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Favorite Photos of 2014

Since 2010, I’ve done a photo-a-day project about every other year (2010-112012, and now 2014). I have yet to achieve 365 photos — this year, I missed six days.

At the end of every photo-a-day year, I think I will probably not do another. At times, it just feels like a chore. I forget until the end of the day and then end up taking a picture of an empty pitcher of mojito on my phone. Then again, some days the project forces me outside. It forces me to look for something I want to remember or share. It also gives me a visually detailed archive of the year. At the end of my years off the project, I usually miss doing it — and decide to try again.

Anyway, here are some of my favorites from 2014.

On a lunchtime walk during a day trip to Nashville. 

On a lunchtime walk during a day trip to Nashville. 

Cherokee Park, Louisville

Cherokee Park, Louisville

Those two are probably my favorite photos I took all year. 

Public Garden, Boston

Public Garden, Boston

Race Point, Cape Cod

Race Point, Cape Cod

City Museum, St. Louis

City Museum, St. Louis

I still don't know what those leaves are. What are they? Besides the most beautiful leaves ever? 

Notre Dame cathedral, Strasbourg, France

Notre Dame cathedral, Strasbourg, France

Have you done a photo-a-day project? Do you have any favorite images from 2014? ( I particularly loved this one, and the ninth photo in this collection is powerful -- it came up in class and I saved it in my notes). If you're doing a project this year, let me know -- I'd love to follow it. 

Books I Read in 2014

Happy 2015! 

Because I hoped to finish one more book in 2014 to bring the list to 20, I waited to post last year’s reads. Compared to 2013, I did poorly — I read exactly half as many books as last year. I blame this on the Robert Caro book (which took about three months) and the readings for the classes I audited in the fall. Anyway, here’s the list (** for recommendations; EPR for Eat, Pee, Reads): 

1. The Wet & the Dry - Lawrence Osborne

2. Anne of Green Gables - Lucy Maud Montgomery** (reread this for book club and regretted giving away the beautifully illustrated copy of the book I had as a child). 

3. How to be a Woman - Caitlin Moran

4. Cutting for Stone - Abraham Vergese

5. The Female Eunuch - Germaine Greer

6. Orange is the New Black - Piper Kerman

7. Russian Debutante's Handbook - Gary Shteyngart

8. Our Shawnee - Louisville Story Program**

9. The Path to Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 1) - Robert A. Caro** (This book made me wish I had a Caro book on every president). 

10. Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn (EPR. This was recommended to me last year, and after seeing the movie trailer, I decided I needed to know what happened before the film release. I read it in about 48 hours and lay on the floor so long reading that I gave myself a headache. I forgot the “eat” part of EPR that night, which likely contributed to the headache. I haven't seen the movie.)

11. Difficult Conversations - Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Neen

12. Ich bin dann mal weg (I’m Off Then) - Hape Kerkeling

13. The Complete Stories - Flannery O'Connor

14. AIDS and Accusation - Paul Farmer

15. The Man on the Third Floor - Ann Bernays

16. Une mélancolie arabe - Abdellah Taïa

17. It's Complicated - danah boyd** (recommended especially if you’re interested in social media and teenagers). 

18. Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies, and Revolution - Laurie Penny** (Penny is a 2015 Nieman Fellow. I wish through some kind of time warp that she’d written this book 15 years ago so I could have had it in high school. Or maybe in middle school.)

19. Children of the Monsoon - David Jiménez** (Jiménez is also a Nieman this year. The short stories in the book focus on children Jiménez met in his travels as the Asia bureau chief for the Spanish paper El Mundo. I learned so much from this book and almost gave my copy to my parents but then decided to keep this one and buy them their own.

What were your favorite books last year? What’s on your To Read list for 2015? I will definitely tackle the next volume in the LBJ series, but I could use some good fiction recommendations. Do you have any? 

New England Adventures

Friday marks two months of Northeast living, and I’m long overdue for an update. 

During our first few weeks here, we had visitors, which meant lots of exploration (plus, everything was new, so it at all felt like exploring). Some highlights: 

The Boston Common and Public Garden

We visited the park on our first Saturday in Boston, mainly so I could see the Make Way for Ducklings statue. I could only get these three at the end, because the rest of the ducks were covered in children. I get it — I loved this book growing up and have started buying it as a gift for all the new babies in my life. 

We went back the next Saturday to read in the grass. We ended up people-watching: four weddings, one quinceñera, and one squirrel biting a tourist who spent 10 minutes trying to feed it. 

The Ether Dome

In October 1846, William T.G. Morton performed the first public surgery with ether in what is now called the Ether Dome in Massachusetts General Hospital. The hospital holds meetings in the space, but if it's open, you can take the elevator to the fourth floor (right for Ether Dome, left for Diabetes) and look around. There’s a small museum behind the amphitheater, and there’s a mummy inside the amphitheater. 

His name is Padihershef.

His name is Padihershef.

If you wanted to take a themed walk, you could then go to the Public Garden, where they’ve built a monument to ether as well.

