8.04.2013

a break from blogging?

cafe

Life is always busy, I guess. But lately, it feels like it's been a lot busier. In a good way...and in a bad way. From the moment I wake up in the morning, there is a pile of things on my to-do list, and if I don't get to them by the time I head to bed, my heart flutters a bit, and I wonder if I'll manage to make it through this summer successfully.

I'm still making time for the things I love...crochet projects, cooking, reading, exercise, and quality time with all my special girls. But I'm also studying for the most anxiety-producing exams I've ever taken. So when I make the time for the wonderful stuff of life, the last thing I'm thinking about is photos and blog posts and documentation. That is the blessing of being busy, I guess. In the best moments, I feel so much more present.

Blogging has sort of faded from my mind. And when it does pop up, it's more of a chore, more of an obligation to the internet friends I love so much. And that's not what I ever wanted it to be.

So I just wanted to put a little message out there...I'm here, I'm living, I'm happy. But you might not see much of it around these parts. Maybe you'll see me back at my regular thing in a month. Maybe I'll take off for longer. And maybe I'll be back next week, unable to ignore the call of the blog-o-sphere. The point is, I might not be around much for awhile, and I think I'm ok with that.

But I'll be following along with you. I might not comment much, because, again, I don't want it to be a chore. I want to read your blogs and just enjoy them. So I'll do that. And I'll still be around on twitter and instagram.

And aside from that, if you're wondering what I'm up to, you can bet I'll be studying in coffee shops, tapping on my laptop in the library, escaping into my kitchen, and binging on Orange is the New Black (check it out).

xoxo

photo via

7.23.2013

away

edelweiss

Away this week to spend some time with family celebrating the life of my grandpa, who was driving one weekend and gone by the next. As cool air envelops Boston again, I hope that everyone everywhere is finding some time to dip their toes in the stuff of life this summer.

Back soon.

photo via

7.19.2013

sbql

Here's a song, a book, a quote, a look...all part of my past, my present, and dreams of my future.

Linking up with Jenna for sbql.

sbql1

song // You and I by Ingrid Michaelson
book // James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
quote // Anaïs Nin
look // Tribal Print Shorts and Comfy Tees

7.18.2013

wedding planning

wedding
via

I cannot believe it's been more than half a year since I said 'yes' to Joe and we shivered our way home with a new ring on my finger. It has been so lovely. Everyone loves to talk about an engagement, and it's such a sweet time for us to dream about the next big steps in our lives...graduating, a wedding, new jobs, a new home...

But planning for our wedding is honestly something we've not devoted a lot of time to. For awhile, we were trying to make magic happen. We wanted everyone there, we wanted beauty and comfort, we wanted amazing food, and we wanted it for cheap. Then I got sick of calling venues and Joe got all philosophical about the meaning of marriage, and we both sat down and had a big talk about what we really wanted this day to look like for us.

For the record, I love weddings. I love getting a new dress and seeing everyone in their finest. I cry when any couple says 'I do'. Food and liquor? Give me more. And since the time I let go of my teenage fear of embarrassing myself, I will happily spend the whole evening dancing my pants off (not literally...I wear dresses to weddings...come on).

But for us...planning a big wedding is just not our style. In the fantasy world where we have abundant time and dollars, our wedding looks a little something like this.

But that's not this world. I am not one of those brides who has an opinion on everything anything. And I have to tell you, since we backed off our plans a bit, a huge weight has been lifted from our shoulders.

Now, we're not going all elope-y on you, but we are cutting out a lot of the major elements people usually have to plan for weddings: rehearsal dinners, bridal parties, a DJ, and the list goes on. The plan for right now is to have a small ceremony with our closest beans, followed by a big dinner at a big restaurant. That way, we can include most of our loved ones without having to work out too many details. And the biggest perk? Having a big dinner is a lot cheaper than having a reception.

And since the stress has decreased tenfold, I'm finding the whole planning experience to be so much more fun...and isn't that how it's supposed to be?

The one place I'm still uncertain about is flowers. They are such an expensive part of any wedding, but I'm so drawn to the idea of lavender and sunflowers and wheat, and it's hard to let go of that fantasy.

What kind of wedding do you want or did you have? Any advice?

7.11.2013

lately

We are almost halfway through July. I don't know how we got here. On hot Sunday afternoons, when I go back and forth between half-hearted cleaning and old episodes of Queer Eye, I wonder if the summer is flying by without me. Then I plan dinner with the girls, head out to volunteer, get coffee with a colleague, catch a yoga class, and wonder when I'll ever get a quiet Sunday afternoon again.

girls night

That's dinner last week with the girls from the office. I'm so lucky to have such amazing ladies to spend my days with (though it can be difficult to get much done when you're surrounded by such great conversationalists).

Anyway, summer is flying by, and here's what I've been up to...

[exercising] Yoga. Boston's first all-donation studio. I'm alllll over it.

