Tuesday, April 30, 2013

5 Tips For a Great Dinner Party

I'm 32 and still confused.  Should we have kids? Not sure. Should we save for a house or do we want the freedom to travel and possibly live abroad again? Unclear. Is teaching my forever-calling, or should I be open to new challenges? Hmm. Being an adult is confusing business, but one thing I'm finally figuring out is how to host a great dinner party.

Eight years ago, Flavio and I hosted both of our families and some friends for Thanksgiving. Neither one of us had ever hosted a large dinner party, nor cooked a turkey, and in our ambitious, naive youth we figured "Hell, we make dinner every night. We got this! No sweat." Turns out there was sweat, and tears, and a very late turkey, and starving guests and just overall panic and frustration. While everyone did finally get fed, it was so overwhelming and miserable that at the end of the night I declared, "NEVER AGAIN!"

In the eight years since, there have been many more dinner parties and a few more definite flops.  In my older age, I've finally realized why dinner parties fail: I am a type-A planner and my inner party planner always wants to do something extravagant and over the top. THIS IS WHERE THINGS GO WRONG! Extravagant and over the top always equals stress and frustration. A stressed and frustrated host does not make for a fun party. To have a great dinner party, you gotta aim for simplicity with these 5 tips:

1. Before anything else, set the table.

My strangest tip, but one I learned from my mom. My mom always has the table set, whether anyone is coming to dinner, or not. There are chargers, cloth napkins, candles and fresh flowers. It's remarkable! Flavio used to ask who my parents were having over for dinner, until he realized the table at my parents' house is always set, whether guests are coming or not. So when I'm having people over, the first thing I do is set the table. It calms me, it sets the tone, gets one thing off my to-do list and makes everything feel more manageable. Try it! Set the table first.

2.  Stick to food you know.

Do not try to make paella if you've never made paella. I made this mistake. It was the Great Paella Fiasco of 2009 and it was ugly. "Paella?" I thought. "That's just seafood and rice!" Wrong. Paella, it turns out, is one of the most difficult dishes in the world to make, and stressing all day to make it perfect made me too anxious and exhausted to be a good host. The paella was dry, I was disappointed,  I totally missed the party part of the evening, and my guests could feel it. Do you make a killer lasagna or a fantastic roast chicken? Make it! Do not veer outside of your comfort zone in an effort to impress your guests. Stick to food you've made before and know how to do well.

3. Don't make too many things.

Your friends do not need an amuse bouche and an array of appetizers. Your friends need a cocktail immediately upon arrival and a happy host. Pick a one pot dish and do it well. I love to do these braised short ribs for a dinner party - they're amazing and you can't mess them up! If you love to bake like I do, bake something simple and that you've made before. Or, pick up a fantastic dessert at your favorite bakery. Do not even think about trying to do a three-course meal. Make a one-pot dish with protein and vegetables and serve bread and wine. Done and done.

4. Create a simple, cozy environment.

Turn down the lights, light some candles, use cloth napkins, create a simple centerpiece, put water on the table, and put on some music. For music, I like some kind of samba or relaxing tuneage for dinner, and then fun, upbeat music for dessert and after. Music really sets the tone and fills in any gaps in conversation.  (Note - Do not do place cards. I am always tempted to make them because they can be so cute, but then I regret it as I am always harried, angling for perfection at the last minute. They're an unnecessary hassle, and we want simplicity. Go for seasonal fruit or flowers on the napkins, if time.)

5. Wear slippers and relax!

Ina Garten famously said she wears slippers when hosting a dinner party. That way, the mood feels instantly relaxed, and so do the hosts and the guests. I've tried it and it totally works. But more importantly, make sure you've had some wine before guests arrive and that you're relaxed and present when it's time to kick things off. Remember, the whole point of the evening is to enjoy the simplicity of sharing food, your home and laughter with friends; there are few activities more special.

