On Loction: Georgia

Molly and I just returned home from visiting friends and family in the Peachtree State.  My parents live in Georgia so we travel down there about once a year, usually in the summer time.  It’s always great to be able to recharge my dirty south batteries.  My soul was ready for the syrupy drawls, the open pastures and some gravy in the land where tea flows like wine.

The schools start a month earlier in the southeast (they get out at the end of May) so my nephew and younger sister, Andrea, had to go during the day.  My mom and middle sister, Allison, were able to get a few days off and we had a lovely time together.  I made it a point to cook a few meals and I had my heart set on hunting down some roadside stands and picking out some fresh produce.

I was sad to learn that one of my favorite spots to buy veggies and preserves had closed down.  I had a difficult time tracking anything else down which surprised me.  I can recall several places that people used to park and sell their produce and sometimes even some boiled peanuts.  I searched high and low online and finally located the Thompson Family Farm stand outside of Monroe, Georgia.  Tomatoes, freshly shelled beans, local honey and homemade pepper sauce are just a few of the goodies I found there.  They even had boiled peanuts! (If you can get them fresh, they’re such a treat!)  My friend, Julia, shared a soup recipe with me and now, no tomato is safe!!  Our CSA share has kept us so stocked up on great veggies, including gorgeous tomatoes.  My neighbor also gave us a bag full of them from her yard so we’ve been up to our ears!  I have roasted almost every one of them and made either soup or sauce.  The recipe calls for extra veggie stock but I haven’t found it necessary.  Give that recipe a shot and impress your friends!

Veggies aside, I was also hoping to track down some chow chow.   For those of you not familiar with it, chow chow is a southern relish made primarily from onions with a touch of pepper.  There are variations but, traditionally, the relish is tangy with a bit of heat.  I like to eat them with beans, especially pintos!  I promised a coworker that I would bring back a jar.  When I asked about it, the lady who was working at the stand (Teresa) said that they didn’t sell any.  She then called her mother (Also Teresa, but goes by Doodle.  She also works at the shop) and asked her if she knew of a place where I could find some.  They both brainstormed and came up with one place that wasn’t too far.  Teresa called them and they did have two variations of chow chow.  Doodle then called Teresa back to inform her that a friend of hers made and canned a bunch of things.  She was sure the woman would have some as well.  Turns out, her mother lived a few houses down so she walked over.  She arranged for her friend to meet me at the stand.  A few moments later, a car with two elderly women pulled up.  The woman in the passenger seat had a jar in her hands.

You lookin’ for chow chow?

For a second, I felt like I was in some southeastern version of The Godfather.  It would be called The Grandpappy.  I gratefully handed her a ten dollar bill and did my best to refrain from busting out a happy dance.  The two women drove away and I stood there with my quart of relish in hand while plotting how to get it back to Boston in one piece.  I loaded up on a few more items at the farm stand.  Doodle saw how excited I was about the chow chow and said that she did some canning of her own.  She ran to her house, brought back some apple butter and some strawberry fig jam and gave them to me.  I thanked her profusely and staggered back to my car, drunk from the barely legal dose of southern hospitality.  The strawberry and fig jam was as delicious as it sounds!

The rest of the week with my family was just as fun.  I spent a lot of time star gazing, sipping iced tea and catching up on movies with my parents.  My mom and I had two different theme nights.

Mark Ruffalo night: My #1 celebrity crush.  The man melts my butter!  We watched Just Like Heaven and 13 Going on 30.  

Japanese Food & Culture night: This was extra awesome because I finally was able to see Jiro Dreams of Sushi.  It’s a fascinating documentary about an 85 year old sushi chef.  Highly recommended!!!  It was so beautifully done.   We also watched The Ramen Girl.  The movie poster makes it look extra corny.  It was basically Clueless meets Lost in Translation.

Speaking of guilty pleasures, I had a hot Krispy Kreme doughnut last week.  I honestly cannot remember the last time this happened.  Molly was either a baby or hadn’t been born yet.  When I was growing up in Huntsville, Alabama, it wasn’t uncommon for my mom to do “emergency” u-turns because the hot doughnut sign was on!

