Thursday, August 30, 2012

Farmer's Almanac predicts a horrible winter in Boston

I just saw on the news yesterday that the staff at Farmer's Almanac are predicting that this coming winter in Boston will be colder and snowier than usual. Fear not! This is music to a knitter's ears! Time to get my knit on. I have a couple of warm woolies in the making. One is going well, the other 2 are kind of disasters.

The first pattern  pattern is called Wingspan. My sister sent me some cheerful yarn that is perfect for the pattern. First, I cast on way too many stitches on accident. 180 instead of 90. Oops! Then I decided I wanted it to be knit in a different stitch than the pattern calls for. For the knitters out there, I was going to do stockinet stitch instead of garter. This of course was not the right idea. Now the edges were rolling. I started over a third time, and will just follow the pattern as written. Third time's a charm, right!

The second project was inspired by a gift from a swap partner in New Zealand. She sent me some gorgeous pastel green, merino yarn. It's really beautiful and a color I may not have chosen for myself. I tend to stay in my color comfort zone of pinks, reds and oranges. Of course that means I miss out on greens and blues most of the time. This green will look so pretty with a brown top, or with my navy blue coat! The pattern, called Fault Line, is fantastic as well. I'm half way done and have a triangle that will be so small it won't wrap around my neck. In the past, I would have kept knitting and ended up with a garment that was less useful than I wanted it to be. Not this time! Despite all the work I've put in so far, I will unravel nearly the entire thing and then knit it in a way that will make it longer and skinnier.

Last fall, I started knitting a striped sweater. Bottom line...wrong color combos! I saw the colors all knitted up in a display and I really liked them. Now it looks like a bruised bumble bee. Chartreuse green and plum purple. What was I thinking? Maybe the stripes are too small. Maybe the colors are just wrong. Any advice or ideas would be much appreciated.

It's already starting to feel little like fall here in Boston. Makes me want to knit even more!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Culinary Adventures in Boston's South End

A friend of mine recently moved to Boston's South End. Today this provided an opportunity for culinary adventure! There are so many cute little cafes and foodie shops in the neighborhood! All are nestled between residential brownstones. There's something completely charming about the revitalized areas within rougher parts of Bean Town.
First a stop at the South End Buttery. There is a little cafe in one shop and a deli and bakery next door. I can attest that the hummingbird and the salted caramel cupcakes are delicious! The hummingbird cupcake was a banana bread base with cream cheese frosting. Definitely the favorite of the two. I recommend pairing either with an iced latte.

Next stop...Polka Dog Bakery. Have you ever been to a bakery just for dogs?!? Baxter would have been in hog heaven! It was probably more like a doggy candy store than a doggy bakery. Hard to describe how insanely awesome this place is for a dog. Some of the animal hide treats and random animal parts were pretty gross. Particularly the cow feet. Not just the the hoof, but the entire foot! Like something out of a horror movie, if you ask me. Baxter will NOT be getting one of those! I got him some little beef and oatmeal treats to take along on walks. Treats are a good distraction when other dogs are around. Let me rephrase. Treats are a critical distraction when other dogs are around. By the way, Baxter is back to his old self. Romin' and getting into things, and driving me bonkers in his own charming way.

The last stop on our culinary adventure was to South End Formaggio. This place is a gastronomical dream. Not surprisingly, cheese is the specialty. There are also salamis and other meats, olives, spices, fresh pastas, some baked goods, wines,  and olive oils. I was overwhelmed! How can you not want a little bit of everything in a shop like this? It's just as well that this shop is inconveniently located in relation to my apartment. If it were around the corner I would be fat and broke. I have no doubt that today is the first of many visits to the culinary world of Boston's South End. Pretty sure that everyone who comes to visit me hear will be subjected to a culinary tour in South End.