{Photos from last Friday's dinner party. Sunset, drinking wine, waiting for friends to arrive.}

Monday, April 29, 2013

Paleo Cereal

Breakfast can abolish all sins. Sins like vodka cocktails, too much wine, pizza, and other general gastronomic debauchery. Yes breakfast, Monday breakfast, is the re-start!  A chance for clarity and conscious eating for the last 2 days of a month of paleo and self-improvement that has been fun but well.. disastrous. It's okay, it's a new week. We've got delicious penitence in a bowl. Let's start things off right with Paleo Cereal.

Great for breakfast or an afternoon snack, paleo cereal is quick to make, gets in all your nut/fruit requirements for the day, and is delish! Here's what you need:

For Paleo Cereal, you need a little bit of each of the following:

Goji berries (these are key and really make it taste like cereal)
Almonds or Walnuts
Shredded Coconut (unsweetened)
Cinnamon (a dash)
Vanilla extract (a dash)
Coconut or Almond milk (unsweetened)

Slice up the fruit, dump everything in a bowl, add milk and voila! Healthy fuel.

PS. It's a good idea to add a little protein to this breakfast, otherwise you might be starving in an hour. A hard boiled egg on the side rounds things out.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


So this weekend, I hung up my navy badge...

...and celebrated accordingly.

We had some peeps over for dinner...

...and Flavio made me paleo pancakes the next morning to cure the hangover. 

Flavio worked Saturday, so Guiri and I enjoyed a ladies' day out.

On Saturday night, Flavio and I romantically ate with our hands at Ethiopian date night.

And we spent a delightful, sunny Sunday with friends at the park and then we all went for dinner.

Good times. :)

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Magic Minute

TGIF. I've been waiting for this Friday for so long! As of yesterday, I am finally free of my morning class at the navy base which was making me batty. And while I still have final grades to calculate, reports to do, and afternoon classes to teach, I won't be the stressball I've been since January. I celebrated my freedom last night with my ladies and one too many drinks, and I'm sorta suffering this morning. Totally worth it.

Here are some flowers for Friday. Every evening at dusk, our house fills with gorgeous golden spring light. The flowers on our table light up and our home is cast in the most amazing vernal glow. It is only this way for one elusive, ephemeral but magic minute, and then everything turns bluish and chilly. I tried to capture the moment last night with this pic of our sun-kissed snapdragons. It's a fuzzy cellphone photo, and doesn't do it justice, but makes me feel glowy nonetheless.

Happy spring weekend.

PS. This is an accurate account of last night's Girls' Night Out.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Keeping it Real

Can I confess something personal? Sometimes I cruise around the blogosphere and I get jealous. Some bloggers have such perfect-seeming lives and stunningly beautiful blogs, and cool houses and exotic vacations. Their blogs are adorned by professional photos and and adored by tons of readers and I start to wonder why I'm even doing this. How can I even compete? Is my life boring? Does my blog suck?

I realize blogs are edited versions of people's lives, and that many of the blogs I admire are full-time, fully-staffed professional enterprises that have been around for years and that comparing my new hobby to their business is apples and oranges. I also understand that even if they're not professional blogs I'm comparing myself to, someone will always be better, skinnier, and generally more perfect, and that in the end, I can only be me. But I do start feeling insecure about my lil ol' Besos and Bubbly.

So tonight, I went back to this post, my blog's blueprint. This was one of my earliest posts, and it was written when I was blogging in secret - I hadn't really told anyone about my blog yet. Re-reading it helped me realize something: Whether people are reading or not, I love it here. I spend my days daydreaming about what I might write, looking everywhere for inspiration, and I feel like my eyes are wide open to the beauty around me and the feelings inside me. I feel so much more tuned in to life than I did before I was blogging! Writing in my blog is usually the last thing I do before going to bed, and it's me-time - a chance for quiet reflection and creativity. I really look forward to this space every day and in the end, while it would be cool if my blog were read by millions, I'm writing for me.

