Life: First Visit to Boston and Cambridge

For reasons that I may/not eventually disclose, I visited Boston and Cambridge in Massachusetts this month. I wanted to get a feel for what life is like there, so I bought some new “base layers” for winter weather (!), and headed out of the Bay Area for the first time since the COVID 19 pandemic began.

Boston and Cambridge each made a good impression on me. As a happy San Franciscan heavily integrated into the fabric of my multicultural, open-minded, caffeinated City, I wasn’t sure that Boston would feel comfortable. Happily, the diverse population, reliable subway system, and great vegan food won me over!

Both towns were walkable. The subway system made sense, and my Charlie Card (their version of Clipper) made travel easy.

Each time I ate in restaurants within earshot of others, other patrons were chatting at their tables about trying to get their research funded. (A good sign!)

Yes, many of the Freedom Trail sites were closed due to the pandemic, but I found other things to do. Yes, it got down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6.6 Celsius?), but I was dressed very carefully (lightweight yet insulating base layers!), and I could handle it. It snowed gently, and that was kind of fun. Puddles froze and never thawed, and I caught other tourists trying to break one, which was hilarious (adults playing with puddles like children!).

I did not fill my suitcase with art books. I did not go out to take photos at night when it was below freezing. These were good decisions.

My masks were comfortable in all indoor settings, and I learned that masks are very cozy when it is snowing.

Boston and Cambridge are both booming, filled with new construction of businesses, housing, streetcar stations, and more. Infrastructure matters, and they are clearly planning for growth.

I had a good time and a positive experience.

There is an awkward/funny postscript. I was there before the omicron variant of COVID was well understood. I participate in CA Notify, which is my home state’s bluetooth exposure tracking system. While I was in Boston, my phone asked me if I want to participate in MassNotify, and I agreed.

MassNotify sent me a COVID proximity/exposure warning 8 days after my return home (and three days after my negative home test). Someone with the right combination of proximity + duration on the day before I flew home subsequently tested positive for COVID. The instructions were clear, and since I’m both vaccinated and boosted, quarantine was never required – vigilant masking is enough. I’m impressed that the system worked, even though I was just visiting! Yaay, technology!

Food: Thanksgiving 2021

As a former food blogger who is always adjusting recipes and planning to write cookbooks, I am usually pretty good about posting what I prepared and enjoyed for the holidays, if only to remind myself later when looking for inspiration! (Yes, I do use my own webpages, including my old recipe collections, while I cook.)

This year, Thanksgiving feasting almost didn’t happen: my parents agreed to come the Sunday before, after I’d already put in my grocery order for the week. My Cousin and his partner are core guests, but my Cousin RSVP’d with a photo of his partner’s positive COVID test, which occurred days before the gathering, requiring them to spend Thanksgiving in quarantine. That was enough of a scare to tempt me to cancel it all.

Luckily, I had more than enough food for a feast, and got to take it relatively easy because my friend M joined at the last moment, and she cooked as well! My parents’ drive to the City was smooth and easy, I got to try some great new-to-me dishes, and everything looked gorgeous and tasted even better! (M has similar dietary preferences, I can completely trust anything she makes, AND she is a fantastic cook!)

This year, the feast included:

  • sides/snacks: green olives, Kalamata olives, marinated bean salad, cherry tomatoes
  • harira soup
  • M’s mushrooms with wild rice
  • M’s kale, apple, and pecan salad
  • mashed potatoes with olive oil and chives
  • spaghetti squash with roasted red peppers, capers, and parsley
  • beverages: almond nog, sparkling water, herb tea
  • desserts: apple-cranberry pie and pumpkin pie (both homemade)

And EVERYTHING was fully vegan and gluten-free.

It was a great meal, a fun afternoon, and a delight.

Writing: First Novel’s Second Draft Completed on December 2nd

This version clocks in at 65,484 words!

It looks hefty, printed out on regular office paper in a 12 point font. It’s 151 pages long.

I have a sense of accomplishment… And I don’t want to downplay what I’ve achieved while trying to juggle so many other things… but still need to get to version 2.1, which will have all the weird auto-correct typos taken out of it!

(My other three novellas are sitting in binders on a shelf behind me, quietly waiting for their turn.)

I’m very glad I did edited and updated my first novel, and hope to soon have it ready to USE.

Culture: 900 Days of Duolingo

I continue to recommend this app/website/team for your language practice adventures.

Most of my Duolingo practice days have been devoted to refreshing my German, but I have also been using the Japanese course (which I’ve already gushed about).

One thing I especially need is writing practice, so my Japanese notes will be more legible. For this, I’ve recently started using the downloadable writing practice sheets at I also have a brush pen, which should help with some of the subtle points, curves, and flourishes on the characters, if I ever get good enough to include them!

The site includes writing practice sheets for Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. (I’m providing a link to the Hiragana page, but you can easily navigate to the others.)

Studying a language for fun at your own pace is a great thing. It’s great that it is possible, and that so many people are working hard to make studying fun!