Art is the Handmaid of Human Good

i guess i was punk once


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There’s a first time for everything…

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I love roast chicken (who deosn’t, right?) It has always been one of my favorite foods. True confession time: up until this point, I had roasted one chicken in my life and it was a miserable failure. When I tell people this, they are shocked. I get a lot of “But roast chicken is so easy…” and “I don’t even cook, and I can make a roast chicken.” For many of the years when I was first learning to cook, I was a vegetarian. As a result, I am really comfortable cooking vegetarian meals but I am kind of intimidated by meat and poultry.

Now, I haven’t been a vegetarian for over a decade, but it’s only been in the past few years that I’ve started cooking meat and poultry at home. One of the first things I tried to make was (you guessed it) a roast chicken and it was too soon. I had a hard time getting past handling the raw chicken, I didn’t have a meat thermometer and was worried about under-cooking the chicken (so I over-cooked it) and I had no idea how to carve so I pretty much decimated the poor chicken. It was pretty awful but I hoped that someday I would be able to do it right.

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Getting out of ruts (culinary and otherwise…)

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I have been in a couple of ruts lately. I haven’t been posting here as much as I would like, and we have been eating a lot of the same things for dinner. To kill a couple of proverbial birds*, I decided to spend some time looking through my cookbooks to find something interesting and post about one of my meals. Yay for setting and meeting goals, because I have three new recipes in the dinner rotation for this week and I am going to write about one of them right now.

Risotto with Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale
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Addison Gallery of American Art

January 4th 2013
On Saturday I went out to Andover to visit the Addison Gallery of American Art for the first time. The reason for the visit was to see ‘the kids are all right’ because my sister-in-law, Julie, has two photographs in the show. I am really glad that I both got to see the show (it was the last day – hello, procrastinator!) and visit the museum.

The Addison is a small museum on the Phillips Academy campus. It, as the name suggests, features American art. When I visited, there were four exhibitions – Flash Back—November 22, 1963, James Prosek: The Spaces in Between, Natural Selections, and the kids are all right. I enjoyed all four, but was especially impressed with James Proseck and the kids are all right.

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2013 in Review

Oh my. 2013 certainly was a long year. As I was looking at pictures from the beginning of the year I couldn’t believe that they were taken less than a year ago. This was taken on January 1st 2013, and so many things – the place we live, the tree, the furniture – are different now.

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This was a year of big changes both for me and for people close to me. A lot of really wonderful and fun things happened this year but, for whatever reason, this year seemed like a bit of a slog. I don’t know why it is (ummmmm, probably all of the changes,) I have just felt more overwhelmed that was probably necessary.

January started off with some cold bike commutes…
Today's commute brought to you by the letter B for Brrrrr! 1°F/-17°C

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Using the 19th

Election Day 2013

“I think the bicycle has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world. I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a bike. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes, the picture of untrammelled womanhood.” ~Susan B. Anthony

“The bicycle will inspire women with more courage, self-respect and self-reliance,and make the next generation more vigorous of mind and body; for feeble mothers do not produce great statesmen, scientists and scholars.” ~Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Election Day 2013

I was obviously thrilled to be able to ride my bicycle to the polls to vote this morning. As I was riding, I thought about the women who came before me and worked to secure so many of the rights I enjoy today. Imagine how happy Susan B. Anthony or Elizabeth Cady Stanton would be to see me riding my bicycle, wearing practical clothing of my own choice, to vote in an election with seven women on the ballot. So, friends, if you have an election today get out and vote.

If you’re interested in learning more about women’s suffrage, bicycles, and how they connect, I recommend A Wheel Within a Wheel by Frances E. Willard and Wheels of Change by Sue Macy. A Wheel Within a Wheel is a first-hand account of suffragette Frances Willard’s experience taking up bicycle riding at 53 (badass!) Wheels of Change is meant for younger readers but it provides a great overview the impact cycling had women’s lives and contains a lot of primary source material.


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New Bike Lanes on Father Morissette Boulevard

I won’t lie, this post was probably going to be a bit snarky until the universe set my inner jackass straight by only showing me lovely things on my ride. I had a meeting this morning in the Acre, a neighborhood I haven’t really had a chance to ride through since we moved (it used to be a part of my daily commute.) While I would usually have ridden to my destination via Merrimack or Salem Street, today I decided to check out the new bike lanes on Fr. Morissette Blvd.

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All I ever wanted…

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I recently returned from my annual trip to Wellfleet, MA with my friends Katy and Yovani. I really look forward to this trip every year because it is always so lovely to relax in one of the loveliest places in the world with some of my favorite people, but this year, I really, like really, needed a vacation. Between buying a house, moving, a couple of big things happening at work, hosting houseguests, and Gist’s job being pretty intense, I was pretty fried and ready to stare at the sea for a good amount of time to relax and recharge. And relax and recharge is pretty much what we did.

There was a lot of staring at the Atlantic…
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And watching the sun set, and moon rise (we were there for the supermoon) over Wellfleet Harbour…
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We had a couple of wonderful special guests: Katy’s four-week-old son, who was a delight, and Abby, Katy’s mom (also a delight!)

Katy and I jumped off of Provincetown Pier to, as Yovani said “reclaim our lost youth.” LOL ;-)

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We ate and drank very well…

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There was beachcombing and swimming, storms and seals…
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We looked at that amazing light…
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And we did a lot of reading….
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It was basically just the very thing I needed in my life.