[enjoying] Our little window air conditioner. On the fourth, we dragged ourselves out into the heat for lunch and were then overwhelmed by the temperatures and had to drag ourselves home with much less water in our systems. I got decidedly cranky (I get cranky like a little kid...with full-on whining and pouting) and when we finally made it home, I fell asleep for a long nap in front of the cool air in our bedroom. Thank. goodness.

[reading] Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safron Foer. I think I need to write a whole post on this amazing book. I will never try to convert someone to vegetarianism...it's a choice that's right for me, but I know my choices aren't right for everyone. But the truth about the meat industry in its current form is pretty startling and awful, and I do encourage everyone to understand where their food (all of it) is coming from.

[craving] Change. Life is great. We have a lovely little apartment, a wedding in the works, beautiful people around us, and lots to look forward to. But after three years of the same grad school, neighborhood, and apartment, I'm getting excited for a change of scenery. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't been scanning the classifieds or job listings lately.

[eating] Strawberries and Nutella. They're a bit outside of the normal scope of my diet, but we celebrated two birthdays (see birthday girls above) at my place with angel food cake and its accompaniments, and someone had to finish the strawberries and Nutella.

[planning] Wedding dress shopping! Any recommendations in the area?

[anticipating] My comp exams! Sometimes it feels like they'll never get here...other times they're just around the corner. Either way, I will be so glad when they are over.

What have you been up to? How are you enjoying this hot, humid summer?

7.09.2013

shadow box

It's funny how ominous the phrase "shadow box" sounds...like a place where secrets are kept.

But that's not how they started. Sailors used to believe it was bad luck if their shadows touched the land before they did. So an arriving sailor would encase medals and souvenirs and other memorabilia into a box to carry onto land. It was his shadow in that box, and in this way, it was protected.

When we were little, my room would occasionally become overrun with the stuff of childhood: a few too many used books, doll clothes left by the neighbor, trinkets and tags and little pieces of nature I tried so desperately to preserve. When it started to drive my mom up the wall, she'd sit on the bedroom floor with me, pile everything in the middle of the room, and begin the sorting: trash, donate, keep.

It's a habit that hasn't left me. I am almost always looking around our place with my trash-donate-keep glasses on.

Except when I'm looking at my shadow box.

shadow box

Here is where I keep the stuff of my shadow, the stuff of childhood, the stuff that has no purpose but needs a place.

My mom recently donned her own trash-donate-keep glasses again. As my parents joyously anticipate retirement and a simpler old age, she is already paring things down, emptying the shadow boxes filled with the stuff of their lives together. On our last visit, my sister and I picked through all those things, finding memories in every nook. Soon, mini tea sets and china kittens will arrive at my front door in a cardboard box, and in my own shadow, I will find places for the things that have for so long been a part of our shadow.

shadow box

shadow box

shadow box

They're only things, I guess. But they are things that will be held between chubby little fingers someday, just as they were held by so many chubby fingers in the past. And I will be glad to have them.

7.06.2013

riding the heat wave

fireworks
via

Happy belated Fourth, all!

It's hottttttt.

There's a thermometer in our bedroom, and in the last five minutes, it crept up to 90.0 degrees. We have an air conditioner in there too, but really...90.0 degrees? I don't know if it's worth the extra few dollars it would cost to bring that place down about 20 degrees just to have it shoot back up.

It seems like forever ago when I was gushing all about how inspiring this oppressive heat is. Now, I am sitting at my computer, feeling my skin pulsing with heat. And I am just trying to convince myself to get out there and do something...make some ice cream! Go shopping! Clean up! Even those exclamation points feel like too much effort.

I think we'll ride this one out until the sun goes down. Then we might make our way out for an evening walk and a good long talk with Mother Nature about what summer is supposed to look like in Boston.

In the mean time, there is a fan and a frozen fruit smoothie calling my name.

Stay cool, friends. And enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend!

xoxo

7.03.2013

how i learned to hate camping

Things I like about camping:

1. Food on a stick
2. Chatting around campfires
3. Swimming
4. Stars
5. Not showering, wearing cute outfits, or putting on makeup

Unfortunately, they aren't quite offset by the things I don't like about camping:

1. Rain (and general damp)
2. Mosquitoes
3. (Not) sleeping on the ground
4. Absence of toilets/presence of portapotties
5. Not showering, wearing cute outfits, or putting on makeup
6. Dirt in the tent
7. Post-trip laundry

We spent this past weekend in Maine, where I went on my second official camping trip and learned all the things I hate about camping. (My first trip was one night on a beach on the North Sea, so I'm not sure it counts.)

I actually did have a good time, and will likely go on more camping trips in the future. But, give me a choice, and I will always opt for a hotel in Europe or a house at the Jersey shore or staying with friends in New York City. (Or even a cabin in the woods...indoor plumbing, people.) It's not the country I dislike (though I dearly missed the city on this trip). It's mostly that I am very untalented at being uncomfortable.

