march inspiration

I'm writing like a maniac these days and I want to jump up and down and make a big deal out of celebrating it but I'm the kind of person who worries about jinxing myself if I dare say out loud that things are going really well.  So I won't.  Let's pretend I didn't even hint it.  Strike it from the record.

Here are a few things that are keeping my brain hopping right now.

Bright Morning Stars by The Wailin' Jennys.  Not a new album and I could be totally late to the party but it has been exactly what I need to hear lately.

I've been hunting, for a really long time, for the perfect one-piece swimsuit.  I've bought and returned more than I can honestly count.  I think they are adorable but I'm 5'9" and none are ever long enough for me, sadly.  The straps cut into my shoulders or the top doesn't go high enough to cover my upper bits or the backside pinches into my cheeks.  Boo hoo, poor tall me, I know.  But I don't have the same warm fuzzy feelings about tankinis so it is kind of a bummer.  I've settled for bikinis with rash guards on top when I want to cover up (which is always, since I spend my sunshine time with two kids who would rather I play with them than stand around all day with my back super-straight and my stomach pulled in) but I recently ordered a couple from J Crew (one in a "long torso" size) so hopefully this year will be my lucky year!

The documentary Where the Trail Ends.  You can find it on Netflix and if you're in the market for something interesting to watch one night and have even a passing interest in bikes and/or adventure travel it is worth taking a look at.  It follows the world's top freeride mountain bikers as they search for un-ridden terrain around the globe.  It's beautifully made (as all of those Red Bull films tend to be) and has a great soundtrack too.

this calls for Beyoncé

Yesterday I suffered from a slight case of total devastation.  Nothing actually serious, in the grand scheme of things.  Just one of those things that makes a girl go, "Well, shit."  I had an idea and someone beat me to it.  So now I have to redirect.  Which I totally can do.  Obviously.  I'm over it already.  Today I'm just gonna clap, clap, clap like I don't care.  (You know I care.)

Thank you, Beyoncé, for always making everything better.  

p.s. are those sliders?  in your bathroom? are you eating bathroom sliders? is that awesome or horrifying? i can't decide.  there's just...a lot of hair and butts in that room, you know?

podcasts

Podcasts have been around for a long time but it seems like they are really having a moment now, doesn't it?  There are so many good ones out there!  Here are a couple that I am especially enjoying and wanted to share.

The first is the Pure Green Podcast with Celine MacKay.

The podcast, like everything PGM, covers a wide range of topics.  I haven't completely caught up on all of the episodes but there is a lot of talk about food, the environment, health, and generally living a conscious, inspired life.  I'm a big fan of their blog and instagram too.

The other is Being Boss with Emily Thompson and Kathleen Shannon.

As it says right up top, the podcast is geared toward creative entrepreneurs.  As a writer, I don't always feel like I qualify for that title (the entrepreneur part anyway) but there is SO MUCH good stuff in this podcast that it is well worth the listen for anyone working in an independent, creative way.  Plus, Kathleen is one of my favorite bloggers.  Of all time.  Seriously, she is the coolest.

If you get a few minutes, give them a listen! 

real

Lately there has been a lot of talk, mostly on the internet, about being "real."  Keeping things "real."  Celebrating "real" life.  It manifests in hyper-confessional blog posts, harried-mom remakes of pop songs and music videos, perfectly lit and filtered shallow-depth-of-field photos of children tottering on stools and messing up kitchens.  

And hashtags.  Oh, so very many hashtags.

As you can probably tell, I'm still trying to figure out where I stand on this influx of reality.  Some of it (a lot of it) actually doesn't feel particularly real or relatable.  It certainly doesn't feel necessary.  Who honestly thought that life was perfect?  Or that parenting was effortless?  Does that really need to be proven?  I get the impression that a lot of time and effort is being put into making the appearance of simply lifting a veil.  It's almost like everyone is trying to out-real each other and, in the trying, kind of missing the point.

