Monday, August 31, 2020

Sam's Weekly Quarantine Digest #24: August 30, 2020

Hi all,

Today, I went to visit my cousins and their beautiful new Bernese Mountain Dog puppy, Jason.  It's the first time I've intentionally done anything social and in-person since early March, and although it felt a bit strange at first to be so close to other humans without running away, I am feeling completely restored!  There's nothing like puppy kisses to cheer you up - even (especially?) in 2020, it's a powerful medicine.

So today, while I'm in such a darn good mood, I'm thinking about other things I love, and today's Digest is a "best of..." edition, chock full of the most delightful entertainment I've stumbled across over the past five months.  To kick it off, I guess you could say these are a few of my favorite things (which happens to be a quote from one of my favorite songs).  Full disclosure: I am definitely not cool enough to have paid endorsements, so I have no relationship with any of these companies - although if you work for one of them and feel like paying me for future endorsements, let's talk!  :P  Enjoy, everyone!  I hope you each find something on this list that you haven't yet tried, and that it brings you a moment of respite from these crazy times.

Previous digests can be found on my blog at  If you have suggestions or would like to stop receiving these emails, just let me know.


Best of...Streaming Video.  There is so much content out there that it is sometimes ironically difficult to find anything to watch - the options are so overwhelming, and it's hard to know what will match your mood.  I can't help you with the second part, but I can tell you that all of these selections have made me giggle, relax, or feel hopeful during these past few months when I thought I'd forgotten how.  I hope they'll do the same for you!

TV Shows:
  • Great British Baking Show: This is one of the best shows of all time.  Seriously.  There's something about this show that is calming and comforting, and for an hour, your biggest concern will be that your favorite baker just slightly overcooked their choux buns or you're worried that their shortcrust pastry has a soggy bottom.  You can find nearly all episodes on Netflix.
    • Already finished every season of the GBBS?  Try The Big Flower Fight (yes, it involves competitive flower arrangements) or check out this article with plenty of other cooking shows.  Another favorite of mine: Guy's Grocery Games.  And for some older shows (recipes don't age - they're still delicious!), try a dose of Alton Brown with Good Eats or Cutthroat Kitchen.
  • Schitt's Creek: This absurd story of a family's fall from grace will have you belly-laughing for hours, but it also addresses some important issues and the story ends up going some places.
  • Greek: The perfect level of mindlessness for the quarantine.  It's about - you guessed it - greek life at a fictional university, and it is chock full of inane (shall I say, sophomoric) antics, but it also has some wonderful character arcs and just enough substance to keep me wanting to watch just one more episode.
  • Love in the Time of Corona: There's not much creativity here - it's just actors reenacting conversations we've all had during the quarantine - and yet it's still somehow moving enough that I cried during the finale.
  • Being Erica: A Canadian drama that follows the life of a 30-something trying to figure out how to get her life in order; full of very relatable moments and emotions that are both poignant and inspiring.
  • Younger: Similar description to Being Erica, but not Canadian.
  • The Baker and the Beauty: This is a great soap-opera/telenovela-esque drama that had me hooked from the moment I heard the name!
  • The Bachelor: Greatest Seasons Ever: If you've never watched The Bachelor(ette), now's your chance to catch up - after production shutdowns forced the next season to be delayed (coming soon this fall though!), the franchise had host Chris Harrison lead an entire season of recaps showing the highlights from, as promised, the greatest Bachelor(ette) seasons ever.  It's delightful.  Do it!
  • Arrested Development, 30 Rock, and The Office: All are available for streaming on various services, and all are well worth your binge-watching hours!
Movies: I've watched plenty of great-but-sad movies over the past few months, but I just can't bring myself to recommend them right now, because I find myself vastly preferring pick-me-ups these days.  Here are some of the best I've watched recently:
  • Abominable: Dreamworks has done it again - this is one of the best animated movies I've seen in ages.  I was laughing, crying, and dreaming right along with the characters.
  • Onward: Another delightful animated movie that was released just before the pandemic arrived on the scene.  I saw a sneak peak of this in theaters the week before the shutdown, and I loved it.  It's now available to watch at home, so go for it!
  • Banana Split: This showed up in my Netflix recommendations and I was a bit skeptical.  It's pretty much just another coming-of-age story, but I enjoyed the twist and thought it was well done.  Time is very precious to me, but I didn't mind having spent an hour and a half in this story.
  • Anastasia: This is a classic movie full of gorgeous songs (Once Upon a December is another of my favorites!)and quirky characters and around half of the Russian phrases I know.

