Friday, May 15, 2015


When this post goes live, I expect to be thousands of miles away, having traversed the country yesterday. I've been planning a trip back to New England to have a getaway weekend with a few of the friends we left behind. Friends I miss dearly. The kind of friends that let you be you. One of them doesn't know I'm coming, a carefully orchestrated surprise, so it went without mention until today.

I look forward to a few days of debauchery, laughter, and the New England countryside in spring. Mario, the apple of my eye, will be holding down the fort while I'm gone. The fact that I married up, and know it, bears repeating.

In the meantime, here are some things that caught my interest this week:

a new (grownup) coloring book + watercolors

deconstructed sushi bowls

food blog trends that must die (funny!)

a day in the life (romance is alive and well)

shorts weather is nearly upon us (thank goodness!)

obsessed with this photo. and this one. the whole feed, really.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Changing my tune (on essential oils)

I'll admit I have grown weary with the essential oil overload on IG and among some bloggers. (I've felt the same way about bubble necklaces, chia pudding recipes, and Facebook game requests a time or two as well. I think an overexposure to trends tends to have that effect on people.)

I do believe essential oils have benefits, and people genuinely feel helped by them, but like many fads, it can get inundating after a while. The mid-level marketing structure lends itself to proselytizing, and the cost can be quite exorbitant. To be frank, I don't understand why on earth I should pay upwards of $50 (in some cases, and depending on the brand) for a single 15mL vial of essential oil to make my own counter spray when I can buy a bottle of Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day for four bucks.

I'm a woman of science, which in some ways makes me a skeptic by nature (empirical evidence!). But I am also a proponent of the use of non-chemical, non-pharmaceutical remedies whenever possible. I've used alternative treatments to ease everything from eczema to eye allergies to anxiety. (Lest you think I'm taking a swig of haterade here. I do, however, swig raw ACV on the regular.) In fact, I have a small collection of essential oils I've used to make homemade deodorant and other bath products. (Though they were all purchased locally at natural food stores and did not cause sticker shock.)

Although I have not experienced a complete 180 when it comes to the matter of essential oils, I have embraced their use in certain situations. (Though I maintain my stance on the marketing + social media front. But that's true for most products sold via a pyramid scheme. Buyer beware, for sure.)

It all started with a recent solo trip to the beach: I needed a getaway something fierce, so I packed an overnight bag and made the 90 minute trek to the coast. While wandering around the quaint town of Cannon Beach one afternoon, I stepped into a small shop selling a carefully curated collection of organic wares. I took a moment to sniff through the essential oil offerings, and was strongly attracted to one particular blend. Just one whiff and my mood was lifted. It's hard to explain, though I'm sure we've all had similar sensory experiences.

The mental boost it imparted stayed with me, and I decided to fork over the money to have a vial of my very own. In the morning, upon waking, I take a sniff to jump start my day; add a few drops to my bath; the occasional dab on my wrist.

A couple weeks ago, after a naughty late afternoon latte, I found myself restless at bedtime. Wishing that, at my age, I could once and for all settle on the ideal bedtime. Seeking a greater sense of balance, always. It turns out, there's an essential oil blend for that.

I read reviews and settled on a particular formula, then took it a step further and bought a diffuser. I set it up, added a few drops of oil, and let it do its thing. I slept soundly through the night, minus my usual tossing and turning, and woke up a little easier. (I'm not a morning person, much to my lifelong dismay.)

What I'm saying is, I'm a (sort of) convert. I admit they make life a little better, and have me eating crow (a little bit, anyway) when it comes to the whole essential oil thing. I don't have plans to buy more (nor am I brand loyal), but I'm certainly open to it if the need arises.

I've chosen my small collection based solely on how closely the attributes of a particular formula align with my needs. Others were purchased because they were called for in a bath product recipe. I possess little to no knowledge regarding mixing my own blends or the uses for most individual oils (black pepper?! myrrh?!), but without a doubt they've helped me improve my mood and obtain a more restful sleep... naturally.

And that's nothing to sniff at.

