Thursday, December 29, 2011

Getting ready for NYE

Today I'm posting the link to Goop's newsletter. It's an awesome one. Today's newsletter topic is hangover prevention strategies and cures. Brought to you by no one other than the fabulous Gweneth Paltrow.

There's various supplements you can try. If your New Year's celebration is anything like mine this will be helpful. Now, I'm not the type of gal that goes clubbing or bar-hopping but to me NYE is the reward for working hard all year. We always sleep over a friend's house and it's a potluck appetizer and dessert extravaganza. There will be that buffalo chicken dip and wings. There will be ribs. There will be various desserts (whoopie pies, hopefully).

It's strange. Despite the fact that I travel for work and all of that I typically am only hungover 1x/year (New Year's Day). Perhaps it is because I stay hydrated? I don't actually take aspirin or other pain relievers (I only have one liver and two kidneys and well, Advil harms your kidneys and Tylenol harms your liver (when drinking heavily while taking the pills). So I'm not sure what it is. Whatever it is, I'm grateful. I also eat a lot when we have a dinner party or attend a party, so it could be that.

Either way, take care this New Years. And sleep over a friend's instead of driving. The mayor of Boston issued a warning that he's making sure the cops arrest anyone caught drinking and driving this year. If there were snow I would also suggest rolling in the snow after a hot tub soak. That's tradition in Scandinavia and also in the Hilltowns of Western MA in my personal experience. It's good for the soul.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Reverb11, Day 28: Marketing

Marketing. How did you market yourself in 2011? Did you do something new such as attend a networking event? Did you attend a trade show for your industry? How do you brand and market your skills?

Today when I got into work after a very long holiday weekend there was a box waiting for me. It was a wrapped box of cookies. It was not sent to my whole team or company but just to me. It was from one of our best partners who I work with pretty much daily. The ribbon to the cookie box has their name on it (nice touch to spend the extra). Our office overflows with gifts this time of year...but hardly any are personalized. My employer gave a fuzzy blanket with our logo on it to employees and partners this year. It's worth personalizing the gift I think.

As for how I marketed myself personally in 2011, I did the best to take on jobs outside of my small department. I figured that if I did not I would let those skills go a bit stale. We hired a fancy social media firm out of Boston (for lots of $$$$) and that went horribly wrong. We paid them a ton and they just did not 'get' our target market. They did what an intern or someone right out of college could do. They kept making mistakes (putting the wrong date for events and conferences, targeting the wrong part of our market) over and over again.

Luckily we've since signed on with another firm and moved a lot of the tasks in-house. Thank goodness. My volunteering for these tasks outside of my daily responsibilities helped with my review. I feared they would make me look bad because it was not what I really was hired to do.

I'd love to hear from you. How did you market yourself or your business in 2011 that was different than the other years. I had to be a bit of a squeaky wheel to be involved in a separate project. It was worth it in the end.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Reverb11: Day 27, Relief

Relief. I feel a major sense of relief now that the holidays are over. I finished my holiday shopping by December 5 and all of the gifts were a big hit (and everything fit thank goodness--I hate returns).

The retailers in the US start pushing Christmas in September. Outside of Nordstrom (they proudly say they take one holiday at a time and give their employees Thanksgiving off and decorate the day after) I can't think of another retailer that waits until the actual holiday season. Taking one holiday at a time is something I  believe in, and anytime I went to the mall prior to Thanksgiving all of the Christmas decor actually freaked me out a little. It made me nervous and anxious. It also gave me a mild headache--Christmas music in November? Ridiculous.

I took today off to recover from Christmas (and our two days away from home). We went to Drumlin Farm this morning to check out barns and chicken coops. We're hopefully getting chickens (for eggs) in 2012. The barn would be for the tractor in Maine--we would not build it here. Currently we're keeping the tractor in the garage which means the Jeep cannot fit. The barn would not become a reality until 2013 or so, but at $2 a chicken--why not?

Back to the topic at hand. Relief. What were you relieved about in 2011? Did you lose that pesky weight (I know I did, and it was not easy)? Did you also get relieved when 12/26 hit because it meant your local radio station is now playing its normal programming? I sure did.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Reverb11: Day 24: Love

Some say that animals cannot feel love outside of humankind. If that's true it would mean that when my co-worker's cat passed away recently her other cat did not really feel heartbroken (after 12 years). That would mean that the cat now left alone in her house was not actually feeling emotions. Pet owners often talk about the unconditional love they receive from their pets.

The dog is waiting for them (eagerly jumping out of his skin) each day they arrive home from work. If Maximus did not *feel* any emotions why would he carefully place a toy the last place he saw us (floor mat by the front door) so that we would see it when we got home. Thanks for sharing, little buddy.

If Chimpanzees did not feel emotion and love why are they so attached to their young and heartbroken when a friend passes away? Why do dogs in kennels end up getting depressed if their emotions are not actually real?

During 2011 how did you receive love? Did you put up a barrier and close yourself off? Or did you make new friendships and strengthen the ones that you have. Did you walk with your dog in the woods and see the light and laughter in their eyes? Too all creatures great and small, Merry Christmas. On this Christmas Eve I can't think of a place I'd rather be than reading on my sofa with a cat warming my feet.

(me and Maximus, and my running shoes). :)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Reverb11, Day 22: Dream

On this, the first day of winter I dare you to dream.

Not too big. Not too ridiculous. Just big enough.

Does your dream involve hiking with a llama (thinking of you, Western MA peeps)? Does your dream involve sleeping under the stars (wear bug spray--I've done it). Is your dream to rescue or foster a dog or cat from a shelter (foster programs are wonderful if you are able and willing to do it).

For me I have plenty of sunshine in my office (major plus, I may never go back to a cubicle farm). I get to spend enough time outdoors to not go stir-crazy in winter. I volunteer and give back. I may not run races or be raising children but I dream of mostly peace and quiet. Time in the woods with my snowshoes. Time to read and look out the window at my lovely neighborhood. Time to travel and have someone else pay for it (thank you, employer).

Mostly, these days I dream about rest and relaxation. Yoga. Now there's a dream I can stand behind. Yesterday I was so stressed out running errands during lunch. Downtown Westborough was a mad house. I nearly got run over twice from people too busy to *look*. I shrugged with dismay at the 15 cars waiting in line at the drive-thru instead of getting off their lazy asses to go in to Panera Bread. (burn two calories on the way in to get the giant bagel? Nah. I think I'll sit in line). Then I got to Zumba. I felt better. I forgot about the holiday madness.

Dare to dream.

Cute. I haz sunshine.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Reverb11, Day 21: Local

Happy last day of Autumn!

What is a local treat that you enjoy? Yesterday at work my COO explained that she still had yet to try maple cotton candy. That treat can be found at the Red Bucket Sugar Shack in Worthington, MA if you're interested. I also believe it's at the Big E in the Vermont building.

We also made a joke about doing shots of maple syrup (I tried to explain about Super Troopers but no one understood). March is a lovely time of year because if the conditions are right the maple syrup season begins. There's nothing better than standing in the steam of the boiler with the faint syrup smell all around you. A table waits for you and your family (a picnic table to be exact) along with a delicious breakfast. This to me celebrates the end of winter and the very start of spring (there's still usually snow on the ground).

In other parts of the US people really do not enjoy the maple products. Its' the fake corn syrup stuff or nothing. I can't even imagine baking apple crisp without maple syrup. My husband even puts the real stuff on his 1/2 a pink grapefruit.

In 2006 we went to Alaska for the first time. On the way back we spent a day in Victoria B.C. Canada. While there we discovered this maple caramel that was very tasty. It used to be a product you could buy on Amazon (we checked) but since then (even during subsequent trips to Canada) we have been unable to locate this caramel. It's sold in this little gift shop in Victoria...and wherever else it's found remains a mystery. I'll be checking this June while in the Atlantic Provinces.

