Wednesday, June 5, 2019
Posted by Lisa Yak at 3:54 PM
Monday, June 3, 2019
Friday, May 24, 2019
My youngest daughter left today for a Summer semester of Study Abroad in France. This is the first time she has ever traveled so far alone, without a family member, and I am equal parts proud, excited, envious, and despondent. I know she will have a wonderful time, and that she deserves this adventure. I also tell myself that this is what my husband and I have worked so hard to do in raising our children, to make them confident and self-assured enough to spread their wings and explore the world on their own, to discover things through their own eyes, unfiltered by ours. I want her to see and experience other cultures and customs, and to cultivate the strength and inner composure that comes from venturing off alone in unfamiliar territory.
Posted by Lisa Yak at 10:35 PM
Sunday, May 19, 2019
I never go barefoot outside, but my neighbor's dog got loose and decided to run around in my backyard, so I ventured out just this once without shoes or socks on. I managed to wrangle Miss Daisy and get her back home safe and sound, but as I headed back inside, I came awfully close to stepping on THIS little guy. Good thing we both have fast reflexes: I stopped in the nick of time, and he jumped out of the way onto some nearby rock. Crisis averted. We have so many different types of wildlife outside in the yard, and I love the variety that we get to see each day.
From a safe and respectful distance, that is.
Posted by Lisa Yak at 10:46 AM
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
We had a great time tonight, enjoying dinner with good friends who were in NYC for a visit. The last few times they've been in town, we always end up at Aquagrill at 210 Spring Street for dinner, and it never disappoints. We arrived a bit early and I had a cocktail that was crazy-good: a jalapeño quencher that was crisp and refreshing, with a nice hot pepper kick at the end.
Posted by Lisa Yak at 6:11 PM
Saturday, March 9, 2019
Peeps marshmallow candies have been around longer than I have--according to Wikipedia, the chick-shaped sugar-coated confections first debuted in 1953, produced in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. As a child, no Easter holiday was truly complete unless you had one of these bright yellow, sticky, marshmallow chicks waiting for you in your Easter Basket.
Eventually, the Just Born company started releasing Peeps in a range of colors. From Wikipedia: The yellow chicks were the original form of the candy — hence their name — but then the company introduced other colors and, eventually, the myriad shapes in which they are now produced. Peeps were manufactured in different colors such as lavender and blue starting in 1995. Prior to that they were only being produced in the traditional colors: pink, white, and yellow. New flavors such as vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate were introduced between the years of 1999 and 2002."
I'm sorry to report that things have officially gotten out of hand. In keeping with the relentless onslaught of "Limited Edition" flavors that our tried-and-true favorites have been releasing (yes, Oreos, I'm looking at you), the other day, I stumbled across Party Cake Peeps and Pancakes & Syrup Peeps.
My expectations, dear Reader, were not high.
It took us a few days to work up the nerve to taste them, and we started with the Pancakes & Syrup Peeps because we figured those would be nasty, and then we could cleanse our palates with the Party Cake Peeps.
As it turned out, the Pancakes & Syrup Peeps were actually quite good. Yes, they're super-sweet, but they smell and taste EXACTLY like imitation maple syrup--which is to say, not nearly as good as Grade A Pure Canadian Maple Syrup, but not bad. They also had a nice, consistent color--like they'd been basking on the beach in the Caribbean and came home with a tan.
The Party Cake Peeps were another story. The aroma as soon as you open the package is distinctly familiar. No, not birthday cake--they smell exactly like Play-Doh. I kid you not.
As for the taste--ugh. I couldn't get past the first bite. It didn't really have a flavor other than the usual marshmallow, but the smell of Play-Doh was so off-putting, I chose not to continue. My daughters each finished theirs, and agreed--barely any flavor, and the smell was weird and off-putting. Their appearance was also strange--ghostly white with odd green, yellow and blue speckles, like a sick chick with a rare case of Skittles pox.
Posted by Lisa Yak at 7:14 PM
Tuesday, March 5, 2019
Is there such a thing as being too "woke"? It's a provocative question, and one that I've been mulling for a couple of months now. (An excellent article on this topic that appeared last year in The Grio: Five Signs You May Be Taking Woke Too Far.)
