Back in the Swing of Things

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetHello, friends! I am finally caught up on my life’s to-do list (I think) after returning from amazing back-to-back trips to two of my favorite places on the East Coast (Florida + New York). As much as I love traveling and exploring and shaking up my day-to-day routine (okay, and sleeping in), I’m excited to get back into the swing of things, especially as far as my blog is concerned. A more consistent posting schedule is on the horizon, so stay tuned! In the meantime, enjoy this photo of James & me as we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan last Saturday (trip recap to come!). I’ve decided that it’s one of my new favorite snaps of all time, so I hope you like it as much as I do.

Happy weekend!

New York

IMG_2388I know, I know – I just got back from Florida, but today James and I are heading to New York! We’re visiting some dear friends of ours in Brooklyn for five whole days – I am so, so excited. James has never been to New York so I can’t wait to explore with him and take him to some of my favorite places (perhaps for a meal in Soho here). The only thing that will be missing is Callie (oh, and Coach, of course!).

‘Til next week, friends! Lots of travel recaps to come.

Photo from my last trip to New York

Meet Coach!

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetWe are so excited to be adding another furry friend to our family – meet Coach! Like Callie, he is an English mastiff and he was just born in the middle of February. Is he the cutest puppy in the world or what?! We absolutely love the breeders we found – they have been so kind to us, letting us visit Coach in his puppy phase. When we bring him home in April, he’ll be twice the size he is now! And by May, he’ll be the size of the pup you can see giving me a kiss below (wowowow). These photos were too cute not to share. Enjoy!

IMG_0652 Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with b1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with b1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset IMG_0727

The Cure for Anything

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea.” – Isak Dinesen

We got back from Florida on Wednesday and I am still having major ocean-related withdrawals. Kyla, Lauren, Mom, and I had the perfect trip to Naples, full of beach time, sunset happy hours, dolphin & alligator sightings, delicious food, morning strolls, afternoon naps, and every other good thing under the sun. I read this book that Kyla lent me and by read, I mean devoured – it was so gripping, descriptive, tender, and moving. I felt so relaxed each day as we sat on the beach and watched the waves crash on the shore. I would read and nap and walk along the sand and giggle with the girls, and time passed in an instant, if it even existed at all. We all agreed that the ocean was soothing our souls, and we spent every possible second outdoors. It was the perfect trip.

Florida-Bound

IMG_5471I am so excited because tomorrow morning I will be on a plane headed to one of my favorite spots in the world: my parents’s home in Florida! Kyla and Lauren are coming with me as part of an adult spring break of sorts, and I can’t wait to introduce them to my family’s place near the beach. We’ll soak up the sun, take yoga classes, go on long walks, cook delicious meals, drink lots of wine & beachy cocktails, watch the sunset, go kayaking, and search for alligators. The forecast is dreamy and Mom has already set up shop at the condo in preparation for arrival. I am counting down the minutes…eeeeep!

For fun, here are some of my favorite photos from our adventures to Florida over the years!

DSC_0771 5 IMG_5468 IMG_5463 IMG_5492 DSC_0755 5 IMG_5419 IMG_3095 IMG_5477 DSC_0754 4 IMG_5472 DSC_0819 4 DSC_0770 4 DSC_0756 5 IMG_2880 IMG_3245

Pasta-Making Class

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetIt’s been a whirlwind around here, literally speaking, as Dallas has experienced lots of crazy (to us!) weather, including tons of snow and, this week, lots of icy rain. But the skies parted last Wednesday and the weather was beautiful – sunny and warm(ish) and blue skies. It created the perfect backdrop for possibly one of the best dates of all time: a pasta-making class.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetJames and I spent our evening at Central Market, our favorite grocery store – it’s gorgeous and filled with the very best goodies, and it’s also home to an excellent cooking school. We’ve contemplated the idea of taking cooking classes there for a few years now but they fill up so quickly (usually a month or two in advance) that we never found ourselves with tickets to attend one. This time we planned ahead, poring through Central Market’s website in early January to find just the right class to take. There were so many good options (Jamaican food! risotto-making! French cuisine! knife skills! sushi-rolling!) but we finally settled on the pasta-making class. We rarely make pasta at home so it felt like such a treat to spend an evening learning how to prepare it and, of course, indulging in a plateful (or five) of homemade noodles and sauces.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetThe class exceeded all of my expectations – I had hoped it would be wonderful but I had no idea how elated I would feel throughout the entire evening. The cooking school’s kitchen was immaculate and spacious, filled with top-shelf appliances and pretty countertops. A long table was set in the middle of the room with pretty plates waiting to be filled and appetizers to munch on during the initial demonstration. The instructors were talented, patient, helpful, and fun, and they were quick to refill our wine glasses. We got to make so many treats – spinach pasta, fettuccine with lemon cream sauce, tonnarelli with butter & rosemary sauce, pasta with pesto, ravioli with ricotta & parsley, Naples-style green lasagna with basic tomato sauce. It was HEAVENLY. We also learned how to make our own basic egg pasta, which was so extremely easy that I couldn’t believe it was true until I tried it myself. It caused James and me to add a KitchenAid mixer (+ attachments!) to our wish list. We got to take our dough home with us, so it will be waiting in the freezer until we have the right equipment to transform it into noodles.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetJames and I had so much fun learning new things, cooking together (one of our favorite hobbies), and indulging in the most delicious pasta we’ve had in a long while. We can’t wait to sign up for another class!

