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Posts Tagged ‘treats’

gold-red-lily

It’s August, somehow, and I’m in full summer mode: iced chai, tan lines and freckles (and lots of sunscreen), stovetop cooking (when I cook anything), and all the berries I can eat. Here’s what’s saving my life, in these hot, hazy, still-transition-filled days:

  • Late-summer flowers: black-eyed Susans, deep blue and pink hydrangeas, the first dahlias, day lilies in every shade of yellow and red and orange.
  • Running into Phoenix, my little golden doodle buddy, and his person on my morning walks.
  • My friend Jen Lee’s brand-new, free YouTube video series: Morning, Sunshine. Go check it out if you’d like a dose of connection and compassion.

boston-harbor-view

  • The views out my new apartment windows: Boston Harbor on one side, the local park (usually with a friendly dog or two) on the other side.
  • My Rothys, which I’m wearing all. the. time. 
  • The silver triangle Zil earrings I bought at the SoWa market last month.
  • Texts from friends checking in on my move and transition.

iced-chai-blue-bikes

  • Iced chai – from Darwin’s when I can make it to the Square, and from the BPL or Tatte when I can’t.
  • Ginger peach MEM tea in my favorite purple travel mug, every morning.
  • Susannah Conway’s August Break photo project.
  • My favorite LUSH face mask – it’s Cookie-Monster blue and smells like citrus.

frame-up-book

  • Impulse grabs from the BPL’s new books shelf, and piles of ARCs for Shelf Awareness.
  • Morning Bluebike rides across the river.
  • Rosé and raspberry-lemon sorbet after a long evening of unpacking.
  • Eating my breakfast granola out of a real bowl.
  • Trader Joe’s veggie beet wraps, berries and cherries, yogurt, granola, hint-of-lime tortilla chips and sourdough bread. (Not all at once.)

hot-chocolate-woodcut-journal

  • Bryan Nash Gill’s “Woodcut” journals – I bought a four-pack at Trident a while ago. And good pens.
  • Colleagues who make me laugh.
  • Listening to some of the artists I heard/discovered at the Newport Folk Festival – about which more soon.
  • Having enough brain space (finally!) to make this list.

What’s saving your life these days, my friends?

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Harvard yard November light trees fall blue sky

It has been (yet) another stretch of challenge and change here – though the new job is making a little more sense these days. And despite some heartening headlines from last week’s election (more women, more diversity, higher voter turnout), it’s been (another) hellishly hard week or two to be in the world.

That’s how it seems to go these days, isn’t it? Back and forth. But a few small lifesavers are bearing me up. On some days they feel like just enough. Even that, I recognize, is a gift. Here they are:

  • My short rain boots, which are getting me through the fall storms.
  • Related: my newish belted raincoat, lined with a hood.
  • Chatter with my colleagues: music, books, tea, punctuation. (Yes, we are nerds.)
  • Tart, crisp Empire apples from the farmers’ market.
  • The In the Heights soundtrack, especially the first few numbers.
  • Yoga on Tuesday nights, and Gina’s smile.
  • Standing at the kitchen sink washing piles of dishes.
  • The tiny, sparkly We See Stars earrings I bought in the West Village this summer.
  • This song from The Annual, a yearlong music project from St Aldates, my beloved church in Oxford.
  • Morning bike rides across the river after prayers at Mem Church.
  • Related: trips to Darwin’s before prayers, for chai and community.
  • Mums and late roses and black-eyed Susans.
  • The autumn light that turns leaves to stained glass.
  • The feeling when I’m running of finally being warm to my fingertips.
  • Early sunrises out my kitchen window.
  • Related: my vitamin D pills and my happy lamp.

What’s saving your life these days? Please share, if you like.

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mint chip ice cream skirt flats

I decided to go opposite for yesterday’s prompt: treating myself to a scoop of mint chocolate chip from Lizzy’s (first time this summer!) on my afternoon break.

Full disclosure: I spilled the melting ice cream all over my skirt in rather spectacular fashion. But it still tasted sweet (and, to my relief, it washed out).

