Indie bookstore totes..

Feeling torn all over the place with multiple deadlines and on-going commitments. Also, staring at my growing list of blog posts and pictures that I intend on posting and yet, never quite get to. The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas seem to be a generally hectic slog for the American school system. While I’m no longer in classes with final exams or papers looming over me, making it to appointments and meeting deadlines, blahblahblahblah, as I attempt to achieve at least one week of forgetting what the heck is email over the upcoming winter holidays.

But wanted to remember some moments of positivity from today as I feel internally panicked and stressed right now,

..connecting with the Trident bookseller today when they noticed my ‘Shakespeare and Co.” tote bag!! In-person shopping is a stressful endeavor so I’ve been trying to time appointments, errands during “non-peak” work hours as I maintain social distancing measures. After all, that is supposed to be one of the perks of grad school, right? Flexible hours! I love collecting tote bags of my favorite independent book shops and – in an attempt to not keep stocking up on books that I never get to/avoid excess weight fees – tote bags are my usual souvenir of choice (the seller’s Shakepeare and Co souvenir was a book, along with a stamp of the bookshop!). Tried to do a quick Google search for the tote bag that I have and came up with nothing. I’m sure I have a picture of me using it somewhere but for now, no visual.

..getting myself my favorite brand of French tea as an early Christmas present! The shipment arrived speedily fast (less than a week and I didn’t choose the fastest option available) and I indulged in some new smoky tea options and one old classic, the MF Christmas tea, which I promptly enjoyed in place of my preferred chocolate (or otherwise!) advent calendar.

..part of wanting to write this down – whether it happens here or in my “low tech” journal is wanting to not forget. After losing someone really, really dear to me recently, I know that I have this blog as a place to look back and find written memories, pictures, impressions of days and years past, of moments with family and friends when I’ve forgotten them.

I hope you are well, wherever in the world you may be, whatever might be happening to you at this moment. Happy 1st day of the last month of this particularly strange year.

xoxo,
Bella

Riverside wanderings..

Boston and her surrounding locales has been home for over six years consecutively. I’ve made no secret of how I intend for this year to be my last. As much as one can plan in the midst of a pandemic and uncertain job market.. However, disenchanted as I may have become with some aspects of life as a Southern transplant in Bostonia, days like today remind me of falling in love with the city all over again..

A crisp Boston morning by the Charles..

Fall in Boston is a lovely thing. I woke up to 40 degree weather pondering whether I’d go on a morning run. (::side note:: Bella does not run. She walks. And sometimes jogs. Mostly walks.) But in anticipation of the long winter ahead when sun drenched days will be behind us, out I went. And in all of my years here, today was the first time I’ve intentionally gone out to run by the Charles. I met up with some friends to walk/jog around the Charles River Esplanade and it was gorgeous. I loved every second of it. Later on, I met up with friends for lunch at Life Alive (another first!) and then a walk to the river, this time to lay out blankets, nervously eye the nearby geese, and chat. Eventually my friends headed off. I lingered for a couple of hours more, reading a grant application and a book on writing given that this is my year of writing in PhD school. Yes, exciting reading material, indeed.

Sparkly mer-kitty at the ready with some hand sanitizer!!

One enjoyable part of being outdoors is the people and puppy watching. I watched in bemusement when one dog found and promptly grabbed ahold of a petrified flattened rat carcass, to the horror of his owners. They managed to pry some of it out but the rest…went down the hatch. There was also the most adorable golden doodle puppy with his human parents that I wanted to play with.

Other musings..

..I’ve gone on the MBTA bus and T for the first time in over 6 months in the past few days, all during non-peak hours. The bus and subways were nearly empty. And particularly striking me was observing not a single non-POC present on any of the five bus rides and one subway ride that I was on..

..Sasha generously gave me a free week of a meal prep kit so I’ve been enjoying cooking those the last couple of days. I made fettuccine for the first time EVER and promptly inhaled the entire dish (meant for two) for my lunch and dinner. I think the carb loading helped me with this morning’s run around the Charles. Tonight I tried a new dish…and promptly set off the smoke alarm while cooking the meat. >.< I hurriedly opened windows and turned on fans. And naturally my next door neighbors were having an al fresco dinner with friends down below.

I hope you are well.

xoxo,
Bella

Isolation walks..

Alternatively titled, “I can’t sleep and instead of getting into any academic writing after giving up on trying to sleep, let’s write about yesterday evening’s walk instead..”