My yoga teacher is always saying, "Keep your eyes on your own mat. Don't worry about anyone else's practice. Follow your own journey." Gahh, so hard, but so wise. Her reminder echoes this famous truth:

So tonight, I'll press publish and send this off into the cyber void remembering not to wonder or worry if anyone is reading, or if I'm good enough. Eyes on my own mat.

PS: I am not looking for validation in this post. Just thinking out loud, trying to re-program my blog blueprint in my brain. Thank you for listening to my spontaneous anxious ramblings, if you're reading. Are you reading? Hello? Is anyone reading? Just kidding. Good night.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Secret Dream Job

Baking is my happy place, and as I mentioned on Easter, being a baker is one of my many secret dream jobs. It's not even eating the baked treats that I love most (although that's fun), it's the act of creating something delicious for others and watching them enjoy it that makes my heart sing. Please indulge me as I tell you about my secret dream bakery. I've put some thought into this. Okay, a lot of thought.

My bakery, a charming patisserie, is stocked with a colorful array of funky vintage cake stands, each stacked high with sweet smelling cakes, cupcakes, pies, cookies, brownies, muffins and scones. All of our coffee/espresso is imported from Spain. We're known all around San Diego as the only place to get good European coffee, which we always serve in a pretty vintage demitasse. The floors are wooden, the walls are soft pastels, and there are vintage chandeliers, fresh flowers and lots of sunshine and happy music in this cheery spot. The walls are covered with black and white photos of me with famous people who've ordered my goodies and subsequently presented me with signed, framed thank yous. Oprah writes, "Sarah, I will never lose weight thanks to your cupcakes! Love, O." Those of you who want to enjoy a treat in my bakery are welcome to do so on our comfy Anthropologie couches or cozy little tables by the window. Our in-house specialty is strawberry shortcake and all in-house treats are served on vintage dessert plates. Those taking goodies to-go will find their yums carefully wrapped in pretty boxes lovingly tied with colorful baker's twine. These are all the special details that make my patisserie stand apart from the competition, don't you agree? Who's ready to invest?

Pics above, clockwise from top left:
Laduree Patisserie, France -- my all-time favorite bakery and chocolatier
Love the soft pink look of the Peggy Porschen bakery in London. I have to visit!
Chandelier photo from Back in the Day Bakery, Savannah, GA. Also want to visit!
Pretty colored twine on Etsy
Vintage demitasses and cake stands, Google Images
My strawberry shortcake

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Funday, Sangria!

Sunday? Man, oh man. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and it was my kinda lazy spring day. We slept in, Flavio made brunch, I whipped up a vat of Sangria, brought it over to our neighbors' house and we all drank an inappropriate amount while sitting in the sun and barbecuing. After a day of sangria, laughter and sun, Flavio and I stumbled home, tipsy and full. Below is a pic of our sweet, sweet sangria. It was such a hit and and the perfect accompaniment to a springtime barbecue. Ole!

Adapted from here

2 oranges, thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 lime, thinly sliced
4 cups total of apples and pears, cut into chunks
2 bottles of your favorite Cabernet Sauvignon
1 1/2 cups Cointreau or Triple Sec
1 cup Applejack or other brandy
1/4 cup Chambord or other raspberry liquor
1/2 cup superfine sugar or simple syrup
A mix of soft fruits for the glasses (I used green grapes, berries, kiwi - peaches would also be nice)
Mint for garnish
Club soda (I used Trader Joe's Orange Sparkling Water)

Combine citrus fruits, apples, pears, wine, all liquor and sugar in a large container. Mix all ingredients well, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 2 days. When ready to serve, put a mix of the soft fruits, some mint and some ice in each glass and fill about 2/3 full with sangria. Top with a splash of club soda or flavored sparkling water. Enjoy!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Collect Moments

If this week's tragic and bizarre events have shown us anything, it's that our time here is precious and limited. Here's to a weekend of hugging those we love, spreading peace and collecting joyful moments.

My thoughts are with everyone in Boston!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Oh, Swoon.

