Good Things 2019: Week 20

This is Alison Roman’s magical roasted carrots from her book Dining In: Highly Cookable Recipes. I make a batch a few times a week when I have carrots on hand. They are in fact highly cookable!

Last week I finished reading Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism. I recently read his book Deep Work (which I’d recommend as well) – and this served as an excellent complement. It’s been one of my bigger goals this year to reduce my time spent on devices, and be more mindful and intentional with my mind spent connected to the world. (Work in progress.)

Digital Minimalism doesn’t offer draconian advice about removing all of your access to technology, but offers specific advice on reducing your time spent on devices, improving the quality of your connected time, and improving the quality of your personal connections.

A useful rule of thumb: rather than just setting limits on your devices, get a clear idea of how you actually want to spend time on the internet, your phone, etc. (I’ll note that this is a useful principle for your time in general: it’s a lot easier to live a fuller life if you know how you want to spend your time and your downtime.)

With my closest friends living all over the country, and my family spread all over the world, I’ve been laying down some better foundations for friendship and connection.

For me this looks like:

  • Identifying who I want to prioritize in my life: Who are the people who support me? Who are the people with whom spending time together improves both our quality of lives? Who could use a phone call? How can I better nurture these relationships? Who do I need to spend less time with? (Energy drains…)
  • Working to actually build and develop relationships with those closest to me – well beyond an occasional facebook like. The first step is stopping the mindless scrolling. I haven’t cut social media completely out of my life, but I’m making the effort to actually pause and use these tools for conversation rather than a quick transactional exchange of likes or hearts. Stopping to actually comment on posts, and when possible, turning the conversation to the phone, or in-person.
  • Getting over my allergy to the phone. I’ve started actually using this newfangled device to call people. (I also use Zoom hangouts, but the phone is great for my walks, runs, and any time I can squeeze in a quick conversation with friends and family.)

Celebrating my birthday. Last week was my birthday – I’m thankful for another year around the sun. It’s been a challenging one, but also an amazing one – I’m looking forward to the new year to come. I’m a low key birthday celebrator, but I did get to spend this year on the field at Fenway park for a few hours at batting practice yet. Also I was directly responsible for Rick Rolling the stadium, so I’ve achieved peak success on day one.  (Well, to be fair, my brother helped with that one. It was a gift!)

Things I want to do more of this year (the short list):

  • write
  • grow Ompractice to support our amazing teachers and students
  • spend quality time with friends and family (and my dog)
  • travel
  • invest in myself. 

Things I want to do less of this year: mindless time wasted somewhere in the internets, resisting delegation, wasting time before making decisions.

Good Things in Difficult Times

This weekend I sat down to write, and started this way: “It’s raining. I’m tired. Things aren’t always sunshine and good things.”

It seemed particularly difficult to write a list about good things when our siblings in Alabama and Georgia just got damning news about the stripping of their bodily autonomy, and the potential future challenge to Roe stripping us all of our human rights.

It seemed particularly difficult to write a list about good things when the latest school shooting in America was relegated to a blip in the news coverage. (Yes, there were more than one last week..)

It seemed particularly difficult to write a list about good things when world politics are at a tenuous balance, and our problems in our own backyard are growing.

But this is why I do this exercise for myself. In a challenging and difficult world, it’s important to celebrate the good just as much as call out and act upon the bad. In order to maintain the hope, energy, and initiative to fight good fights – we must top up the tank with positive inputs.

Starting the Summer Garden

It felt late this year, but I finally got my start with spring planting. I have a shaded 10×10 back plot (to be filled with zinneas, dahlias, and herbs), and I set to work in front beginning my potted garden. (Which resists bunnies, and can be moved around with the sun.)

To start: the herbs – basil, parsley, cilantro, dill, mint, thyme, oregano, lemon verbena, rosemary. I still have a few weekends of planting to go, and have yet to make choices on everything I’d like.

For reference for myself: last year’s potted garden included: mint, basil, parsley. A bowl of kale varietals, several varieties of basil, thyme, mint, rosemary, oregano. Dill, parsley, cilantro, a few basil varietals in the small pots. The metal pot had a big tomato plant that I grabbed. Then cucumber, yellow bean, Cubanelle pepper. Side of the house had sunsugar tomatoes (such a good choice!) Romano beans, zucchini, green beans.

Connecting with the past

Two of the communities that are deeply important to me, the two institutions that I feel wildly privileged to have grown up in are my alma maters: my Wellesley community, and my Exeter community.

Much of what I do in life is guided by the two latin mottos of these communities: Non Ministrari, Sed Ministrare – not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and Non Sibi – not for one’s self.

