To Boston: The New England Tour Continues

We continued our tour of New England attractions last weekend when we were able to (finally) visit Boston at length.  Given that we’ve lived in this very small state for almost a year, it’s a little ridiculous that we hadn’t been able to make the trip before now.  Our first effort was thwarted by a rainstorm of ark-requiring magnitude and our second trip involved a quick dinner in the dark and rain, so I don’t count that.  This time, we had a leisurely three-day trip that happened to include our anniversary.

We were staying near the Prudential Center, so we started off our trip with a stroll through the shops there.  There was a Trader Joe’s around the corner, which was the highlight for me; Johnny’s starting to realize that he could get me to move anywhere if there was a TJ’s within a reasonable distance.


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For dinner the first night, we walked through a quiet and pretty neighborhood to Giacomo’s, a well-reviewed, cash-only restaurant.  We started with the artfully-arranged caprese salad below, and then had to narrow down our entree selections from a very large selection of meatless options.  Johnny got lobster ravioli and I had tuna and swordfish over squid-ink pasta.  They were both fantastic, but I wouldn’t have minded just getting a double order of the ravioli…

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We were also within walking distance of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, so we took a long walk through that area.  It’s a really beautiful building covered with interesting architectural details. Unfortunately, it’s also neighbored by a truly hideous brutalist building (on the right in the photo below).

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We agreed that the comma is really what makes this hilarious.  It’s just begging to read with a long, gravity-laden pause: “This is Christ….scientist.”  And it involves one of these guys:

Anyway, moving on.  But actually, not moving too far, because we saw this the next day.

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Unfortunately, my google searches for “Jesus shoe salesman” came up with nothing, so I’ll stick with this:

“Peter, you must get something with better arch support.”

We took in some excellent urban scenery…

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…And Johnny got to play a little basketball.

The neighborhood near our hotel is home to several conservatories and universities, and the housing around there is lovely.  We walked several miles through some really peaceful streets, and even I had to admit that this was city living that I could handle.  We even managed to wander into a church with Perpetual Adoration.

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Nothing completes an old distinguished apartment building like Comic Sans.

On Sunday, we got brunch at a cafe/bookstore, and then made our way to Mass at the Cathedral.  Johnny ran into an old friend in the entryway, and the proprietor of the cathedral bookstore insisted on pulling Pope Francis out into the open so we could get a better photo.

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One whole year down – happy anniversary, dear!

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Still smiling on the way home, before he needed three doses of benadryl.

 

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Our New England Tour: Rhode Island Edition

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One of the best things about living in New England is that so many things are so close.  There are 5 states within a 100 mile radius (and 8 within 125 miles).  Now that the never-ending winter is over, we’ve been heading out to explore the area a little more, including a trip to Providence earlier this month.  A good friend of ours works at Providence College, and we were happy for a chance to go visit.  It didn’t hurt that the weather was gorgeous, either!

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A mere 1.5 hours later, we arrived on the lovely campus, where we got lengthy tour before a private Mass (friends who also happen to be priests: win).  Funny story about that lengthy tour, though.  We were planning to have Mass first, but realized an hour into our drive that we were both still drinking coffee.  There was no way we’d be an hour away from receiving Communion under the original plan, so we sheepishly admitted our mistake to Father.  True to form, he laughed it off and we killed an hour by walking around.

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IMG_2473What is it about boys that makes them gravitate toward sticks?  Actually…never mind.  I probably don’t need an answer.

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IMG_2491These flowers were so tiny and delicate I had to get a picture.  Unfortunately, that required waiting several minutes for the breeze to stop.  I believe that Johnny’s hand may also be just out of frame, holding the branch still.

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Poor St. Dominic has lost all of his fingers.  Mary wasn’t doing so well on that front, either.

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IMG_2514We went into town for a long and fantastic lunch in an Italian neighborhood (now that I think of it, that’s not very descriptive, since I think the whole city is pretty Italian).

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There was a lovely little square of outdoor tables bordered on all sides by restaurants.  It was a perfect day for eating outside (or not eating, as the case may be: the couple next to us had a little girl who couldn’t tear herself away from the fountain long enough to sit down and eat).

After lunch, we walked to a pastry and coffee shop that was perfectly adorable.  Case in point: the window boxes outside:
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At the end of the day, we had to tear ourselves away to go home, and sighed contentedly the whole way.

7 Quick Takes – 5Ks, Boozy Cookies, and Book Reviews

Alright, back again with no good excuse except for being busy and not taking time to type things up. Ye old Instagram feed has been busy, though, so anyone who wants to know what we’ve been up to can follow along there.
[1]
I mentioned a while back that my first 5K was coming up. Well, that morning dawned cold and rainy, but we got up anyway, bundled up (as much as one can before running), and headed out.