Still in self-imposed isolation post-road trip out of an abundance of caution. Per state guidelines I’m actually okay given my within 72 hours of arrival to MA negative test. But I’d rather keep my friends here safe plus allow for a 5-day potential viral latency period to emerge before my first school-administered covid test.

Anywho, went on an evening walk-and-chat with friends/family yesterday evening after a day meetings and some highlights:

Noticing the haze-affected sunset here in Boston. Grateful that those I’ve checked in with in my extended networks along the West Coast are not immediately affected by the fires.

A black squirrel!! I’ve spotted an albino one from my windows before but this was my first time seeing a black one in my neighborhood.

I also stopped by the nearby playground to ::on par with Bella-sparkly personality:: sit on the swings and go “wheeeeee”. In my head. Definitely sign of aging, too much swinging made me slightly dizzy. >.<

Interestingly, I noticed the three other occupants of the park were all adults; one person sitting at a far picnic table on their phone, another who had brought their dinner to dine al fresco and put on a show/movie, and yet another who was finding creative ways to do exercises on the playground. I guess all of us apartment-bound, lack of patio folks have to find ways of appreciating the outdoors. Particularly before winter arrives.

I hope you are well.

xoxo,
Bella

The most efficient road trip there was..

Hello from my city on a hill!!

I’m back after a summer mostly spent in my hometown state of GA – enjoying brief monsoon-like downpours as I studied for and took my qualifying exam, got completely spoiled by parental catering services, and puzzled and did various outdoor activities while enjoying time with family and friends.

In spite of all my years living here, this was the first time that I’d made the drive from GA to MA. A classmate, a fellow GA-native, also needed to make trip up so we decided to go up together! Thankfully, our road trip styles meshed quite well, as in he preferred driving and I prefer to be shotgun and navigate. Just as I’d been nervous about the few times I’ve gotten on a plane this summer, figuring out the best way to do an 18-hour drive in pandemic times had its own worries.

Massachusetts has pretty stringent travel requirements in place. Given that essentially every state outside of the Northeast is currently in the “red zone”, we made sure to each get covid-19 tested within 72 hours prior to arrival so that we wouldn’t have to do the strict 14-day isolation upon arrival. With the rumors/prior reports of certain states holding checkpoints and stopping out-of-state cars, I also made sure to print out copies of my school enrollment record, most recent paycheck, anddd wear one of my university sweatshirts. I also carried a piece of mail showing my local address in case I needed to prove MA residency. Given that everything I get is electronic now, it was a magazine.

A whiskey magazine, to be specific.

Not sure that would have counted as “official residency proof” but luckily I didn’t have to use it at all. ๐Ÿ˜€

We decided to break up the drive with an overnight stop in Scranton, PA (setting of “The Office” fame), giving ourselves a 12.5 hour drive on Day 1 and 5.5 hours on Day 2. We also took a slightly longer route up I-85 and I-81, avoiding potential traffic jams/checkpoints in Washington DC, NYC, or Rhode Island. We started our drive meeting at one of my favorite Asian-based bakeries (Sweet Hut!) which unfortunately is closed at 7:30am in the morning. What followed next was the fastest 10 hours of a drive that I’d ever been on. We made minimal stops; just 2x for gas refills/bathroom breaks and were blessed by the traffic gods in not hitting any major jams for the entire trip. The last two hours of Day 1 were slightly delirious. The drive the next day was easy in comparison, particularly after getting a night’s rest.

Having been several months since the last time we’d seen each other in person, T and I chatted non-stop until our throats were sore (or was it the ragweed pollen?). In fact, we ended up putting on podcasts to try and force ourselves to NOT talk. I’ve listened to a total of three podcasts in my life thus far, and two of them were on this trip. We binged four episodes of “Booze Your Own Adventure” – a podcast I’d recently learned about from one of my oldest friends. One of the podcast-ers (is..that..what you call them?) is a mutual friend from my middle and high school days so that was pretty cool. It ended up being the perfect mix of nerd/drunkenness, we’d-get-sidetracked-in-our-own-conversation (so much for resting our voices)-yet come back and listen to what was happening in the podcast.

With the trip going by so quickly, I kept missing lot of the incoming state signs as we drove past. Oops.

But here are some highlights:

  • Beautiful skies, mountains, and water as we drove past, including the Endless Caverns in Shenandoah Valley in VA and a gorgeous sunset over Pennsylvania.
  • State signs I did manage to capture: West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York (and MA above!)

