Thursday, August 20, 2015

Rental Review: Focus

Last weekend I flew to Florida to meet my new, five week old baby cousin. While I was ecstatic to snuggle with him, August in Florida isn't exactly the ideal summer climate. In fact, on Saturday, the sky turned completely gray and it started to rain.

So what do you do on a lazy, gray Saturday? Watch a movie, of course.

After perusing what was new on the Comcast list, we decided to watch "Focus."

I had actually wanted to see "Focus" when it first came out, but I didn't made it to the theater in time. The movie stars Will Smith (who never seems to age) and Margot Robbie (who you may remember from "Wolf of Wall Street").

In the film, Smith plays a con artist named Nicky. He meets Margot's character, Jess, when she tries to pull a scam over on him. Too bad he's a professional liar and calls her out mid-attempt.

After her fail, Nicky agrees to take her under his wing and teach her the ropes. They start off in New Orleans, stealing people's wallets, bags and watches. There is one scene where they are snatching things on Bourbon Street that will have you clutching your purse for dear life.

The New Orleans scene gives you an overview of what Nicky's ring usually does for their jobs. It reminded me of the MIT card sharks in the movie "21."

The best ten minutes of the movie are during a scene in a luxury box at a football game. Nicky is lured into an aggressive bet by a businessman sitting in the same box. My heart was pounding the entire time!

When Nicky explains to Jess how he targeted his opponent with subliminal messaging that entire weekend, you feel your head explode.

Like any romantic story line, there's a break up. Nicky winds up rediscovering Jess three years later. She's chasing a race car driver as her next mark. She uses a teeny tiny bikini as her best weapon.

I don't want to spoil anything, so instead I'll say that I loved the look and the pace of "Focus." In many ways it reminded me of "Ocean's Eleven." I could tell how amazing all of the scenery would have looked on a giant movie theater screen. The entire film felt like an expertly choreographed dance.

While I wasn't buying the chemistry between Nicky and Jess, I did enjoy watching them con together.

If you wind up with a rainy day on your upcoming vacation, definitely consider renting "Focus." It's great for all ages and for both guys and girls.

*Image sources: 1, 2, 3 and 4

Monday, August 17, 2015

2015 Resolutions: Eight Month Checkup

Let me begin by saying thank you to everyone who has been following along as I work to accomplish my 2015 new years resolutions. I don't know why, but publishing the list and sharing updates here on Pop.Bop.Shop. has been keeping me super accountable. Knowing that you all are aware of the goals that I've set for myself has made me extra determined to cross them off the list!

As a refresher, here is my original list of 15 resolutions for 2015, as shared on January 9th. Here is my four month checkup, shared on May 4th.

For some reason, Q3 was when I really hit my stride. I was making decent progress on a few items after the last update in May, but over the past three and a half months, I've been crushing it. #NotSoHumbleBrag

Here's the full report!

1. Find a new job 
Status: Complete. I am now eight months into my new job. I can hardly believe that much time has gone by! Though I still feel new every single day, I have wonderful clients and I've been a part of some amazing projects, events and new business pitches.

In the final week of July, my agency's Boston and New York offices converged in New Haven, CT for a full day of team building, professional development and of course, drinking. I wasn't sure what to expect as we boarded the bus at 7:40am that morning, but I wound up having a blast. Here's a group photo of all of us at the end of the day.

2. Spend more time with family and friends
Status: Ongoing. I am not going to mark this resolution as complete until December 31st because it is so important to me to keep this top of mind. As I've mentioned in the past, my old job really kept me away from the people and occasions that we most important to me. I am overjoyed to be spending each week, weekend and month of this entire year focused on spending quality time with my peeps.

Since the last update, my parents, sister and brother-in-law came to Boston for Memorial Day weekend. We mostly ate, including a serious feast at East Coast Grill in Inman Square in Cambridge.

Over July 4th weekend, I hosted a BBQ in my backyard (see ally my July 4th party decor ideas here). It was so nice to have everyone over and enjoy the gorgeous summer weather. It should come as no surprise that my patio chairs are hot pink.

Right after the fourth, my family and I headed to Israel for 10 days. The trip was planned around my cousin's wedding, but we also fit in plenty of tourist time.

