Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fate intervenes

On Tuesday, I had a G-chat conversation with my friend, Sydney, that went something like this.
Approximately 9:30am
Kate: Good Morning!
Syd: Ugh! [Syd hates mornings]
Kate: Do you have lunch plans?
Syd: um no why
Kate: Want to go to an exhibit at clark with me and then to lunch today?
Syd: sounds good, I have no food at my house so yeah
Kate: Awesome! I'm blogging about their toy exhibit this week and I want company.  I'll pick you up at 12:30
Syd: k see you then

Approx. 11:50 am
Kate: Hey, is it okay if I come early?
Syd: Sure.
Kate: Cool, be there in 15

I leave my desk, grab my keys and walk to the parking lot. I look around for my car... it's not there. Then I remember, I didn't drive to work today.  Jackson has the car.  I'm trapped.  Dejectedly, I walk back to my office and call Syd. "Hey, I don't have my car. Same time tomorrow?" She laughs at me as she should, but agrees. I reply, "Cool, thanks, I'm an idiot. See you tomorrow."

So let's fast forward to Wednesday, when I have my car and I'm on time to pick up Syd. We head to the Traina Center for the Arts which is actually housed in an old Worcester elementary school. They get points for adaptive reuse! After a more than a little embarrassing moment when I ask someone where the Toy exhibit is, while standing next to a sign that says "Toy exhibit upstairs" we enter the exhibition space.  Here's a link to someone else's blog that uses pictures and kind -well informed- words to describe this exhibit. Other Blog Now here are my thoughts.

"The Show About Toys" was supposed to present pieces of art that invoke a sense on nostalgia that often accompanies our interaction with long forgotten childhood toys.  These artists choose different methods of reinterpreting the toys, some with photos, some manipulating the toys themselves.  On a whole, there were some really interesting pieces.  The photographs tended to be the most successful, but I believe that is because the artist is entirely manipulating the viewer's perspective.  You are seeing the piece exactly through the scope they intend and that really impacts the experience.

For example: We met "Ruffles" by Molly Burman - someone's childhood stuffed dog, placed among sheets and reminiscent of anyone's security blanket or favorite teddy bear.

It just so happens that when you are viewing some of the pieces without the viewpoint of the artist, your interpretation can differ from what they intend.  Take for example the piece entitled "Gifted Children," someone's hobby horse that was altered to embrace all things "girly" ie. little girls want their own ponies...
I saw SCARY. Honestly, I might have nightmares. But, it isn't the artist's fault that the fleshy-looking stuff on the face of the horse makes me think of Buffalo Bill's skin suit from Silence of the Lambs and that I envisioned the pony neighing "it puts the lotion in the basket."  It's really all a matter of perspective.

All in all, I'm always happy to visit local galleries and support student art.  This exhibit closes tomorrow, but it's a unique take on toys and nostalgia and I give them a B+ for effort. (They lost a grade because I might have squeaked in terror over the demon horse).

After our museum visit, Syd and I had lunch at Peppercorn's.  I'm not reviewing Peppercorn's because I really don't like Peppercorn's, but it was next door to the exhibit and I only have so much time on lunch break.  To be fair, only half of my dislike for Peppercorn's is their fault, but that's for a different blog.

At this point I bet you are wondering at the title of this post.  You might be thinking something along the lines of, "Kate, I don't understand, how does fate intervening have anything to do with creepy toys."  You are about to be enlightened.

Because of my epic car fail on Tuesday, I was forced to put off posting until Wednesday afternoon when I returned from lunch, but when I got back to work, I actually had a lot to do. The post was then again delayed.  I thought that I might try to post after work and before trivia, but Jackson announced that one of our trivia teammates suggested a team name that referenced this week's How I Met Your Mother, so we had to use our early evening to watch that - which was hilarious. So, it looked like a Thursday post was inevitable and thank god for that because...


That's right... we won trivia. FIRST PLACE WHOOOO HOOOO
I'd like to thank my teammates : Emily, Jackson, Chris, Maria & the Professor (Mr. Morrissey- Maria's dad who should get most of the credit).  Honestly, I am still glowing from our win.  It was beautiful and came down to the last question. Sweet victory.  Just in case you don't believe me... I've brought proof.

So the explanation for the post name is as follows: because fate intervened and I didn't have a car on Tuesday and my Wednesday was so busy that I couldn't blog, I was able to post the day following our BIG WIN!!The Legen-daddy team kicked trivia ass!

So, while The Show About Toys didn't really add points in Worcester's favor, I'm incapable of being negative and I'm giving Worcester a thumbs up for the week.

Until next week!!!

<3 K

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

One can never have too many purses!

