Good Things 2020: Week 20

Some moments, 2020 feels like an endless bizarre loop, other moments I’m jolted out of the dream sequence with something new – good, bad, or otherwise. It’s a weird sensation. Time is doing funny things – the endless March, a non-existent April, somehow we are past the halfway point of May. It’s all a little unsettling, so I’m doubling down on routine with a dash of adventure and hoping for the best.

This week was my birthday. I had some reservations about a birthday during this pandemic, but all in all, I toasted myself to a year of getting older, wiser, and making it through. I shucked some oysters, literally and metaphorically. I took a stab at a list of hopes and dreams for the year – one for each year that I’ve been alive, and somehow made it to about 16 before giving up on list making. I’ll come back to it this week if I get the chance, it seems like a nice way to focus my thoughts.

I’ve been pausing to snap photos of the blooming flowers in the neighborhood at every turn. I rescued a Weigela from destruction in a neighbor’s discard pile. In one of my daily loops, I stop to say hello to the family of geese – each day counting to make sure that the five little ones are still together. Last week on my walk a coyote darted right past me, so I’ve been checking in each day and hoping for the best.

The Garden Commences! One of my generous birthday gifts was an allotment of plants from my mother – with a nod to my brother who generously dropped them off.

We started this week with herbs: the planter got four parsleys, dill, and the first of the basil. In the pots: lemon verbena, lemon balm, swiss chard, kale, rosemary, and mint. In the two long planters, three types of thyme in one, three rosemary plants in the other. I have early girls and sungolds, and variegated nasturtium ready for planting once I find the self watering planters of a certain size this afternoon. A strawberry plant is waiting to be hung up.

More to come in the next few weeks: a trip to Russo’s and Mahoney’s, weeding the back plot, and planting potatoes and other hardy herbs that won’t require much watering back there. A few more flowers: dahlias and others that I’ll be able to snip for blooms as the summer progresses. It’s a good beginning.

While I try not to collect too many material things, I did get myself a few small gifts: a new signed copy of Joe Yonan’s Cool Beans from Celia at Omnivore for inspiration for my Rancho Gordo hauls, and a new painting of the ocean from my friend Judith.

{Good Food} The one consistent thing has been my farm share, home cooked meals, mostly simple. I’ve not had the patience for much elaborate cooking. My dad made me a batch of Flo’s sauce, an onion-relish to eat on hot dogs, or with eggs, or in tuna salad. My brother picked me up a handful of treats at Sevan: stuffed grape leaves, pastirma, and kazandibi (my favorite pudding), as well as the small green Turkish plums that I love with fish.

  • Oysters. I picked up 8 Wellfleet oysters, and set about shucking them at home. It’s been a LONG time since I’ve done my own, and was relieved that it really wasn’t much of an ordeal.
  • Ham and Cheese and Egg Pasta. Too lazy to make myself a carbonara, I made thick cut Canadian bacon, egg, cheese, and arugula with lemon, and tossed in some fresh Valicenti spaghetti.
  • My “bean of the week” was Rancho Gordo black caviar lentils. I cooked them with an onion and two bay leaves. They had a variety of different iterations. First: with tomato, feta, and cucumber. Then they got lovingly tossed into palak paneer with yogurt. Another bowl had pesto and a few soft boiled eggs.
  • Roasted potato with garlic aioli. I’m of the firm belief that there’s nothing wrong with an entire meal being a potato every so often. Potatoes are too far oft maligned, which is disappointing because they are bursting with nutrients, taste good, and there are so many wonderful varietals! On one evening I roasted a filling amount, and ate potato gleefully with garlic aioli and some of my dad’s Flo Sauce. No greenery in site.
  • Lemon Pudding: Sticky Toffee Pudding Co. A notable dessert. It’s a nice lemon sponge with a tart curd. Served with a spoonful of vanilla ice cream. I absolutely adore this brand, and freeze the single serve desserts for emergency cake whenever needed. (The Sticky Toffee and the Molten Chocolate are also perfection.)

