Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Summer Goal Recap

Summer is over :(((  My students came back on Monday, classes start in a few days and we're back into the swing of things.  The routine is really nice, but it was a great summer, so I'm sad to see it go.  I did set a few goals early in the summer, and wanted to check in about what I did (and didn't...) accomplish.

1 // Solo vacation

Complete!  I spent a few days in Montreal on my own.  The trip was great, and it was really nice to be on my own in a new place.  It was challenging not to travel with someone, and I do think I've gotten to a place where I really prefer to be with family/friends when I travel, at least for more than a day.

2 // Fancy recipe

Complete!  Granted, I didn't make a super fancy meal, in that I didn't purchase goji berries or 42 different spices, but I did get a lot more creative with flavors, and really enjoyed using my CSA more creatively.  I'm hoping to keep the momentum up into the school year.

3 // Complete BBG

Lols, no.  I did 7 weeks, which is better than last time, but never got back to it after my road trip.  Honestly, not upset about it.  I still do the workouts occasionally, but not every other day.

4 // Climb a mountain

Complete!  I climbed Mount Chocorua during my trip to North Conway in June.  I LOVED the hike and the summit was gorgeous.  Didn't hurt that I hit my calorie goal on my way up, and nearly doubled it overall.

5 // Read 20 books

So close! I read 17, which is pretty good.  Most of my reading time is evaporating with the arrival of students, but I am still hoping to get through a few more in September - The Girls and First Comes Love cued up next.

Monday, August 29, 2016

August Budget

I was pretty sure I was going to hold off getting fall clothes, but then Target happened and here we are. Oh well.  I had been looking for new work pants for a while, and was pretty thrilled to find two pairs that fit really well and were on the clearance rack. I doubt that the seersucker will be wearable past the middle of September, but I have about 15 outfit ideas for the floral and can't wait to mix them up throughout the fall and winter.

Seersucker pants // $13
Floral pants // $13
Corduroy skirt // $20
Teal top // $17
Peplum tank // $28
Crocs sandals // $18

Total // $109
Quarterly Budget // $500 - $251 - $109 = $140 left for September!

Fit Notes // The pants fit TTS, I got the classic fit, but I would like to try the curvy.  The skirt is from the juniors section, I ended up getting it in a size 2 sizes bigger than my normal, and it's now work appropriate, but I probably won't wear it without tights. Both shirts fit TTS, I ordered a 9 in the shoes, I usually wear an 8.5.

Linking up with Fran!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Vegetable Dump Dumplings

This CSA season, I've been trying to get more creative about how I use up vegetables, especially those I don't love. It's a miracle if I don't eat all the tomatoes on my 4 minute drive home, but peppers and squash can pretty easily go bad in my fridge. Enter these dumplings. This is the second time I made them, and can now semi-empirically say that if you make yucky things small enough, and add enough ginger and soy sauce, they become delicious. The dumplings are a little labor intensive, but easy to make with kids and pretty mindless - I made them while watching the Olympics and barely missed a beat.


Vegetable oil
Sesame oil
5 scallions (just the bottom bits)
1/2 tablespoon dried ginger
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 clove of garlic
2 ish cups of whatever greens you have on hand
Whatever other veggies float your boat, chopped up, but not carefully
10 ounces tofu
Handful of cilantro
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 lime
12 ounce package of wonton wrappers


Add the oils to the frying pan over medium heat and add the scallions, ginger, red pepper and garlic. Cook about 2 minutes

Add the tofu and whatever (non-greens) veggies you're using.  Cook another 2 minutes

Add the greens and allow to wilt, then transfer the entire mixture to a food processor

Add the soy sauce, cilantro, vinegar and lime juice to the food processor and pulse until the mixture is broken down, but not mushy

Start assembling the dumplings - take a wrapper, paint water along the edges, add about 1 teaspoon mixture, fold over and pinch together. Set aside

When you want to eat them, either fry or steam for a couple minutes on each side.  I ended up freezing half the batch, which worked great.