Best of...Self Care: It is more important than ever to be aware of our own needs and to be sure to set aside some time each week to take care of ourselves.  This situation has been incredibly stressful and exhausting for everyone - do your best to check in with yourself every now and then and take a break to indulge in something that relaxes you.
  • Lush Butterball Bath Bomb: I love bath bombs, and this one has been my favorite since I discovered it a decade ago.  I'm allergic to a lot of fragrances, but this one is mild and smells a bit like the spa version of that odor that lingers after you spend an afternoon baking cookies.  It also has oils in it that leave your skin feeling impossibly soft - I find myself constantly hugging myself for hours afterward.
  • Bath & Body Works Foaming Hand Soaps and Hand Sanitizers: This company's soaps, candles, creams, and hand sanitizers smell delicious (even to me, with my allergies), and they cater to whatever type of scents you enjoy.  Obviously, my collection is full of the ones that smell like vanilla sugar or various baked goods (Warm Vanilla Sugar is a classic; Merry Cookie and Easter Chocolate are seasonal, but they're worth setting a calendar reminder for; and Black Cherry Merlot smells exactly like the deep, dark Luxardo maraschino cherries I use in my Pistachio Cherry meltaways), but they also have fragrances that lean toward the tropical or the floral or the spicy, with tons of different combinations, so poke around on the site until you find a few that speak to you.
  • MindTravel: Murray Hidary creates some of the most beautiful music I've ever heard.  Participating in one of his meditation events is truly transporting.  I've never been much of a meditation person, but MindTravel is an entirely new type of experience for me.  Can't recommend it highly enough.
  • ReFit Cardioboxing Workout: This 19-minute workout was part of their 19-day Covid-19 challenge, and it's fabulous.  I've done it a few dozen times during the quarantine, and I'm still not sick of it.  And I promise, no matter how fit you are, if you give this workout your all, it will absolutely kick your butt, even though it's short enough to fit in during a workday or in that last hour before bedtime.

Best of...Games:  As noted in a previous digest, my husband and I have played a LOT of video games on a LOT of systems, and a LOT of board games.  If you're looking for something specific, pick a mood or a genre and tell me which systems you have, and I can come up with a few recommendations.  Below are a few of my personal favorites that can suck you into a new world for a while.  Just don't get mad at me when you glance at the clock and realize that six hours have passed without you noticing - that's the whole point!

Solo Video Games
  • Viva Pinata: One of my all-time favorites.  Entice various pinata animals to visit your garden and then to move in, and then breed them.  Fun trivia fact: I once made a stuffed Chippopotamus for Luke as a Valentine's Day present.
  • Katamari Damacy: There are lots of things on Earth.  What would happen if we just rolled them all up into a ball?  Fun trivia fact: One of the songs from this game's soundtrack was playing when Luke and I cut the cake at our wedding.
  • De Blob: You are a blob that paints everything it touches, and your task is to bring color to each world you visit.  Street art/graffiti culture meets Katamari?
  • Cook Serve Delicious!: Frantic line-chef sim; very well done.  There are now three of these, and I've been holding CSD3 in my back pocket during the quarantine for when I hit a dark streak and need a pick-me-up.
  • Spyro the Dragon: Really delightful adventure/puzzle game that has stood the test of time - I come back to this every few years and love it just as much as the first time I played it with my brother ages ago.
  • Assassin's Creed (any): Explore beautiful scenery and complex stories, set throughout history.  I particularly recommend the Ezio Trilogy (starting with AC II, set in Tuscany) and AC Syndicate (set in London), both of which I played while visiting those parts of the world and can therefore vouch for their exquisite architectural accuracy. 
  • Civilization: Conquer the world.  There are lots of versions - I've played two of them and they're great, so just pick whichever one you have the easiest access to.
  • Two Point Hospital: Hilarious hospital management sim
  • Fall Guys: CHAOS!  Brand new game that just plain makes me smile.
  • Stardew Valley: Build a farm, make friends, mine.  You also get a dog.  This is one of those games that makes you appreciate the simple things in life.
  • Day of the Tentacle: Point-and-click adventure; absolutely hilarious.

