Monday, January 31, 2011

Mixtapes and Alexandra

Today my friend Alex stopped by to drop me off a mixtape (really, a mix CD) of songs for my trip.   We promised that we'd trade CDs a couple of days ago, and I still have to make her one!  She's also going on the Eurail trip with me, so I have to think of something really, really good... anyone have any ideas?
I don't often make CDs like this.  For one thing, I think that sharing music is one of the greatest gifts you can give someone, so I try and choose carefully.  I also think a lot about how the album progresses from one song to the next - is there a story or decent flow?  Are they all in similar keys or tempos or something, or are these just songs that they would like?  I know my father used to make mixtapes (actual mixtapes, with cassettes and everything) for my mother when they were dating.  For a while, my friend Mike and I used to trade song lists (something that I almost forgot about).  Those were, at the time, just lists of songs I liked or was listening to, but I think that if I made him a CD, I would put way more thought into it.  So I have to think of something great for Alexandra...
Do you guys make mixtapes for your friends?  Do you just put a lot of songs together that they would like or do you think about a concept or the flow from song to song?  Do you make them for everyone or are they only for special occasions?

The Wide World

I leave tomorrow, weather permitting, for Paris.  Yeah, still not entirely sure how I got here, but oh, my God, I leave tomorrow!  I've been spending as much time as possible with my friends (hi, Andrew and Mike and Alex!) and my family, and trying to get our house inhabitable for the people who will rent it.  Sometimes that means stamping patterns on a bathroom wall while listening to the Decemberists, and sometimes it means trying to fit clothes into a shared suitcase, which isn't really going well.  It's not that there's a lot of stuff, it's just that I wear bulky sweaters almost every single day, and those don't exactly compress into a carry-on.  Oh well, I'll be packed by tomorrow... I think.
I can't wait to get to Paris!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

You can have my precious bones on my return

The Decemberists, hanging out in a forest somewhere.  From here.

Has anyone else listened to the Decemberists' opera/concept album "The Hazards of Love"?  It came out about a year ago, I think, and only recently have I gotten around to downloading it.  Did you like it?  I personally have mixed feelings about it.  Because I like it as a whole - the story and the repeated themes throughout the album.  I like listening to a work like that - a work that comes back to remind you about what's going on.  But I also had some problems with it - mainly that I don't think that many of the tracks can stand alone as songs that I would listen to.  Because, let's face it - not many people listen to an album all the way through while they're listening to music.  I know that I put my music on shuffle all the time, and the pieces from "The Hazards of Love" don't really stand up next to the rest of the music in my itunes library unless they're all heard in succession.  It tells a story, and to hear "The Abduction of Margaret" after something like "Psycho Killer" or anything by David Bowie is a little odd.  Have you guys listened to this album?  Do you like it?

Saturday, January 29, 2011


My darling brother leaves us for Morocco.  It's his last day at home.  I'll miss him for the eight or so days that we won't see each other!  But I'm sure that he'll have an incredible time in Marrakesh - right, Caleb?
And tonight I get to see my school friends before I leave for Paris at a performance....
What are you doing over your weekend?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Wanderlust: Scotland Edition

I've always loved the idea of Scotland.  The stark beauty, Macbeth, the light on the moors... Also, my parents met in Edinburgh.
I'd love to go to Edinburgh, where the city looks like this...
photo from here

And to the highlands, with the mist on the moors...
and here

and here

And sheep, Kuzu!

Wouldn't you love to live here?
and here

Have you been to Scotland?  Did you like it?  Am I missing something?  Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What is pretty?

I was thinking about this the other day - what makes one person think that someone is gorgeous while another just... doesn't?  Everyone knows I adore my brother, and the other night we were talking about actresses and actors.  And he came up with this: "Cate Blanchett is really just not attractive."  I'm sorry, but WHAT?  My darling brother went on to say something along the lines of "her face looks funny."  I pulled out some fashion magazine where I thought she looked lovely, and got, "yeah, but nothing special... not like Meryl Streep or anything."  So... Caleb likes Meryl Streep, but not Cate Blanchett.  Interesting.  Personally, I think that they're both super-lovely and talented.  Also, both have incredible cheekbones.  And I thought it was cute that a teenage boy pulls Meryl Streep out as an example of loveliness rather than someone younger and newer.  It might have something to do with Out of Africa, a movie that we both loved...

The lovely Cate Blanchett, from here

And the gorgeous Meryl Streep, from here.

