Birthday Fun

Two friends celebrated birthdays recently and helped me check off two birthday list items:

1. Make a terrarium

Have you heard of Plant Nite? How about Paint Nite? It’s the same idea…have a few drinks and some food and make something to take home with you.

I like plants and gardening, although I only have two plants (that survive even though I forget to water them) and I don’t know anything about gardening. So I was looking forward to making a terrarium.

It was really easy: Put a layer of rocks in the bottom of a planter, then a bunch of soil. Insert a few cute succulents.








And then decorate with colored moss, plastic dinosaurs, and colored rocks. Voila!








This particular planter requires bright sunlight, which my apartment never sees. So we’ll see how long this darling terrarium survives…

2. Ride on a party bus

Another friend booked a party bus for her birthday. It was an old school bus re-purposed for people to drink, eat, dance, and sing while being driven around for hours.










There were about 20 of us, so we had room to mingle and dance.










We made a pit stop at a brewery, where only half of us were allowed to enter due to maximum capacity. So our group found a small Chinese restaurant nearby and ordered some drinks, providing cheap entertainment to the “regulars” eating their Saturday dinners.

After three hours of riding around the city and singing along to a plethora of ’80s and ’90s hits, we were dropped off at the North End and had a fabulous dinner.

Thanks, Linda and Abby, for helping me with my list. 😉


Ayer Mansion and Gallery 360

Phew! I just hopped off the hamster wheel that is my life to do a quick check-in. Last weekend, I visited the Ayer Mansion. Its claim to fame is that it’s the sole surviving residence that was originally designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany.










Yes, famed stained glass artist Louis Tiffany started his career as an interior designer! I also learned during the guided tour that he was the son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, who founded Tiffany & Co.

Frederick and Ellen Ayer hired Tiffany to design this residence in 1899. Frederick was a wealthy businessman and he and his second wife, Ellen, were avid art collectors. The building changed hands a few times after they both died in 1918. An insurance company owned it in the late ’50s and destroyed much of the interior.

A nonprofit is the current owner and has been instrumental in allowing a dedicated group of folks to restore the building’s exterior and interior. If you’re a fan of historic homes, the Ayer Mansion is worth a visit.






















Gallery 360 is Northeastern University’s art gallery. I’ve spent the last few years visiting the art galleries on local college campuses. Gallery 360 is one of the smaller galleries I’ve visited, but I enjoyed the exhibit and the physical space.

gallery 360 2







The main exhibit was a study of a number of city park systems across the country: how the cities are adding to and re-purposing open park space in their downtown areas. I was heartened to read about this important work being undertaken. I feel so lucky to live in a city that values park space!

There were two smaller exhibits as well. One consisted of beautiful close-up photographs of flowers and the other featured objects that had been created by a 3-D printer. I still can’t comprehend this technology, but the exhibit helped a bit.

All for now…I’ll save my salt room story for another day.

In Case of Fire

I’ve logged my first random birthday list item for the year: touring a fire station. I always have a number of “randos” on my list = opportunities that randomly present themselves. I love the randos.

This opportunity arose through an organization I volunteer with. On Saturday morning, about 10 firefighters showed our group the six different vehicles at Cambridge Fire headquarters.

I’m still in awe 24 hours later. We were shown just about everything on the engine truck, the ladder truck, the ambulance, the dive rescue truck, the hazmat truck, and another truck whose purpose has slipped my mind.

We saw tools: different types of axes, halligans (look it up), hook tools that can tear down ceilings, some rabbit tool that can knock down a door, some jaws of life (!) , diamond-blade saws. We felt how heavy their gear is (50–100 pounds worth). We were shown a monkey suit that the divers wear and were shown where the disposable hazmat suits are stored. We were told about the different air supply packs and how the fire hose gauges work.

This particular department’s responsibilities are mind-boggling. The 250+ firefighters housed at eight stations in a six-square-mile radius are not only responsible for putting out fires, but they are also charged with handling incidents at Harvard’s and MIT’s labs, along 7.5 miles of the Charles River, AND in the subway (one of the stations is one of the deepest in the world—105 feet below ground).

One of the firefighters mentioned that a little more than half of calls are about fire; the rest are incidents such as water rescue, medical calls, etc. These brave people need to know how to respond to what seems like a million different situations.

