Friday, December 28, 2012

Reverb12: Resolution, Day 28.

So this worked for me in 2011. I promised to myself that I would use my new x-country skis. Turned out to be a record breaking snow year. I lost 20 lbs during 2011 and by the time I got to my fall vacation (lots of hiking in Iceland, September 2011) I was below my goal weight.

In 2012 we got NO SNOW. So the ground froze and my well froze. That was not fun. I sat inside and drank and ate a lot. I started traveling again for work (2x/year is my busy travel time). Starting in Feb/March 2012 and I gained back the 20 I lost.

It was sad.

I stopped weighing in.

I stopped being honest about logging.

I'm no longer a size 8.

In fact, I got new pants in a 10 from my husband (and he never buys my clothes so this is a big deal) and the 10s are too tight.

Clothes have always been a motivation for me. I HATE New Years resolutions. I hate the folks that join a gym and take parking spots only to keep paying and stop coming come March. They are annoying and many wear perfume to the gym (gak!) so it's clear they are there to pick up dates and not actually workout. (not all, but most).

So, kicking off 2013 I will tell myself the same thing I told myself in 2011. Not "I'm gonna lose weight". Not "I'm going to lose 20 lbs and fit into the sexy pants." But rather:

"I'm going to ski" (it's 800 calories per hour and works every muscle).

What about you? Sexy pants? Perfume at a new gym to impress the gents? Ski? Yoga? What are you promising to do in 2013. Where I live we get snow November - March so 5-6 months/year.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Reverb12: Day 20: Coping

Day 20: How are you coping with this time of year? Pressures at work regarding year-end deadlines, review season for those of you that are managers, holidays, parties, sad news on the news...

Well first I'll say that I'm coping well but not super well. I've skipped a lot of nights at the gym or at the yoga studio when I need it the most. I've been using any and all excuses to get together with friends and drink wine or beer. I've been looking longingly at a brown landscape wishing for snow. Mostly I've been pretty damn grumpy since Friday the 14th which is why I took nearly a week off from Reverb12.

I know about all of the coping tactics. The meditation. The breathing. The reading and staying off the Internet. The shopping online and avoiding the mall, crowds, and traffic. To tell you the truth I pretty much ran out of patience this past weekend. I got so sick of just everything...traffic, people, being nice on the phone. I had a bit of a protest and spent the entire weekend not even turning on the news.

Tonight I'm heading back to the yoga mat and tomorrow instead of attending an End of the World Party I'm going to Zumba. I'm hoping this sets the mood for a weekend of baking, family, friends, Christmas, etc. in a better way. Baking gingerbread did perk me up this week as well as a beer & pizza event last night with Massachusetts Girls Pint Out in Kenmore Square (found a meter right there...can you imagine?). I'll be baking some orange coconut cookies this weekend and meyer lemon cake on Monday. As usual I expect to be eating pork roast and roasted veggies on Christmas Eve.

Hopefully my few days of not coping well are coming to an end.

How are you coping? I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Reverb12: Day 13: Quote

What is a quote from a book that you've read in the past year? This book could be a favorite of yours or just a book you really enjoyed.

Mine is from the 'Tiger's Wife' by

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Reverb12: Day 12: 12/12/12: Unexpected Passion

Prompt for December 12: Unexpected Passion:  What new hobby or interest piqued your passion this year?  Or did you think about an old passion in a new way?

Taken from this blog

Recently I contacted my boss for my volunteer work at Drumlin Farm. 

I have volunteered at the farm for nearly 13 years. I was named one of the Farm Ambassadors in 2011 and this was a great thing for me. I was able to teach these kits to children a few weekends per month (lesson kits about various topics on the farm such as 'whose egg is this?'). I always volunteer at the special fundraising events but I decided to take part in a new one this year. It was called 'Moon over Drumlin' and it was where really well known restaurants from the Boston area got together and made dishes with farm ingredients. I helped the fine chefs at 80 Thoreau in Concord, MA.

During that dinner I was able to assist in serving these goat tacos (they were the hit of the night quite honestly) and also a salad. The menu changes on a regular basis and they use locally sourced ingredients. Also, it was named one of the best restaurants in Boston this fall by Boston Magazine. It was fun and challenging working at that Gala dinner. It inspired me to contact my boss (back to that thought) to tell her what I like doing and where I want to go with my work. I explained Farm Ambassador is cool but not really what I'm looking to do. I asked if I could help with some of the adult classes as well (canning, gardening, etc.) I also offered to help with photography.

Well my first photo gig is coming up on the 17th. I'm photographing birds at the feeder. I really just let them know that there's things I enjoy doing and things I want to do more of. Unexpected passion. I have always admired the $150-$200 per person Farm to Table dinners (yikes on the price, right). I'd never gone to one. So I went and I worked and I got a really amazing experience working with the chefs. I've always gotten along well with the Teacher Naturalists that teach the classes I'm interested in.

