A Few Good Ideas for Winter and my Winter Self-Care Bingo

Winter Citrus

Ah, New England winter. The season of slipping on the ice, freezing through your boots, getting trapped in 12 feet of snow, and braving horrific public transportation. Oh and that feeling that becoming a complete shut-in is a good alternative to braving the bitter cold outdoors and the general societal grumpiness. It’s no joke. At the onset of every winter here I feel like throwing up a big SOS flag and jetting to the nearest warm place to hibernate for the season.

But because I’ve committed myself to living here (at least until I figure out a better idea) I make it a habit to roundup ideas big and small to get me through the seasonal shift and help me actually enjoy myself through the holidays, new year, and the big freeze. I’m a strong advocate of self care (and teach an e-course on it) and am my best self when I actually plan and visualize ideas before being threatened by the winter blues.  Here’s this year’s list:

Food and Drinks to Ease the Chill

Weekly chilis, stews, and braises. Chili is a staple in my household – it’s holds high on the family favorites list. Tori Ritchie’s Braises and Stews, and Molly Stevens’ All About Braising are two seasonal favorite cookbooks.

Winter citrus. While you can pick up citrus all year long in the supermarkets, it’s my favorite time of year for it, and I make time to celebrate the season. A box of clementines or grapefruit overload take the edge off of the weather and always make me cheerful. I love Jamie Oliver’s clementine curd, and Jennie’s clementine, honey, and olive oil cake do the trick.

The Warm Boozy beverage. Mulled wine, hot nog, hot toddies, or my favorite: a shot of baileys in a mug of boiling water. On my to-cook list this month is my own homemade Irish Cream inspired by the brilliant Smitten Kitchen.

Revisiting Habits and Routines that Keep Me Healthy

Up the self-care routines; revisit old routines, habits, and streaks to see if there are ones that I’ve dropped that I’d like to go back on. Re-committing to a weekly number of sweaty workouts, upping the yoga classes, and planning out fun fitness activities help. I also try to make more time for meditation, embrace some “Woo”, and surround myself with green plants. I made my own self care bingo printable to encourage myself to keep up with the small self-care activities that make a big impact.

Simplify where you can! Fall back on some simpler routines – for me that’s shopping once a week instead of several, and re-committing to the “home court habits” that Darya Pino talks about in Foodist. Not just for nutrition but for overall health.

Take advantage of the new year’s momentum. Just because the majority of people fail their seasonal resolutions, doesn’t me that we all have to! Take advantage of the momentum and set some smart health and fitness goals for the year. Mine include training for a longer triathlon, consistent weight lifting and strength training, a faster 5k, and beating this year’s gym trip record.

Winter Tips for House and Home

Hot hands winter warmers. I acquired an entire case of them (before someone pointed out that actually you can get reusable ones). On the plus side, these are great for grab and go, and stashing a few in my car.

Seasonal housekeeping – I like to do some basic seasonal house care tasks as a way to usher in the change in weather. I’m not Martha Stewart, so you won’t see me going overboard with the winter homekeeping, but some basics are a great start. For me, this included doing some Marie Kondo wardrobe assessments, and taking on some household projects. This month it’s making a good 72 hour emergency kit for our home.

Candle season. I pick up a bunch of plain candles (unscented preferably, as I prefer not to inhale chemical fragrance) at Ikea and Trader Joe’s. I light a bunch of them in an area where they won’t burn the house down. These are also a useful part of our emergency stash incase the power goes out in winter.

Need more ideas for self-care this winter?

Download my handy dandy Winter Self Care Bingo printable:

Things that Spark Joy

heath serving bowl ottolenghi tabbouli

With winter in full force today, I’ve been working on a list of things in my life that spark joy to ward off the winter blues. This is a variation of a gratitude exercise that I do with my coaching clients – and something I try to revisit on a semi-regular basis.

I often have difficulty reminding myself what things spark joy when I’m feeling symptoms of depression and anxiety. Many of my friends and clients do as well.

So it helps to do this exercise when I’m on an upswing, and be kind to myself when these things don’t seem like they’ll help. Sometimes the act of making the list is enough to spark positive feelings.