Makes 48 dumplings, recipe adapted from Dinner, A Love Story

Monday, August 22, 2016

Book Review // Grunt, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Girls and Sex, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend and Heat and Light

I completed my 101 in 1001 goal of reading 100 books!  I wasn't exactly expecting it to be difficult, and it wasn't, but I did like going back over my list and remembering a few favorites from the last year or so.  As usual in the summer, I've been ripping through books, so I picked a few favorites to review below!

Grunt // I've never read Mary Roach before, but put the rest of her books on hold once I finished this.  In general, this book is about military science, but in Roach fashion, she focuses on the minutiae and explains it in detail. I LOVED her approach, and really felt like I learned a lot about how our military works as a whole.  Her writing style is conversational, and I laughed out loud a few times, but she also does a great job presenting concise and factual information, with a lot of experts weighing in.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child // I was extremely thankful to have been able to see that play in it's first week of being open, and I didn't read the book until after I saw it.  I think that, if you read the script as a book, it would be pretty tough.  If you read it as, effectively, a screenplay, and are able to visualize it in your head, it's more enjoyable. There were lots of things I loved about the story, and lots that I didn't.  For me, it definitely isn't the 8th HP book, but I'm grateful that we got a bit more closure on the story as a whole.

Girls and Sex // I fit kind of a funny demographic for this book - I'm not too much older than the woman this book is written about, and am not parenting anyone in their teens, but I still felt like I learned so much.  The book is about, well, girls and sex. And how puberty and society interact to make this really incredibly difficult situation to navigate, especially for 13 year olds. My favorite thing is that the author is able to, for the most part, allow the girls to tell their own stories - tons of quotes and anecdotes, with limited analysis.  Recommended  reading for anyone with a daughter, especially prior to puberty.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend // I read Valiant Ambition, the book about Benedict Arnold and George Washington (liked it, hated the ending) and was really craving something light and frothy.  This book delivered.  The basic plot is that a Swedish woman shows up in America to spend a month with her pen friend, and realizes that her friend has passed away, so she stays and sets up a life, including a book shop.  Nothing about this book is revolutionary, but the characters are sweet and enjoyable, the plot moves along at a reasonable pace, and it's ideal beach/vacation reading.

Heat and Light //  When Overdrive let me know that this book was available off my hold list, I genuinely had no idea how it had gotten there in the first place.  I also thought it was one of those harlequin romances, not a real book.  Well, it's about natural gas fracking and the (sometime significant) impact that process has, so I was way off assuming Fabio would run through.  Though not a light book, it's beautifully written, and I learned a lot about how America's energy resources are managed. Also, I was pleased to have made a Web MD style diagnosis that ended up being correct on one of the crazier characters.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

4 Days in London

I just got back from 5 days in London and, as per usual, am in full withdrawal and plotting my move over there ASAP.  The family and I travelled for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, but managed to squeeze in plenty of sight seeing as well. This wasn't our first trip, so we skipped a lot of the classic tourist stuff, but did get to dive a bit deeper into favorite neighborhoods. We stayed in a lovely AirBnB in Chelsea, about a 10 minute walk from the Earl's Court Tube stop.

Day 1

What We Did // Our flight was a little bit delayed, so we ended up needing to shift our plan and ended up having a quiet afternoon in our local area.

What We Ate // 

The White Horse - this pub is actually around the corner from the house I lived in while nannying, and a place we had been to as a family on previous trips.  It's a bit higher class than you might expect from a pub (the sweet potato gnocchi I had was phenomenal, and I made quite the production of basting french fries in the truffle butter), but the beer list is great and the patio is perfect for people watching and enjoying whatever sun is available.

Blackbird - This was a yelp win for me.  Cosmetically, this looks like a fairly standard British pub - lots of dark woodworking and mirrored panels. The menu is also pretty classic, but with slightly more updated options and modern flavors.  I was thrilled to see a vegetarian pie, which isn't typical.  I, and everyone else, was thrilled with the food.  Also worth noting, that the portions were reasonable, as were the prices.  I came away satisfied, but not disgustingly full.