Have I mentioned that I love Boston?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Goodwill hunting

These are my spoils from my most recent Goodwill hunting trip. A pair of new with the tags J. Crew khaki shorts, a purple New Balance running shirt that seems pretty new, a Vera Bradly wallet that looked so new I looked in every pocket for the tags, and some really pretty chunky yarn! Total was less than $13. Woot woot!

Goodwill hunting started long long ago for me. I was shopping at the Goodwill way before it was cool, so I got good at finding name brand clothes. You can always tell, because the dye lot colors of name brand clothes are always better than the dye lot colors of clothes from bargain stores. I took a friend with me on this trip who doesn't really have training in Goodwill hunting. I had actually told her about the color thing and as I scanned the blues and purples, the first thing I grabbed was this purple New Balance t-shirt! You don't really have to look at the labels to find what's nice. Anyway, I remember the first time we had a jeans day my freshman year of high school. Someone asked where I got my pastel striped t-shirt and I felt very clever to say, "Oh, it's Gap." I never said I got it at Gap, just that it was Gap. Now I'm all proud and let people know the brand, that it's from Goodwill and that I paid just $2! Oh how the times have changed. Speaking of change...I think I'll go swap out from my current wallet to this new one.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I'm how old?

Best cake on the planet!

Yesterday was my birthday and quite frankly I'm about as surprised by my age as everyone else. And since no one really guesses anywhere close to my actual age, I might as go with it! My mom sent me my favorite cake in the mail. It's pretty much everyone's favorite cake. Not going to lie...I had 3 little pieces of cake within about 30 minutes of opening the box.

The birthday bar.
Being away from friends and family is not so fun. I miss the tradition of all the girls heading down to Indy to watch a horrible old movie like the original Super Man. I miss going out for ice cream with nieces. On the upside, I have gotten lots of mail this week, and who doesn't like mail?!?! And, I am lucky to have made new friends here in Bean Town who helped me celebrate! We had dinner at Hops and Scotch which is an amazing bar and then some chill time at my apartment. I had fun getting to know people a bit better. Sometimes chill is just perfect!

Good things come in pink boxes!
It's been a great year, and I expect this one to be even better!

If you want to know how old I am you can do a few things. Stalk my blog. Or, look up these little pieces of trivia...

Post-It's were invented
Pac Man was released
Macaulay Culkin was born the day after me

This song was released. It's also the last song they played at the end of the night at the bar called Toast in Dublin. I've loved this song ever since. Once some of us goof balls raced like mad to get to Toast before it closed just to get an Erdinger. Made it in time to hear this song! Sigh...more memories.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Handheld Pies

I need another cookbook like I need a hole in my head. But I love love love cookbooks! Especially pretty ones. A dear friend gave me a gift card for the Harvard Bookstore with a note that said, "For things you want to read, not things you have to read." Such a thoughtful gift! Today I learned that Harvard Bookstore was purchased by Mark Kramer for $300 back in 1932. It's a bit like Von's but with a different smell. The smell is familiar, but it took me a long time to put a finger on it. It's the smell of hot binding glue, because there is a printing press right in the store! I'm not sure why the smell was familiar. All I can figure is maybe it is the same glue used for fixing labels on bottles. I've been on my fair share of tours that involve bottling of delicious beverages, and the label machines are usually my favorite to watch.
Judge a book by it's cover? Me? Noooo.
Anyway, I digress. I was first drawn to the cookbooks. That, of course, made me really homesick. Looking at cookbooks in bookstores is something I almost always do with my closest friends. It just wasn't the same looking at cookbooks alone. I found a lovely cookbook called Handheld Pies. The book actually has some quality reading involved! There are all sorts of stories about little cafes, bakeries, and bakers. The photography is well done which makes me want to make the little pies even more! Plus the recipes look fantastic. I can hardly wait to make home made pop-tarts! I might even try that this weekend. I will also need to run to the True Value hardware store and pick up some of those short, wide Ball canning jars. I'm telling you, that store has everything! I will also be going there for sewing thread if I get up the nerve to hem my own pants.The first recipe I want to try is: chocolate cinnamon pop-tarts.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Baxter's adventures in Boston