So what will 2013 bring? We shall see. I loved being a Farm Ambassador for 2 years but I think Teacher Naturalist Assistant has a better ring to it for me and where my volunteer interests lie. It was not easy to ask, but I sure am glad I did.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Reverb12: Day 11: List

Day 11: What is a list you've completed recently?

Every now and again I complete the Monday Poll on this blog called Makeup and Beauty Blog. It's written by this blogger in San Francisco and she has a tabby cat that's featured on there as well.

Here's the list I completed this morning. Sharing with all of you.

1. Mood: [Tired. The holidays wear me out]
2. What was the last time you received a compliment you can credit to a beauty product? [On Friday before our work holiday party my boss said I looked nice. I was wearing boots and a sweater dress but it may have had something to do with my new GinZing eyeshadow by Origins (in a silvery green)]
3. Current obsessions? [The lack of snow in New England at this point. We had no snow last winter and I know it is technically still fall but I'm using it for excuses lately. "I can't eat the giant vat of cookies because there's no snow to ski in"]
4. Something you’ve been meaning to do but haven’t gotten around to yet? [mail my Christmas and Hanukkah cards]
5. What are some things that make you happy? [Snow days. A warm kitty under the blanket on the couch while I read. 3 day weekends.]
6. It’s okay to _______. [head to work without a shower to get some extra sleep. No one is going to know.]
7. What’s one thing you always do before leaving the house? [Make a cup of coffee on my Keurig. Goes into a porcelain travel mug. Best travel mug style ever.]
8. What’s something surprising you learned about yourself this year? [that I really do need that 'buffer day' before a conference or work meeting when traveling. You NEVER know what the airlines will do to you. They may even leave you stranded in the middle of the night with a plane full of strangers having to drive all night in a rental car to make an 8am meeting--true story]
9. Tell me something — anything — about your morning so far. [I resisted a plate of cookies. The sun *finally* came out and is streaming in my office window.]
10. Weekly goals: [see friends I have not seen in 1 year at a holiday get together. Go to my Dad's retirement party (yay!). Make sure to workout each night that I'm home]

Monday, December 10, 2012

Day 10: Industry Changes

Day 10 (skipped a few days but this is a no pressure project, and so on I blog):

What industry changes have you noticed in the brands you are fond of?

I'm pretty loyal to my various brands. I mean, not in a Coach bag kind of way (my Coach bags are fake, anyway). I've been a subscriber of 'Everyday Food' since the first issue and 'Whole Living' since I canceled my subscription of 'Living.' Recently, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia decided to end the paper version of 'Everyday Food'. And for those of you that think, "ugh Martha recipes are too hard" I'm telling you we've never had a difficult horrible recipe from 'Everyday Food.' So that brand new year subscription paid up (thanks for the poor timing) was applied to 12 issues of 'Living' and 4 "special" 'Everyday Food' supplements. Weeks later I get the news from a friend that 'Whole Living' is going the way of the dinosaur. {speaking of dinosaurs--Jurassic Park is coming to IMAX in the spring? woooo!}

It turns out that 'Whole Living' was bleeding $4M per year (what?!?). The reason is because there's something like 750,000 subscribers and that's expensive to print. So, MSLO raised the advertising rates and effectively priced out the former small businesses that advertised in the former 'Body and Soul' magazine. This means that 16 editorial staff members lose their jobs (many in the Boston area since that was a Watertown, MA based publication). And now, Boston loses another locally produced publication ('Darwin Magazine', anyone? Dating myself there...)

So my question is: Did technology (iPads in particular) kill the magazines mentioned above? I sure do use my MacBook as a cookbook several times per week. Do I want to read these magazines on my MacBook? No. Do I want to print the recipes and put them in a binder? No. So, in replacement of 'Whole Living' I got 'Yoga Journal' and we'll see how that is.

What industry changes for any industry or brand that you follow have you noticed in 2012? Another for me is Victoria's Secret. The quality of fabric has gone way down. I might be done with VS in fact!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Reverb12: Day 7, Little Things

Little Things. What are the little things your employer does to show appreciation? 

Employees are overworked and under appreciated these days. In this economy people are laid off and those that remain are expected to pick up their workload for no extra pay. I've worked in places where the bosses did odd things. In one workplace my boss would lock the conference room door if we were even a minute late to an 8:30 staff meeting. Traffic on 495 due to an accident? *click* door locked, sorry. I had another boss that would micromanage to the point where you would feel like a little insect at the end of the day.

On the flip side, my current employer does a great job with employee appreciation. Around the holidays we get a gift (with company logo of course). It's usually well thought out and useful. Last year was a fluffy blanket. This year was a 16oz glass tumbler set (for hot and cold) with a lid. And they are made in the USA which is awesome (plastic glasses or food containers from China freak me out).

What do you do around this time of year for the people who work for you? What do you give to your boss? I give beer to mine (local craft brew). Even if you spend $10 or give your employee a gift card. It's the little things that go a long way. You can bet the boss that locked the conference room door gave nothing.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

#Reverb12: Days 5 & 6

I was traveling for work yesterday so this is a double post.

