Thursday, April 29, 2010

just a taste

Here is my super quick, one-photo impression of Portland:

I believe quirky just about covers it.
I felt right at home.
[this fish-mobile was parked next to the Jack-in-the-Box drive thru; i'm unclear what it was or why it was there; it made me smile]

do these things happen at your job?

One day before i left for Portland i came in to work and TM Sam told me that a bus had run over a fire hydrant and gotten stuck. Really. Then we had a discussion about National Cheese Ball Day and how her mom, the Senior Director of Visitor Services had received some cheese balls for the festivities. SOME?!?!?! Well, i would say so!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Swirling Madness

I am home from Oregon. The trip was fun and the wedding lovely. However, between the time zone difference and various unfolding dramas at work i have been dealing with a maelstrom of insanity. By the time i got home from work last night i was so distraught and mentally fried that i thought i was hallucinating when i walked up my front stairs and caught a glimpse of red out of the corner of my eye What the @#$*? ummmm... - that's Santa Claus. Santa Claus holding a tray. Santa Claus holding a tray on my front porch. Santa Claus holding a tray on my front porch in April. Santa Claus holding a tray on my front porch in April, that wasn't there when i left for work at 6:25am. What? Where? Who? How? WHY??? It is the perfect metaphor for the current state of the Nikiverse. Once i get everything sorted out i'll post pictures from the wedding and various west coast adventures, plus attend to the 5 posts that i already had half-written in the queue before i left. Wish me luck.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Where in the World is Niki?

Portland, Oregon. This weekend is Francie's wedding. Details and pictures to follow... sometime. Until then, talk amongst yourselves.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Good Luck, Team Marge

Do you remember when i started playing trivia at Applebee's a few months ago? Well, my team won enough points to go to the quarter finals last Saturday where we came in 5th and advanced to the semi-finals last Sunday. At that game we also came in 5th (do you see the pattern of us scraping past by the skin off our teeth?) and advanced to the Trivia Bowl tomorrow. Obviously as i am in Oregon i am not playing, but Karen, Nancy and Jason (and possibly Kate) will represent Team Marge at Trivia Bowl 25 in Ellicott City. I am beyond shocked that we made it this far and am proud of my teammates. Good luck to them and GO TEAM MARGE!!!!!

The end of Civilization as we know it

It is a Snuggie for Dogs.
A Snuggie.
 For dogs.
It is a fleece blanket for a fur-bearing creature - with PAW-HOLES.
How often is a dog settled on the couch reading a book?
How often do they need their paws free to crochet, while trying to save energy by keeping the thermostat set to 63 degrees?
Are you kidding me?
 Look at that poor weiner dog.
The dachshund was once a proud breed, bred to hunt badgers, for Pete's sake. Badgers are bigger, meaner and ferocious when cornered, but the dachshund could find 'em and take 'em.
Now they're the poster child for a wearable blanket.
Look in that dachshund's eyes - he is so ashamed.
So am I, sir; so am I.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Matlacha (that's pronounced MAT-la-shay)

