Category Archives: Boston

Springtime Mindfulness

springtimeThe stupefyingly horrendous winter we just experienced has me traumatized. When I open the door of my office building at the end of the day, I still expect to be blasted by a gust of cold air. I truly expect to have to navigate the story-tall mounds of snow piled up at major intersections, even though we’re just days away from Memorial Day weekend.

Mindfulness doesn’t come easily to me. On my mother’s side, relatives of every generation I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting has been deep inside his or her own head. We call it “frettin’.” But this spring has me living in the moment.

In the depths of February, I figured I would never again experience the small pleasures of a warm day: Sitting on couch with the windows open, the sound of far-away sirens and rustling trees wafting in along with the breeze. The joy of leaving the house in a light sweater, which is enough to keep me warm instead of the down coat which threatened to fuse itself to my skin. Getting up a little bit earlier (which isn’t hard, given that the sun rises before 6am) and delighting when I miss the walk sign at each crosswalk between the train station and my office because it means another few moments basking in the sun before heading inside.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m still deep inside my own head for 98 percent of the day. But oh, it’s wonderful to be truly grateful for spring.

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Patriot’s Day 2014

At long last, it was all over but the running.

After a week of memorials and tributes to those hurt or killed at the 2013 Boston Marathon, it was time for the runners to take to the streets and spectators to take to the bars for the 118th Boston Marathon. On the one-year anniversary of the bombings, the entire city of Boston felt quiet as we remembered what happened. But as Marathon Monday dawned clear and crisp, the city came back to life. It was time to restore the Marathon to what it’s always been; a celebration of spring in Boston.

Anticipating large crowds, I met my friends at the Pour House at shortly before 9am. The bar was already packed with people preparing to attend the Red Sox game. After a short wait, my friends and I grabbed a table. We ordered countless cheap mimosas. We chatted and watched the Marathon coverage. Instagram pictures were shared. Runner updates started coming in. The Red Sox mounted a comeback (even if it ultimately didn’t lead to a win).

mimosastrong It was just like Patriot’s Day should be.

Once our runners got close, we paid the hefty tab and took to the sidewalk just outside the Pour House, cheering on the runners. My eyes swam as I scanned the crowd for familiar faces. Just like in 2013, we moseyed down Boylston Street, soaking up the late April sun and cheers from the crowd as a steady stream of runners bolted for the finish. We saw Kate on a patio and joined her for a drink. Her friend Sarah had just told her Marathoning husband the gender of the baby they’re expecting. We decided to end the day on Annette’s roofdeck with a six-pack of Narragansett Summer. We made friends with a fraternity member who was taking his pet snake out for some air.

I was out too late for a school night. I spent too much money and ate too much and drank more than necessary. But, just like the marathoners vowed to return and take back the Boston Marathon, it was our way of restoring Patriot’s Day to a celebration of life and community.

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A Non-Parent’s Reaction to Isis Parenting Closure

I am not a mom. I don’t play one on TV. I haven’t had a regular babysitting gig in years.

But, as someone who paid for books and incidentals in college and high school by working various childcare gigs for children of all ages, I can only image how hard it is to be the person to whom a sick, crying, cranky, teething, miserable and irrational small human is entrusted by default. My experience was only a guest pass to the joy and frustration that parenting brings.

Now that I’m older, more of my friends are becoming parents. Many of them without so much as changing a diaper or slicing the crusts off a sandwich for an inconsolable toddler once in their lives. I see how happy they are–and how entirely overwhelmed.

Many of my new Mom friends in the Boston area turned to Isis Parenting to fill in the gaps in knowledge and to provide an outlet for those frustrations that I as a swinging single lady can’t fully help process no matter how many daycares I’ve worked in. None of us know it until we’re there, and Isis provided a place to connect for overloaded and under-rested new parents.

The Isis Parenting chain shut down today, without warning its customers. Many of the parents I know who visited Isis were despondent. But there were just as many posts saying we shouldn’t boo-hoo for women who can afford luxury baby strollers. Use your privilege to go somewhere else, seemed to be the subtext.

We’re a country that tells women to breed as often as possible but doesn’t provide support to parents–on all levels of the economic spectrum–once the baby is born. So there IS likely no other place for people to go. Hospitals referred new mothers to Isis for support. Families are more geographically disparate than ever–and some women aren’t lucky enough to have relations to rely on for knowledge and support. (My friend and Mom Jennifer Spencer explains this nicely on Isis’ blog.)

What irks me most about this closing is that this sort of support and education isn’t offered to every new parent, whether she’s pushing her newborn in a Bugaboo or a Graco stroller. Education classes provide a chance for new parents to learn from experts and from each other. Educators or facilitators could be on the lookout for women who might be experiencing post-partum depression or other serious issues after giving birth.

Small businesses shouldn’t be responsible for these services. It’s the role of… the healthcare industry? municipalities? states? nonprofits?… somebody! to facilitate the kind of community building that helps people become the best parents they can be. Hopefully an organization steps forward to fill this void in Boston’s parenting community.

