Thursday, December 10, 2015

Our Non-Traditional "Display" Baby Shower

First of all, we are pleased to announce that it's a girl! We waited until the baby shower two weeks ago to reveal this, which gave us a fun surprise to celebrate at the shower when we brought out the cake with this homemade topper. This was also a strategy so that we wouldn't receive too many highly gendered gifts, having seen baby girls showered with pink fluffy things and boys showered with sports and truck-covered items. 


At my behest, my mom threw a "display" shower, sometimes also known as a "naked" shower. Not only is this an environmentally friendly way to avoid giftwrap, it also helped create a fun party atmosphere. Gifts were displayed around the room, encouraging guests to walk around to check out cute baby things. Since it was a co-ed shower without too many games and without a long unwrapping session, it felt more like a regular party with plenty of time to mingle than a traditional shower.

Here are the logistics of how the display shower worked, since we had to figure some of this out as we went along, and I think it worked out pretty well. The invitation requested "We all love the trees, bring gifts unwrapped please - they will be displayed." Many gifts arrived ahead of time, which gave my mom time to devise ways to arrange them around the crib and such. We then left some table-top spaces open as display areas, with empty baskets for anyone who brought several small gifts. When guests arrived, there was a sign asking them to label their gift with a post-it and find a place to display it, which I also helped coordinate as I greeted people. Since there was no dedicated unwrapping time, we just tried to make sure that we said hi and thanked everyone at some point. As for keeping track of gifts, it helped that we used babyli.st for our registry, which provides a thank you tracking list. I also went around at one point with a little notebook to make note of who gave us any non-registry gifts in case they got separated from their post-it later.




There were only two games: guess whether it's a boy or girl -- the men were more accurate than the women -- and betting on the due date -- winner gets half and we get half. We will all have to wait a while longer to find that one out.


My dad made this sweet bird mobile out of watercolors and stiff watercolor paper. Can you identify all the birds?


Also on display was the vintage bassinet filled with an amazing amount of baby clothes my mom saved from me and my sisters.


Bump to bump with my longtime friend Caitlin. I was 30 weeks at the shower, but now I'm already almost 32 weeks. Serendipitously, Caitlin got married a week after me, and now she is due three weeks after me! I have several other friends and family who had babies within the past year or are having babies in the next six months -- it is exciting to think about our kids growing up so close in age.


A week later I also had a gathering to celebrate my birthday and the impending baby with my friends in Brooklyn. We now have more baby clothes than we probably need -- mostly hand-me-downs. Most of our baby stuff is waiting patiently in our parents' houses until we are ready to set up our apartment. Thank you to everyone who has helped us celebrate and contributed to help us take care of this new life!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Expecting

in front of Strawberry Lake waterfall on our trip to Oregon a couple weeks ago

Announcing...a little baby Flath due in early February! I'm 24 weeks along and everything has been going well so far. We found out whether we're having a boy or girl, but we're waiting a little longer until the baby shower to share that news.

Like many bloggers, I seem to have taken a respite during early pregnancy. Unlike most, however, I can't blame it on being wiped out by the first trimester - it was really because my time was taken away by the food coop I'm involved in, which is a story for another day.

The default question I get asked most often is 'how are you feeling?' I have been lucky enough to not really feel any more tired than usual. In fact, I've continued my habit of staying up later than I should at my computer most nights. There were times I felt like I'd rather nap than go to the gym, but it was subtle enough that I thought I might just be using pregnancy as an excuse to be lazy. I had hardly any nausea, as long as I religiously ate eggs and toast for breakfast and didn't go too long without eating. In fact, I was extremely hungry most of the first trimester. This could be because a few months of working with a personal trainer had finally ramped up my metabolism, or my body wanting more nutrients to make a baby, or both. Either way, my metabolism is normally very slow, so it was refreshing to eat as much as I wanted and have it be a positive thing.

