March 2014 archive
At Btone Fitness, I like to use the Megaformer furthest to the right (similar to my habit of sitting on the end in college classes or at the bike on the right-most end of the second row at Pursuit Boston). Sometimes when I am struggling through elevator lunge or other standing moves, I eye the e.t.c juicery case by the instructor desk. The cashew milks and green juices always look so tempting!
Melina, one of the Btone teachers, created her own pressed juice business called e.t.c. I took her class for the first time on Tuesday…girl will make you worrrrk! After trying a green juice for the first time at Pursuit today, I can vouch for the quality of the juice being similar to the quality of her class!
If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
My first thought was to change one of my physical qualities: to clear up my vision to 20/20, to sing like Ella Fitzgerald or Fiona Apple, or to run like Kara Goucher. Those potential qualities are lovely but wouldn’t pay off as much (unless I landed a recording contract or running sponsorship). Changing my devotion to the “shoulds” would pay off so much more. The “shoulds” involve social pressures and doing things for extrinsic motivation and the approval of others rather than for intrinsic rewards.
I don’t like that the question almost implies that the “one thing” has to be a wishful thing or a thing that you could never change about yourself. To fight the “shoulds,” I’ll focus on being calmer and on living my life with intentions rather than trying to hold myself to an overly rigid plan.
Do you do more for yourself or for others?
More is not better.
I am not a good multi-tasker. I prefer quiet workspaces and small groups. When I add more to my metaphorical activity plate, I get stressed but I hide it because I think that multi-tasking is what’s prized in the working world. I say I understand balance, but I don’t. In fact, when a coworker used to tell me “be kind to yourself” during times of stress, I would interpret “kindness” as being lazy and not upholding myself to my standards.
I think this attitude comes from long-held subconscious equating of self-worth with extrinsic rewards: straight A’s, high scores on standardized tests, acceptance to prestigious grad school. That kind of gold star seeking is more for others, not for oneself. That subconscious creeps into the time I do take for myself now, telling me “you’re being lazy” or “why aren’t you accomplishing X, Y, or Z?” I have to bite my tongue to keep from asking myself “why are you writing this blog post instead of going to Pilates at soul.train right now?”
I’m not fully present in that time I take for myself, much as I am not fully present if texting, checking email, or Instagramming. I’m not fully present if I don’t acknowledge that I need to back off from thinking “more is better” or viewing unscheduled time as laziness. I’m not fully present if I let that worrying or concern about gold stars creep into the things that I do for others, especially my teaching. I want to enjoy the time in my classroom without always thinking that there’s something better to be done, or worrying because my lessons or room itself or kids aren’t perfect. Nothing is.
Benjamin Franklin said: “There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” Do you think you know yourself well?
I used to think I did. The more I learn, the more I realize that I don’t know. It doesn’t matter whether it’s about teaching, about cooking, or about myself. You would think that we all know ourselves well, but I think that we all have blind spots that we are not aware of.
Would you say that you are your own best friend?
No. Several of my posts for this NaBloPoMo challenge have examined conflict between the dueling natures of self. This one continues the theme. I can be strong and motivate myself to persevere through tough situations, yet I can easily spiral down into weakness, discouraging myself from finding the positive. I’m learning to be kinder to myself, but I can still be my own worst enemy.
How would you rate your self-confidence? When is it at its lowest? When is it at its highest?
If it were a function:
1) The first derivative would be positive.
2) Relative minima occur on days with lessons that don’t go as well as I hoped, bad races, or bad sleep.
3) Relative maxima occur on days with good lessons, unexpected surprises, or sufficient sleep.
4) Absolute minima and maxima happen with the life events that make me laugh and cry.
When I arrived home after the PopChips cooking competition, I pondered how to use the original or BBQ PopChips in an inventive way that enhances flavor and texture. Their light, airy nature makes them ideal for a crumb topping, binder for veggie or meat burgers, or as a vehicle for tiny hors d’oeuvres. I thought of incorporating them into arepas, scallion pancakes, or a Filipino caesar salad.
I circulated through my mental recipe box for something that would “pop” with crumbled PopChips…and landed on pancit palabok, a favorite Filipino noodle dish from childhood. My mother cooked lots of Filipino food: empanadas, chicken adobo, lumpia (egg rolls), and variations of pancit. I loved being in the kitchen with her, watching her create the recipes from her little green recipe box. I especially loved getting to cut up the hard boiled eggs for topping pancit with our little egg slicer. Now that I live in Somerville, I have to ask her for advice by text or phone when I’m attempting adobo, pancit, or other dishes.
