Monday, August 12, 2013

I do :)

Well, I tried to keep up with the writing for oh, about 2 days.   I realized, my life is kinda hectic and it's a bit hard to have time in the end of my day to keep up with blogging.  I will still try and keep it up though.  Now this post is a HUGE deal in my life.  Clayton and I got engaged this past Thursday. HUGE!  I wanted to make sure to blog this so I don't forget any details.  Before I talk about the details, I must explain a bit from the past.

In 2007, Clayton and I had just started dating. I met him at Redbones, a Southern restaurant that was right across the street from my apartment in Somerville.  He was a waiter and I was a hostess.  We started to hang out alot and slowly built our relationship.  On one particular Thursday (August 23, 2007), Clayton and I decided to go to the beach.  I must have had a day off from school and he was off from the restaurant  We decided to take the commuter rail to Ipswich to spend time at Crane Beach. We had heard that we could take the commuter rail up there for a pretty good price and a shuttle bus would take us to the beach.  So we left, with all our beach gear and headed on the train.  When we got to Ipswich's visitor center to ask about the shuttle bus, they told us that the shuttle only ran on weekends and that we would have to walk it to the beach, which was 5 miles down the road.  Since had already come that far, we decided to walk it.  On the way, we stopped at some of the sites...a national reservation....

And Russell Farm apple orchard.  The whole time, I was wondering how we were going to get home, but Clayton kept re-assuring me that we would find a way back.  Also while we were walking, we were going back and forth if we should hitchhike.  After a long while, we decided to try the hitchhiking thing and we were soon picked up by a mother and her son (Connie and Christian).  They said that they lived up the road near the beach and would take us as far as their house.  However, in the car, Clayton won them over and they decided to take us the whole way.  Nearing the beach, Connie asked us if we were going to attend the concert that night at the Estate.  We had no idea that there was any sort of thing, or what the Estate was, so we asked what kind of music and she said she would ask once we got into the beach. Christian also gave us a helpful hint on how to get to the Estate..through a particular path through dunes.  When we finally arrived, we were shocked to find out that the band that was playing at the concert was the Boston Beantown Swing Orchestra.  How fortuitous!  A swing band?!  I was just learning at the time and Clayton was into swing since high school.  We thanked Connie and Christian and made our way to the beach.  It was gorgeous!

After some time at the beach, we found the Estate and the dunes that Christian told us about.  You can see it from the beach in this picture on the right hand side.

Once we made it through the dunes, we were amazed at the site.

Isn't it amazing?!  This isn't the best picture, but here are the rolling hills that were behind me when I took this picture.

We were both shocked with amazement.  Then the band played and it was such good music.  This picture recently resurfaced from that day.  It was taken by the band manager, Frank, who found it not too long ago of the two of us at the event.  We were sooo young!

Anyways, as the dance was going on, I kept asking Clayton how were were going to get home.  So he came up with the idea to ask the band if anyone lived in Somerville.  We didn't know it at the time, but we talked with Frank and he said he would help us out.  We got a ride with a very nice woman at the end of the gig.  It was one of the best days of my life.  Everything just worked out perfectly.

Fast forward years later, this Estate became a part of our swing dance summer events.  Boston Beantown Swing Orchestra plays there every summer on a Thursday.  Every year, we try to make it. Earlier in the summer, Boston Swing Central hosted a 20s event at the Estate (which will hopefully be a yearly thing).  Here are some pictures from the 20s event.

This past Thursday, August 8th, was the annual Boston Beantown Swing Orchestra gig and Frank asked if we could teach the lesson for it.  We had also taught the previous year, so we knew better how to teach the crowd.  We initially were afraid that the dance would get rained out, but it cleared up by the time we had to get there.  The lesson went well, the band loved Chicken Rhythm and the band started to play their stuff.  Clayton and I walked up the hill to see the beach view with a friend from work and her boyfriend and we then headed back to the Estate and danced some more.  At one point, Clayton asked me to go over to the Italian Garden that is off to the right of the Estate.  When we got over there, it was pretty dark and no one was around.  That's where Clayton got down on a knee and I replied with "Are you S&%#@ing me?!  while Mack the Knife was playing in the background.  I could't believe it. Totally surprised!  He had a silver ring that he gave me and said that we will be picking out the actual one together.

