“I think Degas had problems.”

(quote courtesy of 60-something museum patron, speaking to her husband)

A few weeks ago, my friend Samantha mentioned that there was a Degas exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and suggested we make the 100-mile trek to check it out.  We study French together at school, and the exhibit seemed like a perfect way to expand our Francophone cultural knowledge.  Additionally, it never hurts to head to Boston for some shopping, so we planned a day trip of French Impressionism and thrifting.

A few facts about our trip:

While I once lived in Boston, I never owned a car there.  However, I took the wrong exit into the city and still managed to get us to our destination, then to Cambridge, and later home.  For New Englanders living outside of Boston, I feel like this is an impressive feat.

We never made it to a thrift store, and instead ended up at a few shops in Cambridge (which was a-ok with me, as I managed to procure a new yellow jacket for 50% off).

While in Cambridge, we stopped at one of my favorite places: Black Ink.  They have my favorite collection of greeting cards, and after Valentine’s Day I’ll share pictures of them.

When we arrived at the MFA and flashed our student IDs at the ticket counter, we were informed that, as students in the University of Maine system, we were exempt from the $20 student entrance fee.  I was astonished as the clerk explained that students at all Maine schools are provided free entrance to the MFA thanks to the Lunder Maine Student Membership Program.  THIS IS GREAT NEWS!  The museum is enormous and I would love to take my time exploring it.  Now, when I have days off from school, I can hop on the bus to Boston and visit the MFA as many times as I’d like.

Here are the pictures from our journey, all thanks to Sam and her iPhone!  (We somehow both managed to forget our cameras at home).

Looking at this last photo, I can’t help thinking of this segment of the “Rejected” cartoon series:

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What to do when your camera’s on the fritz?

Make a Things-I-Love-Thursday post!  Here we go…

1) Blunt-cut bangs with long hair.  I’ve been growing out my locks for sometime and now that it’s long I occasionally find myself slacking in the haircut-getting department.  I let my hair run wild, some days not bothering to run a comb through it at all.  Lately, though, I’ve been thinking of chopping my currently side-swept bangs, and I love this lady’s look from MyNewHair.com.  I have a feeling this hair-venture will make rolling out of bed and running to class look at lot better.

2) Miniature Pies.  These are adorable, and don’t look particularly difficult to concoct, according to the recipe from Picky Palate.  I feel like substituting different types of cookies for the Oreos could lead to very, very promising results.

3) Everything Matryoshka.  My grandparents brought back lots of toys from their trips to visit family in Lithuania.  One of my favorite surprises were the Matryoshka dolls.  From the Russian word for mother, matryoshkas are nesting dolls, each wooden doll containing another of smaller size, and so forth.  The few that I have are sets of 5 or 6 dolls in one.  Lately, they’ve been popular fodder for hipsters everywhere, but their current it-factor hasn’t changed my love of matryoshkas.  I have one tattooed on my left leg, courtesy of Cyndi Lou at Squid and Whale Tattoo.  I was lurking the internet recently when I came across this necklace in the Poppy and Fern Etsy Shop.  I might have to spring for this wee, embroidered charm.

4) Bulldog Puppies!  It took Josh and I hours to recover from the adorability contained in this photo found at The Daily Puppy.  LOOK AT HIS FACE!

5)  Little Red Riding Hood Cape.  Not that I have $170 to throw around, but if I did, I might just pick up American Apparel’s wool cape (in red, of course).  When shopping for Josh back in September, a clerk at a local boutique tried to convince me to buy a similar cape for nearly $400 (how he didn’t pick up on my starving-student lifestyle as I ambled about in all secondhand clothing and muddy sneakers is puzzling).  So, I suppose, relatively speaking, this cape is a bargain…right?

C’est tout pour aujourd’hui, mes amis!

To Be Caffeinated or Not To Be Caffeinated?

…that is the question, and for me the answer is decaf (I shudder even writing the word).  My longing for more rest has compelled me to try going caffeine free.  I’ve been drinking coffee since elementary school – when we were younger, my brother had terrible asthma and one of the home remedies my parents employed to battle it was coffee.  This wasn’t a frequent treat, but I gained a taste for the stuff early.  It wasn’t long before I was sharing a pot of coffee with my father while we chatted on the deck in the mornings.  When I began waitressing at age 14, my fate was sealed: coffee and I were to be dear friends.