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flavia de luce series books mysteries
It’s no secret around here that these are two of my favorite things.

A couple of months ago, I noted that the Daisy Dalrymple mystery series are “my Cadbury milk chocolate: smooth, sweet and delightfully English.” I still like that metaphor, and it got me thinking about how to classify my other favorite mystery series as different types of chocolate.

So, for your culinary/reading/book-nerd pleasure, a list:

  • Dorothy Sayers’ mysteries featuring Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane are rich dark chocolate: smooth, layered and delightfully complex. (She weaves in history, politics, feminism, culture, mental health – so many subjects.)
  • Spencer Quinn’s Chet and Bernie series (narrated by Chet the dog) is a handful of M&Ms: colorful, addictive and so much fun.
  • The Maisie Dobbs novels by Jacqueline Winspear remind me of a good chocolate caramel: rich, bittersweet and just slightly salty.
  • Tommy & Tuppence, Agatha Christie’s youthful detectives, are those Ghirardelli chocolate squares with mint inside – surprising and fun, and not too complex.
  • Miss Marple, that sweet elderly sleuth, and her cases are a truffle assortment – because there are always surprises inside.
  • Sherlock Holmes (in all his many iterations) is like an assortment from Burdicks, the gourmet chocolate shop in Harvard Square. These boxes always contain treats I’ve never heard of, made with exotic liqueurs – reminiscent of Holmes’ penchant for unusual cases with highly irregular details.
  • Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness mysteries are Hershey’s kisses: light, sweet and uncomplicated.
  • The Flavia de Luce series (pictured above) is a bar of wicked dark chocolate – since Flavia’s twin passions are for sleuthing and poison.

Any mysteries-as-chocolate you’d add to the list?

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k j hotel mirror selfie

Recently, I won a lovely and completely unexpected raffle prize: a free night at the Charles, a posh hotel in the heart of Harvard Square.

The raffle, which took place at a work lunch, included lots of fun prizes – movie tickets, gift cards to various restaurants. Since three of my colleagues had already won, I figured I was out. But the last name they called was mine. This weekend, the hubs and I used the voucher for a 24-hour staycation, which was, in a word, delightful.

We began with lunch at Grendel’s Den, a Cambridge institution that makes the best French dip in town. Then we headed to Darwin’s for (what else?) chai, and cookies.

katie cookie darwins

After checking into our hotel room (elegant and comfortable, with a view of the courtyard), we wandered Harvard Square, popping in and out of shops and bookshops. It was chilly, but the sun was shining, and we happened upon a drumline performance – so fun.

The Square is my workaday neighborhood, of course, but I love to stroll it any time, and the hubs doesn’t get over here too often. So it was fun to walk around together, and to enjoy sunset in the Yard.

pink sunset harvard yard cambridge ma

Our voucher included dinner for two at Henrietta’s Table, the hotel restaurant. I have no pictures of the food, but it was delectable. Spiced pumpkin bisque, a yummy breadbasket, then melt-in-your-mouth ribeye steaks and mashed potatoes. We were happily stuffed by the end.

After dinner, we took another brief walk through the Square (though the wind had kicked up), then came back for a quiet evening in the room.

charles hotel courtyard view cambridge ma

The next morning included tea and croissants from the hotel’s coffee kiosk, before we checked out and went for brunch at Alden & Harlow. I was a little sad that we couldn’t stay longer – but it was lovely to get away, even for a night, and to be together. January was a tough month, but this was a beautiful way to end it.

 Do you ever take a staycation in your own city?

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pain au chocolat croissant mimosa brunch

In case you weren’t aware: winter has arrived.

It’s cold. And by cold, I mean snowy and sharp-edged, with slick patches on the sidewalk and bitter wind chills as I walk through Harvard Square in my down coat. (We have, thank goodness, had mostly blue skies this week.) The weather forecast is calling for more snow – though we don’t know how much – this weekend. And I am resigning myself to slogging through my least favorite season.

