Aug 282014
 

Remember that time that I made “invest” my word for 2014?  And then I wrote a nice summary of how that was going at the end of February and again in April?  And then my goal for the year was never heard from again?  Just like a New Year’s Resolution to not make it past the first quarter.

Except I actually didn’t entirely forget about it.  But when I realized I’d skipped writing an investing post for May and June, I decided just to wait until the end of the summer to provide an update.  So here we are.

Self

It’s a little amusing to me that “self” is the first topic I added to this post template.  I was looking forward to sharing about the progress in the other areas, but I don’t feel particularly strongly about this one.  On one hand, my blog, my home, my job and my body are all parts of myself and I did do a lot of work there.  On the other hand, much of this summer has felt like it’s been about external things.

But it’s not all bad.  I read some books and took trips to Chicago, the Jersey Shore and Maine.  I participated in a small group bible study at my church which I’m looking forward to restarting this fall.  But overall, self-care has not been a focus.

Blog

I have spent a lot of time on my blog this summer.  In my last investing update I mentioned that I’d done a Google Helpout with Katy Widrick and the effects of that are still on-going.  Katy suggested that I work toward more clearly finding my niche by focusing my blog on local topics.  At first I was really hesitant, but the more I thought about it, the more interested I was.  I love living in the Berkshires and there are a lot of awesome food related events that are worth sharing about.  The shift of the Relishments brand from food and flexitarianism in general to food and flexitarianism in the Berkshires isn’t a huge one, but it did result in a new header image, new social media images and bios and some new content.  You may have noticed an increase in local posts over the past couple months; my current plan is to write about specific Berkshire things (events, stores, restaurants, etc.) twice a month. 

I’ve continued to work towards finding an advertising strategy that works for me.  Most of my ads are still affiliate ads and not providing revenue yet, so I’ve supplemented with some other income through Lijit and Google Adsense.  One of my goals is to court local advertisers, but I’m not sure when I’ll be working on that.  I’ve also been working on using my biggest referrers, Pinterest and StumbleUpon, to my advantage. 

Another super useful result of the Helpout I did with Katy was the Facebook group I joined.  The amount of help the group members provide each other is amazing.  You can thank their input for the look of my new media kit, the social media sharing icons that now appear on the left side of my blog and the fact that I’ve stuck to my editorial calendar so well lately.

As always, I would love any blog feedback you may have!

Home

In my April/May post, I bemoaned the fact that we hadn’t made any house progress in a long time.  That was not the case this summer.  We took advantage of a great sale to get 2 Threshold 6-cube organizers from Target (not an affiliate link) for our upstairs hall to make up for our lack of a linen closet and I love the way they look.  We also finally put curtains in our living room and office, thanks to Zulily (affiliate link).  We also hung a bunch of artwork and photos that had been leaning up against the wall since we moved in.  It’s almost like this house in inhabited by adults! Almost. 

This weekend, Brian and my dad are planning to install wire shelving in our pantry.  I’ve been dreaming of this shelving (which will replace the white particleboard bookshelves we’re currently using) since we moved in.  I hope it all goes well!

Relationships

Summer relationships are weird.  I’ve hardly talked to anyone from school and many of my local friends are so busy with kids and vacations and work that it’s hard to make plans.  My daily emails with my sister fell off because of my random schedule.

That said, some of my other relationships have been renewed this summer.  I had the change to attend the wedding of one of my college best friends.  The Jersey Shore family reunion with Brian’s side was the first time I was able to really talk to some of his relatives.  We’ll have seen my parents on two occasions.  Brian’s college roommate came to visit for a weekend.  We hung out with my college roommate and her family for a day.  And I suddenly and randomly revived relationships with some formerly very close friends, thanks to the internet.

Work

In terms of school, I invested decently this summer.  I’m rolling out a new teacher website this fall which has seen some serious work.  I’m also teaching a brand new and very different course that I’m excited about.  Work on that will be on-going, guaranteed.  I also invested a chunk of change at yard sales and used book sales on items for a classroom library.  I’m really excited about it; probably more excited than my students ever will be.  I also passed the teacher certification test I took in June, so now I can really call myself an overachiever.

This summer I worked a new summer job at a non-profit.  It ended up being a lot more work than I expected, but I am loving it.  Some aspects of the job are going to continue throughout the school year, which is also awesome.  My investments there are pretty concrete and it’s fun to see their effects.  I also think that stepping back from teaching for a bit will give me more energy for the fall.

Fitness

You would think that someone with a really flexible summer work schedule could manage to get into a fitness routine, but I didn’t.  I did make it to yoga once or twice.  I ran two 5k races – The Humane Race and the Dash for Dana – and felt good about my times.  I did some running in preparation for those races and I’ve done some  running since.  I’ve also done a lot of walking.  Not bad, but considering what I could’ve been doing, not impressive either.

Aug 262014
 

Before I can properly start this post, I really need to give a shout out to the lovely people at Kelly’s Package Store in Dalton, especially Jason.  Not only did they organize and host a great event, but they also saved this post.  I discovered on Monday after the event that I’d taken all of my photos on the wrong setting and couldn’t use any of them.  I sent Kelly’s a message on Facebook which Jason promptly replied to, letting me know that I could use any of their photos I wanted.  Later in the day, when the gallery of photos became available on their website, he messaged me again to let me know that the photos were up.  Thank goodness, otherwise this post would be image-less.

