• Mixed Berry Crumb Bars

    Sunday night, and I’m still in recovery mood from this weekend’s food coma. My Uncle Jimmy was on the Cape for his annual dinner where he wows us with his latest culinary skills, and has us all testing the physical … Continue reading

  • Browned Butter Salted Rice Krispie Treats

    I’ve been holding out on you. Taunting you with pictures of this on instagram but not actually getting it up on the blog for almost a month. I’ve probably made it about six or seven times in the past month … Continue reading

  • Brown Butter Cinnamon Rolls

    Sunday morning, brown butter and cinnamon buns. Now that is a combo I could get onboard with every weekend. Not to mention this weekend was filled with sunshine + good friends + good food. Another winning combo to kickoff summer. … Continue reading

  • Cape Cod Cranberry Orange Muffins

    I had every intention of writing this blog post much earlier in the day. But Mother Nature graced us with some sunshine and warm weather today. And then crazy eddie was in full pyro-mode next door tonight, so I got … Continue reading

  • Browned Butter Vanilla Bean Blondies

    That’s it. I’ve had it. I’m moving to Florida. Anyone who says they live in New England because they “love the seasons” is absolutely bananas. You can say you love summer and fall, but no one in their right mind … Continue reading

  • Brown Butter Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

    You know that part in Amazing Graze where it says “I once was lost, but now am am found, was blind, but now I see” – that is how I feel today. About brown butter. I have tasted brown butter … Continue reading

Soft Batch Biscoff Cookies

It’s been a while since my last recipe post. I feel like I’m in confession … forgive me followers, my last recipe post was over two weeks ago. But let me explain. In the past two weeks I have been on 7 flights, in 5 airports, on 4 trains, and dealing with 96 inches of snow that just won’t stop. I had proactively baked two extra recipes over Superbowl weekend thinking that even though I’d be all over the place, I could still post some recipes while I was on the road. But 96 inches of snow.

On the bright side, I did make it down South last week for a quick vacation with my family, and despite the hassle of getting there and getting home, I am happy to report that the sun does still actually exist, and it was so nice to feel warmth and sunshine again.  I’ll include some vacay pictures at the end of this post. And because of a leak in the wall due to the 96 inches of snow (and ice), I had to fly home a day early last night, but I’m going to sleep in my own bed for 6 nights in a row – which I am pretty excited about. So I’m trying to channel the recent memory of sunshine and my reunion with my own bed to write a cookie post that is not just writing eff snow over and over.

I discovered cookie butter two years ago, and it turned my world upside down. It’s totally lives up to the hype. If you’ve never had it before, I recommend speeding over to Trader Joe’s and picking up a jar and bring a spoon so you can dig into it in the car, no shame. The only downside of cookie butter is that there is no Trader Joe’s close by to me and I can’t venture far in 96 inches of snow, so I went in search of an alternative – and found Biscoff Spread which I found at Stop and Shop. Also best eaten with a spoon, the crushed up cookie spread tastes gingery with a caramel flavor and just delicious. I’ve only baked with cookie butter before when I made chocolate chip cookies stuffed with cookie butter, so I took to the interweb to browse some recipes that use cookie butter/biscoff spread as a main ingredient. And I came across this recipe from Averie Bakes and decided to give it a try Superbowl weekend since I had some taste testers around. I stuck to this recipe for the most part and just adapted a bit around the final prep. IMG_2162

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup creamy Biscoff Spread (or Cookie Butter)
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt

Step 1: Cream together the egg, Biscoff spread, brown sugar and vanilla on a medium-high speed for a few minutes until light and fluffy. IMG_2161

Step 2: Scraping down the sides of the bowl first, then add in the flour, cornstarch, cinnamon, baking soda and salt and mix on a low speed until incorporated. The dough should be soft and a little oily.

Step 3: Using a medium cookie scoop, place even-size balls of dough on a large plate and flatten slightly and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before baking. Chilling the dough is mandatory, otherwise the cookies will spread out too much. IMG_2163

Step 4: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On a sil-pat or parchment-lined baking sheet, place the cookie mounds at least two inches apart. Bake for 8 minutes at 350 degrees until the edges of the cookies are set. Take the cookies out of the oven and let them sit on the tray for a few minutes to firm up before transferring them to a cooling rack. IMG_2164

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So in full disclosure, I did not form the cookies into mounds before chilling the dough, and it was a pain to try to hack away at a giant ball of very chilled dough to make the individual cookies, so mine were a little more crumbly than expected, but man oh man did they taste good. Remember people, looks are not everything. It’s what’s on the inside that counts. And there’s Biscoff on the inside of these cookies, and it’s delicious. They kind of taste like a gingersnap and a chocolate chip cookie had a delicious cookie baby. IMG_2175

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I’ve seen this book all about baking with Biscoff on Instagram a few times, and think it might be time for me to buy it and do some more Biscoff baking. IMG_2178

Alright, so let’s do a little recap of the past few weeks – mostly in photos because that’s easier and I’m tired. For all of you who want to know what 96 inches of snow looks like in the city, this is the view on the sidewalk on my street right now. If you want to get anywhere, you have a skinny 18 inch pathway with 7+ foot snowbanks on either side of you. Not to mention the lovely melting icicles of death that are crashing down around you. Our alley way is currently a giant icy watery mess which is now causing leaks into my condo which is super fun to deal with while being on the road. But on the bright side, this crappy winter mess has reminded me how nice it is to have such great friends. It takes a village to deal with this mess. My friend Jacqui and her husband came over Sunday after the latest blizzard to check on my place since my Boston flight was cancelled coming home from vacation and she even shoveled out my path, which was so nice! My upstairs neighbors and I have been teaming up on trying to deal with all the snow, and they checked on my place this week while I was in Philly and found the leak in the wall. So it’s a been a brutal winter, and I can’t wait until summer, but it’s been made easier with the help of my friends. Also, I’ve put the search for a boyfriend/husband on hold because now I have a Handyman, a Plumber, an Electrician, a Cleaning Guy, and most recently we’ve added Vinny the Snow Shoveler to the mix – who has been shoveling out my car and shoveling off our roof. So I think I’ve got everything I need with my mafia of handymen! IMG_8568

 

I intentionally started with the snow picture, so that I can end this post on a sunny note. Thankfully, before we even knew this was going to be the end-of-the world death winter, my dad booked a little family vacation for last week on a Disney Cruise in the Caribbean – with my parents and my sister. So even though there was the whole blizzard and forgotten passport debacle (as documented in my last post) we successfully made it to Miami last Tuesday, and got this beautiful sunset on our way out of the arctic tundra. It’s the first time in a while I did not mind getting on a plane.
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We hopped on the Disney Wonder cruise ship in the port of Miami for a 4-night cruise to Disney’s private island in the bahamas, Nassau, Bahama and Key West, Florida. If you’ve never done a Disney Cruise, I HIGHLY recommend them. This was my 8th time on a Disney ship. I love everything Disney. First stop – Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the bahamas. This is the view from Serenity Bay, the adult-only beach on the far side of the island. We drank mimosas and soaked up the sunshine all day.
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On vacation, I’m more of a one-really-delicious-heavy-drink a day instead of pounding beers or multiple other drinks. And the Miami Vice  – which is half Pina Colada and half Strawberry Dacquiri – is one of my favorite vacation indulgences. Especially with a caribbean sunset in the background.
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Friday we were in Nassau, Bahama – which we’ve been to so many times before that we decided to stay on the boat and just relax instead of walking around Nassau. The first day of the cruise, we won $150 in the spa so my sister and I got massages in the morning. Friday night was Pirate Night, arghhhh matey, on the ship, which ended with a pirate party and fireworks at night. Disney really knows how to do a party right in the middle of the ocean. IMG_8526

Saturday we stopped in Key West, Florida – where it was chilly for the people of Florida, but still felt so nice and warm to us frigid northerners. IMG_8538

This is the southernmost point in the United States. Only 90 miles to Cuba. IMG_8532

And what better way to spend Valentines Day than having a sunset dinner on the boat with your parents? Disney has a great restaurant on the ship called Palo which is a fancier restaurant that you can make reservations at and have a more upscale dinner than the regular group dining. The best part is the made-to-order chocolate souffle for dessert, which I would show you a picture of, but I pretty much attacked it as soon as they put it in front of me.IMG_8544

With our third blizzard in 3 weeks in Boston, my flight was cancelled back to Boston on Sunday, so I flew into NYC with my family, and took a long Amtrak from Stamford back to Boston to get my shoveling on and deal with the mess up here. I had to be in Philly for a big meeting Tuesday morning, so I flew out Monday night to make sure I could get in a good night sleep and not deal with Tuesday morning travel delays. Well the Sheraton fire alarm went off from 12-2am that night, and we had to evacuate our rooms and sit in the hotel lobby until we were allowed back in our rooms at 2am. And then it snowed a few inches in Philly Tuesday so all of the clients worked from home. Oh well. The meeting still happened. And then I had to switch my flight to come home Wednesday night to deal with the leaky wall in my apartment. But I can’t complain about the extra few nights this week in my bed.

