Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Boots are a good thing

On cold days like the ones we have had this week, I am very pleased that I made the decision at the start of 2009 to invest in a pair of Uggs. I still think that they look rather silly, but when my toes are toasty warm in weather that feels like it is below 0 F, I don't care. It isn't a fashion statement; it is all about the warmth.

Now the new pair of green Hunter Wellies that I received for Christmas are ALL about the fashion... and the Anglophilia.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas in Connecticut

On Sunday afternoon, Sister K, our parents and I drove down to East Haddam, CT to see a performance of "Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas" at the Goodspeed Opera House. This was the second year that K & I have gone to see the show (and Sister B came last year too), but this was a first for our parents, who both said that they enjoyed it. The show is a lot of fun with a nice story (it is a retelling of O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi") and music by Paul Williams, of "Rainbow Connection" fame. I have to be honest: the nostalgia factor is a huge part of the show's appeal for me. We taped the original television show off HBO years ago and watched it every Christmas. (I find this to be true of most of my friends and contemporaries; Je Glide would quote much of the original program when we were in college.) Every time Wendel (the porcupine) shows up on stage, I laugh, even if he hasn't done anything yet ("half of fifty cents... half of fifty cents.") I really hope that the Goodspeed makes this a permanent fixture for Christmas.

As a Christmas present (even though we said no gifts this year!), Sister K generously treated us to lunch at the Gelston House following the performance, which was a lot of fun, (although not quite as much fun as last year's post performance cocktails.) Many of the other people in the dining room had come from the show too so it was busy while we were there, but the service and the food were still good.

Sunday was a day of weird weather. When we first arrived in East Haddam, it was cold and gray, and a mist was rising off the river. By intermission, the sun had come out, and it had turned into a beautiful winter afternoon. It looked really picturesque so I snapped a few shots with my little camera.

Goodspeed Opera House Swinging bridge
Gelston House Restaurant Goodspeed Opera House

Monday, December 28, 2009


This past weekend, I helped Sister K make homemade pasta with her new professional Kitchen Aid mixer that she bought herself for her birthday. Although I was tentative about it when I first starting making my batch of noodles, it ended up being easy and fun! Plus, mmmmmm, yummy homemade fettuccine!! (Christmas fettuccine reminds me of the movie The Holiday - I love both!)

Here is Sister K making her batch of noodles:

Making the fettuccine Making the fettuccine
Making the fettuccine We are a "go" for fettuccine

And now we are ready to cook!

Ready to cook

Sister K is an excellent cook. (And she has a really nice kitchen, not that I am jealous at all.) ;) She served up our noodles with some chicken broth, artichoke hearts, lemon zest, and parmesan cheese. Delicious!!! (And I helped.)

Happy Christmas

Christmas tree

I hope that everyone is enjoying this fourth day of Christmas. May you get your calling birds, unless you are like me, and then, may birds come nowhere within a twenty foot radius of your person.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Yummy in my Tummy

On Friday night, my friend "Miss Post" and I went out to Trina's Starlight Lounge in Somerville after work. I had read about it (and the ladies of LUPEC) in an article that PunkRockMom sent me from And as Miss Post and I are up for trying new cocktails (and she already had been to Trina's and liked it), we ventured forth into Somerville to try it out.

While appearing rather humble from the outside, Trina's Starlight Lounge is a hip, happenin' place with cocktails and food that are super tasty. When we arrived, which was just after 6pm, there wasn't a big crowd yet so we were able to grab seats right at the bar. I was drinking a "Shaddock" (Bols genever, Aperol, Saint Germain, lemon juice) from the drinks menu while Miss Post was drinking "Dirty Shirleys".

After the second round, we ordered some food. The menu is mostly retro Southern comfort food, which is a delicious thing. We shared chili cheese fries, and Miss Post had the "dog of the day" while I had a crab cake. We also shared the most out of this world corn bread. Now I love corn bread, and this one was definitely up there in the ranks of the best corn bread. It was moist with a good crust and had kernels of corn in it and was topped with honey and came with a huge hunk of butter. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. So did my blood pressure. (Kidding, sort of.)

The night started to pick up around 7:30pm, and I was pleased to see that it was totally my kind of scene. Mostly laid back crowd, closer to 30 than 20, of people who were there to enjoy a libation without making a scene. Retro without being pretentious, which I totally appreciate. (Note to self: "Retro sans Pretention" would be a cool name for a band.)

I had a feeling that I was going to be right at home there just based on the music playing when Miss Post and I arrived. It was the first album by Nouvelle Vague, a band I wasn't familiar with, but one that I now love. They take new wave (hence the "nouvelle vague") songs from the 1980s and cover them in a bossa nova style. After hearing "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division in sultry bossa nova, it was true love.

