Baseball, GIFs, and Eggs for a Cause

Wow! How about them Red Sox?! I'm slightly obsessed with making my own animated GIFs, so here's one to celebrate their World Series championship (featuring my coworker, Mike):

I also enjoy Bill Littlefield's latest verse from Only A Game:

Baseball's Season End

What do you do when it’s over? What do you do when it’s done? 

Each autumn the question arises, no matter who’s lost or won.

What if you’ve no taste for football? And your hockey and basketball jones

Doesn’t kick in ’til the playoffs? What if you feel in your bones

The cold of the on-coming season, the darkness of each empty park

Where baseball is played in the summer? And what if your life lacks a spark

Because baseball is closed for the winter, the players dispersed in the fall,

Some to return in the spring time; some, I suppose, not at all.

Sure, there is on-going soccer, here and in Europe as well,

But if you think soccer is boring, you won’t buy what they have to sell.

So what do you do when the echoes of all of the cheering subside?

And one great big part of the country commences the annual slide

Into wind, sleet, and ice on the highway, and lost gloves, or lost glove, at least…

I don’t know ’bout winter where you live; where I live it can be a beast.

The answer? I guess we depend on the fact that we never forget

The moments we choose to sustain us, on days when it’s cold and we’re wet.

The buzz of the overbooked ballpark, the roar at the timely homerun,

The fielder sprawled out on that greenest of grass when he’s stretched at the end of his run,

And he holds up the ball for the umpire, and all of those gathered to see,

Or the closer who brings the unhittable pitch, and the tension his pitch can set free.

The end of the long baseball season, when every last out has been made,

Continues to live in the minds of the fans even after they’ve watched the parade.

It's also the last day of October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. You've no doubt seen tons of pink merchandise over the last 31 days, but have you seen this? Yes, even Eggland's Best got in on the act (although my package made no reference to it on the exterior, so I was pleasantly surprised when I opened them up).

Eggs

 

Have a happy & safe Halloween!

 


Assembled at Assembly Row

There are only a few weeks left to check out Assembled, the handmade arts market at Assembly Row  in Somerville. Featuring artists from all over New England, as well as [the now ubiquitous] food trucks and live music, it's giving Boston's SoWa and Greenway Open Markets a run for their money.

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Among the booths that caught my eye: The Crunchy Home, a line of beauty, baby, and home products like face scrubs, lotions, and candles, all made with natural ingredients (find them on Etsy here; they make a great grapefruit scrub):

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...and Chappy Girls Jewelry, which offers affordable bracelets like these Breast Cancer Awareness ones that support the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation in Providence, RI:

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There were also some pretty Swarovski crystals at the Karol Peralta Jewelry booth.

Assembled runs Saturdays from 11am to 4pm, through September 21st.  Also this weekend: Charlestown's Art in the Park and the Boston Calling music festival on City Hall Plaza. But I'll miss both because I'll be searching for treasures in Brimfield!


A Cherry on Top

After a long wait (and some controversy), the new Whole Foods market in Charlestown has finally opened up and I couldn't be happier (and it's not because of their signature Charlestown sandwiches!).

Together with the Charlestown Farmers Market (which sets up shop on Main Street, Wednesdays through October) we now have two great options for fresh produce in town.

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Have you ever heard of a lemon cucumber? I hadn't until I came across this one at the farmer's market:

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It's not actually a hybrid of the two fruits, but rather a cucumber that happens to look like a lemon. But it tasted similar to the more familiar green kind (maybe a bit milder) and I chopped it up into a summer salad.

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And while I think cherries peak in July, Whole Foods had some gorgeous ones in there on my last visit, which allowed me to make this delicious recipe for Cherry and Goat Cheese Crostini, courtesy of Women's Health magazine. The recipe below is copied from their site, but the photo is my own!

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Set oven rack five inches from the broiler. In a bowl, toss 2 cups cherries (stemmed, pitted, and halved) with 1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, 1/8 teaspoon sea salt, and 1/8 teaspoon sugar. Let stand 10 minutes. Meanwhile, brush 24 baguette slices (3/4-inch thick, from a 12-ounce baguette) with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Broil until just golden around the edges, about 90 seconds. Cool. Spread with 1/2 cup goat cheese. Spoon cherry mixture onto crostini, dividing equally. Garnish with 3 thinly sliced sage leaves.