Here's some stuff I'm swooning over lately...

You have to see this home in Santorini. I keep looking at the pics. Unreal! Dream house for sure.

I've had my eye on this pretty peach/gold Etsy dish for a while. Perfect for jewelry and other tiny treasures.

Safety Dance print by Colorbee on Etsy. I really want this for our guest bedroom.

How sweet are these little notes? Love. 

We're having a dinner party next weekend and I can't wait to make this Strawberry Mascarpone Tart for dessert. Oh, my.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mamacita!

Today is my mom's birthday! She's sailing the California coast on a cruise with my dad, and tomorrow they're stopping in Coronado for lunch and a quick celebratory champagne with me before they head off to Mexico. Can't wait to toast her. Cheers to my Mamacita! She's a wonderful traveling buddy (she'll fix you a "flying mickey" on the plane), she always sounds happy when you call, she has a nickname for everyone, she taught me the beauty of sociology and she's always up for a glass of wine and a giggle. To know her is to love her.

Happy birthday, Mama!! xoxo
{Snuggled up at the Padres game, San Diego}

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Party of One

When Flavio's out of town for work, I transform into Single Sarah. I'm left to my own devices and my habits change immediately and drastically, especially my eating habits. When he's gone, I often find myself having "breakfast for dinner" - maybe french toast, or perhaps a bowl of cereal while standing in the kitchen. But most times I just have dessert and wine. Or popcorn, and dessert, and a cocktail...woops. He's out of town for work, and we're Paleo dieting, so I had to make a legit dinner. I settled on a big salad, a nice glass of wine and a good book (I'm finally reading Kitchen Confidential). I felt so grown up.

Related: This book has been on my radar for years. It features essays by famous folks describing what they eat when they're eating alone.  Nora Ephron, Amanda Hesser and others share the "secret meals they relish when no one else is looking." I am so tempted to order it right now. Apparently, the closing sentiment of the book reads, "Eating alone is special time. You should do it up right and pay some attention to YOU! Set the table with china and cloth. Treat yourself!" Just the encouragement I needed. Tomorrow, fancy dinner for one.

I'm also dying to read Julia Child's My Life in France. I hear it's really good. Clearly, I'm in a major foodie book phase.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Don't You Worry

I have irregular but chronic bouts of anxiety and I'm feeling it right now. After today's tragic events in Boston, I feel plagued by worries. I've been watching too much TV. I'm worried about the people hurt, the families of those killed, and the children in our world and their exposure to violence. I feel sad about our current state of affairs -- that people can't participate in something as wholesome as a marathon without fear of terrorism. I feel sad that in our post-9/11 world, today's news is no longer shocking. Random acts of violence are the new normal. And not just here - what about the daily bombings in Iraq and other parts of the world?  What is wrong with people?! :( My mind starts to spiral.

Flavio is a huge support when I'm nervous and upset. He'll give me a hug or draw me a bath and bring me wine. Or just listen. Every night we ask each other what we're grateful for which helps calm my anxious mind. He's the best husband, friend and therapist in the world. But he got home late and is busily packing to go out of town for work. It's too late to call friends, so I'm falling back on another other ease-inducing trick...

Wine, a bath and dinner did me some good. After that I grabbed a notepad and made a list of all the things worrying me. This is a trick my dad taught me: Write everything down before bed; it may make sense later. I wrote lots of worries tonight. Some are related to today's news, but most are my own selfish neuroses. I realize my personal worries are inconsequential compared to real tragedy but they are nagging me nonetheless. The goal is not to be concerned with how trivial the worries are - the goal is to get them all out. Sometimes I stress about things that are out of my control (What if someone bombs San Diego? What if I get re-assigned to teach at the Navy base?). Some of the anxiety is trivial (I have to go to the store before work for coffee. Do I drink too much coffee? Does coffee cause cancer?). Other worries are totally insane (I can't hear Guiri breathing...Can dogs get SIDS? I'm pretty sure our power strip is a fire hazard...) You name it, I've worried about it. When I write things down, I can see my fears - they're no longer floating around loosely in my head, and I can understand them better. The act of writing puts things in perspective and reminds me:

:: What-ifs are not reality. What-ifs are taking joy from the present. Most what-ifs will never happen.

