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Food, Travel, Design and the occassional wordiness

Waiting August 13, 2018


I’m waiting for days to become more meaningful. To hear from people who will make me happy. I don’t know who they are. I am waiting for you to wake up. I am waiting for you to come back from work. I am waiting for you to come visit. I am waiting to read the books I’ve been meaning to. To walk the streets I’d planned on. To call the people I said I would. To write to those I should. To do all those things I once told you about and all those I didn’t. I am waiting to feel better.
I am waiting to meet someone new. I am waiting to stop wasting time. To start feeling like me again. To be motivated. To do things. I wait, while I do other things. While I lay on the floor face down with a debilitating migraine for days. But I’m not waiting because I’m in pain. I wait because I can’t seem to get up.

I want the rage to melt into sadness and I wait for my sadness to gather enough momentum to push me forward into space. I wait to hear from you, I wait for us to go back to where we were, to who I was, while I scrub the steel in the kitchen and the corners of the stairs and the grease off the glass because I can’t scrub you off my hope and off my habit of waiting.
I wait for your name to pop on my phone.

I wait to feel motivated again. I wait to get to a point in the future where things are brighter where time is not wasted where simple words like love and connection are abundant and I am productive again and I am off the floor and I am not in pain and I am not waiting.
I want to get up and move. Up. Away.

 

Once an ‘International Student’ February 7, 2017


I met my husband for the first time during International Student orientation at grad school. Then we went for ice cream. We dated, we traveled, we loved, we fought, we married, we have 4 beautiful children- 3 of them are fur-kids, adopted, pets- if you insist, whose American families had disowned them.
You see, like dozens of our closest friends, we were once international students. Scratch that. Between him and me, we’ve been international students 3X, over 10 cumulative years and hold 4 advanced graduate degrees from a pretty fancypants institute we hold (super) close to our hearts. And today, established in pretty awesome jobs in pretty awesome cities, we’ll tell you #imalreadyhome
Utterly grateful, that we both had the money and brains to go to school anywhere. But fate brought us here and #gladweshowedup. We are so grateful that this school and this country we now call home, has enriched our lives beyond measure and blessed us with communities that are now ours to love and build on. This community today is an international global milieu that is so much like the cosmopolitan hometown I once grew up in. So vaguely familiar, yet so utterly different. Hygge* & hujug**, lonely and chilling, rewarding and freeing is the concept of home- a word, only travelers know how to articulate. The feeling that #imalreadyhome is like the feeling of your own couch but sometimes, it is also a feeling of occasionally having to defend yourselves to well-meaning strangers.

I have many immigrant friends, many of whom moved for work, for marriages, for families (or away from families) among a variety of reasons…But I tell you, some of us are different; we are not better or special by any means, but we have all gone through a common set of things that tied us all with one common thread.
This handful of us packed our bags as kids, fresh out of high school or college, some quitting our first jobs going back to school to sit in semicircular large halls. We left everything that was familiar and comfortable, left the comforts and smells of home, left our mothers and our friends, our learnings and earnings, our lives as we knew them, to come here and recreate something we had no clue about, some of us even more than others.
No matter which university we came to, or dissertation we defended, or specialization we graduated with, or department we aced, or airlines we flew in or which country we came from we all pushed our boundaries, competed with our own selves, we created our own lives, we were international students and over decades and generations, we shared a quiet exhilarating experience. We managed to reach out and today… #imalreadyhome

I’m among friends, I’m in my community of peers, doing what I love, creating beautiful things, making change, making ripples in my mid-morning cups of coffee (that you proudly import from all over the world, some of it from my native land) with logic and dissent. I am fighting in my own little ways to pay those cocoa and coffee farmers fair wage and I’m also striving so your dairy co-op in rural Vermont gets their fair share of profits too. And I can do that because I care, because #imalreadyhome

(If you let it) My science makes food tasty, my design makes you happy, my stories make you think. We all have our roles carved out. Some days we will nod and some days we will wave, because that’s what neighbors do. Some days, we will cherish and some days, we will cope. And I will be here if you need me and also if you don’t, because #imalreadyhome Will you also pick up a sign and walk a mile, to defend logic and science and the rights of others less fortunate than you? Will you stand up for my rights and those of our planet? Will you repurpose more and recycle right?

I will always try to want less and waste less, so our Earth stays greener longer for your children and mine; I will always walk more and drive less so our kids can breathe better. I will always try to gift handmade. I will always want less and waste less and ask everyone to do the same, no matter which country we live in, because this Earth is our home and #wearealreadyhome

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This is written in acknowledgement of the tremendous amount of privilege I have and also in gratitude to my school and international student community at schools everywhere who make the transition from home to new homes easier. From there on, what we do with our lives, is often up to us. In the recent episodes, it is very easy to get angry and point fingers at everyone and forget the kindness we have received; which in my case has been profound and many times more than any negativity or prejudice, which I have also received. Let it never be said that prejudice doesn’t exist and didn’t exist. It always has and so does all the other ‘good stuff’.
#imalreadyhome is used purposely as a solidarity statement with other immigrants in line with http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/immigrants-respond-to-trump-by-declaring-imalreadyhome-on-twitter_us_588b6f7fe4b0303c07533a65 as a response to recent immigration ban and growing normalization of xenophobic attitudes. Xenophobia towards international students bother me the most, because when I see them I see a vulnerable 21 year old me (and so many more like me) with nothing but packed schedules, too overwhelmed to even feel homesick. So much apprehension, so many mistakes, so much good and so many accomplishments lay ahead of you, dear young international student…If you’re one of those 17, 18, 21, 25 year olds traveling alone to study in a new country, just know, you’re not alone.

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*Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) is a Danish word that is a feeling or mood that comes taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, every day moments more meaningful, beautiful or special.

** Hujug (hu-Joog) is a Bangla word meaning craze, or impulse usually fueled by passion for something fun

 

 

TRAVEL: When Broadway was a Prairie January 1, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Unstreamlined @ 11:13 pm

(Written on our cross country train trip May 24 2012)
From where I was sitting, he looked 75. Maybe not a train enthusiast, he surely was a believer in traveling long distance by train. Throughout the years he had traveled along almost all the routes Amtrak and some of canada rail as well. From his stories, it seemed that he had quite a few children, all my parents’ age and grand kids and he had traveled with and encouraged them all to noting travel but travel to far away lands.
This fascinated me, because he was from Lake George area in NY and in my experience living in western NY, he represented a demography that didn’t believe in moving or seeing counties other than their own. This was what one of my WNY coworkers called the hunting-fishing-NASCAR watching-Obama bashing-FOX news watching people who believed that China and Mexico was taking away their precious livelihoods.
“originally from the city” he said ” when Broadway was a prairie”. He had driven far and wide when he was a truck driver. Showed me a stackable train car and a new house being constructed in the horizon. In short, everything that technology had changed and thus robbed his community of employment.
When Broadway was a prairie, he said that driving into Rochester, the sky was laden with smoke from all the factories and people had jobs. Now the air is clean and there are no jobs. Apolitically and decidedly unbiased, I felt bad for him. Is it other people’s greed or his age, that makes all progress seem backward?
Conversations turned toward his recent Alaska trip and to his God-Mother who many years ago (When Broadway was a prairie) taught him to travel, took him to Lancaster, PA and introduced him to Amish cheese and rye bread. And all was well again. As long as we have parents and God parents to cart us around and as long as grand-parents like him are willing to pass on to their grand kids the travel bug, communities will grow, thrive and frankly go places – despite white collar greed, clean air, Mexican labor and Chinese manufacturing… Oh and of course everything technology.

 

Imaginary friend December 10, 2016

Filed under: Mouth full of potatoes — Unstreamlined @ 10:25 pm

You are not a memory, you are an everyday ongoing thought. You’re the imaginary friend, my grownup mind conjured from ashes of disappointing reality. You’re the voice that laughs at my jokes. I can physically feel your smile too, telling me ‘lonely in a crowd’ might not be such a terrible thing after all. I can’t wait to tell you all or some of the things I want to tell you about today, about now, while I am in the company of others.
On days where I’m perpetually rolling my eyes, which really is most days, yours meet mine at the back of my head for a wink and a nod.
You see, you’re my imaginary friend. You might live in the bodies of real humans and in IM profiles of my contacts occasionally but you flit around often and much. You’re unpredictable when you’re in someone’s body but when free you let loose and are so much nicer.
You’re not ideal by any means, nor do you always know the right thing to say or do at all times. But there’s comfort in imagining a conversation gone awry too. Because God knows I fuck up even in my wildest dreams.
You’re part nostalgia, part hope. You’re part wonder, part disgusting, exact sameness.
Sometimes you’re just silence. Sometimes you’re quiet. Sometimes you’re rehashed real words from people around me, regurgitated.
Sometimes you’re exactly what I hyped you up to be, sometimes you’re way beyond what I ever thought you could be (what 33 year old has imaginary friends after all?) And sometimes you’re just dead disappointing. You’re my imaginary friend and I’m thankful for your company.

 

Protected: Travel: London Day 2  November 24, 2016

Filed under: art,travel — Unstreamlined @ 10:12 pm
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Protected: Travel: Manhattan: Foodie’s Family Weekend August 18, 2016

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Losing mind August 9, 2016

Filed under: Mouth full of potatoes — Unstreamlined @ 11:44 am

When things start to slip from your mind at 32, it is so far from pleasant that self deprecating humor just peed in its pants and left the building whimpering. Add that to the life of someone who used to pride on her wordsmithing and ability to thread words through logic and humor through profound tongue in cheek ‘gotcha’-s. And you got a big blank gaping losing game of Hangman.
Here it is. I can’t talk. I can no longer write.
Just like one day, I couldn’t sing. I can no long talk now.

So one day, what if the counting is gone too? And then the colors? The sharp angles dipped in gritty muddy waters?
Words are forming but not quite right. The memories are forming but to someone else. You know the feeling and you are saying a million things beating around the bush but you can’t really get to that really juicy red bright right berry sitting right there, but not quite, slightly out of your reach, slightly out of focus, within your intention but not quite.
What would you do? Where would you go? What do you want? Who do you love? What would you have done?
The push and pull and the deep deep prod.

 

Paper balls: Self-love + the Buy Nothing community December 15, 2015

Filed under: art,home and garden,Mouth full of potatoes,Upcycle & Repurpose — Unstreamlined @ 9:59 pm

No one had offered and I sure as hell was not going to ask, expect or depend on someone’s mood and flicker of sympathy. I could wallow (and I did) or I could act. I always act. Yes, I was a little lonely but no one was going to stop me from having the time of my life nor deter me from celebrating Josh.
So I made a list, designed the invitation and bammed out a huge baby shower to myself. I also cooked for over 30 people, laid out the table, handmade the decorations, planned and arranged the favors, entertained guests (including my husband’s work friends and boss) and baked, glazed and decorated my first ever pregnant belly cake, complete with a fondant foot mark.

In between, I gave in a little bit to my hormones and spazzed out. Sorry if any of you had to witness that. (If any body feels the need to shame me for that, just please measure up to the level of productivity and stress first)

I did that all at 36 weeks of my first pregnancy. Josh might have been born to a then-staying-at-home mom. But he was also born to an itching-to-get-things-done mom, go-getter (and if I can’t get it, I will make it) Mom.
But this story is not about the accomplishment or pride that swells my chest to match my once-pregnant belly, this post is about those handmade decorations and the blessings it carried through the community.
After the shower in November 2013, the decorations continued to grace our spare room, although the hall ones had come down. By the time we brought Josh home from the hospital, I had made more and hung them all over the nursery and the spare room which was now going to be his play zone.
He grew up watching those fragile balls of color. We played peekaboo with these “sunflowers”, ruffled the petals for the colicky 5 week old, swayed and danced right in that corner to get him to sleep… Apologies if most of our pics seem to be of the same ones.

Meanwhile, Buy Nothing happened.
In a few more months, was Josh’s Annoprashon. By June 2014 , I made more decorations- this time beyond the red, orange and yellow….in white and gold and silver to match the traditional Bengali and Indian attire and menu.

The earth spun faster than we could handle and soon it was Josh’s first birthday and we were having his little party in the same pompom room with the repurposed decorations. By now, Josh was calling them “papams”.

 

 

 

The next summer, after weeks of stress, we were selling our home and the decorations were lucky to be picked up by our neighbor, for her wedding in August of 2015. Here’s what she had to say:
“Our wedding was a second marriage for both of us and while we wanted to celebrate with friends and family, we wanted to keep it simple and inexpensive. We had a tiny budget for decorations so when I saw that one of my neighbors was offering out her hanging flower decorations I knew they’d be perfect. And unlike party decorations that people buy, use, and then toss, these decorations got to party! After they festively decorated the VFW hall we rented for our party, I passed them along to another neighbor who was hosting a birthday party for her one year old child. Where they went from there I do not know but I can imagine that they are now waiting to add some festivity to another party somewhere nearby!”
Quite the social butterlies, the paper balls were next picked up by another neighbor for her son’s first birthday.
After that wonderful party (complete with a candy bar!), they traveled out of state to Maine with a girl who did (what seemed to me like) a Buy-nothing themed wedding! Of that I have no picture, nor story.