And as a way to survive the remainder of winter, I booked a trip with two of my favorite friends to Punta Cana in early April. With the big 3-0 rapidly approaching, and cabin-fever snow induced insanity from the almost 100 inches of snow in Boston, I needed something to look forward to so that I am motivated to get up each day. Last year Caitlin and I booked our April Cancun trip around this time because of the snow. So I did some research a few weeks ago and we settled on going to the Westin in Punta Cana. And this year our friend Katie is coming too, so we’re going to take Punta Cana Shelton-style. Less than 50 days to sunshine and more pina coladas on the beach. Thank tha lawd.

 

 

 

Note to Self: Slow Down

I think I need a permanent post-it reminder on my forehead to remind myself to slow down. I have mentioned it multiple times in my posts before but patience is a virtue I do not possess. At all. I am always “on” – likely a byproduct of my profession as a business consultant and the fact in 2015 people are always accessible … regardless of whether or not you want to be. In my first post of the new year about “Guiding Principles for 2015″ two of my key focus areas were on Being Present and Letting go of what’s outside your control. I wrote these in replacement of my traditional “more of this” and “less of that” resolutions. I wrote that post on Saturday January 3rd. I lived those principals until about 9am Monday January 5th about 10,000 feet over the Philadelphia airport. On first biz flight of the year, my (should only be an hour but is always 90 minute) flight in 40+mph winds over Philly basically removed all the namaste straight out of my body and shot me up with my normal (or even higher) levels of stressed out adrenaline. Since then the 60+ inches of snow in Boston, 4 cancelled work flights, and 12+ hours on the phone trying to reschedule travel plans have me in a constant state of thinking days and weeks out, and certainly doing everything except living in the present. But yesterday was a good reminder of why it’s important to slow down.

Disclaimer: This is a non cookie post. So I recommend opening up a tube of cookie dough and sticking it in the oven before you read this, otherwise you’re going to be disappointed at the end when there is no recipe. Though there is a happy surprise about something in the oven at the end of the post … so keep reading. (No I’m not pregnant, calm down, keep reading).

So the past few weeks have involved many rescheduled trains, planes, and probably 1000 hits myself alone on weather.com and Boston.com trying to stay ahead of the latest forecasts. 12 hours of travel to get to Denver on Wednesday for about 36 hours of a business trip before turning around to go back to snowy Boston, and meanwhile from the airport pleading with my doctor’s office to send an Rx to my pharmacy for the sinus infection that was murdering my head at 36,000 feet. We’ve had this family vacation planned for this week for a few months – a short cruise out of Miami to get in some much needed Vitamin D this February, with my parents and sister. So of course this weekend when the forecast changed to almost double the Boston forecast for snow upwards of a foot and a half, the chance that I’d make it out of Boston to Miami on Tuesday to meet my family for the trip was feeling too risky. So in an attempt to reduce stress, I switched my flight to fly out of NYC with the rest of my family, and booked a train to CT early Sunday afternoon – way ahead of the winter weather. I had my US Weekly Magazine, a window-seat on the train and a cold Diet Coke in hand. I even got in my “bye bye” winter snapchat as the train peaced out of snowy Boston. And then about 15 minutes into my train ride, my dad sent me a text “Just checking. Passport?”

Well, I think I lost about 15 years off my life in that moment. I remembered my luggage tags and cruise docs for the cruise ship (which I forgot two years ago), medicine, sunscreen, and everything else. I travel every single week, sometimes multiple cities a week, so I am a professional packer. But my passport was sitting pretty back in my bedroom in Boston. This is the PG version of my reaction back to his text. IMG_8447

After 20 minutes of trying to figure out what to do and frantic texting and phone calls, I got off the train in Providence. Booked a commuter rail ticket back to Boston. Simultaneously tried to get a seat on one of the few remaining non-sold out trains left leaving Boston later that day. And tried to coordinate someone getting into my condo to retrieve my passport and get it to me at the train station so that I could catch a train quickly back to CT. Mission Impossible: Retrieve Passport and Maintain Sanity. I had so many friends offering to help – even my friend Jacqui offering to drive all the way to Providence if I needed. Even my cleaning guy who has a spare key was willing to help. My upstairs neighbors who have one of my two spare keys, helped with step 1 of the operation to retrieve the passport from my place and put it in my mailbox. My friend Amanda then picked up the goods from my mailbox and met me at South Station where I have never been happier to see her smiling face and my passport. You know I’m not a hugger, but I laid a big fat hug on Amanda as soon as I saw her. Even managed to get on the earlier train back to CT and was back home by 9pm and hit the couch with a HUGE sigh of relief.

As a sidebar, I first met Amanda back in 2008 when I made a last minute plan to join my parents, sister and Amanda (who roomed with my sister at BC) on a 7-day spring break Disney Cruise in March 2008. Serendipitous that Amanda is the one who came to my rescue to help get me on this week’s cruise. #dutyfreefrenchfries
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Okay, so this blog post is not just about how I’m losing my mind. There is a point to it all. Aside from experiencing first hand the amazingness of my friends who were willing to go really out of their way to help me out yesterday, I had a really interesting experience on my ride from Providence back to Boston. I was sitting on the commuter rail on the phone with my parents teary-eyed and stressed out trying to coordinate the passport retrieval operation and getting on a train home, and sitting across from me was this lady in her late 50s/early 60s. When I hung up the phone she commented that it sounds like I’ve had “quite a day.” Oh you don’t even know the half of it lady. Now, work travel has made me pretty unfriendly on public transportation. I’ve got my headphones in on the plane before I even sit down. Don’t usually engage in conversation. Because I’m usually not in a great mood when I’m flying or training it somewhere.

I wish I had gotten this lady’s name, but anyways, we got to talking. There I am all stressed about a passport for vacation, and losing a few hours of my day and about $200 in additional train tickets. And you know where this lady was headed? To Dana Farber for her cancer treatments. She told me how a year ago almost to the day she got the life-changing diagnosis that she had stage 3 breast cancer. After weeks of not feeling right, and having doctors tell her it wasn’t anything, it was this week that she got the news that it was cancer, and it wasn’t good. She used to eat organic, workout all the time – overall had a healthy lifestyle. She told me how hard it was to initially pump her body with the chemo chemicals when she was used to eating so healthy. How it sucks your energy out of you. How she lost her hair and now has this thick bright curly hair that’s grown back. But she also told me that this has taught her the need to slow down.

We talked about our jobs (she’s in real estate) and how she was always living days and weeks in the future (like me) and not really living in the present day. She told me about her kids who have had some challenging relationships but are really working hard to do well in life. She even showed me a picture of her (very attractive) 33-year old son (not single, dang). And we talked about one of my amazingly young strong friends who is currently going through the beginnings of her chemo treatment for breast cancer, and how even the most relaxed, healthy, low-stress people can have this happen to them. I mentioned I was turning 30 at the end of next month, and not excited about it since I was going to be 30 and single. And even after only 20 minutes of conversation she looked at me and said, but look how much you’ve done already? She’s right. I’m not good at taking the time to appreciate what I’ve accomplished so far in life – I’m always working towards the next goal. I graduated from a great college. Started at one of the best consulting firms right out of college. Have made a great network of new friends in the past 12 years of living in Boston. Travel all of the time – even my work travels have given me the opportunity to see new places. I bought my first house at 27 years old. Had my heart badly broken, only to become a stronger, better person because of it. So what if I’m not engaged, married, or popping out a kid by 30. But this isn’t meant to be a giant pat on the back for me, so don’t take it like that. It just is meant to remind me that I really need to live in the present. I can’t control the weather. I can’t schedule meeting a great guy into my Outlook calendar, with key milestones for marriage and babies on some life project plan in Excel.