Home Improvement

photo from here

In order to get our house livable for other people, we're doing some mini-renovations - specifically, in the upstairs bathroom.  I've been sanding, re-caulking, and painting all day!  It's actually a lot of fun...
What have you guys been up to?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pretty Things in Pretty Places: Abodeon

One of my favourite shops, even if I hardly ever buy anything there, is Abodeon on Mass Ave out between Harvard and Porter.
A cheese guillotine...
Beautiful Japanese kettles
Bells for your bike
Watch-spring bracelets
A sheep mobile!

Need I say more?

(All photos from

Things In Paris: La Sorbonne

The Panthéon, from here

One of the things that I will do in Paris is take classes at the Sorbonne, specifically this class
I'm super-excited, but also a little nervous about the registration.  I fly out of Logan to Paris on the evening of the first and registration ends on the third in Paris.  Have I given myself enough time?
At the same time, I am taking classes at the Sorbonne.  Incredible, right?  Or am I just enough of a nerd that learning history in French seems like the epitome of a good time?

Perfect Lazy Mornings

The New Yorker and about three cups of tea.  Perfect way to start the day, no?  Unfortunately, the rest of my day isn't as lazy... lots of packing and tying up loose ends!
On the New Yorker note, everyone should read the talk of the town on Tunisia that was in this week's issue.  As well as the Alice Munro story...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Getting ready for Paris

I fly to Paris a week from today!  By myself, even - Caleb will come and join me a couple days later from Marrakesh, and the rest of the family will come after that.  But the plane isn't really what's bothering me.  What's bothering me is what to pack.
Boston isn't known for it's sense of style as a city.  We dress for the weather.  You need pants that will fit inside snow boots, and layers that you can take off once you're in an overheated building.  It is freezing in the winter, muddy in the spring, humid in the summer, and glorious in the fall.  That's it.  So up until now, most of my wardrobe is sweaters and skirts.
But now we're moving to Paris.  Paris, the land of all things chic and lovely, where people get dressed up to take out the trash and wear scarves everywhere.  So... what do I pack?  Minimalist, I (think) I can do.  I've already packed away almost all of my clothes into storage, so there isn't any getting all of my t-shirts back now.  And, really, the only colour I wear is grey.  So we'll be okay there, right?  Maybe?  Oh, I have no idea, but I'm really excited!  I can't wait to run around the 14th and see all of the beautiful churches, drink café au lait out of bowls in little cafes with windows facing long parisian streets!   I want to buy warm baguettes in the morning and watch the city glow at night.  Part of me is really, really scared, but the rest of me can't wait to go!

Monday, January 24, 2011


from here

I know, I know, I've talked about these guys already.
(But the Punch Brothers are really good!)
More to the point, I just downloaded Antifogmatic onto my computer.  Please, please, please, go listen to You Are at some point.  I don't think you'll regret it.  Also, Missy.  Also, Rye Whiskey...
Just - listen to the album.  It's lovely, I promise

(Mike, I think you might like it)

Somehow, this all became real overnight

So -
We leave for Paris in about a week.  Next Tuesday, in fact.  We're asking friends to babysit our cats and packing all of our non-essential clothes and all the tablecloths in vacuum bags - things that suck out all the air so that suddenly a bag of sweaters lies flat.  We've spent the entire weekend cleaning and making sure things work and packing the china into boxes for the basement.  We're leaving in a week, and now all of this seems real.
It's still hard to believe, though.  I can't imagine another person living in our house, making tea, sleeping in my bed.  I can't imagine running in the early mornings in the Jardins du Luxembourg.  I can't really imagine doing all of my communication in another language - a language that I'm reasonably good at, but is definitely not my own.  All of a sudden, this seems a little scary.  I keep trying to remember if going to Africa was this scary - was it?  I don't know - all of a sudden it became home pretty quickly.  Is our apartment in the 14th going to become home in the same way?
In other equally exciting (and somewhat scary) news, my friend Alexandra asked me to be her travelling companion on her trip around Europe.  It involves getting a Eurail pass for either 15 or 21 days and going as many places as possible.  While this sounds fun and super-exciting (some of our ideas have been Istanbul, Vienna, Florence, Copenhagen, Prague, and Barcelona), I'm pretty sure that it will decimate my entire savings account.  It's worth it, though, right?
Oh, all of this travelling is scary and exciting and makes my head spin!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Wanderlust, Spain edition

Yesterday was my brother's last exam, so we went out to eat at a Tapas place called Taberna de Haro.  First, if you are in the Boston area and need a place to eat, go there.  It's excellent - I especially recommend the Pisto (vegetables and a poached egg), the Alcachufas (artichoke hearts) and the Espinacas (spinach with golden raisins and pinenuts).  Delicious!  Make sure you get the Trufas for dessert - three perfect truffles with toasts, olive oil, cocoa powder, and salt.
Point being, however, that they serve Spanish food.  And every time I go to their little restaurant, I immediately want to travel to Spain.
To go see the Alhambra with its famed carvings and gardens (I wrote my senior thesis on the Islamic art and history of the palace!)....
from here
and here
and here

To visit Barcelona, home of Gaudi's unfinished cathedral and arguably the best club soccer team...
from here
and here.

