Tuesday, April 19, 2011

26.2 Miles

It's 2:45 a.m. on a Tuesday morning and here I am, aimlessly wandering around Facebook and emptying the contents of my DVR with a listless humor. Twelve hours ago, I was somewhere between Wellesley and Newton, hitting the pavement with more the 27,000 beginner and veteran runners, men and women of all ages, all sizes and all walks of life. It was my second Boston Marathon, the first for many, the tenth for some, the 25th for the inspiring members of the Century club.

At 11 am, with broad, beaming smiles, we hit the gates in our neon pink at Hopkinton and breezed through Amesbury, Framingham, Natick and Wellesey. The energy on the course pulsed under the sun, following a pattern of highs and lows as we moved down the road to Boylston. Along the sidelines, at times overflowing with partiers and at others studded with just a few quiet fans, runners passed onlookers and the two crowds combined for fleeting moments of a quickly absorbed and much appreciated support. And when Newton came along and walls were hit, knees began to ache and our feet screamed from unforgiving street step after step, the crowd was there to take our minds off the miles ahead.

Runners waved and high-fived the many who held signs glittered with motivation, encouraging us to keep moving and, my favorite, reminding us that our feet hurt because we're kicking butt. But, I fear that the crowd doesn't understand the role they play. Any veteran marathoner will know the feeling and I hope the supporters can truly understand how important they are. After all, how many of us would continue for 26.2 miles on our own? Every single fan on the sideline worked to keep our legs moving, our hearts fluttering and our eyes glistened with tears.

So, I want to say a huge "thank you" to all of you. To the friends and family that made it to the race and to the ones that were there in spirit. Especially to my amazing parents, who I thought I'd missed until I saw their bright red "Go Molly!" signs, to my sweet friends at Kenmore who celebrated with me after the race, and to my incredible boyfriend, whose presence at mile 26 kept me going through the ups and the downs. I love you all very, very much.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hookers for Jesus

The clouds are rolling in, starting to spit a bit of early spring rain to closeout this perfect April weekend and, I have to admit, I'm happy for a break from the sun. After lots of outdoor activities - pugging it at the beach with Paco, walking the Charles, running errands and hitting some balls at the driving range - it feels good to curl up on the couch for some junky tv and idle web surfing without the feeling of wasting the chance to enjoy some good weather.

I went up and down the tv guide five times and nothing caught my eye. Ugh. Nothing exciting was on; I'd already seen most of the trash on Bravo, MTV and E! and I think I've overdosed on HGTV lately (although my love for Design on a Dime and the like did trigger a nice update to my living room). So I went to On Demand in hopes of discovering a new series to latch onto. My initial sweep of "TV Entertainment" and the premium channels gave me no leads, but I was determined to find success. At last, while browsing "All Television Series," I discovered the fruit of my labors - Hookers: Saved on the Strip.

I knew just by the name that I'd like it, but it was the description that made me fall in love:

"Audrey's story is one of sexual abuse and violence. She is currently hiding out from the "pimp mafia." With daily breakdowns, Annie helps guide Audrey through her emotional roller coaster. Will Audrey make it through the program at the Destiny House?"

Now, I want you to enjoy the splendor of washed up, slightly dirty rehabbing street walkers on your own, but I'll give you a preview: Aubrey, self-proclaimed internet sensation for her sexy(?) viral videos, is struggling to get through her hardcore past and really, really seems to want to go back to hooking. She was really successful and popular right from the start of her "career" because she did all these crazy things that guys liked! Think wearing diapers and that sort of tom foolery. Her knight in shining armor is a sleazy music producer(?) who found her online and was just drawn to her Medusa braids and bird-like voice (think crow). He's bringing her into the studio - which makes her so nervous! - so she can record a cat-like drone/rap that she wrote while she was "doing a lot of ecstasy and acid." I think she'll be a star... pending a hooking relapse.

But it's not all about Aubrey! Ex-hooker Annie started the Hookers for Jesus program back in 2005 after she got out of the game, something I really do approve of - no sarcasm there.

But Annie suspiciously reminisces about her past with a twinkle in her eye - complete with hotty-boom-botty pics to narrate against - in a way that suggests maybe hooking isn't the worst thing. You get to sleep until 4, make a ton of money and party with your girlfriends all the time. But then, you have to remember the pimp mafia and hold yourself back from donning your highest black boots and hitting up your front stoop to see just what makes Annie shine.

