Let’s get reading! Sitting down this weekend to update my current reading list, see where I’m at for the year so far, and make adjustments for fall reading season!
I started with a shortlist of questions to check in:
How’s it going?
How has my reading been so far in 2023? According to my GoodReads, I’ve read 34/52 books (just two behind schedule) although I have quite a few half read books.
Are my categories the right ones? I still love reading YA, Scandinavian Noir, captivating non-fiction (true crime or thrilling history), fitness and health, mindfulness, brains and science, social and emotional learning, nature, creativity, and food writing.
Are the length of books the right ones? The worst is when I find myself stalled by a long book where I’ve lost my attention span. I’ve been trying to have a healthy dose of fast reads to move the ship along.
Have I gotten stuck anywhere? Usually I’m only stuck when I start reading too many books at once.
What can I improve?
How do I make sure I’m learning in the areas that I want to be known for: Longetivity, Good Things, Social and Emotional Learning? Who are the top five authors in the fields that I work in?
Are there noticeable gaps in my reading? I always find that I’m more inspired by memoirs and biographies, but don’t read them enough!
Do I have dedicated reading time? My evergreen quest: read more, scroll less.
It’s here! I’ve been doing a quarterly reading list for the past several years that has somehow turned more into a book list for the whole year. (I have a lot of holdovers from last year that I’m keeping on here.) You can take a look through previous years here: (2022) (2021) (2020) (2017) (summer 2010) (Summer 2014) (Fall Cookbooks 2011)
Why have a reading list? This 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.
What if you just want to read something new and exciting? I make room for the synchronicity of just picking up any random title, but I always have a backup!
The Marvel Effect: it’s easier to pick up a new book in a series than start something completely new. One thing that I’ve learned after a lifetime of reading: it really helps me to have series that I can blow through – long books that don’t require me to continuously learn about a new world and a new set of characters, as well as a smattering of very easy read books (usually middle grade fantasy, or RomCom) – things I can read reliably for a half hour or hour before bed even after an exhaustive day.
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. (You can also get Kindle books from the library through Libby. Having a list allows me to put more things on hold, because sometimes there’s a longer wait.)
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.
I’m always interested in reading things that stoke great minds. I read for entertainment, to rest, to inspire, learn, and to stoke my curiosity. Whenever I listen to a podcast episode, I’m always curious about what kinds of things the guest is reading (particularly when the book is completely outside of their topic, or very niche in their topic.)
New: I’m trying to engage with my reading more by reading criticism, and more importantly, writing.
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.)
Book Categories I Enjoy:
Fantasy (Adult, YA Fantasy, Middle Grade)
Scandinavian Crime (or Noir crime in general)
Fiction (catch all)
Memoir (particularly: comedy, leadership, business or political)
Non-Fiction (Psychology, philosophy)
Nature (and generally Science Writing)
Work (Product Management, People Management, Sales)
After making myself an unusually good salad lunch (this bean salad above: ripe tomato, cucumber, feta, oregano, salami, and red wine vinegar), I sat down this weekend to dream up some summer meals for the month of July. .
I usually start with Mark Bittman’s classic 2007 article Summer Meals for inspiration. Most of the “recipes” are really just ideas – fresh, in season, simple meals. Lots of seafood. In the summer I need things to be easy, not get the kitchen too hot, and make me feel vaguely like I’m in middle school summer again.
Shopping is a little bit more relaxed – Trader Joes and Whole Foods for some basics, my farm share, and I like to pick things up at Farmers Market – I’m lucky to have a weekend market right down the street.
In Season (in Massachusetts)
Fruit: end of the strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches mid-month. I’m still gorging myself on cherries (mostly Ranier), and typically buy whatever is on sale at the store. The melons starting – watermelon, cantelope.
