Thursday, May 31, 2012

Restaurant Review: The Crêperie on Newbury

I'm really thankful for Groupons, because otherwise, I would have never gone to this delicious, delicious place.  I had a $20 for $40 worth of food deal (with a $5 discount, so it was actually $15!), so I took the beau here on a date.  I mentioned before that I would hate to be a guy and the one traditionally in charge of planning the dinner dates, but I pretty much knocked this one out of the park (thanks Groupon!).  We snazzed ourselves up and took the Green Line to Copley Square and walked over to 259 Newbury Street, where this crêperie sits snugly between ritzy shops and restaurants catering to stylish (cough...rich) Bostonians.

The place doesn't take reservations for under six people, but the girl on the phone said they were so busy with the Groupon deal that they'd hold a table for us.  When we walked in at 7:00 on a Wednesday, however, we literally doubled the in-house population.  The restaurant is very clean and simply decorated, with dance music (Disco, Michael Jackson, etc) playing on a Pandora station loudly enough to be lip-synched and silently danced to, but not loud enough to drown out the other two women diners' conversation about just how much alcohol one can actually drink while pregnant anyway* and whether or not the other lady is "putting herself out there" enough.

Now to the food!  I ordered the chicken and goat cheese crêpe ($12--pictured below) and Beau ordered the braised short ribs ($14).  Covered with a roasted tomato sauce, that chicken and goat cheese concoction was perhaps one of the best things I've ever put in my mouth--at first bite.  It was so delicious, but it lacked dimension, something that could possibly be remedied with some more fresh herbs (and possibly by actually caramelizing the "caramelized" onions**).  The braised short ribs crêpe was good, and had a kind of a sweetness to it that I didn't get to explore very much because I only took a small bite because I'm weird about sharing food sometimes.


For dessert we shared the Bananas Foster ($8--pictured below).  Served with ice cream and caramel sauce, it was delicious and just rich and sweet enough.  Dessert sharing often poses Zeno's paradox:  no matter how small of an amount there is left on the plate, you'll only eat half of it.


The service was good:  everything happened quickly and our waiter was polite and attentive (though there were only two tables at the time, so who knows what it's like when they're busy).  I highly, highly recommend this place.  Even without the Groupon or any other discount, it's not unbearably expensive, especially for Newbury Street.  I'm just sad that I probably won't be able to go again before I leave.  I wonder if there are crêperies in Hawaii...

Check out the full menu for The Crêperie on Newbury here.

*Apparently, according to her OB, it's two drinks per day.  Thanks for the fetal alcohol syndrome, doc.
**Caramelization means brown, people!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

One Paragraph of Selfishness

Allow me to be selfish and unreasonable for six sentences:

I don't want to sound ungrateful.  I know how incredibly fortunate I am to have gotten this fellowship, but sometimes, I just wonder why I couldn't have just gotten into a PhD program instead so I could stay here and everything could be the same.  I don't want to leave, but I already told them I would, and I'm not stupid enough to turn it down, and it's only for a year, so I'll go.  In that case, I demand that nothing change while I'm gone.  I don't want to come back like an astronaut or Rip Van Winkle and find out that significantly more time has passed for everyone else than for me---that I've been replaced and forgotten---that I no longer fit in anywhere. I want a hiatus, not a cancellation.

There.  Got that out of my system.  Now I can go back to being legitimately excited about moving to Hawaii.  (At least until my next emotional breakdown.)

Progress, Revisited...

They see me rollin', they hatin'...
I'm slowly but surely learning to drive.  The whole moving out of a state where one doesn't need to drive and into a state where driving is kind of necessary is a good impetus, I guess.  I had a momentary* freak-out when I tried to schedule my road test online and there were no available appointment slots before I have to leave for Hawaii.  Turns out, lots of people are taking their tests this summer, but thankfully, lots of people also cancel their tests, you just have to hit "Refresh" a bunch of times.

So I've scheduled my road test:  Thursday, June 14th at 3:00 pm at the Watertown RMV.  I leave for Honolulu on Friday, June 15th at 8:00 am, so I'm basically taking this test at the last possible second.  If it appears that I'm on the borderline between passing and failing I'll just be like, "look, I'm leaving Massachusetts in less than 24 hours, and then I'll be Hawaii's problem, so you should just pass me."  Nobody parallel parks in Honolulu anyway**.