That said, I do think honesty is an important practice.  And I do think it's good to allow ourselves to define real in whatever way feels right and true.

For example, last weekend was my daughter's birthday.  I love my kids and I love a good party.  I love unexpected touches and thoughtful details and fun goody bags and homemade cakes just as much as the next girl.  But this year, for this party, I just wasn't sure I had the time or energy for all of that.  I didn't feel like entering the ring of crazy, overdone celebrations.  And I knew that that wasn't even what she wanted.  She wanted a bounce house and balloons and napkins with cartoon characters on them.  And I knew that the kids who came would be just as happy taking home a little bottle of bubbles as they would be taking home a custom, monogrammed something-or-other.  So that's what we did.  We kept it simple.  We kept it real.

I took approximately four photos (all with my iphone) that will never be pinned on pinterest or featured on a blog.  Not even mine.  But it was such an easy, happy day.  If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn't change a thing.  

Okay, maybe I'd take a few more pictures.  (just keepin it real)

p.s. I've gotten a lot of questions about that giant Pinkie Pie balloon, so here are the answers.  Party City.  $20.  Yes, I do think that's a lot for a single balloon but it was a hit and 100% worth it.  Yes, it is helium and they filled it up for free since I bought all of the balloons in store.  I drove home with them inflated and got really, really, really claustrophobic.  Pinkie Pie is the only pony available in that size (there is a slightly smaller Rainbow Dash one at the top of the bouquet in her hand but it got cut off when I snapped this picture and I didn't want to make her take another one, because REAL) but they have several other characters, like Hello Kitty and super heroes and ninja turtles, available as well.

fresh start

Hello, 2015.  Nice to meet you.

I hope that you, all of you blog friends, had a great holiday.  And I hope that your new year is off to an awesome start.  It's no secret that I L-O-V-E fresh starts and new years.  I love resolutions and goal-setting worksheets (check these pretties out if you're in the market for such a thing, they sell out fast so if you want a set you may have to follow along and keep your eyes peeled for a restock) and brand shiny-new ideas.  Even revisions, for me, can fall under the "fresh start" umbrella.  Any excuse for highlighters and post-it notes and scribbles in margins.

That's where I'm at right now, in the midst of an early revision, taking a story that I started last year in a better-feeling direction.  

One thing that I felt was missing from most of last year was productivity on the creative front.  I'm not assigning any blame for it, real life is more demanding sometimes and more important always.  And 2014 was a really good year for me and my family.  I wouldn't change a minute of it.  But, I have to admit, I was a little disappointed about never being able to find time to work on any of my personal projects.  So I'm taking steps to make sure I don't fall into the same rut this year.  Even if I only have one "office hour" a day, that's better than nothing right?  Slow progress feels better than no progress.

That's easy to say in January, isn't it though?  With the whole year stretched out ahead of us.  I'm hopeful that I can keep this modest momentum going for a good long while.  I'll be sure to check in and let everyone know how it is going.

How about you?  Anyone accomplishing anything fun - or even setting up to accomplish something fun - so far in 2015?

thanksgiving, birthday, knockturn alley

Alternate title: Things That Happened In November And December, About Which I Have Not Blogged.

I hosted Thanksgiving for the first time this year.  Yes, I cooked.  No, it wasn't stressful.  I did not roast a turkey.  I grilled kebabs - chicken and steak and bell peppers and onions - and roasted garlicky parmesan potatoes.  There was salad and hummus and fruit.  And cranberryish sangria.

People were legitimately shocked when I told them my menu.  Scandalized when I said we were eating at actual dinner time - 5:30 - instead of in the middle of the afternoon.  Not the ones who came to our house for dinner, of course, they knew what to expect.  I just have never understood why one day a year we serve food we never normally eat at a time we never normally serve it.  We can express our gratitude just as easily over a plate of grilled chicken and fresh vegetables as we can over a plate of carved turkey and green bean casserole, right?  There's no need for extremes.  Maybe I just don't get it.  I have said before that I'm a Thanksgiving Scrooge. It's the one holiday I really can't jump on board with, for a lot of reasons, but I was happy to throw together a tasty family dinner just the same.  Here is the sangria recipe, if you are into that kind of thing.  I'm normally not but this was DELICIOUS.

