California Part 4: Art Meets Wine Country, Napa Valley

Rolling green hills, clear blue skies, vast views of vineyards, and the most vibrant wild flowers. I’d imagined Napa would be like this, but in person the beauty hits you like a ton of bricks.

Have you ever traveled somewhere and wondered: how did I get here? I mean, clearly you traveled there but, that deep feeling within you where you’re just in awe of how different that place may be from your day-to-day? I felt that way in Napa. It was just so beautiful. I mean, it’s like you-don’t-want-to-blink-because-you’re-scared-you’ll-miss-something beautiful.

I couldn’t get enough of Napa. I’ve also heard wonderful things about Sonoma which is another wine country not too far from Napa.  The photos below were taken at The Hess Collection which is both a vineyard/winery and art museum. Hands down one of the coolest places, inside and outside.

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P.S. That’s an 1800’s typewriter with fire coming out of it. So rad!

P.P.S. If you’ve never been to Napa or Sonoma I’d be happy to share with you some recommendations, or if you have, I’d love to hear about your experiences + recommendations!

California Part 3: On Never giving up and the Golden Gate

It was more beautiful than I imagined.

I’ve driven over a lot of bridges. And, like you, have seen so many photos of The Golden Gate Bridge in movies and TV shoes (Full House, anyone?). I really figured it would be like, “oh cool, I can scratch that off my list”. But you know, it wasn’t like that at all! As we drove closer to the bridge I got more and more excited. I wanted to take photos but not lose the excitement of the moment. I wanted to soak it in. I opted for very few photos and decided to enjoy the drive.

I was still really excited when we got to the other side. There’s a little rest area, Bridge Plaza, that allows you to park and take the very iconic photos we are all used to seeing. The photos of the bridge look like a backdrop. Oh, and the bridge really is as orange as it looks, and a lot bigger than I imagined.

Seeing this bridge in person was like that awesome feeling of accomplishing your goals. Achieving them always seems so distant and far away at first until you get closer to them. And the closer you get, the more excited you become. Just a friendly reminder to never give up on your dreams. Whether you want to accomplish something or go somewhere, keep going. I believe in you.

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happy exploring!

Olivia

 

MY TRIP TO JAPAN! PART 4: Owl Cafe Asakusa

I can still remember that moment like it was yesterday. Heart flutters. Anticipation. Excitement.

Maybe it’s not what you’d expect, but that’s what I felt the moments right before I knew I was going to meet and touch owls in real life.

I love birds and I am especially attracted to owls. I think they’re beautiful, mysterious, majestic creatures. I have a tattoo of an owl on my arm and way too many pendants. Anyway, all this to say, I love me some owls. So you can imagine meeting them in person was beyond what I could handle.

I cried. I am not the biggest crier (I mean I am) but I cried! I was so excited that I cried. I think you can see the excitement in my eyes in the photos that follow below. We all remember Kristin Bell’s meltdown when she met a sloth. If you didn’t catch that video, please take a second to see it and you’ll understand what I mean.

Ladies and Gents, Owl Cafe Asakusa…

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always,
Olivia

// writing + photography by Olivia //

The Ladd Observatory *An Interview with Curator and Astronomer Michael Umbricht*

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Astronomer, Historian of Science, and Curator of the Ladd Observatory, Michael Umbricht!

As a lover of history and astronomy, the Ladd Observatory is hands-down one of my favorite places in Providence. It is run by Brown University and is open to the public! Every Tuesday (weather permitting) at 8:30-10:00PM you can go gaze at the moon, stars, or planets with some really phenomenal telescopes — new and old. Not only that, but you can enjoy their beautiful historic objects and architecture. Go check it out — you won’t regret it.

Without further adieu, ladies and gents, I introduce to you: Michael Umbritcht!

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what is the Ladd Observatory?

The Observatory opened in 1891 and is part of the Department of Physics at the Brown University. Today it is preserved as a working museum where visitors can experience astronomy as it was practiced a century ago.*

We’re open to the public on Tuesday evenings, weather permitting. The time depends on the season of the year and when the Sun sets. Check our website for the current hours. On the rooftop deck we have the telescopes and our staff explains what our visitors are observing. We might be looking at the mountains on the Moon, the rings of Saturn, or storms on Jupiter.

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what do you do while at the Observatory?

I’m usually downstairs talking to visitors about the history of Ladd and giving tours of the building where I describe how it was operated a century ago. I sometimes do demonstrations for our visitors with the instrument collection. For example, I’ll use the Brashear spectroscope from 1891 to identify the chemical composition of a street light across our lawn. (In case you were wondering, it contained sodium vapor.)