Altogether, I felt like my normal self throughout the first trimester...my normal self with a secret. It takes so many weeks before you start to show that it made me feel like, is this really going to happen? Is a baby really going to grow inside of me? I got so used to pregnancy being a secret that it was strange for it to later become a very personal thing that anyone could know about me just by looking at me. Most big life changes are not advertised across your body for strangers to know.

It wasn't until I neared 20 weeks that pregnancy started to make itself and its discomforts known. First the baby's little kicks. A change in my core strength making it difficult to haul my body from side to side and in and out of bed. Anxiety while trying to sleep, mostly out of paranoia that I shouldn't sleep in any other position than on my left side (did you know that's a thing?). Lower back pain, even though I was hoping my newfound back muscles would protect me from that. I think the back pain was actually triggered by riding a new bike, but the pregnancy is making it persist. More recently, I realized I've started having Braxton hicks contractions, though they aren't bothersome (so far). My metabolism has slowed down, as I try to keep the scale from climbing too quickly and feel extremely full two thirds of the time. There's also been a slow decline in my fitness level, probably due in part to working out less frequently and intensely.


I spent last winter mentally psyching myself up to try for this. Trying to come to terms with the idea of staying in from 6pm every night because of children's incomprehensibly early bedtimes, and just generally spending way more time inside my apartment (since I don't love my apartment). I've had nine years of the fabulous young New Yorker lifestyle of going out with friends to happy hours and restaurants and parties and even closing bars at 4am. This year, I realized those nine years could be enough. My life is so busy busy, always rushing from one thing to the next, always feeling like I should be working on something. I feel ready for something that will force me to slow down, for something to feel rewarding in a new way. I crossed a few more minor things off my list of things to do before having a baby, like some last girls nights out dancing ... a solo show ... sushi and oyster dates ... getting in shape just to prove to myself I could. I'll just have to trust that those other big life aspirations in the back of my mind are still possible out there in the future.

As someone who is inherently a planner, it's difficult to prepare yourself for something without knowing when it will happen... immediately, or in a year, or never. We were very lucky that I was able to get pregnant right away. I had spent so much time reminding Evan that it might take a while, that he actually expected it to and was caught off guard.

Now, I'm feeling overwhelmed by all there is to research and learn about all the stuff babies need (also known as building a registry) and how to prepare for birth and newborn care. While I know several people with children, their presence feels peripheral, and I don't have much direct experience with what's to come. It helps that I have complete trust that I picked the right partner, not just for spending my life with, but also for raising a child together. Amidst all the researching, I try to remind myself where this is headed and remind myself to visualize carrying around a little infant. When Evan comes to bed in the morning to hug me goodbye before work, I try to imagine him saying goodbye to two of us. This is the ultimate gamble we're taking...but we forged ahead anyway because it's one of life's ultimate adventures that we want to experience.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

This Year's Fire Escape Garden

Here's my fire escape right after I planted it in late April:


And here it is now that it's June and it's grown in:



In total, I've got two kinds of mint, lavender, sage, rosemary, marjoram, basil, parsley, cilantro, marigolds, petunias, euphorbia, zinnias, nasturtiums, orange cosmos, and wild, spindly purple flower that I bought for looks and forgot the name of.

The empty pots are seeded with lettuce and purslane, and morning glories and bachelor's buttons, just planted last weekend. A squirrel dug up all the zinnias, but all all was not lost because a few survived, a few were replaced, and they're already blooming again. We grow nasturtiums because they're edible and Evan really enjoys them on his salads. Now that the herbs have filled out, I can start thinking about different pestos.

And that is what you can fit on a fire escape. Don't worry, I usually keep an escape path clear, but had to rearrange a bit for photos.



Monday, March 23, 2015

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup with Potato, Corn and Lentils



I don't often set out to make specific recipes, usually preferring to gather inspiration from a variety of recipes and make use of what I have. However, I was intrigued enough by this soup I came across on the Wednesday Chef to go out and buy the special ingredients needed. It's a simple potato soup that becomes a flavorful vegetarian tortilla soup by adding chipotle chiles in adobo, avocado, lime juice and crushed tortilla chips. It definitely lived up to the hype.

