Friday, October 13, 2017

Seen, Heard & Bookmarked: Loving the in-between.

This week has been calm. Parenting is parenting, of course, but otherwise life has shown me a quieter way to live over the past few days. Less work, lots of embroidery, creative learning, and plenty of baths. No complaints here.

Tuesday was my birthday, and although I'm a year older and eager to move on to the next phase, I'm not sweating my advancing age or the passage of time. Time is fleeting, always, but my burgeoning appreciation of the present has led to a greater focus on the everyday. Lately I've spent less time waiting for something to happen and more time exploring opportunities as they arise. And although I have a long way to go in terms of personal growth and fulfillment, life is already a lot sweeter without the anxious anticipation that comes with always looking ahead.

Here are some things I've seen, heard and bookmarked over the past week:

Wishing I could sew a quilt right about now. (I took my very first sewing lesson on Tuesday! I made that drawstring bag!)

Been coveting these shoes for years, finally took the plunge. Worth every penny.

Husband bought  me Half Baked Harvest's new cookbook a couple weeks ago and it may single-handedly end my dinner rut. (Making this beer bread to go with tomorrow night's dinner.)

The new "it" tree? (I still love you, Fiddle Leaf Fig.)

I was terribly sad I couldn't make the Makerie weaving retreat this month. (I attended the April 2017 retreat and it was magical.) In the meantime, this DIY weaving loom tutorial looks like a great project to pass the time and get me weaving again sans retreat.

Finding your flow. (Thought-provoking.)

I impulse-bought a Plexus wheel to stretch my stiff back muscles after seeing it on IG. The sensation is intense, but holy moly does my back feel better! I'm telling you, it's legit! Has anyone else tried it?

An unlikely pairing which produced a beautiful, moving performance.

A portable facial peel for those times when my skin is looking dull but I'm a) traveling or b) don't have time for my trusty 3-step brightening system. (Sampled two packets and loved the simplicity + results.)

Homemade sprinkles!

Happy weekend!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Needle + craft: A love declared.

These days I am actively practicing the art of letting go. And by active, I mean it's work. When your default response to adversity is anxiety, changing a fundamental, ingrained reaction is no easy feat.

Kiddo's math grade has slipped into failing territory for the umpeeth time. Breath; don't yell. Don't go to that place where you imagine him failing out of high school. (Which he is not in danger of, by the way, but fear is fear and motherhood is fraught with it.)

The barista forgets to make your latte with almond milk and you're a mile away and running late before you realize. But you desperately need the caffeine . So you drink it despite the likely onset of belly discomfort and spend the morning wondering why things can't just be easy. For once! (A lot goes right, but in the moment it all feels hard and yucky.)

I'm not sure if I can reprogram a mid-thirties brain, but I'm sure trying. Better sleep hygiene, a meditation app, and the near-constant quest for personal and creative fulfillment are all steps toward less anxiety and stress. Let it go has become my mantra.

A major contributor in my quest to be less angsty has been hand embroidery. It started two years ago when I decided to create mini hoops for my yearly Christmas ornament project. Only, I'd never embroidered outside of the (very) occasional cross stitch project in middle school. In the process I fell hard for the craft and, unlike all other crafts that came before it, my interest hasn't wavered for nearly two years.

Since that time the projects have become more complex and I've mastered at least a dozen stitches, but there is still so much for me to learn! (As my husband often says, "Sarah isn't happy unless she's learning." He's so right.) Etsy is overflowing with patterns and YouTube has a plethora of awesome tutorials. The options are endless, yet it's a very unassuming hobby. It can be as easy or hard as you want to make it; is incredibly portable; and you can embroider while watching television, standing in line, or flying through the sky.

I find that when I embroider I engage the part of my brain that tends to ruminate on stressful topics when left to its own devices. Using my hands to create something intricate yet simply composed occupies the section of my subconscious mind that likes to focus on the What Ifs and worst case scenarios. And unlike dinking around on my phone, it doesn't increase my anxiety or take my attention from the room and the people around me. I can embroider and still fully engage with my family and friends. Oh, and when something goes awry or doesn't look quite right, you simply snip out the offending strands and start over. No harm, no foul, no stress.

