Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

Our experience with a CSA from Smolak Farms May 25, 2019

Filed under: Boston,Food,Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 10:03 pm
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Smolak Farms Crate

For years, I’ve heard about friends getting weekly fruits and vegetables from a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). It seemed pretty simple: you sign up with a local farm, and every week you get a crate full of fresh produce! We never signed up for one because we didn’t know of any ones that would be close enough to where we lived that had an easy pickup schedule.

Well, once we moved to our new house in the suburbs, we finally had an opportunity! Smolak Farms was just a few miles from our house. And we really needed to get more fruits and veggies in our diet.

We signed up for the “half share”, which is supposed to be enough for two people. But an additional add on available for this CSA was an ice cream CSA! If you followed me on twitter this summer, you probably heard me bragging about all the tasty flavors we picked up each week.


One of many delicious ice cream flavors: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip

As is typical with these farm shares, we got a variety of fruits and vegetables each week depending on what was in season at the farm. Early on there was an overabundance of summer squash and zucchini. As we entered fall, we got some winter squash like butternut squash, a blue Hubbard squash, some sugar pumpkins, and then lots of potatoes. We also got herbs occasionally (especially earlier on) and at least one bouquet of flowers.


Some sunflowers we got from the CSA!

Overall, I enjoyed doing the CSA. We got fresh produce (and delicious locally made ice cream!) every week. Sometimes it was a little tricky figuring out what to do with all of our food, but luckily we got an email every week listing what we’d get in our share, and they’d include a few recipes to try, especially with unusual vegetables. Over the summer, I ended up collecting a few go to recipes to handle that week’s harvest.

It was a little pricey, but seeing as you’re getting lots of fresh produce, and supporting a local farm, it still felt worth it. Picking up our share was a little tricky; the CSA season started right after I had baby #2 so at least for the first few weeks my husband was off on parental leave and could pick up, and he actually was still able to do pickup once he went back. There were two days you could pick up, but only certain hours, so he ended up going on his lunch break (and the few times he couldn’t, I ended up going on my lunch break).

We were able to make good use of most of the produce; because I was on leave for a few months, once I was recovered enough to stand for longer amounts of time I could experiment with new recipes.

Speaking of recipes, I started compiling my go-to recipes:

For cucumbers:  Thai Cucumber Salad

For lots of the vegetables (summer squash, zucchini, carrots, etc):  Pasta Primavera

For even more zucchini:  Chocolate Zucchini Banana Bread (I usually made a double batch, and also had to bake it a bit longer than indicated)

Chocolate Zucchini Banana Bread

One of many chocolate zucchini banana breads we enjoyed that summer

We signed up again this year for the half share of produce and full share (two pints a week!) of ice cream. Like I said, we found value in participating in this program, even if it was sometimes a little tricky finding ways to use up all the food in time!

Have you ever done a CSA or farm share? Do you have any favorite recipes you’d like to share?


Walk for Hunger: Because it’s not over yet April 9, 2015

Filed under: Boston,Fitness,Food — Stephanie @ 7:42 pm

CIMG0259 In less than a month, I’ll be joining thousands of others in walking 20 miles throughout Boston and neighboring cities for Walk For Hunger.  The Walk for Hunger is an annual fundraising event run by Project Bread to raise money and awareness to combat hunger.

This will be my 4th year participating in the Walk For Hunger. I’m happy to say that for the past 3 years, I’ve raised more and more money each year. I passed $1k my first year, $2k my second year, and raised over $3k my third year. I’d LOVE if we could raise over $4k this year, but we’re still a ways away.  I believe in this cause, and I love that this program allows me to help people gain access to healthy, nutritious food.

So, again this year, I’m asking for your donations.  Any amount you contribute can help!

As in years past, my blogging friend Joe Taxpayer has put forth challenge funds. This year his challenge is the same as last year: When we raise $1k, he’ll contribute $500, and when we reach $2k, he’ll contribute another $500. It’s a great added incentive to get everyone to donate!

How can your contribution help?  Below are just a few examples:

$25 Provides a nourishing hot meal for 15 people at a community supper program
$50  Helps a low-income family purchase $100 worth of fresh produce at a farmers’ market through double value coupons
$100  Provides grocery gift cards to low-income seniors.

The good news is, any donation, big or small, helps get healthy, nutritious food to those in need!  Even $5 or $10 makes an impact!

And if you donate, you can see if your employer will match your contribution.