Walden Pond

Our trip to Walden Pond marked my most physical day in years. We biked roundtrip (40 miles, on the Minuteman Trail, through Lexington and Concord, past a pumpkin patch, the Louisa May Alcott Orchard house, and a biker taking selfies in front of huge sunflowers), and then I swam across the pond and back. Also — that’s a lake, not a pond.

It was cloudy the day we went, so I have only gloomy photos that don’t show the clear Walden waters. For a better idea, check out this collection from the Boston Globe

Provincetown

We took a fast ferry from Boston to Provincetown, and I learned that rough waters make me seasick. After some coffee and lunch, I felt better.

Leaving Boston on a clear day, headed for nausea.

Leaving Boston on a clear day, headed for nausea.

We rented bikes and biked to Race Point Beach in perfect weather. Because the first ferry captain announced that they expected worse waters on the way back to Boston, we bought Dramamine for the ride home. I think the ocean was calmer, but I slept the whole return trip. Then we ate hot chicken

Race Point Beach, Provincetown

Race Point Beach, Provincetown

In between these adventures, we spend our time in class, reading and writing at home, attending presentations hosted by the Nieman Foundation (and the Fellows), and trying noodle restaurants. I won’t lie. This is an amazing experience. I should be reminding myself that I am incredibly lucky every day; I’m averaging a few times a week. But I’ve developed a routine and find myself straying less frequently from the path connecting our apartment to campus. We have more visitors coming a few weeks — that should help us see something new. 

Two Hot Chickens and a Hot Curry

New York Hot Chicken

At the end of May, we took a trip to New York. A few months before, a friend sent me this recipe for the hot chicken at Peaches Hothouse, a place in Brooklyn. We added the restaurant to our New York To Do list and headed there on a Friday night. 

We ordered the hottest level of chicken. It looked more like regular fried chicken than the usual hot-chicken shade of dark red. I judge hot food by the number of beers I drink during the meal. Hattie B’s painfully hot chicken usually requires two beers. By the end of our meal at Peaches, I was still drinking the same beer. The chicken was tasty, and there was a heat that built up gradually. But instead of a table-banging, nose-sweat-inducing heat, this heat was manageable. I wouldn’t call it Nashville-style, though. Maybe spicy chicken. I would eat it again. 

New York Hot Curry 

The next day, another friend mentioned an Indian place that offers a hot curry challenge and a certificate if you finish your food. She really likes certificates, and I really like challenging myself with hot food, so we decided we should eat hot curry for dinner. 

Four people from our five-person party took on the "Phaal Challenge" at Brick Lane Curry House. We had to sign waivers saying we realized we were silly and would not hold the establishment responsible for any physical or psychological pain (I’m paraphrasing). When the food arrived, our waiter let us know we had 30 minutes to finish. 

Photo by Lauren Reid

Photo by Lauren Reid

I do not recommend trying this hot curry at all. Not only is it painfully hot, it’s bad. Curry is typically delicious. This “curry” can only be called that because it seems to be a blend of every hot pepper around. It was hot peppers and nothing else. I finished it with the help of two big beers. I got the certificate, but that was a wildly unpleasant experience. 

(If this was a piece for Upworthy, the headline would be: I completed the Phaal Challenge. You’ll never guess what happened next). 

If you decide to destroy your innards with this curry, my hot tip (pun intended) is to eat as little rice as possible. It only takes up stomach realty needed for more bad curry. 

Boston Hot Chicken

One of the 31 things I said I would miss about Louisville was its proximity to Nashville and hot chicken. While writing that post, I found a place that does hot chicken near MIT. Last night, we decided to see if their “Nashville-style” hot chicken was really Nashville, or New York.

Two things: 

1. We visited State Park’s sister restaurant, Hungry Mother, this weekend to pick up some pimento cheese for an event. We told the gentleman who assisted us that we wanted to try State Park’s hot chicken.

“I will never eat that chicken,” he said. 

2. When we ordered, our waiter asked me, “Have you ever had the chicken prepared that way?” 

“Yes, in Nashville.” 

“Great. That’s the best answer I’ve ever had to that question.” (I didn’t ask him how long he’d worked there). 

The chicken came on a slice of white bread with a few pickles on the side. It was dark red. It was hot — but not esophagus-burning, ear-popping hot. Hotter than Peaches, not as hot as Hattie B’s. It reminded me of the first hot chicken we ever had, from Bolton’s. I only needed one beer, but I think the one-beer level is the level for me. State Park, your hot chicken is perfect. We will be back.  

Closed One Door, Opened Another

I wrote every day for a month and then promptly reverted to my bad blogging habits. Let's have an update! 

We left Louisville 10 days ago and drove two days to Cambridge (overnight in Buffalo, where we had the original Buffalo wings). We settled in quickly. Though it felt like we packed for weeks, we unpacked everything the first night here. 

I spent the first week working. We had visitors last weekend, and they helped us break in Boston (ate at the oldest restaurant in America, went to both Cheers locations, saw the Red Sox at Fenway). I've walked close to 40 miles in 10 days. Everything is wonderful (though I can't stop thinking, "Winter is coming.")