I have to start out with a confession, I failed to make it to my intended Worcester activity this week.  You are supposed to be reading about my first Worcester St. Patrick's Day parade experience in years. However, I was in Newport... and instead of driving back home for the parade, I made the decision to have brunch at The Corner Cafe where I indulged in their famous Wooten's Portuguese Sweetbread French Toast with maple pecan butter and -I won't lie to you- it was worth it. 

More Excuses: Work was surprisingly kind of crazy last week. I had business meals 3 nights of the week. While I was "dining out" in business casual attire in Worcester (during restaurant week- which made all of the restaurants uncharacteristically packed) I decided that I am not allowing business dinners as part of this blog.  So, Ceres, O'Connors and Bauhiana are safe from my critique this week.  I'd give you a trivia update, but that would just be lazy and after our showing last week, I'm too embarrassed to put it in writing. 

With all of that said, I've spent the last 2 days stressing about what to write.  I've been told I'm getting "quite the following" [I hope you can all picture my ear-to-ear grin at this thought] so, I am afraid to disappoint.  I almost used my lunch break yesterday to check out an exhibit at Clark, but that would seem like a rushed last ditch effort.  I was desperate and I needed inspiration FAST!  Picture if you will, I'm sitting at my desk yesterday deciding if maybe I should review a place I've been to weeks ago, one hand is wringing my new necklace and the other is annoyingly tapping a pen in beat with what sounds like Salt-N-Pepa's "Shoop," I'm worrying my lip... WAIT! Wait a minute... my new necklace!!! Suddenly, the sky has opened and a choir of angels is singing Jeff Buckley's version of "hallelujah." So here we go:

About 2 weeks ago, I got an email from my co-worker, Tammi.  Attached was an invitation to a fundraiser for her daughter's cheerleading squad. Location: Jenny's Boston in Westborough (Westborough is part of Worcester County, I checked it -twice).  I had never been, but agreed to stop by at some point during the event.  I dragged Maria with me, because I tend to drag Maria with me to everything.  I was told they have cute, fun and inexpensive costume jewelery.  I expected to stop by, find something small to help contribute and then head out; Maria had homework to do and I had to sleep, so we had a time limit.  Yeah... sure.

The fundraiser started at 6ish, but I had some prior commitments (Relay for Life Meeting!!! Feel free to donate hint hint), so we didn't end up finding the place until around 8 (Maria is an excellent substitute navigator, since my GPS is mysteriously broken).  We stroll into the shop, which was pretty busy -great turn out for Grafton High Cheerleaders.  Within seconds, I see about 12 things that I would be happy to own and at least one that I NEEDED. 

Some explanation: I'm not sure how many of you are aware of this, but I am a self-proclaimed slave to consumerism.  Advertising and marketing budgets are not wasted on me. Sale signs draw me in (well that and shiny objects), but if I realize I'm getting a decent deal or even a tiny deal then I'm sold.  It borders on compulsion if not kept in check.  I'm normally pretty decent about setting limits and being realistic about what I should and shouldn't purchase. I just have one Achilles heel... Maria. I should know better at this point, really I should.  Despite the squad of cheerleaders surrounding us, we are all the encouragement each other needs in favor of buying everything we see. And our methods of justification are outrageous. Throughout the night the following sentences were heard:
"Oh, I promised my mother a pair of these earrings, I just have to buy them."
"I've always wanted a pink purse and the price is great.  I have to get this."
"You love that color, those are soooo you, you should really get them."
"Oh I forgot about so-and-so's birthday in January, she'd love this."
"I really want to get into wearing scarfs. I'm so jealous of people who can rock scarfs. I'm getting at least one."
"So-and-so would love this store. We should really find something for her and then bring her back here."
"Red Sox necklaces! Oh my god, you have to buy that! You love the Red Sox."
"I need a pair of earrings to match that new necklace... maybe I should get two."
"I really want a ring? Do you think I should get one? I mean they don't cost that much and I'd wear it all the time."

You get the point.  The merchandise was so cute and the prices were very reasonable - they had 2 avid shoppers in their grasps.  I truly was shocked that I was able to buy as much as I did for so little a cost. The boutique itself had a hip and chic layout.  They sell most of their earrings and necklaces in sets and the sets are all about $22.  Their scarfs run at about $16 and they have every color and pattern imaginable.  I can't even start on the purses.  I bought the cutest wristlet, which after spending the weekend with my college roommates, I'm being sent back to purchase 4 more. The staff was very helpful and, in one instance, dug through merchandise they received that afternoon for more options for some of the shoppers.  They were quick with suggestions for matching items and are happy to gift wrap at no extra charge.

