Archive for the ‘Hiking’ Category

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31/13

September 7, 2013

A little over a year and a half ago, I had the great pleasure of playing the piano for a production of Tick, Tick…Boom!, a semi-autobiographical musical by the late Jonathan Larson, better known for writing Rent. The first song in the show is called 30/90, referencing the lead character’s impending 30th birthday (in the year 1990) and related uncertainty about his future as an artist in New York City; facing down my own 30th as well as a move to that city, I considered the upcoming year. 30/12 didn’t have much of a ring to it. 31/13, now, that was a little more interesting, especially since I was born on March 1st. The numbers were clearly telling me that turning 30 would not be such a big deal (and it wasn’t; I spent a pleasant, rainy evening in my Queens apartment with six good friends, drinks, and a plethora of tasty snacks), but I had better make the next birthday count.

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Thirty wasn’t a bad year. I spent five months in two different sublets in New York, where I taught some piano lessons, worked on two shows (one of them brief but exhilarating, the other much less so), saw (and loved!) Once and the revival of Godspell and a lot of smaller things, traveled to Providence for Cabaret, and wrote the music for a new production called Little Red and the Wolf, as well as a couple of other songs for my own amusement. I flew to San Antonio for a cousin’s wedding, read Miles Davis’ autobiography, and watched 5 1/2 seasons of Doctor Who. I landed a summer job in a cute seaside town in Maine; as the season wound down, I applied to jobs in Boston, New York, and elsewhere but only got nibbles from places back home, which was what I’d secretly hoped for. I’d missed my family, friends, cat, and a particular friend who had told me he couldn’t handle a long-distance relationship, but who I hoped might give me a second chance if I came back for a while. He did, and two weeks before I turned thirty-one, we drove to Toronto to audition for future productions of Once, a completely ludicrous adventure that I never would have expected, yet one that forced me to think seriously about singing in front of people, and also got me to listen to a lot of female singer-songwriters I hadn’t known very well.

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I spent the last day of 30 – the year I got paychecks in four different states – helping my boyfriend move from Providence back to Massachusetts: one good reason for me to limit my ramblings. And the reasons keep coming. In April I played second keyboard for a not-very-good college production of a show I had already played and programmed before; it was easy money but there was nothing artistic about it, except that the trumpet player was excellent. His program biography told me he was also a contractor for a handful of local theaters; when I asked if I could send him a resume, he said sure, though he doubted there’d be much work anytime soon. Not two weeks later, he called me to ask if I could accompany a rehearsal that afternoon for the Huntington Theatre‘s annual Spotlight Spectacular. Their music director had missed his flight from New York and would make it in time for the performance, but they needed someone to run songs with the singers. Of course I agreed, but when I got there they asked me to stay for the gala too, which is how I ended up accompanying Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana.

Then I was hired to music direct Bernarda Alba, Michael John LaChiusa’s dark, flamenco-tinged adaptation of the Lorca play, for Stoneham Theatre‘s summer youth festival. I was already excited to work with a small cast of high-school aged girls on this challenging piece, and even more excited when I got to know the rest of the artistic team, who were hands down the most supportive and truly collaborative group of people I’ve ever gotten to work with. The girls were also extremely talented and committed, diving headfirst into the complex rhythms, tonalities, and difficult subject matter with no complaints. I think they all grew in the five weeks we worked together, and I did too.

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I hit the halfway point of being 31 a week ago, which was also opening weekend for the production of Ring of Fire that I’m currently music directing in Grand Lake, Colorado. The job started the day after Bernarda closed; they’d had a mid-season opening in their staff, so I sent my resume, interviewed and auditioned via Skype, and got on a plane for the mountains. The theater itself is beautiful and very professional, with a company of seriously talented actors, technicians, and musicians. I was lucky enough to see all three of the summer productions before they closed, and was astounded by how well the shows were cast and how spectacular they looked and sounded. And now that Fire is open and I have some time off, I’ve gone hiking twice this week, and while I am woefully out of shape (more so than I can blame on the altitude), the incredible views are easily worth all the wheezing and muscle fatigue. I look forward to another three weeks of performances and wilderness adventures. And another six months of unexpected journeys.

