Urban Garden!

June 29, 2009

Jane and I are growing our own foods! It’s pretty limited right now since we only have a back porch, but here is our mixed lettuce and tomato plant! When we move, we’re going to grow a whole feast!

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One Year Later

June 13, 2009

Jane and I just celebrated our one year anniversary on June 10th. The year has really flown by and I can’t believe I was frantically scurrying around trying to keep our relationship undercover a whole year ago! I can’t say I’m surprised by what a wonderful girlfriend she has turned out to be though. I knew she was the one before we even had our first kiss, but I have never minded being proven right. So a whole year later now, after spending a summer in different states while we fell in love, moving into my first apartment just down the street from Jane, rotating nights back and forth at each of our places, tackling many semesters of nursing school, graduating from college, getting accepted to law school, Jane moving into my place for the summer, finding a new apartment together for August, and rewriting our plans half a million times, we’ve reached this milestone hand in hand and just as happy as ever. To be honest, I think Jane would enjoy more of those endless nights lost to kisses that our whirlwind summer romance bestowed upon us last year, and with the heat settling upon us again and our schedules hopefully slowly down sometime soon, she just may get them!

crab1To celebrate the evening, we decided to stay in rather than eat out which is what we usually do for special occasions (and for no reason at all, really). I made snow crab legs and steak, a little surf and turf to kick off the summer, while Jane did homework. It was kind of nice to cook alone and call her in just to eat. We always cook together so it was nice to prepare something delicious and just have her sit down to enjoy it with me.

Snow crab legs are one of my favorite foods, and Jane until recently, had never had them. They are pretty expensive to eat out and not all that filling when you get a restaurant portion, but surprisingly, Stop and Shop has really fresh ones lately. I’m not sure if it’s the time of year or what, but they have been delicious both times. I picked up almost three pounds for us which is a good sized portion and more crab meat than it would appear to be. They are also fantastically easy to prepare, and only require one pot to cook so clean up is a snap. The trick to cooking them is making sure you have the broth that they steam in just right as it adds a lot of flavor. Recipes for the broth are anything from white wine to herbs, but I prefer a random assortment of things I already have around the kitchen. Eating them on the other hand requires a bit more skill and a few random tools, tiny forks and nut crackers get to the meat the fastest. Throw a little drawn butter on the side for dipping, and waah-la, a tasty summer treat. Jane and I enjoyed eating for quite some time, vying for who could pull out the largest chunk of crab with a single crack. The steak, which proved to be a good appetizer and kept our bellies full a bit longer than just the crab legs would have, was also very good. Jane picked out a sirloin fillet and I marinaded it in a splash of soy, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and garlic with a splash of rice vinegar to tenderize. YUM!

sweetA few days later, Jane surprised me with one of my favorite treats!  She brought home four delicious cupcakes from Sweet in Boston.  Two red velvet with cream cheese frosting, a Boston cream cupcake, and a vanilla cake with chocolate butter cream.  I still have one of mine left but the red velvet was delicious!

I would have loved to do something a bit less routine for our anniversary, but Jane is in the middle of one of her busiest semesters yet. With a clinical day on Friday and an even longer 12 hour clinical day taking up our Saturdays, not to mention the hours spent in class on Mondays and Thursday, and homework filling in the gaps, our summer hasn’t felt much like a summer just yet. Sneaking away for a short vacation is a dream of mine, one I hope we’ll get to do sometime, even if just for a weekend. Nursing school seems insane to me when it is done over the course of four years, but jam pack that into 18 months and turn regular 15 week semesters into 6 week summer semesters, and I feel lucky to even see her at all. I am amazed daily by her ability to balance her school work and stress with our relationship, still finding time to cook dinner together, stroll around the pond and make amazing breakfast on Wednesday mornings!

