I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been lucky enough to pursue a passion project within my everyday role, but have yet to share that work widely. Outside of my marketing role, I lead our Region’s Health and Wellness team, which provides resources and events for all Region employees.
The Health & Wellness team is dedicated to four pillars: Movement, Mental Health, Meals, and Mindfulness. In March, when the majority of our organization moved to working from home, our team saw the opportunity to lean in and help our teammates prioritize their wellbeing in these crazy times.
We started a weekly meeting/webinar series, called Wellness Wednesdays. We also provide a monthly newsletter with recommendations for each of our four pillars. I can’t wait to share more about all of this; but I am particularly excited to share our healthy living gift guide for the Holidays!
I scoured countless similar articles from this year and previous years, and added a few things from my own shopping list. My intention with this list was to avoid trendy items that may be more hype than truly beneficial. I also wanted to provide gifts that would be a good fit for a variety of loved ones, and for all levels of fitness and health awareness.
Many of these gifts are from Amazon or larger companies. If this list sparks an idea for a small business equivalent, that’s wonderful! My intention was to help people give gifts that will meet their loved ones where they’re at.
This year has been tough, at best, and it can be easy for health and wellness to fall to the wayside under increased stress. At the same time, this is when our bodies and minds need more care and attention.
I hope this helps your holiday shopping, or creating your own wish list! Let me know your favorites in the comments!
TRX GO Suspension Trainer System $130 Create intense full-body workouts anytime, anywhere. TRX anchors to any door, rafter, beam, tree, pole or post in seconds that supports 350 lbs. Use your body weight and suspension to push, pull, plank, squat, lunge, hinge & rotate.
FITINDEX Electric Foam Roller $50 This electric massage ball provides deep tissue trigger point therapy and myofascial release to improve mobility, flexibility, and recovery.
Whatfit Resistance Bands Set $24 Different color adjustable resistance bands: Yellow (10 lbs), Blue (20 lbs), Green (30 lbs), Black (40 lbs), Red (50 lbs). Each apply to different types exercise-good for toning your arms, shoulders, chest, glutes, legs etc.
Philips Wake-Up Light Alarm ClockOptions $39.95 – $169.95 Help your loved ones wake up on the right side of the bed! Inspired by nature’s sunrise, the Philips Wake-up Light uses a unique combination of light and sound to wake you in a more natural way, so you feel more refreshed.
Foot Spa Bath Massager $41 Give the gift of slowing down with this heating, masssage rollers, & pedicure stone. With bubble and vibration, you can rejuvinate and enjoy a spa experience at home.
Dohm Classic Natural Sound Machine$45 Give sleep a chance with this two speed options for adjustable tone and volume, excellently masking background noise for better sleep for children, office privacy, and soothing sound-sensitive pets.
Spiralizer 7-Blade Vegetable Slicer & Veggie Pasta Maker$24 This is the perfect gadget for healthy eating that’s easy and fast to prepare. This multi-knife kitchen appliance allows you to make various veggie inspired noodles, which you can utilize as a main dish, salad, or appetizer.
Hello Fresh Gift Card$65 – $130 Give the gift of step-by-step recipes complete with nutritional information and fresh, pre-measured ingredients to get you whipping up delicious dinners in no time.
Ninja Personal Blender$59 Perfect for smoothies, juices, and sauces for meal prep. This comes with two 16-ounce cups, 2 Sip & Seal lids & 30-recipe inspiration guide. The personalized size makes blending faster and easier to clean, and also saves on dishes!
Q&A a Day Journal $11 The perfect mindfulness gift for journaling beginners! This Q&A format gives daily prompts to make it easy to get in the habit of daily reflection. It has daily prompts for everyday of 5 years, so the writer can later look back on what they were thinking about in previous years.
Deep Sea Sand Art for your Desk $95 As the line between the office and home has been blurred or erased for many, this desktop sculpture will offer a calming and grounding focal point to help the mind slow down and stay present on busy days. This nature scape will appeal to men and women.
Self Care Bucket List$50 Perfect for the to-do list maker in your life who puts everyone else first. Speak their language with this deck filled with 100 helpful, self-love suggestions broken out into 3 main categories: life, love, and laughter.
In quarantine, days blend together and weeks seem to crawl and fly by at the same time. This is making it less surprising that a year ago, I was celebrating 10 years of being vegetarian and had big plans for a (catchier) blog post on it. In the way I’ve only heard grandparents say, I blinked, and now here we are a year later.
Before I start with what I’ve been sitting on for a year, I want you to know I’m not going to ask you to be a vegetarian. Breath out a sigh of relief. Everyone who is pretending they weren’t worried about that, you exhale too. If quarantine has taught us anything, it’s that shaming or “shoulding on yourself” isn’t an effective call to action or motivator.
We don’t need a few people to be hardcore vegetarians or vegans. What will have even more impact, is EVERYONE eating less meat. Not a few people doing it perfect, but everyone doing it a little bit better.
It is, however, a time where we have heightened awareness of how small actions we make have big ripples to our family, communities, and world. That little twinge of inspiration, responsibility, and empowerment that allowed you to make a mask or change your grocery store behavior, that’s what I hope you walk away with.
Quarantine is also a time where you have nowhere to be so you can read this, and Netflix will still be waiting for you.
For the sake of this conversation, a few terms I’ll use as I’ve explored all of these “diets,” with pescetarian being what works best for me.
Vegetarian: Do not eat red meat, poultry, seafood, anything considered “meat.”
Pescetarian: Same as above but eats fish/seafood (salmon, tuna, shrimp) but likely still eats mainly vegetarian
Vegan: Does not eat any animal by-products. No meats mentioned above, dairy, eggs, gelatin, and sometimes honey.
In May of 2009, my high school Current Events class watched some footage on the meat industry (mainly fast food) and how the animals are treated. As a lifelong animal lover, I was horrified by what these animals were enduring so that I could have meat in my diet, mainly out of habit.
The treatment of animals, with the addition of the toll the meat industry takes on our environment, amplified by the fact that I didn’t really care about meat, began my first day of vegetarianism on May 17, 2009.