I'd never used chipotle chiles in adobo sauce before. Chipotle chiles are actually smoked jalapeƱos, and they are often marinated in adobo sauce, a blend of vinegar, garlic, tomato, paprika and other spices. They come in a little can, and since the recipe only calls for one or two chiles (we used one and a half), what to do with the rest? I chopped them up and divided them in an ice cube tray to freeze. Now I have several frozen cubes of chiles stored away that can easily be thrown into soups, stew, beans, etc. I'm already thinking of pulled beef with the smoky heat of adobo and chipotle served alongside parsnip mash or cornbread. Not to mention more of this soup. We are visiting Evan's parents right now in Florida, taking a break from the winter that never seems to end, so we will probably still be all about soups when we return.

A few changes I did make to the original recipe: I subbed in rutabaga for a third of the potatoes, since I ran out of potatoes and had extra rutabaga in my fridge. To keep it vegetarian, I used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. I also added a cup of cooked lentils at the end, at the same time as the corn, to add protein to this otherwise carb-heavy dish. We found this soup to be so rich and tasty on its own, that we left off the shredded cheese, but you might decide otherwise. You can find the original recipe for Amelia Morris' corn, chile and potato soup over on The Wednesday Chef.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Costa Rica Ecotrip



It's been over a month since we returned from our trip to Costa Rica. People liked to ask if it was a delayed honeymoon, since that is becoming more common these days. However, I maintain that even though the trip we took right after our wedding was short and fairly local (to the Berkshires), it definitely felt like a honeymoon, as we were still basking in the newness of being married. Instead, I call this our First Married Trip, and it was amazing. Evan and I have both been to Costa Rica before, and we had always wanted to go together.

I faced my fears and flew in a 12-person plane.

I searched high and low for an ecolodge that would offer both rainforest and beach, and I found a real gem -- Saladero Ecolodge, located in the southwest of Costa Rica, across from the Osa Peninsula on the inside of the Golfo Dulce. Because it's on a gulf and not the ocean, the water is warmer, calmer, and better suited for swimming and kayaking. The property is located right on Piedras Blancas National Park and is only accessible by boat. To get there, we had to stay overnight after arriving in San Jose, fly an hour on a tiny plane the next morning, followed by a 45 minute boat ride. I had a lot of anxiety about traveling to such a remote place, but the tiny plane ride was smoother than I expected, and once we settled in, I realized it was very much worth the trip. We'd love to go back someday, maybe with our families.


 Saladero Ecolodge is down there in one of those coves on the Golfo Dulce

Approaching Saladero

Evan had been to a similar ecolodge, Tiskita Jungle Lodge, with his family before and loved it, which is what inspired our trip, but like many Costa Rican ecolodges, Tiskita is quite expensive at $300-400 a night. Saladero offers a great deal, since it's much more affordable at $200-$260 a night, which includes all food and most activities. It is very self directed, so we were free to do whatever activities we pleased whenever we wanted. We only paid extra to take a special kayak tour through one the world's oldest mangrove forests, which was worth it to glide through the quiet, primordial-feeling corridors of those giant trees.

 Our cabin


 The view from our cabin

In true ecolodge fashion, there was limited electricity powered mostly by solar energy. I'm normally a night owl, so it felt refreshing to wake up early and fall asleep more in tune with the natural rhythms of the sun. It was hot midday, but cooled off at night so we were okay without air conditioning -- much more comfortable than the nighttime heat when I stayed at a Virgin Islands ecolodge. The meals were a real treat. Much of the delicious food came from the property -- bananas, pineapples, juices, root vegetables, chickens, eggs, and even homemade coconut oil.