I, on the other hand, have found myself struggling with unemployment. It is mind numbingly boring and I spend most of my days toddling about doing nothing. The more time I have, the less I will always get done. After applying for more than 30 jobs in an assortment of fields, I managed to snag a whole TWO interviews, one of which didn’t pan out and the second which did, but is for random work, so I’m hoping to hear something promising soon. Summer work in this economy has been bleak. I need to think of something productive to do with my time, especially since I’ll be in school for the next three years straight. I won’t want to look back on this precious time and think about how I let it go to waste.

Lunch time and laundry calls, I’ll be back. I’m hoping to write a bit more routinely now that I have some time on my hands!

The Oceanaire.

April 12, 2009

Jane and I went out on two great dates for Restaurant Week in March. Writing about them at this point is long over due, but I’m sure the flavors will come back to me with ease. To be truthful, I have thought of them at least once a day, every day, since.

I’m not sure exactly how we came upon restaurant week. Maybe my roommate mentioned it or possibly Elysabeth’s blog, but Jane and I aren’t ones to be left out, so we immediately hopped on the band wagon. Not to mention, at 33 dollars a person for 3 courses, we could afford a luxury we usually could not on our student loans. We thought getting reservations late in the game would prove to be incredibly difficult, but I guess they aren’t joking when they ramble on incessantly about the economy. We booked both of our dates with ease, the first at Oceanaire and the second (after many many cancellations and re-bookings) at Grotto.

Jane and I dressed up for the “business casual” setting in our best digs. I donned a green sweater, tie, button down and jacket, while Jane, of course, wore a beautiful black and cream top and pin-striped pencil skirt with peep toe heels. Even if the food was terrible, the night had already proven worth it before we even left my apartment. Not to be disappointed though, Oceanaire was an experience unto itself.

The dining room is styled after a 1930’s luxury ocean liner grand ball room. Most of the tables are big eight person circular flat tops, a scattering of smaller four person circle tables and a few luxurious booths here and there. The lighting is perfect, each bulb tilted with precision from the ceiling above to cast a warm glow upon the tables. The room is filled with lush floral arrangements, rich mahogany woods, wine glasses and white china, meticulously arranged silverware, not a thing is out of place. When Jane and I arrived we sat down at the bar while we waited for our table and ordered drinks. A few sips in and we were ushered off to our table where we were brought black napkins because the white ones arranged with the place settings might “leave lint on our clothes”. WOW!

I could go on and on about the culture shock of five star dining, but really, the star of the night was the food. Dinner service begins with freshly baked, still warm inside, sour dough bread, the most incredible butter I have ever had (I think it was fresh churned on the spot) and a crue de’ta (?) of fresh veggies, pickled herring and some other things Jane and I did not bother to touch.

Onto the pre-fixe menus! Just after we ordered, the waiter brought us both the chef’s amuse bouche, ceviche on a perfectly fried pita chip! A single bite of pure heaven. Next, Jane and I both had a fried calamari dish for our appetizers. Now she and I have both had calamari before but nothing like this. The calamari was sweet and tender, not at all tough from being fried. Also in the dish were battered onions and peppers, all of which were drizzled in a delicious roasted pepper cream sauce. Ahhh, words cannot do it justice. Needless to say, I was already becoming stuffed. The portion sizes were certainly not reduced from their regular menu, and an appetizer was definitely enough to be shared with a date.

For our main courses, I ordered crab cakes and Jane ordered yellowtail flounder stuffed with baby rock shrimp, crab meat, and melty brie cheese. Now let’s be honest. Crab cakes are usually disappointments. They are 20% crab meat, AT BEST and the rest is bread crumbs and a mixture of spices. These were 100% crab meat, just barely held together with a light coating of creamy mustard mayonnaise, spices and herbs. Absolutely delectable and unreal in flavor. They seemed to literally melt in my mouth. Jane’s flounder was also delicious. It was perfectly cooked, with a butter sauce that left Jane wanting to lick her plate clean, and the crab meat and rock shrimp inside was also generously portioned. We exchanged bites of each other’s entrees, mmmm’ed and ahhhh’ed a lot, and were dumbfounded by the utterly incredible dance taking place in our mouths.

