Let’s Chat: How Not to Say the Wrong Thing

Let's Chat: How to Say the Right Thing

About a week ago, James and I drove to Hampton Beach to see Mike Birbiglia perform his new show, “Thank God for Jokes,” which had us laughing until our cheeks hurt. I’m not usually that interested in seeing comedians because they’re sometimes mean spirited or gross, but Birbiglia is more of a storyteller than a comedian. Plus that, he’s sweet like that guy in your college study group who made you laugh but was too shy to make a move. Vans sneakers and all.

In this show, he talks about how his mom has always asked him not to curse in his shows–something he’s stuck to for his entire career. That is, until he was invited on to perform with the Muppets. He ran out onstage to a cheering crowd, realized that he had forgotten his stool, blurted out “OH, FUCK!” and awkwardly slow ran backstage to facepalm/grab his forgotten prop.


This especially struck a cord with me because I often feel like I’m saying exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time (WTWT).

For example: about two hours into my current job, my boss explained that everyone puts their vacation requests into Outlook as a meeting request because she sometimes gets a little flaky (her word, not mine!) about remembering those things. I said, “Well, at least you’re self aware!” If it had been anyone else, I probably would’ve been added to some kind of secret black list–thank god Elaine is Elaine and she just burst out laughing.

In an attempt to improve on my WTWT problem, I found these tips by corporate consultant Karen Exkorn in a Huffington Post article called “Five Tips On How To Say The Right Thing All (Or At Least Most) The Time,” which I’m paraphrasing here:

5 Tips for Saying the Right Thing

Be mindful of what you’re saying. You may observe yourself saying things that don’t really reflect your outlook on the world! Words aren’t just words–they represent what’s going on inside you.

Think before you speak. It’s happened to all of us: someone makes a passing comment that sticks with you forever. When I was fourteen, a teacher said to me, “You know what your problem is? You’re lazy.” (This was supposed to motivate me to do more student council activities.) I’ve had a hard time sitting still since then, for fear of that “laziness” overtaking me. Words have power, so use them thoughtfully.

Don’t let your body language interrupt your message. In other words, don’t say, “I want to hear about your day!” while scrolling through your Facebook feed. Please.

Pat yourself on the back. Rather than having negative thoughts about yourself, like, “Ugh, I’m always messing everything up,” congratulate yourself on successes–even if they’re small! By opening yourself up to your own positive traits, you’ll be less preoccupied when chatting with others, and better able to listen well.

Use “eee” words. You know how you’re supposed to say “cheese!” in photos because it makes you smile? Exkorn suggests using words like “happy,” “glee,” and “silly” because it creates a sort of lasting muscle memory that promotes smiling and better conversation.

If you have the gift of gab, what advice do you have for saying the right thing?

(Apologies if you came and saw the video that was posted here earlier! I’d mistakenly thought it was one I’d watched previously, but it turns out that one has mysteriously been deleted from the internet. So now you’ll just have to go see Birbiglia’s live show to hear the story, which you should do anyway. In the meantime, I’ll share this bit about being on time + yoga, which is also from the show. As an on-time person, I really love this.)

Photo Credit: Darling be Darling

Great Eats North of Boston

My parents were in town (from Hawaii) last week, and while they’ve visited me on the East Coast twice before, this is the first time they’ve come since I left the city. Since we’re a family that loves food, I took them to a few foodie gems we’ve found closer to home, as well as a couple of great places in the city. If you’re visiting New England, I highly recommend stopping by any of these dining establishments to grab a bite.

Blue Fin

Good Eats North of Boston

We live just outside of a forest and within a stone’s throw of several farms, yet somehow we also have a fabulous Japanese restaurant in our neighborhood as well. Asian restaurants here are often fusion, with Chinese places serving sushi and Thai restaurants serving Chinese food (confusing!), but at Blue Fin you’ll only find real homestyle Japanese food and incredible sushi. The sashimi is always fresh. The sushi chefs are artists. And they serve up a pretty mean martini. Insider tip: the bar is the most comfortable, relaxed place to sit.