Multiplayer Video Games
  • Minecraft: Digital Legos.  Need I say more?
  • Overcooked: CHAOS!  This game can make or break relationships, so beware.
  • Gears of War (particularly Horde mode): Shoot aliens with friends.  I love Horde mode, which gives you just one goal through 50 levels: survive.  Also some fun plot if you care for that sort of thing.
  • Rocket League: Car soccer; mindless but entertaining.
Board Games
  • Dominion: Luke and I love this game so much that he proposed to me while we were playing it, with a handmade card that's framed in my living room.  We own every expansion (I think - there are a lot now!), and it doesn't get old - every game is different and your strategy shifts with the setup, so it always feels new and exciting. 
  • Code Names: Fabulous party game if you're with friends or family.  There's also an online version now.
  • Lost Cities: There's both a card-only version and a board game version of this one, and I love them both.  It's a great two-person game, and Luke and I have gotten it for many of our friends over the years.
  • Unlock!: This is a series of escape-the-room games that have a 1-hour limit, making them easy to slip in even during a busy work week.
  • Wingspan: This gorgeous game came out recently, and I found out about it when a friend at work asked me if I knew about it - I didn't, but after I looked into it, I ordered it on the spot and Luke and I have loved playing this during the quarantine (thanks, Alexandra!).  The cards (hundreds of them) each feature a different real-life bird (complete with beautiful images and fun trivia), and the other game pieces include a buildable birdhouse and plastic eggs that look just like the Cadbury Mini Eggs.
  • Ticket to Ride: Simple game; great for families.  Build train routes across the map featured on your board.  The versions span the world, from a U.S. map to all of Europe or Asia to a whole bunch based on smaller regions or countries.
  • Sagrada: Simple dice game themed on the stained glass of Sagrada Familia (perhaps my favorite building in the whole world).
  • Dixit: This is a storytelling game with gorgeous cards featuring a wide variety of surreal artwork, and you have to come up with a one-sentence story to describe each one.  Very simple, but very powerful, and a great game to play in groups, both with people you know well and with people you've just met.

COMING SOON: Best of...Recipes, Delivery Food, and Kitchen Gadgets; Connecting with Friends and Family; Dance, Theater, and Other Streaming Performances; and more.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Sam's Weekly Quarantine Digest #23: August 23, 2020

 Hi all,

As you've probably heard by now, 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and women's right to vote.  There is so much that we take for granted every day, but it's important to take a moment to be grateful for all the incredible things we are able to do in our lives, and for the people who have made those things possible.

I have always found it important to have strong female role models in my life, and I am so grateful for what I've learned from them.  There are so many that it would take a book to acknowledge them all, but here are a few: At the age of the 14, I started working for my congresswoman, who to this day remains an inspiration for me.  She was a trailblazer in so many ways, and she also showed me that I could do anything I chose in my own career, no matter the norms or the obstacles in my path.  At Google, the legal department was full of female leaders, and I learned from them how important it is to support each other even when we're also in competition with each other - that group of powerful, successful women supporting each other as peers was amazing to see and undeniably effective in their leadership.  In my law firm interviews, I encountered a female IP litigator who had earned an engineering and computer science degree from MIT in the year I was born, and who had survived big law to become a partner at a time when that was still quite rare - and yet was also one of the most humble and kind people I met throughout that process.  And last but certainly not least, my own mom has always been one of my greatest role models, showing me that you can be a leader, a mother, that person who accomplishes more in a day than it should be possible to do, and yet still be one of the sweetest, most generous, and most compassionate people I have ever met.  I love you, Mom.

It's also been incredibly important to me throughout my life to help others follow in my own footsteps and stand on my own shoulders to keep the march of progress going.  When I graduated from college, my first job was founding and running a nonprofit organization empowering women in many aspects of their lives, including building out a women's center offering a wide range of services like GED programs, childcare support, and budgeting classes, organizing countless events for young women to draw inspiration from the celebrity founder, and offering scholarships for female entrepreneurs.  Throughout my career, I've also found mentoring to be incredibly rewarding and inspiring - I take it very seriously and I do my best to provide the same kind of support my own mentors have provided to me throughout my life.  Many of you reading this email are law school mentees from various organizations and activities, and I hope you've found my candour and support to be helpful - I think it's so important to hear about and learn from others' mistakes and experiences in forging your own path.  Finally, I try to set an example for those who look up to me by becoming, little by little, the kind of woman I look up to - I'll always be a work in progress, but if I can inspire other women to achieve something more than they otherwise would have, there's nothing I would be more proud of than that.

