GISHWHES 2013: Team UndercoverCivilians

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted some of my adventures, which grad school, teacher back-to-school, and GISHWHES will do to you. But fear not, I’ve still had adventures aplenty.

GISHWHES, which stands for The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen, was a magical experience. One week, 156 crazy items to scavenge photos/videos for . . .

Just A few of the AWESOME  adventures that GISHWHES inspired for my teammates and I: 

1.) “Roost on a busy sidewalk until your egg hatches. Announce the birth with a squawk (no more than a 15 second video).”

2.) Create a dynamic, documentary short film exposing little-known facts about your hometown (two minute video).

3.) Go to work dressed as a robot. We must see clips of you getting ready in the morning, commuting, and arriving at work and doing your job. We must also see the reactions of people you pass on your commute and/or at work.

4.) Get your team’s new ice cream flavor on sale in an ice cream parlor. The new flavor must have a catchy new name and must be a combination of ingredients that we (the judges) have never before heard of in an ice cream. The ice cream shop employee must tell a customer what is in your ice cream and the customer must sample your new flavor.

5.) Find an example of someone who engages in sustained generosity in your community and then do something nice for them.  In the video, you must describe what the person does for their community, and then show what your kind gesture toward them is.

6.) A preacher in church condemning GISHWHES and GISHWHESHEANS.

7.) A university professor giving a technical explanation of why the telegraph will inevitably be making a comeback.

8.) Find a dog named, “Castiel.” Call it. Have it come when called.

9.)Write a haiku about waiting. Post it (no graffiti!) at a bus stop.


10.) While showing some sign of the dragon-attack on your clothing or body, panhandle on a sidewalk (NOT ON A MEDIAN IN TRAFFIC!) with a sign that reads: “A DRAGON BURNED MY CASTLE DOWN.”

Panhandling Princess

11.) Bear and Dragon clothing made from Kale.


12.) Make a picture book for preschoolers explaining the Pythagorean theorem.

my book

13.) You are what you eat. Prove it.

you are what you eat

14.) If Gishwhes were a moving or shipping company, what would its slogan be? Let’s see the slogan on the side of an 18-wheeler. Letters must be at least 3 feet in height. No illegal graffiti allowed! You must have permission from the owner of the truck and we must see the entire truck in the image.

ship it

15.) Make your country’s flag from food or food packaging.

map it

16.) Make a cozy quilt from old dirty socks. Snuggle up in it alone or with your best friend.


17.) Let’s see a portrait of Chris Hardwick from the made from dried fruit.


18.) Taxidermy animals dressed for and playing or doing one of the following: roller derby, doubles tennis in whites, a 4-some of golfers (must be traditionally dressed with knickers), cricket players in whites, disco dancing (in 70s disco clothes), synchronized swimming (with nose clips), or a karate class (black belts).


19.)Go through a fast food drive-through with an adult dressed as a baby in a car seat in the back. The adult must have a pacifier in his or her mouth and must be pre-verbal.

Baby Adult

20.) Release the Kraken.Release the Kraken

21.) Mexico is famous for the perfect desert: the churro. We know churros are delicious, but what else are they good for? Improve on perfection by modifying a churro to serve an alternate non-food purpose.

churro swords

22.)A fully dressed nun in her habit going down a waterslide or swinging on a rope into a river.


23.) Viking Rats.Viking Rats

24.) Little Jack Horner, Little Bo Peep, Peter Pumpkin, Little Boy Blue and the Queen of Hearts at a late-night vice-ridden poker game.

Nursery Crimes

25.) You, dressed as The Flash in the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) tunnel. If this is too difficult, you will get full credit for dressing as The Flash in any actual, operational particle accelerator.

flash at Cornell!

26.) Shoot a real life comic book page. In other words, shoot 4 photographs of something that looks like it would be in a comic book or graphic novel and arrange the photos like panels onto one page. This must be an original story with original characters and it must be staged, not photoshopped. You have to figure out how to make the thought or dialogue bubbles and lettering during the shoot.