Is there a local treat that really reminds you of home? It could even be pimento cheese in Kentucky if that's your thing.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Making a New Year's Resolution

Last year's was easy. Not easy to do, but easy to make. I posted about that earlier this month (it was 'to ski').

For 2012 I could have one of the following resolutions:
1. to maintain my weight, continue to log food and workouts via MyFitnessPal.
2. To do a great job mentoring my new mentee (to be assigned in February).
3. To do great things at the new schools I'm working with (Buffalo, Columbia, Virginia Commonwealth).

Or I could just make another fitness-related one and just say that I need to get an old pair of skates refurbished and sell my old ones.

Anyone interested in buying my size 9 women's figure skates (white, padded inside, standard blades)? 

Reverb11, Days 17-20

I was offline for a few days so I'm typing up my list of prompts in case any of you want to respond to them:

Dec 17. Economy
Day 18. Extreme (I was originally going to post about Extreme Couponing--not that I do it, but it's an odd 40 hour/week habit)
Day 19. Helpful

Here's today: Dec 20: Age

A colleague recently told me that after 40 Birthdays stop being a big deal and stop really being fun. I can't imagine even thinking that--no matter my age. Life's too short to not celebrate your day.

How did you look at age and aging in 2011? How are you looking ahead to 2012 and the age you are going to be? Well, I'm turning 35 in less than a month. I'm one of the rare women that does not hate when people ask me my age. I always answer honestly. I take great care of my skin (always have), have some good genetics going on (thank you, Mom), and I'm seriously not afraid to get older. I'd like to think I'm aging gracefully.

"I like to think I have a little grace. Not as much as Jackie O.. ... "Grace isn't something you can pick up at the market."-Seinfeld episode 

I know that women are obsessed with aging. I mean, look at Demi Moore spending a reported $60,000/year just on fillers and injections for her face. I've seen women that (when asked) have been told "you don't look your age." I remember one woman responding to this by saying: "well, I do go to the gym pretty much daily." Is it stress that ages us? Or is it environment? I spend a lot of time outdoors (but always with a hat/sunscreen/hiding under a tree). 

And no, come January 18th I'm not going to shout out "It's my 21st Birthday...again!!!"

Friday, December 16, 2011

Reverb11, Day 16: Technology

What sort of technology changed your life in 2011? Was it something that changed the way you work or the way you play?

For me, much of 2011 was filled with poor technology. My database at work does the job, but has been known to produce errors and is not really a 2011 database. It's custom for the work that I do but it's clunky and very manual.

Bad technology aside (before I leave this blog for a while and go deal with my bear of a database), there was great technology in 2011. My trusty iPhone and MacBook both continue to improve both my work and home life. The MacBook has been in my life since 2009 and changes the way I travel for work (no more lugging around a bulky Compaq--although that computer got me through grad school so I can't complain).

My Cannon DSLR camera continues to outperform any other camera I've ever owned. My Iceland photos (thank you Tyler as well--because I think you enjoy it as much as I do) amazed colleagues, friends, and family. I'm looking forward to taking that camera to Canada in 2012.

As for new technology in my life...well we got a new TiVo and we now have our old TiVo in the bedroom. So we continue to watch less commercials and enjoy our favorite films and shows. Now we can grab a show from one TiVo to the next. VoIP phones continue to be a lifesaver at work. Since my voice mails get e-mailed to me when I'm on the road I can't imagine surviving without a VoIP phone in my office. That also means that I keep all messages so that if someone wrongly accuses me of something I have proof by just forwarding them the voice mail (only happened once this year thank goodness!).

My nook continues to be fantastic when I travel for work as well. I still read and buy regular books...but there's something so handy about spending a week flying to different cities and never running out of reading material.

I'd love to hear from you about the technology that is making a difference in your life. Hopefully it's something less headache-inducing than a custom built database that looks like it's from the early 90s (yes, it's black and yellow).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Reverb11, Day 15: Procrastinate

That's right. Too funny that weeks ago when I made my Reverb word list this word ended up on today.

I have yet to do my Christmas cards. I have yet to bake the breads for my co-workers. The holiday shopping has been done for weeks (so that I did not hold off on).

So...the word is perfect for me today because co-workers are leaving for vacation and I did not get their bread made. The cards I'll do this weekend (see, I'm procrastinating with that right there).

I'm a great procrastinator. Sometimes things happen quickly. This year I drove around with a busted (but patched radiator) to not only save $ but to also see how long I could go around like that. I drove with a busted AC and just started to sweat part-way home each night after work (this was mid-summer). In the end, we sold that Jeep in August after adding up all the repair costs (she was about to turn 10...our Audi turned 10 and it was one thing after the other so we learned that lesson well).

I'm really good at putting off things until the next day (laundry, dishes) and saving work tasks until day's end (difficult client calls). Tasks I enjoy doing (planning a trip for work or for fun) get done right away. It's fun to find the best deal and start to plan a trip. For our Iceland trip this past September I planned it all by January 16, 2011. By doing so I took advantage of a 50% off hotel rate special that was in early January. I booked the hotels, planned the route, and put the trip aside (waited on buying the airfare).

This coming June my family will be heading to Canada. The Canada book is already on the coffee table with pages folded down. So give me a task like trip-planning and I'm all over it.

What was it during 2011 that you put off doing? Was it looking for a new job or losing that pesky 10 lbs? Was it researching colleges with your teenager (because the longer you put it off the crazy price tag goes down, right?) Or was it just little I mentioned above.

This is my book:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Reverb11: Day 14, Lucky

Well I picked the prompt 'lucky' for the 14th because it's my lucky number. It's my husband's lucky number too (awww).

How were you lucky in 2011?

My first thought was that I was lucky to have been employed the entire year. Then I realized that was partially luck but a good part of it was hard work. I have to keep reminding myself to not take my job for granted. I think of luck of a different nature. I escaped the year without any major illness or mishaps.

I did not have the kind of gambling luck. I spent several days at Mohegan Sun and just was not in the gambling mood (I was there for work). My husband went to Vegas this year (also for work) and did not find himself lucky in the casino either.

So yeah, back to the career. I'm still outside of my comfort zone working in a field that is not the original career path I was on prior to the economy taking a deep nose dive. I am lucky to have a stable job and have good working conditions (my own office) and good hours. Most days though I feel like an outsider. Today my boss reminded me: "you can't ask for xyz because you've really only been here a year and a half." (2 years come April 2012, but who is counting). I've worked hard to get to this point. I now have 53 hours of continuing education to complete before July 2013.

Is it luck that got me to this point? Or is it settling? Either way, I'm comfortable with the choices that I made. I have a lot to look forward to in 2012. I'll be assigned a new undergraduate student at Babson College to mentor starting in February. I'll be her mentor all the way until she graduates. Things like that (that I could not do if I had not completed grad school) really are what I feel most lucky about. I feel lucky to give back to my community and at the end of the day that's what helps me sleep well at night.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Reverb11: Day 13, Scared

December 13: Scared.

Have you ever noticed how hotels do not have a 13th floor (not sure about apartment buildings and office buildings, but I think it's the same).

What was it that occurred in 2011 that had you scared? Is there something scary about 2012 that you are dreading?

There were a lot of new things in 2011 (or old things turned new again in the case of skiing, kayaking--other things I've already mentioned in my Reverb). I would say in 2011 I got used to the ghetto of Philadelphia. I mean the really bad boarded up, crack deals going down on the corner part of Philadelphia. Why were you in the rough section of Philly? you may ask. Well, as it turns out Temple University Dental School is so far into the depths of bad Philly that you can't even get a cab to come pick you up.

