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Posts Tagged ‘daily life’

purple tulips

Last month, I posted a list of fun ideas to get me through the winter. We’ve had plenty of snow (so much snow) and frigid temps, but I’ve been working on the list anyway. Here’s an update:

  • Fill up the journal I started in early January.* Working on it (though my handwriting is truly atrocious these days).
  • Spend some time at the Harvard Art Museums. I’m going over there once a week, and exploring a new gallery each time.
  • Start hunting for a new pair of red ballet flats.
  • Invite friends over for dinner. We’ve hosted three sets of friends for spinach enchiladas and spicy chicken soup.
  • Spend a long weekend in Nashville with my college roommate and our husbands. We had a fabulous time, though bad weather delayed our flight home.
  • Knit myself something cozy. (I finished that cabled wrap.)
  • Watch some good stories. J and I finished Veronica Mars and are loving Grantchester, and I’m still watching Downton solo. (Also Castle, but I have to admit I am not loving this season.)
  • Read a couple of books for the Modern Mrs Darcy Reading Challenge. I’ve crossed off four categories already: a book I’ve been meaning to read (Beauty: The Invisible Embrace), a book published this year (the newest Flavia de Luce mystery), a book from my childhood (The Long Winter), and a book by a favorite author (Wearing God by Lauren Winner).
  • Drink lots and lots of tea. No sweat. I am on a serious Earl Grey kick.

Things that were not on my list but are happening anyway: lots of snow shoveling; many batches of Molly’s scones; several snow days; all the tulips; and fervent prayers for spring.

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The alphabet of right now

blue sky bare branches

Lindsey (whose blog I always find so thoughtful and inspiring) recently published a post about her alphabet of right now. I liked the concept so much I decided to try writing my own. As I’ve said before, I love these glimpses into daily life through the small, telling details.

A is for attention. I am always trying to pay attention to the details of my life – even when, as right now, a lot of those details involve slogging through a relentless winter.

B is for bare branches and blue skies. One of the things I truly love about winter (and a familiar sight these days).

C is for chai. Whether it’s Darwin’s or Starbucks, you can find me sipping chai on many of these frigid mornings. (Even better if I can snag a cafe table and half an hour to write while I drink it.)

D is for delays. This series of snowstorms has crippled Boston’s aging public transit system, and delays on the Red Line, on my daily commute, have become a way of life.

E is for Earl Grey. I’m on my annual winter Earl Grey kick and I am mainlining it. The strong black tea with the hit of bright citrus is perfect for these cold days. (I’m drinking David’s Cream of Earl Grey, Stash’s Double Bergamot Earl Grey, and sometimes MEM Earl Grey at the coffee shop.)

F is for fleece-lined tights. I have three pairs and I am living in them these days.

G is for Grantchester on PBS. It might be my new favorite show.

H is for Harvard, where I have worked for two years this month. It’s cool to be able to say I work there, but I am so grateful to love both my work and my colleagues.

I is for Instagram. Some days it’s my favorite social media outlet (though I love Twitter too).

J is for journaling. I’m making a conscious effort to do it every day and I really notice the difference when I don’t.

K is for knitting. I recently finished a cozy cabled wrap. It’s both fun and calming (I usually knit while I watch TV).

L is for Laura. She lives in Texas and her funny, encouraging, honest texts are saving my life these days.

M is for museums. Specifically the Harvard Art Museums, where I’m spending a little time on Thursdays.

N is for Nashville. We recently spent a wonderful long weekend there with my college roommate Bethany and her husband – though we ended up staying longer than we’d planned, due to weather issues.

O is for over it. Everyone I know is done with this winter – but we know it isn’t (nearly) over yet.

P is for puttering. I do this a lot, in the evenings or on the weekends – laundry, dishes, tidying, a little cleaning. It takes a lot of work to keep up with the dailiness of life.

Q is for quiet. After a long day at work or a commute on an overcrowded subway train, I love coming home to our quiet, twinkly apartment.

R is for reading. I’m (always) reading lots of books – mysteries and fiction; memoirs and young adult; books to review for Shelf Awareness and the ones I slip in just for fun. I always carry two or three in my work bag.

S is for snow. So much snow. We are breaking all kinds of records in Boston, and it’s difficult to remember life before these constant, punishing blizzards.

T is for tulips. I’m buying them by the dozen these days.

U is for us. I am grateful every day for my sweet husband and how we are surviving this winter (and other challenges) together.

V is for Vitamin D. I’m taking my Vitamin D pills and using my light box faithfully – and every blue-sky day is a good day, even if it’s freezing (and they all are).

W is for walking. I love to walk and I do a lot of it these days – on my commute and my lunch breaks. (Though I can’t wait for the snow to melt and the sidewalks to widen.)

X is for…I don’t know. This is always a hard one.

Y is for yoga. I recently returned to Monday night yoga, then haven’t been able to go back again because of all the snow. But I downloaded the Yoga Studio app and am using it several times a week.

Z is for…I don’t know. Zipper? Zed? Zigzag?

