After a great 2019, and a middling 2020 for reading, and an even worse 2021 (lots of half read books with my attention as shot), here I am with my renewed sense of enthusiasm in the new year!
Having a reading list helps me make decisions about getting in quality reading without falling into decision making slumps. I aim to have a large percentage of my reading written by women, POC, and international writers; and typically read a handful of Man Booker short list titles. I typically make a list of my favorite categories, and then will supplement or swap as I find reading that calls out to me. I make room for the synchronicity of just picking up any random title, but I always have a backup!
A few notes and observations:
Audio Books: yes, I definitely count audiobooks as reading. I process information better when on my walks and runs, and thus prefer listening to memoirs or non-fiction this way. It’s also easier for me to stay engrossed and follow along while I’m moving physically.
Don’t forget FOOD! For the past several years, I read almost zero food memoirs, literature, or history – some of my favorite topics. So I made this one of my kitchen resolutions this year! (Again.) I’m also re-reading cookbooks
The library is your friend. While I always try to support local book stores – I’m also a huge fan of my local library – grabbing things off the Speed Read Shelf is my jam. Plus you can leave with a large stack and it always feels like I’ve won something.
As always, still working my way through my list of Personal Leadership Development Books, and the BBC Big Read. I also read quite a few business books for work – whatever I need to expand my ideas and sharpen my skills. Our team has quite a few readers, and an up and coming leadership book club has us reading (me re-reading Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly, next.)
Re-read Atomic Habits by James Clear; Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg (done!)
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (done!)
We Should All Be Millionaires by Rachel Rodgers (in-progress!)
Beartown by Fredrik Backman
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
Re-Read: Dare to Lead by Brené Brown (work book club)
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
What it’s Like to Be a Bird David Allen Sibley
Categories to choose from: (I often choose outside these, but I find that when I’m in the mood for a particular feeling, it breaks down by this type of category.)
YA fiction or Fantasy
Gallant by VE Schwab (March 1 Release)
Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin
The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy) by S.A. Chakraborty
In the Serpents Wake (Tess of the Road #2) by Rachel Hartman
Skyhunter by Marie Lu
Leadership / Business / Finance:
Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson
The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership: A New Paradigm for Sustainable Success by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman, Kaley Klemp
Think Again by Adam Grant (in-progress!)
Working Backwards by Colin Bryar and Bill Carr
Writing and Creating:
The Practice: Shipping Your Creative Work by Seth Godin
Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon
The Boron Letters by Gary Halbert
Fitness and Health / Mindfulness / Brains
Listen Like You Mean It: Reclaiming the Lost Art of True Connection by Ximena Vengoechea
How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell
The Body, A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson
The Power of Kindness: The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life by Piero Ferrucci
Gripping / Thrilling / Literary:
My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
The Hunger by Alma Katsu
Memoirs / Non-Fiction Reporting
The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish
Taste by Stanley Tucci
Eat a Peach by David Chang
Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe
“Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”: Adventures of a Curious Character by Richard P. Feynman
Books to Finish (technically there are many more half-reads over the past few years):
The Body Keeps the Score by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk
Dutch House (Audiobook?)
Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
Circe by Madeleine Miller (may switch over to Kindle)
Every year I sit down and make some resolutions for the kitchen. Given that food is one of my favorite sources of joy, novelty, and connection, it’s a favorite practice of mine to spend a little bit of time making this space more useful, and my time spent in the kitchen more meaningful. Having people around my table (even figuratively) is how I show love, and bring people together – and although we can’t do much of that these days, I’m thankful to be able to take the time to feed myself well.
I’ve been writing these resolutions for more than a decade, and some of them pop up year after year – affirm doing good things that work – and a handful are new each year. You can take a peek through previous years here: (2012) (2016) (2017) (2018) (2019) (2020)
Re-Commit to Consistent Kitchen Habits: particularly the habits that keep me consistent in other areas of my life. I find that most things in my life depend on me eating well.