Temple U started letting us vendors valet our cars so this took away the "OHMYGOD my rental car got stolen" fear. And I just get out of there as fast as I came in. See, I can't fly with pepper spray and I certainly can't fly with a knife. So...valet parking is my instant solution.

If you are EVER thinking about sending your kid to Dental school don't get fooled and think the rest of Temple University is 'kinda in a rough spot' and that perhaps the Dental school is in a safer part of Philly. It's not. Now, the kids I work with from Temple Dental are wonderful. However, the boarded up buildings that surround the school and the drive by shooting that went through the clinic doors last year scare the crap out of me. That is all. Send your kid to UPenn and sleep a little better at night.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Reverb11: Days 11 & 12

Day 11: Tradition

How is tradition important in your life? Holidays, special times, can be any kind of tradition.

As the year comes to a close I'm thinking about new traditions that have come about in the past few years. 4th of July in Maine with friends and family. Two years in a row with 4th of July in Shapleigh. Much of it spent sitting by the water with loved ones. Beer in a cooler, home cooked meals, s'mores, campfires, boating, fireworks.

It's kind of interesting that as we are only a few days from Christmas and I'm thinking about summer holidays. I think it is because everyone this time of year is so busy, so rushed, and so frantic. In early July the biggest concern is "do we have enough wood for the fire?", "Where's the beer cooler?", and "I'm going out on the kayak...I'll be back by dinner."

What sort of traditions entered your life the past few years that you intend to keep? It could be that you got married and you're adopting a spouse's family traditions. It could be that you  had a child and you're creating traditions of your own.

Day 12: Unique

What was it about 2011 that was unique? Is there something that you are doing in 2012 that will be unique?

In 2011 we went back to Iceland on vacation. We hiked in Europe's Largest National Park. We saw a glacial lagoon for the first time (icebergs floating out to sea). We ate things we've never eaten before (reindeer meat pie). I enjoy traveling off the beaten path--almost like Anthony Bourdain without the camera crew. Even when I travel for work I try to find new places to eat and explore in my down time.

In 2012 I hope to add some unique adventures to trips that are already planned. We're going to Canada in June on a family vacation and I'll be exploring cities I've never been to (Quebec City, Halifax). I'm also heading to Minnesota in February for a work conference but I think it'll be too cold to really enjoy/explore. This year I went to Buffalo for the first time for work. Next time I'm hoping to check out some of the wineries on the lakes and perhaps arrange a tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright house that is near to the city.

I'd love to hear from you about both traditions and unique aspects of this year and next.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Reverb11, Day 10: Cookies

Yes, that's right. I'm Reverb-ing about cookies.

Today I'm making Fresh Ginger Cookies

Looking back on 2011 there were some stand-out cookies and baked goods. To go along with Christmas dinner I'm making a meyer lemon cake that is made with olive oil and Greek yogurt (yes, a healthy cake that does not look or taste healthy).

I also noticed a trend this year of people eating 'breakfast cookies'. The cookies I am speaking with are made with dozens of ingredients I can't pronounce and are loaded with fake sugar. "But look, they have vitamins!" I know that many breakfast cereals are the equivalent of giving your child a plate of cookies and milk. However, I can't even imagine sending my kid off to school (not that I'm a parent) with a 'breakfast cookie' in their bag.

It's real cookies all the way in this house. Many made with just a few ingredients we have on hand (such as the above cookies).

What tasty treat did you bake in 2011? Even from a mix counts (we really enjoy the Trader Joe's bread mixes in our house). Is there a traditional cookie you bake every holiday season?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Reverb11: Days 8 & 9

Today is two in one because I was in a continuing education class all day yesterday.

Day 8: Difficult.

What was it about 2011 that was difficult? What did you learn from this experience?

For me in 2011 I obtained the last license I needed in order to do my job (legally). I studied for more than 1 year and got the last license in July of 2011. Just when I thought I was done with tests and studying when I finished grad school in December 2009, in 2010 I found myself back in the classroom with books in my hand.

That piece of paper from the state of MA meant that my boss now calls me his colleague. It means I'm legal to write and sell property & casualty insurance for my clients. I'm glad it's over because now as long as I keep my CE classes going my license will renew every 3 years.

Day 9, Strong. Today, December 9 is my Dad's birthday. Happy Birthday, Dad! I'm proud of you for talking about retirement in a year and having already lined up a retirement job after a very rewarding career you'll be on to a second one during retirement.

How did you feel strong in 2011? Was there something that really makes it so you can face 2012? For me, it's yoga. During this year I read the book 'My Life in 23 Yoga Poses' and I highly recommend the book (even if you don't do yoga). It's really a humorous life for those of us that live in the suburbs of a city, in a city, or just in place surrounded by Yuppie Moms (I mean this in the most affectionate of ways). Now I'm not what you would call a Yoga person. I take Centergy at my gym and I like that the music, pace, and teacher, take it a far way from chanting and sweating in a hot room.

In 2011 I cashed in a Groupon and started doing some hot yoga classes on the side. I knew people in my neighborhood did hot yoga and always said good things. I hate the heat (read: my favorite vacation spot is ICELAND). It turns out, the hot yoga (despite giving me a bit of heat rash) is actually wonderful. Like the instructor says: you suffer through 90 minutes of yoga or you suffer with bad health for 90 years.

I'd love to hear from you. What made you strong in 2011 and what sort of challenge did you face this year.
(26 Bikram Yoga poses):

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Reverb11: Day 7, Seasonal

Seasonal. This prompt immediately makes me think of February. That's when the garden catalogs start to come in the mail. My favorite one from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds is really quite special. They have the largest heirloom seed collection in the world. The business was started by a young guy (I think he was in his teens when he started saving and trading seeds). Now he's married with a young daughter and really making an impact on the seed growing world. They recently bought a seed company in Connecticut. In California they bought an old bank in Petaluma (click the link to see the photo--very cool) and turned it into a seed store.

Baker Creek's catalog each year is coffee table worthy. It's beautiful. It has opened my mind (and my garden) to really strange things. Round cucumbers? Small baby cucumbers that look like mini watermelons (1" long)? Oh yeah, they have that. And more.

I try to eat as seasonally as possible and visit farm stands and farmer's markets. We do canning and some years are better than others. This year we made refrigerator pickles and dilly beans. Sadly, we did not make any tomato sauce. If anyone has a good recipe for tomato sauce that cans well please do share. :)

What was seasonal about your 2011? Do you also eagerly await the first seed catalog (we start our seeds indoors in March). Do you have a favorite farm stand? I'd love to hear what was seasonal about your year: it could even be some sort of seasonal tradition like apple picking, making snowmen, or chopping wood (I helped stack wood this year).
(Photo source:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Reverb 11: Day 6, Unique

I'm taking a break between client calls to type this in and it's a welcome break. My voice is a little raspy today (my husband has a nasty cold so I'm fighting it off on my end). It's just such a relief sometimes to type instead of talk.

Today's Reverb is the word unique. What was it about 2011 that makes it a unique year for you? Were there any experiences or people you met that changed your life?

I meet literally hundreds of new people in a year. I travel to conferences and trade shows for work so I shake a lot of hands (back to those pesky germs...). I was flying out of Pittsburgh this October trying to get home to Boston during a snow storm. (Yes, I said October and snowstorm in the same sentence. Those of you that live in the Northeast know what I'm talking about). I met this older guy (he was in his late 80s). He was waiting for a plane to NY and was eventually flying on to India for his final trip of his life. He called it his "last Hurrah." It turns out he was a professor back in the day and was quite brilliant. He was reading the paper and offered it to me when he was finished. He had a lot to say about politics and universal health care.