Take a moment to reflect on the incredible women in your own lives, regardless of your gender, and to appreciate both how far we've come and how far we have yet to go when it comes to gender equality.  It's incredible that pretty much any career path is now open to women, and I am so grateful for everything I've been able to accomplish in my life and for the glass ceilings I've been able to break, and for the fearlessness that came from hearing about the Suffragists and the Feminists and all the other women who came before me.  And yet in the 244 years of our country's history, this is only the fourth time we've ever had a woman on a major party's presidential ticket (Hillary Clinton as a candidate for President, and Geraldine Ferraro, Sarah Palin, and now Kamala Harris for VP) - and none have won yet.  And so, I encourage each of you to think about a woman you're in a position to support or inspire, whether that's your daughter or your friend or your mentee, and to reach out to them with a message of encouragement this week.  We all succeed when everyone among us feels brave enough and powerful enough to accomplish our dreams.  I, for one, can't wait to see what the next 100 years bring.

Previous digests can be found on my blog at  If you have suggestions or would like to stop receiving these emails, just let me know.


Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment
  • Check out this comprehensive celebration from the New York Times, complete with tons of historical information, a contemporary play celebrating women's suffrage, and even a board game that provides a glimpse of the road to the passage of the 19th Amendment.
  • If you're not familiar with the women's suffrage movement, this site features bios of 20 key suffragists - and note that not all of them are women!
  • This Wednesday, a statue will be unveiled in Central Park honoring Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  One of the most incredible facts about this statue is the fact that it is the very first in all of Central Park featuring nonfictional female figures!
  • Check out this article featuring the stories of women of color who helped fight for women's right to vote.
  • The right of women to vote was the result of a hard-fought battle.  Be sure to take advantage of this opportunity!  Listen to a group of female NYC politicians discussing why women should vote this year.
  • Looking for a gift for your favorite young woman?  Try Rosie Revere, Engineer - it tells the story of a young girl who loves to invent and has to find the courage to share her talents with the world.  I've gifted dozens of copies since I first discovered it a few years ago, and the author and illustrator duo have come out with a whole series of related books that look equally inspiring.
  • For children looking for some inspiration, tune into the NYPL's storytime from last week that featured U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand reading from her book Bold and Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote.
  • Were your ancestors suffragists?  The NYPL has created a guide featuring a variety of resources to help you trace personal and local connections to the suffrage movement, while expanding upon traditional narratives and highlighting the experiences of suffragists whose contributions have often been overlooked by history, including African American, immigrant, and working class suffragists.
  • Looking for your next book?  The NYPL has published a list of Essential Reads on Feminism, and they even have a version for kids as well.
Recipe of the Week:
  • Peach Sorbet: Slice 8 peaches into 8 slices each, and peel each slice.  Process the slices, along with 1 cup sugar, in a food processor, scraping down sides occasionally, until smooth.  Add 1 tbsp lemon juice to taste.  Pour into a baking dish or a container of your choice.  Freeze overnight, or until firm.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Sam's Weekly Quarantine Digest #22: August 17, 2020

Hi all,

This week, I've been thinking about how we can express our true selves during this time of physical separation.  There are so many ways we traditionally do this - from the clothes we wear to the items on our desk to the topics we choose to speak about over lunch.  For example, I've always been a shoe person, standing tall in 5-inch heels (often brightly colored).  I have a plaque in my office at my law firm that features a cartoon image of chocolate chip cookies with the words "More Cookies, Less Drama."  I own chocolate chip cookie earrings, a Cookie Monster hat, and shoes that appear to be covered in sprinkles, and I proudly wear these items at my annual Cookie Party.  Even the books we choose to read can be conversation starters in normal times - I had many conversations about Dante's Inferno when I started my new job last fall and my coworkers saw me carrying it in the elevator on my way into the office.  Many of these modes of expression we've become accustomed to have limited effectiveness over Zoom.