I was kind of hoping to discover that I'm a rugged outdoorswoman, inspired by nature and baked beans. Instead, I discovered that I like mattresses and running water. And I really hate mosquitoes. The seasoned campers insisted it was the worst they'd ever experienced. I hope so. Because 26 bites on one foot is enough to sour my weekend at least slightly.

I did have fun though. And I returned home with a new appreciation for modern comforts. I didn't manage to snap any photos, but I wish I had captured a few of my favorite moments...the lazy river and our tubing adventure, the roaring fire rimmed with corn on the cob and skewers of hot dogs and marshmallows, all twenty of us lounging on the beach...

So let's just remember it like this...

camping
via

Camping...yay or nay?

6.26.2013

summer pinspiration

I've been bitten by the summer bug! (The good kind, not the kind that leaves you with an itchy bump.)

I am not a fan of the extreme heat, but I've embraced it recently...it feels like it's brought on summer growth, outside and inside. I'm feeling inspired to be alive lately, and have discovered that place where everything you have feels like enough.

On the list of lovely things lately...
...a new volunteering gig that I will most definitely be blogging about
...a traumatic trip to the vet for Maus that somehow turned into a bit of fun for Joe and me
...a new yoga class + a new yoga friend (picking up dates at yoga = not cool; picking up friends at yoga = very cool)
...my first time serving jury duty
...an upcoming camping trip in Maine

Jury duty made the list, because it was fun. It's all about attitude, folks.

I hope you're feeling just as inspired! It is such a beautiful world out there, and these balmy days are the best times to get out there and feel it. Evening walks are never as lovely any other time as now.

But just in case you're not, this should get you started...

pinspiration

I've never made something of Angela's that I didn't love, including these veggie burgers. You can whip up a batch, freeze 'em, and take them along to any summer barbecues that might not be vegetarian-friendly. I took some to a cookout with Anna last summer, and there were a few meat-eaters who had to try them too!

Last summer we hopped up to Portland on the train and made it back in time for a late dinner. The prices are a bit steeper than they've been in years past, but check out Amtrak's deals and discounts. You also don't have to go all the way to Portland. The train to Maine stops at all sorts of beautiful coastal towns along the way.

Ok, there's absolutely nothing to do with this pin, except enjoy it, and maybe use it to inspire your next dinner party. We don't have lovely outdoor space like this, so I'll enjoy it vicariously through you. (Or we'll be checking out some of these places...)

The thing I hate more than anything else about the heat is the constant feeling of stickiness. I'm no compulsive hand washer, but during the summer, running my hands under a cool stream of water could compete with my love for fresh sugar snap peas is a great pleasure. Check out an old recipe of mine to keep your hands clean in more ways than one!

And send more summer inspiration my way!

6.24.2013

tea with the girls

home + teatime

home + teatime

These days, it's a pretty special event when my mom, my sister, and I all end up in the same place at the same time. We might be miles apart, but they are still the two people I always call to vent, share recipes, and get shopping advice all in the same conversation.

So while we were all settled in Jersey, we set aside a very special Friday afternoon for a girls' tea at Teaberry's.

We had soups served in teacups, finger sandwiches, scones, jam, clotted cream, and lemon curd...

I had the white Crown Jewels tea...with the flavors of rose, lemon, and vanilla.

Every time we are there, we ooh and aah over the hodgepodge of fine china. (I mean, how special is that strawberry plate?)

home + teatime

home + teatime

And our weekend was full of so many other fun adventures too. My mom made her famous strawberry rhubarb pie. We played barefoot frisbee in the front yard, until the sun went down and the fireflies came out. We ate fish sandwiches at the shore and played countless games of Yahtzee (with full-on screaming every time someone got a yahtzee...it's part of the game). And I got plenty of nephew-puppy snuggle time, but this guy has grown up so much, I guess I can't really call him a puppy anymore...

home + teatime

It was a real summer treat. Here's to many more around the corner!

6.20.2013

the real jersey shore

As we found it one chilly June morning at 9:00...

jersey shore

jersey shore

jersey shore

jersey shore

jersey shore

jersey shore

This is where we come to breathe in moist air, laced with salt. We listen to the squaks and twitters of shore birds, big and small. We marvel at the power of those mid-Atlantic waves, and the way they inspire playfulness when they chase after your heels, but adrenaline as they crash onto the rocks.

Dad collects the roundest stones he can find for his rock wall, worn smooth by years in the surf. Mom collects photos of us all with mussy hair. T collects sea glass, and C collects flat rounds of quartz, for stacking.

I count discarded tampon applicators...I don't want to know why there are so many.

Salt water is healing. But so is the company you share it with, and the years and years of memories captured in sea foam, rolling out into the ocean and returning when the time is right.