I also love tracking how many US state and Canadian provinces I can spot on cross country trips, along with any animal sightings. The trick is to look at the 18-wheeler. They are from all over. This trip I saw plates for 37 different US states, 2 Canadian provinces, and lots of cows plus two deer!

I hope you are well.

xoxo,
Bella

Insomnia musings..

..at least this isn’t the weekend before quals.

..but wait there is only 9 days until quals.

..recalling one of the first passages of ‘The BFG’ where she is wide awake and awaiting the ‘witching hour’. So this is perfectly okay to be awake at this time. Not trying to get kidnapped by any giants but that would make for an interesting story of why Bella disappeared 9 days before her qualifying exam. Also now recalling how my family laughed and got that book (from my perspective, at least) because a less flattering childhood nickname for me was ‘BFG’ for “big fat girl”. I ended up loving the book regardless. And books overall.

..also loving the current trend of daily brief summer storms in the midst of humid Southern climate. They remind me of welcoming the monsoon rains during my summer internship in Udaipur years back. Of dancing madly in the downpour with my cousin in front of my Jaddah’s house (and getting plenty scolded for it). Funny how being stuck inside watching the downpour makes me want to go out in it. But trying so hard to be disciplined. To keep focused. Ugh.

..a fellow qualifying exam colleague started a call today (I mean, yesterday) asking me what is a good thing happening, however small. I liked that, and certainly have used that tactic when everything feels like it is crashing down around me.

..so some good things:

…being spoiled by my parents’ catering services and home cooking.

…going on long walks in suburbia where it is easier to avoid people. Finally added back that 10,000 steps daily goal for my July bullet journal goals list after a 3 month hiatus given *everything*.

…getting very excited by the neighborhood deer and babies. There seems to be two does with babies this year, one pair of twins and a solitary one. The latter I named Cupcake (naturally was eating a cupcake when I thought of this) and the twins are Jack and Diane (my mom’s choice).

Cool, it’s 5am now (hearing the clock chime).

Wherever in the world you are, whatever time it is for you, I hope you are well.

Xoxo, Bella

Reconnecting..

The past few weeks since the end of the semester have been really difficult personally. Stress, anxiety, and depression combined with insomnia make for a lethal concoction. Yet all of these things pale in comparison with what is happening in the country at the moment, specifically the pain and anger that is being rightfully exposed in city streets at senseless, pervasive injustice. The same injustice I see reflected in the public health research that I do and I’ve seen reflected in those that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. We – a collective we as I see reflected in my peers and those that I follow on social media – want to take a stand, yet how and when does taking a stand translate into true meaningful change?

I feel especially privileged in writing or posting about my going-on’s now, after a few weeks of silence and exhaustion. For now, I’ll leave some pictures of findings and brief glimpses of recent outings in the neighborhood and city. After two months of near complete isolation, slowly connecting and seeing close friends again has really pulled me through.

Peonies!!
Beautiful peonies on tonight’s walk.. peonies are one of my favorite flowers ever

Sunbathing by the Charles
Soaking in the sun by the Charles.. a particularly wonderful afternoon with wonderful conversation

Wisteria in bloom
Wisterias in bloom

Wisteria close up
More wisterias!

Lilacs in sunset light
The ever brief lilacs – their blossoms and scent are one of the things I fell in love with when I moved to New England

Bike trail
Evening walks along the bike path

Driving range
Went to a driving range for the first time! I was particularly bad and some of those nearby balls are likely mine..

Snail sidewalk
Snail shell!

Be safe. Be well.

xoxo,

Bella

New hobbies and semester endings..

Today marks the end of the semester, and perhaps the last class that I will ever *ever* take as a student. Forever. Hopefully.

It’s all a bit surreal though. Usually my cohort and I would be celebrating the end of classes with dinner, perhaps with some pre-evening class shots, and certainly some post-class indulging. Combined with Cinco de Mayo today in another world, another time, today would have been a celebratory one with slight hangover regrets the following day.

Usually the end of the semester would be met with a sigh of relief and some reduction in work and responsibilities. But it doesn’t feel that way in this iteration of graduate school life – if anything, my “post-semester” to-do list is ever growing and expanding and it seems as if I have more things on my plate now than before. I guess it’s good to constantly have things to do and I’ve certainly done my fair share of lounging about *not* accomplishing things on my to-do list.