Oh, an Annie's husband is a former member of a Christian heavy metal band and he is just adorable and can totally relate to the strippers on a lot of levels.

I'm just loving this show so much!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Target Experience

Entering through those automatic doors, catching our first glimpse of the red and white Segways, hearing the hollow hums of shoppers, employees and shopping carts, any warm blooded female is shot into the wonderfully euphoric state of shopper's delight. It doesn't matter what we came to get - a bulk package of paper towels, just a few new pairs of socks or windshield wiper fluid, there is no chance of a receipt detailing a set of purchases under $50.

It's a blackout. One minute we’re stocking up on face wash and the next we’re in the dressing room modeling a bikini/cover-up combo in the mirror. Another blackout and, bam, we’re tossing new throw pillows into our cart. Without realizing it, we’re picking out plastic tumblers and matching serving platters. One more episode and we’re looking down at a cart overflowing with Tupperware containers, Mossimo sweaters, Papyrus for Target note cards, clearance candlesticks and mini canvas-lined wicker baskets. Our register experience is going to be tense and cringing until “Approved” comes up on the screen and our receipt starts to print. 

However, our unexpectedly expanded shopping trip isn’t all fab finds and irresistible deals. While we’re quickly consuming layers upon layers of “things we need,” we’re being pushed, prodded and manhandled by hoards of competing shoppers. They’ve come to Target in droves. They’re crossing from department to department in large, slow moving groups of four or more. They’re yelling at each other without any apparent rhyme or reason. They’re stepping in front of us as we compare detergent prices. They’re using their non-English first language as an excuse not to abide by any common courtesies. They’re making our shopping trip agitated, uncomfortable and stressful. 

And, yet, we come back to Target at every open opportunity. We look at the plastic bags dotted with bull’s eyes and filled with goodies and forget about the Haitian couple that bullied us out of the laundry basket aisle. As we’re setting up our new table lamp, we’re blissfully past the memory of the woman who passed out standing up and dropped her large fountain fruit punch (and vodka) all over the jewelry section. It’s as if that family behind you in line never infringed upon your personal space and screamed at each other for ten minutes using words and phrases that don’t really work like “I’m doin’ me” and “you do you.” 

The Target experience is a bomb of mismatched emotions. At once it is both exhilarating and terrifying, thrilling and annoying, addictive and nauseating. It’s the classic case of the power of the reward (and genius marketing and branding). And, I can’t wait to go back.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Southie Eats, Redefined

Whenever I’m visiting a new city, I feel a breath of jealousy when I put my new surroundings up against Boston. In contrast, it feels like every other city is filled with original, quaint little corner bars and funky, inventive restaurants and that my city, especially my neighborhood, is just one Boston Beer Garden after another. As great as Southie is, it lacks a certain level of diversity – something that both attracts and disappoints me. On one hand, within a mile of my apartment, I have almost my entire social circle, multiple waterfronts and easy access to different parts of the city. On the other hand, the food scene is totally flat. For the most part, Southie gives you three options: bar food, Chinese food or sub shops.

But whenever I can, I try to step away for a moment to appreciate where I am. These past few years, I’ve stood witness to a slow, subtle shift in the scene. Amid countless pizza joints, cookie-cutter sports bars and outdated hair salons, a bit of color is rising in South Boston. Where there once was little to no culture, we now have authentic Indian food at Café Mamtaz, homemade chocolates and baked goods at Blue Tierra Chocolate Café, and novelty groceries at American Provisions. There’s a Newbury Street sister salon, Avanti, and Sophia’s Café, a gourmet sandwich shop.

Keeping up with this momentum, the Farragut House down on P Street has reinvented itself as Local 149. Modern, trendy and young, the once-tired restaurant now serves up an eclectic mix of tasty bites, all made with local ingredients. The menu is difficult to navigate (so unclear that I mistakenly ordered a non-alcoholic beer) and the servers are overwhelmed, inattentive and clueless, but the food makes up for the frustrating service. Their brunch menu was clearly crafted by a food lover, filled with homemade doughnuts, generous lobster “macmuffins,” and incredibly rich sirloin burgers. The fact that mid-brunch, I was dying to check out their dinner menu proves that the food really is so good that you’ll want to go back for more.

This week, I’m going to try to be a really good girlfriend so that hopefully I get rewarded with a date night and the short rib entrée next weekend!

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Real World - Too Pretty and Too Young

Confession: It's 4:37 on a Friday afternoon and, for 37 minutes, I've been watching the newest episode of The Real World while chipping away at a Goliath-sized bowl of chili, cheese and Saltine Minis. I wish this wasn't the case but I just couldn't bear to watch anymore Canadian-based HGTV shows so, sadly, here I am.
(no) shame!

