Posts Tagged ‘whimsy’

darwins mug heart table striped journal

A few weeks ago, I met my guy for lunch in Cambridge on a rainy Tuesday. We had sandwiches at a place we both love, grooving to nineties music, and then I walked down the street to a coffee shop to work for a while. Later, I dropped in at Albertine Press, where I’ve taken a few craft workshops, and went to a yoga class at the studio near my house, where the instructor – sweet Kristina – greeted me by name.

As we move through these spring days, I keep thinking about this time three years ago: the fear and isolation, the masks on the T and at the grocery store, the almost total lack of in-person gatherings (except on warmer days, when we could take walks outside). One of the (many) things I missed during that time was my “third places”: the spaces separate from work and home where I spent time and formed relationships. At that time, those places included Darwin’s (above); the beautiful main branch of the Boston Public Library; Brattle Square Florist; and that same yoga studio, among others.

These days, my third places are the same and different: still the yoga studio; Toasted Flats, where I pick up a pita wrap for lunch every week or two; the East Boston library branch, where I am known by name; and that sweet Cambridge florist, where Stephen always has a smile for me. ZUMIX, where I work, functions as a third place for our students, where they can come and be themselves and make music, and get a little rowdy if they so choose.

I’m thankful today for those third places, and for the people – including my colleagues and friends – who work so hard to make them beautiful and accessible. It’s a true delight to welcome and be welcomed, and I’m grateful every time I walk in.


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Most mornings, after journaling and breakfast, I pull on my running clothes and head out the door to spend a few miles pumping my legs and getting some fresh air. I don’t always have music playing at home, but I almost always listen to it on my morning runs. My “custom” Spotify mixes swing between the genres I love most: nineties country, mellow jazz, soulful singer-songwriters and Broadway show tunes. And I have to say, lately the mixes have been killing it.

My folk mixes are crammed full of my longtime faves, like the Indigo Girls and the Wailin’ Jennys, and newer-to-me discoveries like Birds of Chicago and Abigail Lapell. My Broadway mixes have been heavy on the & Juliet pop tunes since I saw it in NYC, but they also include doses of Hamilton, Amelie, Come From Away, The Fantasticks and other musicals I love. And you’ve heard me rhapsodize about my love for nineties country: Martina, Faith, Shania, Reba, Jo Dee, and (forever and always) George Strait.

It’s a pleasure when the mix turns up song after song I love, as my feet pound down the familiar paths of the parks or harborwalk or greenway. A good mix – especially one I don’t have to fiddle with – delights me every single time. (I’m convinced it helps me run faster, too.) Good music is so happy-making.

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computer tulips hpac

As a word nerd from way back, I love a good crossword – themed or more general, simple or fiendishly complex. I used to work the TV Guide crossword as a kid (remember when it came to our houses in paper form?), even though I never knew more than half the clues. And as an adult, I’ve become a devotee of the New York Times crossword.

I love the daily Mini for its quick hit of accomplishment, and the larger puzzles for the different experiences they provide on different days. Monday starts out slow and sweet, only requiring a little stretch outside my brain’s daily round of tasks and to-do lists. Tuesday is similar, though sometimes a bit harder. These early rounds don’t even always have a theme. They’re a cinch to complete in between work emails, toggling back and forth from spreadsheets and text messages to the pleasing symmetry of lines and squares. 

By Wednesday there might be a fiendish pun or two, or a handful of words turning normal wordplay conventions inside out. There’s sometimes an obscure athlete or actress, or a pop culture phenomenon from two generations ago. But Thursday is when the (metaphorical) claws come out.

Thursday is full of tricky double entendres, themes that are only connected if you squint at them sideways, and sometimes even the dreaded double-letters-in-one-square. Thursday still looks manageable, even enticing – but it rarely is. I still enjoy it, though I sometimes give up in exasperation, taking Friday and/or Saturday off before coming back for Sunday. When I do attempt the weekend days, I almost always learn something – even if I also shake my head and despair at either the creators’ diabolical wordplay or my own lack of crossword ingenuity.

Sometimes I think I spend too much time on the crossword – but one of its gifts is that it’s finite. Once it’s done (and the catchy jingle plays), it’s done. I can cross it off my mental list. Until tomorrow morning.

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We are having (I keep saying) a grey winter around here. A friend exclaimed last week, “Oh, you’re having such nice weather in Boston!” and I laughed out loud – clearly I’ve only been posting on Instagram on the (rare) days the skies are blue.

In the wake of last week’s snow/sleet/rainstorm, I’m looking for scraps of color – which, at the moment, looks like cheery hits of pink, wherever I can find them.