I said yes! of course and that was how it happened!  After he asked me, we went back up to the dance and danced together.  A crowd of people started to watch us and cheered us on.  At first, I thought Clayton had orchestrated the crowd, but he didn't.  It was all by chance.  After the dance, we headed to the pub to celebrate.  So yes, Crane Estate is very dear to me...and now, it's an integral part of my life story.  Who knew that a trip to the beach, would have led to this?

Diner Tour 2009

I am a huge fan of diners. When I was a kid, I used to go to one called Andy's in Plains, PA with my grandmother where I would order a hot cup of tea and some pancakes. Andy's is still there and I still go there from time to time when I visit home. There is another one called Eddie's Place in Plains which is another awesome diner that my friends and I would go to for a late night snack. When I moved to Somerville, I was so happy to find out that Clayton, my boyfriend, also enjoyed diners. They are just so homey and make you feel good inside.

Anyways, back in January, Clayton and I came up with this excellent and brilliant idea to visit diners all over the Boston area and rate them. We thought it would be a fun way to start off the new year AND a fun way to explore the surrounding Boston areas. Our friends have also joined in our Diner Tour (or Diner Dash as Zac would call it) and when they are available, they come along and rate/eat with us. Since January, we have gone to nine diners and people have told me that they are interested in our little tour and would like to know the ratings we give the diners. First, I will give a bit of background on what we take into consideration when we rate the diners and some of the things we look for.

#1. Decor: Does it look like a diner? A classic diner car is a sight for sore eyes and gives the diner bonus points. Inside, we look for counter seats that twirl all the way around, the boomerang Formica counter tops, the fifties color combinations, juke boxes! You get the picture...must look like a classic diner for full pointage.
#2. Staff: Diners would be nothing if it weren't for their caring staff. Did our waitress call us hun, sweetie, sugar? If the answer is "yes", extra points will be given. Did we hear a smoker voice (aka. Reinke's, as we like to call it--the medical term for smoker voice)? Common for many diner servers as well as colorful eye make-up.

#3. Menu Options: We like to see a well-rounded menu with lunch offered. Breakfast all day is necessary. I personally like to have a nice hot tea selection. Reasonable prices are also considered.

#4. Taste of Food: Pancakes can't be "bisquicky". French toast can't be made from thin bread. Club sandwiches need to have quality meats. You understand.

#5. Gut Feeling: Overall, how was the experience??

Now that you have an idea on our rating system, onto the ratings!