I’ve been a little homesick since I landed in Boston on Monday.  The last few days have been spent getting the house back in order and getting Molly ready to start the 6th grade tomorrow morning!  I had just moved to Huntsville when I was her age.  I was the new kid in middle school which wasn’t easy for me.  I met a lifelong friend that year and we are still very close.  Molly already has a few good friends going in and that makes me feel more at ease.  She has a great attitude and I know that will be a valuable asset.  This is the start of a major journey and I feel that we are as ready as we can be.  I might be more nervous than she is!

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Summer Happened

No blogger ever plans a two month absence….okay…maybe there are some that do but this one sorta just was what it was.  I’d like to say that it was because I took summer and ran with it but, I think the opposite is true.  Summer wisked me away and I was helpless against it.  The usual suspects came about such as a trip to Alabama, a family vacation to Cape Cod, visitors and various seasonal delights.  While we were in Cape Cod,  I finally made it to Edward Gorey’s house!  The past two months also brought about some new adventures!  The Newport Folk Festival as well as drum and fife camp for Molly.

There are a million little yet treasurable moments that flew by in the past few months.  I could rhapsodize all night and still fail to capture it all.

Here are close to 100,000 words worth of images.

I’m happy to say that this girl had a busy summer.  She was very excited to go back to Cape Cod and she loved camp.  There was a ghost hunting field trip at the Boys and Girls club and we had a great time in Newport with Megan and Josie.  The four of us stayed in a tiny motel and had managed to dodge a LOT of rain while taking in some incredible live music.  Let me take a second to highly recommend this festival.  First of all, Newport is beautiful!   It’s very kid friendly.  There’s a kids tent and many of the artists played small sets in there.  You can also take in coolers which was really great.  For the last two summers that I’ve been up here, the lineups have been really dreamy.  I was blown away by Charles Bradley, Alabama Shakes and tUnE-yArD.  Molly really enjoyed Of Monsters and Men and Conor Oberst.  Conor played a small set in kid’s tent and pointed her out to sing “True Blue” to her.  It was adorable.  I really hope that we can go back next summer.

Another exciting note is that cute, pregnant girl you may have seen in the slideshow.  That’s my sister-in-law, Liz.  She and Chris’ brother, Nick are expecting a boy in September!  They’re in New Jersey so that’s pretty close.  We’re so excited to meet our new nephew!  We lovingly call him Dino Alvino.  I’ve raided SOWA in the last few months for awesome baby presents!

Summer has definitely peaked.  We’re almost through August and the sun has already started to call it before 8:00 pm.  The nights are getting cooler and I know I saw some leaves turning today!  It’s subtle but Fall is rolling in.  School is almost here and our schedules will settle down a bit.  Molly and I will travel to visit my parents in Georgia this weekend and will be gone through Labor Day.  We’re both looking forward to seeing my folks and my sisters!  She starts 6th grade the following week.  We’re getting ready!  I’ll miss these sunny days but I’m excited to see what autumn will bring.

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Longest Day of the Year

Summer has come crashing through this mild spring like the Kool-Aid man!  It’s hard to believe that, after today, the daylight will start chipping away.  On a day this hot, it’s difficult to think ahead to the inevitable sunsets that will come around by 4:00 in the afternoon.

Let’s focus on now.  I feel like I have taken full advantage of strawberry season.  Two different people gave me strawberry and rhubarb pie this past week!  My friend, Julia, made the recipe off of Smitten Kitchen and it was awesome.  She even added some minced basil.  When it came down to my turn to make pie, I knew I wanted to make smaller ones.  I didn’t have everything that I needed to go with Smitten Kitchen (no tapioca!).  Thanks to the awesome powers of the internetz, I found another recipe that worked really well.  They were tedious but, oh!  So worth it!

I also got my booze crafting on this week.  More strawberry vodka will be on tap in a few weeks!  I also gifted some of my vanilla extract that I started last year.  Remember that?

My extract is nice and dark now that it’s a year old!  I’ve been adding any vanilla beans that come my way to the bottle.  We made some vanilla syrup at work and when the pods were all used up, I took them home!  That’s the beauty of it.  Any tapped out vanilla beans are still fair game.

This month was full of gifting.  I surprised Chris with a Jersey style breakfast last weekend.  I got some eggs and some Iggy’s bagels from the Union Square market and made him an egg and cheese on a bagel!  We ate these sammiches all of the time when we lived outside of Princeton.  Bagels are one of the things that I miss the most up here in Boston and while Iggy’s isn’t quite the same, they’re definitely the best that I’ve had up here.  Not to say that they are not an incredible bakery!  We love their onion bread and olive focaccia.

