And so begins November

November. Yes, it’s here! And so begins my usual foolhardy pursuit during the month of November – known as NaBloPoMo, a terrible acronym that announces my intent to blog every day of the month. Some of these posts will be brief, others longer. We start, as I usually do, with food.

Specifically, my cart tonight at Trader Joe’s.

A few notes on this cart, which contains some of my favorites:

sardines in olive oil – I eat these at least once a week. Sometimes as sardine salad. Sometimes mashed with some avocado. Occasionally with some balsamic. They are also my dog’s favorite snack.

shredded brussels sprouts – these are my all purpose fall greens – I usually cook them with the pancetta cubes – and some chicken thighs.

flowers – I buy myself some every week. During the summer I got to pick some gorgeous bouquets as part of my farm share, but alas, winter is nearly here, and I must make due with store bought.

Belgian chocolate pudding – what can I say about this? It’s thick, rich, and you are satisfied with a small amount. I don’t do dessert every day, but this is nice to have in the fridge in a pinch, if I need to satisfy my chocolate fix.

organic chicken thighs – this is one of my most consistent purchases from Trader Joe’s – one of the only meat purchases I make outside of my meat CSA. I don’t do breasts – thighs for life!

ezekiel bread – made from sprouted grains. We actually rarely have any bread products in our house, but I’ve been craving avocado toast.

I also have some almond milk for blended drinks, fennel, dill, and pork tenderloin to test a few recipes this week.

What are some of your Trader Joe’s favorites?

Kitchen Diary + Gratitude Journal

August to August Calendar 2016

It seems that August got away from me. It was a whirlwind month, and now that we’re square in the last days of summer, I’m doing everything I can to savor the moments before winter is here in New England. (I kid… although… if we get snow next month, don’t say that I didn’t warn you.)

Last night, I did one of my favorite rituals: heading to the Wellesley Booksmith to pick up a new August to August day planner, which spans, as the title suggests, from August to August, following roughly the academic year, rather than the calendar year. No matter that it’s been close to a decade since I graduated college, the August to August is a favorite tradition, even though I’ve switched to digital for the actual planning and calendar. Instead, I use the notebook for two things – a one sentence kitchen diary, and a few bullets every night as my gratitude journal. It’s a nice way to reflect on the day and good things in my life.

Last night, I was thankful for:

  • some new book purchases (Brené Brown‘s Rising Strong, David Lagergrantz‘s Lisbeth Salander The Girl in the Spider’s Web – not sure if that counts as fan fic even though it’s technically authorized, and Laila Lalami‘s The Moor’s Account – I’m working through the Man Booker list again this year.)
  • time on the farm to pick my CSA share
  • our new apartment (for the options of a new dog, and my new kitchen, below)

Stearns Farm CSA Flowers in New Kitchen

Hope you are having a good weekend! What is new and good with you?

Let’s Get Festive! Blogger Holiday at CambridgeSide Galleria

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. 

Fresh Shell Beans

Fresh Shell Beans

Late night kitchen. I stand at my countertop, shelling fresh beans. It’s one of my favorite kitchen activities. Meditative. I also like cutting the tops off of string beans with scissors, squeezing limes, folding dumplings, and any other task that allows you to dip into that drowsy state as your hands and muscle memory take over the work.

Tonight, I listen to a podcast – Balanced Bites – Diane and Liz in an older episode, talking about how imposing order on yourself, be it strictness of diet a few days a week, a minimal wardrobe, or other arbitrary rules every so often can help reduce stress and anxiety, and help you do more, successfully. I know that I feel this way – imposing limiting structure every so often actually helps me be more productive – the key term being “every so often”. Abiding by food rules during specific times of year to reset my habits can help me recalibrate more quickly – it’s why I’m so fond of programs like Whole30 – they focus on crowding out your diet with real, whole foods, and encourage you to build good habits, such as cooking at home, which occasionally fall to the wayside of our busy lives, even those of us who love to cook! It’s not about restricting yourself from all the foods you love, it’s about committing to nutritious food, and letting your focus shift to other things. This also fits with the Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin’s theories of Abstainer and Moderators. Some people function better when abstaining totally, others are naturally capable of moderating themselves. I find that I alternate between both, usually preferring abstention when my life feels a little out of control due to external factors, moderation for all other times.

Tonight I’m savoring the last of the warm evening air with a mini pumpkin whoopie from Volante Farms. Maybe it’s just shy of 60, and the window is still open. The World Series is on. Funny how this Giants team feels so dear to me even though I’m so far from my temporarily adopted city. Soon though, to bed. Tomorrow is my last half marathon in Newburyport, before the big one: 26.2 in Savannah.

Lately

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Hardboiled Eggs

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Green Juice

June, which, somehow is gone already, was a good month.

I went to Dublin, to speak at LocWorld. I ate at a Michelin starred restaurant. I had many cups of good coffee, and a few great scones. I have pictures that I’m still processing. I’d love to be back on Howth right now.

I had dear friends come stay with me for their Wellesley Reunion year – we had a house full of college nostalgia. Somehow I missed both Secretaries of State Clinton and Albright – they were both back to celebrate their reunion cycle. I waved at stylish women in antique vehicles who graduate college in the 30’s. I hope that one day I’ll be just as awesome.

I drank a lot of green juice. It got hot around here quickly! I also purchased more straws for my home. Everything is better with a straw.

I got a new photography light – a Lowel Ego – to shoot photos in my kitchen at night.

I ran two races. One of them included a pre-run kayak portion.

I went to track workouts at work. Track workouts are hard!

