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The 3 Rs

I love that informative and catchy jingle, perfected by Jack Johnson, but I’m not referring to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (and does that apostrophe make the statement look grammatically incorrect?).

And forget anything that involves aRithmetic––this wRRRiter has two English degrees. Yet I can rarely sit down and eke out a coherent sentence without falling prey to myriad temptations.

My favorites include:

  • The latest Instagram shot of my cousin’s zucchini harvest
  • The first season of The Blacklist now streaming on Netflix (in which my longtime celebrity crush James Spader bears a striking resemblance to my Gonzo journalism crush Hunter S. Thompson)
  • Sudden urges to organize my sock drawer or scrub the bathroom toilet

ANYTHING to avoid that still, quiet voice, whispering, “Sit your arse down and WRITE, goddammit!”

Mere distractions, but mighty powerful ones, they be.

Indeed, the three Rs in my life these days include Reading, wRiting, and Resistance.

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That last one has enveloped the first two of late. So many books discuss this phenomenon and occasional curse. Ironically, some of it is the best writing I’ve encountered in years. Even my own work, or lack thereof, is infused with it.

The difference is that resistance fuels theirs while it debilitates mine.

Steven Pressfield dedicates at least two entire books to the topic: The War of Art and Turning Pro. I read both over the summer, while procrastinating (read: resisting) and delaying to return to writing on a regular basis.

This process prompted a rare chain of events. The procrastination actually inspired me to stop doing what I was doing while reading the books, and instead break through the resistance, and start writing!

Rule #1: Writers write, they don’t talk about writing. Duh.

It is kind of like when my mother buys books about clutter to help her clean up the clutter, but then uses them to add to the existing pile of clutter…

(Funny that about 20 minutes after I wrote that last sentence, during yet another bout of unwarranted Resistance, I stumbled upon a YouTube video of Joe Rogan interviewing Steven Pressfield discussing this very topic. It looks like Resistance can also double as serendipity.)

Both processes can devolve into vicious cycles.

But when the pupil is ready, gurus appear. They can manifest in various forms:

  • Dreams (or nightmares, when your subconscious is particularly desperate)
  • Muses, appearing as an idea, a mentor, inspiration, clarity. Call it what you will.
  • Steven Pressfield and other inspiring artists (some of the most notable ones in my life include Tom Robbins, Anne Lamott, David Sedaris, Elizabeth Gilbert, Stephen King, and Ruth Reichl, to name a few)

The number of ways Resistance––this adversary deserves a capital ‘R’––tried to foil my plans to write even this brief piece on the very topic is at once devastating, pathetic, and all too familiar.

It is also hilarious because I, Astrid the Dragon Slayer, can recognize its trickery just a wee bit faster now.

This call to action––to write––must be pretty fucking important. I had to slay some seriously persistent dragons this week:

  • Disable Words With Friends
  • Bury my phone
  • Mute James Spader
  • Cork an open bottle of Malbec (which had a screw cap)
  • Enforce Draconian Facebook parameters on myself: 20 minutes and three comments max.
  • Get out of bed
  • Put the pint of Half Baked froyo back in the freezer…with at least two servings left

But here I am, still alive, slightly less restless, slightly less likely to gauge out my eye with an icepick to rival the pain of not writing.

And ready to face more dragons and Resistance’s henchmen tomorrow.

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FoMu: An Alternative Ice Cream Experience

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(Astrid Lium photos)

Vegan ice cream sounds like an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp. But this ostensible contradiction bears a striking resemblance to the original milky treat. With the help of FoMu (as in “faux moo”), the non-dairy alternative is quickly scooping out a niche in Boston’s ice cream market.

FoMu is a specialty shop offering vegan-friendly alternatives to the usual ice cream options. According to co-owner Deena Jalal, “it is like ice cream for foodies.” At the two store locations, customers of all dietary backgrounds can choose from unconventional flavors like avocado, Thai chili peanut, and rice honey lavender alongside the more traditional vanilla bean or chocolate.

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Jalal and her husband, Hin Tang, opened the first FoMu alternative ice cream shop and café in Allston on May 30, 2012, but the idea was a decade in the making. Jalal believes that the business move was a fateful one.

