This week’s recipes: More fun brunches

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So maybe I’m phoning it in a bit this week. I totally blew off the blog challenge last week because I’ve been insanely busy with my new job, and I’m even busier this week. But one of the nice things about working from home (among many nice things) is that I don’t have to spend cash or calories buying my lunch every day – I can just cook it on the spot, in my own kitchen.

I’ve also used my home-time (first being unemployed briefly, and now working from home) to experiment with brunch. Basically, I just cook what I usually would and throw an egg on it. This works like a charm almost every time.
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St. Patrick’s Day in Hartford

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There are two holidays out here on the East Coast that are a much bigger deal than they usually are anywhere else in the country, including my section of the Midwest.

The first is Columbus Day, which is celebrated where I come from with a day off from work for public employees but not much else in the way of fanfare. Even most schools are open since fall break takes precedence. When I moved out here I was actually a little shocked at the pomp that accompanies Columbus Day, since many Native American people’s relationship with the holiday is understandably very negative. But Columbus was Italian, and a large number of Italian-Americans, also understandably, take a lot of pride in that.

The second is St. Patrick’s Day. Now, obviously St. Patrick’s Day is pretty widely and loudly celebrated in this country. Heck, there are more Irish-Americans than there are people living on the Emerald Isle. The Midwest is no exception. Irish-Americans are the most populous ethnic group in Chicago, and the Chicago River is died green every year in celebration of that fact. Another great body of water-dying tradition happens in my native Indianapolis: The White River Canal, which breaks off from the White River on Indy’s near-east side and runs all the way through the northern suburbs, gets its annual dose of green the Friday before the parade.

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Cape Cod in the off season

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The sun sets on Cape Cod

The sun sets on Cape Cod

That’s the view from where I’m standing right now, on Kalmus Beach in Hyannis, Massachusetts. Even though it’s a bit out of season, my friend Peter’s family beach house was officially open for business at the beginning of March so we thought, why not? We’re both having some job stresses right now (I’m starting a new one on Monday; he just had the assistant head of his department put in her two weeks), so even a short trip to a cold beach would be worth it.

The weather not only didn’t disappoint, it was unseasonably warm and sunny, although the water was still freezing. Peter warned me in advance that the town was likely to be dead; the “on-season” wouldn’t officially start for a couple more months. But that turned out to be for the best. The beaches were empty, and on the few occasions where we put down our beers and left the porch, downtown Hyannis was just open enough so that most of the local restaurants were hoppin’ but we weren’t bumping into tourists or waiting in line.

I’m a huge seafood fan, and I wouldn’t leave Cape Cod without noshing on some of the local oysters. For this you should probably hit up the Naked Oyster and get the baked oyster sampler ($14 for six – Rockefeller, pesto, barbecued bleu, pomodori, casino and Bienville) or you could split the chilled seafood tower ($43 for four littleneck clams, four oysters, four shrimp, tuna sashimi and a lobster tail). At least order a couple of oyster shooters ($2.50 each). Add the optional dash of pepper vodka ($1.50) and you have yourself a mini bloody mary.

For desert, we took a trip to Four Seas Ice Cream and ordered a quart of the rum and butter. Mixed with maple-flavored whisky, this combination makes a delicious drunk variation on the classic Coke float.

And since this is a vacation, I’m not ashamed to admit that after an afternoon/evening of beer, vodka and maple-flavored whisky, we were not feeling too fresh in the morning – even with the salty sea breeze to give us a jolt. To remedy this, I tried the Cape Cod benedict ($11.95, made with a crab cake and lemony dill sauce instead of the traditional English muffin and hollandaise) at the Sea Street Café.

Besides our various food-related excursions (and let’s be honest, those are the most important), we checked off a couple boxes on the Ubiquitous Kennedy Landmarks tour, including a quick lurk outside of the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port and a stroll around the JFK Memorial at Veterans Beach.

Yep, I’m renaming my blog

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The inevitable has finally happened: I’ve decided to rename my blog.

My current blog name came about in college after I read Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone. According to Putnam, the individualization of leisure time was eroding Americans’ social capital. This was largely due to cable television’s (and other specialized forms of electronic media) overwhelming presence as the preferred leisure activity.

