Friday, October 29, 2010

Trick or Treat!

Happy Halloween Weekend!


Enjoy all of the yummy treats and tasty sweets that this fun holiday always provides!


Tune in Monday to see what has now become a family Halloween tradition :)

Fall

As every true New Englander should, I love the fall. The leaves change, the weather changes, and life is just a bit prettier and more exciting. There is nothing better than a good old fashioned New England fall, complete with piles of leaves to jump in, apple picking, warm apple cider, and of course beautiful scenery.

Check out some beautiful fall views from the last week.


I feel lucky to get to enjoy these sites every year. Just one of the many many reasons I love living in New England.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Coffee Love

Hi, my name is Samantha and I am a coffee-holic.

I love, love, love coffee. I can't start my day without it. Dunkin's French Vanilla is my drink of choice, but really, I'll drink anything with caffeine in a pinch. I come from a long line of enablers coffee drinkers.  We like our morning jolt. It helps us wake up, it allows us to be ready to attack the day, and, most importantly, it is delicious.

Sure there is tons of research about caffeine and how bad it is for you. But, there is also a lot of research out there about the positive effects of caffeine. Just like everything, moderation is the key.

And, if in the morning a few cups of the warm yummy-ness are needed to get me through the day, I think that is A-OK.

So do the people at the "Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition" who claim
Caffeine has an affect on performance, both physical and mental. The underlying mechanism pertaining to the way caffeine works in the body involves the central nervous system. Caffeine has specific effects that occur shortly after consumption.

Caffeine is a substance that is easily absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract. Then, it travels across the membrane of cells in the brain since it can easily pass through the blood-brain barrier. Because of this, the effects of caffeine are initiated within the central nervous system, according to an article in 2010 in the "Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition." Since the central nervous system is involved with behavior, caffeine can affect physical performance-related areas--bearing in mind that the effects are on the neuronal level and not directly the muscle.

In addition to psychomotor, or movement-related abilities, caffeine also affects cognitive abilities such as alertness, memory and vigilance, according to an article on a study published in 2008 in "Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise." The study found that men who consumed caffeine performed better on tests that involve complex information processing. One such test was the Stroop test, which assesses how fast participants can ignore distractions and name a color word when it is presented in a color different than which its name denotes. For, example, the word "green" would be printed in blue or red ink, but never green.

Even more interestingly, the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease published a special supplemental edition to share the findings reported in the study "Therapeutic Opportunities for Caffeine in Alzheimer's Diseases and Other Neurodegenerative Diseases."

Key findings:
  • Multiple beneficial effects of caffeine to normalize brain function and prevent its degeneration
  • Caffeine's neuroprotective profile and its ability to reduce amyloid-beta production
  • Caffeine as a candidate disease-modifying agent for Alzheimer's disease
  • Positive impact of caffeine on cognition and memory performance
  • Identification of adenosine A2A receptors as the main target for neuroprotection afforded by caffeine consumption
  • Confirmation of data through valuable meta-analyses presented
  • Epidemiological studies corroborated by meta-analysis suggesting that caffeine may be protective against Parkinson's disease
  • Several methodological issues must be solved before advancing to decisive clinical trials



Today is a glass mug half full day. And I choose to embrace the positives that go along with coffee drinking. We can save the negatives for another day.

Of Course

I have owned my car for just about 3 years. In that time I have never, ever even had a tiny scratch on it (well, aside from the first day I had the car and someone drove into the back of me, but that was fixed years ago. Since then, everything has been perfect!).

3 weeks into working on a college campus and I already have a ding on my car. SAD FACE!




Maybe they can teach a parking course next semester! These kids need it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Protein Bars

A co-worker of Josh's gave him this Protein Bar Recipe. We tried it and loved it. They were super easy to make, tasted great, and packed some serious protein punch. Both Josh and I were not hungry for HOURS after we ate them. That never happens for us!

yummy final product

Without further ado, here is the recipe. I highly recommend it.

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups of natural peanut butter
1 3/4 to 2 cups of honey (any less, bars do not hold together)
2 1/4 cups vanilla protein powder (if chocolate powder, add 2 tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder)
3 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup chocolate chips
*optional: 1/2 cup chopped walnuts and/or 1/2 cup raisins and/or 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions
In a double boiler, warm the peanut butter and honey to a smooth consistency
*optional: use microwave for 70-90 seconds)
Mix dry ingredients
Pour in peanut butter/honey mixture and stir until completely combined
Spread uniformly in a 9x12 pan and cut into 16 pieces (I recommend 32 pieces, they are pretty large)
Wrap and chill
*Each bar: 200 Calories, 15 Gm Protein, 26 Gm Carbohydrate, 9 Gm fat, 3-4 Gm Fiber

Dry Ingredients

Peanut Butter/Honey Combo

Mixing It All Up
Using the Hands Method

Ready for Cooling

Protein Bars on Foodista


Buzzzzzzz

Yesterday morning started off with a fire drill. No, not a real fire alarm, but we were definitely up early, running around the house.

For some reason, both Josh and I were off of our game when the alarm went off. Instead of our clockwork routine, we both got ready in a different order. Inevitably, this wound up with Josh ready to leave for work and his cell phone nowhere to be found.

After I noticed him running around the house making calls on our home phone, I asked what was wrong. As soon as I heard about the missing phone, I sprung into action. While Josh kept dialing his number and feeling around on furniture and in various pairs of pants pockets (or course the phone was on vibrate and not ring) I looked in the usual spots. I checked under our bed, in the closet, in the refrigerator, and on top every single 'hiding place' I could think of.

After 10-15 minutes of both running around like chickens with our heads cut off, we were just about to abandon ship, when it hit me. Neither one of us had checked Josh's work back nor his soccer bag. He called his number one last time while I hugged his overstuffed bag tight. Underneath his sneakers, gym clothes, and other random gear was his cell phone, buzzing away. SUCCESS!