Good Eats North of Boston

Just down the street from Blue Fin is Richardson’s dairy farm, which is a New England institution. I can’t tell you how many times James and I have finished off our sushi, only to drive two minutes down the road for dessert at Richardson’s. My favorite is the cherry vanilla ice cream, but I haven’t had a bad scoop there yet, and I’ve tried a lot of them! Mini golfing and batting cages are on the premises, but the real excitement is that there are cows! The ones that make the milk that goes in the ice cream! I mentally thank them every time we drive by.


Good Eats North of Boston

My dad’s number one request: New England clam chowder. James pointed us to Shea’s, which is a cozy restaurant on the water with award-winning chowder. I’m not sure if we’re just lucky, but we’ve never had to wait there, despite the fact that the fried clam place across the street is always insane and the food here is awesome. The chowder is perfect, and the sandwiches and salads are equally mouthwatering. You can easily get to the beach or to a bunch of antique stores from Shea’s, so it’s a perfect stop on the North Shore.

Mill River Winery

Good Eats North of Boston

Before heading to Shea’s, we stopped at this gorgeous little winery on the North Shore, in Rowley. The space is relatively new–airy and bright. They produce a wide variety of wines, and for just $5 you can taste them all. Although the chardonnay is award winning, our favorite was their crisp, dry Riesling. We might not be Napa, but this is a definite must for wine lovers. (Find a more comprehensive review, complete with actual wine vocabulary, at The Eats.)

I’m considering featuring more local places here on Frock Files with first-hand photos. Let me know if this sounds interesting to you. There are so many good ones; this is just a start! Where do you take people when they’re visiting your hometown?

Photo Credits: Blue Fin | Richardson’s | Shea’s | Mill River Winery



The Easiest Salmon

Frock Files: Easy Weeknight Salmon

One of my favorite things to hear is, “I’m not a cook, but when I read blog I think, ‘I can do that!’” This salmon recipe epitomizes that sentiment.

The secret to great salmon is not doing very much to it at all. As I mentioned before, this is my favorite thing to have with a Champagne and Strawberries salad, for a light summertime dinner. For both the salmon and salad, it’s a dinner that takes fewer than 30 minutes to prepare. Hello, weeknights!


2 small salmon fillets
1/2 to 1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper


1. Cover a baking sheet in parchment paper. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. We actually use our toaster oven, because–why not?

2. Drop small chunks of butter along the length of the salmon steaks. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and pepper. Bake for 20-23 minutes. If your oven (or toaster oven) has a convection setting, reduce cooking time by 3-5 minutes. Salmon should be pink with just a bit of golden brown around the edges.

3. Serve immediately with a fresh salad! Nom.

The Easiest Potato Salad

Easy Potato Salad | Frock Files #recipes

Nearly every weekend as kids, my parents took us to a cafe in Kahala called The Patisserie. I loved it there for three reasons. The first was that there were mirrors on either side of the narrow restaurant, which made it look like there were an infinite number of mirrors (within mirrors, within mirrors). Secondly, it was managed by an older German woman we called Auntie Doris, who always sneaked us sweet, delightful things. And last, but not least, was the potato salad. Doris made a German-style potato salad that was tart with vinegar and I couldn’t get enough of it.

I’m still obsessed with a tart potato salad–in fact, when I made this batch last weekend I could hardly stop myself from eating every last bite! The only other thing that draws me to the refrigerator so magnetically is Thanksgiving stuffing leftovers. I’ve been using the Smashed Potato Salad recipe from The Kitchn, but I made a couple of modifications to our tastes. I hope you’ll take this recipe and make it your own, too.


2 pounds petite red potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
1 heaping teaspoon prepared yellow mustard
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup white vinegar
Thinly sliced scallions, for garnish

Easy Potato Salad | Frock Files #recipes


1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and boil for 20 minutes, or until tender and easily pierced with a fork.

2. In a large bowl, add ingredients from mayonnaise through black pepper. Stir with a wooden spoon. The potatoes will begin to fall apart–this is a good thing! Once the ingredients are combined, drizzle the vinegar in and stir until it’s evenly distributed.

3. Garnish with green onion.

We’ve been making this potato salad every chance we get! It’s delicious both hot and cold, and it keeps for days. What are your favorite summertime side dishes?