By now I have all kinds of tricks for coping with Boston winters. (I ought to, after surviving five of them – though last year’s record 110-inch snow totals nearly broke me.) In addition to the totally virtuous ones, like my light box and Vitamin D pills and plenty of citrus fruit, I’m employing another coping strategy: treats.

I’m not a big spender, unless you count plane tickets every so often, or the occasional weekend in New York. But I have a deep and abiding love for small luxuries, and I find them especially important in wintertime. On these days when the sun sets before I leave work and the wind blows my hood back from my face, it’s often these little treats that are saving my life.

The photo above is from New Year’s Day: the hubs and I splurged on a brunch date at Gaslight, in Boston’s South End. We munched pain au chocolat and sipped mimosas and savored our entrees. It felt like a treat, being out in the chilly city together, and trying new dishes to kick off a new year.

This past Monday, I had the day off work (thank you, Dr. King), so I met a girlfriend for lunch at a cozy pizza restaurant in Brookline. We sat in a sunny window alcove, and split a pizza topped with butternut squash and creamy ricotta. Afterward, I had a long browse through the Booksmith, and popped into the Starbucks next door for some chai. The crowning luxury of the afternoon was a pedicure, in a bright coral shade aptly called Snap Happy.

tulips candle dog table

Most of my days don’t have quite that much room for indulgence, but I still manage to slip in a small pleasure or two: a bouquet of fresh flowers for my dining-room table, half an hour with a good book, a morning chai or a mid-afternoon cookie from Darwin’s. Sometimes I take a walk over to the Yard (if it’s not too frigid) to soak in the sunshine and gaze at my favorite buildings. And the electric blanket the hubs bought me a few Christmases ago is a treat when we snuggle down in bed every single night.

How do you treat yourself during the winter?

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fro yo yellow sign berryline I have a serious sweet tooth. And now that it’s (finally) warm outside, I am taking full advantage of the multiple ice cream and frozen yogurt shops in Harvard Square. Lizzy’s makes a delicious mint chocolate chip ice cream, and I love the summertime fruit flavors at J.P. Licks, especially the peach and strawberry.

But if I’m down at the south end of Harvard Square – and craving a light, bright treat to perk me up – I usually end up at Berryline.

Berryline (like both J.P. Licks and Lizzy’s) is a locally owned business. It was started by two MIT grads who decided they would rather make frozen yogurt than pursue careers in molecular biology. (Given the choice, I’d go with fro-yo, too.)

Berryline offers a rotating menu of four flavors (their original tart flavor is always on offer), a variety of toppings (including fruit, sprinkles and homemade baked treats), and a bright, whimsical atmosphere. berryline exterior froyo harvard square (Aren’t those the cheeriest little cups of fro-yo you’ve ever seen?)

I’ve tried several flavors and liked them, but I always come back to the original – the perfect mixture of tart and sweet. I like it best with fresh fruit and rainbow sprinkles. (Because apparently I am six years old inside.) berryline froyo sprinkles strawberries If you’re in Cambridge this summer and looking for a no-guilt sweet treat, I highly recommend Berryline. (I’ll join you!)

*The good folks at Berryline have no idea who I am – I just like this place and wanted to share it with you.

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tealuxe chaider harvard square

About once a week during October and November, I’ve stopped in at Tealuxe, in Harvard Square, for a tall cup of “chaider” – apple cider infused with chai. It combines two of my favorite fall treats in a delicious alchemy – spicy, warm, tart and sweet. And it’s only available for a few weeks each year. Once they take it off the menu, it’s gone until next fall.

During our trip to Montreal, I bought a tin of pumpkin chai at DavidsTEA, because I remembered buying (and loving) the same blend last year. I finished it off last week, and when I checked the website to see if I could restock, I couldn’t find it. It’s part of their limited-edition fall collection, so I’m out of luck until next fall. (Meanwhile, I bought a tin of Santa’s Secret, one of their special holiday blends.)

There are lots of items I enjoy the most at a certain time of year: candy corn the week before Halloween, a cup of eggnog on Christmas Eve with my dad, all the fresh raspberries I can get at the height of summer. I even drink different teas at different times of the year – fruity ones in the summer, dark spiced ones in the winter.