These simple paper decorations signify a very personal time of grit for me, they symbolize self-love, the need to do things well no matter how small, to pull projects to completion even when no one is checking- the same things that motivate me to success in work, family and volunteering. Add to that optimizing resource utilization, staying rooted/ connected and building/ growing/ living with the community.
Don’t you see now how symbolic these traveling paper balls have been and how instrumental they have been in sharing cheer through the community?

Reduce, Reuse, Buy Nothing and most importantly Love yourself. It works.

 

How Buying Nothing saved us October 30, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Unstreamlined @ 11:15 pm

The last time Buy Nothing was in the news, two things happened: our group (along with some others) got flooded with requests to join because everyone wanted to be the Frugalwoods (who are very inspiring by the way) and on the other hand, my beloved “Opinionated Cambridge” quickly polarized with one self-righteous group started an uproar of discussion criticizing the Frugalwoods… among other things, for graduating debt-free and owning real estate in Cambridge. Go figure.
I will just say that I have met the Frugalwoods and especially Mrs. F seems like a delightful person and their journey could be very inspirational to some people. But the biggest takeaway from her blog and lifestyle is “to each, her own”. So why copy and/or judge? Now to jump on to my own Buy Nothing story.

The local Buy Nothing group is my village. You know, sometimes, living in a country where you were not born in, is not easy. No matter how long you’ve lived there or what your legal status is or how connected you feel to the pulse of the socio-eco-political culture. If you don’t look like them, dress like them or go to their church, it is easy to feel a little ostracized from time to time- don’t let anyone tell you that doesn’t happen. You see a somewhat muted version of that in places where most people are transplants or where the natives are so used to seeing transplants, it bothers them that much less. That is only one of the reasons we embraced Cambridge and it, us. The mildly eccentric, thoroughly opinionated, deeply activist nature of super diverse Cambridge amused us, the dog-loving, Nature-enjoying, somewhat down-to-earth fraction of it attracted us and eventually the Buy Nothing group is what made it whole-. it turned my neighborhood into my community.

I was intrigued and inspired by Buy Nothing right from the name; and then some more because Liesl Clark and Rebecca Rockefeller (the women behind Trash Backwards) have time and again produced and implemented phenomenal, globally applicable, community-transforming ideas. Trash Backwards was so close to my heart, lifestyle and for a brief period, livelihood too.
Finally my grownup world was recognizing my familial culture, embracing the principles I had grown up with. The Buy Nothing Project might be a newer initiative, but minimalist, less greedy, frugal living is age old; and I grew up with parents (and grandparents) who taught me to value what I have, ask less and never waste. Living a life of gratitude is my everyday motto. Please don’t get me wrong, I did not grow up in deprivation, in fact, I had everything I needed and then some. I grew up in a family that could afford wishes and wants. I know people who’ve had delicious treats like career connections, real estate and generous child care support handed to them on a golden platter, my gifts might have been modest in comparison to theirs, but what I got, more than sufficed.

Buy Nothing did more for me than reinforce my frugal mindset. Yes, both my son and husband got not-bought gifts this year. (My son got a “Where is baby’s birthday gift?” book that he still loves and reads, 10 months after his 1st birthday and my husband got a semi-functional telescope, which kept him excited for a while, which was totally worth it)
Buy Nothing gave me friends and a safety net. When we were being harassed by someone enough to have to report to the cops and consider moving, a couple Buy Nothing members I felt comfortable sharing these incidents with, offered me solace and acceptance. They offered prayers and hugs and the option to temporarily move in with them (we didn’t), so we were safe from the harassment.
When we were staging our home for photos, we needed a place to store some of the clutter (home – clutter = museum). Storage pods were not a possibility because the narrow city street we lived on was undergoing a long construction project. Our Buy Nothing neighbors opened up their basements to host the odd things and kid’s toys.

As we needed to upgrade appliances, our new fridge was scheduled to arrive the day of our first open house, DURING the open house….and we were unable to reschedule it. So where were we to put the meals that we cooked in advance so the house wouldn’t steam up during the weekend-long open house? Buy Nothing to the rescue again. A neighbor who was up late saw my frantic post, lent me her ice boxes at midnight and saved the deliciousness that nourished us and baby for the next few days.

One neighbor helped me make cuttings from the tree I couldn’t take with me. Someone else offered to watch my bunnies, when our temporary apartment threw a surprise at us last minute and said they wouldn’t allow them.
Several offered to watch my son while I packed. A couple offered to cook us meals. (We didn’t ask for any of that and didn’t take them either but the gesture, the thought itself warmed us!)
A few dropped off items for me that I had no time or means to go and pick up, some picked up items on their way from me to donation drives- errands I was stretched too thin for. Two neighbors hosted my plants.
One dropped off flour and cocoa on my porch because it was my birthday and I had already packed up all my baking goods. (If you’re reading this, you already know you’re more than just a Buy Nothing member.)

Yes we have friends and neighbors outside of Buy Nothing, who’ve helped us a tremendous amount and I definitely would not be able to survive this time without my mother’s support. But this group needs to be called out with special accolades, because they owed me nothing, they were not not friends, coworkers, classmates, they were “just” neighbors, distant ones too, some I had met only a couple times, most only virtually (online). They knew nothing about me but my scanty, curt public Facebook view. And I truly have no words big enough to capture the generosity they showered on us.

Besides the harassment and the subsequent angst of readying our home just to let it go, the emotional tear of selling our first home, the exhaustion of moving with a toddler + 3 pets while starting a new job and the desperation of leaving the nest I had my baby in, we were dealing with logistical roadblocks in every direction, which included the sudden loss of a close family member. Among other things that meant, single parenting + fire fighting while my husband attended to his family half the globe away. Wherever it could go wrong, it had. Push-backs and stressors were ample from every conceivable direction.
However, now that a lot of it is simmering down, it feels like it turned out ok. Maybe not all of it, but some of it. Bottom line- we got through it. Almost. A lot of sleepless nights and dead-on-the-feet afternoons, but a lot of trust restored in humanity in the process.

Even before the crazy months started, the generosity had been diverse, sometimes surprising and always heartwarming…from hand-knit hats, to bread-making classes. They were banding together for donation drives and helping each other move mountains, survive crises and change the world for each other, on a daily basis. These neighbors gave more than their things, they offered rides, shared home brews, swapped recipes, lent tools, went on mom dates (sometimes without kids), shared interests, connected on commonalities and became friends. (Trust me, when someone offers to bring you chocolate after hearing you’re on your couch struggling through PMS, she is your friend, not just a Buy Nothing member. Yes, you- thank you!)

Buy Nothing enriched us as a community. Not only did we get the opportunity to connect with like-minded people but this little project about a gift economy had a much wider impact- It made generosity a habit.

By making it easy to give, it also made it easier to ask…. especially, by taking away need-based choosing of recipients. Asking, for so many of us, can be a huge cultural and/or psychological burden; sometimes being tainted with the notion of “need”, it gets even harder.

Buy Nothing made it easier to give up things too. It made us less clingy about our stuff and not just what we want to offload, but stuff we often hold on to for that future what-if-we-need-it-again scenario. Sound ludicrous? Imagine this: I’m temporarily quitting coffee (hypothetically speaking, of course) and I have no use for my espresso machine anymore, so I can gift it to someone who can use it now, rather than holding on to it for that uncertain future, when I might want coffee again. I know if and when I do, the community will have a machine that will brew me the perfect cup. Buy Nothing offered a sense of security in the form of a community, something we tend to want from our belongings. And with that sense of trust, a tiny population slowly but surely, is moving towards less holding on to stuff and more on to people around them. Buy Nothing made trusting cool again. Of course, this will help lower the burden on landfills somewhat, of course it will save money if you didn’t have to buy it, of course it will lengthen the life of goods. But more importantly, it makes “giving” a second nature, an action that doesn’t need deliberate thoughts. Giving begets giving, generosity breeds itself.

And that is how Buy Nothing saved us.

 

Home September 22, 2015

Filed under: Mouth full of potatoes,Uncategorized — Unstreamlined @ 2:18 pm

Free to follow my passions and purse my dreams and go wherever I please and keep flying… Truth? I have been chased out more than I have been chasing anything. Others have it worse, of course. Others running from being hurt, rights impeached, robbed of choice and options and things, forced to act against their will.

Free will.And my heart breaks for them.

See you’d have to stay and suffer the consequences. But me? I can always leave. I never stay. So I never reap benefits, I never have to see it through. My flowers never bear fruits. My trees don’t shade me. Too many fresh starts and potted plants.

You’d have obligations. You have strings that pull you. I do too, just that those strings don’t cocoon me. I never go home. I never miss home. I never let myself miss home.
I have always prided myself on the fact that I am not bound anywhere. I can quit any job, move to any city, leave anyone- anyone but baby. I have outwardly prided myself on my ability to let go, painlessly. But the truth is I never do. And the truth is it hurts like hell.

I give away things easily but I don’t throw anything away.

I make the quickest decisions but rarely are they unplanned. I’ve prided myself on being a professional traveler, a global citizen but the truth is I never travel, because I don’t have a home. I simply float.

You might romanticize my way of life and I hope you do. You might even envy the supposed flexibility, but sometimes I yearn for that sense of forever. The sense of a go-to. Maybe I wouldn’t mind a little binding, a little bonding.

I form new bonds fast, I assimilate effortlessly. But I have no old friends left. I have no traditions to fall back on. I don’t have a village. I cling to my languages, but words evade me. Mostly because I have no one left who’d listen. You see, the last of my 3 childhood angels died last Saturday.

Also, I am moving again. Mostly, because I can.

What could have been my own, never owned me. So leaving was left as the only easy option- maybe even the only option. Every. Single. Time.

See, I tried to root myself. I nested, I birthed but now baby and all, I have to go. Again. Go find another seat to warm.
Is it still an empty nest when you’re the one leaving it?
It’s not leaving that hurts, it’s knowing you’ll have to do it all over again, where you’re going next. My home will never be my home. It is someone else’s investment.
My will is never free.
Chasing and escaping make up my circle.

I hope that cycle breaks for baby.
For him and him- let peace coexist with the want for more, higher, better. Let “here” and “now” trump “elsewhere”, “anytime”. Let him always have a home to go to. Let me always be their home.

 

Design: baby shoe organizer July 5, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Unstreamlined @ 8:59 am

30 minutes to a easy, cute IKEA hack. No you don’t have to be a power tool yielding DIY-er. (Although it doesn’t hurt) you just have to believe, every item has the potential to become almost anything else it wants to.

A spice rack is never just a spice rack.  
With some scotch tape and paint, it’s a blank canvas.

  It’s a place to add embellishments- you know your bugs and butterflies, or cars and dinosaurs, or beads and pompous.
And most importantly, it’s a way to organize your entryway.  Especially with those tiny shoes that are always scattered and lost. Can I just take a moment here and say, no matter  what I make and how I design anything- nothing, absolutely nothing, are as cute as baby shoes.  
How do you organize your baby shoes?

 

Travel: Alaska- From Fireweed to Forest Fires June 21, 2015


Those of you, who’ve been following Glass Wheels Travels for a while, know I am a Mama’s girl. And my Mom and I travel together, often and much. This time, after a hiatus of couple years, Mom-&-me came back as Baby-Mama-&-Grandma. Most of you also have caught on to the fact that my Mama, who I will refer to Grandma hereon, LOVES mountains. So Alaska was an obvious choice given we were staying domestic this year.

We had been planning on an Alaska trip for a while and after some changes and back and forth from May to August and back, we finally decided on June. In fact, I am writing today within 4 days of getting back, still heady with jet lag.

We had just gotten back from a long California trip, all of us tired of long car-rides by then; J faring the worst of all, loathing his  car-seat. For days he would shake his hand and head vehemently just at the sight of the car door open…reminded me of Brownie’s road trips.

IMG_6889So anyway, tickets were booked and we packed a healthy dose of optimism and set out super early one June morning. After 2 uneventful flights and lots of compliments about a well-behaved baby, we reached Anchorage.

 One word- meh. We were hugely underwhelmed by Anchorage. A city cradled by mountains and lapped at by water evokes expectations and they were just plain not met. We tried them all- Kincaid Park, Point Worwonzof etc. and I have to say Pinterest and Tripadvisor have never really let me down this bad. Even worse- the food scene was almost non-existent. Anchorage made Buffalo look happening. Yes, sad.

IMG_6900IMG_6884

Still packing some of that remnant optimism, we set out, the next day, to go to Girdwood. You’ll notice in Anchorage travel tips and lists that they include all these areas- TurnAgain Arm, Girdwood, Portage etc. although I am not sure if these are really part of Anchorage or just potential day trips. Anyway, by the time Seward Highway reached Potter’s Marsh about 16 miles out of the city, both the view and our outlook had started changing. Potter’s Marsh was a lovely place – paved board walk stretched into the wide open marsh land. Fewer birds than we expected but such nice ambiance. I could while away here for hours. My little bird-spotting assistant (aka Baby Josh) sat in his Ergo, pointing “bird, bird!”, every time a gull flew past him. I saw a couple of bald eagles courting and clicked away at an elegant swallow who posed for us patiently.

IMG_4251Then the grey clouds started giving in and fat droplets threatened to take over the mist that was already soaking us. (And of course, I was traveling without rain gear and had only 1 fleece sweat ugh!) So we hurried back to  the car again and headed towards Girdwood. The winding road, hugging the Cook Inlet was fun and I kept patting myself in the back for upgrading our rental car to a Subaru Forrester. I have driven flimsy sedans on crazy National Parks roads before and let me just say, that is not fun. So really at $15 extra a day, the upgrade was totally worth it. I digress.