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Sharing the Farm Share

Make. It. Stop.

Make. It. Stop.

Farm shares are one of those aspects of urban living I just can’t get accustomed to, largely because I’ve experienced the glut of seasonal produce for my entire life. My family would buy produce at the grocery store for the majority of the year. But then summer would bring a tidal wave of produce which landed in my mother’s kitchen, plucked from my Grandpa’s garden.

The highlight of my summer was always when strawberries showed up. Mounds and mounds of strawberries were piled up on the kitchen counter, just begging for me to stick my little kid hands in there and gorge myself.

“You’re going to give yourself hives!” My mother would shout from the closet, digging out a huge pot to boil down the strawberries to make jam. I never once developed hives as I ran around with pink fingers and red teeth, slightly nauseous from the fruit overdose.

But then the less exciting produce arrived. Bushels of tomatoes. Endless mountains of summer squash. Cucumbers. Corn was always a welcome addition to my diet, but it seemed overwhelming after a couple of weeks. My Mom did her best to create sauces and pickles and jams from the bounty when she stayed at home with us kids. But we weren’t big fans of homemade spaghetti sauce (although I do miss the homemade strawberry jam).

It’s been a few summers since Grandpa passed away, but my uncle has taken up the mantle of growing too much produce for our small family. I love getting some zucchini and corn—it’s just a little intimidating to bring back several bags full for just my boyfriend and I. Now, I share with the office and the family I babysat and anyone else who’s looking for a free locally grown cucumber. Even still, I end up wracked with guilt when I discover a handful of rotted cucumbers in the crisper because I know how hard my uncle worked to grow them.

This week, a friend of mine who’s out of town let me pick up her weekly farm share. I’ve picked up a pint of tomatoes or a handsome potted herb from the farmer’s market, but I was intrigued to try out this urban foodie rite of passage. I brought a handful of reusable bags with me and showed up.

I expected it to be like Birchbox—a pre-selected allotment of fruits and veggies would be in some form of container, doled out to customers. Instead, there was a whiteboard with weights of each item scrawled on it. It was up to the customer to pick out his or her share from crates, weigh it, and toss it into their bag. It was a bit intimidating. How many cucumbers can I take? Jalapeños, hooray! Leeks? I detest leeks. Melon? That smashed-up looking thing? Pass.

It brought up all those feelings I get when my uncle shuffles into my mother’s kitchen, toting armloads of plastic bags barely holding up to the weight of produce inside. I long to approach it as a challenge, like the home version of Chopped. But I just feel bad for inevitably not using every last bite.

However, the fruits and veggies are delicious. I deliberately picked underripe peaches in the hopes I’d manage to eat them all before they get too soft, but I put my thumb through the skin of one ripe fruit as I was rinsing it and figured it was time to eat it. It was the best peach I’ve had in a long time. The tomatoes tasted great with pasta, garlic, and the basil. And I’m thrilled to have fresh eggs, the one aspect of farming my uncle has given up.

However, I’ll probably give the leeks back to my friend when she’s back from vacation. I detest leeks.

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Pizza Nachos at Ducali Pizzeria

[Oh, I have a blog! Hello, Internet. Sorry it’s been a few months since I’ve written here—been busy with the new gig.]

The best part about not rushing out of town for the Independence Day holiday was spending time in Boston on July 3rd. It was a stiflingly hot day, so after work I met friends at the pool and dipped my feet to cool off. After my friends changed out of their swim suits, we crossed a deserted Commercial Street in the North End to grab a bite at Ducali.

Oh. Em. Gee.

Oh. Em. Gee.

While crazy busy when the Bruins or Celtics are playing up the road at the Garden, Ducali was quiet on the day before a holiday. We grabbed a table and ordered a dish my friends had told me about breathlessly for months after they stumbled upon it: Pizza nachos.

I have a reputation as a bit of a nacho fiend. While they’re not authentic Mexican cuisine, I could not possibly care less. The crunch of a corn chip. The creaminess of the cheese. The spice from a pickled jalapeño and the crispness of raw onion. Some women can’t resist dessert; I barely make it to my entree when nachos show up before the main course.

Pizza nachos—or Nachos Italiano, per the menu—at Ducali are a different experience from the tortilla-based appetizer at a southwestern dining establishment. The most noticeable difference is the lack of chips. Ducali uses inch-wide strips of pizza dough that are baked, then topped enough cheese to clog the arteries of the most athletic diner. Even an avowed cheese lover like myself thought it was bit too much.

However, I see why the restaurant dubbed this unhealthy creation Pizza Nachos. The salami and cured meats serve the same function as chili or chicken on Mexican nachos. Hot peppers typically found in an order of calamari are sprinkled throughout the dish, giving a much needed kick and bite of vinegar to the cheese-laden bread. Like some restaurants serve salsa on the side of their nachos, Ducali serves marinara sauce for dipping in a separate small bowl. The sauce had a little kick of its own and was enjoyed by everyone at our table.