“The universe just aligned us right,” she says. “And it flowed.”

Jalal and Tang initially embarked on more conventional career paths––in marketing and finance, respectively. But the entrepreneurial couple had dreams that transcended life in corporate America.

“For years we said, ‘we’ll open an ice cream place someday,’ ” Jalal recalls. “We always had the dream in the back of our heads.”

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The duo created their local, vegan, non-dairy, gluten-free product with widespread dietary restrictions in mind. They have a growing number of friends and family members with allergies and lactose intolerance, whom they wanted to accommodate while also creating a healthy treat with broader appeal.

Jalal and Tang started with coconut milk because of the health benefits, flavor, and low rate of coconut allergies. Containing omega fatty acids, vitamins B and C, potassium, manganese, phosphorous, and zinc, coconut provided a natural, healthy alternative to cow’s milk.

“It’s a cure for everything,” Jalal says.

They added almond and cashew-based blends for some frozen creams, and a soy base for the soft serve options. Agave and unrefined organic cane sugar provide the sweetness. Gluten-free cones and toppings are available for the wheat-free customers. FoMu’s kitchen is located in Watertown, where small batches of ice cream are made daily and delivered. Local partners include Taza chocolate, George Howell coffee, MEM Tea, and Bonnieville cookies.

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The couple started by selling their product to local cafés, including Veggie Planet and Life Alive. The demand grew quickly, prompting Jalal and Tang to open their own shop. They found a space in a predominantly vegetarian corner of Allston, near other vegan-friendly restaurants like Grasshopper and Deep Ellum.

The name, which is self-explanatory, also has a sense of humor. “More effort went into that name than our own son’s name!” Jalal says with a laugh. “We wanted to embody what we were putting out with something abstract and obvious.”

They applied the same thoughtfulness and fun to the dynamic menu, which expands and changes slightly with the seasons. The inspirations generally come from foods and beverages that Jalal, Tang, and their loved ones enjoy. Paying homage to a friend who frequently ordered dark n’ stormy cocktails, they transformed the rum-based drink into an ice cream flavor. Thai peanut stemmed from Jalal’s love of Thai food. Salted caramel, the shop’s biggest seller, seemed like an obvious choice.

But not all of the experiments translated so well. “Unfortunately, sriracha didn’t work out,” Jalal says. “It was too garlicky, and that’s gross.”

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FoMu immediately attracted a loyal following of vegans, lactose intolerant customers, alternative foodies with a sweet tooth, and health-conscious parents treating their kids. Regulars began to encourage a second location in the funky, vegetarian-friendly neighborhood of Jamaica Plain. Taking their advice, the co-owners found a vacant space on Centre Street. They opened the second shop in the former shoe store, Got Sole, on April 16, 2013.

Jalal attributes FoMu’s popularity to the alternative options it provides, as well as the overall quality of their product. She notes that many of the patrons are animal-free for varying reasons, both personal and political. Many first-time patrons don’t realize that the ice cream is non-dairy.

“Across the board, people come in, they try it, and they like it,” Jalal says. “We use good ingredients. There’s not a lot of crap in it.”

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The friendly atmosphere and unconventional flavors attract employees along with customers. FoMu’s staff currently includes about 30 workers. Some of them, like Vanessa Saravia, started as patrons.

She discovered the shop while doing laundry in the neighborhood and started working there in June. Saravia moved from her home in California to attend Boston College, and began to miss the robust food culture that she believes Boston lacks. FoMu helped assuage the homesickness with its tight-knit community and unique flavors.

“It’s like ice cream with personality,” she says. “I’m not even vegan, but I still come in here on my days off.”

Her favorite parts of her job include the mandatory ice cream tasting and the connections she makes with customers, particularly the weekend regulars. When she started, Saravia recalls the patience and reassurance of the patrons, who recognized her as the new girl in the shop. They offered encouragement rather than frustration when she was learning the ropes.

Her weeklong training included an education of the shop’s health-conscious philosophy; a crash course in the ingredients and health benefits; a hands-on apprenticeship of the specialty coffees; and, of course, taste testing the goods.

