Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Merry Happy

I know, I haven't been keeping up with my blog like I said I would, but I was busy with all sorts of festive activities. Here are the highlights from the remaining 12 days before Christmas.

  • Day 6: This was an over-the-top pre-Christmas celebration in the city with the family. It was so ridiculously cold outside that we spent the afternoon curled up in front of the fire drinking wine and watching one of those painfully cheeseball holiday movies (which was secretly delightful). Later, we bundled up and went out for a delicious dinner at Figs, where we drank more wine and shared all of our entrees. We ended our meal with peppermint lattes and headed to the Boston Opera House, to watch the Nutcracker. Not only did we have incredible seats, but I also crossed off #13 on my to-do list.
  • Day 7: One Sunday, I woke up (rather early, thanks to my ambitious neighbor who whips out the snow blower at 7am) to find nearly a foot of snow outside. We made our way downtown for some last-minute Christmas shopping and a brunch filled with tasty goodness (smoked salmon, bacon and egg pizza and crepes stuffed with caramelized bananas and whipped cream..mmm).
  • Day 8: Candy canes, hot chocolate and lots of Christmas music.
  • Day 10: After a long day of traveling through slushy snow and riding the bus, subway, another bus and truck, I finally arrived home. Once again, we curled up by the fire with wine and watched Christmas movies. (This time they were classics though.)
  • Day 11: I think I'm the only one who enjoys decorating the tree, but eventually everyone gathered around to help put on our hodgepodge of homemade ornaments.
  • Day 12: On Christmas Eve, we visited extended family, where we laughed and overindulged in food and drinks.
And the celebration continues...Happy New Year!

Friday, December 18, 2009


I don't know much, but I do know that one day I will have my own fireplace.

It's taken me a while to fully appreciate the awesomeness of a fire. As a kid, we used our utilitarian woodstove far more often than our fireplace. In the early, chilly morning, I would pad down the hallway and start crumpling up newspaper to help get the day's fire started. (How much easier things would have been if the Duraflame log had been invented a few years earlier.)

But now I've come to love curling up next to a crackling fire with a glass of wine or a good book. It feels like home.

This past week, I've really been struggling with ice-cold windchill, and I really needed a pick-me-up. So this morning, I woke up extra early so I could enjoy my coffee next to the warm glow of the fire...and Christmas music was even playing on the speakers. Absolutely perfect.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"Rockin' around the Christmas tree

Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we've no place to go,
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

Today, I created my first (of probably many) Christmas playlist on Pandora.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tasty treats

I love all things sweet, and I always make sure to save room for dessert. In fact, I've even been known to order dessert before my meal because it is, after all, the most important part. So it's not surprising that rich, sugary treats are among my favorite holiday-inspired things.

Tonight I splurged and got festive with some lemon cranberry bread pudding and dense chocolate mint brownie (that was more like fudgey cake batter). Yum.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Crafty with crayons

I forgot how much fun coloring is...especially when you have a brand new, freshly sharpened pack of Crayola crayons.

Today I started wrapping my gifts in my very own custom-made wrapping paper. It's not fancy; it's not even artistic, but it certainly was fun. And I needed to do something silly after my very un-fun Tuesday.

Monday, December 14, 2009

12 days and counting

Once is starts getting cold, I start getting grumpy (not to mention mopey, sleepy and hungry all the time). But at least now I still have the holidays to keep me distracted from the bone-chilling temperature and lack of sunshine in my life these days.

That's why I've decided to do at least one festive thing every day from now until Christmas. And to help me remember, I'm going to blog about it each day.

Today, I started making Christmas cards. Armed with sheets of card stock, rubber cement, ribbon, stickers and tons of leftover scraps from presents I've opened over the years (for some reason I love to save this stuff), I was more than prepared to make masterpieces for the masses. So far, I've accomplished one beautifully festive card, and I'm feeling better already.

Monday, November 30, 2009


Sometimes I forget that I don't actually know Augusten Burroughs. After reading his books, it's hard not to feel a kinship to him. He freely offers the intimate details and dirty secrets of his adventures as if he's talking to his closest friend. Honestly, what stranger would tell you about the time he got black-out drunk and accidentally slept with a 65-year-old Santa?