• Weekly Meal Planning: one of my home court habits • Update my regular groceries list (favorites, protein, don’t leave the store without this!) • Update my “New Recipes To Try” list (
AND: Dishes cleaned before bed, coffee maker set. Coffee cup next to the coffee maker, ready to take on the day.
Remove Clutter: While some people find a perfectly spotless and minimalist kitchen ideal; I actually need to be able to see appliances or pantry items in order to be inspired to use them.
• Do a systems audit for blockages • Make what I want to use more obvious
Quest for Best: this is one of my personal values – I get a lot of satisfaction out of keeping track of the “best of”, like your own neighborhood consumer reports.
• Do a pantry audit, and re-stock pantry with “best of” items, update my spreadsheet
• Seek novelty: Bean of the Month Club, Spice Club, new item at Trader Joe’s or one new item at Formaggio each trip!
• Get your knives sharpened. Just do it! • Review storage containers for more sustainable options • Re-Read a classic cookbook every month • Read more food writing (and memoirs)
AND: Update my bucket list restaurants for when that’s a thing again.
Make Memories in the Kitchen
• Update Friends + Family Favorite List so I can cook in honor of my people and think about them (or cook for them!) If I haven’t solicited some from you, drop your favorites in the comments for me!
• Update Seasonal Favorite Cooking List
• Update my list of “Big Cooking Projects”
• Zoom Cooking classes with friends! (In 2021, I had a great time taking a truffle making course, and a Lamb Biryani from Pondicheri – looking forward to choosing a few great options to take with friends and family!
Do you have any kitchen resolutions this year? I’d love to hear about them!
Every year, I complete a fussy year long review that takes me a few weeks of compiling – a pages long list organized by category, which I find particularly cathartic, even – or particularly – in difficult times (and this year was full of truly great things, but also particularly shitty for me, losing my dad, one of my number one eating partners in crime.) I write about my full process here.
For some folks, a review of a year that is complicated or traumatic (hello, most of us in a pandemic) isn’t particularly appealing, but I find it to be one of my most satisfying activities. In part, because a full 50% of it is my re-living of my meals – the things may be going down in flames, but “at least, I ate!” approach. And ate, I did.
Here is my non-exhaustive list. Honestly, there was more than this, but I may have forgotten to snap a photo, or it really wasn’t worth eating. These are loosely organized, but the whole thing is a little chaotic. I can’t say that all of these things were great, but I’ll bold some of the things that I’d recommend.
Items I cooked at home, either from recipes (I’ll link those I have) or ideas. Also, items cooked by friends.
Bone Mountain Farm Shokichi Shiro squash with maple syrup and cinnamon
Favorites from Star Market (over the Mass Pike!): dark chocolate cake (three layers), Cape Cod Cafe Pizza (hands down the best frozen pizza!!), Bubbe’s passionfruit mochi, Stouffers stuffed peppers (don’t knock it), CRISPY LETTUCE
Wegmans: California Rolls (why are they so good?), bacon cheddar sliders on arugula salad, pumpernickel rye bread (with caviar!) or chopped liver!
Desserts of note: Roasted chestnuts with rum from Silvia downstairs – topped with rum, oatmeal chocolate chip cookie from Great Harvest; apple fritter from Love Bird, cinnamon roll from Formaggio; citrus from formaggio, sticky toffee pudding – sticky toffee pudding, co., and the warm chocolate pudding; sutlaç; macerated strawberries with oats and ricotta and brown sugar; meyer lemon and marrionberry ice cream from Red Rover Creamery
Favorites from Formaggio: robiola incavolata, old favorite Cabot Clothbound, Big Sky Grana (dear lord!), the Passionfruit curd, beet tzaziki, Fly by Jing Sichuan Chili Crisp, an overpriced emergency bottle of Kewpie
Favorites from Eataly: saffron and black pepper cheese ‘guffanti piacentinu di ena’, a perfect promotional melon – “buy prosciutto, get a promotional melon” (August 24th)
Rancho Gordo Bean Share: BEPS, Coronas (twice), pintos with honey, Popcorn, yellow eye beans, black lentils with onion (and red wine vinegar) – need to really start eating down the stash.