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So long, farewell

May 28, 2011

I’m moving out of the Quincy apartment in two weeks – two weeks! – and the timing is really terrible. Not because I’m so very busy with end-of-year concerts and recitals (I am, but most of that will be over in a few days), but because this is the time of year when it’s suddenly a good thing that the bedrooms – located in the basement, but overlooking a sort of cliff, so they get plenty of light – are a solid 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the house. The cross-breezes that blow from the kitchen through the living room are awfully pleasant, and there are new green leaves outside the windows, though they’re already full of holes chewed by the horrible green worms that loll all over my car in the morning. So, OK, there are pros and cons to everything, and I’m not going to miss the green worms or how cold my room was in winter or the bathroom fan that sounds like a dying horse. But as I sit here in my breezy kitchen surrounded by pint glasses full of flowers (it’s concert season and I only have one vase), listening to the chatty sparrows outside, it’s hard not to think of all the things I am going to miss.

My pantry, for one. It makes me unreasonably happy to gaze at its shelves lined with bright-colored cookware, hot sauce, vinegar, pasta, and tea: it’s a feeling of plenty, a cozy, provided-for feeling. And it has my favorite view in the house, at least in spring and summer when the trees are leafy. From this angle, through the stand of skinny trees, you can’t see the house next door, so it looks like I live in a forest, not a narrow, pothole-ridden residential street in a blue-collar suburb. Downside: it’s hard to see things in there at night, because although there is an overhead light with a pull-chain, I’m too short to reach it.

I don’t know that I will miss this kitchen, exactly, what with its dearth of counter space (just enough for a dishrack and a cutting board), but I have certainly had some culinary adventures here, including last week’s flaming rhubarb crumble and the salmon that I once pulled out of the oven, then promptly fumbled onto the floor. Both those incidents involved a blue Le Creuset baking dish that didn’t break when dropped (though it melted a bit of the linoleum) and didn’t scorch irreparably even when its contents were blackened (thanks, Bon Ami), so if nothing else, at least I know that dish is nigh indestructible. More importantly, I think the two years I’ve spent here have been the ones in which I’ve grown most as a cook, trying out new recipes, ingredients, and techniques, inspired somewhat by this blog but much more so by other blogs, books, and magazines. In this kitchen I read a recipe for homemade fruit preserves and said, “Oh! I can do that.” Hence the jars of ginger-peach jam above, a combination which I haven’t really perfected yet, but I’ve got a new idea to try as soon as I can find some ripe peaches.

I think I may have mentioned that I like trees, and while the bunch outside my pantry window are sort of an illusory comfort, there are more than I could ever ask for a mere seven minutes away in the Blue Hills. I will probably come back and hike them again in the fall – maybe even the whole Skyline Trail in a day, if I can find a friend with a car to do it with me – but I’ll definitely miss the convenience of being able to hike any sunny morning that I don’t have to work, without any planning. It’s not like I’ll be starved for trees this summer; I’m supposed to climb Mount Washington with the same friend I hiked with last year, and the theater-company housing is aptly named the Spruces. There are plenty of maples and firs around my parents’ house, where I’m staying for a bit between moving and leaving for New Hampshire. But I’m worried about how things will be in New York. I’ve been spoiled here; even when I lived in Boston, there were enough trees around to harbor the occasional raccoon or oriole. Either the city will break me of my need for green things, or I’ll end up spending all my time in a park.

