Sunday, January 31, 2021

Sam's Weekly Quarantine Digest #42: January 31, 2021

 Hi all,

Well, it's been quite a week!  On Tuesday, Luke and I bought a house!  We officially live in Irvington, NY - or at least we will in about two weeks once we're moved in.  Once it's safe to do so again, I hope each of you will take me up on an offer to come visit!  We expect that this is both our first and last time buying a house, so we look forward to making a lifetime of memories here with all of you.

But that's not all of our big news from this week!  A few hours later, I decided to accept a job offer, so I'll be starting as the second attorney at FullStory, an UX/analytics SaaS company, in March.  I am incredibly grateful to everyone at Gunderson for their mentorship and support over the past year - I've learned so much, and I've somehow weathered an unrelenting storm in my personal life, which was only possible with the help of my colleagues.  Everyone knows that firm life is very demanding, but the hours pass far more quickly with teammates like the ones I've been lucky enough to have.

This is a pretty dramatic pair of life changes to happen together, but I'm excited to hit the reset button, and I'm hopeful that I will be able to re-energize myself - it's been a long time since I've truly indulged in my hobbies or taken a step back to evaluate and appreciate the life I've built.  Nearly a year into the quarantine, it feels like the time is right to shake things up a bit!  I'll also be taking two weeks off in between my jobs, so if you're interested in catching up on Zoom, Feb. 17-28 will be the perfect time to do it!

But enough about me: It's almost February, which means that this week's Digest is chock full of recommendations for how to celebrate Black History Month!  See below for a rundown on how to keep busy all month!

As always, 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.


New Beginnings
  • In case you missed it, Starbucks released new flavors to kick off the new year - I've already heard amazing things about the Pistachio Latte.
  • Tomorrow marks the start of a new month, which means that Martha Graham has revealed their theme for February: Past/Present.  Check out the full line-up here.
  • New month, new movies and TV.  Here's what's new on Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, and Prime Video.
  • I've spoken openly before about my experience speaking with therapists (highly recommended), but I haven't yet spoken about life coaches.  A little over a year ago, I was fortunate enough to meet Anne Collier, who has since become a friend and trusted mentor.  Her company is hosting their Learning Collaborative Management Academy starting tomorrow (but there's another session in May if you're not in a position to clear your calendar overnight).  If you're ever looking for a life coach (even if you're not quite sure what that means or how to begin), I highly recommend calling Anne - she's helped me take stock of new opportunities and possible life paths throughout the topsy-turvy ups-and-downs of the past year, and that perspective is sometimes all I need to make an important decision.  I'm not receiving anything for this recommendation - just sharing with you a very important contact of mine who has helped me tremendously!

Black History Month
  • Curious about the origins of Black History Month?  It started in 1926, in a weeklong celebration that was scheduled for the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.  Read more about the history and importance of this national initiative here.
  • You can view the official list of events on the Library of Congress' Black History Month website here.
  • Kick off Black History Month with a conversation with Ibram X. Kendi (author of How to Be an Antiracist) and Keisha N. Blain (author of Set the World on Fire), discussing their book, Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019.  The event will stream on Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 7pm EST.
  • The National Park Service has put together a guide to places across our national parks that celebrate African American history.
  • The NYC Department of Parks & Recreation has a great guide to "Black History in NYC Parks," from the birthplace of hip-hop at Cedar Park in the Bronx, to the Tree of Hope in Harlem, to the African Burial Ground in downtown Manhattan.
  • The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH; a group involved in organizing the week-long celebration that served as the origins of the modern Black History Month) has a list of free events here.
  • The Smithsonian Magazine has a broad variety of events listed here, from events for kids to discussions about prison reform and restorative justice.
  • The New York Times has a run-down on their recommended events here, including a really touching tribute to Representative John Lewis in the form of 300 trees planted in Atlanta.
  • Duchess! Duchess! Duchess!: Steppenwolf Theater presents this filmed play by Vivian J.O. Barnes, streaming all month.  Inspired and/or appalled by the experiences of Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle, Barnes imagines a dialogue in which a Black duchess helps acculturate a Black duchess-to-be to her new position. Together, they explore what it means to join an institution that acts as if they should feel honored to be admitted, even as it eats them alive.  That the institution in question involves not just royalty but racism, if the two are different, broadens the story. How Black women negotiate power in traditionally white arenas, and at what cost, is something that resonates far beyond Balmoral. (Description courtesy of the N.Y. Times.)
  • Find a vast array of cultural events to mark Black History Month here.
  • National Geographic Kids published this guide to some of the most famous African American heroes, and PBS has a catalogue of biopics and documentaries about prominent African Americans.  The Oprah Magazine has a different list - 26 African Americans you don't know but should.
  • The Detroit Institute of Arts also has a robust slate of events, including a weekly series of cooking classes that's billed as a celebration of African American chefs and mixologists!
  • Since no Digest would be complete without recipes, check out this list of "28 Soulful Recipes to Cook to Celebrate Black History Month," courtesy of one of my favorite food bloggers.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Sam's Weekly Quarantine Digest #41: January 18, 2021