6.18.2013

well well wow! {review and giveaway}

At the end of last summer, the company Sun Chlorella must have sensed Joe was having trouble sleeping, because that was exactly when they sent a sample of eleuthero tea, said to help the body react better to all sorts of stress. They must be keeping tabs on us, because their timing on delivering a sample of their new Well Well Wow! product was also perfect.

I was wrapping up a few work items before my trip last week and was feeling some stress and skipping the gym, so a product that is designed to reduce the effects of stress and encourage cell growth and repair was appreciated.

well well wow

Well Well Wow! blends chlorella growth factor (CGF), which is derived from the nuclei of algae, and old reliable eleuthero. The combination is supposed to boost your immune system, keep you energized, and improve adrenal gland function. I can't say that I noticed a big difference, but it might have kept me from feeling the full effect of my tossy-turny nights, and I imagine taking it regularly makes a bigger difference.

I didn't like the 11 grams of sugar in each little bottle, but they come entirely from agave syrup, meaning it doesn't spike blood sugar in a significant way. The taste is reminiscent of straight agave syrup too, so you can pretty much gauge whether you'll like it.

well well wow

Would I buy it with my money?

I'd have to say, probably not. I was so happy to try it, because I think chlorella and eleuthero are both potent products, but I'd rather get them from a source with less sugar. I just don't have a great need for those supplements, and Well Well Wow! really feels like a substitute for an energy drink...even the bottle reminds me of the various energy shots on the market. It would probably be a great way for someone to kick the energy shot habit, actually.

I'd encourage you to try it yourself though, especially if you feel like your mind and body need a boost. And one of you can!

Sun Chlorella will send one of my readers two bottles of Well Well Wow! There are three ways to enter:

1. Leave a comment telling me why you'd like to try Well Well Wow!
2. Tweet about this giveaway, or share it on facebook. Include a link to this page.
3. Follow my blog on bloglovin' or feedly or with google followers.

Leave a comment for each separate entry. If you already follow me, leave an extra comment for #3. The winner will be selected randomly next Wednesday, 6/26.

6.12.2013

hello!

amtrak

Just a quick note to say hello and wish you all the best for a wonderful weekend! Mine is starting early with a trip home. As I fire off this post, I'm zipping through New England in the dining car of a train...my favorite way to travel. (The dining car part is important...I love sitting at a table, with some version of coffee or chocolate always within reach.) Being on a train just makes me feel like I'm muddling in a pool of happiness. Something about the comfort of it all, with the beautiful world zipping by my window. And we can be honest here...Harry Potter probably has something to do with it.

I haven't seen my sister and brother-in-law since last August, when I made a special trip all the way to Minnesota to check out their new digs. Despite video chatting and email and facebook and texts, I miss her dearly, and can't wait to wrap her up in a real live hug. I also can't wait to see this guy, and just snuggle him to pieces.

Fill your weekend with love! What will you be up to?

6.10.2013

five things i want to be

library

I finally got around to reading The Happiness Project. I'd been resisting it after I had read a few unsavory reviews, and began noticing the recent over-marketing of happiness. In my opinion, happiness is very much defined by its occasional absence, and I'd been trying to reject the notion that it is important to be happy all the time, and instead pursue the idea of presence.

Anyway, I stumbled across it in the library and decided to give it a shot. I almost gave up on it a few chapters in, when I decided dear Gretchen was much too focused on fluffy things ("And just like that, I thought of a solution. File boxes."), and was being passive aggressive instead of genuinely letting go ("I took a moment; then, careful to use a light tone, I remarked, 'I wish you were wearing something a little nicer.'").

But...I stuck with it. And I'm glad I did. Maybe it's because Gretchen was on this journey of personal growth, but I found her insights more and more valuable as the book progressed. I was able to leave behind my nitpicks and take away the positive from her experiences. (I think she'd approve of that part.)

One of the pieces I really loved actually came from one of her blog readers, who commented that she encourages her clients to think about people they idolize and identify the characteristics they admire about them. She continued:

Then I tell them this (very Jungian, but very useful to know): whatever it is that they admire in these individuals...is something that is nascent in themselves, but that they have not yet brought into being. 
That...is the real reason why they admire it in the others. Once they have begun to bring these characteristics forth in themselves, they will begin to admire something different in others, in order to continue the cycle of growth into inner freedom and happiness.

