Resolved

December 31, 2008 at 10:53 am | Posted in gastronomy, running, wine, yoga | 4 Comments

new-years-poster

Poster by Sarah Gardner, blatantly lifted from Elements of Style.

I love New Year’s Resolutions. The list-lover in me just loooooves seeing (in my minuscule handwriting) the rows and columns of things I am going to self-improve each year. These resolutions (which I truly, and rather dorkily, write down) energize me, as well as get me through the first few weeks of inevitable post-holiday, Northeastern winter depression.  Most of the time my resolutions revolve around the same theme: do more yoga, meditate, spend less, be kind. Sometimes they are vague sentiments along the lines of “be healthy”; other times they are more draconian: no caffeine, dairy, alcohol; run four times a week; keep a little notebook in my bag and record how much I spend every day, etc. You can guess how long those latter ones last — but as I said, it’s inspiring for at least a little while to try to achieve a personal goal. And for a type-A personality like me, the more precise, and the more difficult, the better. (It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in my tendency to go overboard with resolutions — one of my favorite bloggers, Erin, has a similar post today.)

At the risk of revealing my neuroses to the world, but in the hopes that by divulging them I’ll hold myself somewhat accountable, here are my challenges/goals for 2009:

1. MUCH Less Drinking in January. Tim and I are in this one together. According to him, the Irish always go dry in January. The holidays push them over the edge, and they take January off before plunging back for the rest of the year. We’re focused on the big picture here, which is cutting back and/or eliminating the nightly glass/bottle of wine (especially after Dr. French Fry informed us — picking up her hefty pathology or hemotology or something book for intellectual backup — that one’s liver regenerates after a few weeks of clean living) than total abstention. (NB: if we win the lottery or sell the Milton place, we can drink as much as we want.)

2. No New Shoes in 2009. Don’t laugh! I spend way too much money on shoes. By this point, I should have enough pairs of three-figure shoes to get me through one year. Exception: running shoes. I’ve found that in general, extremes — e.g., a flat-out “No” to anything — don’t really work for me, but this is one place where I do think a total ban is warranted!

3. Run. Specifically, to inaugurate the Saturday-morning running club with Ellen and Nell, our goal being to run the Great Bay Half Marathon again the first week in April.

4. Cook More (a/k/a Eat Out Less). This is a challenging but necessary one. Not only do I like cooking (although am sorely out of practice), but the $35 or so we regularly spend on mediocre take-out from Charley’s or pizza (albeit delicious pizza from Bostone on Newbury, but ultimately way too pricey and unhealthy for a weeknight staple) seems like something we can easily cut out of our budget. Along these lines, I’d like to start having people over for dinners more on weekends. The quality of conversation and fun is just as good and, most of the time, even better at someone’s home (plus, you’re not shelling out another $100 on top of dinner for a sitter). To all my friends: bring some wine (even your kids if you have them!) and I shall feed you all year long.

5. Eat Healthy — a big, catch-all category. I feel better when I eat less/no meat. It is difficult to cook two meals a night (one for your meat-loving husband, and one for yourself), but I’m going to try to get back to my vegetarian diet. Along those lines, I also feel better when I don’t have dairy,either, but because I find the mere thought of a lunch or dinner without cheese to be truly depressing, instead of banning dairy entirely, I’ll have to compromise by at least trying to think about how to cut back without feeling deprived (and sad).

6. Be Neater (a/k/a Pick Up After Myself). I’m clean — you will not see a speck of dirt in my home — but I am not “neat.” I throw my coat over the dining room chair when I get home, kick my shoes off in the middle of the hall, toss my clothes (unfolded) on the end of the bed, leave the kitchen cabinet doors open. It drives Tim absolutely crazy. And then every once in awhile, I’ll get neurotic and go on a cleaning binge (my college roommates will tell you it happened more often than not after a particularly long night out…). Again in the spirit of moderation, I’d like to keep an even keel: less daily mess, fewer cleaning frenzies. I happened upon a quirky website run by someone called The Fly Lady about keeping one’s home neat and tidy. It is aimed at women who don’t work out side the home (do you love how p.c. that phrase is?) and encourages you to set aside days of the week for different chores: Monday is ironing day; Tuesday is bathroom cleaning day, etc. (kind of like “Little House on the Prairie”). However, there is one trick I think I can manage: setting a timer for 15 minutes (the Fly Lady’s mantra is “You can do anything for 15 minutes!”) and just clearing out certain areas of the house each night, e.g., the entry way, the bathroom, the kitchen. Spending 15 minutes cleaning when I get home from work is of course the last thing I want to do, but for the sake of my husband’s sanity, I will attempt to keep my belongings from straying all over the house.