The best thing: They are readily available for fund-raising.  They will host events in the store or come to you.  I'm a sap, so they have easily found a repeat customer in me. I'm thinking of maybe hosting a Relay fundraiser in the future...

The tale ends with Maria and me each spending almost $150 each, but it was for a good cause!!! See, I swear it's a sickness! I think it's inherited.  My grandmother (paternal grandmother pronounced grand-muthER, well something like that) was a serious shopper and, whether she'll admit it or not, my mom's got the fever, too.  Hence my surprise by the following situation:

[Jackson and I stop by my parent's house earlier this week. I show my mom my new clutch while telling her about my pink purse]
Mom: Kaithlyn, how many purses do you need?
Me:[quizzical look] more...
Mom: [laughs and rolls her eyes at me]
The exchange ended there, because I am a very polite, well-mannered daughter... heh heh... but my mental response to her eye roll was...
Me: Mom, why don't we stroll into your closet that is the size of a small bedroom and count the shoe boxes.

Needless to say, I have a feeling she'll be coming back to Jenny's with me.

This week's adventure is a definite point for Worcester (county). I promise to have a more structured outing next time! I'm always looking for suggestions! To my male readers- hang in there, I promise not to write about purses often. I'm thinking about trying a rock climbing excursion soon...

Until next week!

<3 K

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My thoughts while nestled in a food and wine coma

A few weeks ago, while doing some research for this blog (yes, I actually have been doing research, this blog is much less lazy than it looks...) I came across an advertisement for the "9th Annual Worcester Food & Wine Festival."  This is what I took away from it:


I was so ecstatic, I could barely contain myself. I jumped from my desk, ran into the next office and announced to my co-worker that that there was a wine festival in Worcester.  This was old news to her, (in my defense I hadn't lived in Worcester for over 8 years and I wasn't legally allowed to drink when I was living here, so...yeah), she said it was a good time and told me I should check it out.  Little did she know I had already ordered 4 tickets.

In hindsight, it probably wasn't my best idea to order 3 fairly expensive tickets to a festival without actually inviting 3 other people, but my thoughts were as follows: I love wine, everyone should love wine and I can easily find 3 people I know who love wine.  I won't keep you in suspense -- my gamble paid off. I took my friend Maria, my mom, and my "auntie" Debbie (Drumgoole, [auto correct keeps trying to make that Drum-GOOGLE heh} not to be confused with my auntie Debbie Odgren, who, no doubt would have enjoyed the event and now that I think of it, I should bring along next year). Anyway, the four of us descended upon the DCU center Monday night ready to drink wine.

Let me start with this.  As you remember from above, I only took 3 words away from my research WORCESTER WINE FESTIVAL.  So, this was how I advertised it to my companions. So, as we entered the building, the others --who do not wear wine blinders-- read the part about food and were pretty surprised and delighted that they'd be fed as well, so the food was going to be looked at as an added bonus. 

We checked our coats and proceeded to registration where we were handed these handy little plates and wine glasses.  I have illustrated this here (you will need this for later).

Armed with our "tasting-platter," as I will refer to it from this point forward, we entered the ballroom.


We were surrounded by food and wine Mecca. Okay, major hyperbole... but we were presented by a substantial amount of booths representing most of the best restaurants in central MA. I really can't even begin to list all the great food I tasted, but I'll rate some top picks in no particular order.
1. BT's Smokehouse - Sturbridge MA - Amazing BBQ Reuben.  It was delicious! If I am being honest, this was the best booth of the night.
2. Edible Arrangements - Chocolate dipped everything =happiness - this was a favorite of the group
3. Overtime Tap Fantasy Bar & Grille- Grilled cheese and tomato soup!!! WIN! This place is opening where McFadden's was on Front Street. It's a group of young guys who are building the business on their own.  I'm thinking there is a future blog post in the making... Also, Debbie made friends with one of the owners, we might have an in.
4. The Publick House - Panini's - they get listed because I got married there... but to be entirely truthful, I didn't even try the panini (I'm sure it was delicious)
5.Vienna Restaurant and Historic Inn- dressed in traditional Austrian costume and had good food
6. Cyprian Keyes had this amazing salad dish (Maria ate the Mandarin oranges for me because she's a good friend)
7. Sweet - mini cupcakes!!
8. Good as Gold Coffee- kept us caffeinated with coffee, chai and hot cocoa
9. Piccolo's - waldorf salad Yum!
10. Boston Chocolate Tours - need I say more?

