Sprint to the finish

Well, it’s October and, as always this time of year, I’m wondering where the heck the year went!  I’m excited for the apple picking, turkey eating and latke making that is about to descend on us, but I’m looking back at those ambitious reading and bucket lists that I created at the end of 2015 and realizing that I have some work to do before the end of the year.

I knocked off about a third of my list, actively defied a few, and have 13 left.  Mission not yet accomplished, but in the midst of a year that had me on the road at least every other week and still managed to spend some serious time with friends and family, I’m feeling pretty good about 2016 so far.

I’m feeling ambitious.  Let’s see how I do…

What’s left…

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  1. MOMA PS1
  2. Mission Chinese
  3. Rockclimbing
  4. Bike all five boroughs
  5. Take a Soulcycle class
  6. Run a 10K
  7. Take an Indian cooking class
  8. Make homemade Gnocci
  9. Make Tamales
  10. Make Tagine
  11. Make Beignets
  12. Learn to sew
  13. Learn to crochet

Success!

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  1. Met Opera
  2. 9/11 Memorial
  3. Momufuku
  4. Write twice a week
  5. Stay in crow pose for more than 2 seconds
  6. Walk across the Manhattan bridge (with earplugs)
  7. Build a Gingerbread house [Well, not a house, a man.  A Brooklyn man complete with man-bun to be exact].
  8. Read 24 fiction books [On the way with 11 so far…]

And not…

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  1. Grow tomatoes (take that Brooklyn!) [Brooklyn took me.  I barely kept my basil alive this year with all my travel over the summer. Next year maybe on OUR NEW DECK]
  2. Buy a lifetime supply of cloth napkins and ban paper towels [I definitely just screamed across the house this morning that we need to subscribe to paper products on Amazon because…life.]

  3. US Open [If anyone wants to pay $700 to take me next year, I’m in]

Scenes from Maison Kayser

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Yesterday, my conference ended mid-afternoon and I had a couple of hours to kill (read: work) before my dinner plans.  I headed down to the West Village, which is one of the most charming neighborhoods in NYC, and found Maison Kayser.  MK is one of my favorite NYC mini-chains.  An adorable little French Bistro, it was the perfect non-Starbucks option for a few hours of typing away.

All the waiters are French, the menu is traditional Parisian fare, and it has an amazing little boulanger in the front to grab something yummy for later on your way out.

I ordered a Quiche Lorraine and a Vanilla Roobios tea, and started responding to the backlog of email that had built up after being out of the office for the past three days.  In between emails, I took in some good people watching and listening.

Behind me were two female friends, debating everything from refugees, to politics, to fashion.  They were cursing at high volume for about two hours straight.

  • “I do think there are f*ing smart people in the world, I just don’t think Bernie Sanders is one of them.”
  • “I look at my neighbor with four kids and I’m like ‘What the f**k are you doing living in the West Village?!”
  • “I thought this tea would taste like s**t, but it’s f**ing delicious.”

Entertaining.

Next to me was a group of editors of some fashion rag, all polished with bright red lipstick and tight black buns.  It was like a scene out of Devil Wears Prada.  They were discussing their salaries and how they deserved to be making more money because they totally brought back flannel.  It made me want to sell out for just a minute.

In front of me were two tech-start up guys with laptops open in front of them.  They didn’t speak to each other, except to argue back and forth a bit out loud about a conversation they were clearly having with each other through email or chat on their laptops.

Then there was my waiter, who ended his shift and went to change in the bathroom and came out in drag to head out to his evening plans.  Amazing.

I love this town.

&d

Sunday Detox: Organic Easter Egg Dyeing!

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A few weeks back, Taryn and I took my mother out to lunch for her birthday.  We went to Tom Colicchio’s “low key” restaurant Craft Bar, and I ordered a salad.  When it arrived it had a pink hard-boiled egg on it.  Curious.  It was pickled, the waiter told me.  I was intrigued.

A few days later – and because she’s particularly in tune with the universe – my dear friend Rebecca send me this.  A recipe to make pickled eggs of every color, just in time for Easter.

So, today, in an ongoing journey to reduce the chemicals in my cooking, I took a stab at making organically dyed Easter eggs.  It was super easy, with one minor (but fun) bump in the road in the form of a baking powder-induced dye explosion (see video below).