Vegetables: Lettuces, Green Beans, Beets, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Kale, Chard, Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Leeks, Peppers, Spinach, Zucchini/Squash, Tomatoes (at least hot house). My fresh herbs are all doing well in the planter: parsley, basil, dill, cilantro, oregano.
Nan’s Gazpacho: my grandmother used to make large containers of gazpacho all summer long to take to Maine.
I love a good project list, so this year, I’m enjoying working through my summer lobster roll list. Is there a more perfect food for a New Englander in summer? I think not.
Yes, lobster rolls are expensive. Yes, it’s cheaper to get lobster from Market Basket (and they’ll steam em for you!) But making a quest out of it ensures that my ratio of spend to enjoyment as I build my body of “creative work” – a.k.a. the review list is balanced.
The Lobster Roll Short List:
This is not an exhaustive list of lobster rolls in the Boston area. There are some that aren’t on here (notably, I’m not an Eventide lobster roll fan – although I love lots of other things there! And I’ve eaten a few too many Cottage lobster sandwiches).
There are many more I’ll probably add as I go along – feel free to pass me along a suggestion if you have strong lobster roll feelings.
I prefer a cold lobster roll personally (mayo based), but I’ll not turn down a good option if presented to me. Additionally, I’m a fan of lobster in other forms, including lobster salad, lobster sandwiches (including the Alive + Kicking sandwich making it’s way as an interloper on this list), and lobster pasta.
A shout-out to my friend Rachael who put in a lot of heavy lifting in giving lobster roll suggestions, and also joined me at Cedar Hill Dairy Joy.
Legal Seafood (while I prefer the crab roll, this is always solid)
Beach Plum, NH – 10 ounce and Utz chips, eaten on the ocean
Rosewood Restaurant Bellingham MA
✅ Cedar Hill Dairy Joy, Weston MA
Clam Shack, Salem MA – spend the extra $1 to get it on the brioche bun
The Village Restaurant, Essex, MA – a hidden gem
The Knack, Orleans, MA
Neptune Oyster – Cold (I haven’t had this for YEARS, but it was spectacular)
Row 34, Seaport
✅ Shaking Crab, Newton
Pauli’s, North End – 3 sizes
✅ Alive + Kicking, Cambridge, MA (on bread)
James Hook + Co
Shea’s, Essex, MA
Beachcomber, Cahoon Hollow Beach, Welfleet, MA
Cousin’s Maine Lobster food truck – you can get CT (butter) or ME (mayo) style – they are small but very good and you can find them at different farmers markets around here (shout out to my high school alum, Jim Tselikis!
Keeping my Lobster Roll Quest notes
I keep a long note on my phone with updates. They look like this:
6/14 Dairy Joy, Weston Ma
Price: 25 + 5 included drink and very lovely fries!
Small buttered and griddled. 4ish ounces. With lettuce. Light Mayo and cold. Just a super strong contender. View is greenery and road. And picnic table vibe.
5/14 Shaking Crab, Newton MA
Lots of lobster. Roll good not great. I found the filling too seasoned? Delivery: fries soggy but would be good crisped up in air fryer. Side of garlic noodles with shrimp.
3/🦞🦞🦞 out of 5.
If you’d like to join me on one of my quest outings, give me a shout!
We’re mid-way into January, and so far New England has seen a smattering of flurries. I’m not sure if we should all be concerned, but I’m enjoying the temperate enough weather and trying to get out as much as possible. I have an amaryllis that’s blooming which is a joy to watch, and a fresh bouquet of Irises.
I’ve been doing morning yoga every morning to start my day, and pairing with a liquid vitamin (MaryRuth’s Organic Liquid Morning vitamin.) I’m historically intermittent with vitamins, and not really sure they do much, but even the placebo in the winter is a nice ritual.
My stairwell and living room bathroom painting is done! The stairwell looks SO FRESH! (This unintentionally set off a saga with fire alarms, and another with a pup with an itchy eye; but we’re rolling with it!)