Those were the food highlights, here are the complaints.
Baba (sushi) ran out of food by 6 p.m.  The event started at 5:30...
On the Rise Bakery was there.  I have been told that this particular bakery snubbed my mother when she tried to order a bridal shower cake, so we snubbed them.
MezCal put WAY too much onion in their guacamole and my poor mother nearly had a reaction.  (She survived)

Now, on to the important stuff... WINE

I have to start out by saying I'm a little disappointed.  I tasted at every booth, I tried just about every Cabernet, Pinot Nior, Malbec (and several blends that included one of the 3), and by the end of the night I probably had a total of 2 glasses of wine.

Now I understand that it is a tasting, but some of the pours were ridiculous.  I've been wine tasting in Italy, California, Virginia and New England (don't judge) and I've never experienced skimpier pours.  And before you start judging my consumption habits -- EVERYONE was complaining.  Some people were holding their glasses out two or three times in exasperation.  Luckily, you could finish your sip, walk the room and go back for more if you felt so inclined.

There were several great vintages offered.  Everyone found something the really enjoyed.  Here are a few of my favs
Hardwick - Massetts Cranberry
Carolina Wines - Menage a Trois Red
D'Arenberg Stump Jump Red
Treasury Wine - Greg Norman Shiraz/Cabernet *** FAVORITE***
Treasury Wine- Ch St Jean Cabernet

As most of you know, I only really drink red wine.  For all of you who like white, you'll have to contact Maria for her recommendations.

BIG REVEAL: All of these wines are on sale 20% off at Austin Liquors all week! YIPPEE!

Funny story: While walking through the ballroom, I happened to comment to Maria and my mom that there was this good looking "ginger" [red-haired person] who passed me.  They both agreed.  As we were leaving the event, I noticed there was a table in the lobby we hadn't visited.  I noted that their sign announced an Ice Wine.  I am a fan of Ice Wines, so I made a B-line for the booth, figuring my party would follow me. I ask for a taste, only to look up and see the "ginger"!! I honestly hadn't noticed he was manning the booth.  The wine was great and we were told that if we visit the vineyard in Harvard, that this gentleman would be our guide.  Obviously another blog post in the making.  I am already planning on he and Maria having little ginger babies, but that isn't the point.  After we left the booth my mother and Maria both admit they thought I saw the "ginger" and walked over, not the wine.  Their priorities obviously differ from mine and besides, I'm a married woman ;-)

Funnier story:  I drew you that embarrassing graphic above and promised you needed it for later.  Well, it is later. When we arrived at the festival, my mother mentioned that the "tasting-platters" would be really handy for cocktail parties and that she was going to keep all of ours.  We thought she was joking. We were wrong.  Please imagine my mother grabbing a few abandoned tasting-platters from the tables, cleaning them off and stuffing them in her purse.  I told her it wasn't stealing because I paid a lot for the tickets AND they were going to be thrown away anyway.  I got a kick out of her scavenging, but was even more amused when Debbie got in on the project.  She strolls up as we are almost to the coat check with about 8 MORE tasting-platters.  Again, please imagine my mother's hands full of 16 tasting-platters, trying to stuff them in her purse and looking kind of guilty, because her catholic guilt wasn't entirely sure this was kosher.

In the end, the four of us left very full of delicious foods, having tasted some impressive wines, and 16 tasting-platters heavy. It was a great night. (Even though we didn't win any door prizes...)

I will most-likely return next year and I willingly admit this festival made Worcester a lot of fun Monday night.

 Until next week!

<3 K

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The setback and the membership

Thanks to another suggestion from Jayme (who is officially leaving me tomorrow... I'm obviously distraught), I was going to successfully meet my goal of finding both a free and family-friendly activity in Worcester. Unfortunately, even the best laid plans can backfire.

Original Plan:  Attend a free open skate at the DCU center.

It seems simple enough, right? Obviously not.  The advertisement announced that they had limited rental skates available.  Honestly, I know better and should have been much more weary about this, but I wasn't.  A little bit of background for those of you who don't know, I was a figure skater for a few years of my life.  I was never very good, but I could hold my own on the ice.  I come from a hockey family, so skating rinks were a major part of my childhood and this open skate was very appealing to me in a strangely nostalgic way. Anyway, I decided to invited my cousin Jenny and her 6 year-old son, Brayden to join me.   I dragged Jackson along as well -- he's such a good sport.  Open skate was slated to start at 11 a.m.  We arrived around 1 p.m.  After a little wandering around the building searching for the entrance and access to the ice, we found our way to the lower level.  It was a mad house. I must admit that I was a little terrified of all the children with blades in their hands.  Kids with weapons do not sit well with me.  There were people everywhere you turned and we were puzzled by a strange line wrapping down the corridor.   Turns out that the line was the skate rental line.  We waited for about 15 minutes in said line only to be told that they had no kid's skate sizes left and the only adult sizes were those that would fit Jackson.  Needless to say, we decided to leave.  I was a tad dismayed. Though, inwardly, a little revealed because what if I'm not the fabulous skater I remember and what if I failed at teaching Brayden to skate.  You've all heard about how I feel about failure...
To be fair, I'm sure if you have your own skates this would have been great, cheap family fun.  If you don't, like us, you're out of luck.  Which leads us to...