The banana garden at Saladero

Pathways lined by pineapple plants

Our days went something like this: Wake up early to coffee and a delicious breakfast in the open air dining area overlooking the gulf. Go for a morning hike on one of the three trails through the rainforest to see what wildlife we could see. Take a kayak out on a fifteen minute ride to a nearby beach with a coral reef offshore. Snorkel among vivid hued fish. Take some time to savor being alone on a quiet, tropical beach. Return to the ecolodge in time for lunch and look up what fish we saw. In the midday heat, retreat to the cool shade of the hammock grove for reading and napping. Later in the afternoon, take another walk in the woods. Or practice yoga on a platform tent overlooking the gardens. Or try fishing.

For happy hour, head to the main house for to enjoy chips and salsa and cold beers while indulging in the one hour of internet availability. Watch the daily evening storm clouds roll in and multicolored sunsets descend over the gulf. Eat a communal dinner and delicious coconut desserts with the other guests to the glow of solar lanterns. Retreat to our cabin to play cards or do crossword puzzles and read before bed. Wake up and repeat for several luxurious days.

The whole experience felt like a good balance of indulging and relaxing, but in a healthy way. Because we were able to get out in the forest and water most days, we saw a lot of birds, fish and other wildlife (see our 40+ species identification list below). I haven't typically been as into birding as Evan, but even I got into the act, since I was the one who spotted the howler monkeys and an owl.


Evan seeing what he could see in Piedras Blancas National Park


Enjoying the hammock grove


Snorkeling at the nearby coral beach

 


Evan caught a fish on his very first cast, and then of course none after that.





Sunsets over the Golfo Dulce

Early morning river tour

Kayaking through one of the world's oldest mangrove forests

White faced capuchin monkey


Mottled owl at Finca Rosa Blanca

We had a coda to our trip because our return home was delayed by a few days by a snowstorm. That sounds like a dream, but it was actually a bit stressful. Moreso because neither of us speak Spanish. Due to timing, we had already left the ecolodge by the time our flight was changed, so we had to figure out last minute where to stay near San Jose instead. (Which is not the nicest area of Costa Rica). We had to show up at a hotel in Alajuela hoping they would have a room open, which they just barely did.

I then took Evan to Finca Rosa Blanca, a Rainforest Alliance certified coffee farm and luxury hotel. I had taken their coffee tour on my work trip to Costa Rica three years ago and knew Evan would love it. The tour is very informative not just about how they grow their coffee sustainably, but also about the general process of coffee from cherry to cup. It was an unexpected splurge to stay overnight, but we took full advantage by staying more than 24 hours to enjoy the pool, grounds, and open-air lounge area, before returning for one more night at a budget hotel in Alajuela.


The main lodge at Finca Rosa Blanca

Our private patio at Finca Rosa Blanca, overlooking the San Jose valley


Organic coffee farm at Finca Rosa Blanca

While we hadn't felt up to venturing on a long public bus ride to another region, we did successfully navigate taking a bus between Alajuela and Santa Barbara to get to Finca Rosa Blanca. The buses seem like a pretty reliable form of public transportation both within and between cities there, like in New York.

Our last morning in Costa Rica felt like bittersweet deja vu. There we were having breakfast in the courtyard of the same hotel as our first morning there, again preparing to head off to the airport, but this time to end our journey instead of to begin it.

Hotel Los Volcanes, our first and our last morning in Costa Rica

(Mostly spotted at Saladero Eco Lodge)

Birds and Mammals
Yellow-headed caracara / laughing falcon?
Magnificent Frigate bird
Cormorant
Great egret
Scarlet macaw
Cherrie’s tananger
Blue-gray tananger
Chestnut-mandibled toucan
Black vulture
Golden-naped woodpecker
Lineated woodpecker
White hawk (hunting from limb)
Blue morpho butterfly
Hummingbird (one of the hermits)
Little blue heron
Boat-billed flycatcher or great kiskadee
Howler monkeys
Variable seedeater
Ringed kingfisher
Boat-billed heron
Pan-tropical dolphin
Orange-billed sparrow
Great currassao
White-faced capuchin
Blue-crowned motmot
Montezuma oropendola
Brown jay
Hoffmann’s woodpecker
Mottled owl
White-eared ground sparrow
Scorpion