There was much excitement when an actual call came in while we were there. Unbeknownst to me, I was standing right by the pole, and a guy swooped down about three inches from me. I hadn’t noticed the pole because the hole was covered by some plastic flaps. As the alarms sounded and the firefighters hopped into the trucks, my heart immediately started racing and all of the tour members looked at each other with widened eyes. I was relieved when the engine and ladder trucks returned in under 20 minutes.

The deputy chief also spoke a bit about the department’s role in emergency management. He and his team ensure that shelters will be ready to go when there is a big emergency, such as a hurricane. I almost cried on the spot as he went through the list of the types of trailers: He told us that after Hurricane Katrina, the federal government required cities to include pet trailers in their emergency shelter plan because so many people died from staying behind with their pets when they were told that they couldn’t bring them to the shelters.


It was a great experience that prompted me to re-learn how to use a fire extinguisher!

Cambridge Fire Headquarters
Cambridge Fire Headquarters

Spirituality and Spirits

I saw His Holiness the Dalai Lama speak on Halloween. This is the third time I’ve seen him, but the first time I understood anything he said. I was sitting in the nosebleed section of an arena the first time I saw him. I saw him in a much smaller venue the second time: an auditorium at MIT that seats a little more than a thousand people. I waited outside for at least an hour, if not more, and was a popsicle by the time I entered the building. I remember that it didn’t feel much warmer inside. I had a decent seat, but I was so cold and tired that I had trouble concentrating. He has a very thick accent, so concentration is key when listening to him.

Yesterday, I arrived at the same MIT auditorium an hour and a half before the doors opened, expecting to see a line. No line! I was the second person in line. The Dalai Lama had a few speaking arrangements in Boston this time around, so my guess is that most people saw him elsewhere. I had forgotten that I bought a ticket in “the cheap seats” section, so I ended up in the back of the auditorium anyway. It was still a good spot. The event started with a musical performance by the Alash Ensemble from the Republic of Tuva. I really enjoyed the music. The performers are throat singers and played some interesting stringed instruments, flutes, and a drum.

As the performance ended, the Dalai Lama entered with his interpreter and four Harvard and MIT professors. The first part of the talk was about climate change and activism. Each professor gave a brief presentation on the topics. The Dalai Lama didn’t speak much, so I was bummed. But then, the professors left and a few children/teens took their places. They had a list of questions from young people all over the world. His Holiness was having a great time with the kids. I still didn’t understand everything he said, but I find it such a joy just to be in his presence. He is the spiritual leader of millions of people and has lived in exile for decades now. He has seen so much suffering. Yet he is so calm and happy. He cracks himself up, which I love to see. And he is very serious when it comes to talking about the relationships between people and between nations, and how we need to realize our interdependence.

After the event, I walked down the street to see a mandala that some Tibetan monks had made in honor of His Holiness’s visit. It was beautiful.















In the evening, I handed out candy at my doorstep. I wondered how long my 130 pieces of candy would last.

Twenty minutes.

My street is blocked off from traffic on Halloween night, complete with police detail. So when I say mobs of children descend on my street, I mean mobs. Children of all sizes came bounding up to me. There were four types:

Children who politely took one piece

Children who took one, and then another, and then another, until their parents stopped them

Children who grabbed a handful

Children who asked how many pieces they could take (I gave them two pieces since they had the courtesy to ask.)

As I watched the costumed kiddos parade by, I recalled the simple joy of dressing up and receiving a boatload of candy once a year. What a great holiday…


A–Z: Session 2


I checked off two more letters in the alphabet last week:

B: Back Bar

Back Bar is located down a non-descript alley behind a non-descript door.












I half-expected to find a bouncer behind the door, waiting to hear a password.

The space is intimate and reminds me of a living room. I knew this was my kind of place when I read through the beer descriptions and read this under Harpoon Summer: “I don’t know what to write here.”










I had a Brew Free or Die IPA accompanied by a cute ramekin of caramel corn that we were given.

Next up was

I: Independent









OK. First and foremost, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a high male:female ratio in my 15 years of residency in Boston. Melissa and I might have been the only females in the bar = I need to visit Somerville more often. The vibe I felt was classic pub with a splash of townie. Also my kind of place!

I chose a beer solely on its name: Bouncy House IPA.









These will not be the last Somerville bars on this list; Davis Square is next month’s destination…