I write out a combination of big things and little things – when I don’t have the energy to travel or adventure, I may still find joy from slicing carrots with my sharp knife, stirring a pot of beans, or cuddling with my sweet puppy. The act of doing something small but satisfying helps to start a positive domino effect in my daily life.

Here’s my list this week.

My red Heath serving bowl, a birthday gift from Devon. And filling it with greenery, such as the parsley tabbouleh picture above. It’s this Ottolenghi recipe.

Chopping and slicing things with a very sharp knife. I purchased a new Kyocera knife as a replacement for one that chipped. At some point, I’ll get a new one with their warranty, but after stalling for a while, I finally just decided to bite the bullet and spend the $30 with industry discount at Sur La Table.

Planning trips, and traveling. I had a few big trips on my to do list this year: my favorites were Florida (twice) and Denver, Colorado! Every year I go with a small group of friends on a spring excursion. We’ve done DC, London, Disney World. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed Disney. I’d like to go back this year. Bonus points for silly out takes from warm beaches.

Sam Tackeff

Helping other people find their passion in life. Life is too short to be drifting down the wrong path. There is a world to explore, and people in need to be of service to. For you Wellesleys out there: Sed Min for the Win.

The feeling of having written something. I do wish that I enjoyed the writing process more – but it’s often difficult to feel like I’m in the zone. That said, the joy of having written is strong!

The ocean. I’ve been blessed to have lived most of my life near the ocean. I love the vivid color of the sea, the lapping of waves, gathering sea glass and worn rocks. It’s a perfect place of contemplation. I like walking past others who walk on the beach alone, a brief nod of solidarity and of knowing.

Acquiring new books at my local bookstore. Or even the non-local ones – I like getting books on trips, and visiting bookstores in different places.

Adding a finished book to my Goodreads “read” list. It’s really nice to see everything I’ve read in one place, and to see the virtual shelf growing. Even on days when I feel like I’ve accomplished nothing, I can see that I’ve read and haven’t given up on learning and exploring.

My sweet bean, Bertram the Frenchie. I adore getting to spend time with him, head into the outdoors on adventures, and see him taking true pleasure in chowing down on whatever is in front of him. He likes sitting on my lap and watching the world. He loves people – it’s actually quite nice to have a social puppy that is different than my own nature.

Bertram the Frenchie

What would you put on your list?

Boston Business Women

Boston Business Women Directors

Well hello there, friends! I hope the end of spring is treating you well. It’s gorgeous (if not a little hot) here in New England, and I’m so thrilled to just have the chance to be outside these days. I’ve been heading out on long and leisurely walks nearly every day with the pup.

Someone rightfully pointed out that I haven’t actually posted winners from my Blue Apron post. I was going to pick two, but I had five credits on Blue Apron, so congrats to Azzara, Susan, Mary, Margaret, and Katie! If you didn’t win, but desperately want to get a box, let me know, and I’ll pass you on one when I get another set of credits. (Which apparently was as soon as I passed on my current credits. Send me an email – sam at thesecondlunch dot com! if you want a free week!)

This month has been full of adventure, and I wanted to mention one of the big projects that I’ve been working on! One of my greatest passions is to work with women on self-care, personal, and leadership development. It’s tied deeply to the values that were instilled in me through my education at Wellesley, and over the past few years I’ve been searching out more concrete opportunities to do so.

To that end, I’ve been serving on the board of the Wellesley College Alumnae of Boston, and a few months ago took a role as technology director on the leadership team of the Boston Business Women. Our team created and produced a sold out thousand person conference a few weeks ago! It’s been keeping me busy! Our keynote speaker was Arianna Huffington, who is leading a campaign for better sleep – a topic near and dear to my heart. I took home a signed copy of her book The Sleep Revolution and have been reading it this week. It’s full of case studies and scientific research on why sleep is so important. I’m always looking for new sleep routine recommendations to share with my wellness clients – getting sleep down is one of the best ways to support overall health.

Arianna Huffington The Sleep Revolution

It was a complete privilege to hear Arianna speak – but even more special to see her interact with everyone at the conference. She was kind, gracious, and completely down to earth. She was also rocking a classic and stunning fitted and flared pale pink dress with matching tan pumps and purse, and I picked up some new style goals from seeing her outfit. The woman can dress.