I'm so enamored with this craft that I sold everything but the bare minimum craft box essentials at last spring's yard sale. I didn't need all those supplies pertaining to other crafts anymore and it felt good to purge all the stuff I had long since neglected (but likely hung on to out of guilt). And, bonus!, not only is embroidery compact, it's also super affordable. Hoops are a couple bucks, embroidery floss is about 50 cents a skein, and fabric can be next to nothing and a little goes a long way. It takes up very little space in my home, tucked into an end table drawer for instance, but also looks nice when displayed. (More on the storage aspect soon.) And if you need to walk away from a project for a while, it'll keep. It's one of the few things you can seamlessly pick back up when the mood strikes.

I keep most of my creations and hang them collage-style on my bedroom wall, but embroidery hoops make for lovely gifts. I've given them for nearly every occasion: holidays, baby showers, and during times of encouragement. People are so touched when you create for them!

In the two years I've been developing my love of embroidery, I've found some favorite products, stores and influencers that inspire me to step outside the lines and use my creative intuition. Although this is a niche topic, I would love for this to be the first in a blog series celebrating this craft. A place where I can share my favorite people, places and things associated with embroidery.

I wrote a post early last year with some of my favorite tools of the trade. You can find it here.

Monday, October 2, 2017


It's so darn easy to focus on the little inconveniences that go hand-in-hand with being human. A human who works, parents, loves, and makes life goals. Dreams take time to become reality, and if you don't appreciate the in-between, which comprises the vast majority of the present, one can easily get bogged down by the minutia while waiting for something to happen. Then those special moments, which are often small and easy to discard, get missed.

And that's where the real tragedy lies.

Those inconspicuous moments make life beautiful and worthwhile and special. A dream comes true and then you live in it; it becomes your new normal. And pretty soon you're wondering what's next. Familiarity, no matter how delightful, can breed stagnation.

Or maybe that's just me. (I doubt it.)

I'm working very hard not to discard the everyday. To not spend it waiting and wanting. I've historically wasted a lot of time fretting about the future and arbitrary timelines of my own making. That is slowly changing. (Thank goodness.)

Grad school limbo aside, I'm in a really lovely period. I'm working 2 days a week, more or less if I choose. Which leaves much fewer conflicts when it comes to being around for Kiddo's daily activities and comings and goings. (I took him to get his braces off Thursday. In the middle of the day. I was the first to see his adorable new smile!)

Mom guilt is no joke.

I'm also taking time to learn new things: long awaited goals relating to personal fulfillment are finally being realized, and I didn't have to wait until the "right" time. Because as it turns out, right now is as much a "right" time as any. As such, I signed up for a sewing class. And a candle making class. And for my birthday Husband gifted me a pottery class at a local college. (I took a pottery class in high school and fell madly in love. This has been a dream ever since.) I've been terrified to commit to anything, lest it conflict with a potential grad school interview invitation, which has left me in a holding pattern. It felt good to say yes to a 8 week creative endeavor.  And as Husband reminded me, if an interview does come up I'll miss a class. It's that simple and not worth fretting over.

In keeping with this resolution to really, truly appreciate the present, while making the most of it, I'm going to start a blog series where I give a shout-out to those little (and occasionally big!) things that make life joyous. The ones that could easily be ignored should I decide to not to get out of my own head.

Because happiness is a choice, always.

These days I'm grateful for, among other things: 

The way the morning light streams through our bedroom window on a sunny day. Fall = rain in the PNW, so I'm coveting these lovely rays while they last.

Foot reflexology. Because operating room floors are made for sterility, not comfort. Sore feet for daaaays, gone in an hour. (I go here.)

This tiny man bun, worn for the first time, made me smile. It was adorable. (I'm also digging the greys.)

Kitty paws. Especially when they burrow back under the covers after breakfast. Oh, to be a cat.