This weekend, Brian and I had the opportunity to attend the Western Massachusetts Craft Beer Festival in Dalton.  It was the festival’s 9th year, but our first time.  Due to an apparent fear of commitment on my part,  our tickets weren’t purchased online until Friday, but the $25 turned out to be well spent.  We arrived at the festival shortly after 2:00 when the gates opened.  The festival, organized by Kelly’s Package Store, was held in a field just minutes from the store.  There were a bunch of people already there, but we seemed to beat the bulk of the crowd.  We passed through the Will Call line with no one in front of us, gave them our names, showed our IDs and got bracelets.  We also picked up reusable plastic cups and the provided list of breweries which showed what they had available for sampling.

And then we had free reign.  There were no cards to have stamped or prices per sample.  If you had a bracelet, you could sample to your heart’s content from the over 60 breweries represented.  Immediately Brian and I adopted a strategy of maximizing our tasting of new beers by each trying different things; a “two to three ounce sample” (and no one was measuring, so who knows how big the pours actually were) was enough for us to get the taste of each brew and we figured we could return for more if we wanted to.

Beer Tastings

And so it went.  We went fairly quickly from table to table, checked out what they had, tried something, then moved on.  Occasionally we made use of the rinse stations and we appreciated the bottled water that was made available for free.  Though there was some opportunity to chat with the brewery representatives, I didn’t feel like I really had anything to say.  Beyond telling the gentleman from Baxter Brewery that I’d toured the brewery in Lewiston, Maine, I don’t feel like I have enough beer knowledge or insight to discuss it.  We also skipped breweries that we’d already had the featured beers from such as Brooklyn Brewery and Berkshire Brewing Company, in favor of trying more new things from new places.  Every few tables, Brian made notes on the brewery list about what we liked and what we didn’t so much care for.  Because what’s the point of discovering new things if you can’t remember them?  I’m really glad he did that; we tried a lot of beers.

Beers

After making it through tents B and C, we paused and bought a sausage grinder from the Dalton Fireman’s Association and sat at one of the available tables for a bit before braving the rather crowded tent A.   Even in that tent though it didn’t take long to get samples; since there were no stamps or ID checks in the tents and only limited options from each brewery, there was never much of a wait to get beer in your cup.

The festival was a really good time; everyone in attendance seemed to be enjoying themselves and the crowds didn’t seem to be bothering anyone.  The variety of breweries present was awesome; there were big names like Sam Adams and Dogfish, but local breweries like Browns, Big Elm and Hilltop Orchards were represented as well.  We tried some really great new (to us) brews, including Boulder Beer Company’s Shake Chocolate Porter, Innis and Gunn’s Rum Aged and Alltech Lexington Brewing and Distilling Company’s Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale.   Once we’d sampled the beers we wanted, there wasn’t much to do so we only lasted a couple hours at the festival.  There were the few food trucks, a couple local food producers with samples and some live music, but that was it. If we’d gone with a group, Brian and I probably would’ve taken it slower and had more to talk about, but as it was just the two of us, we were pretty efficient.  Nevertheless, we felt like we got our money’s worth; we tried the majority of the breweries and had a great afternoon.  I don’t know that this will be an annual event for me (though the Kelly’s site mentions big plans for the 10th year of the festival), but I would definitely like to return in a couple years when the chances of new varieties of beer are even greater.

All images courtesy of Kelly’s Package Store in Dalton, MA.  We attended this event because we wanted to, not because of any prior connection or incentive.  We paid for our own tickets.

Three in One (CSA Menu Plan #8)

 Posted by at 8:42 am
Aug 252014
 
Three in One (CSA Menu Plan #8)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a menu plan; life just hasn’t been conducive to that sort of thing.  In fact, it hasn’t even been conducive to picking up our farm share; Brian’s picked up 2 of the last three pick ups because I was unavailable.  August, why were you so busy? Nevertheless, we [...]

Whole Roasted Squash

 Posted by at 8:13 pm
Aug 212014
 
Whole Roasted Squash

It’s times like these that I’m glad I don’t have a vegetable garden.  My Facebook feed has seen numerous posts lately from friends wondering what to do with all the zucchini and summer squash springing up in their gardens.  I’m sure the rain we got today isn’t helping matters any either.  Recently I discovered that [...]

HarneyFest: Tea, a Tour and More

 Posted by at 8:01 pm
Aug 192014
 
HarneyFest: Tea, a Tour and More

On Saturday, Brian and I headed to an event I’d had on my calendar for months: HarneyFest at the Harney and Sons Tea facilities in Millerton, NY.  I’d seen it announced and, given my love for Harney and Sons Tea (which I wrote about here and here and here), I knew I had to be [...]

Highlights: Holding on to Summer

 Posted by at 7:45 pm
Aug 172014
 
Highlights: Holding on to Summer

I hate to ruin your day, but it’s best if you know the truth:  there are only 14 days left in August.  Then it will be September.  At church this morning, I feel like every conversation I had was along the lines of “where did the summer go?!”.  So, as I look at my summer [...]