Holding on to Fall

Hold on to your hats folks because it has been a blustery start to November in Boston! Luckily, my sister, Emily, came to visit last weekend when it was not cold enough to need gloves or snow boots. We took full advantage of our fall weekend with trips to the dog park with Charlie, an afternoon of beer flights at Harpoon Brewery, and some good eatin’ at Sportello in downtown Boston.

We also nerded out in true Welker fashion with a visit to Harvard’s Natural History Museum. We checked out their mineral hall, their extensive collection of glass flowers, and lots and lots of bugs. I walked around most of the time in the mineral hall asking Emily things like “What’s the difference between Sulfur and a Sulfide?” which we really needed my dad to answer (such is the life of being the daughters of a chemistry professor). The museum is completely fantastic and as I’ve said before, I would recommend it for a good morning indoors if you live in Cambridge.

Emily is an awesome guest because she also knows how to have fun by laying low. We walked around the corner to Savenor’s for some lamb and made a tasty shepard’s pie for dinner one night. We also teamed up to try to stop the spread of pretend epidemics through multiple late-night rounds of the board game Pandemic.

I’m glad Emily escaped Boston before the cold weather hit and even more glad she came to visit.

After Emily’s visit, it was time to get ready for our Halloween preparations. I went “all out” with a carved cat pumpkin and a bowl of m&m’s and KitKats. We had an Allin household record of **one** trick-or-treater – a super cute, five-year-old version of Bumble Bee the Transformer, complete with transforming moves to show us.

I met another sensational 5-year-old this week when John Kim, a fellow student in my master’s program, invited us for dinner at his apartment. John’s youngest son had me counting Halloween candy, playing video games and chatting about nerf guns from the second I walked in the door. John and his wife, both from South Korea, fixed a full spread for us and several other students. The meal was topped off with soju that he brought to share with friends here in Cambridge.

Last but not least, it has been a semester of writing for me at the Kennedy School. I’ve been busy editing articles and selecting associate editors as the editor-in-chief of the Kennedy School Review, a student-runScreenshot 2014-11-02 20.48.04 policy journal here at HKS. Occasionally, I get to do some fun writing of my own, and I did a little piece on one of our favorite restaurants, Kirkland Tap & Trotter, for the school’s newspaper. You can read it here if you’d like!

Until Next Time,


Dancing Into Spring

It has been a magical few days in Boston. I completed the first year of my Masters program. Temperatures rose above 70 for the first time since November 2013. And two adorable humans came from Jackson, MS to visit. After a long first winter, all three of these things were badly needed in the Allin household.



Even before this week, Tom insisted we start off our spring with Southern style in the best way he knew how – serving up mint juleps at a Kentucky Derby party. Thanks to some fantastic recipe sharing, I headed to the grocery store with a list full of things that normally don’t hold shelf space in our kitchen – mayonnaise, bacon, cheese, more cheese, whipped cream, yellow mustard, and more cheese.

We loaded our dining room table with deviled eggs, Kentucky hot browns, Bourbon balls, pimento cheese, ham biscuits and banana pudding. We had all the mixins for a great afternoon and 120 seconds of horse racing. (My favorite quote of the day from a German Gem was “That’s it?”). Any average Kentucky Derby “fan” knows that the race is more about an excuse to get together than being a knowledgeable viewer. We loved hosting HKS students in our home, and I think Tom decided it will become a Allin-Boston tradition during the years we are transplanted up North.


In case there was any debate, earning a Masters degree is definitely no walk in the park. But after a year full of cramming more knowledge than I thought humanly capable into my noggin, there was cause for celebration – and dancing in the streets.

Rachel and Chris Myers – Jackson celebrities – came in just in time to help us celebrate. Since Rachel is on her way to becoming an exceptional crafter of museum exhibits and welcoming museum environments, we  wandered to the Isabel Stewart Gardner Museum to see it’s collection of art and architecture. Not only is it worth the trek from Cambridge, but Harvard students get in free with an ID. We also got to explore the Emerald Necklace and the oldest collection of Victory Gardens in the US nearby the museum.

We also did lots of good eatin’ with the Myers duo. Macaroni and cheese at Trinas Starlite Lounge, cocktails at Drink and Park, and salmon head and mussels at KT&T.