I ended up heading home around 10pm (after a series of Diet Cokes and waters), and, despite my persistent mental block navigating Somerville, I didn't get lost going home. I was really proud of myself until PunkRockMom told me that Inman was too easy and I needed to work on Davis or Union Squares...DOH!

I do hear that the Highland Kitchen makes a pretty sweet cocktail too. Finally learning my way around Somerville will be worth it!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Over the course of the last 24 hours I have received three vaccinations:
  • H1N1
  • seasonal flu
  • tetanus/diphtheria/whooping cough (one shot for all three; that one smarted quite a bit)

  • Now if I only had some of these special plasters that my friend Ellen found over at the Urban Outfitters website. I think that I need some of those, don't you?

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009

    O Tannenbaum

    Senior year of college, I lived with five of my friends in an on-campus suite. Because of our room number, the group of us became known by the collective "Suite 102". And during this time of year, I am reminded of one of the best days in the history of Suite 102: the day when we smuggled a live Christmas tree into our dorm room. While this doesn't seem like a very scandalous thing in the greater scope of the world, as far as we were concerned breaking this Housing commandment ("Thou shalt not have a flammable live Christmas tree... or a halogen lamp...or a hot plate.") was one of the most daring things we had done in our four years at the Cross.

    One Saturday in early December of that year, the six of us piled into my old Buick Regal and drove out to Ashland, where Suzer's father owned a nursery. There we purchased a tree (short, but full), which we managed to stuff into the trunk of my car. It was an exciting and suspenseful ride back to Worcester as we planned how we were going to get this tree past campus police and other watchful eyes. Before driving up to the gate at Linden Lane, we dropped off part of the group to look less suspicious.

    While the others walked to the dorm to open up the basement door, I drove up to the visitor check-in and as nonchalantly as possible told the officer that my roommate and I were dropping groceries off at our dorm. (I lied about which dorm we lived in, making it seem like we lived in substance free housing, and therefore what wrong thing could we POSSIBLY be doing.) It was a tense moment for me, but we were let through the gate without incident and made our way up Linden Lane to the dorm, hoping that the back gate was open so that we could get the car right up to the basement door. (Students weren't really supposed to be driving around campus so a lot of parts of the road were blocked off.)

    Luck was on our side, and the gate was open. As we parked and opened the trunk to take out the tree, the basement door opened, and there were our suite mates to help carry the tree up to the first floor. Before we got to the door with the tree, we noticed the boys who lived in the suite across the hall (affectionately known as the "Egg and Sugar Boys" because our first day in the dorm they came over to offer to loan us eggs and sugar if we ever needed it) were watching from the windows of their corner room. When they realized what we were doing, they started cheering and applauding us, which was both hilarious and flattering.

    That night, a good number of our friends came over to help decorate the tree and eat macaroni and cheese in our room. Je Glide and Jodapus went to Kimball dining hall with Tupperware to get some milk and butter for the mac and cheese and something for dessert. I assumed cookies, but this was a big day in our Suite, and they thought we needed something a little more "memorable".

    Fifteen minutes later, they returned, not only with the milk and the butter and some rolls, but with two huge tubs of ice cream that Je Glide had liberated from the "make your own sundaes" ice cream freezer. Laughter filled the room as the the two of them recounted how a member of the football team, who had seen what they had done, unsuccessfully tried to persuade them to stop. As our group of friends ate our fill of mac and cheese and ice cream, the scent of the tree filled the room, and I was filled with the spirit of Christmas.

    We had a lot of fun that year, and that next semester had even more memorable moments, but I will never forget my first live Christmas tree - contraband in my college dorm room.

    Tuesday, December 15, 2009

    Christmastime is here...

    I am doing my annual viewing of the Christmas television specials that I grew up watching as a child. My favorites include: A Charlie Brown Christmas (my hands down favorite), Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Mr. Magoo's Christmas, Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas, and Frosty the Snowman.

    While it is nice to watch the shows on dvd, when I can watch them in my own time and in the order that I want, there was something really magical about watching these programs on tv as a child. It was a bit of a production. I remember my brother and Sister K and I getting into our pajamas (those ones with the feet!) before the show started and sitting on our parents' bed while we waited for the end of "PM Magazine" on our CBS affiliate (where Gayle King used to do the news - yes, Oprah's Gayle King.) And then that swirly CBS logo would appear, and we'd all start bouncing up and down while the gentle sounds of the bass, the brushes on the drums and Vince Guaraldi's piano signaled the start of the show. We'd watch on the edge of our seats while Charlie Brown and Linus helped us discover the real meaning of Christmas (and Snoopy imitated barn animals...and a penguin.) It never got old. (And thirty years later, it still isn't old.)