Baxter is recovering from a stomach bug. It's pretty sad. I was freaking out, because he's never been sick before. Not really sick anway. He wouldn't eat or drink. Sad...very very sad. The idea of taking him to the vet again was also freaking me out. Since moving here, he's developed some serious allergies. To the point of chewing his feet completely raw. Now he's on really expensive medicine that seems to take care of the problem. Despite two visits to the vet and an episode of the stomach bug, Baxter has had a blast in Boston this summer! It's going to be a summer to remember. We've been doing all the summery things I love to do, but this summer we've been doing it together!

We take 4-5 walks a day depending on my class schedule. Usually a medium to long walk in the morning, a short walk when I first get home from class in the afternoon, a long walk after dinner, and a short to medium walk before bed. Sometimes we run, but it was just too hot for him to run there for a while. Our afternoon walks are almost always interrupted by strangers on the street who want to pet him. Thank goodness he likes kids! I always ask him to sit and he's really chill while the kids hug him and pat him and sometimes whomp on him a bit. The little old ladies love him too. They tend to get a bit nosy. Ask what I'm doing here, how long have I been in the neighborhood, blah blah blah. It's cute though. I don't mind so much. A lot of people remember us and say hello from across the street, or stop and ask how Baxter is adjusting, do I like my courses, have I been to such and such an art exhibit yet, blah blah blah. In turn I can ask kids if they're ready for school, how was camp today, where's the best bagel bakery, where can I get good fish, etc. You'd be surprised how many people have treats in their pockets too. Last night an employee from Trader Joe's stopped to pet Baxter and pulled a treat out of his pocket. These are the things that make me feel like I live in Small-ville.

Here's proof of our adventures...

New York State gets the award for most beautiful rest stops. This stop had a lovely view of Lake Chautauqua. Baxter got a lot of attention at these stops.

The move was a bit harder on Baxter than I expected. He seemed utterly confused and wasn't so thrilled with the noises of city life when we first got here. The doggy playmate of the year was Baxter's security blanket when we first moved in. He was never long without her. Now he's moved on to Bessie the cow, but he occasionally has an affair with the Playmate.

He's been to Fish Pier. One guy said Baxter could go out on the boat if he got a hair cut first. Evidently the guy thought Baxter's bangs were a little too hipster for a fishing boat.

Baxter helps me remember to mail letters home. I usually clip anything that needs to go to the mailbox on his leash. That way I remember while we're out an about. The little yellow flower on his leash has a key in it. I may or may not have gotten locked out of my apartment a few times during the first few days. Can't remember everything!

 On of our favorite places in the whole city is Brookline Booksmith. This bookstore is everything you want a bookstore to be! There are even ladders along the walls! And of course it's dog friendly. One of the many places that will give Baxter a treat. He's got these places figured out and often goes right up to the shop door as if he's asking to go inside. The bookstore is open fairly late, so when it was really hot out we would look at books and cool off a bit.

 These are the silly booties that Baxter wore when his allergies were really bad. He didn't seem to mind, but he looked like a big doofus. He'll have to wear them in the winter, but all the other dogs will be wearing them too.

The butcher down the street sells dog bones for cheap. I've never seen Baxter get so primal! It was disgusting. I don't think he'll get bones very often. Still cool that the butcher has them!

J.P. Licks has awesome ice cream. They have water outside for dogs and they sell "cow paws" for dogs. A "cow paw" includes a scoop of a dairy free, peanut butter and something else flavored sorbet with little home made dog biscuits instead of sprinkles. Pretty darn cute if you ask me, and Baxter really likes them!