I think the only way this choice could have stuck this long was from it being unequivocally my own decision, and the same is true for you.
Whether this propels you into a meatless decade, or makes you think more about your next meal, I’ll be thrilled. Reason being, if I said the only solution was being vegan, the majority of people (likely including myself) would say, shoot looks like I won’t be part of the solution…
I also take this approach because I can tell you after 11 years of being vegetarian it isn’t always easy. Having a less diverse diet has led to some digestive issues, and has called for a lot of trial and error of what my body needs (a large part of why I was technically vegetarian for four years, and pescetarian for the last seven).
In my opinion, this is a matter of quantity over quality. That’s how eating less meat becomes a cultural norm; and calls for grocery stores, restaurants, and the marketplace adapt to different demands.
I know you’ve heard why this matters, so I’m going to cover that with a selfish lens (if selfish is motivating, embrace it) and how to do it.
Why eat less meat and what’s in it for you-
Your Health & Wallet– If you’ve grocery shopped, you won’t be surprised meat is an expensive habit. It saves money in the long run too, by being significantly better for your health. A meat free or less meat diet has been shown to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, body mass index, along with lower risk for diabetes, chronic diseases, and cancers.
The Environment– For every one pound of meat you purchase, it took 2,400 gallons of water to create it. As large of a problem as our climate crisis is, I like having a tangible way I know I am helping, while other changes may be harder to make.
The Animals–Simply put, any hormones or antibiotics intentionally put into livestock, or waste/bacteria they unintentionally ingest, goes into your food. As eating clean and clean products becomes more and more top of mind, looking at how clean the source of your food is is often overlooked.
Other People– Even outside of COVID-19, meat packing plants are dangerous for employees and take a large toll on the nearby communities. By knowing where your meat comes from, you’re investing in the well-being of the essential workers that make your meals possible, and how safe those meals are.
How to eat less meat, with more purpose-
1. Don’t recreate the wheel: Instead of viewing less meat as a change to everything you’ve been doing, look at is as making substitutions. Write down all of your favorite meals/recipes and look for swaps that could be made. My favorites-
Substitutes for ground beef: Limiting red meat in one’s diet is getting more and more popular, making Gardein’s beefless groundand their meatless meatballs a super easy and impactful swap. I also love impossible burgers and their italian sausage. I try to always order impossible burgers in restaurants so they continue to be carried!
Substitutes for chicken: Two options that aren’t super high in protein but are great for taste are using jackfruit (easiest place to get it is Trader Joe’s) which can easily mimic pulled chicken or pulled pork. One product I like areMorning Star’s buffalo “chicken” patties, though the protein count is a bit low.
The deal about tofu: Chances are you’ve made tofu without really knowing what was going on, or god forbid, tried it raw…try to suppress that memory and try this again. Tofu is the easiest protein to manipulate the flavor to match any recipe, and as a result is a grocery staple of mine. It’s also super affordable (usually a block will be $2 or less, which will be enough for at least 3 meals). Here’s a great recipe for how to PROPERLY make tofu!
The Minneapolis-based Herbivorous Butcher probably deserves its own blog post, but I’ll just leave you with the link for now. My favorites are the maple sausage, sriracha brats, korean ribs, and vegan cheese! Online deliveries are available anywhere in the US 😉
2. Meatless Mondays: Start with one day, one meal. Meatless Mondays have become so popular, there’s no shortages of recipes out there. You might do meat-free dinners on Monday, then to all meals on Monday, etc. Many popular bloggers, like Half Baked Harvest, now have vegetarian sections to help you out. And of course, Pinterest won’t disappoint.
3. Start with breakfast: This is the easiest meal to eliminate meat from. If you’ve gotten in the habit of bacon or sausage, Morning Star has my favorite veggie sausage. Make a veggie egg bake, oatmeal (even if you prefersavory), yogurt parfaits, etc. and you’ll grow to not even miss it. 4. Build-your-own bars: “I want to eat less meat but I can’t get my partner/family on board!” I credit my mom for coming up with this as she shopped, prepped, and cooked for our family with one lone vegetarian. Instead of changing the plan for everyone or making me something completely different, I would add a different protein. You can leave all toppings off in the same way to give everyone a say. Think fajitas, tacos, lettuce wraps, pasta, stir fry, pizza, salads, burgers, etc. 5. Up your veggie intake: Instead of thinking as meat or protein as the “point” of a meal, center it around your vegetables. Aim to have vegetables take up half of your plate, with grains being 1/4 and protein 1/4. Treating protein as a supporting actor rather than the lead makes it easier to substitute the protein source. 6. Look to Thai, Indian, and other Asian recipes: It might make you feel less trendy, but this is nothing new. Many Asian cultures have long relied on vegetarian recipes for religious or economic reasons. This means finding meatless recipes you love or recreating favorites from restaurants is that much easier!7. Serving sizes are not created equal: This is where eating less meat refers to more than frequency. This is where nutrient packed veggies, like green peas, spinach, and broccoli, and grains (shown below) can add up to stretch a main protein source through more meals. 8. High protein grains: Changing your protein source or decrease portion size can call extra attention to what’s on your plate and how it’s serving you. I also often hear people are worried about not being full if they have less meat. This tip will help, my go-to grains are quinoa, farro, and brown rice; but there are many other protein packed options. This means adding farro to salad, making soups with quinoa, using buckwheat noodles for pasta or pad thai, etc. A little bit goes a long way.
9. Soup!: Another shout out to Mama Reed for this one. My mom would make soup for the family, but would split a smaller batch off for me before adding their chicken in. This is also an easy way to make something that lasts throughout the week, so you don’t have to go back to the drawing board every day. There is also countless vegetarian soup recipes, and I promise you the best one ever is shown/linked below10. Create more filling snacks: Staying satisfied throughout the day releases the need for protein-heavy meals. My go-to especially now that I’m working from home is making a smoothie in my magic bullet with a cup of spinach, 5 frozen strawberries, a scoop of protein powder, and almond milk. So quick! Here’s myrecipe for chia pudding(protein powder is option, I like the texture that creates; you could use a yogurt instead). Last but not least, these amazing energy ballsthat my coworker called bites of joy 🙂
11. Embrace the challenge: Many of us have more time on our hands right now, and have saving money top of mind. Use this to your advantage by having fun trying new recipes, challenging yourself to stick to strict budgets while shopping, and embrace meal prep. While you might be thinking, wow Sarah really knows how to have a good time…I promise it is fun! Whip up a new recipe and meet friends for a picnic to see what they think. Here’stwo veggie buffalo dips I trialed for the Superbowl a few years ago. Be patient and kind with yourself, progress is the goal- not perfection.