Day 2

What We Did // 

Portobello Road Market - I am a little obsessed with markets of almost all varieties, but Portobello Road is my favorite.  This street market spans 20+ blocks and includes antiques, clothing and food (both ingredients and prepared).  We spent a few hours wandering through everything, but I could have easily spent all day there.  It's open Thursday - Sunday, and we went on Friday, when pretty much everything was open but the crowd was more manageable than Saturdays.

British Library - My mom works in a library, so we stop into whichever is closest pretty much everywhere we travel. The British Library is primarily a research library, so we stuck to the single room that holds the Library's most prized possessions, including an original copy of Beowulf, Bibles from 300 AD and the original lyrics for several Beatles' songs, one of which was written on the back of a birthday card.

Matilda - Friday night, we decided to do boys night/girls night, and we were lucky enough to score tickets to Matilda. I was so, so delighted by the show and enjoyed every minute.  The set is absolutely incredible, and I've been listening to the sound track on repeat since show.

What We Ate // 

Granger and Co - Another yelp find for us.  It's just off Portobello Road, which was appealing after the Market, but I'll admit I was a little disappointed. The cocktails and the space itself were lovely, but I was underwhelmed with the food.  We split the scrambled eggs, which were heralded as the best in London, and loved them, but our entrees were not as amazing as reviewers led me to believe.  Definitely good, and a lovely spot for vegetarians and carnivores, but underwhelming.

Escapologist - And now for something completely different.  This spot is just across the road from Matilda, so we stopped in for dinner before the show.  The venue is amazing - very speakeasy/old subway station, with some deeply awesome wall paper (a bit of a London theme, as it turned out).  We had phenomenal drinks that were 2 for 1, though we maybe would have preferred that they be brought one after the other, not both at once.  The three of us then split two pizzas, both of which were delicious. We also went back after Cursed Child, and the cocktails only improved.

Day 3

What We Did //

Tate Modern - I am not a lover of modern art, but the rest of my family were interested in visiting, and ended up enjoying themselves. The new wing has just opened, so we ended up splitting up to take in the enormous amount of art and space available.  I loved the viewing deck on the top of the new section, which has incredible views of London in almost every direction.

Boat Ride - Instead of taking the Tube from the Tate back home, we took the river taxi from the museum to Westminster. It was a great way to take in the city from a different angle, and the ride was very smooth and quick.

What We Ate //

Borough Market - Again, my love of markets continue.  Borough is a giant food market, selling both prepared foods and ingredients.  We were there during lunch on Saturday, so it was absolutely packed, and several of the more popular stands had very long lines.  Again, we split up to find our own options, and I ended up with an incredible and diverse picnic.  My brother got fish and chips, Mom got a roasted lamb salad, Dad got some meat thing, I don't quite remember, the point being, there are tons of options, and all of the food is reasonably priced and really delicious.

Barbecoa - My dad has recently gotten more into grilling, and requested we go to this restaurant, as one of the founders is a favorite barbecue chef.  The restaurant is located in the shadow of Saint Paul's, so the location couldn't be more beautiful, but the food fully eclipsed even that view.  For everyone at the table, the meal fell into at least the top 5 best of their lives. For me, it was top 3.  And just to clarify, this is a meat restaurant, with exactly one vegetarian option, and it was one of the best meals of my life. Also, order every side and every dessert.  I all but licked the plate of every dish and will absolutely go back at first convenience.

Day 4

What We Did //

Cursed Child - This probably deserves its own post, but I'll just say that, if you've read the book and weren't impressed, withhold judgement until you can see the show. I'll admit that I was pretty underwhelmed by the story, but did love the additions to the canon that were made.  The stage craft, however, was astonishing and well worth it's rave reviews.

What We Ate //

Brasserie Max - We went for brunch ahead of the show, and I felt impossibly fancy.  The restaurant is located in a hotel right in the heart of Covent Garden, and is very posh.  I got the avocado toast, which was delicious, though the portion was tiny. My brother got the eggs Benedict with chipotle hollandaise, and I wish that I had done that - it was delicious. Both the coffee and tea drinkers appreciated the selection, and the weekend brunch option was perfect for us all.

