Saturday, December 31, 2011

Another 12 Months of Lent

Well, it's New Years Eve and the close of 2011 also marks the close of another 12 Months of Lent (December was my 36th month of Lent, woohoo!). My New Year's Resolution for 2011 was to devote more time and energy to this blog and it seems like it's paid off. Looking at the numbers, I posted 3 times as much as I did in 2010, more than tripled my monthly page views, garnered some new readers, and of course, was nominated by SHAPE Magazine for their Best Blogger Award (I still kind of can't believe that happened).

As I've written before in my yearly wrap-ups, this blog is truly such a positive and fulfilling endeavor for me and I really can't imagine my life without these crazy, self-inflicted challenges. This year I'll continue to devote as much time and energy to 12MOL as I can, and hopefully I'll be posting this time next year with a whole new list of milestones.

And although this blog is basically just a bunch of New Year's Resolutions spread out over the course of a year, this year I felt the need to set some more traditional resolutions which I accidentally designed into a wallet-sized format, whoops! There's the designer in me...

Wishing everyone a very happy and healthy new year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

DIY Face Masks

Although my last few posts might lead you to believe that I err on the earthy crunchy side, I'm definitely a girly girl at heart (an earthy crunchy kinda girly girl). My favorite color is and always has been pink (I was the proud owner of a pink Barbie Power Wheels Corvette when I was little), I love anything with ruffles, ribbons or lace, and I'm a huge fan of any sort of pampering: manicures, pedicures, trips to the hair salon, massages—you name it.

So, in the DIY spirit I decided to try out some recipes for face masks. I'm a huge, huge fan of the fresh face masks from LUSH (best store ever) and they're usually my go-to choice, but both of these are great fill-ins for when I don't have time to pick one up from the store.

Avocado Mask
from Whole Living Magazine

Mix half an avocado, one teaspoon honey, and one tablespoon plain yogurt until creamy. Spread on clean skin and let sit for 15 minutes. Then rinse with warm water, pat dry, and apply a simple moisturizer.

This one is my favorite of the 2. It's really easy to make and the texture was similar to one of my favorite masks from LUSH. I found that it kept for a few days too so I was able to get a few uses out of the recipe.

Kiwi Mask
from Whole Living Magazine

Puree 2 kiwis, 3 tablespoons plain yogurt, 1 tablespoon orange juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Apply to the entire face, leave on until dry, and then rinse well.

I liked this one as well, but my mixture came out a little soupier than I was expecting so the application was a little difficult (probably my own fault for not measuring the ingredients as well as I could have). The big perk of this mask was definitely the smell, mmm fresh kiwi...

And sorry, no picture of me with the mask on, maybe next time...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

DIY Home Cleaning Products

As I touched upon a few posts ago, I like to use natural, non-toxic household products whenever possible. While there are a few great brands out there that are my go-to choices for the store-bought stuff (I like Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyers, and even Target's brand Method), let's face it—it doesn't get more natural than making it yourself. Even if your kitchen isn't a laboratory, you can easily keep you home clean and germ free with only a few simple ingredients, I promise.

A few years ago I bought the book, Better Basics for the Home, by Annie Berthold-Bond. In the introduction she tells her personal story of chemical poisoning (first by a gas leak and then by a pesticide), and her family's attempt to move away from chemical pollution. In her search for clean air, she quickly realized that in our chemical age, the contamination was everywhere, especially in the products that we use on a day to day basis. She put the book together to serve as a modern day guide full of the information that used to be passed down from mothers to daughters. In just over 300 pages she manages to cover it all from household cleaners, to skin and body care, to gardening, pets, and pest control. Sort of the bible of DIY natural home and beauty care.

While there are tons of awesome recipes in the book (everyone should own a copy, really), I'll just share a few of my favorite for simple household cleaning solutions.

First off, in the chapter on housekeeping she states that you can clean everything in the house with 5 basic ingredients. Keep these 5 on hand and you've got the base for most of the books recipes:

1. Baking soda
2. Washing soda
3. Liquid soap or detergent
4. Distilled vinegar
5. Antiseptic essential oil.

1. Antiseptic All-Purpose Spray Cleaner
from Better Basics for the Home by Annie Berthold-Bond

1 teaspoon antiseptic essential oil (thyme, orange, lemongrass, rose, clove, eucalyptus, cinnamon, rosemary, birch, lavender or tea tree)
1 teaspoon washing soda
2 teaspoons borax
1/2 teaspoon liquid soap or detergent
2 cups hot water

Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle and shake to dissolve and blend the minerals.