Baxter would prefer to be the only dog in town, but we're working on that. He has a therapist/dog trainer who worked with us a few times. Helped sooooo much! Now he doesn't mind other dogs so much anymore so long as they aren't sharing the sidewalk with us. It's a bit of a bummer since there are a few awesome dog parks in the neighborhood. Fortunately, they're often empty. He's always happy when he gets to run around without a leash!

We've also taken the ferry boat to an island off the coast of Maine. This deserves a whole post of it's own! Awesome weekend! He even had his own ferry ticket and the ticket master gave me a handful of treats to keep Baxter happy while we waited for the ferry!

This week we went to a knitting group that meets in the bookstore. Baxter was very happy to tag along and keep us company! I am happy that one of the knitters is also a chef! She brought an amazing tart and another knitter brought oatmeal cookies.
Alas. This city life is exhausting. I often find Baxter and Bessie the cow snuggled up and passed out. A lot of the time he even has his arm wrapped around her. So cute!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Back to school lunches

Have you seen some of the bento box lunches that are out there? Just go do a Google Image search for "bento box lunch." There are some super creative people in this world! I have no intention of using cookie cutters on carrots or making panda shaped rice balls. I do like the idea of little bits of this and little bits of that and boom! Lunch! The Besides all the creative bento box lunches, the Starbucks Bistro Boxes are also a bit of an inspiration. Here are a few of the lunches I've pulled together in the last few weeks...

Trader Joe's brown rice grain mix (on the bottom)
Bean sprouts, cucumber, tomato, avocado and lime juice.
This was inspired by the California Sandwich on Ezra Poundcake's blog. Served with various veggies and hummus.
Salad with cucumbers, tomato, yellow bell pepper, and feta cheese.

Salami and crackers

You may have noticed that I'm a pretty big fan of the Ziploc divided rectangle. Great for cold lunches. Not as great if you have leftovers, because everything gets heated together. I just splurged on a little bento box at TJ Maxx the other day. That way I can pack cold stuff on top and just nuke the bottom half.
Some of my friends teased me about being a wee bit too healthy, so fooled them into thinking I was less healthy by adding chocolate with the favorite California Sandwich. Ok, maybe I didn't so much fool them. I've enjoyed these healthy lunches and find that they are crazy easy to throw together when I'm still half asleep in the mornings.
This is just left overs from a get together. Salami, brie, crackers, and a chocolate. One of my yummy, but lacking fruit or veggie lunches. I may have packed a side of blueberries this day. Not sure. The chocolate was a mystery chocolate from a Russian grocery store and it was gross. I'm not sure what kind of syrup was in the barrel, but it was gross. Side note: I have a bag of mystery chocolates in the fridge. Most are really good. It's just these barrels that are gross. Nothing against Russian chocolates!

Waste Not Want Not

I've enjoyed cooking since I've been in Boston. I go to Trader Joe's once a week. Going to TJ's is a highlight of my weekend. Not joking. It's only a block and half away, so no big deal if I forget something and need to go back. Generally, my goal is to spend about $25-30 per week on food. You may think that's crazy, but I'm just one girl! Everyone says cooking for 1 is next to impossible, so I've made it a game to see how possible it can be. I go with the flow of my schedule. Some weeks involve more exciting meals than others, but I don't want to fall into a trap of eating crap. In all my efforts, the miraculous thing is that I've been wasting almost nothing.

This is possible for a few reasons:

1. My mom let me raid the pantry for canned goods before I left home, so I have a lot of canned beans, veggies, soups, etc. I've mostly been taking advantage of my bean stock pile. Beans are good in just about anything! Veggies and soups will come in handy when it's cooler out. I can't say this has saved me tons of money, but it helps. A dollar here a dollar there. I guess maybe this shouldn't even make this list except to say that it never hurts to have a well stocked pantry. Being that my kitchen is small, there's not room for a huge stock pile. If I have beans and rice on hand, I can always make a meal of that.