Makes 24 pieces
Per piece: 80 cal, 2.5 g fat (1 g sat), 13 g carbs, 135 mg sodium, 1 g fiber, 3 g protein

 


Whisk Boston

I'm back!

Mostly because I have an important message to share with local foodies: run - don't walk - over to Boston's North End and experience the city's latest dining pop-up, Whisk Boston, before it closes sometime in September.

For the uninitiated, pop-up restaurants are temporary operations that "pop up" in private homes, retail locations, or other available space so that [usually] new chefs can test out a concept without making a huge investment in a permanent space. They are typically small, allowing for fewer staff and more frequent menu changes than in a traditional restaurant. 

Whisk has popped up in the Volle Nolle space at 351 Hanover Street (conveniently closed while its own chef is on vacation) after occupying spaces in Cambridge and Jamaica Plain previously (all to rave reviews). I actually hadn't been to Volle Nolle before, and was pleasantly surprised by the chic decor - white subway tiles, rustic woods, low lighting, punched-tin ceiling and chalk board menus. Plus, a wall of wine bottles. Very Napa-esque.

Whisk Dining Room

But the highlight of the place is the tiny kitchen manned by chefs Jeremy Kean and Philip Kruta. Kean serves as Executive Chef, having previously worked in the kitchens at AquitaineGarden at the Cellar, and Rialto (all excellent in their own right) while Kruta honed his pastry skills at L'Espalier. Together, they deliver an eclectic mix of savory & sweet delicacies in a choice of three-, five-, or seven-course tasting menus ($45/$65/$75) with optional wine pairings (ranging from Burgundy, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cider with the main courses to White Port and Moscato with desserts).

Kean and Kruta
I visited Whisk twice this month (!), at first opting for the five-course with wine pairing which was so good that I went back a week later for the seven-course. The chefs bring something totally different to Boston's Little Italy: non-Italian cuisine for starters. While using French cooking techniques, they rely on local, seasonal ingredients to develop the menu (which changes weekly). Also, each plate at Whisk is a work of art, with all of the ingredients - and their presentation - carefully selected to create an experience. And Kean presents many of the courses himself, eager to explain his dishes and solicit feedback from guests. 

Kean and Steph

Both meals started with a delicious date, thyme, and lemon bread baked fresh on the premises, accompanied by a miso butter. The first night proceeded as follows (all course were great but dish #1 was my favorite!):

Squid ink
1) Squid Ink Pasta with Glazed Calamari Miso
Sea Scallop
2) Sea Scallop with Truffled Corn and Pancetta
Hanger Steak
3) Hanger Steak with Gorgonzola Gratin and Chanterelles
Pork Belly
4) Pork Belly with Corn Shortbread and Collards
Chocolate Cake
5) Chocolate Cake with Orange and Cherry

And the second night (where I think the gnocchi  and filet tartare were my favorites): 

Tomato Salad
1) Peasant Tomato Salad with Mozarella, Corn, and African Basil
Sea Scallop 8.55.22 PM
2) Sea Scallop with Truffled Corn and Pancetta (repeat!)
Filet Tartare
3) Filet Tartare with Tomato Jam and Quail Egg
Gorgonzola Gnocchi
4) Gorgonzola Gnocchi with Oxtail Marmalade, Pickled Apple and Apple Butter
Foie Gras Creme Brulee
5) Foie Gras Creme Brulee with Strawberry and White Balsamic
Chocolate Praline
6) Chocolate Praline Mousse with Hazlenuts
Cherry Cheesecake
7) Cherry Cheesecake with Carmelized White Chocolate and Pistachio

Phew! I'm full just reliving it all. But it is so worth a visit. Check out past menus, sign up for their mailing list or follow them on Facebook and Twitter for the latest.  If you plan to go, reservations are recommended.

And as an aside, Whisk partners with the Transitional Employment Program at Haley House, a local nonprofit that helps people who were previously incarcerated transition back into society through work experience. 