Nothing like starting the day with a wild goose chase.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Running Running and Running Running

DISCLAIMER: I am by no means an expert when it comes to exercise or fitness. I certainly do not claim to be an authority on anything related to food or health. I am just someone who tries to be active and has spent a good deal of time inside a gym, sweating to the oldies. And over the years, I have learned some tricks of the trade that help me.

*   *   *

My interest in fitness started, unbeknownst to me, as a kid. My parents signed me up for dance class at the ripe old age of 5 and from that day on, all I wanted to do was dance. I participated in ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, pointe, modern...you name it, I loved it. Whenever I heard music playing, I couldn't help but move my body to the rhythm. Often when there was no music playing, I was still grooving to the tunes in my head. Growing up, I also dabbled in soccer, basketball, tennis, swimming, track, lacrosse, and many many more sports. None of them stuck for more than a year or two. I just wanted to dance.

In college, dancing was not as readily available as it once was, especially after I blew out my knee not once, but twice! I knew I needed to be active but didn't know how. A friend of mine in the dorms was obsessed with working out and had the body to prove it. With his encouragement, my love affair with the gym began in my junior year. It took some time to stick, but by the time I entered the workforce, the gym was a part of my daily/weekly routine.

 *   *   *

While at times they are, more often than not, my exercise goals are not related to weight loss. I find that might set a losing battle. What works for me is focusing on having a healthy life style, being heart-healthy, and keeping my mind clear and calm. I am also the kind of person who enjoys my time in the gym and married someone who loves a good workout too.

Usually I do not give workout advice, seeing as I am not a trained professional. However, in honor of Shape-Up Week, here are some tips that work for me, keep me motivated, and more importantly, keep me interested in going to the gym!
  1. It has to be easy. If getting to the gym is difficult or too far away, it will never happen. The more convenient the gym is, the more often I go.
  2. I need to be happy. I am a total gym snob. I need to like the staff, the clientele, and the equipment at a gym before I sign a membership. I am not afraid of gym shopping! In fact, my current gym is the 3rd I have belonged to in the Boston area in the last 5 years, and the 6th I have belonged to in my life. 
  3. Good Tunes. Music is my key to success. It keeps me going, energizes me, and helps me forget about time. Without my ipod, workouts would be much much harder.
  4. Have fun. The gym has to be a place I enjoy. If it feels like work or I dread going, then I can't be successful. I work hard to find activities that I like so that I stick with it!
  5. Switch it up. The only way I can keep up with my fitness routine is with variety. Many mornings Josh and I run, but also, in the afternoons, we take classes or go for a swim. It helps to keep things interesting and to keep our bodies from getting bored. 
  6. Be Creative. Sometimes the gym is not the place I want to be. On those days, I run outside, do a workout video in my house, or take a long walk...anything to stay active.
  7. Stay Active. The gym isn't the only place for a workout. You can exercise anywhere. I try to park as far away from the office as possible, forcing myself to walk up a HUGE flight of stairs. This weekend Josh and I were at a family bat mitzvah. Every chance we had we were dancing up a storm. Not only was it fun, but it was a great workout too!
  8. Have a buddy. Before I met Josh, I was totally opposed to a work out buddy. I thought I could do it all on my own and did not see the benefit of a gym partner. Now, I am hooked. We motivated each other, hold one another accountable, and encourage each other to reach our fitness goals.
  9. Hydrate. Without massive amounts of water, I can't make it through it a workout. I always drink a lot of water before, after, and during every workout. 
  10. Set goals. Goals are what keep me in the gym. They help me work harder and push me to achieve more. Sometimes they are as simple as going up in weight, other times they are long term, like looking my best in my wedding dress. Whatever the goal, I am so competitive that I know I will do everything I can to crush it.
Everyone is different. These are just 10 ways I try to keep myself going at the gym. What tricks do you have to stay motivated while working out?

Josh Is The Burger King

Hands down, Josh makes the best hamburgers/turkey burgers/veggie burgers on the planet. They are amazing! And that is coming from someone who is barely eating meat these days.

There is a secret ingredient that he uses to make his burgers moist, flavorful, and absolutely crave-able. To this day, I have no idea what the secret ingredient is. He kicks me out of the kitchen during prep. While he won't let me post the recipe just yet (I'm working on it!) take a look at his delicious creation.

Our fantastic dinner

Trust me, these burgers are to die for!

Monday, October 25, 2010

We Are Family

This weekend was all about good old fashion family fun.



Josh's Our cousin celebrated her bat mitzvah in style! The whole weekend was a total blast. It was the kind of weekend where I am reminded of what a wonderful and fun family I married into.

The big event started with a great dinner on Friday night at our cousins' house. There were at least 60 adults and 30 kids...almost all were related to the bat mitzvah girl. The house was full of excitement, joy, and a lot of craziness coming up from the playroom. It was great to have the night to see everyone, many of whom live far away. Josh's parents and sister were there as well, which gave us all time to catch up.

Bright and early on Saturday morning, we all met at services where the girl of the weekend lead services and read torah in public for the first time. She did an amazing job! We were all blown away by her ability to lead the prayers, chant her torah and halftorah potions, and give a meaningful and interesting d'var at only 13. She was truly fantastic. Many of her cousins, aunts, uncles, and siblings participated as well. Josh even got in on the action; chanting torah better than I have ever heard him before. It was a great service. And the kiddish after was fun as well. So many family members hanging out together...what could be better?

The afternoon was spent with the bat mitzvah family, helping them to get ready. I was on the hair and make up crew, while Josh helped with some tasks around the house and made sure the boys were ready. Once everyone was beautified in their evening attire, we headed over to the venue for a few pictures. Then, it was time for the red carpet party to get rocking.

The party was a blast. The girl of the night had the night of her life surrounded by friends and family. Dinner was delicious, the decorations and DJ were fantastic, and we all danced the night away. The whole night was fit for A-list Hollywood royalty. It was an evening to remember.