IMG_3042We love having adventurous spirits in town as an excuse to try new things and visit the restaurants we love, and Chris and Rachel absolutely generate group enthusiasm for new experiences and good food. We treasured the few days we got to spend with them, ate too much and laughed just enough. We can’t wait to get them back to Boston for another visit and can’t wait for the other southern visitors that head our way this May.

It’s gonna be a great summer.

Until Next Time!


The Harvard Crimson visits the Brown Bear

Since this week marks the beginning of the NCAA basketball tournament, I thought it was only appropriate to start the post about our trip to Providence, Rhode Island with a mascot reference. Until about 24 hours ago, I could not have told you what Harvard’s mascot is, but now because of Tom’s taunting I won’t forget it. But in my defense it seems to me that the “Crimson” doesn’t really count as a mascot? The only background I could find on “the Crimson” was on the University’s history page. It was voted as the school’s official color in 1875. I kept waiting to find that Crimson was associated with an object like Alabama’s Crimson Tide or Tulane’s Green Wave. Even Yale has a mascot with a name – Handsome Dan the bulldog.

Now on to more important matters…our trip to Providence!

Brown  University was our first stop in a day full of knowledge gathering about Providence – only a 1-hour drive from Boston. Naturally, one of our first questions to Nick and Becca during our guided tour at Brown was about the school’s mascot – the brown bear. Clever.

Becca proved to be a very enthusiastic tour guide. Tour stops included of the Quiet Quad, the library, the Absolute Quiet Room (see photo evidence), dorms, the student center, the cafeteria, and the list goes on. Nick attempts to add in information to the tour were promptly shushed because he revealed critical information at too early a stop. We also got to see Brown’s new gym which I would bet is nicer than the President’s office at some colleges.

Even on a chilly day, Brown’s campus was accessible and buzzing with students, and the relatively small size of the campus made it great for our morning tour.

Then came lunch at Meeting Street Cafe and the incredibly large cookie. After my tomato soup and curry chicken salad sandwich, I was re-energized and ready for more. Little did I know that the excessive size of our cookie would be matched by the excessive number of doorbells on Nick’s former apartment. I think I count nine, but you may want to check my math.

We spent a couple of afternoon hours at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum (RSDI) which is free and open to the public. Just a short walk separates Brown and RSDI’s campuses, and students can enroll in courses at either institution without additional charges (I was paying attention to the tour, Becca).  The museum has a substantial permanent collection and several rotating exhibits. One floor also showcases the work of current RSDI students.

The day in Providence wrapped up with a couple of beers at Wickenden Pub and our first, but not last, visit to The Red Stripe. The Pub’s list of Top Ten Reasons You Will Not Feel Like You Belong at Wickenden Pub included #9. “You think you are God’s gift” to anything and #1. “Don’t enjoy a good pint in a fun place with friendly people.” Luckily I married a man who met the criteria for feeling like he belonged. We celebrated a long day by competing to solve riddles on the back of coasters because the four of us can never resist the urge to compete and prove our superiority at things that are usually meaningless to normal people – riddles, building cities out of ore and wheat, or shipping indigo to the motherland.

Red Stripe provided us with a fantastic meal of steak frites, clams, mussels and pasta. It also gave us a perfect end to a day celebrating where two of our dear friends met one another and spent four years of their lives.

Until Next Time!


3 Days of Welker March Madness

When spring break arrives, most normal humans pack their bags and make a bee line for a sunny beach and a comfy chair. But the Welkers are no normal family. Instead, they took off from Raleigh, North Carolina and headed North to the Artic Tundra that is Boston, Massachusetts for a weekend with us.

DAY 1.

The Welker spring break started with a requirement for every Cambridge visitor – touching IMG_2464John Harvard’s foot for good luck (though on doing some Google searching there is some debate on whether it is John Harvard at all). We also toured Widener Library which opened in 1915 and has beautiful reading rooms available to both graduate and undergraduate students.

After a chilly tour of campus, we filled our bellies with dinner and cocktails at Park, a tasty spot where Tom and I usually enjoy cocktails. We were able to use mom, dad and Emily’s visit as an excuse to try more of the food, and we were glad we did. The Lavender Moon and Giant Killer cocktails were both a hit, but I was the only one who would go for the mezcal-heavy Perfect Day. My favorite description of mezcal came from a staff member of the Kirkland Tap and Trotter who referred to the smoky liquor as “tequila’s chain smoking great aunt.”