I certainly enjoyed his latest collection of stories, although I wish it was longer. My number 11 went by a little too quickly.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Only one more to go...

After a long day of feeling sick and grouchy, all I wanted to do was snuggle under the covers with my last Augusten Burroughs book and drink peppermint tea.

And so I finished the second half of Sellevision in just a couple hours. I was excited to make some more progress on my list, but also disappointed to have already gone through all of his books. That is, until I realized he just published another book last month. Thrilled to have one more great read to look forward to.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Worth every penny

I love, love, love my new headphones. Definitely one impulsive decision I don't regret.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Halfway there

The hard part is finally over. Now it's time to focus on getting better so you can play with Benny Boo Bopple.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thank goodness for pumpkin lattes

The weather is a hot conversation topic among New Englanders. They're always either raving about beautiful sunshine or whining about gray skies. These days, it's the unseasonably, disgustingly cold weather that's got people talking. It's easy to complain after a chilly, rainy summer and an insanely abrupt fall. I didn't even have the opportunity to pretend to be excited for the change of seasons; we just catapulted straight into winter.

Aside from baking an apple pie and eating a giant Turkey leg at a recent fall festival, I haven't really enjoyed too many fall activities this year. So I'm posting some pictures from last year to help spread some good vibes.

I should have no problem crossing snow shoeing and ice skating off my list before January...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I am on a roll, and I'm not stopping anytime soon. Finally, after three interviews and three months of waiting, I'm officially a volunteer-in-training at the New England Aquarium and crossing off another item on my to-do list.

Not only am I meeting cool new people who share my love for sea creatures, but I'm also learning lots of interesting 'biofacts' (and totally annoying my friends with my new trivia). Here are some of the highlights from my first class:
  • Octopuses are so smart that they're sometimes called the "primates of the sea." This also means that they can be troublemakers when they're bored. A while back, the giant Pacific octopus was sneaking out of his aquarium and treating himself to midnight snacks in the adjacent tank. For weeks, researchers were mystified by the disappearance of the flounder because the octopus always returned to his tank before morning. Finally, someone caught him red-handed. Now, the octopus has to solve elaborate puzzles in order to get his food.
  • Also, octopuses have three hearts. (wow)
  • Have you seen the octopus vs. shark video? It just might be my favorite marine animal.
  • Cordova is the most vocal of all the fur seals. In fact, one night she was so loud that a neighbor actually called 9-1-1. He was convinced that someone was hurt/trapped near the doc.
  • Sea otters have one million hairs per square inch of their skin. One million.
  • Northern fur seals are an extreme example of sexual dimorphism. Adult males are 30-40 percent longer and about 4.5 times heavier than adult females. In other words, males grow up to be about 7 feet long and 600 pounds, while females are only 4.5 feet long and 120 pounds. (whoa)
  • After northern fur seals mate, it takes about three months for the fertilized egg to drop into the uterus.
That's all for now, but I'm sure I'll have much more to share in the upcoming weeks.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I know it's silly, but it still counts. Only 17 more before the list is complete. Wish me luck.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Yet another item has been crossed off my to-do list. I can't decide what's sexier -- the glasses, the flannel dress, the apron or the fact that I can whip up a delicious apple pie in minutes.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Random thoughts

I'm tired, grumpy and can't seem to stay focused on anything. Here are some of the random thoughts that are preventing me from getting anything done.
  • Is summer really over already? I'm not even going to pretend I'm excited for the fall. (Also, I love this picture.)
  • It annoys me when companies don't stick to their specialties. Really, who is buying lattes from McDonald's?
  • I wish shopping centers had slides instead of escalators. Fun and efficient.
  • Seriously considering getting a long board.
  • So far in my lifetime, two pigeons have flown right into my head. Turns out my fear of them isn't entirely irrational.
  • Thank you, Pandora, for introducing me to Kate Nash. I'm obsessed with Merry Happy and Nicest Thing.
  • A cheap, all-inclusive vacation to a tropical beach is a must this year. I think getting my passport might be the next item crossed off my to-do list.
  • Lately everything I've been buying is hot pink. When did I become so girly?
  • Thank GOD Moo is no longer working in the projects of inner city Hartford. I'm no longer on the verge of having a heart attack every day.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Phew. It may have taken an embarrassingly long time, but those 7.6 miles are finally behind me, and I can cross another item off of my to-do list.