I loved this idea, especially after I wrote a post about a few women that I admire so wholeheartedly. I took that very blog post, and reflected on what it is that I find so inspiring about the women I mentioned. For me, the list came down to five ways of being:

self-accepting
authentic
kind
lighthearted
positive

Without putting too much pressure on myself, I wanted to stay aware of those ideas, and encourage them in myself. So I wrote each word on a slip of paper, and taped it to a wall in my house. Conveniently, we have five main rooms in our apartment, so I matched each one to the place it seemed most appropriate, as a reminder of the ways I'd like to be.

bedroom - self-accepting
The bedroom is the place where I stand in front of a mirror before leaving the apartment, scrutinizing my outfit, hair, face. It's an easy place to feel inadequate, and it's also the place where late night self-doubt creeps in. In practice, I want my bedroom to feel like a sanctuary for self-acceptance.

office - authentic
The office is where I do all the things that relate to performance: blogging, emailing, working. In all these endeavors, I often want to feel perfect, am seeking approval, or am inspired by the lives of other people. Though none of those things are entirely negative, being authentic is a priority that surpasses them all...being authentic allows us to relax, directs us to our true path, and ultimately feels more rewarding. And I am always a huge fan of people that make me feel comfortable because they are comfortable.

kitchen - kind
Besides being a great opportunity for alliteration, this match made sense, because the kitchen is a place where I am often irritated. Joe and I both love cooking (and eat a lot), so we are constantly bumping into each other in our small space. I'm often hunting for surface area, or grumbling about the dirty dishes. Since the kitchen is a place I love so much, it should also be a space where I am welcoming and understanding.

bathroom - lighthearted
Because poop. And also, as Joe pointed out, a great place to sing in the shower.

living room - positive
When Joe and I talk about our days or ask each other for advice or discuss all the problems of the world, we are usually sitting in our living room. It's easy to get discouraged when conversation gets serious, so this is a nice reminder that there is always a silver lining, and I'm happy to be the person who finds it.

Who inspires you and what would your list of characteristics be?

6.03.2013

the beauty of our histories

When we look at pictures of our grandparents when they were young, we always think they were beautiful.

It doesn't matter how they might actually and objectively compare to today's standards...whether they had teensy waists or perfectly white, straight teeth. They are always beautiful.

Maybe it's the glamour of the era, the black-and-white photos. But I don't think so. I think it's youth, and history. When we see those photos, we see lifetimes, legends, and a past that connects to us. We see pieces of ourselves that we want to love.

grandparents

When I glam up for a night on the town, lining my eyes and pinking my lips, I can look in the mirror and say, "I feel pretty." But I've learned that it can also be an amazing experience to wash it all away at the end of the night.

When I see that face, when I see the real shape of my eyes and pallor of my skin, I see something far deeper than beauty. I see my siblings and parents and grandparents. I see Slovakia and Ireland and even a hint of the great plains of the US. I see children and grandchildren, and pictures that will come to look like history.

grandparents

Hopefully someday, my grandchildren will have taken these old digital photos of me and transferred them into some as yet unimagined form. They will sit with me and say, "Grandma, you were so beautiful." And oh, I hope so much, that I will have found the words to help them realize that they are beautiful. That their youth, their history, their humanity shines from their faces...and that is enough.

5.31.2013

guest post at bound!

maus

This week we discovered Maus knows her name. We've suspected it for awhile now, but sometimes she's stubborn and ignores us, so we thought maybe we were just getting lucky. But then Joe started testing her...calling out random words in his kitty voice while she's sleeping. Sure enough, her name is the only thing that gets her to lift her head from her nap and give a little coo.

I know...you care.

Really, Maus was just an excuse to get this post going and share some awesome news. My friend Julie over at Bound is featuring a guest post from me today all about books. We're both voracious readers, and she's got some great posts on the subject herself. She's also paleo, and funny, and in amazing shape...so she has awesome recipes, and jokes, and exercise routines that I will read and never, ever try.

Hop on over, read my recommendations, and say hi to Julie. I consider her a blogger soulsister, and I think you'll like her too.

We'll be enjoying this weekend by my friend's pool. Even though I don't feel quite swimsuit ready (where did you come from, June?!), I'm counting my blessings to have a healthy body and a cool place to dip it! Have a beautiful, sunny, hot one!

xoxo

5.27.2013

lately

Happy Memorial Day, all! I am so thankful for the many men and women who have given their lives for the privileges that I enjoy today.

Though I wish this weekend had been filled with sunnier weather, we've also been thankful for a quiet and restful long weekend. I've been in spring cleaning mode, making my way slowly through the apartment, getting into all the nooks and crannies that spend the whole year collecting cat hair and cookie crumbs. It feels good.

I tend to do more cleaning than Joe does, and it's during these cleaning binges that I realize why. It is just more important to me. After I've gotten through a room, I'm constantly saying, "Doesn't this feel good? Isn't it just so nice and peaceful in here?" And Joe is like, "Yeah, sure..." Cleaning brings me peace of mind, but it's just a pain for him.

Ah well...at least I am able to bask in my freshly laundered couch cover and spotless kitchen table.

currently spring

I love this weekend, because it is one of those beautiful transition weekends. Even though the heat is actually on in our apartment right now (!), I think it's safe to say that we are in the midst of spring, and summer weather is just around the corner.

I love this feeling of freedom from winter's grasp. Here's how I've been celebrating it lately...

