known for his idealized portrait paintings of wealthy Bostonians, his political tendencies came to light in his famous portrait of Paul Revere who appears to foreshadow the coming revolution.  Placed near the portrait is Revere's Sons of Liberty Bowl, which was brought to the MFA thanks to contributions from local school children in 1949.  As a courtesy to young viewers, the bowl has been placed on display at the eye level of a child - a nice touch.

If you're looking for a more than meets the eye view of local art and other Boston sights, be sure to visit Context's website for more information.  With spring just around the corner and potential guests heading to town for a visit, there's no better time than the present to plan your outings now.

Other Thoughts:

  • Don't miss the Behind the Scenes Galleries.  These special galleries are located on each floor in the rear of the new wing and offer a more detailed installation based upon a theme from one of the larger viewing rooms. 
  • Note the furniture arrangement in the new displays.  To allow viewers to come into closer contact with objects, museum designers created displays that would mimic the interiors of the day including, furniture, textiles, and lighting.   
  • Learn more about the MFA's benefactors.  With updated displays and informational kiosks, it's easier than ever to learn more about how the museum acquired its famous pieces and the individuals who selflessly donated them.
*If you have time, visit the 3rd floor of the new wing and view the modern art.  In the photography room, you'll have the opportunity to view my favorite piece - Edward Weston's Pepper no. 30

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Safari #22: The Swapaholics

You bring a bag of gently used items (clothing, accessories, shoes, and housewares, etc) to exchange for other items at little or no cost.  It sounds unbelievable.

The above scenario describes a "swap," where retail therapy, recycling, and charity all come together.  Last Thursday, I attended a clothing swap at the Arts at the Armory in Somerville compliments of the Swapaholics, an group dedicated to inexpensive thrifting and low cost fashionable style.

For $10 (discounted ticket cost) and a small bag of clothes, I walked away with some awesome finds including a puffer vest, pencil skirt, trail running shoes, and a blouse - all in excellent condition.  At the end of the event, all remaining items were donated to charity.

Interested in swapping?  You should be.  Check out the following sites to learn more:

  • Visit the Swapaholics. Follow them on Twitter (@swapaholics) and learn more about their organization and upcoming swaps. 
  • Check out Swap.com - List items you have and items you want, and get swapping with other users for the cost of shipping.  Pretty cool.
  • Start Local.  If you're not ready to swap on a larger scale, organize a swap of your own with friends.
*Swapaholics logo borrowed from the website. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Safari #21: Axiom Gallery

Some things are definitely worth waiting for - and I've been waiting a long time to visit the Axiom Center for New and Experimental Media in Jamaica Plain.  Located at the Green Street T stop on the Orange Line, Axiom probably isn't what you're expecting in an art gallery.  Its unexpectedness will surprise you.

"Identity Element: Works from the New Axiom Group" highlights the work of 12 new artists including video, audio, photography, and other mixed media.  One of my favorite pieces was a display of clocks -  all wired to a central piece and displaying the same time.  The singular ticking of the second hand across the sea of clocks was both thrilling and somewhat chilling at the same time.

Some quick tips if you're planning to visit:

  • The gallery has limited hours, so plan your visit carefully.  Visit the website to view the schedule.
  • The exhibit openings are fantastic.  Meet the artists and enjoy refreshments (small donations suggested).  Sign up for email notifications to find out when the next installation is scheduled.
  • There are no restrooms.  Plan accordingly.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Safari #20: Harvard Museum of Natural History

Happy New Year safari travelers.  I've been away on vacation and recently returned to town.  I hope you all had wonderful holiday celebrations.  To start off this new year, I'd like to focus on safaris that enrich the mind and soul.  With that said, let's start with the mind.

There is something intriguing about the combination of history and science all in the same place.  If you're not convinced, try visiting The Harvard Museum of Natural History.  The museum gives you a visually stimulating tour of life as it has developed on earth over millions of years.  If you're able to visit the museum, be sure to check out the following displays:

The Botanical Gallery - Every specimen contained within this room is handmade - out of glass.  Created from 1886 through 1936, the nearly 4,400 models were used to teach botany to Harvard students.

The Mineral Gallery - A rare opportunity to view hundreds of natural minerals, gemstones, and meteorites.  If you appreciate the beauty of gemstones, pick three of your favorites and try to find them in the gallery.  If you like amethyst, you have a surprise waiting for you.

The Language of Color -  a stunning display of animals and the natural colors found in nature.  Did you know that the fur on some animals will only reflect blue light?

  • Admission is only $9, and if you're a Massachusetts resident, admission is free on Wednesdays from 3 to 5pm (September through May) and Sundays from 9am to noon (year round).
  • If you're looking for unique gifts, the gift shop offers some great ideas.  In particular, the shop sells plants to grow at home including hydroponic herbs, vegetables, flowers, and fruit.
  • If you're looking to grab something to eat after visiting the museum (remember, no food or drinks are allowed inside), Harvard Square is only a 10 minute walk away.