The Beautiful Now: Bright & Shining

April 15th, 2014

The Beautiful Now is an {infrequent} series where I share words from others that inspire me to focus on kindness and courage in the present moment. At the end of each post in the series I include a  prompt for a photo idea that you can snap + share with the hashtag #thebeautifulnow as a way we can inspire each other and learn together.

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A commencement speech (George Saunders to Syracuse University in 2013) was floating around on the internet awhile ago that I found particularly inspiring. I’m not on a school calendar anymore, but we are nearing that graduation time of year and it made me think of this speech. It’s a challenge to focus on kindness, and I encourage you to read the whole thing.

What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. . . . Do all the other things, the ambitious things—travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes . . . —but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality—your soul, if you will—is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. . . . Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nuture it, share its fruits tirelessly.

I love this reminder to be kind. Kindness is something parents try to teach us practically from day one and yet it still eludes us as adults, doesn’t it? If I’m honest, it’s a constant battle. What a beautiful resolution to “err in the direction of kindness.”

Will you join me in trying to be more kind? In an attempt to capture the luminosity of kindness, share a photo on instagram of something “bright and shining,” like a sunny spring day, with the hashtag #thebeautifulnow and let’s work together to inspire each other to shine brighter!

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Yurt Camping

April 10th, 2014

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Ben and I spent the weekend in a yurt on the coast at Pacific Beach State Park. Yurt camping has been on our “adventure to-do list” for awhile, so to speak (we don’t actually have an adventure to-do list). This weekend we were looking for a cheap getaway that would shield us from the forecasted rain and the yurt was just right. It was incredibly cozy and warm, dry, and very clean.

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After we arrived at camp and unloaded the car (we had a parking spot next to our yurt) we grabbed our camping stove and Starbucks via and made some afternoon coffee on the beach, compliments of a rare moment of semi-sunshine.

Our Friday night was spent in the yurt with endless cups of hot chocolate in hand while we caught up on This American Life and listened to the rain pounding on the roof. Not so bad in my book ;)

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Hunter boots and a rain coat are the way to do the beach in the Pacific Northwest. I adored the sun-soaked, barefoot days I spent on the Carolina coast as a child but this moody gray coast washes poetry up with every cold wave and has mystery around every foggy bend. I love the drizzly, windy drama.

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If you’d like to walk along the beach with me for a moment, here is my attempt at a video:

Next time we try yurt camping I might be interested in this, which requires a snowshoe trek to get there. I’ll be adding  that to our adventure to-do list! 

Have you been yurt camping? I’d love to hear about your experience.

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Sweet Seattle #5

March 31st, 2014

I’m visiting a new Seattle bakery {almost} every week. It’s a great way to explore the city, and the delicious things I’m finding are too good not to share! 
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This week I once again stuck close to my new West Seattle home for my bakery-of-the-week. In between the organizing and unpacking we are still working on, I visited the Shoofly Pie Company at 4444 California Ave. SW.

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My lemon meringue mini pie and Americano were the perfect treat for a rainy afternoon. Every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday you can get a free cup of drip coffee with a slice of pie from 10 am-2 pm…so next time I have a mid-week work holiday you might find me at Shoofly.

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Be sure to let me know if you have a recommendation for a Seattle bakery—I’ve got an ever-expanding list on Pinterest that will keep me hunting desserts around the city for a good long while!

See previous Sweet Seattle posts here. 

 

Play along:

 

#sweetseattle

 

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Seattle Blogger Spring Social

March 27th, 2014


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Last week I went to the Seattle Blogger’s Unite Spring Social. This was my first meet-up with this group and my first ever blogger meet-up of any kind. It was a fun and inspiring evening!

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I didn’t meet everyone at the party, but I had a few great conversations with some really nice people, and I put some instagram names to faces. (Which is fun, isn’t it?) I’m looking forward to meeting my new friends sometime soon for twice-baked almond croissants at Bakery Nouveau.

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The gift bags from the party were fantastic. My two favorite takeaways that I’m still enjoying are the signed copy of The Kinfolk Table and a jar of pistachio paprika dry-burned caramel sauce from Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakerywhich is every bit as amazing as it sounds.

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Even though I’m not much of a whiz in the kitchen I thoroughly enjoyed our speakers and gathered lots of foodie inspiration. Seated, left-to-right: Brandi Henderson, founder of The Pantry at Delancey, Aran Goyoaga of Cannelle et Vanille, and Alice Currah of Savory Sweet Life. (Standing on the far left is Lisette Wolter McKinley, one of the organizers of the event and moderator of the panel.)

At one point Aran Goyoaga mentioned how compulsive cooking is to her, and that if she doesn’t cook every day she gets antsy. I’ve thought about that almost every day since. I don’t feel drawn to the kitchen. I cook because I like to eat homemade, unprocessed food when possible, and it’s nice when it also tastes good. Sometimes I get in the mood to bake but I’m not sure if it’s the baking process that compels me or the end result.