What about you?  If you had the opportunity to go to Spain, where would you go?  Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The New Yorker

Do any of you get the New Yorker?  I started reading it for Creative Non-Fiction in the fall of junior year, and then my parents got me a subscription for Christmas that year.  I love it.  Firstly, unlike fashion magazines, it's small enough to roll up and put in your pocket and it doesn't have as many ads.  Secondly (or thirdly), I feel like every time I look at an issue, I always find new things.  Little articles on restaurants or CDs, what it's like to live in Tomsk - anything.
This past New Yorker had a Talk of the Town by Hendrik Hertzberg - my favourite! - AND a longer piece by Dr Atul Gawande himself.  Dr. Gawande wrote one of my favourite books, "Complications," a book that I got one of my best friends for Christmas.  I was really really excited (it's hard to explain).  So - do you guys get the New Yorker?  Do you read it on the bus/train or at home or what?  Let me know!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


In a completely unfair turn of events, my brother gets to leave the US a couple days earlier than we're leaving for Paris and end up in Morocco of all places, to just go hang out in Marrakesh and the Atlas Mountains.  Strictly speaking it isn't all that unfair, as he's been raising the money to go and all that, but still.  Unfair.  When I mention that this is, you know, unfair (we are siblings, after all) he brings up (as he always does) the South Africa trip that my mother took me on and not him.
Oh, well, I can dream, can't I?  Does anyone else want to go to Morocco?
Photo from here

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

So I guess this is New England weather

It looks like we have another blizzard on our hands here.  And by "looks like" I mean that I went out a couple of hours ago and now my footprints are completely filled in.  We've had about six inches in two hours - that's a lot of snow, even for here.  Apparently it will turn to rain later on today, but it doesn't really look like it from my standpoint.  Yesterday my little sister and I went sledding... so I guess snow is good for some things, yeah?  And I know it's only January, but it's already starting to feel like winter is rather long.  Anyone else going stir-crazy in the snow?

The Golden Globes and other things

So, I didn't see the Golden Globes (I was watching Reilly, Ace of Spies with my family - more on that later) but I did see the dresses online, which is really what's important, right?  Also Ricky Gervais making a fool out of himself and everyone around him... anyways, here are my two favourite dresses:
Photo from here
The site I looked at described this as the "best reinforcement in the quality in our nation's youth, with the reminder of "Taylor Momsen, look at what you could have been."  I don't really know about that, but it makes me want to slick my hair back and smile all the time.  She looks lovely, no?
photo from here
And here is the ever-lovely Olivia Wilde in a dress that looks like the night sky.  As far as I can tell, no one liked in enough for her to be best-dressed or anything, but I think she looks lovely.  Do you know that fairytale about the girl who wants a dress that looks like the moon and a dress that looks like the sun?  This could be one of those dresses.... the dress that looks like the stars, perhaps.

Anyways, we didn't watch the ceremony.  We watched Reilly, Ace of Spies, the series that James Bond was based on.  My mother remembered it as dashing and exciting, but this time around Reilly didn't actually seem like that nice of a guy.  Kind of awful, actually.  Has anyone seen Reilly, Ace of Spies?  Did you do anything exciting over your long weekend?  Let me know!

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Punch Brothers

from here

Do you guys know who the Punch Brothers are?  Last night my brother had to study for his English exam (today - good luck, Caleb!) so he gave me his ticket to go see them at the Somerville Theatre.  And oh, my God, people: they are really really good.  Like, fantastic technical and creative musicians.  They play what some would call "Modern Bluegrass" and at one point the mandolin player, Chris Thile, came out and played the last movement of one of Bach's lute suites on the mandolin.  Because holy shit they're that good.
We have their record "Punch" and the record "Antifogmatic" - I highly suggest checking them out.  Growing up in a pretty musical family, technical excellence was really important, but so was creativity.  These guys have both.  They're just super-good, I promise.  Also, anyone who can act like a rock star while playing a mandolin - and then get up and play Bach - deserves to be commended.  Mr. Thile, I just want you to know that you're kind of my hero at the moment.  Thank you.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Aftermath