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(FoMu co-workers Vanessa Saravia [left] and Megan Ramette take a break at the Allston shop.)

Saravia’s co-worker, Megan Ramette, offers samples to an eclectic crowd of customers on a Sunday afternoon. A six-person, three-generation family stands in line, trying bites of cardamom pistachio and cherry amaretto before placing their final orders. Tattooed men in black tee shirts with skulls and eagles sample the smaller variety of nut blends. Bespectacled hipsters in skinny jeans test out the chunky chocolate flavors.

Ramette offers each one with a smile and asks every patron if they would like to try another.

“I get tons of questions and requests for lots of samples,” she says. “You can try as many as you’d like. You want to know what you’re gonna get, right?”

Roxbury resident Jacquinn Williams frequents Jamaica Plain’s restaurant-strewn Centre Street, where she first discovered FoMu. Both lactose and soy-intolerant, Williams embraces the vegan ice cream option, and returns to the shop regularly. Her favorite flavors include saffron rosewater, honey lavender, maple walnut, and mango habanero.

“Life for me is all about reading [food] labels and avoiding most fast food and semi-slow food eateries,” she says. “If I could eat [at FoMu] every day and not be fat, I would.”

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(A small cup serving of bourbon maple walnut ice cream)

Jalal acknowledges that FoMu doesn’t appeal to everyone, but that doesn’t shake her confidence in the product. She doesn’t deem J.P. Licks, located just blocks away in Jamaica Plain, a competitor. There is enough room in the neighborhood for the traditional and alternative non-dairy counterparts.

“We really are such a specialty product,” says Jalal. “We’re supplementing, not competing, with a healthier, more conscious product.”

With two retail shops established and a growing fan base, Jalal and Tang remain open to expanding their retail and wholesale sales. The goals include more Boston locations as well as business at high-end grocers like Whole Foods.

The couple take the same laid-back and open-minded approach to the future in the same way they have every other step of the process. Again, Jalal emphasizes the importance of not forcing circumstances and simply letting them flow. In the meantime, she spends every day between the two shops, doing what she loves.

“I have an awesome job,” Jalal says. “It’s ice cream!”

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Poppin’ Tags in Boston: Think Globally, Thrift Locally

Poppin’ tags: v., Popping off tags of higher-priced merchandise and switching for clearance or lower-priced tags; shopping for goods (especially clothing) in abundance.

Thrifting: v., The act of shopping at a thrift store, flea market, garage sale, consignment shop or other charitable organization.

Poppin’ Tags in Boston: Think Globally, Thrift Locally from Astrid Lium on Vimeo.

Even if footy pajamas or broken keyboards don’t make their shopping lists, consumers can unearth stylish goods with only 20 dollars in their pocket. In a slumping economy, frugality has made a comeback. With influences like Macklemore––whose single “Thrift Shop” has gone viral and topped Billboard charts––shoppers, particularly youth, boast a cachet of cool while “poppin’ tags” on a shoestring budget.

For decades secondhand goods have generated a cult following, an alternative market for lower incomes, and a source of unique finds for fringe fashion, costumes and theme parties. More recently, the list has expanded to include diverse appeal, reflected in an increase in resale donations, consignment shops and a growing online presence.

Compounded by a pop culture endorsement and an accompanying lexicon of slang terms, “thrifting” has hit the mainstream. As the economy limps toward recovery, discussions about carbon footprints abound, and “green” trends gain momentum, the used goods industry expands its niche.

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According to NARTS, The Association of Retail Professionals, the resale industry in the United States currently generates approximately $13 billion per year. A member of the association, Goodwill Industries, accounted for about $3.53 billion of retail sale revenue in 2012. Established in 1902, Goodwill Industries now operates more than 2700 stores and continues to grow.

Buffalo Exchange, a secondhand chain known for funky clothing and accessories, started with a 450 sq. ft. shop in 1974. Since then, the company has expanded to 43 locations in 15 states, including two stores in Boston and Cambridge. Buffalo Exchange claims that its clothing is “by the community, for the community” with the majority of goods sold locally.

