August 17, 2017 4:45 pm
Over the course of my life I’ve had pretty bipolar relationship with reading books. There are times I’ll go through periods of manic, relentless reading (like right now). I’ll always have one in hand and a book or two in my lap, a stack on my bedside table, and a queue lined up on Audible for my commute. Other times, though, I’ll be completely uninterested in the sheer thought of reading. It becomes too overwhelming. There’s so much going on; the world is dark and hiding in books isn’t doing it or me any favors. But when I do read, boy do I feel it. It’s like I can feel my brain rewiring itself. And those dark times when I’m not reading? They inspire my next episode. I’ll tally up the next round that will change me, that will challenge my thinking and my biases, and help me grow.
There have been many books I’ve loved and some that were just tough to get through. But today I want to tell you about five of the books that have really stuck with me. I know going into this that some of what I’m about to recommend could be the furthest thing of interest for you. But I urge you to give them a chance.
- Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist
I first read this book last year when I was trying to sort through the overwhelm of my own personal life. I had rolled off of the AIGA Nebraska board and suddenly had a ton of free time on my hands. What better to fill it with than finding something else to do? No. Cacy always gave me grief that I couldn’t sit down and enjoy the moment. This book appeared on a blogger’s feed and its promise hit a nerve. When I received it, I couldn’t put it down. It’s written in such a way that made me let go of the guilt I felt. You know the feeling. The one where your brain tells you to do one thing but your heart feels like you should do something else. It gave me the perspective I needed to focus on what is really important.
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Written entirely in the form of a letter to his son, this book speaks of the Black racism in America from a parent’s perspective. It had been on so many lists to gain personal perspective and awareness of the world that I’d lost count. Finally a friend read it and praised how well it’s written, how raw the emotion is. When I read it, I too felt the need to share it, there are so many talking points. It’s worth reiterating just how much work there is left to do. With injustice left in this world and the racism that lives in plain sight. If you really want some perspective on this subject, read this book.
- An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler
I have Amanda, author of Homesong Blog, to thank for this book. She read this book as part of her book club in July and it was transformative. There are so many no-brainer practical tips that are easy to pick up and knead into your life. There are great recipes too and recommendations on how to make meals out of just about anything. It’s given me the power to be more liquid in my own meal making.
- Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
I’m a woman. Men try to explain things to me a lot. I’ve experienced men who prefer to talk over me, talk down to me, or believe that my professional opinion isn’t that at all. These short stories happened first-hand to the author and it’s disturbing just how normal they are as a woman. Want to know what it’s like to be a woman? This will shed some light.
- Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship by Gail Caldwell
In my slew of adding books to my To Read list in 2017, this book appeared as a recommendation. It’s easy to read and gives laugh out loud moments, plays into my own love for four-legged pups, and explains just how deep and pure a true friendship can go. This one will leave you thinking about your own friendships and relationships.
- Simple Matters: Living with Less and Ending Up with More by Erin Boyle
I’ve been following minimalism in some form or fashion over the last few years. I always feel like I have too much stuff, and of course that’s exacerbated by the on-going den renovation. (Note: the roof finally finished on my birthday! Happy birthday to me.) I blazed through this book so fast it’s amazing I didn’t set its pages on fire. Nearly every page as an underline with a tip or a relatable sentence I could have written myself. I feel this in my core as something I want to expand further in my life. Intention is my word for the year, after all. Erin does a wonderful job asking you to consider the items brought into your home and what use you have for them.
- Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance
I’m still coming down from this book after just finishing it last week. It is eye-opening and ties directly into the chaos we are experiencing today. With the recent events in Charlottesville, I urge you to consider reading this book. Learn more about the dormant insides of America. Those living along the Rust Belt with a birthmark of social and economic class imprinted forever. Living in Nebraska there were paragraphs and paragraphs that felt like they are written about my hometown.
