Good Things 2020: Week 34 and 35ish.

Good Things: Goal Setting + Getting What You Want. // Last month I worked through some goal setting workshops with a group of friends, and one of my dream goals was around receiving fitness clothing and (fresh pairs of Brooks Glycerin 18s in Men’s 11, yes, sasquatch feet, every month) from the universe.

The act of goal setting is a way to articulate your needs – which in turn allows you to notice opportunity when it hits you – and to ASK for what you need. Goal setting helps make things happen.

The magical results? 2 fresh pairs of sneakers, and I was the beneficiary of a windfall of gentle and lovingly used fitness clothing in happy colors from a friend consolidating closets. What is swirling about in your mind that you haven’t had a chance to articulate yet?

Good Listening:

  • The Wubi Effect: If you have an hour, this podcast episode on RadioLab was the best thing I listened to all week. It’s a fascinating look into how China’s technological renaissance almost didn’t happen. For one very basic reason: The Chinese language, with its 70,000 plus characters, couldn’t fit on a keyboard. A good reminder about bias being built not just into software and systems, but into hardware itself.
  • Tim Ferriss’ interview with Hugh Jackman was just spectacular.
  • Arlan Hamilton’s 8 minutes about boundaries.
  • Who’s Got Your Back – Keith Ferrazzi.
Wellesley, from afar. The campus is sadly locked down to visitors.

Material Acquisitions:

  • A small shutter clicker for my iPhone. (Bertram thinks it’s the treat clicker, see below.)
  • New resistance bands for my home “gym”.

Good Things in Food:

  • New Items at Trader Joe’s of Note. If you haven’t noticed, I’m in love with Trader Joe’s. My source of much novelty and joy in life comes from tracking and trying new items from the store. This week:
    • Sweet & Spicy Pineapple Barbecue Sauce (a good chicken marinade),
    • The dark chocolate protein muffin (taste wise it was good, but it weirdly didn’t set up in the microwave.) – next up I also purchased the maple variety.
    • Corn & Green Chile Pepper Quiche – this was good – I made it for a quick protein filled dinner in the toaster.
    • The vegan caesar dressing in the salad section was worth picking up.
    • Two dips of note: the herbed tahini sauce (went on chicken thighs and shredded carrots and parsley), and the Romesco Dip (very good!) – perfect to add some flavor and depth to salads, or serve with roasted meats or veg of any kind.
    • I picked up the new Kimchi in the fridge case, although haven’t opened it yet.
    • The Bazaar Basket snack mix is delicious: almonds, sweet apricots, salty chickpeas, sour cherries & pistachios –– I added a sprinkle of chocolate chips because I roll that way.

Turkish Stuffed Peppers – it’s that season! Recipe loosely adapted from Ayla Algar’s Classical Turkish Cooking. The filling is ground beef, onion, my grandmother’s spice mix – heavy on cumin, red pepper, oregano. I went for a traditional meat and rice stuffing, making a quick pivot to a stuffed pepper meatloaf-ish situation when I realized that I only had two peppers to stuff, and a pound and change of stuffing. Served throughout the week with yogurt, and one day with cottage cheese.

Taco-seasoning chicken thighs over black beans, with steamed greens and pineapple mango salsa. (This salsa is new from Whole Foods by the guacamole. I’m not likely to do this kind of chopping for a regular meal!)

Peanut Tofu with steamed bok choy over rice. I’ve been eating this somewhat often.

Treats from Elephantine Bakery. This week: Salted Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Cake. (Second only to their Cardamom Rose Water cake slices. Their pistachio & orange blossom cake is also notable.) My brother has been dropping off the occasional treat from Elephantine, one of our favorite bakeries. Usually I’ll indulge in something, and then the rest goes in the freezer as emergency snacks. Over the past few months, I’ve also had a chocolate chip cookie, some blueberry scones, the cardamom and orange zest palmier, a ricotta lemon danish, their olive ficelle and rosemary focaccia. So good.

Salted Pineapple Ice Cream from J.P. Licks. Mid-run. I thought I was going to get something like Dole Whip, but it was actually cream based, not very pineappl-y, and slightly savory even? I get chocolate sprinkles on the bottom.

Still absolutely loving the blooms happening.

I’m not quite ready for summer to be over – I’ll be savoring these last few weeks.

Here’s to a very good week!

xo Sam

Good Things 2020: Week 33

A week ago I was ambling around on one of my daily outdoor adventures when I came across this formidable creature, mere miles from my front door. As I don’t actually live in farmland, but in suburbia outside of Boston, I was pleasantly surprised to make his (her?) acquaintance, for a few short minutes on a hazy summer evening.

