It only took a month and a half since the first real warm day of the season, but it finally feels like summer. And life since my last post has been decidedly busy, yet at the same time pretty boring (in my opinion). I didn't think any of it was worth blogging about...but I'm going to anyway. Sorry. Without further ado, a few things:Read More
Oh, hi there. Been a while, I know, but I promise it's because I've been busy doing actual things and not because I've been re-watching every episode of Parks & Recreation (that part has only been just recently).
This summer coincided with some big changes, some terrifying revelations, and some venturing outside of my comfort zone (spoiler: I now own a maxi dress). In my attempt to cope with it all, I made it my mission to do as much as possible with my weekends so I could enjoy my summer to the fullest.
It may not have reached Summer of George-level epicness (Adrienne: it is very important to me that you learn this reference), but I think I did pretty good.
HOW I SPENT MY SUMMER VACATION
By Lisa Lombardi, age 28
1. Went to the Beach (a lot, actually). It seems like everyone in Boston and the New England area in general has their own opinion regarding which beach is the best — and there are plenty to choose from. North Shore, South Shore, Revere Beach. (Just kidding. No one thinks Revere Beach is the best.) Personally, I always head north to Manchester-by-the-Sea and camp out at Singing Beach. You can get there by car or via the Commuter Rail, it's a beautiful beach, and the town is pretty cute — perfect for walking around when you're done baking in the sun. Parking can be tough; your best bet is to shell out the $25 to park at the train station and walk to the beach. (Go with a group of friends to split the cost.) A daily beach pass is $5, but if you think you'll go multiple times during the summer, spring for a season pass. No, it's not free, but it's worth it. And coming from a cheapskate like me, that means something.
2. Saw an Outdoor Concert. Outside the Box is an annual six-day free festival that takes place on the Boston Common, and before this year, I'd never heard of it. Surprisingly, no one I talked to had heard of it, either — but everyone probably should, because it's a pretty sweet deal. In addition to showcasing local performers and putting on family-friendly shows with magicians and dancers, it draws some major acts. This year's big names included Kasey Musgraves, the Gin Blossoms (I KNOW), and, most importantly, Guster. Guster is a Boston-favorite because they started at Tufts, but they're a Lisa-favorite because they were essentially the soundtrack for drives to and from high school with my brother, Kevin. I've loved them ever since and they are AMAZING live. One word: bongos.
3. Got Dressed Up. In addition to seeing one of my good friends get married at the historic Whittemore-Robbins House in Arlington, I scored an impromptu invite to a July 4th wedding that took place at the Boston Tea Party Museum. The best part? I actually had some decent dresses already that were ready to wear. My fellow ladies will understand what a score this is. (Oh, also there was an amazing, patriotic drag queen performance. NBD.)
4. Spent Time with the Fam. Summer is the time when the whole clan on my mom's side gets together for a week in New Jersey at my grandparents' house. It typically involves up to six of us — myself, my brothers, and my cousins — camping out in one room on foam sleeping mats, and we spend the week eating, watching way too much pointless TV, and going to the Jersey Shore. Frank Bruni recently wrote a piece in the NY Times that sounded a lot like our annual trip and pretty perfectly summed up its worth.
5. Kayaked on the Charles. Despite its reputation for being pretty filthy and disgusting, I kind of love the Charles River. I've even swam in it. But up until recently, I'd never taken advantage of the rental services offered by Charles River Canoe & Kayak (they have SUPs now, too). The rate for a single kayak is $15 an hour, and you can explore a LOT of the river in that time. Afterward, maybe head to the Cambridge Brewing Company for a late brunch and rehydrate properly with delicious, delicious beer.
6. Had a little too much fun. Public Service Announcement: Deep Eddy's Lemon Vodka is dangerous. Also, trying a fish bowl for the first time in my life was probably enough to last me until my mid-life crisis. If anyone knows of good places to dance in Boston where the floor won't still be empty at 10 p.m., let me know, because I'm officially too old to get started any later than that. Remember, the best way to recover the day after is with plenty of water and the Parks & Recreation episode "The Fight."
7. Explored Massachusetts. My lack of car means that I don't really get out of the city much, and when I do, it's because I'm leaving the state. Thanks to Leela, I spent a weekend in the Berkshires region, which essentially boils down to the Massachusetts equivalent of a Michigander's Up North: it's where a bunch of people have vacation homes and a lot of the area is in the middle of nowhere with tons of forests and lakes around. It was beautiful; we ate some great food, explored local attractions, and I scored some choice finds at the local yard sales. Word on the street is that I need to go back in the fall for some quality leaf peeping, though I remain skeptical that New England autumns are really prettier than ours in the Midwest.