 Hi all,

Hope you're enjoying the holiday weekend!  I don't know about you, but I really needed it - we're just a few weeks into the new year, but I feel like we started 2021 at a gallop!

As I've heard from many of you already, I'm heading into this week full of anticipation and nerves.  I'm certain I'm going to stress-bake several dishes this week to keep myself sane!  So, out of necessity, this week's Digest is full of things that relax me and make me smile - cute animals, old books, cartoons, recipes, and so much more.  And if none of these things are your cup of tea (get it?), spend a few minutes Googling something you love, and find one article or photo or project that makes you smile - I promise it will be time well spent.

As always, 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.


  • Here is a Twitter thread of animals interrupting nature photographers - it is every bit as absurd (and adorable) as it sounds!
  • Here is a thread of the most beautiful libraries in the world - there are 75 on this list, and I intend to visit every single one (already well on my way)!
  • Ok, I know it seems like the sky is falling, but sometimes it actually is, and you have a chance to see it - ten times this year, in fact!  Check out this guide to watching every meteor shower in 2021.
  • Is art more your thing?  Check out The Met Unframed (mobile only), which allows you to view virtual galleries, discover hidden secrets of the Met's artwork, gamify your museum experience, and even take home the art to your own living room wall using AR.
  • Ever read a Wikipedia article about something truly bizarre?  I included a few suggestions in one of the Digests last May (see here), but it turns out that there is actually a Wikipedia article about unusual Wikipedia articles.  Or you can read about the history of Kool-Aid (and many other beloved snack items) here.  Enjoy your rabbit hole - you'll be there for a while.
  • The Animaniacs (and Pinky and the Brain) are back, with all new episodes available on Hulu.  So what are we doing tonight?  The same thing we do every night, Pinky - sit at home and watch TV.
  • I started playing The House of Da Vinci (Android; Apple), a delightful mobile game, this weekend.  It reminds me a lot of The Room (Android; Apple), one of my favorite mobile games.  They're escape-room-style puzzle games that are challenging, mysterious, and absolutely suck me into their world.  100 Doors (Android; Apple) is pretty great, too.  If the escape-room games I suggested a week or two ago didn't scratch that itch for you yet, these are a bit darker and more serious, and perhaps a bit more challenging as well.
  • If all else fails, try Cookie Clicker.

  • Getting a late start on your New Year's resolutions?  Check out MyFitnessPal's 7-day guide to healthier habits.
  • The Covid-19 vaccine is now available to all New Yorkers age 65 and over, as well as first responders and certain others.  You can sign up for alerts when new groups become eligible and get more information about how to schedule your appointment here.  If you live outside of NY, check your state government's website for details about your state's vaccine rollout.
  • If you still haven't tried it, now's the time to try my favorite workout video (cardio kickboxing).  I also highly recommend any Zumba class (including the Nintendo Switch Zumba game).

Comfort Food

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Sam's Weekly Quarantine Digest #40: January 10, 2021

 Hi all,

This week has been a heavy one - I'm exhausted, sad, and overwhelmingly disappointed in the world we live in.  I know we're better than this.  For once, I really don't know what to say, so instead, I'm just keeping this week's Digest light (with entertainment recommendations) and comfortable (with two stellar recipes I made this week, both featuring one my favorite herbs: thyme).