I’ve just finished bing reading but soon enough I’ll be pining for more. If you have any recommendations, of any type, please leave them in the comments. Have you read any of the above? What were your thoughts?
August 7, 2017 8:00 am
I am rigid. Well, at least I used to be. As I’ve been teaching myself how to cook, I have found myself unwind into a more fluid person in many ways. But let me back up a bit.
When I was learning how to cook and to bake I was always in awe of my sister’s talents. She can whip together a cake or a delicious goulash without tending to a single recipe for its guidance. I was never this lucky. In fact, when I first left home she gave me the book How to Cook Anything, which included tips in boiling an egg. Now, I’ve gotten much better since then, but the admiration for her style still remains.
I’ve always noticed that any meal that is delicious and memorable long after I’ve eaten it, is one made with estimations and approximations. I’m talking about the recipes my grandmother used to make by putting her fingers together to add the perfect dash of salt into a soup. Or how my mom would add the right size pat of butter to fry the most delicious egg sandwich. I also noticed that after I’d become comfortable making certain recipes, I would no longer need to follow along and could trust my gut to guide me.
My favorite thing to make is an authentic apple pie. There’s nothing better than that cooled savory jelly. Especially when licking it off a rubber spatula after having tossed it into a shell. It took me many years in making this pie to finally rest where it sits now. It’s an adaptation of a recipe I found online. But after having made it for so long, I no longer search for the recommended type of apple. I’ve added apple cider vinegar to coax the flavor into the cinnamon sauce while it cools.
In the time it’s taken me to make this recipe the first time and to bake it just from memory I have changed. I no longer need a book to teach me how to boil an egg—or to accept when a friend is always late because that’s just who they are. By removing the exact measurements in a meal, I’ve adopted a similar lifestyle with grace. It’s ok if I don’t show up exactly five minutes early, or go to bed at exactly 10 o’clock at night. It’s perfectly acceptable to have family ask to pop in with ten minutes notice. There’s give. And that has truly flexed me in ways I never knew before.
I can bend or stand firm, and expand or contract. I have such a fullness in my heart when my nephew looks me in the eyes and smiles wide. I no longer sense guilt when I choose to leave an outing deemed too early in the evening by someone else. It has been transformative, kind of like eating a piece of my apple pie, warm or cold, if I can say so myself.
In fact, I’ve noticed in time that cooking and baking can teach a person a lot about life if you listen close enough. Standing over a simmering pot of water waiting for the pasta to take a dive is a time to sit and reflect on the day. Even if all you want to do is for dinner to be done and over already. The time it takes to make a meal is often needed to work through what’s reeling you, at least it is for me. Like my commute, it forces me to relax, because there’s nothing else to do but wait. Patience. Something I still have to work on even today. And probably forever.
I guess the point I’m trying to make it is that approximations are good for life, and often feel like more guidance than a recipe or book could ever give. It has allowed me to slow down and to go with the flow, something I used to never be good at—just ask my husband. Today I’m perfectly content with spontaneous travel and a liquid like lifestyle. It makes every day a little bit different than the day before.
Today I’m sharing my apple pie recipe, in hopes that maybe someone will make it and learn the same sense of flexibility in life that it taught me. It’s a no fuss recipe, without many steps and a touch of sweet. I might share my pie crust recipe another day. But know this pie is great with pre-made store-bought crust in a pinch, as well. Enjoy!
August 2, 2017 12:00 pm
Next Thursday I turn 29. It’ll be another lap around the sun behind me and I can’t quite believe it. It feels like just a few weeks have passed and I was going out on my own, getting married, moving to Omaha, and starting to figure out this thing we call Life. And like just about anybody, there have been a fair share of ups and downs. But these experiences have shaped me into who I am. And today, that person has a list of things she wants to do before this next lap is over.
