AN ENGLISH GIRL IN BOSTON PART XI

Since living in America, my clothes have been shrinking!  I am not sure whether it is the washer or the dryer but, finally, I had to buy a new wardrobe.  I have also noticed that clothing stores have changed their sizing which means that I have been disqualified from wearing certain brands.  I suppose I may have put on a few pounds but it can’t be much.  When I stand on the scales, it reads….  Ahem!

After several months of marriage, there was the comfortable denial where I felt happy as a newlywed and no longer had to say ‘no’ to all of the delights on offer.  Hubby and I enjoyed going for breakfast on the weekends and, of course, I enjoyed desserts like never before.  But after a year, I could not even squeeze myself into the little dresses from my single nights out, and there was an increasing resemblance to Winnie the Pooh when I wore my low rise jeans and t-shirts.

My problem is that I am a real foodie.  I love cooking, I love eating, and when does socializing not involve nibbles?  But here in the States, it is very easy to be caught off guard and fall into the trap of obesity.  America is the land of chain restaurants!  Presented with a platter big enough for two, I still await the included extras.  There are very few healthy options, particularly at affordable prices, and it is easy to be lulled into a false sense of security when choosing these items from the menu.  Salads are doused in dressings which, more often than not, means that they are less healthy than other choices.  Trans fats are also of great concern, particularly when there are no safeguards against manufacturers or restaurants from using them as a means of enhancing flavor and extending the shelf life of foods.  These processed solid fats are worse than saturated fats as they raise levels of bad cholesterol and lower levels of good cholesterol in the body.  Even labeling is deceiving well-intentioned customers as the Food and Drug Administration allows products containing 0.5g or less of trans fats per serving, to be presented as 0g.  Therefore, recommended limits are being exceeded when customers eat multiple servings of supposedly trans fat free foods.

Once you start to feel as though things are a little out of hand, it is exceptionally hard to stop viewing food as a comfort.  I know that I have used it as such: if it’s cold, I’m in the mood for something hearty; if I am bored, chocolate can distract me for a few minutes; ice cream is the only way to cool down on a hot summer’s day; and cake, well, it’s always a good time for cake.

I have seen my waistband expand over the course of two years and have been on a continuous diet, whether this has actually involved sensible eating or not.  I managed to motivate myself to work out on occasion but this didn’t last.  I completed a four-week boot-camp on Boston Common, I bought the Insanity workout with every intention of doing it, and recently, I started working out with a colleague.  But I know that in order to get that hour-glass back, I have to limit eating out, manage my portion sizes, and go into a gym and work hard to fight the cravings.

Just a few weeks in to my healthier lifestyle, my pants are a little loose, I have more energy, and my confidence is up.  Over Christmas, I did not over-indulge and, with help from my family and friends, I enjoyed all of the traditional offerings without any guilt.  Mince pies, Christmas pudding, stuffing, mulled wine, pastries, cheeses; there was no need for me to make any sacrifices.  For now, I may be stuck in elasticated, high-waisted pants but it won’t be too long before my little black dress is out of the flat-pack.

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AN ENGLISH GIRL IN BOSTON PART X

My Thanksgiving feast was a delight to the palate, even if I say so myself.  My guests left feeling full and sleepy, a sign of success.  There were a few issues with defrosting the turkey on time; I even considered calling the Butterball helpline, but it all came together wonderfully.  The extra special touch was my home-made cranberry sauce, made with cranberries collected fresh from the Ocean Spray cranberry bog in Cape Cod.

I have come to really appreciate the Thanksgiving holiday as it requires neither the exchange of presents nor self-indulgent lists, just good food and good company.  With the Holidays off to a mature and grown-up start, I could not help but look forward to Christmas.  Hubby and I were going back to Old England for the first time since my move across the Pond.  By the morning of our departure, I was as excited as a six-year old avoiding bedtime on Christmas Eve.

There is nothing comparable to Christmas at home.  I have been lucky enough to host my parents for the past two years but, being in my childhood home made it all the more sweet.  I was able to meet friends in the pub for a swift pint; sit in sidewalk cafés for hours chatting with my parents; visit family I had not seen in many months; eat and drink traditional favorites; and sleep in my old room.  The week at home flew by and, begrudgingly, I boarded a plane with a promise to return soon.  With the Holidays now over, winter was no longer welcome.

For many, January is a struggle rather than the start of a promising year ahead.  Having enjoyed a long Holiday Season, families have to part, decorations and lights come down, and credit card statements start filling mailboxes.  The dark, cold nights seem that much longer now that the excitement of Christmas has passed.  It is therefore a perfect time to enjoy a getaway and An English Girl in Boston likes to uphold this tradition.  We just returned from a rejuvenating break in New York City where we met with my best friend and her husband, who were visiting from home.