Fish
Panamic sgt. Major
Cortez rainbow wrasse (male and female)
Cortez angel fish
Parrotfish
Panamic nightsergeant
Green moray eel
Barberfish
Scissortail damselfish
Pana grayshy
3-banded butterfly fish
southern stingray
triggerfish

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Healthy Breakfast Fruit Bread


My latest breakfast phase is a riff off the Blue Sky Bakery muffin. I got hooked on their muffins when I lived in Williamsburg and could get them at Variety on my way to the subway. I now live closer to the source, since the bakery is on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope. (Sidenote: I wish there was a list of all bakeries in NYC that serve their muffins. It's hard to find a good muffin, rather than the pervasive airy nothingness at most cafes.) Anyway, their bakery not on my way to work, and since I'm not a morning person and am always running late, there isn't time to go out of my way for breakfast. Amazingly, Smitten Kitchen found and shared the recipe.

They are great as muffins, but then I got the idea to bake it as bread. It is a lot easier to dump batter into one loaf pan than it is to spoon it into many muffin tins. Furthermore, I store the bread sliced and frozen, so I can bring one slice to work daily to toast for breakfast. This is a game changer when it comes to baked goods. No more overeating to finish a loaf while it sits out all week either drying out or getting overly moist. And the toasting ensures that it always satisfies that Blue Sky Bakery craving alongside my morning coffee - a hearty bread with a crisp exterior and steamy fruit. So far I've made it with blueberries, diced plums, and cranberries, and I've also sometimes added diced walnuts.

Some other changes: I don't usually have bran, but I do always have oats, so I grind oats into a rough flour in my food processor. I love the toothsome texture and flavor added by the oat flour. To increase the nutritional value: Honey in place of refined sugar; coconut oil instead of a more commonplace oil; and the addition of flax seeds. However, coconut oil and honey cannot be blended by hand, since both tend to clump when combined with cold milk, so I do have to get out my hand mixer, even though I generally prefer to mix batter with a fork or spoon to avoid extra cleaning.

The key is to bake it at a high temperature like 425. I don't know the science of it for sure, but I think this caramelizes the sugars in the bread and coaxes more flavor out of its low sugar content. When I baked it at 350, it tasted meh to me.

Breakfast Fruit Bread
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup honey
1 1/3 cup milk
1 egg
1 1/2 cups ground oats
1 1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tbsp ground flax seeds
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup diced fruit or berries

Preheat oven to 425 F. Grease and flour a loaf pan. Grind oats into a rough cornmeal-consistency flour in a food processor. Using a hand mixer, combine coconut oil, honey, milk and egg. Dump in oats, flower, baking powder, baking soda, flx and salt. Use the mixer to blend into a smooth batter. Stir in fruit with a spoon. Spread into loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes, until edges are browned. To freeze: Let cool, slice into 10-12 pieces and store in a ziploc bag in freezer.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Spanish Tapas at Home


We cook a lot, so for Valentine's Day, I tried to think of something to make that would feel more special than any old night at home. I thought Spanish tapas would be fun and mostly easy to prepare. We feasted on bacon-wrapped dates, gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp), boquerones (marinated anchovies) on toast and tortilla espanol. We also sliced up some manchego and chorizo and served them alongside olives and extra sliced baguette. This was all accompanied by glasses of Castanon Sidra Natural, a typical Spanish cider with a cloudy pour and funky aroma.

Conveniently, I was able to get most of the ingredients affordably at the Park Slope Food Coop, except for the shrimp, which came from a fish market at the end of our block, and the baguette and boquerones from an Italian market nearby. Park Slope is so undeniably convenient. 