7. YOGA. This is the most important and the most difficult — I’m not sure how I’ll accomplish this, but even going once a week regularly would be a good start. (To that end, I hauled myself out of bed and went to Prana at 6:15 this morning. It was a miserable class — I felt so stiff and out of shape I quite literally felt the tears coming to my eyes — but little steps, little steps…)

The perfectionist in me really yearns to frame all this dramatically for a hit of instant gratification — something along the lines of: “I will lose 15 pounds by running four times a week to train for the half marathon; lifting three times a week; doing yoga three times a week; eating a vegan macrobiotic diet; not spending any money; and having an immaculate house.” Honestly, I truly, truly wish I could be so disciplined. At the same time, I long to live life more clearly, cleanly, lightly in the sense that these little things don’t really matter. (Lindsey describes this inner longing much more articulately, here.) However, the older, wiser me will also attempt, in 2009, to start caring about myself a bit more, accepting my love of wine and cheese and shoes and impulsive behavior not so much as flaws but as actions that I may (or may not) want to moderate a bit. Feel free to check in.

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Scorpion pose. (Also blatantly lifted from Erin’s site — but what a fabulous bit of inspiration!)

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Crock Pot Cooking*

December 30, 2008 at 9:28 am | Posted in gastronomy, weekend | 4 Comments

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About this time last year I made Tim go to Target and get me a Crock Pot/slow cooker. It was finally, truly winter — wet and cold every day — and I had started my internship, and I thought it would be all warm and homey to have the slow cooker simmering away while I was at work. However, at the time, I couldn’t really find any recipes that weren’t heavily meat-based and didn’t require some sort of pre-browning of said meat in the first place. Maybe I had an unattainable ideal for the slow cooker, but, in any event, the Crock Pot never found its way out of its packaging or off the top shelf in the kitchen.

This past Sunday I wanted to make chili. I wanted it to simmer on the stove all day without too much attention, and instead of bemoaning my lack of a Creuset or other heavy-bottomed pot, I was inspired to break out the Crock Pot. I browned some turkey and onions in a skillet and added them to the Crock Pot with chick peas, tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, and various spices, including unsweetened cocoa powder, cinnamon, cumin, oregano and, of course, chili powder. (The recipe was from Epicurious, here.) It was a bit too watery (the recipe called for stock/broth, which I’ll leave out next time; I’ll also switch out the tomato sauce for tomato paste), and it also lacked a certain kick. Jalapenos? Tabasco? I know people sometimes also use beer, but it would seem to me you’d need a regular pot so as to boil it off some. The result was certainly good, but not to-die-for, second-helping chili, like my friend Ellen’s (who is the true impetus behind the chili — ever since she made big pots of it for a Missouri football game party a few weeks ago, Tim has been bugging/begging me to make some), or my mom’s.

Anyway, the outcome of the chili aside, the Crock Pot didn’t make things noticeably more simple than just cooking chili in a regular pot (I still had to brown things, stir it occasionally). I suppose that, had it been a work day, because the temperature is lower, I could have started it in the morning and left it unattended all day (but with chili, half the fun is having it smell good on the stove all day, which is why I suppose it’s a perfect Sunday meal). So, in the end, I guess I’m rather unimpressed. Does anyone have any miraculous crock-pot recipes? My friend Katie swears she made a Beef Bourguignon in a Crock Pot once — but that seems a bit beyond my reach, since I’ve never even made a normal Beef Bourguignon.

*Does anyone remember “Good Morning Vietnam” when Robin Williams is talking about how hot it is, hot enough for some crotch-pot cooking? Every time I say the phrase “crock pot” I think of this scene, which my friend Colby and I used to find hilarious enough to go around quoting (probably terribly inaccurately).

