What I’m loving lately

People’s stories. Memoir has been a favorite book genre of mine for a while.  (This probably started with Eat, Pray, Love, if I’m totally honest.) I think part of what makes memoirs so fascinating is that, of course, only interesting stories are chosen to be published. But I find what I love more than anything is a story that’s true – one that a real human being actually experienced. All the highs and lows are so much easier to empathize with when I know they really happened. And I love the way memoir shows me that we’re all just people… each with our own complicated past to overcome.

One of my current memoir obsessions is Chef’s Table, on Netflix. I first turned it on one day when I wanted something I could tune in and out of while I chased Jack around the house, but I quickly found myself wanting to sit down and actually pay attention because each episode was just so fascinating! They introduce a different chef with each episode, and they do a fantastic job of really telling each person’s story – how they grew up, where they got their culinary start, and what makes their approach to food truly unique. And it’s done so beautifully, with artistic filmography and a moving soundtrack. It really hits all of the right buttons for me right now.

Some of my favorite memoirs in book form are (of course) Eat, Pray, Love, Wild, The Art of Asking, Mind Hunter, and Year of Yes. Check ’em out if you’re interested. 😉

Meeting new people. When Robbie and I decided to explore opening our relationship, I didn’t really know what I wanted out of it. To be honest, I’m still not sure I do. But what I do know is that most people’s first assumptions about why we’re open are wrong. This entire topic could be a post in itself, but for now, I will say this: what has been most enriching for me out of this entire experience has been connection.

I am really enjoying meeting people with whom I otherwise would never have crossed paths. People from completely different walks of life, in many different relationship situations of their own, and – here’s the kicker for me – each with their own unique story. Even if we have nothing in common or little chemistry, I learn something new from each person I meet. Sometimes what I learn ends up being more about myself than the other person, and that’s equally as great. I’m learning more empathy, less fear, more confidence, and a greater sense of curiosity. And when you’re free to simply keep all options open, connection is that much easier. It hasn’t always been easy, but so far it has definitely been good.

Cultivating creative energy. This has come in a few different ways for me lately. Photography, of course, has been a big creative outlet for me. But I’ve also been really enjoying doodling. I’ve been keeping a sketchbook for a few months now, and in it I’ve been doing all kinds of things with colored pencils, calligraphy pens, and even markers. Sometimes I put on a song that’s really been speaking to me and “sketch” the lyrics. Sometimes I just draw random shapes in random colors, and create my own abstract designs. Sometimes I just put pencil to paper and let both my brain and my hand wander. It’s all good.

Another new outlet for me lately has been container gardening. I’ve had a brown thumb for most of my life, but I’ve recently become better at keeping my plants alive, and – dare I say it – some of them are even thriving now! I have a funny mix of succulents, flowering plants, and greenery. Each of them has different watering and sunlight needs, and it’s been fun to care for each plant individually and really cultivate them. I like growing things… who knew?

Irish punk and alternative rock. I think I have come to terms with the fact that I’m just one of those people who goes through musically-obsessive phases. I find a band or genre that I love in at a particular moment, and then I listen to it ad nauseum. Lately it’s been a mix of Irish punk (thanks, Flogging Molly concert!) and 2000’s-era alternative rock, like The Strokes, The White Stripes, and Rage Against the Machine. I’m sure it will change soon, but for now, I’m really enjoying it.

Learning how to really RELAX. I am a great multitasker. Even when I’m watching TV or in the bathtub I’m usually scrolling through my phone, bouncing between social media apps or checking my email or browsing Amazon. But, as I’ve come to realize, this isn’t really relaxing. My body might not be doing anything, but my brain is still going a million miles a minute. All the constant input just jacks me up instead of slowing me down.

So I’ve started putting my phone down more, and putting it on silent before I leave it in the other room so I can truly forget that it’s there. Sometimes in the evening, I consciously choose not to deal with the remaining tasks on my to-do list, and sit down outside instead. I calm my brain by choosing to focus on one detail at a time – the way the clouds are moving, the sound of the cars going by down the hill, the smell of a neighbor’s BBQ grill. It centers me. Sometimes I use incense to set a mood of calm and also to give me a finite amount of time to force myself to be truly still. And my brain is better for it. I’m calmer, and more emotionally resilient.

Another relaxing thing I’m loving lately is watching videos of people painting with watercolors. This video is a great example. I love to watch the way the picture takes shape and to watch the motions of the artist’s hand. Combined with the calming music that usually accompanies the video, it’s very meditative for me. Plus, watching it via the YouTube app on my phone means I can’t multitask with other apps, so it forces me to focus. Win-win.

And some other, smaller things that are saving my life? A good cup of coffee, brewed and enjoyed with intention. My own made-up yoga flow that lets me do all the poses that feel good to me that day. Silly giggles with Jack. Long hugs from Robbie after work. Kitty snuggles. Strawberry shortcake on Sunday. Cheap roses on my table. Having the board behind my desk at work filled to the brim with photos of family and friends.

Small moments add up to a big life – if you let them.

What are you loving lately?

Love,

~Jess

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Currently: July

How is it the end of July already? I feel like I blinked and poof! Half the summer is already over. But July was a pretty awesome month! Highlights included…

  • ...our day trip to San Luis Obispo! Including dinner at Sylvester’s and OMG FRY SAUCE.
  • …the paddle out for Jack O’Neill! What a surreal experience. So, so glad I chose to go.
  • …our trip to Idaho! It was so good to catch up with everybody. I miss home already.
  • …one yet to come, which is James’ play tomorrow! He’s been at drama camp all week, and I can’t wait to see them put on The Great Mouse Detective tomorrow night! Going into hardcore mom mode right now.

