Around Here

Happy summer, the best time of the year! I’ve been traveling like a madwoman this month – since our brother-sister trip to Seattle, I’ve gone home to Chicago to spend Father’s Day weekend with my parents, to Little Rock for a business trip, and I’m heading to Malibu tonight to host a bachelorette party for Becca! Needless to say, there has been lots of coffee & books involved (my favorites being a piping hot flat white & Still Alice, respectively). While I am ready to enjoy some quiet weekends in July, I truly wouldn’t want my life to look any other way – I am so blessed by my travels and adventures.

I’ll definitely be posting some fun recaps when the dust settles, so in the meantime, I’ll be posting photos on Instagram! I’d love for you to tag along.

Seattle

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Andrew and I had so, so much fun on our brother-sister trip last weekend. Seattle was absolutely amazing, with perfect weather to boot. I couldn’t get over all of the gorgeous water and delicious fresh air. We stayed at the Ace Hotel in Belltown, which we loved – our room was darling and the amenities (free breakfast, including fresh waffles & Stumptown coffee) were fabulous. I have to share this synopsis about the Ace found on the hotel’s website because I thought it was so fascinating – I learned some things about the boutique chain that I didn’t know.

We fell in love with a former maritime workers’ hotel in Belltown and started our first-ever hotel in 1999. It’s where our roots are — the unfussy luxury and intentional design ethos that drive the Pacific Northwest. Loft ceilings, hardwood floors (wherever we could preserve them) and art by our friends like KAWS and Shepard Fairey in guest rooms were some of the elements that put us on the hotelier map, and they’re still a touch point for Ace today.

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The hotel is located a stone’s throw from the water, which is bordered by an ideal running path encompassed within Centennial Park that’s adorned with art installations and rose gardens, ensuring that we always had something beautiful to look at while we jogged. We spent so much time with Karli & Nick, our treasured friends who also served as the most incredible tour guides. Kar & Nick live in the Ballard neighborhood, a sweet area lined with darling houses and great restaurants. They took us to so many good spots – Pike Place Market, Gas Works Park (my favorite! all of that gorgeous water, wow), Kerry Park (such a good view of Seattle nestled in the gorgeous Queen Anne neighborhood), and the Olympic Sculpture Park.

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In regards to food, we ate very well. We savored oysters & Negronis at Essex before noshing on bacon & onion pizza at Delancey. We drank fizzy fruit-infused beverages at Rachel’s Ginger Beer (apropos name, no?) and soaked up sun on the heavenly patio at Westward, where we devoured more oysters, sardine, arugula & avocado toast, flavorful vichyssoise & rosé (if I had to choose, I vote for Westward as my favorite spot of the weekend). We dined in style at Single Shot, where I enjoyed a delicious pork chop with smashed peas & roasted potatoes, and we had late-night dessert at Pie Bar. We inhaled biscuit sandwiches & iced lattes at Morsel, and we cooled down with ice cream at Molly Moon’s (I had strawberry with lemon curd in a homemade waffle cone – heaven).

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In sum, the weekend was totally perfect. I fell head over heels for Seattle and its waterfront lifestyle, and I am already plotting my return. Best of all, I got to enjoy the weekend exploring the city with Andrew, which was the most special. I can’t wait for our next trip together!

P.S. Andrew was the photographer on this trip – he’s so talented – so enjoy a few photos from my iPhone for now!

Brother-Sister Trip

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I can’t believe I’m typing this but I’m getting on yet another plane today, this time for a personal adventure – a brother-sister trip to Seattle! Andrew and I started a tradition of taking siblings-only trips a few years ago (check out a recap of our Austin trip here), and I’m so excited to explore a new city together. I visited Seattle during my senior year of college and haven’t been back, and Andrew’s never been, so it’s a perfect place for us to have an adventure. We’re staying at the Ace Hotel and we’ll get to spend plenty of time with our besties Karli & Nick, who moved to Seattle in January. We’ll definitely be devouring pizza at Delancey (I read the book about the restaurant and loved it) and enjoying the weekend’s amazing weather. Other than that, the agenda is wide open. I can’t wait!