Using statistics from the consumer research firm, America’s Research Group, NARTS reports that 16-18 percent of Americans shop at thrift stores annually, and 12-15 percent patronize consignment shops. In comparison, about 11 percent prefer factory outlet malls, 19 percent opt for apparel stores, and 21 percent shop at major department stores.

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“It’s a sign of the times,” says Dasan Harrington, a regular thrift store shopper and donator.

He and his wife, Zoraida, both 38, frequent secondhand shops around Boston for bargains. The couple live in Dorchester with their two children, and venture to Boomerangs thrift store in West Roxbury a few times per month. While he peruses the store’s eclectic CD collection, she searches for rain gear.

“I look at everything,” Mr. Harrington says. “You can find good stuff that’s unique.”

Sometimes they leave empty-handed, he admits, but on this particular visit the duo found nearly matching trench coats. Other patrons thumb through paperbacks, test the buoyancy of sofa cushions, and cinch belts around gently worn slacks and dresses.

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Owned and operated by the non-profit organization AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts (AAC), Boomerangs thrift stores invest their proceeds to the committee’s work. Founded in 1983, the AAC aims to educate, help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, and provide support for those affected by the virus.

Boomerangs’s Director of Community Outreach Liz Donovan asks a cash-paying customer, “Do you mind if I give you a lot of random change?”

Her question reflects the Boomerangs shopping experience: a montage of different donations, styles, volunteers, and customers. The store attracts disparate groups of people and products to form a diverse community.

“People are bumping into each other here who wouldn’t elsewhere,” she says. “They speak different languages and run in different circles, but talk to each other when they’re shopping. Rich people antiquating mix with poorer people on a budget who need the discounted items.”

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Donovan, whose own wardrobe is comprised of Boomerangs items, has seen the company expand to four locations: West Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, The South End, and Central Square in Cambridge. She attributes the steady growth to a variety of affordable goods, well-organized merchandise, a welcoming atmosphere, and a loyal base of donators, patrons and volunteers. Also, in the last few months, social media and the the song “Thrift Shop” have boosted interest in the store.

“People play the song on their phones while they’re shopping here,” Donovan says. “Students come in at 9 o’clock on a Saturday morning and Tweet things like ‘Poppin’ tags @ Boomerangs’. It’s fun and has been a boon to business, prompting conversation.”

She views thrifting and  recycling clothing, accessories, furniture and home goods as a step in the right direction. As shoppers embellish items––by altering, painting or sewing them––they make them more their own and, according to Donovan, participate more in their own lives.

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The charitable, local and musical elements of thrifting have boosted sales for The Thrift Shop in Roslindale, as well, according to store manager Chris Roth.

Relying on local donations, the store’s sales benefit The Home For Little Wanderers (or The Home), a Boston-based non-profit organization. Established in 1926, the organization provides services––including counseling, foster care, life skills training and mentoring––for Boston youth and families. Originally based in Jamaica Plain, the shop moved to Roslindale, a more affordable neighborhood, 12 years ago.

“Roslindale Square has changed,” Roth says. “To get well established in an area takes time, and we have grown with the community.”

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With two full-time employees, three part-time workers, and ten dedicated volunteers, the store has maintained a loyal following while generating more money for its cause. Since the 2008 downturn in the economy, Roth noticed more furniture donations. Despite financial struggles, his year the sales reached a record high of $125,000 for The Home.

Roth believes that people are more open to shopping at thrift stores. While some view it as a hobby, other for others approach thrifting as a way to pay it forward. “Some people buy in bulk, but I feel like they’re often doing it for others,” he says. “Some guy bought a dozen dresses, probably for a women’s shelter.”

As for Macklemore’s hit song, Roth noticed that teenagers have stopped by the store with greater frequency in the last year. “Kids have started ironically coming in with more curiosity and interest.” he says.

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Kristina Nederosleva, co-owner of Deja Vu in Newton, has transformed her consignment hobby into a full-time business. She moved to Boston for graduate school in 2009 and wanted to generate income while studying.