I’m writing the list here so I can come back to it regularly. I have a copy in my Bullet Journal too, but anyone reading this can’t really see that. I do pretty well when I have an accountability partner (that’s you guys!). There’s some good stuff on this list: a gentle mix of Stuff I Want to Do, Stuff I Need to Do, and Stuff That Scares Me. So here it goes:
30 Things Before 30
- Explore three new states.
I’ve got my eyes on Oregon, Washington, Utah, Louisiana and Maine. It’s possible that Oregon and Louisiana may happen before the end of this year!
- Install a hammock somewhere and lie in it. Frequently.
Because duh. It’s a hammock.
- Grow a decent garden crop to harvest, can and jam.
Over the last few years I’ve amassed quite a set of gardening skills. I missed out on planting this year and have really felt a void. To make up for it, I want to push my gardening to fill out my pantry, like my grandparents did.
- Finish and print the remaining photo books from my
Here’s lookin’ at you Italy, Jamaica (x2!), Colorado, and San Diego.
- Cook my way through The Homemade Kitchen.
I wanted to become a better cook in 2017 and have really grown in this area. But I’ve never worked my way through an entire cookbook before. It sounds like a fun challenge.
- Learn to bake bread (without a bread machine).
I’m talking old fashioned, hand kneaded, delicious carbs.
- Spend more time reading than on the computer.
There’s always a stack on my bedside table. I want to get through them more quickly. And spend less time with a screen in front of my face.
- Host a shindig for my 30th.
I’ve never hosted a party for myself before, and you only turn 30 once.
- Become a better writer.
I’ve taken small steps in this already, but can I just say thank God for Alli Pane?
- Increase my monthly retirement contribution by 5%.
A girl’s gotta eat, even when she’s old. But I am listing this here also because this addition will put me at my 15% annual contribution goal.
- Begin the process to combine Cacy’s and my family histories into a book.
I’ve been interested in family history from a very young age. And I’m fortunate my aunt Deb has devoted much of her life to documenting some of my family history. I know some, but not a ton, of Cacy’s history and would love to dig deeper and combine the two into our story.
- Finish designing my family cookbook and give copies to my loved ones.
I’ve been working on this for the last six months. Now I need to set aside the time to cook the few spotlight recipes for the book so I can photograph them. They’re such good meals that I know I won’t have trouble inviting family over for dinner. After all, food tastes better when you’re with family.
- Save the cottage, give it a name, and rent it for the first time.
There’s been talk about a campground and I haven’t yet posted about it here (maybe soon!). But this will put another preservation in the books and give me a chance to flex my interior design muscles.
- Learn to love my body. Completely.
I’ve struggled with this my entire life. It’s time to change that.
- Strengthen my relationship with God.
He and I’ve had an interesting rapport through my life, but I know I want Him in my life. I’m not sure exactly what this looks like, so I’m going to spend time next year trying to figure it out.
- Understand my style and redefine my closet.
Regularly editing my closet has introduced some fun themes in how I like to dress. I want to invest in a few quality pieces that define my personality in what I wear.
- Mentor someone.
Many have said I would be good at this, so I want to formally give it a try. Would anyone be interested in this, though?
- Go skydiving.
This scares the shit out of me, but what’s life without adventure?
- Take a sisters-only trip.
Next year I’m turning 30 and I’ve never done this with my only sister. Ridiculous.
- Learn basic car maintenance.
Cacy has been after me for years on this. It’s time for him to teach me how to change a tire on my own, among other things. At least I know how to check my oil, add windshield wiper fluid, and check/fill up a tire with low pressure.
- Go to the shooting range three times.
Every year I say I’m going to do this with my husband, but this time it’s actually happening.
- Learn to meditate.
I’d like to quiet my mind and prepare for the day in a different way than I do now. Today I listen to music or a podcast on my way into the office with a hot cup of coffee. I want to challenge myself to do this mental preparation before I even leave home.
- Turn the backyard into a place I actually want to spend time in.
After three years of incremental progress to gain back our backyard, it’s time to put it to use. I’m feeling very inspired by the Faux Martha’s recent backyard renovation.