Also, if you’re local, you can also help out by volunteering, either before, during, or after the Walk!

Or join me in walking!  You don’t have to walk all 20 miles if that’s too intense for you!  You can sign up as an individual walker or join a team (look to see if your company has a team!)

If you have any questions about how you can help, let me know!

Thanks for all your support!

[Edit:  For those of you wondering, we didn’t hit $4k this year, but we did raise $3016!  Thanks for all your support!]


Wedding: Accomplished! July 24, 2014

Filed under: Boston,Food — Stephanie @ 11:01 pm
Tags: , ,

We did it!  We got married!

Kiss!(photo credit: my new mother-in-law)

For those of you who follow me on twitter, you may have seen how stressed out and panicked I was getting the closer we got to the wedding day.  I was waking up to stomach aches EVERY morning for months.  It was making me literally sick!  I had so many worries!  Would everyone have fun?  Would everything look right?  Will guests be offended if I don’t make this the most personalized unique magical affair ever?

Well, the good news is, our wedding was AWESOME.  All that worrying for nothing 🙂


The Chapel!(Photo credit: Michael Cirelli Photography


The ceremony was beautiful.  We got married at the MIT Chapel (where my parents were married back in the day!).  That place is really cool inside (see above picture).  My older sister sang all of the music (she’s an amazing singer) and I only cried a tiny bit during the ceremony, when she hit the high note of a beautiful rendition of the Lord’s Prayer.

 Bowling!(Photo credit: Michael Cirelli Photography


The reception was at Sacco’s Bowl Haven and Flatbread Company (AKA Flatbread Somerville).  Yes.  Our wedding had candlepin bowling and flatbread pizzas.  Remember when I took my sister and brother-in-law to a bunch of our favorite local restaurants?  Well, Flatbreads is definitely one of our favorites, so when we inquired about hosting our reception there, and they said yes, we were overjoyed!

Besides the pizza and salads, we also had lots of delicious appetizers for the guests, and they could enjoy all of the tasty beers and cocktails that Flatbread offers.  And instead of a champagne toast (because, really, who needs a champagne toast?) we had a Bantam Cider toast!  Everyone got a champagne flute of Wunderkind to toast to us after my new brother-in-law gave a fun toast to us!

I loved how everyone at the reception interacted and met each other.  Our different friends from all different times in our life, our own extended families, all got to dance and bowl with each other!  So much fun!


The Cake!(Photo credit: Michael Cirelli Photography

We cut the cake, but decided not shove it into each other’s faces.  It was still insanely delicious!  (in case you were wondering, it was carrot cake from Modern Pastry in Boston.  Also, we bought way too much.  We still have that entire 8″ diameter top piece sitting in our freezer!  And had most of the 8″ diameter remaining underneath that we had to eat post-wedding, too).

The whole time, we got so many compliments from friends.  We were told this was the most fun/best/awesomest wedding ever.  I’d like to think so 🙂

After the reception was over, we headed back to the hotel to regroup, before we and a smaller group of guests went on a bar crawl.  Do you know how fun it is to go on a bar crawl in a wedding dress with your new husband?  It’s awesome.  Everyone congratulates you.  And you look super amazing.  We left the hotel bar, then  made stops at The Asgard, The Field, The People’s Republik, and ended the night at Dumpling House near Harvard Square.

It was a long day (setting my alarm before 6am, then my body deciding that 4:50am was a good time to wake up) but it was definitely one of the most fun and happy days of my life.  It was great to have all my family and friends there to share in our day, and I got to marry a pretty awesome guy.

So, what did I miss?  Any questions for this newly married lady?

For more photos, check out our photographer’s blog!


For those of you curious, here’s a list of the vendors we used to make our wedding a success.  We could have gone super DIY for this wedding, but I think all of these people were worth it!

Hair and Makeup:  My usual hairdresser from Mario’s Salon plus her two sisters (let me know if you want contact info for them)
Ceremony location:  MIT Chapel (must be MIT affiliate to use their chapel for weddings)
Transportation:  Shuttles from the MIT Parking office (for fellow MIT folks, they were the Saferide/Tech Shuttle buses!)
Reception (food and location):  Flatbread Company at Sacco’s Bowl Haven (AKA Flatbread Somerville)
Photographer:  Michael Cirelli Photography
DJ:  Chad Priest
Flowers:  Central Square Florist
Cake:  Modern Pastry
Invitations:  Digital rights to use Genevieve Santos“Clink” illustration and VistaPrint



Walk for Hunger: Nutrition is Important April 27, 2014

Filed under: Boston,Fitness,Food — Stephanie @ 5:11 pm
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The opposite of hungry isn't full, it's healthy

This is my third year doing the Walk for Hunger.  The first year, I raised over $1000.  The next year, I raised over $2000.  This year?  I’d love to hit $3000.