So what am I compelled to do?

Right now there are a lot of different things that come to mind but no one thing stands out from the crowd of ideas and interests. I don’t need an answer, and I’m not expecting any sort of “ah ha” moment down the road, but that question has been food for my thoughts since the spring social.

If you asked me right this second I might tell you I’m feeling compelled to eat a bowl of vanilla ice cream drizzled with warm pistachio paprika caramel sauce… ;)

I’m glad I went to the event last week and am already excited about the Seattle Bloggers Unite summer meet-up. Everyone involved in the planning did a fantastic job—thank you for putting together a fantastic event!

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Sweet Seattle #4

March 22nd, 2014

I’m visiting a new Seattle bakery {almost} every week. It’s one of the best ways to explore new spots in the city, and the delicious things I’m finding are too good not to share! 

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When Ben moved to West Seattle, I made my way to the famed Bakery Nouveau on my first free afternoon for a Twice Baked Almond Croissant. I’ve been back a few times since :)

If you live here and have not eaten a Twice Baked Almond Croissant, go immediately. It’s a little taste of heaven.

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I will venture to say this is my favorite bakery I’ve visited so far, with Macrina a very close second. I might be biased because I can walk to Bakery Nouveau from our new house, which is awesome and slightly dangerous. 

Bakery Nouveau’s glass pastry case is filled with a wonderful array of pastries, breads and cakes. You’ll also find pizza on the menu, and a variety of coffee drinks to enjoy with your sweet treat. They have two locations in the city: West Seattle and Capitol Hill.

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^Pictured: Apple Danish^

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I’ve gotten a ton of great recommendations for Seattle bakeries—I want to put your favorite place on my list so keep them coming!

See previous Sweet Seattle posts here. 

Play along:

#sweetseattle

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Permanent Paint

March 20th, 2014

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A couple months ago I made a very large painting to hang at the front of First United Methodist Church of Seattle.

It started with some colored pencils and graph paper and turned into a 24 ft. x 8 ft. acrylic on canvas. Yikes!

This is the biggest painting—the biggest art project of any kind—I’ve ever attempted. It was intimidating and stretched me a bit beyond my creative limit; I was definitely outside of that proverbial comfort-zone!

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Having had no previous experience with large-scale artwork or installations, the logistics of this project were a lot to wrap my brain around. It was hard for me to envision how the painting would look in it’s final huge state, no matter how meticulously I tried to mock it up to scale. I also had to take into consideration the architecture and color scheme of the church where it would hang and hope the final piece wouldn’t clash with the interior design, not to mention just making sure I got all the measuring correctly so it would hang at all!

IMG_2402^How’s that for a blank canvas?!^

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I’m so incredibly grateful for some wonderful people throughout the process who gave of their time to offer consultation on the design and creation, help me gesso, measure and draw out pencil lines, paint, and hang the banner. I even got my dad involved while he was visiting me in Seattle.

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IMG_2588^The jeans foot on my Bernina did an excellent job of whipping up seams in the heavy canvas.^

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If you had asked me in high school what sort of dream art project I wanted to do when I “grew up” it might have been something just like this—a large painting installation in a modern church in the middle of a big city.

In my teenage mind I would have known how to do it and executed it flawlessly without being intimidated or stressed. I would have tons of training, a professional painting portfolio, and an MFA before I even picked up a brush to begin this piece.

Yet here I am, and there is the painting.

I needed a push to even start. I needed help from the moment I walked into the art store to the last rope that was tied to hang up the banner. I had no clue what I was doing the entire time and made mistakes I need to fix before the banner hangs again.

Do you want to know a secret? This is adulthood! So many moments start out with the tiny, safe stroke of a pencil and become bold, permanent paint filling big canvases hung for all to see. You figure it out as you go and find people to help you along the way. When it doesn’t work out you regroup and retry, and when it does work you celebrate not only the success of achievement but also the beauty of collaboration. We’re not in this alone.

It took me awhile to figure out that this project that scared me so much was, in a way, the fulfillment of a dream. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have given it a try!

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Guide to Belltown

March 12th, 2014

Ben and I both work in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle, and until last week we lived near there too. Because of that we’ve had a chance to explore it a lot over the last year. As I was getting a tiny bit nostalgic about moving I thought it might be fun to share some spots we like.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope it will give you a few ideas of places to eat at if you’re in the neighborhood. I’ve left shopping and parks off this list because I didn’t want it to get too long, so you’re on your own with that :)

Ace Hotel (2423 1st Ave.)

Bambino’s Pizzeria (401 Cedar St.): A big open oven for baking pizzas makes this spot an especially cozy place to eat on a rainy night.

