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{the life-changing magic of tidying up}

December 14th, 2014 · Books

the life-changing magic of tidying up

This weekend I started – and finished – reading Marie Kondo‘s book “the life-changing magic of tidying up“, which I highly recommend to anyone who feels like they need a little bit more order and organization at home. The book is full of practical advice, and simple, clear instruction. It’s another great success of the current Ten Speed Press lineup – one of my favorite publishing houses.

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The Weekly Meal Plan

December 13th, 2014 · Meal Planning

Weekly Meal Plan December 13th

Hello! I should be heading to sleep – I’m running Yulefest tomorrow! – but HGTV is on in the background, and it’s always so hard to shut off the calming voices of Canadians talking about open concept living spaces and income properties.

I wish that I could say that this week was relatively uneventful, but it was a difficult one for me. My grandmother Sterra lost her dear best friend of 81 years, and hearing her give Betty’s eulogy was so terribly, deeply sad. Think about that for a second. 81 years of friendship – longer than many people live in a lifetime. My heart is broken for her.

Week of December 13th

After getting my new Paderno spiralizer in the mail this week, I’ve had vegetable noodles on the mind! It was a serious upgrade from noodles made with my Mouli by Moulinex (which is still one of the most useful tools in my kitchen) – these noodles are really quite pasta-like.

Things to use up in my kitchen: cabbage, zucchini, mushrooms, a sweet potato, 1/2 jar of Rao’s, shredded carrot, celery.

Saturday: zucchini noodles, leftover Rao’s tomato basil sauce, Italian chicken sausage. To my surprise, zucchini noodles this week were a huge hit. So much so that they were requested not two days later, and who am I to turn down a request for zoodles?

Sunday: coconut milk shrimp (from Sunset) over sweet potato noodles. I bookmarked this recipe the second I opened the new Sunset. (I’m still grieving that Time just sold off the Sunset gardens and HQ. This is another terribly sad week for food magazines.

Monday: Turkish kapuska – cabbage and meat stew. I’ll make this on Sunday, as it always tastes better day two. Here’s a recipe, similar to the one I use (which I’ll get around to writing up one day soon.)

Tuesday: spiced Indian beef over carrot noodles. A riff on Jamie Oliver’s Indian Carrot Salad that’s always a hit in the house.

Wednesday: Devon’s office holiday party. Hopefully I’ll have a real meal at some point, but it’s likely going to be grabbing something on the way over.

Thursday: Turkish tomato eggs (menemen) – using this recipe from my blog.

Friday: out!

What are you eating this week?
–– Sam

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Let’s Get Festive! Blogger Holiday at CambridgeSide Galleria

December 10th, 2014 · Blogging, Boston

Sam Dani and Liana

We’ve had a long few days of rainy weather, which is starting to seem like a perpetual state around here. It also happened to be raining last Tuesday when I headed over to the Blog & Tweet Boston Blogger Holiday Swap at CambridgeSide Galleria, but I was rewarded with a really great time, and that mall is warm and cozy during the holidays, so I was much less predisposed to complain. Today I’m just cranky. (The carbon monoxide alarm beeping – every 30 seconds from 12:50 in the middle of the night when we had a power outage to 3 in the afternoon on my work from home day – may have something to do with it. I’m only now getting over my headache.)

I’ve been trying to get out more – hanging around the city of Boston before heading home on the days that I can. There’s so much to see and do here, but it’s easy for me to get caught up in the cycle of work/workout/eat/sleep – sometimes you have to actually *see* other people. Most of the time I’m a hermit, but the promise of good food and good fun is always welcome. Also, the promise of a Yankee Swap, the game where you each pick a gift, and then can trade with any of the previous gifts opened, and one person gets to be kind of a jerk and make out like gangbusters at the very end, and choose from whatever gifts they want – well I’m a sucker for those too.

Shiny CambridgeSide Galleria Holiday Decorations

The stores at CambridgeSide Galleria were generous enough to provide some great (non-gag) gifts for the swap, and all we had to do was come ready for the action. During the event, I got to hang out at an excellent table with Elizabeth of On Tap for Today – whose Frenchie, Clark, is another one of my favorite internet pups – and made new friends with:

Alexandra of Alexandra-Elizabeth: A Single Mom’s Journey, Molly of Pop.bop.Shop, and Rebecca of her eponymous blog Rebecca Brianne.