I spend a lot of quality time connected with my college both in a volunteer capacity, and because my house is 15 minutes from campus, but less time in New Hampshire, at the beautiful school I developed a deep love of learning at.

Fortunately, it was my high school reunion last weekend, a three day affair that brings us back to take classes, have conversations about our roles in the world, and inspires us to do better.

I’ll pat myself on the back because some of my best wing people weren’t attending, so I opted to head out to the three days of nostalgia solo. (Sort of my nightmare…) Not only did I make it through, I had a great time. Highlights included a crayfish lab, AP physics class, “Spring in Love”, and some deep Harkness discussions with old friends and classmates. And dining hall. Unlike your average school experience, I still *dream* of the desserts that were served, and still contemplate crashing campus to eat every so often…

More Good Things, a short list:

  • It was the height of spring weather – I spent a lot of time outside walking, sitting on the porch, in the grass, on my patio, and generally reveling in the sunshine. (We’ll just ignore that blip of the 40’s over the past few days. 
  • A corgi named Sawyer moved into my neighborhood. Corgi puppies are ridiculous. 
  • I went to the Boston Public Library for an event – it’s such a GEM of a building. 
  • Spending time with Sara, my childhood best friend, over the course of a few evenings while she was in town. Teen movies, Game of Thrones, and Gentleman Jack for entertainment!
  • I got a free dinner at Cava! I’m the lamb shot girl… I’ll tell you the story some time. 
  • I met a super FLOOF! puppy.
  • Cats in closets. I found one.
  • Research: the optimal filling of the dishwasher. Readers, I read the manual. Highly recommend. 

Good Food: Of course, this wouldn’t be a sometimes food blog without me noting some of the delicious things I’ve eaten over the past few weeks. 

This pasta with spring vegetables dish from Giuliano Hazan’s 30 minute pasta. (A gem of a cookbook!) The recipe is here. I usually double the amount of vegetables.

Chicken Marbella: if you lived through the 80’s, you likely had this classic recipe from the Silver Palate cookbook  – a sweet, salty, sour party recipe that was on rotation at most dinner parties. (Including my aunt’s.)

The chicken is cooked with vinegar, capers, olives, prunes, brown sugar, and wine, and is delicious on day one or prepped a few days in advance. After eating the chicken, I keep any leftover sauce, and use it a second time to braise vegetables.

Elise from Simply Recipes has a simple adaptation (halving the amount of chicken) that I usually pull up to grab the recipe.

A very good snack: cottage cheese, drizzled with good olive oil, salt, plenty of black pepper, and a few soft boiled eggs.

A High-Lo Dinner: Trader Joe’s Diner Macaroni and Cheese topped with 6-8 ounces of lobster meat from Whole Foods.

Shutterbean’s Spicy Chicken with Chickpeas. Such a lovely recipe! Bookmarked to make again! (I’ll note: it’s a sheet pan recipe, but I cook almost all my meals in my Cuisinart Steam & Convection toaster oven because it’s an amazing little oven.)

Parsley Salad: I use the parsley as a green, and toss with lemon vinaigrette, chopped shallot, and chopped tomato.

With that, I bid you adieu!

Have a great rest of your week!

xo Sam

Good Things 2019: Week 16

* * *

This year, I’ve committed to writing more, and it’s been working.

Aside from this blog post, this week I wrote about leadership goals, running project management at Ompractice as we grow – with Agile methodologies, agile sprint planning, and the sprint retro. Personally, I wrote about documenting and codifying my Ideal Week.

While the bulk of my writing remains unpublished, I’m thinking of this writing a little bit more like book writing than blogging.

The end goal is to build a bigger body of work on topics that I’m interested in, both for myself, and to share with others. While I love blogging, I want my thinking to be better organized, more structured, and edited to reflect developing insight over time.

I know this to be true about myself: writing is the best way for me to clarify and organize my ideas. It’s a process. Whenever I start a new project, I sit and brainstorm on paper. Then I take to the road for a long walk, or the shower, with a structure to ruminate upon. Back to my desk, I make more notes, and edit accordingly. Sleep on it, and edit again. Rinse and repeat.

But like many things that are obvious – knowing something that is true, and consistently committing to put it in practice are two separate things. This year I wanted to make sure that my desire to write actually turned into work written.

Fortunately, writing begets writing, so here we are. Like my run streak (it’s been over a year), one of the keys to success for me was to build daily doable habits. So this is what I’ve been doing loosely: writing about work during the work week, writing about life on the weekend, posting on this here blog, and then adding good things to my notebooks in between.

The two biggest shifts that has positively impacted my writing habit: scheduling the time for it, and reducing my actual time spent on my phone consuming social media.

