Poodle and Our Park Make The Paper

As part of a column writing class I’m taking this semester, I’ve written several op-eds on different topics (from Wikipedia to technical education). My favorite is a piece on our local park and the importance of parks for building our community here in Somerville. You can read the piece here. But pieces are always better with a visual, so here are a few of my favorites of Charlie, our park and our friends over the last year.

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.

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.

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!


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!