It turns out he was staying with friends in India. The guy in India got quite wealthy from this man helping him get his start in a business many years ago. He loves India as it turns out, and he was very excited about his trip because he was staying there a whole month. I'm not sure why this was his last trip (although I can picture someone in their late 80s having a rough time with two days of travel to get there). Maybe he was dying although he seemed pretty robust when I met him. It was clear to me that the man was quite brilliant. He was waiting in the Boston flight's terminal because his NY flight was delayed and he was not sure if he was leaving Pittsburgh that night. I luckily made it home 2 hours late (and landed in the snow without a winter jacket--that was fun since we had to go down the steps like it was the 1960s or something).

This man (I never got his name) really made me think. I talk to a lot of random people in airports (shout out to the wine bar in the Philly airport) but to meet someone taking their LAST trip just gives me chills. He for some reason knew he did not have a lot of time left and he was going to see his friend for a final goodbye.

I'd love to hear about someone unique you met in 2011 or a unique experience that really left a mark on your soul.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Reverb11, Day 5: Delicious

Delicious. What was delicious about 2011? Was there a new food you tried?

I finally bought a Crock Pot large enough to make dinner in. We were given a small round one as a gift years ago. I saved up my spare change, went to CoinStar, and got an gift card. I used that gift card to buy a Crock Pot.

I used it a few times and I must say I picked a winner. Some of the Crock Pots online have reviews saying that the food gets burned or dried out because the Low is not really Low or something. I have not made a single non-delicious meal with this appliance. Unlike the 'set it and forget it' rotisserie (gifted to us as a wedding shower gift by my husband's grandfather) it does not require a crazy amount of cleaning.  Ron Popeil was a master in his time (read about him in 'What the Dog Saw' by Malcolm Gladwell).

Set it and forget it aside...what was delicious about your 2011? Did you go to a restaurant that really stands out from the others? Did you master the art of bread, fudge, pie, or pot roast? I'd love to hear from you.

(the great Ron Popeil, RIP)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Reverb11, Day 4: Learn

2011 was another year that I was not in grad school (finished in 2009) so I enjoyed being part of my book club once again at Newtonville Books. My promise to myself when I graduated was to re-join book club and start reading for fun again.

Years ago I learned that everything is in balance if I'm reading each week. I also enjoy reading magazines (particularly when I travel for work) and I also read the Boston Globe (on actual paper!) each work day since my office gets delivery. If I'm taking time to read each day even for a little while it is a nice break from staring at the computer all day.

It's strange though--I have not been to my library for a while. I guess it is because I'm not around on weekends all that often. I was thinking about getting a library card at our town in Maine. There's something special about small town libraries. They are a dying breed in this economy, sadly.

In book club we're already into 2012. We're reading The Tiger's Wife for our January meeting. What book in 2011 made you not only learn but really think? For me it was 11/22/63. Stephen King's latest and one of the Top 10 Best Books of 2011 (New York Times). I highly recommend reading it.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Reverb11, Day 3: Solitidue

Solitude. For me that involves the wilderness. This year for our lakehouse renters we purchased kayaks. I'd kayaked a few times before but certainly never had the confidence to go out on my own. It turns out the hardest part is getting into the kayak.

I learned during the summer from my friend Sandra (one weekend in August it was her first time kayaking) that the best time to go out on the lake is the morning. The lake is calm and there are no jet skis or crazy speedboats showing off. We decided one Sunday morning to take the kayaks out before breakfast. It's strange, I'm not a morning person during the work week but take me into the woods and suddenly getting out and doing something involving nature in the morning (versus being in an office) and I'm all over it.

We went to a part of the lake I'd never been since the water was high enough. There were lily pads and various ducks. Since we were in kayaks we could navigate the shallow water. To me this is the perfect illustration of solitude: getting outside before the rest of the world is up. There are no waves. There are no bugs to bite you. Trying something new is never easy (like kayaking) but now that I've got a kayak I can't imagine life without one.

What did you do in 2011 that allowed you to enjoy the solitude? Did you enjoy stargazing around a campfire or hiking in the woods? Did you enjoy an early morning kayaking adventure with a friend that allowed you to take in the scenery and the quiet morning like I did? I'd love to hear from you.

(Me hiking in Eastern Iceland, September 2011)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Reverb11: Day 2, Brave

This past year I can't think of a single person in my life braver than both of my parents. My Mom's breast cancer treatments and surgery came to an end this year after more than a year. 2010 was a much harsher year than 2011, but 2011 had it's rough spots for the family and those close to my Mom.

We just had a wonderful family Thanksgiving. Everyone at the table toasted to good health. Keeping this Reverb short so I don't cry at work.

Who in your life has been brave in 2011? It could even be yourself for that matter. Here's to a healthy 2012!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Reverb #11 (Day 1: Fresh)

This year the folks that brought you Reverb are no longer doing it on their own. They have asked bloggers to continue the tradition by doing their own Reverb.

Here's some examples of other Reverbs. It started today, December 1 and will go every day in December.

Some days you might have your own thoughts to add or your own response to the Reverb. I'd love to hear from you. And...we're off:

Reverb 11: Day 1, Fresh

In 2011 what was it in your life that seemed fresh and new? Was it picking up an old hobby or talent? Maybe it was taking a class in a topic that interested you. Perhaps a new job, or a new family member born to your family. For me I started cross country skiing again in 2011. As many of you in New England remember we had quite the winter.

There were weeks and weeks on end where my work closed down 1 day that week due to snow. I made the most of it. I had a simple New Year's Resolution for 2012: to ski. My parents made this goal possible. They got me new skis for Christmas and new boots for my birthday. I fell in love with skiing at Broadmoor in South Natick, MA. The combination of woods, fields, and quiet trails were wonderful.

In 2011 my goal was also to get back to my 2008 weight. This took 9 months of hard work but I was able to do it (and yes, there's an app for that--that's what worked for me). I'd like to think that my FRESH approach to a New Year's resolution is what helped. I picked up an old sport--something I had not done in years.

What was FRESH in your 2011? I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, June 3, 2011

I'm a Farm Ambassador!

Many of you know that over the years I've been volunteering at special events at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, MA. I volunteer at the maple breakfast, Woolapalooza (the interpretive trail from sheep to sweater), Harvest Festivals, and Tales of the Night (for Halloween) each year. Usually I request to get assigned to kid's crafts or educational areas.

Drumlin has many regular educational programs for children and adults and has added 'know your food' and local harvest dinners in recent years. This spring I reached out to my contact for all of the volunteer work assignments and applied to become a Farm Ambassador. I got the position and my first Saturday is June 18 (which is also strawberry picking day at the farm!). I will still continue my work on special events, but one weekend each month I'll work on a particular lesson plan for the guests there that day. I also get an official Mass Audubon name tag, which is kind of cool.

The lesson plans are pre-built (and each lives in it's own Tupperware--very well organized). Some days I'll teach kids about various animals on the farm (there's a sheep and goat station to set up in that part of the farmyard, and a chicken one, an animal one to set up near the foxes, raptors, rabbits (they are in separate areas--otherwise they would all hunt each other). I'll be paired up with another worker and there's even kits prepared for animal skeletons, garden seeds (to be near the greenhouse and gardens), and animals furs. I was instructed when the children ask "How did the animal die?" to just say that we found it in the woods somewhere and that it had lived a very long healthy life. I'm already used to the question: "Do the farm animals here have names?" (the answer is no, since often they are turned into food).

I know a lot of folks do fundraising events for various charities they are passionate about. Others may volunteer there time instead (as I do). Do you have any advice for me as I begin this new adventure? Maybe you've worked with children in your schools or area clubs. These are all interactive exhibits (think: Boston Science Museum) where it's really hands-on with the kids. Let me know about your favorite way to give back and nurture a passion VERY different than your day job!

Monday, April 25, 2011

#1 Book in America?

Today Snack Girl provided a review of 'The Dukan Diet'. It's the #1 book in America. With the Royal Wedding a few days away, this diet has been in the news a lot in recent weeks. When I first heard about this diet I had flashbacks to the 1990s where co-workers would cook raw chicken in the microwave and just eat meat all day long.