I know it’s an ambitious goal.  But I figure, as long as I keep getting donations (both small and large) I can hit this goal!

As of this posting, I have raised $2721.87.  With special thanks to everyone who donated, especially JoeTaxpayer for his Feed The People matching challenge: $500 when I raised $1000:  complete!  And another $500 when I hit $2000!  Also completed!

Wait.  If you’re new to the blog, you might be asking “What is the Walk for Hunger?”  GREAT QUESTION!

The Walk for Hunger is an annual fundraising event from Project Bread.  It’s a 20-mile walk beginning and ending in the Boston Common, weaving through Boston, Brookline, Newton, Watertown, and Cambridge before heading across the Harvard Bridge back to Boston.  The money raised from the Walk for Hunger goes on to fund many initiatives that feed the hungry with healthy and nutritious food!

This is a really important topic to me.  Besides personal finance, some other topics I care a lot about are STEM Education and Fitness.  When it comes to education, good nutrition is incredibly important.  Without enough good food, children’s brain development is hindered, they can’t concentrate on their schoolwork, and they are set up for all sorts of future problems.

And an important part of being physically fit is having the right nutrition!  You can’t stay in shape, maintain your muscle mass, or really be healthy if you don’t have the proper fuel!

So, how can you help?

There are lots of options!

*You can donate on my fundraising page (click the Donate To Stephanie link on that page) Thanks in advance for your support!

(you can also search for other people to donate to, or donate to the walk in general)

*You can sign up to walk!  It’s not too late!

*You can sign up to volunteer!  They need lots of people to help out along the 20-mile walk route!

*You can help spread the word about the Walk for Hunger!  Facebook, twitter, in-person!  This is an important issue we should be talking about!

If you have any questions about the Walk for Hunger, or want to share any fundraising ideas or your own insights on food insecurity and feeding our hungry neighbors, please leave a comment!


[Edit:  THANKS SO MUCH FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT!  This year, I raised $3,318.87!  AMAZING!]

Every $ Every Mile Makes a Difference


What I’m giving up for Lent: Making Excuses March 7, 2014

Filed under: Fitness,Food — Stephanie @ 10:22 pm
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That’s right.  I’m going to try my hardest to not make any more excuses when it comes to working out.  In fact, making excuses will be one of the things I’m giving up for Lent.

My excuses the past month or so were mostly that I was working longer hours at work, and since I usually hit the gym after work, there wasn’t much time to get to the gym before it closed.  Also, I’ve been sick a lot, which is something I’ve dealt with before as a barrier to working out.  My third excuse this past month has been that it’s CRAZY COLD out and there had been lots of snow on the sidewalks, so I’m not super keen on running outside.

But like I said…NO MORE EXCUSES!

This week was actually a pretty good workout week (3 times at the gym!), even though it’s been awhile since I’ve done much running.  I have been skiing a few weekends this year, which is a really good workout, but I’ve barely been running.  I came across this post recently from Shut up and Run about how quickly runners can lose their fitness, and it made my poor performance at December’s Winter Classic 5k (after not really working out much leading up to it) and my measly mileage during this week’s workouts make a lot more sense.  I didn’t have much stamina to keep up a run for a full 5k any of the times I ran this week.  Which is sad for me, since I worked so hard to get to that point.

So, now I’m back.  I know I’ve had this problem in the past.  And then I say, THIS IS IT, I PROMISE I’M BACK.  And then I disappear again (from the gym and from blogging).  Let’s see if I can keep with it.