We had a pretty huge snowstorm yesterday - huge enough to force trees into half-bent positions and to close down the entire city.  A snow day for my darling siblings, too!  In the past, when I have had snow days, a friend from high school and I would meet up somewhere and we would cook.  Occasionally it was just chocolate-chip cookies, but more often we made things like maple-cream pie with shortbread crust or phyllo-dough-wrapped brie with rosemary chutney.  For us, at least, on a day when our lives weren't ruled by studying and the train schedule - I would often not get home until eight - the freedom to laze about, bake, and occasionally get a head-start on our bio homework was pretty incredible, so we took as much advantage as we could.
Yesterday, though, when I left the house for a walk at about nine, I was one of the only people out.  It was still snowing pretty hard, and the only vehicles on the street were ambulances and empty MBTA buses.  The streets were pretty smooth by then, but they were covered with a ton of snow and rather slippery.  It continued to snow for most of the day, but as time passed the sky lightened from the dark grey and the flakes got smaller and gentler.
Today the sky is blue and everything is covered in snow.  It's a little blinding and quite cold, but I can't wait to walk through all of this to get to Grand Rounds and Clinic today.  The spirea bush is lying almost flat on the ground and we have friends without power all over the city, but it is still beautiful.  I love snowstorms, even the aftermath.  Even if it means that running won't be an option for a couple of days.
Other East Coast people, did you get a bunch of snow, too?  Were you snowed in or without power or was it lovely?  We've had our first blizzard of 2011!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Birthday in review

Yesterday was my birthday!  Like I've said a million times now, I turned eighteen yesterday, and it was a wonderful, lazy Sunday.  My father made Eggs Benedict (my favourite!) for breakfast and we attempted the New York Times crossword together.  That night, my best friends and the family friend my parents jokingly call their foster daughter came over and we had an incredible meal of olive-encrusted chicken with fennel and tomato puree.  For dessert, instead of a cake, we made vanilla bean soufflé with ice-cream.
I am also now the proud owner of a whole bunch of books, including one that my little sister wrote for me, a shirt, a dress, a grey hat, a gorgeous scarf, and some other things (like chocolate and things to take to college and a woolen bag).  Thank you, Kuzu and Mike and Edo and family, for the wonderful birthday!  It was absolutely perfect!
Today, I went to the eye doctor to get a new prescription and found out that I had been wearing glasses and contacts that were far, far too weak.  I walked home admiring branches on trees and blades of grass.  Did any of you have that experience with leaves when you were kids and got glasses for the first time?  When you stuck your head out the window marvelling at the shape of leaves, how they weren't just gobs of greenery?  It was like that all over again.  I also now have lovely new glasses frames from Denmark.  How are you, though?

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Is my last day of being seventeen.  Tomorrow I will wake up and be a grownup.  Good lord.
Last night my darling brother and I went to see the Blue Flower at the ART.  I cried; he shushed me.  We have the perfect relationship.  But really, the play was incredible.  It starts in the Belle Époque and continues into 1955, and follows these four friends - two art students, a brilliant scientist, a cabaret singer... and then (spoilers) they all die.  Hence the crying, I guess.
Most of it took place in the Interwar period, partially in World War I, and it deals with this concept of a continent with severe PTSD.  They sing (oh yeah, it's a musical) about nightmares of gas masks under their beds, about the Weimar Republic where they planned to colour the grey and blood-soaked world of No Man's Land with new ideas and new forms of government.  They were going to get it all right this time.  Yeah.  That didn't go so well.
I love the history of WWI and the Interwar period.  I am convinced that this is because I like Virginia Woolf, but it just is heart-wrenching in a way that not much else is.  I remember reading All Quiet on the Western Front in maybe seventh grade, and then in Film last year we watched Kubrick's Paths of Glory - a film about French soldiers in the trenches.  Generally, WWI is glossed over in most history classes - in US history we spent exactly a day on WWI - but this play didn't gloss over much.  Tonight is its last night in Boston, but if you can manage to see it at some point, do so.  I promise you won't regret it.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Happy Wanderlust

Hi guys!  Happy Friday!  What are you doing this weekend?  Tonight I'm going to the Blue Flower (a play that's supposed to be absolutely excellent) and tomorrow we're having dinner with old family friends.  And then Sunday is my birthday!  I will be eighteen years old.  I have consistently been the youngest of all of my friends - the youngest in my grade, the youngest in choirs or theatre.... but now I'll be eighteen like the rest of them.  Well, some of them.
I also have this idea (silly, I know) that once I turn eighteen I'll actually be a grownup.  I mean, I'll be able to vote, which will be nice, but that's the only thing I can come up with that I really want to do now that I'm eighteen.  Maybe buy a lottery ticket and dream about where I could go with the money?  Sure, let's go with that.  What would be your fantasy trip around the world?