I leave you with Bertram in our weekend office, planning the week ahead.

Here’s to a good week.

xo Sam

Good Things 2020: Week 19

If we can clear the air with the Pandemic, all the terrible things going on in this world, and 2020 just being a general dumpster fire – without further ado, I’ll jump back into my regularly scheduled Good Things posts for 2020.

Spring Tulips

Good Things: an acknowledgement of things that are working well, the little things I’ve noticed, moments that I’ve paused to savor. A combination of my weekly wins, gratitude practice, curiosity and observation.

Good Things Week 19:

I’m kicking off the warmer months with a new fitness challenge – the #GVRAT1000k virtual race across Tennessee. It ends up being about 5 miles a day roughly of walking and running, so not too far off from my usual distance, but still an admirable challenge. One of the things I’m going to enjoy is learning more about the state of Tennessee as I go. I have a couple of thematic audio books lined up. For anyone curious about the genesis of this race, it’s put on by these folks. (Recommended watching.) I’ve taken quite a bit of pleasure heading outside and watching spring unfold.

{Good Reading}

This week, I’ve taken to working through finishing half read or listened books on my Kindle/Audible over the past few weeks. I had a good chuckle when I found myself with Radical Focus (Christina Wodtke), Radical Candor (Kim Scott), and Radical Acceptance (Tara Brach) all on the docket.

I’m currently loving Arlan Hamilton’s new book It’s About Damn Time: How to Turn Being Underestimated Into Your Greatest Advantage.

Embracing Re-Reading: Last year, my focus was on both reading and watching new to me books and films, rather than re-reads as a way to inspire, intrigue, and shake up my routine. With the general progression of 2020, I switched to seeking comfort where I knew it would could be found: my evening reading shifted largely to re-reading my favorite stand-bys. (This coping strategy was well honed from seasons of finals periods in high school and college, when I’d switch back to re-reading for comfort.)

In Fiction over the past few weeks, I finished my epic re-listening journey of all the Harry Potter books – the ones read by Stephen Fry (not Jim Dale). I then moved onto a re-listen of Garth Nix’s Sabriel, one of my fantasy favorites. Not everything was old hat: I also read Leigh Bardugo’s The Ninth House, and have commenced Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch.

{Good Eats}

My cooking has been relatively simple – things that require really limited prep time, mostly a minute or two of chopping and then roast in the pan, or that have developed flavor by a long bath in a marinade. In added kitchen excitement, I treated myself to a long-desired Thermapen in my favorite yellow. One of the best tools in your kitchen.

This week in good meals:

  • Chicken thighs with Elotes, tomato salad with lime and cilantro. (pictured above) – cheat’s special with Trader Joe’s Mexican Corn from the freezer section.
  • Herby chicken, ramen, and garlic yogurt sauce. Ive become a fan of Trader Joes savory herb chicken thighs – they have a nice woodsy-mint taste. I served them on fresh ramen from Valicenti pasta company, with a garlic-yogurt sauce.
  • Rancho Gordo Vaquero Beans – my bean pot of the week. I cooked these simply with a few bay leaves and some garlic cloves. Looking forward to my next Bean Club shipment!
  • Greek-style three ways: one of my favorite combinations is the Greek tray bake with potato, tomato, and whatever protein you are using. I did this three separate times. Pork chops with fennel, potatoes, and tomato; a second time as Greek Fish with Tomato, and a third as Chicken with lemon, tomato and potato. There’s not much I like more than a good tray bake and these flavor combinations.
  • Lamb chops roasted over potato. My fennel and cumin seeds have been doing overtime this week. I ate the dinner with a trio of sauces: garlic aioli, shaved truffle mustard, and seafood cocktail sauce (because I’m classy.)
  • Cuban pork tenderloin with lime and grapefruit marinade over cauliflower chimichurri rice. The marinade is perfection: olive oil, lime, grapefruit and white vinegar with garlic. I’m not strict about the proportions, but the original recipe is one for Chuletas de Puerco from the Versailles Cookbook that my mom uses quite frequently. It’s just so good.
  • Banana Curry Fish over rice with lime. Another comfort food that reminds me of my mom’s kitchen. It’s a super simple combo of butter, bananas, and curry powder.

