a few of my favorite things

One week ’till Christmas!
With the cookies, the shopping, the potlucks, and near-death pedestrian experiences, this season is an absolute whirlwind. On this chilly night in, I’m happily thinking about a few of my favorite things this season:

1. the Christmas lights downtown
Every tree is wound with dainty white lights that illuminate Seattle after the sun goes down. It’s absolutely beautiful and charming.  It reminds me of the quiet streets of my hometown, even in the busy city.

Image2. my Nana’s silver & bitty candles
My favorite candles are these mercury glass CB candles from Anthropologie. Who doesn’t love the warm glow of mercury glass? That pitcher below is one of the many pieces I eagerly inherited from my Nana. Filled with cedar and fresh greens, it makes for a beautiful piece of interior decor.  Here are some shots from around my apartment.

ImageImageImage3. working at Anthropologie
Working with these lovely ladies always brightens my day. Sometimes we have a quick “fit sesh” and try on our new favorites. This dress is a hot Baraschi number with an asymetrical hemline. The price may be a doozy, but trying it on was a dream.  Why don’t you come stop by the store sometime? We’d love to show you our favorites.

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4. holiday shindigs with my best friend
This girl has been such a blessing this year. We sure know how to clean up nice and have a good time. We threw a holiday party together last weekend, and it was the highlight of my season!  Good friends always have been, and will continue to be, one of my favorite things.

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sending warm holiday wishes to you all!

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the five things I learned from becoming a runner.

ImageLet me start by saying this: I was NEVER a runner. I hated it. I’ve played sports since I was five, and did a pair of triathlons in college, but I always hated running. It was always an unbearable struggle that I detested, mostly because of some chronic knee pain. I never considered myself to be “a runner” until fairly recently, and I’m not entirely sure how it happened. It sort of just…happened.

In September of last year, someone that I loved left the country to teach abroad.  I haven’t been able to admit it until now, but it devastated me. I can only describe it as pure heartbreak.  No matter how amicably things end, there’s always pain to process and work through.  Somehow, I wandered into using food & alcohol to cope with my sadness. I became completely unaware of how I was treating my body.  Then, sometime in early 2013, something just clicked in my brain and I knew I needed to start running again.  I started slowly in April, and somehow really began running nonstop sometime in June.  Here’s what I learned:

1. Patience.
You can’t expect to look like a super model after two weeks of running. I’ve been running since April and I’ve lost over 15lbs and 2 sizes.  When you’re 5’5″, that makes a big difference. Also, you have to work up to long distances over a long period of time. You can’t just throw on some running shoes and log 6 miles right away. You have to be patient with yourself and give yourself time to build muscle and cardiovascular endurance. There are going to be days when you’ll feel strong and fit like an Under Armour commercial, and others where you will simply feel slow and sweaty.

2. Celebrate your victories.
I am happy to share that I did the Bridge-to-Bridge 10k in early October.  It was a beautiful route along the waterfront in San Francisco, CA. Plus, I got to run with my favorite running partner: my mom.  We had the option of choosing a 7k, but went with the longer, more challenging distance.  That feeling of crossing the finish line in a sprint was undeniably rewarding. I recommend that you find a local race with a reasonable distance. If you’re a beginning runner and you sign up for a marathon that’s 6 months away, you’re just setting yourself up to fail. Set achievable goals and relish in the victory.  I wouldn’t trade the time during & after that 10k for anything. I love you, San Francisco. Also, don’t forget: your victory may look different than someone else’s. Don’t compare your personal victory. Comparison is the thief of joy.

Image3. You’ll have to work through pain.
I’ve had to ice & rest to cope with ship splints. I always run with a knee strap. I’ve become a firm believer in KT tape and know the taping for foot sprains and shin splints like the back of my hand.  Responsibly deal with your injuries and sprains, but don’t let them keep you from what you love.  It killed to me to have to take a week off from running to let my shin splints subside. However, after that week off, I was stronger and faster than before.

4. Nike+ is your new best friend.
What’s not to love? It logs your time, routes, and speed using the GPS on your smartphone. You can compete with your friends, and your earn medals and awards for breaking personal records. I also love that it announces my distance/time in my headphones while I’m running.

5. Run for yourself.
When I first started running, I was motivated by something along the lines of: “I’m going to look so hot and guys will love it.”  After a few months in, I started to realize that I couldn’t go more than 2 days without running. It was becoming like therapy. I didn’t care how I looked or how tired I was, I just knew I needed to sweat out some frustration with my job, life, boys, money, etc. etc. I began replacing the feeling of disappointment with clarity.  Rather than becoming frustrated with how some things turned out, I found peace.

