10 Pounds Later

Anyone who knows me, knows I LOVE Panera. In high school I worked here for about 6 months and to this day, it was probably my favorite job. Unfortunately, when I moved to New York, the closest Panera was over 6 miles away, outside of the city. As a result, whenever I would leave the city of go home for a weekend, a trip to Panera was always on my list of things to do.

So when it was announced that Panera was coming to Manhattan – I freaked. The first store opened earlier this year at on 7th ave between 28th  and 29th. This is about 15 blocks north from my office and 3 avenues west (i.e not very close) but that didn’t stop me. On opening day, I trekked over to the store for lunch. I was so excited I could hardly contain it – well, the fact is, I didn’t. After ordering a bowl of broccoli cheddar soup with a massive grin on my face, I announced to the cashier that “I used to be you! I worked at a Panera once. It was awesome.” I thought she would join in on my elated state however, she responded by saying “So does that mean, one day, I will get to be you?” Clearly she didn’t understand that I thought, by working at Panera, she was the lucky one.

While the experience of eating Panera that day was fantastic, I had to come to terms that it wasn’t going to become a daily experience. The store was just too far away.

But then, I saw they were opening another Panera in Union Square – a 2 minute walk from my work. Nearly every day for months, I would walk by the site and peer in the windows to see how far along the construction was coming. Sadly, with union protests the work was slowed. And I was denied my “fresh” bread, soups and sandwiches.

Last week, after returning to the office from a nice lunch out with some co-workers, another one of my colleagues asked me if I had been to Panera yet? I freaked out – not realizing that it was opened. I was so upset that I had already had lunch that day – for a second I thought about making myself throw up just so I could go and eat another lunch but then decided that wasn’t a good idea, not to mention gross.

The next morning, I happily left my apartment without breakfast so I could stop at Panera for a cinnamon crunch bagel and a caramel latte. I know, not the healthiest of choices, but boy did it make me happy. I practically skipped into work.

Needless to say, it was delicious and I can’t wait to go back. So in honor of the 10 pounds that I will inevitably gain from all of the food I will eat from Panera, I am running my very first Giveaway on my blog. Leave a comment with your favorite menu item at Panera and you will be entered to win a 15 dollar gift card to your local Panera! The winner will be announced on Monday.

Happy eating!

Flash Mob

Last week we received an awesome email from the Senior Vice President of Programs at Robin Hood. It is important that I try to characterize this man for you all, or else this won’t seem as funny. This man is an very accomplished researcher who graduated from MIT with a PhD in economics and served as a former New York Times editor. He is, for lack of a better word, a little nerdy. He developed our system of “metrics” which is used to measure the effectiveness of our poverty fighting programs through a series of formulas (basically he did for Robin Hood what  Theo Epstein did for the Red Sox). We all love him, but he certanily isn’t a wild and crazy type guy.

Below is the email we received:

“I’m not exactly the sharing kind when it comes to identifying new waves of popular culture.  But someone has to step up now that Jim is leaving.  I hereby lay claim to moving to the forefront of the culture battleground. 

One week from tomorrow (Tues., Oct. 25 at 1 p.m.), I will accompany my 95-year-old mother-in-law,  to Union Square where she will participate in a “Flash Mob.” [My Times style manual betrays me.   What’s the proper verb: does one participate in a flash mob; do a flash mob; perform a flash mob?  perform in a flash mob??}  In any case, I have inside information that there will be a “wardrobe malfunction” as part of the routine.   Imagine.

 I’ll be standing toward the rear with a hood covering my face, worrying that I will be accused of contributing to the delinquency of a nonagenarian.  My wife will be up front studying her Mom’s every move, preparing for 30+ years hence.”

So on Tuesday, the entire Robin Hood staff ventured outside to Union Square to witness one of the greatest flash mobs in history. And thankfully, it went off without the wardrobe malfunction!

Grandma and Grandpa – you’re next!

Little Things Turns One

Last week I passed an important milestone; my blog, Focus on the Little Things, celebrated its first anniversary. My first post was written on March 2nd, 2010 as I was seating on the couch contemplating my life. I had become so wrapped up in the negative aspects that I was unable to see the countless positive things I had. Thankfully one year later, I was so busy enjoying my life that I didn’t even realize a year had passed.This past year has gone by so quickly and I am certainly in a much better place now than I was last year.