Breakfast dates with a young man. They used to be a more regular thing when he was little, but I'll take what I can get. (+ three cheers for a new [to us] brunch spot! To die for.)

Seeing Cirque du Soleil: KURIOS. It was fantastic. (In Portland until 10/8!)

A husband who still buys me flowers on a regular basis. (Even after I was terribly crotchety with him.) + Chinese Lantern plants which are a visual delight.

Embroidery. I'm so grateful to have found this craft. It keeps idle hands occupied and those niggling subconscious thoughts from invading the everyday. After years spent dabbling in every hobby under the sun, this is the one for me. (Monceau Fleurs pattern by le Kadre)

Friday, September 29, 2017

Seen, Heard & Bookmarked: Welcoming Fall

Oh man, I love fall. I look forward too it more than Christmas. I work hard not to hasten summer's end, just so I can extend the lovely anticipation. Because although it's my favorite season, and one of my favorite things in the whole wide world period, it's also the shortest.

This morning I got up bright and early on my day off to attend a training session at work. In and out in 90 minutes. The air is crisp and (much needed!) periodical rain showers have the world smelling scrubbed and fresh. I left work and headed to a local coffee shop to cross more things off my digital to-do list. Only, I'd forgotten my computer bag at home. So I trudged on back, put on sweatpants, and am spending the afternoon embroidering and catching up on my DVR. It seems forgetting my computer wasn't a mistake so much as a point in the right direction.

Tonight we are headed to Portland's Night Market and the weekend is devoted to the odd project plus lots of lounging. (I hope.) Here's to enjoying cooler weather, the opportunities a new season brings, and stealing those little moments that can bring the most joy.

Here are some things I've seen, heard and bookmarked lately:

The Magic Yarn Project has my whole heart.

PBteen + Harry Potter. Teenage me is all, like, OMG! (These sheets are grownup enough, right?)

Husband and I just finished the miniseries Manhunt:Unibomber and were pretty riveted—so many fascinating aspects to the story we didn't know! I read this article to delve a little deeper.

Learning about "dot journaling," via Erin, who also referenced a site for "bullet journaling." It sounds right up my alley in that it appears to be a hybrid of journaling/personal planning/scrapbooking. (Correct me if I'm wrong!)

Mario sent me a link to the website Pack Up + Go the other day and I was instantly enchanted by the concept. I'm in!

Dusting off the pressure cooker...ramen is on the menu this weekend.

My current read. (It's good!)

Mail order TP that will make your bum"smile." (Says the girl who orders her TP off Amazon.)

Loved the book, badly want to watch the show. (Worth the upgrade to HBO? Have you seen it?)

The original, forever and always. (My sweet husband bought me a new one on a recent trip...the weather is slowly getting cool enough to wear it.)

Absolutely enchanted with these embroidery patterns by Thread Folk. (The re-release started yesterday for kits/pre-printed fabric. PDF patterns are coming in the near future.)

Currently using this skin brightening system once a week and my dullness-prone skin looks awesome. (I've been a fan of his Truth Serum for ages.)

Currently wearing this popover on repeat. (Comfy + effortless + so many complements! And now it's on sale!)

Friday, September 8, 2017

Seen, Heard & Bookmarked: Life in the meantime.

Life these days is in limbo: grad school apps are submitted and sitting in electronic queues out in the ether; the training for my new job wrapped up last week, as did my consistent 40-hour work weeks (per diem = total flexibility + "Can you work for me?!"). I'm on my own! (Yikes.) Kiddo started his senior year last Wednesday, which made things feel very real. His age, my age, our place in all feels sort of strange sometimes.

I'm looking forward to more time at home, more dates with my husband, Saturday morning cross country meets (my favorite), and the return to some creative endeavors. This is a sweet season I'm moving into, but those pesky What's going to happen? kind of questions are always lingering in the back of my mind. It's a waiting game and I stink at it.

