Sunday, August 31, 2014

One of These Things Just Doesn't Fit

The most difficult part of packing to move to Boston was deciding which books to bring. I don't have a bookshelf here yet so space is limited and I had to cut back on what I chose. Regardless, I was still excited to set my books out as we were unpacking. I set them up nicely, in height order, on a trunk in our family room only to come back a few minutes later and see an addition at the end of my book lineup. AJ's FIFA. I quickly told him that he ruined it but the game remains there and probably will for a while now.

Boston Has Been Good To Us

 We've been here for a full week now and have enjoyed our time to the fullest. There's a lot to do every day and we're taking advantage of it! Here are a few perks from our time in Boston so far:

I had my orientation this past Thursday and had some down time between events so I wandered over to Brattle Book Shop, one of my favorite places in Boston and a book lover's heaven on earth. While browsing the outdoor shelves, I came across the above book which you may recognize from past posts about my love for Elena Ferrante (are you sick of it yet?). I don't know how that copy ended up there—it's not available in the US until September 2nd. I checked the copy, flipping through pages and looking for any signs that it might be an advanced proof and as far as I could tell, it's the real the deal! At the end of the day I came home, told AJ about it and where it was, and the next day it was sitting on the kitchen table with a new mug as well. I'm still reading Russian Winter (I'm over halfway through and loving it!) but as soon as I'm done, I will jump right into Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay. 

This is AJ in his element. He's a big Manchester United fan and it just so happens that the same year we move here, a bar on Beacon Street becomes the official bar for Manchester United watching in Boston. AJ was excited to have a fun place to watch the games and even though we're not bar people, I thought it would be an experience. However, because the games are played in England, the time difference means that many games are first thing in the morning. So, at 7 am yesterday morning we rolled out of bed and made our way down Beacon Street for a 7:45 game at the bar, Crossroads.

We had breakfast sandwiches, potatoes, and coffee while watching the game among other rowdy fans. The man who organized the game watching at Crossroads introduced himself to us and said he liked having a community of fans together for games. It wasn't too crowded and it was very laid back, probably because it was so early, and we had a great time! I'm sure we'll be back for more games. 

Last night we went to Mass in the North End at St. Leonard's church. This weekend, the North End is celebrating the feast of St. Anthony so we knew there would be a lot going on down there. After Mass, we headed down Prince Street to Thacher Street where the original Regina Pizzeria location had set up an outdoor patio for diners to eat al fresco and watch the people milling about the food stands that had been set up in the streets. Of course, there was a line but I really wanted to eat there and we decided it was worth the wait. While in line, the procession of St. Anthony made it's way down the crowded street. There were trumpets and drums and people pinning money to the ribbons around St. Anthony's likeness. 

Our wait in the line was probably 30 minutes long, seating was limited, but the line moved faster than I thought it would. We ordered a crostini appetizer that was delicious and split a small pizza that had chicken, mozzarella, and peppers. Regina's Pizzeria is well-known in Massachusetts and has been in business since 1926! Their crust recipe is 80 years old and is probably the best pizza crust—it's crispy but not too thin—and the mozzarella is the best I've ever tasted! We both agreed the pizza was perfect and we'll be going back for more soon!

We could've stopped eating after the pizza, but the streets were filled with tempting smells from all the food stands set up around us. The most tempting smell was fried calamari. AJ bought a plate of that while I opted to buy myself a dessert of fried dough bites, covered with melted butter, honey, cinnamon, and powdered sugar. They were delicious, but not as good as my mom's pizza fritta. We walked among the heard of people and listened to the music that a local band was performing—they sang old school Italian songs as well as current pop songs so it was a fun mix! 

The smell from the cigar stand added to the feel of the night. Pizza and pasta and fried seafood were available at most food stands and there were plenty of cannolis being eaten from Mike's Pastry's stand—not to mention the huge line that was at Mike's real location on Hanover. 