Day 5: Independent. How have you supported an independent business this year. Small, family owned = beautiful.

I picked this prompt because I was on my way to my bookclub meeting. I go to a bookclub at a small local bookstore in Newton, MA called Newtonville books. I've been a member of that bookclub for years and when I finished grad school in 2009 my one promise to myself was to re-join bookclub. They have added a non-fiction book club as well so in February I'll be doing that one and reading 'Moby Duck'. I always like to mix a little non-fiction in my fiction so there you go.

Do you have an independent bookstore that you enjoy? Did you know that if every person bought 1 book for every 3 that they buy at an small bookstore (versus Amazon) that would help support that area bookstore? Just 1 out of 3. Come on now. You can do it. Buy a pair of socks on Amazon instead. Or some ice fishing gear.

Day 6: Invention. What invention were you grateful for this year?

I'm grateful for a handful of things I use daily. Heated seats, satellite radio, heated mirrors on my commute into work. Remote start for that 30F night where I'm leaving a warm yoga studio. Airplanes for saving me an 8 hour drive for a work trip. My iPhone for making it so I really don't have to tote my laptop around for work trips (hard to babysit a laptop when I'm by myself at a trade show). My TiVo for making me have no idea what is on when and what day of the week (a good thing, I'm out of town for a few days and everything is waiting for me).

What is an invention that would be nice to have?

Something to make all of the boutique hotels I stay in (often in buildings from the early 1900s) not have the rooms be 1000F. It makes it hard to sleep. Hard to get dressed up all fancy. And the dial on the wall to control the heat is all a sham. Thank goodness the windows open or else I'd be a big sweaty mess to each conference. LOVE this style of hotel and supporting an Independent business (there's that word again). I just hate the temperature thing. It's not very green of them to have the heat jacked up.

Another invention I would like is a bike path that goes along rte 9. Some days it would be nice to consider biking to work. There's no way to do it without getting killed, sadly.

That's it. I'm pretty content with all of my other devices and innovations. :)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

#Reverb12. Day 4: Cycle

"Spring passes and one remembers one's innocence
Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance
Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence
Winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance."
-   Yoko Ono, Season of Glass

 Day 4: Cycle

Right now it is late autumn in New England. The leaves are in mushy piles and the trees are bare. Three very small snow storms have coated the land in a really tiny coating. For a moment it looked like Christmas and I remembered our actual chances of having a white Christmas are pretty low. 

I like each season for different reasons. If I lived in the desert somewhere I would have a really tough time. Right now it's  too cold to hike (we did a 33F hike recently in Maine) and there's no snow to snowshoe. The woods are bare and the critters are few and far between.

I was thinking about cycles this morning. How this time of year I can see the river from my kitchen window (no leaves blocking). How the new leaves of spring show up at my home in MA before the one in Maine. How I'm actually wearing socks to work versus getting away with flipflops late March- early October. Cycles are important. If you skip on part of a cycle things just don't work out. If there's not enough snow, there's not enough maple syrup. If there's not enough snow my shallow well freezes and the cottage does not have water during the winter. If we have 80 degree days in March (as we did last year) the bug population is fierce. If we have the hottest August *ever* in Boston that equals no fresh cucumbers (darn powdery mildew). 

What sort of cycles do you depend on?

"Gardeners , like everyone else, live second by second and minute by minute.  What we see at one particular moment is then and there before us.  But there is a second way of seeing.  Seeing with the eye of memory, not the eye of our anatomy, calls up days and seasons past and years gone by."  
-  Allen Lacy, The Gardener's Eye, 1992, p. 16 

Monday, December 3, 2012

#Reverb12, Day 3: Flavor

Day 3:

What flavor did you try in 2012 that you enjoyed? Perhaps a new type of food or a new recipe that came out well. What do you intend to try in 2013?

In 2012 I had many memorable meals both at home and in my travels. In terms of the more simple food, in the fall I had two good pretzel experiences. One was at Hannah's Bretzel in Chicago. It was a small sub roll shaped bretzel and the contents were all organic (ham from good!). The other was while on a mini vacation prior to a business trip in upstate NY we went to wineries and one brewpub. The brewpub had a great lunch menu and served their own beer on tap. For an appetizer we got homemade pretzel bites to dip in hot cheese. It was similar to fondue except made with beer instead of wine.

We got to walk along the shores of Lake Erie (a first for us) and talk to independent winemakers. One in particular is working hard to had wind and solar to her winery Arrowhead Springs. That was very neat speaking with the owner because she was in high tech in her past life and now she's living a very hands-on challenging farm life.

As for what flavors I intend to try in 2013 I hope to make focaccia bread at some point. I read a book about Tuscany and there's some recipes I'd like to try. I'm also going to try Matcha green tea. I don't know if I'll like it to drink but maybe in smoothies. I also plan on visiting more small wineries...hopefully while on a trip to California next summer (we went to Napa and Sonoma in 2009 and it was so much fun). 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

#Reverb12: Day 2, One Word

I just decided to take part in Reverb again this year. It's where you do a blog post for every day in December.