Dishoom - Cursed Child is in 2 parts, so we had a very early dinner in between.  Dishoom is classic Indian, which a very diverse menu and delicious drinks.  The rest of my family ordered a few dishes to split, and enjoyed all of them.  I got a smashed/pan fried potato dish, which was delicious, but I maybe would order something else if I were to go again. The naan was delicious - I inhaled a few pieces.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Stylebook Review

A few years ago, I came across an app called Stylebook, which basically helps you visually categorize your closet, so you can take tiny pictures of all your clothes around with you.  I appreciate that this will be a ridiculous concept to much of the world, but it's one of my top 5 most used apps, so I figured I'd review it for any other organization obsessed people.

The Process //

The biggest downside for me about the app was the enormous amount of time needed to get it set up. You basically either take a picture of each item in your closet, or find a picture, then use the editing tool in the app to remove the background.  I found the editing app quite easy to use, but the process is quite time consuming.  Once you've got everything in there, keeping up is quite easy - I just add in items once I've decided to keep them. I then categorize everything based on type of clothing, but the categories are fully flexible, so you're able to use whatever makes most sense for you.

What I Use It For //

For the most part, I use the app to plan out what I'm going to wear on what day, including, occasionally, planning outfits months in advanced based on inspiration I see. The calendar function is by far my favorite, however, the app is also a lifesaver when out shopping. If I see something I like, I can check the app to make sure I don't have anything like it.

Favorite Features //

25 Most and Least Worn - This feature has helped me so much in understanding what works best for me, and which items need to come out of my closet. I check the least worn every once in a while, and decide if those pieces are worth donating (sometimes, those pieces are least worn because they're more specialty, so they get a pass)

Packing Lists - I absolutely adore this feature. I'm a very visual person, so being able to see the items I'm looking to pack, and how they'll look together, is key for me. The app allows you to add notes (I use that for non-Stylebook items) as well as make a checklist.

Style Stats - This isn't a feature that I fully maximize, but it's still brilliant. You are able to put in tons of information about each item, including color/brand/fabric/season etc, and the Style Stats section aggregates it all and gives you an absurd amount of information about your closet. It makes me ridiculously happy.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Pros and Cons of Having a Dog (especially when you're young)

I haven't mentioned Tallulah on the blog much recently, but I assure you, she is still priority one in our house. Thankfully, we've moved well past the destroying inappropriate things stage (except at my parents house, but that's a different story) and we've settled into a very manageable routine.  She's still a giant weirdo about food and is terrified of the sounds of drawers closing, but has mellowed about a lot of her more annoying behaviors and is fabulous off leash.  I've had a few people ask me recently whether or not I would recommend getting a dog young (I was 21 when I got her) and so I figured I'd go over the pros and cons!

PS It's her 2nd birthday as I write this, so the pictures are my favorite over the last two years!


1 Um, dogs are great

This is probably the most obvious - dogs totally rock.  They're fun and cute and sweet and excellent vacuum cleaners.  As someone who grew up with dogs, I can't really imagine not coming how to one every day, which is why Lula came home to me so quickly.  I get way more exercise because I have her, and have explored the local area way more because of her (allllll the hiking)

2 Prioritization

This one is a little more of a mix of pro and con, but 2 years in, I feel mostly positive about it.  Tallulah has forced me to consider things other than my own needs when making a budget, which can be hard for a young professional to learn. She needs food, vet care, daycare, boarding etc, and I can't not budget for those things.  I had to learn early on to say no to the 4th Amazon order in 8 days because that money was needed elsewhere. That mentality has also helped me start savings goals for travel, gifts, etc.

3 Companionship

My job is unique, in that I live and work in the same community, with students and adults whose needs can be pretty high. Coming home to someone who wants a pretty basic list of things, and who doesn't ever yell at me or call me the worst is pretty awesome.  There's a lot of scientific research that indicates that pets are enormous stress relievers, and I can absolutely attest to that. Tallulah's also a fabulous excuse to be done working on time, or say no to commitments I can't quite handle, time wise.