By then, the wind had picked up and believe it or not it was blowing so hard, it was difficult to get out of the car for more than a few seconds. It felt like we were going to fly away (and not the metaphorical way you’d expect Alaskan natural beauty to sweep you off your feet). We widened our stance and bent our bodies to steady against the wind and withstand the cold and lashing rain, to take in the views and get some pictures. Yes the pics are lopsided and hazy but effective, because, even now when I look at them, I feel the sting of the wind and rain.

TurnAgain Arm | Glass Wheels Travels

TurnAgain Arm | Glass Wheels Travels

I won’t say that the road was not scenic. It wasn’t as heavenly as widely acclaimed, but yes, it was scenic and made for a nice drive, once I added a ittle imagination and extrapolation on how nicer it would be on a clear day with blue skies. We trudged slowly up to Alaska Wildlife Center near Portage.IMG_6921 I have so much respect for everything they are doing over there to help rehabilitate the hurt and orphaned animals and I don’t mind the entrance fee etc. going to such a good cause. I wish it was dry and sunnier, so we could walk around and take better pictures… maybe even interact a bit more too. But instead, we took the shuttle. The driver/ guide was fantastic, she was not only personable, but also knowledgeable and descriptive without being patronizing. 

The Brown Bear pictured here was a special attraction. Going in the entrance personnel said “you’ll see all the animals but maybe not the bear because they are on some 20-30 acres and you never know where they’ll be”. But here he was, people-watching, just by the fence…Looking at all the interesting 2-legged creatures, in all kinds of 4 wheeled vehicles with cameras pointing at him. Overall we had a great 45 minutes ride in the shuttle bus. I knew going in this was no zoo or the San Diego Safari but I left feeling a little empty and more than a little dissatisfied. I couldn’t help but feel a little cheated… I heard Alaska was gorgeous from all my friends, of varying tastes and exposures. The prices of everything in Alaska sure lived up to it’s supposed-heavenly beauty. This was going to be an expensive trip and this was an awful lot of nothing to justify that kind of money. Frankly, the weather was playing havoc on my psyche. It was a miserable, cold, wet day- a good day to buy a new jacket- a bad day for that jacket to give way, even before I left the shop.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear what do you see?

Trail in Girdwood AK | Glass Wheels Travels

Trail in Girdwood AK | Glass Wheels Travels

Seething and drenched we reached Girdwood and was welcomed warmly in to a homey B&B with big rooms. After nursing and calming J (I think I was projecting my gloom on him a bit too), we decided to rest, for the remainder of the evening and “take it slow”…given a cold, wet day in Girdwood didn’t leave us any other options. We went to sleep with the hope that  it would clear up a little the next day.

And it did, long enough for us to go on a short trail before breakfast. We kept it short, because there was homemade bread waiting for us at “home” for breakfast. I saw some wildlife there, but unfortunately don’t have pictures to show. I saw a mouse, not moose. Yes, that’s not a typo, as much as I’d like it to be…

Anyway, after breakfast, we packed J into the car and headed for Seward…a 4 hour round trip for a 2 hour visit to the SeaLife Center; after reading the reviews and weighing the pros and cons in bad weather we decided on passing on the 6 or 8 hour long glacier cruises from Seward. I wasn’t going to go with J anyway but I think even for Grandma, standing in the frigid cold (most say there aren’t enough seats) next to motion-sick cotravellers’ vomit, to watch ice break and fall into water and a knowledge that there’s wildlife that she can’t see without a binocular (which we didn’t have), eating semi edible food on a ship…didn’t sound very appealing. I’m sorry guys, but icecalving just does not fit my bill of cool. Maybe that’s where my misplaced notion of Alaskan beauty is.

TurnAgain Arm | Glass Wheels Travels

Seward Highway | Glass Wheels Travels

Our road to Seward was beautiful! So much nicer than ANC-Girdwood! Or was it the peekabooing Sun? The sky still wasn’t blue but so many shades of green, reflected on randomly scattered lakes. Of course the Mom in me was happy that Josh was so happy seeing the fish and especially the birds. Check out the amazing work the Alaska SeaLife Center does with rehab as well. Yes, no colorful tropical fish and this wasn’t the Chicago or Baltimore aquariums, but still totally worth the trip to the SeaLife Center. This is what traveling with kids is made of and I love it!

Alaska SeaLife Center | Glass Wheels Travels

Alaska SeaLife Center | Glass Wheels Travels

J & I both found likeness of Brownie in the seals’ faces and Josh went far enough to keep calling them “Babum”- his name for Brownie. I was missing my son#1. But this was going to  be a good day. I was almost determined to make it count. When was the last time I was so conflicted/ determined on vacation?

After a couple hours of fun at the SeaLife Center and procuring a new fleece lined rain jacket (that worked!), we headed home to Girdwood.

Tram, Alyeska, Girdwood | Glass Wheels Travels

Tram, Alyeska, Girdwood | Glass Wheels Travels

Since we missed seeing glaciers, we thought going to the Seven Glaciers restaurant at the Alyeska Resort next door could make up for it. Boy were we wrong. The idea of dining up among 7 hanging glaciers is enchanting. Being seated in an empty restaurant with reservation, near the elevator shaft with almost no view + rude service that would put Massachusetts to shame + shamefully mediocre food was not enchanting at all. We did enjoy the 7 minute trip up the tram and the round house was a nice viewpoint… again imagining how much nicer this would be under clear skies helped. We met a very nice person (Josh?) who took us down on our trip in the tram. For a resort in high season, the whole place was dismally empty…maybe they’ve scared away all the customers and like us they would all go to taste Alaskan icecream next!

Round House, Alyeska, Girdwood | Glass Wheels Travels

Round House, Alyeska, Girdwood | Glass Wheels Travels

Yes apparently there’s a ice cream company in AK, where food scientists take the local wild flower- Fireweed for it’s color and it’s honey and formulate Fireweed Honey icecream. It was floral, sweet and refreshing and it came from our B&B host’s ice cream shop. Our last night in Girdwood was truly relaxing, as we watched the light thin out over the hills- hills we could now see from both our windows now that the clouds had lifted.

View on a sunny day from our B&B, GIrdwood | Glass Wheels Travels

View on a sunny day from our B&B, GIrdwood | Glass Wheels Travels

IMG_4460The next day we set out to go north to Talkeetna. We stopped in Anchorage to fill up our car to the gills with snacks and water and a couple small toys for Josh. This time around the road (to ANC) felt shorter of course but not that much prettier. The road from Anchorage to Talkeetna was sad! We saw more abandoned cars and run down dismal communities than anything else. Hardly 2-3 gas stations, no rest stops, no scenic stops. Nothing…I kept expecting to make a turn and see a mountain or a moose but of course Mt. Denali was socked up in clouds and nothing else was worth seeing. IMG_4509Eventually we reached our B&B in Talkeetna. The last quarter miles was unpaved and gravel and just when our expectations plummeted, we were greeted by Andi at the Talkeetna Chalet B&B, showed around her beautiful house, fueled with coffee and shown to our room. We then made it another 3 miles to where the road (Talkeetna Spur road) ends at the river…at quaint and quirky Downtown Talkeetna. Like I mentioned in my Alaskan Communities page, Talkeetna is where everyone comes to play.IMG_4446 There are quite a few food options and historic buildings (but not your Old Cambridge style that we’re used to). The mayor of this town is a cat! Here in Alaska for the first time, IMG_4448I saw young families with little kids and people with dogs, playing in the park of leash. In my mind that signals “happy community” almost instantly. The whole place was like out of a hippie vacation, with stores as old (looking) as Nagley’s and as crazy sounding at Mexican Moose (we bought a wooden car for J from here and 3 packets of roasted warm nuts- yummy!)  IMG_4511IMG_4489IMG_4492 IMG_4507

Rain came again and we retired to a bowl of soup and reindeer sausage at the Roadhouse. The next day, Grandma went on a flight seeing expedition to the top of Mt. Denali (!) with K2 aviation and Josh and I went to walk around the town and to the river. Then early afternoon after a bad experience with mediocre pizza from Mountaintop, thinking aloud how cute this town was, we set forth for Denali National Park. Little did we know this nagging feeling of imcompleteness would soon be quenched when we would be forced to return here again!

Our next stop for the day was Healy and the sky still hadn’t cleared all the way but the mountains were peeking in and out of the clouds. We stopped admist a hoard of chattering Asian tourists at the South viewpoint and I soon left without taking many pictures only to be stopped intermittently by traffic and waiting for pilot cars to take us through the narrow single lane highways. There were stretches where again I was thankful I had the 4WD Forrester. The North view point was quieter and felt more scenic. IMG_4564 And finally 5 full hours later, when I was almost ready to burst into tears myself- exhausted and still calculating if this trip is worth it, we reached our B&B in Healy. That turned out to be less of a B&B but what ever it was, the view was phenomenal. Do you see the rainbow? The photo deosn’t do it justice. AND that was only the first rainbow we had seen- it was 6PM. We were so tired, we set our alarms for 12:15AM and then 3:15AM for sunset and sunrise respectively, swearing all we’re going to do here was lie down next to the window/ deck, “bask” in the midnight sun and enjoy the scenery. And glorious it was, the midnight sun and the 12:25AM sunset. I have never seen a more beautiful, a more pink, a more heavenly view in my life. (Well not really, I did see a beautiful pink baby boy I gave birth to- the best thing I’d ever seen) In my almost 32 years of existence this was the northernmost I have traveled and the longest day I’d seen. I don’t know why the other things are so talked about and this isn’t one of them? As much as I love them, I’ve seen enough alpine forests and snowclad mountains, I’ve been to nicer National Parks and stayed in luxury lodgings, I have had my share of (glaciers) ice on water too…but this- this was ephemeral. How is this not a Wonder of the World? How is this not in brochures for traveling to Alaska? This is finally what made everything worth it.

IMG_4652

Almost worth not even going to the National Park. But we did. Trudging along the construction-ridden, bumpy, unpaved road, we entered the park. NPS always interests me, but here it seemed to be more educational than recreational. Nonetheless we went to some trails and came back less than impressed. Almost 2 miles of hikes with a napping baby on my back- it isn’t easy traveling with kids, but it’s fun. And you do live to talk about it. My SLR camera died on the hike and I almost immediately knew we would encounter wildlife that evening…and after getting back to the hotel that night, we saw a mama moose with her baby at the lake (Otto Lake) and later a bear (which really I didn’t see very well).

The next day was going to be the longest drive, so we started early and tried to go as fast as possible within reasonable speed- you know, no photos, fewer stops. We only lasted about 10 miles before we wanted to stop for photos! Of course this was the clearest day so far. The sky was egregiously blue, the Sun hot on our heads, the snow clad Mt. Foraker, Mt. Hunter and Mt. Denali shining bright. We were going to hit a 90 degree that day. The cold wet windy day when we couldn’t get out of our cars seemed like a distant nightmare.

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Driving towards Sockeye Fire | Glass Wheels Travels

We stopped to fill gas at the junction of Talkeetna spur road, exclaiming at the beautiful Mt. Denali in our rear view mirror and how nice it would have been had it been clear on our journey there. Then a sideways gland revealed Smokey Bear saying high danger of fire. I’ve seen that sign before but never an actual fire and I really didn’t give it much thought.

In no more than 5 minutes later, I thought the clouds looked different and I told Grandma, maybe there’s a fire ahead. Within minutes were were stuck on the road behind what we later learned was a 2 mile long train of cars. People had their chairs out camping in the Sun, hoping the road will open in a couple hours. We also learned there were no back-roads to get to Anchorage, something we are so used to in the Lower 48. You know that saying there’s always a way. Well there wasn’t. And with Josh sleeping in the car, I somehow didn’t feel right to wait those 2 hours. I quickly called our B&B reservation in Anchorage saying the road was closed with a 200 acre fire (later grew to over 7500 acres); she was reluctant to return our deposit, but eventually when we learned the road was not going to open for that whole night and in fact, it was indefinitely closed, she was gracious enough not to charge us.

I called and left a message for Andi at Talkeetna Chalet, Talkeetna being the closest place we could stay for the night, and then again called a couple other B&Bs who were completely booked. Turns out one of Andi’s guests was also stuck because of the fire, coming in from Anchorage, so she could in fact accommodate us. The upside to all this was we were going to spend one extra night in Talkeetna over boring Anchorage.

The downside was infinite. Very close to Andi’s B&B we had an encounter with a very creepy man with a combination of finger flicking and waving and smiling– gave me super heebie-jeebies. This wasn’t my urban neighborhood where I knew the roads and there were people I could call out to, this was a cabin in the woods, down the hill and away from the main house, alone with Grandma and Baby. Baby with a raging fever. This was a town with minimal to zero police presence, all of whom were probably focused on fighting the fire and relocating residents. This was a town where I saw 2 people openly carrying guns in holsters casually in their jeans and sun dresses, this was a town I later learned where there was a Militia conference that weekend! I have no opinions against them, I just want to say how far and unfamiliar that culture is to me. This was a place where I was essentially alone to fend for myself and 2 people I love most in the world. And I couldn’t find the fire extinguisher in the wooden cabin, 30 miles from where a forest fire by then had taken up 7500 acres. I had LTE connection on my AT&T, so I obsessively scanned the internet for news on the fire, tweeted CNN and FOX for their lack of updates and followed the Alaska Forestry page for updates, which were scant, to say the least. The rest of the world, said my husband and friends on Facebook, had no idea what was going on here. Houses were smoking, trees were flaming- the fate of acres of land in the hands of whimsical wind. Oh and that creep could show up at any time at the window. And my son was not feeling well at all. I just wanted us to be safe, I wanted to get to Anchorage, board our plane and reach Boston Logan airport. I wanted us to be home, with Brownie and A, away from this strange land. I wanted us to be in the heart center of rude, uncaring Massholeland and smack next to uncivilized neighbors- THAT was my civilization.