Another cool thing that happened was down in Inman Square.  My friend, Jesse, and his girlfriend, Greta, threw a 24 hour pancake party!  You read that correctly.  They fed anyone that came over to their apartment last Saturday for an entire day!  Pancakes and pie.  I know some pretty awesome people!

Last, but not least, our special girl finished elementary school today!  The school threw a lovely commencement ceremony last Friday and I did well not to flood the place with tears of pride.  We’ve got a lot of fun stuff planned for this summer and I’m glad we have a few months for me to wrap my head around the fact that Molly is officially in middle school!

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Special Delivery

We received our first CSA box share today!!  I could not have been more stoked when Moira (from Lindentree) arrived around noon with the goods!   I broke away from work and ran downstairs to pick out the box that I would split with my friend, Julia.  I know that this is silly but I sort of got choked up when I opened it…

I have a few years of gardening experience under my belt now.  I know many of the frustrations as well as how triumphant it can feel when you have a successful harvest.  As the different farms have dropped off the first shares of what will hopefully be a bountiful season for all, I feel a lot of excitement for them and for the people that will, hopefully, feel as much delight as I did when I saw what awaited me in the box.

So, what was in it?

This week yielded some Red Russian kale, arugula, bok choy, lettuce, broccoli, French breakfast radishes and STRAWBERRIES!  Molly was happy to see them sitting on the counter.  She has really enjoyed munching on them over the course of the afternoon.  I’ve enjoyed watching her.

I had some leftover rice and bean soup from last night that I reheated with some veggie sausage.  I lightly panfried the kale along with it.  The soup has a funny story.  For the past few months, we’ve been eating a really nice 17 Bean and Barley soup mix from Trader Joe’s.  It’s a small bag of dried beans that they sell for less than two bucks.  The last few times that we’ve searched for it, it hasn’t been on the shelf.  Many of you Trader Joe’s shoppers are all too familiar with this story, I’m sure.  Anyways, I decided to ask about the beans and the people behind the counter informed me that it was a seasonal item and had been discontinued.  The woman told me that a few of the larger stores in the area might still have some.

While we were in Burlington over the weekend, we stopped into the TJ’s up there to grab a few things for dinner and we saw some of the bean soup!  We bought ten bags.  If I’d thought that Chris would have let me get away with it, I would have grabbed the other eight!  It’s such a quick and easy crockpot meal and that’s worth a lot!

I’ve been craving some breakfast radishes so I have plans to grab a loaf of bread while I’m out tomorrow.  I also can’t wait to whip up a salad with that lettuce.  I’m already curious to see what will be waiting in the box next week….

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May Days

Goodness!  Has it been over a month?  I can’t believe that June is already upon us.  Summer is biting at the bit and Molly is almost finished with elementary school.

This past month is almost a haze to me.  Thank goodness for pictures!!!  Here are some of the highlights of the last 30+ days.

People

Porchfest!!  By far, one of the coolest things that I’ve seen since HONK!  Somerville has such a high concentration of creative energy so it really should come as no surprise.  100+ bands of all genres playing free shows on various front porches all over town.  Megan and I wandered around and really enjoyed taking in the sights and sounds.

Shannon came up for Memorial Day Weekend and we galavanted all over Somerville, Boston and Cambridge!

Molly had two big events that Chris and I volunteered to help out with.  Her fife and drum corp hosted a huge muster earlier this month in Lexington and the following weekend was the big outdoor fair at her school.  Both were huge fundraisers and both involved bake sales so we made lots and lots of trail mix which went over very well.  The school fair also had a cake walk so I made some strawberry banana breads.  Someone really went all out and made this lovely thing!  I was very impressed and I hope that the person who took it home carried it to their car with pride!

Places

I’m amazed that I didn’t put holes in my shoes!!  We’ve been all over the place as of late.  I was excited to finally be able to hit up a few spots that have been on my list for a while.

First on that list is The Neighborhood in Union Square.  I met up with my friends, Bridget and Nicole, for breakfast a few weeks ago.  I’ve been told countless times to go here and not to pass up the cream of wheat.  I’m glad I listened!  I know it looks empty now but I’m told it’s almost impossible to get a table on a weekend.