:: Many of these worries are insignificant compared to larger things in my world, like the health of my loved ones, my relationships and my overall wellbeing.

:: Most of the worries I have right now are momentary and small in comparison to the grand course of my rich, long life. These things will not matter in a year, a month, or even a week from now. 

If you're a worrier, it may help to get things out on paper. Seeing my fears written makes a difference in my perspective and calms my rattled nerves. Writing this post helped, too. :)

Sending peace, love and healing energy to all. Let's all do one random act of kindness tomorrow.

PS. This reminder made me feel better today.

{Illustration by Gemma Correll}

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Black Thumb

I have a black thumb. Despite my best efforts, I have a hard time keeping plants alive - unless they are cacti, or just extremely stubborn/resilient.

In honor of spring, I bought this little calla lily kit from Trader Joe's. I planted, watered, decorated her pot and named her Lily Ledbetter. I am going to follow her directions for care and talk to her every morning (that helps, I'm sure!). She should bloom in 8 - 12 weeks. Please join me in rooting for her survival. Pun intended.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Death & Taxes

We had our fair share of frustration today. Turns out we owe a chunk of money to the IRS for taxes. WTF. Prior to this unfortunate news, I was busy counting my chickens before they hatch, planning to spend our (now non-existent) tax returns on an anniversary trip or a down payment on a new car. Grrr. I felt like curling up in a ball and not leaving the couch, but instead I'm focusing my energy on being grateful for what we do have. I'm trying to see this as a life lesson: Besides the whole counting my chickens business, I also realize that I can make a conscious (albeit somewhat challenging) decision to change my perspective. It's helping. And so are all these flowers blooming outside our house. They smell like jasmine. Happy spring weekend.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Vacation Anticipation

{Big Sur, 2012}
I'm the official trip planner in our house, and Flavio always says he's "just along for the ride." I love to research the destination, book the flights, read hotel reviews, and find out where the locals eat. Planning gets me really excited for the trip, and I often research and book trips months in advance just to have something to look forward to. In anticipation, I like to make a google doc of our flexible itinerary and an excel spreadsheet of things to pack. Flavio used to think my hyper-planning was totally crazy, but now he knows how fun and efficient travel is when you're prepared. Or, maybe he just lets me be crazy. ;)

Next month, we're headed to the Grand Canyon! Interestingly, according to this New York Times post, researchers discovered that much of vacation happiness doesn't come from the actual trip. Instead, it comes from "vacation anticipation", the planning euphoria that generally begins 8 weeks before. I believe it. I'm excited to hike, cook outdoors, cuddle under the stars, and spend some quiet time in a beautiful place - just the three of us. 

Flavio and I have been doing annual camping trips for years. Last year we went to Big Sur. It was jawdroppingly beautiful, and so fun to have Guiri along for the first time.

Counting the days...

{Hiking. They picked me a flower.}
{Yellow flowers are my fave.}
{She snuggled on the center console for the loooong road trip.}
{Big Sur is unreal.}

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Gripes, be gone!

This meme, GO 24 HOURS WITHOUT COMPLAINING, has been floating around Facebook. Seemed like a worthy challenge, especially during my first week back at work after spring break. As of yesterday at 3:ooPM , I have not uttered a single complaint. And guess what? It has been awesome. When I get the urge to gripe about something, like how tired I am, or how sore I am from CrossFit ;), I keep my mouth shut and redirect the conversation to something positive and uplifting. Here's what I've realized: I complain a lot (ha! :), not complaining leads to happier conversations I might not have had otherwise, and when you don't complain you forget all about the complaint 5 seconds later. In sociology we teach that perspective is everything. When you change your words, you change your perspective. It's powerful! I seriously had a much cheerier outlook today. I'm feeling liberated and inspired to keep the non-complaining going. Wanna join me? :)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Truth About Friendship

"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art...It has no survival value; rather, it is one of those things that give value to survival."