Our last stop was at a drink stand where already drunk vendors were selling mixed frozen drinks in keepsake mason jars. I got a banana daiquiri and AJ got the piƱa colada. The prices were steep, $12 each, but you got to keep the jar and get a free refill. We listened to a bit more music and I sang along as the band played Che La Luna before calling it a night and walking back home to Beacon Hill. 

It was a fun night and personified the fun times I had hoped for while living here, and it's still only our first week! And what a great weeks it's been. Soon I'll be starting school and AJ will start working his new job and real life will set in but I have a feeling that, while living in Boston, doing something we've hoped to do since we started dating, it will never really feel like real life. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Reading Challenge

I am the kind of girl who looks forward to the start of each school year and since I'm starting graduate school this year in a new place, a new city, with new people, and a new focus, my excitement has only tripled! As soon as I got to register for classes in July, I checked for any updates on my class schedule multiple times per day, hoping and waiting to see what classes I would be put into. I wanted to know what time my classes would be and where they would be held and who my professors would be so that I could try my best to visualize what these next three months of my life would look like.

When I finally got my schedule and eventually my teacher assignments, I researched them and found that I was already familiar with my fiction workshop professor, Daphne Kalotay. My mother gave me Kalotay's novel, Russian Winter, for Christmas two years ago and it has since sat on my shelf waiting to be read. I was extremely surprised and delighted to find that I would be studying under a writer whose work I was aware of and who I  knew was an accomplished and respected writer.

My first day of class with Daphne Kalotay is just under a week away and I've given myself a goal of reading all (or as much as possible) of Russian Winter by the start of class. It's a long novel, pushing 500 pages, but its content is intriguing and it jumps between settings—one of which is Boston—so I know that I will have no problem staying focused and interested. Not to mention AJ and I are in that place where we are waiting for time consuming distractions (school for me, work for him) to take over so I should have ample time to read, read read!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Currently Reading: Troubling Love

My love for Elena Ferrante novels is well known around these parts and this book of hers I'm reading right now only amplifies the respect I have for her words and writing style. It's unlike anything I've read by other authors; her descriptions, the way she weaves seamlessly through time, and the deeply personal thoughts and feelings that most people experience but leave unsaid are hallmarks of her prose.

This novel, Troubling Love, takes place in Ferrante's native Italy and follows the story of a woman, Delia, trying to find out the truth about her mother's mysterious death by drowning. Of course, the reader is given insight into complicated relationships between mother and daughter as well as buried childhoods memories, such as watching her father nearly kill her mother's lover and budding sexual relationships as an adolescent.

Among the first clues in Delia's possession, is a bag of lingerie that, even though it belongs to her mother, is uncharacteristic of the deceased woman. Aside from that, Ferrante develops all the odd characters that are necessary in a story such as this: a one-armed uncle, an abusive husband who claims to act out of love, a nosy neighbor who might know more than she says, a childhood playmate who becomes more, and an old man who may have started it all.

The book is not very long, only 139 pages. I'm going through it slowly, though, in an attempt to catch every words, phrase, and reference because this is a book that you could read 100 times and find something new with each read.

Life Lately

We've been in Boston for just a few days now and we've already managed to squeeze in quite a few fun activities and a lot of necessary ones! Here's a rundown of what we've been up to!

On Monday we

stopped by Marshall's to pick up some bathroom essentials and hair clippers for AJ
split a Tom Brady sandwich from DeLuca's on the Charles River Esplanade
grocery shopped at CVS
lifted weights at the gym among far too many meatheads
ate pasta, salad, and chocolate chip froyo from Richardson's for dinner while catching up on Dateline

On Tuesday we

went back to the gym (earlier to avoid the crowd)
tried to blowout my hair and failed miserably
grocery shopped at Trader Joe's and accidentally bought cashew butter (what?)
(I) got school mandated blood work done to prove I am immune to the chicken pox. AJ got to wait for me and listen to me whine all morning
took the T and bus to South Boston—new for me—so AJ could go to his new workplace for a drug screening. He peed in a cup, I waited for him at the beach
ate deliciously marinated chicken and undercooked sweet potatoes for dinner

Today I want to soak up the sun by sitting on the roof with a good book. There are only so many days left to tan before the cold sets in up here in New England! Also, I have to go back to Trader Joe's to return the cashew butter and buy olive oil. And more sweet potatoes. I could eat those for every meal.