In the morning, we all met up again for a yummy brunch and to say goodbye. The whole weekend was fantastic and we can't wait to do it again at the next one...in April!

Late to the Party

I am an old fashioned peanut butter lover. I can't get enough of it. For at least 10 years growing up I ate a peanut butter (no jelly) sandwich for lunch with 2 cookies and a cut up apple (long before the apple allergy set in). Many many times over the years I have taken a spoonful of Peter Pan Peanut Butter as a snack.

yum!
I also love everything that is made with peanut butter flavor. Peanut butter ice cream. peanut butter cookies, peanut butter cups. I love it all.

Now, I have a new love. Natural peanut butter from Whole Foods!

So Fun
The fun of grinding your own peanut butter makes it a million times better than Peter Pan, but the taste, especially when cooking, is just as good. As an added bonus, the calorie difference is pretty fantastic too.

I know I am coming late to the make your own natural peanut butter party, but I'm glad I'm finally here. And hey, better late than never!

Friday, October 22, 2010

No Pain, No Gain

From an early age I learned what all women know, when it comes to fashion 'No Pain, No Gain.'

I have spent countless hours with a hair dryer, straightener, and an enormous round brush making my hair fall just right. I have learned to apply eye makeup that looks smokey without poking my eye out too often. And I have created a relatively normal love/hate relationship with stockings. And I did it all in the name of fashion.

One aspect where I am not much of a fashionista is with shoes. For me, the pain is always disproportionately more than the gain. Sure, I own my fair share of super cute and painful trendy shoes, but I do not wear them as often as I should...especially when I also own plenty of pairs of sneakers, flip flops, and uggs. However, our wedding changed everything.

HOT wedding shoes

I chose a pair of fantastic, and not so comfortable, shoes to wear on our wedding day. They looked great with the dress and I couldn't get over them so I threw caution to the wind. And you know what? I survived. Sure, my feet didn't feel great the next day, but they weren't horrible either.

For my new job, I have decided to fully embrace the No Pain, No Gain attitude for shoes too. And I have to say...it is about time! For the last 2 weeks I have worn nothing but cute little heels that are very uncomfortable. But hey, they look great! And, I have to admit, it is actually getting a lot easier and a bit less painful to strut around the office in my fun shoes. What can I say? I'm a slave to fashion.

Not the most comfy, but they do the trick.

Super cute and super comfortable. 

Love, love, love.

Shape-Up Weeks

I am a HUGE Allison Sweeney fan. For those of you who do not know her, she is the host of the Biggest Loser and plays Sami Brady on Days of Our Lives (I am a not so closeted fan of Days!). She also is an author and mommy blogger.

What I like best about Ali's blog is that it is about more than just parenting (because clearly I do not need parenting advice just yet). She talks a lot about food, health, fitness, and lifestyle. Recently she has written posts about hair and makeup tricks, recipes, and my personal favorite, behind the scenes moments of Days. I am totally addicted to her blog. Her topics resonate with me so much because she has been able to strike the perfect balance of what I am aiming to do; talk about her interests, her career, her family, and everything fun/funny that happens along the way.

Last week she had a post about what she calls Shape-Up Weeks.
I wrote a whole chapter in The Mommy Diet about what I call “shape-up weeks.” These are the times when I buckle down (as my dad would say), exercise pretty intensely every single day, and work myself even harder than I usually do. Even if you have a great and consistent workout routine, I suggest throwing in a more intense “shape-up week” several times a year!
I LOVE this idea. Josh, are you ready? Shape-up week starts on Monday!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Making Dinner

Deciding what to make for dinner is a complicated task in our house. We keep kosher, I am a super picky eater with food allergies, and Josh is always hungry for a real meal when he gets home from work. Add in the fact that we like to eat at home during the week, both try to bring lunch to work, and attempt to be healthy when possible, and it's an uphill battle. Navigating what works and what doesn't for us has been a challenge.

To make matters worse, this time of year is nutty for us. Josh coaches soccer after work and gets home later than usual. On top of that, we have begun exercising some days at night instead of the morning. Plus, I'm trying to stay away from chicken and meat on a regular basis, but refusing to be a full blown vegetarian (because I do not eat/like many veggies). Basically, dinner time is not fun time. 

Blindly walking into the market never works for us. We always forget something, buy too much of the wrong product, and without fail go home without cohesive meal options. In an effort to streamline the process, we have added some long term planning into our meals. 

The biggest thing for us is to eat healthy meals without being stressed. The minute it gets hard or we are disorganized, we reach for the easy option, which in our case is the pizzeria at the corner of our street. With a lot of trial and error, we have figured out a system that works for us. In theory we stay on track and try to eat well.

While we are not perfect and our plan is living document, here are 10 steps we take to get around the dinner rut.
  1. Every Sunday we sit down and look at our schedules for the week. We figure out which nights we will both be home, how much time we will have to prepare for dinner, and if we will make it to our Zumba and Spinning classes that week.
  2. Once we know our schedule, we plan out our meals. We try to make full dinners on the nights one of us is home early. 
  3. Our biggest challenge is being creative. We try to make a variety of foods, flavors, and textures to keep it interesting. However, we are not always as successful as we would like to be.
  4. After planning out meals for Monday through Thursday (Fridays are always a different animal) we determine which nights work best for leftovers. If we don't have leftovers for nights we are at the gym, we always fall victim to pizza. (I hate to admit it, but it happened last night!)
  5. Then we work on lunches. It makes life easier if we make lunch at the same time we are making dinner. This is challenging because of Josh's restrictions on lunches through work and my refusal to eat the same food too many meals in a row. This is where our creativity comes in.
  6. With the meals planned out for the week, we go through our refrigerator and pantry to see what we have vs. what we need. 
  7. Then we check out the coupon draw to see if there is anything there.
  8. Finally, we head over to the market to buy our pre-determined meals. We always leave room for a few impulse buys. Otherwise the options get pretty stale. 
  9. Once we have bought our food, Josh takes stock of what we have and fills in the produce gaps at Russo's on his way home from work on Mondays. They have the best produce and their prices can't be beat.
  10. The last step to our plan is to stick to it! 
It may seem like these 10 steps take a lot of time, and sometimes they do, but it is worth it in the end. Generally, when we stick to our planned out meals we eat better, save money, and are happier with our choices.