[exercising] My heart. Inspired by my motivated friend Eileen and memories of my runner's legs, I've gotten back onto the treadmill and am loving the feeling of pumping legs again.

[enjoying] A new haircut. A bob that cuts just below the ears is one of the most freeing feelings as the summer begins. (Highly recommend my salon, if you're in the area...)

[reading] The Millenium series, by Stieg Larsson. Cannot stop...

[craving] The spicy pickled vegetables from the Salvadorian place down the street. Want. so. bad. Does this mean I'm missing some essential nutrient?

[watching] The entire new season of Arrested Development. We're on marathon mode. We've made a huge mistake...

[eating] Homemade vegan butterscotch banana ice cream made in the brand new ice cream maker I scored for $10 at the thrift store. Win win win. Need to tweak the recipe, but will definitely be sharing.

[moving to] And We Danced. Almost guaranteed that you will be offended. 100% guaranteed that you will be pumped up.

[feeling] Warm in my heart every time I look at this or this or this.

I have a busy summer ahead of me, so I took a day on Friday to enjoy some shopping and quiet 'me' time. Sometimes the best thing is strolling through a lux mall with a Godiva chocolate in your hand and a bag or two on your arm (better when filled with free items). I was lucky enough to burn through a couple of major coupons and score a gift bag (plus a cupcake!) at an anniversary celebration, so I felt like a lucky girl indeed.

Enjoy this lovely gift of a day, my darlings.

5.24.2013

hsb's low-carb pb cookies

I recently had to pass up the opportunity to attend at tasting at the Harvard Sweet Boutique in Hudson, MA, both due to being ridiculously busy, and the fact that I am constrained to visiting bakeries that are easily accessible by public transit. It was maybe a good thing, because I think there are certain items I might have eaten until I got sick.

Luckily, Sue George (the founder) really wanted to make sure my tummy didn't get too comfortable, so she shared her recipe for low-carb peanut butter chocolate chunk cookies with me.

Um, I might have had four in one day. Maybe five.

hsb pb cookies

And now I've happily unfortunately discovered that HSB's sweet treats can be ordered online, and they are currently selling Boston Strong cookies with all profits going to the Boston One Fund. The next time Joe and I head out of town for a special trip, this is a business I'd like to go support...their store location serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, and I can only imagine how delicious they are.

I followed the recipe as shared with me (below), except that I used palm sugar for the white sugar, didn't pack the brown sugar, and used whole wheat pastry flour for the white flour. (If you do the same, be sure to use a little less flour than what's called for.) The cookies are so delicious. These aren't of the chewy variety...they're just sort of soft, and almost melt in your mouth a little. Delicious.

hsb pb cookies

Harvard Sweet Boutique's Low-Carb PB Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Ingredients:
4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy)
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chunks

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Prepare baking sheets with parchment paper.
3. Cream butter, peanut butter, light brown sugar, and sugar with mixer.
4. Add egg and vanilla and mix well.
5. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt, and whisk to mix.
6. Add flour mixture to peanut butter mixture and stir until just blended.
7. Add chocolate chunks and mix well.
8. Bake 12-14 minutes until golden brown.

5.22.2013

yarn along - the new jim crow

My yarn and books are all over the place lately. Reading and crocheting were both major stress relievers for me during my crazy last month of the semester. But with all the hopping from job to job, place to place, I was hopping all around my projects and books too. I currently have three crochet projects going and have finally gotten my reading list down to two books.

And for the record, I am the sort of person who likes to finish one thing before moving on to the next. I have been embracing the diversity.

yarn along

One of the projects has been to clothe our second hot water bottle in its own cozy, continuing on my quest to use up the miscellaneous yarn in my basket. I tried to make this one match Joe's personality a little more. He rarely uses a hot water bottle, but I figured it would be a nice gesture, since the first cover has my name written all over it.

yarn along

The book I'm sharing this week is a very sobering read, but it's so important and incredible that I had to share. The New Jim Crow basically presents the argument that our present criminal justice system is inherently racist and results in the systematic oppression of men of color. It's a serious argument, and I've tried to approach it with skepticism. But every time a doubt arises in my mind, Michelle Alexander's next paragraph explains it.

I highly recommend it for everyone. It's a heavy read, but I can promise you will be stunned.

There are so many jaw-dropping statistics...

The US has the highest rate of incarceration in the world.
Three out of every four black men in Washington, DC are in prison.
White people are equally likely to be involved in drug activity, but black men are more likely to be arrested for it.
In Chicago, young black men are statistically more likely to go to prison than to college.

And Alexander's very convincing argument is that these things reflect a broken system.

yarn along

I promise I'll be back soon with something a little more lighthearted. But I think these tough issues deserve our attention too, right?

Linking up with Ginny. Happy Wednesday!

5.19.2013

a saturday for listening to the birds

I think, as we grow older, we have to make a choice...