However, it's just as important to express ourselves now as it always has been, and there are also many ways in which Zoom has revealed parts of our private lives that have not traditionally been a part of our work lives, or that we haven't chosen to or had the opportunity to share before.  We've seen each other's living rooms and offices, our children and pets, our most comfortable clothing and our natural hair color, our favorite recipes and books, and our deepest frustrations.  It's become normal to talk about feeling lonely or sad or scared or unfulfilled, and to worry aloud about whether we're successfully balancing the many demands of our daily lives or about what the future holds.  We go out of our way to make our friends and family feel special and connected on birthdays and holidays and wedding days.

As the months go by, it's easy to slip into unhappy rhythms, so do your best to find a minute this weekend to step back and think about who you want to be, and how you want to be perceived.  Take a moment to find something that really speaks to who you are and proudly make it visible in your Zoom background.  Surround yourself with things that make you smile or feel proud or loved.  Maybe even wear those neon yellow high heels with your pajama pants to remind yourself about what you love, even if they're tucked under your desk where no one can see them.  We've spent a lot of time talking about how to feel connected to each other over the past five months; don't forget to connect with yourself, too!

Previous digests can be found on my blog at  If you have suggestions or would like to stop receiving these emails, just let me know.


Express yourself
  • Wear quirky shoes that make you giggle when you see them in your closet.
  • Stay in your PJs, but look like a hero on your next Zoom call.
  • Engage in a virtual murder mystery event and get into character beforehand (I wore a ballgown, layered on most of the jewelry I own, and further accessorized with a terrible British accent).
Stay excited and engaged
  • A friend of a friend of mine recently founded River City Opera in Richmond, Virginia, and she was pretty immediately faced with the challenge of reimagining one of the oldest and most traditional forms of institutional entertainment for the modern, digital world.  Check out their three-part series of discussion with opera experts meant to lead change within the opera industry (the first took place last week and can be viewed here), or follow them on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and their website.
  • Check out this celebration of the past 40 years of conservancy efforts in Central Park.
  • The newest show that everyone's going to be talking about for the next few weeks/months is Lovecraft Country, a fascinating story that follows a protagonist on a trip across 1950s Jim Crow America that also happens to be populated with monsters reminiscent of the stories of H.P. Lovecraft (an infamously hateful man).  See here for one perspective on the fledging show.
  • I'll be honest with you: I'm not entirely sure what string theory is.  But the World Science University (which has really come through for me in the past with some seriously nerdy but truly awesome videos and activities) is offering a brief window into the contributions of string theory to our collective knowledge: "Cumrun Vafa, together with fellow world-renowned string theorist Andrew Strominger, developed a new way to calculate black hole entropy in the language of string theory.  Follow Vafa as he guides you through some of the more astounding things we have learned since string theory's inception."
  • The latest thing to change in response to our new-found awareness of racism in our country may be surprising to you: the traditional jingle played by ice cream trucks across the U.S.  Good Humor has partnered with RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan to create a new jingle that will replace the old one starting this month.  Learn about the history of ice cream truck music and the new transition here.
  • Wondering why your children's sleep habits have changed during the pandemic?  Read this overview from sleep experts.
  • Trying to squeeze in a workout but just can't find the time/motivation?  Check out these suggestions for fitting in some sneaky moves throughout the day to stay active and strong.
  • Check out the NYT's take on how to plan a date night at home.
  • Trying to figure out which pay-to-play music livestreams are worth it?  Check out this list of recent performances whose virtual tickets are worth both the money and the time.

Recipe of the Week: Nutella Shooters: This four-ingredient delight is easy to make and even easier to make disappear.  Freeze your mixer bowl and whisk attachment for 5 minutes if you can spare the time - it will make things a bit easier for you if you're a novice baker.  Beat 1 cup heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form.  Fold in 1/4 cup Nutella until no streaks show.  Place 12(-ish) Oreos in a Ziploc bag and use a heavy saucepan or a rolling pin to smash them into crumbs (bonus: you get an arm workout and a very cathartic stress-relief session in the process).  Place a layer of Oreo crumbs at the bottom of a dessert bowl or a shot glass.  Using a piping bag or a Ziploc with a small piece of the corner snipped off, pipe in a layer of the Nutella whipped cream (don't be intimidated by this - just start at the outside and pipe all the way around in a spiral until the surface is covered).  Repeat (including the Oreo crumbs) until the glass/bowl is full.  Finish with a drizzle of chocolate syrup or homemade caramel sauce and some more Oreo crumbs (if that sounds like heaven, feel free to layer that in between the Oreos and whipped cream throughout the dish, too!).  And voila - you just made a cocktail-party-worthy mini dessert! 

