Sunshine State

I went to Florida in March and it was GLORIOUS.

I attended a conference in “St. Pete” as the locals say, and then my boyfriend Allen met me and we spent a few days in his hometown of Tampa. I had never been to these lovely cities before, so I did many new things. Here are the two that made the birthday list:

  1. Eat a devil crab.

In the weeks leading up to the trip, Allen shared his fervent love of devil crabs, which can only be found in Florida. As he spoke, I would nod my head as I pictured us eating crab meat out of a shell…as one would with a mussel or oyster.

I searched for restaurants that served devil crabs and came across a place that ended up being a trolley alongside a highway. We decided to check it out because it was named Seabreeze, which was the name of a seafood restaurant that Allen and his family frequented during his childhood. It turned out that it was the same family of owners; the restaurant was torn down for an undisclosed reason and now the husband and wife sell live devil crabs and also serve cooked ones out of a trolley.

Imagine my surprise when I was handed my devil crabs:

 

 

 

 

 

 

What? They looked like potatoes! But they were, in fact, balls of shredded crab meat in some kind of red sauce and breaded. That’s hot sauce in the plastic container. Once I got over the surprise factor, I enjoyed these tasty breaded balls of fish.

We had devil crabs again at Brocato’s. The breading was completely different but the inside tasted the same.

Cuban sandwich, black beans and rice, and devil crabs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Visited Big Cat Rescue sanctuary

When I’m planning a trip, I always check TripAdvisor for recommendations. Big Cat Rescue is #4 of 196 things to do in Tampa. I am a cat person and love all animals, so I added the sanctuary to our itinerary. Visitors go on a guided walking tour with a staff member. There are more than 80 cats at the sanctuary, so we walked around to see who was out and about. We were given ear buds and an audio device, so whenever we came across a cat, the staff member would play us that cat’s story.

We saw at least 20 cats. They were all beautiful and they all had heartbreaking stories. The cats come from all over the country. Usually they’ve been kept in horrible conditions and have become sick, etc. Many were in shoddy circuses or were kept as exotic pets.

The cats seemed very well taken care of at Big Cat Rescue. They even get to¬† go “on vacation” a few times per year in a large area that’s designated for vacationers. The organization is also involved in advocacy, which is wonderful. If you’re ever in Tampa, I highly recommend a visit here. I’ll leave you with a few of the dozens of photos I took of the cats…

 

 

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A Cultural Smorgasbord

It was a happy accident that I experienced a cultural smorgasbord within a four-day timespan in March…

Every year, I like to try a new art form. This year, the Groupon gods sent me a water marbling (or ebru) class, which was taught at the Turkish Cultural Center. I’d never heard of water marbling. I invited my art partner in crime Mary along; this was our fourth birthday list art escapade.

Our teacher was Turkish and just lovely. She buys all of her art supplies from Turkey, including special paper, brushes, and paints. I can’t quite explain the process; it was like magic. There were about 10 of us in the class and we rotated among three work stations. We stood in front of a pan of water that was treated with something special for 24 hours. We then picked a few colors, dipped the brush into the paint, and kind of “flicked” the paint onto the water, circles of color floating in the water mixture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once we decided that we were done, we gently laid a piece of paper on top of the pan of colored water, slid the paper off, and voila, the paint ended up on the paper!

We each made two pieces and I was pretty happy with the results…but I mistakenly left one in the classroom and I have misplaced the other one! Search online for “ebru painting” sometime and you will see what a beautiful art form it is.

A couple of days later, I went on a tour of a local mosque, the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, thanks to the organization of my friend Anya.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I walked into the mosque not knowing anything about Islam. Our tour guide was wonderful and spent more than the allotted time with us, telling us about the history of Islam and the history of the mosque. She explained the main tenets of the religion and answered our many questions. I left with the message that Muslims want the chance to explain their religion to others; they want to be a part of the community just as other religions are. I highly recommend taking a tour at your local mosque if you are like me and didn’t know anything about Islam.

A few hours after I left the mosque, I was attending a performance by Kodo, a group of Japanese taiko drummers. I’ve been interested in taiko drumming ever since I took a class last year.

I was expecting a few hours of loud, powerful (but beautiful) banging on gigantic drums. Silly me. It was a few hours of drumming on many different types of drums, plus bell ringing, plus beautiful and sometimes humorous choreography.

In the aftermath of this smorgasbord, I felt grateful to live in a city that offers so many opportunities to experience other cultures. For someone who loves to travel but can’t always afford it, I cherish the fact that I can have such experiences without leaving home.

A Night of Stars

Boston is the perfect place for lifelong learners. With dozens of colleges in the area, one could probably attend a free lecture, performance, or event of some kind every night.

I finally made it to Harvard’s free monthly Observatory Night. This night usually entails a lecture and then a look-see through a telescope on the roof.

Harvard Observatory Night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My friend Abby and I attended a couple of months ago. I chose this particular Observatory Night because the speaker would be talking more about history than science. Nothing against science…I just comprehend history better!

A science writer named Dava Sobel spoke about her recent book, The Glass Universe. She gave a broad overview of a number of women who were hired at the Observatory in the 1800s as human computers to translate the observations of male researchers to paper. But once photography started being used to document the stars, many of the women started making their own observations, discovering stars and designing classification systems.

After the lecture, we received the sad news that there would be no observation on the roof that night due to snow/ice. There were volunteers offering tours of the building and of a room that holds half a million glass plates (or at least a few million of the half a million?), but we would have had to wait for hours (literally) because so many people had signed up before us.

So we went on our way, vowing to return during nicer weather.

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40 things to do on the birthday list!

BirthdayJune 1st, 2015

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