Regardless of what you’re eating, I think the most important practice is expressing gratitude. Thanking any animals involved in making your meal possible, the farmers, any factory workers, store employees, so on and so forth. This practice becomes a lot easier and more meaningful when some of those steps are cut out, for example by shopping at a farmer’s market.
This is a practice I was challenged to face head on. When studying abroad in Rome, our Sustainable Foods professor (who is by no means vegetarian) said that in the States our meat looks like play-dough, there’s no connection to what you’re eating or what provided it. I had recently reintroduced seafood into my diet, and liked the anonymity and denial canned tuna offered. One of my first meals in Rome, I got a seafood pasta and it arrived with multiple creatures looking at me. I panicked. Over the semester, I learned to not hide from this but embrace it.
If I’m going to eat meat in any way, the least I owe these animals who gave everything to sustain me, is to give them my attention.
“We are the ones of whom it will be fairly asked, What did you do when you learned the truth about eating animals? … Whether we change our lives or do nothing, we have responded. To do nothing is to do something.” Jonathan Safran Foer
Author of Eating Animals and We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast
If I could have one super power, it would be to not need to sleep. I could if I wanted to, but I wouldn’t have to. This isn’t because I hate sleep, it’s because I have a lot of passions and interests that can be hard to cram into one day- let alone one job.
Spring is a pretty loose term in Minnesota, but April has become one of my favorite months in recent years. April 4 is the anniversary of Brandon and I dating, and we’ve planned a trip each year to celebrate. This has brought us to Stillwater, Las Vegas (bit of a jump there), Chicago, and now Austin.
While I’m pretty behind on this summary of the MANY amazing recommendations I received for Austin, this trip will always stand out in my mind. Before we left for the airport, Brandon suggested we take our dog, Maya, on a special walk to Boom Island Park to make up for leaving her for a long weekend.
That walk, on our four year anniversary, ended up being the location where Brandon got down on one knee, forgot everything else he wanted to say, but asked me to marry him.
More of this to come in another post, but leaving an hour later for the airport was the perfect way to celebrate. There’s no better excuse to celebrate on vacation than it also being a celebration of being engaged!
Truly, the recommendations from friends who have visited or lived in Austin were endless (most of these bullets are in their words) so hopefully you have a week there to work through all of these.
Mickelthwait: saturday morning is a must, free beer
Ramen tatsu ya is right across the street if you like ramen. very good
Cisco’s is a historic landmark also right across the street. diner style tex-mex
Easy tiger, ah sing den, the whistler
Torchys tacos has the most amazing tacos (breakfast and regular) and queso.
Rudy’s is my 2nd fave (they give you free samples if you tell them it’s your first time there.)
South 1st street for food trucks: Torchy’s Tacos, Gordoughs Donuts, dock & roll, regal ravioli, con madre
The Oasis is a restaurant/bar on Lake Travis. Touristy but the best place to watch the sunset.
La BBQ food truck or Franklin’s BBQ (get there early and be prepared to wait in line) or Coopers downtown on Congress (less of a line), Micklethwait craft meats.
RockRose at the Domain
Wu Chow: Chinese Cuisine, 8 styles of Chinese cuisine as well as dim sum service on Saturdays and Sundays*
Swift’s Attic: Modern American Cuisine, farm to table small plates
Odd Duck: New American, from scratch ingredients from local Austin farms
Frank Restaurant: exotic hotdogs
A lot of the BBQ recommendations were lost on me, but Torchy’s has my heart forever.
With all of this amazing food, having some active options was a god send. We hiked the last two days and kayaked the last morning of our trip, which was gorgeous. The stakes were high for not falling in considering we already checked out of our hotel, so that made life exciting.
South congress street is full of boutiques and restaurants
Hiking on the greenbelt, bull creek, or river park place
Barton Springs in Zilker Park is nice to walk around and has cute cafés.
Go kayaking or Stand up paddle boarding on Lake Austin.
Check out www.do512.comfor all bars with live music / events all over Austin.
Clark’s and la perla are great day drinking spots
Rainey Street for bars – Half Step, container bar, Clive (go to the back room looks like a dungeon- Bar Ilegal for a mezcal flight), bungalow, craft pride, Lucille, bangers for brunch, icenhauers for Sunday Funday and sangria, always end at Javalina for 90s rap!
So many different breweries: St Elmo, Jesterking, there’s a deep eddy vodka distillery as well, Live Oak Brewery, Blue owl brewing, zilker brewing co, abgb to make a few.
6th street of course at least one night
Kava bar- described as super euphoric
*Secret bars / speakeasys*
Red-headed stepchild is in Floppy Disk Repair Co., there’s a texting list but girls in here usually have the code.
Firehouse Hostel and Lounge (near the Driskill) is a bar behind a bookcase.
Small Victory and Garage Cocktail Bar are both parking garage bars
Midnight Cowboy modeling is awesome
Milonga Room is on the east side behind Buenos Aires Cafe – its by reservation only and open Thursday – Saturday.
Vinyl – downstairs below Tellers
Jade Room is upstairs from C-Boy’s Heart & Soul on South Congress
Bar Illegal – in the backyard of Clive on Rainey Street and serves amazing Mezcla.
Tobalá aka Mezcaleria Tobala – upstairs of Whisler’s
The Red Room – basement lounge behind Vince Young Steakhouse. Open Tuesday – Thursday, 5PM – 11PM / Friday & Saturday, 5PM – 12AM.
