Archive for October, 2012

We’ve been studying the book of John in our small group and read the passage on Tuesday in which John is asked by the Pharisees if he is the Messiah.  He denies being the Messiah, Elijah, or the Prophet – they become frustrated and finally ask, “Who are you?”.  I love his response:  “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord’ ” (John 1:23).  As we unpacked this passage, Nancy asked each of us to define ourselves with a metaphor.  What would you say if someone asked, “Who are you?”.  People shared articulately about mindsets and anxieties and life themes, but I was stumped, struggling to describe the state of my soul in simple terms.  Shane said he feels like he’s playing the role of a DH (designated hitter) these days – his focus feels narrow and limited, like he’s not able to take the field and stand in for a whole game.  It being World Series time and all, I was especially drawn to this analogy and have been reflecting all week on where exactly I fit in this great ball game of life.

I tried to imagine myself excitedly taking the field with my teammates and high-fiving them after a 1-2-3 inning, but when it really came down to putting on that uniform and leather glove, I fell short.  These days, I’m feeling much more bat boy than I am starting lineup.  I’m that scrawny kid in the dugout that wants so badly to go pro someday, but is currently stuck with the less-than-glamorous tasks of filling the Gatorade jug and fetching bats as real players run the bases.  The gig may have been fun for awhile, but now I’m just frustrated and antsy and so, so tired of feeling held back.  I’m longing to trade places with the pitcher – she kicks ass at her job and knows exactly what she wants her career to look like in 5, 10, 15 years.  The second baseman has it pretty good, too – she’s an artist and had been wildly inspired and productive as of late.  That beautiful shortstop works out five days a week and has arms like Michelle Obama.  Oh, and the right fielder – she’s a new mom whose understanding of love has been made new by her little baby.  And here I sit, wondering when or how or if I’ll ever make it onto the roster.

Am I wallowing?  Probably.  I’m finding out how easy it is for me to lose the joy of dreaming and goal-setting and fall instead into a funk of ungratefulness and discontent.  In the words of our pastor, I need to spend less time gazing at the green, green grass on the other side of the fence and more time watering the grass beneath my feet.  Because my yard is full of some pretty amazing stuff.  It’s a husband that offers hugs, encouragement, and goofy faces when I’m down, always knowing the best medicine for the worst blues.  Amazing and supportive friends and family.  Weekends packed with perfect getaways and food-filled parties with the gang.  I know these blessings should be cherished and nurtured.  I know this.  But man, that patch of grass out in right field just won’t stop calling my name…

The rest of our weekend was full of all kinds of goodies, like a Saturday morning spent doing the crossword and eating bagels at Eltana…

And our 5th annual dumpling-making pumpkin-carving party at Chez Hickory.  There’s nothing more Fall-feeling than being up to your elbows in pumpkin guts!

And on Sunday, an epic birthday party for Shane, La Verne, and I, courtesy of Jack Chen’s generous brilliance.  When Jack said he had a really good idea for our joint party (a.k.a. “Schnell-La-Palooza”), my stomach growled and my mouth started watering – I knew we were in for a treat.  And my word, he went BIG.  The four of us have been wolfing down the crazy-good Malaysian fare at Kedai Makan’s farmer’s market food stands all summer, and we were thrilled to find out that Kevin and Alysson themselves would be setting up shop in the Chen’s kitchen for the evening, preparing us a birthday meal to top all birthday meals.  We gathered with 30 of our closest friends and feasted on stewed lamb and fish curry and delicious little shrimp-topped crackers.  The combination of a killer meal, another Giants win, and the company of so many people that we love so much made for an evening of total perfection.  Gracias, Jack.  You rock.

The birthday peeps with the Kedai Makan folks – I think we have officially been elevated to “food groupie” status…

And then, just as I was about to fall into the depths of post-weekend letdown, we watched the Giants clinch their spot in the World Series tonight. Way to turn my Monday frown upside down, boys!  Have I mentioned how much I love October?