Finally, there was dessert. Jane and I debated asking to just take it home because we were so stuffed already, but after I wrapped one of my crab cakes (yes they were that big), we got our forks ready and forged forward. As a key lime pie fan, I was delighted to see it on the menu and Jane was happy to order cheese cake with fresh berries. Again, both were out of this world. My key lime pie was perfect. It was a white filling (as it should be, as all Dexter fans will know!), a crumbling cinnamon cracker type crust, and was the perfect balance of tart and sweet. Jane’s cheesecake was light and airy, almost like a mousse texture, and tasted unbelievable. Creamy, sweet, cheesy… YUM! The fresh berries on top were also really good, a nice syrup drizzled over the slice of cake. We gobbled up both of our desserts in their entirety.

Finally, Jane had what she likes to refer to as the “most incredible cup of coffee”. It was freshly pressed and looked fake in the cup… a perfect swirl of rich coffee and milk. Jane was so thrilled she quietly snuck a picture of it with my iphone camera. We are so classy!

coffeeoceanaire

I’ll have to save the next date at Grotto for another entry. But if you are ever around Boston and want to drop a couple hundred dollars on a meal, I highly recommend Oceanaire. I think king crab legs straight off of The Deadliest Catch ships is well worth parting with your hard earned cash.

I was apprehensive at the thought of attending an AA meeting. Part of this apprehension was from a feeling that I was an invader, a voyeur into the world of addiction and sobriety. I respect the safe space of recovery, and the hard work that it takes. I also am a person who was raised amidst a large extended family of people struggling with addiction, whether to alcohol or drugs or both, and I struggle with both the personal experience as a witness to the fallout of addiction, and with being an open listener. My perspective is neither to demonize nor victimize, but that there is nuance in the complicated histories that lead to addiction, and also that there is autonomy, selfishness, and choice involved with staying on a path that hurts both the person who is using, and the people who care about them.

It is with this hesitance that I chose the AA meeting I would attend. I picked a Big Book meeting, so that I could learn about the steps and the program in addition to listening to stories of members. One day after attending, I am still grappling with my first impression upon walking into the meeting. My family members that are addicts live in extreme poverty; one is homeless, one lives with her 6-person family in a small trailer, still another rents a room from a generous evangelical Christian couple. The home they grew up in was one of abuse, neglect, and instability. They are uneducated and mentally ill, and have significant trauma histories. As a nursing student I have also worked with many patients who have substance abuse histories, whether they are sober or actively using, and all of them have been unstable and visibly ill. It is with this expectation that I walked into an AA meeting. I expected to see a room full of these people, poor and struggling. However, at a Tuesday lunch hour meeting in downtown Boston the faces of the people in attendance were radically different than what I expected.

The room was beautiful. A corporate meeting room with antiqued wood cabinets and freshly painted green walls, when I arrived there were three people inside. As I took off my jacket, a fiftyish man near the door sat eating his lunch, and warmly introduced himself to me. He asked where I was coming from, and I knew he anticipated some qualifier about my history with alcohol or sobriety. I explained that I was a nursing student, and that it was suggested that we attend an AA meeting as part of our studies. He welcomed me again, and gave me a brief itinerary of the meeting. Everyone had read pages 58-63 in the Big Book, the beginning of the chapter titled, “How It Works”. He explained that these pages went through steps 1-3, and that today they would be focusing on step 3, and next week they will work on step 4. He thought it was a good meeting for me to attend to learn, and I agreed. I didn’t say so, but one thing I have always struggled with in the AA program is that line, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to God, as we understood him”. The non-denominational qualifier never appeased my feeling of unease at requiring belief in a higher power for recovery.

I was a few minutes early, and as I scanned the pages we would be discussing, I watched as people with expensive suits, beautiful silk ties and designer shoes greeted one another. An outsider might think that this was a meeting of corporate big-wigs. I never realized until this moment how deep-seated my doubt was at the knowledge that addiction affects people from all socioeconomic classes. I also couldn’t believe how whole the recovery was; even with years sober, every former addict I have known has been left with the tell-tale signs of toothlessness, worn bodies, hand-me-down clothes and heavy cigarette smoking habits. I do have some biased feeling that this ability to leave the visible signs of addiction behind is related to resources and education, although I really have no evidence that this is the case.