Odds and Ends:

  • Morning Coffee. Black. On my little second floor porch. (See above. Big mug thanks to the folks at SurveyMonkey.)
  • A large bowl of broccoli, beans and pesto. Looked virtuous, tasted delicious. When summer comes along I tend to make my own pesto, but until the plants are copious, I buy Bear Pond Farm from Whole Foods.
  • Naan with really good hummus, soft boiled egg, and tomato. Or a second iteration with hummus and the above pesto.
  • A bowl of soaked oats with milk and seville orange jam. I needed to finish up the last few spoons of jam, and this seemed like a worthy pairing. (It was.)
  • Really good popcorn. It’s absurdly easy to make good popcorn at home. I usually don’t even bother to stove-top – I just microwave a few spoonfuls dry in a large pyrex with a heavy plate on top.

With this, I conclude this week’s Good Things. Let me know what you’ve been up to – I’ll be back for more. Of course before we part ways: I’d be remiss to send you off without your weekly Bertram. This little buddy turned FIVE last month. He’s the happiest dude. <3 Here’s to a good week.

2020 Q1 Reading Ideas

Sam Tackeff 2018 Personal Development Reading

Coming off of a great year of reading (who would have guessed, 2019?), I’ve been keeping up the momentum with a list of books to start with in 2020. 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. I typically make a list, request books from the library a few at a time, and then will supplement or swap as I find reading that calls out to me. 

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! Last year 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!

The library is your friend. Grabbing things off the Speed Read Shelf is my jam. I aim for one a week. Not two, because I can never finish two in 7 days and will get fined. (Plus, if I have a list, I can reserve things in advance.) 
Still working my way through my list of Personal Leadership Development Books, and the BBC Big Read. 

Here are some of my next reads (vaguely categorized):

YA fiction

  • VE Schwab – Villains Series
  • Tomi Adeyemi – Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha) 
  • S.A. Chakraborty – The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy) 

Leadership / Business:

  • Marshall Goldsmith – What you got there won’t get you here 
  • Dr. Spencer Johnson – Who Moved my Cheese?
  • Danny Meyer – Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business
  • Tom DeMarco – Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams
  • Bill Aulet – Disciplined Entrepreneurship

Mindfulness / Brains:

  • Dr. Oliver Sacks – Musicophilia 
  • Nicholas Cook – Music, A Short Introduction
  • B.J. Fogg – Tiny Habits
  • Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk – The Body Keeps the Score
  • Jenny Odell – How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy
  • Louise Aronson – Elderhood
  • Bill Bryson – The Body, A Guide for Occupants

Audio Books:

  • Ann Patchett – The Dutch House
  • Dr. Jen Gunter – The Vagina Bible
  • Kate Moore – The Radium Girls
  • Casey Cep – Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee

BBC Big Read (1-100, 101-200)

  • Joseph Heller – Catch 22
  • Sebastian Faulks – Birdsong
  • Louisa May Alcott – Little Women

Memoirs / Non-fiction Reporting 

  • Patrick Radden Keefe – Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland
  • Bill Browder – Red Notice
  • American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind

Books Started But Unfinished 

  • Atul Gawande – Being Mortal
  • H is for Hawk
  • Yuval Harari – Sapiens 
  • Philip Pullman – The Secret Commonwealth (done!)

Others to get to if I get to them: 

  • Joe Biden – Promise Me Dad
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates – The Water Dancer
  • Rebecca Solnit – A Field Guide to Getting Lost
  • Sally Rooney – Normal People 
  • Alex Michaelides – The Silent Patient

Anything great on your reading list? Do you keep a list?