Having previously been a resident of the Big Apple, I know a little about the city, but I am always surprised at how much more I learn with each visit.  The four of us walked many miles, visiting different and distinct neighborhoods around Manhattan and, of course, stopping at my favorite eateries along the way.  One highlight was visiting the 9/11 memorial.  Having worked in downtown New York, this area was always very familiar to me, but the backdrop has now changed dramatically.  The skyscrapers dominate once more, the Freedom Tower sits proudly at full height, and the re-building continues.  Amidst the construction and the bustling streets lies a quiet, secluded area that allows one to pause and to forget the present.  Two waterfalls grace the sites where the twin towers stood, offering visitors a shocking look into the devastation purposefully created in 2001.  The design is both tasteful and moving, allowing visitors to offer their condolences and respect.  Watching each 30 foot waterfall cascade into a large pool, and then disappear into an abyss, powerfully conveys the vast emptiness felt after the terror attacks, and still today.  Oak trees haven been planted around the memorial and, although the leaves had changed color during the autumn, they have not fallen.  The persistence of the leaves to remain, reflects the resilience of New Yorkers in their quest to move on but never forget.

As always, New York afforded me a warm welcome.  Despite the common misconception that people are unfriendly, I must interject.  They are far more friendly than the folks in London and in most other large cities.  Returning to Boston, I now feel ready for the New Year, although I am looking forward to the spring.

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Riding With Paul Revere

As an honorary Bostonian, I want to learn about the city’s rich history.  I have followed the red line around town a few times, as this is a particular favorite with my out-of-town guests, and I have visited many of Fodor’s historical points of interest.  Subsequent to many tours, reading and discussions, there has been one part of its history, however, that seems to be confused and I would like to know if this mistake is widely accepted, or unknown.

Paul Revere is a household name in these parts.  He sits proudly on his horse in the Boston Public Garden and in the North End of Boston, attracting tourists from across the globe.  His famous ride from the North End of Boston across the countryside to warn Congress leaders, Samuel Adams and John Hancock, of the impending British invasion hailed him as a hero and, today, children in schools across the United States are taught of his bravery. “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”, a poem of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published in 1863, describes the gritty adventure in detail and forms the basis for much of the historical teaching.  However, the poem is inaccurate and has subsequently changed the course of history.  

On April 18, 1775, Dr. Joseph Warren, the leader of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress in Boston, learned that British troops were preparing to cross the Charles river.  Accordingly, he sent patriots Paul Revere and William Dawes to Lexington to warn Hancock and Adams that they were at risk of being captured, and then, on to Concord to alert the townsmen that the British were coming to disarm them.  The men took separate routes to avoid risk of both of them being captured, and both made it to Lexington to deliver their warning to the Congressmen who were staying at the home of minister, Jonas Clarke.   They were then joined by Dr. Samuel Prescott, a resident of Concord, who accompanied the men on the next leg of their journey.  On the morning of April 19, a British patrol captured Revere and, although Dawes managed to evade capture, he lost his horse.  Prescott, alone, escaped and rode on to Concord to warn the Patriots there.  

Although Revere was crucial to foiling the plans of the British and his bravery is unquestionable, two other men were also key in the defeat of the British.  But why are these two never mentioned?  Perhaps because Revere was no stranger to riding across the countryside to deliver information as he was an active leader of the ‘mechanics’, a group of men who gathered and shared information that they gleaned from spying on the British in and around Boston.  Incidentally, Revere has been recognized by the Central Intelligence Agency as the creator of the first recorded Patriot intelligence network.  It was Revere who kept detailed accounts of his mission, and he reported the mechanics’ findings that the British were preparing their boats to cross the Charles river.  Understandably, he should therefore be credited as an integral part of the intelligence that led to the patriots’ victory.  But it was Dr. Samuel Prescott who rode to Concord with the warning that the British were coming.  I wonder what answer is expected on a history paper.

Those with whom I have broached the subject have been split in their responses.  Some have had no idea of Revere’s capture whilst others knowingly accept that it is just a part of history that remains vague.  It does not appear to be a secret or a cover-up, however, as the site of his capture can be visited in Minute Man National Park, Lincoln MA and, there is considerable documentation and discussion available.  Whether Longfellow realized the impact that his writings would have or not, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” has been widely accepted as a historical account and Paul Revere remains a national hero, with little known of William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott.

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My Style Icons

I love fashion and beauty but, these days, so few of us actually make an effort to dress for occasions.  Many wear jeans or slacks to restaurants and the theater, leaving closets rather unexciting.