2. Basic Floor Cleaner
from Better Basics for the Home by Annie Berthold-Bond

1/4 cup liquid soap or detergent
1/2 cup white distilled vinegar or lemon juice
2 gallons warm water

Combine the ingredients in a large plastic bucket. Use with mop or sponge.

3. Toilet Bowl Cleaner
from Better Basics for the Home by Annie Berthold-Bond

1/2 cup white distilled vinegar
1/2 cup baking soda

Pour the ingredients into the toilet. Let sizzle, then scrub. Flush.

4. To Brighten Clothing Without Bleach
from Better Basics for the Home by Annie Berthold-Bond

Add 1/2 cup lemon juice or hydrogen peroxide to the rinse cycle of your laundry. Another option is to add 1/2 cup borax or washing soda to the wash cycle.

5. To Clean a Clogged Drain
from Better Basics for the Home by Annie Berthold-Bond

Pour 1 cup washing soda into the water surrounding the drain, as close to the drain as possible. Within a minute, the water should go down. If this doesn't work, pour 1 cup baking soda down the drain followed by 3 cups boiling water.

Happy cleaning!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

DIY Cranberry Candle Jars

Ok, ok, so this might have been a more appropriate post last week, you know, before Christmas, but since I didn't even have time to wrap my Christmas gifts (that's what friends are for, thanks Sondra!), I just got around to putting these together tonight.

Um, easiest DIY project ever.

You basically just take a mason jar (luckily I have about 20 million), add some greens (I used pine) and a handful of cranberries, fill the jar with water, and drop in a floating candle (I ordered the candles from Amazon). Voilà, that's it!

Although I'm pretty sure these were intended to be made as a decoration for Christmas, I think they're pretty enough to be kept around for a few weeks longer. Hey, I make the rules here, right? Seasonal decorations it is!

On a side note, I hope that everyone has been having a wonderful holiday season. I've been very busy (I told a co-worker the other day, in all honesty too, that "I don't remember what I used to think about when I had time to think about things" haha), but have found time in between food comas to spend time with family and friends. Enjoy this last week of 2011 and stay tuned for more DIY projects to come!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

DIY Toothpaste

Yep, you read the title right, I just whipped up a batch of my own homemade toothpaste. If you thought I was a weirdo for making my own laundry detergent (which turned out awesome by the way, my laundry came out perfectly clean and smelling lovely), than you should probably just stop reading now because DIY toothpaste definitely takes it to the next level of hippy.

This recipe also comes from Bust Magazine and like the laundry detergent, it only involved a few ingredients and was super easy to make. I just gave my pearly whites their first brush with it and I have to say, it looked like toothpaste, it felt like toothpaste, and it acted like toothpaste—my teeth feel just as clean as they do when I brush with the brand name stuff. Here's the instructions on how to make it:

DIY Toothpaste
From Bust Magazine

4 Tbsp. calcium carbonate (I ordered this online)
2 Tbsp. baking soda
Pinch of stevia powder (for sweetness, adjust to taste)
5-6 drops of an essential oil (peppermint, spearmint, rose, vanilla, etc.)
Vegetable glycerine (I ordered this online as well)

1. Combine the dry ingredients and essential oil in a small airtight jar.
2. Add a splash of vegetable glycerine and mix. Continue adding vegetable glycerine until you reach your desired consistency.
3. Put a dab on your toothbrush and brush away, that's it!

This recipe makes about a 3 week supply of toothpaste and will keep for up to a month. The paste will separate between uses so use your toothbrush to stir it up.

Paging Josh Rolnick, the only dentist I know, is this actually effective to use or is a mouth full of cavities in my future?

UPDATE: Here is the response I received from Josh Rolnick, DDS

"Unfortunately, I can't give my dentist stamp of approval. Although your toothpaste has calcium carbonate (a commonly used abrasive in toothpaste), it is lacking the most important ingredient, Fluoride. Your toothpaste may do a good job in mechanically removing plaque from your teeth, but it is not doing anything to protect the teeth from cavities. All ADA (American Dental Association) approved toothpastes have fluoride. Some toothpastes also have added ingredients with anti-microbial properties to kill the bacteria that cause cavities and periodontal disease. While this is certainly a very cool undertaking, I can't recommend using the homemade toothpaste. I recommend any ADA approved fluoride toothpaste."

