Sunday, February 25, 2007

Chinese New Year in Boston

Today was the big celebration of the Chinese New Year in Boston's Chinatown, and after having lived here for 9 years, I finally managed to see it! We watched as the dragons and drummers went from business to business, stopping at each door to dance, "eat" an orange and a head of lettuce, and set off firecrackers. We didn't know the symbolism behind , so we stopped a couple of Chinese teens to ask what the significance of it all was. They couldn't tell us, so looks like I'm going to have to do a little research...

When lunchtime approached, my mouth was watering for some fabulous Chinese delicacy, but with two young kids in tow--especially Aidan, who is hardly the most adventurous eater--we had to settle for far less interesting food. Yes, that's right, in the midst of all this cultural extravaganza, we ended up eating in Chinatown's McDonald's. (I'm so embarrassed to admit this...) However, our lunch was saved from being a complete cultural wasteland by the dragons and drums, who actually came into the McDonald's for a dance. They ate the orange and lettuce (didn't set off any firecrackers, though!), and made the rounds through the place before heading back out to the streets. You don't see action like that in McDonald's very often, do you?

Anyway, here are a few pictures from our day. When I learn more about the symbolism, I'll come back and add some captions.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

is it spring yet?

Sure feels like it. Okay, so it's a whopping 37 degrees Fahrenheit out there, but after last week's snow and wind and bone-chilling cold, it's starting to feel positively balmy to me.

Perhaps I've lived in New England too long.

This is the time of year when I take my encouragement when I can. What a thrill it is to leave the office at 5:00pm and still have about half an hour before the sky goes pitch black! How wonderful to see the mountains of brown ice piled along the roadways begin to melt (even though I know we'll have more snow to come before winter is over). And with February on the wane, I start to think about my garden.

Despite the fact that I've lived in the Boston area now for nearly 9 years, I still have to fight my internal gardener. No, the planting season doesn't begin in late February. No, I can't put my tomatoes in by late March. In theory, I should be able to plant peas by St Patrick's Day, though every time I've tried, they've rotted in the cold, wet soil. When I first moved here and started asking questions of my new gardening friends, I thought one of them was pulling my leg when she said it's safe to plant tomatoes by Memorial Day. What? In Texas, that's when you start to harvest tomatoes, not plant them! This would take some getting used to.

But despite the short growing season and the late start, there are some real advantages to gardening in New England. For one thing, there's spring--a real spring with daffodils and tulips and saucer magnolias and dogwoods and everything erupting into color all at once. I can't describe the rush I felt when I first discovered the magnolias on Beacon Street in Boston, how they explode with fat pink voluptuous blossoms, so many that you can hardly see the trees for the flowers. Or how about the thrill of the first blossom on the tiny saucer magnolia tree that I planted? Or the delight in seeing that the daffodils and tulips I planted in my front garden come back year after year? That may hardly seem like rocket science to most gardeners, but in Texas, if you want your bulbs to come back the next year, you have to dig them up and put them in the refrigerator for at least six weeks, to give them a "real" winter. Who has time for that?

And don't forget about the summer. Here in Boston, my garden thrives on the sunshine. My poor Texas garden limped through summer, baked bone-dry every day in the torrid sun. Not to mention the fact that the torrid sun baked me, too, which made gardening more of a chore than a delight by the time July rolled around.

Oh, but I am getting ahead of myself, aren't I? There are still two matching mountains of ice either side of my driveway. My car is grey from road salt, and I still have heavy winter gloves tucked into the pockets of my coat. Winter's still here.

But spring is on its way.

Friday, February 16, 2007

goodness to come

After a week spent in Texas, and a few days spent here in the miserable ice and snow, I vow to update the blog.

I will tell you about the wild animals we saw in Texas.

I will tell you about the three (three!) knitting projects I have going.

But not just yet. With aching muscles (from shoveling snow and ice at lunchtime!), seriously caffeine-deprived head, and Rod Stewart's "Every Picture Tells a Story" on the iPod, I must return to work. Just wanted to reassure the world that I'm still here!

More to come soon.

Friday, February 02, 2007

a (silent) poetry reading

I read about this on several blogs--first Anne's then Amelia's then Cara's then finally Deborah's. Here's my contribution, a poem I learned when I was studying French.

Il pleut il pleut
Il fait beau
Il fait du soleil
Il est si tôt
Il se fait tard
Toujours Il
Toujours Il qui pleut et qui neige
Toujours Il qui fait du soleil
Toujours Il
Pourquoi pas Elle
Jamais Elle
Pourtant Elle aussi
Souvent se fait belle!

—Jacques Prévert

Thursday, February 01, 2007

55 minutes until chocolate

We're having a big company meeting in less than an hour--one of those quarterly corporate meetings where they try to funnel three months' worth of news in about an hour to those of us in the trenches. Were it not for the food they provide as an enticement, most people would simply opt out. I know for a fact that there's going to be chocolate. I'll be there.

Yes, this is the inevitable result of my dieting attempts. The moment I decide it's time to shed the extra weight I've gained since Christmas/pregnancy/high school, all I do is think about food. Crazy, isn't it? This time, though, I'm trying to do it mostly for the health benefit (although losing a dress size or two would be a boost, too).

I've been watching Turn Back Your Body Clock on BBC America, and even though it's a cheesy-trendy reality show, it has really made me think. I've always been the eternal optimist about how I treat my body--I had endless amounts of time to lose the weight, get in shape, eat healthier foods. If not this year, then next year. Or maybe the one after that. But the episodes of this show have focused on people in my age range who have felt the same way. Most of them are MUCH harder on their bodies than I am--they smoke heavily, they drink vast quantities, and never exercise. And it shows. For the people on the program, it shows outside as well as inside, but it gets me to thinking--what if my own unhealthy habits are showing on the inside already?

Bad habits aren't easy to change, so I'm approaching it gradually. I don't have the luxury of an 8-week intensive course with personal trainers, nutritionists, and motivators to keep me on the straight and narrow. So, I've given up French fries. Hard thing, because I'm a carb-a-holic and love my fries. And I've given up most fast food (with the exception of an occasional slice of pizza with the kids). I'm boosting my activity level with time on the exercise bike (in preparation for spring biking!) and more walking.

But when there's going to be chocolate during what promises to be a long and tedious meeting, how can I pass that by?