Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Day at the Museum

Last weekend, my mom and her cousin came to visit with the specific purpose to visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston's Fenway neighborhood. Mom had gone once before and was amazed by it. Whenever she would talk about it, I got the urge to go and see just what made it so great.

On a chilly Friday morning, we got a cab on Charles Street and went to the museum. We were a bit early (it opens at 11) so we stood outside in the heavy winds with quite a few others, waiting for the museum to open. Once we were let in, we went to buy our tickets and I was happy to find out that, as an Emerson student, I get free admission! So I will definitely be returning many times while at Emerson.

The entire museum is beautiful and there is so much to see, plus there is a lot of history behind the museum and Isabella Stewart Gardner's life that led up to the creation of this beautiful place. In short, Isabella was a woman from New York City and was educated in Paris. She married John "Jack" L. Gardner, the brother of a classmate and Boston's most eligible bachelor. After losing their only child at 18 months old, they threw themselves into their passions, which included art and travel. They traveled widely and Venice became Isabella's favorite place. After Jack's death, Isabella decided to have a museum built in the Fenway neighborhood (which was considered country in when it was build in 1903).

The museum is clearly inspired by Venetian art and architecture. There is a courtyard in the center which is filled with flowers, fountains, and statues and is covered by glass panels so there is natural light constantly. Isabella meticulously chose where each piece of artwork was placed in every room and, per her request, nothing is allowed to be changed, altered, or moved. Where Isabella chose to place everything is where it will always remain.

There are so many rooms to see and paintings and sculptures to admire. There's a small sanctuary on the first floor that is beautiful and every room is enviable. The staircase is spectacular.

There is a lot to see and in the addition that was build behind the museum features space for exhibits and an acoustically amazing music room where performances are often held. I definitely recommend making your way to Fenway if you visit or live in Boston. This museum, because it was a residence at one time, is very different from any other museum I've visited and it one I hope to return to often, because there is so very much to see! Not to mention, when you pull up to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, you will feel like you are seeing a small slice of Venice in the middle of Boston.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving Recap

My first Thanksgiving cooking the whole meal went surprisingly well. The day started off early. AJ had to work a half day so we were up at 6 and he was gone by 7. I took a little time in the morning to journal. I wanted to ensure that I would get to record what I was thinking and feeling on our first Thanksgiving here and together as a married pair.

I started preparing in the kitchen by 9 as a the parade started. I also called my mom and sister in Connecticut to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving and for a bit of cooking advice! Then at 10, I watched the Friends Thanksgiving marathon on my laptop because I couldn't decide between that and the parade! I'm sure I wasn't the only one with that dilemma.

I made mashed turnips, cranberry sauce, and gravy on the stove top early so I could just reheat it all when it was about time to eat. At 11:30, I put our turkey breast in the oven. I ended up ordering a pre-stuffed breast from Whole Foods so that I wouldn't have to worry about doing my own stuffing. It was tiny, little 3.5 pound breast and perfect for just us! I assumed the turkey would take 1.5-2 hours to cook but when I checked it around 12:30, it looked pretty cooked! So then I started to rush. AJ got home right around that time and I hadn't yet started the brussels sprouts or sweet potato casserole! I had already mashed the sweet potatoes and put them in a baking dish so I quickly put that in the oven with the turkey and started to sauté the sprouts with garlic and turkey bacon. Before it got too dry, I took the turkey out of the oven and covered it with tin foil and a dishtowel to keep it warm while I started reheating everything on the stove. I threw some pecans and marshmallows on the casserole and set the oven to broil. AJ helped put everything into serving dishes, opened the wine, and got the turkey onto a serving dish. But before we could eat, of course, we had to get a few photos of the table.

As we sat down to eat, AJ suggested we listen to Christmas music—which made me so happy because I love Christmas music but AJ usually does not like it until Thanksgiving is all said and done! He knows the way to my heart.

We had a nice midday dinner around 1. We ate and talked, had seconds and drank wine. After eating, we left all the dishes on the table and took a nice walk through the Common. It was a beautiful afternoon, chilly and cloudy but no wind! There were a few other people who had the same idea as us, but the city was very quiet! The Common is already decorated for Christmas and it looked beautiful! We walked down Joy Street to Mount Vernon Street and then home. We cleaned the dishes and put away leftover before taking out the dessert and pouring coffee. I think I stuffed myself the most with dessert! We didn't have pie this year, but we had chocolate chip pumpkin blondie bars and pecan bars. We watched football and then started taking out some Christmas decorations. We were slightly surprised by the fake tree we got. It's maybe 3 feet tall and completely looks like a Charlie Brown tree, which is a bit endearing really. And some how the strand of lights I got for is still not big enough! So we left that to decorate until I get more lights but we did string some white lights over our window and it looks like Christmas!

Today, we woke up to a bit of snow outside and it flurried for part of the morning. Later, I'm going to brave the crowds to do a bit of shopping...but if the lines are long or the stores are super crowded I will turn around and come home! I'm not big into Black Friday crowds.

