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...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Watertown Image of the Day

Found at the Watertown Recycling Center

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November’s Lent: I Love Watertown

For those of you who don’t know, I live just outside of Boston in the suburb of Watertown, or as I like to call it: The Best Town in America. Since moving here in 2006, my affinity for this place has just grown and grown (just ask my friends, they hear about it all the time). It's super convenient to get into the city, but being right on the Charles, it's just as easy to feel like you're far away from one too. Not only do we have the best grocery store (Russo's) and Diner (Deluxe Town) around, but my favorite part about this town has always been how old-fashioned it feels. It's somehow maintained the small town, friendly-neighborhood feel of the 1950's, and it's really refreshing to find that so close to a big city.

Since I'm clearly a pretty big Watertown fan and because I've lived here for a while now (just over 5 years), I decided that it was time to get a little more involved in my community, so I’m dedicating this month to really immersing myself in the local Watertown culture. How so you ask? Here are my November goals:

1. Go to one community event a week (Town Council Meetings, this weekend’s 5K for the Boys and Girls club...)

2. Visit at least one new Watertown establishment a week (The Armenian Museum, local restaurants and bars, historical sites…)

3. Shop locally to support all of our wonderful mom and pop businesses.

4. Write Yelp reviews about all of my Watertown favorites.

5. Take part in a local community service event.

6. Learn more about Watertown’s history (I actually signed up for a history of Watertown class which I’m totally psyched about).

7. Design funny Watertown pride things like t-shirts and bumper stickers.

Stay tuned and send suggestions if you have them!