Sunday, September 30, 2012

A weekend in Annapolis

We are just back from a long weekend trip to Annapolis, Maryland. It's an easy flight from Boston (thanks, Jet Blue!) - and despite forecasts that called for lots of rainy weather, we couldn't have asked for a sunnier, beautiful autumn weekend. Peter's sister and brother-in-law (Bridie and Dan) picked us up at the Baltimore airport on their drive in from their home in New Jersey. And just a short 18 mile drive separated us from our good friend's home that we borrowed for our visit. Her home sits on a quiet, sloping street that dead-ends into Spa Creek. We understand that there are actually a couple of kayaks under the home's front porch that we could have borrowed, but between relaxing in the gorgeous backyard, walking into town, or planning our next meal, we ran out of time. We will plan on hitting the water next time!

On Friday afternoon, we took in all of the fun shops along Main Street, a ten minute walk from our home.

My new kicks. You like?

We ended up a Chick & Ruth's Delly for a late lunch. This place is on everyone's "must see" Annapolis destinations - it's a classic, family-run establishment that features huge portions of really delicious options. They start by putting out a deep plastic container of sliced half-sour pickles in the middle of the table ("Finish those up and I'll bring you more," promised our waitress, Nancy.)

After paging through the dozens of choices in the menu, both Peter and I settled on the crab cake sandwiches; they were awesome -- filled with sweet crab meat and none of those nasty fillers. And if your appetite is huge, Chick & Ruth's offers up several "Great Challenge" menu items, including their "Super Colossal Sandwich", which features three pounds of meat, their "Super Duper Colossal Burger", which includes three pounds of hamburger and cheese, or their "Colossal Milk Shake" which contains six pounds of ice cream.

Dan and the pickles.

Greenery around Church Circle.




On Friday evening, Bridie and Dan's son, Peter, joined us, after driving from Richmond, VA. He arrived in time for a late dinner, but had missed our backyard cocktail hour, a cut-throat game of Password (where we decided that cheating was OK if it made everyone laugh), a dinner of steaks on the grill and baked potatoes, followed by Bridie's amazingly dense carrot cake with cream cheese icing.



Everyone slept in on Saturday morning, and after a hearty breakfast of ham and eggs (thanks, Peter) and a few slices of homemade Irish brown bread (thanks, Bridie), we awaiting the arrival of my dear friend Laurie. I met Laurie during the first few days of my freshman year at college (State University of New York at Geneseo) and we were fast friends. After graduation, she lived for a few years in Hawaii, where I was lucky enough to visit her twice. She met her husband-to-be in Hawaii and then started traveling and moving to so many different cities that I lost count. About six years ago, Laurie and her family, which now includes a daughter and a son, ended up in Annapolis. So I was thrilled to reconnect with Laurie and we made plans to get-together for a walk around the nearby U.S. Naval Academy.

My friend Laurie joined us for the afternoon.

It was wonderful to see Laurie -- and even after all those years apart, she hasn't changed a bit. We spent a few hours at the Academy, touring the chapel, the underground crypt that houses the remains of John Paul ("I have not yet begun to fight!") Jones. and the museum, which houses an amazing collection of model ships, including one gallery of ships made of bones and ivory.




After a lovely outdoor lunch at the Reynolds Tavern on Church Circle, Laurie drove us back home, but we persuaded her to "sit a spell" in the backyard so we could catch up.

On Saturday night, we ended up at Cantler's Riverside Inn, a recommendation from our hostess, for an outdoor crab feast. It was a perfect last night in Annapolis - and we did that "when in Rome" thing, ordering up a dozen large Maryland Blue crabs sprinkled in Old Bay seasons, spreading them out on brown paper, and whacking them with a wooden mallet to get at the sweet meat inside. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun and definitely worth the sticky fingers.

Peter, Bridie and Dan at Cantler's Riverside Inn, a beautiful setting for a blue crab dinner.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The shame of it all...An update on my Emmy losses

I will certainly be conducting a re-count...but I don't think my initial calculations are that far off. I must tip my hat to my friend Blobby (the know-it-all blogger) for his victory in our first annual primetime Emmy awards competition.

Let me just say that my first run-through of the results shows Blobby squeaking by me with a win: 14-6. If I have the strength, I will post more later.