Finally, no first evening in Cambridge is complete without IMG_2469some L.A. Burdick’s hot chocolate. The rich, smooth small cup of goodness was a perfect finish to the evening… and it got lots of thumbs up from the crew. With full bellies we walked my parents home to the Hotel Veritas and then got some rest in preparation for a full second day.

DAY 2.

Saturday brought temperatures in the 50s and some serious walking for the Welker camp. Bright and early we hopped on the T and headed in to the start of the Freedom Trail. We made it our mission to get through the WHOLE thing – a feat we had yet to accomplish. We saw the state capitol, too many churches, the site of the Boston Massacre, the original Massachusetts State House, Paul Revere’s House and the Old North Church. We even got a tour of the U.S.S. Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship AFLOAT in the world. To sustain ourselves we had to stop at Mike’s Pastry along the way in the North End. Five cannoli and 2 biscotti later, we were experiencing a sugar buzz and ready to persevere til the end of the trail.

After a busy day on the Freedom Trail, we needed to rest up for the UNC-Duke game that evening. Lucky for Charlie, that meant some much needed visiting time with Mom and Emily.

For the game, we headed to The Thirsty Scholar, well-known for it’s IMG_2489appearance in the first scene of “The Social Network.” While the Tarheels were not victorious, our family U-N-C is certainly something for the record books.


Day 3 brought some less than traditional, but equally enjoyable, adventures. The first stop was the MIT Museum. Full of holograms, computer games, robots and machines, the MIT Museum is a place to see the creative spirit that pumps through the iconic university. My favorite part of the museum featured a series of machines by Arthur Ganson. The museum is also a good place for buying gifts for any scientists or future scientists in a family.

MIT Museum Robot

MIT Museum Robot

We also ventured outside of Boston & Cambridge to Walden Pond. Most of the pond is still frozen over in early March, so Emily and Tom edged around what they hoped was the water line to test out the ice thickness. As if coming North to the Boston cold wasn’t enough, we also had the crew trudge through the snow down the pond-side path to where Henry David Thoreau’s cabin was from 1845 to 1847. Luckily, I was the only one that fell on my face during the walk around the cabin site. Aside from the less than ideal walking conditions, the pond is a welcome place of peace and reflection close to the busy Boston center. And a good detour outside of the places guests to Boston usually get to visit.

Our day 3 ended at our favorite neighborhood spot – the Kirkland Tap & Trotter. We all tried lots of new flavors and foods that pushed us outside our comfort zone (pig’s feet and octopus) and surprised us with how good they were (pig’s feet and octopus). The meal gave me a particular appreciation for the willingness of my family to both humor me and enjoy the Boston experience to the fullest.

DAY 4 brought snow flurries and a flight back to the warmth of the South. And while I already miss each of them, I’m grateful that mom, dad and Emily left Tom and me feeling warmer, more loved (and more full) than we did before they came.

Already looking forward to the next time they visit.

Until Next Time!



An Allin Update: In 4 Acts

It has been a while since I’ve updated on our Boston adventures, so away we go!

Act 1: ImprovBoston

In the true Gleitsman Fellows spirit several of the fellows headed out last Saturday to observe the budding leaders of Boston’s comedy circuit. Improv Boston, located in Central Square, put together a great line of still-developing stand up comedians for a full, but cozy audience. Each comedian gets about 5 minutes to strut their stuff.

My favorite was the guy who talked about how he just started dating a white girl. He calls her up to see what she is doing, and she says she is taking her dog to the vet. “I’m so sorry. What’s wrong with it?” he asks. “Oh nothing,” she says “Just taking him in.” “White people take their animals to the vet when nothing is wrong with them?!” He busts out laughing. This is a Fact. Truth.

My family has done it. And it was absolutely hilarious. Why do people take perfectly healthy animals to the vet? The comedians at Improv Boston definitely don’t get it.

Alex, Jenny, Tom, Robert and I all had an awesome time, and I would recommend it for an affordable, accessible Saturday night plan. The venue also serves snacks and beer, and it would be a solid after dinner activity. For all your comedy dorks out there, they have a Magic the Gathering improv show this Friday.