Here's part of the review on Snack Girl:

"So, the Dukan Diet is "Atkins without the fat", and I am sure you will lose weight on it. You will also be constipated, feel lethargic, and have bad breath. You could potentially harm your kidneys with all that protein in your diet.

Look, I know we are all desperate to lose weight, but this is not the way to go about it. Not only do you want to shed pounds, but you should want to get HEALTHIER not UNHEALTHIER.

The Dukan Diet relies on you eating a lot of protein and very little of anything else. It is inflexible, unrealistic, and drastic."

I also just watched the 2nd episode in 'Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution' last night (the LA season). Those burger specials for under $5 (with healthy veggies and humanely raised local meat) looked fantastic. I did not think that anything would be more shocking than the Huntington WV season.

Do you know anyone on the Dukan Diet right now? If so, are they doing it because they heard about it in the news? Have you been watching 'Food Revolution' this season? The behind the scenes red tape in that district (that all of the viewers now know about) is pretty upsetting.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It's a wee chicken

Last night while grocery shopping I picked up a humanely raised meat I don't normally buy. Cornish Game Hens. The price was right (around $5 per wee little bird). On the way home from the store I realized that I had no idea how to cook them (we have cooked them before in our 'set it and forget it' rotisserie, but that device has been retired to the pantry for now as it's a mess to clean).

I looked up a recipe and modified it to suit our needs. It came out very good!

1. Cut two Cornish game hens in half.
2. Rub a mix of spices plus salt and pepper both inside and outside of the bird
(I used garlic powder, paprika, sage, rosemary, salt, pepper)
3. Brown the birds in a little bit of butter in a large Dutch oven (Tyler did this step and used our Le Cruset pan)
4. Pour in 1 cup of white wine and cook with lid on for 45 minutes on low or until the birds reach the appropriate temperature.
5. Serve with buttered egg noodles and some veggies (we used carrots and broccoli cooked on the stove top in olive oil).
6. You can also thicken up the cooking broth a bit with corn starch and pour a bit over noodles and hens. We ate 1/2 hen each and saved the rest for tonight.

The meat just falls off the bone. Highly recommend!
(photo source: Edible Portland)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Battle with the Sun

Many of you know about my off-the-grid home in Maine. It's 100% powered by solar and wind. A few year's back our solar panels were stolen off the roof and it took me 3 weeks to find a new insurance policy. Some of the biggest insurance companies in America told me they would NOT insure a home that was not connected to the grid. They preferred a home that was connected to the grid where solar was a secondary energy source not primary. Even with battery backup (which is what we have). It was not a fun process, and I was horrified to learn how the insurance industry is so against green living in the US.

As it turns out, so are electric companies. I wanted to make you aware of a horrible situation going on right now for Black Dinah Chocolatiers. BDC recently installed solar panels to off-set their electricity costs for the business. They even had professionals install the system. They have received word from their electric company (Isle au Haut Electric) that they need to disconnect their system WITHIN 24 hours or else the company is cutting power to the house/business. This is absurd! Yes, it's a very small self-sufficient island off of Maine. However, that's all the more reason to allow a business to convert to solar for their secondary energy source. 

Have any of you ever heard of such a thing? Everything was done by the books here and this little power company has basically said "not on our island." I thought that power companies were required by law to work with these type of systems. Very upsetting!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Rainy Day Fun Book

When I was little I remember having an activity book called the 'Rainy Day Fun Book'. It had various at-home activities. I wish today at work that I had a book like this.

Mostly we're just trying to have fun and combat the Mondays by eating lots of tasty food (including homemade carrot cake that someone brought in). This...was not the best approach. I actually just downed a 1,000 calorie lunch (whoops) that I hope will be offset by me taking Zumba (!) for the first time at my gym tonight. I'm a little bit scared but my skills are not that shabby considering the last time I played the dance game on Wii I did quite well. As long as I don't fall down and burn over 500 calories I'll consider it a successful class.

While we're on a healthy topic I have a gardening question I was hoping any of the readers who garden can help out with. Each year we grow some veggies we have not tried before. This year (well technically we will not be eating them until 2012) we are planting asparagus. Also leeks. If any of you have tips and suggestions for growing asparagus or leeks please do share!
(Photo credit: Eco Logic)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cleaning out my closet

I have two closets (I know, that's more than the average human *needs*). For the record my husband has 2 closets as well. Much. Smaller. Closets.

I organized my primary closet by color a few years back. This has been an amazing strategy. Like today, I needed a navy shirt, so I reached into the blue easy. I also practice the 'one in, one out' rule where if I get something new I donate something I have not worn in a while. I was not using this rule for my dressy clothes closet. In fact, I had gowns in there from 1994, 1999, 2000, etc. There were a few I could not part with during my dressy closet overhaul this weekend (wedding dress, prom gown). I also got a batch of shoes together that need to be donated to a local charity (I'm going to donate to the local chapter for Dress for Success).

I also threw away some satin bags that were required purchases during a few bridesmaid stints. They had started to break down (hate how satin does that). So, although the new closet layout is not perfect my dressy work clothes (mostly skirts and blazers) can now breathe. If you have an old bookcase on hand (and a closet large enough), my suggestion is to use it to store shoes.

I guess I can count this towards Spring cleaning. Phase 1. Tonight I'm heading to the brand new Salvation Army in Framingham. My Mom expressed concern that some of them take the quality stuff and just put it in 'rag bags'. I let her know that St. Vincent's in Framingham (my favorite one to donate clothes to) does not seem to do that. :) What is your favorite charity to donate clothing to?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Pizza, Chicken wrap, Cuban Food

Yesterday I worked at an event at BU so this meant I had to get up in the dark. For those of you that know me well, you know that this was fighting against my internal wiring. I also worked all day without a break and got home and *crashed* bad. I could have just slept on the couch with the remote in my hand but instead I hoisted myself out of the house and to my beloved Centergy class. It was a new routine, so it turned out to be just what I needed--a good sort of pain.

Prior to leaving my husband called me and agreed to purchase 3 things we needed to make this Cuban recipe for dinner. I was psyched. Tyler going to the grocery store during the week (or going to the store at all) never happens in our house. I called him with the recipe needs, left a post it on the counter thanking him, and galloped off to the gym with ice pellets raining down from the sky.

When I left the gym my high hopes were smooshed when I realized it was 7:40 and Tyler was still at work. We texted quickly and realized Cuban was not going to happen. He wanted a chicken wrap (what I had for lunch) and I wanted pizza (what Tyler had for lunch--no way to share whatever I picked up). I realized I had $0 cash and that I needed to go home first before picking up takeout. Yes, I know takeout after the gym sounds backwards. This is what happens when I wake up before the sun. I make bad choices.

Do you have any favorite weeknight recipes that you would like to share? I'm always looking for new ideas.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I stayed in LA's Japanese section of town less than 1 week before the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear issues. I enjoyed eating Japanese food, drinking tea, and even watching Japanese TV later that night. It was the most I've ever been surrounded by Japanese culture in one 24-hour period. It made me want to go to Japan someday. Now since the disasters I'm a little bit ashamed to admit it's not as high up on my travel wish list. :(

Today I happened upon a Japanese phrase that is very interesting. It's Wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi "nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect." The cultures that have been around for centuries always seem to have very interesting ways of looking at life.

I remember a very good explanation of the Zen way of thinking. I can't remember who said it, but it's a perfect way to describe it. The person was saying that someone asked if thinking of God while peeling potatoes was a Zen mindset. They explained, "no, it's just peeling the potatoes."

Monday, March 21, 2011

Apple Cake on a Springs-Winters Day

It's been snowing pretty much all day. Like any good spring snowstorm it's not sticking much. However, I do have to wear my boots instead of sneakers to the gym tonight (taking my sneaks along to change when I get there of course).