Party time, circa 1981 #nofilter
Filipino food has a lot of Spanish and Chinese influences, with lots of interplay between sweet, sour, and salty flavors. Pancit palabok is a rice noodle dish topped with a shrimp-based sauce (whose red color comes from achiote powder), hard boiled eggs, shrimp, ground pork, scallions, garlic, and pork rinds. The pancit is usually served with kalamansi limes, which add a nice citrusy kick. I thought the PopChips would be a great healthy substitute for the crumbled pork rinds (chicharrons) that usually top the dish. My PopChip of choice: brown rice, quinoa, and chia (bought them post-competition to make sure there were enough for topping all of the pancit palabok).
There are many variations on palabok toppings: bacon, chorizo, tofu, tinapa flakes, mussels, and calamari. Likewise, the sauce ingredients span a wide spectrum of ready-made to homemade. Some folks use Knorr shrimp boullion cubes for the sauce while others make their own shrimp stock using the shells from their prawns. My variation includes zoodles (zucchini noodles), shrimp, tofu, and calamari.
This makes a lot. My fiance and I each ate a serving for dinner and there was enough left over for 3-4 more servings.
1. Put zucchini through a spiral slicer to make zoodles.
2. Put them in a microwave-safe dish and microwave for two minutes to “cook” them.
3. Place noodles into serving dish (or on plates).
1.5 oz seafood stock (I used Glace de Mer)
4 tablespoons flour
1 packet Goya Sazon
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
*in retrospect, I wish I’d added some olive oil here.
I should have started the sauce by mixing oil/grease and flour and cooking those together before adding the shrimp stock, water, Goya Sazon, fish sauce, and soy sauce to simmer for about 20 minutes.
31-40 large shrimp (I used Whole Foods frozen cooked shrimp and thawed it)
1 pound calamari (rings and tentacles)
1 package extra firm tofu, cubed
fish sauce and soy sauce for marinade
2 cups PopChips
1 head garlic, minced
4 hardboiled eggs (chopped into wedges)
1/2 cup scallions, chopped
1/2 cup chives, chopped
avocado or olive oil
limes for garnish
1. Marinade the shrimp and calamari in fish sauce and soy sauce (about 30 minutes).
2. Fry the tofu cubes until golden.
3. Put the PopChips in a large ziploc bag and poke a hole in the bag. Roll a rolling pin over the bag until the PopChips are crumbled.
3. Toast the garlic and PopChips in a pan with about 3 tablespoons of oil until golden. Name them Pop-Chipcharrons.
4. Grill the calamari for about 2 minutes (until the rings and tentacles turn opaque).
5. Heat the thawed shrimp in a pan.
6. Mix together the shrimp, calamari, tofu, and sauce in a large sauce pan. Simmer for about five minutes.
7. Spoon the shrimp, calamari, tofu, and sauce mixture over the noodles. Top with the hardboiled eggs, scallions, chives, and Pop-Chipcharrons. Add lime to taste.
Overall, I was happy with the dish. The zoodles’ lightness and freshness complemented the shrimp, calamari, and tofu. The hard boiled eggs (cooked according to the Mark Bittman method) turned out well, as did the calamari (which I cooked fresh for the first time). I liked that the Pop-Chipcharrons added the same light, airy crunch that real pork rinds do. For next time, I will work on improving the consistency/intensity of the sauce (perhaps with my own shrimp stock). I may also try this as a lettuce wrap with pork carnitas.
As a kid, I brought the same cupcakes to school every year on my birthday: yellow cupcakes with strawberry, chocolate, or vanilla frosting from Brenner’s Bakery. My favorite was always the strawberry. That was cupcake life in the 1980s. Our students no longer bring cupcakes to school because of food allergy rules, but at home they can select from cupcakes that 1980s children could never even have imagined.
Last Thursday, I went to a complimentary cupcake tasting hosted by Boston Bloggers at Sweet Cupcakes on Newbury Street. After meeting the owner, Courtney Forrester, we tried signature cupcakes (such as chocolate and vanilla vanilla), gluten-free chocolate cupcakes, St. Patrick’s Day cupcakes, Bailey’s cupcakes, and cappuccino cupcakes (all washed down with milk and hot chocolate).
