I often miss the simplicity of childhood, being able to meet friends with a few minutes of walking rather than an hour trekking across the city after a month of advance planning. I miss sitting on the steps as the sun goes down, sipping on dye-filled icy watermelon Slush Puppies and gossiping about what happened at school that day, whether the boys we had crushes on liked us back and other topics we thought were of utmost importance.
At the end of May, I was travelling from Boston to Buffalo. My flight was delayed four hours. If you’ve been to Boston airport, you’ll agree it’s not the most exciting place to pass an evening. Hungry, I went in search of food and was drawn in to Potbelly by the sound of live guitar. Don’t ask me what I ate, but I spent a good few hours there, captivated by a welcome set of music by a musician called Mike Stefaniak. I was forever grateful for the distraction and he reminded me how much I love live music, something I used to indulge in all the time but haven’t in a while.
So I dropped a Little Observationist card into Mike’s guitar case (along with $5 for a CD!) and invited him to answer my nosy questions about his music. He happily obliged, so below, meet Boston-based musician Mike Stefaniak!
Video: “Say Something” by A Great Big World: Hannah Elizabeth Cover (ft. Mike Stefaniak and Brandon Klein)
LO: Tell us a bit about yourself.
MS: My name is Mike Stefaniak. I’m originally from the Metro-Detroit area, a suburban child from the city of Novi, MI, where I graduated High School. I currently reside in the great city of Boston, MA and moved here to study at the prestigious Berklee College of Music. I work as a self-employed musician; this summer will be my seventh year of doing so. I am contracted by a restaurant chain called Potbelly’s and play all over the city of Boston as well as the whole state of Michigan when I travel back and forth for gigs.
My favourite hobby/interest aside from music is ice hockey. I started playing when I was around 7-years-old. Center forward or either wing is my favorite position and I have been known for skating rather fast with excellent agility skills. Being a smaller individual, I was immediately forced to dodge checks to avoid being roughed up.
Another favorite hobby/interest of mine is cooking. In high school, I worked for a local family business called “Picasso Café” and this is where I began to enjoy the art of cooking. The business served high-end sandwiches, soups and salads. Before working at the establishment I was quite the picky eater and would only eat basic, boring recipes. Thank god I changed that and now enjoy all foods. I was asked by someone once, “if you could only eat only one food the rest of your life would that be?” I answered with a delicious sandwich since there are so many things you can do with a sandwich and have you can have everything you would ever want in a sandwich – meats, vegetables, spreads, bread, etc…
After my Little City Observations exhibition, I stored the canvas prints all nicely at home (besides the few we have on the walls) not sure what I want to do with them (one only has so much wall space in London). Since we’re moving later this year, I thought it was time to send them off to new homes as well!
So they’re up on etsy at drastically reduced prices from what they were in the exhibition. Most are pretty big prints (about a metre across), but light weight. Others are smaller. If you’re up for some redecoration, check out what’s available in the big moving sale below!!
A few years ago – the last time I went with my dad to see his beloved West Ham play at Upton Park – we took a walk along Green Street after the game in search of a snack. Where we ended up for food, I can’t remember, but I do remember being fascinated with shop window after shop window displaying glittering, colourful saris and sparkling costume jewellery. I remember adding “try on a sari one day” to my mental bucket list.
It so happens that a good friend is getting married in a 4-day Indian wedding bash on a beach in Kenya next month. Jorge and I need outfits. While I’ve been able to borrow saris from her, I needed a petticoat to go under one of them and Jorge was after a sherwani to wear for the ceremony. So an afternoon on Green Street was in order.
Gardens are a bit of a rarity in central London.
I had one when I first moved here in 2007 – up in Kensal Green, a long sweeping green space into which we dug a firepit for our weekend BBQs. We had a family of foxes living at the back.
In Earl’s Court, I had another small garden space, a hideaway lined with bamboo, with a small wooden table where a baby robin used to perch outside my window. I had to crawl through my bedroom window to access it, but it was a serene little space once I was outside.
It’s been five years now since I’ve had the pleasure of a garden.
Photo: Pop Up Pallets / Homify
The UK has been going through a bit of a heatwave recently, so windows are open, fans are on, summer dresses are in rotation and dinners are light!
Jorge makes one of our favourite meals for this time of the year: cold and refreshing Spanish gazpacho. He agreed to don his apron and let me document the process for you, so if you’re looking for some food inspiration on a balmy evening, this is a quick and easy recipe for mains or an appetiser and is great for lunch the next day too.
Windy Whitstable welcomed us (my parents who were here for a weekend visit, Jorge and I) after a 90 minute train ride from London, with the distinctive scent of seafood wafting from the colourful harbour.
Chalkboards announced the best jellied eels – “five bits for £3.50″, lobster tails for £1 or 50p for a crab claw. As kids, we visited England’s beaches and nibbled on such strangely named creatures as cockles and winkles. We opted this time for styrofoam pots piled full of chewy welks and mussels drowning in vinegar, which we picked at with tiny plastic forks, savouring the unmistakeable taste of the seaside.
It was a cloudy day, a typical British summer day (unlike this scorching week!), and as the afternoon wore on we added extra layers – light sweaters, jackets.
Photo: Rick Brooks (left) with co-founder Tod Bol via Little Free Library
Meet Rick Brooks, co-founder of the Little Free Library project, a movement that has spread to some 80 countries around the world over the last six years or so. Below, Rick shares the history of the project and the role Little Free Libraries play within communities around the world, some of the more far-flung destinations where they can be found and why books are still so important in our digital age.
LO: Tell us a bit about yourself.
RB: I grew up with four sisters in Wichita, Kansas. Our parents wisely observed that their adolescent children were turning into young adults who could benefit from “seeing how the rest of the world lives.”
So my father, a plastic surgeon, applied for a Fulbright grant and we went to India, where he and my mother lived in a leprosy sanitorium near Vellore (in Tamil Nadu). Two of my sisters and I went to international school in Kodaikanal and one to college in Madras. We returned to Wichita, then five of us went to Peru for a year. Our lives have been changed by those experiences ever since.
Since then, I attended Beloit College, got a degree in anthropology and education, spent two years on the Hospital Ship HOPE (in Tunisia and Jamaica primarily), served as an education reporter and editor for Pioneer Press newspapers north of Chicago, and so on. I have co-founded a youth newspaper, community food and gardening network, citywide alliance of locally-owned, independent businesses; served on several dozen organizational boards, taught thousands of kids, youth and adults, volunteered/worked in lots of countries and wished I had more time to live more fully…
At this stage in life, I’m finding that what I used to do is probably less important than what life presents to me in each moment. I do not plan to “grow up.”
“Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgandy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries.”
– Jack Kerouac, On the Road
And who’s not moved by a sunset that slowly reveals its vibrant layers, ever-changing the sky as the sun sinks below the horizon? In all of my travels, one of my favourite places to watch this phenomenon is still just a short walk from my parents’ house in New York, in the humble Gratwick Park on the banks of the Niagara River.
While I was home, the low yellow light glistening through the fluttering summer leaves of the backyard trees as we were finishing dinner on the porch prompted us to head down to the river to try out my new camera.
On Thursday night, I met a good friend for dinner at Ottolenghi’s Nopi restaurant in central London. We manage to see each other only every 2-3 months these days, often popping dates into our calendars a month in advance or longer. It’s a sign of how busy we’ve all become – or perhaps just how exhausted.
I came back from the States last week after two weeks abroad – the first an intense week of conference sessions and evening events in Boston, the second a relaxing week at home in New York with family, tons of front porch time and bubble baths.