Here is a picture of my aunt, uncle and cousins on wedding day.

I love this one of my dad and his two sisters.

This one (below) is the picture my mom decided should be our family's holiday card photo this year. It was taken during the cocktail hour at the wedding.

After the family time, I spent the last three days of the Israel trip with one of my oldest and dearest friends. Each time I visit her we make a trip to a bedouin tent for fresh pita, labane and rosewater tea.

Though the Israel trip was clearly a major highlight, this past weekend I flew to Florida to meet my new baby cousin. He's just five weeks old and totally delicious. His mama is a little weary of posting his photos online, so just picture the cutest five week old you've ever met, then double the cuteness.

In September I am looking forward to spending the Jewish high holidays with my family and celebrating my birthday. Then, in November, I'll fly to Florida again for Thanksgiving (just booked my tickets!).

3. Adopt a dog
Status: Complete! As most of you already know, on Friday, June 12th, I adopted my dog, Scout. I was so excited about it the first week that I had him, I wrote a novel of a blog post about our adoption story.

This is one of the first photos I ever took of him and it's still my favorite.

Scout has brought immeasurable joy to my life. He is such a sweet, loving boy.

Having him has changed me in ways that I am really excited about. For example, I actually appreciate my neighborhood. Walking the dog four times a day has caused me to really stop and smell the roses (cliche alert!). I find myself noticing beautiful homes, gorgeous landscaping, the smell of people making dinner on the grill and the sound of splashing in swimming pools behind fences.

I've also had the chance to meet many of my neighbors (and their pooches) who I otherwise wouldn't cross paths with. Turns out, I have some really amazing neighbors!

Lastly, I survived handling raw chicken. For two weeks, my pup was sick and needed a bland diet of boiled chicken and white rice. After 17 years of vegetarianism, if cutting up raw chicken isn't a sign of true love, I don't know what is.

Of course I still have my moments of panic where I wonder, "Can I do this?" or "Am I doing everything wrong?" but I am learning to cut myself a little slack and to ask for help. That last bit (the asking for help) does not come naturally to me. As Boston comedian Dane Cook says, "That's the sound of growing up."

4. Redesign the blog
Status: In progress (still). In the May update I shared with you that I met with a web designer and reviewed his scope of work. Well, since then, we signed an agreement and have been actively working on the new site. We selected a final design, agreed upon a list of new features and I have quite a bit of homework to do on new elements (copy, photos, press clippings). For now the new look and feel is top secret, but I cannot wait for the big reveal!

5. Celebrate the blog's next birthday in style
Status: On hold. As you know, I felt like I totally dropped the ball on a proper celebration for Pop.Bop.Shop.'s fifth and sixth birthdays. Since the birthday (January 4th) is so close to the holidays, it always sneaks up on me.

I already have an idea for this year's celebration (in truth, I've had it since last December), but I can't execute it until the new site is live. So, we wait.

6. Plan a trip to Portland, Maine
Status: Failing miserably. Though I am going to Maine this coming weekend, it's to a friend's lake house in Lyman, still a good hour south of Portland.

In the spring, I had every intention of picking a summer weekend to make the trip up. I have been wanting to do this since my birthday last fall (and my family generously supported that wish), but now I am struggling to find a weekend to go up while it's still beach weather.

Perhaps a fall sojourn?

7. Enroll is a cooking class at BCAE
Status: Working on it! My friend, chef and party planner extraordinaire, Dustin, used to be an instructor at BCAE, which is what originally inspired this resolution. Well, really it was his Instagram pics of the food he was making in his classes.

Though he is no longer teaching there, he did advise me on classes I might like. Now I just have to pick one and get the tickets!

8. Experience a farm dinner
Status: Completed - twice! When we last checked in, I lamented that I couldn't get anyone to go with me to the farm dinners being hosted by Outstanding in the Field. Since then, I have been to not one, but two farm dinners!

The first was at the Herb Lyceum in Groton, MA (full recap here). I have a group of friends I get together with once a month for a tradition we call Foodie Friday. For the month of June, we decided the Herb Lyceum's farm dinner should be our spot. Below are a few snaps of that wonderful evening.