I wanted to provide a comfort food recipe today. It even has yogurt in it. Best part is--it's a single bowl recipe!

Apple Yogurt Cake from The Kitchn (you can also follow them on Facebook here)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Clothes made in the USA

I've had good luck over the years finding clothes made in the USA. Usually it's by accident. I'll buy a dress made by Prana and it will be part bamboo (cool) and made here. I just happened to get the dress on sale. Or I'll be in Marshall's or Nordstrom Rack looking for new Yoga pants and the cheapest ones happen to be made in the US and of organic cotton.

Last week when I was in LA I had lunch in Malibu. I drove right by the American Apparel store on the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway). I decided to stop in because it seemed like a neat looking store. I remembered driving up that they make their clothes in LA. I wondered to myself if they use sweatshops or if they actually pay their workers fair wadges. As it turns out they do. I picked up some basics (tee shirt, tank top) and discovered much off the clothes were designed for a size 2-4 type frame (translation: if you're not super tiny, stick to the shirts versus pants and shorts unless you want your bottom to hang out). It turns out the tee shirt is one of the most comfortable ones I've ever  purchased and it  washes really well.

A great resource to find clothes made in the USA is found here. If you're looking for the American Apparel in the Boston area it's on Newbury Street. If you check out their website you will find things on sale for $10 or less. :)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Guinness Stout Cupcakes

 It's that time of year again! Corned beef for lunch at work this Thursday and of course, baking with Guinness!

GUINNESS STOUT CUPCAKES (courtesy of Dave Leiberman/Food Network)

  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa (plus more for dusting finished cupcakes if so desired)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch fine salt
  • 1 bottle stout beer (recommended: Guinness)
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In another medium mixing bowl, combine the stout, melted butter, and vanilla. Beat in eggs, 1 at time. Mix in sour cream until thoroughly combined and smooth. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet mixture.
  4. Lightly grease 24 muffin tins. Divide the batter equally between muffin tins, filling each ¾ full. Bake for about 12 minutes and then rotate the pans. Bake another 12 to 13 minutes until risen, nicely domed, and set in the middle but still soft and tender. Cool before turning out.
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • ¾ to 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 (1-pound) box confectioners’ sugar
  1. In a medium bowl with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until light and fluffy.
  2. Gradually beat in the heavy cream. On low speed, slowly mix in the confectioners’ sugar until incorporated and smooth.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. Icing can be made several hours ahead and kept covered and chilled.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Happy Travel

For me the worst part about traveling to California is how I feel when I get home. The first day is okay, I usually time it so I can sleep in (I put a Sunday as my recovery day this time around). I did pretty well yesterday. I wanted to eat at weird times, but overall I did okay. To combat the 'everything hurts' sensation I get after a day of flying I typically go to the gym. I also found it helpful to spend a few hours yesterday at the movies. Oddly enough, that helps the 'where am I?' feeling.

Today is the hardest by far. I'm back in the office. After being out for 3 days it's a little overwhelming. To deal with this I made sure to pack healthy food (Vs lurking at the M&M machine all day). I also am resisting the urge to sleep under my desk. I expect tomorrow I'll start feeling normal again.

Yesterday's movie was 'Adjustment Bureau' the latest Matt Damon movie. We loved it. I especially loved that it was based on a book by Philip K. Dick and that I could see parallels between it and 'Fringe'. Yesterday's book (not e-book) was a last minute airport purchase--'Wishful Drinking' by Carrie Fisher. I liked it in all of it's drug/alcoholic mental illness glory. It was also appropriate after spending a few days in the LA area.

Here's one of my favorite photos from last week. Huntington Beach:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Working out when you travel for work

I'm leaving tomorrow morning for a conference/trade show in Anaheim, CA. For those of you that have ever attended a trade show you know that it's long hours and lots of eating on the run. You get to eat dinner late quite often and you tend to just go completely nuts when you finally get a menu in front of you. The reason is it is your first 'real' meal of the day, it's paid for by work, and you're so excited to finally have REAL food. I'm not complaining. I actually love to travel for work. My face-to-face time with clients and prospects is one of my favorite parts of my job.

This time, I'm going about my work travel a bit different compared to the last 13 years or so. I got a workout DVD at Target for $8. I tried a few on Netflix on demand and decided which one to buy. This way, if I can't make it to the hotel 'gym' to work out (most hotel gyms are horrible) I can workout in my room. I chose Power Yoga since lots of hours on a plane, on your feet, and in heels can really do a number on your back. Oddly enough I choose that trainer from 'Biggest Loser'--Jillian--as the Yoga DVD. She's actually kind of cool when you get her out of the other training situations. On some business trips I've gotten a short-term pass at a gym near to my hotel. This worked out well in Kentucky ($11) but not so well in NYC ($50). I'm being strict in 2011 because travel in 2010 paired with huge meals and a departure from my normal routine led to some serious weight gain. I'll pack my gym stuff like I normally do but this time I will have a back-up plan to the hotel gym. No broken elliptical or dirty equipment is going to slow this girl down!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Living in the Moment

I could not help but share. I love pulling in the driveway after a long day and Maximus is waiting for me in the window. This is from an article on Tiny Buddha. Found here.

Here are 5 tips for living in the moment that we can learn from our pets:
1. Pick a daily activity and spend time doing this, and only this, activity each day.
Watch as your cat or dog plays with their favorite toy.  They focus all their attention on that toy and all their thoughts are of how to reach it, catch it, and enjoy it. It’s almost as if there’s nothing going on around them.
They are completely engaged in the experience, and that makes it all the more pleasurable.
It’s not always easy to focus on the small things because unlike pets, we need to provide for and take care of ourselves, and that can create stress. But that gives us even more of an incentive to disconnect and enjoy the little things. We deserve the chance to be without having to overwhelm ourselves with thoughts.
2. Breathe.
Cats naturally breathe deeply with long, slow, equal breaths (or snores!).  When we hear a change in our pet’s breathing patterns we know we need to do something to protect them from what’s scaring them, cool them down, or take to take them to the vet for a check-up.
If we understand this change of breathing pattern is an important indicator of health in our pets, surely we can see that our own breathing patterns are an indicator of our well-being too.
Next time you’re watching the items pile up on your to-do list items pile up and you feel your breath shortening, take a moment to notice this. Then take longer, slower breaths letting the inhale invigorate you and the exhale calm you.
3. Dwell neither on the future nor the past.
A cat doesn’t sit around worrying about the big, scary dog she might meet the next time she leaves the house. She has good instincts and uses them when necessary—and until then, it’s not on her radar.
Too often we sit around worrying tomorrow’s work or the consequences of the things we’ve said and done, as if we can somehow predict and control the future. All this distracts us from the here and now, preventing us from living this current, precious moment.
When these worries feel they could overpower you, go back to your breathe. All you need to do is take each moment as it comes.
4. Enjoy your treats.
Give your dog or cat a treat and watch them enjoy it. Do they try to eat it while running out of the back door? Do they eat it while playing with their favorite toy or trying to dig a hole?  No, of course they don’t – because it’s not enjoyable to multi-task treats.  If they do, they miss out on savoring it.
So don’t watch your favorite TV show while chatting on the phone or eat a piece of cake while engrossed in your work.  Give yourself the full experience of the things you love.
5. Follow your instincts.
Animals always follow their instincts. They know how to hunt, when to run from danger, and how to protect their territory without having to be trained.
By listening to their instincts, animals stay alive and healthy—something we don’t always do well as humans. We’ll ignore our hunger cues, or stay in unhealthy situations far longer than is good for us.
If your body tells you you’re hungry, eat.  If your emotions feel out of control, take a break to refocus.  If your mind tells you it’s time to make a change, make that change! You know a lot about what’s good for you. You just need to listen to yourself.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Advice for a first time seller?

