Springing forward

It feels nice to take a small break and write for a bit.  With less than a month away from April 17th, tax season is reaching its peak for us now.  More clients, more work, more returns to wrap up and get out the door.  So thankful for our solid team, but I think we are all feeling the pressure these days.

This past week has been a crazy one for me.  I went up to Boston for a few days for work while Anna was her part of spring break with her dad.  It was difficult to take off and go while she was competing in her very first Junior Olympics.

Our Junior Olympic swimmer with two of her cheerleaders!

She did so well and dropped time in all her events, while her swim team as a whole came first in South Florida.  I did talk to her after each one of her events, and I was thankful that my good friend Sarah and her daughters surprised Anna on one of the days.

Boston was insane this past weekend with the usual St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.  Given our office/condo is right in the heart of downtown, the noise is awful from the area bars.  But, since Michael and I were working late every night anyway, the noise and music wasn’t as distracting as I thought it would.

Green snow for St. Patrick’s Day in Boston

I had forgotten how seriously Boston takes this holiday… aside from funky costumes and hats, I even saw green snow in front of one of the bars.  By Sunday, the celebrations had finally died down.

On my way back to FL, I stopped by DC to visit our new office in Georgetown.  Located right on the towpath it’s not only a convenient location, but I was very happy meeting the staff there and working out of the co-sharing space for the day.  I met with a good friend of ours for lunch and then I mostly enjoyed unfolding at the Watergate for the evening.  The hotel exceeded my expectations, the view was awesome and the service was spot on.

The renovated Watergate hotel is incredible!

Staying there for the night was such a special treat, and I especially enjoyed my time at The Next Whiskey Bar, located right at the lobby.  The time just flew by that night.  My flight was super early the next morning and heading back to Florida was  tough.

This weekend, Anna, my mom and I are visiting George and Jim in their Denver home.  While I have to work everyday, it’s nice to take timed breaks to enjoy hiking and trips to downtown.  I especially enjoyed yesterday’s hike in Cherry Creek by the highland canal and the three ponds.  It was only about 2 mile hike, but the vistas of the front range were breathtaking.

Some photos from our Denver hike

One of my favorite parts of the hike was when we walked around one of the ponds… it was so peaceful and reminded me how much I miss sketching.  I have some really beautiful images in my mind now.  And it was really inspiring when we came across a very interesting piece of outdoor art in the middle of a meadow.  An artist apparently was interested in making sharp contrasts in meaning with scrambling and unscrambling letters.  Named “The Beauty of Perspective,” when you first encounter the art piece it’s a group of letters that make no sense… if you’re curious… you start walking into a circle and powerful words are formed.  It really caught my attention.

Enjoying the fresh mountain air!

And so it was so sweet because George and Jim grilled last night and we just enjoyed each other’s company.  Tomorrow I’ve been tasked to make dinner though… one of our childhood favorite dishes which reminds more of a beef ragu dish with handmade pasta.  I’m really looking forward to that and will share the recipe when I have some more time.

TGIF!

 

the incredible value of timed breaks

Now officially in my fifth tax season, as the work keeps piling, I’m learning more about myself and those around me.  I notice that the work can keep coming in non-stop for two hours, and we need to be ready.  Tax season is so compressed that mistakes are not forgiving, so we have to be on top of things.

Anna and I painting the community art wall at the Norton Museum last year… a fun example of a timed break!

Since I’ve never been able to just sit at a desk for 8 hours straight and be productive, I’ve adopted the system of timed breaks.  I get a lot more done this way, and I’m noticing that it is helping me appreciate the little moments in life.  For example, while my schedule varies insanely, I might go to the gym early in the morning and then work for two hours.  But, I’ll work and be totally focused for that time and get a lot done.  After that, I might take a walk or grab a snack, catch up with my friends and loved ones, or read the news for a little while.  Then it’s back to work, then a break to cook something, pick up Anna from school, and so on.

So, this system of timed breaks is essentially forcing me to really be in the present.  Otherwise, I can see why tax season can drive not only CPAs bananas, but also the people who work with them.  For Michael, tax season is a way of life at this point, so he schedules everything around it – even jury duty has to wait!  I still don’t know how he is able to stay productive on three hours of sleep as the end of March approaches.  If that were me, I would crash and burn without my seven hours of sleep!

On a timed break with my dear friend T – we always have the best conversations!

I’m especially thankful for the people around me who are being supportive of me during this season of insanity.  They know who they are.  It’s my usual handful or so of people, and their support helps so much to stay motivated, happy and productive.  Whether it is seeing them for a quick coffee, or a dinner break or catching up on social media, I’m very appreciative of those little moments!

On the flip side, I also take note  in my own quiet way of those who are not supportive for one reason or another.  And noticing that I really don’t care anymore!  Wasted time is wasted energy and that’s become precious as we get older!