Yesterday was my last day at my job of three years. Today was the first day of orientation for Gabe's program. It's an incredible opportunity (you can learn more about it here), and it's why I left my job. As an affiliate, I'm able to participate in the fellowship programming. And I get to audit classes at Harvard and area schools (MIT! Tufts!). I almost feel like a jerk telling people I left my job go learn for a year. I definitely feel like I'm going to wake up soon and realize it was all a dream. It feels too good to be true. 

31 Days of Louisville Love: You!

Today is the 31st and last day of this Louisville Love series. Today's topic is what I will miss most about Louisville, and that's you. 

My first visit to Louisville in 2008. 

My first visit to Louisville in 2008. 

You, who were my first friends here, mainly because you knew Gabe (even though you thought I was an imaginary Peace Corps girlfriend). Once we established that I was real, you helped me settle in here and love this city. You invited me to plays, to basketball games, to join your kickball team. And that's only the beginning.

Before I had a car, you gave me rides. You helped us move. You planned a bridal/bachelorette party I didn't intend to have (with some help from St. Louis friends). You helped plan our wedding, gave us the event space for the ceremony, saved your empty bourbon bottles for the table decorations, married us, took our wedding photographs, played music at our reception, and retrieved our marriage certificate when we left it at the apartment. You kept an eye on our apartment while we were away. You podcasted with me. You jump-started my car. You planned and showed up for my surprise 30th birthday party. You exercised with me, hired me when I was unemployed, and helped find me part-time jobs until I found a full-time position. You filled our apartment for house-warmings, New Year's Eve parties, and art fair brunches, and you welcomed us to your homes and parties. You explored this city and a few others with us. 

Basically, you've been really good friends and neighbors (most of you, anyway. Whoever stole my bike pump, I could do without you).  Thank you. I love you, Louisvillagers. Ten months really isn't that long, so we'll see you soon. But I'm going to miss you like crazy. 

31 Days of Louisville Love: Please & Thank You

IMG_0517.jpg

Please & Thank You. There's a lot to love about this coffee shop, and the first thing for me is the name. I know that in my day-to-day, I could use some more "please" and "thank you" and "you're welcome" (and kindly take the time to type it out. Writing "TY" when I help you makes me think you're really not that grateful). 

Anyway, back to the politely-named coffee shop. When we go, Gabe usually checks out the record while I take forever to decide what to order. I love the little plants on the tables and that steamboat poster in the bathroom. I love the back room, which feels huge and is usually empty in the afternoon. It's perfect for working, unless that one guy is loudly conducting his business on the phone. 

And then there's the P&TY fare. I love their hot chocolate and the ganache latte with those big marshmallows. The Spanish latte is perfect when you want just a little sweetness. My favorite on a hot day is the blue and black iced tea (or whatever the one is called with the mint sprig in it -- if I'm calling it the wrong thing, they still know what I'm talking about).  

And of course, the chocolate chip cookies. These are the best in town. If you're trying to pick between something and the chocolate chip cookie, just get both. Plus, Please & Thank You is a short walk from Garage Bar, so that cookie can be post-brunch dessert. 

I will miss you, Please & Thank You. Does anyone know a place in Boston whose hot chocolate comes with big marshmallows? I'm going to need that information. 

 

31 Days of Louisville Love: The Moth

I heard about The Moth before I moved to Louisville, but it wasn't until Louisville started hosting monthly storySLAMs at Headliners that I really got hooked. 

Because Gabe is a regular Moth host at the live event, I have been to most of the story nights. We were at the very first one, we've been to both the GrandSLAMs, and tonight, we'll go to our last Louisville Moth for a while.

After almost three years of the Moth, I know the rules, and I know the faces and names of the regular storytellers. You can always count on a good story (usually on topic) from them, and I love learning a little more about the regulars. But it's exciting when the host pulls a new storyteller's name out of the tote bag. And when a new person tells a really, really good story (and maybe even wins on their first night)? I love that.

I love the anonymous mini-stories the hosts read between the real stories. I love seeing someone I know at their first Moth and hearing about how much they loved it on their way out. I love hearing how far people drove, just to come to this one event, and telling them all the places in town they should go before they leave the next day. I love trying to think of my own story to share, but prefer to sell you t-shirts, mugs, and answer your questions as volunteer.

I did get up there once to tell a story. There are some things I feel like I need to try a few more times to really know whether I like them or not (like paragliding off a mountain). I do not have to ever tell another story at the Moth. Yikes (you CAN see people in the audience, despite the lights. No features, but you can tell there are people out there. That's enough to make me shake). 

Boston has three monthly Moth events (Boston, Cambridge, Somerset), so if I need to hear some live stories, I'm set. But I will not know all those storytellers. I will not know the volunteers, the hosts, and the producer. For me, the Moth has meant the Louisville StorySLAM, and I will miss knowing what I'm doing the last Tuesday night of the month.