Cranberry Sangria (adapted from this recipe)

Mix together one bottle of white wine (I used Moscato but it's a matter of preference), 2 cups cranberry juice, 1 cup pomegranate blueberry juice (the blueberry was an accident but a happy one and I recommend it), 1/2 cup orange juice, 1/4 cup simple syrup, 2 or 3 quartered mandarin oranges (Halos), 1/2 meyer lemon (sliced into thin rounds), 1 cup fresh cranberries.  Chill 4-6 hours before serving.

We did that thing at dinner where everyone said what they were thankful for and I totally choked.  I couldn't find a good way to articulate everything on my heart.  Everyone forgave me.  Then I talked a big game about how much butt I was going to kick at Trivial Pursuit and I lost terribly and everyone forgave me for that as well.

A few days later we went to Universal Studios to check out the new Harry Potter stuff.  Knockturn Alley was impressively creepy.

And then it was my birthday.  I turned 33.  I ate a cupcake.  And then a few more.  I LIVE MY LIFE.

Happy Birthday to me.

2015

The other day I was talking to my mother in law and sister in law about all of our plans for New Years Eve.  They both admitted a reluctance to accept the invitations they had for the night, saying that they just weren't that into the usual midnight celebrations.  Honestly?  I have to agree.  At least about the midnight part.  I don't feel any different at 12:01 on January 1st than I do at 11:59 on December 31st, there's nothing magical about flipping a page on the calendar.  However, I am into the idea of New Years.  I like resolutions, I like fresh starts and the excuse to create a new vision and set new goals.

Last year I created a pinterest board dedicated to that vision (I wrote about it here) and, looking back, it feels pretty accurate.  I wrote at the time, "There's a conscious simplicity to the things I am devoting my days to.  Just as there is a conscious, cool simplicity to the images I'm using to represent them."  That feels truer now than it did even then.  It's not exactly how every day of the year played out, of course, but close enough.  2014 was good.  2015 will be just as good, in a different way.  I'm sure of it.

1.jpg

You can click through to see the board I'm working on for 2015.  I love it so much.  It's all a bit more earth-toned and real than I expected it would be when I started.  I feel a bit more earth-toned and real myself.  More external than in previous years, if that makes any sense.  Less stuck in my head and more solid on my feet, which is exactly what I want.  I want to pull myself even further from the less productive habits and desires of the past (as last year, saying no to things that aren't a perfecter-than-perfect fit) and more into the places and people and efforts that mean the most to me.  I think that's a pretty natural and obvious progression and I think it has a lot to do with my age, with the clarity that comes only from getting older.  Everyone says it and everyone is right.

I'll keep adding to the board (and all of the rest, of course) throughout the year so, once again, feel free to follow along and please please please let me know if you have something similar - on your blog or pinterest or wherever - because I would love to see it!

kitchen vignettes

Finding a new favorite blog is one of my main thrills in life.  No kidding.  And as my days and priorities have evolved over the past few years, so have my blog tastes.  Design, writing, weddings, food.  No matter how many times I go through my feed and try to streamline my subscriptions, there is a huge variety of stuff hanging out there, waiting to be read, and I love it all.  My current new fave is  Kitchen Vignettes.  It is a wonderful blog and so real and simple and accessible.  Most of the posts include a beautiful video, like the one below from last Thanksgiving.

I can't get enough.  I honestly wish Aube would make a feature-length film just exactly like this.  No talking, just cooking and music and beautiful, flattering light and freshly-harvested ingredients and bright leaves blowing in the cool breeze.  Perfect.

blogaversary

According to the emails my domain registrar has been sending me for the past two weeks, my blog is nearly a year old!