“I figured there had to be a way to make money, short of selling myself on the street,” she says with a shrug and a giggle.

What started as a quick way to make cash for a weekend getaway––with a bag of clothing, a trip to Buffalo Exchange, and $70 in her pocket––quickly grew into Simple Exchanges, a consignment business operated from her one-bedroom apartment in Cambridge. Nederosleva wanted to provide a service and simplify the process between buyer and seller by removing unnecessary steps and splitting the profit with her donators.

While running Simple Exchanges, Nederosleva researched the details of the industry, and worked part-time at the consignment shop Second Time Around. She moved to Deja Vu in September 2012, where she worked part time until buying into the store in February, which she now co-owns with Oksana Pan. Carrying a array of brands from Ann Taylor and Oilily to Kate Spade and Gucci, Deja Vu attracts an diverse demographic of shoppers.

“Everybody likes to shop and customers get upset if they can’t find something,” she says. “We see such a wide range of age, income and personality. Someone might carry a Chanel wallet, but she’ll come in and buy a $10 one here.”

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Nederosleva attributes the initial growth to a slipping economy, and longstanding success to perennial elements like personal service, local charm and unique finds. She believes that fads or popular songs have less long-term influence on the popularity of her shop or the industry in general.

She has noticed rapid growth for both Deja Vu and the local consignment business in general, noting that 10 to 12 secondhand store have opened around Boston within the last couple of years. “They’re all still here,” Nederosleva says. “This [business] isn’t going to die out.”

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Simmons Leadership Conference 2013

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(Conference schedule. Astrid Lium photos.)

The Simmons Leadership Conference attracted more than 3000 professional women to the Seaport World Trade Center on April 2. Known as the “world’s premier professional conference for women,” the 34th annual gathering marked its 2013 anniversary with a Women of Influence theme.

This year’s panel included an array of speakers from various backgrounds, including:

Greeting the crowd at 8am was master of ceremonies Joyce Kulhawik, long-time broadcaster in Boston and Simmons College alumna.

Following her warm welcome, opening keynote speaker Sallie Krawcheck provided “Leadership Lessons for Women in Business.” The Wall Street executive offered an inside view of the obstacles and opportunities influential women in finance and business face.

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(Leadership Conference luncheon held at the Seaport World Trade Center on April 2.)

The morning and afternoon presentations included a mix of topics and backgrounds. The speakers––including marketing expert Kelly McDonald, Simmons professor and business consultant Stacy Blake-Beard, PhD, and co-authors Lois Frankel, PhD and Carol Frohlinger, JD––displayed their influence in the business world with inspiration, insight, and humor, touching on a number of issues:

  • personal finance
  • communication
  • crisis management
  • multicultural marketing
  • mentoring
  • negotiating

Attendees had the opportunity to meet the presenters during a book signing break, followed by the morning keynote speaker Charlene Li. Author of the bestsellers “Groundswell” and “Open Leadership,” Li is a social media expert and a board member of the Harvard Alumni Association.

Li discussed the importance of social technologies in the rapidly changing world of modern business. She underscored the point throughout her talk that “social media is about relationships, not technology.”

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Li broke divided her talk into three parts:

  • Strategy
  • Organization
  • Preparation

In regard to strategy, she claims that most businesses fail when they lack clear business goals. “Strategy is what you decide to do and not to do,” she said.

In turn, Li set forth six phases of social business maturity.

  1. Planning: develop relationships with your audience, clients, followers. Monitor what people are doing and listen to their feedback. (Example: The American Red Cross monitors social channels during disasters and relief efforts.)
  2. Presence: Stake a claim, take a leap, and engage with others. (Example: Shell tracks its reputation impact on a daily basis.)
  3. Engagement: Dialogue deepens relationships, so it’s best for companies to develop rules for engagement. (Example: Intel’s social media guidelines.)
  4. Formalize: Organize for scale.
  5. Strategy: Become a social business and connect the dots. (Example: Sephora integrates social and digital elements into their community as well as in their stores.)
  6. Transformation: Business is social, and women are particularly social beings.

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(Keynote speaker Charlene Li discusses social media in business.)