8. Returned to my roots. I typically head back to Michigan maaaaaybe twice a year, sometimes for Thanksgiving and always at Christmas — which is sad, because the best time to be in Michigan is definitely the summer. So, this year I made it a priority to get there, and it worked out that I got to see the whole family while I was there. The trip included a jaunt up north to see where my brother Kevin now lives and, because my dad flew us there in his tiny Cessna four-seater, four hours of me desperately trying to focus on my book and squeaking every time we hit some turbulence. Family time!
9. FINALLY went to Brimfield. For the less decor-obsessed than I, allow me to explain: the Brimfield Flea is a massive market of antiques that takes place three times a year in Brimfield, Massachusetts. It's like, the holy grail of flea markets — bloggers, professional interior designers, and editors from shelter mags all flock to it every year, and I've wanted to go since before I even lived in the state. And last Saturday, I DID. It was unbelievably overwhelming and more massive than I ever could have imagined, but it was also really, really fun. No major finds to share with you, because it's really not my scene for shopping (too many options, no time to really think over a decision, prices higher than I'm used to for impulse-buying), but it was so cool just to wander and see all the different things, including: one giant, furry rabbit costume (head only); way too many baby doll/robot hybrids; a full-size covered wagon. Yay, Brimfield!
I distinctly remember having a conversation with my mom a couple years ago where she made this telling statement:
"That's what our family is all about: going to church and eating."
I'm not going to touch the first part of that declaration, but you'll get no argument from me about the latter half.
Meals are the major pillars that define my family's time spent together. Don't get the wrong idea; it's not like we're these skilled food connoisseurs looking to hit up all the "It" spots or dine on delicacies. For us, food has a more subtle, ingrained presence: my grandma making daily trips to Shop Rite every time we visit, even if just to replace the four bagels consumed that morning; lengthy discussions about the quality of this year's Jersey corn and tomatoes; debates over where to go for dinner based on the possession of strategic gift cards and coupons.
It's even more than that. Treasured memories always seem to take place around a dinner table or in the kitchen, and the first step to entering the ranks of the adult women in my mom's family is mastering the art of making Easter bread. (For my dad's family, it's spaghetti sauce — or "gravy," if you're talking to my aunt Rosie.)
So it only makes sense that when my parents visited last weekend, our time together was planned around food. It's the Lombardi way.
- Rino's in East Boston was the perfect place to stop on the way back from the airport. My mom heard about it on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives (not sure that it fits any of those three descriptors, but okay), and eating here was one of her two only requests for the visit (the other was visiting the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; check and check). It easily stood up to my favorite Italian place in the North End, and the portions were massive, so my parents blessed me with the greatest gift of all: their leftovers.
- Saturday morning, we walked a few blocks from my apartment to The Paris Creperie for breakfast because my dad (1) hates eating too much "heavy" food and (2) turns into a hangry monster if he has to wait too long for his meal. I have yet to have a bad meal here, and they get bonus points for having a Liz Lemon-themed crepe! Word of warning: this place is always packed during peak hours, so be prepared to get your crepe to go if all the tables are taken.
- Post-museum, we took an ice cream break at FoMu in Allston. Each flavor is dairy-free, made with either coconut or some other nut-based milk and, more importantly, is ridiculously good. I'm not lactose intolerant or vegan, and I'd still pick this over other traditional ice cream joints in the area any day.
- The Publick House in Brookline was a place I'd heard good things about, and this was my chance to give it a shot. My grilled pork chop with maple chipotle glaze didn't disappoint, but the clear winner was my mom's soy braised short rib with asian pear risotto and napa cabbage slaw. I'll be getting that next time.
- Sunday morning was spent in the South End, getting brunch at The Gallows. We started with a shared blackberry lavender donut from The Gallows' sister shop Blackbird Doughnuts and admired the giant Ouiji board wall while waiting for our meals to arrive. I tried to offset the weekend of crazy eating by ordering the kale salad (with crispy ham and fried egg — I'm not dead) but was eyeing my mom's wild mushroom frittata the entire time.
- We had just enough time to wander around the SOWA market and share a snack from The Cookie Monstah before it was time to head to the airport.
At the rate I'm going, I may have hit all the best food spots in Boston in, oh, let's say 100 years.