Sunday, December 18, 2011

DIY Laundry Detergent

A few months ago Bust Magazine had a little piece on how to make your own laundry detergent. Since I'm kind of a hippy when it comes to household products, I was definitely psyched at the idea of making my own, eco-friendly, chemical-free version of the stuff that I usually get from the supermarket.

I made the following recipe this afternoon and I have to say, I felt pretty proud of myself when I finished. Although it didn't require too many ingredients and it was super easy to make, laundry detergent is definitely one of those things that you don't image being DIY-able. So not true!

DIY Laundry Detergent
From Bust Magazine 2011

2 cups unscented bar soap (about 1.5 bars)
Fresh herbs: a few sprigs of lavender, thyme or rosemary work great
2 cups borax
2 cups washing soda (I ordered both online for about $3 a box)
10 drops of essential oil: bergamot, ylang-ylang, lemon, eucalyptus or lavender work great

1. Grate the soap (this is the most time consuming part).
2. Boil 4.5 cups of water and stir in the grated soap until it's dissolved.
3. Add the fresh herbs, borax, and washing soda and stir.
4. Pour mixture into a pail with 2 gallons of water and add the essential oil.
5. Let stand overnight and strain into a large container.
6. Use about a half cup per load of laundry.

And that's it! Mine is currently in the "sitting overnight" phase but I'll give a full report when I do my laundry tomorrow.

Grating the soap...

Boiling the ingredients...

My huge of bucket of detergent. Who's excited to do laundry? This girl!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

DIY Christmas Decorating

Let me first start by apologizing for my lack of DIY-ing this past week. I'm sure I don't need to preach to the choir here, but December has been crazy busy for me and I've had much less free time than I usually do. In my defense too, I'll also say that I had to order materials online for 3 of my planned DIY projects and they've been trickling in throughout the week, so I've been on a bit of a hold until their arrival (Update: All materials for 2 projects have come in and I'm just waiting for my floating candles which should arrive sometime this week).

In the meantime, I've been working on doing some Christmas decorating around the house and even though they aren't official DIY December projects, I thought I'd share a few photos:

The Christmas tree, yay!

My lovely orange slice ornaments. They look really cool when the light shines through them.

I had my mom gather some greens and pine cones for me from the Cape and I've been making little arrangements throughout the house.

The centerpiece on our coffee table. I got the mini tree from Trader Joes, too cute. Then there's cranberries, holly, and pine cones mixed in.

Coming up tomorrow, I'll be trying my hand at DIY laundry detergent and maybe even toothpaste if I have time.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

DIY Project #1: Citrus Slice Christmas Tree Ornaments

I cut these instructions out on how to make your own citrus slice ornaments from Whole Living Magazine in 2008, way back when it was still called Body + Soul. Lord only knows why it took me 3 years to get around to making them (especially because it involves little money and effort), but I thought that it would be a nice project to kick-off DIY December with, especially since I'm getting my tree this weekend too.

Citrus Slice Ornaments
From Body + Soul, 2008

1. Cut four unpeeled oranges into rounds about 1/4-inch thick.
2. Bake on a greased cookie sheet at 175 degrees for 4 hours.
3. Poke a hole near one edge with a needle and thread doubled twine through to make a loop.

Photo courtesy of

While they ended up looking really cool and the prep work was as minimal as it gets, I have to say, the bake time was kind of insane. Maybe I sliced mine thicker than I should have, but my little orange slices were in the oven for much longer than 4 hours—try 8 (a whole work day!). If you try this project at home, definitely follow the instructions on slicing (they recommend 1/4 inch) unless you want to monopolize your oven for an entire day.

I'll be sure to post photos of my finished ornaments after I hang them on my tree this weekend, eee!

Save Eat More Kale!