Hooray!

And it has been over a month since I last posted!  

Boo!

This time of year, I suspect, is busy for everyone.  Back to school, new routines, holidays approaching (I'm one of those dorks who gets my shopping done before Thanksgiving so that I have the entire month of December free for baking and carol-singing and good, twinkly-light times with family).  In my case, I also have the momentum of a new writing project behind me right now.  It's risky, riskier than anything I've ever written anyway, and scary and exhausting but I'm devoting myself to the effort anyway.  For me, the first 1/3 of a novel is the hardest to get through (probably because I'm not much for planning, it takes a while for me to figure out what exactly is happening) and after that it picks up speed.  I just hit that milestone yesterday so I'm finally at a point where I can resurface, just for a minute, and have a look around at life.  It's a nice feeling.

All this to say that, while posting might be a bit spare for the next month or two, I am really grateful for my past twelve months in this little corner of the internet.  And especially for all of the wonderful friends I've made here.  Rest assured that, while I may have shoved my own blogging habit to the back burner for a moment, I am still diligently reading every post and newsletter of yours!  And loving them!  And I have a list as long as my arm of things I want to share here so I can't wait to get a couple thousand more words of this story out of my head and then I'll be back to my old self.

In the meantime, if we aren't pals on Instagram already let's link up over there!

Thanks again for an awesome first year and hopefully many more to come!

What I read in July

I haven't done a "what I read" post in a while.  But I have been reading a lot and I do love to share that because I myself get so many book recommendations from other bloggers, it feels kind of like my way of contributing to the conversation.  So, without any judgement or opinions, in no particular order, here is what I read in July.

Shift by Hugh Howey, Midwives by Chris Bohjalian, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood, The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick and Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.

Naturally I liked some more than others.  Some were newer and more relevant, some were recommended by friends.  Some I could get totally fangirl-gushy about and others not so much.  But I like the idea of just keeping it positive, if a bit cryptic, and being grateful that I even have the luxury of reading books at all.  Good or bad, they are all valuable.  Maybe that's enough.

crappy drafts and rocky roads

While I was on vacation this summer I got an idea.  Like, a Big Idea.  It was all I could think about while we were traveling and by the time we got home my Wunderlist app was full of lists and notes and details I wanted to remember to work in once I actually got started.

But it's summer and I have kids and I live in a small house (I'm writing this blog post from my kitchen while the girls eat their lunches) so it was hard to find the time and space to really work on anything that didn't involve crayons or watercolors or inflatable pools in the back yard.

We are so incredibly fancy.

But the other day I finally - FINALLY - found an hour to sit down and start.  It felt good but, ya'll, it isn't good.  Yet.  It is probably the roughest rough draft I've ever produced, no kidding.  It's a mess to the point of being overwhelming to even look at.  (I'm exaggerating, but only slightly.) 

Starting a project - wether writing a story or designing collateral for a brand launch or opening a new shop - can be so discouraging.  It's hard to feel capable, like you know what you are doing enough to justify the time you are about to invest.  So today I closed out my mess of a document and took 30 minutes (broken up into 5 minute chunks, between fetching drinks and coloring fairies and ironing psychadelic perler bead tiles) to watch this video.

Jen and Omar are the designers behind These Are Things and I've loved their work since that first fateful map showed up in my blog reader.  I can't honestly say that I learned "how to stop worrying and enjoy the ride," but their presentation is a funny, genuine look at the ups and downs that even the most successful creative businesses experience - the things that aren't always obvious from the outside.  That whole idea of a highlight reel not telling the entire story isn't a new one but it is always so reassuring, for me personally, to hear it from someone who has worked and succeeded and failed and worked again.  