One minor quibble I had was the Pizza Nachos being served in a bowl. It seemed to trap the steam from the bread and cheese, leaving the strips of pizza dough at the bottom of the bowl a bit soggy. It seems a traditional platter would help maintain the crispness of the ends throughout the serving.

Pro tip: Don’t order a ton of pizza if you’re splitting the pizza nachos with a small group. This appetizer eats like a meal. Consider ordering a light salad instead.

Another pro tip: If you don’t have plans to visit Boston soon, you can make your own pizza nachos at home thanks to Thrillist. [h/t ATF for the link and the experience of pizza nachos]

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Thank you

As a city, Boston has never really cited Mayor Tom Menino’s eloquence as one of his strengths. But at last night’s press conference that wrapped up a tense, nightmarish day in greater Boston, he summed up my feelings perfectly.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I don’t think I’ve used that short phrase or said thanks more in my life than this week.

Thank you to friends, both near and far, who checked in on me on Monday.

Thank you to friends who asked about the runners I was cheering, even though they only knew them from the screen grabs I posted of their times as they ran 26.2 miles.

Thank you to everyone who offered to help.

Thank you to everyone who helped me to help my friend find out about Krystle Campbell.

I’m thankful that someone who knows and loves both my friend and Krystle broke the news of Krystle’s death to my friend, not me.

Thank God (fate, whatever) none of my friends who live in and near Watertown were hurt yesterday.

In the midst of this madness, I started a new job this week at Solomon McCown&. It was surreal for everyone there, but they couldn’t have been more gracious. Thank you for setting up my computer. Thank you for showing me which printer to choose in Outlook. Thank you for starting me out slow. Thank you for showing me the bathroom. Thank you for handling all my questions during a stressful week.

And thank you to everyone who sent good wishes for success at the new gig. Like every big change, it’s scary and exciting.

Thank you to Boston for showing the world that we’re not a bunch of cold, heartless, selfish bastards.

Thank you, Colbert Report, for this.

And thank God the immediate danger is over. Let’s move on the part where we celebrate the lives of those we lost, and treat each other a little bit better going forward.

Thank you.

[ETA: And, obviously, thank you to all the police and public safety personnel who kept us safe. Hope you enjoy a nice long sleep and many free beers.]

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Patriot’s Day 2013

Boston Marathon runners just after they took the left on Boylston Street. 1:15pm.

Boston Marathon runners just after they took the left on Boylston Street. 1:15pm.

Patriot’s Day is my favorite day of the year in Boston. While Easter gets all the glory as the unofficial start of spring, in Boston, it’s Marathon Monday. Girls wear shorts and flip-flops to the morning Red Sox game when it’s about 20 degrees too cold for it. Bars open ungodly early, but nearly everyone behaves themselves—perhaps the runners outside remind the young folks that day drinking is also not a sprint, but a marathon? Our reputedly cold city thaws on Patriot’s Day—both meteorologically and socially.

My day started at the Pour House, with the boyfriends of a couple of runners. We drank beer. We got a table right by the front windows. We had some cheap breakfast. My other friends joined us. The guys got up to move further down the course to cheer on their runners. The rest of us stayed, polishing off cheap mimosas and cheering as the elite runners cruised by at what seemed to be an impossibly fast speed. Realizing we needed to take a break from drinking, we set ourselves up outside. We saw one friend run by. Knowing  another friend was shortly behind her, we decided to mosey closer to the finish line and have another drink.

We weaved in and out of the crowds. We passed bars with cover charges, and one that contained some acquaintances my  friend wanted to avoid. We walked behind the plywood-encased risers at the finish line where VIPs and media watched the marathoners’ last strides. Finally, we stopped at the Charlesmark Hotel. There wasn’t a line and didn’t appear to be a cover, so we popped inside. We made a beeline for the bathroom at the back of the bar, which was a one-room affair for both sexes, so it took a while for the three of us to make it through the line. We were just regrouping to move towards the bar and its open windows when we heard a loud boom. Shortly after, we heard a second.

I fell into one of those slow-motion trances like in a nightmare. The sound was somewhat metallic, and while very loud, didn’t shake the building in any way I could feel in the middle back section of the bar. I thought the scaffolding holding up the bleachers had fallen, given the metal clang I heard in the explosion. One of my friends later said she thought that the giant monitor over the finish line had fallen. We held back, waiting to see what we should do next. We started to smell smoke, so I thought a transformer had blown. (Happens sometimes in the Back Bay.)

Then we saw dozens of people rush away from the finish line, looking stricken. Whatever happened was bad. It was time to leave.

We went out the back door next to the bathroom. We walked down the public alley in the back, cut onto Newbury Street, and kept moving. My phone was working, and I checked Twitter where I saw the initial reports of an explosion.

Bomb?

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