- C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

{A forever kind of friend. Dec. 2012, Hotel Del Coronado}
People in their 20s and 30s feel a pressure to couple off, to achieve that societal and sometimes biological goal of "starting a family." Coupling off has what C.S. Lewis called "survival value", but I'm a firm believer in keeping individual friendships outside the couple going strong for personal value. I am blessed to have some wonderful friends. My brother, my best friend, friends in other cities, friends abroad. And though none of my very best friends currently live in San Diego, and though there may be weeks or even months where there is little communication, we always come back together to laugh and talk and enjoy, as if no time has passed. There is never any questioning in these kinds of organic friendships, just an unspoken, eternal loyalty. These people are friends for life.

But as the years pass, other friendships are growing more ephemeral. I recently got together with a friend with whom I was once very close. She now lives in another city and the communication has been infrequent. The outing was pleasant, we talked and laughed, but things felt different. I came home, told Flavio and cried. I felt like I'd done something wrong; maybe we were different people now, we'd grown apart, or we weren't working hard enough to keep the friendship going. It's not that I haven't had friendships change or end before, but with this friend were once so close; and now, maybe we just weren't. There were no hard feelings, I know we only wish each other well, and I'll always love this person, but I think we both felt the change. Maybe this is a rough patch, or maybe something will bring us back together someday. But for now, we haven't had any real communication since that last meeting.

I've been sad about this. Flavio let me talk it out and then told me something wise: Some friendships come and go. Hell, even the Beatles broke up. But sometimes you need to move on, and be thankful for what it was.

There's the truth: Some friendships are forever and some are fleeting. That's life.

The best thing about friendship is that it is chosen. And because friends are not family, the only bond between the two people is a desire to stay friends, and both hearts must have that desire. But the heart is a fickle and complicated creature, and doesn't always follow expected paths, and despite your best expectations, sometimes the heart tells you it's time to go separate ways. There is some grief when that heartspace is cleared, but then there is grace, and the possibility for new.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Coconut Whipped Cream & Berries

If having dessert is wrong, then I don't want to be right. But Paleo doesn't allow dairy or sugar. I had to get crafty. I was really craving strawberry shortcake, so I decided to make a Paleo version. We can call it strawberry short, since there's no cake.

The coconut whipped cream is surprisingly refreshing and tropical, and proves dessert can be low-sugar, dairy-free and still totally delish.

We haven't been very strict with Paleo this time around. :( We went out for Indian food and gorged on naan last week. There was lots of boozing last weekend. Paleo faileo. But it's never too late to get back on track, right? This dessert is a decadent and healthy step in the right direction.

Strawberry Short / Coconut Whipped Cream & Berries
It literally takes 10 minutes to pull this together.

You need:
1 can of full-fat coconut milk
Vanilla extract
Berries, sliced
My quick raspberry sauce (optional)

Make the coconut whipped cream:

:: Chill the can of coconut milk in the fridge for 24 hours.

:: Remove the chilled can and flip it upside down so the coconut water will be on top.

:: Open the can and drink the coco water on top, or save it for a smoothie. You'll be left with the hardened coconut cream.

:: Whip the cream using a hand mixer or food processor (as I did) until fluffy.

:: Add in vanilla extract and whip for a few more seconds. If you're not adding the raspberry sauce, I recommend you put a touch of sugar in the cream.

:: Dollop on your berries and pour a bit of the quick raspberry sauce over the top.

Enjoy! You won't believe how amazing this (vegan, healthy) whipped cream is.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


Just because Flavio and I are married doesn't mean we can't date other people. We both dated other people this weekend. Okay, just kidding. We went out with new couple-friends! Ask for couple-friends, and you shall receive. 