I know Easter is winding down, and your egg dyeing is coming to an end – but if you find yourself with a few extra hard boiled eggs this week, try this.  I am now riding the pickled egg train, and I want you to hop on.

You can check out the recipe for detail on the process and colors, but essentially you boil water, vinegar, salt and sugar, and then add the veggies and spices that create the dye color of your choice (beets for pink, purple cabbage for…you guessed it, tamarind for yellow, and so on).  Pour that mixture over hard boiled, peeled eggs placed in heat proof jars, and let them sit for a few hours.

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And the result…

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I’m going to throw them back in the dye overnight to make the colors a little deeper. Process improvement:  I’ll do this the night before next time…!

Now that I’ve got the base down, I’m going to try to get creative and make different colors.  If you’ve got any bright ideas on how to turn these eggs teal or lime, let me know.  Happy Easter to all who celebrated today!

&d

International Day of Happiness!

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In 2012, the United Nations established March 20th as the International Day of Happiness as a catalyst for people to try to create a happier world for themselves and for others.  Bhutan has embraced the idea and developed a Gross National Happiness metric that’s looked at alongside GDP as a way to measure a country’s economic success.  We dig it, and are hoping that other countries will follow suit.  In the meantime, we’re spending today taking this concept seriously and thinking about a few of our joy-inducing tricks.  

Kitchen dancing:  We did a lot of hosting this weekend, and in the middle of the inevitable chaos of navigating a small kitchen together, Ben and I amped up the music to do a little kitchen dancing.  There’s something about dancing with abandon in the kitchen that brings full on happiness back into any room.  We tend to break it out if we’re starting to get irritated by the lack of counter space or simultaneous chopping, washing, and cooking that has to happen within a two foot radius.  This weekend our signal was me holding a knife in the air and shouting “You’re always in the EXACT wrong spot!!”  Time for a kitchen dance.  

Trampoline workouts:  Turns out jumping up and down on a trampoline like a little kid serves up a serious workout.  While you need a little real estate — which runs sparse in NYC — to have one of your own, as long as you’ve got high ceilings, you’re golden.  The other option is to check out one of the many trampoline-equipped gyms in the city.  Even if this wasn’t a great workout, wouldn’t it be worth doing anyway for the pure joy of getting bounced into the air?

Poking fun at work life: We all do semi-ridiculous things in the name of workplace culture.  If I ever need a quick mid-week laugh, I pull up Justin Timberlake’s and Jimmy Fallon’s #hashtag skit that reminds me how ridiculous our social media language and engagement can be.  Another one for work-related comedic relief?  This viral skit that emulates a conference call in real life.  We’ve ALL experienced conference calls like this, and probably will again this week.  

What do you do for a quick burst of happiness or laughter?  

&d

 

Sunday Detox: Suits and Slapstick

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We all take ourselves a little too seriously, particularly during the week when our noses are to the grindstone in whatever professional endeavors on which we choose to embark.

Earlier this week, I was invited to a gathering of “intellectual leaders” and was placed into a setting that takes itself pretty seriously.  Prestigious. Important. Exclusive.  I signed up.  I arrived.  I deflated.  

I was sick of faking it, tired of speaking for speaking sake, and tired of conjuring intellectual passion for a topic on demand. So, I opted out.  I was there in body, but not spirit.  I sat in the back, I didn’t speak, and I intentionally passed the microphone — the one I would normally grip onto — to others in the room.  

My first instinct was to be disappointed in myself.  Why couldn’t I “show up” for this?  Later on that week, as I was speaking to friends and colleagues about the experience they all responded with different versions of the same question:  “What’s really important to you?” “What felt inauthentic about that forum?”, “Why didn’t you feel like yourself?”

It’s hard for me to feel like myself in settings where the pretense is high, and where I can’t inject humor and the child-like do-whatever-you-want-to-make-yourself-completely-JOYFUL feeling.  Most professional settings (that I’ve seen anyway…) come with some level of affectation that we all contribute to in order to ensure others that we are comptent, smart, on our game. But it can stifle people bringing their true self and their honest thoughts to the table, which is bad for ourselves, our colleagues and our work.    

I bumped into an article a few days later that spoke to this same challenge, and the ways that businesses are starting to think about bringing in humor and comedy as a tool to make people more effective and purposeful in their work.  The entire article is worth a read but in essence it says:

“By using humor, we allow great ideas to come from anywhere. Humor breaks down barriers, and people end up having really creative ideas.”