Today is a special someone’s “Larry Bird” birthday (Shane’s trying to make this super-obscure reference “a thing”, so I’m throwing him a bone). Yup, my man turned the big 3-3 today.  We spent Shane’s last birthday in Paris under the Eiffel Tower, and while I would have loved to sweep him off to France again this year, I had to settle instead on a box of goodies from the French bakery near my office.  With a little extra flair, of course…

The evening’s celebration was relatively low-key – beer and the Giants game at our favorite sports bar, then dinner with a few friends at the Mexican joint around the corner.  Shane and I have both had kind of a tough post-vacation week, and it was so good to see him grin from ear to ear tonight with each Giants run, each pat on the back from his best pals, each bite of his spicy goat stew.  His joy was contagious – I felt like it was my birthday tonight as well.

Happy Birthday, buhb.  Wishing you a year full of grand adventures, gasping-for-breath laughter (you and I do seem to get funnier with age…), and virtual high-fives from your boy Matt Cain.  I love you mucho.

After lingering by the fireplace in our little room for as long as possible on Friday morning, we checked out of the Inn at Weathersfield and were back on the road.

Shane and I remarked several times on the absence of strip malls and ugly stucco box-buildings in Vermont.  The churches, the restaurants, the neighborhood post offices are all so incredibly charming.

Our first stop was at the Quechee Gorge just east of Woodstock – the bridge there offers a killer view over the Ottauquechee River.  We followed the river to Dewey’s Pond, and I found myself dreaming of a little waterfront cabin with a rowboat.

From the Quechee Gorge, we pointed our car toward the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  Some last-minute Googling directed us to a scenic route past Stinson Lake, where we came upon this little gem of a waterfall.  We hopped around the rocks and enjoyed the feeling of being the only ones there – like we’d stumbled up some secret little place meant just for us.

A few miles later, we came upon this lookout and jumped out of the car to snap a couple of pictures in the sunshine.  Two minutes after this, we were showered with tiny balls of hail – we hit the road again and I cranked the heater up until Shane’s eyes watered!

We were a little disappointed to find that we’d missed peak foliage season – a lot of the trees around the White Mountains were already baring their winter limbs.  But Bear Notch Road, just a few miles from our hotel, was still a stunning tunnel of gold and orange.  I turned to Shane around each bend and kept saying “wow!” over and over.

We packed our things up for the last time on Saturday morning and headed east for a two-hour tour of Maine on our way back down to Massachusetts.  We spent just enough time in Portland to get a hot drink, walk past the shops on Exchange Street, and decide we’ll definitely have to come back someday (preferably in the summer – so many ice cream shops there!)

Our final stop was in Salem to catch up with my aunt, uncle, and cousins that live there – we chatted over a pot of tea and a loaf of zucchini bread, and then it was time to head to the airport to catch our flight.  And oooooohh, how I hated to say good-bye to New England.  This trip far exceeded my hopes and expectations.  A home in Vermont may not be in our future (let’s be real, I’d probably spend the entire winter buried under a pile of blankets, begging for mercy), but we will back someday.  So maybe this wasn’t good-bye, just “see ya later…”.  And thanks for everything.

Ho-ly maple trees, I love Vermont. After breakfast in the bright and cozy dining room of our Manchester B&B, we said a little prayer for sunshine, grabbed a latte at Spiral Press Cafe and headed toward Mount Equinox to take in the splendor of the Green Mountains. While the clouds didn’t fully part for us, it was still pretty incredible up there – the hills here are blanketed in a thick fur of green and yellow, stretching as far as the eye can see. We snapped a few pictures, shivered among the frost-covered trees (yowsers, it was chilly up there!), and then slowly made our way back down the mountain, stopping every couple hundred feet to ooh and ahh at the vistas.

Shane took a photo of me nearly ten years ago at Hyde Park in London that still stands out as one of our favorites – I’m tossing an armful of fallen leaves in the air and looking very Mary Tyler Moore with my raised arms and goofy grin. We came across this patch of leaf-covered ground at the bottom of the mountain and Shane suggested that we shoot a sequel. Goofy, indeed…

From Mount Equinox, we wound our way around the northern part of the Green Mountains, pulling over here in there for more oohing and aahing.

We arrived at our B&B in Perkinsville late in the afternoon, settled into our room, and then headed back out the door to explore the area. Vermont is famous for its covered bridges – this little beauty was was just up the street from us.

We saw signs for Woodstock after we crossed the bridge and decided to head that way – I had heard good things about the town from my mom and dad. We listened to the Giants game on the radio while en route and had to pull over in the middle of the ninth inning to give Sergio Romo our full attention. And…yessssss! Despite my bitter doubts, our team is moving on to the next round. We whooped it up for a minute there in the car, then set out to celebrate. Bentley’s in Woodstock was the perfect place to grab a drink and revel in our victory – Shane raised his beer as a champagne-soaked Cain appeared on the TV over the bar.