Now that I’m home, Gist and I have been working on the yard, especially the corner that Gist calls “Crazy Country” and that I call “Paradise.”
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My yard ornament/solar-powered light collection is growing by leaps and bounds! And the birds (and squirrels) have figured out that we are the suckers who will feed them any and all of the types of food.
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We’ve both loved having a yard this summer – it’s great for the dogs, I get to indulge my love of tacky yard ornaments, Gist loves doing yard work (who knew?) and I really love cooking outside!

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In fact, our big plans for Independence Day include cooking outside (and relaxing in the hammock, of course!)

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Seeing Lowell through new eyes…

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For the past few days (most of) my brothers and my sister-in-law have been staying with us right here in Lowell. As is the Gries tradition, I took them on a tourist death-march (aka see all the sights you possibly can in your limited time in any location) around Lowell. Not only was it super-fun to see and spend time with everyone, it was also great to experience the loveliness of Lowell through their eyes (and through the magic of instagram, of course ;-) ) Living here everyday, I often forget what an interesting place Lowell is.

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Bob really wanted to drink some Moxie on his trip to New England and he was really excited to learn that Moxie was invented in Lowell!

My brothers’ instagrams of Lowell (and everything else) can be found here and here.


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Chickens in Lowell?

I don’t normally write about political issues on my little patch of the internet, preferring to use this space to talk about and explore my interests. So generally the topics here are pretty much kept in the cooking/eating/beer drinking/biking/dog owning/knitting/frittering/vacationing sphere. Strangely enough, one of my interests – allowing Lowellians to keep backyard hens for eggs – has become the hot political topic right here in Lowell (I know what you are thinking, “Marianne, you must live in an urban paradise where issues such as crime, the economy, and unemployment don’t need to be addressed, but instead the big debate is over eggs…”)

Way back in October, I was interviewed by our local, online arts magazine, Howl in Lowell, about why I supported an ordinance that would allow my neighbors to own back yard hens.

When I blogged about the video, I mentioned that my interest in this issue is purely selfish: I want all my neighbors to raise hens and share their delicious eggs with me. While that is obviously true, it was also a bit flip and didn’t really address why exactly, especially as someone who has no interest in owning chickens of my own, I think that my neighbors should have the freedom (with limits) to raise hens.

I first learned about the issue of backyard hens through my work with the Lowell Food Security Coalition (LFSC.) In conduction the Community Food Assessment, we learned that many residents want more options to produce their own food, including chickens. Through my work with the LFSC, I got involved with the Lowell Backyard Chicken Group. The Backyard Chicken Group has been researching chicken ordinances throughout the country, and has put together a suggestion for an ordinance that makes a lot of sense. It makes a lot of sense because it addresses many of the issues that have come up throughout this chicken kerfuffle (as I’m calling it.)

The suggestions proposed by the group are based on over a year’s worth of research, and include limiting the number of hens that can be kept based on yard size, banning roosters because they are noisy and unnecessary for egg production, and creating a peer-support and resource network to help residents learn about the pros and cons of raising their own hens and to provide education and support to each other. That makes sense to me.

Another thing that makes sense to me? Promoting opportunities to empower residents, increase their self-sufficiency, and make our community more sustainable. Backyard chickens do that. In closing, I am posting a copy of the letter that I sent to all of the members of the Lowell City Council (and I promise that my next post will be back to the usual biking/cooking/eating/knitting/beer drinking/dog walking/home improving shenanigans ;-) )

Dear Councilors,

I am writing to support the ordinance that would allow Lowell residents to keep backyard hens for personal use. I first learned of the issue of raising hens in Lowell through my work with the Lowell Food Security Coalition. As a member of the Lowell FSC, I worked with local organizations and community members to complete the Lowell Community Food Assessment, a community wide study of the food resources and needs in the City of Lowell which can be found online here: http://lowellfoodsecurity.wordpress.com/lowell-community-food-assessment/the-lowell-community-food-assessment-report/. In talking to Lowell residents, the Lowell FSC learned that people want more options for producing their own food, which includes raising chickens.

I think that the ordinance that the Backyard Chicken Group is proposing makes a lot of sense for Lowell. It addresses issues like yard size and overcrowding, noise (roosters are banned,) and the group is planning to set up a resource network for residents interested in raising hens for eggs to help ensure that everything is done in a safe and sanitary manner. The group has done a lot of research on the issue and has looked at ordinances in similarly dense areas like Somerville, MA and Brooklyn, NY.

Chickens help reduce city waste – they eat food scraps and their manure can be composted and used to fertilize soil. Chickens also eat nuisance insects like ticks and slugs. There is no evidence that backyard hens reduce property values, in fact some of the urban areas with the highest property values in the nation allow backyard hens. Backyard hens also give people the ability to produce their own food, and the eggs pack a higher nutritional punch than supermarket eggs, even organic ones. Chickens pose less of a risk for the spread of salmonella then reptiles, which are currently legal in Lowell, and they do not attract any more types of wildlife than those that are attracted by backyard bird feeders, also not against the law.

I am in support of this ordinance because it gives homeowners more choices as to what they do on their land, because it increases self-sufficiency among our residents, because it increases sustainability, and because it can be used as a tool to educate our children as to where food comes from. Also, the eggs just plain taste better.

Sincerely yours,

Marianne Gries

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