As I thought about this over the past week, it helped reground me in how important it is to me to create professional situations that make people feel as comfortable as possible — that channel the humor and the child-like curiosity that we all have.  The humor that allows us to poke fun at the stiff suits we’re all wearing for unknown reasons. The curiousity that allows us to ask questions, whether or not we think we should already know the answers. The excitement for the world that allows us to truly enjoy it instead of growing tired of it, and that enables us to actually get something done together.

 

Spring Forward

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People I’m not sure if you’ve realized but spring has officially sprung. Well okay maybe unofficially. I know this mild winter and crazy early high temperatures should have me scared about climate change, and it does, but it has also just made me really happy. Last weekend I went for my first outdor run of 2016. Danielle is a big advocate of running in the cold weather but I just could never get into it. I hate being cold. So once that temperature hit 60 I put on my sneakers and hit the West Side path.

Now I haven’t always been a runner. Actually I only started doing in the past three years or so. Before that my ex boyfirend would try all the time to get me to go running with him to no avail. What I learned, the hard way mind you, was that I needed to do it on my terms. I would always try and search how to start running, different tips and the top five things real runners do. It would leave me frustrated and got me nowhere. It was only when I decided that I had do it on my own terms that I finally became addicted to it.  Once I get into my groove I miss it when I don’t go for a run, so crazy.

The early days I was very goal oriented.  I would set distance and time goals.  My first obstacle was to get over the guilt of a bad run. Some days you can run forever and never get tired. Some days one mile seems impossible. I decided that if I had a bad day running it was still a day that I got up an ran and that was more than good enough.   Once I accepted that I found that my excuses to not go for a run were disappearing and I became so much more consistent.

A couple seasons ago I downloaded the Nike Running app following Danielle’s recommendation. I love this app. Download it now.  It tells you when you reach a mile, your speed and time. It keeps track of all of your past runs and its really motivating to see your progress spelled out like that. The other benefit is that you can have “friends” and see how they are doing for the month. I never considered myself a competitve person but when I see that Danielle is four miles ahead of me for the month it pushes me to do another mile. I’ve became a little obsessed with beating her and some months I actually do, hehe.

One of the best things that has ever happened to my running wardrobe was finding workout pants with pockets. I don’t know if everyone knows about this and never told me or if I have just discovered the best thing ever but I love them.  I hate that bulky arm band that holds the phone and I still have to use it sometimes but the pocket is just so convenient and easy.  I only have two pairs so far, one from Forever 21 and one from Lululemon, but I am not going to buy any new workout pants without pockets.  Its all about the small goals.

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My other little tip is the Black Eyed Peas.  I make sure to put them on right around my last mile and Fergie always gets me through it.  I also love to schedule a 5k to get me into it, competition baby.  I use NYC Runs and they usually run about $35.  Whenever Danielle and I run one we always reward ourselves with a carb-tastic brunch.

Anyway thats how I get into my running schedule.  I hope that helps! And if anyone has any good suggestions for new songs let me know 🙂

&t

Sunday Not-So-Detox: Austin’s Food Trucks

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I was down in Austin this weekend for a friend’s wedding, and spent the entire weekend in beautiful 75-degree weather reconnecting with Austin’s awesomeness.

The strip of outdoor cocktail lounges on Rainey Street, the beautiful running path along the Colorado River, and the line of craft fairs and antique shops on South Congress are enough to fill a weekend.  But, the food trucks made the biggest impression on me.  Unlike NYC where the food trucks are aplenty but typically organized into particular days or parking lots (think Smorgasburg), Austin’s food trucks are peppered throughout the city in the most accessible and delicious of fashion.  While there are a lot of great restaurants in Austin, I was really digging the food truck culture that seems so rampant.  Grab your food from a truck, grab your beer from a bar, and chill out on a picnic bench for the afternoon.

I only had so much time to make the most of the chill vibe, so I spent some time (perhaps more than I’m willing to admit!) finding the best food trucks in town.  Here’s my newly developed cheat sheet.

Paperboy:  My favorite, hands down.  A simple and delicious breakfast menu with sunnyside up eggs, sweet potato hash and chorizo.  A few picnic benches out front.  Sunshine.  Morning complete.