We ate dinner back at the inn and ended the day with a cup of tea out by the firepit. I don’t know if it’s the brightly-colored leaves or the ultra-charming towns or the extreme calm and quiet, but dang, I really, really love it here. I’m not sure what kind of a living an architect and a systems engineer could make in rural Vermont, but I may be checking those want ads in the morning paper…

Tuesday was our last full day in Boston. Typically I go a little nutso with the sight-seeing when our time in a city starts to come to a close, but I restrained my gotta-see-it-all tendencies and made sure the day held equal parts of exploring and leisure. Shane was up early to take the Orange Line down to Jamaica Plains to pick up the best chocolate croissant in the city – happy birthday to me! I drank tea and ate said croissant in bed while I watched morning talk shows and lounged around until 10 a.m. And that is the stuff of a good vacation.

I eventually mustered up the energy to get myself out the door and headed over to the Financial District to meet up with Emily for a quick tour of the Boston P+W office. I’m still loving that big-city vibe…

I met up with Shane a little later in the North End for lunch at Galleria Umberto – their Sicilian-style pizza had come highly recommended and we were stoked to finally find the place open (this was our third attempt at getting in the door). And wowsers – this was the real deal. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting – the crust was fluffier and more buttery than the wood-fired pizza we usually like, but this stuff was soooo good. It was like Pizza Hut, only amazingly tasty, and sold by an old Italian guy named Frank for $1.55 a slice. Nice.

Baseball game or not, Shane was determined that we wouldn’t leave Boston without seeing Fenway, so we headed over to the ballpark after lunch for a tour. My knowledge of baseball history only extends as far back as the 2010 Giants, but I could still appreciate the richness of this place. One hundred years old and home to some of the best players ever. I can only imagine the roar of the crowd in these seats when Babe Ruth or Ted Williams knocked one out of the park.

Shane was pretty giddy about the whole ordeal – he’s playing it cool here with that smirk as he poses for a shot in the visiting team’s dug-out, but I suspect he was doing cartwheels in his mind.

Post-Fenway, we took the T back over to Thinking Cup for a pot of tea and a fruit tart. Rested and refreshed by our quality cafe time, we headed over to the Prudential Tower to take in the panoramic views from their 50th-floor observatory. I could have spent all day looking down on the brownstones of Back Bay – the charm is almost too much to take!

After a quick stop at Pinkberry for my third birthday treat of the day, we made our way back to the hotel via Newbury Street, so that we could experience the beauty of these brownstones up-close. This stroll really sealed the deal – I am 100%, completely smitten with this city.

We skipped the official Freedom Trail tour hosted by the old dudes in wigs, but we did pause at a few of the most notable sights and do some reading about their history. It’s hard to grasp the fact that some of these buildings and cemeteries are nearly three hundred years old. Seattle feels like such a baby in comparison!

We ended our day with a special dinner at Woodward, capped off with a super-tasty serving of bread pudding and vanilla ice cream (make that treat number four!). Birthdays can lose their appeal once you reach a certain age, but Shane certainly has a way of easing the pain of growing older – thanks, buhb, for a perfect day.

Night had fallen when we left the restaurant and I sighed a little sigh, not wanting to see our visit come to an end – the city had been so, so good to us.

We bid farewell to a rainy Beantown this morning and hit the road toward Vermont. We’re settled into our cozy little B&B now, watching the game and waiting for the rain to let up. Forecast calls for sunshine tomorrow – I’m ready for some serious Fall foliage!

Yesterday was the day I officially fell head-over-heels gaga for Beantown (despite the fact that it’s nickname is, in fact, Beantown – why is that so unappealing?). Shane headed out first thing in the morning for a run, and since I had left my New Balances back at home, I pulled on my gray suede boots and set out for a stroll over to Beacon Hill. I zig-zagged my way toward Boston Common, gazing up toward the tops of skyscrapers and listening to the sound of delivery trucks roll their doors shut as they finished their alley drop-offs. People in suits rushed out of the corner Dunkin’ Donuts, caffeine fix in hand, and the hot dog vendor on State Street started setting up shop. Those few blocks in the Financial District had me majorly high on the big city vibe.