It has been a complete thrill working with so many brilliant and hardworking women over the past several months, and was even better seeing the fruits of our labor – a gathering of entrepreneurial, like-minded women looking to do more good in the world. I can’t wait to see where we go next! If you are in the Boston area, and would like to join the group, here’s the link to our Facebook group (4500 women strong!) We have a full season of events planned, and we have more in the works!

Morning Routines + The Weekly Meal Plan

Ottolenghi Chicken with Cardamom Rice

Happy Sunday everyone!

That gorgeous skillet is filled with chicken thighs with caramelized onions and cardamom rice from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem – my favorite dinner last week. I highly recommend it!

Today I spent most of the day outside, taking advantage of this un-seasonalbly warm 52 degree New England weather. I come to you with two lists today – the first is the morning practice that I’m committing to for the month of February. And then capping it off with my weekly meal plan – because most of you are here for the food!

For the month of February, I’m teaming up with some of my favorite biz ladies to do Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning. It focuses on making a habit of six activities – all of which I’ve done on a semi-regular basis in the past – but could use a little more incentive to get rolling on. The first step is waking and drinking a glass of water. This doesn’t count as one of the activities, but might be the most important! Here are the six:

Meditation – I’ve worked my way through the Headspace foundation pack, and am now working through the activity packs. I started with Depression (I have a lifelong history of SAD in the New England winters), moving on to Anxiety (might as well tackle the tough ones first!) and looking forward to starting on “Creativity”. I have a year long subscription and am committed to meditating every day.

Affirmations – this is an interesting one, because I’ve avoided these in the past. Why are affirmations important? Well, we chose the scripts that we play to ourselves in our head, and often they can be a repeat of negative and self deprecating thoughts. By thinking of the same negative thoughts over and over, we can make these thoughts a reality. The goal with affirmations is to re-write the script. I’ve written out a series of affirmations that go beyond the inspirational quotes, but hit on my WHYs, my passions, and my desires. Sometimes you have to give yourself a pep talk to get going! (This is actually a great strategy for racing as well.) As I read personal development books, Internet articles, fiction, or even just talk to people, I’ll be building on these affirmations. I’m looking forward to adding to them as I learn and grow.

Visualization – this goes beyond a vision board, but vision boards are a good start! Just by thinking about the life that we want to be living and what our ideal days and years and accomplishments look like, we are achieving the first critical step to making change happen for ourselves. Today I spent ten minutes thinking what my ideal day would look like this coming week. No dramatic stretches! Just reminding myself how I want to act and FEEL.

Exercise – after a quiet winter season, I’m working to bring back movement in a more dedicated way through race training. But the idea here isn’t my whole workout, but to just get my muscles moving and heart pumping. I’ll be starting with a light weight routine in my house. After far too long in the trunk of my car, I just recently brought my frozen kettlebell up the stairs to have on hand. I will also be planking, squatting, and stretching.

Reading – 10-15 minutes of personal development reading. I have a strong reading goal that I’ve written about this year – 100 books! – and I make time during the day for reading already, so this is just a bonus. For my morning practice, I’m going to keep it to non fiction personal development topics. Right now I’m reading Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art.

Journaling – this is something that I already try to build into my day, but could use the extra motivation. I’ll be doing my typical morning pages – 10-15 minutes of free writing with occasional structure – feelings, thoughts, gratitude lists, and the start of my daily to do list.

The most important part of this month is that I’ve found my accountability partners to ensure my success!

And! To make sure I feel rewarded for my habit building – I have a physical checklist that I’ll be using with little gold star stickers to cross off when I’ve accomplished my tasks. Chore charts don’t just work for kids!

Do you currently have a morning routine? 

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:: The Weekly Meal Plan: Week of January 31st, 2016 ::

I’ve been trying to add in a new recipe from a cookbook each week. Last week was the gorgeous chicken with caramelized onions and cardamom from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem. (See above!) – his recipes are always so delicious! Since cooking with Blue Apron, I’ve actually expanded my patience for cooking slightly longer week night meals, so I’m trying for some with a little oomph more often.

