Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Recommendation: Brattle Realty

Have I told you lately that I love my landlord?

Yesterday Greg and I came home to find a note on our door that service had been done in the apartment during the day. Apparently our shower head was spraying water onto the wall and it was leaking into the apartment below ours. (I had noticed it was getting a bit erratic) The management company came to check it out, and when they found the source of the problem they replaced it with a brand spanking new shower head. And it’s a good one! I’m continually impressed by the speed with which they respond to complaints and the high quality of the workmanship and fixtures they use. It’s especially impressive considering the number of properties they oversee.

If you are thinking of renting around Arlington, consider a property managed by Brattle Realty. They are the Boston area’s best.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Weekend Reading: Second Nature by Michael Pollan

It’s been a while since I’ve posted my weekend reading. This weekend in honor of the official start of Spring I’m reading Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education by Michael Pollan. This is one of Pollan’s older books; he’s since gone on to Best-Sellerdom with The Botany of Desire, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and now In Defense of Food. Second Nature seems to be more about gardening, whereas the other books are more about the food industry, and the ethics of agriculture.

First of all, Pollan is a tremendously gifted, engaging writer. If he were writing phone books, then phone books would be one of my favorite genres. He’s one of those writers who takes a subject that seems boring or one sided, and he just researches the hell out of it and then gives it back to you like an expose so you walk away thinking wow, this is obviously the single most important issue today and I need to do something about it. (Michael Lewis is another).

I can honestly say The Omnivore’s Dilemma changed my life, and if you haven’t read it yet, you should go do so right now (I’ll even lend you my copy). But with Second Nature I’m just looking for a little food porn. I want to read about bunnies and deer, and the first lettuces of spring. And so far that is exactly what I’m getting.

Happy reading!

Great Boston Dentist

This week I had my semi-annual dentist checkup/cleaning, this time with a new dentist. My old dentist, who I loved, moved away from the Boston area last year, and I wasn’t happy with the other dentists I saw at that office (no horror stories, so I won’t name names). I’ve been on the lookout for a new dentist ever since, and was intrigued a few months back when The Missus posted a recommendation for Dr. Geoffrey Davis

After my first visit, I’m over the moon! I’ve had some bad experiences with Boston area dentists in the past, but Dr. Davis and his staff made me feel comfortable and confident in their abilities. The location couldn’t be more convenient, the office was clean and welcoming, and everyone there was personable and able to answer my questions.

I was especially impressed with their reaction to one issue I’d been worried about for a while. When I was younger I had braces to straighten my teeth, but I’ve noticed over the years my lower teeth are pushing forward and starting to crowd together. My old dentist assured me that it’s normal for teeth to move forward as people age, and she offered to give me the name of an orthodontist if I wanted to have a retainer made to stop it from getting worse. But, I was concerned about the cost and going to the trouble of making a series of appointments with an orthodontist. When I brought up the issue with Dr. Davis he was able to quote me a price for the retainer right then and there. I said I did want to go ahead with having one made, and he was able to make the mold for me at the same appointment, and send the mold to the company that makes the retainers. I really appreciated that he was knowledgeable and proactive about my concern. Now I just have to wait 2 weeks for the retainer to come in.

I’m happy to check “Get New Dentist” off my 2009 Resolutions, and would definitely recommend Dr. Davis to anyone else out there looking to switch.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It’s Official – Christmas Season over in DTX

Here’s one more for anyone counting “Signs of Spring” in Boston. Today on my way to work I saw workers taking down the Christmas Wreaths from the old Filene’s building.

What, you didn’t notice they were still up? Those wreaths were looking as tired as the construction pit of doom on the other side of the wall.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

10 Great Book Series

Happy St. Patty’s Day, everyone! (and Evacuation Day to Bostonians). We’re one holiday closer to Spring!

This March 17th finds me engrossed in the Night Watch series of books – a great series that’s gotten me thinking about my favorite series of winters past. Without much ado, here are 10 of my faves:

10. His Dark Materials (3) by Philip Pullman. I wasn’t crazy about the plot of these books -- in fact at many points I lost interest in what it was the characters were running to or from – but the elements Pullman got right made the whole series worth reading.

9. The Twilight Series (4) by Stephenie Meyer. I didn’t think this series would be for me, since it’s billed as romance, but after I saw the film I couldn’t wait to read the books. Admittedly, the first few are a little slow, but in the end all my questions were answered and then some. What I love about these books is that they’re not above admitting that yes, living forever and having superhuman abilities would be pretty freaking awesome.

8. Harry Potter (7) by J. K. Rowling. Reading the Harry Potter books, at times I wished I could push Harry out of the way and just explore the world the books were set in, without Harry, Ron or Hermione. In every book there were new inventive characters and locations, completely absurd yet completely believable. The world is so vivid 100 more books could be set there without Mr. Potter needing to make an appearance.

7. The Foundation Books (7) by Isaac Asimov. One of my first forays into sci-fi reading, these books have a special place in my heart. It’s hard to believe the original book - Foundation - is 50 years old!

6. Frankenstein’s Children (?) by Richard Pierce. I loved these books in 8th grade. About a young girl who will do anything to bring her boyfriend back from the dead.

5. The Vampire Chronicles (?) by Anne Rice.

4. The Fell Books by M. E. Kerr. Another of my 8th grade favorites. Part Dickens, part Salinger. What public school kid doesn’t love reading about a mysterious private school?

