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)