This lady was going through something really tough, that I can’t even imagine. Her journey isn’t over. She told me she’s on this trial drug, that doesn’t make her feel great a lot of the time, and sometimes she doesn’t want to take it anymore, but she keeps doing it. She told me about these workout classes she takes with other cancer patients in Boston, which is her way of still trying to keep her old habits of working out even though her body has changed so much with the cancer. When we talked about her being a Realtor and how she helps people through the journey of finding their new home, we got to talking about how everything happens for a reason. Even if you can’t understand it at the time – like bidding on and losing houses trying to find your perfect house – at the end of the day, you end up where you’re supposed to. I believe that.

Maybe I wasn’t originally scheduled to be on that train from Providence yesterday, but much to my surprise, I was really glad I was. The unexpected conversation was inspiring and impactful. And all on a train ride I wasn’t “supposed to” be on anyway. I even struck up a good conversation on the Amtrak to CT with my seatmate, and got his business card. You never know who you’re going to meet. (Like the time my dad sat next to Don Mattingly on a plane and started a baseball bat company with him … but that’s a story for another day).

My friend Liza has this daily mantra on the bottom of her emails and her yoga blog – “live light, because everything is already okay.” I love it because it’s so simple and true. And easy to remember. It’s something I am going to work on trying to remind myself on a regular basis and try to live by. Especially when things don’t go as planned.

And so with that, I’d like to end this post with some very happy, long-awaited exciting news for my family. And for someone who is not patient, this was a tough secret to keep for a few weeks. But with that … I give you the VERY joyful news that in August I’ll have a new title of “Aunt” – as my brother and sister-in-law announced today that they are expecting their first baby later this Summer. As expected, our family has been quick to get our spreadsheets out to plan for the arrival of the little one, but I think for today we should all take a moment to appreciate the present, and the very exciting news that Baby Shaw is finally on it’s way as the first grandbaby of the family.

My sister-in-law and brother – and the first onesie for my new niece/nephew who is born into a Yankees family. 10987004_10153065317304589_4957619720118064791_n

So that’s it. I’ll pick up with my regular cookie posts in a week or so when I’m back from vacation. In the meantime I’m going to try to remember to live in the moment and try to just go with the flow a bit more. Everything happens for a reason. Like the giant margarita I’m going to dive into on Wednesday. That’s meant to be.

Browned Butter Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

I posted a pic of this cookie to Instagram a week ago with the promise of a new blog recipe coming last week. Well you can thank a moody Elsa for freezing the entire kingdom of Arendelle (Boston) for the delay in posting. Mostly because I am a firm believer in the saying – If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all, I decided to wait a bit to write this post. Because I had nothing nice to say last week about anything. Business travel, snow, airplanes, trains, the human race. So because I doubt my readers (Mom) would appreciate an explicative-filled recipe post, I decided to wait until I was a little more subdued to write this post. And I can tell you that the calming ‘on-hold’ music from Amex Travel services has driven me into a mildly insane but subdued state tonight (still on hold … 58 minutes and counting) enough so I think I can write up this recipe without dropping any four-letter words (except Snow … the worst of them all).

Now that we’ve got that explanation out of the way, let’s try to find the silver lining in all of this. Over the past week and a half I’ve been able to bake up 3 new delicious recipes, so I will have some more blog posts ready to go even if I am starring in Frozen for the next few weeks. Hooray. So let’s start with these Browned Butter Peanut Butter Chip cookies, which traveled over the hills and through the woods (on a 5 hour train ride) from Boston to Philly last Monday before the storm. So while my coworkers were a little scared to see me show up after a night of no sleep and a crying episode on the train, they were quickly very excited when they saw me pull the bag of cookies out of my laptop bag. And maybe they were just being extra nice to me in my fragile state, but these got over-the-top rave reviews from my coworkers. Will I brave the elements to get them cookies every week? Mehh, maybe not. But it did feel nice to have a “cookie lady” moment again. All of these were gone (crumbs included) within 24 hours, even though there was a limited number of us in the office last week.

I got the inspiration for these cookies after our team trip a week or two back to Insomnia Cookies in downtown Philly, where they served the most delicious warm fresh-baked cookies ever – including one Peanut Butter cookie that had some melty ooey gooey peanut butter chips in it. It was seriously THE BEST peanut butter cookie I’ve ever eaten .. and I am a big peanut butter lover. So I decided to adapt a browned butter peanut butter cookie recipe to be chock full of Reese’s peanut butter chips. And while it was not quite as life-changing as eating an Insomnia Cookie, I think these were a close second in my book. Maybe even the real winner in the eyes of my cookie-hungry coworkers.

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick butter, cut into tablespoons
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups peanut butter chips

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brown the butter in a saucepan over medium-heat and set aside to cool a little while you get the other ingredients together.

Step 2: Sift the flour, salt, and baking soda in a bowl and set aside.

Step 3: Cream together the butter and granulated sugar on medium to high until fluffy. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the vanilla, peanut butter and egg and mix well.IMG_2150

Step 4: Add in the dry ingredients slowly and mix on a low speed until well incorporated. Mix in the peanut butter chips just until they are evenly distributed.IMG_2148

Step 5: On a sil-pat or parchment-lined baking sheet, use a medium size cookie scoop to place even-size balls of dough at least an inch apart. Press down lightly with your fingertips before placing in the oven. Bake at 375 degrees for about 9-11 minutes until they are baked through. Let them sit on the baking sheet for a few minutes out of the oven before transferring them to a cooling rack.IMG_2151

I always like to add a few PB chips on top before baking them, and they made these extra melty and delicious fresh from the oven. I wish I had gotten some direct quotes from my coworkers about how much they loved these cookies, but it was one they said they’d definitely want me to make again. IMG_2152

IMG_2159 I think the nuttiness of the browned butter flavor combined with the saltiness of the peanut butter, and melty chips – all combined together like Captain Planet to make one super-charged peanut butter cookie of epic delicious proportions. Yum.

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So let me try to think of a recap of the past week. I think I tried to block out the first part of the week from my memory to be honest, so let me think here for a second what, if anything, interesting happened. We almost made it through January snow-free (and even with some warm spells) – but Mother Nature is a tease and started a week ago Saturday with about 6 inches of snow as a preview of what the next week and half had in store. Doesn’t look so bad when it’s barely to your ankles, does it? Wait until the after pics from today’s storm. IMG_8342

We all know that I am an anxious traveler in general – yet travel for work 2-3x a week. So when you add an impending blizzard on top of that, it made for a really stress-filled Sunday last week trying to figure out how to make it to Philly so that I could then fly to Denver on Tuesday. After over 4 hours on hold with the travel company we need to go through for all of our biz travel bookings, I hopped a 6am train on absolutely zero sleep. About 3 hours into the train ride we got the email that said “if you haven’t left yet, stay home” which combined with some severe overtiredness, led to a mini-crying tantrum on the Accela while I tried to figure out if I should continue on to PHL or turn around and get snowed in back in BOS. Thankfully I have a level-headed an well seasoned business traveler Dad to handle my drama in these situations. So Skip recommended to get to Philly where there would be less snow and a hotel with booze. Smart man. He might have said food, but I definitely heard booze. It ended up being a good choice, since Boston got over 26 inches of snow, and Philly got … about an inch. On the bright side, the lack of blizzard in Philly meant we were able to enjoy a nice dinner at IndeBlue with some delicious and VERY much needed cocktails.IMG_8352