What's working for me:

dōTERRA Elevation Joyful Blend
dōTERRA Balance Grounding Blend
NOW Foods Ultrasonic Oil Diffuser

For bath/personal care products:

Calming Lavender Oil
Cooling Peppermint Oil
Activating Rosemary Oil
Tea Tree Oil
Sweet Orange Oil (purchased in Costa Rica)
Apricot Kernel Oil (as a carrier/moisturizer)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Huevos Rancheros

I hail from Southern California. San Diego, specifically. And so perhaps it goes without saying that I have a deep and abiding love for Mexican food. Taquitos, guacamole, and Orange Bang run through these veins. (Es cierto.)

One of my favorite go-tos when I can't decide what to eat for breakfast, or nothing sounds particularly appetizing, is huevos rancheros. This is true for both eating out and at home.

Fortunately, there is no one right way to make them, and only a couple essential ingredients. Obviously there are huevos, or eggs. (The runnier the better, in my opinion; poached or over-medium will do.) Most restaurants tend to serve the eggs poached on huevos rancheros, a skill I have yet to master. I'm going to give it a go one of these days. (I like this tutorial.)

Second is some sort of bean element. I've used seasoned or plain black and pinto beans, and even canned chili with beans (vegetarian, beef, turkey and chicken are all tasty). When using plain beans or vegetarian chili, I will often add crumbled soyrizo from Trader Joe's. It adds a lot of flavor as well as a meat element. (Melissa's also makes a good soyrizo.) It sounds weird, but the flavor and texture are on point. It's also excellent scrambled into eggs and served in corn tortillas like a breakfast taco.

Optional add-ons: cheese (shredded or the magical orange stuff that goes on movie theater nachos), guacamole, pico de gallo or salsa, cilantro, sour cream, sriracha,  and tortilla chips. The combinations are endless, really.


Friday, May 8, 2015

These Happy Golden Years

The week before last I blogged every single day. I was on fire. So it only stands to reason that a whole week would then go by sans post. I'm nothing if not (in)consistent. 

This last week was for coffee shop hopping, an (overdue) tire rotation, Kiddo's engineering project, and a second interview for The Perfect Job. Husband was gallivanting around a foreign country known as Southern California, all in the name of business. (My birthplace! I'm an expat.) No rest for the weary, however, as Kiddo had his last track invitational on Saturday, which required a 6a wake up call. As a result, the weekend felt shorter than usual. (Hashtag firstworldproblems.)

Mario and I spent Saturday morning watching Jared compete at a track invitational (his last of the season), then headed back to Portland to spend the day together. (Kiddo wanted to stay for the whole event and take the bus home with his teammates.) On the ride back we watched streaming video of my sister-in-law's college graduation (Congratulations, Erica!).

Saturday afternoon we went to Crafty Wonderland, our first Portland craft show experience. (I mean, the talent in this city. It was like a craft show on steroids... the caliber of the artists was off the charts.) Then we wandered around the city a smidge and caught an early dinner before getting the requisite "Coach said to call our parents... the bus is close!" call.

Yesterday brought Mother's Day, of course, but also Kiddo's birthday. This happens every few years, making the day extra sweet. Celebrating your one and only's birth on the day reserved for motherhood is always serendipitous. We made up for Saturday's busyness by unapologetically lounging in front of the television. Cinnamon rolls for breakfast, binge-watching a new show kind of lounging. The best kind, in my opinion. (Though Husband was more productive than I was, running to the farmer's market when it opened to grab me a fresh bouquet. There was also a cookbook I'd been admiring + a set of wood measuring spoons. I heart him.) (Also, I woke up to pretty purple buds on one of my air plants. How lovely and unexpected!)

Last night we watched Kiddo dig into the pile of Amazon boxes, cards, and padded envelopes that had littered the corner of our living room for weeks. I made him a cake, one of my finest I think, and held our breath as he blew out the candles.

"Did you make a wish?" (me)
"No." (him)
"Oh! Do you want to do it again?" (me)
"I don't need a wish. I'm perfectly content with where I am right now." (him)
[heart skips a beat] (me)

I can't think of a better Mother's Day gift than the realization that your Kiddo wishes for nothing more than what he already has. To know that his life is exactly how it should be, how he wants it to be, is... gosh. No words. Be still my beating heart.

Life has been good. Calmer, I think; a result of my constant effort to slow my roll already. I should know about The Job by the end of this week, though she mentioned mid-interview that her budget proposal to hire more staff may fall through. At this point I'll work for Hershey's Kisses and a smile. In the meantime I'll keep drinking up Portland's finest decaf while pondering the creation of a new blog devoted to all the wonders the Pacific Northwest has to offer. (Think my Best of Portland posts, but all in one place.)