Perhaps, like Kuzu and her brothers, we would like to go to Iceland to see the Northern Lights....
(from here)
And it looks like the end of the world...
(from here)

Perhaps, like Mum, we would go to India, where the colours are neverending...
(from here)
And where mountains touch the tip of the sky...
(from here)

Or perhaps somewhere entirely different?  Where would you like to go?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2010, five days late

Sometimes I want for us too look at this in some other perspective than our own.  I want to say "this is the world."  I want us to perhaps look back on the year as the New York Times did on Sunday, with their different short editorials for every month.  The Haiti earthquake.  The Winter Olympics in Vancouver.  The Cheonan Incident in Korea.  The British election.  The attack on the Gaza flotilla.  The World Cup in South Africa.  Floods in Pakistan, Sarkozy expelling the Roma, the drug war in Mexico.  The Chilean miners, China's Zhang, Saudi Arabia on Wikileaks.  Some of these, I am ashamed to say, I had to look up to remember.  Because for me, this past year was way different than that.  
The way I remember it, I submitted in my college applications, and turned seventeen.  The Haiti earthquake happened, and turned my universe upside down.  I baked for bake sales, organized benefit concerts with my brother, wrote a ten-page paper for AP Biology.  Then it was the Winter Olympics, never-ending assignments, an independent senior thesis on the Cordoban Caliphate with one of my favourite teachers.  Skiing with my family in March.  Hearing back from colleges in April and deciding wear to go for an excruciating month of visits and make-up work for missed classes, hanging out with my best friends.  Graduating from high school in May in a white dress and a French braid down my back, with my best friend and my grandfather in the audience with the rest of my family.  Feeling so proud that I though my heart would rip open.
My brother and my father and I watched the world cup in June together.  We crowded into sports bars with tons of people for big games - US vs England, the day Cote d'Ivoire lost - and sat practically by ourselves for others - France vs Mexico, for example.  I visited my family in Tennessee and prepared to go to Switzerland for the summer.  I made pavlova for a friend who stayed over until four in the morning to watch movies.  In July, we left for Switzerland and I broke up with my boyfriend.  We hiked in the Alps, ate cheese.  My bother and I screamed when Spain won the World Cup.  In August, Caleb and I shared five days in Paris together, visiting the "very 1920s polar bear" at the Musée d'Orsay and the Botticelli at the Louvre.  I spent a week on holiday at the beach with my family, and another camping in Acadia.  And then my gap year really began.  
In September, I started taking a class at the Harvard Extension school and doing volunteer work.  I started this blog in October, and played music with my brother and his friends, walked my sister home from school.  I visited my best friend at college.  The Chilean miners came out alive.  In November, I celebrated my brother's birthday and Thanksgiving, and December was Christmastime.  Mass on Christmas Eve, making sheep cookies, getting dressed up.  Being with my family.
So, that was my 2010.  2011 holds wonderful things in store - everyday runs (my New Year's resolution), a move to Paris and classes at the Sorbonne, the possibility of Africa, and college across the country in the fall.  What does the new year hold in store for you?

Monday, January 3, 2011

A home away from home

Over the weekend, we found our apartment for when we will go to live in Paris!  It took us forever, but the place is beautiful and really quite big - big enough for five people to live in comfortably.  All I know is that it's near the Jardin du Luxembourg and it has a piano and fireplaces, though they probably don't work.
I'm having visions of fires in my bedroom on cold nights, of my brother's Chopin nocturnes floating out over the city, of long runs in the park on mornings when barely anyone is up, though perhaps you can't really wear leggings and a windbreaker outside in super-glamourous Paris, even in the very early mornings.  I'm so excited!  Does anyone have any advice for what to take - or leave behind?  Advice for what we should do in the six months we live there?  Please let me know!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year!

I know I'm a day late, but I hope the new year holds an awful lot in store for you - it definitely does for me!
In this coming year I will live in Paris, perfect my French (which, it must be said, isn't really up to par), keep working for (and do actual work for) PIH, turn eighteen, hopefully learn how to drive, go to college - it's going to be a hell of a year, it seems!
What are your plans for 2011?  Was this past year a good one?  Are you excited?