Fresh mozzerlla, roasted pepper, basil, & balsamic.
2. Cookbooks and Pinterest! One of my best friends gave me one of the Cooking with Trader Joe's cookbooks. If you would like Trader Joe's to be your store of choice, I highly recommend getting one of these cookbooks. The recipes are good. Some you will never need to look at again, because the recipe is crazy easy. The best part is that the books make you aware of what Trader Joe's has. There are things I would have never thought to look for, but end up being favorites!  For instance, I would have never looked for the pre-marinated chipotle chicken breasts which are good for tacos, quessadillas, and freeze really easy too!  I also really like the mozzarella sandwiches. Talk about an easy recipe. Is this even a recipe? Any leftover baguette make for nice French toast! I love looking through my cookbooks and Pinterest for inspiration each week. I often find ideas that use up things I already have so that I only need to buy minimal extras to complete the recipe. For example, I didn't realize that I have everything I need to make zucchini tots, but I do! Yay!
TJ's rosemary chicken & potatoes

3. Meal planning. To each his own, but meal planning is kind of critical if a) you want to shrink  your grocery bill and b) you want to NOT waste food. I really enjoy my little meal planning note pads that have collected over the years. I wouldn't say my meal planning is terribly detailed, but it helps me make a list. This week's plan had one of my new favorites. The frozen rosemary chicken and frozen potatoes with mushrooms and green beans from TJ's has become a go-to meal. Usually ends up enough for 2-3 meals and total cost is $5. My rule of thumb is to plan 2 real meals and one packable salad or lunch type of thing.

TJ's mustard cheddar mac n' cheese.
4. My last tip for NOT wasting food is to experiment. I had a big chunk of mustard cheddar leftover from a get-together. There's only so much mustard cheddar a girl can eat, so I made mustard cheddar mac n' cheese. I would totally make it again, but next time it needs a little something else to add some bite. Oddly enough, the mustard alone wasn't quite enough. Anyway, it's just one example of how I used up something that would have otherwise gone bad and in the trash.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Let's get the ball rolling agin...

I think it's time to get this blog rolling again. I've had all these ideas for posts, but haven't taken the time to write them down. Life happens so fast!
Baxter chilling out at the Brookline Booksmith

Quick update since the last post from sunny Hawaii back in November...

I've finished my PhD, been accepted for a post-doc, and as a part of that moved to Boston to do another degree! Considering I was not a fan of school as a kid, it's crazy to think that I've entered something like grade 27. Also kind of crazy that considering I was not a fan of school as a kid I ended up at Harvard. Crazier things have happened in the world. So all of this means that I have my own apartment now. It also means I have to adjust to big city life. That, of course, is a big joke. Life here is not the big city life I thought it would be. I wake up and take Baxter for a walk around the neighborhood. There are a few bakeries that make the neighborhood smell so good! We run into a lot of friendly people along the way. I expected city people to nod at the most as they passed. Usually everyone smiles and says, "good morning!" Every walk is about the same. People say hello, kids love on Baxter, etc. Sometimes we go inside the shops and look around. It's pretty cool to live in a place that is so dog friendly!
You name it, they have it! Even dog treats for loyal customers.
 This week is a down week. I've already completed 6 weeks of the most intense course-based schooling of my entire life. The professors were fantastic. They made sure that despite the Indy 500 style pace of the courses we could have a good learning experience. My classmates are a whole other story! 99.9% of my classmates were physicians. We had a blast together! It's always crazy how fast you can become close friends with the people you are with all day every day. I was sad to see a few of them head off for home yesterday. They are in the summer-only program. Thankfully, there are a good handful of awesome people who are here all year! It's going to be great.

Since I've been here, I've been especially enjoying food and cooking. Pretty rough having a Trader Joe's less than 2 blocks from my apartment! I went to the regular grocery store once and quite frankly, I hope I never have to go back. I have all kinds of food post ideas! All kinds of post ideas in general! Yay for the blogging bandwagon!

More on life in Boston to come on a more regular basis!