Charlie the Poodle Turns 2!

Two years ago, on September 30th, the creature that Tom and I treat like our child was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I tricked Tom into meeting standard poodle puppies during a weekend trip with our friends Mindy and Kelli to take in an LSU v. Mississippi State football game. We fell in love with one poodle, Charlie, because he walked straight into the front door while looking in the other direction.

When we called two days later about buying Charlie, the breeder told us that he had already been selected, and worse, there were no puppies left to adopt. I may or may not have shed a tear in my office cubicle. I was so disappointed.

Several days later my phone buzzed with a text from the breeder. The woman who had originally gotten the poodle puppy was not able to take him. Would we still be interested in the puppy? Duh. No brainer. And just like that Tom was tricked into a puppy, and Charlie the Poodle became an Allin.

It has been two years full of moments we treasure and moments we want to rip our hair out. To celebrate Charlie’s second birthday we want to thank all of you who have tolerated his jumping, nibbling, drooling, barking and nuzzling. We love you for it and so does the poodle.

Happy Birthday Charlie the Poodle. Bring on year 3!

Apples and Fluff

Fall is creeping in up in Massachusetts. School has started. The boots have come out of the closet. And our apartment’s heat has been tested.  This weekend we grasped what might be the last 80-degree days until May of 2015.

People in the Boston area love to talk about “leaf peeping” and apply picking, but a lesser topic of pride and conversation is marshmellow fluff. Marshmellow fluff is essentially a marshmellow creme, and it seems to be best known for being spread with peanut butter on bread to make a Fluffernutter. What does this have to do with our fall weekend? Well, apparently marshmellow fluff was invented in Somerville’s Union Square, a five minute walk from our home. “A confectionary shop owner named Archibald IMG_4615Query, who made the original recipe in his kitchen, and then sold it door-to-door to customers, was the first to whip it up in 1917,” reports Boston Magazine.

To celebrate, Somerville’s Union Square has a Fluff Festival each year in honor of fluff. Since Charlie the Poodle is the closest thing to fluff that I own, we decided to check out the Fluff Festival together.

We met up with our two favorite neighborhood friends, Matt and Kim, to check out events like fluff jousting, try different restaurants’ takes on the Fluffernutter sandwich, and meet the Fluff King. Charlie was a hit, but he was not impressed by the Fluffernutter sandwich I inappropriately offered him and was absolutely terrified of the Fluff King. Matt and Kim were fantastic sports putting up with our slow walking and my need to have a photo with Charlie and the Fluff King.

After a true Somerville Saturday, I joined Will, Reetu, and Brooke for another activity New Englanders claim as their own (but that really people everywhere in the US do) – apple picking. We had free reign of rows of apple trees – McIntosh, Cortland, Empire, Gravenstein, Macoun, Red Delicious – to name a few. Just in case there was any question, apples off the tree are much better than apples from the grocery store (I think Will ate ten).

We left with half a bushel of apples (read too many apples), cider donuts, and pumpkins. So far I’ve made an apple crisp, and apple butter is up next for one evening this week (I have to figure out how to can things first).

What a wonderful weekend. I hope there are many more this fall, and we’re grateful for the friends that shared it with us.

Stay tuned. Tomorrow is Charlie the Poodle’s 2nd birthday (!), so you know there will be pictures.

More Bad News with Kousha

Early this summer I mentioned a fellow Kennedy School student, Kousha, who is doing awesome work to create his own weekly show, Bad News. Kousha is still on a roll and has continued to refine his episodes. Lately, Kousha has adjusted the show to focus on one topic of interest. Recent topics include Ferguson, student loans, and ISL. He’s also doing more dancing at the end of each episode, and my mission is to have him teach me how to moonwalk this semester.

I wanted to share a few as a follow up to the first post on the show. Hope you enjoy as much as I do.  And if you do, subscribe to his YouTube channel to see each Friday’s episode.

Philippines Part 2

Several Filipinos we met with throughout our trip spoke about the importance of family in their culture. Whether it was children in indigenous communities not moving away because of family ties or a reference to family ties being stronger than other identities – like political party, religious affiliation, or nationality.

Everyone we met also talked about the traffic. Metro-Manila’s roadways are crowded with cars, trucks, jeepneys, motorbikes, and pedestrians. Traveling a few miles can regularly take hours. So our group spent a good amount of time in our van, and, as a newcomer to the Philippines, I found this to be a vantage point for exploring the beauty of Manila and its residents. Several images I captured throughout our trip came from our van window. Here are just a few.

We had the chance to advance the conversation about Metro-Manila beyond traffic when we met with Vice Mayor Joy of Quezon City (the neighboring city of Manila). Her team walked us through their current initiatives in housing, disaster response and waste maIMG_4108nagement. Each also spoke about the challenges of their work in a ever-growing city with a large population living in sub-standard housing. I will note that listening to a city official discuss disaster management for earthquakes, volcanoes, and typhoons that all threaten the location where you are meeting is a fairly nerve-wracking experience, and one that will quickly make you appreciate the challenges these leaders face in protecting their population (I’ll stick with the snowstorms of the Northeast instead).

Later that evening, we had a really amazing opportunity to visit with several colleagues of the late President Cory Aquino (wife of Ninoy Aquino) in her childhood home. Several staff from the Aquino foundation also joined us for dinner and conversation. The group talked about the perseverance and decision-making of Cory Aquino and their on continued commitment to a better Philippines. The entire conversation was moving, and it was capped off by a beautiful performance from two of the younger staff members from the foundation. Even Philip joined in on the singing after a lot of group prodding and we luckily have photographs to prove it.