One thing that helped me keep on top of fitness things was joining in challenges.  There were some a long time ago at work, and then some a little more recently through Lose It, and then the most recent challenge I joined in on was the Holiday Bootie Buster Challenge back in 2012.  So, it’s been awhile, and I have plenty of reasons to join in a challenge once again:

  • It gives me an added incentive to working out.  If I can earn points and maybe even prizes, then why not work out and eat right?
  • There’s a community aspect in challenges, where you can support and encourage (and compete against) others!  Share ideas, advice, and encouragement!
  • I want to ramp up my training so that I can PR in my upcoming 5k, and plan ahead to longer races.
  • I want to be in tip-top shape for this year’s Walk for Hunger (my third time!)
  • I’m getting married soon, and even though I’m not in the Bridezilla “must lose 30 pounds and tone every muscle” zone, I’d like to have decent looking arms in my sleeveless dress

These all sound like good reasons to me.  So, since I found the Holiday challenge to be very motivating, I’m joining in again for Run To The Finish‘s Spring Bootie Buster Challenge.  It’s similar to the challenge I joined in 2012, and includes lots of things that should help me get back on track and off the couch.  Emails with suggested workouts, motivation, and food ideas.  Some friendly competition.  Goals for exercising, eating fruits and veggies, and drinking plenty of water.  A good facebook/twitter community to join with others.

Spring Bootie Buster Challenge 2014

Spring Bootie Buster Challenge 2014

I also like that there are different competition levels, so you can join as a relative newbie to working out, or be one of those super extreme workout fanatics.  You’ll be put into different groups, so that you wont feel overwhelmed by the marathon runners if you’re more into yoga and a quick jog.  Fun fact, last time I was in this challenge, Amanda (the woman running the challenge) emailed me to see if I’d be interested in dropping down into a lower intensity group.  Which I could have taken as an insult, but chose to take it as an honest view of my capabilities.  So I gladly took her offer to drop me down into the less intense group.  It was a smart choice, and I was then competing against people in my actual fitness level peer group.

I actually signed up for this right away, since I was on the email list from the last time I did one of these challenges.  So I managed to sign up for only $10.  It seemed like a no-brainer to pay $10 for some motivation to get myself off the couch (and have a little skin in the game).  The price has since gone up to $17, which is not too much money.  I keep convincing myself it’s money well spent if it gets me doing some healthy things!

Disclosure that is not really a disclosure:  I’ve complained in the past with friends about when people post something on their blog or twitter and don’t disclose that they’re a) getting paid b) getting free stuff or c) otherwise somehow getting something out of it.  So here’s my story:  apparently if people sign up for the challenge and mention that I referred them, I get the chance to win a few prizes.  Which is nice, but I’m not hanging my hopes and dreams on winning referral prizes.  Just wanted to leave that all in the open for you.  I mostly wanted to share this challenge because it seems like a good idea and came about at the perfect time for me.

Will I win any prizes?  I don’t know.  Will I start doing better things for my body?  I think so.  The three goals (exercise, fruits/veggies, water) are all things I very much want to keep up with.  So hopefully this gets me going back in the right direction.  No more excuses!

What about you?  Have you figured out what keeps you motivated to work out and eat healthy?  Do you need the extra motivation that a challenge provides, or have you been able to keep going on sheer willpower and awesomeness?  Do you have a workout schedule all set up, or do you just wing it?


Updates and Link Love (powered by snacks, naps, and tired legs) July 13, 2013

Filed under: Boston,Food,Travel — Stephanie @ 10:11 am
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Inspired by many of you (especially NZ Muse, with her link loves powered by assorted things)

These past few weekends were awesome.  So I’m going to share about them.  And stay tuned to the end for some links to blog posts by other bloggers that I really enjoyed this week.

2 weekends ago, my sister and brother-in-law came to visit.  They haven’t visited in ages, so we packed the weekend with lots of food and fun!

Food:  Instead of taking them to the tourist traps (we considered them, but too pricey/overrated!), we took them to some of our favorite local restaurants.  I’ll share the list with you, but don’t all go there, or there will never be any room for me! 🙂

Tenoch Mexican, Delicious Mexican food (especially, in my opinion, their tortas and horchata)
Boston Burger Company (epic burgers with all sorts of awesome)
Trident Booksellers and Cafe (both times I’ve been there, I’ve gotten their Lemon Ricotta French Toast.  Also, they have Poutine!)
Flatbreads (you can’t go wrong with their salads, pizza, and beer (though we forgot to leave room for their desserts!))

Fun:  Friday was museum day:  Isabella Stewart Gardner museum AND the Museum of Fine Arts Boston!  We managed to get discounted prices by getting passes from the local library.  Quite a few of the libraries around here offer passes for free or discounted tickets to the area’s top tourist locations.  Definitely a deal.  Other discounts to try:  Your employer, AAA, or other memberships (especially teacher’s unions).  Walking throughout both museums definitely tired us out!