Denver got postponed to this week, which is what I’m still currently on hold (90 minutes and counting) to try to find a way to get there eventually. But it meant a full week in Philly. I became an expert Amtrak rider, and opted for the train home Thursday to get in some productive work time without the airport hassle. Because the easy train ride made me less prone to going insane when I got home around 7 on Thursday night and found my car in this less than fortunate situation. 90 sweaty minutes later, I was able to get my car out of the spot enough just to put it right back there – and leave it there until Spring at this point. The snowbanks in South Boston are so high even if you could move your car … you wouldn’t want to do it because you’re going to get smashed into trying to take any of those corners, or smash into someone since the sidewalks are such a mess most people are walking in the street.IMG_8367

I’m starting to think that if two guys came up to me and one said ‘I love you’ and another guy said ‘I have a garage’ … that would be a tough choice or me to have to make. Love is fleeting … a garage is forever … right? The snow will make you crazy like that. So Friday was a work-from-home day, a long day at that. And I was in need of some comfort food Friday night. So I whipped up this chicken pot pie skillet, which I think I need to try to retrace my steps and write the recipe down for it because it was delicious Friday night, and just as good the next two days as leftovers. Watch out Pillsbury Dough Boy, because those are some homemade biscuits on top.IMG_8371

Saturday I hopped a ride with my friend Jacqui as a last minute sub to play singles in Weymouth in a tennis match. What a workout. I was trying to channel my inner Serena and take out a week’s worth of work/travel frustration – so I was grunting and running all over the place. 1100 calories and 18 games later … I came out the winner. And then spent the rest of the day recovering on the couch until grabbing some wine and a fried fluffternutter at Local 149 with my friend Caitlan. Probably double the calories I had burned, but totally worth every bite.

I took a spin class at Rev’d Indoor cycling out in Dedham Sunday morning with my friend Amanda. I met the owner Meg at my friend Fran’s Christmas party back in December. She was dressed like Santa Clause and came out dancing with more energy than I’ve ever seen Santa bust a move with … so I figured if her moves were that good in a fat suit, it would definitely be worth taking a class at her spin studio. And it was a good, sweaty upbeat time. Probably burned off maybe a little more of that Fluffernutter. Last night I brought up my other baked good experiments to a Superbowl party upstairs at Francesca’s. Because I didn’t even have to go outside to get there, I was pretty pumped to go. Those two recipes are going to be coming to the blog in the next few weeks …. maybe while I’m cruising the Caribbean for Valentine’s Day.

And then there was today. You reallllllyyyyy hope the weathermen suck at their job and are just hyping these storms up and then there’d be nothing. But I’m pretty sure today’s storm dropped more than a foot and change. There is also literally NOWHERE to put the snow. This was my walk to try to go shovel out my car again.IMG_8391You can’t put the snow back in the street … the piles are over 4 and a half feet high … so you throw snow on top and it just rolls back down. So pretty much this is the best we can do to make a pathway in front of our house.IMG_8397Anytime someone makes a comment about being jealous of the snow I just want Mortal Kombat style ‘finish them.’ I mean really, if anyone is super interested in experiencing this firsthand, I’ve got a spare bedroom and an extra shovel. So be my guest!

So that’s it … we’re now going on 1 hour and 45 minutes on hold with Amex Travel trying to update this weeks plans. On the bright side, in 8 days I should be in Miami … and now I will be able to get all of my clothes from the dry cleaners which was closed today  so I won’t have to show up to work in sweatpants this week. Silver linings. And booze. That’s what will get me through.

Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies

It’s Wednesday. It took me a few minutes to actually think about what day it is. Or where I am. It’s a funky travel week and I feel totally disoriented. I didn’t fly out until Tuesday this week which was a nice treat to have four days at home. Right now I’m on a train from Philly to DC and then I’ll end up in Virginia by the end of the night. Given how bananas crappy the internet is on the train right now I am pretty sure I’m going to lose half of this post mid-writing it or just end up posting it way late tonight when I end up at the hotel. Anyways, I’m happier to be on a train than a plane right now, or a car, considering it’s a bit of a snowy mess in Philly and DC tonight. Though there’s no Pinkberry at the Dulles airport so I’m pretty bummed about that for this week’s Fly-Home-Thursday.

Anyways, let’s get to the important stuff – the cookies. During one of my recent aimless wandering shopping trips to Target, I was browsing the baking aisle for some new inspiration and came across these new Nestle Delightfulls which are caramel-filled milk chocolate chips. They had a container for peanut butter filled chips which was empty, but I can’t wait to get my hands on a bag of those. Sunday afternoon I was going to my friend Sarah’s to celebrate her birthday and fake watch football for a bit. And one very redeeming quality in Sarah and probably a key reason we became fast friends is our mutual love for cookies. So I figured this would be the perfect chance to try out a new cookie recipe with these caramel chips.

For my first foray in baking with these, I decided to keep it simple and just follow the basic Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie recipe and use a combination of these caramel-filled chocolate chips and regular milk chocolate chips. Based on how good these turned out I’m definitely going to be experimenting more with these soon. Obviously with some browned butter cookies, but maybe even some muffins and banana breads. The possibilities are salty, sweet and endless!

Ingredients:

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Beat the butter and sugars together until creamy. Add in the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Scrape the sides of the mixer before adding in the dry ingredients.

Step 2: Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt and gradually add to the wet batter on a low speed until incorporated.

Step 3: Add in the caramel-filled morsels and milk chocolate chips and mix on a low speed just until evenly distributed.IMG_2133

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Step 4: Scoop even-size balls of dough on a sil-pat or parchment-lined baking sheet. Press down lightly with your fingertips before baking. I didn’t add any coarse salt on top because the dough tasted salty enough, but I did top a few with extra chocolate chips to be more photogenic. Bake at 375 degrees for 9 to 11 minutes, just until the tops are golden brown. Let them sit on the baking sheet for about 3 minutes to firm up before transferring them to a cooling rack. IMG_2135

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I’m a big fan of these caramel filled chips. They definitely add a really nice sweet flavor to spice up the normal chocolate chip cookie nicely. And when you bite into one of these warm cookies fresh out of the oven, the ooey gooey caramel is a nice surprise. If I can get my hands on the peanut butter chips soon, I think a browned butter peanut butter cookie with peanut butter filled chips will be unreal.

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I brought these to Sarah’s place Sunday afternoon because I needed the real opinion of some tough cookie critics. Maybe people were just amped up on football adrenaline (SPORTS!!), but these got some really good reviews from everyone who taste tested. The only people disappointed were my coworkers Tuesday morning when I showed up cookie-less in Philly (again). I really need to do something nice for my new coworkers .. like actually show up with cookies when I say I’m going to.IMG_2144

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But last week I was able to bring some cookie happiness to my colleagues. We had a really nice dinner on Thursday night at The Oyster House in Philadelphia and on the walk home (home being the hotel we live in) we stopped by Insomnia Cookies, which I had been eyeing for a while but had yet to try. So I bought a dozen cookies for my team and we ate them in the street like savages. Or pigeons. Or whatever is an accurate comparison for attacking a pizza box full of fresh out-of-the-oven delicious cookies. They were SO good. I’m still dreaming about the peanut butter one. In exchange for treating for cookies, I made my team pose for this lovely shot.IMG_8280

I was trying to explain this cookie goodness to my Grandpa the other day over the phone. I was telling him how Insomnia Cookies is only open from 4pm to 3am and they deliver. Grandpa was asking who needs cookies at 2am? Everyone. Everyone needs cookies at 2am Grandpa.IMG_8281

So let’s do a quick photo recap of the weekend. Mostly because I’m 20 minutes away from DC and determined to finish at least writing this post before then. I flew home from Philly on Thursday and convinced my coworker to get onboard with the Pinkberry for dinner routine that I’ve adopted. We circled over Logan for an extra 25 minutes Thursday night, which is a worse torture than circling over PHL in the morning on Mondays, because all I want on Thursday night is to get home, take a shower, and sink into my couch and bed as quickly as possible.