Friday, August 28, 2009

#2... Check

Finally, the four of us were able to coordinate a
mini family vacation, and I crossed another item off my to-do list.

Given our recent stint of poor luck, we weren't surprised when meteorologists issued tropical storm warnings for the weekend. But we also weren't ready to succumb to Hurricane Bill's wrath. We were going to have a good time no matter what.

And it seems our positive outlook also helped channel some positive weather. Contrary to weather predictions, it was sunny and beautiful every single day. It couldn't have been any better. Here are some of the highlights:
  • 4 gorgeous days of sunshine
  • 3 dozen raw oysters
  • 10-foot waves (4 unexpected wipeouts and 2 lost bathing suits)
  • 1 chocolate turtle and piece of chocolate peanut butter fudge
  • 1 hilarious game of Cranium
  • 3 matching bookmarks, 2 matching purses and 2 matching sweatshirts
  • 1 neverending story
  • 2 Golden Monkeys and 1 Squealing pig (Definitely not as dirty as it sounds)
  • 1 early morning run in the rain
  • 2 unbelievably uncomfortable cots
  • 1 spectacular lunch at Beachcomber
  • 4 games of cribbage (the best card game in the history of the universe)
  • 1 excited French terrier
  • 1 destroyed manicure
  • 1 unprecedented Martha Stuart impersonation
  • 0 stress
  • Countless jumbles
  • 1 happy, lucky family!

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Another fun item crossed off my to-do list.

I was hoping to post a funny picture of myself with crazy Albert Einstein hairdo at the Theater of Electricity, but I didn't feel right pushing my way through a mob of 10-year-olds.

My favorite fun fact from this trip -- the myth of cyclops may be derived from the discovery of dwarf elephant skulls. It's believed that the Greeks mistook the large trunk cavity for a large single eye socket.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Summer of Jen

In April, I boldly declared this the "Summer of Jen." I was excited to do all the fun things I love and really make it a special, memorable few months. It figures that this daring pledge would be met with some of the worst luck ever. Ugh.

But there are still a few weeks left to turn it all around. And what better way to start than visiting old friends and vacationing at the beach? Starting today I'm going to choose something to look forward to every day.

Happy Summer!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Doggy heaven

I hope there is a doggy heaven because no dog is more deserving than Zoe. Our little fatty was part of the family, and we will miss her every day.

I like to imagine her still enjoying her lazy mornings, sunbathing and showing off her big belly.

And when she's not lounging around, she's feasting on peanut butter, ice cream and of course edamame.

Her afternoons are spent running around with her silly dog (and maybe even sheep) friends.

Here, every day is Christmas, and she has endless presents to tear open, all of them squishy and squeaky (her favorite).

Her evenings are spent curled up by the fireplace watching movies (although sometimes she forgets that the TV isn't real).

She's able to relax in peace, since there are no thunderstorms, golfers or wii.

And of course she has a warm, cozy bed where she can snuggle.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Plan to be surprised

I hate expectations. I don't like having them or feeling like I need to fulfill them.

More often than not, I think that having expectations sets you up for disappointment. It's too easy to set unrealistic goals, especially when you really, really want something.

But what's even worse is trying to meet someone else's expectations. Sometimes it's just so much more fun to do the very opposite of what people expect of you.

I'm not advocating that people expect the worst. In fact, I think that's a terrible idea. I like to hope for the best and expect the unexpected.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Best. Book. Ever.

Last week, I made a last-minute stop at the bookstore to pick up a David Sedaris book. But as I was walking down the aisles, one book immediately caught my eye. It was tucked away in the corner on the very last shelf -- The Opposite of Love. Intrigued, I turned to the first page:
“Last night, I dreamt that I chopped Andrew up into a hundred little pieces, like a Benihana chef, and ate them, one by one. He tasted like chicken. Afterward, I felt full, but slightly disappointed. I had been craving steak.”
After reading this perfect opening, I knew I'd be going home with two books.