I'll let you know how it goes, at any rate.  Until then...

brake-left, gas-right, brake-left, gas-right, brake-left, gas-right, brake-left....


*and by "momentary" I mean that it lasted hours.
**I don't know if this is true, but neither does the RMV examiner.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Why I'm Moving to Hawaii

I'm moving to Hawaii in less than a month, guys.


For 99% of you reading this blog title, you're probably thinking, Why not move to Hawaii?  Well, I've never been too keen on the whole "fun in the sun" mentality with the sand and the surf and the grass skirts and coconut brassieres.  (I hate fun, okay?  Sue me.)  Also, it's 5848 miles away from Boston and everybody I love/like/tolerate* and it's basically a huge volcano in the middle of the ocean and milk is $8/gallon** and I'm probably going to get skin cancer or eaten by a shark or attacked by a "territorial surfer" or something terrible like that.  So why am I moving to Hawaii?  Here's why:
  • I've been offered an amazing job.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I'll be working in a giant forensic anthropology lab identifying remains of unknown Korean War soldiers.  Not only is it the best possible thing I can do for my career as a forensic anthropologist (casework galore and networking like crazy), but it's good and noble "America" work (cue Lee Greenwood).  If there can be one fewer "Unknown" grave because of me, it'll be worth it.
  • I have no other job prospects.  What I do have is a terrifying amount of student loans to pay back.  The salary with this job will allow me to take a big chunk out of those so I can become the type of person with a non-risky credit score.
  • I've never done anything like this before.  All the people I love/like/tolerate have done all of these amazing studies abroad or "for the heck of it" worldly travels, and I've never done anything or been anywhere.  I've been to Canada once, and that's about it.  Even though I'm going for a job, the idea of moving out in the middle of the Pacific and having all sorts of adventures is kind of exciting and will be a good thing to have on my life resume.
  • I'll probably never do anything like this again.  I'm a (relatively) young single adult with no real responsibilities right now.  When I come back, I'll be (hopefully) going to school, and maybe arranging my life in such a fashion that I'll be starting to "settle down."  Can't really up and move to Hawaii for a year then, can I?  Basically, this is my best and last chance.
  • I feel okay about it.  This is not to say that I'm not nervous or scared or sad about leaving--there's going to be a lot of "newness" and anxiety associated with my move, and I basically burst into tears at least once a week--but I don't think being nervous/scared/sad about something necessarily makes a thing not the right thing to do (I could explain this in a more "churchy" fashion, but I don't think I will). So I'm going.
In terms of logistics, I fly to Honolulu on June 15th, and I'm slowly working on minimizing my stuff to the point where I don't have to spend all of my "dislocation" allowance on getting stuff across the ocean.  As of right now, I am not having a "going away" party, because frankly, I'm going to be a basketcase for the entire last week I'm in Boston and will not be fit for public viewing.  Also, nothing will have quite the "finale vibe" that I'm looking for or in any way measure up to Kristen Wiig's departure from SNL.***  But if I like you enough, we can do the whole "goodbye" thing.  I've given my roommates permission to throw a party after I'm gone.  You know, like a wake.

Updates to come, I guess.  Until then, Aloha?


*You know where you fall on this spectrum.
**This doesn't really personally affect me since I'm kind of lactose intolerant and wouldn't be buying milk by the gallon anyway.  My point is, stuff is expensive, yo.
***I cried so much when I watched this.  Also, I'm kind of in love with Seth Meyers.  

Friday, May 4, 2012

On Baby Pictures

Dear New Parents,

Congratulations on your brand-new, tiny bundle of joy.  I know you're all euphoric and full of endorphins and crazy hormones and can't see it, but your baby is not cute.  Right now, five minutes after its expulsion from the womb, it looks like a red, shriveled lizard-monster covered in goo.  It's not your fault, they all come out that way.  Give it about two weeks.  Once it's cleaned up, clothed, and out of hospital lighting, people will be lining up to see pictures of your adorable little munchkin.  But for now, put your camera phones away*; just because you can instantly upload photos to the internet doesn't mean you should.