Secret Bar – located in the Living Room at the W Hotel.
Techo Mezcaleria & Agave Bar – above Mi Madre’s Tex Mex Restaurant
Good Life Bar Bar – behind Good life barbershop has brews on tap & wine, but is BYOB if you want liquor.
I hope this helps you plan your next trip after quarantine! Regardless of the occasion, a trip of any kind will be something to celebrate.
“That seems like the worst deal of all time,” my friend Katy told me, after I explained that I was doing long training runs for a half marathon I’m not doing. “So you’ll put in all the hard work,” she continued, “without the day-of excitement of running in the race?”
I agreed it was a very unique approach. But I was more excited to cheer on my lifelong friend, Hayley, in the race than I was about doing it myself. Instead of registering as well, our compromise was that I would accompany her on long runs.
What I didn’t think about the time was that 8 and then 9 miles would feel a lot more natural for one of us who trained for that distance than it would for the other who did not.
But that’s really a personal problem.
Come race day, my original plan was for Brandon and I to bike to Uptown so that we could then be nimble and follow Hayley around on her path. What I didn’t factor in is an 8 am race start means we would need to start biking …before 8 am… on a Sunday. The drinks we had the night before and the rain the morning of made that plan worse and worse. Driving to uptown, instead, gave me even more respect for what Hayley was taking on.
Brandon and I met up with her husband, Ethan, and their dog, Lola, who had a lot of questions about why we were standing in one place in the rain. The course is two laps through a Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun/Bde Mke Ska loop, which made it easy to see her at the 6 mile mark and walk over to the 13 mile area. (Sharing this if you’re interested in running or watching this race next year)
At the 13 mile area, the spectators had a new level of energy that made me consider jumping into the race, or at least jogging in place. In particular, was a couple that was cheering on each and every person turning the corner for their last .1 miles as if it were their best friend completing the race.
“Turn and burn, baby, let’s take it home!!!!” They screamed, hunched over hands on knees, like a head coach dialed in for the last minute of the most important game. They jumped up and down, and were feeding off the energy of each other.
I was in awe.
First of all, I really wanted to get to the bottom of if they even knew any runners in the race. Which made me wonder, is this how they met? Were they just cheering on strangers like crazy, then caught each other’s eyes across the street, and thought, wow we have a lot in common?
I was also envious of the effect they were having on the runners, and wondered why I wasn’t bringing the same energy. I encouraged our group to head up stream so we could be a little appetizer to the real cheer leaders down the way.
Rather than watching the runners, until Hayley arrived of course, I was mainly watching this couple. It brought me to tears thinking about how impactful it is to hear that encouragement as a runner.
It is the exact encouragement they need, in a moment where they feel like they have nothing left to give. It’s amazing how strangers cheering you on can validate the sense of accomplishment you should have after 13 miles, but for some reason in the moment, all you can see is the .1 you haven’t yet reached.
Since race day, this couple has stayed with me. I’ve been sharing this story with all of my yoga students, encouraging them to be this level of enthusiastic, but for themselves.
As amazing as it is to hear compliments, praise, and cheers from others, it can’t truly resonate until we believe it ourselves. It’s incredibly difficult for external validation to overpower our own talk track we have playing on repeat.
When we’re not being nice to ourselves, it’s hard to genuinely appreciate and convey what we admire in others. We know comparison is the thief of joy for the person doing the comparing, but I think it also steals from the person being complimented. It shifts from “this is something I truly admire in you,” to “this is something I wish I liked about myself.”
My #couplegoals cheer leaders weren’t inspiring runners by brushing them off, saying “Good for you, I’d never be able to do anything remotely close to this.”
They inspired by being present and fully engaged in the moment, making each and every runner feel seen. The runners I saw Sunday have carried on to their daily lives, and they may no longer have those enthusiastic cheer leaders top of mind, but I’m sure they remember how they made them feel.
So, I’ll likely never see these people again.
But they’re what I’ll remember most from this race, which made me think of my students and whoever reads this.
It can be hard to see in ourselves how we inspire and change those around us. But this doesn’t mean we don’t have impact.
As Drew Dudley explains in his Ted Talk, there’s people out there, like strangers watching a half marathon in the rain, who just haven’t gotten around to telling us yet how we’ve changed their life.
Whatever you may be taking on this week, don’t hesitate to recognize what you’ve accomplished so far.
Even if it seems counter intuitive, when we’re intentional about directing praise inward, it makes it easier to appreciate other’s accomplishments and cheer them on.
And you can take my word for it, those sidelines are not a boring place to be.
As someone generally known for eating healthy, my enthusiasm for the Minnesota State Fair is a bit surprising. In my seven years of living in the Twin Cities, I’ve fallen in love with the restaurants, unique vegetarian options (i.e. the first vegan butcher), and year-round farmer’s markets.
MN’s State Fair is the perfect cross over of this foodie culture and traditional fair food of fried anything on-a-stick. It’s worked well for them, with the largest average attendance per day nationwide of just under 200,000 visitors daily. I picture a hipster-dressed Minnesota state outline being like the mom from Mean Girls saying, “I’m not like a regular Fair, I’m a cool Fair.”
As we head into the final Fair weekend, here are my true and tried reviews of the vegetarian (and pescetarian) options you can’t miss and can afford to skip:
Start by downloading the MN State Fair App, it’ll make finding each location a cinch.
Everything at the Fair is shareable with the right attitude, but “appetizers” seemed so formal. My favorite thing to share- cheese curds. I’m sure you’ll cross paths with Mouse Trap cheese curds from the Food Building no matter what, so I’m going to recommend Miller’s Jalepeño Cheese Curds. These are located next to the giant slide (yes, this is how I give directions) and the jalepeño is baked IN the cheese curd, it’s not some sad seasoning. For the sake of your stomach, share with at least one person.
New food- Dino’s Feta Bites. Dino’s Gyros wowed me last year with their Sweet Greeks (in dessert section) so I was fired up about these. Unfortunately, I thought the cheese to dough ratio was lacking. The olive dipping sauce was fantastic, but dipping my coworker’s cheese curds into it was an upgrade all around.