Friday was a big day for house projects while I was working from home. My new dishwasher arrived mid-day and was a super quick and painless installation which was a nice surprise. I realized over Christmas that I’m officially old because I spent some time browsing the appliance aisles of Sears with my parents while I narrowed down my selection of dishwasher and then purchased it in Boston and have been anxiously awaiting it’s arrival. My old dishwasher sounded like an airplane was taking off and just got wicked lazy about actually cleaning the dishes well. So this new Bosch one is silent and does it’s job right. Yay adulthood!IMG_8294

Later in the day the Crate and Barrel delivery guys brought my new media stand for the family room. I’ve been trying to find a good TV stand for two years, and spent some time toying with the idea of mounting my TV. I picked this out two weekends ago shopping with my favorite furniture buddy Lauren, and talked the C+B people into some good discounts. Lauren even found an additional discount online Friday so I saved an extra $40. Wahoo.IMG_8291

I’m not an artsy person, but being a homeowner I’ve learned that you do need to actually put things on the walls. I’ve been trying to find some larger art for the walls in my family room. My brother had gotten me this great Boston College campus map from City Prints Maps Art two years ago as a housewarming gift. I was emailing with one of the owners of the site to try to find a Cape Cod print which I thought would go nicely in the house. They did this custom print of Harwich – my favorite part of the Cape – where the lake we live on is right in the center. They did such a nice job, I was so happy with how it came out and it looks perfect on the family room wall. If you’re looking for a good gift, I highly recommend working with these guys, it was such an easy process and I couldn’t have been happier with the result.IMG_8297

Friday night my friend Caitlin was coming up from Connecticut to visit her parents for the weekend. We originally had plans to go out to eat, but after so much eating out while on the road I just can’t eat in restaurants on weekends anymore. So I picked her up from the train station and we cooked a nice dinner of chicken, zucchini noodles and garlic bread which we enjoyed very relaxed in sweatpants. We also tried Jeni’s ice cream for the first time, which I have heard great things about but think a $9.99 price tag for a pint of premium ice cream seems a little high. But it was definitely a nice treat- we had the dark chocolate peppermint flavor, and it was really good.IMG_8292

Saturday I did a bunch of things. Got mani/pedis on Newbury Street with my friend Gabby. And ran a bunch of errands. Sunday morning my friends Molly and Amanda came over for brunch, which I was also happy to host at my place instead of a restaurant. We had baked bacon (I’m a big fan of this cooking method now), a vegetable frittata, lots of fresh fruit and skillet potatoes. It was so relaxing to just sit in sweats and not feel rushed like you do at a busy brunch place. Honestly I think I’m going to start having open invites on the weekends for anyone who wants to come over and have a meal cooked for them or bring a bottle of wine. Cooking is something I miss so much when on the road, so it’s a great way to fit in seeing friends in a relaxed way and cooking while I’m home.FullSizeRender

Sunday was nice to fake watch some football and see Sarah and friends on her birthday. No Sunday scaries because I got to work from the Boston office on Monday. How about this view of Boston from up high in the Hancock Tower?IMG_8306And even better, this view, of the delicious lunch I had with my favorite Back Bay lunch buddy Josh at Met Bar on Newbury Street.

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Monday night I fit in a good hour of tennis with my friend Heather, who was so sweet and made me this delicious chicken pot pie that I enjoyed steaming hot for dinner while editing photos for this post.IMG_8312So that’s it for this week. Looks like we’re actually going to get some snow in Boston this weekend, which I can’t complain about (but I will) because we’ve had a pretty tame winter to date. And it will be a good excuse for a Sunday Netflix marathon. And maybe cooking for anyone within walking distance. Next week is another bananas cray cray week with travel heading to both Philly and Denver. I’m hoping to squeeze in a quick visit with my college bestie who lives out that way so I’m not totally dreading 3 flights in 4 days. And with that, I’m packing this laptop up and headed into DC for dinner. (Post script: We had a great dinner in DC to wait out the traffic before the 45 minute drive to lovely scenic Virginia. Check out my instagram @thesaltedcookie to see the Smore’s dessert that was unreal. Not a bad way to end a long hump day).

 

 

Nutella Stuffed Cinnamon Sugar Muffins

Tuesday is the new Sunday for blog posts apparently. I’m definitely a little less punchy on a Tuesday in Philadelphia than I used to be on a Sunday night in Boston, but if I tried to post on Sunday nights now before my weekly Monday 4:30am wakeup call I think I’d scare most of my readers away. I’ve started to adopt old lady routines to get myself all relaxed and not stressed out before flying out on Mondays. It usually involves hot baths with lavender, turning my phone off for a bit, and going to bed early. By Tuesday I usually can tell what day of the week it is and I’ve adjusted to another week of hotel life. The one good thing about this travel schedule is that it’s made me a little more diligent about baking earlier in the weekend and not leaving recipe creation until late night Sunday. Because I like to try to get someone else to eat the baked goods earlier in the weekend since now I don’t have the luxury of easily transporting baked goods to work Monday morning. I do miss my Sapient cookie list sometimes.

This week I decided to do some early morning Saturday baking in time for what was supposed to be a tough tennis match in the afternoon. Friday we had a belated holiday party for our entire women’s tennis team – past and present – which involved a Yankee swap. A shockingly rowdy and inappropriate Yankee swap for a diversely-aged group of ladies. I’ll leave it at that, it’s definitely one of those “you had to be there” kind of stories. So as my contribution to the Yankee Swap I bought the Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook and Sally’s Baking Addiction. I already have the Cookie Dough book and it’s one of my favorites to gift. I’ve had my eye on Sally’s Baking Addiction since I love her blog, so because I knew I wouldn’t be able to steal back my own gift, I ordered an extra copy for myself. I was browsing through it with my morning coffee on Saturday and came across the recipe for these Nutella Stuffed Cinnamon Sugar Muffins. For home tennis matches we have to bring some snacks which people rarely even eat, but I figured this was a good time to test out a new muffin recipe. I happened to have all of the recipes on hand so figured I would give it a try. I’m not usually a big Nutella fan, but the combination of a fresh-outta-the-oven cinnamon sugar muffin with melty Nutella … I’m a believer.

Ingredients:

Muffins

  • 5 tablespoons  butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 teaspoons Nutella

Cinnamon-Sugar Topping

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line 8 regular-sized muffin tins with muffin papers or grease with non-stick spray. (I do both).

Step 2: In a mixer, cream butter and sugar together for a few minutes. Beat in the egg, vanilla extract and milk. (I used Buttermilk this time). Slowly stir in flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until just combined, being careful not to overmix.

Step 3: Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of batter into the muffin cup. Top with 1 teaspoon of Nutella in the center of the muffin and top with another heaping tablespoon of batter on top. I was able to make 9 muffins, but I think you can make 8 if you fill each tin to the top. IMG_2117

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Step 4: Bake at 425 degrees for 5 minutes, after which reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 15-17 minutes until the batter is set. Let the muffins stand for about 5 minutes outside of the oven to finish setting.IMG_2123Step 5: While the muffins are setting, make the cinnamon sugar topping. Melt the butter in the microwave and in a separate bowl mix the cinnamon and sugar. Dip the top of each muffin into the melted butter and then dip it into the cinnamon sugar moving it around to ensure it is well coated. I was being lazy and impatient and mixed the sugar with the melted butter, but they still turned out pretty delicious anyway. IMG_2124 IMG_2128

I think these cinnamon sugar muffins would be great on their own, but once you take a bit and the melty Nutella hits your taste buds, oh baby is that a life-changing muffin. I’m talking Angels singing and rays of sunshine kind of muffin. I think I’m definitely doing to be doing some experimenting with this recipe. Maybe a banana muffin with a peanut butter inside. Or cookie butter in a muffin. Endless muffin possibilities! IMG_2129 IMG_2132

So quick recap (actual quick one this time) of last week. It was the first travel week back to work after a nice airplane-free holiday break. I’m back in lovely Philadelphia which I am actually trying to try to embrace a little bit. Although it was in the negatives with the windchill last week, so I primarily stayed indoors as much as possible. I was reunited with my work friend Maya. It’s important to find people on your project team who enjoy the same things you do: food, the gym, and endless amounts of vino. We’ve decided to start trying some new restaurants (though GrubHub delivery to the hotel when it’s cold is a pretty nice deal). So we ventured to try a really good Mexican place El Rey, where we had tacos for two and guac. Dinner of champions.IMG_8233

The rest of the week in Philly involved it being too cold to do anything notable. So Friday night we had the Yankee Swap and tennis party, which was just fun and memorable. This picture does not do justice to the actual scene taking place. Yankee Swaps are intense!IMG_8255

Saturday’s tennis match was a total bust. We crushed them in 45 minutes without breaking a sweat. After running a bunch of errands, I was happy when my friend Amanda and I decided for sweatpants and vino instead of going out. I’ve been wanting to try some baking in my cast iron skillet, so this seemed like a good opportunity to whip up a cookie skillet. It was my first time making it and damn was it good. We taste tested it and luckily Amanda brought the rest home to the boys who crushed it in less than 5 minutes. This is another area I think I could definitely experiment in. IMG_8259

Sunday night I adapted my nightly old lady routine to fit in a little more friend time with my friend Ashley. We had a good routine of going for long walks around castle island and ending them at the all-you-can-eat-sushi place in Southie which has since CLOSED since our last walk (RIP Pan Asia). So we did our best to recreate the experience, by freezing our butts off in this chilly walk.