I was also amazingly eternally grateful to Andi for taking us in, to the other B&B owner for not charging us and to luck and my quick decision-making that we turned around in time…apparently Andi got 20 calls right after asking for a place to stay in. Other commuters had to go to shelters. I was glad we got a beautiful cabin, a cozy bed, a hot shower, coffee and the premise of a hearty breakfast the next morning.

With that we survived that night and after breakfast, we left for Anchorage. Smoke was everywhere, a feverish baby in the car, and charred skeletons of spruce stood for 22 miles along the Parks Highway near Willow, AK.

We eventually reached Anchorage, with half a day to spare. At over 90 degrees and few places that were comfortable, open and inviting, we headed to the airport early. United Airways personnel who knew full well (and expressed as much) our flight was going to be delayed (but it didn’t show on the displays yet) refused to get us in on an earlier flight unless we paid for it. Irritated and anxious about making our connection, we roamed ANC for a little bit. Ted Stevens ANC airport is a gem for a shabby town like Anchorage. Ample food options, nice artwork, people who were in awe of Alaskan beauty but wanted out of the state and best of all a nursery,  where we could rest, change and play for 7 hours until our flight…7 hours theoretically was actually 9 hrs, which delayed our flight for the connection. . Thankfully again, our connection in ORD was late. Finally we were headed home. And we were home, 26.5 hours from when we had left our B&B in Talkeetna.

…..

“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.”

…..

TurnAgain Arm | Glass Wheels Travels

TurnAgain Arm | Glass Wheels Travels

If interested you can find our full itinerary and recommendations for planning here. And on the topic of planning, here are some cool places to stay and play in. Check out all our pics on my Flickr album

 

Travel: Alaskan Adventure June 19, 2015


We just got back from a 8 day long vacation in Alaska. Check out all our pics on my Flickr album. This travelogue is more a travel story, a collection of anecdotes. We created our own itinerary and learned as we went. So if you are looking to create your own itinerary, looking for the best/scenic routes and convenient stopovers: Alaska itinerary

If you are looking for a review of the communities, we stayed in, read Alaskan communities: where to stay, what to do and where to eat.
The costs can creep up quickly when going to AK so for the budget traveler, my tips are in Alaska on a budget
Very few people take their kids to Alaska. It’s not that the whole state doesn’t have kids but the median age of visitors is 60. But if you’re like me and going to AK with a tiny tot, can you still enjoy Alaska? Of course, read Traveling with kids.
And lastly if you are here to read a slightly comic, slightly scary anecdotes of experiencing the Sockeye Fire and in general the crazy weather patterns in Alaska, go to Alaska: Fireweed to Forest Fires.
Otto Lake
 

Travel: Praha, Czech Republic January 1, 2015


Charles Bridge

Our journey started as a school trip, intending to learn about the business culture, norms and workings of corporations of post-communist Eastern Europe. Coming from a city which has always idealistically called itself socialist, Prague haunted me in more than one way. It came across as a teenager uncomfortable with his new body but not quite able to catch up to the rest of the world. Preservation, old town culture, history—symbols of Western Europe magnificence were marred hand in hand with communist style match box apartments. The offices were shanties. The work culture tired, work environment dismal. People—grim, sighing and for the most part unhappy. Not speaking Czech had its drawbacks and I learned soon enough not to smile and greet people. But then there were those moments, you wanted to absorb and assimilate in your brain forever, the time, the place, the smells and if I may, the tastes.

We lived in Centrum, walking distance from everywhere nice and touristy and between 2 metro stops.  Also being in the Centrum meant you kind of had to walk everywhere. The National Museum stood as the welcoming levee from where started the series of shops from grocery stores and American megabrands to your everyday fast food. Almost like platform # 9¾, the storefronts hid the winding narrow cobblestone alleys that led to Old Town.

Old Town SqaureThe square stood standing like it has for hundreds of years, only sprouting coffee shops and barbeque joints hosting to the thick of tourists visiting every hour. Sticker shocked by the ‘local’ coffee shops, we fled into the closest Starbucks which consequently had the longest ever lines. We walked further onto the Charles Bridge, strolled around the snaky backstreets, some of which were thick with tourist traps and souvenir stores while some entirely desolate. The statues on Charles Bridge were very interesting and I wished I knew the stories they depicted.

A beautiful panoramic view of the city could be seen at the Prague castle or the Hrad. While I didn’t go inside the grounds were beautiful with strolling peacocks amidst other non-royals like pigeons and ducks. My friends who did go inside said it was beautiful.

On quite the other side, I visited the Museum of Communism which was ironically enough located right atop a McDonald’s.  While they probably could have done better, I think the Berlin wall simulation, the video of the Velvet Revolution and the communist era archival was interesting and worth the 8 dollars.

The Jewish Ghetto was a beautiful and impressive walk, especially if you have a knowledgeable guide. I am so thankful to ours. Kafka and Mozart’s houses, Giovanni’s premiere site, the libraries, the squares the stories will be in my memory for some time to come.

If you do go to Prague, try the black light theatre and the marionette theatre both of which I read lots of good reviews of, but did not get a chance to visit. Enjoy some goulash and a pig’s knee/ knuckle if you get a chance, buy a sausage sandwich from the street vendors. If literature interests you, the museum of Kafka is right near Charles Bridge. If music is your thing, look out for the jazz clubs and cruises as well as classical performances. If history, culture and old world mystery interest you and you want something less expensive than Western Europe, Prague just might be your next destination.Smoky Prague skyline

 

Travel: Shenandoah National Park December 26, 2014


(A June 2009 post from my old blog)

I have always associated mountains with my mother. Maybe it is because Mom planned 9 out of 10 of my childhood vacations around the mountains. Or maybe because I could see the elation that snow-capped peaks brought to her. Especially since the acrophobic, motion-sick, Calcutta-sick me wasn’t much of a hill-person, I would curiously and stupefied-ly watch out for what my parents got out of these high-altitude monsters!!
(Wondering how I became me? Well…without much ado, let me just gut your curiosity by saying– every now and then, I see my parents in my reflection, much to awe and sometimes to concern and infrequently, amusement; but I guess this happens to a lot of us, most commonly to the best of us here.)

So going back to mountains, when I was planning my Mom-weekends for this summer…for some reason I came up with mostly sea-sides or water-bodies (and I live on Erie) except for a Colorado weekend… and I thought– ‘well, she would have really loved the hillies!’ So when I planned our Maryland-DC-Virginia getaway, I thought why not? The Atlantic had to make way for the Appalachians…Virginia Beach had to give way to Shenandoah! And man, was that a good decision! We deliberated about Monanghela (West Virginia) but at the last moment decided to skip it … and instead make most of the stars at hand a.k.a. Shenandoah (Native Indian word meaning ‘daughter of the stars’)

On one hand when we were really taking out scopes of diversity from this trip, someone had better plans for us. The dull cloudy skies of crabby Maryland gave way to lovely sunshine as we hit Front Royal, Virginia.
From there on we were cuffing weather patterns that changed every hour. During that 104 mile drive, the plushest greens that were swathed with sunshine this moment, changed into dark lime colors the next, with a depth that only sudden stormy showers could bring.
That strange musty smell of wet dirt and storms that wift them to your nose remind me of home and of Kalboishakhi-s.
The leaves dithered and turned back on each other, producing a myriad of multidimensional green maze that lured you into the depths of wild trails. John Muir’s “the mountains are calling and I must go” made perfect sense.

The azure and white playful sky would in moments give way to pitch-black low-lying dark clouds that swarmed from hill to hill, showering on some, simply hovering on some others. Moist clouds flowing in and out of the car and touching your shoulders like the hills were breathing down on you.
Wildflowers in every shade of lilac, pink and white, blue and yellow. Blue birds and red jays and butterflies. Strange snakes. Wild bears, mid-size black and 20 feet from our car parked on the main road.
And my mother to share it all with. Life couldn’t get much better.

Purple ranges overlooking the rivulets glowed orange in the setting sun….
and the blue ridges, ah! The Blue Ridge. Layers of symmetry, like the globe was ‘marble printed’ in three pastels and a brown : ) A lot like my mother– Peacefully dynamic. Enormously humane. And ethereally big; bluer and bigger than all of us here.

…And a reminder of how much more there is to see.

I have lived in Pennsylvania for some time and driven through the Alleghenies for more times than I can count, in all 4 seasons and everything between them and don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of the Alleghenies…I swear by her beauty….but lets just say, maybe I never stopped there long enough to ‘smell the roses’, so I’m not in a position to compare.
I have never been to the Monanghela-s or the Smokey-s either; when I do, maybe, I can give a more compehensive ‘trip-advisor-ly’ note than this anecdote of sheer exhilaration and compulsive adoration about the Shenandoah Valley.
I keep reverberating that it probably couldn’t get any better. However if I am to change something, it would be staying at the forest lodgings…I couldn’t tell you about management or room conditions but if I were to decide based on locations, Skyland it would be. (One quick note: Reservations run out fast)
shenandoahMore pictures on my Flickr page http://www.flickr.com/photos/kolika/sets/72157620541242817/
Until then keep those wheels spinning and smell the paper wings!

Update: On subsequent visits we did stay at the Skylodge and the Big Meadow resorts. Big Meadow is a tad more upscale while Skylodge is big on the rustic. More are wonderful stays and the food and tap at Big Meadows was just plain wonderful. Definitely worth revisiting.

 

Protected: Travel: Culinary joys of Calcutta December 17, 2014


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Travel: A November weekend in Maine

Filed under: travel — Unstreamlined @ 10:27 am
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They said it was “worth a visit, worth a lifetime”, they forgot to mention it was going to be worth the drive with a nauseated puppy, a time-crunched husband and an over-worked wife. Totally worth it, for the canine and his humans alike.
I think I am moving from the cheap, fast, efficient traveler to a care-hungry, leisure-monger. So Cape Elizabeth was perfect. We did nothing. So really not glass wheels worthy. Nothing to write about. But still I will, because I want to keep this thing going in my head.
Nothing but the beach, the view, the stroll, the food, the wine. (Read reviews at my tripadvisor page). The 55 degree weather in late November, made for the doable but very serene beach walks. This is probably the closest we will ever come to a private beach. At 7AM when I took B for his morning walk, we were the only souls on a mile long stretch. Blue water, cold breeze.

This trip was a lot about realizing life has us on leashes, but the leashes are often longer than we realize. B and us enjoyed our long-leashed, short walk.

This was our second honeymoon. Long due. Why now you ask? Well we looked for events to celebrate, so we could stop thinking  of the excuses. And at dinner, we found one. The closest we ever came to acknowledging that we are a couple– humane, palpable  and fallible (in love?), yup we celebrated a nondescript weekend from 7 thanksgiving breaks ago. And it felt good to not say, oh we needed to get away.

To reach out and say thanks.

 

Design: repurposing wine corks July 27, 2014

Filed under: art,home and garden,Upcycle & Repurpose — Unstreamlined @ 11:02 pm
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Repurposing into fabulous trivets, as you can see below. Perfect way to provide a heat resistant, spill-proof catch-all trivet or coaster. Oh and you wine aficionados what better way to show off what you’ve gulped down since last night. Need a tutorial? Easy peasy, use watersafe wood glue to stick them any which way you like.
Herringbone is my new favorite pattern of course. And very good for a standalone structure!

 

Design: The Magnolia Project May 29, 2014


Magnolia Stained Glass Project _ Final step installation

Magnolia Stained Glass Project _ Final step installation

Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 1 Design

Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 0 Inspiration (Spring 2014 blooms)

When my son was about two months old I started the Magnolia project. The idea was to make two stationary stained-glass windows for the wall that separated our master bedroom and his new nursery. My goal was to create a space he could call his own, but have as much sound and light flow through as possible. Stained glass, or any glass, in my opinion, is born to play with light and we have to honor that. My design had to be unique enough to tell our story, calming and peaceful to match our bedroom and above all, fun for my baby to grow up with. I didn’t necessarily want intricate details, but they made their way in, anyway. About 9 months ago, the day I first found out I was pregnant with Josh, we planted a magnolia tree in our garden. Pardon the dramatics and the cliches, it really was coincidental because after moving into our very first, new home, we were focused on getting the landscaping done before it got crazy hot. It is a sweet coincidence you have to admit. First time we were planting a tree- a sign of permanence, of settling down and taking roots. C’est la vie. When it came time to choose a design for these windows, I researched quite a few water themes and art deco designs (if you know my style you know that is what I naturally gravitate to). It was the middle of February- smack in the middle of a cold, long, dreary New England winter. I needed spring, I longed for the branches of trees to turn pink and purple again. I was longing to cut glass, go out, even considered a manicure. And as I have previously mentioned the best manicure often happens when you’re cutting, grinding, shaping glass. Thus my table saw the light of day and the designs got sketched and erased and edited and sketched again, bringing on to paper and then on to glass, branches of a magnolia tree.