Hot cocoa with mini marshmallows
From John, specifically: Aldi goat mac and cheese, Elephantine Easter Lemon Curd tartlet, LEVAIN COOKIES (coming to Boston and I’m IN TROUBLE), Indian Pudding Ice Cream from Lagos, Poppyseed cake, from Zabars, lots of good things from Elephantine, Eggs and Maple from White Gate Farm
Tahini Faux-reo from Sofra
Turkish greek beans
The Starbucks Oatmilk Brown Sugar Latte (2) – I normally drink only black coffee?
Star Market Sushi (…not good, but I ate more of it than I’d admit)
During the months of September and October, I had the worst two months™️ as my dad was dying of cancer. I needed to feed myself, and wasn’t doing a good job of it. I also didn’t have the energy or desire for most takeout. So I went for a few prepared options, that were truly my saving grace during a hard time. I chose Diane Sanfilippo’s Balanced Bites meals for my freezer – high protein, high quality ingredients. My favorite meals were the spaghetti squash bolognese, egg roll in a bowl, and sloppy joe chili. And for a local delivery option, ordered from WeCo Hospitality, a few times a week.
WeCo Hospitality – started at the beginning of October, and so many great meals. Some of the standouts include:
Shrimp scampi fettuccine: lemon + garlic marinated shrimp in white wine + butter sauce with blistered cherry tomatoes and torn herbs; hand cut fettuccine, shaved parmesan, roasted broccoli
Roasted Eggplant and Farro Bowl (top!): roasted eggplant with black garlic + wood ear mushrooms over poached farro + barley with blistered cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, field greens, feta cheese and meyer lemon vinaigrette
Salt Roasted Beet and Burrata Bowl**: salt roasted Applefield beets, watercress, golden quinoa, toasted pistachios, tarragon dressing and creamy burrata
NY Strip Steak Au Poivre: peppercorn crusted marinated strip steak, four peppercorn + cognac sauce; paprika roasted yukon potatoes, black truffle parmesan butter, blistered broccoli with smoked garlic honey + pickled shallots
Curried Orzo and Braised Chicken Thigh
Roasted Carrot Salad
Roasted Chicken Ramen: soy marinated roasted chicken breast with hoisin + ginger glaze; shiitake mushroom + spring onion broth, spicy miso paste; spring beans + peas with curry leaves + wilted spinach, fresh wavy noodles, scallions, pickled mushrooms and marinated egg
Foragers Bowl: shredded duck confit over barley with roasted mushrooms, rehydrated pickled mushrooms, roasted asparagus, carrots, and pesto
Roasted chicken biryani: yogurt + curry marinated chicken breast, basmati rice cooked in shorba with saffron, onion, mustard seed + coriander; sweet potato korma braised in coconut milk with chiles + spices; cucumber + red onion raita with mint + dill, naan
Oolong Tea Braised shortribs with charred alliums, sichuan peppercorn honey jus, toasted farro with maitake + oyster mushrooms, dried cherries + tahini brown butter; roasted cauliflower + broccoli with sweet chili garlic crunch, charred kale + arugula salad with torn herbs + candied orange; matcha vinaigrette
Baja Shrimp Tacos: citrus poached shrimp with guajillo-agave glaze, fresh mango salsa, pineapple-chipotle mayo, cilantro-lime rice, crunch napa cabbage slaw with shaved veggies + citrus, pickled red onion + lime
Desserts of note: Cranberry + Apple Crumble with pecan brown butter crumbs, Weco COOKIES, Carrot Cake, blueberry cheesecake with oat crumble
Here’s to great eats in 2022! I’d love to hear your favorite 1-3 recipes or meals. I’ll add them to my list for next year!