    [Completely related, my junior year of college, the translation portion of the Latin final was to translate the beginning of the Gospel of Luke from Latin into English, ie. the Christmas story. Thanks to Linus and his King James Bible, I was the only one who got an "A" on that puppy.]

    Back to childhood television, I remember that even the commercials were fun. There were those York Peppermint Patty commercials that I loved. And the Coke commercial with everyone singing. And later, the McDonald's commercial where Ronald McDonald taught the lonely little boy how to skate. You know the ones. Well, guess what? They are on YouTube!!

    So here is to recapturing a little bit of youth:

    Happy Christmas!!

    Monday, December 7, 2009

    A room with a view

    Sometimes, really cool things happen at work. Like getting to be the first people to a hold a meeting in a new building. A new building with some fantastic views of the Boston skyline. This is one of those times when I love my adopted hometown.

    Boston skyline

    Boston skyline

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    Life is Good

    Today, I had my first Starbucks' Eggnog Latte of the 2009 holiday season. I got a vente, because I deserved it. And it was de-licious. How I love me some holiday coffee!!

    image from the fine folks at Starbucks

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009

    Pictures from Connecticut

    A few snaps taken in Chester, CT while I was visiting my family over the Thanksgiving holiday, and we were visiting with some family friends who live in Westbrook. The restaurant in this building is called Brushmill by the Waterfall; it used to be the old Rogers & Champion Brushworks. It was a rainy and gloomy day, but I still found it beautiful.

    Covered bridge Waterfall

    Waterfall Waterfall

    Waterfall Covered bridge

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    Double Take

    Last night, driving home down Comm Ave from Chestnut Hill, I spied a car a little bit ahead of me that had a bumper sticker that caught my eye. Now I don't have the best distance vision and it was both dark and rainy, but I swear this bumper sticker said "L.A. is killing my car."

    If that is indeed what the sticker said, and the L.A. stands for Lower Allston, then I seriously need to get me one of those bumper stickers. Over the past twelve days and three separate trips to the repairman, I have had to pour $3.5K into fixing damage to my car. Between the rats in the engine, the wear of stop and go traffic on my breaks, and the pot holes doing a number to the axles, Lower Allston (weeeeell, Allston Village really) is killing MY poor car.

    I wonder if the sticker really did say "L.A. is killing my car" or if it was just wishful thinking on my part. Either way, it made my day.

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    "Somewhere I have never traveled" *

    I was moving some cold weather clothes from the back of the closet and came across something of mine that I had forgotten that I had. When I was younger, I starting collecting travel patches and sewing them on my L.L.Bean backpack. Thing was, the patches were from other people's travels and trips, not my own. So the bag was christened the "Backpack of Places I have Never Been." I suppose it was kind of like displaying Girl Scout badges that you hadn't earned, but, as I never was a Girl Scout, I didn't care. I just thought it was cool, and it was a great conversation starter with new people.

    This backpack is actually the second "Back Pack of Places I Have Never Been" as the first one had to be retired shortly after I moved to Boston. So the second version is a little more structured in the placement of patches; it also has a lot more patches as I made more friends who went on trips and brought me back patches as souvenirs. And, eventually, I went to some of these places.

    I stopped collecting the patches shortly before my first trip to Europe because I didn't come back from England or France with any patches of my own. I think it was mostly because I had run out of room on the bag, but I have to confess that sewing them on was rather tedious. Anyhow, I thought I would take some photos of the bag for posterity and post them here. Some of my friends and family members who read this blog might recognize a patch or two that they brought home for me!

    IMG_2225 IMG_2237

    IMG_2227 IMG_2226

    IMG_2228 IMG_2230

    *The title of this blog post comes from a poem by e.ecummings, whose grave I still can't seem to locate

    Sunday, November 15, 2009

    I get by with a little help from my friends

    I don't consider myself to be a cook, by any stretch of the imagination, although I have a few meals that I do prepare well (one of them is chicken soup with rice. I make really good chicken soup; my mom taught me how. Hers is stupendous.) My younger sisters are much more at home in the kitchen than I am; sister B has taken classes and was considering going to culinary school at one point. I would prefer to eat the meal than create it. As a result, I don't take a lot of risks in the kitchen. I make what I know how to make, and I make enough of it to last for several nights.