Also, lately:

The Avengers at a historic theater. (One big explosion peppered with one-liners... as expected. Entertaining nonetheless.)

Foliage, foliage everywhere. Vista eating his veggies like good kitties do.

Explored some awesome new-to-me neighborhoods + coffee shops this week. Are you tired of hearing me say how much I like the Pacific Northwest? (I do. I really do.)

Meal planning like a boss; iced lattes (decaf, because I'm well-behaved); I scream, you scream.

Shenanigans. Always.

Husband's latest wood carving accomplishment. You can't tell from the photo, but it's a teeny weeny baby spoon, made for an expectant coworker/friend. I could die. I mean, how darling.

Architecturally obsessed. I want them all. (The top one!!!)

Wishing you all a happy + productive week!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Seen. Heard. Bookmarked.

TGIF, amiright? My weekend plans, so far, are to wear Birks, finish a book, and soak up some sunshine. The rest is a blank slate, though I suspect ice cream will be involved. And brunch. We've barely scratched the surface of the Portland food scene, after all.

Here's a glimpse into what was seen and heard this week:

I have such a fascination with Matt Lauer.

An old favorite I'll be (re)watching this weekend. RIP, Jonathan Crombie.

This skirt + print.

If Portland were a teenager, it would win best-dressed + most likely to succeed at prom. It is that on trend. (Exhibit A)

Reformed introvert.

The funniest show we've seen in a while. (Mario and I are obsessed.) (I'm crushing hard.)

Salad season.

The last book I bought (for the year). Hopefully it will elevate my attempts at simplifying.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

(Better) Realized: Stop confusing satisfaction with settling.

Grab a mug of tea and get comfy; it's time for a flashback. One of those instances where we must go back in order to go forward for the sake of context.

At the ripe old age of 22, I knew what people in their 30s and 40s wish they'd known about the world at that age. But you shouldn't know these things if you don't have to, because your twenties are for fun sex and finding yourself.

This is not to say I had totally evolved at that point in my life. Far from it. Still, a complicated, messy relationship had forced me to establish personal boundaries much earlier than most, and my position as the middle child of a manic depressive had taught me a thing or two about self-preservation. I was career (not college) driven for the sake of survival and working to shed the emotional scabs left by my many life experiences.

I was a shy, well-behaved child and the same could be said for my teenage years. I seldom rocked the boat or broke the rules, save for a cartilage piercing created with the help of a safety pin and a friend, but I was far from complacent. Inside that stare-at-the-floor exterior lived a soul so strong-willed, it seemed I was impossible to break. People tried; people failed.

Just a year into my early twenties, I had reached a sweet spot: I loved my job, had many great friends and coworkers, and coworkers who were friends. I worked out every day and had a peaceful relationship with my body. I woke up every morning, bright and early, excited to live my life. I was also totally and completely content to be single. I had long since distanced myself from that life-defining, messy relationship. I had been on several dates with agenda-less young men who were sweet and kind and fun to be around. I was happy. Most the time, blissfully so. I didn't spend my days pining for more money or a fancy life, and a relationship was not a priority.

For the first time in my life, I was totally and completely content to just be me.

One Saturday night in April 2003, I was barhopping around town with friends, a rare occasion for me. We had come full circle, back to the bar where I'd left my car, and I said my goodbyes. Just oooonnnneee more drink, Sarah? Come oooonnnn. And so I agreed to just one more. As fate would have it, the kindest, most amazing soul, in the form of a dark haired, doe-eyed fellow, was in the bar that night. A friend of a friend who lived hours away and was only in town for one night.

Spoiler alert: I married him.

I've spent a lot of time thinking and talking about that night. About the amalgam that had to occur for us to have met.  The world works in mysterious ways, and I will always and forever be thankful that it facilitated our unlikely pairing. But I've long since felt that it was more than just dumb luck and good timing that led me to Mario. More than anything, it was my head space.

You see, even a few short months before that, I'm not sure I would have had the openness necessary to see him for what he was: my soulmate. In order to love someone properly, you have to love yourself. You have to own your own happiness. Because no one, no matter how wonderful they are, can fill in the blanks created by deep-rooted discontent. In the way people create vision boards to unlock their dreams, I had found my way to satisfaction despite an imperfect life. It took a lot of perseverance, years spent shedding the people and things that held me back, to get where I was.