IMG_8264Then ordering an array of sushi from Terayki house. It’s no Pan Asia, but it’s good. And probably much better for our waistlines. IMG_8266So that’s it. Another chilly week in Philly but one more day and then it’s Fly-Home Thursday. Wahoo. And I just found out that with MLK Day on Monday I don’t have to fly on Monday! Which means my Boston friends should be in for some good cookies on Monday morning somewhere somehow. Hooray!

 

 

 

Chocolate Chip Muffins

I don’t know about you but I’ve got En Vogue on repeat in my head this week … you know, Back to life, back to reality, back to life, back to reality, back to life back to getting on a plane at 6am on Monday morning. I am still really trying to channel the inner zen I had really mastered in my two weeks of not being up in the air. But Mother Nature gave us such a whammy for Monday morning’s flight, my coworker almost puked on the flight and I thought I was pretty close. Because nothing says back to life, back to reality quite like 40+mph winds and circling over PHL for an extra 30 minutes for what should be a 52 minute flight. I’m ready for back to my couch, back to watching Netflix …. no? This whole work thing is really here to stay until MEMORIAL DAY is the next company holiday? Jeebus.

I’ve got lots of photos from the past week and a half so I’ll try to save those stories for the end of the blog post. I’ve been doing a lot of holiday cookies and bars and things of that sort lately, but I was hashtag inspired to go back to the world of baking muffins after having a come-to-Jesus moment with a chocolate chip muffin on New Year’s Day. I went down to Cape Cod to hang with my parents for New Year’s Eve because I’m old, I really enjoy my parents, and I value a good night sleep over $100 Uber cab rides at 2am. Get ready for more sentiments like that because 30 is coming in 3 months and I’m just going to continue getting older. Anyway, we were going out to lunch on New Year’s Day but down the Cape a lot of restaurants close for the off-season so there is slim pickings. We tried Hearth and Kettle in Orleans which is always a crapshoot because it’s either semi-decent or absolutely awful. So when we were sat after a half hour wait at noon and they said they were too backed up from breakfast to serve lunch yet, we very impatient Shaws knew better and hopped in the car and headed to Dennisport for a late breakfast that was going to be a guaranteed hit at Grumpy’s. We used to go to Grumpy’s when we were kids all the time, and I haven’t been back in a while, so in the spirit of not having diet resolutions and being sentimental, I ordered a giant chocolate chip muffin (as my breakfast appetizer) thinking “I’ll just have a few bites.” They grilled it. It was hot, and toasty, and topped with melty butter, so you better believe I had a few bites … until I ate the whole thing. I mean just LOOK at that piece of art. IMG_8202

So then I also stuffed my face with this unbelievable eggs benedict and homefries. I didn’t need to eat dinner that night, because I was stuffed for a full day after but praise Jesus hallelujah it was worth it. IMG_8204

So I had that chocolate chip muffin on my mind for a few days following. How did they get it so perfectly crunchy on top, but soft in the center and sweet but not too sweet, and just so amazing. So I started researching all different “bakery style” muffin recipes, and I settled on adapting a version from Sally’s Bake Blog . I need to invest in a jumbo muffin tin soon, but since all I had was regular size muffin tins I used that. Still, these were absolutely bananas delicious. I needed to bring something sweet to Saturday’s tennis match so I whipped up a batch of these and my friend Heather ended up taking them all home to her college son who declared these the “best muffins ever.” I wholeheartedly concur.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk (regular milk is okay to substitute here)
  • 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 and 1/2 cups  semi-sweet chocolate chips

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line the muffin tins with non-stick spray or muffin papers (I do both). In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and granulated sugar until combined. Mix in the buttermilk, canola oil and vanilla extract.

Step 2: In a large mixing bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Slowly add the wet batter into the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon. Gently mix until all of the flour is incorporated, being careful not to overmix.IMG_2099

Step 3: Fold in the chocolate chips until evenly distributed.

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Step 4: Fill the muffin tins all the way to the top. Mine made about 15 regular-size muffins. Bake at 425 degrees for 5 minutes, then reduce to 375 degrees and bake for about 18-22 minutes. When the tops are golden and the center is set they are ready to go.IMG_2106

These are best served fresh out of the oven the day you bake them, but can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Or if you’re like me and you shouldn’t be eating a dozen muffins every week, you can freeze these as well.IMG_2108

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So I definitely didn’t perfect the secret sauce of Grumpy’s muffins, but these were pretty good in my opinion. I think doing the first few minutes at the higher temperature really helps give the top the crunch. I’m going to definitely invest in a jumbo muffin tin for my next round of new muffin recipes. What I really should do is just spend one weekend baking a whole bunch of recipes at once, and then blog about them on a weekly basis, instead of trying to figure out what to do with baked goods every Sunday when I remember I am not the “cookie lady” at work anymore and I don’t want to take cookies on a flight to Philly.IMG_2114

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Anyways, let’s do a quick photo recap of the past week and a half, because honestly it was pretty dang good. I was bumming a little mid December because with all the travel I hadn’t seen too many of my friends in a while. So I sure packed in some quality time with as many fab friends as possible over the past week and a half and that left me in a really friggin good mood.

First the week started last week with a home project, because what else would I do with a week at home? I was sitting in my half bathroom on Monday afternoon and got really annoyed that the toilet paper roll holderwas all mis-aligned and you could see where the screws were from the old one. Which obviously led to being at Home Depot within 20 minutes for paint samples, purchasing a new toilet paper and hand towel holder, and by 8pm I had taped up all of the trim in that room in preparation for some Tuesday morning painting. I settled on Behr’s Harmonious as the color of choice, which is a lighter version of the greenish color I did for my room back in the fall, which looks really nice against the white trim.

The before picture:IMG_8146ANDDDD after. I think the lighter green looks nice in the room because it’s so tiny you can barely turn around in it, and I was really happy to find a home for the new Long Pond framed sunset pic that my mom both took and framed for me for Christmas. I got the hand towel at Pottery Barn (of course) and found the bath rug on sale at Bloomingdales. Booyah.IMG_8159Tuesday night I met up with my friend Kristen, who I started at Accenture with way back in the day (of 2007). We’re both children of Accenture dads so we have a special synergistic bond that most normal people don’t. Also we both like eating and Ke$ha, which is how I pick most of my friends. So we had some delish cocktails and my first Poutine experience at Deep Ellum in Allston. Then I met up with my dear friend Molly at the Beehive for her birthday. Josh, Molly and I have gotten a lot of solid photo ops together lately. I look a little too happy to be there, but I’m just excited to be with these two.IMG_8164So as I mentioned earlier, I’m old. And it’s rare we get a good winter weekend down the Cape. We live down a long hill in the woods on a lake (uphill 2 miles both ways, jk) but we don’t get plow service so if it snows, we’re stuck. Though I could think of worse places to be stuck for sure. Snapped this calming winter sunset pic on New Year’s eve. A solid final sunset of 2014 on the lake. IMG_8170But don’t be fooled, it was NOT warm. Our little beach was frozen solid, and there were icicles on the dock. IMG_8172My parents friends were down for New Year’s Eve which was nice because we used to both have condos next to eachother when we first became Cape Families, so we have lots of good memories with the Autuoris and their daughters. So I went with the grown-ups to dinner at Mooncussers in Harwich and had this delish pom-champagne martini (though I heard the creamsicle martini is amazing so I’ll be trying that next time for sure – Thanks for the reco Caroline’s mom :) IMG_8174Thursday I came back to the city in the afternoon because I needed to burn off that muffin and martini at the gym. Friday I had a great day having lunch with my friend Maura, playing tennis with my friend Matt, and having a vino Girl’s night with my friend Stacey. I also scored a good deal on these picture frames from Pottery Barn and finished my hallway project of hanging up my favorite pics from Yankee Ingenuity in Chatham which is one of my favorite Cape stores. It took me probably 45 minutes to do the math on hanging them exactly perfectly spaced out apart (not my strong suit).IMG_8207

