Dog Days for Charlie the Poodle

Cambridge is heating up. The poodle is napping on cold floors, and the dog days of summer are upon us. IMG_3287As I’ve written about too much already, we live in a terrifically dog-friendly area. Between the dog parks, vet, and groomer around the corner, Charlie has all he could ask for without having to get in the car. Which also saves Tom and me from the car full of poodle drool that inevitably comes from putting him in the 4runner whether it be for 15 minutes or 15 hours (we’ve done both).

We did, however, have to put him in the car to head to North Hampton, NH a few weeks ago. But it was totally worth it to see Charlie romp around the beach and play chicken with the waves.

Back at home, Charlie has also made friends with Tudor, a 5-year-old boy. Tudor lives across the street from our park and religiously comes out to play whenever he spots Charlie from his window. Tudor loves to ask the other dog owners at the park “How old is your dog?” and then proudly tell them that Charlie is only 1 1/2 years old. Charlie chases Tudor around the park with his bike or soccer ball, and eagerly awaits Tudor’s shorter-than-usual toss of his tennis ball.

Even though Charlie gets lots of play time at the park with friends like Tudor, I’m also gone most of the day now because of my internship with EchoDitto. Lucky for us, EchoDitto loves a good pooch party in the office from time to time. Last week, both Charlie and Rascal, Nicco’s westie, spent the day in the office together. Charlie didn’t stop exploring the office or even sit down until about 3:30 in the afternoon, so all the Ditto’s got a bit more of Charlie than they probably anticipated. But we made it through the day, and he only shredded 3 Wikipedia stress balls (in case you forgot it is a tech firm, that will confirm it). He also got invited back. I, however, was exhausted after monitoring him and working all day and do not have plans for him to return in the near future. Overall, Charlie gets a B+ for office etiquette given he is a less-than-2-year-old poodle.

It’s pretty great to be a poodle AND an Allin. You get to travel, make new friends, and enjoy a comfortable work-life balance. Some days when Charlie is really lucky he even gets a few cheerios or an ice cube. Maybe as the dog days of summerIMG_3239 heat up even more he’ll get multiple ice cubes.

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!



Chilled Octopus and Jalapeno Sausage: Eating in Somerville and Cambridge

We are right in the middle of the holiday season, so I’d like to start with the topic on everyone’s mind. Eating. Particularly since one of our favorite things to do in the Boston/Cambridge area is find new places to eat and drink.

This weekend we went to Kirkland Tap and Trotter because Tom’s cousin and my mutual banana-loving housemate from Helena, Arkansas, Jordan was here for a visit! We had octopus and hummus, beet salad, chicken liver pasta and cocktails with ingredients we couldn’t pronounce or recognize. The atmosphere was warm and laid back, and we had a completely adorable waitress who was more worried about Tom’s peanut allergy than Tom was. If you live in Somerville or Cambridge, you need to go!

Jordan also had many adorable moments with Charlie the Poodle, and I’ll spare you from all of them, but a few can’t be missed.

Beyond restaurants there are also groceries.

And I’d like to take a moment to contrast our two regular shopping experiences in Somerville. They are both equally wonderful and over-the-top in their own ‘special’ way. The first is our local Market Basket. Queen of low prices and wide variety. It is our go-to spot for an affordable, big weekly shopping trip. Unfortunately, it also fills this need for everyone else on the planet, so the crowds are well… crowds. I literally leave my shopping cart on one isle and walk around the stoIMG_1453re gathering the things I need and bring them back to my stationary cart location. They were so busy on the week of Thanksgiving that THEY RAN OUT OF PECANS. Here is the check out area at 5pm on a Saturday, the time when the average grocery store has about 15 shoppers total.

Our second regular grocery spot is the exact opposite and Tom’s favorite – Savenor’s.  Established in 1939, Savenor’s was the grocery of choice for Julia Child during her many years as a Cambridge resident. It sits just around the corner from us and is full of beautiful produce, baked breads, fantastic salt (just ask Mindy Waldrop) and our favorite – jalapeno, pork sausage. We mix it with tomato sauce in true Sandi Welker style for a spicy, yummy 15 minute spaghetti dinner. We may have even had that two nights this week, and it’s Monday…shhh… They also have a delightful blogIMG_1470 if you are eager for more ideas. While we love Savenor’s, it was also not designed for a student budget, so we continue to try to thoughtful balance the scrumptious with the affordable.