AN UPDATE
My math was confirmed. Blobby has written a thoughtful (kind of braggy) post about our contest, and even though he resorted to name-calling (who are you calling Clarice?), he does offer up an accurate description of our Emmy award competition.

It all leads me to wonder -- what has happened to me? As the reigning champion of the office Oscar pool for god knows how many years in a row (ok, that sounds kind of braggy, but it's true), I don't know what got into me as I filled out my Emmy's scorecard. Perhaps it's because I went with my sentimental favorites. C'mon, who doesn't think that Amy Poehler is the funniest woman on TV, and that the cast of Mad Men, in particular Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Christina Hendricks, and Jared Harris, as the pitiful Lane Pryce, weren't tops in their field this year? I guess I had an "off" day.

I give props and hearty congratulations to Blobby for his (braggy) win -- he's even allowing me to pick our next competition. I'm going to have to think long and hard about that one, and go with something he has NO chance of winning. Perhaps a contest about good manners? Haha - I jest (?)

A busy day lies ahead


A few raindrops were starting to fall as Otis and I took to the football field at the edge of Pleasure Bay this morning for our tennis ball retrieval ritual. The look on his face says to me "Put down the damn camera and throw the ball already!". It was a good romp, and it was nice to see the pastel sunrise as we took care of doggy business. Now it's time for a quick shower - and off to the office. A busy day, as we're taking Thursday and Friday off to travel to Annapolis, MD, for a long weekend. I've never been to Annapolis before, and we're joining some family (Peter's sister, brother-in-law, and nephew) and hoping to catch up with a dear college friend, and take in all that the town offers. Stay tuned for posts and photos from our trip. 

And yes, this photo is blurry and overexposed, but gives you a sense of the energy level we're dealing with here, even at 5:45 am.



Monday, September 24, 2012

Boston's Eat Boutique: free samples of really good food


Saturday's perfect autumn afternoon in Boston meant we had to get out of the house. And good food was our excuse. We attended the Eat Boutique Market, right downtown on Atlantic Wharf (next door to the Boston Tea Party Museum). Eat Boutique is a showcase of "small batch foods" - a perfect place to discover new flavors, most of them sourced right here in New England.

My friend Kim had forwarded me an e-mail invitation to the event earlier in the week. It was free to attend; we just had to RSVP. We drove over to the Fort Point Channel area, parked the car, and walked a few blocks to the event. After a short wait in line (where I insisted on showing my ID to prove that I was at least 18 so that I could enjoy the alcoholic treats inside), we stepped under the big white tent, which housed folding tables featuring the wares of nearly two dozen chefs, food artisans, cookbook authors, brewers, and one fancy flower arranger. 

Free samples abounded - salty, crisp Cheddar cheese crackers (bought a bag), pumpkin vanilla caramel (bought a tube), gourmet s'mores and potato chip encrusted chocolate covered butter toffee (yup - bought some of those, too).  All of the food was beautifully presented, which made it hard to choose which treats were worthy of our hard earned dollars. Now that I'm on the Eat Boutique mailing list, I'll look forward to hearing about their next event, a holiday market in December. 

The Fort Point Channel in Boston, which separates downtown from South Boston.

The Boston Tea Party Museum on Atlantic Wharf.

Crowds line up at the entrance of the Eat Boutique tent.

Free samples of olive shortbread and candied orange peel made waiting in line a little more bearable.




Speaking from first-hand experience, these crackers are awesome.




Pumpkin, vanilla, and cinnamon apple caramels.

Samples of lemon cheesecake.

A tasting of seasoned salts and sugars.

What doesn't taste good paired with good quality butter on fresh bread?

This Bantam hard cider - which they were not selling due to alcohol license restrictions - was sparkly and refreshing. I'm going to seek it out.




Our bounty.

Relaxing after an exhaustive hour of tasting.

Boston's Federal Reserve building is framed by the beautiful landscaping along Atlantic Wharf.

This kid couldn't decide what he liked more: being photographed or his frozen juice pop.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

So you think you can dance (Part 2)

Sweet Fancy Moses! So all this talk about dancing prompted me to post this hilarious clip from Seinfeld. It's from a classic moment that I had always heard about but never seen until this morning. Let's hope that my turns on the dance floor have never been compared to Elaine's.