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tell us about your journey.

I was born in Chicago, but my family moved to New England when I was about 5 years old. I’ve lived in nearby Massachusetts or Rhode Island for most of my life. I moved to Providence around the time I started working at the planetarium in the Museum of Natural History at Roger Williams Park. Providence is just the right size for me. Big enough to have a variety of interesting things to see and do, but not so large as to feel overwhelming and impersonal. I can get to know the city intimately, yet still discover new things.

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how did you get into the Physics and Astronomy field?

When I was a young child I would watch reruns of the original Star Trek. It wasn’t so much the space ships or aliens that impressed me. It was seeing human beings just simply standing on another planet that moved me. It gave me the idea that there were other worlds out there, and that you could travel beyond the Earth to visit them. That sparked my imagination.

My parents would then change the television channel and again I would see people walking on another world. But this time it was on the 6 o’clock news. A grainy video of astronauts in bulky spacesuits standing on a monochrome landscape with the crackling audio of a voice calmly saying “Beautiful, magnificent desolation.” It was, arguably, one of the few moments in human history when reality was more amazing than our wildest dreams.

I dug craters in the dirt in my backyard and my astronauts navigated a rover around them. Occasionally I would glance in the sky and wonder if, at that moment, they were looking back. In retrospect, it is quite possible that they were.

I began to read astronomy magazines that were illustrated with artists’ conceptions of what the planets in our solar system might look like, if we could just get close enough…

Over the years our robot explorers have beamed back images of the frozen surface of Saturn’s moon Titan and many other wonders. In just one year we’ll learn what another world looks like.

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Michael Umbricht // November, 1970

photo credit

Also, during my childhood I spent quite a bit of time each summer staying with family in Chicago. While there I frequently visited the Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of Science and Industry. That reinforced my interest in science and my desire to understand the nature of the universe. Those early experiences led me to pursue science education later in my life. For many years I worked at the Museum of Natural History in Roger Williams Park teaching astronomy at the Cormack Planetarium.

For every new vista that opens, our frontier recedes. There are now more worlds that we are just beginning to imagine. One cold January night in 2007 I captured an image of a star a few months after the announcement that a world had been discovered there. When I look at this picture I “see” much more than a small white dot.

This portion of the post was from Michael’s personal blog and can be found here: http://fornaxchimiae.blogspot.com/2014/07/the-dawn-of-new-era.html

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tell us about what you do.

While my background is in physics and astronomy I’ve spent most of my career doing science outreach and public education. Currently I’m more focused on teaching the history of science and technology from a public humanities perspective.

As Curator, I take care of the historic scientific instrument collection. I worked with my colleague Bob to calibrate the speed of the recently restored clock drive on the historic telescope from 1891. For a telescope that is this old it’s not possible to order parts from the factory if something breaks. We sometimes have our machine shop fabricate replacement parts. We do minor repairs and routine maintenance ourselves. The restoration of the telescope drive was performed by an experienced clockmaker.

I spend a lot of time researching the history of science at Brown in the archives or through digital records. I share the fascinating stories that I discover with our visitors on the public open nights, through private tours, and at our new blog.

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who inspires you and why?

Richard Feynman. In addition to his important contributions in theoretical physics he is also a thought provoking science communicator with an inspiring outlook on the world. Here is a link to a documentary called The Pleasure of Finding Things Out. It is about 50 min. long, but just the first two minutes where he talks about how a scientist views a flower will give you a feeling for both his personal philosophy and what, in general, inspires scientists to understand nature — the drive to discover both the grand structure and the inner workings of the universe.

Documentaryhttp://topdocumentaryfilms.com/pleasure-finding-things-out/

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what music do you enjoy?

At the risk of stereotyping myself… I have always been drawn to “space music.” In particular Kosmische, or so-called “Krautrock,” artists such as Klaus Schulze and early Tangerine Dream (in particular their early pre-sequencer albums like Zeit, Alpha Centauri, and especially Phaedra.) In a somewhat similar vein I like early prog rock, with my favorites being King Crimson and Live at Pompeii era Pink Floyd.

In the mid 1980s I took a couple of classes in electronic music. My final project was a musique concrète piece which I later digitized from reel-to-reel tape. The quality is not that great, but you can give it a listen at http://umbricht.org/music/ In the late 1980s I then built a PAiA Electronics modular synthesizer from a kit which I still own and have recently begun restoring.

For local shows from the past several years the bands that I’ve most enjoyed include Denim Venom, Mahi Mahi, and Lolita Black.

