Poodle Play Time

It has been too long since Charlie the poodle and I have been able to make it to the dog park here in Somerville. But today we made it, and it warmed my heart the same way it always does… and exhausted Charlie the same way it always does. A quick post to share some of our actions shots from the play time.

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From Mollusks to Lasagna: Somerville Cooking on Winter Break

Move over Julia Child there are some new Somervillians cookin’ up fab dishes at home this 2014 – and by ‘fab’ I mean pretty good. This week Tom and I have fallen in love with The Essential New York Times Cookbook. The combination of a grad student’s budget, our desire for great meals, and the continued freedom of winter break gave us lots of time to flip through Amanda Hesser’s clever and compelling summaries for the hundreds of recipes in the collection.

We’d never tried cooking clams…or any shelled creature for that matter… so we settled on fixing Spicy, Lemony Clams with Pasta (which can actually be found here on the NYT site). Oooo boy were we in for a treat. The clams ‘popped’ open as we steamed them, and the blend of lemon, garlic, white wine, and red pepper flakes over our homemade spaghetti was just right for a warm – although not so summery – dinner at home.

IMG_1761Later in the week, we went down to the Harvard Museum of Natural History to boost our clam knowledge at their Mollusks exhibit which is open til April 15th. We learned about the differences between the clam, the octopus, and the snail, but we also explored the rest of their collection which is not to be missed. Right now there also exhibits on Thoreau’s Maine Woods and Climate Change. However, my favorite part of the trip was the Mammal Hall. The museum shows off a full range of animals – from a 2-story tall giraffe and 4 full-size whale skeletons to weasels and house mice. Harvard students can get in free along with one guest when they bring their ID (score!), and we also got to attend an event on the Milky Way during our trip.

Aside from clam cooking, Tom also took on what I am calling “the most complicated lasagna recipe of all time.” Also from the Essential NYT Cookbook, this lasagna saga included making tomato sauce from scratch, constructing meatballs, frying meatballs, cooking meatballs in the sauce, cutting up meatballs, making a cheese mixture… and I could go on for hours (as did the cooking process). While I hate to admit it, the time and energy was totally worth it. And we had great dinner company with which to share the lasagna. Patrick Kibbe, a classmate at HKS, made an orange, white chocolate pie that was delicious. He left it with us and Tom and I are still enjoying it 3 days later.

Finally, since we have one more week til classes start back, I have had lots of time to read and start applying for summer opportunities (and nap with Charlie the poodle). Looking forward to another full week with the family and visits from our friends Sanford Johnson and Packer and Mary this week! It is going to be a good one.

Until next time!

SA

 

Reflections from a Southern Christmas

From Boston to Jackson to Winston-Salem and back to Boston again. It has been a travel-filled few weeks, and Tom and I have loved every minute of it (aside from our separation anxiety from leaving Charlie the poodle in Boston). We got to see two of my favorite humans under the age of 8, lots of canine loves that we’ve missed, and our Southern family and friends.

My sister-in-law, Hailey, braved the mess, and helped Maury and Sarah create gingerbread men, women, candy canes, christmas trees and sleighs on our first day in Jackson. Icing and sprinkles exploded all over the kitchen, and Maury and Sarah kept slobbering on their fingers and sticking them back in the icing. After, we piled all the couch cushions on the floor, and Maury and Sarah rubbed their heads in the cushions generating enough static electricity to power their house (see photo evidence below). Maury pretended to be a hamster hiding in the cushions that would only come out if we fed him pretzel sticks or hershey’s kisses (sorry, Jack and Hailey). It was great fun and made up for the time I’ve missed with the boogers.

Equally heart warming were all the critters we got to visit! We saw Bitsy – Tom’s parent’s toy poodle – Miles – Charlie’s best friend and labradoodle king of Belhaven – Ferdinand – the Great – and Buster – my family’s (and the world’s) best yellow lab.

After we finished making cookies and playing hamster, it was time for the more serious of Allin family traditions– Oyster Loaf. For many, many years on Christmas Eve, Tom’s family has been frying up oysters, buttering bread loaves, and combining both with lemons with the rinds, olives with the pits, diced celery, and chow chow. The end product is a big ole sandwich filled with many things you may not have eaten individually, let alone all in one bite. Tom’s parents provided over 200 oysters and left 30+ friends and family members with full, happy bellies. Full of old fashions and fried oysters, we waddled down to Saint Andrews Cathedral for the midnight Christmas Eve service… another Allin family tradition not to be missed.

We came back to Jackson after 5 months of being M.I.A., and new places to eat and drink are popping up all over. I got to enjoy a hanger steak and The Manship, a craft beer at Fondren Public, and warm almonds and pesto pasta at La Finestra. Our crew of Jackson loves were by our side as we enjoyed raw oysters at Parlor Market and two of our favorite bar tenders, John and Mitchell. If any of our Northern friends ever journey down to Jackson, you MUST go visit Parlor Market for a cocktail. The atmosphere, company and drinks are as good or better than anywhere in the Boston area, guaranteed.

Finally, we headed north to NC for a week of Welkers. We had lunch with grandpa at the Proximity Hotel, fried meatballs for the family holiday party, and played par 3 golf at Tanglewood. My parents, Emily and Scott, Tom and I also tried to show our smarts at Foothills Brewery trivia, but our team – Hoppin’ to the John – ultimately placed out of the top two. The final round questions included: Who was the first president with which Barbara Walters had an exclusive interview? (Nixon) What was Julia Child’s height? (6 ft. 2 inches) and How did Sammie Davis Jr. die? (throat cancer) Needless to say we didn’t fair particularly well, with the exception of Emily who knew Julia Child’s height, but the beer was good and the company was great!

Two weeks later and 10 pounds heavier, IMG_1736we headed back to Boston and were welcomed by mounds of snow.

We are looking forward to a restful week and chili making. Happy 2014 everyone!

SA