And then I found myself on Mount Vernon Street, at the heart of Beacon Hill in all it’s red-bricked, tree-lined perfection. The sidewalks were quiet and deserted, save the occasional dog-walker, and I wandered slowly toward Charles Street, wanting to savor every last detail of the enchanting brownstones.

I ordered a croissant and a cup of coffee at Cafe Vanille and settled into a sunny little sidewalk table with my breakfast and my Kindle. Shane met me there and we headed over the Boston Public Garden to fully soak in a perfect Fall morning at the park, with it’s sparkling water and green, green grass.

From there, we walked over the to the river to stroll along the lovely waterfront esplanade before eventually winding our way back up toward the North End.

The pizza place we’d been planning to hit up for lunch was closed, so we put our names in for a table at Neptune Oyster Bar for another OMG seafood fest. More plump, fresh oysters paired with crisp glasses of Vinho Verde, followed by an anchovy-topped Caeser salad for me and a hot, buttery lobster roll for Shane. I’ve never really loved oysters, but those Moon Shoals are doin’ a number on me. Deeeee-lish.

We spent the afternoon out in Cambridge, exploring Harvard a bit and then trekking out to the Mount Auburn Cemetery, per a recommendation from a couple we’d met at lunch. I’ve had a thing for cemeteries since my first visit to Pere Lechaise in Paris, and Mount Auburn did not disappoint. Full of winding little pathways among beautiful old tombstones and huge, gorgeous trees – I could have spent hours wandering around there. But dang it, my dogs were barkin’ in those gray suede boots, so we caught the red line back to our hotel so that we could rest for a bit before happy hour.

We met up with my friend Emily in the evening for a beer at the Bell in Hand Tavern, and after a good, solid catch-up with her, Shane and I hopped back on the red line for dinner at Posto in Davis Square. We’d heard great things about their Neopolitan-style pizza and were eager to give it a go. It was good, although a pizza place really has to bring their A-game if they’re going to impress someone who’s eaten at Tutta Bella as many times as we have, so Posto got a solid B (with a couple of bonus points for that Manchego bruschetta). Shane had grand ambitions for after-dinner cocktails on the other side of down, but showing Boston all that love had left me pooped – we settled instead on snuggling into bed and watching the latest Parks and Rec on the iPad. What a day.

We have easily made the transition into full-on vacation mode – we’re sleeping in, eating ourselves silly, and reveling in the absence of stress and work and any to-do’s. Life is good. We kicked off today with a stroll through the North End – more lovely brick facades, more statues of dudes like Paul Revere and John Adams, and heaping tons of charm.

After a little cafe-lounging at Boston Common Coffee Company, we squeezed our way into North Street Grille and grabbed a couple of seats at the bar. The place was packed and cozy, the portions were huge, and Shane gave the mimosas two thumbs up. Score.

Post-brunch, we were ready to stretch our legs and burn some calories, so we walked over to the Seaport District to check out the Institute of Contemporary Art. This building was under construction when my thesis studio took our big tour of Boston architecture in 2005, so it was fun to come back and see the finished product.

The afternoon had turned chilly and gray, so it was nice to take in the views of the bay from the warmth of the open, glassy galleries. The collection was more limited than we expected, but the exhibit by Os Gemeos was lots of fun, and the building itself was a piece of art worth the trip.

We walked back to the hotel through the Greenway Open Market and got swept up in the mobs of people browsing the stalls at the Boston Local Food Festival. We were still stuffed from our over-indulgent brunch, so I behaved myself and walked away with only a kale apple smoothie. And a package of salt-and-pepper dark chocolate, for later, of course.

The rest of the afternoon was good and lazy, with reading and naps and some web-surfing by the lobby fireplace. We rallied around 7 and headed out for dinner in Back Bay at Island Creek Oyster Bar. And oh. my. word. The evening was total perfection, from the champagne cocktails to the fresh, flavorful Moon Shoal oysters, to the creamy clam chowder and the noodles topped with grilled lobster and braised short rib. It was a seafood bonanza. And that wall made of oyster shells held up by wire mesh? Awesome.