Then the first week of this month, I went with a friend to the Whim Dinner at Smolak Farms in North Andover, MA (full recap here). Smolak Farms is too beautiful for words. Though I didn't find the food as delicious as the Herb Lyceum's, the scenery could not be beat. Here are a few photos from that night.

I went from not being able to get anyone to go with me to a farm dinner, to attending two in one summer! #winning

9. Donate my hair
Status: Scheduled. For the entire year I have been planning to donate my hair. I've done it twice before and when I first decided to plan my big cut for September, I was totally cool with that timeline. I thought, "I'll have all summer to wear it in fun up dos, keep it off my neck, etc." Now that the time has come and I've booked my appointment, I am totally petrified. My long hair has become such a part of my look! Maybe I just need to spend some time on Pinterest finding my perfect new 'do.

I'll be sure to post before and after photos from the day of the chop!

10. Organize my jewels
Status: Complete. In the last update, I shared in bling blingy detail all the upgrades I made to my jewelry set up (re-read that here). I love having everything out where I can see it. I find myself wearing a greater variety of pieces because I don't lose track of them - they are all on display.

11. Throw my best Oscar party yet 
Status: Complete. Though Mother Nature and her crazy snow storms totally thwarted my plans for a baller Oscar bash, I am looking ahead to the Primetime Emmy Awards on September 20th. I've already sent a save the date to my usual viewing party crew and I see this as a moment of redemption!

While we wait for that Sunday night in September, here's a reminder of what went down at the Oscar party.

12. Take the Taza Chocolate Factory tour 
Status: Done! The last weekend in June I had a decadent morning with one of my BFFs which included brunch at Johnny D's in Davis Square, followed by the Taza tour. I have been wanting to take this tour for years!

The tour was one full hour. We learned about every step of the chocolate making process, saw the actual factory rooms (we even wore hair nets!) and then concluded with unlimited free samples.

Read about every delicious morsel here in my full recap.

13. Visit Aeronaut Brewery
Status: Delinquent. This is one of two resolutions that I have completely neglected. Not because I don't want to do it, but because it feels like I can achieve it at any time. Aeronaut has so many fun events every single week, I could wait until the last week of December and still get this one in.

If anyone sees a super unique event listing for Aeronaut and wants to go, just give me a shout.

14. Sample the Bloody Mary bar at Barcelona Wine Bar
Status: On the radar. This is another resolution that I feel like I can check off at any point. There are several Sundays between now and the end of the year and on one of them, I am going to do this!

I just discovered my new favorite Bloody Mary at The Sinclair in Harvard Square, so now Barcelona has quite the competitor.

15. Embrace my birthday again
Status: Little Miss Birthday in full effect. A few birthdays ago, my college friend gave me a story book called "Little Miss Birthday." Since I am quite obsessed with my b-day, it was very fitting.

Last year, when I was turning 30, I wanted to hide under a rock. I had zero interest in celebrating.

This year, I am back in action! So far I have a weekend away planned with my college girls, a fun dinner date for my actual birthday (which is on a Tuesday), a possible concert later that week and I may or may not be throwing a party the following weekend.

Needless to say, Little Miss Birthday is back on her throne!

Now for my eight month progress report! As of today, the current tally is:

7 resolutions complete
#1 - Find a new job
#2 - Spend more time with family and friends
#3 - Adopt a dog
#8 - Experience a farm dinner
#10 - Organize my jewels
#11 - Throw my best Oscar party yet
#12 - Take the Taza Chocolate Factory tour

5 resolutions in progress
#4 - Redesign the blog
#5 - Celebrate the blog's next birthday in style
#7 - Enroll in a cooking class at BCAE
#9 - Donate my hair
#15 - Embrace my birthday again

3 resolutions on the back burner
#6 - Plan a trip to Portland, Maine
#13 - Visit Aeronaut Brewery
#14 - Sample the Bloody Mary bar at Barcelona Wine Bar

With about four and a half months left in the year, I must say, I am feeling pretty confident I will complete every last one of these!

Tell me, how are you doing with your new years resolutions?