Aside from food, this week brings two other unique experiences  – snow and exam cramming. Come Friday I will officially have completed one semester at HKS, and while I’m in the library, Charlie is skeptically exploring his first Boston snow.

IMG_1427Finally, we had two big birthdays this week. On December 7th my dad celebrated his birthday, and on December 5th Tom Fitzsimmons, resident CPL photographer, celebrated his as well. You can see the prezi I made for my dad here :). And we were lucky enough to surprise Tom F. during a great party last Thursday as well. Here he is with many of the Gleitsman Fellows and Casey, the Associate Director of the Gleitsman program!

Until Next Time!


Capturing the Holiday Spirit

Thanksgiving in the Allin household was a great triumph and success. The turkey came out brown and juicy. The sweet potato casserole had just the right amount of dark rum. Tom’s dressing/stuffing had enough butter in it for a small army, and the spinach madeline had just the right amount of spice.

We roasted a 12 pound Trader Joe’s turkey stuffed with lemons, carrots, celery, and onions for 3 long hours. Figuring out where are the giblets were inside of the turkey and how to stuff it was definitely an adventure. My mom couldn’t help but laugh at my descriptions of trying to stuff it over the phone, and told me it was more polite to call the holes ‘cavities’ instead of what I was identifying them as… The end product was a good, quiet meal in Cambridge topped off with an exceptional Egg Bowl victory that left a smile glued on Tom’s face for 24 hours.

Since our weekend of Thanksgiving eating was coming to a close, I also nagged Tom until he would go with me to the Christmas tree lot. Tom picked out an adorably short, gap filled tree for our living room. He noted that his mom’s strong feelings about not leaving any Christmas trees without a home regardless of what they look like led him to pick the underdog tree. We are very happy with our finished product even though Charlie keeps trying to steal the stuffed monkey ornament off the side of it. We are all ready for admiring the tree while drinking lots of cups of cider on the couch.

To walk off all our Thanksgiving eating, Charlie the Poodle, Tom and I took a BIG walk all around Cambridge and Boston this morning. The shots below give you a sense of the beautiful city we live in, and Charlie’s strong curiosity about ducks.

Happy Holidays to each of you!

Until Next Time!

Parties, Practice Tests and Pugs

Last week I blogged on the 5 Reasons I love Somerville dog parks. And for those of you who are not as avid about your dog love as me, I’ll keep my dog references more limited this time. However, today was the day of pugs at the dog park. There were 5 to be exact, and they were struttin their stuff with the best of the big dogs – under bites and all.

Charlie and Tom also fell in love with a miniature doodle puppy. Unfortunately, as Tom has pointed out to me, Charlie has no game with the girl poodles in the area, so he expressed his love by nibbling on her ears and barking in her face.

Although I rarely mention school, I am, in fact, still enrolled at HKS and have been a diligent student. This week brought our second statistics midterm, so many hours were spent in the library or at review sessions. I now know more about hypothesis testing and chi square distributions than I ever thought I would. That said, the teaching team works hard to connect our course content with real world applications, and its been one of my favorite classes at the Kennedy School so far.

To celebrate the end of a busy school week, Tom and I went to the HKS Dean’s Reception at the Court House in downtown Boston. There was a great view of the city skyline and a chance to see other students outside the classroom. The photos below show Tom and me and a great bunch of gals from my cohort (the group of about 60 students I take all my HKS courses with each day). This picture alone as amazing women from the UK, Lebanon, Germany, Venezuela and Nigeria. It speaks to the rich diversity of my HKS experience for which I’m so grateful.