I’m almost 39…  and now is when it’s all starting to make sense.

To be honest, I have not been in the mad cafe for endless hours these days.  I simply can’t afford that creative luxury this time of year.  But, I will share with you one of my easy quick mad meals that keeps me healthy and focused!

MAD CEVICHE SALAD

Prep time: 15-20 minutes  –  Idle time:  1 hour  –  Yields: 2 servings

Ingredients

1/2 pound of wild salmon, cut into small chunks

1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped

It goes without question that you’ll want to use the freshest ingredients to make this at home

1 medium red onion, finely chopped

Juice of 2-3 limes

half of a sweet red pepper, cut into tiny cubes

1 mango, cut into tiny cubes

1 avocado (not too ripe), cut into cubes

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, optional

Salt to taste

Directions

The key to this recipe is in the knife cuts.  You need to make sure all the ingredients are neatly cut and about the same size.  The onion should be really small cubes.

In a bowl mix the raw salmon with the lime juice and set aside as you chop up everything else.  Mix everything into the bowl along with the seasonings.

Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the flavors to come together.

This tastes fantastic on crostini, especially on a timed break for lunch or with an aperitif later in the day!

 

orange pound cake in time for tax season

Ah, these are the days we love to be in South Florida.  It’s a beautiful day, 70 degrees and low humidity.  In Boston, where Michael is stationed during tax season for three months, it’s 21F and I’m sure he’s not looking forward to heading up there next week.  It’s hard to believe tax season is here already.  We have started getting calls and inquiries from new clients from our various locations looking for specialized tax professionals.

The tax work and everything that goes with it will only continue to mount from this point on.  While we have learned to roll with the punches and manage the stress, tax season is still a very challenging time.  When I first met Michael, he would tell me that he plans life around tax season and

Just in time for my birthday last year, my brother flew into PB! It was such a fun reprieve from tax season stress.

it’s just become a way of life for him.  At first, this took a lot of getting used to for me.  Winter is the best time of year to be in Florida and he’s meeting clients and shoveling snow in Boston.  And my end of March birthday is probably at the worst time of tax season!  I’m not complaining though.  Last year, my brother flew in just for my birthday and took me to see Sophia Loren at the Kravis Center.  It was such a fun night!

It’s helpful to be mindfully focused on the growth and the rewards of working in the business.  I admit some aspects of tax season are fun, but overall tasks tend to be repetitive while direct focus on them is crucial.  Since it is hard to stay inspired at times, the main reason I started the food and heart blog is to have a creative outlet to offset the mounting stress of tax season.  Let’s see how successful this experiment will be this year!

An orange a day keeps tax season away! Well, not quite, but these are gorgeous from the Green Market in WPB

Not sure about you, but I love the smell of oranges, orange zest and baking with fresh fruit!  I grabbed a bunch the other day and have been making fresh orange juice, grating the zest over yogurt and salads, and just enjoying the flavors.  Anna eats a lot of oranges since she swims and it’s great to share them at the meets with everyone under the tent.

I loooove pound cake… and I love oranges.  So, I married the two in this delicious recipe.  The experiment was a little risky, but like with most things… nothing ventured, nothing gained.  🙂

MAD ORANGE POUND CAKE

Prep time:  15 minutes   Baking time:  1 hour

Orange pound cake screams love!

Ingredients

3 cups of flour

5 large eggs

2 sticks of butter, softened

2 cups of sugar

1 tsp baking soda

3 tbsp orange zest

2/3 cup of milk

2 tbsp orange juice

1 tsp vanilla

For the glaze:

1 1/2 cup of powdered sugar

2 tbsp butter, softened

5 tbsp orange juice

1 tbsp orange zest

Directions

Preheat the oven at 350F

Sift the flour and baking powder in a bowl and set aside.  In another bowl mix by hand together the zest, juice, vanilla and milk together – set aside.

In stand up mixer, cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time.  Starting with the flour mixture, interchange with the milk mixture to add into the creamed butter – a bit at a time.  Your mixer should be on medium as you do this and finish with the flour mixture until everything is incorporate.  Beat on high for about two minutes.

In a greased and floured bundt pan, or ring pan, spread the cake mixture.  Bake for about 1 hour until tooth comes out clean.

Meanwhile, make the orange glaze (yum, my favorite!).  You’ll need your mixer again.  Beat together the powdered sugar, juice, butter and zest until icing is formed.  If icing is too stiff, add a little more juice.  If icing is too watery, add a little more powdered sugar.

Once the cake is finished, let it cool in the pan for about 3-5 minutes.  Flip over onto a cake plate and try poking a few holes randomly on the top of the cake… immediately, using a spoon, start evenly spreading the icing on the warm cake.  The holes will allow some of the icing to seep in.  Enjoy!

Happy Baking 🙂