Merry Christmas

December 29, 2008 at 1:33 pm | Posted in little bug, NYC | Leave a comment
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We’re back from a whirlwind week in NJ, which started with us deciding about noon on a snowy Sunday to take a 4 p.m. Acela to Newark instead of making the drive. Which meant not only a quick turnaround in terms of dinner-party clean-up and packing, but also that a majority of our Christmas loot — including the primo Santa gift, a toy kitchen for the Little Bug — would have to be left behind, as we couldn’t carry it on the train. I’m not sure which is worse: five (or perhaps more) hours with a whining child in the car (but a child who might ultimately be lulled to sleep by the drive) or four hours of walking that child up and down, up and down the cafe car of the train. Fortunately, Tim and I could spell each other, but this child will not sit still for a moment. It was exhausting!

I worked from our New York office early in the Christmas week. Our offices are located just a block from Rockefeller Center. My father worked at 30 Rock, so the tree has a bit of a sentimental place in my Christmas memories.

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And, as it turns out, Santa was flexible this year, substituting a loud, clanky piano and a doll for the kitchen.*

And the rest of the week was spent snuggling and relaxing. Actually, poor Little Bug is a bit disoriented now that we’re back in Boston, away from all her peeps. She likes to list off her posse: “Mimi!” (my mom); “HANK!” (said always at a yell, as Henry is a bit deaf and my mom is always yelling his name when she says it, something the baby clearly has picked up on!); “Kaffy!” (Aunt Kathy); “Ahnie” (Aunt Erin, I suppose), “Uncle” (whichever uncle is around, but she is particularly enamored of Uncle Davin; “Enny” (Aunt Jenny). Last night I went into kiss her good night for about the fifth time and she was standing up in her crib going, “Mimi? HANK! Mimi? HANK!! Ahnie?” Like, “Where are you guys?!”

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Anyway, more on Christmas a bit later. I’m working today and tomorrow, with Little Bug down in the backup day care, as our babysitter is away through the end of next week (yes, more day care scrambling to come!) It’s nice — busy, but not too busy. And very, very quiet, with most people on my floor out for this week. All in all, we had a wonderful Christmas at my mother’s, which has made me reflective about a lot of things that I need to mull around in my head some more before I write about them (if ever). I love New Year’s and New Year’s resolutions — I like goals and challenges and planning them out, even if ultimately they fade with time. And today is our anniversary, nicely tucked in between the holidays, when the Christmas lights and the festive atmosphere linger enough to make the day seem more special than it might already be. I can easily and honestly say that these have been the most genuinely happy two years of my life.

*The play kitchen has morphed into a sort of New Year’s present, I suppose; and, in retrospect, thank goodness we didn’t start to put it together on Christmas Eve after a few glasses/bottles of wine. That thing is extraordinarily complicated with about 339 screws and 12 “pre-steps” before the 16 regular steps in its assembly. We spent a few hours on it yesterday while Little Buggy was napping and then gave up. Will file that away in Santa lessons learned…

Dinner party update

December 22, 2008 at 10:46 am | Posted in gastronomy, weekend, wine | Leave a comment

Thanks to everyone who helped me with my dinner party menu. Here’s how things turned out: I went with the lamb from Barefoot Contessa at Home, which had this amazing-smelling rosemary rub. I was to buy a 6 lb. boneless leg of lamb (for 10 people), but the store only had 4 lb. legs, so I supplemented with a smaller 2 lb. half leg. Silly non-meat cooking me, I still timed the cooking for a 6 lb. lamb, which meant that in the end, the smaller piece was too well done to eat, and the larger piece was more done than I would have liked. The potatoes on which the lamb in all its rosemary-ness roasted were divine, however. I also made the BC’s wilted spinach recipe, but would not do so again — a bit too watery and cold by the time it got to the table. Next time will add some fennel or something in with the potatoes and call it a day. Overall, however ,the recipe was far easier than I had expected and perfect for a dinner party because there is almost no prep work; by the time your guests arrive, the lamb is already in the oven smelling wonderful.

We were to have four couples and I was sort of stressing about how to serve dinner buffet style, but the one couple who was driving up from Marion got on 495, drove 2 miles in 20 minutes, and turned around (it was still snowing, so quite understandable). The only upside of that was that I was able to seat people at the table, which looked beautiful. I took a picture of it, but not on my camera phone, so I’ll post it here when I finally get it uploaded. Anyway, one bottle of Prosecco, a case of beer, one bottle of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc, and six bottles of Saint Cosme Cote-du-Rhone (one of my favorites — I highly recommend it, especially with lamb), everyone was quite happy! And now I am inspired to do it again — stay tuned for my next culinary adventure.