What tricks of the trade do you use to keep your family's meals on track?

Live and Learn

After bragging about my commute the other day, I found a hitch!

My commute is only amazing when I go directly home from work, taking the patented Josh short cuts. Any deviation from this path is a disaster.

The other night I decided to get gas on the way home from work and then run one other errand. These stops turned my 3 mile commute into a 5 mile trip. Not too bad right? WRONG! My 10 minute drive turned into an hour and a half trek!

I guess I will never make that mistake again! Lesson learned.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mystery Leak

Sunday was a busy day in our house. It was also not a very 'green' day. I ran the dishwasher 3 times, did 6 loads of laundry, and took an extra long shower. Hey, with all of that cleaning and organizing I did, I deserved it!

Normally we try to do a better job of balancing our commitment to conserve and our desire to have a clean and tidy home. But sometimes, things get out of hand. With the arrival of our new dining room set (YAY!) I was finally able to bring our wedding china home from my parents' house and put it away in our home. The way the dishes came packed from the store was great because they arrived in one piece, but the packaging created a huge mess and made sure that each and every piece of china and crystal got nice and dirty. Everything had to be washed. Then, despite my attempts to stay on top of laundry, it did get the best of me over the weekend. During the previous week we had both exercised a lot, the sheets and towels needed to be done, and the new clothes I bought had to be washed separately the first time. Needless to say, I used more water in one day than I think I ever have.

So imagine my surprise when I went down to the laundry room, located in our basement, and saw water on the floor. I mean a LOT of water. The way it was spilled was very strange though. The area in front of the utility sink and laundry basket were both soaked, but the rest was dry. Also, none of the pipes were wet and the area around the washer and dryer were bone dry. In a panic I ran and got my handyman Josh.

Josh was equally as shocked. There was no water falling from anywhere in our basement and there was no sign that water had come up from the floor. He checked the ceiling tiles, the windows, the washer and dryer again, under the door, and in every nook and cranny in the entire basement. Aside from the outside of the utility sink and laundry basket, everything was dry. We both came to the same conclusion. Obviously someone ran into our laundry room with a bucket and threw water on the floor in that one spot. Nothing else made sense. (clearly we are delusional new homeowners!) Together we cleaned up the mess and went on with our day.

30 minutes later I went back downstairs to finish up the laundry. This time, I saw the problem in action. Our washer was not hooked up to a normal filter since it was added long after the house was wired for water and electricity. The water from the washer was drained into the utility sink. Instead of a filter, there was a metal drain catch on the end of the pipe to catch anything that should not go down the drain. While this was not our favorite set up, it seemed to work well enough and we had not really thought about it since we had moved in.

Apparently, no one came into our basement and sneak attacked us with a bucket of water as previous thought. What actually happened was the metal drain catch became clogged in every hole but one. The water pressure built up in the drain catch, which created a water explosion on the outside of the utility sink. Because we did not keep much in the laundry room besides the laundry basket, it was the only thing to get hit with water. After seeing the problem, I ran to get Josh. We both nearly fell over laughing. How crazy that we actually thought someone would sabotage our basement! This wasn't college or communal living.

As I cleaned up the water, Josh changed the drain catch. Now water could run freely from the washer to the sink. Hopefully we will be able to avoid future disasters by knowing to change the drain catch every few months. I guess we were left a box of extra filters by the previous owners for a reason.

Greek Salad

Samantha has a bit of an obsession for Greek Salad. It isn't to surprising when you consider that her favorite ingredients in salad are cheese and the dressing. Throw in her infatuation with Greece and we have a way to make a hard day a little better.

So, in order to help her eat her vegetables(which I am in an endless quest) I searched far and wide for a great Greek dressing recipe. Well, I hit a home run on the first try. The recipe claimed to be the best Greek dressing ever and I've yet to meet someone who thinks differently. It is amazing on every salad and as a dip for veggies. So without further ado, here is the recipe for the heavenly nectar. Let me know what you think.

Ingredients(I've modified so that it fits perfectly in a make-it-yourself dressing bottle):
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp basil
1.5 tsp pepper
1.5 tsp salt
1.5 tsp onion powder
1.5 tsp dijon mustard

Directions:
1) Measure and pour red wine vinegar into a bottle.
2) Add seasoning to vinegar
3) Add mustard(It's an emulsifier. I'm not sure this is the place for a chemistry lesson, but let's just say it allows the vinegar to dissolve in olive oil)
4) Add olive oil and shake
5) Pour and enjoy!


Salad Dressing Greek Or Italian on Foodista

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

City Living

Despite living just a few miles outside of Boston, Josh and I rarely make our way into town these days. Although I love the city, I grew up here after all, I've never been one to hang out in town on the weekends. For me, the hustle and bustle of the city, the historic sites, and the amazing waterfront are a part of my daily life. Working just steps from Fanueil Hall, the Boston Common, and Harbor takes some of the fun out of doing touristy things on the weekends.

We also use to live in a young and vibrant suburb just steps from Boston. There is always something fun to do in our old neighborhood, so there is often no reason to leave. Now that we are in our new house, we are so busy exploring our surroundings that we do not have time to take advantage of all that Boston has to offer. Sure we have the occasional dinner in the North End or catch a show in the theater district, but mostly we are suburbanites through and through.

However, every once and a while, Josh and I make our way downtown together and have a blast. Getting into town is easier than we think it will be, the event/venue we are going to is better than we remembered it, and we are excited to live in such a great city. Every single time we spend quality time in Boston we regret that we do not do it more often. This is exactly what happened this weekend.