I was speaking to my Mom on Sunday about selling stuff online. They have lights in their home that she's thinking of selling on EBay or even Etsy (they are technically vintage). I did not have a lot of advice regarding this other than the fact that people love to buy items from sellers with positive ratings and feedback.

For those of you that have Etsy shops (I know a few of my friends do) is this the case on Etsy as well? Would you ever buy something from a brand new shop/seller? I've purchased a few things on Etsy that I've been very happy with. I had a very good interaction with one of the artists I purchased a pin from around Christmas. I like that personal touch.

Also saw this on Etsy today and just had to share:

Monday, February 14, 2011

What I miss

Since 1995 I've had a variety of jobs. More jobs than the average person perhaps. The good news is I have 'transferable skills'. Also, I do volunteer work each year so I've learned random things (such as how to card wool the old fashioned way).

There's a few odd things I miss about past jobs. Now mind you, I'm content in the industry I'm in now. I really enjoy my workplace, co-workers, and clients. I just can't help being nostalgic sometimes.

From my last job I miss the parties. There was the party where we carved pumpkins. The party with the Margarita Man. All of these while on company time. I was just thinking today about how much I miss having dogs in the office. I've worked in two offices where there were 1-2 dogs in each day. My office now would never accommodate that (nor would I expect them to). It was just nice during the day to have an animal that would not talk back and that you could give dog cookies to.

Do you have an unusual perk from an old job that you miss? Have you see this Margarita Man that I speak of?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hot Sauce Addict

My brother collects hot sauces (as some of you may know). He actually uses them. I was never really into hot sauce until friends of ours introduced us to the sauces by Pepper Plant in California. These are small batch sauces and the garlic one is our favorite thing to serve with meat (or put on a burger). There's something about Pepper Plant products. They are so good. It's also good with Mexican dishes.

A few months back I bought sriracha sometimes called 'rooster sauce'. Today's Globe featured this article about the 'King of Sriracha'.Although my husband is not a fan I find myself putting it on all sorts of dishes. I had it last night on ham broccoli quiche that we made. I read in 'Everyday Food' that sriracha is good in spaghetti sauce.

What is your favorite hot sauce? Are you addicted to the Rooster?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Jamie Oliver, veggies, nuggets, and LA

I watched Jamie Oliver's show last year (that took place in the fattest city in America: Huntington, WV). Much of it was shocking (the scene where the children did not know what various veggies were). A lot of it was very touching and there was various 'breakthrough' moments as Jamie worked with the lunch ladies.

As it turns out, Los Angeles does not like Jamie. This was surprising to me considering how much Huntington resisted him (for those of you that remember the scenes with the radio DJ). Lately there has been a lot of press how kids that eat school lunch instead of home lunch are consistently fatter. I think back to the rare occasions where I would not take my own lunch to school. I would go to the line that was not hot lunch. Often I would eat a brownie and yogurt and call that lunch (sorry, Mom). More times than not I would bring a bagel with cream cheese or something like that.

I often dream about the tater tots and 'sticks of death' (those of you that lived in BU's West Campus in the 90s--pre student village--know what I'm talking about) from college. The funny thing is during my brownie and yogurt days and later mounds of tater tot days I was underweight. I did not go to the gym. These days I grow my own veggies, go to farmer's markets, and spend way too much at Whole Foods. Maybe the tater tots (in moderation) are not actually a bad thing if they are organic and made with olive oil? ;)

Friday, February 4, 2011

GMO Thoughts

I've often wondered if kids today just have more allergies or if there's better tests out there than ever before. GMOs have been in the news a lot in recent weeks. I wanted to share a list from Robyn O'Brien (the founder of AllergyKids.

Below is Ms. O'Brien's list on GMOs. I noticed last night my cheese was labeled GMO-free. It seems the labels are everywhere. I buy non-GMO seeds for my garden and never really gave it much thought. So I decided to learn more.

FIVE TIPS about GMOs and why you should care:
  • Introduced in the 1990s, this new technology was developed to enhance profitability for the food industry.
  • The technology allows food scientists to inject chemicals and food proteins into the genetic material of our food.
  • Eaters in other countries were given a warning sign when these foods were introduced in 1994 and labels were put on their food that essentially said: “Not yet proven safe”.
  • In the US, this new technology and the proteins it creates were introduced in 1994 without labels under the premise: “Not yet proven dangerous” while being patented by the agricultural industry for their unique characteristics.
  • Unlabeled food proteins that contain chemicals and other foreign ingredients can trigger severe allergic reactions that include difficulty breathing, asthma, eczema, inflammmatory gut conditions and in some cases life-threatening anaphylactic shock.
Bottom line: Americans have the right to know what’s going into their food just like eaters in other countries.


Do you see the non-GMO labels and also wonder what the big deal is? Is GMO just one of those things that you figure is not something to worry about? Part of me is more concerned with hormones and chemicals when I realize that we've been eating GMO corn and soy products for over a decade now. The other part of me thinks about how my office of 25 has 4 cancer survivors...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

#reverb10: Creative Prompt for February

One month into 2011, what question(s) are you living? Are there any prompts/questions that arose during #reverb10 that are still resonating in your life? Are you living new questions?

 This is a strangely phrased Reverb compared to the other ones. I guess it's asking if I'm living with questions 1 month into 2011...

The only questions I have are how to continue to balance work, volunteer work, photo club (one thing I'd like to do more of this year), and making sure the rental is successful during its first year. The snowdays each week have made it tougher than normal to stay on track. I've LOVED each and every snow day...but falling out of the routine is tough.

One promise I made during the original Reverb10 exercise was to ski and get out there into winter. I'm pleased to report I've done that (for a while there I was skiing every weekend). :)


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"Don't get hit by the plow"

I've lost track of how many days I've been snowed in this winter. I love it! I enjoy not having to go into work and just to be able to do what I please. Also, I enjoy making home cooked meals all day and having my husband here while he works from home.

I remember growing up and not having any February vacation due to so many snow days. This winter has taken me back to those times.

I enjoy watching the media freak out and come up with names for this winter of '10-'11. When we were kids it was just more time to sled, build snow forts etc. The one bit of advice our parents in the neighborhood gave were: "Don't get hit by the plow as you're in the forts and don't throw snowballs at cars" Once we did throw snow balls at a passing car (from the safety of inside a snow fort of course). My winter jacket at the time was red and black. I hid face down in the snow when the driver got out of the car and proceeded to scream at us. She picked me up by my red and black hood and said "oh, I'm sorry, I thought you were a boy" (in reference to my red and black non-girl looking coat).

So it's okay to pick a boy up by his hood and scream at him but not a girl? The other day I had a conversation with my husband over Tennessee's BBQ (nomnomnom) in regards to yelling at the children of strangers. If two children are beating each other up in a grocery store and disturbing the patrons is it okay to scold them if they are not your kids? This happened to me around Christmas and in my best non-parent non-bitchy voice I said: "this is not a playground." I surprised myself how calm I was as I looked down at two boys tussling on the floor of the grocery store. To my surprise the Mom came storming over yelling "How DARE you." "I am their MOTHER." I just mumbled something about how they had been fighting all over the store. In the parking lot I overheard her telling her boys that I was a WITCH (Salem, anyone?). I responded by saying "Happy Holidays!"

My husband said he would have been horrified if he was there. I was kind, patient, and really quite nice to this insane mother of two. It could have been a shit show. I think I was in the holiday mood or something. I felt badly for those two little boys that had to go home with that woman.

That woman is the very same woman as the woman that picked me up by my hood out of the snow fort. Only it's another Century and I no longer throw snow balls at passing cars.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Winter Wellness

Great post here on Winter Wellness. For those of you that feel a cold coming on or a case of the winter blues.