Most of these treats (or some version of them) are available year-round. I can replenish my tea stash any time online, or buy eggnog at the grocery store for several weeks each year. (Though I wouldn’t want to – that annual cup is enough for me.) I can even get raspberries in February, though admittedly they’re not as good as the ones I buy in July.

But there’s something special about treats that are literally only available for a certain time. In our have-it-now, order-online, overnight-shipping culture, the abundance of choices can be overwhelming, and it can also diminish the excitement or “specialness” of an item. (For example, if I eat mint M&Ms year-round, simply because I can, they don’t seem quite as special at Christmastime.)

In the case of the chaider and the pumpkin chai, the choice is taken out of my hands. I have to wait for them, and the waiting makes the experience that much more pleasant when it’s finally time for the treat again. It makes me feel like a kid waiting for Christmas (which does only come once a year, despite the barrage of decorations in November). The anticipation is half the fun.

What truly limited-edition treats do you enjoy?

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I’ve been doing a lot of baking lately. It’s partly a reaction to sitting all day at a computer, building and editing web pages, which are real but not tangible, and I can only rarely cross them off my list as “done.” This sitting and clicking also makes me restless – after being sedentary most of the day, I want to get home and stir something up, even if it’s only flour, sugar, butter and their fellow baking ingredients.

The other night, I wanted something sweet but not too sweet, so I turned to this recipe from my friend Ron Morgan, who co-directs the study abroad program in Oxford where I spent a blissful semester as a student and later a happy year as an employee. Ron occasionally whips up a batch of these for the students there, and they are pure, oaty heaven with a squeeze of honey, a dollop of jam or a pat of melty butter.

Fittingly, it was pouring rain the night I made these, and suddenly I was back in Ron and Janine’s aqua-walled living room, watching Ron bring in a cookie sheet of (slightly burnt) scones from the kitchen. And I was also downstairs in the basement kitchen, mixing these up for the five guys with whom I shared the floor, and for whom I loved to bake, as much and as often as I could.

Of course, I do much of my baking now for one boy – my very appreciative husband. Apparently I’d never made these for him before – but we both declared them winners, and so did the friends with whom we shared them.

Ron’s Oaty Scones (original source unknown)

Makes about 20 medium-sized scones

Dry Mix
7 cups all-purpose flour
4 cups oats (not quick-cooking oats)
1 1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup baking powder
1 TBS baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cream of tartar

Wet Ingredients
1/2 cup butter
8 oz plain yogurt or sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg yolk

Combine 3 1/4 cups of dry mix (you won’t use it all) with wet ingredients, and stir until combined. Place 1″ (or so) balls of dough onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 16-18 minutes, until tops are golden brown.

Serve with butter, honey or jam. Enjoy!

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Holiday loves

This week I’m loving:

~Scarves. (Always, of course, but my several warm, striped pashminas are serving me well in Abilene’s sudden frigid temperatures.)

~My new green beret, knitted just in time for the cold snap.

~Spice Imperial tea from Whittard, courtesy of Grace – at least two cups a day. (Generally in my tall purple Study Abroad travel mug.)

~Mint chocolate M&M’s. (Perhaps too much.)

~Bare branches against spare blue-and-gold winter skies.

~The peppermint-vanilla candle from Midland’s Candle Cafe.

~Soups of all kinds – tomato, jalapeno, baked potato, and (tonight) chicken cheese.

~Rosamunde Pilcher’s Winter Solstice, which I read every year close to Christmastime (thanks to Julie).

~Christmas music – including Josh Groban, Jim Brickman, various big-band and swing musicians, and Jars of Clay. I love their song “Peace is Here,” which begins:

Little children born to chaos
Sojourn by the stars appear
Though your fears wrap all around you
Love has come and peace is here

And I love their additional verse to “In the Bleak Midwinter,” one of my favourite old Christmas carols:

Angels wreathed in singing, hosts of heaven adore
A star beheld with glory that did not shine before
Shepherds fear the blinding light, haste to understand
In the bleak midwinter, peace for child, for man

19 days to Christmas Eve…

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