To combat funky feelings that creep up throughout the day, as tends to happen when one is in life-goal limbo, I've been focusing on self-care. Regular massages, less caffeine, food resets, and a better bedtime routine. (Swing shift has thrown a wrench in that last one.) I'm on my third novel in a month and that's awesome because Reading > Candy Crush Saga, always. (Especially for those prone to anxiety.)

Here are some things that have caught my eye or made life more interesting as of late:

My next embroidery project. (A lucky IG discovery and a departure from past projects.)

Speaking of embroidery, this is a lovely solution for all those lingering pieces of embroidery floss

Modest + beautiful one-piece swimsuits for the win. I'm smitten with this one and this one.

The pillow struggle is real. A couple weeks ago I splurged on this kapok pillow, which I randomly discovered while perusing plank & coil in Portland. Best accidental find ever. No more waking up with a sore neck and I'm sleeping like a baby. (When I think of all the sub par $20 pillows I have stacked in the closet, this seems like less of a splurge.)

Using this vinegar shine rinse by Klorane 1-2 times per week to brighten up my blonde hair and reduce brassiness. It works like a charm.

These Clam Chowder Fritters are on my must-try list. (via an old issue of Coastal Living found in the break room.)

My intentionally mismatched room chairs looked more gypsy than quirky-cute in our new open-concept rental. So far they've gotten a couple coats of pale grey chalk paint and a little light distressing. (I'm working up to a proper distressing. Be brave, Sarah!) This weekend the seats are getting covered in a beautiful patterned fabric by Rifle Paper Co. that will tie them together with our antique navy/natural wood table.

A new planner to better manage my ever-evolving schedule. Fingers crossed there will be lots of grad school interviews in there in the coming months!

A pretty + inspiring DIY blog. (I'm probably the very last person to discover it.)

My favorite travel skincare. (I try very hard to bring only a carry-on for trips less than 4 days, so small + mighty is a must. I just ordered my second set!)

I'm obsessed with the My Favorite Murder podcast. I listen to it whenever I have even a moment to spare. (Husband gave me a little side-eye about my newest infatuation, but came to the conclusion that most of us love murder: "I guess I'm reading a book about murder. So, kind of the same." Also, 2200 seasons of Law & Order and all its spinoffs would suggest I'm not alone.)

Happy Weekend!


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Simple Morning Routine (+ product reviews)

I've approached the age where skincare really matters: I'm young enough to still prevent damage and wrinkles, but old enough that I also need to focus on softening the lines I've already started to develop. Fortunately, I've given my skin a good deal of attention and protection since my early twenties, so my mid-thirties skin has only called for a bit of tweaking to my routine here and there. I should also note that I really like my mid-thirties skin! I also kind of love those little lines around my eyes when I smile...I'm generally happier and more comfortable than I was in my twenties, and I love that it shows on the outside.

I have a strong inclination toward a simple, natural-looking everyday face, which is how this makeup/skincare routine was born. I occasionally tweak individual products based on SPF, how my skin is looking/feeling, or if a new product has piqued my interest.

I am not a morning person by nature. I tend to get my second wind around 10p, which means early morning wake-up calls are extra tough. Therefore, my more intensive skincare treatments tend to happen before bed or on the weekends. My current morning routine takes about 5 minutes to apply, makes me feel put together, and has me out the door in a jiffy. On those occasions when I want to look a little more polished, I'll add some eyeliner, shadow and lipstick. I have some great standbys when it comes to those products as well. (Spinoff blog post topic!)

Before I get started, I think it's important to note that I'm at a place in my life where a full face of makeup isn't practical or particularly appropriate. I work in a hospital OR setting, so I spend my days in scrubs, a surgical cap, and 75% of the time I'm wearing a face mask. Though I imagine my makeup routine will always be natural-looking, the future may hold a more polished daily look depending on where life takes me over the next few years. We shall see.

1// Clarins UV Plus Broad Spectrum Sunscreen // I have used their untinted formula for about 6 years now and absolutely love it. The SPF 50 is bomb, and my foundation glides right on over the top. Gosh I hope they never stop making this product.