Saturday, we amped up our walking by touring Boston on foot.  Parked in Kenmore square, then walked down Commonwealth, Newbury, and Boylston all the way to Boston Public Garden, then through to Boston Common, where we started walking on the Freedom Trail.  We didn’t take an official tour, but followed the red brick/painted line all the way to Faneuil Hall and the Union Oyster House.  At that point, we decided it was time to head home.  But instead of taking the T back to Kenmore, we walked ALL THE WAY BACK!  This time crossing past City Hall, then going back through the Common and Garden, then taking the tree-lined (i.e. shaded) walkway on Commonwealth all the way back.

Yes, we tired ourselves out.

The following week included the 4th of July in Boston(we watched the awesome fireworks from Storrow Drive), then a drive up to Vermont for some relaxing.  Well, not JUST relaxing.  We also went for an early morning hike up (and down) Mt. Abraham (total time: 3hrs 36 minutes, which included a few stops along the way to enjoy the view), and then headed to the Farmer’s Market to walk around and enjoy some tasty food.  The rest of that weekend was really just lots of reading books and napping.  YES.

Speaking of books, I just finished reading Helaine Olen‘s book, Pound Foolish, about the dark side of the personal finance industry.  I’ll try to write up a review of that soon.  And I’m most of the way through Paddy Hirsch‘s Man vs. Markets.  I’ll review that as well once I’m done.

Oh, and if all that walking and hiking wasn’t enough, I’ve ramped back up my running.  So that might also cause some tired legs.  Though I have started wearing the ProCompression socks I got recently.  I’d heard good stuff about them, and compression gear in general, so I figured I’d buy a pair to try them out.  I tend to wear them after runs/to bed.  (and I wore them on the 4th of July, because the pair I got was so darn patriotic!) A few friends on twitter had asked what I thought of them, so here’s my short review:  it feels good to wear them after a run.  I don’t know if they’re actually helping with faster recovery as most compression gear is supposed to do.  But they do make my legs feel better.  (p.s. I bought them on sale, and apparently all their stuff is on sale for 40% off+ free shipping until August 4th using the coupon code JULY)

And now for the link love I promised.  Just two today, but I did read a lot of good stuff this week:

Krystal of Give Me Back My Five Bucks wrote about the latest idea discussed this week regarding paying for college.  The proposal:  Instead of taking out loans, you pay a percentage of your salary for the next 20-25 years after college.  Krystal touched on quite a few of the points I was thinking of, and the commenters have also made some really excellent points as well.  Check out her post!

I happened across a post from someone I hadn’t been following before, but I really liked it (and will now follow her :P) She wrote about how she’s gotten sick of the health and fitness “ambassador” programs.  If you’re unfamiliar with these programs, they’re basically blogging/social media networks that, at their core, are just groups of people interested in health and fitness.  But many of these programs connect with brands, and then the bloggers are given free stuff in exchange for tweeting/facebooking/blogging about the brands or products.  And so Carly wrote about how she wont be involved in any of this branded speech from now on.  I agree with her on many points.  As I’ve mentioned before, I love free stuff as much as the next person, and will review things that I like (and even some stuff that I’ve even gotten for free!), but I want to be open and honest and not have to conform to a brand’s marketing plan.  I tweet about brands I genuinely love, and review books I’ve read and products I’ve tried.  I have reviewed things in the past that I’ve experienced for free, but have always disclosed it, and I hope you never would think I’m trying to market anything to you.  I like sharing my opinions on things, so hopefully you enjoy reading them and know that they’re completely honest!  Please let me know if you ever think I’m not keeping up with this standard!

Well, that’s over 1000 words in one not-so-short update.  I guess I had a lot to say.  Maybe I should try to update more often, eh?

So, have you recently been a tourist in your own town?  Do you only check out the sites when tourists are visiting?  Have you tried any of the restaurants I mentioned?  Do you have another favorite restaurant to add to the list?

Read any good books lately?  Found any awesome links you’d like to share?

What do you think of Krystal and Carly’s posts?  Agree or disagree with their stance?

Don’t worry, more blog posts coming soon, including more of the Graduate’s Guide to Being a Grownup series, some book reviews, and plenty more.  I’m still blogging!