Another staple- the Preferred Pickle’sfried pickles. I took one for the team and had my go-to of cajun pickles (left) and branched out with the gourmet pickles (right). Of course, I added hot sauce to both so I can’t speak to the level of intended kick. The gourmet pickles have cream cheese on the INSIDE, and are $2 more. IMO, once you dip it in ranch, that cream cheese is forgotten and is a lot harder to eat. Cajun keeps it’s place in my heart. While you’re in the area, please get fried olives.
New vendor and new food- Funky Grit’sShrimp & Grits Fritters. I ran, not walked, to this booth in the Food Building, because it seemed right up my alley. It tasted like any kind of fritter, I wouldn’t have known shrimp was in there without the sign.
I didn’t think I’d be heading to a Funnel Cake’s stand, but the new Cheesy Sriracha Funnel Cake Bites were made for me and I couldn’t let them down. If you’re cheese curded-out, this is a great alternative. Sriracha flavor is just from the dipping sauce, so spice level is choose your own adventure.
Last on the app list, is my 2018 new food disappointment. Otherwise miracle worker, French Meadow, made BBQ cauliflower wings or “Earth Wings”, and I was first in line. Unfortunately, it was a lot more sauce than cauliflower and the price didn’t soften the blow. They didn’t go loud with them this year, so others may have agreed.
This is a 2018 new vendor and now a staple for me. Nordic Waffle’sSlammin Salmon is as great as it sounds- a waffle with smoked salmon, cream cheese, and green onions. There’s also lots of sweet flavors if you’re not ready for a savory waffle.
Another favorite, which could be easy to overlook with the popularity of normal corn on the cob, is Wood-Grilled Elote from Tejas Express in the beer garden. Pro tip: get a beergarita while you’re there, and thank me later.
Starting with a new favorite vendor and item! Kora‘s Cookie Dough is a stand alone stand on Dan Patch Ave. near O’Gara’s. I preferred this fried cookie dough (in wonton/eggroll wrappers on the left) to the breaded version in the Food Building (shown righ). More cookie dough flavor, less fried-ness. Both of them taste like cookies that were taken out once they were half-baked, which if it were up to me, would be how all cookies are served.
Sticking with cookies, Sweet Martha’s is a stop you can’t miss. Partially because they’re located all over the Fair, but mainly because not much can top a fresh out of the oven cookie. IMO: Skip the bucket because only the top half of the cookies are warm, and they’re not great in the hours or days following the Fair. Opt for a cone ($12) and you’ll still end up with more cookies than you ever thought you needed (though I can’t deny the photo op a bucket brings…so, you do you).
Moving from a classic to a new food that is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE of the year- the grilled peach with herbed goat cheese and drizzled honey. This is from the Produce Exchange, so get a kombucha while you’re there and you’ll feel brand new.
Not a new item, but new for me, I tried the Ohio Buckeye’s (peanut butter fudge dipped in chocolate) and took the very unique route of opting for not fried. It was refreshing because it’s served cold and was super easy to share with my team. I also heard afterward the fried is amazing, so that’s now on my to-do list.
New item based on a classic: the mini donut latte from the Anchor Coffee House. In my opinion, this was way too sweet and left everyone who had it with a stomach ache…and the $10 price didn’t help soothe it.
To end on a high note, a 2018 new food that is still a favorite for me, Dino’s Sweet Greek’s. This is feta and ricotta wrapped in Phyllo dough, then drizzled with honey, powdered sugar, and perhaps crack.
There you have it. I’ll be the first to say I have a lot more respect for every new food and state fair list I’ve used after pulling this together. I hope this helps you branch out in your next visit to the fair or to reference when your hippie vegetarian cousin visits and wants to be included.
Let me know in the comments what you loved and where we can save our money!
Best friends have an interesting way of knowing your weaknesses. So when Hayley came up with the idea that maybe we should take a weekend trip to Boston in less than a month, she knew I would agree against my alleged budgeting priorities.
And just like she insisted, I didn’t regret it for a second. Here is a list of all of the recommendations that came our way and the places we found on our own. I hope you can cross even more off the list than we did (indicated by the green check marks)!
Boston is grouped into neighborhoods, which reminded me of Minneapolis, but they’re much more connected either by their subway (the T) or by foot, so that’s how I’ll group our recommendations:
Beacon Hill/ Back Bay
“Old school Boston where you feel like you went back in time. Tatte Bakery ✅ is here and I would highly recommend for breakfast/coffee.”
“You won’t be disappointed by the architecture and houses there… you can see the Massachusetts State House on the hill. Liberty Hotel has an awesome bar – it used to be an old jail, so very cool interior. Charles Street nearby also has a bunch of cute spots and Acorn Street is iconic. ✅ Boston public gardens & Boston Common, which is beautiful and near Newbury Street (fancy street with lots of shops!) ✅ and Copley Square. ✅ Past the gardens you’re closer to Fenway area, which is where there are a lot of fun dive bars to go out to – even if you aren’t catching a baseball game.”
Our review: This is Hayley’s favorite neighborhood, so we spent quite a bit of time walking through the neighborhoods. I LOVED seeing the green space of the Boston Common and Public Gardens, you can see why it’s a running city.
North End/ Little Italy
“Any restaurant here will be delicious, make sure to go to modern pastry to get a cannoli. Giacomos is delicious and iconic, but there is always a line so maybe not the best option if you have limited time. Ward 8 is a cool cocktail bar right by TD garden.”
“Start at Faneuil Hall & Quincy Marketplace ✅ and follow the Freedom Trail to a couple of places of interest. ✅ Paul Revere’s house is there ✅ (just walk by, don’t pay to go in) and it’s got the best cannoli place (Mike’s Pastry on Hanover St.) in town. ✅ Cafe Vittoria is a good, old Italian spot with boozy coffee drinks and pastries. A few other good Italian restaurants in the area are Giacamos, Bacco✅ Bricco, Grotto.”