I'll do day 1 & 2 in one post.

Day 1: New Thing? (prompt taken from this blog)

What new thing did you do in 2012? For me that would be trying a new yoga studio and as a result a new class called Ballet Barre (the Barre Method). Actually, I not only tried 1 new yoga studio I tried a new one during my travels to Philly and NY. While in Chicago I took my first barre method class and I was not only challenged but inspired. I pushed through the pain and as my yoga teacher Paulina taught us this year I'm learning to "love the things you hate." Paulina often asks us at the start of our yoga class to say one pose we love and one that we hate. She works both of those poses into our hour of class. This approach is new to me and through this practice I've been able to do things I never thought possible (balanced half moon pose).

I hope to keep taking Ballet Barre on a weekly basis. It's got a little bit of yoga, pilates, weights, and ballet. And depending on where you take it maybe a little bit of kickboxing.

We can all learn from Paulina's example. Learn to love the things we hate.


Day 2: One Word (prompt taken from this blog)

What one word would you use to describe 2012?

My word is "balance." I really got my rhythm in 2012 work-wise. In April I was at my job 2 years (still there) and it was my first year planning and attending all of the events that I'm responsible for. This was events in 10 states including some regional and national events. I figured out that sticking to my plan of flying in the day before an event is very important. There can be weather delays (Hurricane Sandy). There can be flight delays (got stranded in the middle of the night in DC and had to drive all night to make a morning meeting with a stranger in the car--we all pooled together from my flight and took what car rentals we could find).

You never know what your employment, projects--or even your volunteer work--is going to throw at you. Building in a buffer (my travel day) and making sure to build in time to take care of myself (trying new places to workout or hangout along the way) actually makes for better performance once you are there. Balance continues to be an important part of my life and a little painting "balance" hangs in my dining room to this day (a gift from my Mother-In-Law).

Monday, November 26, 2012

What I'm Thankful For

I've really been enjoying the posts from friend's about what they are thankful for. Some are daily posts. Others are blog posts.

After a wonderful family Thanksgiving I figured I'd post what I'm thankful for during this time of year. No matter how big or small the things on your own list are, each are important in their own way.

  • Snowdays. I just read a post from a friend that took around 2 hours to drive to work in the snow this morning. Not only was that dangerous but she had no choice (she's the only one at work who does her job). My work closes when the weather is bad (the recent hurricane is one example). They put employee safety first.
  • I'm done with my holiday shopping. I did it online and supported small businesses with my purchases. I also got a handful of stuff made right here in the USA. I also did not step foot in a mall to complete my shopping (could not find a parking spot if you want to know the truth there). So this list item now equals more time to bake, spend with friends, and go to holiday parties.  

  • I'm grateful to live in a place where I have a backyard and free parking. After spending time this fall in Philly, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, NYC, and Chicago I will say this is a pretty big list item. I learned a lot about urban living this fall too. For example, in places like Detroit there is a whole urban farm movement to create jobs and provide fresh food for areas that are declared food deserts. In Chicago it is super clean and there's a culture where ideas are put in motion and EVERYONE works. Even kids graduate college and go to work (not move back to their parent's house to 'find themselves'). I also observed that my own downtown (a pretty shabby often criticized downtown Framingham) is cleaner than New York City. Wayyyyy cleaner.

  • My health. This is a huge one since I had several friends be diagnosed with cancer this year. I learned to try new things (ballet barre, joined a new yoga studio) and also had to keep reminding myself that good health is not to be taken for granted. 
What about you? Do you have a little bullet point list of your own? I'd love to hear it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What is growing in the veggie garden?

This year I did something different. I normally order seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I won a $20 gift certificate for FedCo (a Maine-based seed company). I commented on a blog post by Margaret Roach and won the gift certificate.

I was excited because this was a paper certificate and it required me to order seeds the old fashioned way (by mail). I was able to take the time and place an order not do a rush-job online order. [Here's information on Margaret in case you are interested: "Called "the best garden blog" by NY Times, ex-Martha Stewart exec Margaret Roach's horticultural how-to and woo-woo. Newsletter:"]

As usual we started some seeds inside (with a heated mat and florescent bulbs on a timer (one warm, one cool). I find that starting seeds indoors in March gives hope of warmer weather to come. However, it just creates really leggy seedlings and not the strongest of plants (sadly). This is what we have growing right now:

  • Green beans (we hope to make dilly beans again this year)
  • Cranberry beans for drying
  • Heirloom tomatoes (these I do not do from seed, because I like to plant 6 different types). One of the tomatoes is called 'Watermelon' which pleases me greatly (it's green and red on the inside)
  • potatoes (not from seed, I just put 4 organic potatoes in the ground and we have 2' tall plants at this point)
  • Butternut squash  
  • Sugar pumpkins (for beer-making in the fall)
  • 2 types of cucumbers, both heirloom (sadly not doing all that well, the seedlings got eaten by bugs and we're starting over from seed outdoors)
  • Bell peppers (from seed)
  • Asparagus (this will take 2-3 years, but at least we have them planted in root form)
  • Spinach and lettuce (from seed, we've never had luck with lettuce and spinach--I'm so ready to buy them in plant form next spring and just throw up my hands in defeat)
  • Basil from seed (best quality basil from seed ever, thank you FedCo!). I grow this on my kitchen windowsill because I'm too lazy at 8pm to walk down the hill to harvest basil!
What are you growing in your garden this year? I'd love to hear from you! Container garden, bucket, backyard garden...all count!