As a child, my style icons were Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Doris Day.  I admired their elaborate gowns, dazzling accessories, and flawless complexions.  I dreamed of, one day, sipping coffee in department stores as couture gowns were modeled for me.  Unfortunately, I am faced with the reality that I have neither the finances nor the figure for the designs that ignited my interest in fashion.  But I also note that the elegance that these women possessed no longer seems to exist.  Of course, Hollywood is still dripping with glamour, but the expectation of glamour has changed.  The class with which Grace Kelly untied her dress to reveal her swimsuit in High Society left me in awe of her sophistication.  Nowadays, however, very little is left to the imagination and glamour is associated with scantily-clad women, revealing as much as they can whilst not committing a wardrobe malfunction.

Today, many designers still impress, however, there is not that same consistency when it comes to their collections, or the celebrities who wear their clothes.  Many seem to grow bored of elegance and seek to push boundaries.  The designers I tend to favor, however, are those who incorporate the dream world into reality, rather than the other way around.  Looking at the intricacies of their work often highlights the genius of their designs.  I love the gowns of Oscar de la Renta, Elie Saab, and Vera Wang, and those that feature lace and feathers; they evoke the happiness of fairytale endings.  Perhaps this is why I chose a wedding gown adorned with ostrich feathers.

When I think of my style icons today, Lauren Conrad’s elegant, effortless and feminine style,  and, Ivanka Trump’s sophisticated, classic style immediately spring to mind.  Their looks are very different, with Ivanka being one of New York City’s most successful businesswomen, and Lauren, being a television personality.  Both have, however, branched into fashion and beauty and have their own lines sold in stores across the U.S.  These designers bring so much more to my closet than most of the items I buy from the over-priced stores on the high street as they are fun, classic and feminine. 

When building your wardrobe, a few classic pieces with a ‘current trend’ item works best.  A great example would be black work pants; a top with a lace feature immediately adds some interest and class.  It is important to compliment what you have already in your closet so that you do not fall into the trap of becoming a fashion victim, who struggles to keep up with the ever-changing collections.  This is where accessories and jewelry can really help.

Beauty is as much about how you comport yourself as it is your actual style.  Striving to be a pin-up will not hail you as a style icon so ensure that the choices you make are ones that you will be proud of.  

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AN ENGLISH GIRL IN BOSTON PART IX

Thanksgiving oven

Thanksgiving oven (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This Thanksgiving is going to be my first at home.  Hubby and I usually head off somewhere for a romantic getaway but I volunteered to stay at home this year.  I did not think it through fully, however, as an English girl in Boston now finds herself committed to cooking Thanksgiving dinner with all of the trimmings for American guests.  One may understand why there is a little anxiety creeping in; I am not even familiar with the trimmings that my guests will be expecting.

I enjoy cooking, whether following a recipe or straying a little by adding my own twists.  I am not like others in my family, however, who can create marinades and understand how to draw out different flavors.  I was spoiled at home; I ate French food as if in France, Italian food as if in Italy, Thai food as if in Thailand, I think you understand where I am going with this?!  As a result, I have always preferred to eat in rather than to go out.  But, now that I am over 3,000 miles away from such gourmet cuisine, I have to work it out myself or just accept below par standards.  In preparation for my ‘gourmet’ dinner party, I will be researching helpful hints, common mistakes, and maybe even local caterers!

Now that the days are drawing shorter, I am eagerly anticipating the Holidays.  I was off to do a spot of grocery shopping this week and I heard a very familiar sound as I opened my car door.  It was the sound of a bell ringing which, at this time of year, means only one thing.  It took me a moment to work it out but I quickly realized that the Salvation Army had started their Holiday collections.  As early as the stores start belting out Christmas tunes, I can’t help but embrace it all.  Even working in retail, I did not tire of the merriment although, the extended hours were another matter entirely.  Rather than mourn the milder weather, I look to the magic of what is to come; cozy sweaters, fairy lights adorning tree-lined streets, hot toddies, evenings watching Hallmark Christmas movies.  This extended Season should allow for more time to be joyful and giving but, Alas! It seems only to encourage more spending and heightened impatience.  The pre-sales, the gifts with purchases, the one-day sales; all promise the best deals of the season, only to find a more enticing offer the following week.  We need to learn to know when to stop.  The initial high we feel when shopping is short-lived, particularly when our credit card statements arrive and we are faced with the frightening reality of our extravagant habits; that it will take 11 years to pay off just one card if we pay only the minimum each month.

So as you all start planning the months ahead, spend a few weekends away from the mall.  I will heed my own advice and will be spending them confined to my stove.

Posted in Boston, Christmas, culture, Fall, Family, Holiday Season, Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving dinner, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Duck Boats Are Coming!

The Fenway stadium in Boston is the Holy of Ho...

In a year of sorrow, grief and pain, some guys playing a game on a pitch have made the people of Boston smile again, and feel cause for a celebration.  On Wednesday night, the eruption in the stands at Fenway was echoed in every household in New England and beyond, as Uehara struck out Matt Carpenter signifying a 6-1 victory in game 6 of the World Series.  The Red Sox are champions on home turf for the first time in ninety-five years and the ‘curse of the Bambino’ is well and truly forgotten.  Whether the disheveled look was a superstition or an expression of team unity, it worked!