On Friday, our first date was to a craft beer fest. It was a group outing with a few singles and some couples and everyone made fun of me for dressing like I was going to the Arctic. I had the last laugh - the festival was mostly outside and it was freezing. After many a tasting, we were all too sloshed to notice the cold. A hilarious and enjoyable night.

{beer tasting}
Dogs don't care how much you've had to drink the night before, and at 6am on Saturday we were met with this face:
{Guiri ready to play}
Saturday morning I joined our new neighbor friends on an outing to dog beach. We recently met these neighbors walking Guiri by their house. They are a fun couple and I appreciate that they invite us to drink in their backyard while our dogs play.

Saturday night we went on our second date, also a blast. These nice friends have an Australian shepherd, too and we know them through a mutual friend. We all met up at the dog park and went for dinner and drinks after with the pooches in tow. A totally delightful evening with our new friends. :)
{Guiri and Oslo out to dinner. Photo by Erin.}
Sunday we relaxed with brunch, movies and had happy hour at home. I made these ginger sparklers. Yum.
{Sunday. Ginger bubbles.}
We feel lucky to have met some great new people recently. A fun weekend indeed.

Friday, April 5, 2013

On Being Busy

Yesterday morning my friend posted this NY Times essay, The 'Busy' Trap, on her Facebook page.

The timing couldn't have been better. As spring break comes to an end, I've been anxious and my mind's been racing: There are student letters of recommendation to write, colleagues to email, lessons to plan, papers to grade. I haven't done enough this week! I feel guilty writing in my blog right now - there is laundry to fold, appointments to make. Flavio is working this Saturday, which makes me feel like I should be "doing my part", working on all those teaching tasks, and getting stuff done around the house - contributing. My husband never makes me feel like I should be doing more. Instead, he's always telling me to slow down, relax and enjoy my break. But part of me can't help but feel guilty when I'm not busy. There's the trap: I hate being busy, but feel bad if I'm not.

This last part of The 'Busy' Trap resonates, 
"I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love. I suppose it’s possible I’ll lie on my deathbed regretting that I didn’t work harder and say everything I had to say, but I think what I’ll really wish is that I could have one more beer with Chris, another long talk with Megan, one last good hard laugh with Boyd. Life is too short to be busy."
I made a conscious decision to pursue teaching so I too could choose time over money. As I wrote in this post, teaching mostly lets me stay out of the busy trap. It's a seasonal business, which allows for an off-season of idleness where I get to take long walks, drink wine with lunch, daydream and stargaze. This spring break has been languid and lazy. And after reading Kreider's fantastic essay, I am going to make a conscious choice to keep most of the upcoming weekend unstructured and idle, and instead of feeling guilty, focus my energy on the present, and the necessary space a weekend brings. I have some fun plans ahead - like a beer festival tonight, dog beach with our neighbor, drinks with some new friends, Sunday brunch. But for the rest of the time I'll be totally relaxing, not trapped, but free. :)

Happy weekend. xo

{Image by Brecht Vandenbroucke from The 'Busy' Trap}

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Financial Fast 2013 - Reflecting

I spent the morning spring cleaning. Getting rid of things is such a satisfying feeling, don't you think?

After blogging about our Lenten Financial Fast for the past month and a half, it's time to bring some closure to the subject - at least for this year. I've held off on blogging about the fast because I wasn't sure how to adequately describe it. What I've come up with is this: It was honestly one of the best experiences for us as a couple, and for me personally. I know that sounds melodramatic. I mean, how could not buying non-essentials for 40 days be one of someone's "best experiences"? Here's how: Not shopping, not thinking about shopping, not spending time in the mall, not bringing anything new into the house, not worrying about a new outfit for some event, etc. surprisingly left a lot of time, mental space, and clarity. With this free time, space and clarity, I was able to dedicate my energy to more creative pursuits. I found myself doing more reading, baking, and blogging. I was spending more time doing fun (usually free) things outdoors, and taking more photos. Not shopping left us with more time, money, control, simplicity and joy.

