Thursday, August 15, 2019

Chick-fil-A Mac & cheese hack

The other night I was running late and it was time for dinner. I swung by Chick-fil-A to see if they had the new much-hyped mac & cheese and they did. I picked up two servings of mac & cheese, a gallon of unsweetened iced tea + unsweetened lemonade, and a container of Chick-fil-A sauce (we put Chick-fil-A sauce on everything) and headed home.

The baby (of course) loved the mac & cheese. L and I both did too. If I had a southern grandma, this is what she would serve as a side at Sunday dinner. It has a thick, cheesy sauce with bits of crunchy, cheese topping (I loved this part, L didn't as much). We both agreed that Chick-fil-A's mac & cheese was a hit. Then I realized that we had the container of Chick-fil-A sauce that we all love and I wondered if the sauce would work on the mac & cheese. ( I realize that this probably sounds like a terrible idea but I'm also the girl who puts potato chips on her Beyond Burger.) I drizzled a little  Chick-fil-A sauce on the mac & cheese and took a tentative bite. It was so good. It was just a small drizzle but it was enough to give the mac & cheese a smoky, tangy flavor. I loved it and this is how I plan on eating it from now on. L is a purist, though, and liked his mac & cheese without the bonus flavor.

If you're a fan of Chick-fil-A sauce, try a drizzle of it on this new side. Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Essentials: The Harry Josh Pro Dryer 2000

I have had a lifelong love/hate relationship with my hair dryer. Over the years I have had too many to count. One smelled like burning hair every time I used it. One was almost too hot to hold. Another one took almost forty minutes to dry my chin-length bob. One made a high pitch hum that made our dog howl every timed I dried my hair.

The last hairdryer I had was advertised as quiet yet powerful but it was neither. Because I dried my hair every day, I realized that this was the only other appliance other than the Nespresso machine that I used every day. I love our Nespresso. I wanted to feel the same away about my hairdryer. I searched the reviews online and while Dyson Supersonic hairdryer had excellent reviews, at $400, it was above my budget.

Recently, we stayed at a hotel that had the Harry Josh Pro Dryer 2000 in the bathrooms and I fell in love with this little powerhouse (1875 watts) of a dryer. After several days using it, I knew this was the one.  It's a significant purchase ($249.99) but there's a reason why this hair dryer has won Allure magazine's Best of Beauty Awards for three consecutive years

What makes this dryer so good:

My hair dries fast
The ionic function on this dryer made my hair feel so smooth
It feels good in the hand
It gives my hair massive volume

Yes, it's expensive but I think of this like I do about a good quality coffee maker or a well made sweater. You can spend your money buying multiple hair dryers (or coffee makers or sweaters) over the next few years or you can invest in a product that will last longer and make your life simpler or happier.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Thought for the Week: Don't Undervalue Yourself

I had spent several days working on an intensive project for a client. They had a lot riding on this project and there was no wiggle room for revisions. It had to be perfect the first time. After spending three days on the project, I emailed it over to the project manager.  Less than half an hour later I received a call from her. She loved it.  Her team loved it. It was exactly what they wanted.

She said, "Taylor, you make me look good! You hit it out of the park!"

I said, "No worries. If I had more time, I could have gone more granular."

As soon as I said it, I realized that what I said undervalued all the hard work I poured into this project. I had earned this compliment. I knew it was great work and I should have simply said "Thank you" without downplaying the time and expert knowledge it took to complete it.

I do this anytime someone gives me a compliment. I met with a new trainer who said "You did a great job in this first session!" and all I could think of was "Well, three years ago I was in better shape and I could have gone twice as long!"  L tells me "You're doing a great job with the baby!" and I say "Well, she's a good baby" but really she is almost two years-old and it takes a lot of patience and time teaching her everything she needs to become a confident, happy, smart, kind, resilient girl.

I think the reason we downplay our value or actions is that we don't want to seem boastful or maybe it's because we feel like what we do should seem effortless. However,  the things that we do, the tasks we accomplish are because of skillsets we learned through education or practice. Whether you excel at your job, or a sport or hobby, you have earned the right to  have that skill recognized. There are other things you could have done like sleep in or go out with your friends instead of learning to code or sew or shoot baskets or paint. If someone thanks you for your kindness, don't say "It was nothing!" Instead say "You're welcome! I'm glad you're happy!"

Its OK to be proud of your accomplishments or the hard work you have put into yourself. Whether you conquered a bad habit, learned a new skill or made someone else's life better, value the work that it took to get you to there.

I know you're going to do something wonderful this week so let me the first to say"Well done! I'm so proud you!"

