books, art, culture, and other things I love

Category: The Weekender

The Weekender: Music in Copley Square.

I have mentioned the studio where I take piano lessons before. Musicians’ Playground is housed in the Piano Factory building on Tremont Street in Boston’s South End. I really can’t say enough about the studio and its owner, Alyssa O’Toole if you are looking to start or continue piano lessons at any age. It is never too late!

Last month, Alyssa had a piano brought to Boston’s Copley Square for an event where she encouraged passersby to come and  learn portions of an original composition titled “Hands”. People from all walks of life, of all ages, and with varying levels of musical training (from none to a lot!) participated.

A videographer was on hand to film the event and to put all of the pieces of the composition together. The video came out really great and it is such a neat concept that I thought I would share it here. If you live in or around Boston, definitely check Musicians’ Playground out!


The Weekender: The Christmas Tree.

So I know it is VERY early to be thinking about putting up a Christmas tree, however, a friend told me this week that she was going to do all of her decorating this weekend so she could actually enjoy the process and not feel rushed. I get that. I usually put up our tree the week after Thanksgiving though this year, with Hildy on the scene, I am a little concerned with how that might go.

If you are starting to think of your holiday decorating, here is a little video from John Roberts to make you laugh. I find this hilarious (no matter how many times I watch it!). Enjoy!

The Weekender: Staying warm.

Given the talk of another polar vortex-filled winter, we’re already testing ways that we can warm up around here.



And if the hearth does not fully warm your chill, try one of these. (NB: humans only!)

The Weekender: A Little Sunday Music.

This morning my children were singing a familiar standard in church, but it was pepped up midway though with the addition of some Swahili verses! Listen here (disclaimer: I am no videographer).

Then, we stepped outside to hear this great music on Boston Common. First, the ending of “Superstition,”

and then this (note the dancing spectators–LOVE):

The Weekender: Birthdays for Twelves Abound.

This weekend, my new puppy Hildy is twelve weeks old.
And my first baby is twelve years old. Happy Birthday, B! Where did the time go?

To celebrate, per B’s request, we are going out for tapas (sans canine) here on Saturday night and for brunch here on Sunday (B’s actual birthday). The weather is bright and sunny this weekend in Boston, which is a welcome treat after a week of heavy rains. Enjoy your weekend!

The Weekender: Are You A ‘Music Person’?

Though some get a thrill listening to the harmonies of Motown, still others prefer the twang of a country tune. And the opera that puts some to sleep causes others to swoon. But what does it mean to be a ‘music person’? To me, a ‘music person’ is one with a genuine appreciation of and affinity for music of all genres. While I came of age in the era of synthesizers and soundtrack hits (and ‘bands’ like Milli Vanilli), I developed an encyclopedic knowledge of the Beatles’ catalogue, l loved classical music and soul, fancied Tracy Chapman and Billie Holliday—in short, I was an equal opportunity music enthusiast. I can still remember where I was the first time I heard Bad Company or Steve Miller or Journey. Where this interest came from, I do not know. My own parents didn’t buy music or go to see concerts of their own volition—though my good natured father did take me to many shows in my adolescence: the Violent Femmes, INXS, James Taylor, to name a few.

In college, listening to music was an activity. During that time, I had a friend who might have been my musical twin in that his tastes were also all over the map. In those days, there were bands like Pearl Jam, Toad the Wet Sprocket and the Spin Doctors all over the charts; we liked them too. But there were also old Stevie Wonder albums to enjoy. And Jeffrey Gaines (his 1992 self-titled album is still wonderful after all these years–if you’ve never heard it, do yourself a favor and download it today) or Jackson Browne. In college I also discovered Steely Dan and Mary J. Blige—both remain favorites to this day.

Given that, I always find it curious when I meet someone who is entirely neutral on music—as in, they might listen to it as background noise, but they don’t actually seek it out. This weekend’s All Songs Considered has a piece by Stephen Thompson responding to one such listener who writes in for advice on how to become a ‘music person.’ Not sure if I agree with Thompson’s advice (basically to try out song recommendation engines and ask others what they like), but it is an interesting point to consider—how do you build an appreciation of a subject area from scratch?

Are you a ‘music person’? Do you think this is something intuitive? Or something that can really be learned later in life?



The Weekender: Boston’s Head Of The Charles.