Bedlam Coffee (2231 2nd Ave.): I wrote about Bedlam for Trouve Magazine.

Black Bottle (2600 1st Ave.): Once I got a peach/blueberry kettle tart here. It came out in a cast iron skillet and they gave me fresh cream to pour on top. Yum. Make a reservation for a weekend date.

Cinerama (2100 4th Ave.): It doesn’t look special on the outside but inside they have twinkly star-lights in the ceiling and other nice features that make watching a movie here fun.

Five Point (415 Cedar St.): A 24-hour cafe with diner food. Whether you’re getting breakfast or a burger, Five Point is always an entertaining experience.

Frontier BBQ (2203 1st Ave)

Local 360 (1st & Bell): All ingredients come from a 360 degree radius around the restaurant location. We love how affordable it is here; you can have a fancy date night with local gourmet food without spending too much. Make a reservation!

Macrina Bakery (2408 1st Ave): I blogged about Macrina as part of my Sweet Seattle series.

Mama’s Mexican Kitchen (2234 2nd Ave) 

Rob Roy (2332 2nd Ave)  

Shiros (2401 2nd Ave): Sushi. The best sushi. Have you seen the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi (streaming on Netflix)? Shiro trained with Jiro.

Street Bean (2702 3rd Ave): Good coffee with a good mission.

Tilikum Place (407 Cedar St): I especially like eating lunch here.

I’m sure as soon as I publish this guide I’ll think of more places I should have included, so I repeat that this isn’t exhaustive! Feel free to leave a comment with your favorite Belltown spots.

I’ll miss frequenting these Belltown spots on the evenings and weekends but we are already enjoying our new neighborhood  so I think I’ll be ok :) Stay tuned for a guide to Uptown (aka Lower Queen Anne), the neighborhood we just moved from!

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Home Owners

March 7th, 2014

Last week Ben and I bought a house!

Every moment of our free time since then has be taken up with this thrilling but tiring whirlwind of moving from one place to another, sweetened by our new status as homeowners.

We’ve been working hard since last Thursday night painting and moving our belongings one car trip at a time. The adrenaline of breaking into that first can of paint has worn off at this point and I don’t want to look at another paint roller for a good long while.

I’m so completely ready to get settled in, but we have a few more paint touch ups, a chalkboard wall that still needs to be sanded before we can paint (the.most.tedious.task.ever; tips?), and a few more car trips to go. Topped with lots and lots of unpacking and organizing. You know how moving is—six months from now I’ll finally be hanging artwork.

I’ve thought of this poem at the end of every day this week as I crash into bed:

There are many things to be done today

and it’s a lovely day to do them in

Each thing a joy to do

and a joy to have done

—from Inaction of Shoes by Ron Padgett

There is so much beauty in accomplishment; that little act of putting my shoes up at the end of the day can be a good reminder that I’ve done some great things, even on days when life is just a string of mundane “to-dos.”

I am incredibly thankful for everyone who played a part in helping us the past few months as we plunged into this crazy journey of homeownership. I’m looking forward to sharing more details about our experience as first-time home buyers in this competitive, expensive market.

More photos of the house and our new neighborhood to come!

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City Grillin’

February 26th, 2014

Ben and I decided to defy the weather on Saturday night and grill on our apartment rooftop deck in the rain and wind and cold. Who says you have to grill only in the summertime?

I was excited about having my camera along on our winter grilling adventure, but at the same time knew I would never capture the essence of what we were doing.

We can take photos of anything now and immediately check to be sure we “got it”—and that’s almost too easy. In some tiny ways maybe steals our memories. It makes them smaller than they really are; it puts them in a frame.

In the darkness, up on the rooftop. A clear, quiet, windy winter night. The city lights twinkling as far as we could see into the horizon. Steaks sizzling on the grill and the smell flying away with the wind. Our joy at being together and sharing the excitement of a fun and spontaneous evening.

I don’t have a photo of that. 

The very best of life can’t be captured and cropped and posted. It’s too beautiful.

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To Grandmother’s House

February 24th, 2014

When Ben and I traveled to Atlanta and South Carolina to visit our families, the combination of exhausting air travel, time change from west coast to east, snowstorm that had the southeast shut down just as we arrived, and spending precious hours with our families got me thinking a lot about time.

There is something about visiting a grandparent’s house that makes time stand still.

The toys that have been played with for decades still sit on shelves, ready for great-grandchildren to visit.

The photos of loved ones scattered around the house.

The peaceful pace of life.

Time is less rushed, filled with quiet moments and stories of days gone by.

I tried to be more mindful of time on this visit; to be extra patient with whatever circumstances we found ourselves in (like a snowstorm!), and to treasure each moment with family like all the toys in our grandparents’ houses have been treasured over the years.

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