Walk for Hunger: 20 miles of Boston April 28, 2013

Filed under: Boston,Fitness,Food — Stephanie @ 11:04 pm
Tags: ,

Let me start out by saying, I wasn’t quite sure how to write a new blog post.  Do I ignore the terrible events that happened in Boston?  Or go into a long post about it?  The whole Boston Marathon tragedy is nothing to ignore.  It is sad, upsetting, and confusing.  And the plant explosion in Texas was also terrible.  I realized the best way to process these sad events is to acknowledge them, remind you that there are plenty of ways to help, through donations: (The One Fund Boston, Officer 179 fund, and others for Boston, and Various West, Texas charities), and continue with blogging.

And so, I embrace the mantra, Boston Strong.  Because I will be walking with thousands of others in Boston for a great cause.

As Ellen Parker (Project Bread’s executive director) said in a special letter sent out a few days ago, “This year, Project Bread faces a unique and unprecedented challenge. On Sunday, May 5, 2013, The Walk for Hunger will be the first large outdoor public gathering in the city since the tragic events at the Boston Marathon.”

So we will all be careful, and watching, but we will not allow the tragedy to stop us from participating in this event .  We will not be terrorized.

Sign:  The Walk for Hunger is the oldest continual pledge walk in the country
A week from today, I will be joining thousands of others in a 20-mile walk starting and ending in Boston, winding around many of the nearby towns.  Last year was my first year doing The Walk, and I found it to be a rewarding and inspiring experience.  I walked all 20 miles, and raised $1,215.50!  Super excited that this year, I’ve already raised (at last count) $1,526!  And I still have a week left!  Very grateful to all my supporters so far, especially Joe Taxpayer for his generous $250 match!  My newest fundraising goal is now set at $1800.

Sign:  MA has one of the greatest income gaps in the nation

I’ll admit, I’m posting this blog post in part to ask for donations.  Any amount helps, even $5 or $10, but Project Bread sent out some facts about how donations can help:

$25 provides a hot meal for 40 individuals at a supper program.
$50 helps a family on SNAP purchase twice that amount in fresh produce at a farmers’ market.
$75 subsidizes CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares for one week for ten families.
$100 provides food vouchers to five senior households.
$500 helps support a healthy summer food program for low-income children.
$1,000 helps create innovative farm-to-table programs that give low-income families a hand up and that also strengthen the community.

Sign:  Hunger is a SOLVABLE problem

It’s not too late to help!  You can still sign up to walk or volunteer.  You can donate to me or anyone else.  You can find out if your donation will be matched by your employer.

Thank you again to everyone who has donated so far!  And thank you in advance to anyone who joins in to walk, volunteer, or donate!  Are you participating?


Free stuff: sometimes terrible, sometimes awesome! March 24, 2013

Filed under: Food,Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 2:24 pm
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I know what you’re thinking:  How can free stuff ever be terrible?

There are a few cases of terrible free stuff.  Like the leftovers from meetings held near our offices.  Sometimes they’re great, like yogurt or a fruit cup.  And sometimes they’re delicious, but dreadfully bad for me, like the brownies and cookies I’ve gotten at plenty of meetings.  Blogger friend Budget or Fudget had a similar issue of being surrounded by free but unhealthy food from meetings or coworkers.  She had to remind herself that healthy is better than free.  And once we apparently got to the leftover sandwiches a bit too late, and ended up with food poisoning.  Even the most delicious things can be trouble!

And last week, someone had a lunch meeting, and a few of us hovered around the conference room waiting for leftover Bertucci’s.  And I was among them. And then I ate an entire meal and then some of food.  After I already ate lunch.  FAIL.  And then the next day was Pi Day so our admin brought in two pies for us.  And I ended up trying both of them.  Double FAIL.

Then there’s the other freebies.  I’m still a sucker for free stuff, so I’ll often register for the free samples that are aggregated on sites like AllYou, or mentioned on other blogs.  This usually results in me wasting time chasing stuff I don’t need, and then having no good place to put the stuff.  I’ve also joined in on BzzAgent and Influenster, sites that give you free or discounted stuff and encourage you to share your experiences with others.  Sometimes the free stuff is great, but then you feel weird about mentioning the products in casual conversation.  (If you’re interested in either of those sites, I can invite you!  Or you can probably just sign up on your own.  Keeping in mind what I just mentioned…)

I also try to enter giveaways hosted on other blogs.  I’m super glad to have won a few in the past.  But I’ve started to get a lot more selective with entering giveaways.  I don’t need to waste time going to sites to try to win things I don’t even need!  I’ve narrowed it down to only entering contests for blogs I read (or find out about on twitter), and then only for products that actually apply to me.