Saturday night was a great night out. With the baby boom going on, everyone being so busy with work, and the flood of Jewish holidays in the fall, we had not had a big night out with many of our close friends in a while. We were definitely due. A few months back, a whole bunch of us decided to get tickets to Rock of Ages . It was a fantastic night. Not only were we with our friends listening and singing along to great music, but the scene of drunk thirty-somethings reliving their youth was totally RAD. The flashlights shaped like lighters were almost as TOTALLY OUTRAGEOUS as Constantine. After the show, we went down the street for a drink before calling it night. It was the perfect way to end a great evening.

The following night we decided to head back into Boston. We were having dinner with our friends Matt and Lynn. We hadn't seen them in a while and decided on a whim to head down to Stephanie's on Newbury followed by JP Licks for dessert. Generally we meet them for dinner in our old neighborhood, where they live, so this was a nice treat. Why not live large and have martinis and ice cream on a Sunday night? We had some celebrating to do! As always with them, it was a wonderful night and we can't wait to see them again.

2 big nights out in Boston is a huge change of pace for us, but a welcome one. Sometimes we get so caught up in our little suburbia bubble that we forget what a great city we have in our backyard. I'm not sure we are going to walk the Freedom Trail anytime soon or visit Old Iron Sides, but I hope we continue to make time to hang out in Boston more often. Weekends in the city are so different than work days. There is a vibe that is almost palatable. It reminds me why I fell in love with Boston in the first place.

BB and B

Just some insight to what it is like shopping at Bed Bath and Beyond with Josh.



No wonder errands always take us FOREVER!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hello New Friend

Since Josh and I bought our house we have been busy decorating. It has been fun going to different stores to see what was out there and learn about one another's taste.

We started with the first floor. Our house was set up with a living room, dinning room, kitchen, bathroom, and one bedroom on the main level, and 2 bedrooms and bathroom on the second floor. While our bedroom furniture was still a little mismatched from before we met, we decided to focus our decorating efforts on the main floor where the majority of our entertaining was done. Bedrooms and basements could wait.

Our living room and office furniture was moved into the bedroom on the first floor creating a den and a place for guests to stay. Rearranging the furniture in that room made our old stuff look new again. We then decided our first priority was buying new living room furniture. We found a great couch and love seat set from Jordan's with a matching coffee table and end tables. Of course we could not pass up replacing our TV with a much bigger and flatter one (all the better to watch our million sports games on.) We also purchased a great TV stand and bookshelf from Crate and Barrel that looked perfect in the room. At that point we had no real intention of rushing into much else. With our living room and kitchen pretty decked out (the kitchen came re-done) we were going to focus on other things, like settling in and living life.

Of course Josh and I were never ones to be happy with the status quo. We always wanted to move on to bigger and better. So a few weeks ago we started looking for a dinning room table. We found a great one at Boston Interiors and could not wait to set it up. Luckily, our new table, chairs, and sideboard all come this weekend. We now have everything pretty set up on the first floor and we could not be happier.

It's funny how a new piece of furniture can make us feel so grown up! Check out our new set up.

View from our new dinning room into our living room.
It's amazing how we were able to find matching pieces from 3 different stores.

Our new table is awesome! It has a leaf for those big dinners and the detail is simple, yet elegant. 

The chairs not only look great but are comfy too!

Home sweet home to our china! The sideboard, with its interior wine rack is our favorite part.

Quiet Friday

This Friday night, Josh and I were on our own. Although we love spending Shabbat with our friends, sometimes a quiet night with just the two of us is nice. More importantly, it gives us time to be together and figure out which traditions we want to continue in our home.

With Josh home from school early, and my new short commute, we had some time to hang out before dinner and plan our meal more carefully. We decided to light candles when the sun went down and then went about cooking. We also decided to set up the dinning room as if we were having guests. It was our last night with our table (TEASER) and using it properly seemed right.


Then we finished cooking a delicious dinner of chicken for Josh and tofu for me. We had roasted potatoes and broccoli (not pictured) as well. It was delicious. 


Over dinner we talked about many things including which traditions we like best and what tunes we are comfortable with. It was a really nice night and a great way to say goodbye to our dinning room set that has served us well for so long.

Friday, October 15, 2010

1 Week and 3 Loves

I have been at my new job for just one week and I already have 3 new loves.

First and foremost, I love my new commute. I mean I love, love, love it! There is no question that I won the commuting lottery. At 8:30 am I can grab my bag and coffee, hop in my car, and hit the road. By 9 am sharp I can make my way through town, drive past security, navigate through a sea of students heading to class, turn on my computer (with 2 screens!), and be ready to tackle the day. I love it! After years of commuting and dealing with public transportation, my ride to work is cake!

Second, I love where I am working. The atmosphere both in my office and throughout the campus is just exciting. Sure, I get lost a few times a day, can't remember anyone's name and/or their job description, have not yet been mistaken for a student, do not exist anywhere in any of the school's databases because of my name change from when I was a student to now that I am an employee (a story for another day), but I already love working on a college campus. I love how nice everyone is, how devoted to their jobs they are, and how engaged the students are. Most of all I love experiencing the energy that makes college so alive. Every day feels so full of promise.

Third, I love my new routine. I love being the last one out of the house and the first one home. I love that I can still run with Josh in the morning without having to shower and get ready at the gym. I love my lazy mornings after the gym where I have ample time to shower, pick a cute outfit, accessorize, and put on makeup before eating breakfast and heading in. Having all of that time to get ready just makes me happy. On the flip side, I love being home just a few minutes after I leave work. I love being home with plenty of time to make dinner and clean up, all before Josh comes home (well that part might get old since I don't love to make dinner and am not the best at it, but I like the idea of it). And most of all, I love having more time to hang out with Josh at night and I don't need to rush to bed early now that mornings are so easy.