On Thursday I have my grad school orientation! The nerves set in back in June but I'm looking forward to getting started and seeing what this is all about.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bridal Shower

Last weekend, my mom threw me a beautiful bridal shower! She had wanted to make it a surprise but when so many people are involved, little slips are bound to happen here and there! So I kind of knew I was having a shower and I guessed it would be our last weekend in Connecticut but the people that came, the festivities involved, and the beautiful gifts I was blessed with were all surprises to me!

I was kicked out of my mom's house on Saturday afternoon and told to sleep at my grandmother's. Meanwhile, my mom, sisters, family friends, godmother, and AJ's parents were all at my house getting things ready! On Sunday morning, AJ picked me up from my grandmother's and took me to church. Apparently, we had to kill time before going to my house so we drove aimlessly for a bit before heading home.

making an entrance

When we walked in the door, I was amazed at all the hard work and planning that my mom and family had put into the day. The house was filled with people spread out between the family room, kitchen, and living room. There were decorations galore and delicious food that exemplified the bridal brunch my mom had planned because she knows I love brunch.

Mom even planned the food to represent me! There were plenty of munchkins from Dunkin' Donuts, because those are a childhood favorite. Cinnamon raisin bagels with cream cheese. Rosemary chicken and honey baked ham. Chocolate covered strawberries. Croissants. Quiche. Fruit salad. And she made mini pancakes on a stick, garnished with a blueberry. My stomach is growling as I write. Plus, there were mimosas and iced tea.

After everyone had enough to eat, the men that came (AJ, his dad and brother, and some cousins) retreated to the basement with a few bottles of wine while the ladies moved into the living room to open gifts. First, everyone went around the room to say how they knew me which elicited kind words in Spanish from AJ's grandmother, tears from my grandmother, and laughs from those who chose to share stories.

All of our guests were extremely generous and thoughtful in their giving. I was overwhelmed with appreciation and the feeling of being so loved by so many people all at once! In all honesty, I was more touched by the number of people who came and helped so much than by the gifts themselves.

too beautiful to eat!

Once all of the gifts were opened, we hurried to the cake! My mother-in-law made the cake. It was three tiered and she made the flowers to match those on the invitation for my shower! The bottom layer, which was quickly devoured, was a vanilla cake filled with cream and raspberry jam. The second layer was chocolate with Nutella filling, and the top layer was chocolate cake with coconut and dulce de leche filling. It was to die for! Everyone asked to take a piece home.

Along with the cake were the cookie trays. Cookie trays are a tradition in our family, they are made for every baptism, first communion, wedding, and some birthdays too. My mom's cousins pitched in and did lots of baking for the cookie tray and oh my goodness were those cookies amazing! There were so many different kinds, too! My grandmother made magic bars (AJ's favorite) and biscotti, some plain and some with cherries. My sister's godmother made chocolate marriage cookies and pignoli cookies. My grandmother's friend made anisette cookies with icing and sprinkles. My mom's cousins made almond biscotti and butterfly cookies. My godmother's daughter made butterballs and her delicious and addictive chocolate chip cookies—that is one recipe I'd do anything to get! All the cookies that did not get eaten are now sitting in my mom's freezer! Maybe post-wedding I'll pull them out for a treat.

As for the favors, my mother-in-law made adorable cupcakes for everyone to take home and my godmother specially ordered chocolate hearts from my favorite store, The Chatham Candy Manor. The Candy Manor has always been a special place to us and she knew I'd love that she thought of it!