- Change my relationship with food.
I don’t necessarily have a bad relationship with food, but I want to eat more whole, clean foods than I do now. I have a feeling my garden and canning aspirations might play a large role in this goal.
- Find the consistent exercise routine that works for me.
I can’t say I’ve tried it all until I do, so here it goes. Round9 circuit workouts have been recommended to me and I might give them a shot. Years ago I learned how to kick box and it was so much fun. I’m not sure how I was able to get up at 5:30 AM every day to hit the mat at 5:45 AM, but I did. I’d like to get back to that kind of routine.
- Plant a tree.
The environment does a lot for me and I’d like to do something for it. I also live in the state that created Arbor Day so there’s that.
- Learn the practice of dismissing negative thoughts and complaining.
This really has no positive effect on anything so it’s time to ditch this bad habit. I have a focus on it now, but I feel there’s always room for improvement in this arena.
- Frame three pieces of artwork.
There are far too many tubes with pieces I love in my house that need to be brought out to shine. I have a beautiful #KelsPaintsFeelings canvas ready to be sent to Framebridge right now. I can’t wait to hang it up in our den renovation once it’s done.
- Take a woodworking class to become more comfortable building my own things.
I’m scared of table saws and that’s because of my inexperience with them. I often pin inspiration photos of furniture I could actually build myself if I just tried.
- Go to the roller derby.
To ease into the year, I got a head start on this one! We’ll be going with Hudl to see the No Coast Roller Derby next weekend.
And that’s it! It’s quite a list for 365 days, but I’m up for the challenge. Have you ever made a list like this before? What was on it? Or, if you have any advice on how I could tackle some of these things, I’m all ears. Especially if you want to ease the intense nerves I have over the sheer mention of skydiving.
July 25, 2017 3:30 pm
After more than a year of planning I stepped foot in a new country with the sole intention to explore for two weeks. Italia! I was here! Originally this was a trip for the three girls: my mom, sister and me. But with my nephew being just six months old my sister chose to hang back.
A planner by nature, I’m someone who wants to see everything under the shining sun. So this time I challenged myself to go with the flow. I wanted the experience more than anything. And the food. Oh, and wine. I didn’t want to be guarded by gates of all-inclusive resorts or have a tailored trip with 30 other tourists on a bus. No, that wasn’t good enough. I wanted something that was mine and my mom’s. A reality that was ours and ours alone. So I set out to loosely plan Point A to Point Z.
After asking a few friends (I’m fortunate to work with many Europeans who have many suggestions!) we decided to explore Southern Italy. We would arrive into Roma and start our journey in Fiano Romano, a small town about 40 kilometers from Roma. It was funny. When picking up our rental after flying from Detroit, our agent asked us, “Perché Fiano Romano? Chiaramente Roma è più adatto per i tuoi viaggi.” (Why Fiano Romano? Clearly Roma is better suited for your travels.)
It turns out, we picked a random, little town that didn’t have anything comparable to the ruins of the ancient Roman city. Nor did it have mountains, nearby wineries, or even a hustling restaurant to bring city folk out to the country. It was isolated and old, and absolutely perfect.
Let me tell you, driving in ancient Italian cities is quite the adventure. We had a compact car but even that was too big. Of course I knew of the Vespa preference before we arrived. But I wasn’t about to drive into the mountains for the first time with nothing between me and the cliff’s edge (we’ll get into that story later). My mom drove and although our GPS was doing its best, we still somehow ended up nearly ruining some pretty flowerpots. Many of the streets were marked eccetto residenti autorizzati. Or authorized resident’s only. This really meant “You’re a fool if you attempt to drive up here because the width of this path is the size of a small bathtub.”