If I already love these 3 new things about my job and my routine, I can't wait to see what else I love about my new life as the weeks go on!

Best Way to Start the Day


Coffee and Cereal. The perfect way to start the day.

Now that I have lazy mornings, I get to start my day, every day, like this. 
Good thing we got extra large cereal bowls and coffee mugs. Delicious!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tofu Advice

I am on a huge tofu kick right now. I just can't get enough of it. But I am far from an expert on it. I have been struggling with the whole 'draining the water' part of making tofu.

Making sure that the water is out of the tofu is something that Josh is not a huge proponent of, however, every recipe I read calls for it. During soccer season I do a lot more of the cooking, so dinner the other night was the perfect opportunity for me to try my hand at making tofu.

I found a super easy recipe online that literally called for removing the water, cutting the tofu into small pieces, marinating it in teriyaki sauce, and baking on 350 for 45 minutes. Easy right? Nah, I never do easy. I decided to make a contraption to make sure that all of the water was out of the tofu without me having to stand there. (Don't mind that the first few pictures are super blurry. The manual focus got the best of me at first, but I won in the end.)

I started the process by pulling down a large cereal bowl and placing a cooling rack on top of it to catch all of the access water and not allow it to soak back into the tofu.
Phase 1
Then I added 2 paper towels folded in quarters and put the tofu on top of it. This made sure that the tofu did not drip all over the counter.
Phase 2
I then added 2 more paper towels, also folded in quarters, on top of the tofu to act a barrier between the tofu and the 'weights.'
Phase 3
Finally, I placed 2 plates to act as weights on top of the tofu press contraption to make sure that all of the water drained out.
Phase 4
Despite the horrified look on Josh's face when he saw what I had done, I have to admit, my home made tofu press worked perfectly. There was no extraneous mess (besides the materials I used) and the tofu was not soggy at all. It was ready to soak up the marinade.
Phase 5
After an hours time, I popped it into the oven.
Phase 6
And 45 low maintenance minutes later, Josh and I enjoyed and a healthy and delicious tofu meal. (Don't tell Josh, but I think my tofu salad came out better than his did last week. ssshhh)
Final Product!
I highly recommend this recipe. It's easy, yummy, and healthy. Of course, you might want to try your own method for pressing the tofu!

Doppelganger

In fictionfolklore, and popular culture, a doppelgänger is a tangible double of a living person that typically represents evil. In the vernacular, the word doppelgänger has come to refer (as in German) to any double or look-alike of a person. 

So...Is it Josh or Taylor?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hells Angels

The other afternoon, Josh and I had a bad a run in with some Hells Angels wannabes. I swear these things only happen to us!

After being tailgated by 2 motorcycles for a few miles, Josh gently tapped his breaks to send a message. Though I adamantly did not think this was the smartest safest best method, Josh swore by it. He claimed that was what his dad taught him to do when someone tailgated. I was taught to move over a lane when it was safe to avoid an accident. Apparently, the motorcyclist was on my side when it came to tapping breaks. Of course instead of gently stating his opinion on the matter like I did, he took the whole situation to the extreme. He decided to seek retribution right away, with the help of his trusty sidekick.

First, the sidekick ran his motorcycle up on my side of the car, in between the left and middle lanes. He was way too close for comfort. Next, the main man passed Josh on the left side, between our car and the Jersey barriers in the left hand lane. I had never seen anything like it, and although he tried to play it cool, I think Josh was a little nervous too. Finally, the main motorcyclist flew in front of our car and passed into the center lane. Out of annoyance, nerves, and just plain irritation, Josh MIGHT have told the dudes on bikes how felt using sign language. Let's just say, they did NOT take this well.

In a fit of rage, the main motorcyclist bent over, reached into the back of his pants and pulled out a plumber's wrench...I repeat a WRENCH!

The motorcyclist started waving the wrench at us, simulated him hitting our car, specifically on my the passenger side. Then he tried to bait Josh, who had slowed way down, to come up next to his bike so he could hit our car more easily. As always, Josh was the epitome of calm and just slowed the car down, changed lanes, and let the crazy bikers go on their merry way.

The entire scene happened in less than 1 minute but it was TERRIFYING. Many things went through my mind in that 1 minute. I have never in my life seen anything like that before. Who carries a wrench in their pants? How is that comfortable? I have never been so happy to see a wrench fly out a man's pants rather than a gun. It was absolutely out of control.

Although Josh handled the situation perfectly and was calm, cool, and collected most of the time (compared to my hysteria), he was just sick of tired of people trying to pick fights with him. Considering he is the most patient, kind, and understanding person in the world, it is pretty unbelievable that so many people are always trying to bait him. I have complete faith in his ability to handle anything, but a tiny part of me worries about the time when someone pushes him way too far. Good thing we aren't there yet!

Basketball Baby

With baseball season being over in Boston and our Boys of Fall taking a bye week, basketball is all the rage in our house.

Josh is a HUGE basketball fan. Sometimes I think he loves the Celtics, and Larry Bird specifically, more than he loves me. Which, by the way, I totally get because I love the definitely love the Patriots and Tedy Bruschi more than him. (Good thing we love the Red Sox equally).

The only thing better than me rocking his old school Larry Tees
A 1987 original
was meeting former NBA players at our wedding! The NBA playoffs were in Boston the weekend of our wedding. Many of the announcers were staying at our hotel and we were psyched to see Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith. It was Josh heaven!



Here's to a great BBall Season!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

National Coming Out Day

Yesterday was National Coming Out Day. As a straight ally to the GLBTQ community I knew I wanted to say something meaningful about this important day. However, my close friend and role model, Becky Silverstein, said what I never could. Below is a letter she sent out yesterday to friends, family, colleagues, and others in the community. Her message is strong, her words true, and her sentiment honest.

October 11, 2010


Dear friends, colleagues, and family.