Whether it’s flipping through old flower photos (above), the pink parrot tulips I bought from my beloved florist recently, or my cozy new sweatshirt, pink is making me happy these days.

I’m waiting for the cherry blossoms and redbuds to spring forth (and loving the photos my friends send me in the meantime); dotting my journal entries with bright, spring-hued stickers; and generally searching for pops of pink (and other colors) to counteract the grey. I’m even sporting pink eyeshadow once in a while – anything to brighten my inner (and outer) landscape.

What’s keeping you sane while we wait for spring?

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As previously stated, it feels like this winter’s been a long one. And despite my glorious getaway to San Diego in February, I have been hankering for some additional travel. I’ve got one trip on the calendar and am dreaming of a couple of others, but mostly, this March, I am staying local. So I’m trying to make the best of it – despite grey skies and rain – with local adventures.

My guy and I went to the Gardner for their Free First Thursday evening, which involved gorgeous live music by Fabiola Mendez, and the chance to wander the exhibits. I always love seeing the crowds who show up on First Thursday – usually a younger, hipper, more diverse group than you typically see at the museum.

We perused Isabella’s travel scrapbooks, and I revisited some familiar pieces. It was especially fun because I’d just read a novel about her (The Lioness of Boston, which was excellent). We always talk, too, about colonialism and privilege and wealth when we visit the Gardner – because someone had to labor for all this beauty, and it’s important to acknowledge the stories that don’t always get told.

The next week, I headed over to Albertine Press for a calligraphy workshop – which ended up being a one-on-one session with Jen, an accomplished calligrapher. It was both fun and soothing to trace letter forms with beautiful brush pens, and watch Jen demonstrate the strokes and shapes. I did a bit of shopping afterward, and came home with the beginnings of a fun new skill to practice.

On a Sunday afternoon, my guy and I headed to the Map Room Tea Lounge at the Boston Public Library, to toast some exciting developments for him, and brighter days ahead. We sipped delicious cocktails and enjoyed yummy savory bites – and got to sample a few treats from the adjacent tea room. It was just the sparkle our weekend needed, and a semi-hidden gem tucked into one of our favorite places.

I’ve got some live theatre on the list, too – an ushering stint at my beloved Lyric Stage and a trip to Into the Woods with a girlfriend, soon. And my guy and I have a concert date on the books. So, though I’m hankering to hop on a plane, I’m doing my best to enjoy what’s right in front of me – while I wait eagerly for the spring sunshine.

What local adventures are you having these days?

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mosaic butterfly austin tx

Today’s #mondaydelights post is a bit of a double-up – rather like its main character. Veronica Speedwell, whose name signifies both a plant and the butterflies she studies, is a lepidopterist working in (or, when she can, out of) 19th-century London. She’s the star of a mystery series by Deanna Raybourn, and her adventures have been keeping me highly entertained this winter.

I read Veronica’s first adventure, A Curious Beginning, several years ago, but picked the series back up after reading Raybourn’s recent witty standalone, Killers of a Certain Age. The series’ format is more or less standard by now: Veronica and her colleague, Stoker, a natural historian who has also had plenty of adventures abroad, are plugging along with their standard work of cataloging a natural history museum for their wealthy patron. A mystery, often brought to their door by a friend or one of Stoker’s brothers, interrupts their cataloging, and the two of them go haring off around London (or, sometimes, other parts of England) to recover a stolen item or solve a murder or clear a man’s name before he hangs.

I’ve said before that witty British mysteries are my catnip, and these fit the bill (though I occasionally get tired of Veronica’s rather high opinion of herself). Stoker is a complex, interesting character; their wealthy patrons are kind and also hiding a secret or two; and Stoker’s brothers, plus other London high-society types, provide plenty of wit and intrigue. I appreciate Veronica’s boldness and her scientific mind; the two of them usually land in at least one ridiculous situation, either romantic or life-threatening or both; and each book’s end usually sees them settled back at home, a glass of whiskey (or two) comfortably in hand.

Raybourn’s eye for historical detail is wonderful, including costumes, settings and England’s highly stratified class system. I love watching her and Stoker mix with characters from all levels of society, including aristocrats, Scotland Yard policemen, servants, barmaids and (occasionally) members of Queen Victoria’s royal family.

As both this winter and a head cold have dragged on, I’ve enjoyed curling up with Veronica – and I’ve learned a thing or two about butterflies (and taxidermy) along the way.

Have you read any of Veronica’s adventures? I’d love to hear what you think.

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bookstore lenox interior shelves

It’s no secret around here that I’m a lifelong bookworm. I’ve got a whole (rainbow) wall of books in my apartment, plus piles on various end tables, and an ever-rotating cast of library reads. And though I adore my bookish retreat, when I need to get out of my apartment, I often find myself heading for a destination where I can likewise be surrounded by books.