It all came together relatively quickly and simply and would be easy to scale up for a dinner party, except for peeling the shrimp. We had plenty of leftovers, which meant that for less than the cost of a restaurant meal, we were also able to treat our friends to brunch at our place the next day. As we stressed about preparing and plating everything before our food turned cold (because there are a lot of different plates to juggle in this meal), I did remember the advantage of going out to eat -- someone else worries about that and brings you the food when it's perfectly hot and ready ;-)


Bacon-wrapped dates
Plan on making enough for a few dates per person. Depending on the size of your dates, cut each length of bacon in half and wrap one piece of bacon around one or two dates. Bake at 400 for about 10 minutes. For such a small amount of food, consider using your toaster oven, which worked wonderfully for us. If you have extras, leftovers reheat well at a lower heat, like 300.



Boquerones (Marinated Anchovies) on Toast
Boquerones, or marinated white anchovies, are not the same thing as canned anchovies. They have a a light fresh fish flavor that is nothing like the salty, bitter overpowering flavor we associate with anchovies. If you want to make your own, you must start with fresh, raw anchovies for marinating, and cannot start with canned. It's a time consuming process that involves curing them in salt and then vinegar, ideally over a couple days, without ever actually cooking them. So it's easier to get ready-made boquerones. We lucked out and found marinated anchovies at the Italian market Russo's near our home in Park Slope, but you can reliably find them at the Spanish store Despana in Soho. They had already been marinated in vinegar and other flavorings, but we tossed them in oil, garlic and parsley when we got home. Evan served them on toast, but I actually prefer the fish on its own. Plan on about two toasts per person.


Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp)
It's time consuming to peel the shrimp (unless you can find pre-peeled uncooked shrimp), but once that's done, they cook very quickly. A half pound of shrimp was the perfect amount for tapas for two.

Preheat a pan over medium high heat. Add a generous coating of olive oil, a sprinkling of crushed red pepper, a teaspoon of paprika, a tablespoon of minced parsley, and two cloves of minced garlic. After a couple minutes, add the shrimp and a squeeze of a quarter lemon. Sautee, stirring often, until the shrimp turn pink. It takes less than five minutes. Season with salt and pepper and another tablespoon of fresh parsley, and serve in its golden, spiced oil.


Tortilla Espanol
A Spanish tortilla is essentially a frittata with potato. The traditional method involves flipping the tortilla, but I haven't had luck with that in the past, so I chose to finish it in the broiler. Be watchful though, because we let ours overcook. You'll only want a to eat a wedge of tortilla each, but the leftovers keep well.

Preheat a cast iron pan over medium heat. Add a generous coating of olive oil and preheat another few minutes. Meanwhile, chop two large potatoes into 1/4" thin rounds and then chop the rounds in half. Sautee the potatoes over medium heat, covered but stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes. Meanwhile, mince one small onion and two cloves of garlic. When the potatoes are golden browned and softened, add onions, garlic, and a little more oil, and sautee until onions are translucent. Whisk eight eggs and pour into the pan. Cook for about 5-10 minutes until the eggs start to set on the sides. Transfer to the broiler and cook another 5 minutes. Slice into about eight wedges like a pizza pie.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

2014 In Review

photo by Jenna Salvagin
Married
Getting married obviously marked my major life milestone of 2014. Since our engagement was only seven months long, the first half of 2014 was dominated by wedding planning. We were away or busy almost every spring weekend with things like catering tastings, my shower, our engagement photo shoot, bachelor and bachelorette parties for us and friends, and friends' weddings. Meanwhile, my weeknights were focused on wedding research and spreadsheets. The wedding magic came and went in June, and we took a simple honeymoon afterward - a short but sweet week at a lake house in the Berkshires. 

our private honeymoon dock

Enjoying the Everyday
Following the wedding, my intention was to enjoy a totally normal stretch of time. There was a lot of darkness in the past few years that I was still dealing with in the first half of 2014, so I felt ready to put it behind me and enjoy regular life without the stress of planning a wedding, or moving repeatedly, or terrible apartment mishaps. That's exactly what I've been doing. Weekends spent doing laundry, going on afternoon walks for coffee with my new husband, going to yoga, and getting drinks with friends. No big trips, just weekend getaways to see friends or family. We did go to Blue Hill at Stone Barns for Evan's birthday, which deserves its own post.