Act 2: Birthday Dinner Singing

Two of our favorite people at the Kennedy School, Will Denn and Kousha Navidar celebrated their birthday within two weeks. Adding mine into the mix during the same time period, made for a fantastic excuse for a dinner party. Fresh pasta, salad, and Ina Garten’s Baked Brownie Pudding, made for full, content bellies. We even had the chance to sing happy birthday to ourselves all at once. The night made Tom and I really grateful for so many of the quality people we’ve been able to build relationships with thus far in Boston.

Act 3: The Never-Ending Winter

We’ve had our fair share of snow during our first Boston winter. We’ve actually had more snow than Tom or I have seen combined in our entire lives. There have been several morning where we are both trudging to Harvard Square together chanting “Why am I going to work right now? Why am I going to school right now?” We have been good winter sports, but even Southerners with thick skin need a little reprieve. March is coming this weekend. Please send warm thoughts here for us.

Act 4: Games & New Friends Keep Us Warm

Now, you think I’m going to talk about new human friends. You’d be wrong. Tom and I got to meet two of our online dog crushes last week, and they fully lived up to the hype. Paco (white) and Azuki (auburn) are the pets of Diane and Jen respectively. Two (human) friends we met during our adventures in Somerville. Both of the pet/owner combinations were able to come out and meet Charlie, and I fell even more in love with both of them. So did Charlie.

Finally, our other (non-human) new friend is Area 4 pizza in Union Square. Listen up people. They have the trifecta– baller pizzas, coasters with riddles to solve, and pre-1995 video games for you to play. Go. Enjoy. And be sure to call Tom and I and invite us before you do.

Until Next Time!


Larry Summers and The Unwinding

A few weeks ago, Tom and I attended an event at the Kennedy School that continues to replay in my thoughts.

Larry Summers and David Gergen

Larry Summers and David Gergen

Larry Summers, Director of the National Economic Council under President Obama, and David Gergen, Communications Director for the Reagan White House, sat down to discuss the “State of the Economy“. A video of the conversation will show you that Tom and I sat on the front row. But more importantly, I left reflecting on their words and making connections with books I’ve read, class discussions and my 26 years in the South.

A Side Note: Story Time With Larry Summers

If you can’t watch the entire talk, I would recommend at least watching the first 10 minutes. Gergen and Summers reminisce on the first time they met … During the Reagan Administration, a 28-year-old Summers traveled to D.C. to serve as an economic adviser to Ronald Reagan. David Gergen, in a communications role for the administration, oversaw a group of economic wonks as they developed talking points for a pesidential speech on the economy. Gergen is forced to nudge Summers and the other economists from talking about “inflation with regression analyses”, to “bar graphs”, to (finally) a simple line chart. Larry Summers tentatively agrees to a simple graph if Reagan will say it was calculated through a “moving average filter”. An exasperated Gergen responds: “Larry, the President of the United States  is not going to use the term ‘moving average filter’ in his five minute address.”

Summers notes that it was an important contribution to his political education, and he has been learning from Gergen ever since. For any policy wonk or person that deals with policy wonks, you know this story is symbolic of too many messaging interactions. For any person that doesn’t fit into these categories, you now think I have a terrible sense of humor. Both are accurate.

Summers on the Changing US and International Economies:

Moving on… my education from Larry Summers started with this discussion. He spoke on the weak economic recovery after both the 2001 and 2007 economic downturns. These weak recoveries are something many of the us in the advocacy community have been writing about often over the last few years because of the effects on working, low-income families. Summers also reflected on the changing nature of the U.S. economy. Where the transition was once from agriculture to manufacturing, today a major economic concern is the loss of the U.S. manufacturing base.

However, Summers pointed out that the manufacturing decline, while more severe in the U.S., is also true in places Americans might not expect. Like China. China’s manufacturing employment peaked in 2006.  I had not known that Chinese manufacturing employment was on the down slope. However, I have often heard  of the significant gap in labor costs between the U.S. and China. The link above takes you to a report showing that “Chinese hourly labor compensation costs in manufacturing were roughly 4 percent of those in the United States and about 3 percent of those in the [European Union] in 2008.”