I have found a job that makes me excited to out of bed in the morning. I believe so passionately in the work that I am doing and the organization’s mission. I work with people who have high expectations for me and for themselves and people who strive to make a difference in the way other people live their lives. I am proud to say that I work for Robin Hood.

Matt and I are getting ready to celebrate our wedding in less than four months. And while the planning process got off to a rocky start, things are smooth sailing from now until the big day. Just this morning we were able to check off the last “big ticket item” on our checklist. We can not wait to celebrate this occasion with our friends and family. Already the excitement that other people have shared with us, particularly the two amazing people planning my shower, has been incredible. It is such a good feeling to know that so many other people are just as excited as we are, for us to get married.

After two and a half years, I am slowly starting to adjust to life in New York. No, I am not a Yankees fan, and never will be. But I have come to terms with the fact that Matt and I don’t live in Boston, and probably won’t in the near future. Instead of focusing on the things that I like about Boston that New York lacks, I am trying to focus on the things that New York has that I do like. These things include the following: Central Park, Bleeker Street Pizza, the fact that the Today Show is my local news, Union Square farmers market, Matt Kinsella, riding my bike to Piermont, Rubix Kube and frequent visitors.

This year has been incredible. I owe that to my family, friends and of course Matt. I couldn’t imagine a life without him. He has truly helped me focus on the little things, and sometimes the big things, that make life so amazing.

So thanks for following along… hold on tight, this year is sure to be a good one.

Leaving the Island

Growing up, I lived in a circle with a radius of approximately 5 miles. I rode the school bus 4.8 miles to middle school, rode 6.6 miles to the Mall of New Hampshire, rode my bike 4.6 miles to the Bedford Bluffs where I spent every day during the summer and walked .4 miles to visit my best friend (or .2 miles if I cut through the woods).

When I was in high school, the circle expanded to a radius of approximately 60 miles. I drove 6.6 miles east to school, 55.6 miles south-east to swim practice and 73.9 miles south to visit Matt. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time in the car. During those days, I knew every song on the radio, perfected my ability to dance while sitting, and learned the location of every Dunkin Donuts along Route 3. I attribute my relationship with one of my best friends to the fact that we spent at least 2 hours in the car together every day, not to mention the fact that we shared a near death experience when I decided to shut my eyes for a quick second while driving to practice. We spent a lot of time chatting about school, swimming, and of course, boys.

My life is very different now that I live in New York. I traded my car in for a subway pass, my one hour commute to swim practice in for a 30 minute subway ride to Union Square, and the 3 miles drive to the grocery store to a 3 minute walk to Whole Foods down the block. While living in a city does make some things much more convenient, I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss suburbia.

Now I live on an island.  An island that is 13.4 miles long and 2.3 miles wide. A 23 square mile island with more than 1.6 million people. No longer do I live in a circle with a 60 mile radius. Now I live within a rectangle that is 10 square miles smaller than my hometown, yet has a population that is 80 times larger. I travel within a circle that has a two-mile radius and I never leave the island. That is, until today.

For my Birthday, Matt promised to take me to a cooking class. We have done this before, see prior post, and it was a lot of fun. However, instead of going back to the Institute of Culinary Education, Matt decided to try out The Brooklyn Kitchen, a smaller, “off the beaten path” location (follow their blog here). After reading through the course offerings, we decided on the Fresh Pasta Sunday course. So this afternoon, after a delicious breakfast of irish oatmeal and some time in the gym, Matt and I ventured off the island and into Brooklyn.

We arrived to tree-lined streets, buildings no taller than 5 stories and a strange, but enjoyable, quietness. We could easily walk down the sidewalks to the kitchen without having to dodge tourists and hundreds of people. I suddenly felt at home in Brooklyn.

Our class was amazing. We learned how to make the dough from scratch and worked with a pasta machine. As we put the pasta through the machine a few times, our dough grew into a long sheet. As we cranked the pasta through the machine it flattened out and grew in length. Working together to maneuver this large sheet of pasta, we were able to make angel hair pasta, fettuccine and butternut squash ravioli. At the end of class, we were able to taste the fruits of our labor and bring some of the uncooked pasta home. It was a great experience and I can’t wait to invite Matt into our kitchen at home more often. He is an amazing sous-chef!

I encourage you all to leave your island and expand your radius; you never know what you will find.