Comic?27.) What would a teddy bear hostage situation look like?

teddy bear hostage

28.) Create an online dating profile for your pet on a real dating site.

winky's dating profile


  1. Let’s see you and a friend, side-by-side, donating blood or platelets. Wear something festive on your head to commemorate the occasion.


30.) Rage against the dying of the light.dying of the light

And there were so many more!!!

I’m kind of happy for the break, but already looking forward to:


Ithaca, New York

I strongly recommend a few wonderful things that I happened to do in Ithaca this past weekend.

#1: Eat lunch at Viva Taqueria

Viva Taqueria!

I had a Daddy-Daughter date while waiting for my car’s new tires to get aligned, and let me tell you, the burritos are killer!

#2: Bask in the glory of Wegmans


My love of Wegmans is no secret. This place is magical . . . I mean, rainbow roses and a hummus bar? Where can you go wrong? I can’t wait until these abound in Massachusetts!

#3 Walk around “The Commons” in Downtown Ithaca

downtown Ithaca

The Commons is currently under construction, so there are lots of temporary community art projects everywhere to spruce it up! Even if that wasn’t a draw though, there are loads of fun and quirky shops down there to explore!!!

#4: Go out on Cayuga Lake

Cayuga Lake

#5:Go Blueberry Picking at Glenhaven Farms

Blueberry Picking at Glenhaven I have picked blueberries at this farm for as long as I can remember, and they are always delicious! It’s also quite a lovely rural setting.

#6: Visit at least 1 waterfall

Taughannock Falls


There are just tons of waterfalls in Ithaca, and this is the one that is closest to my house, Taughannock Falls. One of my favorites, though, is called Lucifer Falls, which is found at Upper Treman State Park.

#7: Go to the Farmer’s Market

Farmers Marketvia

This is the best place to find local color, beautiful artwork, delicious fresh bread, baby kittens, flowers to make you swoon, cambodian stir fry, mountainous ears of corn, artisan earrings, hand-painted pottery, and other generally fun shopping. Little Known Fact about Abigail/Cakey: my first non-babysitting job was directing traffic at this Farmer’s Market. Yup. Glamorous. They also have insanely good ethnic foods on site. Oh, and I once had the best Tapioca pudding of my life at the Farmer’s Market. No joke.

Brakes over Break…

Usually, a trip “home” to Ithaca, NY means a lot of beautiful experiences, and this long weekend trip was no exception! From sunrise on the lake (with Dad in a fishing boat!) to blueberry picking with Mom to local beer-tastings with dear old friends, this past weekend had a lot of lovely moments.

HomeHowever . . .

. . . getting home turned out to be a bit more of a pill than usual. On the usually 5.5-6 hour drive home, I got a flat tire. Then I got another one. Lets just say by the time I got home, it was a good 12 hours after I’d begun driving, and I was new-best-friends with a lovely woman named Deborah at the Honda dealership in Oneonta, NY.  Four tires later, our local mechanics let me know that I ALSO happened to have a little issue with my break pads. . . a little issue with the fact that they were 90% worn away.

thems the brakes...

Woof. Thankfully, I have a father who is a genius with car maintenance of all kinds. Determined to gain myself a new skill, I decided to learn from the master (Dad) and DIY the heck out of this task. I am going to share my newly acquired skill, but you should know that I will be doing this in completely non-technical terms, which only befits my actual skill-level.

 First, we assembled the tools needed.

Dad's Workbench

My Dad has an incredible (and incredibly disorganized) workbench (as you can see in the picture above). This is like the Room of Requirement for people who need to work on cars. Inside, we (ahem: Dad) found everything we needed for the job ahead. That would be (from left to right in the picture below): a ratchet wrench, a screw driver (not a phillips-head!), a C-clamp, some Caliper grease, a set of wrenches, a few different sets of ratchetty-top-things. Not pictured: we also used a hammer-wrench (to get the bolts off the tires easily) and a big jack (to hold up the car).