After a close call with a corner of a building, we parked in the Piazza Giacomo Matteotti. We caught our breath, laughed, and decided to grab a coffee because jet lag was beginning to hit. We called our Airbnb host to meet us and he took us to the flat for check-in. It was stunning, with the most beautiful courtyard and 200-year-old double doors. The building was a 17th-century hamlet right in the historic center of Fiano Romano. It has iconic 360-views of the surrounding Tiber valley and the S. Stefano Protomartire parish. The single Catholic church in the area.
We settled in, taking what felt like the best showers to ever exist. Then we set out to experience what this quaint village had to offer. We walked from one end to the other, taking in the sights and breathing in the fresh, crisp air. The temperature in April couldn’t have been more perfect—and with no humidity to boot, we could’ve stayed out all day.
It wasn’t long before our appetites were rumbling and we were set out to find some delicious Italian food. But we were stuck in a time warp: Italy is on a very different schedule than America. Dinner doesn’t start until seven at the earliest. And it’s usually after the locals have had aperitivo, their version of a happy hour (that is so much better than ours). It was only six and we were ravished. As we were walking back we spotted a restaurant, Ristorante da Edoardo. It had opened the doors to begin prepping for the night’s meals. From the entrance we could see deep into the kitchen. Pasta was being pulled and fresh fish was being laid on ice. The solitary chef, a young father, was closely watching his son run around, keeping the staff on their toes.
It was by luck we were invited in to sit to rest our feet and offered our first glass of vino. Being on the cusp of wine country, we had our first taste of Brunello. It’s difficult to describe how delightful Brunello is. It’s so full-bodied and well-rounded, smooth with a knick of attitude. It pairs well with almost anything. But this round it was recommended with the freshest seafood I’ve ever had—caught hours before.
We dined for four hours that night. It was impossible to understand how the time had flown. We had become best friends with the waitress, my mom is great striking up conversation with perfect strangers. And we had a long list of recommendations for the rest of our stay in hand.
The next morning we took a short trip to the city of Viterbo. It was here we learned the concept of riposa was alive and well. Riposa is the practice of midday rest. It is the time of day when shops close for a few hours to go home, eat with family, and take a nap! We had arrived in Viterbo in the middle of riposa and it was an incredible sight. Inside city centers cars are usually not allowed. There is no room for vehicles, and cell service is spotty at best because of all the stone. So we had no choice but to roam and take in the scenery. We explored a local parish, threw coins into a fountain for good luck, and had our first taste of Italian gelato. I don’t have words for how delicious it was, but I do have a picture.
Around 4 o’clock the doors started to open. We spent our remaining time tasting fresh honey touching at knitted textiles, and buying our first souvenirs.
We stayed another day in Fiano Romano, and of course dined at Ristorante da Edoardo again. Partly because it was the only restaurant open at the time of our stay. But mostly because of the delicious food and wonderful service. Though our time was short there it quickly set the bar high for the rest of the country. We were only just getting started and I could already feel myself changing. I was beginning to pick up fragmented pieces of Italian. I was far better with real life learning than anything from practicing months before. The next morning we were on our way into Tuscany.
July 19, 2017 12:30 pm
Our waitress found us quickly to say goodbye and once again asked if the food and wine was to our satisfaction. It was an absolute dream. I couldn’t stop raving about it. What she said next is what I’ll remember most about Fiano Romano. As we walked out the door she said, “Si! Il cibo ha un sapore migliore con la famiglia.” (Food just tastes better when you’re with family.) She’s right. It does.
Recently I have felt a kind of tug whenever I think about the stuff in my house. I’m certain it’s due to the den renovation being delayed and in disarray due to a leak in the roof for nearly four months now. I failed to recognize that in order for those walls to come down, the stuff within them had to go somewhere. So what better place than everywhere else in the house?
So rather than remain frustrated waiting for our roof to be repaired, I decided to focus on that tug a little more. What exactly was causing the prickly feeling I got? It shows up each time I walk through the glamorous S-curve that now exists between the kitchen and my office. A feeling that now accompanies each fresh cup of coffee.