The best concert that I have ever been to was the King Crimson Three of a Perfect Pair tour in 1984. There’s a recording called Absent Lovers: Live in Montreal with the same set list.

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favorite quote.

“Forts, arsenals, garrisons, armies, navies, are means of security and defence, which were invented in half-civilized times and in feudal or despotic countries; but schoolhouses are the republican line of fortifications, and if they are dismantled and dilapidated, ignorance and vice will pour in their legions through every breach.”

Horace Mann, Fourth Annual Report of the Secretary of the Board of Education
The Common School Journal (Boston. January 13, 1841)

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any Astronomy books you would recommend?

The two that I would recommend are more about the history of astronomy and the sociology of science.
These two popular books overlap with some of my own research or interests:

Selling the True Time: Nineteenth-Century Timekeeping in America by Ian Bartky

Undead Science: Science Studies and the Afterlife of Cold Fusion by Bart Simon

My summer reading list:

A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America by Michael Barkun

A Tenth of a Second: A History by Jimena Canales

Longitude by Wire: Finding North America by Richard Stachurski

Somewhat astronomy related are my favorite science fiction novels:

His Master’s Voice and Solaris by Stanisław Lem

Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

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where can our readers connect with you, the Ladd, and follow your personal journey?

Ladd Observatory

website: http://brown.edu/ladd
twitter: https://twitter.com/LaddObs
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LaddObs
email list: https://listserv.brown.edu/?A0=laddobservatory
google+: https://plus.google.com/u/1/b/100488025143383552619/100488025143383552619/posts

Personal Research 

Personal blog: http://fornaxchimiae.blogspot.com/
Slides from my talks at Brown University: https://brown.academia.edu/MichaelUmbricht
google+ : http://google.com/+MichaelUmbricht
twitter: https://twitter.com/W9GYR

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Thank you Michael for sharing your story, knowledge, and workspace with us!

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// photography + interview by Olivia //

You may also enjoy other Astronomy and Space-themed posts!

SPACE EXPLORATION // HUBBLE TELESCOPE

EXPLORING OTHER WORLDS

PLANTS & FLOWERS IN SPACE

PVD BARISTA *Wetherley Rouleau* An Interview

As you guys already know, coffee is a big part of my life. I love the social aspect of coffee, the taste, the process of making it and, of course, the buzz! Because of my obsession with coffee shops I often wonder what it takes to be a Barista.

I had the pleasure of interviewing PVD local barista & baker Wetherley Rouleau on her experience and training on becoming a barista. It’s not easy and requires much passion and patience!

Without further adieu, Wetherley…

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Age:
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you worked at one of my favorite places ever in Providence! tell us about how you got to work at Seven Stars?!


“I was working at another cafe, knew I enjoyed making drinks but wasn’t learning as much as I wanted. I met some of the Seven Stars crew at one of the monthly latte art competitions and finally applied at the right time! I got very lucky!”

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when did you decide you wanted to be a Barista?


“Initially I got a job at a cafe because simply, it looked fun and I needed a job to get me through college. I quickly learned how fascinating the coffee industry is, and that it was bigger and more complex than I had imagined. I also learned that being a barista required a lot more thought, knowledge and skill than I ever knew before. I fell in love before I even knew it.”

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describe what it was like when you worked at Seven Stars?

“For me, a typical day at Seven Stars began at 5:30 am. I was one of the usual openers. I loved the early mornings! The city is so quiet and peaceful and I got to set up the store for all the customers which was a fun and nice way to transition into my work day. So, I made the coffee, teas, set up the milk pitchers and sugars, etc. Another opener would put the bread out, and the manager would set up pastries. It doesn’t sound like a lot of work but it is time consuming and we all ran around quite a bit during open! Then, when the doors finally opened it was all about waiting on people and making delicious drinks.”

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being a Barista takes extensive training, tell us about the training a Barista at Seven Stars needs to go through.



“Before you can even be eligible for the training program you have to be employed for a minimum of 90 days. Then when classes come around, the in house Coffee Director Mark Hundley instructs us at New Harvest’s training lab. We focused on extracting espresso, steaming milk, pouring drinks and use of the machine/cleaning it. We got all the basics and more, and it is hugely insightful. After the classes we still had to go through training on the bar in the stores either with Mark, the store’s Head Barista, or sometimes managers. When we’ve had enough practice, we then had to go through a test where we make every drink. If it is up to standard, we become barista certified and get to make drinks every shift. Really though, training never ends because you learn something new everyday.
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why do you think it’s important to have such good training and know how to make a perfect cup of coffee??