Cranberry bean:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Logan Express: A school vacation week disaster

As a community we are very lucky in Framingham to have a Logan Express. This has made my life easier since I moved here in the 1990s. I use it for work, for vacations, and I even have family members use the service when they are flying out of Logan.

I rely on it pretty much weekly this time of year.

This week, there were signs on the Mass Pike that instructed people not to park at Logan Airport. This was because the lots were full. I left for a 3 day business trip and as expected the Logan Express Lot was full (overflow as well). This was not a huge deal for me.

I had a few travel issues this week (ended up only getting 2 hours of sleep in 2 days thanks to Continental Airlines). I landed at Logan without issues (US Air this time) and I was ready to get home and sleep. I got to Logan Express within a half hour. I went to my car. I was blocked in by two other cars.
It turns out that MassPort paid for a valet service (nice use of tax dollars) and had people double and triple parked. I had to wait 1/2 hour to get my car out of the lot (could have been home for a good 20 minutes at that point). I was not comfortable having my car blocked in like that without my permission (it's a used Jeep, but it is still a well-loved car). Also, the Jeep was blocked in so horribly that the valet had to help me navigate in the dark lot (two of them had to guide me out of my LEGAL parking spot). And yes, I still had to pay (as did the others).

My question to you all--is this a good business practice? Using tax dollars to illegally park cars? Pack in as many as will physically fit in there (I know MassPort needs the cash, but this was absurd). I have the phone number for the supervisor and I'm tempted to call her. Was I right to be angry? I was so sleep deprived I was actually shaking by that point. I just wanted to hop in my car and drive home. Instead I had to deal with the valet and also other drivers struggling to get out of the lot (very difficult to navigate all the illegally parked cars--both rows were double lined with cars behind each row of parking spaces).

Again, we are lucky to have Logan Express. I was leaving at 3:30pm so I did not have a way to get dropped off there. I use Logan Express to save my employer money (and me time).

I'd love to hear from people that experienced this and what my next step should be. Is calling the supervisor really the answer since the 'park at Logan Express' sign on the Pike was beyond their control.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Saying the Right Things

As humans we often struggle with the great power we are given: the ability to communicate. Sometimes we isolate ourselves (I work in my own office--the last one in the hall of 25). Other times we jump right into a crowd and pretend all night long that we enjoy being social. Or in fact, on that particular day we might actually feed off the group's energy.

I've been traveling for work since 1999. I work with folks I've never met until I speak to them at an event or conference. It's always been the best part of my job. It breaks up the monotonous nature of working in an office. Plus, I don't travel all year long so it's a refreshing change. Each time I go somewhere new I discover things I've never noticed before. Like in Minneapolis (for the first time this late February/early March) I realized that they are one of the greenest cities I've ever seen. Even my hotel room at the Hyatt had 3 recycle bins (3!) and my food each day was locally sourced (no food deserts there apparently, despite being in the Midwest).

One thing that never fails to surprise me is people I encounter that clearly have no sense of manners. It might be someone that pushes me in line (and nearly knocks me over because I'm carrying a bag, box, laptop case). Or it could be someone that asks me something that is not appropriate or none of their business. I remember when I was engaged to be married and a client stated "Well, I sure do hope you're marrying a nice Jewish boy." (my maiden name is Silver, so I actually got that comment several times while at conferences--and clearly while wearing a name tag).

Recently a colleague told asked me how I was going to start having kids "now, at 35 years old?" Then awkwardly she replied, "Not that it's any of my business..." I told her I was not having my own kids and that here and there we tossed around the idea of adoption. I've been married nearly 12 years and I get that question a lot. I think...I got it twice just last week from complete strangers "And why have you not had any babies yet?" I keep saying I need a snappy reply. Something better than "I don't think my reproductive choices are any of your business."

I know that people mean well. They are just making small talk. The conference attendees that inquired about my fiance at the time were just being polite. They were also being a bit close-minded and were quite shocked at my answer. The same goes for individuals that ask when a woman is due if she's not even pregnant at all. Yes, that still happens. First off, I know women that have had a hell of a time carrying a baby full term or even getting pregnant at all. Can you imagine asking someone "when are you due?" that had just lost a baby?

Please, the next time you want to ask someone (a stranger, a client, a colleague) a VERY personal question--take a step back. I'm also welcome to any type of comeback I can give to someone that asks why I'm not a Mom yet. I've thought about saying "Yes, because clearly I'm not a complete person until I have children." or "Yeah, I lost 2 babies in the past few years. It's been nothing but heart break and devastation. You probably should not ask strangers that question." (totally made up of course, and not making light of women in that situation...I just feel at this point I need a shocking reply to squash that person from ever asking that again (or implying that someone is 'over the hill' at 35).