Sincerely,

Alex (on behalf of all of your Facebook friends)

*Also, you're in a hospital, shouldn't your phone be turned off?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Manners for Mormons...

...or, "How to Attend a Party Without Making the Hostess Want to Kick You"

Mormons have a ton of great qualities, but after socializing with them almost exclusively for the past eight or so years, I've come to realize that a lot of LDS people seem to have never learned a lot of basic principles of etiquette.  Maybe I notice this because it's part of a culture that I've never been fully immersed in as the child of parents who didn't join the Church until I was five, or maybe there are just a select few of us who somehow learned how to behave properly in social settings "of the world."  

So to all of the Mormons who read this blog, here are some basic helpful hints as to how to attend a (dinner) party:
  1. Show up on freaking time.  For dinner parties, this means show up early.  If you're invited to a dinner party and the host(ess) tells you "dinner is served at six," that means that the plan is to sit down at the table at six o'clock, bless the food, and start eating.  Six o'clock is not the time to call and ask where you should park, or (heaven forbid) leave your house. If dinner is served at six, it's perfectly acceptable to show up at 5:45 to mingle, or help out in the kitchen should you be needed.  I've hosted many dinner parties, and it's extremely frustrating to have food ready at a certain time but be forced to serve it cold twenty minutes later.
  2. On bringing food:  If you're contributing an important part of the meal, see point #1.  If you're bringing food to a dinner* party, check with the host(ess) to see if what you're bringing is acceptable, or if it's necessary for you to bring anything at all.  I don't care if you make the world's best brownies; if the hostess already has dessert covered, don't bring them.  Also, make sure what you're bringing goes with the theme of the meal.  For instance, if the bill of fare is filet mignon and creme brulée, bringing a bag of Double-Stuffed Oreo Cookies is just going to make you look like an idiot.  Call ahead.  Say, "can I bring anything? and if so, what?"  Also, if you're bringing something, bring everything required for the serving of that something (serving spoons, etc.).  
  3. On bringing people:  Don't.  Well, maybe that's a little hasty, but this is one of the biggest sources of social faux pas in Mormon (dinner) parties, and I have so many stories about this one that I'm not going to share here.  Sure, we're supposed to be all friendly and open and welcoming, but we only have so many plates and chairs.  So unless the invitation explicitly says, "please feel free to invite friends/roommates/etc..." do not invite other people without checking with the host(ess) first!**  Nothing is more terrifying to a host(ess) than the thought of "we don't have a chair/plate/Cornish game hen for you" when opening door to an uninvited dinner guest.  On a related note, if you unfortunately catch wind of a party happening to which you haven't been invited, don't invite yourself.  Please.  Have some sense of shame.  Even if you think it was an oversight and everyone would be happy to have you.  Refer to the following pie chart:
"Actual Reasons" include the following:
a.  There are too many people already and we had to make cuts.  Sorry, but it happens.
b.  The host (or someone that the host likes better than you) doesn't want you there.
c.  You're a victim of the "net."  If you were invited, the host would feel obligated to invite someone connected to you in some way, like your roommate with personal boundary issues or your snobby significant other.  Again, sorry, but it happens.

So here's the take home message:  (dinner) party hosts are doing you a great service.  Out of the goodness of their hearts, they're opening their homes and going to a great deal of trouble to feed and entertain you.  The least you could do is make their job--no, wait, not "job," as this implies that it's an obligation--make what they're doing because they like you a little easier and less stressful.

Thank you.***


*If it's just a regular, non-dinner party, the rules are a little bit looser, so yeah, bring your chips and salsa and brownies to that.
**But this is also really tricky (i.e. frowned-upon).  Asking to invite someone more often than not puts the host(ess) in an extremely uncomfortable position, the position of "I don't want this person at my party but everyone will think I'm a horrible person if I say they can't come."  If it's a dinner party, best not to invite anyone.  If it's a regular party, check to see if it's okay.  It's more of a courtesy than an actual asking of permission, because really, the host(ess) won't say no in most cases unless [far too many specific stories here].
***Is what you should be saying to them, you ungrateful little weasels ;)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told


Edward and Bella, Jack and Rose, Buffy and Angel*, Jim and Pam... all of these couples have got nothing on Betsy and Joe.  My dear friend Laura recently introduced me to the Betsy-Tacy books, written by Maud Hart Lovelace.  These stories are based on Lovelace's life and friends and take place in the early 1900's and continue until the First World War.  Betsy and Joe meet in high school, and we watch them go from high-school-rivals, to friends, to "boyfriend-girlfriend," to estranged lovers, and finally to newlyweds!  