Fast forward some years.  Mine is not a fancy habit, as I prefer my coffee to be strong, black, and lukewarm.  I recently purchased a french press and have delighted at making coffee every morning (…and afternoon…and evening..).  Unfortunately, my sleep patterns are quite erratic and I can never seem to get sleep during the hours I allot for it.  To help regulate my internal clock and allow myself to be better rested this semester, I will be avoiding all caffeine.  I’ve been without for nearly two weeks now, but still feel like I’m lagging a bit.  I suppose that after years of caffeine consumption it will take some time to convince my sleepy cells that they don’t require an infusion of coffee each morning to function.

I’ll be frank: mornings are lousy without coffee.  I relish in being able to drink a warm beverage and curl up with the crossword (this activity is perfect for us lazy folks who want to give the illusion that we’re adults).  I love the smell of coffee filling my kitchen and how it warms my insides on the coldest of days.  (Is it obvious that I miss the stuff?)

Well, to combat my pangs of longing for delicious coffee, I’ll be filling the coffee-void with other warm beverages, like tea and hot cider (all decaffeinated, of course).  I’ve been searching for inspiration, some ideas to keep my decaf momentum going, and here’s what I’ve come up with:

What better way to encourage myself to make tea than with a cute tea infuser?  This one from the Beehive Kitchenware Company has a steep price tag of $58, so it may be something I need to save my pennies for.

Alternatively, I could craft some homemade tea bags from cheesecloth like these ones by Bonzai Aphrodite.

Most likely, I will employ the french press I already have for the purposes of tea brewing, similar to this system employed by Off the (Meat) Hook.

Maybe I’ll start drinking more hot cider, too!  This is from a recipe at Bravo Alpha Events, and I think I’ll be trying it out soon.

If it comes to it, I’m not above ordering coffee-scented scratch-and-sniff stamps.  Apparently, these were released in Brazil in 2001, according to Oddee.com.  (Can we all pause and contemplate how much better the USPS would fare if it made all of its stamps scratch-and-sniff!?)

I’m hoping that I can kickstart myself into a healthier year than the last, and going caffeine-free seems like an appropriate first step.  I’m only on my second day of courses for the semester, so I could change my tune in a few weeks when the workload increases, but for now I’m off the coffee-sauce!

“For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.” – Carl Sagan

I was walking through the hardware store today, trying to find my way to the pet-friendly rock salt, when I happened upon the utmost in glorious craft supplies: Martha Stewart Living Pink Luster Glitter Paint.

This is what my dreams are made of.  Firstly, pink is my favorite color.  Secondly, I firmly believe that all things are better when glittered.  I may get some sideways glances from friends when I explain that in my heart of hearts all I really want is for my entire world to be pretty, pink, and glittery – but what is there to be excited about in life if not teeny sparkling flecks and rosy hues?

Seeing this perfectly pink crafting paint set me on a dangerous, perhaps premature, path to thinking about Valentine’s Day.  I know it’s not everyone’s favorite day, but I enjoy it.  Even on years when I’ve been romantically flying solo, I’ve had lovely Valentine celebrations with friends.  The holiday has it’s faults, to be sure: it emphasizes consumerism, is lousy with heteronormativity, and increases feelings of loneliness in many single folks.  But I’m on a one-woman crusade to turn Valentine’s Day into what it should be: a day to celebrate all of the things in our lives worth loving.  Just like every day of celebration, I feel that Valentine’s Day should be an occasion to reflect on the good in our lives and provide a chance to appreciate loved ones.  As Kermit the frog once said, “Yeah, life would just pass in a blur if it weren’t for times like this.”

With all of this in mind, I began scouring the internet for Valentine’s Day crafting and baking inspiration.  I can’t wait to start making presents for the people I love.  Thus, I bring to you the notables near the shore Valentine’s Day Creativity Roundup: Part One!

1) I love pandas and googlie-eyes, so this Valentine’s card DIY holds a special place in my heart, c/o Paper Source.  2) These tiny felt hearts are actually pins!  I want to make one right away so I can make it a permanent fixture on my lapel, c/o the Purl Bee.  3) I desperately wanted to make poppers for New Years, but work dictated otherwise.  I hadn’t thought of making them for Valentine’s Day until I stumbled upon this tutorial for them, c/o CraftTown.  4) Pink isn’t the only color I’m fond of – purple is high in the ranks of my favorite hues as well.  This paper chain reminds me of my elementary school classrooms during the month of February, c/o Craft.  5) Perhaps the most perfect-looking cookies I’ve ever seen.  I will absolutely be trying my hand at these with the antique cookie-cutter I recently picked up, c/o Made With Love.  6) I love Mother Nature, and what better way to wish her a happy Valentine’s Day than by recycling?  I see these upcycled vases becoming a year-round fixture in my home, c/o Canadian Living’s Craft Blog.