A pretty young woman, probably about my age, began the meeting right on time. She announced the rules of the meeting, including that while everyone is welcome at an open meeting, only alcoholics are permitted to speak. She then followed that if someone was visiting from another meeting they should introduce themselves. In my own panicked little mind, I worried at upsetting the social code; if I am not an alcoholic from another meeting, should I still introduce myself? And what format do I follow, “Hi, my name is Jane and I’m not an alcoholic?” As we went around the table, each person was to read one paragraph aloud, in order, until we reached the end of the passage we were studying for the day. I also wasn’t sure at what time I should introduce myself. Would there be time later? The book is written in the first-person, so I felt that it would be inappropriate for me to read since I couldn’t sincerely speak the words. As the paragraphs quickly clicked by, I tried to breathe and relax. When it was my turn, I did decide to introduce myself. “Hi, my name is Jane and I’m a nursing student, here to learn and listen. I’m going to pass on reading.” The words barely left my lips and I was greeted with a round of “WELCOME, JANE!”

Next, a woman was introduced who doesn’t normally attend this particular meeting. She was asked to speak on her experience with step 3, but opened with a joke about St. Patty’s Day. For about ten minutes she discussed the difficulty she had for her first several years with step 3. The God of her understanding from childhood, she explained, was damnation and hellfire, punishment and no forgiveness. This, she said, was a step she tried to skip altogether. She then expressed an idea that hadn’t occurred to me when grappling with the idea of “God” in recovery, and her sentiments were echoed by everyone who later spoke. Not one person spoke to a Christian-omniscient-paternalistic idea of their higher power. Rather, they spoke to a meditative, introspective ideology that helped them overcome what they described as an overwhelming sense of selfishness. Step 3 was transformative in that there was an evolving thoughtfulness about daily motivations. God was described of an absence of ego, and a sense of purpose and motivation to do good without the expectation of personal return.

The meeting was adjourned with the Lord’s Prayer. I smirked at the introduction of this particular ritual. I was raised Unitarian Universalist, which is not a creed-based religion, and the congregation I attended said the Lord’s Prayer near the end of each service. As rebellious, agnostic, fired-up lefty teenagers my brother and I balked at the idea of saying the Lord’s Prayer in what was supposed to be a progressive church. Our friends from other churches were equally enraged at the idea that a U.U. church would blindly recite such a clearly Christian poem, and a poem that espoused the idea of sin. So following a meeting that seemed almost like a U.U. worship service, with discussion of new and thoughtful ideas about spirituality, I found it fitting that we recited this very poem, the one that I struggled with in my own search for a spiritual home. There was a sense of peace in the room as we all stood and held hands. We could have been saying any words in unison, and there would have been a feeling of community and camaraderie.

Our First Date

March 14, 2009

I honestly don’t remember how it all started now but I can still feel the nervous energy of that night as if it were happening to me right now.

A friend of her’s called from a near by bar and sort of dared me to come over and see her (1), have a few drinks with everyone.

I instantly became both excited and terrified…

“C’mon we’re going…” My roomie said excitedly, tugging on my arm.

“Uuuugh. I can’t go. I’m… studying… my exam… Ahhhh!!”

“You have to go. She’s there, waiting for you. This is your chance.”

“I can’t… I just can’t….”

“You’re going. What are you wearing?”

“Wearing?! I’m not going!! I can’t do this.”

“You can. You are. Get out of bed, NOW!”

Somehow I managed to get out of bed, put down the notes I couldn’t focus on anyway, threw on a button down (2) shirt and went to brush my teeth….

“What are you brushing your teeth for? It’s not like you’re going to kiss her!”

“I know, but I have to brush my teeth!”

Corey was beyond excited as we walked out the door, taking full pleasure in my pain. I just kept looking at her and laughing anxiously, shaking my head back and forth, wondering what the hell I was doing. I couldn’t believe I was going there, doing this, spur of the moment…

“What am I even going to say?! This is going to be soooo awkward.”