It was a wonderful day filled with love. I could not have imagined a better bridal shower! Keep reading for more photos from the day!

Mom had this made, now we can keep it in our apartment!

my sister Sarah, Mom, me, my grandmother, Marina

my amazing mother

everyone blew bubbles while I cut the cake. marina stood on the table to get a better angle

photo credit to AJ. he took this while we killed time outside before the party

my moms and grandmothers. I'm so blessed with these ladies!

cake and photos

the most important women in my life, mom and sisters.

when we first walked into the party. my left eye gets super squinty when I'm really happy

marina's longtime friend, Katelyn, who has been a maid of honor many times before and therefore made my ribbon bouquet

my pretty sisters

and with my new sister!

of course

my sweet godmother

Monday, August 25, 2014

I'm Back...In Boston!

I haven't been able to blog in the longest time! I've missed it! But I think I have a decent reason for being so preoccupied. AJ and I moved back to Boston! Just yesterday in fact, but the last two weeks or so were dedicated to packing, squeezing in wedding planning, and tying up any loose ends before leaving the great state of Connecticut (we already have plans to go back in two and a half weeks, but still)!

So I've been a little distracted and a lot busy lately. We arrived in Boston yesterday afternoon after packing my Jeep to the brim with suitcases and bags. There are so many things we want to bring so that we actually feel settled and like we're living here full time but a car can only handle so much at a time. Luckily for us, our families plan on visiting and will be able to bring us more stuff and we'll pack up some more things when we go back in September for a long weekend.

Once we got here, my mom and I started organizing and making more space while AJ ran to the market across the street for sandwiches. We ate a quick lunch and as soon as we were done, the unpacking began! Surprisingly, we unpacked all our bags in just a few hours! I think we did it so quickly this time because we had a plan, unlike last time. We brought some things down to the storage container in the building's basement—such a luxury for us—and then napped for maybe 2 hours. We had a late dinner of delicious pizza from Upper Crust (which is right in our building!) with red wine before calling it a night.

And we've gotten a lot done today, too! First thing this morning, AJ headed to the gym to set up a membership and then ran to CVS for some things we desperately needed, like toilet paper. I have to get some blood work done—boo—before school starts so when AJ got home, we went down to the health center to set that up. Then we walked to Marshall's to get hair clippers for AJ and a tooth brush holder for the bathroom but I couldn't leave without getting a pumpkin scented candle. Fall is coming!

We came home, dropped everything off, and then headed back to the market for a sandwich. We walked across the footbridge to the Charles River Esplanade and shared our sandwich while sitting on the water. It is a beautiful, hot summer day out there!

Now, we're resting inside. There's a game AJ wants to watch at 3 and there's some reading and writing I want to get caught up on. Later this afternoon we'll go to the gym to get a workout in and then we'll have pasta for dinner—because we really have no food in our pantry at this point. A trip to Trader Joe's tomorrow will certainly change that!

I have a lot of posts planned for the blog coming up, including one about my surprise bridal shower last week and more books posts about what I'm reading and what I've bought. At some point I will also do a little apartment tour and I'm sure Boston posts will be plentiful very soon!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Way To My Heart Is Through Books

And more specifically, through Elena Ferrante novels. I came home from babysitting on Monday to a package from Amazon. At first I got nervous that I was going crazy and shopping online without remembering buying anything! But as I tore through the package, I realized I was in fact not going crazy. Instead, I realized just how very lucky I am.

Inside the package were two of Elena Ferrante's novels that I don't have yet, Troubling Love and The Days of Abandonment, along with a sweet, little note from AJ. He knows I love surprises and he knows I love books and it was such a nice gesture and a wonderful treat to come home to! I'm a lucky, lucky girl and you better believe I've already jumped into these two books! I had a good four or five books I was already reading but I've set those aside to enjoy these.