Winter dinner

December 22, 2008 at 9:36 am | Posted in weekend, wine | Leave a comment

winter-dinner

I am very lucky in that some of my closest friends from college live here in Boston. I have followed them through motherhood, through law school (literally — I probably would never have applied to law school nor gone to BC if Margo had not shown me I could actualy do it!), and many many ups and downs. It is, however, almost impossible for us to align our schedules so as to see each other regularly. So there was no way that we were going to let a near-blizzard cancel a long-planned dinner this past Friday night. We merely switched the venue to a place accessible to the red, green, and orange lines, bundled up (Lindsey quite literally arrived in ski pants), and had the most wonderful time.

My walk home from dinner, warmed from some red wine, took me down Comm. Ave., breathtakingly beautiful at Christmastime, in the snow.

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Blogroll addition: mmmmm

December 17, 2008 at 3:17 pm | Posted in gastronomy, tax law is sexy, weekend | 6 Comments
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Mark Bittman in his tiny kitchen. His appliances, however, are still nicer than mine!

This is the time of year when I want to cook. I want a Kitchen Aid mixer on permanent standby on my counter for cookies (see this great article in today’s Times about the perfect temperature for butter. I suppose Kara and my habit of tossing the butter in the microwave before making cookies or fruit crisps is not all that great for the final product); I want an orange Creuset dutch oven permanently bubbling with stew on the stove top. (Alas, my tiny city kitchen is big enough for neither — I can’t even store them as the cabinets are too narrow, the counter space too scarce! Although Mark Bittman’s recent article on his own tiny kitchen has quelled my whining, somewhat — I’ll just pretend I’m in Paris, no? Where people make five course meals on two burners?) 

Somehow I have found myself throwing a dinner party for 10 (four couples who are “Tim’s” friends, graciously trekking in from the ‘burbs…) this Saturday and am currently obsessed with the menu. I’m not a big meat eater nor, as a consequence, cooker, so while the Barefoot Contessa’s leg of lamb on potatoes (throw it in the oven for two hours with some rosemary) seems easy, it also calls for a meat thermometer, which kind of scares me. Several friends have recommended a pork tenderloin, which I’m not sure I’ve ever even eaten (so how could I cook it?) Risotto is always a good standby for me — the proscuitto and the butternut squash in the recipe I’m contemplating might be an acceptable replacement for real “meat,” but will it be enough for my meat-loving husband and his friends? And can one really pull off risotto for 10? So here are my two menu options for now (in both cases, dessert will be mini cupcakes ordered from Sweet Cupcakes, just down the street):

Menu 1:
Smoked salmon & black bread
Shrimp cocktail (the seafood in lieu of a real meat main course)
Butternut squash risotto
Roasted tomatoes
Wilted spinach with lemon
Cheese plate

Menu 2:
D’Avignon cheese with fig spread and rosemary crackers
Endive with caramelized onion spread
Rosemary leg of lamb on potatoes
Roasted tomatoes and/or wilted spinach with lemon

Fortunately, to help me through my dinner party crisis, I have found a new blog for my Google reader — “Three Clever Sisters.” Of course, I have a soft spot for families of three sisters.  These three not only knit and crochet amazing things, but are also quite formidable amateur cooks. And since I know for a hard fact that one is a tax lawyer with a baby, I feel a new resolve to reignite my former recipe obsession.

Also, Three-L and Fortune’s Feast have merged into a new blog by another lawyer-cook, here at Letters to a Young Attorney, a brilliant and poignant idea for a blog.

Anyway, any and all comments are most welcome!

The Nutcracker (corporate style)

December 16, 2008 at 3:01 pm | Posted in little bug, music, the firm | 1 Comment
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The owner of my very large office building treated his tenants to a production of The Nutcracker at lunchtime today, featuring actual dancers from the Boston Ballet.  The fountain was shut off in the lobby of the building and a giant stage erected in its place.  A live pianist accompanied the dancers, and though the performance was only about 40 minutes long, it featured the highlights: the Snow King and Queen, the Marzipan dancers (above), and the finale with the stiff dolls and the giant bear (see below). I called Janet and told her to walk down with Little Buggy, who, as I expected, was mesmerized! She clapped and said “Yaaaay!” and bounced up and down and wanted to jump up and dance.