You like to travel. You like adventure. You like art. You like funky little places tucked away from civilization and the passage of time. You should go to Matlacha, FL. Located on the Gulf Coast around Sanibel this artist's community is on a wee little island in the sound before the somewhat larger Pine Island. There is only one road in and after you cross the bridge you are greeted with a string of brightly colored buildings. The community is what locals (and real estate agents) refer to as an "Old Florida" community: there is a certain look and feel that recalls a bygone era before the developers really got a hold of southern Florida. It is the type of place where even the local deli has a ridiculous amount of character. You can walk along the strip visiting the various boutiques and galleries that have everything from beach kitsch to fine art to giant rocking chairs. I was with my dad and stepmom after lunch, so we didn't spend a lot of time in this awesome place. I definitely need to go back when i have more time to spend in each place and also to get a chance to photograph the telephone poles leading from Matlacha to Pine Island, which are vibrantly painted. We spent most of our time in two of the galleries. The first, Wild Child Art Gallery contains the work of over 100 southwest Florida artists. Obviously i couldn't take pictures inside, but there were some metal sculptures that made my heart race and a wooden bench that my dad really wants to get for his porch. They have everything from windchimes to jewelry. It was nice to see local artists highlighted. Speaking of local color, my favorite place in Matlacha was the Lovegrove Gallery. Shirley kept saying, wait till you see the garden, wait till you see the garden while i was walking through the gallery building with my mouth already hanging open. The bursts of neon color against the white walls was dazzling. Mosaic creatures inset in the floors made me want to go home and break pottery to remake it into something cool. There were paintings and mosaics and a transformed couch installation and fused glass and more paintings. It was delicious visual overload. I loved it. And then we walked out into the garden. Holy crap! Did someone create a tiny corner of the Nikiverse in FL? Can't you just imagine us eating chicken salad and drinking watermelon margaritas from vintage glassware in this boat-turned-table? There are mosaic pathways leading to tucked away art vingettes, a workshop where you can paint your own souvenir coconut and even a stage. There is a strict no photography policy, since everywhere you look there is proprietary art, but when the artist, Leoma (yes, one person created all of this) was talking to me she said that i could snap a few quick pics in the garden for this here little blog. THANKS, LEOMA! I kid you not, i could live in that garden reading books, listening to music, sipping fruity beverages and creating art happily for the rest of my life. If you find yourself in the Naples-Sanibel-Ft Myers area you owe it to yourself to visit Matlacha. In fact, i would say that it is worth a daytrip from Tampa or the Keys. The people are friendly and the place is like a dream.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

keeping the team happy

If you are the leader of any group of people it behooves you to keep them happy. Most bosses can do this with monetary incentives, but i work in non-profit education so i have to use pretzels and dinosaurs. On a sunny day last month the whole team packed up into one van and drove to Lititz, PA to visit the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery Located on a quiet street in a lovely little town, my first impression was that this is the kind of place where people sweep the sidewalks. I love that. But immediately my attention was pulled toward the big honking pretzel out front and the burning need i felt to have a team photo with it. [Lindsey, Sam, Amy, Mike, Elise and Megan] After perusing the gift shop and deciding what wares we would be purchasing ( i got a hot soft pretzel and chocolate covered pretzels with peanut butter!), i paid the $3 tour fee and Marianne showed us the historic equipment used to make the dough and the ovens and giant peels then used in the first cooking step for hard pretzels. [they were then sent upstairs to dry and harden for 24 hours] We each had the chance to learn how to roll and twist a pretzel (nice job, Miss Megan) while also learning about the history and symbolism of the pretzel. Though the FDA doesn't allow people to then cook and eat their sample pretzel, we did get a certificate of completion and a fun afternoon spent with each other- it's team building! Another way i try to work on morale is to make work purchases of new equipment as fun as possible. We needed a new remote controlled thing for our show about the scientific method, so why not go with a big dinosaur, especially if he is on sale? Spike the ULTRA Dinosaur needed some assembly after undoing 90000 twist ties to get the pieces out of the box. But once he was charged up it was time to rampage! We may not get paid much, but we get paid to do this. I'm kinda in love with him.

opening day

I have never gone to Opening Day at Camden Yards before. People who know how much i love both adventure and my hometown gasp in disbelief at that sentence. But not any more! Thanks to Kate P's timing of conveniently having a baby 3 weeks before Opening Day, i got to use her ticket. [thanks Kate and Jason!] Last Friday i took off of work, put on an Orioles jersey and had appropriately festive hair for my adventure. It was a clear day so Jason and I parked at work and walked through the harbor to the stadium. I love that they used the old warehouse as part of the stadium instead of tearing it down; it adds character. I've been to games before, but Opening Day seemed to have a different atmosphere: there was camaraderie and hope in the air. It felt like Spring. I loved the teeming throngs of people I loved that everyone was dressed alike, including me. I loved that anyone would actually pay this price for beer. (Ridonkulous!) I loved the best ballpark dogs i have ever eaten, which Jason suggested. The sky was so gorgeous, with puffy Simpson's clouds like it looked computer-generated. I loved the meticulous field. I loved the orange carpet and flags and balloons as the teams were introduced. I love the crowd's reaction to the double ceremonial first pitches by Orioles' legends Brooks Robinson and Boog Powell. I loved spending the day with my friend, surrounded by throngs of people sometimes enjoying and sometimes NOT enjoying (could the O's closer be any worse? I mean he pitches like the guy in Bull Durham for goodness' sake) the Great American pastime. Plus, it counts as something new this month!