I do anticipate a wider array of food, coffee, etc. available in New York, and if my recent visits are any indication, I have a lot to look forward to. I haven’t been able to find a good bread place around here, though there are plenty of cupcakeries, and I’ve often wished for a high-quality independent coffee shop close by. Of course, while the South Shore may not boast Blue Bottle, Stumptown, or the like, I do have a small, secret soft spot for Marylou’s, a local chain that is almost as well known for hiring cute high school girls and dressing them in short shorts and pink T-shirts, as for its ridiculously flavored coffee.  Pictured above is the white chocolate chip iced coffee I purchased today. It was insanely sugary, and I would probably rather die than have been caught drinking it in front of my former Peet’s coworkers. But it was pretty tasty. And while I have little to say about Dunkin’ Donuts coffee except that it’s usually better than nothing, I do feel a certain pride to have lived in the town where it all started, and to have visited the Weymouth location where they still make their own pastries in-house. Maybe not as proud as I feel to have lived in the same zip code as the Sam Adams brewery. But a little, anyway.

No, I’m not going to miss my cat. She isn’t going anywhere, not if I have any say in the matter. But her personality seems to adapt to different environments; the chilliness of this apartment probably led to her realization that laps are kind of comfortable, especially my lap, especially if I’ve got a fleece blanket over my legs. So I’m curious exactly who she’ll be once we figure out where we’re living next. I guess I wonder the same thing about myself.

If you’ve been reading this long and live in the area (and you aren’t somebody I’ve never met, though if you are, hello! And thanks for reading!), consider this your invitation to come have a cup of tea or some dinner, or go hiking, or just keep me company while I throw things in boxes, sometime before I move. I haven’t had nearly enough people over since I’ve lived here, and I’m running out of chances to fix that.

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The best version

March 11, 2011

On my way out of the choir rehearsal I accompanied today, I got a cancellation call from the mom of the student I was supposed to be tutoring in math. Instead of spending 90 minutes drilling a fourth-grader in fractions and multiplication, I would have an extra couple hours of daylight to myself. I could go read magazines at the library, look at clothes in Marshall’s that I shouldn’t buy until next week’s paycheck, or… right. Go hiking, like I should’ve done this damp, gloomy morning, if I’d managed to kick myself out of bed sooner. I knew I needed the exercise, and I’ve had some of my best hiking experiences in similarly forbidding weather.

I’ve been feeling sort of down on myself lately, physically speaking, and it’s not really because of the wobble in my upper arms or the 10 pounds I’ve been meaning to lose forever. It’s because of my lack of determination to overcome bad weather, inertia, or whatever, and go exercise anyway. Worse, I’ve been comparing myself unfavorably to other people, some of whom I don’t even really know, who seem to have things going for them that I don’t — motivation, a more active lifestyle, stunning good looks. This is not only useless but irrelevant, because I am not those people. I don’t have their gifts, resources, or goals, I have my own. I know this. But sometimes it’s easier to sit on the couch and wallow than to get up and do something that makes me feel better about myself — me, a uniquely created person, and not a failed imitation of someone else.

Which is why I’ve decided to give up feeling sorry for myself for Lent. Good luck, right? I expect to slip up in small ways on a daily basis, but the idea is to catch myself, figure out what’s really bothering me, and do something to counteract it. I’m sleeping in too late? Move the alarm out of arm’s reach, and actually stay out of bed once I’ve gotten up to silence it. I haven’t accomplished my goals for the day? Stop reading things online and get on it. I’m sluggish and out of shape? Easy. Get out of the house and get moving.

This is how I found myself fighting my way up a rocky hill, pushing farther and faster, wanting to feel the heat in my legs and chest, the effort of breathing. Wanting to know I was doing something hard and a little unpleasant, teaching my body to be stronger and tougher. Until I couldn’t any more, and stood still, heart racing, turned my face to the flat gray sky, and prayed: God, help me to be the person You saw when You designed me, the person You still see in me. Not someone else, just the best version of me. Help me to accept who and what I am and to believe that others will accept me, even love me, too.