Last month, I started a new session of MBSR – mindfulness based stress reduction, a scientifically rigorous program of meditation and yoga in an eight week course – with my best friend who lives a thousand miles away from me. In a way, that’s one of the wonderful things that has come out of this pandemic – Zoom brings us opportunities for close experiences with people who live far away from us. In many cases, what were only accessible as in-person experiences in the past, have come smack into our living rooms.

One of the prompts in the course this week was thinking about what we are like when we are at our most relaxed. For many folks, this can be a difficult question – when have we even last been relaxed? This question takes a little bit of digging. When I’m relaxed, I’m warm, adventurous, at my most curious. I win things. (What do I mean by this? It’s not that I think I’m luckier, per se, it’s that I find myself open to opportunities – I notice things better. I’m better prepared to act.)

What are you like at your most relaxed? I’d love to know.

Good Things this Week:

I have a bit of a backlog of good things – meals, small adventures, lots of dog photos. We’ve made it to some days of serious heat. It’s been well into the nineties most days over the past few weeks, but I’ve still been making a point to be outside as much as possible, racking up my miles in my virtual race across Tennessee and back. (West to East, now East to West! The long way!)

Here are some glimpses of summer:

Bertram and his best friend Sawyer.

In my walking quests, I’ve discovered the joys of the mid-walk snack: specifically these salty and delicious parm cheese crisps from Brothers Market in Waltham. (I used to get the big box of house made cheese crispies from Whole Foods, but had to stop because they were too easy to snack on ALL day in the house.)

Bertram has been taking advantage of porch life by holding court at the top of the stairs to cool off after walks. We finally had a reprieve this weekend – so walks were (to his delight) much longer together.

On the hottest of days, he has changed his tune about “bath-like” water receptacles and actually fallen in love with his new dog pool. (affiliate link!)

I’ve been hunting around the neighborhood for particularly spectacular specimens of plants, flowers, and trees. Here are some of my favorites:

Good Things in Food:

And then, there was food. Because I’ve been questing on my 1270 mile race, I’ve had to be more diligent about feeding myself, and having things prepared. I’ve been trying to keep up with summer vegetable prep. My weekends I tend to batch cook or chop, so that I have things ready to go to mix and match during the week.

Very good news? Trader Joe’s Dolma and Giant White Beans in tomato sauce are BACK in stores! I picked up a few cans to re-stock, and am going to try out the new quinoa dolma to see how I feel about them. Will report back.

Every weekend I’ll sit and do a meal plan like this one; alternating between a paper version and an Evernote file – usually the same or similar template to keep things simple. (This was a particularly meat heavy meal plan, but usually there are two or three days where I eat primarily veg heavy.)

Here are some of the standout meals over the past few weeks:

Pork chop bowl over white rice, with a tomato basil salad.

A version of this bowl: miso mayo white fish, over seasoned rice with rice vinegar, cucumber salad, and furikake.

A fresh ear of corn, a gift from my neighbor.

Golden tofu, seasoned dandelion greens, and an egg.

Pork chop, Turkish çoban salad, herbed tahini sauce.

Fish and squash curry, cilantro chutney, over rice.

This Cooksmarts Tex-Mex Pasta with Broccoli was a real standout. So good!

Bertram, demonstrating that coziness is only a fuzzy pillow and blanket or two away.

Here’s to a very good week.

xo Sam

Good Things 2020: Week 27

We’ve made it to summer. The past few weeks have been a shift – I’ve gone from a season where I didn’t want to read, write, watch movies, really do much of anything – to one where I see possibility again. I’ve moved past the point of COVID suspension – past the first wave of hyper-diligence and disruption, to one of preparedness, organization, and action. While I don’t see an end, I see a path. That’s a small comfort.   

I’m currently working through my fridge and prepping all of the vegetables that have sat a little too long. So we’ll do some multi-tasking today while my eggs soft boil, I roast some zucchini, summer squash, and I decide what to do with the several bunches of kale that are languishing. I have to do something with the green plums, as well. 

The past two months, I’ve been running and walking across Tennessee. I’ve almost reached my first goal – 635 miles across the state, and then I’ll turn around for the return journey. The next milestone will be a sweet thousand mile pin on my way back across, and if I can just eke out a wild burst of energy in August, I may make it all the way back across by the 31st. Each day I input my miles and learn about the town that I’m walking through – figuratively, as my literal miles take me mostly through Newton, Waltham, Watertown, and Brighton. it’s a fascinating way to learn about a place that I admittedly didn’t know too much about. 

I grew up on the ocean, and I’m a believer in the restorative power of a water view. I’ve been making a point to run as many of my miles on the water as I can; mostly lakes, ponds, and brooks around here. 