Gourdough’s Doughnuts:  We were chasing this homage to all things doughnut all weekend, and made the mistake of thinking it would be a nice dessert to top off the evening.  It’s more of a full meal — or two — but worth every calorie.  I’ve got a savory palate, so I went with the Mother Clucker (fried chicken with honey butter) but each concoction on the menu looked delicious.

Masala Dhaba:  On the popular Rainey street, Masala Dhaba is tucked inside a few of the craft breweries on the strip.  Delicious authentic Indian food (order the goat curry and garlic naan) on the cheap.

I’m heading back to the east coast bright and early tomorrow morning and already having a little bit of separation anxiety – this food and this weather is going to be tough to leave.

&d

On the Road Again…

 

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My gig usually has me on the road about 60-70% of the time.  By some strange twist of fate, I’ve been on home turf in Brooklyn for about three straight months — punctuated by only a few quick trips to Boston.  But I’m heading back to business as usual and packing my bags for a heavy stretch.

On the docket for the next few months for work and fun — Austin, D.C., Boston, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Atlanta, Chicago, and Detroit — with a few more trips that will likely be slotted in between.

I do really love traveling, and have been at it enough that I’ve learned how to not have it disrupt work and life.  But what I still need to work hard at is not letting the extreme travel wreak havoc on my physical health.

Here are some of the go-tos I’ve developed over the past few years:

ClassPass:  I promise you that this blog is NOT a walking advertisement for Class Pass, and Taryn already shared its joys.  I’m with her.  And while it’s getting pricey in NYC (at $125 a month), I hang on to it because it’s fantastic when I’m traveling.  Each city I mentioned above has CP, and I can continue my mixed routine of yoga, barre, boxing, gym time, etc. while I’m on the road.

You gots to hydrate:  I’m not a big fan of bottled water, but when I’m traveling I grab one of the 1L smartwater bottles (and pay the ridiculous $5 price).  I don’t have a preference for the water itself (we all know it’s tap — sorry smartwater) but I LOVE the bottle.  It’s light and skinny, which makes it possible to carry around when I’m also lugging a suitcase and laptop bag.  I refill it and refill it and refill it, and it’s amazing what a difference it makes in keeping me going.  Better and healthier than all the caffeine in the world.

Buddies:  While it’s sad that not all of my closest friends live in NYC with me, one of the huge benefits of work travel has been being able to catch up when I’m in town.  I get home cooking and some quality down time with friends in other cities in between the crazy meeting packed days at work. And it’s usually during the week, so I get to be part of the evening family routine, which for many of them now includes running after little ones.  Nourishing for the soul.

SkyMall:  Whoever invented SkyMall is my personal hero.  The comic relief this catalog of ridiculousness (squirrel busts, tree faces, waterfalls for your cats) that you find in the backseat pocket of airplane seats has literally added years to my life.  No matter how stressful or busy a trip has been, flying back home with SkyMall and a glass of wine is an instant remedy.  P.S.  To everyone who I’ve sent too many pictures of my most desired items on SkyMall…it’s about to pick up again.

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Eat yo vegetables:  It is really hard to find anything that’s not a processed carb when you’re grabbing food on the go, particularly in an airport or train station.  And I’ve struggled through one too many Amtrak salads (iceberg lettuce, one cherry tomato and carrot shreds) to count on what they do have. So, I’ve started scoping out the farmer’s markets and grocery stores close to where I’m staying and the stops I’m going to in between in order to stock up.  I’ve also tried packing fruits and veggies with me in my luggage, but I got a little gun-shy last year when TSA took away my box of Brussel sprouts.  I know this one sounds like a lot of effort (and maybe a little nutty…?) but it’s probably one of the things that keeps me feeling most balanced and healthy while I’m traveling.

Off I go!  Let me know what you do to keep your health on track while you’re traveling. I need to keep up my game.

And let me know if you’re going to be in one of those cities, so I can cook some veggies with you on a week night…

&d

 

 

Sunday Detox: Alone in the Woods

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As I’ve thought about the subject of detoxing and unplugging from daily life, I’ve started asking friends about their favorite method of recharging.  A lot of times I hear “Being alone in a cabin in the woods” as an ideal way to get away from it all.  It always sounded vaguely appealing to me, but when would you really ever find yourself alone in the woods on purpose?  Well, this weekend, I got my shot at it.  