The fast helped me honor our home more. There's a heightened appreciation of the things you already own when you're not figuring out what to do with more stuff in your house.  I "went shopping" in my own closet during the fast to come up with new outfits and made some cute combinations I never would've thought of before. We already have a lot of great things tied to great memories or great uses in our home. In today's spring cleaning, I got rid of anything that didn't fit the useful, beautiful, or joyful criteria. It was so rejuvenating, and I'm looking forward to only bringing things into our space that we mindfully choose, that are of good quality (Adios, Forever 21), and that we cherish.

{De-cluttering. Spring cleaning. Stuff to donate.}
The fast helped me appreciate the value of a dollar more. By using only cash, instead of swiping a card, there was a visual reminder of the money I earned leaving my hand. It made me sooo much more careful about how I spent. I mean, teaching is hard work. Did I really want to spend my hard-earned money on the more expensive paper towels? No. I cut back on pricier versions of almost everything.

The fast helped me realize I prefer to spend money on experiences, not things. Good meals out, happy hours, Pilates classes, good bottles of wine, flowers, manicures/pedicures (I missed those most!), Netflix rentals, buying ingredients for a really fantastic meal, etc. enrich my life greatly. Experiences are so much more rewarding than new stuff. This was such a personal epiphany - I didn't really know that pre-fast.

In this country of privilege and wealth, we get caught up in the race for stuff. We take things for granted. We start to believe indulgences are our rights. We think we are entitled to more because we work hard and because everyone else has more. There is pressure for conspicuous consumption. But I'm realizing there is emptiness in that thinking. There is emptiness in this disposable culture. Your expendable money shouldn't be filling your life with more stuff - that's stressful. Your expendable money should be making your life richer.

I hope this post doesn't come off as pedantic..? I've been deeply embedded in the race for stuff since forever, and was definitely not perfect on the fast (there were some cheats, there was using of the debit card when I was too lazy to go to the ATM) and I am definitely not free of my spending habits now. But I do feel a little more enlightened and surprisingly, I feel no compulsion to go out and buy.  I do have my eyes on some worthy treats, but will not buy them impulsively. Instead, I hope writing this post will keep some of the fast's virtuousness going so I don't revert to old ways. I plan to repeat the fast next year. In the meantime, I'll re-read this post as a sort of "check" when I'm thinking about purchasing something. I'll ask myself: Is it useful, beautiful, joyful? Does it enrich my life? Will I appreciate and cherish it? Is it worthy of my time, space and energy?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Hunger Anger

Ha! This reminds me of my husband and my best friend, but who hasn't been a hunger grouch. :)

Related: I forgot how ravenous the Paleo diet makes me; I'm hungry like the wolf about an hour after eating.

I'm making this Paleo chili colorado right now. It's smelling spicy delicious. I am so ready to eat, but chili at 10am seems wrong. . .

Update: The chili is delish, for Paleo and non-Paleo eaters alike! I recommend this recipe.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Poet Tweet

It's a cloudy morning, I have cozy cup of coffee in hand, Guiri is snuggled in bed with me, we're listening to Ray LaMontagne. I've spent the last hour trolling the interwebs for gossip, blog posts, Facebook updates and news (in that order). In my trolling, I found a little gem I'd like to share. 

I don't have a Twitter account - mainly because I can't understand #why #people #hashtag #every #thought #that #crosses #their #mind. It makes me #crazy - so I am slightly averse to Twitter, but I am not averse to these Twitter verses. This artist embroiders handkerchiefs with "poetry" she finds on Twitter. Below are some of her embroidered hankies. Some of the tweets are deep, some are hilarious, but all are 140 characters or less. :)

You can find more of her work here.

PS. Even though I'm not on Twitter, I like to check in on this page: The philosophy of Kierkegaard juxtaposed with always-wise tweets of Kim Kardashian - Kim Kierkegaardashian. Hilarious.