A few days ago I heard this piece on NPR called Chicken Vs. Kale: Artist Fights Chick-fil-A Suit. If you're not familiar with Eat More Kale, it's a small t-shirt business run out of Vermont by Bo Muller-Moore. He makes t-shirts and bumper stickers (I have one on my car) with the slogan "Eat More Kale" on them to promote the super food and support sustainable agriculture. When he tried to apply for a federal trademark over the summer, Chick-fil-A, a multi-million dollar fast food chain, accused him of infringing on their trademark, "Eat Mor Chikin." and demanded that he stop production and turn over all of his t-shirts to them. Chick-fil-A's "alleges that Eat More Kale confuses Chick-fil-A customers and dilutes its multi-million dollar industry." Are you serious? Confuse kale with chicken? Is that even possible?

Since it's clearly just a case of corporate bullying, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin is on the case and set up the Eat More Kale Legal Fund, where people can buy "Team Kale" merch to help support Bo's legal fees as he takes on this corporate giant. is also hosting a petition that I encourage all of you to take a minute to sign:

Sign the Petition to Save Eat More Kale

I love Eat More Kale and I think that Bo's a great guy. When I did an Eat More Kale lent back in July of 2010, I wrote to him and he sent me a bunch of bumper stickers with a nice note back. It's absolutely absurd to me that Chick-fil-A is taking it this far and I really hope that all this does is boost Bo's business.

This is my favorite quote on the matter which comes from Gov. Shumlin:

"Don't mess with Vermont. Don't mess with kale. And, Chick-fil-A, get out of the way because we are going to win this one"

You'd better believe I'm ordering some Team Kale merch

Saturday, December 3, 2011

I Will Always Love You Watertown and DIY December

Well, I Love Watertown month has come to a close and I have to say that it was pretty awesome—just like Watertown. Although pretty much every month is I Love Watertown month for me, November definitely took it up a notch. I finally made it out to some new local spots, I participated in a few community events, voted in our town elections, learned about Watertown's history, and just spent time out and about enjoying all of the ins and outs of this town.

Since I've already covered all the serious stuff, I thought I'd close the month out with a couple of bumper sticker designs that I revised for Watertown's sake (being a Graphic Designer really comes in handy sometimes). And Watertown, don't you worry, even though it isn't officially I Love Watertown month anymore, I will always love you.

And now on to December! After snipping out the millionth fun DIY project from one of my magazines, I decided that maybe it was time to actually make some headway on the stack of cutouts instead of just adding to the pile. So, this month I'm aiming to complete 3 projects a week, ranging from making my own toothpaste to my own terrarium. Stay tuned and Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Watertown City Guide

I read a lot of great city guides in Bust Magazine and on Design Sponge, and although I don't expect anyone to plan a vacation around Watertown, I'm making a list of my favorite Watertown hot spots (that term might be a bit of a stretch haha), so that if you find yourself in the area, you'll be well prepared for an awesome time.

Eat & Drink

Breakfast: I've already mentioned the Deluxe Town Diner quite a few times so I'll spare you the details (see this post if you missed it the other day), but I also want to give props to The Diner at 11 North Beacon because it's also a great breakfast/brunch spot. Their biggest selling point? A much shorter wait than you'll find at Deluxe Town and a patio for outdoor dining in the warmer months.

Lunch: Maximo's is a new addition to Coolidge Square and I have to say that they win my vote for best takeout in the area, hands down. Their dishes are healthy, creative, and very vegetarian friendly. A+, try the burritos!

Dinner: For a snazzy date night meal, I'd recommend Stellina right in Watertown Square. It's upscale Italian food and they even have live jazz music a few nights a week. I also really like La Casa De Pedro, a Latin American restaurant in the Arsenal. They may not be super veggie friendly, but the few options that they do have are really good and the cocktails are awesome. For something a little more low key, Red Lentil is Watertown's very own vegan restaurant and they have a pretty extensive menu and great fresh juice and smoothies.

Markets: I've already posted extensively about Russo's and the Armenian and Middle Eastern markets, so again, I won't go into detail here. Refer to the posts that I linked to above to get the full story.

Drinks: I have to be honest here, Watertown doesn't have much of a bar scene. There are a few fun sports bars, 21 Nickels, (my favorite) and Donahue's, but there's not too much going on other than that. I like to get a drink at the bar at Not Your Average Joe's and also at Porcini's (the food is great here too). Other than that though, it's drinking at Casa De Danne.