I was barely halfway done with this book when I added it to my list of good reads. It was just that good. It's a story about beginnings, endings and re-beginnings. It's about losing everything and recreating yourself from the leftover scraps.

The main character (Emily) seemingly has everything -- a lucrative job at a prestigious law firm, an incredible boyfriend and a fancy, high-rise apartment in Manhattan. But she trades it all in on what seems like a whim, and then she is almost immediately consumed by feelings of regret. Although she wasn't ready to continue her life as it was before, she also wasn't prepared for the heartache and anger that accompanied her loss.

Had I read this book at a different point in my life, I don't think I would have like the main character. In fact, I'm pretty sure I would have found her to be annoying, frustrating and just plain stupid.

But I empathized with her and desperately wanted her to work for her happy ending. And I couldn't have asked for a more perfect ending. You must make this your next summer beach book.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I never would have guessed that a play about mentally ill patients battling the cruelties of an insane asylum would be so thoroughly entertaining. Although I love the book and the movie, I simply wasn't looking forward to such a dark show on such a dreary weekend.

But it ended up being unexpectedly, and to some degree, unintentionally hilarious. One particular patient, Martini, stole the show. As he skipped and sashayed around the stage in his pink slippers, high-wasted boxers and high-water pajama pants, it was apparent that he was supposed to be the comical character to help lighten the mood when things felt grim.

But once the Woods girls start laughing, there is just no stopping us. And the fact that we were trying desperately to stop once a scene started to become somber, well, it just made us laugh even harder. Why is inappropriate laughter always the hardest to contain? While we tried to keep the volume down to a minimum, I definitely crossed #25 off of my to-do list.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Bliss list

Lately, I feel like I've been suffering from Debbie Downer syndrome. But luckily, my favorite self-help book (Choosing Brilliant Health: 9 Choices That Redefine What It Takes to Create Lifelong Vitality and Well-Being) says that just thinking about the things that make you happy will actually improve your mood. So I've decided to make a "bliss list" of some of my favorite things. Here goes:
  • Dancing
  • Hiking
  • Animals (except for snakes, squirrels and geese)
  • Ferry rides
  • Amusement parks
  • Christmas shopping
  • Going to the beach
  • Going out to eat (OK, maybe just eating in general)
  • Spending time with my cousins
  • Writing
  • Arts and crafts (especially homemade cards)
  • Reading
  • Swimming
  • Freshly picked corn on the cob
  • Pool parties
  • Strawberry picking
  • Fall festivals
  • Long walks in the evening sun
  • Making snowmen
  • Pumpkin lattes
  • Waking up to the sunrise
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Museums/aquariums
  • Packing for vacation
  • Day parties
  • Plane rides
  • Flip flops
  • Sundresses
  • Breakfast outside
  • Singing with the windows rolled down
  • Ice cream sandwiches
What's on your list?

Friday, June 5, 2009


My favorite quote of the week, courtesy of Weissner: "Every time I think I hate something, I realize I have to fall in love with it."

Friday, May 22, 2009

Wishful thinking

I would not describe myself as superstitious. I don't knock on wood or avoid black cats to prevent bad luck. I don't carry around a rabbit's foot or feel nervous on Friday the 13th. And yet I've never passed up the opportunity to wish upon a shooting star. I've only seen a handful my entire life, which makes them extra special in my eyes. And for the first time in years, I caught a glimpse of one the other night. Without hesitation, I immediately closed my eyes and made a wish -- because you're never too old to hope for the impossible.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Day one

I'm trying something new today: steaming hot tea...and absolutely no coffee. Yesterday I only allowed myself one small cup in the morning (instead of my usual three), and somehow I survived. Let's see if I can get the day without being overly snarky or suffering a horrible withdrawal headache. Wish me luck.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


I finally went to Baptiste yoga studio and crossed #7 off my to-do list. Since it was my first real yoga class, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, although I was warned that it would be very hot. We went to a Bikram yoga session, where they crank the heat up to 90+ degrees.