1 Cost

Tallulah cost me somewhere around 5000 dollars the first year I had her, including food, vet costs, surgery, training, toys etc.  I didn't quite imagine it would be that high, and while I could handle it, it required a lot of other sacrificies.  Costs have been lower in the second year, but it still works out to be about 50 dollars a week, plus the occasional boarding costs. Not insignificant by any means.

2 Lack of Flexibility

I can't just take off for a weekend trip, or decide to go out right then, or stay in bed all day on a rainy Sunday.  I need to make boarding appointments, long walks and figure out how to keep a dog occupied when she's morally opposed to getting wet.  My next job (and, likely, all of them), will require dog friendly housing and a relatively flexible schedule. I'm really grateful for my parents support with managing T, but she definitely still puts limits on my spontaneity.

3 Time Commitment

On average, Tallulah gets about 2 hours worth of walks per day (we don't have a yard, so every bathroom break is a walk), and it was about double that when she was puppy.  Then there's training, puppy classes, driving her to daycare/grooming/vet. You get it.  Dogs take up time, and her needs come first-ish for me. Now that's she's older, she can wait for longer before she gets taken out, but still, I arrange my time to make sure she's comfortable and taken care of, and that trumps my wants.

Overall, I absolutely stand my decision to get her - she's my family and has made my job and life way easier for me to manage. If you work in a similar situation (walking distance to home, boss that's great about being flexible with time), I would say go for it.  If, however, the time or cost seems intense, wait. Dogs are a huge commitment, don't jump in unless you're absolutely sure you're ready. And please, adopt, don't shop.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Sephora Play! vs Birchbox - Updated Comparison

 I've been a subscriber to both Sephora Play! and Birchbox for about a year - the entire time Sephora has had a box.  I love both of them, and will continue to subscribe to both, but I figured it might be useful to break down the differences, so that if you only want one, you can choose a bit more easily


Frequency/cost // 10 dollars per month
Number of Samples // 6 (one is always a fragrance)
Customization // None (boxes are themed though, typically around seasonal needs etc)
Packaging Type // Fabric bag, decoration varies each month
Who it's good for // Lovers of Sephora brands, people willing to tolerate samples they can't use
Major Pro // Sephora uses newer products, and because they only send samples of products they sell, I always recognize the brand, and am generally thrilled to get to test the products out.  In the year that I've had it, only a handful of products have been things that I can't use due to complexion or hair type. I have purchased the full size of 13 products (about a product per box, which is impressive).  Highlight samples include Sunday Riley Good Genes, a Sephora brand beauty blender, BITE lip pencil, Bumble and Bumble Don't Blow It
Major Cons // I'm lucky in that I fit most of their samples - I imagine that women of color or women with skin or hair that are in the extremes (dry or oily) would not benefit from as many samples.  Also, the fragrance in every box is probably not everyone's cup of tea - I rarely love or use those samples. You receive a card worth 50 BI points in each box, which is great, but I hate that it can only be redeemed with purchase, and you can't redeem more than one at a time.


Frequency/cost // 10 dollars per month (get the option to earn rewards points worth 5 dollars per month)
Number of Samples  // 5
Customization // Yes - you take a quiz when you sign up
Packaging Type // Decorative boxes (vary every month)
Who it's good for // Anyone, as long as you're willing to experiment with brands
Major Pro // Birchbox has cornered the customization market - each box has products that are specific to my skin and hair, which is great.  I'm also a huge fan of the packaging.  The other major pro is the rewards program - you earn points for reviewing products, and the points convert to dollars that can be used on anything in the store (the selection is enormous and brands are great).  I've only purchased the full size of 3 products, but do typically use up all the samples.
Major Con // Typically, I'm not as excited to use the samples I get as I am with Sephora.  I've also received similar or the same products in a lot of boxes - Coola sunscreen has come every month since April. Luckily, I like the product, but it's getting vair old. Typically, I recognize about half the brands in a box.

Overall, I'm a huge fan of subscription boxes in general, and recommend them if you can afford 10 frivolous dollars per month.  You can subscribe to Sephora here and Birchbox here