Finally, outside of class one of the most meaningful experiences I’ve had so far has been my work with the Kennedy School Review – a policy journal run by HKS students. This week we welcomed 10 new associate editors that will be helping us with both blog articles and print journal pieces. We also started a new effort to regularly email people that sign up through our website, so we are better connecting them with the pieces students are writing. I’m really proud to be a part of the team that is managing the KSR’s work – particularly because it connects me with ‘real world’ issues and allows me to help promote other students’ work.

Tom and I also were really lucky to have Brian, our KSR editor in chief, and his wife and another managing editor, Patrick, for dinner. With true Southern love, we amde Frank Stitt’s seasoned pecans and Parlor Market Vieux Carres. Charlie expressed his happiness about having company by trying to eat Brian. Overall, a great dinner success.

It’s been a long, full week for all the members of the Allin fam. So we’ll leave you with an image that sums up how we plan to spend our Saturday.

Until next time!


5 Reasons I Love Somerville Dog Parks

Every weekend Charlie the Poodle, Tom and I get to go to the dog park here in Somerville. It is pretty much my favorite hour of the weekend. Here are 5 reasons why.

1. We meet all kinds of crazy creatures.

2. The people are incredibly friendly to dogs and humans alike.

IMG_12153. There is always a dog or two that is worse behaved than ours.

4. Every so often we get to see an owner that matches their pet.

IMG_10025. Charlie the Poodle believes the dog park is heaven on earth.

I could keep the reasons going (with pictures to match). If you live in Somerville or Cambridge and would like to get more tuned in to all things dog, I would highly recommend connecting with som|dog – a great resource for events and dog needs. They also have a facebook page that has good info without a membership fee.

Until Next Time!

From Franklin to the World Series

Whew! Have we had a full week. We have bounced from western North Carolina and back, played 3D dodgeball, and seen our very first World Series game in the flesh.

We traveled to Franklin, NC last weekend to see Matt Garza & Kaila Ramsey – two close UNC friends – become the Ramsey-Garzas. Franklin is a town of 3,800 people very close to western-most tip of NC. It takes about 5 hours to drive from Winston-Salem (in the middle of the state) to Franklin, and it probably makes the list of top 10 hardest places to get to in the U.S. However, to get there you drive through the Appalachian Mountains, and now is the prime time for –as Bostonians like to say– high quality leaf peeping. Lots of pieces of Franklin presented themselves in Matt & Kaila’s wedding from the barn their marriage ceremony and reception were in, to the quilt her mom made to serve as their guestbook, and the moonshine that Tom got to sip at the reception. Their signature cocktails included an Autumn Garza and Ramsey Fiz – both of which facilitated dancing well into the night.

My favorite part of going to a wedding with Tom is seeing him deliver an exceptional toast. Tom’s toast for Matt and Kaila walked through the 3 reasons why he felt Matt deserved the Nobel Prize in Economics over the ‘thieves’ awarded every year. Matt’s brother also toasted with the 3 chapters of Matt’s life. Among his advice for Matt and Kaila about marriage:

  • Remember to lie sometimes.
  • Don’t go to bed without making your closing arguments.
  • Don’t set your expectations for chores too high.*
  • Her happiness is simply more important than his happiness.

* Chris’ wife strongly disagrees with this one.

It was a really wonderful weekend to celebrate Matt and Kaila, reconnect with UNC friends and dance like college kids with animal masks. Franklin definitely gets a two thumbs up from the Allins.

In addition to a great weekend in Franklin, Tom and I had the UNREAL offer to join some other HKS students/alumni/staff at game 6 of the World Series between the Sox and the Cardinals. Talk about a once in a lifetime opportunity. The city is still celebrating from the Red Sox win, and it will be a long time before I forget the game or the man behind me shouting ‘What’d I tell ya!’ after every good thing the Red Sox did as if he had predicted it each time.

Last weekend we missed out on taking Charlie to the dog park because we were out of town, but this weekend we are back in full swing. There were some real dog gems at Nunziato this morning… particularly the a keeshond puppy that Tom now adores.

Until Next Time!