Monday, August 5, 2019

Happy Places: Chatham Bars Inn

My college roommate had exceptional taste so it was no surprise to any of us when she announced that she was getting married at the Chatham Bars Inn (Chatham, Massachusetts). If you are a beachy sort of girl, this is the penultimate place to celebrate the union of you and your best friend. It was (of course) a perfect, sunny day when they said "I do." I remember that day so clearly. There was something about the way the Cape Cod sun bounced off of my roommate that day that made her the most beautiful bride I had ever seen.  I still think about this magical day, even years later, even after several stays of my own at Chatham Bars Inn. Memories you make here stay with you.

Several months ago I stayed at the hotel with one of my closest friends for a girl's weekend, my birthday gift from L.  The baby was with Larry back in Seattle, so it was very much a girl's weekend of relaxation, sleeping in, room service and inhaling the Cape Cod salt air. It was exactly what we both needed.

My room the first night was a short walk from the main building, in this house facing the ocean
I arrived a day before my friend did and I decided to stay in one of the adjacent cottages owned by the hotel, It was am enormous, beautiful king-bedded room overlooking with the beach. After checking in, I visited the relaxing spa and fitness center  (open 24/7) which was a nice winding walk from the main building. In addition to the treatment rooms, the spa had refreshments, a meditation garden and its own pool and hot tub.

The tranquility begins in the meditation garden

I loved the spa so much that I purchased a set of the signature spa body wash and lotion to remind me of my stay.  I could have easily just spent the entire day relaxing by the quiet pool.  I fell into bed completely blissed out and woke up refreshed. In the morning I took a brisk walk down to the beach then hiked up to the main building to have breakfast at Stars (the formal dining room.)
If you go: Try the Tides Massage which mimics the wave motion of the ocean.

Breakfast, an omelet (goat cheese with chopped tomato and herbs) was delicious and the coffee perfectly strong.  I went into town for some shopping and later in the afternoon I moved over to the main hotel into a top floor room with two queen beds overlooking the beach. The room was smaller than the one I had the pervious night and I wondered if Waverly had been with us, if there would have been room for a crib. There was a table with two chairs to work at or enjoy room service. The room was cozy for the two of us and our suitcases but when you realize that the Inn started its life as a hunting lodge, it makes sense that the rooms would be small, enough to accommodate one or two people and their gear. The bathroom was also small but well appointed. The beds were heavenly, the linens cool and smooth and the pillows perfectly firm. The Chatham Bars Inn has perfected hotel sleeping.
If you go: Ask for a room in the main hotel if you prefer to be closer to the restaurants and lobby area

Our room in the main building

Our favorite part of the room was the shared deck. It was enormous with several lounge chairs for each room. I can imagine several  families or groups booking adjacent rooms and having quite the joint cocktail hour before dinner.

We both felt like being pampered so we spent most of the time enjoying the hotel property. There are so many spaces around the property to enjoy. In the main hotel itself, there are several restaurants, Stars (formal dining), The Sacred Cod (a tavern atmosphere), The Veranda (outdoor dining with ocean views) The Beach House (oceanfront, casual dining) and The Farm, an 8-acre farm which produces fresh seasonal vegetables for the restaurants, as well as a farm to table dining experience. Other than the restaurants, the South Lounge is a cozy place to curl up in front of the fire or just grab a quiet moment.
If you go: Try the Grapefruit Martini (Belvedere Grapefruit, grapefruit shrub, St. Germaine, Cointreau and bitters) in The Sacred Cod

The Farm to Table dining experience (Image courtesy of Chatham Bars Inn)

My favorite place on the property (Image courtesy of Chatham Bars Inn)
One of the favorite spots at the Inn is The Beach area complete with ocean-front heated pool, private cabanas, comfortable loungers and food and beverage service all located on the hotel's private quarter-mile beach. It is across the street from the hotel and it's a little hike, especially if you have little ones with you but it's worth the walk down the boardwalk to the beach.
If you go:  Try the swordfish tacos with avocado crema along with the Angel Chaser (Tequila, Mezcal, Chambord, Ancho Reyes, guava and lime) served poolside.

Chatham Bars Inn also offers activities from cooking school (which we did and it was better than we could have imagined), pool parties, kid's activities, yoga on the beach and my favorite - the dive-in movie at the pool. Chatham Bars Inn is the quintessential Cape Cod experience. Whether it's a summer vacation or staying cozy and learning how to decorate gingerbread houses at Christmas, The Chatham Bars Inn is a place that you can't help but feel happy.

To book your Chatham Bars Inn vacation, visit or call 1.800.527.4884.

*My college roommate who got married here? She is happily married with three beautiful kids.

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