  I had once read somewhere, that ‘planting  a garden is believing in tomorrow’. I hope Josh grows up learning to play with light and  learning to believe in tomorrow. And I wish for many many peaceful nights of deep sleep under the pink boughs of magnolia…umm, I don’t think the latter is going to happen right away.
Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 2 Cutting

Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 2 Cutting

Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 3 Staging

Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 3 Staging

Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 4 Foiling
Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 4 Foiling
Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 5 Soldering

Magnolia Stained Glass Project_ Step 5 Soldering

 

Design/ Gardening: Repurposing plastic bottles for multiple gardening projects September 22, 2013


Urban gardening with repurposed plastic bottles

Urban gardening with re-purposed plastic bottles

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Got bottles? Already tried regrowing green onion bulbs? Too early for daffodils?

Cut them up for multiple uses in your garden.

 

Fostering 104: Bunnies & Babies


With a recent question from a potential applicant that got me thinking. She is an experienced bunny owner, who unfortunately lost her bun few months ago. Concurrently planning on expanding her family, she was worried how having infants and eventually toddlers would change her abilities to appropriately care for a bunny.

Let’s preface with a few simple facts:

  • Bunnies unlike cats do NOT spread toxoplasmosis; so they are safe to handle during pregnancy and nursing.
  • Bunnies are very easily litter trained (just clean their box once every 2 days a 15 minute commitment!)
  • Bunnies need time commitment, but that not as active company as most dogs and some cats do; for starters, they don’t need to be walked outside.
  • Bunny shedding is not specially harmful to humans (in normal non-allergic circumstances), in fact it’s more harmful to the buns themselves, if they ingest the hair than to us. (Easy combat measure: Quick, regular vacuuming)
  • Bunnies wouldn’t attack a baby out of jealousy or territorial feeling (male bunnies attack other male bunnies but no known inter-species hate)
  • Kids and toddlers need to be trained on handling bunnies, not the other way round
  • Bunnies are relatively more contained than dogs or cats and most bunnies love the security of their cage for nap/ rest, eating and potty time.

Assuming that as a prior bunny owner, you already know what goes into caring for a bunny. Besides, food and shelter and the preliminary physical needs, I always profess abundant (2-5 hours at least) of passive company; whereby the bunny plays outside its pen or cage with humans in the room/ bunny space. That way they can come to you if they want to. Some bunnies like more active company and play, most don’t. Different personalities–just like people! So really depending on your bunny and the area, you could be reading/ watching TV/ eating/ fiddling with your phone/ clean the house while they play around you and enjoy your company. Of my 2 bunnies, one is more destructive and the other absolutely the opposite. So if your bunny is very destructive, my recommendation is to be more watchful and protect your books and wiring, but I don’t constantly need to run after her. My favorite things to do while I’m hanging out with them– my morning stretches, yoga, reading, working on a un-wired charged computer 🙂

How does having a infant/ toddler change things? My guess, firstly, is that you’d be busier than you are now; but you know your lifestyle and plans the best. So maybe you’d be able to spend a couple hours in the bunny area, within a few weeks/ month of having your baby? Maybe your partner or family member can fill in that void, if you can’t? Maybe the 5 hours is too much to ask, but  is 1-2 hours doable in 30 minute phases?

Please note a big change in routine throws everyone off, but if gradually introduced, bunnies adapt pretty quickly.

Bunnies are great pets for growing families, when adults are the key-caretakers. Bunnies are nice, if anything, passive to kids and relatively easy to manage. However, I strongly believe bunnies are not gifts for kids, or pets for kids. Adult supervision is necessary at all times. And, kids need to learn proper handling. They need to learn to be respectful and kind to these very fragile but dignified fluffy friends.

In my opinion, bunnies who come into a family before the baby, gets time to acclimatize with its surroundings so the introduction of a baby does not throw it off. So I wouldn’t worry about behavioral problems or stress acting out, unlike a territorial dog or stressed out cat. But again, gradual change of routine, if any, is always helpful and proves more successful in long-term stability of the bunny and the baby’s bonding.

Bunny handlingPS: As a first time expectant mom (to a human baby) and mother to 2 bunnies and a dog, the idea of peaceful and happy inter-species coexistence of is top-of-mind. While I haven’t actually held a baby in one hand and the bunnies and dogs in the other…. yet, I am reading, watching, asking and learning constantly. Because there is very little I want more than my 4 kids to be healthy, happy and peaceful together. If I am missing something, let me know, I’m all ears.

 

Eat food. Stuff you like. As much as you want. | The Fat Nutritionist September 7, 2013


Eat food. Stuff you like. As much as you want. | The Fat Nutritionist

Finally a blog and a blogger who writes well, writes sense and talks about food the way it should it discussed. With common sense.

Michelle, I am a fan.

 

Fostering 105: Do-s and Don’t-s of Fostering Rabbits September 1, 2013

Filed under: Pets — Unstreamlined @ 10:57 am

So I have been fostering dogs and occasionally sit cats, what do I need to know about fostering bunnies?

Unfortunately bunnies are still a popular gift for kids especially around parts of the world that celebrate Easter. But bunnies are temperamentally fit to be kids’ pets. So when these mute, but subtle creatures don’t reciprocate the enthusiasm by our little human munchkins,  they become yesterday’s toys and end up in shelters across the country. Those with worse fate end up with “Nature”, aka killed by weather, raccoons, disease, birds of prey etc. So, dog mamas and cat papas everywhere, we need you to step forward and provide that warmth and extra corner you have in your home to bunnies in need of shelter.

Fostering bunnies is easy, but it’s not just cage them and done. They are easy because they don’t need constant attention or be taken out for walks on icy nights (indoor, well-exercised bunnies are a wonder to be with) Here are some quick tips:
  • TIME: Bunnies are however very social beings, although it might not seem so, so being around them when they are playing outside is a great idea.
  • LIVING QUARTERS/ CAGES/ HUTCHES/ ROOMS?:

    Foster bunny Theo (adopted May 2013)

    Foster bunny Theo (adopted May 2013)

    • Bunnies like big cages and in their cage, bunnies don’t need tons of stuff or toys, but they need SPACE. Unlike some dogs who feel cozier in smaller crates, bunnies should be able to stretch while reaching up/ standing up and still have room on top. Also when lying down fully stretched they should have 3-4X their length in the cage.
    • Bunnies are very, I repeat, very easily litter trained. I trained my first bunny to pee in her plastic litter box in exactly half a day. They are very clean creatures and my husband and I often wonder if we could ever learn from them and keep our home as spotless as Pupu keeps hers. She has a bald spot in her cage for napping, she has the area where she liked her hay to be (while she’s in the John), she has her water bottle.
    • We clean their cages once in 2-3 days but really 1-2 should be done. But I vacuum their areas at least once every day (more during shedding season), because the fur builds up around the cages and in litter pans and hay and then get consumed. If you see poop tied together like dumbells, it’s an early sign  that they are ingesting their loose hair.
  • FOOD: We grew up seeing pictures of bunnies gnawing on carrots. Wipe that from your brain and read on. Fresh veggies is good for some bunnies, but it is always safer not to overdo it, per every rabbit vet and every rabbit website we’ve been to. High oxalates in some greens can cause major gastrointestinal tract distress. In general rabbits can be prone to GI discomfort and gassiness. They can’t throw up like cats, so hairballs if ignored can kill them. 6 year old Purple, besides being a major queen, is a fart-bag. Although I say it lightly, she has gone to hypothermia couple times and scared us to death. So with the vets recommendations, we have strictly omitted greens. She thrives on hay, LOTS OF TIMOTHY HAY and water. Pineapple can be a life saver- little dime size pieces are great for hairballs and other gastrointestinal issues. You don’t have to feed them pellets and try not to give them hay with nuts etc. in them; it’s not going to kill them right away but take it from a erstwhile food scientist that bunnies are not equipped to metabolize complex carbs and proteins. Additional research against muesli type diet.

    Brownie, Purple, Blue

    Brownie, Purple, Blue

  • EXERCISE: Bunnies need a lot of excercise. They are not like dogs and won’t ask for entertainment, and some are lazier than others, but 2-3 hours is a minimum they need to be outside their cages stretching out and running and binkying. I leave them out  before feeding them in 30 min slots that way once they are tired I can lure them to the crate with a treat.
  • PETTING: Try not to pick them up, instead petting should be done when they are on the ground.
  • BUNNY SECRETS
    • Their fore-heads, above their noses are sweet-spots, to gain instant affection.
    • They will run their chin on things to “mark territory” and also as a sign of affection. So let them. It means you “belong to them”  (and in our family, it’s the highest honor you can get)
    • If you pet them and you can feel a slight grinding of their jaw, it means they are loving it (equivalent to a cat’s purr)
    • If they thump (loud thuds with rear feet), they are angry and they are trying to scare you. Give them space, stay back, let them calm down and come to you
    • Crazy jumps with no pre-determined direction = BINKY. A bunny’s ultimate expression of happiness and joy. Congratulations because you just succeeded in making this little furry genius very happy and perfectly comfortable with you! Good mornings in our family start with lots of binkies.
  • PERSONALITY: Bunnies can be shy but are rarely timid.  They have strong personalities and like the rest of us, prone to change with changes in their surrounding. Passive company helps them become confident and happy.
  • Blue poses for a photo after grooming Purple for a while... guess what? Purple is still waiting for "service"

    Blue poses for a photo after grooming Purple for a while… guess what? Purple is still waiting for “service”

    OTHER BUNNIES: Most rabbits love being with other bunnies, but unless they are litter mates, it’s a good idea to give them separate cages to sleep in and separate litter boxes, because no matter how much you love your best friend, imagine never having any alone time (gah!) Some rabbits, especially males, are however territorial (we all know our share of territorial males, don’t deny it) with other males around. Blue (earlier, Jack–one of my foster failures) is a total love, except when we fostered Theo (1 yr old male lionhead) which drove him temporarily into a massive territorial SOB. But he’s a different beast with Purple/Pupu (6 year old female bunny), he pets her, lets her have his food (which we try to avoid because she’s very greedy) and plays a lot with her, mostly because he thinks he’s courting her. Blue has been with us for almost a year now. When we first fostered him, I took a lot of time before I let him play outside with P or my other foster Chloe. Now all 3 play outside together and Blue loves dry-humping P (both fixed and P seems to enjoy  all the attention) when they play outside but have never hurt each other. That said, we never let them out unattended. So lesson: Watch Watch Watch & LEARN about their behavior.

    Brownie loves Chloe (adopted March 2013)

    Brownie loves Chloe (adopted March 2013)

  • OTHER ANIMALS: Rabbits can die of fear even  before a friendly swat lands on their very fragile spine. So it’s not what the animals will intend to do but what the rabbits perceive e.g. loud barks etc. scares bunnies. We are blessed with Brownie, who lacks prey drive completely. And he grew up with P… But your dog or cat might just want to be playful with them and cause you and the bunnies and themselves trauma that you never get over. So try to avoid contact with your cats or dogs, unless they have known rabbits before and are totally passive.
  • DESTRUCTION to PROPERTY: Bunnies are small, fragile but strong. They will chew through anything, yes anything if they set their mind to it. So beware of destructive behavior and what to do to prevent it. Also precautions never hurt. Remember scolding doesn’t work, short busts of noise like whistling, clapping, shushing or hoots do. (Yes, we make lots of crazy noises at home). My bunny room also happens to be my husband’s home-office and so we have to be extra-careful about wire-chomping. Some bunnies are better than others (Blue = angel, when compared to Purple) but precautionary measures never hurt.
If you don’t remember anything else, just remember this, bunnies are like furry, introverted geniuses. They love intelligent company, not in-your-face attention.  Don’t offer them stimulus and they are easily depressed. On the other hand, too much stimulus (too many bunnies, other animals like dogs and cats, too much handling, carrying around and hugging) will stress them out. So patience, passive company and lots and lots of opportunity to explore are the 3 keys to a well rounded, healthy, happy bunny. Not get ready for lots of binkies and a successful bunny parenthood.
 

Gardening: Harvesting lavender August 19, 2013


My first year of harvesting lavender, from my own garden.

 

Fostering: Borrowed smarts- A Poem by Diane Morgan August 16, 2013

Filed under: Mouth full of potatoes,Pets — Unstreamlined @ 10:23 am

A Poem by Diane Morgan

I am the bridge,
Between what was and what can be.
I am the pathway to a new life.

I am made of mush,
Because my heart melted when I saw you,
Matted and sore, limping, depressed
Lonely, unwanted, afraid to love.

For one little time you are mine.
I will feed you with my own hand.
I will love you with my whole heart.
I will make you whole.

I am made of steel.
Because when the time comes,
When you are well, and sleek,
when your eyes shine,
And your tail wags with joy
Then comes the hard part.

I will let you go-not without a tear,
But without a regret.
For you are safe forever–
A new dog needs me now.