I went to the gym to participate in an off-session Barbell Betties, and lifted a back squat PR for myself unintentionally. It’s so nice to lift with barbells.
Acquisitions of note:
I “stocked up” on fresh undergarments. Friends with tatas, I’ve switched over almost exclusively to the True + Co Body Boost V Neck. (One of my yearly intentions was to continue with the undergarment refresh.)
I got myself a season pass to the Weston Ski Track, which is conveniently less than 11 minutes from my house, and offers night skiing! My first go was a little bit harrowing, as it’s been about 20 years since I last skied, and somehow I found myself in the MIDDLE OF A SKI RACE! I’m going to be taking a few lessons and looking forward to it.
I went to my friend Nat’s small business and friends mixer down the street. It included ice breakers (the best being – what piece of media have your recently enjoyed!) and a harmonica!
I went to a Female Founders and Funders event downtown at SVB. (Thank you Kristen and Meeta!) I also made it a point to connect with another founder in the same general space, and was kicking myself for not doing it sooner.
Good Reads: finished Ann Patchett’s lovely book The Dutch House. Took me about three years of audiobook to finish it, and still thinking about it. Picked up Danny Licht’s Cooking as Though You Might Cook Again, on Bettina’s recommendation list, which is a small and mighty little book to inspire you to cook and eat. Finally, a RomCom a month late – The Matzah Ballby Jean Meltzer – was delightful (and being turned into a film!)
Watched: Fire of Love– a National Geographic documentary on Disney+ about a pair of famous vulcanologists, Katia and Maurice Krafft. While I loved my geoscience and volcano research in college, I’m… also glad that I didn’t opt for a life of chasing live volcanos. (Their death is not a spoiler – you learn about it in the first 20 seconds of the film.) The footage is really quite remarkable.
Another great week in food! I’m still reading the 60-minute Gourmet Cookbook (Pierre Franey), Smitten Kitchen Keepers, and The Woks of Life. One of the fun things I did was crowdsource some favorite recipes from my Wellesley food people, so I’m compiling that into a list now. My Turkish recipe of the week was Kabak Tatlısı – a kind of candied pumpkin dessert. I also made myself a quality avocado toast.
Kabak Tatlısı: the recipe is very simple, you cut approximately 2 lbs. of pumpkin (or squash! I used a Japanese squash this time) into squares in a wide shallow pan. You cover with 8 ounces of sugar, about 1/4 pint of water, and the juice of half a lemon (I use a whole lemon because I like it lemony). Cover and poach gently for an hour, basting every ten minutes or so. I usually turn the pumpkin over mid way to make sure it’s all cooked. You then leave it to cool in the pan, and sprinkle with walnuts.
Sardines Rice Bowl with Tomatoes, Cucumber, Pickled Ginger, and Furikake I each a version of this regularly – it’s one of my most satisfying meals. Sometimes I use tuna, or salmon, but I truly adore sardines.
Broccoli with Blue Cheese and Balsamic, tossed in some leftover Chicken + Kebabs: I get addicted to a combination, and then can’t stop eating it. Broccoli, blue cheese, balsamic, and toasted walnuts (if you remember) is really a perfect combination. I find myself eating the entire bag of broccoli this way.
101 Cookbooks: Christmas Lima Stew– this is a truly stellar recipe, and I cook up Rancho Gordo Christmas limas. This time around, I was planning on cooking the soup the day of, but I ended up taking myself skiing at the last minute, so when I came home, I simply made all the ingredients into a bean salad! Celery, Caraway, Olives, Lemon, Parsley. All delish.
Two bolo cheese sandwiches with açili I picked up these Portuguese sweet breads, and ended up making myself a late night cheese sandwich. My neighbor had given me a jar of her tomato and pepper condiment from her garden in Turkey, and I’ve been hoovering it this week.