 

In regard to organization, Li referred to seven success factors, of which she offered two: planning details and having an initiative road map. She underscored the importance of filtering information. “We have to be parsimonious about what we focus on,” she said. “Choose carefully and let others pass.”

For her third part, Li outlined five ways in which companies can prepare:

  1. Align executives with clear business goals. Translate your social media to their world; don’t force them to understand your social media.
  2. Ask the right questions about value, not return on investment (ROI). (“How many of you calculated the ROI of your time spend at this conference today?” Li asked in jest.)
  3. Create a culture of sharing and build relationships that way.
  4. Master the art of failure. Google’s mantra is “fail fast, fail smart.”
  5. Determine your personal social strategy. Leverage connections and use your networks.

During the Q&A session, the first question came via Twitter. An audience member asked, “How do you deal with online rage?”

Li’s response: “Never feed the trolls. When trolls have no audience, they move on.”

Her final point was social media ubiquity. “I want social media right here all the time,” she said. “It’s so easy to better know people through social media.”

 

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Gimme some (maple) sugar!

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Silver and red maple trees in my back yard, awaiting a tap. (Astrid Lium photos)

I grew up in Vermont, the maple capital of the United States. The humble Green Mountain State‘s 5% of the world’s syrup of the gods beats out its 49 competitors for that sweet title. Québec has a stake on about three-quarters of the globes syrup supply, which is partly why I attended university in Montréal.

I was eleven years old before I tried a cheap fancy Grade A knockoff. While on a school trip in Rhode Island the class enjoyed pancakes and what resembled bona fide syrup. The mystery substance made me nauseous. I had seen Aunt Jemima on the shelf at White’s, but never had she made her way into our pantry. The only syrup I knew came from St. Johnsbury’s own Maple Grove Farms or from a Hardwick sugar shack (that town exports goods besides sophomoric “Hardwick jokes”).

I quickly returned to that sugary friend upon our return to Vermont.

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Three taps for two trees. They are available online and at most hardware stores for about $2 each.

When I moved to Massachusetts, known more for oysters and chowdah than syrup, I brought my dark amber with me. Then I met a man who tapped his own trees and made his own syrup (about one quart of it, anyway) every spring. I fell in love with him, even before I discovered this sugaring hobby of his.

2013 marks the fourth consecutive season that my Maine-iac maple man (“As Maine goes, so goes Vermont“?) and I have made sweet syrup, albeit in small doses. Keep in mind that the sap:syrup boiling ratio is about 40:1.

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Every sugaring experience may be somewhat different, but ours is simple, cheap (sorta), and easy. I just read a Yankee Magazine article about a Vermont sugaring family who uses reverse osmosis to reduce fuel, improve efficiency, and expedite the process. I’m jealous. I wish that I had reverse osmosis…or even knew exactly what is was.

To get started, this is what we needed:

  • 40-degree days and freezing nights
  • Maple trees (one silver, one red)
  • 5-gallon Ace Hardware bucket (brand optional; I receive no compensation from Ace for my plug.)
  • 3/8″ drill
  • Hammer
  • Taps
  • Extension cords connecting the drill to the nearest outlet

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Find a spot on the tree to drill, deep enough to fit a tap. On the red maple, we drilled two holes. (If a tree is 19-25 inches in diameter, two is recommended. You can find more on hobby sugaring.)

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Philosophize with a hammer…hard enough to secure the tap.

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On an early-March morning, with temps running in the low-40s, the sap should start flowing immediately. We always have better, faster results with the red maple.

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Voilà! The first part of the sugaring-in-our-back-yard-in-Boston process is complete.

More to come as the days grow longer, warmer, and sweeter…

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Harvard Celebrates 40 Years of Jazz


Cecil McBee on bass, Brian Lynch on trumpet and Benny Golson on tenor saxophone were among the Harvard All-Stars who performed at Sanders Hall as Harvard celebrated 40 years of jazz.                          (Eric Antoniou photo)

Jazz at Harvard has come a long way, baby.