It’s OK

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetHappy March! (Wait, really – March already?!) James and I had the best weekend hosting my mom, dad, and brother, who were all visiting Dallas. The weather was icky, which initially felt like a disappointment, but it ended up being a total blessing because it meant that we got to all hunker down together and do absolutely nothing but enjoy one another’s company (okay, and lots of really delicious food and wine). Our family has gotten to travel to so many places together, doing fun activities and exploring new cultures all the while, and that has conditioned us to always be on the go, which is so very enriching and life-giving. But the flip side of that is the moments of stillness, the ones that really let you connect and laugh until your belly aches. There’s a very special sacredness in the quieter moments, and I was reminded of that this weekend. It feels so good to rest and connect and snuggle (Callie got a lot of love, too, as you can imagine). The weekend was just perfect.

This parallels an ongoing struggle I’ve faced over the course of several months, one in which I beat myself up for not feeling motivated or inspired to tackle a specific project or write a new blog post or put one more event on my calendar. I am an overachiever, to be sure, and I feel guilty when I don’t make headway on certain goals because I’ve just chosen to nap or watch shows on Netflix or try a new recipe or go to yoga class or meet a friend for a cocktail instead. This feeling is self-imposed, of course, a sort of internal attack that causes me to focus on the few things I don’t do instead of all of the lovely things I do accomplish and get to share in with people I love.

I was talking to Korena about this a few weeks ago and the overall response she gave me, which instantly flooded me with a sense of calm, was that it’s okay. She followed that up with some really lovely advice about honing in on things that bring me joy in order to regain the motivation and inspiration that may be lacking, about, in her words, nourishing my soul in the areas most important to myself. That was the brilliant part, I thought – nourish my soul in the areas most important to me, not in the areas that are most important to society or my friends or anyone else. She encouraged me to slow down and focus on spending time doing things I love – cooking, planning a trip, decorating our home, snuggling with Callie, taking pictures – and just enjoying them instead of worrying about achieving a certain outcome or checking an item off of my list. I loved that, and ever since I’ve put it into practice, it has really and truly worked.

So now, every time I look at my brand new It’s OK banner in my office, I’m reminded of my new mantra – that is more than okay to simply soak up the simple pleasures of everyday life, reflecting on the joy they bring and the peace they provide. Doing so will bring me all of the motivation and inspiration and pleasure that I could ever imagine…and more.

Callie’s Birthday

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetToday is Callie girl’s 6th birthday, and if you couldn’t tell, we are fairly obsessed with our pup. She is truly the greatest companion, the sweetest face to come home to at the end of a long day. She is our family, so we treat her as such, of course! To celebrate her special day, we took Callie to our local pet store, where we stocked up on toys and treats, including an adorable pupcake that she quickly devoured.

It may seem silly or trivial to celebrate the life of a furry companion, but in the midst of the darkness and sadness that plagues the world, we certainly believe in the power and beauty in cherishing all of life’s moments and God’s gifts. The joy that Callie has brought to our lives is certainly worth celebrating. Happy birthday, puppy girl – we love you!

P.S. Remember when we threw Callie a birthday party and tons of our friends (and their dogs) came and celebrated alongside us? We love our people.

 

Ina Garten

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetLast night my girlfriends and I went to see Ina Garten speak at SMU. I have always loved the chef’s show, Barefoot Contessa, so I jumped at the chance to snag tickets when we learned that she would be in Dallas. The only two words I can think of to describe how I felt as I listened to her speak are in rapt. I was totally captivated by her, this incredible powerhouse of a woman who is so completely intelligent, humble, talented, hardworking, and hilarious. I loved learning about her background (I had no clue that she was formerly a White House nuclear policy analyst?!), her sweet marriage to her husband, Jeffrey, the way she likes to spend her day (with coffee and oatmeal for breakfast, a morning walk to the beach, a day full of filming/cooking/editing, an afternoon yoga class, and dinner with friends), and her favorite recipes from her newest cookbook, Make It Ahead (the marinated feta and the chocolate cake with mocha frosting).