Summers used Chinese employment to underscore that the U.S. isn’t alone in declining manufacturing employment (though in the. He compares the shift away from U.S. manufacturing jobs today to the shift away from agriculture as a dominate industry in the early 1900s. One of the things I valued most about Summers comments was his ability to take Gergen’s questions about today’s economic trends and couch them in previous shifts we’ve experienced as a nation. For the many students and younger audience members in the room (including me), these connections are exceptionally helpful and served as a reminder to look to the past for examples of how to support working Americans through large economic transitions.

Summers Remarks on Manufacturing and The Unwinding

Screenshot 2014-02-24 20.44.03Manufacturing employment is down relative to a decade ago all across the nation. Both North Carolina and Mississippi, two states in which I lived, are still grappling with the loss of manufacturing jobs and searching for ways to rebuild the sector. Initiatives like the Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance have emerged to help communities and workers cope with the loss of their jobs and equip themselves with new skills.

One of the most compelling pieces of writing I’ve seen on how the loss of manufacturing jobs exposes communities is The Unwinding, by George Packer. Packer’s National Book Award winning work carves out the stories of several Americans and their changing work, personal lives, and communities from the 1980s to 2010s.

The story of my favorite character, Tammy Thomas, starts when she is a teen growing up in Youngstown, Ohio. Tammy takes on work in the manufacturing sector at an early age after being raised by her grandmother in what was a then a stable Youngstown suburb. Packer follows Tammy’s story through having children, moving between manufacturing jobs, declining wages, eroding benefits and ultimately unemployment. Located in the heart of the Rust Belt, Youngstown lost tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs in the 1980s and with them, the city’s tax base, property values and resources for infrastructure upkeep. Tammy’s story shows how one young woman endures the harsh transitions in a city ravaged by manufacturing loss. However, her story takes a hopeful turn –for both herself and her children.

I would strongly encourage people to read The Unwinding. Packer does an exceptional job of taking the ups and downs of individual’s lives and braiding them into the broader trajectory of our nation’s economy, political and social systems. If you live in Cambridge, I might even loan you my copy.

I left the Summers’ discussion with more questions than answers. How do we prepare ourselves, working adults and younger students for the always changing nature of our world’s job markets? As an HKS student with the opportunity to reflect on these challenges, what’s the best way to get the most out of  our time here? Should we all drop coursework at the School of Government and run for the Computer Science Department and STEM fields? (Kidding.) Gergen and Summers both ended the discussion with the message that the hope for solving complicated challenges comes from those with lower ages than their own. Those solutions aren’t coming from me (yet). But I do think the challenge for all of us is to reflect on the insights of these thought leaders and meld their insights with our lived experiences. Then we might have a shot at solving some problems.

So let’s get to solvin’.

Until Next Time,


PS- As a member of the Tarheel nation, I’m obligated to announce that last week UNC beat Duke. Tom and I celebrated. And made our poodle miserable in the process. IMG_2341

My Current Obsession: Braids

I know it is a bit strange to go from posts on Los Angeles and technological change to hair braiding, but welcome to the brain of the 27-year-old woman/student that I am.

I haven’t always had long hair. But now that I do, and I live in the unending, hair torturing Boston winter, I have become fascinated with all the ways you can twist, braid and pin hair. This is in part because of how easy it is to find great tutorials online.

My hair obsession started with the blog Uber Chic for Cheap. This precious young mom, 12225545223_b8d60f05a0_bMadeline, posts great shopping deals and occasional hair tutorials that are easy for her to try in the few free moments of her day. Searching ‘hair’ on her blog brings up the tons of ideas…though my favorite is the Simple Gibson Tuck. I use the twist she illustrates in the video to start all kinds of braided hairstyles now. I use it so much that a friend, Mindy Waldrop, now calls it the ‘”Sarah Allin side braid”. I use it multiple times a week to get my wavy hair off my face, so I can worry about understanding tax and transfer policies (yeah…) instead of worrying how my hair looks.

I wore this fishtail chignon from Madeline’s blog to our friend’s Matt and Kaila’s wedding, and it was great for getting my hair securely pinned out of my face in an elegant way, so we could dance the night away. She also has a great braided bang tutorial for the shorter hair doers out there.