    My good friend RJ is a kick ass cook - she went to culinary school and it shows. I have been fortunate enough to have been a recipient of several cooking lessons from her. As a result, I can now chop up vegetables properly (well, sort of - some pieces are more uniform than others), prepare a delicious risotto, and am no longer afraid to cook steak in my small apartment kitchen.

    Steak is like the library for me (in terms of food) - something awesome, filled with things I love, but completely intimidating to visit (or in this case, do) on your own. I would order it out, but wouldn't cook it at home. My sister K grills all the time, but, as I don't have any outdoor space for a grill, I am limited to cooking on my gas stove. I just didn't think that pan fried steak could possibly be as tasty as one cooked on the grill. Enter RJ and her steak lesson.

    The first thing I needed to figure out was what to look for in a steak at the grocery store. I wanted to pick a cut I liked to eat that also fit in my budget. So now I buy either a strip steak or a rib eye, keeping an eye out for the pieces with nice marbling. After defrosting it in the fridge, I take it out about 10 minutes before planning to cook it to allow it to come to room temperature. I coat the steak in a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

    After the ten minutes is up (I use this time to start cooking the side dishes - tonight's were spinach and buttered noodles), I put the pan on the stove and let it warm up to a medium high temperature. (You put your hand over the pan to judge the heat. Just don't get burned.) Then I put the steak in the pan and sear each side for about a minute. Then I turn down the gas to a medium low flame and let the meat cook for about 7 minutes on each side until the steak is cooked to medium, just the way I like it.

    Because I have been watching "Good Morning America"'s segments about E. Coli, which has me freaked out, I cooked tonight's steak a little bit longer than I normally would. Fortunately, it was only to medium well and not well done like I had feared when I first took it out of the pan. Funny thing is that when I was younger, I wouldn't eat meat that was remotely pink. My dad always left my burgers on the grill longer than anyone else's, and I would only eat the ends of the Christmas roast. Now, I want my meat done medium/medium rare. It is funny how our tastes change as we get older. (I still don't like tomatoes though, and I can't imagine that I ever will.)

    It is thanks to RJ that I am happily eating steak dinners on Sundays and that I have gained some confidence in branching out to cook things that I normally would feel overwhelmed by. It's all about confidence and practice, as so many things are. I certainly won't be taking on Mastering the Art of French Cooking any time soon, but there definitely will be more red meat in my home menu preparation.

    Now if we could just sort out the E. coli problem (and heart disease too, while we are at it).

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    Bring on the clothes

    Last week, JR and I went to see Coco avant Chanel at the Kendall Square Cinema. I was really inspired by Chanel's style, as portrayed on the screen by Audrey Tautou, so I purchased a long string of fake pearls which I have been wearing doubled up and a pair of fake pearl set in silver clip-on earrings (which I have to take off when I use the phone which makes me feel like I am in a movie from the 1940s or 50s.)

    While the movie was good, it wasn't great (although it reminded me a lot of La môme, which I liked a lot), but it certainly inspired me to take a look at the classic Chanel style and embrace some of its signature pieces (while I flat out reject Karl Lagerfeld and his comments about thin models.)

    Wednesday, October 28, 2009

    Waiting for the Great Pumpkin...

    Halloween is, was, and ever shall be my favorite holiday. What other holiday has scary movies, gobs of candy, and hot apple cider? And if you are lucky, a cool crisp fall night with a full moon!!!

    Spooky-Scary-3 Spooky-Scary-2

    Spooky-Scary-1 Spooky-Scary

    Monday, October 26, 2009

    Leaf Peeping

    Sister K and I took a leaf peeping driving tour through Litchfield County, Connecticut yesterday. It was lots of fun, and we ended up taking a lot of photos. It was a really beautiful day, and Sister K picked a great route that took us up into Cornwall, CT for a look at the Housatonic River and the West Cornwall covered bridge.

    Covered bridge Lower River Rd

    Covered bridge Housatonic River

    Housatonic River Toll house

    Covered bridge Covered bridge

    Thursday, October 22, 2009

    Movie reflections

    I went to see An Education after work on Tuesday at the Coolidge Corner Cinema in Brookline. I love that theater, and they make awesome popcorn. I think that I cut my tongue though on a popcorn kernel because it feels like I have popcorn stuck in the back of my mouth and no amount of brushing or flossing is moving that sucker. Therefore, I think that I have a cut... or something.

    ANYHOW, about the movie, believe the hype. This movie, in its understated indie way, is excellent, although it took me a day and a half of reflection to come up with that assessment. The film was much more character driven than plot, and there were all of these characters approaching this one situation with these varied viewpoints.