The same things could also be said about Highland Kitchen….except for the cream of wheat part.  I did some pre-Shannon investigating to see where I should take her for some pancakes while she was here.  I can’t tell you how many people responded with Highland Kitchen.   I was told to be prepared for some crazy lines since they only serve brunch on Sundays.  They weren’t kidding….

This was the line of people waiting when the doors opened at 11.  We got there around 10:30 so we were closer to the front.  The weather was beautiful and the pancakes were all that!

I was lucky enough to stumble across the Mei Mei Street Kitchen truck earlier this month.  I wasn’t even that hungry but my curiosity got the best of me so I got some of this incredible ramp bread pudding for later on in the day!!  Their menu had all sorts of delicious looking stuff so if you see them, you should definitely check them out!!

I also made it over to Dwelltime.  This is the new cafe/coffeeshop from the folks who take being a coffee geek to a whole new level over at Barismo in Arlington.  It still has that new cafe smell too.  We’d been walking around for a good part of the day and so we stopped in for some refreshments.  Molly LOVED the vegan banana cake.  The iced tea was just what I needed and I also thought the lemonade was fantastic.

Tatte (pronounced Tatt-AY) is a new bakery that just opened up in Kendall Square.  You’d never know it by the crowds.  For being just a few weeks old, it was packed!! There is another location in Brookline.  The ambiance is so chic (even down to the tiniest of details!) and the food is equally impressive.  Everything we had was delicious and if you don’t save room for dessert, take a nut box (pictured above) to go!  You can get a smaller version of one of these masterpieces for about $4.

Creative Spaces

I cannot speak highly enough of Gather Here.  This was the one place that Shannon insisted on going while she was visiting.  It’s located right next to Dwelltime so you can get your snack and your craft on.  This shop has a focus on needlecrafts (sewing, knitting, felting) and the selection of fabrics is incredible!  Need help with a project?  The friendly folks here have your back!  They are very community focused so if you need a hand with your garter stitch or just don’t feel like crafting at home by yourself, you can mosey on over and make yourself comfortable.  They even have a crafts and cocktails night and I am DYING to check that out!

Another awesome shop that I went to with Shannon was Bead + Fiber.  Two of my favorite crafting focuses under one roof!  They have all sorts of fantastic jewelry findings and I can’t wait to put the things that I bought to good use!  They’re gifts so I can’t go into too much detail.

Last, but certainly not least….SOWA!!!  I finally FINALLY was able to go, for the first time, this past weekend!!!  They just kicked off their summer season so that means craft market, vintage market and farmers’ market!  I was excited to be able to shop at the Fashion Truck.  Emily is one savy lady and I’m happy to see that she’s enjoying so much success.  I was finally able to pick up my zebra scarf.  She was a Clover customer when we regularly parked at Government Center.  I admired it on her and that’s how I found out who she was.  I was already familiar with her business.  When I stopped in last week, 8 months later, she still remembered my name.

There are all sorts of awesome vendors here!  I picked up an adorable new shirt, a vintage leather cuff and a bat brooch.  I also saw some fantastic gift ideas for all of the babies that are in my life right now.

There is also, of course, food!  Boston’s finest food trucks are all parked here on Sunday. If you’ve ever wanted to try a little or a lot of each one but don’t want to chase them around town, this is your chance.

I think that about covers it!!  I know this post is awfully long considering that May didn’t seem very long at all.  I’m exhausted all over again!!

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Eleven

Molly is almost exactly eleven years old.  She was born on a Sunday, just like today.  Sunny and pretty.  At 1:52 in the afternoon of April 29, 2001, the closure was the beginning.  My pregnancy ended in the usual climactic manner.  People think Savage Garden is cheesy and I can admit that they are!  However, I couldn’t have said it better myself: I loved my daughter before I met her.

Fast forward over a decade.  She is so excited for the moment to arrive.  She is not at the age yet where she realizes it isn’t wise to wish her time away.  She is already ready for her 12th birthday.  I’m kidding, of course.  Except, not really.  She’s been looking forward to this day for a while so she’s trying her best to savor the two hours she’s hoping will hurry up so that her friend, Josie, will be here.  She received some nice gifts from a loving spectrum of friends and family that she is very blessed to have and she wants to share them.