Tools needed to change brake pads

After we had the requisite tools and had taken the wheels off of the car while it was jacked up, we started by removing the bolts from the Caliper (with the ratchet wrench), and taking that off of the wheel well. You have to do this part carefully because  you don’t want to have anything happen to the hose that connects it to the rest of the car. We sort of gently balanced the caliper on the top of the tire-mount-thingy. Then you take out the old brake pads (see above). Which leaves you with something like this:

Caliper Off, old break pads off

At this point, use the C-clamp to push the compressor piece back in on the caliper.

See the pushed-out thing below?

Caliper detail . . .

image source, other image source

Just make sure the C-clamp is placed inside the caliper, not on the rim anywhere (because if it is on the rim, then you will wind up bending this piece of the caliper and the breaks won’t work as well.) Once that is pushed in, then you are gonna want to prep the new brake pads. This involves taking something called Disc Brake Quiet (or, as I like to call it: Red Goo), and putting some (not too much) on the two outside parts of the new brake pads that are going to touch the caliper. This will keep the brake from squealing or making any unhappy noises.

Disc Brake Quiet ON

partial image source

Then, with a little care to not get red goo on yourself, you slide the new brake pads into the notches we saw earlier, red goo side facing out, and then all that remains is to screw the caliper back on nice and tight (with your ratchet wrench!).

There they are - New Brake Pads!The last step, once the caliper is re-attached, is to put the wheel back on and take your baby for a test-drive! Be sure to hit the brakes hard a couple of times, just to make sure you did it correctly!  Oh, and remember to congratulate yourself, because you just saved yourself some money and learned to change your own brake pads!!!

Isn’t that cool?

Summer as a 3 yr. Old

I have a major obsession with my adorable niece. Her name is Isabelle. We all call her Bizz. BizzerOne of my favorite things to do in the summertime is hang out with this delightful little 3 year old, and my first official week of summer has held a whole lot of Bizz, which means that summer is off to a great start!!!

My Girl and I

Hanging with Bizz (and various other kids under the age of five) is pretty fantastic, and it also gives me a fun excuse to do a lot of things that your typical 26-year-old might not normally do on days off. Examples include, but are not limited to:

1) Draw with Sidewalk Chalk


This is a very under-rated pass-time. With just a few sticks of chalk, a plain bit of blacktop can be transformed pretty incredibly into a whole new world!


#2: Get in Touch With The Inner Kiddie Pool

kiddie poolWhy do we ever stop playing in these? I mean, slip-n-slides might be hazardous (Ahem, at least according to Dane Cook), but the kiddie pool is nothing but a nice cold outdoor toe-dip on a hot day. . . what could be better?

#3: Make Jello Jigglers

gotta enjoy the jiggleNot for eating, for those of us over the age of 5 (aka those of us who have our adult-teeth to think about), but fun to play with regardless!

#4: Color!


#5: Be a Messy Eater


#6: Eat Obscene Amounts of Watermelon


#7: Let it All Hang Out. . .


#8: Share a little Platonic-yet-Public Display of Affection


And pretty much do any other wonderful things that strike your fancy! These are all pictures from the last few days of my life, and I feel so lucky that I get to see my summer through the eyes of a few under-the-age-of-three kiddos! Such fun!


Le Tholonet

There is a place of sheer beauty and complete glory that I wish everyone could see. It’s a hidden corner of nature in the south of France, a place called the Tholonet.

the Tholonet

Some people have heard of Emile Zola, but many people haven’t heard of his father,  François Zola, a man who was in charge of the construction of a dam. . . which is quite a sight to behold, not to mention it’s proximity to a legitimate Roman aqueduct.


The Tholonet is just five kilometers east of the small town of Aix-en-Provence, where I lived once upon a time. Easily accessible by bus,  it’s an incredible thing. Just a tiny town, tucked away in the corner of the countryside; a tiny piece of glory, waiting for hikers to tip-toe in.


In the fall, there are scads of tiny little leaves of beautiful creamy and purply colors . . . they are everywhere and they’re all so lovely!