Big Box Stores:
My post from earlier this week should have been called "The Watertown 4" because people also always know Watertown because we have a Target in the Watertown Mall (there aren't too many in the area). We're also famous for the 2-floor Forever 21 across the street in the Arsenal Mall.

Smaller Shops:
There honestly aren't too many "gift shop" type places, but a few spots come to mind like Fastachi, a specialty nut and chocolate shop, and also the shop at Arsenal Center for the Arts which sells goods made by local artists and artisans. We also have Sister Thrift, which is a great thrift shop located on Pleasant Street, just before Russo's.


The Arsenal Center for the Arts is probably the best option for entertainment in town. They have art exhibits, music performances, jazz, theater and various other special events. The Arsenal also houses The New Repertory Theatre, which offers plays throughout the year (I saw my friend Jordan in Hot Mikado here). Watertown is also home to the Boston Swing Dance Network which offers monthly lessons and dancing to a live swing band at the Armenian Church on Mt. Auburn. I've been a bunch of times and it's super fun. And I know this is cheating because it's in Belmont (a neighboring town), but there's a great little independently owned movie theater on Trapelo Road called Studio Cinema and it's awesome. They only show one movie at a time (which I love) and the actually use real butter on their popcorn. Believe it!

Mind & Body

Looking to do some yoga? Underground Studios is absolutely the best place in town. I've been going there for over a year now and I can't say enough good things about it. Come to a class with me! And if you're a runner or cyclist, head over to Charles River Road and take advantage of the great bike and run trails that follow the river. Watertown also has a host of Health & Wellness Centers but I haven't checked any of them out personally so I can't vouch for them. Anyone have any input?

And I have to say, as much as I love Watertown and how wonderful and magical it is, there are definitely a few things that this town could use:

1. A cool bar. I love 21 Nickels, I really do, but we need to expand our horizons beyond the sports bar scene. Anyone want to start one with me? Kim Cameron, maybe this is where Cat Bar comes in?

2. A hip café. The Watertown library actually has a pretty cool little café, but I'm thinking more along the lines of Diesel in Davis Square. Again, who's in?

3. A farmers market. We're practically the only town that doesn't have one! Why? Can someone answer this for me?

4. More little shops selling local arts and crafts. I love Magpie in Somerville and wish we had something like it here.

Anything I forgot? Places you love that I missed? Ideas for things that would make Watertown even more awesome than it already is? Lemme know!

Watertown & Hiroshima

An incredible article from Design Observer about when Don Levy, owner of the Deluxe Town Diner, stumbled upon an old suitcase filled with the lost photos from the bombing of Hiroshima at the end of WWII: Hiroshima: The Lost Photographs

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Operation American Soldier

Since the "Season of Giving" officially kicked off right in the middle of "I Love Watertown" month, I thought it would be fitting to find a local Watertown charity to donate to. I was tipped off to Operation American Soldier by a writer for the Watertown Patch, and after reading through their website, I'm more than happy to make a donation to this wonderful cause.

In short, Operation American Soldier is an organization that was started by John and Wendy Rocca, a Watertown couple with 3 children who have all been deployed at one time or another. After hearing their daughter tell a story of fellow soldiers who were not receiving any mail or packages at mail call, the couple decided to launch OAS to ensure that no soldier left mail call empty handed.

Sometimes the Rocca's organize packing parties where they gather volunteers to assemble the "cheer boxes" (usually filled with toiletries, snacks, drawings from children, personal letters from volunteers, and etc.), but since I didn't see one listed for this month, I decided to make a donation instead. For between $10 and $25 dollars you can sponsor a box that is shipped over to a soldier in need. Interested in sponsoring a box? Click here to donate.

I'd like to extend my gratitude to the Rocca family for creating and devoting themselves to such a wonderful chairty, and of course, to all of the soldiers who selflessly serve our country every day. A sincere thank you for your service.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Watertown 3

When you tell people that you live in Watertown, they generally respond with 1 of 3 remarks:

1. "Are you Armenian?"
2. "You must shop at Russo's"
3. "Omg, the Deluxe Town Diner..."

I've already written about Watertown's Armenian population so the first comment goes without saying, but for all of you non-Watertownies out there who aren't familiar with Russo's Market and the Deluxe Town Diner, let me fill you in on what you've been missing.