3. Peanut Butter and Jilly (?) books by Dorothy Haas. These came in my book-orders when I was a kid. They’re about two best friends with coordinating nick names. In my favorite book in the series they have a Halloween party with foods that feel like body parts (spaghetti for brains, grapes for eyes, etc.)

2. Coffeehouse mysteries (7) by Cleo Coyle. These one-sitting cozies include recipes for fancy coffee drinks.

1. The Night Watch Series (4) by Sergei Lukyanenko.

What are you favorite book series? Feel free to leave them in the comments, or post to your blog.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Review: Starbucks Breakfast sandwich

Just because I'm taking a break from coffee, doesn't mean I'm taking a break from Starbucks. I pass one on my way to work everyday, and it's the most convenient place for me to grab breakfast when I haven't had time to make anything for myself. Even though they're often characterized as overpriced, in the financial district there aren't many alternatives that are cheaper, and the Starbucks option usually has fewer additives. I'm a big fan of Starbucks for a number of reasons, but that's the subject for another post.

Usually, I get the "perfect oatmeal" with nuts. It's made from a sugar free instant oatmeal mix, and the containers Starbucks uses do a good job of steaping the oatmeal, without leaving it too runny or too dry. I consider this a so-so breakfast for healthy eating. It doesn't have sugar and does contain protein and fiber, but instant oatmeal is more processed than whole oats, and I don't feel as full as I long as I would with other breakfasts.

This morning, knowing I'd have a lot to get done at work, I wanted more protein. I decided to try one of the new breakfast sandwiches. They smell terrible, I have to admit, but I did like the sandwich overall. I had egg and turkey bacon on english muffin (the english muffin seemed to be whole grain, but I havent' been able to verify). It was head and shoulders above Dunkin Donuts breakfast sandwiches, in taste, value and nutrition. I wouldn't say it's better than home made eggs and bacon, but in a pinch I would absolutely get this again.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Review: Shecky's Girls Night Out / Pops Restaurant

Tonight Alicia and I hit the South End for a girl's night out.

We started with an early dinner at Pops Restaurant. Pops had terrific truffle fries and perfectly done brussels sprouts with garlic, so it pains me to say I just can't get behind this restaurant. The service was weird -- from the cold bread they delivered to us by bringing out a special towel covered basket and taking one piece out for each of our plates before returning the whole basket to the kitchen (why was it cold? why bring a whole basket full of bread and just give us one slice each? why serve the butter in that weird little candle snuffer?), to the lack of salt and pepper on the table, to the odd man at the front who asked me "and how was everything?" when I left the bathroom. Then the food. While my sides were delicious, my burger was disgustingly undercooked. I asked for medium and what I got was a cold, wet mess. Wet chunks of raw meat fell out of it when I cut it in half to better manage (one thing they've got going is big portions). but overall, yech. I'm happy with a burger anywhere from medium-rare to well done, but this was rare rare. Except on the outside. Well done on the outside, raw on the inside. That is nobody's ideal burger. The menu also had some very odd choices -- Kobe meatloaf? and what is french feta? Sorry, but for the south end in a lousy economy, this place is not cutting it.

After dinner we headed to "Shecky's Girls Night Out". I'm going to give this a thumbs up. The vendors were mostly jewelry or unusual Renaissance Fair princess clothing, but my ticket came with a free bag of goodies, and 5 free drinks tickets. Not bad for a Tuesday night in the cold black heart of winter.

First, the drinks: At the front there was a miller light or coors light booth (whichever has a new line of fruit flavored beers). I've tried these citrus beers before and they're not my thing so I skipped it. Next up was Bacardi with their silver soda pop tasting drinks. Alicia had, I think Raspberry, and I had a pomegranate one. It was good, pretty much like those alcoholic frescas always taste. Next up was mixed drinks -- I started with the grossest drink I've ever had (besides the fruity miller light), a midori margarita. midori, sour mix, lime and tequila. yech. I told Alicia it tasted like a margarita served in a dirty glass. And finally, after the three bears I found my goldilocks -- a pink grapefruit flavored drink. It was refreshing and light and delicious, so I had two. booyah.

Now, the goody bags. According to the website, the good bags were supposedly worth $100. If that's true I'd say it's probably $25 retail value + $75 surprise factor because there's no telling how they came up with this random assortment of stuff. In total I had:
  • 1 box splenda mocha flavored coffee sweeteners
  • 1 huge full size hair spray
  • 1 nail polish remover pen
  • 1 entire tube of toothpaste
  • 4 goody ponytail holders
  • 1 full size Nexxus anti-frizz hair spray
  • 1 sample size dial body wash
  • 1 sample size black shoe polish
  • 1 coupon for bogo entree at Blu restaurant
  • 2 OB tampon packs
  • 1 smudgees eye makeup remover
  • and my favorite -- 1 full size bottle of Carrot body spray
  • also 1 embarrassing bag with MIDORI in huge print on the front
Strange, but all in all a good use of a midweek midwinter eve.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The most delicious snack you've never tried

The blizzard this weekend was perfect for staying indoors and with movies and snacks. One of the movies we caught was "First Daughter" starring Katie Holmes. It was passable, but I'm glad I watched it because it tuned me into a delicious snack Katie and her crush enjoy at a movie theater -- popcorn with m&m's mixed in.

Seriously, you have got to try this. It tastes a little like kettle corn, or the special chocolate chunk popcorn from Dale and Thomas.

You want this.