Corey was all giggles. “I’ve never seen this side of you before… you’re a mess. It’s cute.”

“Cute?! I don’t want to be cute right now!!!” (3)

We made it to the restaurant and there were two seats open at the patio table, one right next to Jane (4). Corey knew which chair to take, leaving Jane and I quite close to one another.

Jane’s leg was rubbing against mine from the moment I sat down and I couldn’t quite figure out if this was intentional or not. Then there were her hands and the way our eyes met each other’s first with a sort of anxiety and soon with flirtation… I broke her stare every time. It was too intense and I kept second guessing all the signals she was sending me.

We ordered drinks and the conversation quickly turned to sex…

One of the questions was about who we liked or thought about when we got off… something along those lines.

“I’ll take a pass on this question”… I replied. It was enough of an answer without being overly obvious.

“Jane?”

She smiled, blushed, laughed.

“OK well you two have said enough… Jane’s answer is Dylan, Dylan’s answer is Jane… moving on.”

Then there were hands, her hands all over my legs, fingering the waist band of my boxers… her leg thrown over mine…

She leaned in towards me when I made eye contact with her next. “You shouldn’t be looking over there”, she said.

“Where should I be looking?”

“Right here.”

“Oh really? Why is that… do you have something you want to tell me…”

“No.” She smiled.

“Is there something you’d like to do?” I questioned further.

We locked nervous glances and then she leaned in a little further and I responded by matching her movement and when I could feel her breath upon my face, she kissed me; at the table, with my room mate next to me, her friends watching, a crowded patio filled with restaurant patrons all around us.

More kissing… her hands under my shirt… my hand taking a fistful of her hair, gripping the back of her neck.

We held hands between kisses and kept talking with the rest of the table… looking over at one another, wanting, wanting, wanting.

Then she abruptly stood up, grabbed the bottom of my shirt and told her friends we’d be right back. We walked down the sidewalk a little ways, where the street was a bit darker and there were less people, and she leaned up against the brick wall and I knew exactly what she wanted… no mixed signals anymore, her desire was crystal clear.

We stayed there making out for a good twenty minutes… breaking our kiss to allow for her frequent “ooooh no” to fall out or a moan to drift into the cool night air. (5)

“God. You’re such an attractive little butch… oh no… you’re such trouble.”

“What is with all these oh no’s”, I asked, pushing my hips into her, my lips just barely against her face.

“I’m just… trying to be professional, you know… you’re so… oh nooo.”

My lips couldn’t get enough of her. I could not believe we were against the wall of Thornton’s, making out, having barely ever shared a conversation in our lives.

Eventually, her friends wandered down the sidewalk, laughing as they approached, smiling and teasing us. No matter how mature you get, you’re never too old to regress back into that ridiculous “K-I-S-S-I-N-G” song mentality. Before she left with them she kept running back towards me to steal another kiss.

“Go home,” I whispered quietly to her… “ We’ll get together and make out again!”

I wasn’t really sure we would, actually, I didn’t believe my own words… but I was certainly hopeful.

On the walk home with Corey there was a lot of laughing again, but this time it was full of confidence, cockiness, the after effects of an unexpectedly good night.

“You so owe me for that one”, she said with a smile, “I totally set that shit up.”

“I know, I do. I really really do.” (6)

Addendum by Jane

1. The “friend” was me. I didn’t know until recently that she had no idea it was me. Oh yes, I’m daring.

2. The phrase is “button-up”, I believe. This is a point of contention in our relationship.

3. I totally wanted her to be cute right then.

4. My friends painstakingly positioned those chairs, as I hid my face in shame in between futile, awkward protests.

5. “Cool night air”? Really?! No need to romanticize. It was the darkest part of the street because we were behind a dumpster. Thank goodness the night was cool, otherwise we would have been groping each other wrapped in the scent of steaming restaurant garbage.

6. I owe her, too.