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Of course, her face-to-face meeting with the giant bear (below) was the highlight (yes, that’s her — you can tell by the bow on the upper right side of her head). I thought she was going to lose her mind.

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Weekend: Countdown to Christmas

December 13, 2008 at 5:10 pm | Posted in little bug, Massholes, running, tax law is sexy, the firm, weekend | Leave a comment
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It’s 5 p.m. on a bitterly cold, dark Saturday, and I am at work. (This is in part because our data servers and email shut down yesterday due to an ice storm somewhere west of here, and in part because by Monday I am to write a memo on the tax consequences of a certain form of partnership distribution, about which I have absolutely not one iota of prior knowledge or understanding. It’s taking awhile.) The baby is home, sick. Therefore, I have to bow out of a holiday party to which I’d been looking forward for weeks, ever since I got the beautiful invitation, and whose hostess, Kristen, is one of the best cooks and entertainers I know. My mouth is watering as I think about all the treats I’ll be missing. But what can you do — what if Little Buggy is crying and needs me and I’m not there?

Still, the day is not lost:  I convinced Tim to get a tree (even though we’ll be gone for a week at Christmas), which is being decorated even as I write (love the tree: hate to decorate it…always have). And we’ll have a fire tonight.

And sometimes when you walk around your neighborhood doing errands on a bitterly cold Saturday, you can see this:

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I mean, I just have no idea. But since this “race” seemed to begin and end at the Pour House on Boylston, I imagine these people were fortified with a bit of liquid courage. (Kind of like Nude Olympics, no? Except a bit less nude, i.e., we were much tougher. Or drunker.)

It’s official

December 12, 2008 at 9:24 am | Posted in little bug, tax law is sexy | 2 Comments
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I was sworn in yesterday and so can now dispense legal advice and be sued for it. The swearing in ceremony was actually lovely. It was in Faneuil Hall, and it was an official session of the court, meaning we had to “all rise” when the justice of the Supreme Judicial Court (Massachusetts’ highest court) walked in. We took oaths of allegiance to the Massachusetts constitution, the U.S. constitution, and took a lawyers’ oath that dated from 1638 (or something like that) in which we pledged not to accept any “filthy lucre.”

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Chief clerk Maura Doyle — who, as anyone who attended the ceremony knows, is kind of a hoot — standing in front of a huge painting depicting John Adams debating Daniel Webster.

As you can see, I was sitting in the front row for the ceremony. They ask you ahead of time if you will be bringing small children, and if you answer yes, you get to sit up front so that you can be the first ones to sign your name in the ledger and accept your license and then to leave. This was a good thing, since my child was the one howling up in the balcony, and it was my child you could hear yelling, “Dada! Dada! Up! Up! Noooo!” through the doors even after Tim took her out to the hallway, where  apparently the two of them spent most of the ceremony climbing up and down the stairs. My mother and Henry drove up for the ceremony, and my mother came up on stage with me to hand me my license, which was rather poignant and symbolic — I think we both appreciated the moment.

It’s been a long road! But here I am — if you need any legal advice relating to corporate or non profit taxes, or maybe even partnership distribution, tax exempt bonds, or 409A benefit compliance, feel free to give me a call. I can maybe read a lease or a contract for you, but I don’t think I can defend you on any criminal charges. Quite yet.

Free food…

December 9, 2008 at 8:23 pm | Posted in gastronomy, the firm | Leave a comment
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…is usually never a good idea. Why do I always forget that? It’s not as if, just because it’s free, you should eat it (all of it). To wit: I just braved the 7:30 dinner rush in the firm cafeteria. I was starving (7:30 is too late for me to be having dinner) and got caught up in the rush of the person slinging “brown” (it was more like orange) rice, watery squash and fried scallops (questionable, but delicious) onto plates as fast as she could. I got caught up in the free bags of chips, the free cookies. And everyone scarfing it all down in 10 minutes to get back to his or her desk. And now I feel utterly gross. I mean, so gross I just don’t know what to do with myself. My coworker, with whom I “dined”  is about to hit the gym (after that meal? At this hour? More power to him). Oh well. I shall just start afresh tomorrow.

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