That’s all for now, and I hope to have some Valentine craft success stories to share in the very near future.

Winter Break Photo Highlights

Winter break has been a grand affair and as it comes to a close I’d like to share what I’ve kept myself busy with.  I’ve been nearly entirely absent from blogging for weeks because I’ve been consumed with cherishing every moment of my vacation.  From brunch with friends to hikes with my brother, I feel as though I’ve genuinely benefitted from this break and can return to school refreshed and prepared for the impending doom of my spring semester course load.  Most of my photos were taken at home during down time – for some reason my camera loves to run out of batteries only when I’m out and about.  Still, the following snapshots capture the cozier times spent relaxing in my wee apartment.  So here it is, the best of my winter break:

1) Anyone else love playing Pizza Party?  2) Berry parfaits and Murder, She Wrote!  3) Our friend, Ben, preparing to chow-down on lasagna at a potluck we hosted.  4) The snowy view from our bathroom window.  5) I made this wreath by hot-gluing yarn pom-poms to a wreath ring – incredibly simple yet effectively adorable.  6) Perhaps the cutest birthday card I’ve ever received.  My friend Hanna gave it to me for my non-birthday, along with…  7) This perfect bracelet!  It’s one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received (thank you, Hanna – I love it!).

Save a Life: Adopt a Companion Animal!

Earlier today, Josh, Teddy, and I encountered a sweet older man in the grocery store parking lot.  The man, parked in the spot next to ours, rolled down his window to inquire what happened to Teddy’s eye.  I explained that we didn’t know, and had adopted Teddy from a rescue organization.  The man peered through his enormous glasses at Teddy, glanced at Josh and I, then said, “I bet he’s the best dog you’ve ever had,” going on to explain that he and his wife had adopted a dog as well.

Today wasn’t the first time I had such a conversation – many of the dog owners we cross paths with have found their best friends in shelters or rescues.  Adopted dogs make ideal companions for so many families, and with countless homeless animals needing forever homes, it amazes me that folks still head to pet stores or breeders when searching for a dog.  Millions of potential companion animals are euthanized each year – animals guilty of nothing.  These creatures would have been loyal and loving companions had they been given the opportunity.  The Humane Society of the United States comprised this list of the top five reason to adopt your companion animal.  A quick Google search will produce many other organizations advocating adopting instead of purchasing.

Clearly, I feel strongly about animal adoption, which is why one of the things keeping me busy over winter break has been my new volunteer job with Friends of Retrievers Rescue.  FOR Rescue is the organization we adopted Teddy through, and they are a remarkable, compassionate group of dog lovers.  Based in Alabama and Tennessee, FOR Rescue works with a network of foster homes in the southeastern US, taking in animals that have been surrendered by their owners, living in overcrowded shelters, or (as in Teddy’s case) living on the streets.  The animals are adopted through animal rescue websites where they can be seen by potential adopters in several states.  The group rescues all breeds of dog and even some cats!  I’ve been wanting to do some animal rescue work, so I was thrilled when a call went out for data-entry volunteers.  My job is to receive information about the dogs from their foster families, then post them on AdoptAPet.com.  It’s only a few hours of work each week, but I’m already in love with the entire process of animal rescue.  There’s nothing more satisfying than hearing that one of the dogs has been adopted.

If you’re unable to adopt at this time, donating to FOR Rescue is a supremely helpful way to contribute to animal rescue and will help pay for vetting, preventative medicines, dog food, and so on.  However, if you or someone you know is in the market for a new best friend, I highly recommend taking a look at FOR Rescue’s website here.  I can personally vouch for their organization and confidently assert that they are some of the most animal-loving individuals I’ve encountered.

If you’re lucky, you might even find a dog as cute as Teddy!

Buttermilk Doughnut Muffins

During finals week, in a fit of stress and hunger, I made the most delicious muffins.  I feel like the term “muffins” is a misnomer, however, and a more apt name would be “Bite Size Mouth Sunshines” or “I Can Now Die Happies”.  Whatever one calls them, these butter-soaked, sugar-coated muffins are delicious and make me happy during even the bleakest hours of studying.

I adapted my version from this recipe.  In my version, I added nutmeg to my cinnamon/sugar mix, then using easily 10x as much of the stuff than the original recipe called for.  Oh, and I required far, far more butter than was used in the original recipe – I estimate that I used somewhere in the 3 1/2 sticks ballpark.

(Notice how filthy my kitchen is during that point in the semester!  But still fully functional and perfectly suited for making sugary snacks.)