I kept climbing then, but more slowly, without the same urgency. I thought about how strange it is for someone like me, who’s always considered herself sort of average-looking, to be so frequently surrounded by actors, people whose job requires them to be attractive. Naturally, I feel prettier some days than others, and more so since I’ve had a couple of boyfriends to say nice things about me. And I’ll never forget my grandfather telling me I had such beautiful eyes. But on the whole: average. Then I thought of Philip Seymour Hoffman, whom one astute blogger has compared to celery root, scruffy-looking but versatile. (Though I think Hoffman is much more interesting.) Most people wouldn’t call him particularly handsome, but he’s widely regarded as a fine actor, and with good reason.

One of my favorite films of his — OK, one of my favorite movies, period — is State and Main.  The story follows a gaggle of Hollywood personnel — actors, director, cinematographer, designers, etc. — who descend on a small Vermont town to shoot a film. Hoffman plays the tortured, idealistic screenwriter torn between pleasing the director, who insists he rewrite a pivotal scene to eliminate a problematic set piece, and remaining true to his script’s noble intentions. He’s befriended by a local bookseller and community theater maven (Rebecca Pidgeon) who shows him what’s really important, which he actually knew all along: truth, and standing up for what you know is right.

I realized today that the friendship and eventual romance that develops between these two characters is probably my favorite aspect of the film. The gentle, perceptive way she’s able to lead him to the right answer, while still giving him room to figure it out for himself, is something I’d like to emulate in my own relationships. I think I’d like someone to do that for me, too, but that’s probably a tangent for another day.

I’d like to add that State and Main is also terribly funny, especially to anyone accustomed to the clash between ambitious, high-energy artist types and small-town New England culture. I think I may have to watch it again soon, at the expense of finally watching Inception so I can mail it in and cancel my seldom-used Netflix subscription once and for all.

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That restless urge

January 3, 2011

I’ve never been really big on New Year’s resolutions. The only one I’ve ever managed to keep was in eighth grade when I resolved not to kick boys anymore, even when they said really annoying things. And I almost haven’t kicked anyone since. I guess that means the kind of resolutions that work for me are things I already know I need to do, things that are small and concrete and not that much of a stretch.

So I’m not sure how much luck I’m going to have with my goal for this year: to take better care of myself. That’s something I know I need, for sure, but it’s also large and sprawling, and a lot of the little things that contribute to it are prosaic or difficult or not much fun. I need, for example, to make an appointment with my eye doctor (nothing’s wrong, I just haven’t been in a while), find a new dentist (I broke up with my old, excellent but very expensive dental practice when I finally got a health plan with dental insurance, which they didn’t take), and make a date to get my wisdom teeth removed. Blech. I’ve been putting that one off for years now, and I no longer have the excuse of waiting for insurance or a working freezer to stock with ice cream.

I need to come up with a more consistent sleep schedule — I get an OK amount of sleep, usually, but at irregular hours. Since I work mostly as a musician, teaching kids after school and adults after work, there’s little pressure to adhere to a civilized-person timetable. But I’m most productive and energetic between 10 AM and 3 PM, and I feel a lot better about myself when I get up and accomplish something before I have to leave for lessons or rehearsal. Plus I haven’t been sleeping too well lately, and I imagine smarter sleep habits will help.

I need to be more mindful of what I eat. I like to cook, I love food, but it’s too easy, especially when I’m working 12-hour days, to grab whatever’s readily available without thinking too hard about how it will make me feel. And I rarely eat much breakfast, just a couple slices of toast or some cereal to go with my morning coffee, since if I have the morning off I’ll just be eating lunch in a couple of hours anyway. My mother lost some weight a few years ago and is in terrific shape now, so if she says I need protein with my breakfast, I believe her. But this will take planning, to have appropriate food on hand and prepped. Premixing waffle batter maybe, or making a big batch of muffins or quickbread, or finally getting around to making my own granola. And I guess that goes for things like salad too; I could just as easily chop enough veggies, wash enough lettuce, and mix enough vinaigrette to last several days, then combine them daily as needed. Of course, while the prospect of having lots of tasty food easily at hand is exciting, it also makes me feel a little like a soccer mom.