 

Fostering FAQ 4: Getting started/ Finding the organization July 8, 2013

Filed under: Pets — Unstreamlined @ 12:51 pm

How do I start? How did you find the shelter/ rescue group?
Forget what your Mom told you (just this once); Google and Facebook (and meetup) are your best friends. Forget because she’s likely on there too!
Search and network with likeminded people in the area who share your causes. But don’t be stuck to the web. Let’s not forget “real” places like your vet, your dog park (if you already have a dog), your local pet stores. I have found stores like PetSmart or PetCo often have associates who are part-time volunteers or maybe the stores hold cats and other shelter pets for the rescue groups. Either way leverage those associations.

Research them, apply on their websites, talk to them, learn what their rules and processes are. They will differ but not by much. Some shelters will only need fosters for medical or special needs dogs, some rescues (with no physical “holding area” per se) will have all their dogs going to foster homes. Some will let you choose the dogs, some wont. Some will let you screen the applications, while others will have dedicated admin volunteers do it for you…Like finding a job, you will not really know if you will fit, until you join it. But give it the due diligence and chances are knowing what you would like lands you fewer but better clicking associations.

GIve it a shot anyway, every little bit will carry you forward in leaps and bounds in terms of experience and will do so much for the dogs’ lives you will touch.

 

Fostering FAQ 3: Time Management July 5, 2013

Filed under: Pets — Unstreamlined @ 1:33 pm

I am too busy to foster. How do you manage time?
OR
How much time does it take?

Of course, it takes time. It takes time to gain trust, to take pictures, to understand a dog, to connect with the dog, to get them adopted and to get over their absence. But it doesn’t really take that much time either. You almost never have to give them constant attention. Most fosters gain so much by just the space, food and acceptance you give them. I am not saying ignore the rest of the needs, but even if all you can do is take them out, feed them, advertise them and get them adopted–it’s a better life than the euthanasia or abuse they were facing otherwise.
Sometimes, fosters like to be near you but doing their own thing. While I write this, my half-blind foster who came in couple days ago is snoozing on an old blankie, watching TV with his 1 good eye. Just happy to be here.

Lets not try to hide it, we are all so busy. Work, family, our resident pets, our causes, our passions, ourselves. I, for one, am on a constant guilt trip that I am short-changing someone in the whole game. Of course, some days are better than others. Being stretched thin makes me feel productive but make no mistake, I am no role-model. I keep saying I wish I could do a little more, so one day, tired with my whining another very kind volunteer told me "You do what you can – which is HUGE. If every person did what they could for even a week, more animals would be saved." And that is true. Do what you can, it will be enough.

The organization you volunteer for would be a big part of how strained or productive you are with your time. Join an organization that values it’s volunteers and fosters and respects their time. It is important to be in a network of people who can trade favors, who reach out to ask for and give help. Help make this a rewarding experience for yourself. I believe, I foster to destress myself and it does help me a lot.

 

Fostering FAQ 2: Your dog and your foster July 3, 2013

Filed under: Pets — Unstreamlined @ 11:07 am

How does your dog react? Does he like your foster?

OR

I think he is sad. I don’t want to hurt my dog bringing in another dog.

OR

My dog wouldn’t stand another dog here.

Does my dog love that I foster? Does he like all my foster? …Loaded question with a loaded answer. Before I begin on the how-to, I would like to stress on 2 things: I foster because of my resident dog, B and I can foster because of B.

He is my inspiration for fostering. I love mine enough, to share some for those less fortunate. So if you love your dog (or cat or bunny), how can you let another one suffer?

Also, if B weren’t there for me, it would be so much harder to let my fosters go. Read more in Fostering 101 and 102

That said, I recognize that it isn’t rosy and if you are having trouble making them get along, you are not alone. I know you are worried that your dog, the foster and you are all sad. But there are ways to overcome the issues:

  • It is important for your resident dog to know they are just that–your resident dog; your forever one. It is not that you treat the fosters badly but in your actions and talk, explain clearly what each dog’s place is.
  • Separating their food bowls, water bowls and toys often make it easier.
  • When I first bring the foster in, I walk him a lot and tire him out, then I get him to meet B and then sometimes walk them together. When we are all tired, we go back and I gently lead the foster to his/her crate. Then I squat in front with B and give tiny treats to both of them. B learns to associate "new dog" with "treats" and foster learns that the crate is where he gets treats
  • I crate my fosters a lot especially at night. My dog’s sleeping spot is next to Mommy and foster dog sleeps comfy in his own crate/ bed. That gives the foster definition of his own space and B is comfortable knowing he is the special one and will always be.
  • Don’t get me wrong, I don’t recommend isolation (unless needed). I give them ample play time, but this separation of space and crating also helps me avoid my dog getting too attached to the new pal who will be going home tomorrow. This also helps address jealousy.
  • Lastly, if you have another human in the house who is willing to help you, let them! It is important your resident dog feels that he is not losing out on special you-time. Maybe your partner or friend can walk the foster some times, when you can spend some quality alone time with your resident dog. This one did wonders for me, thanks to my husband.

Don’t fool yourself with only collecting tips, by the time you have fostered 1 or 2 dogs, you will have plenty of wisdom of your own. Research your own experiences and you will find things that work for you and your dog… and they might be unique; so relish and share your experiences. Fostering should be a destressor, not otherwise.
Fostering & your resident dog _Kolika

 

Fostering FAQ 1: Getting attached July 2, 2013

Filed under: Pets — Unstreamlined @ 11:08 am

Don’t you get attached?
OR
How do you let go?

BIg dog, small dog, small dogs

Yes I do get attached and you will too. Some more than others. It’s hard to let them go. After I drop off the foster at their forever home, it’s a sense of emptiness and satisfaction, that makes you get your next foster ASAP.
Some dogs (their parents told me later) have cried for me after I dropped them off and some others seemed to totally ignore when I left. Two-way sword and both make me sad.
But it is so rewarding to know what a difference you made. You know you not only saved a (dog’s) life, but enriched so many others–the adoptive family, the next dog you will foster etc. NOt to mention, when an adopting family sends you pictures and updates, or when you make reference calls and someone says they really appreciate what you do for the animals & that they want to adopt an animal someday too…well that’s just why we do what we do

 

Fostering FAQS

Filed under: Pets — Unstreamlined @ 11:08 am

When people hear that I foster dogs, I get asked a lot of questions, most of which boil down to "wow, that’s great but I could never do that". Longer conversations bring out more detailed responses, so I started writing down some very common, simple answers that I give. Of course, every situation is different and there is no one-size-fits-all advice. But if you have been considering fostering but hesitated or didn’t know where to start, start in my fostering category here.

 

Design/ Gardening: “Would you like to come up for some coffee?” – A Carafe, Repurposed May 24, 2013


Oh the age-old, always-working allure of coffee! That is why when I repurposed a old coffee carafe into a planter for decorative grass, I purposely placed it on top of the stairs that bring you to our living room.
I love the transparent carafe where you can see the soil. The tall grass blades add a really sharp and interesting feature. The little succulents at it’s base are thousand-babies (?)
I chose plants that can do without a lot of water. Since there’s no way to make holes in this carafe, I don’t want to overwater the soil. I just moisten them near the roots in 2-3 days and that seems to be enough for these little ones.

 

Gardening: Egg shell planters- Watching greenery hatch May 23, 2013


For this weekend’s brunch, make a smaller hole and once you have all the edible yummy out, wash the shell and save it. Pour some soil, plant a seed and water to moisten (not drown). Make sure the soil is always wet.
And then, allow yourself to be surprised at the beginning of life 🙂

 

Design/ Gardening: Got Tape? Repurposed container gardening May 9, 2013


Repurposed container gardening

Glass Paper Scissors
green ideas, fresh designs, recycled crafts

 

Design: Repurposing and Reusing plastic bags March 27, 2013


Saving plastics to save Mama Earth: How to reduce, reuse and repurpose

Saving plastics to save Mama Earth: How to reduce, reuse and repurpose

Fusing plastics into household items: Coasters“Paper or Plastic”? When I think of hauling my groceries up to my fourth floor walk-up, I skittishly mutter “plastic” and shamefully carry back 6-10 plastic bags of groceries every 2 weeks. I was reusing them (categorized on their tensile strength) for wrapping lunch boxes, parcel fragile glassware, provide water-proofing in projects and picking up after my dog. Several months back, I came across a cute trick on Pinterest and landed on Bao’s craft page http://www.relevedesign.com/. So can plastic really be used to make crafty dinner table items? Let’s try.

Things you need:
  • Scissors
  • Plastic bags
  • Printer paper or parchment paper
  • Household iron (hold the steam, make sure it is on “dry” )
  • Clean work surface
  • Towels
Here’s how
Pic 1 Step 1 Cutting plastic bags

Pic 1 Step 1 Cutting plastic bags

1. Cut of the handles and bottom of the plastic bags  and make it into a rectangular shape.

Pic 2 Step 2 layering plastic

Pic 2 Step 2 layering plastic

2. Lay a towel straight on your work table, for heat insulation (Picture 2 shows whole layout)
3. Lay a sheet of paper (I used printed paper and the results were not as good see Picture 3 below) on the towel, with printed face down

4. Lay 3-4 sheets of plastic rectangles on the paper, preferably with the print (color or text) facing each other and not the paper directly.

Pic 3 printed plastic on paper

Pic 3 printed plastic on paper

5. Cover with another sheet of paper, again the print should face up (not facing the plastic). Please make sure the plastic does not touch the towel underneath or your iron. It will melt and ruin the iron.
6. Next press down in the middle for about 6 seconds and gently but firmly smooth out in a radial way (this will make sure you don’t trap air bubbles.
7. Once you have ironed it completely on one side, let it sit until cool to touch then flip the whole thing to the other side. The towel stays in place, whole thing refers to the plastic sandwiched in the 2 sheets of paper.
8. Iron again like step 6, but this time you can go a little faster, but keep your hands steady because the paper can be slippery
9. Let cool, then slowly peel off the paper from both sides

 10. Cut the new reinforced plastic to shape and enjoy your new washable coasters and table liners

Pic 4 Overheated plastic with holes

Pic 4 Overheated plastic with holes

Want more challenge?
  • Feel free to add more plastic and make it even thicker, you will see going beyond 11-12 is difficult, but give it a shot, because every plastic is different!
  • Try inclusions like maps, or quotes in between the sheets– kind of like laminating them; just make sure they are placed centrally, because as you probably have figured out, plastic doesn’t stick to paper and for the item to be useful, plastic has to have plastic to melt into
  • Try with printed colorful bags or statement bags from your favorite brands
  • Cut the fused sheets into 1″ circles and make earrings or bracelet charms
  • Stitch multiple sheets of fused, reinforced plastic and make bags with them (yes, crazy but delicious!)
Faux pas and things I learned:
  • Parchment paper is really the way to go. Works so much better than printer paper, remains intact much longer
    Pic 5 Edge distortion

    Pic 5 Edge distortion

    and hence you don’t have to throw them away

  • Clear plastic melts faster (like waaay faster)
  • Overheat will distort your plastic and create holes (sometimes amusing and rather desirable shapes) (Pic 4: overheated plastic with holes)
  • If printed plastic faces the paper, it can get sticky and distort the surface of the plastic when peeling  (Pic 5: edge distortion); you can always cut it off but it wastes material!
  • If printed paper faces the plastic, the paper will tear, but you can wash off the paper from the plastic using a scrubber and dish soap (Pic 6: scraped Limited table mat)
  • Metal inclusions (like sequins or chocolate wrappers) get insanely hot and will destroy your plastic and can burn you. They get heated much faster than plastic and stays hot because the heat can’t escape through the plastic very fast.
  • For the brief few seconds when plastic stays molten, it is hot and can give you painful burns, so patience pays off.

    Pic 6: Scratched mat (had paper stuck to it once)

    Pic 6: Scratched mat (had paper stuck to it once)

  • Your final product is NOT microwavable (not sure why you would want to microwave it)
  • It is not dishwashable (but an one-off cold cycle in the dishwasher will not kill it–the keyword here is “cold”)
  • How to use it? Coasters for coffee mugs and/or dinner/snack plates are ideal. Please dont put a very hot vessel on it, you don’t need a gooey, sticky mess underneath on your saucepan, trust me!
I owe it to my Food Microbiology background to tell you this: Soiled plastic that has come in direct contact with raw animal product (meat, broken eggs, or juices seeping from meat packages) should end up in the trash, NOT your recycle bin, definitely not your craft table. Protect your hygiene, then go save the earth.
Always be careful with your iron, switch it off when not in use and let cool before stowing away.
Here are some of my favorite fused plastics:
Get your NYC on! :Coasters from Repurposed plastic

Get your NYC on! :Coasters from Repurposed plastic

Comical bags, anyone? :from repurposed plastic

Comical bags, anyone? :from repurposed plastic

Fishy: from repurposed plastic

Fishy: from repurposed plastic

Before I end, let me thank Bao (of Releve Design) once again for sharing great ideas on reusing plastics into fabulous craft items. So much to learn, so little time!

 

Design/ Gardening: Sustainable urban gardening in re-purposed plastic bottle caps February 28, 2013

Filed under: art,home and garden,Upcycle & Repurpose — Unstreamlined @ 4:18 pm

Remember my last post with plastic bottles where we cut the tops off and grew spring bulbs. Those tops will come in handy now.
Next time you chop off the bulb part of your green onions/ shallots, put them in a little (1″ deep) water and watch them spring out into edible, almost never ending shoots. By far the most forgiving plants ever! With enough water and daylight (direct or otherwise) there’s no stopping them. Of course unless you drown them.