Stay strong, everyone - and I'm always here if you want to talk.

As always, 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.


  • What IS fun, anyway?
  • Looking for new ways to keep virtual parties fun and avoid the inevtiable awkwardness?  Check out this breakdown of your options from Wired.
  • Is your Netflix queue running low?  Here is a list of 50 new TV shows coming out in 2021 - mark your calendar, grab the PopSecret, and get binging!
  • Find yourself cursing like a sailor at the news these days?  Netflix's new series, History of Swear Words, investigates the history and impact of six common swear words, all hosted by Nicholas Cage.
  • Looking for a new routine?  Set up a weekly event of some sort - Zoom lunch with friends/colleagues, an exercise class, a book club/discussion group, or even the month-long baking class from Christina Tosi of Milk Bar.  Just give yourself something to look forward to each week and anchor you a bit when the rest of the world seems topsy turvy, or when the days start to blur together.  Prefer alone time?  Set a day and time each week when you do something for yourself, like testing a new recipe or playing a video game.
  • The Public Theater is hosting a virtual version of their annual Under the Radar Festival, featuring cutting-edge theatrical performances, through Jan. 17th.
  • Escape the Room, Escape the World - the NYT understands why people love Escape-the-Room games!  If you're looking for a bite-sized version during the quarantine, try any of the mobile apps from Nicolet (cute, cartoony, snack-sized chapters - try the ones named "Collection", like this one) or Jammworks (a little darker, but still cute, and based on classic fairy tales - a little like Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes, but in cute puzzle game format; try Snow White or Cinderella to get started).  You can also try the one-hour timed games in the Unlock! series that come with cards and a phone app for the official timer and some codes you need to enter, which make for a great date night activity at home.
Recipes of the Week: What to do when you have too much THYME on your hands!
  • Pork chop* with balsamic-thyme glaze and garlic-thyme crispy potatoes and tender roasted zucchini: [*NOTE: You can use a bunch of proteins for this - steak or chicken breast would go well with this, too.]  Dice 5-6 new potatoes (or 1 med. potato) into 1/2-inch pieces; pull thyme leaves from sprigs until you have 1.5 tsp; trim and halve 1 zucchini, then cut into 1/2-inch half-moon-shaped slices. Toss potatoes with a drizzle of olive oil, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 tsp thyme, salt, and pepper; place on one half of a rimmed baking sheet. Toss the zucchini with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and place on the other half of the sheet.  Roast on top rack at 450 degrees until everything is browned and tender, about 20-25 min.  Pat your protein dry with paper towels; season with salt and pepper.  Heat a large drizzle of olive oil over medium-high heat, cook until browned and cooked through, about 4-5 minutes per side.  Set the meat aside to rest; wipe out the pan.  For the glaze: Heat 1.5 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 packet chicken stock concentrate (or 1 cube bouillon), 1/4 cup water, 1.5 tbsp brown sugar, and a few whole sprigs of thyme over medium heat; simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced, about 3-4 minutes - don't walk away or it will burn!  Turn off heat, stir in 1 tbsp butter; remove thyme sprigs.  Place protein in the pan and turn to coat in the glaze; plate meat and veggies; top with remaining glaze and garnish with remaining thyme leaves if desired.
  • Butternut squash agnolotti with maple-bacon-thyme cream sauce: [NOTE: You need to stir this sauce pretty constantly the whole way through, but it's worth it!  Because of the texture, I used short stabs with a rubber spatula (gentle, or it will splash), from the outer edge of the pan toward the middle - keep doing that over and over, and the unblended parts will rotate around toward your spatula, like an electric mixer; just don't forget to scrape the sides every 20 seconds or so.]  Boil water; add pasta.  Prepare bacon; if made in a pan, wipe it out lightly and use that pan for the sauce.  While the pasta is cooking, melt 4 tbsp butter over medium heat.  Add 2 cups light cream (I didn't have cream or whole milk, so I used skim and it turned out fine, although the texture would definitely be better with something thicker) and stir for about one minute to combine and come to a simmer (it won't fully combine, but keep stirring until it looks uniform across the pan).  Add 2 tbsp maple syrup, 1 tbsp fresh thyme (don't overdo it), and a large pinch of salt (I used rosemary salt); stir to combine.  Simmer, stirring pretty constantly, for 3-4 minutes, until slightly thickened.  Add cooked pasta, with a tiny splash of pasta water, to the pan, allow to simmer in the sauce for a minute or two until the consistency is what you want it to be.  Top with bacon crumbles.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Sam's Weekly Quarantine Digest #39: January 3, 2021