This weekend is the 50th annual Head of the Charles Regatta—the largest two-day rowing competition in the world. Teams of all ages and from all over compete in the events and it is a lot of fun to watch. When I was a college student, this was one of the best weekends to be in Boston. Friends from other schools would come to visit and we would trek over the Fiedler footbridge to the Charles River to find a spectator perch.
The complete schedule of this year’s events and participants can be found here. As an added bonus, the weather looks to be good, so if you are in town, it is a great way to spend a weekend afternoon.


And…to get inspired, read Daniel James Brown’s The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

The Weekender: On Minnie Driver’s Album, Ask Me to Dance.

Though the height of Academy Award nominated actress Minnie Driver’s fame might have been in the mid-to-late nineties, when she starred in films like Circle of Friends, Good Will Hunting, and Return to Me, but in the intervening years, she has worked steadily on multiple projects (including the television show About a Boy, now in its second season).

This month, Driver released her third studio album, Ask Me to Dance. The collection is comprised of new arrangements of familiar songs—including a slowed-down version of Stevie Wonder’s “Master Blaster” and a haunting rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon,” which has been stripped of all of its swing. The Cure’s “Close to You” also makes an appearance on the record—in a format as pleasing as its original. Driver’s voice is husky and mellow, recalling vocalists such as Norah Jones or Corrine Bailey Rae. As Driver tells NPR’s Scott Simon, her acting career happened almost by accident—as she was on the path of becoming a singer when she was offered a part in the film Circle of Friends with Chris O’Donnell. “I don’t know if I actually did the whole Malcolm Gladwell thing of playing for 10,000 hours, but I felt like I did,” Driver notes on her website.  “I had planned to make music my primary thing, but then I got offered a film and it all went off in a different direction.  At the time, I thought that I was ready to take on the music industry, but I don’t think that I really was.  I had to grow up enough to have something to say.”

The album offers an interesting mix of familiar covers, yet Driver injects them with originality of sound and arrangement that makes them into something new. Worth a listen.

The Weekender: Framing Boston’s Public Garden.

Students of John Berger will likely have thoughts about how frames affect what we see—that is, our decision what to include in a frame (when taking a photo, for example) and what to leave out is a deliberate choice that affects what we see as the end product. For example, if there is a beautiful flowering plant blooming alongside an abandoned shed that has fallen into disrepair, I have multiple choices for how to frame a photo of my subjects. Do I zero in on the beauty of the flowers and ignore the building? Or do I try to fit everything in? Whatever my framing choice, it will affect what I (or others) ultimately see.

That’s why I find the current installation in Boston’s Public Garden so great. The Friends of the Public Garden installed multiple frames around the park for people to frame their own views (or themselves) in the park. The frames swivel to allow for multiple views and subjects to be framed and will be on display for the next two months. Check them out! People are encouraged to post their photos on Twitter and Instagram using #FOPG. For more information on the project, read this piece from Boston Magazine.

The Weekender: Cafe Madeleine in Boston’s South End.

Saturday mornings are piano lessons for me and my children (yes, we all go together–so much fun). We take lessons at Musician’s Playground with the awesome Alyssa in the former Piano Factory on Tremont Street, which is now a mixed-use building (studios and residential apartments).

My friend D. also happens to live in the building and again this week, they begged to pop upstairs and say hell0. According to my daughter, D. has “the best apartment ever” and my son agrees. Last week they were inquiring about open units in the building–ha!

Of course, they were angling to get a snack–specifically some hot chocolate to counteract the damp, chilly weather–and D. suggested a place to try. When the kids heard “French” and “pastry” and “Belgian hot chocolate,” they were sold and off we went.

Cafe Madeleine is located at 517 Columbus Ave., in the former Amsterdam Cafe space and is owned by two experts in the art of French goûter–Pastry Chef Hana Quon and James Beard award winner, Frederic Robert.

I had a ham and cheese croissant (with delicious Gruyere cheese) and the kids selected a raspberry danish (which will make you turn up your nose at a store bought one) and three of the classic madeleines. I even brought home a baguette for dinner. The hot chocolate was decadent (my little friends couldn’t even finish it!) and my latte was the perfect strength.

There is seriously something for everyone here–and we had such a difficult time choosing, as everything looked so appealing. There is not much in the way of indoor seating–just a handful of window facing stools–but I imagine that the warmer weather will bring outdoor cafe tables for lingering.

Cafe Madeleine
517 Columbus Avenue, Boston.

Open 7 days a week, 6:30am-7pm



Mmm--this hot chocolate is delicious!

Mmm–this hot chocolate is delicious!

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