Last week I had a cold during my busiest work week of the winter (never fails, right?) On Friday I'm pleased to report that I made it to the gym for the first time in forever, went again on Sunday and also I made it out ice skating. Here's hoping I remain healthy during February to get back on track!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Spreading the wrong information

Now I know you can't believe everything you read online. However, when a blog writer suggests that a disease like Chron's Disease (an auto immune disease similar to MS) is preventable by eating better and living healthy I am utterly shocked. You don't tell someone with MS or Chron's that they just need to eat better and it will go away or never happen at all.

There are no known food triggers to Chron's. You can't just eat and exercise away your MS.  I know the below article does not mention MS, but many of the meds are the same to treat both diseases. To even suggest that someone can live a healthy lifestyle and PREVENT an auto immune disease is just so aggravating. This is an issue close to home for me since my husband has been living with Chron's for over 10 years and my cousin has MS.

I responded to the article here


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kids outside?

I made an observation while skiing this past weekend. It was a beautiful winter day (in fact everyone on the trails that I skied by said "Nice day, huh?" There was not a single teen or child on the trails with the adults. This was weird to me. I started x-country skiing when I was 4. I always went with my parents when they strapped on their skis.

Perhaps the kids were:
-Doing gymnastics
-Playing indoor soccer
-at a friend's house while the parents excercised

Most likely the kids were hiding indoors. A coworker recently told me her youngest son *hates* going outside to play in the snow. This has been the perfect winter for snow forts, snow tunnels, and massive quantities of sledding.

Check out the snow fall totals in Boston proper (that's a fun interactive graph for you). There's even a story here about 'nature deficit' disorder. The fact that there's a club where parents drop the kids off to play in the woods amuses me. And it charges $$ to do this 'drop off to play' behavior.

What do you think about this? Do parents really need to drop cash to have their kids enjoy the outdoors?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I don't really know how to phrase this...

Sometimes I can't help but get defensive in regards to product loyalty. I know a few women who sell various products  (good reputable brands) that tend to act brainwashed. I don't know how else to describe it or how to put it in a non-offending manner. For example, I love using products by Aveda, Lush, and Origins that are mostly made up of natural products. Origins in particular has served me quite well. In fact, part of the reason I believe I still get carded at 34 is 1. good genetics; and 2. Origins products. I wear a face moisturizer with SPF 15 in it each day. I have done this for pretty much my entire adult life thus far.

I only encounter people like this...let's say Super Saleswoman (SS for short) once in a while. They honestly believe that their product is superior. I can say something such as: "Lush is natural and only lasts a few months because often it contains only natural products (like my scrub that is basically sea salt and vodka)." Or "The Body Shop is doing a great job with fair trade products." The response from the SS types is always the same. "It's all marketing hype." or "Don't believe everything you read." or "Fair trade does not mean that all of the ingredients are well monitored for quality control."

Have any of you had this issue? I know longer go to 'seminars' or 'lunch and learns' for products sold by the SS types. I know their career choice is working out well for their lifestyles. I just really get all uncomfortable when the brain washing just becomes so obvious. I LOVE my brands. I'm obsessed with my brands. I really enjoy the Aveda spa I go to. I just have to stop talking about it (as I did this morning) because no matter what I say to the SS types they are always "my products are the best and that's that."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Winter Weekend

This weekend was great snow quality for all sorts of outdoor activities:

This is a shot of the trails at Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary in South Natick. You can even go by one of the tributaries of the Charles River. I was out there nearly 2 hours on Saturday. Yesterday we went out snowshoeing with my in-laws for the first time in years.

I know it's below zero today in New England, but the best way to avoid cabin fever is to go out and have some fun. Bundle up...but there's a lot of nice people on the trails.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Quote for today

"The rational system thinks that happiness would be losing 15 pounds and looking good in a swimsuit. But the emotional system thinks that happiness would be plowing through an entire bag of Nacho-Cheese Doritos. For most people, the emotional system tends to win these debates because it’s incredibly powerful. The psychologist Jon Haidt has a great analogy: He says that the emotional system is like an elephant, and on its back is a human-scale rider that represents the rational system. The rider thinks he’s the one in charge, but c’mon. If the two ever disagree, who’s your money on? So if you want your rational system to win out, you’ve got to avoid a direct tug-of-war with the elephant. Don’t bet on willpower. If you’re on a diet, don’t assume that your self-control will keep you from raiding the ice cream. That’s foolish. Just throw out the ice cream."

-Dan Heath (co-author of 'Made to Stick')

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Thoughts on Birthdays

I started using this little app called MyFitnessPal (free on iTunes) the day before my Birthday. During grad school (4 years leading up to 2009) I started up a slippery slope. I was working full time and working on my MBA at night. During that time I got a lot of "what are you crazy?" from other folks in the business world. I did not want to get in debt deep by not working during school. Anyway, back to my challenge.

I always heard that in your 30s it's harder to stay in shape, loose weight, and just stay on track. In my early 20s I did not weigh enough to donate blood (I was 110, you needed to be 112). I knew I was too thin back then. I started to take Karate in my 20s but then my instructor moved to Florida as soon as I reached Orange belt status. I began Tai Chi but then my gym closed and my instructor is now making burritos at Whole Foods to support his 3 kids (true story). For the past year I've been taking Centergy. This class has been amazing. I remember when I made it to the end of my first class I sat there and just cried. It was the ass-kicking (followed by meditation) that I'd been looking for. It was the instructor that I've missed since my former Karate and Tai Chi masters. Someone who is supportive and a class where everyone applauds at the end.

Centergy is an essential part of my workout routine now. I can't imagine life without it. Days I miss it (like yesterday due to snow) I feel like something is missing. So now, I'm on the Dark Side of 30. I love my 30s. Really. But just as everyone warned me, I've packed on additional weight and it all started with bad habits during grad school (snacking, mostly, and missing workouts). So for the first time ever I'm using an app to track my nutrition (I love how the app tracks nutrients) and my workouts. My battery in my Polar Heart Rate monitor is dead and I realize now that's what I've been missing in the past year. It helps you not to over train. When you over train you store fat.

Here's a photo of me from graduation last year...time to move on and get back on track. Sometimes Birthdays do that to you. :)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

You Complete Me

I heart homemade Valentines. Does anyone make homemade Valentines anymore?

Here's one that I really love (found on Etsy here)

New Book: 'My Life in 23 Yoga Poses'

Today's Downtown Women's Club blog post led me to check out this new book by Claire Dederer.

I investigated further on Amazon and liked the first review:

"The thing I liked best about "Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses" is that Claire Dederer explains a lot about yoga without making it sound like some type of mysterious cult type pursuit. I was drawn to the book because I've been thinking for years about attending some yoga classes but somehow never seem to get around to it. Is it exercise? Is it a religion? A little bit of both? The author discusses these very questions throughout the book. Her sense of humor and sometimes irreverent remarks had me laughing, but at the same time understanding just what draws so many people into the yoga experience. Her book is as much a book about life as it is about yoga."

Although I do not take a straight yoga class (I take this wonderful class that kicks my butt called Centergy) I appreciate yoga. Centergy is made up of yoga and pilates rolled into one and set to an amazing soundtrack. I had one yoga class that I loved. It was taught by this lovely woman named Rose. It was taught in 2002 at Mass Bay Community College. Rose was the only yoga teacher I've ever had. She was well into her 60s at the time and looked amazing. To this day I tell myself "that's what you'll look like in your 60s if you keep taking Centergy or if you pick up Tai Chi again!"

Do you do yoga or some variation of yoga? Do you do Tai Chi (lovelovelove, but my new gym does not teach it). My Centergy instructor put it best the other night at the end of class (which ends with a round of applause each night) "I feel 1000% better." I agree. 1000%.