A Tale of Two Weekends

Tom and I have had two whole weekends of fun since our last post! Unfortunately, our weekends of fun were spent apart. This weekend Tom has been in Roanoke, Viriginia at the CityWorks (X)po. The tag line for the weekend is “A Gathering to Share Big Ideas for Better Cities.” While I was sipping wine alone at our dining room table, Tom was sending me pictures from Ed Walker‘s rooftop apartment and chatting it up with my HKS professors. Tom was living the dream.

Zika, Irene, Dina, Miya and Joanna

Zika, Irene, Dina, Miya and Joanna

Since Tom was out of town, I took some time to fulfill some personal priorities for my time in Cambridge. Saturday night marked my first Massachusetts dinner party. No boys were allowed (except Charlie). We had my mom’s yummy stuffed past shells and a great salad. Charlie largely behaved himself thanks to a Target bone purchased earlier in the day, and all six of us has a great evening of stories about skydiving, shark watching, and bungee jumping. I have no plan to do any of these things after hearing their tales. Needless to say they were a group of intelligent and bold women who made my home feel full even when Tom was away.

Charlie and I also got to check out some particularly interesting characters at the dog park. There was a great dane and a schnoodle named Einstein.


Charlie also got to go to Friday’s HKS Quorum Call and became a complete ladies’ dog (credit to Chris Myers for the name). He got lots of treats from fellow students and dug one too many holes in the HKS lawn. He will definitely make another appearance soon.

Last weekend I was very fortunate to travel to Cape Cod with some fellow Kennedy School students. We spent a weekend focused on leadership development, but there was some fun spread across days as well. We did improv exercises and got to travel to David Gergen’s home on the Cape for a night of kayaking, volleyball playing and lobster eating. I had never had a lobster before (or at least one I had to break open!), so I was a bit overexcited about the process. The other students humored me by taking my picture with the lobster before I dug in. Our time on the Cape was very special and helped me form closer relationships with the CPL fellows. Plus, playing volleyball with David Gergen on your team never hurt anyone.

Next weekend our close friend from Jackson, Mindy Waldrop, is visiting Boston, so get excited for shots of us gallivanting around town.

Until next time!


Cookies and Ice Cream and Dal, Oh My!

This weekend was full of good food and good friends. As a Kennedy School Student, every weekend starts Friday at 4pm when kegs of beer and tables of snacks are rolled out in our courtyard for Quorum Call. We munch on popcorn or goldfish, enjoy a beer (or two) and sit at umbrella covered tables in the courtyard. It is a great way to unwind from a problem set and catch up with the other awesome students at HKS in a more laid back atmosphere than class.

After Quorum Call, Tom and I headed to the South End of Boston to see our dear Delta friends Nick and Becca. We were introduced to box hockey — a game I thoroughly enjoyed because I can certainly beat Tom at least 50% of the time. I can already tell there will be many nights of box hockey in their apartment as the days get colder. Tom headed to the Red Sox/Blue Jays game with Nick, but I definitely got the better end of the Friday night plans thanks to Becca. First, I got a full scale view of downtown Boston from Top of the Hub in the Prudential Building (see photo). More importantly, we also ordered a plate FULL of warm, soft cookies and a glass of red wine. Who doesn’t love a ginger cookie on the top of a sky scraper to top off their Friday night?

Mick Power, a fellow HKS student and perhaps my new favorite Aussie, had us  over for some scumptous homemade indian food on Saturday night. He had his guests flipping naan in pans and making cocktails. He provided us with a great meal full of dal, rice, cashews, and curry. It was lovely, and so is Mick who you can see sporting a plate full of goodness. We also had some food creations of our own as we pulled out the wedding gifts and successfully made pumpkin pie ice cream. Nick came for dinner and can vouch for the high quality ice cream outcome. He was also a good sport and let me take his photograph before he dug in to the final product.

No weekend is complete without some good shots from the Nunziato Dog Park.  There were some great dog personalities romping around on Saturday. Enjoy. And as a final note, this week marks the birthday of one of our dearest friends, Rachel Myers. We hope her week is full of dancing, singing and good friends, and we wish we were there to celebrate with her.

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Until next time!