After a week working in Boston, I made my way up north to Killington, Vermont to spend a weekend skiing with friends.  On the way, somehow, I managed to sprain my hand rendering it useless.  Skiing was completely out of the question.  

I quickly realized that the cozy cabin we had rented — complete with cocoa and fireplaces — was about to be my stage for this “alone in the woods” fantasy so many had touted.  I wasn’t super excited about the change in plans.  I’m not a big fan of alone time in general and even when I’m reading, writing or doing other solitary activities I like to have people around me.  Being alone is the opposite of relaxing to me.  Still, I figured that I should make the most of the opportunity and see if some solitary time by the fire could be a new way to detox.    

I woke up on Saturday morning to the sound of everyone clamoring out the door to head to the slopes early.  It was 15 degrees out, I was carless and in the middle of nowhere, so I knew that I was cabin bound. Here we go.  

Hour 1:  I turned the fire all the way up and started to reading our latest Prose and Hos(e) book, Jonathan Tropper’s This is Where I Leave You. It’s a good, easy read, but slightly depressing and it wasn’t helping my current mood of being stranded in Vermont.  I needed something a little more active.

Hour 2:  I wrote an article that I needed to get finished before the end of the weekend, hoping that it would consume the rest of the day.  But without distraction, I was done in 45 minutes.  Success?  Not in this case.    

Hour 3:  I read the NYTimes and started talking to myself in reaction to some of the articles on Trump and Rubio.  Are they seriously talking about sweat and comb overs?  

Hour 4:  I found the game cabinet chock full of games from the 1970’s.  I played Scrabble with myself, and won.  It turned out to be good practice for that evening when I finally managed to beat Ben in Scrabble (by a hair and with an assist, but still).

Hour 5:  I was having an ongoing verbal dialogue with myself at this point, and needed something much more active.  I started debating with myself (yes, out loud) whether I should attempt to do forearm-based yoga with a sprained hand.  Ultimately, I decided the mental impact of sitting in one place was probably worse than the physical impact of potentially hurting my hand again.

Hour 6:  Did 90 seconds of yoga and realized that I was wrong.  Re-wrapped my poor sprained hand and realized that my inability to effectively be alone had reached new levels.

Hour 7:  They returned!  When I heard the car door slam outside I ran to the window like a lonely puppy dog.  As they piled in the house, I slowly realized that they were all exhausted and were making a bee line for the showers.  No one was up for chatting.  But somehow, it didn’t matter.  There were other people present and I was suddenly satiated.  

I went back to reading my book and the Times by the fire and it felt different and more peaceful than when I was in the house by my lonesome.  I was finally recharging.  

My husband, Ben, later turned to me and said he was envious of all the time I spent alone. A true introvert, he had a fun but entirely exhausting day full of people and wanted nothing more to have us all get out of the house and leave him to read by himself.  

So we did.  And everyone got their version of detox.  

&d

Lunchtime Blog Roundup

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Is it me or does this week feel extra long?  Maybe because last week was a short one with President’s Day.  Maybe because I’ve been on the road this week.  Maybe because I keep going to hot yoga at the break of dawn.  Either way, I’m ready to wind down for the weekend.

For those of you who feel similarly and could use a quick break, here’s a list of my favorite go-to blogs for a little pause from the grind of work and life (when I’m not catching up on The Holly & The Folly, of course).

For when you want to figure out what to make for brunch this Sunday…

  • Cookie & Kate:  Cookie and Kate is one of my favorite cooking blogs.  I dig her style – whole foods, not afraid of the occasional indulgence or yummy cocktail, but very afraid of processed or artificial ingredients.  Another great along the same lines is Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks.

For when you’re jaded with the current state of our political system…

#whenyouworkatanonprofit

  • Nonprofit with Balls:  The title says it all.  Author Vu Le shares his take and his stories on the nonprofit sector with a big dose of humor.  While the “balls” in the title actually refers to the many balls nonprofit employees need to juggle, the blog also is written with a fair amount of irreverance and bravery.  You hearty souls that work in the nonprofit sector will love it.

For when you just want a few pretty pictures…

  • The Sartorialist:  Scott Schuman’s blog on street fashion that he kicked off in 2005 hoping to shine a light on the interplay between runway fashion and real life.  He’s a brilliant photographer, so aside from a snapshot of real people’s fashion adventures, you’ll get a lot of soulful shots peering into the lives of his subjects.

What blogs get you through your long weeks?

&d