Back Home

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I got home from Ghana on Friday and I feel like I am still figuring out how to adjust back to life in Dallas. Don’t get me wrong – I was more than ready to be home with James and our pups, to meet my friends for margaritas and catch up on a few weeks’ worth of happenings, and to sleep in my comfy bed. But this feeling inevitably arrives after every single trip to West Africa and even though this was my 12th journey, it doesn’t get any easier: every time I get home, I’m a little shaken up, a little pushed out of my comfort zone, a little out of sorts. And honestly, while that feeling can be uncomfortable, it can also be really good. It’s easy to get stuck in the rut and go-go-go of everyday life here in the States, and returning from Ghana always gives me a fresh perspective, one that brings me back to my roots. I’m reminded that it’s okay to balance out really productive days (as well as distinctly not-so-productive days) with a really good nap. It’s okay to want to be a little reclusive and reflective instead of hopping straight back into the social scene. It’s okay to follow a delicious meal of spinach salad & homemade vinaigrette with a serving or two of Ben & Jerry’s The Tonight Dough. It’s okay to wake up really early on a weekend to clean out the garage only to spend the rest of the day lounging in pajamas and reading novels. It’s okay to feel all the feels, to allow the aches and creaks and changes occur in both body and soul. The children in Touch A Life’s care in Ghana teach me so many things, but one of the resounding lessons I learn over and over again is that it’s okay, that rest is good, that stress can be a luxury, a concept embraced by first-world nations. I’m reminded that busyness should not be a commodity that determines our worth, that time with people we love is the best thing there is, that God created this big world for us to explore and enjoy. For these lessons and so many more, I’m grateful.

Ghana Bound

IMG_6857I’m heading to Ghana today, and I can’t wait to be back in West Africa. The climate of the region has calmed considerably since last summer’s heartwrenching Ebola outbreak, and I’m really ready to be back at the Touch A Life Care Center with the children and staff whom we love so much.

I never got around to posting photos from the last time I was in Ghana (way back in August of 2013, oh my gosh!), so I thought I’d share some with you now. I was so thrilled that I got to travel with two of my nearest & dearest friends, Lauren & Patrick Cone. We went to Ghana with a group of about 15 volunteers and we helped lay a mosaic installation in Seth’s Social Center; host tons of fun activities for the children while they were on summer vacation; and visit Lake Volta, the home to nearly 10,000 child slaves, brainstorming with our Ghanaian staff to determine the best way to make space for more children at our facility. Patrick shot this amazing video for Touch A Life on that trip, which I think is the most powerful & beautiful way to sum up what our organization does.

I can’t wait to share photos from this trip when I get back in a few weeks. I had high hopes of scheduling out posts while I’m gone but I didn’t quite get every item tackled on my to-do list, so this post will have to suffice. See you soon, friends!

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Darling Magazine

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I have been blessed with the opportunity to write for the beautiful & inspiring Darling Magazine since the publication’s inception in 2011. Thanks to my college roommate, who was one of the first editors for the magazine, I got in at the ground level, allowing me to be able to write for both the print & online mediums on a consistent basis. It’s been such a special experience to write for a magazine that has so much heart, a publication that has gained a phenomenal following since the debut issue hit boutiques and newsstands three years ago. The reason Darling has so many faithful readers is not only because it’s a beautiful (ad-free!) quarterly publication but also because the articles in the print piece as well as on the blog are written with so much soul, as if girlfriends are sitting down together to hash out interesting, difficult, relevant topics. It’s a wonderful community to be a part of; I feel so grateful to be a member of the Darling family.

To pick up a copy of the quarterly magazine, visit Darling’s website. Check out the blog here, and read my most recent piece on intentional friendship here – this was one of my most favorite posts to write. If you’re in a blog-reading mood, check out all of my posts here!