And speaking of athletic pursuits, I need to be more intentional about exercise. Until Saturday, I hadn’t been hiking since Thanksgiving, mainly because I’ve had to work before noon almost every weekday, and my time off has been pretty full too (a weekend in New York, a shopping trip to Maine with my mom combined with a jaunt to Portsmouth to see a friend in A Christmas Carol, seeing Jacob’s shows and choral concerts). Making money is good, and supporting friends and spending time with family are also good. But getting outside and moving around needs to be a priority. I haven’t figured out how to do that when I don’t have any daylight hours to myself.

In some ways I feel like I’m taking myself in for a tune-up, the way you would an older car before taking it on a long trip, just to make sure it’s running efficiently and won’t break down while you’re on a snowy mountain road winding through bear country. I guess that’s the exciting part, this feeling I have that some big adventure is coming and I need to be ready. I’m contemplating a couple of changes in the coming year, things that seem scary but will help me grow, that will force me to take a more active role in my own future.

Out to dinner with an old friend last week — a Chinese buffet at the place where we always used to go with groups of friends when school got out early — I received this fortune: “Follow that restless urge to find yourself.” Vague as that may seem, and applicable to nearly anybody in nearly any situation, I still feel a little bit reassured by this piece of advice from a scrap of paper tucked inside a cookie. Also, it sounds to me like the first line of a loose sonnet. So now I have a writing assignment as well as permission to do what I’ve been wanting to do for a while.

I showed the fortune to my mother the next day. Her pithy, yet eloquent response: “Well, duh.”

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Turkey and treasure hunting (minus the turkey)

December 4, 2010

Every year since college, I’ve spent Thanksgiving with a group of my mostly-vegetarian Oberlin friends. Our families aren’t nuts about this, but I for one live 40 minutes from my parents and see them about once a week, so I don’t feel too guilty about missing this one holiday. And I care far less about missing out on the turkey; give me can-shaped cranberry sauce or give me death, but you can keep the actual bird.

The first year some of us drove back to Ohio and cooked dinner in the galley kitchen of John’s on-campus studio apartment, potatoes and stuffing fighting for burner space while my pumpkin flans jostled around in the oven. The year after that we ate in my Jamaica Plain apartment, and since Karen the meat-loving opera singer came that year, the two of us roasted a chicken stuffed with garlic and lemon slices. Another two or three Thanksgivings happened in that apartment; Caroline introduced me to green-bean casserole; Tofurkey and chicken were replaced by Quorn (better texture) and deviled eggs (vegetarian-friendly and 50s-housewife-approved!). We stayed up til 3 playing Katamari Damacy while we waited with John for his early-morning taxi ride to the airport. We had a pirate-themed Thanksgiving in which bandannas were worn, Seafarers of Catan was played, and grog was consumed, though somewhat reluctantly, since it doesn’t actually taste a lot better than it sounds. We had Monty Python Thanksgiving, in which we watched a lot of Flying Circus, played Monty Python Fluxx, and ate Manchego (because you can buy it in a cheese shop, and it’s from Spain, and NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition).

We didn’t have a theme this year. And we cooked and ate at Corbin and Alaina’s (as we did last year), since Quincy is not so convenient and my kitchen is small. I made a pumpkin pie and a cranberry tart at home, and I brought a pound and a half of Brussels sprouts to pan-sear in olive oil and top with goat Gouda; I’d thought of making a pan of roasted vegetables too, but allowed myself to be convinced we didn’t need that much food. True: there was plenty to eat, what with creamy mashed potatoes and “crash potatoes”, cornbread-and-veggie-sausage stuffing, green beans with lemon and Parmesan, and, yes, deviled eggs and can-shaped cranberry sauce. And crescent rolls. No orange vegetables, alas, except the pumpkin pie, but that just means I’ve got a butternut squash and some sweet potatoes hanging out in my pantry until further notice.