Friday, February 24, 2012

A Cornucopia filled with BS

Recently an organization called Cornucopia published this list which is an egg scorecard. It is designed to help consumers make good choices on what eggs to purchase. I was VERY concerned when The Country Hen was rated so poorly. For years, we only buy Country Hen eggs. It's hard to find eggs from MA that meet our expectations. The Country Hen has always appealed to me. The eggs taste great and the farm has never had a case of salmonella! I've noticed eggs from other large producers have thin shells and just do not taste the same. Plus, I'm all about supporting a local business.

I contacted the Country Hen this week regarding the rating. They responded yesterday with this note:

"We understand how a Country Hen customer could feel confused and disappointed after reading the Cornucopia article. We have taken time to extensively review, dissect, and comment on the article.

We value the trust and loyalty our customers have placed in our product, farm, and farming practices. We believe this trust has been well earned. The Country Hen has always operated and continues to operate with the highest regard towards the well-being of our hens. Every decision that we make puts their well-being first and foremost at our farm.

This is the link to our official response
We hope this will answer any confusion from the report. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us."

This response really made me think. Their formal response (above) made me think even more. It's so easy to believe a list we see in the media or from a 'trusted' source. I really need to remember to *not* believe everything I read! The point of that they would need around 800 acres of farmland to farm the way that Cornucopia wants them to farm is absurd! I will continue to buy their eggs. I will also think twice before believing such a survey in the future.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Is it Natural?

Today I'm very proud of myself. Well okay, truth be told I forgot it was 2/15 and that the Valentine's candy is 50-75% off. I went to a little natural food store in Westboro, MA during lunch. I like it there because they sell a few things that I eat daily. Ginger chews by the Ginger People are a part of my food requirements. I work with dirty, germ-infested college students (read: students that work in dental clinics!! Stranger's mouths!!) so I need to bolster my cold-fighting superpowers in any way I can.

So, ginger it is. Works for me. I also like gum without fake sugar (headache inducer for me) so this little food store sells all flavors of Glee gum (yay, local New England company). I also noticed the organic dried fruit and bulk bins are cheaper than...Whole Foods. Not cheaper than Trader Joe's's nice to support a small business.

Every day I see some new sort of food product in the food kitchen. It's a cookie that can be eaten for breakfast (filled with lots of weird chemicals, btw)! It's a bar that can  be...also eaten for breakfast! How long do you get through your morning eating a highly processed cookie? I think I'd get a headache, a stomachache, and make it to...maybe 10am before I was starving again.

Recently at this little natural food store I saw a local policewoman buying her lunch. I was thinking "wow, she's not buying donuts." and "I can tell she never eats donuts." She was buying dried fruits and nuts and cereal. She looked smoking hot. She was probably the only cop on duty at that moment not eating somewhere bad. If food from the health food store helps her get through her shift than so be it.

I know the food store is not the cheapest in town, but I like going in there a couple of times per month. For the ginger chews, the Glee gum, and the pitted dates. Do you have a little local store near you that you buy food at (even if it's not the cheapest place in town)? Do you eat breakfast cookies?

I found a breakfast cookie recipe just in case you want to make your own (healthy) version.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Bargain Hunting

The past few weeks there's been random things I've found while out and about doing errands. Last weekend I got fleece-lined leggings for around $3. Those are hard to find under $10-$30 depending on the brand. Today I found products by Peanut Butter & Co. for $3.50 each. They are normally $5.69/ea. The leggings and peanut butter (oh my goodness-they have maple peanut butter?!?) were found at Ocean State Job Lots. A word to the wise when buying food at OS--always check the dates. The PB expires 2 years from now so I was good.

Kohls has been in the news this week for artificially raising prices. Be careful when you shop there. They are known to have 3 different price stickers on the item of clothing (with the last one before the 'sale' being lower--backwards, right?). Grocery stores are known to do this too. Big Y in particular (the Buy 1, Get 2 free sales where the single item price was lower last week). I was never comfortable with Kohls. I hate that Kohls cash and how they tell you how much you 'saved' on your order. Clothing they sell on 'sale' is known to be cheaper that very same day elsewhere--even on

JC Penney just released a new pricing strategy. This really is amazing marketing. They figured out that customers are offended by pricing games that other department stores play. At my workplace we laugh on a weekly basis at the Macy's sales (ads in the Boston Globe are often full-page). Is the consumer in this economy foolish enough to fall for these ridiculous sales? The nearly empty Natick Mall (refuse to call it The Collection) says no. Marshall's, TJ Maxx, Ross stores (Philly area--love them!) are full. Target's newest designer collection pretty much sold out on day 1 (this past weekend).