2// Benefit Gimme Brow in Medium // When I first tried this product in a sample size I wasn't super impressed: one brow would be darker than the other, there would be a glob that took valuable time to try and wipe off, or it left a flaky look. I can't remember why, but I gave it another try and now I use it every day. I scrape any excess product off the wand and apply in sweeping motions. With rare exception it gives me even, natural results. Though I discovered brow products later in life, I instantly feel put together when my light brows are more defined. Sonia Kashuk's Tinted Brow Gel also gets very high marks. I still have a tube and use it on the weekends or when the mood strikes. I used it for many years and would absolutely go back to it if I fell out of love with my current brow gel. 

3// It Cosmetics Superhero Mascara // This is a newer find (I've been using it about 8 months), which replaced the Covergirl Professional Remarkable Mascara I used for the better part of a decade. Covergirl's mascara gave me beautifully defined lashes, but took several coats to build up to adequate coverage. I gave the Superhero mascara a try and realized a one coat mascara actually exists! A single tube lasts me about 3 months, making it worth the increased cost, and I think it gets better with time (i.e. as it dries out slightly). 

4// Urb Apothecary Lips Cheeks Tint/Blush Stick //  I picked this up at a boutique in Portland and instantly fell in love. It offers a natural flush of color and a pretty dewiness to my cheeks. It blends easily and a single tube has lasted me the better part of a year. I love it when products made by small  businesses beat out big market products...and this does, hands down.  

5// TONYMOLY Panda's Dream Brightening Eye Base // This product is reserved for those days when I have a few extra minutes or want to look extra spiffy. Even though it's not a part of my every day routine, I included it because I really like it and use it often. It helps blur dark under eye circles and makes me look more awake. I apply it directly to my finger and pat it around my whole eye area. I wore it last week to my grad school interview and it perked up my tired post-travel eyes. After I apply it, I pat some foundation over the top to even things out.

6// It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream in Medium // Like their mascara, I'm fairly new to this product. I was looking for a bit more coverage from my foundation, and was pleased with the high SPF (which is my top priority). I apply this with my fingers, but may switch to a brush at some point if I want to make it extra flawless. I alternate between this and their CC+ Illumination version, and like them both. It goes on smoothly, a little goes a long way for me, and even a small amount covers any and all skin imperfections. (I like my foundation to look like I'm not wearing foundation but just have naturally even skin.) The Illumination cream is pretty, but I occasionally notice a couple glitter pieces on my face which catch my attention in the mirror. I'm not a glitter-wearing kind of girl, but it is not enough to bother me (or I simply don't care at 5:30a). Before this I wore Bare Mineral's Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream for 5+ years and loved it. It offers more sheer coverage and is a genuinely lovely product. I used up the last little bit I had left last weekend and was sad to see it go. I'd always consider going back, but I'm liking that extra bit of coverage at this phase of my life.

7 // Smith's Rosebud Salve Trio // I picked this trio up a couple years ago at Anthro and started carrying it in my scrub top pocket. I apply it throughout the day and it keeps my lips smooth + makes me feel a tiny bit more put together. I'm on my second trio and love all 3 flavors: Strawberry, Original and Minted Rose.

8 // Clinique Pep-Start Eye Cream // I'm not great at wearing eye cream, especially in the morning. These days I'm noticing more pronounced crow's feet, and have started making more of a consistent effort toward nurturing the skin around my eyes. My eyes are super sensitive, and I wear contacts, and normal eye creams creep in and blur/irritate/sting my eyes. In my experience, Clinique's eye creams stay put and this is no exception. It helps de-puff and my foundation glides on without tugging. I apply it to my finger and gently smooth it around my under eye every morning. It soaks in quickly, so it doesn't add but a few seconds to my routine.

That's it! On the average day I use 6 products and it takes about that many minutes. Tips? Product suggestions? Tell me everything. 

Side note: In all the years I've dabbled in blogging, this is my first white-background-product-collage. And it only took me an entire Saturday afternoon! Thank goodness for all those tech-savvy tutorial writers out there willing to share their wisdom. I'm woefully behind the curve.