If, like most other high school graduates, you're not up-to-date with this season, I'll sum it up for you. Every one is in their early 20's and they're living in a Vegas hotel suite. There are three white boys that are all mildly good looking and at differing levels of immaturity. There are two dull white girls, one pretty young blonde and one pretty young brunette. There are two black cast members, a cocky but attractive male and a cocky but attractive female. A few of them came into the situation with significant others under the impression that they would form only platonic friendships with their roommates of the opposite sex and maintain their strong relationship with their soul mate back home. Then, when they end up flirting, fighting, and falling for a cast mate, they're totally taken aback... as if the same exact thing hasn't happened for the last twenty-plus years. Everyone lounges around, drinks, eats, talks with their mouth full, and cries.

MTV has followed a formula that has successfully produced drama, drama, drunks and drama each season since 1992. However, the show's popularity has steeply declined since Key West's sunny, sassy and severely anorexic season in 2006. Despite the channel's attempt to keep us clued into the show between seasons with the Real World/Road Rules Challenge (which shifted gears after Road Rule's cancellation to become first The Battle of the Seasons, then The Battle of the Sexes, The Gauntlet, The Inferno, Fresh Meat, The Duel, The Island, Cutthroat and several successive seasons of each), they seem to have lost their casting touch in recent years.

While I can't speak for ratings, I can throw out what I see as the general opinion: the show stinks now. The reason for this wane in popularity isn't a secret... they've simply made the show too pretty. We watch it for drama and, for the most part, the exact same fights will bubble up each season, but there's one big difference between say, Real World Seattle (1998) and Real World Cancun (2009)...

Over the years, the cast has gotten younger, thinner, more glamorous and less clothed. But, MTV, come on! We don't care to see skinny, pretty girls flirt with a bunch of babes, then fight each other and cry about it later. We want to see awkward virgins get absorbed in crushes on varsity-type Ivy Leaguers. We want the wirey-haired punky chick to get bitch-slapped by the tall and lanky gay guy in the car on her way out. We want to build a connection to the cast - much easier to do with imperfect characters than those with six-packs, thighs that don't touch, and bathing suit bodies that don't reveal a single dimple, love handle, or beer belly. 

I have to say that at this point, I think the show is irreparable. But, there's an easy way for MTV to fill the void. Fitting with the today's vintage/retro trend, MTV should re-air old seasons, starting from the first. They've got plenty of 18 year old viewers that don't even know about Montana, Puck, Amaya, Ruthie, Tonya, or Flora. I mean, they could at least put them up on On Demand for chili-eating afternoon TV-watchers...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

An April Fools' Ace

In my maturing years, I've found that, more and more, my life is finding its shape in a form that would thoroughly amaze and disappoint my elementary-school self. As an over-achieving fourth-grader, I was absolutely positive that I was going to go to Brown, become a lawyer, get hitched and produce four well-trained, handsome and athletic boys well before my ripened age of 26.

If only that little blonde-haired future scholar and matriarch could see me now – partially employed, living in sin, childless and financially rickety. Thank god she was happily naïve to my high-school self’s successful petition to be moved down from advanced to upper-standard classes because the kids in upper standard were more “fun” and my college self’s less than academic extracirriculars. But, standing on a shore very opposite from my youthful ambitions, I am not disappointed in any of my choices or unhappy about the things I have come to love… especially my foray into mastering the craft of the highly successful April Fools’ joke, a task I was not well equipped to handle in my younger years.

My pranks aren’t elaborate, they’re not YouTube material, and, honestly, if I retold them right now, you most likely would not laugh. But for me, it’s not about swapping fluff for toothpaste or putting cellophane around the toilet seat. It’s about the sly fool, the simple trick. A twisted story, an outrageous declaration, a silly little lie. My jokes are subtle and they’re effective. Not the ha-ha variety, but more like the got-ya sort.

I’ve got a good track record going - my 2008 April Fools’ just claimed its most recent victim. Almost exactly three years after I said I had been arrested on the way to work with a crowd of jaywalking pedestrians, my dear friend Laura was finally clued into the joke.

So, queue the devious finger tapping and slight eyebrow raise, I must now begin to concoct a new fib for Friday…

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I Am More Than Poached Eggs and Soup.