Fringe Hours

77a739df6567692f00457bfa75adea4fI recently read The Fringe Hours by Jennifer Turner and there were so many good takeaways from the book that I’ve already applied many of them to my everyday life. I admit that I didn’t always relate to the author’s tone, and some of the content didn’t resonate with me (the book seemed mostly geared towards women with young families), but there were some irreplaceable insights in the book that caused me to sit and ponder how I can best use my time. The concept of the book is focused on identifying our fringe hours, the little bits of time that are found in between meetings, while checking out at the grocery store, or while waiting for appointments that collectively add up to create large chunks of time that we can use to pursue our passions, restore our souls, or even knock items off of our to-do lists. In a review about the book, author Laura Vanderkam sums up the concept best:

“Have you ever claimed to be busy but lost an hour to Pinterest? In this gentle yet no-nonsense book, Jessica nudges us to question how we spend our time and to find ways to bring joy into the little and large space of our lives.”

This quote highlights exactly what I loved about the book. The premise initially seems so straightforward, causing me to wonder why I even need to read it – the subject matter appears to be obvious: spend time doing things that are productive and beneficial and you will be a happier, more well-rounded and complete person. But once I started analyzing how you use my fringe hours, I realized that so much of my time that could be life-giving ends up wasted. The book turned m attention to ways that I can be more intentional with the pockets of time that I’ve been gifted with, using them to pursue my dreams or brighten up my days.

While reading The Fringe Hours, I realized that I spend a lot of time waiting, whether in airports or office buildings or restaurants or parking lots. To pass the time, I inevitably end up scrolling through social media feeds, which can be enjoyable sometimes, but usually just numbs my brain. Encouraged by Turner’s insights and advice, I decided to ensure that I have a book with me at all times (especially now that I’m loaded down with great titles thanks to my library card). I’ve found that in just the two weeks since I’ve started tucking books into my bag and stowing them in my car, I’ve actually come to enjoy waiting for airplanes or meetings or appointments; the waiting gives me the chance to dive back into the delicious story I’m reading. The same idea goes with keeping workout clothes and running shoes stashed in my office or my car, making it possible to go for a lunchtime run or pop into an unexpected exercise class after work. Jennifer Turner keeps notecards in her car so she can write letters to people she loves. Those who love drawing can keep sketchpads in their desks; those who love magazines can keep them in their bags and pull them out at a moment’s notice. People who like to take pictures can keep a small camera handy, and people who like to cook can download apps that allow them to categorize recipes on the go. It can take a bit of effort as you plan to have the necessary supplies ready in advance, but the payoff is so, so life-giving. By not wasting precious time and instead using my fringe hours to indulge in my passions and hobbies, I have felt energized and renewed.

One other takeaway I gleaned from the book was related to the way I use my time in the car. I have found myself getting extremely irritable during my daily commute, which can range from 30 – 60 minutes. I tried listening to talk radio but usually ended up on top 40 stations, and I felt frazzled every time I got out of the car, irritated by the fact that I hadn’t used my time to sharpen my mind while driving (I totally wish I could take a train to work so I could read during my commute). Inspired by this post, I subscribed to several podcasts , and mirroring the example above, I find that I no longer dread heading to my car; I actually look forward to it! My favorites are Bon Appétit FoodcastHappier with Gretchen Rubin, and This American Life. Today I even sat in my car for a few extra minutes so I could finish up Bon Appétit’s latest show, which featured fabulous interviews with Ina Garten and Gordon Ramsay. The best part about this new practice is that I feel like I’m feeding my mind and my soul during my commute instead of frittering away the precious minutes I’m gifted with each day.

There are so many more ways that I’m looking forward to applying the principles of The Fringe Hours into my daily life in terms of pursuing my dreams and hobbies and interests and relationships, and I can’t wait to provide more feedback here. Have you heard of fringe hours? How could you better construct your day to maximize the gift that is the little pockets of time that can be utilized for your benefit?

P.S. I’m trying out a new blog template – let me know what you think of it!

Image (& decor inspo!) via Ghost Parties