Category Archives: Places and Travel

My Dream Hometown


Apparently, making a “list” of qualities of your ideal man is a thing people do. I haven’t ever done it, and I’ve never had a discussion relating to it with anyone in real life, so maybe it only happens in romantic comedies. In any case, I had the idea to make a similar list but instead of pertaining to a significant other, it’s about my ideal neighborhood. Here we go:

  1. There’s a reasonable greenery to pavement ratio. Nice trees and stuff. On a related note, the sidewalk is NOT strewn with trash.
  2. I live at least a few blocks away from any schools (there is an elementary school right next door to me right now, which is a lot more annoying than it sounds).
  3. Within a five minute walk there is a place where I can get really good coffee–both brewed coffee and lattes–and a delicious and reasonably priced breakfast sandwich. Also reasonably near is great pizza, sandwiches, burritos, and a nice but relatively inexpensive bar.
  4. My close friends live near me. Now, I realize it isn’t the case for most people after college, but we are talking ideal here.
  5. The sidewalks are consistently wide enough for two people to pass and adequately shoveled in the winter.
  6. There is a good bookstore, with the kind of seating available that makes you want to hang around.
  7. Clothing and shoe shops that are easy to get to. (Really good ones, that carry stuff I’d want to wear.)
  8. People take good care of their facades and front lawns. And they all have front lawns.

That’s all I’ve got for now. There are probably other things that would qualify as well. Near public transit, for instance–it’s important right now, but might not be sometime in the future…

We’ll just have to see what happens. Mostly, what I’m saying is that I’m going to want a great breakfast sandwich tomorrow, and I’m not sure where to get one.

Lonely Dining: Dinner at Bella Luna


lobst

 

Just because, for no reason but to have a nice relaxing time, I took myself out to dinner. Not having someone to eat out with is no reason not to treat yourself. I walked over to Bella Luna, one of my favorite local restaurants, and took advantage of their air conditioning.

This restaurant has so many great options that I often find it hard to choose just one thing, but in the end I just had to pick the lobster roll, knowing it was a limited time offer. For a drink I chose the Brazuka signature cocktail.

Now, I hate to say anything negative about this restaurant, because it’s my go-to choice for a nice meal near my house. I have to admit, though, that the lobster roll was just okay. I’ve had better lobster rolls. That’s not to say it was bad, though–not at all! It was just a little disappointing in comparison to my expectations. However, the presentation was fantastic, as you can see above (isn’t their side salad brilliant?), and the meal overall was satisfying. The Brazuka was an interesting fruity drink, a little too sour for me to want it again, but a nice experience. And my server was very friendly and helpful, which is always a plus in my opinion.

Lobster rolls always tend to be pricey, so as you might expect my total bill was more than I had hoped. But sometimes, just for the experience, you really should treat yourself. Lonely Dining is an activity that I started because it is sometimes hard to find people to go for meals with, but the more I do it, the more I enjoy having good food at a nice establishment with myself for company. Eating alone is an experience a lot of people do not appreciate. It can be relaxing, indulgent, calm, and you don’t have to think about socializing. Overall, highly recommended.

Go to Cafenation, Now. I’m Serious.


I can make a pretty good breakfast–that is, good for me. I will not claim to be skilled at any sort of fancy breakfast creations. I can make plenty of things that are tasty, or, at least edible, and at this point I’m very close to completely mastering the egg sandwich (often eaten for lunch or dinner as well, because I CANNOT get enough of them, it seems). I am incapable of making pretty pancakes or omelets. I’m trying to remember a time when I made breakfast for someone else that would be worth mentioning. As far as I can tell, there aren’t any.

This is why many of my best breakfasts happen when I go out. I don’t often go out for breakfast with a buddy. It’s too hard to gather people in the morning, especially a weekday morning, when the only people who could go with me aren’t even awake. (Or are in a different zip code.)

So I go out to breakfast. Or grab something on the way to work.

More often than not, this breakfast comes from Cafenation. They are one of my very favorite independent cafes in Boston (and everywhere else, but I’ll admit there are many I haven’t tried in other cities. In fact, most cafes in other cities I haven’t tried. Totally beside the point), because everything they offer is delicious. Their coffee is really good. Their chai is delicious. All their espresso drinks are amazing (I’m sure there’s the off drink once in a while), generally speaking. They have a pretty wide selection of teas, which I’m sure are also good. I’ve only tried the iced ones.