I started looking at the spaces in my home untouched—for now—from renovation. Where was the feeling absent? Turns out, I had to look no further than my kitchen. There was order, empty surfaces, and bright, natural light. Soon I noticed other areas that resembled those characteristics. My bullet journal is meticulous. The items on any of my shelves are neatly organized. My desk, while it does get messy when I’m working, always ends up clean. And, I’ve actually spent time before deleting and reorganizing many pins on Pinterest.
In my mind I put everything next to one another and observed. I prefer having less so I may have a different kind of more. Having less kitchen counter appliances for more open space. Purchasing less groceries by planning more precise meals. Spending less time on the computer for more time reading a book. Simply put, there is desire to just have less in my life. Not necessarily people or experiences, but stuff and things. I want what’s left to mean something and to stand the test of time.
About a year and a half ago I read Mari Kondō’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It hit all the right notes with me before I’d finished even the first chapter. It was this book that prompted me to start looking more closely at quality over quantity in a way I hadn’t before. I wouldn’t need four cardigans if one of them was very well made and versatile. So I started editing.
Editing happens in a few ways. Each season I pair down the clothes I own and donate what I no longer like or wear. I keep the pieces that last and can be mixed into a variety of outfits. Every so often I review the books on my shelves and remove a few I won’t read again. I keep those I know I’ll never tire of reading. And I’m always searching for paper piles scattered about the house to go through to file or shred and recycle. But there’s still a craving for more of less. So I’m taking it a step further with the help of my word of the year Intention.
By practicing intention I ask myself questions to edit first rather than last. What I mean to say is I closely examine what I am bringing into my life and my home. For example, if I see a cardigan I really love, I ask myself if I’d really wear it. (If you haven’t caught on, I love a real, good cardigan.) If I see a vase that would look great with fresh flowers in it do I really need it if I already have four sitting empty at home? It’s really opened a new level of appreciation. Like a good piece of art, I can appreciate the beauty in the things I see around me, but I don’t need it to come home with me. I haven’t gotten very far in this process so I don’t have much to report on yet. But I’ll keep you posted.
July 14, 2017 1:25 pm
Speaking of, if you like what you’re reading, and would rather have one less website to check, feel free to add this URL to your RSS reader. Here’s to more less.
Each day I wake up with a single word on my mind. Intention. It’s because it was the word I chose to define 2017. But also because the word itself affects so much in my life.
For example, without intention I wouldn’t have boundaries between work and home. Or between my fears and my aspirations, and I’d have a heck of a lot more clothes in my closet, that’s for sure.
Three years ago I moved 36 miles to Fremont. It was a big deal at the time and it changed who I was on a subconscious level. As the years have passed, though, I’ve noticed some interesting things about who I’ve become. I love being home more than I like being out. I enjoy cooking meals for my family more than I fancy dining at the newest restaurant (not that there are many of those here). I love making with my hands like renovating my home or baking a delicious apple pie.
I’m beginning to notice Fremont’s profound effect on the speed of my life. Sure, time still moves fast—it’s already the middle of JULY. But me, I’ve slowed down. I’ve relaxed. Which is something, those who know me know, used to be very hard for me to do. I’m enjoying the journey rather than racing toward the destination. Though, the latter is still true when it comes to airport related travel. Get me there as fast as aerodynamically possible. And on this journey, I’m witnessing so many wonderful things that I don’t want to forget.
So today I’m starting this journal. There’s no pressure here, just the grace of my everyday. That’s not to say I’m going to write each day. And I’m certainly not going to strain what I envision this space to be with a schedule. I only want a place to collect my thoughts and to grow. I feel I’ll post most about the random ongoings in my life. Things like cooking, our many renovation projects, travel, my feelings and aspirations. Who knows what else.
Next year I turn 30 and I can’t wait to see how I transform during my next lap around the sun. Hope you’ll join me. To see more photos, follow me on Instagram.