{Assorted Good Eats:}

You’ll have to imagine them, because most of the week my phone was away from me on the charger, and I only took a handful of blurry unlit snaps of my meals. (That gorgeous spread above is what I was eating a year ago in Istanbul!)

  • Chicken marinated in Trader Joe’s Amba (fermented mango sauce). You can find it in the fresh case by the pesto and hummus, and it’s a phenomenal marinade or all purpose sauce for any meat or fish. I can’t recommend it enough.
  • Whole Foods Matzah Crack. If you go by your local Whole Foods this week, I recommend picking up this seasonal treat: matzah coated in a sweet and just slightly salty caramel/toffee, and dipped in dark chocolate. Smitten Kitchen has a good recipe if you feel like making your own.
  • Trader Joes’ Braised Beef with mashed potatoes and cruciferous crunch salad. This beef (with demi glaze) is one of the best things at Trader Joe’s.

Lot’s of good meals on tap for this week. This is what my lightweight meal planning looks like most often. I also keep a spreadsheet when I’m inspired to do things digitally.

{Good Things}

I cleaned and re-foiled the grill to get ready for grilling season. All that’s left is to hook up the new gas tank, give the grates a bit of seasoning, and I’m ready to go.

I cut the cord! After far too long overspending, and time wasted with the television just on in the background, I finally got rid of cable tv, and switched from Comcast to wildly faster fiber internet with FIOS. I’ll still have Netflix, Hulu, and the occasional live TV access when desperate, but I’m decently sure that I’ll be using it far less than I have been. And while I do enjoy watching live sports, I *love* listening to sports on the radio. The only thing I anticipate missing is the clicker to my Xfinity box.

A pup walk with my friend Teri. Teri was in town for the Boston marathon (which she CRUSHED with solid training, and a 10 minute PR), and I was delighted to get the excuse to head into town with Bertram for an active recovery walk with her on Wednesday evening. Normally I don’t bother reaching out to people who are visiting for the marathon – they usually have enough on their minds! But I was SO delighted to get to see her, and the weather was beautiful.

Great reading this week: Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism (I opted appropriately, for the hardcopy), my friend Anna’s forthcoming book Shadow Magic, Ben Horowitz’s Hard Thing about Hard Things (Audible), Karen Wickre’s Taking the Work out of Networking, some Essential Jim Rohn, the last in the Discovery of Witches series (Audible), and got started on a galley of Sarah Gailey’s upcoming Magic for Liars.

Passover Dinner: this year we had a smaller dinner at my Uncle Allan and Aunt Roz’s house than normal, with many family members spread across the country and unable to come home for the meal.

This didn’t keep us from some of our favorite traditions: reading from several different Passover Story Haggadahs (Haggadot?), singing songs, opening the door for Elijah, Miriam’s cup, and some sephardic traditions including the Moroccan Bi Pilu (going around the table and blessing each participant with the seder plate over their heads.) Our youngest participant was just shy of 27, so the four questions were a collaborative effort.

In addition to our regular updated Silverman Haggadah – which I’ve always enjoyed for it’s Retro late 50’s artistic style, we read from the Gateways Haggadah, a pictorial version of the Passover story, which is written to support families with children of all abilities and disabilities, and is meaningful to our family. And this year, some new readings from the HIAS Haggadah, connecting the Passover story to today’s global refugee crisis. Ex: the section about the modern ten plagues of the refugee crisis: violence, dangerous journeys, poverty, food insecurity, lack of access to education, xenophobia, anti-refugee legislation, language barriers, workforce discrimination, and loss of family.

For dinner, we ate traditional seder plate fixins, two types of charoset from my mother – “New England Style” with a lot of apple, and “Turkish Style” with spices and dates, hard boiled eggs, a terrine like gefilte fish with plenty of horseradish, matzah ball soup, Moroccan mini meatballs and peas (we do kitniyot), my aunt’s Tsimmes, green beans. And for dessert: fruit, macaroons and a berry crisp my mom made.

Looking forward to:

My birthday gift from my mom: a generous MFA museum membership with reciprocal privileges at top institutions!

Spring planting in my potted garden! Fresh herbs, flowers, and vegetables, I’ve missed you.

Have a great week!

xo, Sam

Good Things 2019: Week 15

Here we are, on the eve of Marathon Monday, Patriots Day, Tax day, getting ready for another week ahead.

I’m sitting looking through my schedule for the week, eating a bowl of pasta and meatballs, and getting ready to fight for the fate of Westeros with tonight’s Game of Thrones season premiere. (To be quite honest, I watch so I can talk about it on Twitter.)