The truth is that starting can be hard but carrying on can be hard as well, it doesn't really get easier for any of us.  Crappy drafts and rocky roads are all part of the creative adventure.  Everyone has them, even if they don't want to admit it the way Jen and Omar have.  Rough patches may feel like good reasons to change direction but getting past them is what gets you into the club, it's what unites us as artists and entrepreneurs.  It's all good stuff.  Good messy stuff.  

cape cod

We spent the 4th of July on Cape Cod and it was as beautiful and refreshing as you'd imagine.

I don't have too many photos to share because, while we managed to squeeze in a couple of beach visits, some strolls through the farmer's market, and a very tiny amount of sight-seeing, mostly we were there to visit with family.  And, despite Hurricane Arthur coming through and sogging up our July 4th plans (my daughter was really disappointed when they canceled the fireworks) it was a wonderful visit.

washington, dc

"I'm never going again.  It was so un-fun.  It was boiling, it was too crowded, I did not enjoy it at all."

Those aren't my words above.  Those are Gwyneth Paltrow's words from a couple of years ago, when asked about the Met Ball (the one where she wore the big pink dress that, as much as I love Gwyneth, gave me a serious case of the Opinions).  I'm very immature and follow much more gossip than I should so that quote was, naturally, the one that was echoing around my brain as I dragged ass through Washington, DC, the second stop on our road trip.

Now, don't get me wrong.  Washington has long been one of my favorite cities - and still is - but I had never been in the summer before this year.  And I had never been with my kids.  And those two key elements made a huge impact on my experience.  I wouldn't say I'm never going again or that I didn't enjoy it at all, I just probably won't go again in July or with a preschooler.  It wasn't that the trip was bad, per se, it was just that it all unfolded at a much fiercer pace than we are accustomed to and by the end of our time there we were thoroughly exhausted.  But we had some really wonderful moments (like going to the White House and getting to pet Sunny Obama!) and those are the ones I hope to remember.

One especially cool thing we discovered: the Young Readers Center inside the Library of Congress!  It was the perfect place to hang out and cool off between tours and museums and monuments.  They had books, obviously, but also coloring sheets and comfy chairs and a puppet theater.  It's a little spot I highly recommend anyone with kids (or anyone who just loves reading, which you don't actually get to do on the public library tour) should check out.  The bonus for us was that we took a wrong turn at some point and got to wander, unguided and totally illegally, through some of the rare book rooms and back hallways of the LOC.  We didn't touch anything or make any trouble but it did give us a fun story to tell.

no place like home

I'm back!  Hoooray!

Our two-week, 4300+ mile road trip ended on Monday, when we rolled up to our wonderful little house and promptly passed out.  Vacation is so much fun but so much work, especially with kids.  And especially especially when it is July and boiling outside and there are crowds and traffic (and hurricanes! eek!) to contend with.

Still, I am not at all complaining.  It was a wonderful getaway and honestly the crowds and traffic and bad weather were such a teeny tiny part of our experience.  We were very lucky.  Most of the time it was sunshine and mountains and scenery that makes your brain just explode with inspiration.

I'm gathering all of my thoughts and organizing all of my pictures so that I can share them with hopefully some bit of insight here.  I always feel like I learn so much on vacations - about the places I visit and the people I meet and generally how I aspire to set up my life - that it takes a few days for it all to settle neatly into my mind.  But I hope to be back tomorrow with more about our travels and all of the new, fun things that are coming up!

p.s. I only got through one book during the trip.  Shift by Hugh Howey, the follow-up to Wool.  I all-caps LOVED it.  Can't recommend that series enough.  

summer vacation

We are getting ready to embark on our summer vacation so it will be quiet here on the ol blog for a little bit while I scrub my house clean (because coming back to a dirty house is unpleasant) and wash every stitch of laundry we own and figure out how to pack it all into the car.

But!  When I do get back I promise lots of details about our adventures (if you want you can follow along on Instagram) and some fun new features here, including a partnership with a brand that I am really excited about!

Until then I hope everyone enjoys the beginning of the summer - tomorrow is the official first day!