One of the things that struck me most is how hard Ina works. I didn’t realize that she owned her specialty foods shop, Barefoot Contessa (which was already called that when she purchased the store – I had always wondered about the meaning behind the name), for 18 years before deciding to try her hand at writing cookbooks and then, fortuitously, ending up in the world of television. She told us the tale of how her love affair with food began, and I have to recount it here because I found the story to be so fascinating. While traveling and camping throughout Europe on her honeymoon, Ina said that she learned that beautifully simple foods are the most pleasurable ones to enjoy. She and her husband, Jeffrey, were on a strict budget of $5 per day – if they spent $6 one day, they could only spend $4 the next. Though they experienced some cold temperatures at the beginning of their trip, they decided against purchasing a $35 camping heater because it meant they would have to cut their trip a week short. So instead of eating in expensive restaurants, they spent lots of time shopping in the affordable local markets, selecting freshly baked breads, oozing slices of Brie, and decadent peaches to eat as they picnicked in fields and on park benches. Those experiences taught her about the inherent beauty in simply prepared, local, fresh foods. This set the tone for how she cooked when they returned back in D.C., where she increasingly grew weary of her job at the White House. She found so much more joy in throwing dinner parties for her loved ones on the weekends than advising on nuclear policies during the week.

One day she read an ad in The New York Times about a specialty food shop that was for sale in the Hamptons. After discussing it with Jeffrey, the couple decided to put in a low bid on the store. The very next day, the shop owner called Ina and told her that her offer was accepted. She was shocked (I think she said her exact reaction was, pardon my French, “Oh, shit,” which sent the audience into a fit of laughter), and she realized that her life was about to change in ways she couldn’t imagine.

Ina bought Barefoot Contessa in March, when the Hamptons were devoid of visitors. For weeks, as she worked alongside the former shop owner, there was little cash in the register at the end of each day. They hardly made any sales, causing her to wonder what she had gotten herself into. She officially took over the store on Memorial Day Weekend, at the height of New Yorkers flocking to the Hamptons for respite from the city for the summer, and suddenly everything changed. On the Friday of that weekend, Barefoot Contessa sold every food item on the store’s shelves. Every single one. Blown away, Ina asked the shop owner how they would ever be able to replenish their stock by the time the store reopened in the morning. Pointedly, the shop owner told her they would be staying up all night, baking and cooking and stirring and sautéing as they recreated all of the treats they put in the store’s display cases, and that’s what they did. Early on Saturday morning, after the women had cooked as much as they possibly could, Jeffrey went to the next town over and bought every muffin, pastry, and croissant at a local bakery, cramming all of the sweets into his Fiat and bringing them back to Barefoot Contessa to resell. Ina laughed as she recounted the tale, mentioning that she hopes she never runs into the family who ran that bakery. What she learned, though, is that in order to really and truly purse your wonderfully scary dreams, those amazing jobs or career paths that terrify you, you have to “jump off a cliff and learn how to fly on your way down,” just like she did when she bought Barefoot Contessa. I love that sentiment – it’s so brave and bold and beautiful, just like Ina.

I can’t wait to dig into my copy of Make It Ahead (which came with a signed bookplate, so special!), and then I’ll have to start a collection of all of Ina’s cookbooks! Do you recommend any of her books in particular? She is my new favorite person, I think. I would love to meet her someday!

Homework

studio-tour-2

I have been thoroughly enjoying everything about my French class – my beautiful Parisian professor, my lovely classmates, taking copious amounts of notes in a new, pretty notebook, even the homework. Actually, especially the homework. I know, I know, homework can be tedious, laborious, and even unnecessary in a lot of cases, but the completion of my homework seems so imperative now that I’m learning a new language. I was out sick a few weeks ago and I had to miss my beloved French lessons, so I wasn’t in class to receive my packet of homework for the following session. I felt totally lost when I returned to the classroom – it was almost as if I had stumbled into the room where the Mandarin Chinese lessons were being taught, that’s how foreign French sounded to my ear that evening. Conversely, I spent plenty of time working through a packet of homework this past week and I felt totally prepared (and super smart!) as we went through the answers in class last night. It made the hugest difference. I guess I hadn’t realized the importance of thoroughly, intently completing my assignments until I didn’t have the opportunity to do so and really experienced the feeling of being far behind.

This mindset about homework translates to real world experiences, too, I think. In my early years in the non-profit world (or even while on job interviews after college), a time or two I definitely made the mistake of not doing enough (okay, or any) research on the person/company I was meeting with prior to our time together. I didn’t put enough effort into my homework, making me completely ill-prepared and poorly equipped to have a productive conversation. I don’t think this was because I intentionally chose not to prepare or because I was lazy – sometimes I think I just didn’t know the proper etiquette, forgetting that while people wanted to get to know me and my work, I also needed to get to know them and theirs. This goes for writing, too, in the fact that extensive research needs to be done before submitting a pitch to a publication. It’s this kind of extra work and thoughtfulness that can make your pitch or presentation stand out. Completing my French homework reminded me of the distance that you can travel if only you make the effort to do some legwork in advance.

So, aside from grammatical structure and key vocabulary words, my French class is teaching me a lot of things, things about life and preparedness and the value of homework. I’m thankful for the opportunity to stretch and grow and learn in a whole myriad of ways.

Image via Kimberly Chau for Sugar & Cloth