“Extensive training is important because espresso is an art that changes every single day. We have to know how to work with it effectively in order to get the best flavor. There are so many factors that affect the taste, and we learn how to get it just right only by working with it. It truly is a craft that only gets better with practice, and it takes a lot of discipline but the outcome is absolutely worth it. Nothing beats a well-crafted coffee drink first thing in the morning.
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what do you think is the biggest misconception about being a Barista?


“I dislike the whole “snobby barista” stigma. It’s a baristas job to help you understand an espresso drink menu; not to make you feel stupid for not knowing what something is. Even though it’s funny, I also dislike that baristas are typically portrayed as lazy on TV and movies. There are some really passionate and hard working coffee professionals out there!
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what is your favorite part about being a Barista?


“Simply I just love making drinks. I actually enjoy the pressure of having  long line of drinks and being able to get them out in a timely and tasty manner. It is what I imagine line cooks (somewhat) feel like, and I’m obsessed with the whole culinary world. I really love the feeling of improving my skills every time I work on the bar. ”

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This, I think is totally amazing and I hope we don’t take for granted but you always, always, always, have a smile on your face at 7am, with a line out the door with customers, how do you do it??


“I’m used to it at this point! It is our job to wake up the city, and honestly by the time the regular working crowd comes in, I’ve already been up for a couple hours and had a cup of coffee. Opening the store is a great way to ease into the day. It also doesn’t hurt that our regulars are so kind and good to us!”

this question may be too common or obvious, but we need to know! what is your favorite coffee drink??

“My favorite coffee drink is a whole milk cappuccino. It’s such a perfect balance of espresso and milk; it automatically wakes me up and puts me in a great mood! I also rarely say no to an iced coffee, and a great double espresso is always a nice treat.
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what would you say is your favorite tool/machine to make coffee? chemex, keurig, drip coffee maker, espresso machine, etc?!


“At home, I’m all about my chemex. I love that thing so much! It makes such a clean and delicious cup of coffee, and it gets people interested in the brewing process!

flavored syrups are all the rage right now. what is your take on them?

“
For me personally, I don’t often use flavor syrups, but I do enjoy the vanilla syrup we make at Seven Stars because we use real vanilla beans, and those are just beautiful in anything. And I understand people love their flavor syrups, so I’m happy to put them in a drink for anyone. Anyone who truly appreciates a delicious coffee won’t need to put anything artificial in it though.
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there is a whole world around coffee art, tell me about that!


“Latte art is awesome! It takes so much practice and I think people get excited about developing their skills and seeing their friends improve too. In Providence we have occasional “Latte Art Throw-downs” where anyone can come to watch, baristas sign up to compete, and we all take turns pouring art until someone wins. It’s a great way to meet the other local coffee professionals, and everyone is very happy and supportive of each other. It’s more of a big party than a competition- the energy is so positive and it’s always a blast.
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how would you describe your fashion style?


“So feminine! You can’t tell when I’m in my work uniform though. I am usually a “less-is-more” kind of girl with one loud accessory. I am all about anything with food print, summer dresses, rompers and polka dots.
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Us gals here at winter moon live our lives by inspiration, tell us, what inspires you?


“My best friends inspire me on a personal level- they always have. They love that I work in coffee even though they are all health professionals! Professionally though, the overall coffee community continues to inspire me. We see new shops popping up recently, and knowing that they are being received so well is very inspirational and also comforting. I find a new reason to be inspired in my craft everyday.
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if you could drop everything and do ONE thing, what would you do and why?!


“Travel. There is so much of the country and the world that I want to see, and I’m slowly working on plans to travel. I want to see what people are doing in other cities and really immerse myself in different culture.”

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favorite quote.


“Oh I have so many! One of my currents is”:

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” -Maya Angelou

where are you from and where do you live now?


“I’m originally from a small town in New Hampshire, and I’ve been living in Providence for 5 years now.”

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describe Providence in a few words.


“Tiny, creative and fun. I love this little city.
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what would you say to someone considering a career change, wanting to dive into the world of coffee?


“Be prepared to work hard! Stay humble always, and accept criticism because it is all going to help you. Learn what you like about coffee and pursue that. There is so much opportunity beyond the surface but only for those who are hungry enough to work hard.
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we think you are so lovely! what kinds of social media can we follow you on and how can our readers contact you?


“Thank you so much! You guys are lovely, it’s so great that you introduce the audience to businesses or professions that they may not have known about before! I mainly use instagram! My username is simply @wetherley ”

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Wetherley is currently a barista at BOLT Coffee and a baker at Ellie’s Bakery! Be sure to say “hi” to her if you see her around town; she’s the loveliest!

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xo,

Olivia

// all photography by Olivia //