Our review: We spent a lot of time here Friday, and found our way back again on Sunday before leaving. Beacon Hill combined with North End can make you forget you’re in the US, but just a neighborhood over the hustle and bustle of the city returns. I stand by the Mike’s Pastry being a must-do (note: it’s cash only), and dinner is worth prioritizing in this neighborhood!
✅Gaslight: French place, great for brunch
✅Beehive: great for brunch or at night, live jazz
(reviews below are as the were given to me)
South End Buttery: my favorite breakfast spot ever. quick serve with good coffee and little breakfast treats, get the biscuit sandwich!
Coppa: my favorite restaurant in boston, delicious italian, super good wine and cozy vibe.
Toro: Spanish tapas right around the corner from my old apartment
Flour: another adorable bakery with the best cookies…a few spots around the city.
Myers and Chang: amazing dim sum brunch and dinner…SO good.
Area 4: fun cocktails on tap and delicious wood fired pizza. there is also one in cambridge.
B&G: great patio and amazing oysters
Yvonne’s: good place for dinner or swanky bar to visit
Our review: Beehive was a highlight of the trip. It may have been because I was very hungry from going to CorePower before. Or it could have been the live jazz that could be enjoyed on both floors, great cocktails, and trying my first shakshuka! Definitely plan on a reservation, but we got a spot at the bar- I don’t think there’s a bad seat in the house. South End is also great for walking around, it felt more spacious and homey.
❌Drink: my favorite bar in Boston. they have an amazing burger and play good rap music and don’t have a drink menu, you just tell the bartender what you like and they make you a good cocktail
❌Committee: good drinks and snacks, super chill atmosphere. good for day drinking/hanging.
“The Seaport district has blown up in recent years. It’s kind of the cool hip spot now and there are a lot of fun breweries / bars. You can easily walk or uber from downtown and it’s right on the water. I’d recommend Legal Harborside – it’s a fun bar/restaurant with an awesome rooftop! Harpoon Brewery & Beer Hall is a five minute walk from there, which is an awesome local brewery. Fan Pier Park on the north end of Seaport has a beautiful view of the harbor / city. Envoy Hotel roofdeck at night. James Hook Lobster for lobster rolls.”
Our review: We saved Seaport for going out Saturday night, and it was packed. The two places above with the sassy red X’s I added while we were out are due to both being at capacity and not taking more people. We ran into this at a few more places here. If the description above sounds fun, go to the breweries and restaurants during the day/evening to have better luck than we did!
✅Little Donkey: probably my second favorite boston restaurant…”global tapas” and has a fun atmosphere
Pammy’s: good italian with yummy wine and cocktails
Brick and Mortar: fun cocktail bar with super good drinks
“The other area I’d suggest checking out if you have time or are close by is Cambridge – across the river – to see MIT and Harvard Square (though Harvard is a bit further of a walk). MIT is right on the river and it’s a beautiful campus. Again, only if you have extra time and feel like walking the bridge. It’s a great view of the city! If you do make it to Cambridge, stop at Curio Coffee for the mini waffles.”
Our review: We were staying at the Royal Sonesta on the water in Cambridge, so a lot of our time here was walking to and from our destination, but it was a great central location. Little Donkey was our first stop after landing and it started us off on the best foot. I was underwhelmed by Harvard to be honest, so I wish we had made it over to MIT.
p.s. I’m not an oyster fan, but if you are, I was told the good oyster/seafood spots are Neptune Oyster, The Daily Catch, Atlantic Fish Co., Eventide Oyster Co., Island Creek Oyster Co.
This isn’t the firsttime I’ve written a blog post about a dog, and it won’t be the last. While I am in every way a crazy dog person, what I love most about dogs is the connection and comfort they can provide to people.
So whether you’re with me in the dog lover camp or not, this post is for you. It’s not for Maya- she can’t read.
This is a post I’ve considered for years. I’ve wanted to write about my experience adopting Maya, but sharing my love for this perfect pup meant needing to be brave enough to share the not so perfect.
In a sense, this means breaking the rules of social media- allowing others behind the filtered curtain that our staged photos create. But perfection is the antithesis to scrappy. To be true to myself and this platform, I’m using my 26th birthday and Maya’s 5th birthday as the perfect time to embrace that.
My boyfriend, Brandon, and I adopted Maya in August 2016. I was truly stopped dead in my tracks on the Secondhand Hounds site when I saw this brown-eyed beauty. We brought home the cuddliest two year-old pointer spaniel mix, originally from Arkansas, who spent 6 months with a loving foster family while she gave birth to 13 puppies and recovered from heart worm.
While in her foster home, she was with dogs, puppies, kids, and was strategically kept away from the cats.
One of her first weeks with us, Brandon brought Maya to a dog park. She was accosted at the entrance by a dog jumping all over her and nipping at her. The owner was across the park socializing with other owners, not concerned by what her dog was doing.
That experience may be the source of the aggression she now has towards dogs, or it may have triggered a memory from her time as a stray. While navigating this dog aggression isn’t “what we signed up for,” it’s been an epiphany of what unconditional love looks like.
Laurel Braitman— science historian, author of Animal Madness, and owner of a Bernese Mountain dog with a canine compulsive disorder— explains it best in her TED Talk:
If we knew then what we know now, I don’t think we would have thought Maya was the right dog for us. I don’t think we would have known we were strong enough to take on this challenge, and that one flaw doesn’t stand a chance in outweighing her amazing qualities.
Since you may not be familiar, I’ll catch you up real quick. From a logistics stand point, she almost never barks, she enjoys napping while we are away at work all day, and she’s embraced her city life by monitoring the streets in her free time.
From a personality stand point, I’ll try to keep it brief. I don’t think any person has stepped foot in our house without Maya cuddling up to them on the couch and giving them more kisses than they bargained for. When we have parties, she embraces whatever outfit I give her and works the room, making sure she spends time with each guest and offers different toys that might catch their fancy. An Aquarius like her mama, hosting is her love language.
We’ve come to accept that while Maya’s great with people and kids; and a lot of hard work has earned her three dog friends, she’s never going to be “normal” around dogs.