My main, pathetic, goal was to finish in less than double Johnny’s time, and hey, I did that handily. He assured me (truthfully or kindly) that the weather probably kept most of the “wimps” home, so the overall field of runners was better. This made me feel a little better about finishing noooot quiiiiiite last in my age category (which only had 14 people in it!). The run looped around the fairgrounds, which included lots of unexpected mud and running through animal exhibit barns. Very classy. It was sponsored by a local liquor store, so everyone got a beer at the end. Luckily, I knew myself well enough not to drink more than an inch or so. Exertion plus and empty stomach were not the ideal environment for downing a tall cold one.

 Anyway, I’d do it again, but probably not until I’ve actually trained adequately (that is, can actually run the whole distance without stopping).

[2]

The running of the grand race was, of course, in honor of my birthday. Johnny insisted that I open his gift early, and when I did I was greeted by this message, so typically sentimental:


Such a romantic. But inside were two cookbooks from my wishlist, which was great. The first was The Chinese Takeout Cookbook, which is a must-have for anyone who enjoys chinese food. The other was this baby:

We love this book so much that we’re on a first name basis with it. The first week of ownership was full of “Marcella says…” and “What would Marcella say?” (The answer, by the way, is that Marcella would say never to use any herbs other than fresh, unless all European vegetation has been rendered inedible by a nuclear explosion.)  It’s a delightful book – Marcella earned a doctorate in Biology before she started cooking, and the writing is intelligent and delightfully pretentious. Last week we celebrated “Fresh Pasta Friday,” which may have to become a tradition, if for no other reason than that it’s so photogenic.

[3]

While we’re on the subject of cooking, I’d like to point out an article that was making the rounds this week, about the science of the best chocolate chip cookie recipe. It’s very long, and pretty interesting, but I’ll save you some potential effort and tell you…meh. We tried them last night, and were not overly impressed. They were okay and all, but for our money, the winning recipe is still the Cook’s Illustrated browned butter version.  Or, for something different…
[4]
Brown butter bourbon cookies.  I made these last weekend to give to a priest friend we visited (it was Kentucky Derby day, after all), and it was very hard to get Johnny to let go of the bag at the end of the day.  Okay, I had some separation anxiety too.  Luckily, I have a Costco-sized bag of pecans, and roughly a gallon of Jim Beam at home (long story).  My only note is that they don’t spread at all, so either make them small or flatten them slightly.
[5]
Spring came! We’re still waiting on our first 80 degree day, but the trees have started blossoming. Allergies be damned, I went out and took some pictures, just to remind myself that hey, I’m pretty good at this whole photo thing.

At long last, it’s good to see some color.
[6]
Here’s my view as of right now.  Cookbooks all over, iPad, laundry folded but not put away.  My copy of Something Other Than God is there because I finished it on Tuesday but can’t bring myself to shelve it yet.  I’ll get to that later, though, because first I want to address something that kept me awake last night.  On the TV in background is Nazi Mega Weapons on PBS.  It involved several reenacted scenes of strategy meetings, which got me thinking about the aspiring actor whose agent called him and said, “Hey, I’ve got a great part for you in a miniseries!…Yeah, PBS…Well….they’re wondering if you can grow a mustache.”  Is there a group of five or six guys who just keep running into each other at the same auditions?  Do their mothers know what they do for a living?  Anyway, such are the things that keep me awake at night.
[7]
And finally, about that book on the coffee table.  I pre-ordered Jennifer’s book a few weeks ago, and started reading it on Monday.  I should’ve just stayed up all night to finish it, because I spent all day Tuesday wishing I was at home reading it.  It is, of course, very well-written, and compelling stuff.  It combines memoir with a dash of legal drama and medical drama; I can’t remember the last time I read a book in so few sittings.
For more Quick Takes, visit the authoress herself at Conversion Diary!

 

A vintage birthday cake is still just a cake

For my birthday last week, I decided to bake a cake.  There’s nothing extraordinary about that, except that I grew up in a decidedly non-cake-eating family.  We’re certainly not opposed to dessert in general, but even with seven of us in the house, cake just always sat on the counter until the last half of it required a demolition team to remove.  For some reason I thought it’d be different this year – Johnny likes dessert of all kinds, and I picked up a couple 6″ pans on clearance at the King Arthur Flour store so that we’d be committed to a much smaller cake (it’s sitting on a regular dinner plate in the photo below).

When will I learn not to take photos under the hood light over the stove? Never? Okay.

I knew I wanted a citrus-themed cake, because spring has been too long in coming, and the most promising recipe I found claimed to be from 1929.  It didn’t have a ton of sugar and didn’t involve jello, unlike all the other ones.  Plus, it came with the endorsement “Believe me..you’re taste buds will explode!!!”, which I hope wasn’t on the original 1929 version.
Well, I made it, and it turned out well.  The icing was way too soft to be good for decorating, but I made the most of it and I think it turned out presentably.  And yet, it’s still just cake.  A week later, the last third of it is still sitting in the kitchen, untouched.  I may have overestimated Johnny’s willingness to eat anything, because the bags of Easter candy in the freezer are long gone while the cake remains.  Lesson learned (again).  I hope those cake pans work for pizza too.