But I like it hot. That is, until the assistant helps you stretch and drips sweat all over your face (yuck). But aside from the unintentional splatter of someone else's sweat, it was very calming. For those 90 minutes, I let go of the stress and anxiety I was feeling, cleared my mind and focused solely on my breathing (which also helped prevent me from fainting).

Although I did better than I had expected, I was clearly a novice. It took me three tries to correctly roll up my new mat and stuff it in its mesh bag (which in my opinion, is just too small). But maybe next time it'll only take me two tries.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rockstar weekend

Here are some of the highlights from my fantastic, fun-filled weekend (hopefully, pictures will soon follow):
  • Ice cream sandwiches in the sunshine
  • Flip flops on Friday (despite my horrific self-pedicure)
  • Creation of the "sappy, girly, awesome" playlist
  • Authentic Polish kielbasa and sauerkraut
  • Coronas, laughs and inappropriate conversations with crazy coworkers
  • Dancing and debauchery into the wee hours of the morning
  • Crab Rangoon and sweet/sour chicken at 2 a.m. (which I'm convinced led to crazy nightmares)
  • Sleep until 2 p.m.
  • First ones to hit the dance floor at Roxy's gay night
  • Four go-go dancers in Speedos and bandannas (Goober was a good sport)
  • Greasy, delicious, piping hot pepperoni pizza
  • One long (but somehow still fun) hour in the rain trying to catch a cab
  • Live jazz, homemade oatmeal and decadent eggs Benedict at Johnny D's

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009


A couple weeks ago I made homemade pierogies and crossed another item off my to-do list. This was slightly more labor intensive than I had anticipated, taking nearly four hours to make 50+ perfectly plump pierogies. My grandmother probably could have made twice the amount in half the time all by herself. But it was the first time my mom and I had ever attempted this recipe.

Making the dough and filling is simple enough. It's handling the dough and stuffing them that's tricky. I recommend rolling the dough out into a long log. Then slice off a small piece, flatten it with your hands (or a rolling pin). Stuff as much as you can in the center. You want them to be pretty round. So once they're filled, you'll need to stretch the ends out to seal it. (This also prevents the ends from being too doughy or tough.) Then use a fork to finalize the seal (like you would for a pie crust).

Here's the general recipe we used. (But you really just need to eyeball it and go by how the dough feels. If it's clinging to your fingers, it's too sticky, and you need more flour.)

In a small bowl, whisk 1-2 eggs and 1/2 cup of water together.
Add the liquid to 3 cups of flour and a teaspoon of salt.
(You can also use a little less liquid and add some sour cream)
Need mixture until everything is incorporated.
Cover the dough with a damp paper towel and let it sit for 10-20 minutes at room temperature before handling.

You can fill these with pretty much whatever you want. Traditionally, pierogies are often stuffed with farmer's cheese with or without potatoes. We couldn't find farmer's cheese, so we added cheddar cheese, ricotta, onion juice and butter to our mashed potatoes.

If you prefer sauerkraut, get the kind that's packaged in a bag. Rinse and drain it. Start off by frying some bacon. Remove the bacon and most of the bacon fat from the pan. Then saute an onion and about 1/4 of a cabbage. Next add the sauerkraut and then caraway seeds, salt and bacon fat to taste. Make sure the sauerkraut mixture isn't too wet before adding to the pierogies.

Once filled, boil the pierogies until they float. You can eat them just like this, but I like to saute them with butter and onions. Serve with sour cream.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Happy Friday!

I know it's been a long time since my last post, but I've been busy crossing things of my list. Details, recipes and pictures soon to follow. In the meantime, I'll leave you with this fantastic picture of Moo (and Zoe). I can't stop laughing. Only my family would be this excited for Journey to the Center of the Earth in 3D. (To top it off, she randomly had a spare pair of 3D glasses in her lap top case. haha.) Hope everyone has a great weekend!!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

# 12...check

Number 12 can be checked off this year's to-do list. I am happy to say that I finally had my first full-body massage -- a 60-minute session of shiatsu acupressure.