Blog post writing has been lagging for me, as I focus on finishing up the school year or – more truthfully – binge all of ‘After Life’ season 2 and ‘Normal People’. Some highlights of the past few weeks have been new hobbies undertaken including,

  • a new veggie box delivery! I discovered how wonderful and delicious ramps are – and cooked them with some pasta the other night. I also discovered how much I do not like cutting up a butternut squash by hand and never want to do that again.
  • windowsill herb garden!! I’m trying basil, cilantro, sage, and thyme. All but the basil have sprouted in the first 1.5 weeks.
  • wax seals! I’ve been mixing colors to create beautiful wax seals to close my notes and letters to friends and loved ones. I searched for a seal that would be emblematic of myself and my personality. ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Netflix and chilling with my cousin half a world away as we watch Netflix’s ‘The King – Eternal Monarch’ together.

A short post for today as I might actually be writing this in the midst of my last class lecture….. :]

I hope that you are well. And safe.

xoxo,
Bella

Culinary stretching..

Today I picked up a mystery box of veg from my favorite cafe, ‘Forge Baking Company’ – alongside my favored cardamom latte and croissant go-to’s whenever I’m there studying.

I’d scheduled the pick-up a few days ago giving myself a weekend treat to look forward to as a reward for prior post’s major paper deadline. In addition to most of their usual cafe/bakery options the cafe is also selling groceries and essentials, such as milk, eggs, and rolls of toilet paper! The prices are more than what you could pick up at a grocery store (presuming those items are at the store to begin with) but I like the idea of supporting one of my favorite local cafes stay in business during *all of this on-going around us*. Waiting outside of the cafe in the parking lot with at least a dozen others standing at socially safe distances was very interesting..

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Et voila, my mystery box of veg alongside other purchases!

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It ended up being quite a few of the BIGGEST carrots I’ve ever seen, three potatoes, kale, scallions, blueberries, and a couple of bananas. Those who know me well know that I’m not a cook at all. More of an eater, than a cook, honestly. But I got this in the hopes of some culinary stretching – particularly around working with whatever ingredients I have already and a “kitchen” is that one hot plate and one toaster oven.

So Google searching “easy giant carrot recipes” led to this article for experiment #1: https://www.lordbyronskitchen.com/roasted-jumbo-carrots/

I made some modifications from the recipe linked above as I didn’t have all of the spices listed: olive oil, minced garlic, black pepper, and Trader Joe’s smoked African seasoning mix (smoked paprika and salt).

And thus the work began..

Ending with roasted carrots along with some quinoa I’d made yesterday morning in the rice cooker with ‘nasi ayam‘ seasoning mix from Malaysia and chopped scallions!

Yay for first successful culinary explorations! I actually went ahead and used the same seasoning mix for one of the potatoes I diced up and roasted after it tried to harakiriย  itself, rolling off the table and breaking in half after a long fall. :/

I hope that you are well.

xoxo,
Bella

Quarantine dreams..

Today, I woke up to a wintry wonderland.ย  Ah, Boston.

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This time I remembered to take a picture as I wasn’t sure the snow would still be here when I woke up again. Not only was the snow still here, it was coming down harder. So the snow was not a dream.ย  Le sigh.

Another “dream” – someone setting off fireworks at 12:30 at night. I manage to capture one of the fireworks through my skylight at the perfect time. Not sure what event is meant to be celebrated at 12:30am on April 18th..

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The past week has been hard, emotionally and school/work-wise – making hard decisions yet wanting to keep myself and others happy and safe. I’ve been having writing ‘dates’ to keep me productive over the last week; over 15 hours in total when I looked at my calendar over the week, all to make a manuscript deadline yesterday (that was reached with success!!!).

So this will be brief as I attempt to recover from typing fatigue.

Some highlights:

..Celebrating semi-formal night in class the other night. It turned out to be our most animated class yet! Perhaps dressing up for class is a good idea for keeping us focused. ๐Ÿ™‚

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..Celebrating the brother’s bday eve together with the fam, able to connect even as we are apart.

..Watching Andrea Bocelli live in concert last weekend, which brought me to tears as I watched.

..Participating in a live Yoga with Adriene session yesterday with over 6,000 others yesterday.

..Cross-world Netflix watching with my cousin this AM. ๐Ÿ™‚

I hope that you are well. And safe.

xoxo,
Bella

 

 

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