Tech Talk: Apps Corner


Two apps I’m having fun with:

Canva is an easy to use (free) graphic design software program with drag and drop features, plenty of fonts, and sizable graphics. The relevant news is that it now is available in as a free iPhone app for your design needs on the go. I used it to make the header graphic of this post.

The second app I’m loving is Prisma: which applies artistic filters to your photos. (The picture in the header was original one that I took of the ocean at home in Rye). It’s free, and it’s a lot of fun. At some point I’ll probably move on from playing with it; but right now, I’m having a great time making art.

Have you downloaded any great apps lately? What should I play with next?

Wednesday Thoughts

Bertram The Frenchie

Every year around the middle of December I make a nice ritual of looking back at my accomplishments – the highs and the lows of the past year. This year was certainly a full one – I made leaps personally and professionally, traveled internationally, cooked and ate a lot of delicious food, took some risks, made better friends with my fear, and feel pretty thankful for where I’ve ended up today. Plus, I get to spend my time with this wonderful puppy of mine!

I’m going to be doing an offsite in the next week for my health coaching and wellness business, and working on goal setting for my digital strategy business. Sometimes you just need a change of scenery to think about your goals and dreams.

Speaking about a change of scenery, you may notice that this site got a little bit of a facelift this week. While prioritizing my dreams for next year, I realized that I want to spend some of my time building affordable starter websites for small businesses and entrepreneurs. I was feeling a little ashamed at how long it’s been since I gave either The Second Lunch or samtackeff.com a facelift – sometimes when you put others first, you forget to take care of yourself!

No longer! Both sites now have a cleaner, streamlined look, and I’ll continue tweaking over the next couple of weeks until I feel like I’m in a good place. In the mean time, if you know anyone who would like a basic website, feel free to give me a shout! sam at thesecondlunch dot com.

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.