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Sam's Weekly Quarantine Digest #21, August 9, 2020

Hi all,

It's been five months since the quarantine began.  I don't know about you, but I've definitely hit the wall.  As they say, a picture's worth a thousand words, so I'm going to let this photographic timeline of life in New York since March speak for me this week.  Keep you heads high, everyone, and if you need to, take inspiration from the Statue of Liberty.

Previous digests can be found on my blog at  If you have suggestions or would like to stop receiving these emails, just let me know.


  • Although the Public Theater suspended Shakespeare in the Park this summer, "Much Ado About Nothing" is available online into September.
  • Looking for something more highbrow than Bachelor reruns and Schitt's Creek (both of which are great)?  Try this new adaptation of The Secret Garden (and better yet, go back and re-read the book first!).
  • Looking for something - anything - new?  Check out this collection of vignettes, from swimming with sea lions to behind the scenes with Panama hats to the world's most remote schoolhouses.
  • Want to learn something new?  Check out this astrophysics course from Nobel laureate Adam Riess.
  • Desperate to leave the city but not ready for the 'burbs yet?  Rent your own "backyard" at the South Street Seaport.
  • Nostalgic for the days in the '90s when your biggest worry in the world was how to get past World 8-3 of the original Super Mario Bros. game?  Order this new Lego set and transport yourself back in time!
  • The past few months have been extremely stressful for many of us.  Looking for some help navigating these changes?  Check out this free workshop for Managing Stress in Trying Times.
  • Do you panic every time you sneeze or get a tickle in your throat?  Check out this interactive guide to figuring out whether you might have Covid-19 (or not).
  • Recipe of the Week: Sweet-Potato-Crusted Chicken Nuggets: In an electric skillet or deep fryer, heat oil to 350 degrees F.  (If you don't have a thermometer, throw a popcorn kernel in the oil; when it pops, you're close.).  Place 1 cup sweet potato chips, 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, and 1/4 tsp baking powder in a food processor; pulse until ground.  Transfer to a shallow dish.  Mix cornstarch and another 1/2 tsp salt; toss with 1 pound chicken tenderloins (cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces).  Toss with potato chip mixture, pressing gently to coat.  Fry nuggets, a few at a time, until golden brown, 2-3 minutes.  Drain on paper towels.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Sam's Weekly Quarantine Digest #20: August 2, 2020 - The Quaran-Cleaning Edition

Hi everyone,

It can be hard knowing when to let go.  It can even be hard to let go once we know that it's time to.  Early in the quarantine, there seemed to be a lot of momentum around getting rid of unneeded stuff - from Marie-Kondo-style decluttering to downsizing our living spaces, many of us have indulged in that trend, with visions of spending the quarantine in a perfectly decluttered space surrounded only by things that bring us joy, or attempting to squeeze all of our stuff into a smaller space.  Many of you reading this have probably spent at least a weekend or two this year getting rid of unwanted items - as we spend more time in our homes, it's only natural to come across those things and to notice them more than we ever did before.

Personally, I'm a collector - of lots of things.  I form attachments to people and things very quickly, and I cherish my memories.  A little scrap of paper or a ticket stub can bring back a rush of memories for me, and can keep me feeling connected to the many people I've encountered over the years, whether they're still actively in my life or not.  It's very difficult for me to let those things go, even decades later, so I've also been putting a lot of thought into how to preserve those memories while letting go of those physical things.  Over the past year, I've had to make some difficult decisions about which things to keep and which things to part with.  Last summer, my aunt and I spent countless hours cleaning out my grandparents' apartment.  We uncovered thousands of old photos, beautiful trinkets and dishes, souvenirs from dozens of trips around the world - so many things that had been cherished by, touched by, and connected to my grandparents for so many years.  At first, we couldn't bear to throw anything out.  But we also realized that we couldn't simply move every item in that apartment into our various homes.  I'm also in the process of getting ready to move to a house of my own soon - and as it turns out, I've accumulated enough stuff in my parents' basement to easily fill whatever house we end up buying, with no room for the decades of memories yet to come.  And so, on both fronts, the purging began.