Many of you know that as a teenager I attended Johns Hopkins’ Center for Talented Youth summer program at Franklin and Marshall College at the Lancaster site.  My time there was some of the most formative of my life to date.  The positive experience that I still remember so vividly today was due to team of educators and residential life staff that worked every day to create a safe space for all of us to learn and grow.  When I returned as a staff member, it was in large part to pay back a dept of gratitude that I felt to those staff members, especially to those who continued to be role models and mentors for me long after I left Lancaster.  My effort to fill their shoes began with the words “My name is Becky.  I grew up in New York.  I am Jewish.  And I am a lesbian.”      

Those words were part of an opening presentation created around CTY’s “Zero Tolerance” policy for bullying.  By outing ourselves in a variety of ways (sexual orientation, religion, cultural heritage), we hoped to demonstrate to the CTY community that CTY was a safe place to be whomever it is you are.  Here I was outing myself in front of 500 people, including 15 young women who would be living on my hall for the next three weeks.   I was terrified.   

Since coming out almost ten years ago, I have come out over and over and over again.  The feeling of terror I felt on stage has slowly moved into anxious uncertainty.  Each time I meet a new person I wonder if they will use the wrong pronoun and if they will be embarrassed if I correct them.  Each time I enter a new community I wonder if I will be the only person who identifies as queer, or if my voice will somehow be dismissed because I speak from a place of minority.  When I was hired to work for a community during the Jewish High Holidays, I felt compelled to make sure they knew my girlfriend would be joining me at services before I committed to working with them.  As secure as I am in myself, I know I can not control others. 

How blessed I am to be able to write this email without that feeling of anxiety.  Today is National Coming Out Day.  I feel so lucky that today, I can come out to you and not worry what you will think – except maybe “duh” or “tell me something I don’t already know.” 

Today I am hoping to continue what I began nine summers ago at CTY.  Our world does not have a zero tolerance policy, but that doesn’t mean we can’t each have one.  Today, I am coming out as someone who recognizes the potential I have to affect another person’s life, the potential I have to help someone realize that they are important and feel safe growing into who they are simply by being present, by being who I am, and by saying outloud “I support you.”  Today, I am asking you to come out as a role model and an ally with me.  I am asking you to refuse to stand by and watch as teenagers kill themselves because of senseless bullying and hatred.  I am asking you to refuse to stand by and watch ss young people choose a life on the streets because they have no where else to go.  I am coming out because I will not let you sit silently by either. 

I am writing to ask each of you to take a moment and consider what you and your organizations currently do to support GLBTQ youth, and all youth – as they begin to discern and grow into their own identities.    All teenagers (really, all people) deserve love and support.  Everybody deserves to look up at school, temple, church, on the playing field, or at the movies and see someone like them.    

Just as GLBTQ youth can’t change who they are, neither can you.  I recognize that not all of you work directly with youth, nor do all of you identify as GLBTQ.  This is a good thing.  Support comes in many different ways and should come from many different directions.  Changing your facebook status to indicate your support is a good start, but it is not enough.  If you need ideas, follow this link to Keshet’s “Ten Things You Can Do Today to Strengthen Our Community.”  Feel free to substitute “pastor” for “rabbi” and “Unitarian," “Christian,” or another faith tradition for “Jew.”  Write or call your high school principal and ask what they are doing at your high school to support GLBTQ youth – even if you graduated 30 or 40 years ago.  Want more ideas?  Check out the GLSEN website, support HRC, or ask me.      

GLBTQ youth and adults are part of your community – wherever you are.  Your community needs you.  How will you respond?

With love and hope.
-- Becky Silverstein 


p.s. Have you seen this video on YouTube?  It’s part of the “It Gets Better” campaign.  Don’t know what that is?  Google “Dan Savage It Gets Better.”  

1st Day of School

I hate to repeat myself, but it's my first day of school and I could not be more excited!

Welcome back Samantha!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mini Vacation

Every once and a while a mini vacation, or stay-cation, is necessary.



After leaving one job and before starting another, taking a few days to regroup, catch up on life, and get organized was necessary. I was lucky enough to have an extra long weekend to clear my head.

During my 5 day weekend I:
  1. Cleaned and organized my house, work bag, and life
  2. Did a ton of laundry
  3. Ran...a lot
  4. Bought some new work clothes
  5. Bought a new dinning room set with Josh
  6. Spent a TON of time with my parents
  7. Saw my Aunt and Uncle
  8. Shared a hilarious childhood video with Josh 
  9. Caught up on the DVR
  10. Slept
It may not have been the most glamorous vacation, but it was well needed. I am now excited and ready for my new endeavor tomorrow!

    Happy Columbus Day!

    here
    Happy Columbus Day!

    Hope it's a great one

    History.com says about Columbus Day:
    Columbus Day is a U.S. holiday that commemorates the landing of Christopher Columbus in the New World on October 12, 1492. It was unofficially celebrated in a number of cities and states as early as the 18th century but did not become a federal holiday until the 1937. For many, the holiday is a way of both honoring Columbus' achievements and celebrating Italian-American heritage. Throughout its history, Columbus Day and the man who inspired it have generated controversy, and many alternatives to the holiday have appeared in recent years.

    Friday, October 8, 2010

    Big Changes

    Ok. You have waited long enough. Here is the big news....drum roll please......................

    I have a new job!

    I am very excited about this new endeavor. While I will still be working in communications and in an issue specific area, I will be working in a different field. I have built my career in politics, strategically taking new jobs and working on campaigns to create a well rounded and balanced resume. After much thought and a few pro/con lists, a la Rory Gilmore, I have decided to make the jump to higher ed. It was a tough decision but one that I am confident is the right one for me. I know that working in higher ed fits my personality and can help me achieve my larger career and personal goals. I can't wait to get started.