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In January, I couldn’t run a mile without stopping to catch my breath and was lucky to finish in under 13 minutes. Today, I can’t think of running less than 4 miles and am working on running a half marathon. I’m happy to call myself a runner. Running has become my sanctuary and my clarity.

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November

November is the beautiful transition between fall & winter.  We begin to trade pumpkins for pine, and the crisp fall air evolves into winter chill. November has always been my favorite. There’s nothing like wearing a chunky sweater, sitting in front of a fire with some hot cider, with an apple pie in the over. November embodies the dichotomy between the beautiful falling leaves and the looming darkness of winter.  Fall fashion meets the glitz & glam of the holiday season. During this time of year, one of my favorite trends is creatively mixing textures & prints. Take a thick-knit sweater and pair it with an a-line skirt from your spring wardrobe. Grab some leather leggings and mix them with some suede booties and an over-sized patterned sweater. Use airy lace tops to compliment functional wool skirts.  Wear your summer dresses with thick tights, booties, and wool vest.  Pair your rustic boots with a shimmery sequined dress.

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I encourage you to play with a balance of hard & soft textiles.  Mix sparkle with rustic charm & blend unique prints with classic pieces.  Be innovative with your style and fearlessly step into November.

Photos are courtesy of Anthropologie’s November 2013 lookbook.

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the essential summer salad

It’s 80-something outside, humid, and there’s not a cloud in the sky — it’s summer. The last thing you want to eat is a greasy hot dog or mac an’ cheese. For me, summer meals are made from some combination of veggies, fruits, pizza, or fun alcoholic beverages. Then I happened to stumble on this idea one morning when I was grabbing food for work. I’m HOOKED. So, I thought I would share my recipe for my new FAVORITE summer salad. I could eat it every sunny, breezy of this glorious season.

the essential summer salad:
cold quinoa + cucumbers + carrots + baby spinach + Trader Joe’s Balsamic Dressing + goat cheese + salt & pepper

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I used the “Tupperware Method” when preparing this number.  Heard of it? It involves putting all the components in a large Ziploc container or Tupperware, and then shaking it around while throwing in some killer dance moves.  Super easy & delicious. This salad is perfect for a day of tanning on the beach, your lunch break at work, laying in a hammock all afternoon, or sun-soaked picnics with friends. Enjoy.

sidenote: quinoa is a super food. It is a complete protein, a good source of iron and fiber, and is gluten-free. I buy the jumbo bag at Costco and substitute for rice in all my recipes. Just throw 1 part quinoa and 2 parts water into a pot or rice cooker. Viola!

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summer is….

To me, summer is…..

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ice cold beer

long days at the beach

my birthday

freckles

Starbucks Iced Tea

coral, emerald, & bold blue clothing

daring & sassy hair cuts

sun dresses

tan skin

bonfires

outdoor movies

taking chances

farmers’ markets

fresh-picked flowers

baseball games

running outdoors

the smell of tanning lotion

non-stop country music

road trips

sunsets

a breath of fresh air

…just to name a few…

What does “summer” mean to you?
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[[My summer hair is courtesy of Vain Salon in Downtown Seattle.]]

a touch of weekend whimsy

The gray skies and wind of Seattle have inevitably returned.  When the weather is dismal, it’s fun to hole-up indoors and catch up on some crafts with a mug of tea.  So, this Sunday, I brewed some peach black tea, pulled up my favorite Sasquatch & Cochella playlists on Spotify, threw my hair into a top knot (see my how-to here), and brought out my sewing machine.  I had that itch to make something festival-inspired and here’s what I came up with:

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These little pennants are made from some leftover Charcoal yarn and mustard-colored Duck Cloth I picked up at Joann’s Fabrics.  Duck Cloth is a sturdy, canvas-like fabric that is perfect for making pennants.  Why? It doesn’t curl or fray like your average cotton.  These look perfect hanging in my window, right? Plus, they’re easy as 1-2-3:

1. Fold fabric in half & cut out triangles with the short end along the fold .
2. Put yarn/string/twine in the fold of your pennant.
3. Sew up the long sides, making sure to catch the yarn in the beginning/end.
BOOM! done.

They add the perfect touch of whimsy to my living room and were a great Sunday project.  Did you make anything fun today?

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baked asparagus parmesan

 After a long day at work, I NEED something filling and delicious. STAT! I’m not embarrassed to admit that I’m one of those people who gets grumpy when they haven’t eaten in a while…. and yes, grumpy is an understatement.  I often get sucked into the vortex of Thai take-out, Cheese-its, or Chipotle as a last-minute dinner (and it doesn’t help that the Chipotle is right by my bus stop Downtown).

So, the question is: How do I make something quick, delicious, and healthy??
I am happy to report that I HAVE FOUND IT!

As a lover of asparagus and cheese, this was like a little slice of heaven at the end of my day. I am happy to share it with all of you in hopes that it’s a quick & cheap dinner option.

