A Week in New Hampshire

For Spring Break this year, I didn’t venture to the southern shores for glorious seventy-degree weather.  Instead I trekked north to New Hampshire to enjoy a crisp breeze and high-quality, warm, beautiful friendship and fellowship.  On Saturday, the 3rd of March, I flew into Boston Logan international airport to see the beautiful and fantastic Jane Martyn.

When I arrived in Boston around noon, the sky was clouded and misty so there wasn’t much of a skyline to witness. So… no Boston on Saturday.  I’m ok with that, it wouldn’t have been a real full day anyway.  Jane and I of course substituted the original plan with what we do best: eating Mexican food and shopping.  One thing you should know about our trips is that they are ALWAYS based around food, and somehow the most important meals for us are the “welcome meals” — the one right after one of us gets off the plane.  It’s usually Thai or Mexican.

Upon arriving at Jane’s house, I got to meet the four day old King Charles Spaniel puppies.  A wriggling mass of black, white and tan the puppies were at the stage of being so small, rat-like, blind, and ugly that they were cute.  Amazingly enough, by the time I left, the little creatures had already grown and one had even started to open its eyes!

While staying at Jane’s home in Southern New Hampshire, we did a lot of cooking, eating, and shopping…it’s what we do best together after all.  We also stepped outside of our boxes a little and when ice-skating.  At first neither of us could remember how, but by the end of an hour we were both gliding around semi-confidently with the company of two hockey players and a recovering figure skater.

While on the road to Connecticut to the coast there, Jane introduced me to the wonderful store: Charming Charlie.  It’s the most colorful, most organized, most creative store I have ever seen.  Simply put, it’s an accessory store organized by color shades and combinations.  They have all types of hats, scarves, wallets, rings, purses, EVERYTHING you could ever accessorize.  And it’s all grouped by color combo. Just imagine…not only is there a table for hot pink….there’s also a completely separate area for lighter pinks and tan.  I don’t usually like to talk too much about clothes but I highly recommend this store to everyone who likes to accessorize anything.

While at Niantic, we discovered that not only was there a severe lack of conch shells at the beach, but there was also an extraordinary number of social sea gulls.  Jane, however, kindly refused their company as they were rude and didn’t understand the concept of personal space.  We spent just enough time to appreciate the view before scampering back to the car.  The gulls and the wind had finally gotten to us.

We also took a trip to Northern New Hampshire to see my aunt and uncle, Steve and Brenda Jones.  Their property is a haven on earth of quietness, peace, and serenity.  Even with the goats, donkeys, miniature horses, chickens, sheep, two dogs, and three house birds, I am completely serious.  Brenda and Steve are two of the world’s sweetest and most welcoming people ever.  Their dogs are pretty welcoming too!  Brenda has Collie and a new Collie puppy at three months old.  The beautiful blue Merle puppy is much bigger than I thought she’d be, but she’s crazy energetic and playful.  She’s also incredibly soft and lovable.   Long story short: I want a collie someday.  Specifically Blue Merle.

While at Steve and Brenda’s we stopped by Hanover, NH to see Dartmouth.  It’s a beautiful campus with a lovely downtown, but let me tell you: the people are so snobbish, it’s ridiculous.  Yes, you’re at an ivy-league.  No, that doesn’t mean your sperries and your hair are made out of gold.  Get over yourself!  Lunch at Molly’s and an exploration of the Rauner Special Collections library were fantastic however.  The featured exhibit in the main reading room was about the Japanese student Nubo Mitsui at Dartmouth during WWII and the era of internment camps.  Backed up by the board, Mitsui was allowed to stay under surveillance.

We left Steve and Brenda’s to head to Boston.  While we didn’t leave as soon as we would have liked, we still got a pretty good deal on parking in the North End.  Jane took me through the North End where I saw zillions of genuine Italian restaurants and experienced the biggest little city on earth.  We visited the North Church were the lanterns were hung: one if by land, two if by sea.  First of all, let me say, that the pews in this church (and all the subsequent ones) were absolutely astounding.  They look like the inside of carriage with a plush, cushioned bench and a footstool or two in front if you want.  Seriously?  I don’t know how they fitted everyone in there!

We also visit Revere’s statue and tomb along with those of Sam Adams and Phyllis Wheatly.  On our way, we walked reverently through the Boston Holocaust Memorial.  A sobering walk, the memorial is made up of several tasteful stone markers at the entrance and exit of the walkway.  The path itself is comprise of four or five glass rectangular prisms rising into the sky with the internment numbers of victims inscribed.  Inside each pillar was a grate from which steam emitted as the passerby can read two quotes from survivors on either side.  The quotes are both moving and heart-wrenching.  We took the time to walk through and read all of the plaques, and thus entered our first annoyance of the day: a lady hurriedly walking, nay striding not on the sidewalk going around the memorial but straight through the memorial without glancing at what she was passing through.   Perhaps she didn’t have time and perhaps she’s seen it a million times, but I certainly believe the memorial deserves more respect than that.

In the same vein of historical investigation we also visited the cemetery at King’s Chapel and the church itself.  Another astounding work of art, the church had a pew box adorned with overhead hangings which was reserved for the royal governor.  George Washington later sat in the same pew at a fundraiser.  Let me tell you, there were LOTS of places that George Washington visited in Boston and they are all CLEARLY marked.  After stopping through Fanieul Hall and Quincy Market (the world’s worst tourist trap), we tripped over to the Irish Famine Memorial (especially important to my friend’s direct Irish roots) and the South Meeting Hall.  A museum worth paying to go into, it’s a tribute to revolution and free speech, no matter what end of the spectrum it falls on.