And the food? Well, duh. Delicious. Always. This morning I had the spiced apple and brie crepes, which were generously stuffed and dusted with powdered sugar. I had them before, probably three years ago, and it seemed about time. They have the standard cafe breakfast fare of bagels with various options for fillings/toppings (depending on if you eat it open-faced or not), tasty muffins and scones, and the full espresso bar you’re most likely hoping for. Then they have their omelets and crepes, good portions, fair price. I’ve tried one of the omelets with salsa and black beans, a bit like huevos rancheros, I guess. They also have a weekly special cream cheese flavor, in addition to the permanent selection, and jalapeno bagels. Who else has jalapeno bagels? Ok, probably a lot of places, but still.

Then there’s the lunch options. They have a small sampling of salads and soup, the latter of which changes by the week or day (I don’t know, I don’t get soup very much), and a nice list of sandwiches on your choice of bread. A few of the sandwiches are vegetarian options. Many of the breakfast items are vegetarian, and you can order them for lunch as well. The sandwiches are served with a good portion of mixed greens–more than just a token side salad, but not so much that it takes your attention from the sandwich. They also give you their housemade balsamic dressing, which is sweet and different and even if you think you don’t like balsamic dressing, I’d recommend you try it.

Bonus: They have one of the best day-old bread selections I’ve ever seen. Very rarely is the stuff more than just a little bit stale, but most likely it will keep for several days. They portion it well, too. I can get a half-dozen bagels, two muffins, and a scone for $3. There are times when I don’t buy bread at the grocery store for two or three weeks because I can get better stuff for less money at Cafenation. However, it’s often gone by midway through the day, so if you really want a good selection, you should go in the morning. It varies from day to day, too, as you might imagine. Sometimes they have a nice big pile, others, just a few bags. It’s a bit of a hit-or-miss sometimes, but definitely worth it.

In addition, the staff are generally very friendly, and if it’s not busy will even have conversations with you about things like tea. Sometimes they even remember my name. I go there a lot.  You should go there, and tell them I sent you. It won’t get you anything special, and most of them probably won’t know what you’re talking about, but tell them anyway.

Cafenation, 380 Washington St., Brighton, MA

Look Around, Try Something New


Ever been to Clover? They’re a vegetarian,  fresh-fast food joint with a few locations and a food truck or two.  I’m not vegetarian myself, but I’ve enjoyed their offerings every time I’ve been there so far.  This morning makes number 3, and it was definitely delicious. [Click the link in this paragraph to go to their website if you’re interested in finding out stuff about the business. You should, they’re cool.]

Circumstances collided this morning to make me desperate to buy a breakfast sandwich. I was on my way to Starbucks and happened to look up as I walked, for once, and notice Clover across the street. As I was thinking to myself, “They’re so good,” I saw their breakfast menu written on the window. For some reason I had been under the impression that they only did lunch, so I was surprised and immediately thought to hell with Starbucks, I’m going to Clover!

I got the breakfast sandwich, which is a freshly cooked egg, tomato, and cheese on pita. It’s not the typical egg sandwich–the bread is unusual and the egg I think was soft-boiled (that’s the only method I’m aware of that would result in the eggy end product on my breakfast…)–and that’s ok. It was delicious. Of course, if you feel like you need bacon on your sandwiches, you’re going to have to go elsewhere,  but you’ll be passing up something great!

I also got a coffee, even though I’d already had coffee that morning, because I have a hard time resisting coffee. They use the pour-over method, which essentially guarantees you a good cup of coffee. I’m not a pour-over snob, I promise. I drink as much regular drip coffee as the next person who likes things that are simple and easy to prepare (but not instant–never instant! yuck!), but I like pour over places because it means that your coffee is freshly brewed, every time. It takes only a few minutes longer than the standard Starbucks coffee.

What it all boils down to is freshness. They use local ingredients, actually fresh ingredients (not frozen), and everything is made to order. I know some people don’t think that really matters, but believe me, you can taste the difference. However, they don’t jack the prices up like some places would–in fact, I find them very affordable. I am sure I’ll be going back there for breakfast in the future.

And they have popovers! I don’t always like popovers, but sometimes I’m in the mood for them. Maybe I’ll try the popover sandwich next time.

Monday Madness: Naked Santas and Overspending


First, I want to say that what happened Saturday night was barely a snowstorm. In Boston, it had completely stopped by Sunday. And yet, this morning there were too many stupidly icy sidewalks (hint: one is too many) and ridiculous traffic because no one can ever remember how to drive once there’s the smallest amount of snow. So I give up. If we have another snowstorm, which seems likely, I’m just not going to leave my house until spring. I’ll do that peapod thing to have my groceries delivered and order lots of pizzas.