 

Design: Repurposing & Organizing February 16, 2013

Filed under: art,home and garden,Upcycle & Repurpose — Unstreamlined @ 9:31 pm

Repurposed fruit crateRepurposing a fruit crate to make a wall-hanging spice rack.

 

Fostering 102: How I foster January 16, 2013


Brownie was sad and distant when we first started fostering. He withdrew himself from everything that was his. I felt it in my core because that is what I do, when I am scared to lose something I love or when I fear something will change, I dissociate myself that something or someone. So when I felt his hugs loosen, I panicked. There were spells of barking, a show of stress and disgruntlement. There was agitation, cowering and bossiness. And I was doubting my decision to foster, scared of complaints from my neighbors and overall unsure of what will happen to the wonderful bond that is Brownie and me. Despite the humans in my life– spouse, parents, friends, Brownie and I have a bond like no other and I wasn’t going to risk it, for anyone or anything.

And that is exactly what I told Brownie, I showed him he was my forever and my only and my most important. Our foster dogs came to us needing TLC, starved of love, attention and likely, food. So as you realize the fosters and the resident needed different things; and we catered to each. Thanks to my husband, we split guardianship in taking care of our pooches. He gave the foster all the TLC he needed. And I gave my Brownie what he deserved most–time and Mom. Whatever little time I had after work and errands and chores, I spent it with Brownie–I walked him, I fed him, I petted, hugged, snuggled and I never petted or picked up the foster in front of him. I stayed consistent for a couple days. Then gradually, we started spending us-and-them time together. Two humans, two pooches, giving short spurts of equal attention to both and more often than that, NO attention to either of them. We let them figure out their own social order. We had 2 squeaky toys, 2 balls, 2 beds (or a big bed) and they started being ok with the other being around. Stealing toys from each other, pushing, jumping, but also playing and lounging together.

Now when I walk 2 dogs, the foster and the resident, I always hold the foster on a tighter leash than the resident. 3 reasons:

  1. The longer leash for the resident dog, lets him enter doorways first and thus be the pre-determined alpha, often reducing tension
  2. The shorter leash for the foster, lets him be closer to me or walk closer to walls or sides of streets, which some dogs from neglect-conditions seem to prefer (helped our very first, very shy foster a lot)
  3. A shorter leash for the foster also means better control, especially if the foster is unpredictable. You don’t want your recently posted “adoptable” dog defamed by accidents like
  • jumping on people’s grocery bags (there goes your bacon!)
  • barking at old drunk men,
  • chasing bikes
  • charging at the inexperienced and suddenly enamored stranger who decides to shove their hand into this nervous pooch’s face.
  • and the worst, well-groomed, over-grown lapdogs aka poodles (no offense, I just find their hoofy strut and often girly hairdo, very funny)

Do you have tricks of your own that helps the resident and foster get along better?

 

Fostering 101: Why I foster


I have only fostered a couple dogs and for about a couple months. So I am not an expert foster parent or dog trainer by any means. But being the Mum and anchor-point of my very emotional Brownie has given me considerable share-worthy experience and on how to deal with canine emotions. (Yes, I am of the school of thought that canine depression and canine emotions are very real).

N, a very good friend and a mum to a beautiful adopted Corgie, Bella recently pointed out that “I really commend Brownie that he lets you have foster dogs… If I ever do it, I am sure I am going to need a foster home after that;) She does not even let me dog sit…… The girl does not know what sharing means” I just wanted to hug N and say “Looky you! Bella is adorable and very very nice. I have seen her with strangers, she is confident and calm and a complete love and contrary to what you say, B does know how to share”
But, I also understand that it’s a tricky thing, to consider bringing in a 3rd wheel when the 2 of you are so complete–like Bella and N, like Brownie and me. You don’t know what she will do, how she will feel and you don’t want anything, ANYthing to jeopardize what you have, it is so precious. It is THAT precious.

IMG_3004So why do I foster?
Because I love dogs and because I have a sense of faith in them that I don’t have in humans (and this process is helping me with the human part too).
Because I want to help and this is the only way I can, for now and it fills up the void of helplessness,
Because I could scream at the top of my voice–“Adopt” or “breeds don’t mean that much”, but unless I am doing something more tangible, I don’t feel like my screams are being heard.
Because this helps me show that “there’s nothing wrong with shelter pets” and nice pictures + TLC can make them very adoptable.

Not just that, I like it that Brownie gets to socialize, even if it is supervised and limited.
You see, having Brownie is not an impedement to fostering, it is the reason I can foster and successfully let go of my fosters. After dropping off the happy, curious, somewhat anxious and upset pups in their new, forever homes, my car and my heart feels a little (read very) empty. But I rush home happy because I know my anti-emptiness drug is at home. He is sitting on a couch magically refueling my life with meaning and my home (and car and heart) with love; and as soon as I turn the key on my door, he will grab his squeaky toy and come to greet me. He will be a little curious to where his friend or frenemy went but he will also look a little relieved that I am home and with him. Within minutes, he will forget there was another dog, unless of course there is another dog.

But I didn’t get here in a day. Brownie was sad and distant when we first started fostering. He withdrew himself from everything that was his. I felt it in my core because that is what I do, when I am scared to lose something I love or when I fear something will change, I dissociate myself that something or someone. So when I felt the hugs loosen, I panicked. There were spells of barking, a show of stress and disgruntlement. There was agitation, cowering and bossiness. And I was doubting my decision to foster, scared of complaints from my neighbors and overall unsure of what will happen to the wonderful bond that is Brownie and me. I have a lot of good humans in my life– spouse, parents, friends. But Brownie and I have a bond like no other and I wasn’t going to risk it, for anything or anyone.

 

On traffic and driving in Massachusetts January 3, 2013

Filed under: Mouth full of potatoes,travel — Unstreamlined @ 10:15 pm
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I like to believe I am a good person. Honest, fair and for the most part, pleasant. I smile when smiled at, I laugh at jokes (and jokers), I respond truthfully to most questions.
I have a set of rules that I try to abide by. I waste less, I save for the rainy day (from rubber bands to plastic bags), I give openly. I believe in small changes, in internal peace and in having fun. I try to spend some time with Nature regularly. I try to do at least one good thing everyday.

Lately, I feel like I have been spending way too much time sitting in traffic on the impersonal, dirty, dark highways in Massachusetts.

My Nature time happens when I roll my window down near Medford. The quota of doing good is limited to letting 1 car get in the lane before me in East Cambridge.
I practice deep breathing when the radio- omnipresence of Justin Beiber or Taylor Swift suffocate me. I have fun when I can beat 3 signals in a row and cut my commute by 7 minutes or more.
If you have ever lived in or driven in Massachusetts, you probably have your share of horror stories or sweet memories of self-emancipation.
In all this, it makes my day when I can squeeze my mid-size SUV through a tight spot and the guy next to me gives me a thumbs up rather than his middle finger. It makes my day to see more and more people driving smaller cars and hybrids, while in my mind’s eye, I see my SUV as a Smart car. Only bigger. It makes me happy to push the brakes for the rightful pedestrian, it makes me feel big to protect them from sneaky, greedy drivebys.

Overall, when the weather is safe without glaring suns or black ice or storms, the coffee –hot, the calendar –forgiving, the commute is a good time to practice self-control and reflex responses. It is also a good time to rehearse hate mail and snide remarks, as well as deliberate on consumer behavior insights and market trends.

Only let it be short, let it please be short. And interesting.

 

Design/ Gardening: Spring gardening in upcycled plastic water bottles December 24, 2012


Pictoral guide for urban daffodil gardening using single use plastic water bottles.

Pictoral guide for urban daffodil gardening using single use plastic water bottles.

 

HONK! Celebrating the colors and crazies of Cambridge, Mass. October 14, 2012


HONK!, a set on Flickr.

 

Moving woes and shelter-pets July 26, 2012


Moving to the Boston area has been rough on me. Financially, emotionally and physically, like moves generally are. I make no bones about the fact that I am very happy to be living in the same apartment as my husband and that we don’t have to drive 8 hours one-way to see one another over the weekend. Also, I do not hide that I love our new place in Cambridge… It’s the right pace for us, a good mix of Nature and urban chicory and enough restaurants to check out.

But I miss my good old Centre County, Pennsylvania. People are so much nicer, smarter even. Maybe less educated, maybe rural, but so much nicer. Our dog parks were greener, Walmart-s were cleaner and Wegman-s closer, the drivers knew how to change and merge lanes. There were middle fingers but also thank-you waves, there were sticks and stones but somehow from this distance, I only remember it all with fondness. Especially now that Penn State is under attack from everywhere, a part of me really misses Happy Valley, it yearns to reach out, go back and support my own with everything I have.

Going back to greener dog-parks, Brownie hates the new one at Danehy. He dislikes the dogs and their owners. While he enjoys his time at Fresh Pond every day, I am left to wonder what it is about Danehy that makes him so edgy. The same people go to both, we have even occasionally met the same pet-parents in both places. What is it then?  Is it the gravel? Or my displeasure showing up in his reactions?

It is no secret that I dislike Mass hostility. I tried to like them, really, but only so much meanness and passive aggression can be hidden by smarts and nice clothes…hostile and whoa! snotty. The people we have “met”, I have to admit, our neighbors and colleagues are very nice, much nicer than those I only see in passing…. most of them, a little more aware of the world outside ‘New England’. You think this is part of my moving-woes but what do you say to bumper stickers saying “I am not rude, I am from Massachusetts” corroborates?

While we are on the topic of attitudes…

People say that Pennsylvania is a Puppy-Mill state. Maybe; but probably because of my associations with PA shelters I have an entirely different aura about PA. I have met so many shelter-pets, happy rescuers and rescue-ees, no-kill shelters, volunteers, organizers etc. that I have this respect for most people aka pet-owners there. Boston, firstly, is not a dog-friendly city, to our chagrin, and our apartment search educated us on that.  Secondly, Cambridge although more dog-friendly than it over-the-Charles-brother, the tone is of bragging designer breeds. I thought smarter, more well-rounded, thoughtful individuals would go the healthy route of adopting. Apparently not.

I am going to try to hold my rage and disgust and narrow down to a few pet-owners here in Cambridge who have melted my heart and reversed my opinion about Cambridge pet parents.

The old lady was 80+, wrinkled, bent but strong— reminded me of my own grandmother. Her dog, a Poodle relative– Maggie had issues with her hind legs and couldn’t move more than a few steps on her own. No prizes for guessing who picked her up and carried her around. Contrary of what I had started expecting from the Mass-selfish gene, they were out in the park enjoying the breeze, where they could have complained about aches and pains and bad weather and stayed home to sulk.

Another 80-ish man with an almost blind black toy poodle Bear, the gentlest little thing. Once again, they could have been lazy, morose, negative. Instead they were charming and happy, walking around Fresh Pond. The man told me, he wanted to be 14 (like his dog) and still be called a puppy. That would make his aspirational age 91. How old was he?? As old as he feels.

A slightly younger couple (say 65-70): the lady was walking this beagle-mix, Max- A rescue from Tenn. She mentioned he was slow, so they let him take his time. He had gained weight and was evidently not young. And he wasn’t adopted as a pup either. He came to them, at a ripe age, infested with heart-worm. The couple was not in their prime either, but put in the hard work, energy, love and time needed to nurse 6-year-old Max to health. Now at 9, he is doing just fine. His mind beats his body and he is fast enough to open the fridge and help himself, laughs his Mom. She mentioned that he absolutely needed the 2.5 mile walk around Fresh Pond to stay healthy. There was an earnestness when she said we have to stay strong for them– a truth that probably kept them going, a truth that I know keeps me going, a truth that binds all parents, caretakers, guardians alike.

I was touched with each of these conversations. Short, real conversations, peeks into their lives and tiny details that bind us all together. Mass or wherever else they come from, meeting these people put my faith back right where it belongs.

When I used to be down, back in PA, I would spend a lot of time at the dog park because it made Brownie happy but it was also an open space with canines and their humans. And these smiling, drooling canines would bring out the best in their humans. We are at our most honest, most pure, most vulnerable even, when we are with our pets. Our innermost voices come out.  I love seeing people walking their dogs, because even the strangest, rudest people remind me of the goodness that mankind is supposed to have. –not the mud-slinging, condescending, insensitive, selfish, jerk-moron conundrum we are with each other.

Let there be those whose claim to fame is in how far they drove to meet the breeder–Canada, Rhode Island. Let there be those that say it took someone 12 years to know their dog gets car-sick. And those that scrutinize breeds like they are century-old royalty seeking suitors for their princesses. And to balance them, let there be the likes of Dick from Beagle911 and Liz from Centre County PAWS, my photographer Facebook friend/pit-parent in Chicago, the Barking army instigators. Let there be these people who have let their lives be touched by imperfect pets and perfect friends…people who let themselves be rescued.

Cuteness hardly matters when you know there’s so much more to look for. To every parent, their kid is cute, to every new aunt,  their niece the prettiest, to every grandparent, their’s is the sweetest chub-face. And it is great to see that there are other believers like me. Let me just take this space to say, families of Max, Bear and Maggie–you inspire me. When the rest of your state is riling up my anger with their fakeness and hostility, you make me happy about moving to your town. I hope to keep meeting you and more like you.