We intended to stop at an Irish restaurant to partake of traditional Irish fare and Boston atmosphere so that Jane wouldn’t have to cook for me if we didn’t have time.  The Purple Shamrock, however, was a waste of time apart from the time we had to sit down and relax.  First the boiled dinners that we had come for weren’t ready yet because the delivery man had JUST brought them.  Next, they didn’t have their soup of the day.  After that, we found a long, thick, black hair trailing out of the Boston Clam Chowder.  Disgusting!  Needless to say, we were NOT impressed.

After walking all across Boston, we took the T back to the North End and drove out to go get massages.  A day well spent, we drove exhausted back to New Hampshire where we promptly collapsed.

The next day was slow but wonderful.  We got up…and I really mean Jane got up and began preparing a traditional Irish meal: corned beef with cabbage, carrots and parsnips, mashed potatoes, and white sauce.  Incredibly delicious and filling!  I’ll be sure to try and imitate it, though I don’t know that anyone can make Irish food like the Irish!

The trip wasn’t over though until I’d actually made it on the plane.  Everything that could go wrong, went wrong when I went through security.  First my hairpins set off the metal detector so I had to get a pat-down.  Then my purse set off red-lights. Turns out, I had forgotten about removing not only my pepper spray but also my multitool.  Both were confiscated, but on account of the pepper spray, the state police were called in as it is an illegal item in Massachusetts.  Lucky me.  One pitiable and remorseful explanation later, I’d finally made it to my gate with fifteen minutes and a bathroom break to spare.

All in all, it was a fantastic trip and even though I’m sure I haven’t done any of it justice, I had a truly wonderful time with wonderful people.  Pictures to come soon…maybe.

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Gingerbread men

Gingerbread men are a very fine art.  First there’s the right amount of ginger.  Put in too little and you can’t tell what it is. Too much and you’re left politely munching away while trying to not gag.  The gingerbread men I ate last night made up in full for the babysitting I did. Their secret ingredient was butterscotch pudding mix.  Yum!!!  Though honestly I do prefer the bite of traditional gingerbread cookies. Next on the list is how chewy the cookie is: crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside = perfection.  This is a very hard balance to achieve  since if you get the cookies too thin…the game is over.

However, the holiday tradition I love even more than gingerbread men is the linzer torte.  It’s almond crust deliciousness plus raspberry preserves.  It’s even more perfection than the ultimate gingerbread man.  It’s a pain to make but it’s well worth it.  If you can find someone to make it for you…so much the better.  What really makes the torte though is the signature almond pastry and raspberry preserves.  Don’t let anyone tell you different!

http://www.joyofbaking.com/LinzerTorte.html

Apart from being delicious, the linzer torte packs a lot of good holiday memories for me.  I associate it with a bakery in New Paltz, NY.  I associate New Paltz with my dad’s parents who we would go to see every year at Christmas.  When Christmas morning came around, Dad would go to a bakery of some sort to retrieve goodies for a very unhealthy breakfast as we listened to music from the Nutcracker.  Afterwards, we would open gifts to the smells of Christmas dinner cooking and the sight of Christmas snow (sometimes).  This is all magical nostalgia of course.  One year in particular stands out in my mind however simply because that was the year Dad came home with a Linzer Torte.  I’d always had a love for raspberries; we used to have a patch behind the house.  But this new found pastry was the ultimate recipe for raspberry preserves.  It’s sweet, tangy, nutty, and perfectly flaky all at once.  How could I not fall in love?  I am after all a carbaholic.

Holiday traditions are all about memories.  Any tradition is really.  And food is the best way to go with memory!

Costa Rica

December in the South is pretty much fantastic.  Let’s just say that it was 58 degrees this morning and it’s probably going to get up somewhere in the mid-sixties later today.  Conclusion: Mild and balmy hoodie weather.  That’s right…fantastic.  I’m pretty sure appreciating the fantastic weather this morning has been the only thing getting me through waking up for an 8 am exam.  Don’t get me wrong, I know that my boyfriend and most other people on the planet have to get up earlier than I do every day, but I’m starting to think that 9 is the earliest it is ever going to happen for me.  Period.

I have to say though, getting up this morning would have been a lot easier if I hadn’t stayed up way too late last night not studying but reading the book I just bought on living abroad in Costa Rica.  Speaking of great weather, Costa is pretty much just 70 to 80 year round depending on the altitude you’re at.  Conclusion: perfection.  Anyway, this book seems to be the ultimate guide to all the nitty gritty stuff I might need to know about living in Costa.  It even chronicles budget plans depending on your job, how to find a job, and where to live.  All of this plus my burgeoning TEFL certification is starting to make living in Costa look pretty good if I do say myself.

Speaking of TEFL, good news!  I got a perfect score on module one.  I’m not bragging, I promise, I’m just super excited that the information makes sense.  More than that, the lessons I’ve gone through have been thoroughly helpful not only in learning how to teach to an ESL/EFL class but also in learning more about how to deal with people.  For example, I learned about how to give clear, concise instructions and elicit information from students.  That would be helpful not only as a teacher but also as a supervisor.  This is definitely worth the time and money!