There’s something comforting to me about walking into a room full of stories, whether it’s a bookstore, a library or even a book-lined Airbnb. I’ve always thought of books as friends, and I love both the familiarity and the potential for new discoveries when I dive headfirst into the shelves.

everybody loves books sign

I adore visiting bookstores on vacation, of course, but I’m frequently just as happy with a jaunt to my local library here in Eastie or the main branch downtown. I don’t always even have to buy anything: I am among those people, to quote Jane Smiley, “who feel better at the mere sight of a book.”

Several times recently, when I’ve found myself at a loose end – waiting for an appointment, plans falling through, in need of a place to perch and work – I’ve headed straight for the nearest bookish destination. A long browse at the Booksmith, a visit to the new Fabulist cafe at the Seaport branch of Porter Square Books, or a nose around the Brattle – the first bookstore I discovered in Boston – have set me right again. I spent a happy afternoon on Valentine’s Day working at the Boston Public Library, sipping Earl Grey under book-shaped lamps, surrounded by shelves of new releases, and a contented hour there yesterday, writing in my journal and enjoying the buzz.

Tell me: do you delight in bookish spaces as much as I do? What are your favorites?

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tulips table oranges book

Last winter, when I was spending time in San Diego, I shipped a box or two of California citrus back to my guy here in Boston. I loved passing orange and lemon trees on my morning runs, and picking up fresh local fruit at the grocery store or the La Mesa farmers’ market. I wanted to send him a handful of juicy SoCal sunshine – tangerines and Meyer lemons and blood oranges to brighten the winter days.

While we ate a ton of citrus during our idyllic San Diego weekend this year, I’ve been craving it still since I got back. So, to supplement the bags of clementines I buy at the grocery store, I’ve splurged on a box or two of citrus from Good Taste Farm. It’s admittedly a lot more expensive than those $5.99 bags of clementines – but I have loved opening up a box filled with tart blood oranges, straight from the sunny West Coast. It’s a splurge I can afford (once in a while), and it’s made me so happy on these grey winter days.

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Happy Monday, friends. Today’s delight is pure fun: the handful of twinkly gold earrings that are making me happy right now.

I have several pairs: the slender gold rectangles above, a gift from my friend Abigail; the sunbursts I found at an Abilene boutique over Christmas; a pair of tiny bicycles (a gift from my partner); and a pair of delicate gold gingko leaves by the same artist.

I’ve been rotating them out with my winter scarves (or, more recently, during a much-needed long weekend in San Diego), and it brings me a burst of joy to have some sparkle at my ears, especially on these grey winter days.

What’s bringing you sparkle in the midst of winter?

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Hello, friends. It’s technically the halfway point of winter, though we in the Northeast know we still have weeks to go before spring really comes. No matter what the groundhog says, we can expect biting winds and freezing temps for a while yet.

That’s one reason – though not the only reason – I’m joining up with Anne Bogel’s annual celebration of what’s saving our lives right now.

January was unusually grey – the cloudiest in decades, according to my favorite weather guy. I struggle with short days and bitter nights , and have been feeling a bit uninspired at work and in my own creative practice. So I needed the push, more than usual, to really look at what’s saving my life these days.

Here’s my list – I’d love to hear yours, if you’d like to share:

  • Clementines. These little bursts of sunshine are my favorite winter fruit. Their sweet-tart zing is just the best, and I love the way the scent lingers on my hands.
  • Petting Gigi, our affectionate office dog, whom I adore (it’s mutual).
  • Yoga, several times a week. I’m lucky that The Point, my beloved studio, is down the street from both work and home.
  • Strong black tea in my red Darwin’s mug. I miss the place itself, but the mug and the memories live on.
  • Fresh flowers, always, and houseplants. My stripey nanouk plant and African violet are thriving, and I’m starting my second batch of paperwhites soon.
  • Season 3 of All Creatures Great and Small, which is as joyful and funny and life-affirming as ever.
  • Spotify mixes, made for me: soulful singer-songwriters, Broadway hits, smooth jazz and the women of country.
  • Bright red toenail polish, even if nobody sees it but me.
  • Twinkle lights, at home and at work.
  • Travel plans coming up.
  • The &Juliet soundtrack, full of poppy, upbeat, feminist, blues-curing hits I adore.
  • Good books, as always.
  • Colorful pens and cute stickers, from Katie Daisy and Brandi Kincaid.
  • Trading texts and Marco Polo messages with a few dear friends.

What’s saving your life this winter? I’d love to hear.

P.S. The fifth issue of my newsletter, For the Noticers, comes out soon. Sign up here to get on the list!

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