How to Stay Sane During Puppy’s First Year

How to Maintain Your Sanity During Puppy's First Year | Frock Files

Kona turned one-year-old last month, which means that she’s lived with us for just short of a year. Let me tell you, friends, I wouldn’t go back to those early days if someone paid us! While we’ve been lucky in many ways–she’s always slept through the night, she’s relatively low maintenance during the day, she loves other animals, she’s generally quiet–in those first few months it was tough. We were up and down with her every hour-and-a-half during our waking hours. She tried to eat everything from our baseboards to our rugs to ear plugs, and when we sprayed them with bitter apple, she only liked them more.

But over the months she’s mellowed out, and even though she’s a quirky little thing, we love her to bits. As I type this, she’s curled up in her crate behind me, making little doggie dreaming noises and kicking her paws every once in awhile. We can’t imagine life without her.

For anyone who has a new puppy, or anyone considering adding a new four-legged canine to your family, I came up with this list of things we learned during Kona’s first year:

How to Maintain Your Sanity During Puppy's First Year | Frock Files

Doggie Daycare = Balanced Dog. But be careful when you’re choosing one. We first tried the one that’s right across the street from our house, but in the end convenience lost out to quality. We then took Kona to a wonderful daycare with a huge outdoor play area, but when we discovered that she was sneak-eating other dogs’ poop there (despite their low staff-to-dog ratio) we had to pull her out because she kept getting sick. We then reverted to hiring a dog walker on days when I go into the office, but I noticed Kona was getting overly anxious after a few weeks. Now we use a combination of dog walking and indoor daycare, which seems to be a good balance. Long story short, you’ll get to know your dog and that will help you find the right one. But in my opinion, a good doggie daycare is a great way to make sure your puppy grows into a balanced dog.

It’s essential to introduce a puppy to as many things as possible. Kona met all kinds of people and dogs right off the bat, but she didn’t meet many kids, and now she’s scared of them. While she’s all bark and no bite, it’s still hard to explain to kids who are so excited by this real-life teddy bear. We’re slowly including more kids into her life, and after about an hour she thinks they’re great — but it does take that hour for her to feel like, yes, these are humans. No, they aren’t zombies.

Dog probiotics are a (very good) thing. When Kona was getting sick a lot, our vet put her on antibiotics and, later, a probiotic. It’s made a huge difference in Kona’s digestion, which has always been problematic for us. We sprinkle half a capsule on her food each night, which she scarfs down so quickly that she doesn’t even detect a difference.

YouTube is fantastic for dog training. We went to puppy kindergarten, and our teacher actually said, “Geez, you guys didn’t need to come to this class at all!” We began teaching Kona commands the day she came home, based on information we learned from YouTube trainers. My favorite is this series on dog training by VetStreet.com.

How to Maintain Your Sanity During Puppy's First Year | Frock Files

Neighbors are nicer when you have a dog. We didn’t really talk to any of our neighbors pre-Kona. Since she came home with us, we know almost everyone. And while we’re pretty sure no one knows our names, they definitely know Kona’s! It helps that she greets them by running full speed down the hallways toward them, flopping on her back, and kicking her legs in the air. Who wouldn’t like such an enthusiastic greeting? Also, if they’re sane people and they offer to watch your dog, let them. They really want to, and you’ll really need a guilt-free break.

Everything outdoors is more fun with a dog. I’m really finicky about temperature. Anything above 80 or below 60 and I would be hard pressed to get outdoors. But Kona and I go for a two-mile walk almost every day, unless it’s icy or raining. We’ve also loved taking her to restaurants with outdoor patios, on walks around lakes and the beach, to the dog park, and on long car rides. We’re experiencing a whole new layer of enjoyment in these warm months!

It’s essential for everyone’s sanity to take breaks. Although Kona sleeps through the night, she does wake us up at around six or seven every morning. She also likes a lot of play time and attention. And we, used to our relative freedom to come and go when we pleased, found that we were missing the Fridays that I’d travel into the city to have date night with James (too late) or quick overnight trips around New England. We were so grateful to discover DogVacay early on, and we continue to look to our dog sitter on a regular basis. Kona gets to run around with the sitter’s dog in her “second home” and we get to run around without worrying about feedings, walks, or a lonely pooch.

P.S. Do-it-yourself doggie “ice cream” bites!




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