We played a game called Talisman, which is rather long and complicated, and it’s the kind of game where if you start out behind, you might be behind for a very long time. Like the whole game. Maybe that’s just me, though, or maybe that’s just what it’s like when you play with six people, none of whom are totally sure of what they’re doing.

In other news, dessert! This is your standard pumpkin pie, made from the recipe on the One-Pie can. Simple and solid, with a little extra richness from molasses. And the cranberry tart, which is way too much work for everyday but nice to bring out when I feel like being impressive. (Note: I couldn’t justify spending 6.99 for the stipulated vanilla bean, so I used 2 tsp. vanilla extract, and I don’t think it was noticeably worse.) It’s a Food and Wine recipe, and the shell and filling require a bunch of steps (mix dough, chill dough, roll dough, chill dough, bake shell, make filling, bake again, let cool), but the cranberry topping is ridiculously easy – you just boil some cranberries in water and sugar for about 5 minutes, until they burst – and is also great on waffles, especially pumpkin waffles. Or ice cream. Or waffles AND ice cream.

Later in the weekend, I went geocaching for the first time, along with Caroline, John, and Jacob. Caroline looked up a spot in nearby Franklin Park, which I had often driven by but never entered, and was pleasantly surprised by – it seems a lot more wilderness-y than the Arboretum, with unpaved side paths and some nice crags to clamber around on, and plenty of little caverns that looked just perfect for hiding treasure.

Mostly they just hid leaves and the occasional Heineken bottle. But eventually we hit the jackpot, a hollow tree that we’d spent plenty of time regarding suspiciously, though it took Caroline’s characteristic persistence to discover the little ledge inside where the cache lay. I reached my hand into the space and pulled out a yellow Tupperware box containing a log of previous finders, a pink plastic kazoo, and a gnome figurine in a Ziploc bag.

A note explained that the gnome’s name was Chad and he wanted to travel overseas; fortunately Caroline’s visiting India soon, so she pocketed Chad and replaced him with a metal turtle charm she’d brought from Michigan. (For those unfamiliar with geocaching, these knickknacks are called “travel bugs,” and each comes with a numbered tag so you can track their progress as they hop from cache to cache.)

We walked back; more games were played, more food eaten, including a huge, moist pear-cherry scone from Canto 6, which I highly recommend, especially if you’ve just been trekking around Franklin Park on a cold day. And I got a couple of exciting phone calls, one asking me to substitute-music direct a weekend of Seussical for a theater I worked with last fall, and another offering me a job music directing Spelling Bee this spring, which I’d interviewed for in early October, never heard back, and had pretty much written off as not going to happen. AND then this week, my friend Tom asked me to play second keyboard for the production of Ragtime he’s MDing later in the spring. So in four days, I went from having no shows on the horizon, to three. I feel extravagantly provided for and seriously thankful.

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Blue Hills and blueberries

September 16, 2010

I did a bit of hiking today in the Blue Hills, and noticed a couple of interesting things: 1. The trail feels a lot different in early fall (and probably summer) from how I remember it in late fall/winter/early spring, when the trees are mostly bare. All those leaves take up space, so the trail gets narrower, and it actually feels a little claustrophobic. I think I like it better when I can see more of the sky. It’s noisier now, too, with lots of little blue-gray birds (nuthatches, I think) and crickets and wind. And I very rarely encounter other people on the skyline trail, but today while I was sitting on a rock on my favorite hill, a guy in an orange shirt and backpack meandered by. He didn’t say anything to me, possibly because I was wearing a green shirt and sitting behind a green bush and not moving, which is good because I was busy having my semiannual existential crisis and wouldn’t have welcomed the interruption.

Speaking of which, if anybody’s reading this who lives in New York or another big city, what do you do when you need to get away from people? Not a specific person, just the species as a whole? Or does that not happen to most people?