Baked Fish with Crunchy Miso Mayo + Green Salad with Honey Goat Cheese. I usually eat fish on Wednesdays when I get it fresh from my farm share. This time though was Red’s Best Skate wings from my freezer. (The goat cheese was from the event I went to.)
Chicken thighs with tomato and bulgur (riff on the chicken and rice dish in Smitten Kitchen Keepers) – I always love homey dishes like this that are sort of stove top casserole and low effort. I ended up cooking some leeks and garlic with smokey Rancho Gordo paprika, cumin, chicken thighs, and then tomato, little honey vinegar, and Turkish bulgur with vermicelli.
Another year, another excuse to go back to “Week One” – which is a satisfying way to start again and renew for the year. One things I try to do at the end of every week is a pause for gratitude – taking a moment to do a little review of the week, how I felt, and what I experienced. Every time I do this activity (*every* *single* *time*) I’m reminded just how many really lovely moments I’ve had.
I spent a little bit of time on “systems upgrades” – reviewing my “Let’s Eat” spreadsheet, adding new recipes to my list to try, reviewing my “list of lists“, my January Intentions
I’ve kept a movie watching spreadsheet since 2019 (and an unorganized Letterboxd of most everything I’ve watched) – but this week as a gift to myself, I made a to-watch movie list with options for my favorite genres – primarily classics that I’ve missed.
I ran my first 5k of the year – I’ve run the Needham New Year’s 5k maybe for the past decade? (This year I had to tie both shoelaces..)
My stairwell and living room bathroom are being freshly painted
I’ve gone to bed by 11:30, and woken each morning to do some yoga or lift (I’m not usually a morning movement person, but I realized that I could get in 20 minutes without disrupting my morning coffee and reading.
My ProHort gardening and horticulture class kicked off! Looking forward to getting my gardening to the next level. (I also “accidentally” acquired some dahlia tubers from Five Forks)
Acquisitions of note: I sprung for a month of Youtube premium to see if it makes a massive experience difference.
Good Reads: we kicked off the year with The Bodyguard – Katherine Center (very fun romcom), 4000 Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman (2021, 129 pages) – strongly recommend!
Watched: The Menu (HBO) if you like watching Chef’s Table and dark comedic violence, you’ll likely be mostly satisfied. Wasn’t perfect, but enjoyed.
Chopped off about 5 inches of hair! And now it’s swishy!
Ottolenghi Chicken Thighs with Fennel and Arak I’ve made this recipe maybe a dozen times over the past few years, and it’s always good. It’s also forgiving – you can swap different citrus out easily, and it’s a very simple recipe to make – you can marinate all the ingredients in a ziplock or even in the baking dish and just pop in the oven.
Cauliflower Gnocchi Deconstructed “Manti” (Turkish seasoned ground beef, yogurt sauce) I’m a fan of Trader Joe’s cauliflower gnocchi, and this makes me feel virtuous. You really simply season the ground beef (usually cumin, oregano, chile, or köfte seasoning). I air fried the gnocchi, and then tossed it in when the beef was done. You make a little yogurt sauce with some garlic to top it, and some more pepper on top.
Pierre Franey Mustard Mayo Flounder; leeks with red wine vinaigrette + tomato. Super simple mix of mustard, mayo, and parsley. You coat the fish and broil or bake. I had flounder from Red’s Best in my farm share. (The leeks were leftover from boiling a chicken over the weekend, and I made a red wine mustard vinaigrette to douse over everything.)
Pork Chops + Salad with Burrata, Tomato, Avocado, Dill Dressing. The air fryer makes perfect pork chops every time. (8 minutes or so at 390 and I let rest.) Big salad of everything in the fridge. Trader Joe’s vegan dill dressing.
Lemony Shrimp + Bean stew with Christmas limas and Argentinian red shrimp from TJs, lemon parsley + sour cream. This is a great stew base recipe! You really want to add extra lemon and parsley at the end.
Also this week? I remembered how easy it is to make good popcorn in the microwave?
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