Now, a quick thank you to everyone who liked my cupcake post. It’s nice to have that validation, since no one I invited over to have some thought it was worth the trip–either for having the cupcakes or for hanging out with me. I mean, that’s a major fail, right? But I realized I hadn’t done a real food post for a while, so there you go. There are still about four cupcakes left, but by now they’re on the stale side, so probably not worth a trip at this point anyway.

Logically I know people are just busy and sort of far away (unfortunate consequence of living in Boston: only friends who live in your neighborhood are actually easy to get to), but emotionally it just feels like everyone’s rejecting me. I started out December being really excited about Christmas, but now I’m kind of depressed.

I’ve been shopping way too much. And then, you know, the second you say “Ok, that’s it. I’m going to be good and not buy all this stuff I don’t need,” that’s when something comes up and you end up spending anyway. Like Christmas presents (I didn’t spend that much, but combined with everything it adds up), or the $20 off a $50 purchase from Sephora with a time limit (how could I pass that up?), so you can get that $34 container of moisturizer without feeling so bad about it. The good news is, that one container is probably going to last me at least six months. I think it might be time to trade in my coins for Real Money. It won’t be that much. Probably somewhere between $10 and $20. But it’ll do me more good in my pocket than sitting in a jar on a shelf.

Ok, I know I’ve been teasing you. You’re wondering about the naked santas, right? Well… Read the rest of this entry

Monday Madness: If I Only Had a Car


(to the tune of “If I Only Had a Brain”)

If someone gave me a car, for free, I still couldn’t afford to have one. Gas alone I could probably deal with, but no way I could also afford insurance, maintenance, and parking in Boston.

One of the perks of living in the city is that you don’t have to have a car. There are always ways to get where you’re going. Even though the MBTA is inexcusably flawed, in a lot of cases driving probably wouldn’t be much faster. I probably would still drive to work, because then I can leave when it’s convenient for me, rather than according to the bus schedules.

The real reason I want a car is for getting out of the city. Yes, there are trains and buses that will take you pretty much anywhere you’d like, but they can take forever, and if your real destination is five miles from the train station, well, tough luck. If you’re unfamiliar, figuring out the schedules and pickup/dropoff areas can be rather stressful, as well. Once I took a bus to New York with a friend, and we had a great time, but it turned out we didn’t know where the bus left New York to return to Boston. We wandered around for two hours or so, I called a friend to try to figure out where we could catch a bus home, and finally we came across one that, luckily, had empty seats.

I think of all the places I could go, whenever I wanted to, if I had a car. I could drive out to visit my parents for a day, and probably see them much more often. I could get myself down to my grandparents’ house for holiday gatherings (instead of having to take the train to my mom’s to get a ride there). Day trips to Providence, Plum Island, even New Hampshire or Vermont could happen. I would be able to go to Shalom Mountain, an amazing retreat center in upstate New York, without having to stress about how I’m going to get there–a large part of the reason I never end up going.

Like I said before, I don’t really want a car. I don’t want to own one and I don’t want to risk that I would end up driving everywhere, and give up walking, which is the majority of my exercise. I don’t want to have to dig it out of the snow in the winter, either, or be one of those people who keeps a trash can or a piece of furniture in “my” parking spot to make sure no one else can use it while I’m gone.

But it would be nice if there were a car available to me so that I could get anywhere beyond Boston without having to rely on other people to get there. Mainly because asking for a ride always seems like a big deal, for some reason.

Monday Madness: …


I’m feeling extra contemplative right now. It might be all the very contemplative blog posts I read this morning, or the change of scenery this weekend from Boston to lovely, suburb-ly Vermont. Maybe it’s just that I spent significant time with a person this weekend (my mom) instead of a few hours here or there. And as I’ve always said, I love my alone time, but I need to connect with people or life will always feel pointless.

I get these moments, sometimes, when I have lots of poignant thoughts about life, but they all just sort of drift through my mind, like wisps of fog, dissipating to make room for others and the dulling regularities of life. They might come back again, later on, but I can’t summon them myself; I have to be reminded somehow.

The only thing that’s sticking right now is: I have to write. Just sit down and write. NOT when I have the time in between my schedule. Like ALL freaking day. That’s what I feel like I need right now.

This presents a problem I shouldn’t have to explain. I have a full-time job (yay?). I have an hour-long commute to get to that job. I LOVE sleep. And all the fall premieres are starting. This means that I really can’t spend the majority of my time sitting down and writing. Maybe a few hours a day, if I spent ALL available time on it. Which would mean no chores or workouts or cooking.