I hope everyone had a wonderful, enjoyable Thanksgiving. I hope everyone was able to spend time with family and the people they love, that is what this time of year is all about!

Christmas in Faneuil Hall

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, I'm ready to start sharing Christmas related posts! Last Saturday, AJ and I had a wonderfully fun evening with a big crowd of people getting into the Christmas spirit. The Faneuil Hall Christmas Tree Lighting is the first tree lighting of the season in Boston. It's a big, fun event and everyone crowds around the tree (which is bigger than Rockefeller's Center tree!) and the stage where performers and celebrities entertain until the tree lights up.

AJ and I started the night with mass at St. Leonard's and then walked over to Caffe Vittoria on Hanover Street to kill time before making our way to the tree. I had a cappuccino, AJ had an affogato, and we split a slice of tiramisu. The caffe was decorated beautifully with lights and garlands and we were lucky to find an open table!

From there, we walked to Faneuil Hall and stopped in a few stores, including Newbury Comics were I bought 7 Christmas movies that I can't wait to start watching! It was already getting really crowded so we made a quick trip through Gap before squeezing our way towards the stage. We stood in a good spot, we couldn't see the stage but we could see the screen and the tree perfectly. There were so many people! Families with little babies, high school students, young couples, everyone!

From 7-8, a band played pop music with some Christmas songs thrown in, and the real celebration started at 8. It was led by local radio DJs and they had performers from the Nutcracker, a Red Sox player, a taped performance by Meghan Trainor, and then Mayor Walsh read The Night Before Christmas.

When the tree lit up, it was amazing. The tree is so tall and so full and, in Faneuil Hall, there is always a light show. It happens from 4-10 every afternoon, every half hour. The lights on the tree and the lights around Faneuil Hall synchronize with Christmas music to put on a great Christmas, show.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

What I'm Thankful for This Year

The title of this post is probably a misnomer because these are things I've been thankful for in the past and that I will be thankful for in the future. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to share the (many) things I am most thankful for in my life.

My husband, of course. And I'm thankful that we are spending this holiday together as man and wife for the first time! I'm thankful for our relationship and the love he gives me. I'm thankful for the way we work as a team and for the conversations we share on a daily basis.

My family, including my amazingly wonderful mom, my two sisters, my grandparents, my in-laws, my many cousins, and all the friends who are more like family than friends. This year has really shown me how much love my family has for each other and I can't believe how lucky I am to have so many great people in my life.

My education, past, present, and future included. I went to a great public school in Minnesota that taught me so much. The university I went to for undergrad is where I learned to love learning and where I cultivated my interesting in writing, reading, and academics. And now, I am pursing my master's degree and I am really enjoying what I am learning and studying.

This place where I live. Boston is a fun and inspiring place to live. There's so much to do and see. It's a city that really feels like home and I'm happy to be spending my newlywed years here with AJ.

Lastly, I am the most thankful for the fact that the things I just listed are daily blessings and that I am able to be thankful for them all year round. Let's all strive to give thanks every day for our many blessings and for all the moments that make life wonderful.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to you and yours! Enjoy this day with family, friends, and loved ones who make you happy!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Being Thankful

I have just one link for you today on this Wednesday before Thanksgiving. If you're traveling today or tomorrow to visit friends and family for turkey and pie, consider one of these twelve books to read over your holiday.

I don't have class or work today so I'll be spending the day getting some ingredients ready to cook tomorrow. I'm also baking my desserts today so that they are all ready to go tomorrow! Hopefully I'll also be able to carve out some reading time. It is a holiday break after all!

What are all of you doing today? Are you getting ready for Thanksgiving? Traveling or cooking?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Apple Banana Bread for a Chilly Day

Yesterday morning, I was faced with the perfect storm for baking. I had overripe bananas sitting in my fruit bowl, an abundance of apples, and a chilly morning blowing cold wind past my window. It was all I needed to make a warm and comforting loaf of apple banana bread.

I've made this recipe a few times. I made it the day after our wedding as soon as we got back to Boston. I changed the recipe a bit this time but it's still just as good! (The recipe below is different from the one in the photo above.) The bread is tasty, sweet, and pretty healthy too! It calls for whole wheat flour, apple sauce, just a little bit of sugar, and there is no dairy or oil at all!

The smell that it fills the kitchen with is delicious and it's really easy to make. You only need one bowl! This bread is delicious by itself, toasted, or topped with a generous scoop of cream cheese, a pat of butter, or a spread of cranberry apple butter (Trader Joe's has a great one!). Enjoy!

Apple Banana Bread

2 ripe bananas
1 apple, peeled and diced
1/4 C sugar
1 3/4 C whole wheat flour
1/3 C apple sauce
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
Optional: chopped nuts, chocolate chips, dried fruit

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a bowl mash bananas with a fork. Add diced apple, sugar, flour, applesauce, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and anything else you want to add.
Pour into a greased or non-stick 9 inch loaf pan.
Bake for 35-45 minutes.
Cool in pan for 10 minutes and transfer to cooling rack.