What does your alphabet of right now look like? Please feel free to share in the comments, or post your own.

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All the tulips.

purple tulips

This winter, I’ve been visiting the local flower shop at least once a week, buying bunches of tulips and daffodils for my desk at work. (Lately, it’s been more like two or three times a week. Because my kitchen table needs brightening too, and with nearly five feet of snow piled up on the ground, I’m looking for lifesavers wherever I can find them.)

tulips table book bowl curry lunch

A week or so ago, a male colleague paused to comment on the current arrangement (I think it was the vase of purple tulips above). “Where are all these flowers coming from?” he asked.

yellow tulips desk

Brattle Square Florist,” I replied. (To be honest, dropping in there is half the fun. It’s packed with blooming plants and cut flowers, and it always smells amazing – fresh and sweet and green. And the owner, a tall man with kind eyes, always has a cheery word for me.)

He looked confused. “Not from your husband?”

Before I could reply, one of my female colleagues called from her office, “We do buy flowers for ourselves sometimes, you know!”

tulips tea jeeves

I cracked up. Exactly.

My husband has many fine qualities, but he only buys me flowers about twice a year. Rather than hinting or feeling sorry for myself, I just go buy them if I want them. It’s gratifying to take care of myself in this small way, and I get to choose exactly what I want. (It’s usually tulips – or sometimes daffodils.)

Bonus: confusing my male colleagues is sometimes really fun.

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bike seat cover plaid snow

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about some of the things that are saving my life this winter: blue sky, tulips for my desk, my light box, coffee dates with friends. Three days later, Anne wrote her own post about a quirky winter lifesaver – and promised to share her whole list today of what’s getting her through this season.

In the wake of a massive blizzard (and staring down the barrel of another one), I figured another positive post couldn’t hurt. So I’m joining in. Here are the little things that are saving my life lately:

  • The cobalt blue (now slightly chipped) mug that dates from my days as a barista at the Ground Floor. I’ve been drinking Earl Grey out of it every morning, and it makes me so happy.
  • The stainless-steel half teaspoon I use to scoop the loose tea. Three scoops is the perfect amount, and it’s just the right tool for the job.
  • My snow boots, which I am wearing every single day. (Sigh. But they’re warm.)
  • Glimpses of whimsy, like the plaid bike-seat cover above. (Makes me think of summer picnics.)
  • The adventures of Mrs. Tim (I’m on book 2). She is a charming companion.
  • My weekly trips to the Harvard Art Museums, about which more soon.
  • Fresh scones made from Molly’s recipe, with butter.
  • The zigzag silver ring I bought in Abilene over Christmas.
  • Lemon cuticle salve, vanilla hand lotion and coconut foot cream. (I smell like a bakery.)
  • Texts from a coworker and friend whose snarky sense of humor cracks me up.
  • Coffee with a new friend last week.
  • Instagram. I love it more all the time.
  • Cardigans whose sleeves come down over my hands.
  • Photos of my sweet nephews, with texts from my sister.
  • Taylor Swift’s Speak Now album, which I’ve been blasting when I need a little pep.
  • Norah Jones and the Wailin’ Jennys, for mellower moods.
  • The Yoga Studio app, which I downloaded after reading about it on Ali’s blog.
  • A few pages of The Long Winter every morning over breakfast.
  • Writing by hand in my current journal.

What’s saving your life these days? (And when will it be spring?)

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black bean soup book candle dinner

I’ve written before about my soup obsession. In the winter, you can find me stirring a pot of soup on the stove (or making use of my Crock-Pot) at least once a week. Every year, I pull out the old favorites like my grandfather’s chili, my friend Julie’s butternut squash and apple soup and my friend Rachel’s tomato-basil soup.

Recently, I’ve added a newish recipe to the mix, and I thought I’d share it with you, because it’s perfect for these frigid, snowy days.

The recipe came from Epicurious, though it originally appeared in Bon Appetit, according to the website. I usually amp up the jalapeño (using two whole peppers – we like spicy food at our house) and add an extra teaspoon of cumin. (I also toss in more carrots if I have them.)

My husband hates onions, so I skip them, and while the recipe recommends toppings of fresh cilantro, green onions and feta cheese, we prefer grated cheddar or a dollop of Greek yogurt. (You could also use sour cream.) I also like to dip tortilla chips in it.

Black Bean Soup with Cumin and Jalapeño

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin [or more to taste]
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons chopped jalapeño with seeds [or more to taste]
  • 2 15- to 16-ounce cans black beans, undrained
  • 1 15-ounce can petite diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and garlic; sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 6 minutes. Mix in cumin and 1 teaspoon jalapeño. Add beans, tomatoes with juice, and broth; bring soup to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook until carrots are tender, about 15 minutes.

Transfer 3 cups of soup to blender and puree until smooth (or use immersion blender). Return puree to pot. Simmer soup until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and remaining 1 teaspoon jalapeño, if desired.