Yet even when we decide to purge, or which items to purge, that's only half the battle.  So throw on the Frozen soundtrack, decide to "let it go," and then read on below for tips on how to get rid of the various things you may have come across in your purging adventures, or those yet to come.  If you have questions about anything else you come across (how to safely pack up china and crystal?  where to donate or sell clothing?  whether to sell your old Beanie Babies?), let me know - if I included the full list of learnings here, this email would need its own server to distribute.  The highlights, however, are below.

Previous digests can be found on my blog at  If you have suggestions or would like to stop receiving these emails, just let me know.


Catch-all clean-out services: Junkluggers will remove pretty much anything.  They took away old furniture, fiberglass insulation, planks of wood, assorted lamps and exercise equipment and vacuum cleaners, and all sorts of other stuff.  They were incredibly easy to work with, and their quotes seemed very reasonable for the services they were providing.  If any items can be salvaged or repurposed, Junkluggers will restore or donate it.  They'll recycle everything that can be recycled, and will properly dispose of everything else.  You pay by the truckload (or partial loads), so this service is best for large batches of assorted items.  Use the website to find the contact information for your local Junkluggers franchise and to submit the details of your pickup.  You'll get a quote within a few days, and once you set a date, they'll do a walkthrough to give you a final quote before starting to remove your stuff, so you'll have a chance to decide if the quote matches your expectations before committing.

Document shreddingLegal Shred was an absolute pleasure to work with.  They bring those big, office-size shredding bins to your home, wheel it over to wherever your papers are, load it up, and shred it in the truck outside (you can watch the whole process if you'd like).  They'll even provide you with a HIPAA compliance certificate or other document destruction confirmations if you need or want them.  We had initially priced out two bins' worth and later decided that we needed more than that - they were very flexible and basically said they'd just make as many trips as needed until everything was gone.  And when the day came, they were generous with what they actually charged us for, as compared to what they took away.  This company will also take x-rays, hard drives, and a number of other items that need to be destroyed in special ways.  I can't recommend them highly enough - we found the whole process incredibly easy and smooth, and we'll definitely be repeat customers.

X-rays: Did you know that x-rays contain silver?  You can't just throw them out in your regular trash.  Instead, find a service that will pick them up and recycle them - if you have a large batch (50 lbs or more), some services will even pay you any proceeds from the silver they recover.  BW Recycling will provide you with a shipping label; if you have less than 50 lbs. of x-rays, you'll pay them $35; over 50 lbs, you get free shipping and a cut of the proceeds from the silver.  If you don't meet the 50-lb. threshold, you'd probably be better off using Legal Shred (see above under "document shredding").

Paint: We discovered dozens of old cans of paint from various renovations and repairs over the years, but as it turns out, paint is actually quite difficult to get rid of - your town likely has detailed rules for disposal.  One option for paint and other toxic household substances like rustoleum, bleach, and many others is to make a reservation at your town's recycling or refuse center and drop off the cans at the appointed time.  I made multiple trips there last summer, but there was a limit on the number of cans that could be dropped off at any given time.  Alternatively, for at-home disposal, our town required that the paint be opened, mixed with kitty litter or coffee grounds, and fully dried before leaving the cans out on the curb along with the trash.  I ended up ordering 75 lbs. of kitty litter and a bunch of cheap wooden spoons, and then spent a day feeling like a mad scientist mixing up cans of many-colored sludge on a tarp in the backyard.  Be sure to check your town's website for your local requirements.

Old film, slides, VHS tapes, etc.: We found boxes of 16mm film, 8 mm film, Super 8 film, VHS and VHS-C tapes, slides, and many more forms of old memories.  I tried a few companies before I found Digitize NY, which did a fantastic job with our family treasures.  They took a very long time to complete the order (literally over 6 months), but it was well worth the wait - they came through with a DropBox link to all of the videos, which I was able to transfer to my Google Drive and share with my family.  The quality was exceptional - from 70-year-old film (no exaggeration), I was able to meet my great-grandparents (who I'd only ever seen dogeared black-and-white photos of) in living color, laughing and waving and cavorting on the beach or blowing out birthday candles.  Digitize NY picked up the film from my apartment and dropped it back off at my door as well, even delivering it during the quarantine.  I'll be honest, the pricing for these types of services was shockingly high to me, but for most of us, converting 16mm film to mp4s is not really feasible.  Given that, the thing I valued the most for this one was trust - and Digitize NY, despite the delay, delivered on that front.  My items were kept safe and sound and returned in perfect condition, and the video files were flawless.