Wondering where you are, how you got here, and where MmmmMollyMac went? Well, while my love for all things edible hasn't faltered in the least, I've decided to branch out from MmmmMollyMac's narrow food-related theme and reinvent my blog with more general focus.

The new name, "My View from the Eaves," comes from the little life I'm living in my fourth floor (or, as we like to call it, "penthouse") South Boston apartment. Up here, against a backdrop of the Boston skyline, lounging in my humble and cozy lodgings, I feel like I'm tucked up in the eaves, comfortably nestled in my quiet home about the hustle and bustle of the city streets.

These past few months have been a big growth period for me. I feel happier, healthier and more at ease in my own skin. After leaving my job back in November, I went in to talk to one of the creative directors at Arnold, a funky Boston-based advertising agency, for some advice on kicking off a career as a writer. He was not at all what I expected - no trendy outfit, no funky dark-rimmed glasses. He greeted me with a overgrown beard, capped in a well-worn winter hat and sporting what I can only describe as glorified sweatpants.

As I sat in his office, naive, nervous and feeling like I didn't exactly fit just right among his collection of vintage records and various artsy office decorations, he talked me through his broken career path, detailing an untraditional trip to the top. The deeper into the conversation we went, my confidence began to crown, my shoulders relaxed, and I started to really see what he was telling me. He put it plainly as we finished up our meeting, "You are a writer, be a  writer. Wear what you want, don't hide your personality, let your creativity come out. That's what they want. You do for them what they can't for themselves. It's a talent that they need."* It's advice I'll not soon forget - pure, true, and universal.

And so, with a revamped outlook comes a revamped blog. I hope you enjoy it!

*paraphrased a bit

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Salt-Infused Jiggling Bellies

Pacing itself with the utmost reservation, and a few classic spikes along the way, the temperature is breaking out of winter's icy hold and creeping toward the mild double-digits of spring. And I inevitably, along with women all across the nation, have declared that this is the year I'm going to get into top-notch bikini-bod shape.

"Finally," I e-mailed my girlfriends, "I'm going to feel good at the beach. I'm starting to eat right and workout and I am going to feel comfortable in a bikini this summer." Then, I happily skipped to the grocery store in just a sweater and scarf because the 44 degree day was "so warm!" and, at the store I stocked up fruits, celery, low-sodium turkey cold cuts, and oatmeal - all the things that make me confident that this July 4th, I'll be posing for bikini pics sans cover-up and without the tell-tale "I'm sucking it in right nowwww" smile. 

But, all too predictably, the dreary days of March will stretch on, the corned beef will be eaten on St. Patty's day, the April weather will welcome not post-work runs along the water but instead ever-lasting happy hours complete with fried and fatty appetizers and, later, late-night greasy pizza. And, when beach weather comes along I'll be sporting a nice salt-bloat and a merrily jiggling belly.

In the meantime, I'm still sticking to plan and trying my best to cut a lot of sodium out of my diet. And, you know what? It's really hard. I told my friends the other week that the three things I was most thankful for were (in this order): opposable thumbs, the leggings trend, and salt. Now, I venture to take back the salt comment.

Do you know what foods have a ton of sodium? All of the good ones. You know what foods don't have very much sodium? The dumb ones. So, on day three of my reduced-sodium kick, I give myself 100-to-1 odds that I won't fight the craving and, in a couple hours, my grubby little paws will be digging into the bottom of the bag of pretzels for the saltiest scraps while my belly giggles and jiggles away...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Splurge or Save? Grocery Shopping for the 20-Somethings

Our mid-twenties is a period of social and financial extremes. Some of us are on the fast track, donning the corporate suit-and-tie each morning for a day filled with Blackberrys, meeting requests, reports and whatever else happens in the finance world. Others are still finding their way, switching jobs ("careers"), heading back to school, collecting unemployment with a feverish enthusiasm. We're either on-the-prowl, dating, engaged or married... renting, owning, couch-surfing or living with our parents. But, whatever stage we're at in this little thing called life, we're all meeting up on the weekends to blow our money on booze, food, ski houses, and summer rentals together.

Whether you're Mrs. Go-Getter or Johnny Still-Figuring-It-Out, chances are you aren't making enough to shop at Deluca's or order in every night. That doesn't mean, though, that you shouldn't eat well. It means you should choose wisely at the grocery store. 