While Madeline’s blog continues to be an inspiration for all things hair, I’ve also found some beautiful tutorials that arent’ too complicated that anyone could try. Many of them come from a wonderful post of 30 Beautiful Braid Tutorials on the Artzy Creations blog. I am most fired up to try the french braided ponytail tutorial…and I can already tell it is going to take more than one try to get it since I won’t be able to see what I’m doing very well. However, I imagine it will stay together pretty well during the blizzard-filled walk to campus and back which ranks it high on my list.

If all the twists and braids seem overwhelming, you could definitely start with this Unicorn Braid Bun (2 points for intriguing name of a hair style). It just has a normal ponytail and two twisted pieces to make up a bun instead of one. You can do it.

Sometimes you also just need to sport a big, long braid for a day filled of grilling out, 4-wheeling and fun.

Finally, I can imagine you would read this post and think one of three things:

  1. I’m not good at doing hair, so there is no way I could do these ideas;
  2. My hair is too short!
  3. I’m a dude, and I can’t believe I read far enough to get to this list.

Now, if #3 if your problem, here is a great article on hockey that you might enjoy more. With the exception of adorable pixie cuts like my friends Morgan and Rachel have, I won’t take #2 for an excuse either – there are lots of fun tutorials out there for shorter hair. Find them! And post them in the comments section here for others. Finally, if #1 is your hiccup, think about how much time you spend blow drying or straightening your hair every day, or how much time you just spent reading this blog. You could have been practicing some braids and twists all of your own.

So check out these 30 braids and get crackin’.

Until next time,


On Beginnings

I considered naming this post ‘On New Beginnings’, but I started classes this week and received a long lecture in my American Politics course on writing concisely from Thomas Patterson. He pointed to several examples redundancy:

We face a serious crisis. They proposed a new initiative. People can’t access basic necessities.

The real truth is that when I personally reviewed my own writing the end result often included the phrases he mentioned. So now I have Professor Patterson’s voice echoing when I consider blog titles. (As if I didn’t already have enough voices in my head) American Politics is just one of the five classes I started this week at the Kennedy School. The semester began with a bang with discussions on the Move On Effect, drones, ethics and taxing corporate bonuses.

This will be the second semester I take a course with Nicco Mele . This semester’s course focuses on using the internet in political and advocacy campaigns. Nicco works full-time outside of the Kennedy School and still finds the time to teach a course each semester. The class provides a great opportunity to learn from a practitioner in the field in the midst of all things academia. His class last semester also forced me to start this blog, so obviously I’m a bit hooked on the subject matter.

The first days of a semester are chaotic at HKS. Students are trying to determine their classes. They register, then bid points for classes, then register again if they don’t win their bids. Last night a student shared she ran to ten different classes this week because she was unsure which she would ultimately get in… an extreme example for sure, but I was tired just hearing her explain the dilemma.

In FAR more exciting news, this week also marked the beginning of Tom’s job at Full Contact, an advertising agency in downtown Boston. Before Tom started, I was already hooked on their campaign for Boston.com. Their “For Locals, By Locals” campaign takes ordinary Boston events but flips them with out of the ordinary outcomes. My favorite TV ad features a Boston man shoveling snow out of his parking space and then giving it away to a random car passing. Check the videos out. They will certainly make you laugh and give you a sense for the awesome creative IMG_2064environment Tom joined this week. He will work on strategy and new business development and is really excited for the opportunity. I, however, am less excited that I now have to do half the dishes.

To celebrate his first day we had a scrumptious dinner with Nick and Becca and a well deserved champagne toast!

Finally, 2014 brought some exciting contributions from my work with the Harvard Kennedy School Review – a policy journal and blog by HKS students. Our team put together a series of posts that featured policy predictions for Tuesday’s State of the Union address. Eight students shared their perspectives on K-12 education, higher education, military affairs, the environment… and the list goes on. I was really proud that the KSR engaged so many student voices and published a series of great posts. We also live tweeted the State of the Union which for normal humans sounds completely dull, but for policy wonks is the twitter opportunity of the year! Kidding…kinda. If you would like to see some of the work of HKS students, I’d highly recommend taking a look! It is a strong start for the Kennedy School Review which I hope we can continue throughout 2014. Screenshot 2014-02-01 13.54.45

And of course not all things in our lives are new. The dog park adventures remain, and this week Charlie’s new bestie became a Wheaten Terrier as you will see below.

Until Next Time!


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!



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!