I know what this sounds like to some people. I don’t care, though. My “soul” (or whatever you want to call it) is scratching to get out, and in my efforts to keep it in so that I can make money and function as an adult, I’m getting beat up. Like anyone, I can only hold out for so long.

If I had programming skills, I would spend my extra time creating websites and phone apps until one of my awesome ideas was bought for some tidy sum and I could live off that, and write all day. I mean, I have had some AWESOME ideas. I’m serious. (Probably none that would really make me a lot of money, but you never know…) But I have no programming knowledge, skills, or training. So first it would require me to learn how…

Any plan I come up with has too many steps before I can actually make any changes to my everyday situation. This is UNACCEPTABLE. I need a now-fix. Not a later-fix.

Mostly I just feel like I’m fucking crazy.

Monday Madness


I was hometown-bound this weekend for the wedding of an old friend, someone with whom I was very close in my teen years. The wedding was very lovely. The ceremony was outside and, luckily, the weather was perfect. The reception was in a hall, very nicely arranged, good food, fun dancing.

I spent some time with family, puttering around town, having lattes and pizza and such. It was an enjoyable time. Since I knew I wouldn’t be able to get anything done anyway, I wasn’t worrying about being unproductive, so I was pretty relaxed and unstressed.

Then I got home and all the things I don’t like about my living space were there to greet me. I am so fed up, but I really don’t think there’s anything to do about it…

I’ve been thinking about what I want in life and wondering how to get it. From what I can tell, there are some people who are really good at getting what they want. I don’t understand them at all. I can’t figure it out. If getting what I want requires the cooperation of anyone else but me, it usually doesn’t happen.

Time always seems to be the biggest problem. I need more time in the day that’s open for sleeping, and longer breaks from real life to relax and try to organize my life into schedules or routines that actually make some sense. Instead, everything just piles up until I have no idea how to sort through all the wistful wishes and necessary chores and get anything at all done.

All I can do is rant about it on the internet. How productive and healthy.

Re-entry


I returned from my cruise today! …to find that WordPress has been updating the site. I’ll have to see what I think about this as I continue to make more posts. I took a few pictures and videos on my trip, so I’ll have to do an experience post about the cruise and see if I can make a watchable youtube video with what I have. I will probably do that this weekend or sometime next week.

I need to say that this is NOT a relaxing Thursday right now. I wanted to get home and have some nice peaceful relaxation time, and I have to deal with some loud event happening at the school near my house. And I mean LOUD. With too many screaming children.

I’m also kind of in pain for some reason or other. I have all kinds of sore muscles and my lower back is bothering me right now. I don’t really know why. I went out to CVS because I am all out of ibuprofen, and I needed to get some melatonin as well because I have not been able to sleep well most nights lately.

CVS has rarely been a nice experience in the last several years. Today, I had people crowding me in the aisles, a bunch of stockroom stuff piled up right in front of the shelves I needed to get to, and a group of loud kids showing up at the checkout lane as I was waiting for “assistance” that should not have been necessary. (I don’t even know why they have self checkout there.) Plus, the machine refused my dollar off pain relief coupon. I didn’t feel like taking the time to complain about it.

Whole foods was not so bad. Middle of the afternoon on a weekday, apparently, is when you need to get there in order to avoid the crowds.

Having just returned from shopping, I once again have to deal with the constant stream of video game noises from downstairs. I really should work on cleaning my room and unpacking, but all I want to do is lie down and not give a f#@! until I absolutely have to (tomorrow morning).

I’m going to try to find something online that will make me smile and avoid my chores until Saturday, I think.

Best Coffee in Boston


Wait long enough, someone else will take your idea… (not “steal,” but “have the same one and actually follow through with it”)

I have been thinking for quite a while of doing a “Coffee Guide to Boston,” which would entail me talking about favorite cafes in different neighborhoods. I guess I would go about mine a little differently, but it’s still basically the same idea. 😦 No fair. But I haven’t been to most of these. I’d like to try out Voltage — it’s on the Scoutmob app right now.

College Foodie Guide

When I find places where I can get a cappuccino or latte that tastes as good as any café crème I had in Paris, I want to tell the world! And if it looks as good as the ones I used to have at Cafeotheque that’s an even better reason to share it.

While this list is only just beginning, I figured I would share where you can find a great cup of coffee in and around Boston. This list is still a work-in-progress!

Voltage Café

A couple of blocks away from MIT, this cafe has been written up time and time again for its excellence in coffee. And from the many times I’ve been there, it does not disappoint. And although the people working there could have been snooty about their coffee and looked down on someone like me who was asking questions, they were the exact opposite: incredibly…

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