After years of reflection, progress, and setbacks, I realized by not sharing this topic, I was isolating people who were experiencing the exact same thing. Worse, I was adding to the idea that everyone who adopts a dog or brings home a puppy will have a completely predictable and ordinary experience.
In reality, this isn’t the norm for everyone and our norms around dogs aren’t normal. If you think of a family dog you grew up with— regardless of your generation— dogs stayed at home…like dogs. But they probably weren’t home alone like a millennial’s 9-5 requires. They were likely with a stay at home parent, or you or a sibling had shifts and responsibilities.
Hover over the photos to meet Maya’s three friends
Whether you bring home a purebred puppy or find your perfect rescue pup, there will also be something about them that is out of your control. Rather than this fact deterring you from making that step, I’m hoping to reiterate the importance of being adaptable and staying curious.
Aspiring dog owners, spend time thinking about how you would work through a variety of situations. Look forward to finding out what they enjoy, rather than deciding what your life will be like together before you even meet them.
If you think of how you try new experiences, it’s rarely diving in head first. Brandon and I tried a salsa class in January, and I am so glad he talked me into buying a single class rather than a 10-pack. Just like Maya, we’re gifted in other ways.
Now, I promised this wasn’t just about dogs, and it’s not. When it comes to navigating dog scenarios with Maya, some days are better than others. Some days, I thought we couldn’t live like this, but 99.9% of the time, I wonder how we ever lived without her.
This experience has made me aware of how often I assume every person I see, especially every person that looks like me, is experiencing the world just as I am.
It’s given me a glimpse, even if it’s only the size of a pinhole in comparison, to the unconditional love parents have for their children and the commitment to adaptability that comes with that. When I see a kid running rampant at the grocery store, I save the passive aggressive glance (that I’ve now received) and remind myself they’re trying their best.
It’s been a huge learning experience in mine and Brandon’s relationship, of how we can work together as a team and stay the course even when it’s tempting to quit. We’ve had to think critically about whether we’re the best home for Maya, and how we can continue ensuring that.
Turns out, off-leash dog parks and dog birthday parties weren’t designed with a family like ours in mind. That’s fine, it’s a reminder of how many people go through their day-to-day with transportation, buildings, and jobs that weren’t designed with them in mind.
These are not meant to be apple-to-apple comparisons; rather, this awareness is what keeps me grounded on the not so perfect days. It’s what instantly makes me grateful for all that I have and all that I can do.
That gratitude is rooted in every day returning to a happy home that’s filled with cuddles on the couch, items knocked over by Maya’s tail, cooking with a four legged shadow, endless laughter, and most importantly, the permission to come as you are.
Perfection need not apply.
Dog owners- I have so many tips on what is and isn’t helpful in my situation, training tips that have worked, things that have absolutely not, and so much more. If that’d be interesting for another post, let me know in the comments here or where you found this post!
Note: This post will make sense on its own, but is intended as a continuation of Know Your Value
Goal setting is about looking to the future. It’s filled with optimism and the thrill of what’s possible. Reverse goal setting, as I’m calling it, is it’s realist step-sister.
Last December, during our team’s year-end offsite, we were asked to think of a goal or endeavor that didn’t go our way in 2017. Being asked to reflect on the year that’s already passed, let alone zero in on something that wasn’t a highlight, is a hard pill to swallow.
This is why morning is my favorite time of day- maybe I’ll set a new record of productivity today, who knows! At night, I have to accept the defeat of the unchecked boxes of my to-do list.
My letter, that I opened this December 2018, asked for me to embrace my blog as a platform to share my perspective and my experiences. To not be shy in sharing my yoga instagram, or hide this hobby of mine.
I reminded myself, “Others need your light and you need to shine.”
So what did this mean for 2018? While the letter was forgotten for most the year, making myself a priority was not. I shared my experiences of training for my first marathon; I invested in a yoga photo shoot; and when I stumbled upon the opportunity to attend the Know Your Value Conference in San Francisco, I threw my own hat into the ring.
With this Conference came another opportunity to show up. Not only to make the most of each day of the conference, but also to submit another application for the Human Performance Institute (HPI) in Orlando.
But at the same time, there’s an invaluable bliss in admitting to yourself and others what you want, and how you will get there. It’s ephemeral- once you know the results of the goal, you can’t relive that state of unknown.
On the last day of the conference, we were sitting through back-to-back presentations of amazing speakers, inspiring entrepreneurs, and courageous story tellers. At one point in this, I realized I needed to come up with a plan- a reverse goal- of what I would do if I found out that night I hadn’t been selected for HPI.
I had tunnel vision for finding out the four winners, and I worried if I wasn’t in that 4% being invited to attend, it would jade my experience of the amazing weekend I had just been exposed to.
I asked myself, “What are you looking to get out of HPI? How will you achieve those things, seek out that knowledge, and create that experience for yourself even if you are not chosen?”
That’s the power in realizing how badly you want something- it makes it pretty difficult to just give it up.
So that night, we were blessed again by Mika Brzezinski’s presence as she did closing remarks for just our group, and announced we’d move onto the 4 HPI winners.
The first video started, and the owner of it came up and took a photo with Mika, Joe, and the other organizers. I thought, Great! They’re going to play all the videos, and then we get to take a photo! I threw my blazer to the ground so my dress could really shine, and adjusted my hair.
“Okay, and onto our next winner,” Mika announced. Meaning…they’re not going through all the videos…that was actually the first winner, there is only three more. The next three were announced and none of those three were me.
In true optimistic fashion, I stayed close by just in case my video inspired them to take on a fifth participant.
Needless to say that wasn’t the case. This was a hard pill to swallow. The tears coming to my eyes were hard to swallow as well. Reel it in, Reed! No one else is reacting this way. Lose more gracefully!
A good friend from the Twin Cities Region, Melissa, who started at Comcast on the same day as me, talked me off the ledge by telling me it’s okay to be upset. It’s okay to not reel it in, and to have wanted something badly. Without knowing I had set the reverse goal for myself earlier that day, she assured me there would be other ways for me to achieve what I needed. My success didn’t lie just in that weekend in Orlando.