Another great thing about Friday – it was my Grandpa’s 88th birthday. I think this was somewhere in his early 60s, but we are still just the same party animals we were in the late 80s. I’m just wasted off juice here clearly. IMG_8185Saturday after crushing my tennis match (by getting my opponents sugar high off these chocolate chip muffins first) I met my friend Jess in the Seaport for cocktails and dinner at Tezmecal, which is much better in the winter when the wait is only a mere 60 minutes instead of the average 3 hour wait in the summer. Jess and I used to be the best interns the Harwich Mariners baseball team ever had … we could sell you a T-shirt, make you a hotdog, negotiate some good deals on 50/50 raffle tickets and live off popcorn and frozen cookie dough and no sleep for 3 months. These cocktails were refreshing with the freshly muddled fruit. Yum yum. IMG_8217Sunday after a brutal booty kicking from my trainer, I met my friend Lauren at the Natick Mall to do some damage shopping and on some French fries. Lauren was my best shopping partner when I first bought my condo, and we test sat on many couches at Jordan’s and she helped me pick out my kitchen table. This time I helped her shop for lipstick and she helped me pick out a new media stand at Crate and Barrel, which we then rewarded our efforts with these truffle fries at Met Bar. IMG_8221I think somewhere above I mentioned this would be a short recap, but once I started remembering everything I did last week I really wanted to include it all. Since right now I’m eating takeout sushi watching Downton Abbey in my hotel room. Wahoo, glamorous business travel living the dream. So that’s it for now. It snowed today and I just know more is coming. I’m trying to take comfort in my new winter puffer jacket to keep me warm, but it didn’t do much to help me when I wiped out walking to work today in the middle of the road. Damn you Philly.

Guiding Principles for 2015

So I’ve been writing this post in my head for the past few weeks in a variety of different places. I made a lot of good progress the other day in the last 10 minutes of hot yoga, which is my favorite part of the class (and the part I’m the best at … because it’s just laying down, not moving.) I’ve done a lot of driving lately, and started to formulate my thoughts a little better, and in the shower just standing still for a bit. So in my head, I’ve got this whole post written down and it’s noble prize worthy, but we’ll see how much of that I’m able to actually get out eloquently in this post.

It’s a New Year. Which means it’s time for New Year’s resolutions. I’ve been making resolutions since I was in second grade. I remember this vividly because my second grade teacher made us write our resolutions on a construction paper star to hang on the bulletin board and mine was “walk on the treadmill more.” Like just stop it 7 year-old Rebecca. I wasn’t one of those 200lb obese children needing to be on a Fed Up documentary. But I think since second grade I’ve been resolutioning to eat healthier and exercise more, because even to a kid, that’s just what I thought resolutions were all about. More or less. Literally. When I think of resolutions, they all start or end with “more” or “less.”

  • Eat less processed food
  • Eat more clean food
  • Exercise more
  • Stress less
  • Sleep more
  • Worry less
  • Spend less time on my phone
  • Spend more quality time with friends

All the pressure can turn you into a crazy person. I mean, just look at NYE 1990. Maybe I was just drunk off apple juice, who knows.

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And so on and so forth. Well in 2015 I’m not making resolutions. I don’t believe in them anymore. Now maybe I’m a little mental because I’ve spent too much of my life in consulting, but every year we have to set objectives, and we’re told they have to be SMART goals. A S.M.A.R.T. goal is defined as one that is specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound. So saying “sleep more” is not a SMART goal. But you could say I’m going to sleep more in the next month, by shutting my laptop down at 10pm and increasing my nightly sleep time from 4 hours to 8 hours. Now maybe I’m a little cray cray because I took a 3 hour online training class for work yesterday that was ALL about goal setting, but I can get behind the principle behind thinking of a goal as a SMART one.

However, knowing myself, I probably don’t need any more specific goals and objectives to be focused on right now because it will just stress me out more. So there’s something we use a lot in consulting especially when we’re building out sweet powerpoint presentations called Guiding Principles. A Guiding Principle is any principle that guides an organization throughout its life in all circumstances, irrespective of changes in its goals, strategies type of work or top management. Okay, so behind the corporate speak, it’s any idea that you reference when making a decision or considering a matter.

The nice thing about guiding principles is that there’s no right or wrong in writing them – whereas with SMART objectives you need to hit those 5 attributes for it to be “right.” All companies need them to be successful. Even Google. You can read Google’s here. So I think 2015 is the year we say goodbye to resolutions, and hello to our own personal Guiding Principals. You can also always add to them, which is nice because there’s less pressure to figure it all out right now. So in the spirit of openess, I give you my guiding principals for 2015.

BE PRESENT

Namastay away from the cellphone. So this one applies to lots of things, but it starts with my cellphone. I’ve read a lot of articles on the benefits of disconnecting from technology for a while before you go to sleep and even not reaching for your phone as the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning. I’m guilty of working on my laptop late at night, and spending the first 20 minutes when I wake up checking email, Instagram and Facebook. I can also tell you that 90% of my dreams (nightmares?) are work related on the nights when I work late. When I’m traveling I rely so much on my phone because I feel like it’s my connection to people at home. The reality is, just because I’m not on Facebook at night or liking photos on Instagram doesn’t mean people will forget about me or think I’ve forgotten about them. Quality time is the essence of being present. So I have less free time than I used to, which means I need to make the most of the time I do have with people when I am with them. Even watching TV or a movie, put my phone in the other room, so I’m focused on what I’m doing or watching. Having dinner with a friend or being out at the bars, leave the phone in my purse. Just because I didn’t get a great photo of what I ate doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy it. I had a really nice dinner with my friend Kristen the other night, and didn’t think about or look at my phone the entire time. So my social network didn’t know I had a great dinner with Krankin Reinken at Deep Ellum where I had my first Poutine experience …. but I had some really good uninterrupted conversation with an old friend and that was great. I’m also going to invest in a real alarm clock at home, and rely on wakeup calls on the road, so that my phone isn’t constantly within arms reach. The other thing this applies to is just letting go of the past. I have a tendency to always reference things that happened in the past. Not even in a bad way. But for example, sometimes I catch myself always talking about how an ex boyfriend and I used to love to travel together, or we’d go to dinner on New Year’s Eve instead of a big party or we’d book a vacation instead of buying presents for eachother. It’s fine to have good memories, but it’s time to live in the present. I book vacations with my friends and do lots of other fun things that I don’t need to bring up things from the past anymore. Like Elsa says while dancing in her ice castle “I’m never going back, the past is in the past.”