Whether it’s a 30 day challenge, or my next new project: I love crafting a good starting ritual to get myself into the MINDSET for success. Truth: nobody is going to build rituals for you. Why not have fun designing some? Ceremonies! Magic! Ribbon-Cutting with massive scissors. Golden Spikes. Weird pre-pitch jiggles on the mound. “Launched my app on Product Hunt!”
Although I love a good show – a good starting ritual does not have to be complicated.
Here are a few of my go-to’s: ⤵
Clear the decks – digital and physical – before starting I clear up all my clutter on my desktop, and I empty a single shelf. There’s always just a deep exhale that comes from knowing you have both literal and metaphorical space to breathe.
Start with a new pen and notebook. Whenever I start a new project, I get myself a fresh G2 Gel Pen in 10, and a new Cambridge Action Planner notebook with lines on the right, and clear scribble space on the left.
*Yes, I’m totally justifying my office product habit here.
Ask my “Starting Questions”:
• Who will I be when I complete this new thing? • What habits do I need to start or stop to succeed? • How will I measure? • What does “Good” look like? • What does “Mediocre” look like? • Who can help me to achieve this?
Round up my SQUAD. (And make it fun with swag.) “Hi, I’m doing this thing, u in?” – it’s more fun to do things with others.
• make t-shirts (or mousepads) • pick a theme to go all-in on • have fun with puns, GIFS, celebration • “team” jewels or nerdy pins
Take responsibility for the ritual I want to see. (Don’t assume others will do it for you.)
When beginning, I lean into my values:
👋 Inclusion: make a point to welcome others.
😍 Celebration: set the tone of JOY.
💌 Gratitude: acknowledge GOOD THINGS in the world.
How do YOU mark the start of new things? (I’d love to hear about your favorite rituals – the weirder, the better. How will you bring your own torch today?
Okay, you get roses instead of vegetables! (Last weekend at Fuller Gardens, in New Hampshire.)
Cornerstone habits that add the most value to my week are the ones that provide structure to my days, reduce my mental load to free me up for better decision making. Meal planning uses a simple template that I repeat!
Prep: I root through my fridge, and seeing what needs to be used up. This week, I went to Farmers Market without a plan, so I have a glut of veg to use. Usually I take a quick pic of my fridge contents to help me plan.
To use this week: scallops, cod, eggs, beet hummus, labne, tomato, cucumber, scallions, garlic scapes, kale, spinach, broccoli, arugula, sweet potato, tortillas, Banza, frozen green beans, frozen onions and peppers, bamya, oatmeal, green goddess dip, piri-piri
S: cauliflower gnocchi lemon cacio pepe with scallops and arugula
M: miso-mayo cod with garlic spinach
T: tomato and wine braised fish from freezer, cucumber tomato salad
W: banza (chickpea) pasta with tomato sauce, chicken
Th: sweet potato with beef and tahini (Stone Soup)
Fr: Epicurious kale and date salad with leftover chickenSa: Cava? or Vietnamese takeout.
Lunches: (usually in no particular order) – or leftovers // broccoli with lemon, parmesan, beet hummus and eggs // arugula lemon parmesan salad with tinned fish // soft boiled eggs and pb protein shake with berries // barbunya pilaki with bamya (stewed cranberry beans and okra)
Snacks + Dessert: cheese sticks, yogurt fruit oats, soft boiled eggs, cottage cheese, key lime pineapple coconut shake, air fried green beans
To Buy: onion, vanilla protein powder, frozen cauliflower (smoothies), cottage cheese, chicken, rice, spindrift lemon, limeade, tea
I occasionally link to products using affiliate links, including Amazon. I get a small commission if you purchase something from that link and this helps cover hosting costs (I use DreamHost and have been a happy customer since 2009). Thank you for supporting The Second Lunch!