We also discovered that teenagers in the Philippines regularly carry around a really long stick that holds a camera phone far enough way from you to take a high quality “selfie.” At first, we didn’t understand what the groups of girls were doing holding a large stick out in front of them, but eventually we figured out they were taking group selfies with them. Of course, we needed one. So on our free day, Sean made the sacrifice and got one for the group (read himself). We then found endless opportunities to use it throughout the rest of the trip.

We also got to try “halo-halo” or mix-mix on our free day. IMG_4172Halo-halo takes shaved ice, sweetended condensed milk, some sort of jello, syrups, ice cream, and even fruits or red beans and mixes them all together in a sort of bizarre milkshake. Yes.

The next day we hopped on an airplane and headed south for 3 days in Culion. More to come on the island’s beautiful beaches, immeasurable hospitality, and snorkeling over a Japanese war ship.


Philippines Part 1

No better time to write about a trip than when you are still jet lagged from the journey. For the last 11 days I have been traveling (through slow, chaotic traffic jams) across the Philippines with 9 students from the Kennedy School. The trip was led by a group of students including the one-of-a-kind Philip Dy, an HKS student from the Philippines. We spent a large portion of our trip meeting with non-profits and service organizations located in both metro Manila and Culion, a small island community in a province south of Manila.Screenshot 2014-09-01 08.14.22

The trip marked my first time traveling to Asia and my first flight longer than 6 hours. In total, the flights from Boston to Chicago to Hong Kong and then Manila span a time frame longer than 24 hours. While the trip there went smoothly enough, Tom will tell you I’ve been a basically dysfunctional human for the last 2 days trying to adjust to Boston’s timezone.

On August 20th a handful of students all arrived in Manila’s NinoyIMG_4008 Aquino International Airport – named for a national hero and former Senator that was assassinated  in 1983 for opposing the Martial Law governed the state until the mid 1980s. His wife, Cory Aquino, became president after Ninoy’s death spurred a national movement for democracy in the Philippines.

We arrived around 2 in the morning ready for some much needed shut eye. Instead,  we were greeted by a spread of food prepared by Bernice’s mom (Philip’s mother-in-law). She fixed us a porridge which, if I remember correctly (as this point my lack of sleep was not helping my memory), is a late night snack Filipinos love. She laid out dishes with hard boiled eggs, scallions, shredded chicken, dried pork, dried mini shrimp, garlic, and fried tofu. She also prepared milk fish (Bernice’s favorite) and another pork dish for us. The meal of just the beginning of Bernice and her mom making us feel like we were part of their family. She later bought us souvenirs and helped us navigate the overwhelming seafood selections at the dampa.

This would not be the last time we were greeted unexpectedly by food. Filipinos basically eat 5 meals a day – breakfast, miryenda, lunch, miryenda, and dinner – with miryenda being the word for snack. Almost all meetings throughout our trip had some sort of food whether a KFC sandwich or fried bananas (yum).

After our late night meal at Bernice’s home, we were off to the Cenacle Retreat House where we would stay during our time in Manila. The retreat house is run by the Cenacle Sisters and is located close to the Jesuit university that both Philip and Bernice attended. Staying in such a peaceful place gave us a welcomed change from the hustle of metro-Manila. IMG_4151During our first full evening in Manila, we had dinner with HKS alumni that live in Manila and are working on a range of issues – education, public revenue, and law. We went to bed on our first night with full bellies and feeling incredible welcomed in the Philippines.

The next day we traveled to the University of Ateneo – where Philip attended undergrad – and met with staff and students from a study abroad program run through the University of San Fransisco. Instead of a traditional study abroad experience, students in the Casa Bayanihan program take classes while also doing extensive service work in the community. We got to visit the community they live in near campus and have lunch with all the participating students. I particularly enjoyed the conversation I had with a young, Filipino woman who joined the program after finishing her studies at Ateneo. We talked about the bakery her parents ran in her home province, her quest to use her business major to create larger good in her country, and her growing interest in hiking.

After lunch, we headed to old-town Manila for a tour of the Intramuros – meaning within the city walls. We walked through beautiful historic homes and the church and monastery of San Agustin. Close to 80 percent of Filipinos are Roman Catholic as a result of Spanish colonization in the 1800s. Unfortunately, the church and several other buildings were damaged during World War II because Japanese troops were located in the area. While we enjoyed the tour of old Manila, our tour guide may have stood out beyond the buildings. He referred to Jesus as “Mr. JC” and described how Filipinos told the Spanish “Hey, we are sick of you,”  when resisting Spanish rule. There were many grad students giggling at his presentation style, but he definitely kept us entertained.

Next, we stopped by the Golden Mosque – constructed in the 1970s as a welcoming gift to Libyan President, Muammar al-Gaddafi, although his trip never occurred.

And finally, after a long day, it was time to EAT again. We drove across town where we met Bernice’s mom and brother at a dampa for dinner. Dampas are large, open air fish markets located within a complex of restaurants. You pick the seafood you want from the market and then walk it over to the restaurant of your choice for dinner. We were completely overwhelmed by the all the choices, so Philip and Bernice’s family took charge of the selections while we headed up to a private room with a karaoke machine. We ended up with enough food to feed 50 people – crabs, shrimp, oysters, clams, squid, more squid, and individual coconuts to drink. The dampa was a really amazing experience even though we had enough leftovers for a week.

Our next day brought another trip to Anteneo, a lunch with the vice mayor of Quezon City, and – most important of all – the group’s discovery of the “Selfie Stick”. I’ll leave you with a Selfie Stick teaser. More to come.IMG_4099