Deluxe Diner
Decor: The authentic look of the American diner was intact. The beautiful diner car that stood before us was a good sign that the atmosphere at Deluxe would be divine.
Staff: The hostess lost our name in the shuffle (it was busy that day), so we ended up waiting longer than expected. When we finally got called, the hostess felt sorry for the wait and sat us in a nicer part of the diner to appease us. Our waitress, however, was not as comforting. She took our order, but only after she grabbed the order of the table that was sat after us. We did get tea, an extra one in fact, but not the hot chocolate we ordered. No "huns" or "sweeties" sadly.
Menu Options: Loaded with plenty of good eats. Club sandwich for me, buttermilk pancakes for Clayton. Very happy with the menu.
Taste of Food: The pancakes were delicious and not bisquicky. The club was standard, but no sides!
Gut Feeling: Clayton loved it, I thought it was subpar. Overall, I gave it a 3.7 out of 5.0. Clayton, on the other hand, gave it a 4.0. This diner has potential, we may have just went on a bad day.
Decor: First strike against Sunny’s, no diner car. The atmosphere is not to be desired at this particular “diner” (I say diner sparingly).
Staff: Eh, second strike. No endearing names were called. The servers were not very personal and were just interested in what you wanted to eat.
Menu Options: The third strike was the no lunch menu. Only breakfast was being served so I was unable to order my regular order of a club.
Taste of Food: I am not a huge egg lover, but I ordered eggs (I felt risky). We each got our usual breakfast and disappointment set in. The French toast could hardly be called it’s name. The thin bread it was made with made us laugh inside at the audacity. Who makes French toast with thin bread?! The pancakes were also atrocious. You could just taste the add-water-only-ness of them. Must say that the eggs were not too bad and that was the best part of the meal.
Gut Feeling: Sorry Sunny's. We both rated this diner at 2.1. It had to get some sort of good rating from me because the eggs were edible by me. Give credit when credit’s due.
Breakfast Club
Decor: Our eyes cried from happiness when we saw the beautiful diner car in front of us. We felt at home again. Our wait was not terribly long and we scored a booth that was very close to friends we were meeting there.
Staff: The service was not memorable and we were not called any endearing names, but we still enjoyed ourselves and the experience.
Menu Options: The menu at the B-Club was very large and over-whelming, but the clever names of their dishes were humorous. Tea was served in personal tea pots which is a rarity in diners and made my heart melt.
Taste of Food: I ordered a club and was happy to see that sides were available. The French toast was thick again! And the turkey was real! We were all very pleased with the meal and the atmosphere was very good.
Gut Feeling: I gave it a 4.2, Clayton gave it a 4.4. A wonderful time will be had at Breakfast club.
Victoria’s Diner
Decor: WOW. That was the word of the early afternoon after our experience at Victoria’s. First of all, we were greeted by a beautiful diner car that had pin-up girls posted on the entrance-way door. When we got inside, it was more of a modern take of a diner. Big flat screen TVs lined the walls and the d├ęcor was Indian-European-esque. Very different, but cool looking. Free parking also was an added bonus.
Staff: We were sat in a nice booth and we were greeted by an older woman who welcomed us to Victoria’s. She chatted with us for a endearing names, but she made fun of us, which was just as good.
Menu Options: The menu was spectacular, reminiscent of the Breakfast Club, which was a good omen for us. Again, they had a wide assortment of teas, but the main draw to this diner is the unique spin they have on classic dishes. For example, they had French Toast, but different flavors to choose from such as banana bread French toast with almonds and honey on top. Or French toast with vanilla yogurt and blueberries. I had to get the vanilla yogurt French toast..screw the club! One disappointment was that we could not order waffles because it was past noon. Must come back I suppose!
Taste of Food: We all got our meals very timely and were amazed at the portions. Pancakes..awesome. Bacon…awesome. French toast..amazing. The presentation of the food was also very nice. We ate until we couldn’t eat anymore and just looked at each other, knowing that we found a gem..a rival of Kelly’s.
Gut Feeling: WOW. We both gave it a 4.7. Points were taken off because of the waffle disappointment. Overall, the best so far.
Buddy’s Truck Stop
Decor: As the name suggests, this place is kinda dive-y, but it has character. TONS of it. Buddy’s is a diner car that resides in Somerville, but has been in the Boston area for 100 years. At least that is what the cook, Jose, told us. So it has history. The place is very small and cozy with a huge counter and stools all around the inside.
Staff: Jose, the cook was awesome and gave us a history lesson of the diner...added points. A young waitress took our order, no endearing titles. Sadly.
Menu Options: You don’t get a menu at Buddy’s, but you check out the paper plates hanging from the ceiling that gives you the food options. The lunch menu was sparse, but if you ask Jose, he could probably make you anything. Food is made in front of you on a huge griddle which is a cool bonus.
Taste of Food: We all got an assortment of items from the paper plate menus. Hash browns weren’t too good, but the rest of the meal made up for it. I, again, had to get eggs because the lunch menu was lacking, but I did eat the whole egg mcmuffin deal I got. Jose knows how to cook eggs pretty well. Pancakes too.
Gut Feeling: Overall, I gave it a 3.2 and Clayton gave it a 3.4. Not a bad place, but when compared to places like Victoria's and the Breakfast Club, you get a bit spoiled.
That's all for January. I will try and post the other diner ratings from February and March, then I will be all caught up.