We popped back over to the North End for one last stop before going back to the room to catch the game – we’d heard that Mike’s Pastries is a Boston icon and so we joined the hoards of other people craving a late-night cannoli. We took ours to-go, thinking these over-sized, super-rich cream-filled shells would be the perfect way to celebrate a Giants win. Turns out they were more of a consolation prize (9-0 – ouch!), but I’m shrugging it off. Tomorrow is Monday and I’m sleeping in – that’s certainly something to celebrate!

Greetings from Beantown! After a 10:30 red-eye flight from Seattle, we arrived in Boston early Saturday morning, sleepy and stiff, but excited to kick off our New England adventure. We ditched our bags at our hotel (no 8 am check in! gah!) and promptly headed toward Charles Street for breakfast at The Paramount. After chowing down on french toast and huevos rancheros, we stepped back out into the sun, rejuvenated and ready to do some wandering while we waited for our room. We strolled through the neighborhood in all its brick-lined, black-shuttered charm, wondering what it would take to snag one of those beautiful brownstones on the shady, quiet side-streets.

Our food-fueled energy was short-lived and we found ourselves dragging after only a few blocks, so we parked ourselves on a bench at the Frog Pond in Boston Common to soak up some rays and watch the park’s bold, friendly squirrels dart past our feet. I couldn’t shake my sleepiness and felt my eyelids growing heavy (seriously, how did I survive all those all-nighters in college?), so we got up to do a little more walking in search of our second wind. We ended up at the park’s baseball diamond and spent an hour watching the little sluggers go head-to-head – it was kind of a sorry substitute for a Red Sox game at Fenway, but the back row of the bleachers proved to be the perfect place for tilting my face up toward the sun and doing a little dozing.

Our room at the Millennium Bostonian was ready by 11:00, and I nearly jumped for joy at the promise of a hot shower and a long nap. Four hours later, I was a new woman, ready to get out and give Boston a proper hello. Shane and I checked out the offerings at the Greenway Open Market and slowly made our way south for happy hour at Masa. The city was buzzing with Saturday shoppers and the late afternoon sun skimming the brick buildings was lovely – I took it all in, reveling in that hopeful, giddy feeling that comes with the first day of vacation.

The margaritas and half-price tapas at Masa made us even giddier, and we left the bar ready to do a little more exploring and see what else Boston had up its sleeve. Ten minutes later, the city started spitting big, fat raindrops upon us, but not to worry – we were a block away from Thinking Cup cafe (on Shane’s to-visit list) so we ducked inside for a pot of tea and a couple of salted caramel macarons. Those few raindrops soon turned into an all-out torrential down-pour and we happily poured from a second pot of tea and dug into a killer slice of carrot cake to wait out the storm. Sweet tooth and cafe-craving satisfied, we made our way back to the hotel once the skies cleared and spent the rest of the night watching the Giants game from the comfort of our king-size bed. Barring our team’s bitter defeat (the profanities were flying out of Shane’s mouth), day one of our Fall getaway had been a smashing success. Can’t wait to see what else New England has in store for us!


October is here! This is one of my favorite months, in a three-way tie with July (sunshine!) and December (Christmas!). A few reasons why I’m particularly stoked about this flip of the calendar:

Travel time! We both have our birthdays in October and think it’s important to grow older with a bang – last year, we celebrated in Amsterdam and Paris. This year, we’re off to New England to take in the foliage and stuff ourselves with lobster rolls.  Bon anniversaire, baby.

Color. Gold and orange and bright, bright red. Add to that the satisfying sound of dried leaves crunching underfoot, and you’ve got the makings of a perfect Sunday afternoon stroll.

Makin’ stuff.  I’m spending less time out on the back patio and more time inside with my yarn and my beads and my tubes of paint.  It started with my weekend bonanza of knitting and basket-painting – now I’m into jewelry making and maybe, possibly art-making again.  My crusty watercolor set has been giving me the sad, neglected stink-eye.

Boot weather. And comfy sweaters. I like my flip-flops and tank tops, but I love my leather boots and chunky knit turtlenecks.  I’m giving the pedicures and the push-ups a rest for now – pressure’s off for the next six nine months!

Fresh Fall fare.  Honeycrisp apples (puts those Fujis I like to shame), acorn squash roasted with butter and brown sugar, my favorite pumpkin muffins (ok, so it’s a stretch to say that canned pumpkin is “in season”, but mmm…).

Happy October, friends!