So you think you can dance

I like to think I have a decent sense of rhythm. Gone are the days when I’d be among the first on the dance floor. But back in college, there was a big group of us, who on every Friday and Saturday night without fail, would walk uptown in Geneseo, NY, and hit the dance floor at the Inn Between, Fat Augies, or the Tail of the Bear. I recall those days fondly – hanging out with a group of good friends and laughing a lot. I remember my friend AnnMarie, who could hit those falsetto notes in the chorus of “Crocodile Rock”, my friend Laurie who raced to the dance floor when she heard the opening riffs to Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock and Roll”, my friend Becky’s choreography to Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry”, and endlessly mocking my friend Margaret over what she thought The Clash was saying when they sang “Rock the Casbah”.

 So yeah, there was a time when I could bust a move, get down on that, and generally boogie down. My point in all of this (and yes, I do have one) is that while I enjoyed my time on the dance floor, it’s now much more fun (and no sweating!) to watch other folks cut the rug.

Enter “So You Think You Can Dance”, the dance reality TV show that just wrapped up its 9th season on FOX-TV. Yup – “reality TV”. I swore off “American Idol” years ago, and have never watched “The Voice” or “The X Factor” (come on, Britney Spears judging other people’s singing abilities?) – but there’s something about SYTYCD that does my heart good. I love the way that over the course of a few months, talented young people are morphed into amazing performers. I love watching them work with talented choreographers, pushing themselves to memorize and perfect several routines each week. I admire the fluidity of it all, the blend of music and movement, and the staging of the production numbers. Heck, I even like judge Mary Murphy – and her enthusiasm and theatrics when she puts one of the dancers on her “Hot Tamale Train”.

So after watching every show this season and witnessing dozens of amazing performances, I thought I’d share my Top 6 (I couldn’t decide on just 5) with you. Note: hit the little "four arrows" icon in the bottom right corner of each video to watch "full screen".


During the season finale, Chehon was named the top male dancer of the season. The right guy won. This routine with “all-star” Allison featured the song “Leave” from the musical “Once”. Watching this makes me tear up every time.


Eliana was named the top female dancer. In this routine, she dances with “all star” Alex to a very cool Nancy Sinatra song, “Bang, Bang My Lover Shot Me Down”. Breathtaking.


OK, so Will is kind of goofy, but this performance in the “Bollywood” style with “all star” Kathryn is nothing short of amazing: fast, symmetrical, and full of joy. I don’t think he got the credit he deserved for pulling this off.


Female runner-up Tiffany performed this energetic jive routine with “all-star” Benji. So fast and so cool. They both make it look effortless.


Lindsay, dancing here with Cole, was my early pick as a winner. She was stunning across the board, but in particular, in this performance.


And how could I leave Cyrus and “all-star” Twitch out of the mix? Yup, I think Twitch (the bigger guy) out-danced Cyrus. But Cyrus came to the show with no formal dance training, so he deserves a shout-out.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

To Castle Island and back

I’ve written about Castle Island here in South Boston many times before on this blog. And it’s no wonder, as it’s our standard dog-walk destination, and we’re there sometimes two times a day. For “newbies” to this blog, Castle Island is a 22-acre park, just south of Boston’s Logan Airport, that is a green oasis for us city dwellers. It’s right on Boston Harbor, so we get wonderful water views, as well as lots of open space for activities, whether you want to run, walk, bike, picnic, fly a kite, lounge, or enjoy a hot dog at Sullivan’s. This past Sunday afternoon, we walked over to Castle Island with Otis to take in the sunshine and enjoy the scenery.

Our friend Salvador sprinted by too quickly for me to get my camera ready, so I ended up with this shot of him running past us.

South Boston beachfront. Way in the distance is the John F. Kennedy Library and museum.



A paved walkway takes you out into Pleasure Bay, hooks around Fort Independence, and then back along the beach on Day Boulevard. The loop is 1.84 miles long (trust me - I just looked it up.)

This guy had just caught and released a huge fish (he said it was a bass?).

In the far distance, you can see the blue John Hancock Tower. At 60 stories, it's the tallest building in New England.

A clear view of downtown Boston.

Lots of green space on Castle Island, like this lawn, where Otis gets his tennis ball-chasing workout.


Otis' other dad.



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