The week before Christmas, when life was spinning at twice its normal speed, I made a double batch of this and we ate it all week long. Several nights that week, when the hubs was working late, I heated up a mug or bowl of soup and ate it in front of the Christmas tree, staring into the twinkling branches, giving my brain a break and my body some nourishment.

It’s supposed to snow at least a foot and then get wicked cold again here in Boston this week. You can bet I’ll be making this soup at some point.

What are your go-to soup (or other cold-weather) recipes?

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katie green coat black ink

A couple of years ago, I read Barbara Brown Taylor’s gorgeous book An Altar in the World and was particularly struck by a question in the introduction: What is saving your life now? Since then, I have asked it of myself over and over again, as a kind of reset button for my life and also as a way of giving thanks.

Winter is always a tough season for me, especially in New England where the frigid temps and biting winds make it hard to get through the day sometimes. But this winter, I’ve been employing a few coping mechanisms that are saving my life. (At least until the next blizzard hits.)

yellow tulips desk

I bought myself two bunches of tulips this week: one for the kitchen table, one for my desk at work (above). They make me smile, and they’re having the same effect on my colleagues.

I finally went back to Monday night yoga, after an absence of several months. My favorite instructor’s face lit up when she saw me, and the familiar poses – cat/cow, pigeon, downward facing dog – felt like coming home.

While on the mat, I had a chance to enjoy the bright pink pedicure I got last Saturday. Catching up at the nail salon and then over brunch with my friend Kristin was a real treat – even if it was 16 degrees outside. (Hence another of my little lifesavers: fleece-lined tights.)

In the mornings, before work, I’m flipping on my light box – I’ve started carrying it into the bathroom so I can switch it on the moment I step out of the shower. I move it around the apartment as needed, so I can get as much extra light as possible. That extra hit of light, and my Vitamin D pills, make a real difference on gray days.

I am (it’s no secret) a dedicated tea drinker, and I always go on an Earl Grey kick in the winter. This month, I’m drinking the Earl Grey I bought in Montreal last year, out of my favorite cobalt blue mug, every morning.

I’m wearing cozy cardigans and dresses with my favorite green coat (pictured above), including a few new-to-me pieces culled from my sister’s closet over Christmas. Having a trendy – and generous – sister is such a bonus. (We’ve also been having long conversations via text message about Downton Abbey – she’s been catching up in preparation for the new season.)

Winter can be so isolating, but this year I am making a real effort to schedule coffee dates or excursions like the above brunch-and-pedicure date with Kristin. (It’s also on my winter list to invite people over for dinner – bowls of soup or spicy Mexican food.)

IMG_1521

During the workday, I’m making a real effort to slip away for some chai and writing when things get crazy. Even 20 minutes of scribbling can clear my head and make a real difference in my day.

I’m reading and watching all the good stories I can: Downton, Castle, the brand-new series Grantchester, the newest Flavia de Luce mystery, Lauren Winner’s latest book (out in March).

blue sky bare branches

Finally and always: I am soaking up every bit of blue sky, whenever I can get it – and rejoicing that it’s not quite dark when I leave work now.

What is saving your life this winter?

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katie memorial church green coat harvard yard

Last year, in the middle of my fourth Northeastern winter, I decided my one little word for 2014 would be light.

blue sky appian way

I chased that word through the dark, cold months – snapping photos of bold, blue winter skies (see above) and escaping to San Diego with the hubs when I couldn’t take it any more. We soaked in the sun for four glorious days, and I’m convinced it got me through the rest of the winter.

paris to die for beach book

As the days lengthened into spring and summer, I stopped pursuing my word quite so consciously – though it was always there when I looked for it again.

The autumn light in Harvard Square is particularly lovely, and I snapped dozens of photos this fall, trying to pay attention and soak up the clear golden days.

harvard yard autumn light leaves

During a hectic December, I confess I didn’t think about my word much – until I glanced out the window at work one afternoon and saw that the sun had finally come out after two grey, misty days in a row.

blue sky radcliffe yard

I didn’t hesitate. I threw on my green coat and headed outside, standing on the back steps of my building with my hands shoved deep into my pockets, soaking in the sunshine and the blue sky. I snapped the photo above, then simply stood there, head thrown back, letting the light flood over me.

I was out there for less than ten minutes, but it saved my entire day. And I realized: I’d been pursuing my word all along.

Every time I light a candle, every time I watch a sunset, every time I throw my head back and gaze at the sky, the light is there, waiting for me. I’m always seeking it out, snapping photos of it, watching how it highlights some things and throws others into shadow. I love what it does to faces, how it illuminates and reflects and beckons, how it’s never still, always changing. I did not do particularly well with the metaphorical aspects of my word this year, but the literal one, the visible one, is woven into my psyche.

I’m easing into 2015 with a new word, gentle (about which more soon). But I will continue to chase the light. If you’re looking for me on a sunny day this winter, there’s a good chance you’ll find me outside, soaking up any scrap of light I can find.

If you chose a word for 2014, how did it go? Or if you chose a word for 2015, how’s it going so far?

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