I just finished reading Betsy's Wedding, and here are some of my favorite "Aw..." moments:

After a quarrel, Betsy and Joe are estranged for a few years while she tours Europe (aka "The Great World").  She gets this telegram from Joe:
"BETSY.  THE GREAT WAR IS ON BUT I HOPE OURS IS OVER.  PLEASE COME HOME.  JOE." (1)
Right? Right?

Part's of Joe's marriage proposal:
"I love you.  I love you from that cloudy dark hair down to your slender feet.  I love your eyes, and your soft hands, and your sweet voice, and the way your laugh chimes out.  Everything about you is enchanting to me.  But Betsy, it's lots more than that... I can always talk to you... I can make plans, or puzzle out ideas, or build castles in the air.  I don't need to think what I'm saying or guard my words.  You understand my high moods and my low ones.  You understand me, I guess.... Betsy, you fit into my life as perfectly as a rose fits its stem.  You and I match like the pieces of a broken coin.... Love me always, Betsy!  I have given my whole heart to you." (2)
When Joe gets called off to war:
"Listen, Betsy!  Listen hard!  I'm coming back.  Do you hear?  I'm coming back.  And I'll love you even more than I do now, if that could possibly be.  I'll miss you so.... Nothing in the whole world could come between you and me, Betsy.  We're...woven together.  You know that.... I know, I feel it in my bones." (3)
I didn't want to put long excerpts--just quotes--but their love story is just so magical and romantic, but also real (because it's based on a real story, I guess).  They have struggles and hardships and trials and disagreements, but they have each other.

Look at me getting all sappy about a children's book.
 

*or Spike, if you prefer
1.  Lovelace, Maud Hart.  Betsy and the Great World.  p. 352
2.  Lovelace, Maud Hart.  Betsy's Wedding.  pp. 387-8
3.  Betsy's Wedding.  pp. 631-2

Another Post About Dating...

...because I'm pandering in order to boost my readership.

This is the only picture that I could think of for a post about LDS Singles.

I love my singles' ward* in Boston.  It's probably the best ward I've ever been in.  However, if there was one thing I could change about my ward, it would be the ward Facebook page.  I don't know who is in charge of the Facebook page, and kudos to whomever that is for magnifying their calling and whatnot, but as far as I can tell, all the ward Facebook page does is (in addition to always announcing the wrong time for Ward Temple Night) post articles like the following:


There's a new one of these "Single Saints" articles pretty much every day.  Sometimes more often than that.  I realize that being obsessed with dating and marriage is a HUGE part of young LDS culture, but seriously?  This is overkill.  In jest, I posted a Facebook status saying, "Maybe the reason that there are so many unmarried Mormons in Boston is that we're too busy reading all of the 'Single Saints' posts on the LP2 page to actually go on dates." 

As much as it may have seemed to start out this way, the purpose of this post is not to criticize whomever is in charge of the ward Facebook page (so don't get all offended and go crying to the bishop about it, because frankly, you're doing a good job.  I probably would never put anything on the page were I in charge).  This post is about a broader thing.

Here's the thing:  I'm a firm believer that reading a bunch of articles about something isn't going to make you better at that thing.  I've never collected any data on this, but I have a strong inkling that the people who read all of these articles as scripture don't have as much dating success as the people who just say, "screw it, I'm going to go on a date."  

So don't worry if some website says that you're dating incorrectly, and don't rely on some website to tell you whether or not you're doing things correctly.  Worried that you're not?  That's what communication is for!  I'm not saying you should end every date by asking your date if they'd like to take a brief survey in order to improve your performance, but talk!

I could probably go on and make up more things that I would call advice, but then this would turn into one of those very same "how to date if you're a Mormon" articles, and we're not okay with that.



*"Singles' Ward" = Congregation of unmarried Mormons of a certain age bound to a certain geographic location.  Also, I never know where the apostrophe is supposed to go in "singles".  It's like Master's Degree.