I but the bullet and got a membership to the Y, mostly so that I can use the pool. I’d forgotten what it was like to swim — and mildly surprised that I could swim a thousand yards without getting bored or exhausted. Sure, an eight year old could beat my pace, but I’m happy to be out there mixing up my workouts, and swimming never feels like “exercise”.

I got a new bicycle. I’m a little afraid of riding it because the seat is high, and I don’t *really* know how to stop yet.

I walked 10,000 steps every day. (My average was 14,000.)

I acquired a modest number of new cookbooks from the New England Mobile Bookfair: one by Bernard Clayton, another by Waverley Root, and the third by Diana Henry.

I listened to several episodes of the Splendid Table, and caught up on RadioLab.

I have a new work commute that lands me in Harvard Square at the end of the day. In the morning, I’ve been enjoying the smooth cold brewed iced coffee at 1369 coffee house. I have very few vices, but coffee is my favorite.

new air conditioner only raised my electric bill by about $5.

Here’s to a fabulous July!

Del Frisco’s Grille

DelFriscosGrille_Burger

For four years in college much of my world revolved around the short corridor of Route 9 outside of Boston. I spent all too much of my free time mall-hopping from Natick to the Chestnut Hill strip. The area’s heyday was really in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, when the first Cheesecake Factory opened in the Atrium mall. While my palate may be slightly more refined over the years, the opening of Cheesecake Factory was fairly momentous at the time – we were all in awe of the massive portions, hot brown bread, fresh lemonade, and their oreo cheesecake (which they have since discontinued, for shame). The last recession seemed to hit the area hard, and the Atrium (the original location of the Cheesecake Factory) is now completely boarded up – but rapid construction in the past three years has changed things dramatically. Instead of crumbling malls and shuttering retail, now we have a Shake Shack! Lululemon! Equinox! You can go for a glamorous cycling class at SoulCycle – and it’s awesome. TrueRunner and Athleta have a bunch of free fitness classes. Sweetgreen is about to open a location. And as of this week – Wegmans! While I’m generally sensitive to a dramatically changing landscape, replacing old empty stores with places that I’m actually excited to go to is pretty great.

This weekend I jumped at a blogger event in Chestnut Hill at the Del Frisco’s Grille with Blog and Tweet Boston – it’s been too long since I’ve been able to take pictures of people taking pictures of food, and I’m always craving a good steak!

DelFriscosGrill_CheesesteakEggrolls

To start, we sampled a selection of their appetizers: their cheesesteak eggrolls with chili sauce – which I’d never think of ordering off of a menu, but ended up being totally smitten by the rich/spicy/sweet/crunchy thing they had going on. There were ahi tacos – little hard shelled tacos filled with tuna tartare and avocado in a nice ratio (the gluten free version was in lettuce wraps) which I’d definitely order next time! Stuffed deviled eggs came with a truffle vinaigrette, but I found the flavors a little heavy handed for the eggs, plus, I’m over anything “truffle” unless you are shaving the black mushroom directly onto my food. If you want to do so, please note that they are going for $999/lb. at Wegman’s. My birthday is in two weeks.

We were at the restaurant early, but the place starts filling up quickly at dinner time and during brunch – fortunately, the empty back space gave us plenty of room to shoot to our hearts desires without bothering other patrons. Being a mix of food, fitness, and fashion bloggers, I must say that the fashion gang kicks ass at cute outfits and food poses. {That’s Chloe shooting Semirah being adorable, with cake.}

DelFriscosGrille_Bloggers

At lunch I sat with the two of them, along with Elissa (another style maven), and Kerrie – who I last shared an excellent meal with two years ago at Angela’s in East Boston, and haven’t seen since! Being the hermit that I am, it was nice to catch up. Although the blogging community in Boston is relatively small, I so rarely do blog events, that I ended up meeting a whole group of new people at lunch – some of which I’ve been Twitter stalking for a good long while, and it’s always nice to connect a real face to a handle.

The main courses were all things that I might order and eat: the seared Asian tuna salad came with a large mound of arugula and cabbage, over noodles that are hiding somewhere under there. In the background you can see one of their signature peppered steaks that has been sliced and perfectly cooked (rare, how I like it.). I managed quite a few slices and ended up taking home a whole filet to eat cold for breakfast. (My favorite way to eat steak.)

DelFriscosGrille_SearedAsianTunaSalad

There was a beef short rib stroganoff with pappardelle noodles, piled high with crispy onion strings; and two flatbreads – the wild mushroom with fontina, caramelized onions, and baby arugula; and the shaved brussels sprout with smoked bacon, caramelized onions, and mozzarella. Second to the steak, this was one of my favorite dishes we tried, and at $13 is definitely something I’d order for an inexpensive dinner during the week. (They also happen to have takeout.)

DelFriscosGrille_ShortribStroganoff DelFriscosGrille_Plate DelFriscosGrill_Flatbread

While I found dessert, the layered lemon doberge cake, to be a little too sweet for my taste, I’ll come back to try their adult milkshake – a fabulous combination of nocello walnut liqueur, creme de cacao, and vanilla ice cream.

At the end of our meal, everyone was pleasantly stuffed – but being the glutton I am, okay, and the fact that bloggers are somewhat less restrained when it comes to meat eating than my CrossFit friends – I managed to score both a filet and the lobster and egg double cheeseburger to take home with me, getting three full meals worth out of this trip – a treat for sure.

Del Frisco’s Grille
33 Boylston Street, Chestnut Hill, MA
Design lovers note, this is right around the corner from the brand new Jonathan Adler store! Rejoice!

Disclaimer: I did not pay for this meal, all opinions are my own.