I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I lived in Watertown for over 2 years before setting foot into Russo's. Big mistake. This place is just as incredible as everyone says it is and it definitely lives up to the hype. Tables upon tables of beautiful produce (the selection is incredible), fresh baked bread and various other baked goods, an extensive array of cheeses from around the world, fresh pasta and ravioli galore, a florist and garden center, and all at super low prices–what's not to love? If you live in the area and haven't been yet, don't wait, this place is the best.

Each table has produce on top with processed food underneath, amazing...

The cheese counter

Christmas wreaths for sale

And the diner, oh the diner...I've been a bit of a diner connoisseur since my obsession with the 1950's started in high school, and I have to say that the Deluxe Town Diner is probably my all-time favorite. Not only does it look the part with stainless steel decor and neon signs, but the food is top of the line. What I love most about it is that they offer all of the greasy spoon classics but with plenty of options for vegans and vegetarians (my vegan friends are always psyched to be able to order pancakes and I haven't found another place in the area that offers veggie sausage). Plus they have an extensive tea selection which I've found to be rare for a diner (no offense Lipton black).

Located right on Mt. Auburn Street in Coolidge Square

A photo of my friend Marek and I in front of the diner a few weeks ago when he was here visiting from Slovakia.

My Challah french toast, mmm...

And my apologies for such a lack of posting in the past few weeks. I started my new [second] job at lululemon, went out to Michigan for Thanksgiving, and have had a million other things in between. Thanks for sticking with me!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Wild and Scenic Watertown, Massachusetts

Ok, so I might be exaggerating a bit with the "wild" part, but Watertown is looking pretty good right about now. The foliage is a little later than usual this year, and the trees along the Charles looked too beautiful for me not to stop and snap a few shots when I was passing by yesterday afternoon:

Behold, the glory of Watertown in the fall:

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Favorite Part of Watertown: The Greenhouse at Perkins

When I moved to Watertown in 2006, I quickly became aware of the large presence that Perkins School for the Blind has in the area. Compelled by seeing so many students out and about throughout the town, and because I lived only a short walk away, I went on their website to check out volunteer opportunities. The stars must have been aligned in the sky, because the first one I saw was a position to assist in taking care of the greenhouse for their horticulture therapy program (um, why didn't my high school guidance counselor tell me that horticulture therapy was an option?). If you know me personally, you know that I have a super green thumb and that I absolutely love plants (which stems from my high school job at Country Garden), so volunteering in the greenhouse was the perfect fit for me.

So, a few weekends each month, I head over to the beautiful Thomas and Bessie Pappas Horticulture Center and spend an hour or so taking care of the greenhouse plants and enjoying the scenery (and the warmth of the sun in the winter months). Pair this with a yoga class afterwards, and it's really the best way to start out the weekend.

Since the greenhouse isn't open to the public, I thought I'd share a few photos from when I was there this past weekend:

The banana trees actually grew bananas last year which is definitely rare for New England

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The History of Watertown or, "Watertown: Where It All Began"

When you grow up in a town, you usually learn about its history through the public school system. Growing up on the Cape, I remember classes in elementary school that were devoted to our local history: the pilgrims first landing in Provincetown, the construction of the Cape Cod Canal and its bridges, the local cranberry bogs, and etc. But what about when you're an adult and you move to a new place, how do you educate yourself about the local history? If you're Danne Dzenawagis, you sign up for a "History of Watertown" course offered through Watertown Community Education. True story.

Last Thursday night, along with 11 others (surprisingly all under the age of 65), I sat in the Watertown High School library and watched a presentation led by Audrey Jones Childs of the Watertown Historical Society. It began in 1630, the year that Watertown was founded by Sir Richard Saltonstall, and went up to the present day. Although some periods of time were a little less exciting than others, I really enjoyed the presentation as a whole, and I honestly wasn't expecting Watertown to have as rich of a history as it does.

I have to say too, especially with the Walmart issue looming, that it's really unfortunate that the town hasn't done more over the years to preserve its historical landmarks (this turned into a bit of a heated debate after the presentation ended). Watching before and after slides, it was so sad to see beautiful old theaters and taverns destroyed for 7-11's and bus terminals. I don't know if the town government was bribed by corporations of if the zoning laws are just really lax here, but it was truly disappointing to see how much of our history has been swallowed up by corporate chains and big box stores.