 Hi all,

I am so grateful that I can finally say that 2020 is hindsight!  I'll be honest: I won't miss it.  Even the animals 2020 has been compared to comprise a fairly snarky list, and this commercial felt like a spot-on masterpiece when I first saw it.  Although it's not a year any of us will soon forget, it wasn't all terrible, and either way, it's worth reflecting on what last year meant for us.  We learned a lot, some of our tech excelled and some failed, and, perhaps most importantly, we played with our dogs.

Regardless of how you felt about last year, today truly is a new day.  Specifically, today is the third day of what we can look at as a 365-page book waiting to be written.  So let's all make sure that one of the most oft-used descriptions of 2020 turns out to be true - that it is, in fact, a year like no other.  Below are some views of 2020 from the finish line, along with a bunch of things to look forward to in the coming year.  In the words of my spirit animal, Elle Woods: We did it!

As always, 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.


2020 Wrap-Up
  • Here is the NY Times' Best of 2020 List - a collection of Best of lists and top articles across a number of topics.
  • The Dogs of 2020, courtesy of WeRateDogs.  I can pretty much guarantee that these will be the happiest 6 minutes of your day. 
  • Here are some of our collective key takeaways from 2020 - well worth the read.
  • These were some of the biggest trends of 2020.  My personal favorite: DOGS!
  • More of a visual learner?  Check out this incredible collection of images and graphs that helped us chart our way through last year (see what I did there?).
  • Want to think about anything other than politics and pandemics?  Here is a collection of trivia reported on by the New York Times last year to distract you.
  • Here is a list of the top memes of 2020.
  • This year, among grocery shortages, a massive shift to delivery food and essential items, and a common yearning for comfort food, these are the 20 most-read food articles from the NYT.  If I'm honest, I'll be turning to these recipes and shopping recommendations for years to come.
  • Here is a list of the recipients of the NY Times' "Good Tech Awards" - companies that worked on technology advances to help get us all through the quarantine and the many other challengest that 2020 threw our way (Zoom is not on the list).
  • Listen to Brian Greene of the World Science Festival discussing the top scientific discoveries of 2020.
  • Think you've been paying attention to current events over the past year?  Try your hand at this quiz.

2021 Preview
New Year's Resolutions: Sticking to New Year's Resolutions is hard, as all of us have probably had reason to find out at some point in our lives.  Below are some resources for sticking to your goals, but don't forget to set reasonable, realistic goals for yourself, too - too big, and you're just setting yourself up to fail.  Break your bigger goals into smaller steps you can take each day in order to give yourself a better chance of sticking to them for longer.  I also like setting calendar reminders to check in every week or two, and setting goals that will either become a sustainable habit or will have become obsolete within a few months, since motivating and tracking your progress on resolutions isn't likely to last any longer than that.  To select my goals for each year, I like to take some time to reflect on the bigger goals I want to accomplish in the coming years, and on those little everyday things that make me unhappy, and then choose tiny, bite-sized steps toward those goals that I can train myself to become accustomed to.  Whatever you choose to focus on for 2021, good luck, and may all your dreams come true!
  • Need some help getting started?  Try this guide.  Or just skip the resolutions altogether and spend your energy acknowledging and reinforcing the best habits you've gained since the quarantine began.
  • If you don't have time to create your own habit-tracker, you can download one for free here.
  • If one of your resolutions is to start working out (or to work out more), check out this guide to getting started from PopSugar.
  • If you're hoping for more sleep, try these tips from the NYT.