Had I not done the work necessary to enjoy the phase of life I was in, I very well might have missed out on one of the two greatest things that has ever happened to me. And that, my friends, would have been one hell of a tragedy.

Many chapters in my life and marriage have been written since that fateful night, some of which have been chronicled here. And every so often I come to a realization: I've lost that sense of satisfaction. The hard-earned ability to find happiness where I am right now. To not let outside noise and rigid thinking affect the fundamental way I feel about life. Oh, to feel that tingle of excitement in my belly each morning!

I've talked a lot lately about the perils of my job search. A 4-year degree carries little weight when it comes to skilled labor in the healthcare sector, and years spent being a mom and student have left me with a thoroughly unimpressive work history. So I agonized, applied to 10 patient care jobs, read all 10 rejection emails as they trickled in, and then agonized some more. I went round and round in my head and had the conversational equivalent of hand-wringing while poor Mario let me get it out (more frequently than I'm proud of), always showing nothing but the utmost compassion for my anxious ruminating.

I interviewed for The Perfect Job several weeks ago, and in response to my second follow-up email, was told they would be making a decision by the 20th. The 20th came and went and I resigned myself to the fact it was a long shot anyway. Then I had an epiphany: What if, instead of obsessing over The Perfect Job, the job that fit my established timeline and carefully constructed expectations, I applied for a less than perfect position that would get my foot in the door and allow me to move up the system? What's more, what if I actually applied because it sounded, well, fun? A job I wanted to do and wouldn't mind continuing to do if I didn't get accepted into grad school in the first application cycle.

What if I could be satisfied where I am right now? If history has taught me anything, it's that satisfaction can lead to wonderful, unexpected things. And so I started hitting the "apply" button on other positions within the hospital. Ones I could definitely score and would enjoy doing... despite the fact they don't fit neatly into my pre-grad school parameters. For the first time since embarking on this journey through the world of academia, I was okay where I was and open to any and all opportunities.

Worse case scenario? In 3 years, when Kiddo is done with high school, I can apply to programs all over the country and we can move again.

Life hadn't boxed me in, I had. Just like that, I felt a renewed sense of calm. And a tiny tingle in my belly at the prospect of finding perfection in the imperfect.

And you know what?  This morning I got a call for a second interview. I'm still in the running for The Perfect Position. Thank goodness they made me wait those extra 10 days. They were agonizing, yes, but also exactly what I needed to get my head out of my ass. The moment I turned myself over to the experience, let go of all those preconceived notions, life opened back up. What's funny is, now I'm much less concerned about whether or not I get the job. It's almost not the point anymore.

Pursuing happiness, whatever the cost, is never the same as settling.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Keep Calm and Cherry (Limeade) On

I'm not a big drinker, and am okay admitting I don't really like the taste of alcohol. Though there are certain times when I wish I more enjoyed drowning my sorrows with some Pino or celebrating with a bit of bubbly, the occasion is rare. Very occasionally, however, I get the urge to have an alcoholic beverage. And since they stopped making Zima in 2008, I've had to get creative. (Remember Zima and wine coolers? Oh to be an 18-year-old wannabe rebel again.)

There was this one extra dirty martini to end all martinis, made at a now defunct bar in Keene, New Hampshire by which I compare all alcoholic drinks. Few, if any, compare. I think the key is smoothness. (That miracle martini was like buttah.) Sweet drinks are good if not too sugary, but seldom are they not too sweet. I suppose there are worse things to be picky about.

Recently I got one of those rare wild hairs and decided to order a hard cherry limeade from a restaurant. And would you know, I enjoyed it. Which prompted me to perfect it at home. You should, too.

Grownup Cherry Limeade
(Makes 1 pint)

1.5 oz cherry flavored vodka
1 oz maraschino cherry juice
3-4 (or 10) maraschino cherries
lemon-lime soda
1/2 lime, sliced

Fill pint jar (or glass) with ice. Add vodka, cherry juice and cherries. Squeeze limes into the jar, then throw the slices in as well. Swirl. Fill to the neck with lemon-lime soda (I use Sprite). Swirl with a straw.

Then... put your feet up, watch reality television and ignore the cat hair tumbleweeds rolling across your floor. (Just me?)