I won't bore you with all of my notes, but here are a few facts that I thought were really cool:

The first 3 towns of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 17th century were Boston, Dorchester, and you guessed it Watertown. One of the first 3, who knew?!

When the first settlers crossed the pond from England they brought 40 tons of beer haha

Watertown was the first town in the new colonies to have a protest against taxation without representation, cool huh?

At one time, Watertown was larger than Boston and it included land from the present day towns of Belmont, Weston, Waltham, and parts of Lincoln, Newton and Cambridge.

Because of its size and prominence in the early days, there's apparently a saying that "Everyone is originally from Watertown".

George Washington passed through Watertown in 1775, stopping to eat at the Coolidge Tavern (now the Galen Street bus terminal), on his way to take formal command of the army in Cambridge.

The Stanley Steamer, the first steam powered vehicle, was invented in Watertown.

And the best fact of all? We're home of the frozen pizza! I really hope I didn't mishear that one...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Town Elections

This morning, for the first time in my 10 years as a voter, I voted in my town’s local elections. Go me/shame on me for not doing this earlier. In addition to it being I Love Watertown month, what really got me to the polls today was one particular issue: Walmart wants to open a location in Watertown (just minutes from my house), and some town councilors are in favor of it while others are opposed.

My person stance on the issue? No thanks Walmart, we’re all set. If anyone has seen the documentary, Walmart: The High Price of Low Cost, you understand my position. Yes, it creates jobs and revenue for the town, but it also creates traffic and crime, it puts local, mom and pop operations out of business, and let’s be honest here, the jobs that are created aren’t good jobs. Walmart is a notoriously awful employer: not paying workers a living wage, not offering affordable healthcare, not supporting unions, discriminating against women, and intimidating workers into working overtime without pay, just to name a few. Let’s not forget why these products are so cheap in the first place too—it’s because they’re made cheaply in China by workers who are paid about $3 a day. Like the title of the movie says, there’s a high cost for this low price.

I understand that the economy is abysmal and that families are on tight budgets, but guys, there’s a Target right on Arsenal…and a Home Depot…and 2 huge malls. Watertown doesn’t need another big box store. Period.

So I voted. And I signed the petition. And if there's a protest, I'll be all over it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Watertown's Armenian Bakeries and Markets

Omg, why did it take me 5 years of living in Watertown to actually make it over to the cluster of Armenian/Middle Eastern specialty markets in Coolidge Square? They're amazing! Bulk spices for super cheap, pita bread galore, coolers filled with lentil soup, fresh houmus and garlic sauce (this is my new favorite dip, incredible...), and cases of the most beautiful desserts you've ever seen. If you're ever in the area, it's absolutely worth stopping by any of the 3 that I mention below.

Although I loved them all, Massis might be my favorite

My new go-to place for spices, every spice you could ever need—and for so cheap!

If only I liked olives...each market had really extensive olive bars

This place, Arax Market, was awesome too.

I'm having a hard time remembering why I didn't buy any of these...

Sevan Bakery

Yes, please!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Today in Watertown...

My day in pictures (I apologize in advance for all the Hipstamatic shots, I'm a little late to the game when it comes to all of these cool iPhone photo apps).

I stated the day out by participating in the Watertown Boys and Girls Club 8th Annual Road Race. My time was less than impressive, but it was a fun event nonetheless, and it benefited a great cause.

After the race, Dan and I stopped in at the Armenian Library and Museum of America. For those of you who aren't familiar with the area, Watertown has one of the largest population of Armenians outside of Armenia, dubbing it the nickname "Little Armenia". The museum tells the fascinating (and often sad) history of the country and it's people.

Armenian religious reliquaries. So cool...

Armenian swords from the 19th century

Armenian illuminations and manuscripts

A traditional Armenian wedding gown

The ALMA currently has an exhibit up of the work of Yousuf Karsh, a renowned portrait photographer of Armenian heritage. There were some incredible shots of amazing people like Albert Einstein...

Martin Luther King...

and Mother Theresa.

And this week in Watertown will be a busy one for me. I'm heading over to the library tomorrow night for a free screening of, Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price which I'll write more about later (Walmart is trying to open up a location in Watertown and the town is not psyched about it). We also have our town elections on Tuesday (which I'm obviously voting in) and then Thursday night is my history of Watertown class at the high school. Much more blogging to come...