Barry McGee

Over the years, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston has hosted shows by different graffiti artists, most notably Shepard Fairey and Os Gemeos. Their latest exhibit in this genre is from San Francisco-based Barry McGee, who got his start in the late 80's under the tag name "Twist."

Last Friday night I attended the Opening Night reception for McGee's new show, which included a cocktail party in the ICA lobby (a beautiful space overlooking the Boston Harbor) followed by a talk with the artist and a 20 year survey of his work.

Barry McGee (5)

The talk was bizarre - McGee is painfully shy and was visibly uncomfortable being in the spotlight. He repeatedly asked for the lights to be turned down (taking the focus off of him) and encouraged audience members to talk so that he wouldn't have to. I found this so interesting because his work is very bold, infused with bright colors, hard lines, and a fair amount of social commentary/activism. But I guess the man prefers to stay in the shadows, letting his paint cans do the talking.

Barry McGee (7)

McGee admits that now that he's 46 and a father he has lost interest in tagging, but continues to bring urban installations into art spaces and galleries. From the ICA write up:

"At once humorous, political, and difficult (especially for those who see private property as an inalienable right), his art underscores the complexities of life in early twenty-first-century America, a country in the midst of wars, a financial crisis, unemployment, class stratification, and the ever-cheerful exhortation to keep consuming."

He's decidedly anti-consumerism and anti-establishment, remarking,

“If I live in an urban center — in a city — with constant advertising, I feel like I have every right to partake also. I don’t feel like it should be limited to corporations that can buy ad space. I just always assume that anything written on the wall was the authentic thing to me. The real voice.”

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The market value of his work rose considerably after it was included in the 2001 Venice Biennale, a major contemporary art show in Italy. Today, much of his San Francisco street art has been stolen (although I did hear in his recent NPR interview that some work can still be found in and around Boston). And he just created a new [sanctioned] piece on the back of the House of Blues building while he was in town last week.

Unlike other cities that are known for their graffiti - areas of Buenos Aires, Old San Juan, San Francisco, and Venice Beach come to mind - Boston doesn't have much elaborate street art. Just last month, local artist Cyrille Conan was hired to paint a 14'x17' mural on the old Boston Herald building in the South End, but it was purely to drive publicity of a new mixed-use housing and commercial complex (dubbed The Ink Block) that is going up there. The Herald building - along with Conan's work - was demolished just a few weeks later (but not before I captured the shot below).

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The best-kept graffiti secret in the city might be at my office. We have several walls that were painted years ago by some local teens who got caught tagging and were sentenced to community service - which included coming in to our space and putting their talent to good use. Take a look:

Barry McGee (3)

Barry McGee (4)

Here is the photo set from McGee's exhibit, which is at the ICA through September 2nd.

Where Hash Rules

You all know how I love a good meal, and a good bit of Boston history, so I was delighted to find a marriage of the two in George Cuddy's book, Where Hash Rules. It's the story of Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe, a landmark in Boston's South End since 1927.

Where-Hash-Rules-Cuddy-George-Aaron-EB2370004341637Simultaneously a rich historical account of a city block, and a love letter to the people who made history there, the book is full of personal anecdotes,  newspaper clippings, photos, recipes and blog posts that tell the story of the Manjourides family and their restaurant over the course of 85 years.

In that time, Charlie's has borne witness to a wildly diverse neighborhood that has played host to criminals and celebrities alike. Prostitutes and mobsters, politicians, performers and athletes – everyone from Sammy Davis Jr, Duke Ellington, Joe Lewis and Whitey Bulger, to Tom Brady, Nomar Garciaparra, Robert Urich and Al Gore - have dined at this 32-seat shop. It's cash-only, and offers communal tables, both telling attributes of the no-frills, genial experience you are likely to have there.

In its early days, Charlie's was the only restaurant in town that would serve African Americans. The Pullman Porters  -  men hired by George Pullman to work on the railroads as porters on sleeping cars  - established their Boston headquarters above the restaurant and admitted original owner Charlie Poulos as the only non-black member so he could play cards and shoot pool with them.