When you shop at your mall and see signs "70% off" "Spring Sale" do you believe them? Are you like me and you Red Laser (iPhone and Android app) the product to see if it's really a good price? It worked with my last coffee maker purchase--by using Red Laser I determined Target was the cheapest price out there. Use the technology at your finger tips. The Amazon app is also useful for this technique. And please, for the sake of your wallet--be smarter than shopping at Kohls, Macy's and the other department stores with artificially increased prices. Maybe even check out the new JC Penney's strategy and welcome the fact that they are not insulting our intelligence.

Monday, January 23, 2012

That Inner Hoarder

This past 'winter break'--the time where my husband has vacation days to burn through home alone--was very productive. Tyler did a major basement project that took pretty much all of his vacation time to complete. We now have a dedicated beer-making and canning area in the basement. I took advantage of the Container Store's January sale and got some bins for organizing the linen closet (that was my mini project). I've now rolled all of my hand towels and washcloths into bins (a la Martha). I even...wait for it...labeled the bins.

The basement is now complete with an old 1950s era stove top and a gun cabinet made into storage for Mason jars. Very New England, right? The 1950s stove is gas and was salvaged while the rest was sent to the dump. Instead of having to buy a new gas stove top (it's the basement after all) Tyler was able to utilize the top and keep the cool looking features intact (neat clock, timer, etc.)

The back wall is still storage but there's new shelves for all of the holiday decorations, camping supplies and hoard of food from BJ's. Speaking of hoarding...this post here titled 'Stop Feeding your Inner Hoarder' really spoke to me. Each time we spend a day cleaning and making piles of stuff to donate we feel cleaner. More free. A few months later it happens again. It's not us buying more stuff (I have a 'one in, one out' rule for my closets). It's us accepting gifts from friends and family. "Sure, I'll take that Wok off your hands...oh no...we already have one..." (shoves Wok under steps for safe keeping).

Have you re-purposed anything in your home as we did with the stove top and gun cabinet? We've tried to tell family members on both sides "we don't really need anything" or "Can we do something instead of Christmas gifts this year?" Both attempts have failed. We've decided just to keep our mouths shut and stop putting things in the attic (after the last yard sale we established a 'no adding stuff to the attic' rule).

Do you hoard? Do you keep a lot of duplicates around 'just in case' (my Wok example above). I'd love to hear from you...and feel free to make a gun cabinet into a glass-front Mason jar storage. It looks great!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Making a Thoughtful Choice on Where to Live

On Tuesday before heading to the gym I did what I usually do on Tuesdays and Thursdays (at around 5pm). I grab a pre-gym snack and watch 'No Reservations' on the Travel Channel. I TiVo it so it also tapes older episodes. Yesterday I was pleased to discover an episode on the Hudson Valley. I immediately pictured rolling hills, woods, and farmland. I've never spent time in the Hudson Valley but in my mind that's what it looks like.

I was not disappointed. As usual, Anthony Bourdain led the viewer through what it's like to live in the Valley. There were towns that time forgot. Towns where once a Nuclear power plant moved in, people and progress moved out. There were families who are hanging on to old traditions and embracing new ways of gathering and cooking. There was a backyard feast involving Korean food (looked amazing) and a very bright 10-year old girl reading college neurology class textbooks for fun.

The scene that stuck with me was this one. Bourdain sits down at a restaurant that has New York city on the horizon. It's on the water and he's eating with Bill Murray (of all people, right?). It turns out Mr. Murray lives near to that restaurant and has been friends with the chef/owner for 25+ years. Murray explains that he is passionate about living in New York City but he finds it can get nutty. He jokes that in the summer if you clear your throat or cough people will think you're insulting them and freak out.

Murray advises that it's important to carefully select where you live. He wanted to be within visual distance of the city but have his own privacy and peace. It's easy to forget how a comedian like Murray can also be very wise. Everything he said made sense. It was also clear he was passionate about good food, good wine, and supporting local businesses (being loyal to this chef for a quarter century in fact).

It's easy to see a show like 'No Reservations' as just another "let's eat food and drink a ton in a foreign country" type show. It's really not. Bourdain always teaches us about the culture, the people, and the traditions. He supports fresh and local ingredients and different was of doing things. He's rude, he's funny, and a brilliant writer while really making a lot of people angry. He's just, you might say, a normal New Yorker. Coughing the wrong way and getting people to think he's insulting them.

Bill Murray brings up an interesting point. Why do we live where we do? It made me glad I spend 2 weekends per month in Maine. Fresh air, woods, wilderness, and nice people are often refreshing after living in MetroWest for all these years. Why do you live where you do?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Rediscovering the Joys of Pineapple

I don't eat pineapple that often. I mean real pineapple. Not from a can. From the fruit that is a pain to slice (thank you, Tyler for taking all of the eyes out). Over the weekend we had this smoothie (serves 2):

-Handful of fresh pineapple chunks
-2% Fage Yogurt (couple of scoops)
-2% organic milk (just a splash)
-Two ice cubes
-Blend well and add a handful of wild frozen blueberries (my favorite ones are at Trader Joe's in the freezer section).

Per serving calorie count: 188. Experts say an under 200 calorie snack is idea. Low fat, high protein, high in vitamins and antioxidants.