Plus, AJ hinted that he has already pre ordered me the last book in Ferrante's Neapolitan trilogy which comes out in September!

Sisters in the City

A weekend in New York. All right, here we go. Friday afternoon, I hopped a train to Grand Central to spend the weekend with my sissy, Marina. She lives three blocks from Grand Central so I got off the train and walked to her building. We hung out for a few minutes, catching up, before heading out to the Morgan Museum and Library.

 It was a nice walk and not too far from her place and the museum was gorgeous. So many books! So many libraries! And there was an awesome exhibit on modern literature, showcasing rare editions, hand-edited manuscripts by the authors themselves, and interesting tidbits and facts about writers and their works. Both of us could speed through a museum pretty quickly, but we took our time here because all of the displays were so interesting! This museum also tends to change up their exhibits pretty quickly (and they are usually literary themed) so I feel like it's a place you could go to often and never get bored!

After the museum, we kept walking, went down through Union Square, and ended up at The Strand bookstore. I was in heaven. And of course, I have no photos to share because who has time to take photos when there are miles of books to be bought? I think we spent a good hour and a half to two hours in there, browsing. I must've picked up ten different books and carried them around for a while before deciding I had to be practical about what to buy. I only left with two books, The Valley of the Dolls and The Complete Short Stories of Flannery O' Connor, because they were both so well priced, but the walking and looking and reading was so fun and I will definitely be back.

All the book shopping tired us out so we took the subway back to Marina's and relaxed for a bit. We had dinner plans with some of her girlfriends who were coming up from DC but they wouldn't be in until 9 or later so we had plenty of time to just hangout. We put on a few episodes of Friends and Marina set out some cheese, crackers, and fruit and we started the bottle of rose we got to share with her friends.

Once we heard from the rest of the girls, we walked to a nearby restaurant called Tuttles. The four other girls met up with us there and we had a great night together! It was after 10, so Marina and I got some small plates to share and the whole table shared a bottle of Prosecco. We sat in the outdoor dining area that was enclosed by other buildings. It was beautiful summer night and we enjoyed the bright city lights.

I slept surprisingly well that night. I thought I would be awoken at all hours because of the noisy city, since I'm used to sleeping in the quiet suburbs, but I didn't wake up once! We didn't rush in the morning. We had breakfast, coffee, and I started reading The Valley of the Dolls.

Around eleven, we made our way down to Soho to check out the New Museum. They had an exhibit on Middle Eastern art and Marina and her friends used to live in Cairo together so they were all very interested in that!

From there, we made our way to The High Line and walked around it for a bit. It's so beautiful and such an odd feeling to be walking through a green park, winding its way through tall, city buildings. It was another gorgeous day but it started to get very hot in the midday sun and we were all hungry for lunch by then so we didn't stay up there too long before heading to the Chelsea Market for lunch. There, we ate and shopped around at the pop up shop.

After lunch, we walked to a nearby bar that had a roof deck for a glass of sparkling rose before Marina and I went back up town to get ready for dinner.

Dinner on Saturday night was probably one of the best parts of the entire weekend. We went to a great little restaurant in Chelsea called Bottino and sat outside on their patio that was strung with white lights. We had a good three and a half hour dinner. We split apps, had delicious entrees, and shared a big slice of tiramisu for dessert. We talked non stop and laughed like crazy. Our waiter commented on the fact that we had covered a wide variety of discussion topics over the night, spanning from Catholicism, Middle Eastern politics, waxing, weddings, the usual gossip, and college stories. Our waiter also fell in love with Marina's friend and slipped her a little love note as we left, which we then promptly performed dramatic readings of on our way down the street.

It was a great weekend made even better by the great company we had. I'd been wanting to stay with Marina in the city for a while and I'm so glad I was able to do it before I move to Boston! She was the greatest hostess and she guided me around the city like an expert. I love you sissy!