Adopt a shelter pet.

 

Best thing July 18, 2012

Filed under: Pets — Unstreamlined @ 4:04 pm
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Our move was tough and hectic, to say the least and I don’t think we’ve had the chance to sleep it off yet. We owe it to a lot of amazing people who helped us load, unload, acclimatize and catch up. While most of them were old friends, work friends and new neighbors, a certain stranger deserves mention.

No she was not here to help us and the story is not about how she touched our hearts.

It was hot and tiring and very late. Second day of the move–we are packing Natick (read throwing whatever we can in boxes, bags and bins). Our pizza order was 90 minutes late. My husband calls the pizza place, the lady says there’s an issue with the driver and that she will deliver shortly.

Minutes later, I am signing the receipt, the warm, now-empty living room is smelling of hot cheese and floury crust; and suddenly I noticed Brownie is nowhere to be seen. I started calling his name and someone said he’s downstairs … near our neighbors’ doors. Neighbors who weren’t very nice. I ran down screaming his name to find him sitting with the pizza lady, consoling her, while she was crying and petting him. I was almost embarrassed. She looked up at me and said “he’s with me. He’s ok, he’s the best thing that happened to me today. I am feeling better now” as she sobbed and wiped her eyes.

I didn’t ask her what happened or if she was ok. I muttered if she needed anything or if I could help… but couldn’t finish my sentence. I just wanted to tell her, it’s ok to cry to him. I often have that reaction too, B is my little angel. He brings me his toys and comes and hugs me when I am sad, or crying or in pain. He knows and lets me know that he knows. Understands. And wants to make me feel better. And he can. I didn’t say anything. I smiled, mumbled a ‘take care’ and let them be. My little guy followed me upstairs, then snuggled close to my knees when we sat to the floor to eat. Mostly hoping that I would drop crumbs that he could have. He knew how proud I was of him.

Today the following picture of Facebook reminded me of that lady and that she understood what Just a Dog could do. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10100805701130500&set=p.10100805701130500&type=1

I am so glad I have him in my life.

 

To ride or not to ride (with a car-sick dog) January 10, 2012


I don’t know why my parents did it.. made me ride in a car and travel places, I had no wish of visiting; especially when they knew how sick it made me. I traveled quite a bit. Most kids would probably consider it a luxury, a huge advantage; and most adults would serve up kudos to my parents– ‘character- building’ they would say.  I don’t think, however, pushing to do something helps build character, unless, you end up loving it. Most of the stuff I hated or feared, I do to this day; and I cant really say I have much of a character,either. For that matter, even if I do, it probably was not because of being pushed into things.  I have not learned to enjoy things that I congenitally didn’t or made my mind up against. Stubborn soul. And my boy is me, in more than one way.

That brings me to the dilemma that keeps me awake at night. Brownie’s car-sickness. Who am I to force him into 8 hours of tumultuous tummy revolving agony? Who am I to think he wont eventually learn to ride in a car?  Or enjoy it?

Since August, he has exceeded expectations and fit exactly to me and my world in oh so many ways; in my mind I am constantly thanking whoever caused this miracle. He’s my perfect canine. I can only hope I am as good a human as he thinks I am. Who am I to not embrace this one shortcoming he has? And who am I to call it a shortcoming?

But after the philosophizing, comes time to take decisions.

Do I leave him home when I travel? Do I have to travel? I never quite leave him anywhere, my mind stays back with him. There are places I need to go. Or do I really? What do I give up and what ground do I hold? What does he learn from it? I mean, I did learn to love traveling. I learned to enjoy the ride more than the destination, in fact. But how much do you suppose Brownie would “learn”? How much are these lessons worth anyway?

I am mortally confused and conflicted.

I can not really go to my single friends nor to those with kids for clues. The embarrassing question comes up why do I act more like a parent than a dog “owner”. Well to me, a parent is not much but a eluded and illusive kid-owner anyway. But I dare say that to them?! And all those canine-expert messiahs preaching “don’t treat your dog like a human, it will treat you like a dog”…why would I treat him like a human? I treat him better. And if he treated me like a dog, I would probably be the most loved creature on earth.

That’s what conflict and confusion does to me.

For someone who questions every “has to” that has been forced on me, who am I to go with everyone else’s “he has to learn”…guess what? He doesn’t, not unless I force him to! Should I?

 

Design: Even more pottery painting October 13, 2011

Filed under: art — Unstreamlined @ 11:58 pm
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Perfect day September 18, 2011

Filed under: Pets — Unstreamlined @ 11:56 pm
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You know one of those days you have this intrinsic belief that life is good? Like good mornings and good days and good rest-of-the-afternoons are supposed to be meant and actually happen?
That people–the real kind, the true kind, the happy kind exist? And are around us?

That things we lose do come back? Sometimes sooner than we expect and rather effortlessly?

And the sun is warm at the right angles and the breeze is blowing in the right direction? The grass perfectly mowed, ever so slightly moist? The sky, a perfect blue?

When you feel loved, not the butterflies-in-your-stomach kind of way, but just safe, comfortable and loved. And while the parents play with their toddlers and people walk their dogs and little boys run around in absolute mayhem, you’re relaxed in a weird way, because you are not restless, not waiting and not wanting anything else. Everything and everyone you like is right there, right then and it’s all alright.
Yup, we had a perfect moment of pure contentment today.
# Life is Good

 

More Purple & Brown August 29, 2011


Continued from https://unstreamlined.wordpress.com/2011/08/27/purple-meets-brown/So things have been going pretty well between the 2. Brownie is not that scared of the moving black fur-ball anymore, in fact he is so excited about playing with his new friend, he gave her a good run around the living room (or so I hear…this happened in my absence, to my husband’s dismay).

But, what is extraordinary is, he has developed a penchant for her lifestyle…er…her digestive lifestyle. We learned that dogs have a thing for bunny poop; which, as disgusting as it sounds, is not very surprising. Rabbits are herbivorous and not the best digesting engines, so their poop is basically high-vitamin, high-fiber, ill-absorbed mush lightly processed into delectable (for my kids!) pellets.

What struck me as hilarious was Brownie also stole Pupu’s hay! Yes, not the processed fiber, but the raw, dry, green timothy hay, one straw at a time. He’s peeking into her cage stealing her poop and hay and then licking water from her bottle. Needless to say, Pupu wasn’t very happy Much more relaxed around him, yes. But not happy.

http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/pets/rabbit.htm

Brownie even got a showdown at the dog-park for all the “Bunny-smell” he’s carrying now (we think or it could just be territorial, mean hounds). Husband is proud that B stood his ground, defended himself and didn’t come crying to Mommy. Never mind that Mommy almost fainted inside and practically cried all evening at the thought of her son being mauled by those other vicious canines.

Today, at the dog park, I watched B around a poodle pup. He chases the tiny thing to glory but never touches him. Maybe that’s his real gentle self. I am so proud of him. So maybe he is scared of bunnies a sixth his size, or aerosols, maybe he likes his alone time on the grass, or to bring home random gifts of dry leaves, twigs and acorns from his walks… but hey, show me one boy who’s more sensitive, smart and sweet and I’ll get you a bunny to match his wit! 🙂

 

Purple meets Brown August 27, 2011


So they scared me a lot, adopting a beagle mix would not go so well with the bunny we have. I went the extra length, worrying about the worst. My canine kid hurting my husband’s laprine cuteness could be detrimental for our domestic life. Husband however fell absolutely in love with Brownie #thankful!, such is the power of two imploring pug eyes and the forever yours, snuggle.
So finally after much deliberation about when and how the best time was for them to meet, we decided on the Irene weekend. The New York trip was now cancelled, it seemed prudent to avoid New England altogether and hide in the crevices of Lion Country. Not much transpired at 3 AM last night, not much at least to wake me up fully to notice. But today after decided long-stays and smell-exchanges (petted Pupu, let Brownie sniff, petted Brownie and let Pupu acclimatize to the smell). Next Brownie looks imploringly to the husband as if to complain “why is she not playing with me?” then looks at Pupu like “hey you want to play?”…. I take B-dog out for our hour-long walk. He comes back, slurps water and as I am washing his leash and toys of trail mud, he follows me around… minutes later it’s just me and the 2 kids and Brownie stealthily walks up to her, looking terrified. tries to sniff her cage, tail between his legs and scampers away.
Body taut and long like a wiener, he stretches himself, inquisitive about this new person in his house. Shy and scared but curious and playful–my son. He gives me the “no one is playing with me” look at the park sometimes. My heart goes out to him, especially when that the other dogs snatch his favorite blue beagle and give him a run for it.
Anyway so now he’s sitting behind the husband carefully staring at Pupu, will he get a friend in her? The worried, furrowed eyes. Will he learn to play well? To act sibling?…time will tell.

 

“You will always be Penn State” August 25, 2011

Filed under: Penn State — Unstreamlined @ 1:56 pm
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Email Editor News » Columns
(had to repost)

Jay Paterno: You Will Always Be Penn State
by Jay Paterno on August 25, 2011 12:01 AM

As the sun peaked over the crest of Mount Nittany on Monday morning, The Pennsylvania State University’s 156th school year was born.
For the newest group of freshmen, it was the dawning of their first classes at Penn State. The business of education was at hand.
But their Penn State education will not be limited to the classroom. Hardly.
No matter how a student gets to Penn State, he and she will ultimately discover that Penn State teaches lessons far beyond the textbook and the blue book, that there is lasting value inherent to the Penn State experience — from the first days as a freshman to decades later as a loyal alum.
Penn State is a journey that molds us.
As it states in the alma mater, many of us arrived here “when we stood at childhood’s gate, shapeless in the hands of fate.” This journey comes complete with hills, valleys twists and turns. The path winds along a route created by choices made by each student, as well as turns forced onto the student by circumstances of life beyond their control.
For all Penn Staters, it essentially runs along the same basic tracks. But depending on where you look or when you ride the train, the scenery and the things you take away will be different. Still, that track remains constant.
That journey — and Penn State itself — become many things as we pass along the way.
PENN STATE IS…
Penn State is a sunrise over Mount Nittany.
Penn State is breakfast in the dining halls or at the HUB. Or an Irving’s bagel. Or a cup of coffee with the townies on College or Beaver.
Penn State is a tuition bill, a student loan and an annual tuition hike.
Penn State is the route that takes you from your dorm or apartment to your classes – and a route where you see the same people every day along the way. (Penn State was that pretty dark-haired, blue-eyed girl I passed every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in my junior year.)
Penn State is running out of meal plan points before the semester ends or having too many to dump with days to go.
Penn State is a jam-packed bus ride on the Loop on a cold rainy day. Penn State used to mean having a roll of quarters handy when the Loop used to cost 25 cents.
Penn State is a class in Willard or a class in the Forum. Penn State is an 8 a.m. class at the building on campus that is furthest from where you live.
Penn State is the Willard preacher.
Penn State is acing a test you studied for. Penn State is not doing well on the one you didn’t prepare for. Either way, Penn State is learning a lesson about how to succeed or not succeed in life.
Penn State is that professor who tells you that you are capable of doing even better.
Penn State is a group project and late night meetings fueled by coffee or Red Bull or Diet Coke (or, in days of old, NoDoz caffeine pills).
PENN STATE IS ALSO…
Penn State is hanging out in the HUB between classes or at lunch or just because.
Penn State is a sorority or fraternity or a team or an interest group that gives you a base foundation of relationships to build upon.
Penn State is holding hands with a special someone walking across campus on a warm spring night. It’s wearing a jacket again to face the first cold snap of the fall. It’s being bundled up as the snow falls.
Penn State is the flash of light in the eyes of the girl you asked to dance at a party.
Penn State is late night pizza. And grilled stickies.
Penn State is the electricity in the air on a crisp fall Friday afternoon the day before a big home football game.
Penn State is a fall Saturday afternoon in a white-clad Beaver Stadium — the heart of Penn State pumping energy and pride outward to Penn Staters all over the country and the world.
Penn State is the earth-shattering roar as the record-setting fundraising THON numbers are held up on Sunday evening.
Penn State is alumni crowding into The Tavern, or revisiting the old haunts that still stand, like The Skellar, The Brewery or Zeno’s.
Penn State is several hundred at an alumni event in Scranton or several dozen at one in L.A.
Penn State is my friend going to work out in Germany wearing a PSU shirt and hearing from across the hotel gym, “We Are…”
PENN STATE IS ULTIMATELY…
Penn State, ultimately, is the place where you are forced to turn inward and rely on your classmates. As a college town far away from the population centers of the state and the East Coast, Penn State is a society unto itself. The isolation forces students to bond with one another through a shared set of experiences, places and events.
Penn State is those ties that bind Penn Staters to each other in ways that don’t fade with time, nor lessen with distance. Across the miles and across the generations, we all share some common experiences that lead to a unifying love of our alma mater.
But we are now reminded that Penn State all starts with that first sunrise, that first week, that first test, that first party.
Penn State builds from standing at childhood’s gate. And although Penn State will certainly mold you through college, its effect on your life will never end.
You will always be Penn State.

Jay Paterno

State College native and Penn State graduate Jay Paterno is a father, husband and political volunteer. He’s a frequent guest lecturer on campus and at Penn State events. And he is the longtime quarterbacks coach for the Nittany Lions. His column appears every other Thursday. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JayPaterno His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.

 

 
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