I refer to people like this as "Keyboard Warriors": they enjoy talking a good game online, typing out their opinions and then sitting back to bask in the glow of all the "likes" and "Amen" comments that follow from their online friends. Unfortunately, taking up permanent residence in that kind of vanity-steeped echo chamber doesn't allow much room for personal growth, for the "warrior" or the audience they're trying to sway.
So, a few words of unsolicited advice to all of the "keyboard warriors" out there: if you really want to make a difference in the world, step away from the computer once in awhile, put down your smartphone, and take an active, meaningful role in the REAL world if you want to effect positive change. Join a grassroots group near you that advocates for issues you care about, and back up your words with action. Don't just post photos of your "I Voted!" sticker once a year--get out there and volunteer for the candidates you admire, participate in phone banks or door-to-door canvassing, and engage in whatever Get Out the Vote efforts are happening in your area.
There are many ways to make your voice heard, but remember: Actions Speak Louder Than Words. If you really want people to wake up and listen and see things your way, then get out there and DO something about it.
Posted by Lisa Yak at 6:47 PM
Thursday, February 28, 2019
A recent article assignment required me to do some research on the U.S. Postal Service. Along the way, I found this bit of history regarding the earliest days of the postal system, and the use of slaves to deliver the mail.
This sad and shameful time in U.S. history is painful to revisit, but necessary. This historical anecdote underscores the importance of cultivating and maintaining open communication, especially among marginalized groups. It's essential to keep talking to one another, supporting each other, and working together to make things better. Don't allow others to silence you--use your voice!
This story also spotlights a universal truth: one of the best ways to help a person realize their worth is by giving them a job, entrusting them with responsibility, and providing them a sense of purpose.
Posted by Lisa Yak at 8:30 AM
Thursday, February 14, 2019
This Valentine's Day was a busy one for us, so instead of heading out to a restaurant after a long day, we opted to have a quiet dinner at home. On the menu: a delicious Slow-Cooked Beef Ragu over Pappardelle pasta. [note: I used Beef Stock instead of water and bouillon, and used a cup of red wine as well. I cooked it on the stove for much longer than the recipe states--more like 4.5 hours--and it was well worth it].
I also made creme brulee for the first time, and rather than have the standard vanilla variety, we decided to try a coffee-based version: Espresso Creme Brulee. I let my husband do the "torch work" because my tiny kitchen torch was out of butane, and the heavy-duty torch he uses in the workshop scares me.
Everything turned out great. Happy Valentine's Day!
Posted by Lisa Yak at 11:00 PM
Tuesday, January 8, 2019
Posted by Lisa Yak at 9:16 PM
Sunday, January 6, 2019
There are no “rules” when it comes to Avocado toast, so experimenting with different flavor combinations, depending on what you have on hand, is highly encouraged.
This morning’s version: 647 low carb bread, toasted, with half an avocado sliced up on top. Add salt & pepper, a drizzle of pesto sauce, and top with a fried egg. Good stuff!
Posted by Lisa Yak at 11:24 AM
Friday, January 4, 2019
It's been an ongoing hobby to sample and rate the new "Limited Edition" Oreo flavors as they are released, so when I spotted THREE new flavors at my local Wegman's, I snatched up one of each, and brought them home for a post-dinner family taste test. Tonight, we have "Love" Oreos vs. Carrot Cake Oreos vs. Dark Chocolate Oreos. Which one will reign supreme among them?
Full disclosure, for those who follow my Oreo taste tests regularly: I had the whole family voting this time, since I'm avoiding processed foods in the New Year, and only had a small taste of each. But that's okay, because for one of these cookies in particular, one small taste was one taste too many.
First up: Love Oreos
Oh. My. Gosh. These are HEINOUS. As soon as we opened the package, one of my daughters said, "Ewww...what's that smell?!?" These cookies emit a harsh, chemical odor that is difficult to pin down: acrid and bitter and just...really unpleasant. It took a bit of coaxing for each of us to actually take a bite, and the taste was equally awful. The package doesn't give a clear indication of what the flavor is supposed to be, other than to call them "Sweet & Tangy," but the closest we could come to describing these is a very highly-concentrated, artificial fruit-flavored cereal, like Fruit Loops or Trix mixed with nail polish remover instead of milk. “Sweet & Tangy?” More like Vile & Nasty. Avoid these at all costs--warn your friends AND your enemies.