The list of things that Molly is into right now: Mario, playing the fife, basketball, being outside, Newbury Comics, The Muppets, drawing, Big Nate/Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Jack Black, her iPod touch and, of course, animals.  She still adores Scooby Doo after all of this time.  She goes through spells where she watches a few episodes every night.  She has obsessively watched Ghost Hunters.  I had a hard time falling asleep after watching just a few but they don’t seem to phase her.  She loves scary stuff.  Never in her life has she come running into my room in the middle of the night because she was scared.  A thunderstorm had me with my parents in no time!

The haircut is new.  She had it pretty long and shaggy for a bit.  A cross between a Beatles cut and dangerously borderlining a mullet.  She started pushing me to get a trim and I took her up to Arlington Heights this past Tuesday.  She told the guy how she wanted it and I’ll admit to being taken aback when I saw it at first.  It quickly grew on me and I love how it makes the bridge of freckles across her nose pop.  She wanted to go and buy something to help her style it so we walked to the drug store up the street.  There was no shortage of products and we settled on something.  She’s very excited about it.  She’s been making efforts to style it which is something she has never done before.

My inlaws came to visit us this past weekend.  We hit Davis Square for breakfast both days.  Yesterday, we went to the Somerville Armory Farmers Market.  Today, we in Davis and took the train to Harvard Square to do some walking around.   When we arrived back to Davis, we stopped in to Kick*Ass Cupcakes to bring home some birthday treats.

I couldn’t not get the Ben Affleck cupcake.  It’s a Boston cream made with Bailey’s and the cupcake itself is made with JAMEson.  That’s the way my friend, Rick, says it.  Harsh emphasis on the first syllable, almost like a cough.  Ben Affleck is another guilty pleasure of mine.  Good Will Hunting and Savage Garden.  Child of the 90’s.

We got a nice variety of cupcakes for when Josie and Megan arrive.  The upper right one is a Pupcake for Chowder.  As you can see, it’s lovely!  If you’re in the market for a special treat for your dog, this is the best I’ve seen!  It meant the world to Molly that Chowder not be left out.

We’re about to watch some Muppets together.  She told me that Julie Andrews is on one of the episodes so that roped me in.   I’m happy that the day has gone so well for her.  Here’s hoping for another successful journey around the sun.  Highlights of this trip will include summer camp, her first music festival and the start of her first year of middle school!  I don’t stress about it too much.  She’s very rational and I’ve been so proud of her interactions with the people and the world around her, so far.  I’m incredibly lucky to be her mom.

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Marathon Cleaning Spree

Happy Patriots’ Day!   It’s not a holiday that I’m used to observing with such gusto but since we’ve moved to Boston, I’ve learned that it’s a pretty big deal up here.  Molly’s fife and drum corp has been very active these past few weeks.  She’s marched in several events already this year.  The above picture was snapped by one of the parents in the group during the pole capping event in Bedford, MA.   It’s a long standing tradition that celebrates acts of defiance against the British troops.  Molly is front and center in the photo.  Chris and I are still so happy that we got her involved with this group.  It’s so uniquely New England.  The older fife and drum groups are always so happy to see the kids who are working to keep these traditions alive.

Today was also the 116th Boston Marathon.  Between this and Patriots’ Day, I decided to keep a low profile and stay home since I knew the red line and the green line would probably be packed full of tourists.  I cleaned the front room of the house.  It’s sort of my crafting/art hub but it needed some serious attention to tame the mess!  I spent hours cleansing and reorganizing.  It’s still a work in progress and some of the boxes that are in there cannot be unpacked until later this month when we finally get a spare bed!  I’ve been waiting to set up the third bedroom so I’m really excited to see how it’s all going to come together.  We’re going furniture shopping this weekend!

I’ve inadvertently started a collection of George and Martha Washington stuff.  I find these things irresistible when I see them at yard sales and thrift stores.  That’s exactly where I found these gems.  I paid a grand total of $8 for everything you see in the picture.  I also have a silhouette tray that I found in Pittsburgh a few years ago for a dollar as well as some George Washington cameos that I found when I was back home in Huntsville, Alabama last summer.  I’m going to display the items in the picture in the front bedroom when it is ready.

Here is a close up of the figurines.  They are so neat!  We used to live very close to Washington Crossing when we were in New Jersey so my enthusiasm has its own history.  The pictures are replicas of oil paintings from 1796 that were painted by Gilbert Stuart.  The originals are at the MFA in Boston.  They have a lovely collection of American History portraits that you can view online.

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