I loved hearing about the story of Sweet just as much as I loved the vanilla vanilla cupcake. Courtney Forrester developed a passion for dessert and cupcakes after the rise of Magnolia Bakery and Sex and the City, and parlayed that passion into developing her own small business. An avid baker, she wanted to offer guests in her home more than one flavor, but realized that doing so would require her to bake several dozen each time she had guests. She also saw a great business opportunity in that there were no cupcake shops in Boston at the time, then pounced on the opportunity. Initially she wanted to bake and sell in the same location, but found that startup costs for building the required infrastructure were prohibitive. She figured out a great solution by setting up a bakery at a Hyde Park location that had already been outfitted for a now-defunct confectioner. Over the years, she has continued to have more business adventures, including a special order of a rock star cake by Bon Jovi that was delivered to the Fleet Center for Richie Sambora’s birthday.
The Sweet cupcakes shop looks effortlessly fresh, light and pretty, with touches of pink and brown. Courtney Forrester cited Laduree macaron shop as a stylistic influence, and she shows that influence in details like the bakery case, the flatscreen tv which plays scenes from retro movies like Marie Antoinette or Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the custom wallpaper. Even the packaging was carefully designed. The thought and effort that went into the overall store design definitely paid off–Sweet is perfect for a lighthearted spring jaunt down Newbury Street.
Though it stays consistent in look and feel, Sweet seems to always be adapting based on feedback and new opportunities. Leftovers are often donated to organizations like Lovin Spoonfuls, Pine Street Inn, and Bridge Over Troubled Waters. In addition to the myriad cupcakes, there are pupcakes (tested by Courtney’s beagle), gluten-free cupcakes (made in Belmont by Natalie McEachern), nut-free cookies, custom cakes, wedding cupcake towers. The custom orders in particular reflect an understanding of customer demand. Customers can have logos or monograms printed on rice paper via the edible printer…this is great for weddings, marriage proposals, or prom proposals. Sweet has even extended to the “reveal cake” business by offering up cakes that are filled with pink or blue buttercream.
The cupcake tasting gave me some teaching inspiration too:
1) How do you plan the amount of ingredients needed to have 50 cupcakes left over each night?
2) How do you use sales data to estimate demand for each flavor?
3) How can you convert a cupcake recipe for making a cake?
4) How can you design a cupcake tower?
Though my beloved Brenner’s strawberry cupcakes are long gone, I’m happy to find lots more amazing ones at Sweet!
225 Newbury St
Boston MA 02115
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Who do you trust more: yourself or others?
I used to rarely trust myself. Rather, I deferred to others because I assumed that they always knew better. In my first few years as a teacher, I always thought of myself as the newbie who resided at the bottom of the totem pole (even when I had useful ideas to contribute). Now I’m learning to trust my instincts and to get used to the ideas that others might trust me.
Is it easier for you to work together with other people or to work alone?
My natural inclination is to work alone. For lesson planning and the grade team leader or IB coordinator work that requires concentrated effort, I crave solitude. Give me a clean desk, a Design Love Fest wall paper on my desktop, a jazz Spotify playlist in my ears, some Uni-Ball Signo gel pens, and my Bullet Journal, and I’m golden.
However, teaching and leadership experience have also improved my ability to delegate and to play well with others, particularly in the following areas.
1) Drawing Out Other People’s Strengths: As a kid, I could often be found saying “no! I want to do it!” out of a wish to prove my own competence. As an adult, I know now I can’t be SuperWoman and do it all, no matter how much I want to. At a trivial level, I definitely know I can’t change the water bubbler bottles at school. Though I’m strong, my short stature plus the weight of the bottle makes it near impossible for me to overturn the bottle into the spout without causing a repeat of the Teachers Lounge Flood of 2010. In addition to relying on others for small day-to-day tasks, I have started to try to adhere to the adage that a good leader doesn’t do the tasks that she can empower others to do. For example, the other grade team leaders and I could just emcee the school’s awards assemblies rather than investing in others to do so. Instead, we have moved to a student emcee model that uses our school president and vice president. There were some initial hiccups such as reading names too fast or not knowing how to introduce the headmasters, but those two have risen to the occasion and keep improving with every assembly they emcee.
2) Cooking: I would be happy to cook for hours every day with ingredients I found at the farmer’s markets. I would love to experiment with complicated recipes and painstakingly document it all with my DSLR. However, those hours are already taken up by leadership meetings, fitness classes, debate, and running club, so I have to figure out how to leverage my fiance for help in the kitchen. Bonus: more quality time with him as we construct meals. I used to feel nervous about asking him to help (curse of the “SuperWoman must do it all” mentality), but when I realized that he didn’t find my requests to be bossy or nagging, I stopped feeling that way.
4) Talking Through Lessons: I like getting feedback from friends or my fiance about my lesson or project ideas. The very act of talking through my plans can help me find inconsistencies or adjust timing of activities, and the diverse perspectives and experience of all those people can yield very fruitful ideas.