Reviewing the unchecked boxes I had on the last night of the Conference, I asked myself what I could do with the time remaining.
I introduced myself to one of the Executive Coaches assigned to our cohort, a major perk of attending Know Your Value, and he jotted down notes on my business card of what I was interested in.
Moments later, Melissa came over to introduce me to a woman from the Comcast corporate benefits team in Philadelphia, who was interested in creating wellness champions at the Region level. How much my eyes lit up assured her that I was as passionate about this as Melissa had indicated.
The most important boxes I checked that day were the two inspired by the loss I had been so scared of.
These moments took place at the time when I had almost counted myself out. Knowing myself, had I been selected for HPI, I would have zoomed past the executive coach and the benefits woman on my way to celebrate. This news made me pause, and realize I was in control of how to move forward.
I may have not gotten my picture with Mika, but I think this one of me standing on my own shines even more.
In early August 2018 I stumbled upon an opportunity on our internal website that made me do a double take.
When deciding to join a larger organization, I had been looking forward to exposure to different people with different experiences, and hoped to take advantage of the resources put into development.
This opportunity far exceeded my expectations-
Once I read this a few times in a row on the edge of my seat, I jumped to how I could be a part of it. You could nominate someone or you could nominate yourself. I realized I hadn’t heard anyone mention this, which meant two things: it’ll be hard for anyone to nominate me if they don’t know about it AND if no one knows about it, they’ll only have a few applicants and they’ll have to pick me!
I took it as a sign that it called for a video and essays, both of which I love. I was going to nominate myself, and I’d rebrand it to “applying” so it didn’t sound so self serving.
From that day forward, I was ecstatic. I showed my video to anyone who implied the littlest bit of interest. I was no longer embarrassed I nominated myself, I was proud of the story I had to tell.
But if I could go back, I would have shared this with my coworkers from the start. When I found out I was accepted in October, there was a lot to catch them up on- I applied for this months ago, I’ve been nervously awaiting the results, I’ve been accepted, and here’s what it is. No you didn’t forget, I just never told you.
I have the most supportive team, but somehow the idea of sharing this “application” with my peers made me doubt whether they’d believe I deserved to go. Of course, this couldn’t have been farther from the truth.
More so, I wasn’t accepted because no one else applied- our cohort of 100 was chosen from more than 700 applicants.
It wasn’t until the week before the Conference that the weight of that set it. Following a housekeeping/logistics call with our cohort, one participant, Jamie set up a Facebook group for everyone.
Shortly after, another member, Jason, created an event to run the Golden Gate Bridge Friday morning. I was giddy. This was going to be a weekend of being surrounded by motivated, like-minded people, who are eager to connect.
Friday morning, I met Jason and Katie in the lobby, excited for such a unique morning workout. I didn’t know that this would be one of my favorite memories of the entire weekend.
Jason asked if I wanted to Lyft to the bridge or run, and I confidently said, “Whatever works!” He asked if I was a runner and I explained that I did my first marathon this year. We decided to Lyft as a group, and on the way there, I found out Jason does ultra marathons, and his training schedule (which I pried to find out) includes Tuesday and Thursday half marathons and 30+ miles on Saturday.
He’s also notorious for having burpees for breakfast. Aren’t we all?
Ohh, I thought to myself, this is sinking feeling is how my sculpt students feel when I announce we’ll be doing a 5 minute plank.
As we started off on our run, Jason quickly ran ahead while Katie and I did a run-stop for photos- run workout. Jason would circle back to say hi and then would carry on. It wasn’t out of impatience or to show off, it was a genuine way to have a shared experience.
At this time, Brene Brown’s words came to me as they often do, one of the quotes she often shares and speaks to in her own life is, “Comparison is the thief of Joy,” Theodore Roosevelt.
While I wasn’t judging Katie or Jason, I had this little whisper of self doubt. I had the opportunity to focus on the back of Jason’s “Spartan” shirt running in front of me, or I could take in the scenery and know that just being there, I am enough.
This was the best prelude to the Know Your Value conference I could have imagined. It was an equalizer. Hours after finding out about Katie’s family, what’s on the horizon for her four boys, I found out she’s the Director of Research for the NBCUniversal Amusement Parks.
When is the last time you met someone and the conversation went in that order?
On the way to brunch, Jason mentioned needing to prepare for the wellness panel tomorrow. I didn’t know where to start- I couldn’t wait for this wellness panel! Also you’re on the panel?? No comparison, just joy. Instead, I was grateful for the time I had to connect with these two unique and fascinating individuals, and couldn’t wait to meet more of our cohort.
It’s hard to capture the rest of the weekend into words, which is why I have delayed attempting to do so in a blog post for the last month.
Not all experiences are meant to be reproduced. The words would lack the energy, authenticity, and company that made them come to life.
What I will share, are a few takeaways that stuck out as actionable for anyone-
“Come with a plan. That way I don’t have to figure out your life for you.” One of the hosts from the NBCU side shared this with us. It put into perspective the burden you are putting on mentors and your advocates when you haven’t invested the time to actively think about where you would like your career to go. It’s like handing them a half baked cake and asking, where do think we could serve this?
“The only way you have a case for a raise is to increase your value to the company, no one owes you anything.” The VP of Benefits at Corporate reminded us of this, as he warned the 100 of us can’t go back to work on Monday and ask for a raise. He encouraged us to solve a problem for the business and track the value that adds.
“To know your Value, you have to know what you value” -Sarah Reed. Just kidding. I’m sure someone said some variation of this in setting up this activity. We were given a list of 100 values and asked to circle the ones that called out to us the most. From there we wrote our top 20 on cards and ordered them, and did the same thing again to bring us to our top 5. Regardless of the role I am in or the team I am on, I know I will add value through Passion, Creativity, Ambition, Mindfulness and Leadership.
What also made this so difficult to write, is the overwhelming question of where do I go from here? How do I make sure this experience doesn’t become static?
Turns out, I needed to address that first, and wrote a post about moving forward from Know Your Value before writing this one on looking back. Stay tuned!
Wishing you a happy and healthy 2019, filled with opportunity and courage from Knowing Your Value!