The marathon is also a bittersweet day for me. I adore being a spectator, and there’s nothing like cheering for people putting in the hard work of a marathon, salty high fives, and losing your voice to the effort. (I’m a graduate of the Wellesley scream tunnel, and I live down the street from comm ave right around Heartbreak Hill.)

But I’ll never be able to fully shake the memories from 2013, the terror of not knowing where my friends at the finish line were, having to tell a runner that the race was canceled, the lockdown, hearing the shootout from our home. And though I likely have another marathon in me, I’m decently sure that I’ll never be able to run Boston. That said, come rain or shine, I’ll be out there tomorrow to cheer on the amazing folks putting in the effort and running their hearts out.

Before I get to good things, last week was a tough one, friends. We lost my grandmother (and last living grandparent), Rena, far too soon. Due to timing, we didn’t fly to Turkey for the funeral, but I’m hoping to get to spend time with my family later this year.

Rena was a fabulous, dominating force. Walking around the neighborhood she knew everyone. As a teen, I was always a little embarrassed by her, but looking back, the embarrassment has shifted to deep admiration – she’d come visit us and negotiate for lettuce at Market Basket. (And get the deal.) She was always put together – well coiffed, nails done, kohl eyeliner.

There’s not nearly enough space to sum up a lifetime of memories, but when I think of her, I think of the polyglot – speaking multiple languages at the dinner table, laughing with her friends. In the evenings, regaling us with stories with a deck of cards, or her favorite electronic poker game. (She also loved the lottery, and had a knack for winning.)

In the kitchen she’d cook for hours, making any number of meze, rolling dozens of Turkish sigara borek, making my favorite stews, or her delightful rose jam. When we’d visit, there’d always be a new fruit or cheese to try, a salty bite to eat, and a cup of tea or Turkish coffee made.

Last April, my mom and I flew to Turkey, worried that it might be our last visit. Despite bad news at the doctors, we spent many of the days eating, laughing, shopping for food, and cooking together. On one day, she summoned the energy to walk to a favorite restaurant, Şampiyon Kokoreç, to eat a plate of chopped offal, and through the neighborhood to pick out the best of the muşmula, a relative of the loquat. Still the consummate host, she cooked me my favorite dish – Mantı – turkish ravioli with yogurt sauce, and hosted the family for dinner and profiteroles.

This is one of my favorite photos of her. She will be missed.

{Good Things}

Missing this week is a lengthy photo documentation of my meals: largely because when I’m overwhelmed with life or work, even my best intentions of meal planning can get tossed out the window to be replaced by Trader Joe’s meals where my goal is to simply feed myself. (Granted, I do love a good Trader Joe’s dinner!)

Sometimes self care is simply knowing when to cut your losses and stick to the basics.

One thing I did cook for myself – and with great success: Roasted Broccoli and White Beans, from Shutterbean. This is a super easy recipe that gives you crispy and lemony beans, and a heaping serving of vegetables when the rest of your meals are lacking. I added a little bit of turkey kielbasa for a more filling meal.

New bakery treats! If you are in Portsmouth, NH, don’t miss the new lovely bakery, Elephantine. After months of trying to make it over there, I finally managed to a few weeks ago, and it held up to the hype! Notably delicious: their stunning lemon ricotta danish, the olive fougasse, and a nicely made latte.

On that note, if you love a good bakery, Newton area folks should be sure to try Koko Bakery, if you haven’t made it yet. It’s a Japanese bakery with delicious sweet treats. My favorites include the sweet red bean bun, melon pan, and any of their cookies.

Attending the Health and Wellness Show with Ompractice We spent the day spreading the word about our company, one person at a time! This was actually our first consumer show – it’s always really fun to get out there and talk to real people!

We’ve come a long way in the past year! From proof of concept to a full schedule with thirty teachers on the platform, every day is an adventure, and it feels so good doing work that makes a real difference in people’s lives.

On that note, another kindly request – I’d *love* for you to try a class. Unlimited membership is only $5 for your first month, and $24.99/month after that. We’re building this business one student at a time – but we have a full roster of incredible teachers and I’d love to fill all of their classes!

[I’m also on the lookout for bloggers who’d like to work with us as we build out our marketing. If you are interested, please fill out this two minute form!]

Looking forward to:

📣 Next month, I’m stepping back into public speaking and doing an in-person workshop for entrepreneurs on self care. This is a private event, but, if you are looking for speakers on wellness, entrepreneurship, or preventing burnout – I’m looking to do more of this! (Email me at sam at ompractice.com)

Now you’ll have to excuse me for the abrupt ending – the GOT theme song has started and I’m off to participate in pop culture.

Have a great week!

xo, Sam