Recipes: While cookbooks have largely become a thing of the past for many of us, and it's often easier to just ask Google to deliver you the perfect recipe for a blueberry scone or lamb pappardelle, I'm still in love with good old-fashioned cookbooks, and they're some of my favorite items in my apartment - some of them are like old friends who have been with me since college or even earlier, and some are new ones that celebrate my role models and heroes.  And what more beautiful centerpiece could there be for your bookshelf than a cookbook filled with your own family's recipes?  Every year, my family rotates through my great-grandmother's recipes for each Jewish holiday, and those foods are a huge part of our traditions.  Passover wouldn't be the same without our brisket and our matzah kugel.  As one of the keepers of our family traditions, I feel a sense of responsibility for preserving our memories and ensure that my children and my grandchildren have access to the "secret sauce" of the Fink family holidays, too, even when I'm not around to tell the stories or make the kugel.  I've been collecting our family recipes (many of which are just something along the lines of "add these ingredients to the pan, cook until done") and working on recipe-tizing them into a form that someone who's never made that dish before could follow.  I've found two sites I intend to use (see here and here), and I'm then going to order enough copies to go around the family. 

Photos (digitizing): Most of have hundreds or thousands of photos laying around our houses.  Photo frames haven't quite gone the way of the dinosaurs just yet, but new photos are almost all digital, and that's certainly the easiest way to share them.  You would think we'd have come up with an easy way to digitize old photos by now, but alas! we have not.  There are really two options: Pay a professional (like Digitize NY, mentioned above with respect to old videos), or do it yourself.  Pricing for digitizing photos is very high - usually around $0.50/photo, even with bulk discounts.  That seemed exorbitantly high to me, given the number of photos we had, so I embarked on a year-long quest to digitize our family photos, which is nearly at an end.  You can use a scanner bed or wand scanner to do this, or you just use your home printer, which has been my weapon of choice.  You can generally scan 1-6 photos at once on a standard printer/scanner, and then it will take a few additional seconds to make copies, crop, and label each one.  I've already scanned over 10,000 photos and documents, I'm a few more solid weekends away from completing the cropping-and-labeling phase.  Don't get me wrong, it's a LOT of work - but it's been absolutely worth it to be able to share all of these memories with my family and friends.

Photos (sharing and displaying): Once you've digitized your photos, there are various options for making them enjoyable so that they don't just start collecting virtual dust on your hard drive the same way they were collecting physical dust in your closet or basement.  Google Photos is absolutely incredible - I've been a huge fan from the day it launched in Beta when I worked at Google, and I've used it nearly every day of my life since then.  All you have to do is upload your photos (or sync Google Photos to your Google Drive account or your phone to ensure that new photos get automatically ported in).  Then you can search by keyword (e.g., "happy" or "cookie" or "dog"), place, date, or face (literally, by face - you can see thumbnail photos of everyone who appears a certain number of times in your collection, and you can label them by name if you choose - contributing to birthday books or reunions has never been easier).  You can even ask Google Photos to make a book for you by selecting an occasion/theme and the person you want to spotlight, and it will automatically create a photo book that you can order in a few clicks!  If you'd rather create your own photo books, I've long been a fan of Snapfish (some of you have probably received books from me over the years as gifts, or a copy of my two self-published books of my own nature photos).  If you're looking for formal, photo albums instead, Milk made it simple to create gorgeous, heirloom wedding albums that even impressed my grandmother, and for prices far lower than most other album companies I checked out before I selected Milk.  Be sure to get a 20% code from their website or a friend, and let me know if you want to know the specific options I selected (if nothing else, definitely go for a lay-flat option).  Finally, for storage of all of these newly-digitized photos and videos, I highly recommend looking into Google Drive or Apple iCloud, both of which offer 2TB of cloud storage for $9.99/month.