Let me know how yours turns out! What are your favorite recipes to bake on chilly days?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thanksgiving Plans

Can you believe Thanksgiving is one week away? I can't. It came up so fast—everything seems to be happening so fast this year! It'll be Christmas and New Year's before we even know it!

This year, Thanksgiving will be a brand new experience for me. It'll be the first Thanksgiving I experience as a wife, the first Thanksgiving I won't be with my family, and the first Thanksgiving that I will be doing all the cooking myself! I'm not sure if I'll be able to pull it off.

Because of AJ's job, we knew that he wouldn't have much time off around Thanksgiving so we opted to stay here and spend the holiday together and go to Connecticut the following week, when AJ will be able to take more time off so we can spend more time with family.

AJ still has to work on Thanksgiving but only a half day so he should be home by 1. That'll give me enough time to prepare a midday Thanksgiving dinner while watching the Macy's Parade—I love it! It makes me want to watch Miracle on 34th Street, too.

It's just the two of us and I've never cooked a big meal like this so I am trying to keep it as simple as possible so that I don't have to worry too much about something going wrong. Instead of a whole turkey, I'm planning on making just a turkey breast in the crockpot using this recipe. I also want to make a homemade cranberry sauce and I think this recipe looks good and easy. Sweet potatoes are a must but I want to try something different since we tend to eat a lot of sweet potatoes on a weekly basis.  I thought I would do a casserole with the marshmallows, but I found a little recipe for sweet potato puffs you can do on the stove top and that looks really yummy! I'll also do gravy and stuffing but I'm just going to have my mom tell me how to make those. For dessert, I plan to make pumpkin bars and these praline bars. I love pecan pie but I've never made on before and this simple recipe looks just as good!

To make the day a little more special, I brought two sets of our fine china that we were gifted at our wedding. Every time I think about using them, I think about the Thanksgiving episode of friends when Monica finally uses her China but they break all over the floor. Hopefully that won't happen!

What are your plans for Thanksgiving? Any turkey-cooking tips?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Literary Links

photo via

These are my favorite kinds of articles to read. Reading about books and writers inspires me to write more and to write better. I thought I'd share with you a few of my favorite articles from this week.

For people that are wondering what MFA creative writing programs are like, this article will give you some insight! All of it reads true and I'm glad someone was able to eloquently put this experience into words.

This article about making it through writing critiques kind of goes along with the first. When you're in a grad program for creative writing, you have to go through workshops a lot and being well prepared to take whatever comes at you is essential!

I'm going to be adding these titles to my list of books to check out from the library. Debut novels are always inspiring to read. I love seeing how writers achieve such great first novels.

Feel like spending the summer in Paris? Why not write while you're at it! The expats living in Paris provided us with phenomenal works of art by prolific writers (Hemingway, Stein, Fitzgerald, I could go on) and I imagine there's no better place to write than in the cafés where they created their classics.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Dud Avocado

This book is one of those books that makes you wonder why you couldn't have thought to write it first. It makes you wish you could right as well as the author—it's that good. Written and originally published in the 1950s, The Dud Avocado, by Elaine Dundy, is more than a simple coming of age tale. It's the story of Sally Jay Gorce and how she tries to find herself amid the scandal and temptation of Paris in the 1950s. The story opens with her, walking through the city streets in an evening gown on the way to meeting her Italian lover.

The story is reminiscent of Plath's The Bell Jar and Moore's Chocolate for Breakfast in the sense that the female protagonist has to deal with difficult internal issues while navigating through the world around her. The story is enticing, captivating, and all-consuming. Sally Jay's life is as decadent as it is complicated and base. It is impossible to guess what will come at her next and what she will do to deal.

It really is an entertaining read and the fact that it's party autobiographical makes it all the more fascinating. Anyone who is a fan of Plath will enjoy this book and all girls and young women who have dealt or are dealing with hard times will see Sally Jay as a kindred spirit.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Back to Blogging

This poor blog, always getting neglected. I don't know how that happens but it seems to be happening once a month lately. I'll attribute it to homework and work work and general upkeep life seems to throw at you unexpectedly. 

But things are. Things are great. AJ and I are happily moved into our new apartment. We have a good bit of furniture but part of our home is still a bit under furnished. We have what we need, though, and it's so fun having this cozy place to call ours. 

I went back to CT last weekend to bring back a few more of the many gifts we received so that we would have more than two plates and such and we have plans to go back again the first weekend of December. 

It's very foggy in Boston today, hence the above photo, and this foggy weather makes me feel foggy. And tired. I took a long nap yesterday, much longer than I had intended to take and it turned out being one of those naps that you wake up from realizing just how badly you needed that nap.

Anyway, this post is really just one to get my butt back to blogging. This all feels like filler but sometimes that's what you need to be able to get back into it. I've been reading a great book and I have plans to read some more good ones soon so I will do my best to get some posts about that! Plus, the holidays are coming and I'm sure I will have some great festivities to share!