Sunday: green salad with smoked andouille chicken sausage and buttermilk biscuits

Monday: shrimp fried rice (Blue Apron) wild shrimp, with a little side of kimchi that my neighbor made and gave to us.

Tuesday: pork chops with brussels sprouts and pancetta, a super simple three ingredient dinner. Okay, plus spices. Maybe five ingredients.

Wednesday: eggs for dinner. I’ll keep this one simple and make a regular scramble and a green salad.

Thursday: the cookbook recipe that I haven’t decided on yet! I know, I know, I’m sorry to keep you hanging! If you have any suggestions for a great cookbook recipe, I’m all ears.

Friday:out! or as we do these days – takeout and an On Demand movie at home.

Pausing for gratitude.

Bertram the Frenchie

One of my favorite parts of leading a wellness group is working through daily assignments alongside my clients. I find it personally rewarding to engage with the material – one of the most important reasons I chose to dedicate my focus to a career in health and wellness was because of my own pursuit for a healthier lifestyle. On the practical side, it encourages me to assess and reassess the curriculum if I find that I’m personally feeling resistant to the work!

An important part of my regular focus on well-being is my gratitude practice, and so I often begin my coaching work with a short gratitude exercise. Today in Secrets of Self Care, we wrote out 10 things we were thankful for. Here is the short version of mine. The long version took up two pages in my notebook.

Today I have much to be thankful for.

I’m thankful for my loving partner.

I’m thankful to work with some amazing women in my program.

I’m thankful for fluffy white snowflakes.

I’m thankful for a trip to Florida for a few months from now when the snowflakes will be less appealing.

I’m thankful for Jamie Oliver’s muesli recipe. With cacao nibs, blueberries, and maple syrup.

I’m thankful for my oldest friend willing to make an IKEA trip with a stitched up foot. And she let me push her in the wheelchair!

I’m thankful for the $20 *already put together* Raskog turquoise cart from IKEA I found in the as-is section.

I’m thankful for dear friends, both near and far.

I’m thankful for the safety of my family in Istanbul.

I’m thankful for my ever-loving sweet pup, Bertram.

What are you thankful for today? 

PS: If you’d like to hear more on this topic, or are interested in future sessions of Secrets of Self Care, sign up for my wellness wisdom newsletter!

Starting Monday – Secrets of Self Care

tackeff 6 week fall wellness coaching program

This week has been a vibrant whirlwind – which is sort of how I’ve come to expect my fall to be – life reflecting nature – the leaves changing colors, the winds picking up. Except I’m not gearing up to hibernate, but instead bolster myself for the holidays and the new year. It’s a little scary how fast it’s come this year. Wasn’t it summer yesterday? (Okay, so maybe it did hit 73 degrees here this week…)

Much of my free time has been spent building out my fall wellness program which starts on Monday! – the Secrets of Self Care, and I realize that I haven’t talked to you about it here on my corner of the internet, and YOU are who I’ve been writing this course for!

Secrets of Self Care is a 6 week program for those who have been focused on career, family, or business, and lost themselves a little in the process. (Okay, isn’t that all of us?) Six weeks leading up to the holidays to help you get back in touch with yourself.

Are you lacking inspiration to make simple, healthy, and seasonal meals?

Are you feeling tired with the change of seasons?

Do the holidays cause you anxiety?

Does your energy wane in the early afternoon?

Do you find yourself making sub-optimal food choices when you don’t have better options?

Do you feel like curling up on your couch with a cup of tea, and not leaving?

Join me for this adventure in which we’ll focus on being kinder to ourselves, supporting our needs and desires, and nourishing our bodies.

What you get:

– Daily weekday emails providing journaling and action prompts.
– Supportive online accountability
– A variety of printable handouts
– A personal coaching consultation with Sam (via Phone, Hangout, or Skype)
– Additional email support for the duration of the course

The cost of the course is $179 for the 6 weeks, including a 1-1 personal coaching session.

We start Monday – I’d love to have you join me – we’ll be thinking, writing, dreaming, and bringing good things to life, and I’ll be doing the work right along side of you!





If you want to hear more, email me at sam@thesecondlunch.com, and I’d happy to hop on the phone with you for a few minutes to talk about the work that I do, and how I can help!

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