*Contributed images via Posh & PrepLaunchSquad Culture Hub and @Madyago on Instagram.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Dining Out: The Sinclair Kitchen (Part II)

If you've been reading Pop.Bop.Shop. for a while, you already know that Sunday brunch is my favorite meal of the week. When I learned that The Sinclair in Harvard Square had started serving brunch, I rushed to check it out.

My first trip to The Sinclair for brunch did not get photographed because when we sat down, I took my camera out of my purse and was immediately greeted with a message on the screen that read, "battery depleted." #Fail

So when my coworker suggested we meet for brunch at The Sinclair this past weekend, I was excited to charge up the camera and capture my second visit.

We arrived right as they opened at 11:00am. The sky was a bit gray, but we decided to sit outdoors anyway. Notice the greenery above the front door? That's the edge of their roof deck.

Within minutes of opening their doors, the roof deck was packed. We weren't the only people with this idea!

Our waitress greeted us and handed over two menus. Right away we flipped them over to the cocktail section.

My brunch date decided to go with the mimosa flight. It included three varieties - orange juice and Cava, Merlet pear liqueur and Cava, and peach, Campari and Cava.

After taking a few sips of each, I asked her to rank the three. She said, "The pear is the best because it's the sweetest. The OJ is next, I really like the traditional combo. The peach has a weird tang to it, it would go better with a champagne sweeter than Cava."

I went with the house Bloody Mary. It's traditionally served with bacon, but when I asked if it could be made without, our waitress chirped, "Yes! Of course, of course."

The Bloody Mary that arrived was glorious. It was a huge portion and was garnished with a lime wedge, a lemon wedge, two olives and a pickle spear.

The drink itself was rich with flavor and had an awesome kick. Our waitress told us some people find it too spicy, but I loved it. I think this is my new favorite Bloody Mary in town.

For our meal, we hatched a gluttonous little plan. First, we would each have our own savory egg dish and then, we'd share one of the tantalizing waffle dishes for dessert (yes, dessert at brunch).

The first plate to arrive was my friend's choice, the breakfast tacos. Each taco was stuffed with scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese, tomatoes and avocado.

When I asked how she liked the dish, she replied, "Well, there was a third taco hidden under here which was a nice surprise. Unfortunately this wasn't really what I was expecting. It tasted more like an omelette than a taco. The home fries were more exciting than the tacos."

I selected the veggie eggs benedict which was a grilled English muffin topped with spinach, tomatoes, Swiss cheese, poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce.

It was outrageously delicious. Maybe the best version of veggie eggs benedict I've ever had.

The grilled English muffin added a nice smoky flavor to each bite, the eggs were cooked perfectly and the creamy texture from the melted cheese and Hollandaise sauce was heavenly. I think my eyes rolled into the back of my head with my first bite.

I also had a side of home fries which were quite tasty. The Sinclair's home fries taste like BBQ potato chips, which is always a good thing. They are so well seasoned they don't even need ketchup.

To close things out, we shared the waffle flight (yes, two flights in one morning). The plate featured one waffle topped with bananas, caramel and pecans, one with fried chicken and one with berries, fluff and a sprinkle of bacon.

The first one I tasted was the berries and fluff which was absolutely the best of the three. The berries were super fresh and bursted in your mouth with each bite. The berries even out shined the fluff!

My friend cut into the fried chicken waffle and after three bites she reported, "The waffle on its own is way too dry. When you combo it with the chicken it has a taste that is both sweet and salty. Like the waffle, the chicken was also pretty dry. The batter was the best part, it had a sweetness to it and was nice and crispy."

The third waffle was the bananas, caramel and pecans and like the chicken waffle, it was just way too dry. We each took one bite and stopped. Even drowning it in syrup couldn't resuscitate it.

Despite the dry waffles, I really did love this brunch. It was so nice to sit on the quiet roof deck and enjoy a lazy summer Sunday. My Bloody Mary was awesome and that veggie eggs benedict was to die for.

In addition to brunch, The Sinclair is also open for dinner. You can check out my review of those offerings here.

Visit The Sinclair at 52 Church Street, Cambridge, MA 02138.
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