Overall Grade: F
Next up: Carrot Cake Oreos
We all had high hopes for this one, and I'm happy to say we were not disappointed. As soon as we opened the package, the aroma of carrot cake filled the air. They definitely nailed the scent. The cookie itself also smelled like graham cracker, but there was not much carrot on the flavor profile.
One thing that impressed me, before I even tasted these, was the ratio of filling to cookie--each sandwich cookie had a very generous dollop of cream cheese filling flavored creme. The filling is absolutely delicious, with a smooth, rich texture. The only drawback: everyone agreed that these were a little too sweet. One of my daughters said that she would definitely eat these again as a snack, but that she probably wouldn't be able to have more than 2 cookies in one sitting.
Overall Grade: A-
Last but not least: Dark Chocolate Oreos
The sandwich cookie is basically the same as a regular Oreo, and doesn't add much to the overall taste profile. However, the enjoyment of this flavor begins as soon as you open the bag, and catch the scent of heavenly dark-chocolate. The dark creme filling tastes rich and fudgey, like fresh brownie batter--you can tell they use real cocoa for this recipe, and it says so right on the package.
The Dark Chocolate Oreos weren't overly sweet, and my husband and daughters all said they can't wait to try them dunked in milk, which will probably enhance the flavors even more. I can guarantee that this bag won't last long in my house, even without me eating them.
Overall Grade: A
It was VERY close, but the winner of tonight's Oreo Smackdown was the Dark Chocolate Oreo. The Carrot Cake Oreos came in second, and the Love Cookies need to pulled from supermarket shelves ASAP because they are JUST. THAT. BAD.
Posted by Lisa Yak at 8:02 PM
Tuesday, January 1, 2019
At the dinner table last night, my family and I talked about our goals, but then I saw this photo about actually writing them down, taking the steps needed to turn Dreams into Reality.
This morning, I put pen to paper, and I noticed a theme emerge: the need to be more selective in how I spend my time. As a freelancer, I set my own schedule, and it's been a grueling one for the past year. The best thing about working from a home office is also the worst thing: you don't have to leave the house to get to your job, but you also never get away from your workplace.
In the year ahead, I'd like to do a better job of setting limits on my work hours. There are times when inspiration hits at 11pm, and I just go with it, and that'll probably never change, but that can lead me to a mindset where I'm never off-duty. I'm going to experiment with picking a specific time window when work tasks are strictly off-limits. On the flip side of that, I'd also like to set aside a specific time and day of the week for pursuing something non-work related that I enjoy.
I'd also like to use my time more wisely. Part of my work entails managing clients' social media accounts, so logging onto Facebook and Twitter isn't just fun and games, it's also a necessary part of the work day. Unfortunately, it can be a bit too easy to get sucked into other pursuits once you start scrolling through, and the number of distractions start adding up. I'll be more disciplined about staying on task in the months ahead, and not getting lured down the rabbit hole of recipes, political posts, and viral videos.
Another goal: to connect with friends in person more than I do online. There's no substitute for direct communication with someone, sitting across a table, making eye contact and reading their facial expressions and hearing directly from them how they're doing, not some filtered online version of real life.
Writing more and getting caught up on my massive "books to be read" pile are perennial goals, so I'm filing those under the same overall category of using my time more efficiently.
Maintaining good health is always a priority, and this year, I'm going to focus more on my overall well-being--not just physical fitness and nutrition, but the mind/body/spirit connection.
The news and unstable political climate can be emotionally draining, and one of the things I know I need to work on is being less reactive to upsetting situations that arise, locally and on the national level. "Choose your battles" is good advice, and something I'm going to do more of in the year ahead. To keep things in perspective, I'm going to try the 10-10-10 method I heard about on TV once: when faced with a tough decision, ask yourself: what will be the consequences of this decision in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years? [I googled--this was based on advice from author Suzy Welch on Oprah.]
I'm also a big believer in the words of Mahatma Gandhi: You Must Be the Change You Wish to See in the World. I have these words plastered on my office wall, as a daily reminder of the importance of making a positive difference in the world. I'm looking forward to further prioritizing my volunteer advocacy, and working for the passage of common-sense legislation that makes our community safer.
I know, it's quite the list--I'm exhausted just reading it. Here's to a productive 2019!
Posted by Lisa Yak at 10:27 AM