We can become stubbornly rooted in the people we've always imagined ourselves to be, falling back again and again on, "It's just the way I am."

Or, we can continuously redefine ourselves, holding on to the things that we've come to know and love, and letting go of the ones that we eventually recognize as hurtful to ourselves or others.

I hope to be the second kind of person.

And I am happy to have found a life partner who thinks the same way I do. We share a long history of perfectionism, an over-appreciation for structure, a resistance to relaxation. And we both know that those are not pieces of ourselves that we want to hold onto.

So on Saturday morning, we ignored the voices of work and dirty dishes and sensible meals at home, hopped on a train, and instead listened to the voices of Fenway birds on a little hike to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum.

isg museum

We finally exercised our free pass privileges (yes, you heard right) to the ISG, and spent a couple of hours breathing in the beauty of that old house...its lush courtyard, dark wood rooms, and canvasses from lifetimes ago. It is absolutely the place that everyone has told us it is, and now that we know we can go as often as we'd like for nothing, we might just adopt it as our second home. We spent this first trip just being in all the rooms, but we'll likely grab the audio tour next time so we can actually know what we're looking at.

Saturday was truly the most perfect day for spontaneous adventuring. I can't tell you how happy I was to don boat shoes and my cropped pink pants again, and get a little sun on my whiter-than-porcelain skin.

Our adventures took us past the Harvard med campus and then along Boylston to one of the tastiest places in Boston...

isg museum

isg museum

isg museum

Tasty Burger veggie burgers are my favorite (don't worry, meat lovers...most of the menu is for you). Sometimes I am actually a little disappointed with healthy veggie burgers...they seem to miss the point. But I can assure you, Tasty Burger veggie burgers are decidedly not healthy. Infused with a barbecue flavor and sporting the crackliest grilled edges, they are a vegetarian sinner's delight.

Eaten in the sparkling sun on a bright red picnic table? Even better. So good, it might make you pull a Gollum...

isg museum

You can bet I'm holding on tight to those sunny memories (my precious) as clouds are now sneaking their way across our sky, enveloping us in a week's worth of rain.

Hope your weekend was as beautiful and spontaneous as ours! This weekend, we let go of our inner voices so we could listen to the birds instead. As you've grown up, what parts of yourself have you let go of for happier things?

5.16.2013

brothers

One of my favorite parts about visiting J's family is watching him with his brothers.

Three boys.

They pretend they're only mildly pleased to see each other...pats on the back, handshakes...

But then they gather in the yard with a wiffle ball and a lawn chair to mark the strike zone. I sit on the sidewalk, resolutely unhelpful in catching and returning stray balls. And while I take pictures of flowers and soak up all the sun I can get, I listen to them joking and teasing each other.

Greg is the youngest. It feels like everything out of his mouth is a joke (and he is funny), but at heart he is the sweetest...the least likely to argue and the happiest to see everyone gathering at home again.

Michael is the middle child. We can relate about that, I think. He is a profound intellectual, an artist, and the most likely to argue...but always in defense of truth and rightness.

And Joe is the oldest. He is the big bear, comforting and quiet. Like many oldest children, he appears to let nothing bother him and is always ready with advice for his brothers. I know that the feeling of responsibility has never left him.

brothers

If any of them read this, they will laugh at how sentimental it sounds. Because the truth is, they spend most of their time together reminiscing about when Michael pooped in Joe's bedroom (he was 2) and seeing how many times they can get their mother to roll her eyes.

At the wedding we attended last weekend, Joe and Greg shared a total of five entrees between them. This is their quality time.

brothers

When we're visiting, I get to talk philosophy with Michael while I poke Greg in the ribs, trying to find that ticklish spot. I have to admit, it feels like a little honor that I'll be able to call myself their sister soon.

When it's time to say good bye, they maybe hug, and I tease them for loving each other more than they'd care to admit.

5.13.2013

zevia {review and giveaway}

Update: This giveaway is now closed.

Zevia

Ok, you've seen Zevia here before. And not a lot has changed since I first wrote about their stevia-sweetened soda. I don't drink it regularly, but it's a product I love as an occasional treat, and I am so relieved to be able to find sugarfree soda without all the chemicals.

Then, the people at Zevia very generously sent me another little variety pack to try and offered to send five of my readers a voucher for the six-pack of their choice.

Awesome, no?

It was great to try a bunch of flavors again...some I hadn't had before. And for the most part, I love them. (Strawberry is not my style...waaaaayyy too much like liquid candy.) I do tend to water them down with a little plain seltzer, because the stevia flavor is so strong. But as I said before, if you can handle the taste of diet soda, then I would imagine the stevia flavor wouldn't bother you either.

Zevia does recommend keeping the soda as cold as possible and drinking it from the can. I'm not sure I've kept to those rules as strictly as I should (totally guilty of using a glass), so I bet it would also taste even better if I did!