Dilemma:  I promised a 6 year-old that I would take him ice skating.  I may not be the most kid-friendly individual on the planet, but I do not break promises to kids.  It's cruel. As a child, the worst offense I could imagine was someone breaking their promise to me, I hear this is an inherited mindset from my mother.  So, Jenny, Jackson and I were forced to figure out a plan B.  We presented Brayden with 2 options: Higgins Armory or the Ecotarium. He made a quick decision to see the Polar Bear and we were off!

Contingency Plan:  The Ecotarium.  When I was a kid this place was called the New England Science Center, but I digress.  I hadn't been there in years, so once Brayden decided that was where we were headed, I was pretty psyched and easily over my ice skating fail.  We pull up to the gates to buy tickets (3 adults and 1 child) and pay a hefty $44 admission fee.  I thought it was kind of steep, but at this point I was paying no matter what.  I can't give you a play by play of my afternoon, but here's some highs and lows of the day.

High: The train was running! The archaic choo-choo train that took my cousins and I around the museum grounds as a child was still in existence and despite having 4 feet of snow on the ground, was still offering rides to paying customers. (We had limited time and opted out of the train, but kudos to it's continued lifespan).
Low: The place looks fairly similar to what I remember, but sans the kid goggles.  What I mean is this: the museum looks tired.  They have a few new exhibits that were cool, but overall they need better funding and a serious face lift. It was borderline depressing.
High: New interactive science exhibits.  I'm pretty sure if we let him, Brayden could have played for hours and so could Jackson (age 27).  There were water games, magnets, drawing tools, etc that really were edu-tainment. 
Low: The place was under construction. There was a lot of red tape and the temporarily re-located gift shop was poorly lit and tiny.  I'm a huge fan of gift shops, so this was a little more than disappointing.  I feel like once construction ends, the place has some potential, but I'm pretty sure one of the most exciting things for kids to do was to get beyond the ropes and red tape.
High: Despite the size of the gift shop, they still sold Astronaut Ice Cream!!! Enough said.  The trip was worth it.
Low/High: We went to see Kenda, the polar bear.  Looking around her habitat, she was no where to be seen.  Then we saw the sign. Kenda had been injured and was undergoing treatment and she would only be out for viewing on occasion.  It seemed like out trip wasn't one of those times.  As we dejectedly climbed the stairs back towards the museum building, something white and fluffy in an open door way caught our eyes.  KENDA! She was sleeping in her inner habitat, but lying across the doorway so we could at least see parts of her hulking form.  Brayden was pleased so all was not lost.
High/Low: I didn't get sick!  Okay, let me explain.  I do not interact with kids on a normal basis, so I tend to catch all sorts of colds/flus/plague when I am in kid-friendly places.  Case and point: I spent the month of February fighting a cold that I swear is from my friend's kid who catches weekly colds from daycare.  What is the "/Low" you ask? Jackson has flu-like symptoms. He was not so lucky.

Unexpected outcome: While wandering the museum, I began to contemplate my trip.  I realized I was paying $44 for about an hour and a half of entertainment.  That didn't sit all that well with me.  So I started to scheme. The Ecotarium was having a discount on memberships (I saw the sign on my way in) so I headed to customer service to inquire.  For only the cost of another admission for the 4 of us, I could come back any time with 3 other adults and 4 kids.  I have several cousins with children and I do love museums... so I thought... and then I decided and I went for it.  So for about $50 more (they applied that day's admission to the cost) I now am the proud holder of a family plus membership.  So, friends and family and avid readers, let me know if you want to go to the Ecotarium any time before March 2012.  The trip is on me :-D

I'm not sure if this week's challenge can be seen as a success or not.  I still need to find a free event to meet my goal.  I feel as if I shouldn't be penalized for the DCU center's lack of rentals, but I figure I will poll the audience.  Am I off the hook for finding a free event this week or do I have to scramble?

Speaking of audience, I've had several people tell me they actually READ AND ENJOY my blog! This is great news.  I had been debating whether or not writing a blog that no one reads is equivalent to talking to yourself, but now I am spared the concern for my mental health. So thanks guys!

Until next week.

<3 K