Baked Asparagus Parmesan
Here’s what you need:
1. one bundle of Asparagus
2. Salt & Pepper
3. 2 tbsp. Olive Oil
4. Parmesan Cheese
(that’s it! woo-hoo!)

Here’s how you make it:

1. Pre-heat oven to 425F.

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2. Snap off the hard ends of the asparagus with your hands.
Arrange in a single layer on a medium-sized baking sheet.

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3. Drizzle olive oil over asparagus. Toss the stalks around a bit to coat.

4. Once coated, add as much salt & pepper as you like (I always opt for more). Toss around again.

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5. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

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6. Cover with 1/4 cup – 1 cup of cheese. Seriously, it depends on how much cheese you want. Mine had roughly 1/2 cup. Then, put ’em back in the oven for another 2 minutes.

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ALL DONE! Look at how delicious that is. MMMMMMM.
It takes about 2 minutes to prepare and 12-15 bake. Plus, if you take it easy with the cheese, it’s relatively healthy.  The asparagus is mostly soft with a crispy cheese layer.

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I paired mine with an Amber Cider and enjoyed the evening sun peeking through my blinds. I am relaxed, I am full, and (for once) not feeling guilty about what I had for dinner. Here’s to a great week! Cheers!

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“these things excite me so”

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On Thursday night, my best friend from high school and I went to see the movie event of the summer: The Great Gatsby.  As an avid lover of the book, I was twitching with anticipation to see the movie.  Having read The Great Gatsby at least 6 times, I have always been enamored with Fitzgerald and his poetic critique of the 1920’s.  Few understand the obsessive relationship I have with Mr. F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Fitzgerald uses nuance and style to reveal the shallowness of wealth, while writing an engaging and soul-wrenching story. Swoon.  

Can a movie possibly live up to this?

Well, not really. As outlined in scathing reviews, Baz Luhrmann tries to capture the whole of Fitzgerald’s greatest work and he misses some big opportunities. The film fumbles around in the first 20 minutes, but gains its bearings and does pack a real punch by the final scene. I mean, the last 10-15 minutes are are knock-out.  He really wins in the smaller, more intimate scenes when DiCaprio, Maguire, and Mulligan are given an opportunity to shine. When he scales back on the in-your-face effects or “razzle dazzle,” the actors capture the audience and Luhrmann really does justice to an exceptional novel.

The Acting:
Carrie Mulligan enters the film with a light, airy laugh that instantly reminds the viewer of the ethereal Daisy in the novel.  Her voice and flighty mannerisms are true to Fitzgerald’s character.  Mulligan artistically captures Daisy’s vapid carelessness.  She floats around the screen and the viewer falls hopelessly in love with her just as Gatsby does. Perfection. She is absoute perfection.

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Speaking of Gatsby, Leonardo DiCaprio is the perfect actor for the role. He has the stunning and magnetic “Gatsby smile” and creates an accessible and loveable version of Gatsby.  He is the mysterious lost boy, whose only hope in the world is winning his Daisy.  Just as if you were reading the novel, your heart breaks for Leo’s rendering of Gatsby. His performance is Oscar-worthy. No doubt. He skillfully manages an iconic character full of hope and desperate longing. It’s a little hard to describe, I must admit.  Just go watch it. You’ll understand what I’m talking about.

I was initially apprehensive about Toby Maguire playing Nick Carraway, but was pleasantly surprised. Carraway is often understood to be Fitzgerald writing himself into the novel, which Luhrmann clearly emphasizes.  In his sweaters, brown 3-piece suits, and bow ties, Maguire is the spitting image of Fitzgerald himself. He shines as the level-headed Nick opposite Gatsby’s flamboyance and baffling hopefulness.

Music:
The soundtrack is exceptionally well-crafted and a great collaboration when heard independent of the film.  However, it’s clumsily integrated and feels out of place in a movie about the iconic “Jazz Age.”  I was caught off-guard by characters doing the Charleston to will.i.am’s “Bang Bang,” a catchy hip-hop tune with a few brass horns. Definitely a modern interpretation there.  However, the ballads on the soundtrack genuinely capture some of the book’s main themes. Florence + the Machine’s “Over the Love” is a heartbreaking ballad that is grossly misused in the film.  The song captures the very essence of the novel, but is mainly used in the movie’s trailers. Humph. Instead, Luhrmann focuses on Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful” as his centerpiece for the film.  The song speaks to themes in the novel, and even some of Fitzgerald’s other works (ie. Tender is the Night and The Beautiful and Damned), which I did appreciate.