It’s always a little overwhelming for me to meet new people at these events, but I could not have asked for a better table – we had ourselves a *very* good time, made even better by some special paper calendars, and these women made me laugh (the best medicine for social anxiety).

CambridgeSide Galleria Blogger Holiday Swap

I managed to win a pretty sweet Fitbit Flex, but given that we have all the devices at the RunKeeper office, I ended up switching for a Starbucks tumbler that provides me free coffee every day in January. I have no idea what I was thinking though, because a Flex is a way better gift, and I could have probably purchased three times the amount of coffee for the value of the Flex, and provided one of my friends with an awesome holiday gift. Alas. I blame it on my current caffeine addiction. I’m trying to be good, I’m trying. I also kind of want the Fitbit Charge – which I’m hoping to win from my entry here.

After the swap, we snacked.

CambridgeSide Galleria

These salted caramel pudding cups from CPK were really all the rage – not too sweet. I probably could have eaten five of them.

Instead, I got to spend time with two of my very favorite fitness bloggers – Dani of Weight Off My Shoulders (who is slated to run her 52nd race of the year at Yulefest this weekend!!) and Liana, of Run to Munch (who ran back to back BQ marathons one weekend this fall, and has me lusting after a 2015 50k trail race…) This was my first time meeting Liana in real life, and after listening to me babble for a few minutes about how awesome I thought she was, she proved to be extra awesome by participating in my selfie. Also, I <3 when bloggers are just as nice in real life as you think they’ll be.

Liana Dani and Sam

Special thanks to CambridgeSide Galleria and Blog & Tweet Boston for putting on a great event. (This was not a sponsored post, but I did get a free Starbucks mug and swag bag by showing up.) All opinions are my own. 

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The Weekly Meal Plan

November 30th, 2014 · Meal Planning

The Weekly Meal Plan

Well, hello! Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I stayed in New England, where my aunt managed to pack 45 people into her house (we held a coup last year to stop going to the large function facility, but I don’t think that anyone was expecting everyone to show up in the house!) I held back from taking leftovers, except the leftovers of the cheese plate, because, well, cheese.

This year I didn’t sign up for a Turkey trot, but managed my very own little Turkey trot (to coffee), and back, because our office had free t-shirts on the line to any of us who completed a 5k, and I am highly motivated by free things. While in the fitness spirit, I managed to score a few Black Friday deals (mostly on cycling/running/fitness gear), and am looking forward to the goodies coming my way.

My winter training plan was challenging this week – base line testing in swimming, cycling, and running. While running theoretically is my best sport of the three, I’ve been focused on really slow distance running, and that, ahem, shows in my pace. Looking forward to speeding up a little bit as I push forward in three sports! I missed two of the seven workouts (because of the holiday gym schedule, and my general lack of preparation), but this week I’m hoping to jump in 100%.

Week of November 30th

After my house got a deep clean this weekend, I also did the same for the refrigerator – I did my best today to toss all of the old condiments, jars with mysterious contents, and find more appropriate containers for things that I’d managed to eat half of. Things to use up in my kitchen: after the purge, little was left – cabbage, fennel, celery, beets, onion, mint. Some miso butter, bacon, parmesan, a hot dog, and some milk.

Saturday: Trader Joe’s Make Your Own Meal! I generally try to make us a meal that we both share, but some nights it works best for us to head to the store and get our own meals. Devon got franks and beans, and I got a frozen wild salmon entree. I made myself a side of fennel salad.

Sunday: monkfish with miso butter, mashed potatoes, fennel salad Monkfish is a meaty (odd looking) fish, that stands up well to bold flavors – in this case, the leftover miso butter that has been sitting in my fridge for weeks. (Half white miso paste, half butter). One kitchen mistake was to mash my baby potatoes with my immersion blender, and they ended up a tad gluey.