When you go around the curve in the pathway, there is a beautiful view of Barrage Zola . . . and it only gets more breathtaking as you get closer!barrage zola The stunning mountain that so fascinated Paul Cezanne is layed out before  you in such breathtaking beauty on this route. 55_503174707375_91_n

Walking along with the red rock and the blue sky, there is nothing quite so rich and rewarding as a stroll in the Tholonet!


If you are in the South of France . . . you should go!

Blast from The Past: My Roman Holiday

I wrote this in the early Spring of 2007, after travelling to Rome for the first time. 


Today marked the end of my four-ish days in the Eternal City . I am exhausted, but I saw it all. Or at least, it feels like I did. It was a whilwind trip. Four days is a remarkably small allotment of time in the grand scheme of things, isn’t it? Actually it was only really three and a half because the Ciampano Airport in Rome was too foggy to land until lunchtime.

So, in those three-ish days I saw:

  • the Colloseum
  • the Pantheon
  • the Vatican
  • The Monument for Vittorio Emmanuel
  • The HUGE church of St. Peter
  • The Teatro Marcello
  • The Mouth of Truth
  • The Circus Maximus
  • The Baths at Therme (sort of, they were kind of boring, though)
  • The Castel St. Angelo
  • The Catacombes at St. Sebastien (cough cough, the original catacombs)
  • like 13 Basiliks from Egypt (did you know there are only like 5 left in Egypt itself?!)
  • About a BAZILLION churches that were covered with frescos and sculptures
  • several fountains (I was very clichée and liked Trevi Fountain best, although the Piazza Navona had an awesome one too!)
  • probably a partridge in a pair tree

Bernini's ElephantI actually think I got callous to artwork after about the fifth time we just happened across Bernini artwork in random piazzas and on occasional streetcorners. And don’t even talk to me about ruins. Did I mention that I went through the ruins of the Roman Forum? And the Imperial Forum? Twice? I saw enough pillars, whole and in pieces, to last me well into eternity. It was incredible. We also did a little touristy stopping and shopping at random points throughout our more-intentional visits. Suffice it to say, right now I’m tired. But like I said, we did it. I think I’ve officially and successfully “done” Rome. Whatever that means.


Without going into EVERYTHING I saw and did, I’ll try and share the high and low-lights…and any generally interesting bits.

First, the Youth Hostel experience (my first, I might add) was not so wretched as you might imagine. I mean, I’ve always thought they were ineptly named, I mean, who wants to stay in a place whose homonym is Hostile? It just sounds a bit off, doesn’t it? Well, we actually didn’t get what we expected, but it worked out. We got budged out of “Ciao Bella” hostel and into “Pegasus” hostel due to shower issues (we didn’t ask for details) and it worked out just lovely, with the exception of The Smoker from Senegal (self-explanatory) and the Precarious Toilet Paper Stock (also pretty self-evident). It looked a little shady for a bit…especially when our “guide”, whose name was pronounced aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-LEX, didn’t speak to us and GOT LOST on the way to our new hostel. . . all while singing “My hips Don’t Lie” to himself (SHAKIRA?!?!). Special kid. But we got there and it was okay. So: no Youth Hostel nightmare stories. Phew.

Oh, and, it’s true. Gelati is really just better than pretty much. . . everything you’ve ever tasted.



You know, we call ourselves a developed country in the USA, but why don’t we have pear, lemon and tiramisu flavored ice cream at every streetcorner? There’s even Gelato in McDonalds here. I didn’t try it, but it was THERE. (Clarification, I didn’t try it at McDonalds…I did try it. No fear.) Gelati joints are to Rome what Starbucks Shops are to NYC: They’re EVERYWHERE. Speaking of coffee, just as a side note, Italian coffee is just amazing. I had the best Cappucino ever. And I don’t even like coffee.  Soooo, good coffee and insanely good gelato. And the chocolate gelato? Lets just say, I may never eat chocolate again, because I don’t know if anything can measure up to this particular brand of Chocolate-Flavored-Italian-Nectar-of-the-(proverbial)-gods.

fountain hoppingNow, while the gelato legend is absolutely true I think the Italian Men legend is pure myth. I’ve gotten MUCH worse in France. We got lots of car honks, but people pretty much left us alone, except for the old men who were cute and told us we were beautiful at restaurants. Granted, we didn’t go out drinking at night, so that might’ve seperated us from the source of the myth. But still. And for a while I wondered if maybe it was just because we all looked like crap after doing the Extreme Rome visit (which involves inSANE amounts of hiking around Rome which begins at 6am), but I don’t think we looked that bad. (By we, I mean myself and the three other girls that went with.)