2. I never noticed before, but most of the stretch of trail I hiked today is lined on both sides with blueberry bushes. I wouldn’t have been sure that’s what they were, except I looked closely enough to find some berries, overripe or possibly frostbitten, so dark they were almost black. They didn’t look terribly appetizing, but I probably would have tried one anyway, if not for the existence of at least one person who is convinced that any berry outside of a supermarket is probably poisonous, and who, if I were to sicken and die on account of such a berry, would doubtless show up at my funeral just long enough to say “I told you so.” If I’d been here a month ago, though? You’d better believe there would have been a lot of muffins at my house. And some scones and maybe even a pie or two.

I couldn’t be sad about the blueberries for long, because there was already a bag of Wyler’s wild blueberries in my freezer, destined to be made into these muffins.

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Summer recap, part I: Extracurricular activities

September 11, 2010

How do you summarize 11 weeks of practically nonstop activity in a couple of blog entries? Well, first you start by writing about the small stuff, namely the stuff you weren’t doing 80 hours a week. And then you only talk about things you have pictures of, mostly. So here goes.

At the Weathervane, we work hard, play harder, and take our fireworks very, very seriously. Having grown up close to Boston, I have pretty high standards for 4th-of-July fireworks, and while these may not be the most precisely choreographed I’ve ever seen, you really can’t beat sitting so close that you get ashes on your nose.

Yes, that’s a cat on a leash. When I decided to take Avocado with me, I didn’t want to keep her shut up in a smallish shared bedroom in a communal house all summer long, so I got her a harness and leash so she could go out once in a while. She’s not crazy about wearing them, but as soon as she gets outside, she forgets about it and runs around happily chewing on plants, to the amusement of all. And the derision of some. But those people just don’t understand.

This butterfly kept us company while five of us played mini golf on one of our Sundays off. The major activity of that day, though, was lunch at the Woodstock Inn Brewery, where we tagged along on the daily brewery tour before sampling several of the offerings. I’d already tried all the options while visiting with my family the previous weekend; I liked everything I tasted but was particularly floored by the Old Man Oatmeal Stout, which boasted a strong, smooth coffee flavor with a slight sweetness. They don’t bottle the stout – you can only enjoy it on site – but they do bottle my second favorite, the Red Rack Ale. It’s even sold in a couple of stores in Massachusetts, including one in Quincy and one in my hometown, so I’ll know where to look next time I need a taste of the North Country. (Ha. They should totally pay me to write ad copy.)

On the way home we stopped for coffee at the Cascade Coffeehouse in North Woodstock, a cozy, rustic place that sells flavored coffees, sandwiches, ice cream, and used cookbooks. Yes. If I lived in northern New Hampshire, you would probably find me there all the time, sipping something cold and hunting through the shelves (well, there or Miller’s or the Maia Papaya. It’s good to have options).

I have learned that sometimes when I take pictures with my phone, the colors come out unnaturally bright or oversaturated. I think this happens when there isn’t enough light or I’m too close to the subject, and usually it kind of ruins the picture, but in this case I really like the results. I found these amorous-looking trees while hiking a bit of the Appalachian Trail (I was a little confused by the trail markings, but I think this section was called Liberty Springs). It was a hot day and the trail was pretty steep and rocky, and since a) I was hiking alone and b) I had no idea if I was anywhere close to a summit, I didn’t stay out for more than an hour or so. I did have the pleasure of passing by a group of kids with a couple of women as I was heading off the trail. I noticed the kids were mostly wearing flip-flops, and one of the women asked me if the trail went uphill much. I assured her that it did, and maybe I should have also pointed out that the flip-flops were a really bad idea, but I imagine they figured that out pretty quickly.

I went on to climb two actual mountains later in the summer, Mt. Pemigewasset and Mt. Sugarloaf. Both times I was accompanied by a friend from the theater, which meant I was a little embarrassed about being out of shape and needing to stop and breathe often, but he was very patient, and it was nice to have someone to relax with at the top. And getting caught in the rain halfway up Sugarloaf would’ve been a lot more unpleasant alone.  Also, I’m pretty awful at self-portraits, so it’s exciting to finally have pictures of myself on a mountain.

More to come…