Before 1971, the African American-dominated musical genre was unheard of at the Ivy League institution. Since then Tom Everett has founded and nurtured a successful program for Harvard students interested in jazz performance.

On Saturday night the weekend celebration of Jazz at Harvard’s fortieth year culminated with a sold out performance at Sanders Hall. Harvard’s two student jazz bands, along with a notable alumnus and the Harvard All-Stars, comprised of jazz masters and former guest musicians, played for more than two hours to an enthusiastic crowd.

The undergraduate Sunday Jazz Band, directed by Mark Olson, opened the show with an energetic performance of Neal Hefti’s “Flight of the Foo Birds.”  That musical introduction triggered wild applause and approving whistles from the audience, which set the scene for the following pieces.

With Olson still at the helm, the band followed with “Peedlum,” by Hank Jones, to whom the song was also dedicated.

Olson and Ingrid Monson then introduced Everett, who took the reins for the second set, directing the Monday Jazz Band in renditions of Billy Strayhorn’s “Take the ‘A’ Train” and Charles Mingus’ “The Shoes of the Fisherman’s Wife are Some Jive Ass Slippers.” Ever the gentleman, Everett truncated the latter title in his introduction to appease a civilized Harvard audience.

The third song, Benny Carter’s “Myra,” added a lyrical dimension with jazz vocalist Samara Oster. The waifish undergraduate’s delicate appearance contrasted the depth and strength of her voice, infused with scatting and smiles. Oster and tenor saxophonist Alex Rezzo wrapped up the piece with a playful back and forth, as though enjoying a musical tennis match.

Before introducing tenor saxophonist Don Braden, the soft-spoken Everett articulated the essence of the evening. “Harvard is not the jazz center of the world, but the significance of jazz is gaining recognition […] that is what we are celebrating tonight,” he said.

Braden, a 1985 Harvard graduate and former pupil of Everett’s, joined the band with his sax to perform one of his own compositions, “Landing Zone.” The song prompted wild applause and standing ovations, both on and off stage.

He then played Illinois Jacquet’s well-known solo performance in “Flying Home.”

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Golson was included in a video montage that featured former Jazz at Harvard Artists in Residence. (Eric Antoniou photo)

A video montage kicked off the second hour of the celebration, featuring past Jazz at Harvard Artists in Residence, including Carla Bley, Jim Hall, Hank Jones, Benny Golson, Roy Hargrove, Jimmy Slyde and others. Footage of Jacquet invoked another standing ovation among performers and patrons.

Brian Lynch and Eddie Palmieri then joined the students on stage and they all performed Palmieri’s “Elena, Elena.” Lynch strutted to the microphone like a cool cat in a dark suit, porkpie hat and sunglasses. He silently commanded the stage with his trumpet playing and very presence.

Palmieri was more understated, yet equally talented, at the piano. He was the straight man to Lynch’s more comic and animated onstage persona.

The remaining Harvard All-Stars, tenor saxophonist Benny Golson, bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Roy Haynes, joined Lynch and Palmieri for the finale.

Golson manned the mic and honored Everett with his smooth voice. “Forty years ago, Tom Everett had the audacity to suggest Harvard start a jazz program and someone had the audacity to hire him.”

The crowd chuckles.

“Was it easy?” Golson continues. “Of course it was!”

The crowd roars.

“What can I say about Tom Everett?  He is an icon in his own right.”

Everett bashfully nods his head and waves from the stage.

The ensemble then reminded the audience what was being celebrated as they performed Golson’s “Whisper Not,” Charlie Parker’s “Steeple Chase” and “Blues for Moody” in memory of the late jazz musician James Moody.

The spontaneity and experienced improvisation of the old timers complimented the organization and air tight preparation of the student bands. With the All-Star band leading the way, the Ivy League venue morphed into a smoky jazz bar for a set, without the smoke.

One of the highlights was Roy Haynes’ vibrant drum solo, which he played in a funky suit and orange Uggs. Golson gently joked afterward of the 86-year- old drummer’s youthful performance. “[Haynes] has been lying to me for years. He’s really 20 years old!” Golson said.

This article was originally published in the Bay State Banner on April 14, 2011.

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