In the years since, all sorts of characters have crossed the threshold, including Cookie the bookie, Chapman the peeper, Richard the storyteller, and Biggie the bulldog. They've all contributed to Charlie's vibrant history.

But central to the story are the four beloved proprietors and siblings, Arthur, Marie, Fontaine, and Chris, who have been slinging hash – and stories – for decades.  Their immigrant father Christi was Charlie Poulos' first employee, starting out as a line cook and then through some shrewd business dealings becoming a partner in 1946.  This family's story, their hard work and dedication to the business as well as their community, has all the tenets of the American Dream.

Though I’ve yet to visit Charlie’s in person (despite living here for nearly 20 years…the shame!), I feel like I know them all. And like the author, I feel slighted that I missed out on so many of the memories.

And what of the food? Charlie's consistently gets rave reviews for its great meals at great prices, and it won the prestigious James Beard Award in 2005. I am dying to try the cranberry pancakes and the raspberry griddle cakes. And of course, the famous turkey hash.

You can purchase Where Hash Rules (ebook) at Amazon or Barnes & Noble, read more about it on Boston.com and Bon Appetit, and stay up-to-date with restaurant happenings via their Facebook page.

And perhaps I'll see you at one of their communal tables one day soon.


Next Steps

I had my week of fun, now back to business.

Last week I met with four different doctors to hear my options for moving forward: my surgeon, oncologist, radiology oncologist, and plastic surgeon. I was absolutely inundated with information, not only from them but from my own research, too (the "Bible" for breast care, and a handful of women who were kind enough to share their own experiences - thank you!).

I'll spare you the gory details (the science around mastectomies & reconstruction is quite fascinating if it's not in fact happening to you) and cut to the chase: I've elected to try a re-excision in an attempt to get clear margins. Basically, the doctors were really pleased with how my body responded to the lumpectomy (healed beautifully...you wouldn't even know I had surgery!) and presented this less invasive option to me last week.

So I go in again on Wednesday, when my surgeon will open up the existing site and remove another layer of cells in hope of getting a clear margin (2mm or more of cancer-free cells around the border of the specimen removed). There is a 50:50 chance that this will work; if it doesn't then I will proceed with a single-stage mastectomy next month. But the re-excision should be relatively easy - a one week recovery and no surgical drains! In either case, I still need to proceed with 6 weeks of radiation and 5 years of Tomoxifen once surgery is complete.

I'm hopeful that the re-excision will work, as I'm ready to get on with life!! I'm feeling well these days - my appetite is back in full force (although I'm definitely more mindful of what I eat, and I am the lightest I've been since College) and my hair/eyebrows/lashes are slowly coming back. I still tire easily, and my fingernails and toenails are a mess (apparently the worst of it hits them one month after chemo ends) but nothing a little polish can't hide.  

I got outside for a bit today and walked the new pedestrian bridge connecting Charlestown's Paul Revere Park  to Cambridge's North Point Park. Here are a few pics:

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Heading into Paul Revere Park

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Crossing under the Zakim Bridge into Cambridge

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Arriving at North Point Park

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Enjoying the scenery

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A happy local






Time Off

Hi, Everyone -

Just wanted to give you a quick update on things. Everything seems to be healing well: I finally got that nasty surgical drain out (after two weeks!) and am doing exercises to hopefully regain full range of motion in my left arm. I'm still in a bit of pain, and my fingernails are suffering the post-Taxol effect, but I don't have any other side effects and I have a tiny bit of hair growing back on my head!

But as I said in my last post, I was anxious to take some "time off" from Cancer, and spent the last week "living" again. I returned to work, visited with friends, published a blog post on Charlestown Patch, and took full advantage of all the festivities taking place in Boston this week - Navy Week (celebrating the Bicentennial of the War of 1812) and the annual 4th of July Harborfest.

Here are a few of my favorite photos from the week (see the full set on Flickr here):

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Ahoy, Mate!
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Old Ironsides
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The Blue Angels

This week, I plan to talk to a few more survivors about their experiences (specifically with mastectomy) and gather my list of questions for next Monday's meeting with my surgeon and oncologist. I should know more about next steps then.

Happy 4th!