I definitely don’t mind doing reviews for websites once I’ve had a chance to try them out for a while.  This has been the case with many financial websites I’ve reviewed in the past.  And I wouldn’t mind reviewing fitness gear (shoes, clothes, electronics, etc.) or other experiences (I’ve done two fitness experiences reviews so far).  But I only want to share stuff that I think friends/readers would actually be interested in.  Either way, I’ll always be upfront about what I got for free, or how I came across the item or opportunity.  But you know that already!

Regardless, I need to become more selective on what “free” stuff I get.  I don’t need the extra calories from the unhealthy snacks, or the stress of finding a good way to naturally discuss a product that isn’t related to my interests, or the clutter from all the extra “stuff” I don’t need.

How are you when it comes to “free” stuff?  Is your cabinet cluttered with stuff you don’t need?  Do you find yourself browsing the “seagull table” (as we call it at work…all us seagulls hovering around for scraps)?  Have you gotten a bit of a reputation (like I have) of being the first at the table for free food?  Do you spend hours entering giveaways?  Or are you able to resist?  How do you convince yourself to stay away from those tasty treats coworkers offer up?  How do you weigh the cost (in time, calories, space) versus the benefit of getting something for free?


And the Snow Kept On Falling February 13, 2013

Filed under: Boston,Food — Stephanie @ 10:59 pm
Tags: , ,

That’s the repeated line from a favorite book from when I was little:  “The Snow Kept On Falling“.  Growing up in Buffalo, NY, we got quite used to all the lake effect snow that would pile up every winter…and long into spring.

So, I should be used to snow by now, right?

I got ready Thursday night the way I knew I should.  I fueled up my car.  Then I headed to the grocery store for some last minute groceries. We already had bread and milk, so I only needed to pick up eggs to fulfill the French Toast Alert that people go crazy for leading up to a big storm.  It was a good thing we already had bread.  The shelves at my local grocery store were pretty picked over!

Bread shelves the night before Winter Storm Nemo

I also picked up plenty of fruits and veggies so that we could stay healthy during the storm!

Friday morning, I woke up to NO SNOW.  Was this weather forecast a joke?  I knew it was coming, but it felt a little weird to have preemptively planned to stay home.  See, most days, I have no choice but to go to work.  I work in a lab, and it’s not possible to work from home.  But our boss said it was fine to work from home due to the storm, and I just happened to have some reports to work on and some online training to take, so I was able to put in my time without having to brave the storm.

Not too long into the day, it became obvious that staying home was the right choice.  By the time the driving ban kicked in at 4pm, the roads near my house had plenty of snow.

And as they said in the book:  “The snow kept on falling…”

We kept busy the rest of the weekend watching some more movies.  I caught the Die Hard 2 (to follow on from the first one last week) as well as Short Circuit (NO DISASSEMBLE!)  I had always meant to see Short Circuit, because a coworker at one of my internships used to quote it to me (mostly because the female lead’s name is Stephanie and the robot in the movie keeps saying her name).

We played some video games, and a few rounds of Dominion (what can we say, we’re nerds).

Saturday morning I also went out to shovel some of the front walk (to get in a little exercise) and get a measurement of the snowfall.  The snow hadn’t stopped falling yet, but I wanted to get an idea.  As of Saturday morning, we had at least 22″ of snow:

Snow in Medford during Nemo

I baked some double-chocolate cookies.  I had to figure out what recipe to make using those so very precious eggs I bought.  I ended up using the old reliable Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe, but with one minor alteration.  I replaced 1/4 cup of flour with 1/4 cup of cocoa powder.  For a little extra chocolate kick.  I think they tasted good.  Especially warm out of the oven.  Or reheated for a few seconds in the microwave.  Mmm melty chocolate goodness.

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

By Saturday afternoon, the snow had stopped, and most of the neighborhood was out shoveling their driveways and sidewalks.

Sunday morning, I woke to find out Mass at the church I usually go to had been cancelled.  Between that and the announcement from the Boston Archdiocese saying that we don’t have to go to church due to the storm, I guess I should have stayed home.  But some other friends who I usually go to church with invited me to meet up with them at a church less than 2 miles away.  So I figured:  why not walk there?  No need to dig out my car or try to park near the church.  And a walk would be good for my lazy bones.