After finishing the book I became mildly concerned about television’s effect on my own social life, so I made a conscious choice to reduce the amount of time I spent glued to the tube. I even got rid of my TV and turned down my cable company’s pleas for a subscription renewal (though, to be honest, as a broke recent-grad and even broker grad student, I couldn’t have afforded cable even if I’d wanted it).

But lately, doing a whole weekend without TV has been a lofty goal. There are only so many active-yet-inexpensive pastimes an unemployed person can engage in … and now I have the time to do them whenever I want. Plus, I still don’t own a TV or have cable (see: being poor), so I feel like I’ve done a decent job of kicking my 24/7 TV habit, even if I do occasionally binge for 10 straight hours (House of Cards, I’m looking at you).

Plus, now that my life is firmly planted on the East Coast I want to shift my focus a bit. Not in terms of content – I still plan to spend a lot of time traveling, cooking and reading, and then writing about all of those things – but in terms of my focus. I want to explore my new home in a way that blends my perspective as a Midwesterner with my reality as a New Englander.

So, dear readers, I’m going to put the ball in your court for a minute and let you take a stab at renaming my blog. Don’t worry; I have backups in mind in case you fail. But I’d like to hear what you think, and also hear some suggestions on what you’d like to read in the future.

President’s Day at the JFK Presidential Library & Museum

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For President’s Day my friend Peter and I took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Boston, where most of our time was spent at the Kennedy Presidential Library.

Sure, for President’s Day our countryfolk explicitly celebrate the birthdays of George Washington (February 22) and Abraham Lincoln (February 12). But President’s Day is also a time to pick the guy who’s most important to your state or region and celebrate him too. (Did everyone in Indiana have fun commemorating the single-term presidency of Benjamin Harrison? Yeah, you probably just celebrated Lincoln instead.)

Surprisingly, New England has only given us five presidents – unsurprisingly, four of them are from Massachusetts: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Franklin Pierce (New Hampshire), Calvin Coolidge and Kennedy. While the Adamses get their fair share of recognition from the Bay State, the Kennedy legacy is a minor religion in all three of New England’s southernmost states.

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Things I Learned During Today’s Snow Day

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Snowy

  1. Parking bans in Hartford, like most parking-related rules in Hartford, are arbitrarily enforced … especially if there’s a UConn home game.
  2. Owners of SUVs are the least shy about flouting recommendations for residents to stay in their homes and off the streets.
  3. Owners of small cars are not much better. If you attempt to drive a late ’00s model Honda Civic down an un-plowed side street, you will get stuck. The same goes if you try to back it down the un-plowed driveway of your apartment complex.
  4. If you do get stuck in the snow, the best possible response is to turn on your emergency lights and sit in the car for at least 20 minutes, occasionally spinning the wheels frantically until someone wanders by and offers to push you out.
  5. If the snow dunes are high enough, and are packed hard enough, a car bumper can be used as a moderately effective snow plow (just make sure you have backup in case you get stuck).
  6. The rental company that manages the apartment complex across the street from me is much more proactive than the rental company that manages my building. I watched their driveway get shoveled and salted twice today. My parking lot is still 10 inches deep – on top of the sheet of ice that had already built up from lack of attention.
  7. The slogan is accurate: Even in situations of horizontal snow and freezing rain, your neighborhood postal service worker will park (obviously immune to the ban) and hand-deliver the mail, per usual, up and down the block.

Day Trips: A Snow Day in the West End

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Lately it’s taken almost all my energy to leave the house for anything – it’s cold, dark and our last big snowfall packed my car in so deep digging out was a 2-day process. Yay New England winter (I’m sorry I doubted you for so long … there’s no need to further demonstrate your might).

However, I have managed to have a couple of adventures over the last week.

The walkway leading to the porch, flanked by two snowy pine trees.

The walkway leading to the porch, flanked by two snowy pine trees.

Last Thursday – as my car sat buried and useless – I took to the sidewalks to investigate a very notable cultural landmark that is only four blocks away from my apartment building, in Hartford’s West End.

From 1874 to 1891 Samuel Clemens – better known to us as Mark Twain – and his family lived in a house on Farmington Avenue. Clemens moved from his home state of Missouri to the East Coast when he was 18 (a fellow Midwest transplant!), then spent most of his time traveling until settling in Hartford with his family in 1871. Most of his famous works were written while he lived in this house.

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