A lot of people are skeptical when they hear the word "acupressure" because they assume it's super painful. But it's really not, if done correctly. In fact, the combination of stretching and gentle acupoint stimulation left me feeling completely relaxed...not to mention totally flushed from the drastic increase in circulation. Can't wait for my next one!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Need a pick-me-up?

On days like today, I look at this picture. I keep a copy of it in my wallet because it never fails to make me laugh when I'm having a rough day.

Caption: Out-of-shape college student overexerts himself at the gym. Upon arriving home, he immediately crawls under his desk to plug in his computer. For unknown reasons, this task was so urgent that he didn't even have time to take off his backpack. Unfortunately, he fell asleep with narcoleptic speed before he could reach the outlet.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ballerina at heart

The moment I set foot in the Dance Complex, it felt familiar. As I climbed the stairs to studio 6, I felt like 12-year-old Jen on her way to ballet class with Ms. Lafonde. I suddenly wished I was wearing a leotard, leg warmers and ballet shoes.

But the dance workshop I was headed to didn't require any particular type of clothing. It didn't even require rhythm. I was going to dharma jam, a meditative, creative movement class. I had no idea what to expect, and I was beginning to feel apprehensive when only four of us showed up.

The theme of this class was interdependence. We were to imagine ourselves as being leaves on a tree and allow our movements to be influenced by both the music and each other. It was like no other improvisational class I've been to. There was no structure; no judgment. We simply moved as we felt.

By the end, my energy had been completely transformed. My feelings of stress, anger and apprehension were swiftly converted into calmness, happiness and acceptance.

But I was also excited to have found the Dance Complex, a hidden gem that I had walked past without noticing countless times. I can't wait to take some ballet, contemporary and maybe even African dance classes! For all those who want to get their groove on, check out

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Flip flops in January

Now that the holidays have come and gone, I'm already starting to get antsy for spring. At this time last year, my toes were bare and my skin was slightly less pale. But this year, I've traded in my sunglasses for a fleece hat, my flip flops for winter boots and my sunblock for over-sized mittens. As the days get colder and snowier, I'm starting to miss beautiful, sunny Southern California. I especially miss:

: Before I moved to California, everyone said I'd take the beautiful weather for granted. After all, you can't appreciate the sweet without the sour. But it couldn't have been farther from the truth. I was thankful for every single cloudless, perfect day. Even though I knew was going to show a week of golden sun globes, I still checked it every day and smiled in amazement.

But maybe if I had grown up in Southern California and knew nothing else, I wouldn't have thought twice about the beautiful weather. Maybe all the cold, snowy winters and stormy, sunless springs I'd endured growing up was enough sour to let me enjoy the sweet.

: The ultimate fish tacos. I recommend fish tacos (blackened), ahi rice, black beans and a side of extra guacamole. Mmmmm.

Pinkberry: Sweet, sour, simple and delicious. With just three flavors (original, green tea and pomegranate), I don't feel overwhelmed trying to make a decision...that is until I see all of the fresh fruits and fun toppings. My favorite: original frozen yogurt with coconut and strawberries.

Christmas lights on palm trees: I'll admit, the first time I saw a palm tree glowing with Christmas lights, I rolled my eyes. It seemed like an abomination of the classic pine trees I grew up with. But as I enjoyed my first Christmas on the porch in sandals and short sleeves, I quickly came to appreciate this new tradition.

Happy hour: As you can see, good food and drinks are a high priority in my life. So, it should be no surprise that I'm very disappointed with the no-happy-hour rules in Massachusetts.

Forever 21: I didn't fully appreciate the awesomeness of this store until I moved to California, the home of the very first Forever 21. In New England, this store is organized like a giant tag sale -- with all of the clothing strewn about randomly. The layout is so cluttered in such a limited space that you can barely maneuver your way to the fitting room. But in Pasadena, the two-floor store is like a mini shopping center. Everything is arranged by style (casual, dressy, outerwear, etc.), then color, then size. Thank goodness they have a fabulous Web site for online shopping.