    The institution I will be working for has a long history and is one that I have a personal connection to. It will allow me to be creative in new ways and to explore my interests in an academic setting. It will also mean a huge change of pace, new challenges, and a very rewarding future. This change has been something I have been thinking about and talking about for a long time. I am so excited to be taking this leap of faith...and to have the full support of Josh and my family. It seems only fitting to add this life change to the list of many others I have had this year. 

    Another big change that comes along with this position is how I get to work. For years I have taken public transportation into the city. Now, I will drive to work. And so, today is my last day commuting to Boston. Gone are my train rides and T experiences. No longer will I be attacked by strangers' umbrellas. Never again will I deal with the many personalities and grumpy people on public transportation. And this makes me very happy. Sure I will miss some of the perks about working downtown. I will not have a plethora of people and events related to commuting to comment on for posts...but new and different things will happen on my way to and from and at my new job to notice. I also won't be able to meet many of my friends who work downtown for lunch or drinks after work...but that is what weekends are for. I honestly feel that this step is a positive change and one that naturally fits into where I am and where I want to be. 

    Mostly, I just can't wait to get started. I feel like next week is my first week of school. And in a way, it is. I may not have picked out a new backpack and pens, but I am ready for a fresh start. Academia, here I come!

    Changes

    Changes a brewin'


    Big announcement this afternoon! Stay tuned.

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    New Gym Friends

    I was sad when we left our old gym. I never knew how to say goodbye to our old gym friends. I was afraid of what changing gyms would do to our routine. And I was worried that we would lose motivation. We ran like clockwork at our old gym, messing with that kind of commitment was scary.

    Partially I was right, but mostly I was wrong. Josh and I did take a lot more time off from the gym than we had anticipated. Life got in the way and between getting married, moving, and figuring out how to be married, the gym was pushed way down the list. Eventually, however, we found our way back to the gym. We started off slowly, just going 1 or 2 days a week for a short period of time, but lately everything has fallen into place. We are now consistently making it to the gym (or running outside) 3-4 times a week. Not too shabby for the kids who didn't do much for 3 months!

    Part of what has made us work harder at the gym is personal motivation. We both are competitive and like being active. We also both like the feeling we get after a good run and enjoy that our clothes are fitting better :) The other part of our gym motivation is the new gym friends we have made. This time around, we actually know some of their names. In the morning we say hello to the extra friendly staff, but the afternoon is where we shine.

    We have made friends in our Zumba and Spin classes. We know the instructors and some of our fellow classmates. Unlike at our old gym, these people know who we are too! Well, they might not know our names, but they know that we exercise together and are the crazy husband and wife combo who dress alike (how embarrassing, but we have a plethora of maroon t-shirts in many sizes and really, who doesn't love wearing black shorts?) at the gym and laugh through hard workouts. We have finally hit a groove in our new routine. We run1-2 days a week and cross-train another 2 or so.

    I've learned long ago that the only way to be consistently successful at the gym is to have a large support network. Otherwise it is all stops and starts. Working out with Josh is a huge motivator, but not always foolproof. While going to the gym together is a million times better than going alone, hanging out at home together is a billion times better than going to the gym. Sometimes it is hard to get our butts moving when we could just sleep an extra hour in the morning or curl up on the couch after a long day of work. But these days, knowing that we signed up for a class in advance or told a new gym friend we would see them the next day is the extra bit of motivation we need to stick to our workout schedule.

    I am confident that we have hit our stride and will continue to be regular fixtures at our gym...at least I hope so.

    I've Converted

    It's official. I am a tofu lover!

    I used to hate the idea of tofu. I thought it was gross and slimy and just nasty. But that was before I had ever tried it. Now that I have actually tried tofu, I am sold.

    My love for tofu started with soy crumbles as a meat substitute for tacos. Then it moved to 'chicken strips' for dipping. Now I'm eating full blown tofu cubes in stir fry or just on their own as part of a meal. I love how filling it is and how it takes the flavor of whatever it is made in. Really, these days, I just can't get enough.

    Josh's answer to my tofu cravings.


    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    NOLA

    Since Hurricane Katrina, Josh has been committed to rebuilding New Orleans. After a personal trip right after the flooding receded, he has brought students from his school down on a community service experience every March. While there, Josh and the students meet with community members, learn about the destruction, and help to re-build homes and community centers for those who need it most. Anyone who has ever gone on a trip with Josh will attest that it is an incredibly moving, heartbreaking, and hope creating experience that they can not wait to experience again.

    When in New Orleans, Josh and his group work with the St. Bernard Project and lowernine.org.
    The mission of the St. Bernard Project is to create housing opportunities so that Hurricane Katrina survivors can return to their homes and communities. The St. Bernard Project, a nonprofit, community-based organization carries out its mission through three primary programs: Rebuilding Program, Center for Wellness and Mental Health and Opportunity Housing Program.
    lowernine.org is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization teaching home rebuilding to volunteers and community residents; facilitating access to social services; working with youth; and experimenting with models of sustainable economic development in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, LA.

    Both organizations work hard to help the people of New Orleans return to their homes and empower them to take back their city. They rely on donations and volunteers to fulfill their missions and have been recognized by local and national foundations alike.

    This month, lowernine.org has been nominated for a Pepsi Refresh grant worth over $250,000. In order to win this money, and then help many in New Orleans, they need people to vote for them. Below is the email lowernine.org sent out and directions on how to vote. This really is an amazing organization that is close to our hearts. Please consider helping them out by voting.
    Dear friends,

    lowernine.org's $250,000 grant proposal has been selected by the Pepsi Refresh program for this month's round.  In order for us to receive the grant, people must log onto the website below and vote for our proposal.  It only takes a minute and you can vote every day for the month of October.  Please take the time to do this, and remind yourself to do it every day!  Also, please share this with everyone you know.  We have only been able to do the work we've done in the last three years thanks to the support of people just like you - volunteers, donors, neighborhood residents, our community partners - so please help us continue the work we've started by voting!

    Thank you all,

    Rick Prose
    executive director
    lowernine.org