Side, side note: #notsponsored (ever)

Friday, July 14, 2017

Seen, Heard and Bookmarked: Finding the new norm.

The second half of June was a funky month for this clan. In a matter of three days the following occurred:

Husband left for Tennessee on a week-long work trip; a patient went berserk and I was involved in a very scary situation at work; Kiddo flooded the upstairs of the rental we were departing; and our cat got into some meds and spent two days in an animal ICU (he's okay). Meanwhile, I had unintentionally agreed to work six 10-hour shifts in seven days at a job I desperately needed to move on from. Somewhere around 2am, while shop-vacing standing water from the upstairs carpet, I began to reevaluate the status quo as one often does when the proverbial shit hits the fan. Burn out was at an all-time high, and something had to give.

Within a week of The Great Meltdown of 2017, I was offered an awesome new position at work and received two graduate school interview invitations.

Because life has a way of making your priorities crystal clear, but only when you're really, truly paying attention.

We've since moved into our new rental and we love it. For the all the stress that an unexpected move caused, we are so grateful to be here. It's a fancy grown up house with the entertaining space our last house was lacking. In some ways I wish we'd been here all along. This is my first weekend home alone post-move, and my goal is to tackle the mounds of boxes so I can find things like hair ties and dental floss.

Today I wrapped up the first week of training at my new job. It's at the same hospital, but I've traded critical care for the OR. This is an amazing opportunity to see another side of medicine, have a ton of new experiences, and meet new people. I needed a challenge and a fresh perspective, and this fits the bill. Bonus: after my training period I'll be (mostly) making my own schedule which means better work-life balance.

Husband and Kiddo left for Montana last Sunday. This is the 3rd year they've left for summer break, and it is awesome all around. It frees me up to come and go during my (full time) training period, and instead of sitting around Kiddo will be helping out on my in-laws' ranch and vacationing at the lake shore.

Here's a few things that have recently caught my attention and/or helped make life lovely. These sort of posts are about all I can manage right now, but if they keep me connected to this space and writing even a little for pleasure, I'll take it. Happy Weekend!

During a recent trip to IKEA to brainstorm a prep station/island for our new space, Mario spied this work table. Though not necessarily intended for kitchen use, it's perfect! Later on it can easily transform into a desk or table to meet our other needs. (After some googling, we found someone else who had the same brilliant idea!)

Visiting Crater Lake has been on my Bucket List since childhood. Last weekend we took a mini road trip along the Oregon coast and down south to see it. It was everything I imagined and more...absolutely breathtaking. (The story of its formation is a fascinating read!)

This Strawberry Pistachio Nougat caught my eye + an ombre chocolate cake that is almost too pretty to eat. 

While out and about with a friend a couple months ago, I bought the Bb.Color Stick in Flamingo on a whim. Pink highlights without the commitment! (I feel so hip.)

A dairy-free cold brew recipe for those hot summer days. (Starbucks' Nitro Cold Brew is so good, but I'm cutting back on my pricey coffee habit after daily runs during the move.)

Bridget introduced me to Damn Good Face Wash a couple years ago, and I loved it, but after running out I never got around to ordering more. My nightly baby wipe routine has started wreaking havoc on my eyelashes (breakage!), and this stuff is gold. It was high time I started removing my makeup like a grownup should.

I'm revisiting this Gummy Bear Sangria recipe to bring to a friend's BBQ tomorrow.

Trying Green Chef's meal kit delivery this summer, since I'm cooking for one AND brown-bagging it 5 days/week. (The struggle is real.) Also splurging on Daily Harvest's smoothies since my mornings have gotten earlier and I'm not super keen on preparing breakfast during the 5:00 hour. My first shipments will arrive next week. (Will report back on both fronts.)

Reading all the articles on how to become a morning person. (Hello, new 4:45a wake-up call. Welp.) The Calm app has done wonders with helping me establish a better routine for winding down at an earlier bedtime. (Sleep stories are my new jam! Who knew they were even a thing? Life changing.)