Gone are the days of finding internet access in the middle of the ocean. 10401246_584224447377_2705301_n

SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO MAKE YOU HAPPY

So you’re not supposed to have a favorite guiding principal, all are created equally, but I really like this one. When you’re little, your friends are your friends because your parents decided to live in a certain neighborhood so you all went to the same school. In college, you make friends with different people but essentially you’re all in one place because you chose to go to the same college. But when you’re a real grown up (I think I qualify as one by now?) you get to pick your friends from a whole slew of different places. You might live in the same building as some friends, work at the same company, go to the same gym or play on a sports team together, frequent a favorite bar, or just have mutual friends that you meet through. You may still have friends from home, high school, college or past jobs. But it’s likely your 20 friends don’t all live on the same street or on the same floor of a dorm. Personally, my friends are spread out all over the country. I keep in touch with friends from my past few jobs, summers on the Cape, home, tennis, dance, Southie, college, and just people I’ve met along the way. But in my mind, the biggest difference as you grow up is that you need to put a little more effort into friendships to make them last. Making plans, taking the time to send emails or cards, keeping in touch with people isn’t just seeing them in the dining hall anymore. And we all work hard and have things going on in our own lives, so with limited time, it’s important to invest in the friendships that make you happy. When I surround myself with friends that make me happy, I’m the best version of myself. When I am around people who engage in drama, shit-talking, or just are emotionally draining to be around, that’s just no good for anyone. Friendships aren’t meant to be one-sided. They are mutually beneficial relationships that definitely grow and evolve over time, and sometimes because of a variety of variables and circumstances, friendships just grow apart. Accepting that is important and also realize it’s okay. You don’t have to have a huge blowout with someone to decide that maybe the friendship just isn’t what it used to be and you don’t enjoy eachother’s company as much anymore. I have some friends that I see once a year, or talk to every few months, and some of those people are much better friends than the people I can ping or text on a daily basis. And sometimes friendships fade for a bit and come back months or years later, and that’s fine too. This one is a hard one for me because I just want to be liked by people and considered a good friend – but I’m starting to realize my own limitations, and time is definitely a big one for me, so I’m just going to continue to hang with the people that make me happy, and Irish exit some of those that don’t.

If I could surround myself with people that always had me smiling like this, that’d be alright by me.
10468497_10101059397206317_1927289576148902521_o (1)Now these people may have been my best friends growing up because we lived on the same block … but it’s safe to say I was pretty happy being around them too. 11818_10100427432623407_1502180535_n (1)

DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY

Another important one, especially as I continue to get older and progress in my career and just in life. A job is called a job because it’s work. They don’t call it Going to Fun every day for a reason. But fundamentally it’s important to enjoy what you do. Would I like to quit corporate America and bake cookies and have a bunch of kids and live the dream? Yeah, absolutely. And maybe one day I will. But for now I’ve got a mortgage to pay and the job part is an important piece to keeping all the lights on. It used to be that people stayed at companies for 25 years or longer. The nice thing about the world we live in now, is that it is more acceptable to move jobs and take on new opportunities as you continue to grow your career. So there shouldn’t be the overwhelming feeling of feeling stuck in a bad job situation. Sometimes there are tough patches or bad projects, but if a job situation just ultimately blows big time, go do something else. Life is too short to be miserable. For me, I’ve had a few jobs and had the opportunity through consulting to work with over 20 companies in the past few years, so I’ve got to experience a lot. And the one thing I want to do with my life and my career is help people. And the nice thing is, there’s a lot of ways I can do that. Whether it’s building a digital pharmacy to get sick patients their medications faster. Or starting a mentorship program at work. Or my favorite, working as part of a team and supervising and mentoring other team members. I love helping people grow their careers and be successful. One of the best working moments for me was when my first supervisee got promoted. It’s just a great feeling. Sometimes you hit a point at a job where you just aren’t fulfilled or happy anymore. And I’ve learned it’s okay at that point to move on to new opportunities.  So I am challenging myself to look for opportunities in every work situation that I’m in to help people. And this applies outside of work too. I love baking, and blogging, and playing tennis, and traveling, and cooking for my friends. So I need to make the time to do those things. Because life is meant to be lived happily.

When we organized a company bake sale benefiting Cookies for Kids Cancer December 2013. 1525514_10100758062603277_2116608913_nAnd if the whole corporate America thing doesn’t work out, I used to be a pretty good t-shirt salesperson so I guess this could be my fallback career, right? 243335_3750792492482_1915258831_o

LET GO OF WHAT’S OUTSIDE YOUR CONTROL

Now this is a tough one for me. I hope one day I’m twirling around in my ice castle singing “Let it Go” at the top of my lungs, but to get to that point I need to get better at letting things go. And this applies to a LOT of things in life. Work, friends, weight, the world – you name it, it applies. I l like to live in the black and white, and a lot of life lives in that gray zone. I have a hard time letting go of things I can’t fully understand. So it’s exhausting because it consumes me trying to make sense of things, that sometimes I need to just accept will never make sense. It’s time to let the ex-boyfriends live in the past. They aren’t coming back from the dead, you don’t WANT them to come back from the dead, and while there were good and bad things about all relationships, just leave it all right where it belongs – in the past. The weather. This one stresses me out to an unhealthy degree. Getting on an airplane twice a week for work means inevitably there will be weather-related travel delays. I can’t fly a plane. So there’s nothing I can do about that. Adopting a “I’ll get there when I get there” mentality will be better for me than a “I’m going to cut a biatch if my bag doesn’t get in the overhead and I have to gate check it” state of mind, which I am often in. With food and exercise, sometimes I have a great plan for the week. And if everything goes according to plan, I’ll eat clean all week, sleep plenty, drink tons of water and workout daily. Most times, things don’t go according to plan. I need to go with the flow a little more. If it snows and I can’t get to the gym, I can eat a little healthier that day or do some at-home workout that will ease my mind but maybe won’t be the same calorie burn as the gym. Sometimes a work dinner or last minute plans with friends results in a brownie sundae or lots of drinks. It’s not worth stressing over or punishing yourself at the gym the next day to feel bad about. Just enjoy the ride. And I need to stop associating a specific size or weight with happiness. Being a size 6 doesn’t mean you’re life is rainbows and sunshine. So focusing on health and happiness is where I’m going to try to refocus myself on. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned I can’t control it’s other people. Sometimes people will do things that will hurt you, surprise you, disappoint you and you might never understand why. Just let it go. The more time you spend stressing over things that are out of your control, the more of an impact you’re letting other people have on your happiness.

 

Less stress, more sunsets.1910212_543302190907_6478_n

LIVE OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE

Now this, this one is going to be fun I think. I’m definitely not a huge risk taker in life. It took me a long time to even wear bright red lipstick. I like to live in a comfortable bubble sometimes. In the past few weeks, I’ve gone to parties that two of my friends were hosting where I wasn’t sure I would know anyone else there. Normally I’d want to go with another friend to make sure I wasn’t alone at all. But instead I decided to attend solo – and you know what? I had a great time. I’ve met a bunch of new people in the past few weeks who are just great. I’m excited for these new friends. And yeah maybe at the parties there were a few instances where I had a momentary second of panic when I didn’t know anyone, but I just introduced myself to some new people and had a great time. Travel is an area I’d like to be a bit more adventurous in. Maybe it’s time for a European adventure, going somewhere where I don’t speak the language. Or spending a little more money than I normally would for a memorable trip. Taking a trip with new friends. I think this all relates to being more open minded. Maybe if an opportunity presents itself to live outside of New England, I should consider it. Nothing is permanent, and I think I can benefit from being a little more open minded. Even with dating. I am sure in my head I have an idea of the type of guy I think I’m supposed to end up with, so maybe I’m not giving some people a chance right away because I don’t think it will work out. Well I think I can admit I’m clearly no expert in this department, and I’m not doing something right, so it can’t hurt to change my approach a bit. This relates to the principles above – if I am with someone who makes me happy, who cares about anything else. But at the same time, I don’t want to be one of those girls who needs a relationship to validate who I am. I have learned a lot about myself the past few years since my real serious relationship ended. I’ve dated a lot of different people, I’ve changed jobs, bought a house, traveled with friends. I’ve done things I never thought I would do. And I hope to continue to do that.

Biking over a very windy Golden Gate bridge and down some hilly streets in Sausilito maybe had us almost peeing our pants, but was totally worth it and a great experience in the end.

1239006_10100653739412787_654997364_nOr maybe living outside your comfort zone is really just getting drunk off sweet tea and rapping Super Bass at your brother’s wedding. #crushedit558665_10101417536612335_487681100_n

 

So these are my guiding principals, at least for now, and the world’s longest blog post that involves no cookies.

I bought this necklace last month from Dogeared, one of my favorite jewelry brands to gift to friends. I actually bought the necklace for someone else and when it arrived, it just felt exactly what I needed to be reminded of. The necklace is called Balance and the inspirational card it comes with says: A happy life is not built upon the goal of perfection, but balance. It’s a good reminder for me that I can cut myself a break and I don’t need to be perfect, I just need to find the right balance in life to be happy. And synergy.

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