Good Books: on the way, I’ve listened to a number of books over the past few months – I tend to flick back and forth between business, psychology, food, and YA fantasy. Notable titles that I finished (with about a dozen more in progress, oof!…):

  • David Epstein’s ‘Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World‘. Honestly – a bit of personal validation – I’ve always considered my superpowers coming from pulling from disparate mental models from my range of personal interests. An entire book on why this works!
  • Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse – after reading  the Ninth House last month, I decided to dive into Bardugo’s Grishaverse, a YA series based in a loosely Slavic-ish fantasy world.
  • On Networking – Harvey MacKay’s ‘Dig Your Well Before You Are Thirsty’, and Judy Robinett’s ‘How to Be a Power Connector’ (super tactical).
  • I finished Tara Brach’s ‘Radical Acceptance‘, which I started last year and have picked up intermittently.

Over the next couple of weeks, I have a goal to FINISH off some more of my half read books. I’ll note that I *do* now have a shelf of “books I put down and don’t want to read any more” – but there are many more that I just paused in progress!

I’ve also been listening to the audio description tracks of shows and films. Comedy specials are great for this – Hannah Gadsby’s Douglas this week (would recommend!). Great audio description is an art form, and vitally important for those who are blind or visually impaired to enjoy films and shows. Yesterday I got through several of the new Netflix Unsolved Mysteries on my 11 mile outing!

{Small Treats and Other Good Things}

New Art! To celebrate my birthday last month, I acquired myself a painting from my friend Judith! Judith is a participant in my weekly productivity and accountability co-working *Do The Thing hour, and I got to live vicariously last year as she was down in Florida painting this and many other gorgeous beach scenes. It’s delightful to have friends who are creative and talented working artists!

New Shoes! After so many miles, my last pair of new shoes (from April 27th?!) was needing legitimate replacement. HOW?! (500 miles is how.) I’m always super hesitant to move to the next model, but my well-liked Brooks Glycerin 17s were out everywhere, so I upgraded to the 18s that just came out. 50 miles in this week, I’m liking them a lot!

{Good Meals}

I’ll start with my perpetual favorite evening snack here: cottage cheese with salt, pepper, good olive oil, and gilding the lily with some pesto. Cottage cheese has a bit of a sad reputation as an 80s diet food, but it’s so delicious!

After several months of eating exclusively home cooking, the past few weeks I’ve broken the seal – an egg salad sandwich from Formaggio Kitchen, a churro from Los Amigos (admittedly sad, and they forgot the cinnamon sugar) and last night – my first real delivery – Butter Chicken and Naan from Shan-a-Punjab. No photo, because I unceremoniously dumped things in a bowl, mixed together, and ate greedily.

So many good home cooked meals to note:

I’ve been liberally using the Trader Joe’s Nori Komi Furikake (this one is seaweed, sesame seeds, salt and kelp powder) on all sorts of things, my favorite just being on soft scrambled eggs, some seasoned rice, and tomato.

While I get fresh meat in my Farmers to You farm share (referral link!) each week, I also have quite a bit of ground meat from Walden. One of my favorite things to make is an all-purpose variation of Larb – featuring ground meat, fresh herbs, dressed with fish sauce, and lime. (Notably missing is usually the ground toasted rice which I don’t usually have on hand, but is delicious.)

I’ve been also eating a good amount of fish from Red’s Best. I tend to gravitate towards full flavored fishy-fish that stands up to stronger flavors. My favorite preparation is either a mustard-mayo marinade, or a miso-mayo marinade. This one was miso-mayo over seasoned rice with furikake and bok choy.

There’s been a lot of simple dinners as well – a seasoned steak, with cucumbers, tomatoes, and mango. While I like a complex meal, and robust seasoning, sometimes I’m very happy with toddler-style three or four ingredients. (And let’s be real, sometimes dinner as an adult is chicken nuggets and nothing else, and nobody is there to stop you.)

A mediterranean bowl: with warm hummus, tomato and cucumber salad with lemon, mint, dill, and parsley, and za’atar chicken thighs.

Another steak (this was a gift-Ribeye from Morton’s) with garlic greens, tomatoes dressed in Gotham Greens Basil Caesar, and some mashed potatoes.

A fish curry – with haddock marinated in coconut milk, coconut, ginger, bok choy and coconut rice. This one I used a base of Mae Ploy Thai yellow curry paste, which I’m generally a fan of.

Lest I leave you without some photos of my most eager eater: Pork chops with chopped tomatoes, mashed potatoes. Bertram always appreciates my cooking.

Here’s to a very good week.

xo Sam