    The story is this:
    The 1960s were a time of change. So is life when you are 16. That combination propels An Education, set in London in 1961, and makes it an unforgettable coming-of-age story.Attractive, bright, 16-year-old Jenny is stifled by the tedium of adolescent routine; she can’t wait for adult life to begin. One rainy day her suburban existence is upended by the arrival of a much older suitor, David. Urbane and witty, David instantly charms Jenny and introduces her to a glittering new world of classical concerts, art auctions, smoky bars, and late-night suppers with his attractive friends. He replaces Jenny’s traditional education with his own more-dangerous version. Just as the family’s long-held dream of getting their brilliant daughter into Oxford has seemed within reach, Jenny is tempted by another kind of life. Will David be the making of Jenny, or her undoing?

    In reviews I have read, there are a lot of comparisons between Carey Mulligan's character "Jenny" and "Holly Golightly", which I think is a mistake. Jenny and Holly couldn't be any more different if they tried. I do think that, as Jenny becomes more involved in David's world, she is channeling the style of a young Audrey Hepburn, but that is it. Jenny is her own self, trying to figure out her place in the world as she struggles with dichotomy presented by the opportunities David offers her and the "price" to be paid for them, which lays in conflict with her "bourgeois" values.

    Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike are excellent as David (Peter Sarsgaard)'s friends, Danny and Helen, who epitomize the glamorous lifestyle that Jenny yearns for. They look fantastic, but underneath you can see that something is wrong with these people. They live in a world with fancy apartments, clothes, paintings, but something is off, and it makes them more interesting, especially as you realize that they are a huge part of Jenny's attraction to David's world. They claim they are looking out for Jenny, but are they? And what is the relationship between David and Danny really?

    I always feel that Peter Sarsgaard plays a creep in movies; even if you like him at the start, there is something he is going to do in the story that is going to make you want to slug him in the nose by the end. Nothing new here. He is charming and does his best to charm Jenny and her parents, who are taken in by his car, his manners, and his "class". I understood why they all fell for him. The thing that wasn't clear to me was why he wanted to indoctrinate Jenny into his world in the first place. Is he a corrupter of youth, or instead does he want to reclaim that innocent excitement and response to his world that Jenny exhibits? Is David bored or disgusted with his life? That isn't clarified, but certainly, looking at it through Jenny's eyes would help make it appealing again.

    I lovelovelove Carey Mulligan (from "Bleak House", "Northranger Abbey", "Doctor Who: Blink", etc.) and clearly the camera does too. (Maybe it is the dimples?) She holds her own in scenes with more seasoned actors like Emma Thompson and Olivia Williams (who is still rocking the "Dollhouse") and is such fun to watch with Rosamund Pike (her Pride and Prejudice big sister!) who cannot understand why Jenny wants to "read English books" at Oxford or spontaneously starts speaking French, but does have such fun dressing her up in her old clothes.

    I said earlier on that it took me a day and a half of reflection to decide that I really enjoyed this film. The last film that made me feel like that was Rachel Getting Married. I am glad that they are making these wonderful films that don't hit us over the head with emotions, but make us think and work for them. There is something very satisfying about that.

    Friday, October 16, 2009

    Everything I know about lighthouses, I learned from Pete's Dragon

    That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but the first place I learned about lighthouses was the Disney film Pete's Dragon, compliments of the "Wonderful World of Disney" on Sunday nights. (I loved the town's name, Passamaquoddy, and how the film's villain had a hard time pronouncing it.)

    Last weekend, Sister K and I went for a walk with our aunt down on Harding's Beach in Chatham, and I took several photos of Stage Harbor light, which is no longer a working lighthouse (hence the lack of the actual light.) It was a beautiful, sunny, and really windy day, and a number of people were kite surfing. (You can see one of the kites in the second photo, the thing that looks like a bird.) The three of us got blown down the beach very well without kites.

    Stage Harbor Light

    Stage Harbor Light

    Stage Harbor Light

    Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    "If you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now, uh... Now you tell me what you know."

    I have lived my entire life in New England, but this was the first year that I ever got to see a cranberry harvest! This particular bog, on Rte. 134 in Harwich, was being harvested this week, and, even though we got there towards the end of the harvest, there still were lots of cranberries left. It really was quite beautiful to see on a sunny fall day.

    Cranberries for sale Cranberry bog

    Cranberry bog Cranberry bog

    Harvesting the cranberries Harvesting the cranberries

    Harvesting the cranberries Cranberries for sale

    Thanks to Groucho Marx's Animal Crackers for that "cranberry" quote in the title of today's post.


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