Although I enjoy attending a few baseball games during the summer months, it is mostly to soak up the atmosphere.  I am not an avid baseball fan.  Or at least, I didn’t think I was until game 1 of the World Series.  I was enthralled and, each night, I arranged drinks and snacks around my sofa so that minimum movement was necessary.

Duck boats for the World Series Parade

Duck boats for the World Series Parade (Photo credit: bndo)

From the very first game, it was visible to all that the Red Sox were playing for each other and for their city.  No one player attempted to outshine the others and their camaraderie was exemplary throughout.  Their on-going tributes to the marathon bombing victims, and the victims’ families highlighted that they understood the importance of their role this Season.  The people of Boston were placing their trust in them, hoping that if victorious, the win would convey the city’s defiance to adversity.  Mayor Menino said the team embodied the “perseverance and resilience” of the city.  This it did, and in true Bostonian style, the celebrations began immediately going on well into Thursday morning.  Menino then tweeted later on Thursday that “The ducks are ready. The fans are ready. Let’s celebrate on Saturday.”  So, in what has become a tradition in Boston, a rolling rally will be held through city streets for fans and players to celebrate together.

I am the first one to say that “it is only a game” but, this year, I did see how much more than just a game it actually is.  As Boston celebrates, millions are expected to congregate in the city, to hail the World Series champions as they pass by on the infamous duck boats.  The parade route will include Boylston Street and cross the marathon finish line; the site of the marathon bombings on April 15, 2013 which killed three people and wounded more than 260.  This tribute will not need words but it will embody the city’s resilience.

David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox points to th...

“I have to say that God never left his kids alone,… This is a city that we’ve been through a lot of situations. … Sometimes, bad things got to happen for us to get the message. And we got the message. Everybody stayed together, and it showed the whole world that this is the best of every place.”  David Ortiz, MVP

Posted in 2013 World Series, Back Bay, Baseball, Big Papi, Boston, Boston Bombings, Boylston Street, culture, Current Events, David Ortiz, Duck Boat, entertainment, Fenway Park, Marathon Bombings, Mayor Menino, New England, News, Rolling Rally, Sports, World Series | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fall in New England

Have you looked around lately?  Winter is waiting in the sidelines.  Those extra 5 minutes in the morning, nestled in the warmth under my comforter, before I have to set out into the crisp fall air are priceless.  Once the trees are bare, the dark evenings will creep in earlier and earlier and winter’s first snowfall will be imminent.  Although a magical time of year in many ways, most of us do become confined to the indoors.  Fall is the time to enjoy nights out by the campfire, Oktoberfest offerings, all things pumpkin flavored, early football games, and late baseball games, which are more enjoyable this year as we made it to the World Series.

Fall in New England has a worldwide reputation for its spectacular display of autumnal colors.  Every autumn, we enjoy nature’s backdrop and New England attracts those who want to see la pièce de resistance.  ‘Leaf peepers’ are willing to pay elevated airfares and hotel prices, which are double the usual rates.  But why does nature favor these six states?

During spring and summer, the foods necessary for a tree’s growth are manufactured within its leaves.  This process of photosynthesis relies on the absorption of energy from sunlight and so, as the days get shorter and the amount of sunlight diminishes, the leaves’ activity starts shutting down.  The green color disappears; a result of the breakdown of chlorophyll, which reflects the green color of the leaf.  Now the green color disappears, and the yellow, gold and orange colors that have been masked all year become visible and allow the leaves to reveal their fall splendor.

Temperature, sunlight, and water supply all have an influence on the intensity and duration of the colors.  Sunshine and low temperatures, above freezing, promote the formation of anthocyanins, the chemical that produces red leaves, which are common to maple trees.  New England’s Fall, consisting of warm, bright days, chilly nights and late frosts create the perfect conditions for the bright colors that are unique to the region.

Leaf peepers make it their mission to keep up with peak foliage times, during which fall’s display of colors is at its pinnacle.  Accordingly, the interactive fall foliage maps which show estimated peak colors throughout New England can become almost addictive to visitors, who rely on this forecast to plan their adventures.

Tourism is essential to New England, with it being the main source of revenue to the northern States.  Maine draws 9 million fall tourists a year with New Hampshire drawing 8 million visitors.  These leaf-peepers spend more than $300 million in Vermont and $1 billion in New Hampshire.

So, before, the leaves fall, take some time to enjoy nature’s offering.  Unlike those who travel great distances to come to see New England’s fall, you can just hop into the car, pack a picnic and drive.  Heated seat?  Yes please.  Ok, maybe I am not a true New Englander quite yet but I love the Seasons and nature is truly putting on a show.

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