Monday: fresh ham steak, cabbage and onions, green beans. I’m still not 100% sure how I’m going to cook the pork – possibly a sear and roast job – but it’s defrosting right now in my fridge, from my CSA haul.

Tuesday: chicken sausage chili. This was supposed to be turkey chili, but I forgot to buy the ground turkey at the grocery store, and happen to have a few chicken sausage links that needed to be used. I’ll likely spice the meat with cumin, dump in a jar of salsa, and a can of tomatoes, and add any extra vegetable that I can find in my freezer.

Wednesday: köfte (Turkish meatballs) with mashed cauliflower and tomato salad. These spicy little meatballs are one of my favorite foods.

Thursday: A holiday party! The party itself isn’t dinner, but I’ll be out until around 10:00 pm. Emergency eggs if I end up needing dinner, but most likely, I’ll be too stuffed.

Friday: out!

What are you eating this week?

–– Sam

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Building a daily architecture based on feeding a creative mind

November 28th, 2014 · Wellness, Writing

Joshua Waitzkin Quote.JPG

A few weeks ago, needing a new podcast to work through, I started re-listening to the Tim Ferriss show from the first episode. Tim’s podcast is focused on what makes the best, brightest, and most accomplished tick, and gleaning insights on how they live their lives. Tonight I listened to his interview with Joshua Waitzkin, the subject of the film Searching for Bobby Fischer (free on prime streaming video), and author of The Art of Learning.  As I try to do when listening to podcasts or reading books, I took notes. Here are some of the main points I found particularly interesting.

We begin with a question:

How do you go about building a daily architecture based on feeding a creative mind? 

Some of the tangible methods mentioned in the podcast that I’ve been working to improve or cultivate in my own life:

Meditation (deepening creative process, improving health, a multitude of benefits) For Joshua, much of his meditation is combined with movement – particularly the practice of Tai Chi. Tim discussed his own easing into mediation by sitting for 5-10 minutes daily. I’ve dabbled with meditation over the years, and I’m still looking to cultivate a better meditation process. It’s something that I’m looking to actively build into a habit.

Turn mind to creative work pre-input. This is to say, journal (or write) in the morning before checking your email, RSS feed, Instagram, and email, again. This is one of my worst habits, partially because I charge my phone next to the bed. To change this habit, I will move the phone from reach before going to bed tonight, and put my journal next to my bed.

Ending the work day with quality. This is something I struggle with – it’s easy to find the day ending in a little bit of a lull after a caffeine crash. By ending the work day with quality, you allow yourself to internalize quality overnight. On Monday, I plan to schedule in an important task at the end of the day 30 minutes before I leave. (Note, these do not need to be tasks you finish – in fact, leaving something to write the next day was also mentioned as a productive strategy.)

Similarly, ending a workout with a focus on quality. This means making those last few minutes count. For me, this is kicking it to 200% and sprinting through the finish. Or pushing through those last few minutes of a ride. By ending a workout with a focus on quality, you internalize precision and a strong finish. I’ve worked hard to cultivate this knowing that it drives coaches nuts when you give up in the last few minutes of a workout. I’ve noticed that when I finish on a high point, I’m much more likely to want to head in the next day or two for another workout.

Journaling. Part of my journaling ends up here on the blog, but private writing is important to build and work through complex issues. I’ve been trying to focus on spending more time writing in a physical journal.

Post mortem processes – asking yourself what are the core areas of complexity you are challenged with? At work I lead agile retrospectives with our teams – this practice is actually quite helpful at home as well, and can be as simple as asking yourself a few questions about how things went, what worked well, what didn’t work so well, and what you can improve. 

Finally, release your mind from work at the end of the day. I’ve always struggled with coming home with the intention of spending quality time with my family and friends, and the draw of unfinished work emails, or even the always tempting idea of “getting ahead of the work for the next day”. But shutting off is important, and something we all need to focus on.

Are any of these things that you’d like to focus and improve on?

Reading mentioned that I haven’t read but would like to: 

Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast

Robert Pirsig’s Zen + The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. (Which I own, but have not read. Putting the book on the nightstand tonight, and I will finish it before the end of the year.)

Learn more about Tim’s podcasts here

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