Spanish Steps - Empty for Once

Speaking of our daily jaunts…All roads might lead to Rome, but, once you’re there, good luck finding a concrete sense of direction! I was designated direction-finder for the past four days (ish) and, let me tell you, it was an adventure. I can now boast, however, that I can find my way around Rome all by myself. I’m a big girl now. The only real big botch was the extra 45 minutes walking to the catacombs, but we DID get to meet the cute old Italian lady who hand-signed us directions. I still hold that the experience was worth the extra walking.

We didn’t see the Pope, but I don’t think he would’ve been nearly as impressive as his house.

The VaticanGoodness gracious. If I was the pope (moot hypothetical, I know) I would totally just spend all my days walking around my MUSEUM at the Vatican!

Fresco . . . Not to be confused with Fresca

Paintings, sculptures, mummies, mosaics, maps, everything. . . You name it, they’ve got a room for it.

Llama in the VATICAN!The Cistine Chapel is absolutely exquisite. My favorite part of the ceiling is definitely the part where Adam and Eve are in the garden, sort of above the square with God and Adam doing their little finger-touch-tching-heavenly-choir-moment. Michelangelo was the man.

If I could see any one thing in Rome restored to its original beauty, it would definitely be the Colloseum. The forum might be neat, but the Colloseo would be UNBELIEVABLY cool. Out front, there are all sorts of men dressed as gladiators walking around. They’re hard to believe…especially when they’re talking on cell phones, but if you sort of squint and have an active imagination, you can see how incredibly incredibly incredibly impressive it once was.

gladiator on a cell  phone

Wednesday morning was fabulous. My dear friend Kate and I lived out a mutual dream and had our own personal Roman Holiday, from the Spanish Steps, to Via Margutta 51 (which we actually got INto, thanks to some nifty construction workers leaving the door open!), to the Boca della Verita and on. No haircuts and no success finding strappy little sandals, but everything else was fabulous!

spanish steps

Lets see, any other general things? Hmmmm. Yes, we ate pasta and pizza. Yes, the food was fabulous. Yes, we got serenaded by street performers while eating. No, we did not succeed in our diabolical plan to hijack ourselves a couple of Vespas, which was a shame for our feet, but probably helped balance out our daily gelato tastings. Yes, I did hear somebody ACTUALLY say Mamma-mia. No, I didn’t buy any designer clothing. Hmmmmmm. . . .

Rome's Pantheon

When I got off of the plane thismorning in Marseille, ALL I wanted was to be getting home to my REAL home. Because as much as I love France, I still hold that there’s nothing like travel to make you realize there’s no place like home.

Walking For A Cause . . .


Last weekend, I joined my sister’s family to do the 2013 annual Walk for Hunger. . . just to be clear, this means that I was one of three adults responsable for a five-year-old, a three-year-old, two two-year-olds, an 11-month-old and an 8-month-old. (Did I mention that my sisters are foster-moms?) It was definitely an adventure – I even made t-shirts the night before!

All of the kids shirts looked like this:

This is how we roll...

Then the adult shirts looked like this:

push it

Get it? You know, because they rolled along in strollers, and we pushed them???

Needless to say, 6 children, three double-strollers, several hours, and twenty miles later, I was pretty wiped, but I can proudly say that it was for a good cause!

All the Kids - Walk for Hunger

Unfortunately, as is my way, I subsequently contracted some sort of stomach bug and was down for the count most of the week. . . boo. But not to worry, Friday is here, the sun is shining, and I’m going to share some new projects with you soon!