Well, easier said than done.  It turns out not everyone had gotten around to shoveling the sidewalks in front of their house (even though it’s the law!)  And some people HAD shoveled their sidewalk, but they lived on the corner and so there was no way to get out except to either climb over the snow bank or double back and walk into the street.  So I got in quite a workout trying to navigate the sidewalks and streets of Medford while trying to avoid stepping in puddles or getting splashed by cars (since the snow had started to melt.).

The last bit of snow-related drama for the day was when my boyfriend and I went out to dig our cars out.  We had to dig through 3+ feet of snow just to get from the plowed area of the street to the cars themselves.  Then dig a foot or more of snow off the car.  I am so incredibly thankful to my boyfriend for doing the majority of the shoveling that night to get my car out of the snow piles.

Well, how did you fare during the Blizzard of 2013?  Were you prepared?  Did you find yourself Minding Nemo? How did you prevent yourself from going stir crazy?  Or getting cabin fever?


Soup-er Bowl weekend! February 6, 2013

Filed under: Boston,Fitness,Food — Stephanie @ 9:46 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I realized that quite a few of my highlights for the weekend revolved around food.  There’s nothing wrong with that, right?

Well, let’s get going on this Soup-er Bowl weekend, then, shall we?


Might as well kick off this Super Bowl weekend with some super soup, right?  My boyfriend made a nice big batch of Butternut Squash soup (using a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook).  It’s a fan favorite, as we discovered when we hosted a party with multiple soups back at our housewarming a year and a half ago.  And it’s such a great soup for those times where you just want to curl up on the couch.

Which is what we did.  After seeing an ad for yet another installment of the Die Hard franchise (opening on February 14th, what a romantic Valentine’s Day!), I admitted to my boyfriend that I’d never seen ANY of the movies.  So we settled down to watch the first Die Hard movie.  Yippee-ki-yay!  Can I just say, Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman look like babies in that movie?!


The big event for Saturday was the MIT Club of Boston Annual Ice Skating Party. I look forward to this event every year.  It’s usually very well attended by fellow MIT students and Alumni.  We get the ice rink at the Johnson Athletic Center on campus for an hour with help from the MIT Figure Skating Club, plus we can stick around for the free-skate afterward.  We got in 1.5-2 hours of skating!  Lots of fun.

Check out the evidence of fun below.  I’m the girl in the brown fleece (you can see my new haircut from last weekend).  My friend Jeff is in red, and my boyfriend Aaron is the one in the navy sweatshirt and awesome hat.  This is just one of many photos taken by a fellow MIT Alum Clinton Blackburn.  You can see some more pictures from the event at his website.



Headed to morning Mass with one of my good friends.  Especially enjoyed hearing the Second Reading, the very well-known “Love is Patient, Love is Kind…” reading.

Then I had some baking to do.  I was headed to a Super Bowl party later, and I had promised to bring some dessert.  So, with an insane number of very ripe bananas tucked away in our freezer, I knew it was time to make banana bread.  Two batches.  And even though a few of my twitter/blog friends disagreed on my decision to add chocolate chips to the mix, I ended up making 2 dozen chocolate chip banana muffins (plus 14 mini muffins…I had a lot of batter to use!)  I used the recipe for the batter from the same ATK Family Cookbook we got the soup recipe from.  They have an option for adding chocolate to the bread, where you add slightly less sugar (by 2 Tbsp) then add a heaping half cup of grated bittersweet chocolate to the dry ingredients.  In my case I used a half cup of semisweet chocolate morsels.  As for the baking time, I had to adjust it for a different pan (they recommend a loaf pan) so I baked the mini muffins for 15-20 minutes and the regular sized muffins for 25-30 minutes.

The results:

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

And I wasn’t kidding about a Soup-er Bowl!  My friend Jeff (the guy in red at the skating party) has hosted a Soup-er Bowl party for watching the Super Bowl for the past few years.  He serves up delicious home-made soups that always impress me.  This time we enjoyed a hearty chicken noodle soup.  So delicious!

Oh yeah, and I guess there was a football game?  And a power outage at the game?  I guess that happened, too.

What was your favorite part of this weekend?  Did you watch the Super Bowl (or the ads)?  Stuff yourself with snacks (and then recoup the next day)?  What are your favorite recipes to share with family and friends?


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