Today at work I just had a plate of pineapple slices. I don't think I can eat the kind from the can again. By the way, that was a VERY large serving glass, not a small dose.

Do you have a favorite way to eat pineapple and a recipe to share. My favorite drink of all time is a Pineapple Mojito made at this little place in Philly: MIXTO

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Hand Sanitizer: An Obsession

This morning on Morning Living (SiriusXM Ch 110) they were talking about skincare in winter. The doctor that was as guest spoke about people at her gym using hand sanitizer in between each cardio machine. She explained this is not only excessive but it damages your hands. Basically you are just sanitizing the dirt on your hands. Also, it can lead to cracking and small cuts that make the issue worse--and leads to infection. Another thing that was discussed was the overuse of things like Neosporin (that can lead to being allergic to that product).

This brings up several things in my mind. Every office in my company is equipped with a GIANT jar of hand sanitizer. The first thing I did when I moved in was to throw it away. This morning's show also explained that hand moisturizer in between washing of hands is really key. If your hands get dry and cracked in winter and you touch your face that is really how nasty germs get spread. They spoke about using a hand sanitizer after riding the subway is one thing but using it all day long is actually doing more harm than good.

Some hand sanitizers have nasty things in them (chemicals that are known hormone distruptors that are outlawed in places like Europe and Canada but okay here in the US). Others are mostly alcohol which is extremely drying to the skin. Now I know parents of small children are going to get upset by what I'm saying. "What, I should not carry hand sanitizer in my diaper bag or purse?" No. And no. Just wash your hands when you need to, be careful to use hand cream in between washings and keep any small cuts clean. I highly recommend a cream by Aveda or even Curel for the office. That way it does not smell funky and is not greasy for keyboard use.

Listen to the experts and the doctors. They say not to use hand sanitizer. The last time I was sick (knock on wood) was January 2011. I work with germy college students and just wash my hands on a regular basis. I also carry moisturizer with me. You can bet I don't squirt sanitizer on my hands in between each machine at the gym. Just use the wipes to wipe off the machine and move on. If hand sanitizer works why is everyone around me (that has it on their desk) sick? It's not the germs on your hands, it's when you stick your finger in your eye....sanitizing the dirt already on your hands is 0 help.

Stay well this winter. Or as my doctor says to me: "Be well." If you use hand sanitizer I'd love to hear from you. Did you know you are actually drying out your top layer of skin and just sanitizing the dirt on your hands?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Recording an Accurate Calorie Burn

I used to wear a heart rate monitor. I hope to again this year (I need to get the batteries replaced). The only tough thing for me is I don't like to wear an HRM during Yoga. I also do not typically wear it during skiing, hiking, and snowshoeing, or even ice skating for that matter. A Polar HRM is the best brand out there that I've seen. I'm also a bit biased since I used to work with Polar.

If you are considering a Polar for 2012 you'll find that has the best prices. Polar also features a free website for logging your workouts and tracking your progress. Back when I got my first Polar you needed to buy a separate device for the logging. Since Polar uses a chest strap it is more accurate than any other type of HRM. Wrist only does not log an accurate burn. I know research tends to go one way or the other in terms of the 'fat burning zone'. For me, it was just a nice way to know what I was burning.

I also suggest this site for figuring out what you burned on a hike or out on the bike or pretty much anything. Last winter with all of that snow I logged what I burned shoveling. The snowbanks were over my head at one point so I wanted to log all of that effort.

Some of you may be wondering "why log anything?" or "Does it really matter?" It turns out, it really does matter if you are trying to maintain or lose some weight. I learned in 2011 that I needed to log every workout and every bite of food. I lost .5/week over the course of 9 months and could not have done this without logging. For many of us that are active if we don't log our workouts and our food we're actually operating at too great of a calorie deficit each day (and not losing an ounce of weight). For example, to lose .5/week I have to eat 1460 calories/day NET. That means if I burn 500 calories doing Zumba I actually NEED to eat 1960 on that day to meet my goals. Sounds weird right? It did to me until I realized you have to fuel that engine in order to lose any weight. If I wanted to lose 1lb/week I would need to NET 1260/day during every single day of that week.

It sounds like a lot to digest (pun intended) but I wanted a free app to take the thinking out of it. I downloaded MyFitnessPal for free and really started to enjoy the process. It even has a bar-code scanner to log your food. I really love the reports to track my nutrition and exercise. So yes, I'm that girl that scans my organic milk and Kashi bar codes or oatmeal or eggs and sausage as I start my day.

If you're not into the logging check out Polar products--you don't have to log to see your progress. It's a fun gadget to include in your weekly routine. You might even find you get a little bit hooked on doing so...there's something so gratifying about actually seeing what you are doing during that hour you are sweating at the gym (or at home playing Wii).

What sort of tracking do you do? Do you keep a journal of what you do for activity or food? Sometimes if you see a nutritionist they ask you to track. I say put down the pen and paper and use a free website or app. It makes life much easier and helps me to meet my goals without added stress.