Here are three things you should always splurge on and three money-saving shops:

The Splurge

1.) Olive Oil
 - Never, ever, ever, ever go for store brand unless it's an emergency or someone is pointing a gun at your head (and honestly, if that's the situation, maybe just take the bullet and pray for the best). When it comes to olive oil, always buy extra virgin and always buy in bulk if possible. The best supermarket brand is Colavita and the value drops a bit as you buy more, so go for the 34 ounce at an average $15.49 over the 17 ounce at an average $9.69, paying $0.45 per ounce over $.057 per ounce.

2.) Chicken - Unfortunately in America, we can only dream of what Julia Child described as incredibly "chickeny" French poultry, but we're still not confined to a life of fillers and hormones. When it comes to chicken - buy organic. It will make a world of difference, I promise. At about $1 more per pound, even more at specialty markets, it's definitely a splurge but it is well worth it.

3.) Spices and Seasonings - It's tough, looking at the rows of tiny bottles and their $3- $9 price labels, thinking how you could get an iced coffee in the morning and beer in the afternoon for the price of dill weed, but its a sacrifice worth making. Higher-end seasonings give much more flavor and can really make the difference in a dish. A little tip - buy your seasonings at Whole Foods, their store brand is great and the prices are lower than the regular grocery store. 

The Save

1.) Red Wine* - The sophistication of a complex and nutty special reserve may be alluring, but the resulting overdraft charges and empty wallet will leave a lingering acidic taste in your mouth. Go to your local wine shop or liquor store and peruse their bargain bins, they'll usually have a "2 for $12" deal or something similar. It'll be a bit of trial-and-error, but once you find your favorite bottle, chances are it will stay in stock in the bargain bins. I've been opting for the Astica Malbec for about two years now and my liquor store has only once been out of it. 
* Only mentioning red because you should always go cheap for white wine, the extra cost isn't worth it.

2.) Produce - We love to eat our strawberries in the fall, our butter lettuce in the winter and our figs year-round, but we pay a lot more for produce that's out of season. The best way to eat in-season is to shop your local farmer's market; however, being a New  Englander, I know that venturing out in the snow and cold for some potatoes isn't incredibly appealing. Instead, in the winter, peruse the produce section for the least expensive produce and then build your meal, instead of visa-versa.

3.) Coffee - Becoming your own barista by brewing Peet's Major Dickenson's at home is a novel idea, but chances are your attempt at frugality will prove futile when you pass the coffee shop on your way to work and the aroma of freshly ground coffee beans is too much to resist. Instead, let yourself indulge in the occasional to-go coffee and brew the basic stuff at home. Maxwell House is a solid brew that comes in a variety of roasts (French, House, Bold, etc) and it's about one third the price of the coffee-house bags. 

So, go ahead mix up your splurges and savings... you'll find your meals at home more enjoyable and your bank account balance less threatening!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Molly had a little lamb...

As a Christmas present to each other, Mike and I escaped to the exotic concrete jungle of Brooklyn for a weekend together. Our destination decision was driven solely by the irresistible lure of the bacon appetizer and dry aged steak for two at Peter Luger's. Well, when we called well in advance, they informed us they were completely booked for dinner and, as a result, we were now visiting Brooklyn for no apparent reason.

Not ones to just take defeat as is, we decided to try our luck with a walk-in anyway. Ever so nicely, the host laughed in our face and basically shooed us back out the door when we asked for a table. It turns out that smug little man did us an amazing favor because out the door and across the street we went to Dressler for a dinner that was incredible in the most sincere and heavy sense of the word.

Inside, it felt like The Marliave's cool older sibling, with its ornate lighting fixtures and intricate wall decor balanced by a stark red brick wall and a cream detailed ceiling. At the white marble bar perfectly poured cocktails - his a Manhattan, mine a Hendrick's martini - held us over while we waited for our oysters to come. When they did, with fresh horseradish and a cool and additive mignonette, we threw back the soft, silky British Columbian lovelies so fast that we were left with no choice but to order more. After adding onto our appetizer order, we put our dinner wishes in.

When the entrees came, I believe I started drooling. My braised lamb shank was impossibly tender, with slow-cooked levels of flavor worked deep into every bite. The meat fell off the bone at the mildest nudge from my fork and dipped into its simple and rich soubise sauce. Mike's ribeye was tender and, although slightly fatty, was met with no complaints. The prize-winner for this meal was a bit unexpected - Mike's side of creamed spinach. It tasted fresh, creamy and with a slight saltiness that made you crave the next bite even before you finish your first. 

So, it turns out that the best thing about Peter Luger's is really the little restaurant across the street and this holiday season, God really did bless the broken road.