I intended to write about the wedding here on the blog afterward. Instead, I got caught up in the loveliness of doing nothing. I haven't played that much music or written the blog posts I planned or exercised as much as I should and definitely procrastinated on finishing post-wedding related tasks. Mostly, I spent the second half of the year luxuriating in the escapism of binge reading. In fact, I read 67 books in 2014 - twice as many as in 2013. Which reminds me that I should do a post on some of my recent favorite books. This year also marked a turning point in my feelings about New York City. For the first time, I felt like I might be ready to leave, not immediately, but sometime in the imaginable future.

ice skating in Prospect Park last winter

Other People's Weddings
Just as in 2013, we attended several weddings. In early spring, we celebrated the wedding of one of Evan's friends under magnolia blooms in Rhode Island. We were part of a twenty person wedding weekend involving a hike, a pregnant bride, a beautifully golden twilight Hudson riverfront, and dinner inside an antique book store. A week after my own wedding, I was given the honor of reading a poem at the ceremony of one of my oldest friends, Caitlin. In the fall, I cried when my friend sang her vows on a beach at a summer camp wedding in New Jersey complete with lawn games and a bonfire. And I relived my college 80s dancing nights at a wedding in Delaware.

three out of four hefs now married 
(photo by Photovisions)

Cold Spring friend hike

getting ready for a ceremony at golden hour

Work
When I came back from a long vacation in fall 2013, I thought, I can't do this anymore. I was so burned out from several years of being a nonprofit fundraising minion. But I had a plan that involved sticking it out a bit longer until I hit a certain savings goal before exploring something new. Lo and behold, the power of sticking it out prevailed, because in spring 2014 a position opened up at work -- one that I had always regretted not applying for two years ago. Now in my new role managing the development database, instead of bearing the stressful orders to raise more money, I get to play with computers in support of the people raising the money. It's a pretty ideal job for me and it was a pretty ideal transition to get to continue working for an organization I believe in while expanding my skill sets into new territory.

Music
I started out 2014 by releasing a new solo album. This sounds like the beginning of a new musical chapter, but it actually represented a closing. The songs I had written during a particularly creative period between 2010 and 2011 -- and then spent a year recording with Evan -- were finally recorded for posterity and out there in the world. This technically freed me up to figure out my next musical project, but I'm in a creative lull and it's been hard to motivate on that. I did at least write a new song in 2014 and learn some covers for the fun of it.

album art by Leanne Bazzetta

Bike Commuting
I've continued bike commuting fairly regularly since 2011, with a few exceptions. Last winter was colder than previous winters, so I ended up taking off the whole season. This year, I actually stopped riding from October onward. First, my landlord annoyingly stopped allowing me to lock my bike to the front gate, requiring me to either carry my heavy bike upstairs or lock it on the sidewalk. Second, I twisted both of my ankles that month -- one a week after the other -- and spent a few weeks either limping or elevating my feet. Third, by the time I recovered, daylight savings had changed my ride home from daylight to the cold, dark night. Granted, having to carry my bike upstairs and ride in the dark cold has not stopped me before, but something about this confluence of events broke me out of the habit.

On the plus side, I recently got an indoor exercise bike stand from a friend who moved away from NYC. It's genius. I'm planning to exercise all winter without paying for a gym membership by riding my own bike while watching TV in the comfort of my apartment.

a rainbow at the end of my ride over the Brooklyn Bridge

2015
Which brings me to my 2015 plans, which mainly involve riding my exercise bike, writing more, and making conscious choices to be more healthy.