And again, even though I wouldn't drink Zevia on a regular basis, I love it as a special treat now and then. I've been enjoying the latest batch with our special Friday night dinners and a movie. Kind of makes me feel like a big kid. My favorite flavor has to be the ginger root beer. It's the closest thing to regular soda, and I imagine it would make a great root beer float (with coconut ice cream for a dairyfree and low glycemic version!).

If you haven't had it before, it's definitely worth a try! (And you've got a pretty good chance of getting some for free here...)

There are three ways to enter to win a six-pack Zevia voucher. Leave a separate comment for each one you do, and make sure I can access your email address (on your blog, in your comment, etc.). Here are the three ways to enter:

1. Leave a comment on this post telling me which Zevia flavor you would try with your voucher.
2. Tweet about this giveaway with a link to this post (leave a link to your tweet in your comment).
3. Share my facebook post of this giveaway with your facebook friends.

The giveaway will close in ten days, on 5/23.

Good luck!

5.09.2013

solo dating

Sushi

When I was in San Francisco, I took myself out to dinner. It almost didn't happen.

It's not that I have a problem dining out alone. It's more than the allure of the television screen and pajama bottoms in my hotel room almost outweighed the allure of a solo meal at a sushi counter. But in that brief moment after the waitress offered me water, I didn't give myself a chance to say, "Could I actually place a take out order?" and instead took the plunge into the world of solitary dining that I hadn't seen for awhile.

I sat at that sushi counter and read Water for Elephants on my iPhone. After awhile, I glanced up and watched my chef, skillfully skinning fish and wrapping rolls with nimble fingers. And as a group of young women began gathering for dinner behind me, I vicariously enjoyed their friendship, smiling at their laughter and the comparisons they were making between San Francisco and Boston.

My sushi was amazing. I noticed that the spicy tuna roll didn't have the pinkish mayonnaise sauce I'm used to seeing. So I shouldn't have been surprised that after dipping it in my wasabi-laced soy sauce, I was hit behind my sinuses with a little sledgehammer in my head, and my eyes spilled over with tears in the middle of that quiet restaurant. Turns out, my roll was laced with red pepper flakes, the likes of which I have never experienced before. But let me tell you...once you've cried in a restaurant alone, you will always feel comfortable on a date with yourself.

At the end of the night, I realized that this evening had been one of the happiest moments I had in that city. I was so fully present with my food and my thoughts and my surroundings. I enjoyed the company of others and the company of myself at the same time. And when it came time to walk home, I felt full of possibility...coffee shops, dessert, an evening walk?

My friend Julie recently wrote about the experience of travelling alone when you're used to spending so much time with your other. And while I experienced some of that on this trip, that night of sushi was about more than just being away from others...it was about being with myself. I guess I thought I was with myself all the time...on my train ride into work or when I'm alone in the apartment. But in those same-old same-old places, I just run into my self that I already know. "Hey there...you again." When I took myself out to dinner, it was more like a first date. "Hey there...you like sushi? Ha ha...didn't think it would be that spicy? Oh also...you look really cute tonight." It's a happy place, that one where you sort of get to fall in love with yourself and the world all over again.

Nice to meet you, self. Let's do it again soon.

5.07.2013

gentle people with flowers in their hair

San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco

8. Miette

It feels like my whole semester was leading up to this trip to San Francisco...and now it's come and gone. I keep remembering how fully packed all my days were, but still feel that I hardly scratched the surface of that great city.

I didn't get to see Alamo Square...or these beautiful steps...or Alcatraz...or shop at Little Vine...

All the more reason to go back someday, I guess. San Francisco reminded me a bit of Berlin...the charm of sidewalk cafés and green spaces, balanced by a hefty amount of grit. But, as I reported to J, not our future home, I don't think...just a bit too much of that grit...and much too much money.

I'm also a little embarrassed to report how much my New England soul revealed itself on this trip. At the sign of a little bit of friendly conversation, my dukes go up, and I'm ready to defend myself. It was a good experience to learn to accept unsolicited recommendations and directions from strangers on the street.

I spent a beautiful day with my dad's cousin, driving down the zigzags of Lombard Street, walking along the piers, and eating cioppino at the Cliff House while the sun set over the west coast. I caught up with a couple of friends, visiting the exploratorium, browsing Bi-Rite, and picking up some local treats at the Ferry Building to bring home to J. And I managed to snag some alone time when I took myself out for sushi and hopped on the cable cars in the early morning hours.

And naturally, I spent a little time at the conference that got me out there to begin with. Two successful presentations...and the opportunity to be inspired by the work of many, many amazing people.

I remember my parents often saying that the nicest part of being away from home is to remember how much it means to you. And besides being overjoyed to wrap my kitten in my arms, and wrap both of us in the arms of my love, I am also newly enamored of Boston. I remember what it is to see this place through the eyes of a tourist, and we are so excited for another summer of exploring our own backyard.