Costumes:Image
The collaboration with Brooks Brothers was a resounding success, in my opinion.  I’ve really enjoyed walking by the window displays at the Brooks Brothers in Seattle for the last few weeks, heightening my anticipation.  Gatsby’s white linen suit made me catch my breath.  Nick’s green sweater made my heart skip a beat.  The boater hats had me smiling. The costumes in the movie transported the viewer straight to the 1920’s.  Every piece was loyal to the period and original novel, while creating visual character distinctions that dazzle and please the viewer. Plus, Gatsby’s pink suit…no words.

Art Direction:
Luhrmann does an exceptional job transitioning from a first half of opulence and carefree drunkenness to a finale of tragedy, desperation, and loss of hope.   It was an over-the-top period of American history, which helps to justify some of the in-your-face effects and party scenes.  Luhrmann does a good job bringing the “razzle dazzle” of the 1920’s to life.  There are some moments when I felt like I was reeling on some kitschy roller coaster at Disneyland.  But that’s probably how people felt during a party at Gatsby’s? Or during the 1920’s?  Who knows.

Luhrmann also latches onto a few key images from Fitzgerald’s novel.  As someone who has read the book, I felt a bit clobbered by Lurhmann’s representation of the imagery that was so subtly weaved throughout the original novel.  However, I appreciated the loyalty to the book.  And, he does masterfully weave Fitzgerald’s original text throughout the movie, narrated by Maguire. 

This is the most accurate review of the movie that I have read: “Those who love the book (I’m one of them) will spot moments of missed opportunity, but will also hear plenty of Fitzgerald’s words in the screenplay, and may well leave the movie feeling that something approaching justice has been done. Where ‘Gatsby’ fails, it at least does so with imagination and verve; where it succeeds, it find poetry.” -Moira Macdonald, The Seattle Times

Overall, the movie was an over-the-top artistic spectacle that is redeemed through stellar acting and breathtaking costume design.  I will DEFINITELY be seeing it again soon, and I recommend you do too, old sport!

ImageAlso, skip 3D. No need.

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don’t carry it all

This California girl’s prayers have been answered: SUN IN SEATTLE! Image

The last few days have been beautifully sunny and warm. Seattle-ites are shedding their Northface jackets and wool tights for thrifted skirts and breezy pastel button-ups.  Downside? The sun actually makes me a touch homesick and reminds me of a former season of life spent at sun-soaked APU.

I’m reminded that, exactly one year ago, I graduated from college. I can’t believe it.  A year ago, I sat next to my very best friends and said goodbye to a place that had been my home for 4 years. I look back on that day with so much joy and nostalgia and know a lot has changed in a year.

The past year feels like it’s been one season of change after another. Few things in my life are constant or predictable anymore.  However, I’ve learned that whole-heartedly embracing new seasons in life can make the transition periods more joyous and, well, sunny.

Thankfully, spring is here!!  To celebrate the sun and the arrival of a new season, a friend and I ventured to Volunteer Park for KNDD, 107.7 The END’s “Cuatro de Mayo Party.” With taco trucks, live music, and stunning scenery, the whole thing was a blast!  Check it out:

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Isn’t Seattle beautiful when the sun’s out?  So, while I may be far away from a lot of my favorite people today, I think life is all about adding new favorites and graciously adapting to new and changing seasons.  The only answer is optimism.

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“Here we come to a turning of the season / Witness to the arc towards the sun / A neighbor’s blessed burden within reason / Becomes a burden borne of all and one.

And nobody, nobody knows / Let the yoke fall from our shoulders / Don’t carry it all, don’t carry it all / We are all our hands and holders / Beneath this bold and brilliant sun / And this I swear to all”

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weekend musings

Let me start with this: My apologies all.
I’ve been completely forgetting about this blog.  My best friend got married, things started picking up at work, and m– who am I kidding? There’s no excuse.  Thankfully, spring is a time for re-birth and revival.  So, this weekend I sat down with a Mason jar full of cold Diet Coke and got back into blogging. Now that spring is here, there’s inspiration everywhere and I can’t wait to share what I find with all of you.

Here are some fun photos and thoughts from my weekend:

This morning, I started with an artistic latte from Espresso Vivace in South Lake Union.  Not only was it delicious and flavorful, but the cafe is tucked under a friend’s apartment building. Good friends and good espresso? Yes, please!

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on another note, one of the fun things about moving to a new city is the thrill of discovering what’s just around the corner.  I’ve walked down Highland Drive dozens of times since I moved to Seattle, but today I went out for a walk/jog and stumbled into a scene from The Secret Garden.  It’s as if the city itself is shaking off the chills of winter to reveal beautiful bits of scenery.  There’s something beautifully intriguing in rediscovering or reintroducing yourself to something you thought you knew.

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This last shot is one of my favorites.
What instantly pops into my head when I look back on it is a verse from Psalm 46:
“He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God.”

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What else is there to say?

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