Those things alone could have been enough to keep me happy this month. But other things inspiring me these days are…

  • ...outdoor exercise. Whether it’s doing my couch-to-5K jogging intervals or just going for a walk, I’m finding that a little activity out in the fresh air helps keep my mind more clear. And makes me feel less guilty about all the delicious things I want to eat all the time, lol.
  • …spending less time staring at my phone. I have been making more of a conscious effort to be more present, and to spend less time scrolling social media. I’ve actually taken to deleting Facebook and Twitter off my phone at the beginning of my work day, and leaving my phone in my room once I get home. The result has been a better feeling of focus and less anxiety. For real. Maybe you want to try it too? Trying looking around you instead. Notice those clouds, the leaves on that tree, the way the light reflects off your wine glass. Breathe. Aaaaaah.

I’ve been watching…

…a lot less TV this month, lol.

I’ve just been too busy! But things I couldn’t resist included…

  • Game of Thrones! I am so excited that it’s finally back. Although staying up until 10 on Sunday nights is really killing my Monday morning energy. (Man, I am so old.) Even though I can definitely notice a change in the writing style and the plot seems to be moving at lightning speed compared to the rest of the series so far, it’s still been totally awesome. No spoilers here… just trust me, you’ll want to see it.
  • Wonder Woman! Finally! Some friends were nice enough to watch Jack so we could go, and it was 100% worth seeing in theaters. Now I just need to take James, so he can see firsthand just how badass women can be, too.

And reading…

…a lot more!

I bought a neat little reading lamp to incentivize me to read at bedtime instead of scrolling through social media until I pass out. No more using the excuse that I’ll wake up Jack with the light! So hopefully it won’t take me 3 months to finish one book again, lol.

  • The Heart Goes Last (Audible): I’ve been spending more time listening to my audiobook this month instead of podcasts, because, honestly, I just kind of need a break from all the media noise. And after listening to The Handmaid’s Tale a couple months ago, I’ve been on a bit of a Margaret Atwood kick. She writes dystopia so well! The Heart Goes Last was a little hard to get into in the beginning, but now I’m over halfway through it and I find myself trying to find opportunities to listen to find out what happens next. I definitely recommend this one.
  • Alias Grace: Another Margaret Atwood! This was honestly the first book of hers I tried to find on Audible after The Handmaid’s Tale, but all they had was the abridged version. So I checked it out from my library instead, because I had heard from other Atwood fans that this was another great novel by her. I’m not very far yet, but so far it’s good!
  • The Sound of Gravel: I had heard multiple rave reviews about this book on various podcasts and blogs, so I was excited to check it out. However, maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention, but I didn’t realize just how dark it would be. There are a lot of serious familial issues addressed in this book, and the fact that it was a true story just tugged at my heart too much for me to finish it right now. I put it away after finding that it really haunted me, and actually left me feeling depressed after reading it. Maybe I’ll pick it up again at a better time.

And I’ve been listening to…

  • …more country! Especially after our visit to Idaho, I’ve been on a bit of a country kick. I’m obsessing just a little bit over Little Big Town – especially “Better Man,” which is so well-written even if it doesn’t apply to me – and Lady Antebellum.
  • The Offspring: The upbeat angst has just felt really good this month. Throw in some Blink 182, too, for good measure.
  • Revisionist History: Like I said, I’ve mostly been taking a break from my usual podcasts for my own sanity. However, Revisionist History is one of the few I have actually been listening to. Season 2 just recently started up, and the episodes so far have been surprisingly enlightening. It’s been fun to hear a different spin on topics I thought I already knew about, and fun to think about them a different way. Which is the point of RH, I think. We could all use some more of this kind of nuance in our lives.

I’ve been thinking about…

  • …my tattoo! After much thinking and research, and more thinking and more research… I’m finally moving forward on my idea! I actually have a consultation appointment this afternoon, eek! I am simultaneously pee-my-pants excited and shaking-in-my-boots nervous. But I think I’ve found the best guy in town to do what I want, and I can’t wait to see what magic he can work for me.
  • …planning a beach day. I’ve been talking about it all summer and haven’t made it happen yet! And I’ve already bought the stuff, so what am I waiting for? And we live 10 minutes from the freaking beach, for crying out loud… we need to make this happen.
  • …a psychic/tarot reading. I know, I know… bear with me. My mother took me to a tarot reading on my first visit home after moving to California 3 years ago, and it has stuck with me just how spot on the reader was and how much it seemed to help me work through the emotional mess I was in at the time. And even though I’m feeling pretty good now, I also feel like I am in a completely different place than I was 3 years ago. And gosh darn it, I’m curious to see what a reading would tell me now.
  • …growing our family. With Jack well over the 6-month mark, the idea of whether or not to have another baby has been weighing heavily on me lately. It’s not a decision we need to make right away, so I’m not sure why I’m giving it so much thought right now, but it’s been on my mind a lot. I might do a full post about this soon, just to process what’s going through my head. Just… so many thoughts.

My favorite hobbies: eating & drinking…

  • …homemade ice cream! I made two kinds this month, my favorite standby vanilla with chocolate chips and an epic chocolate-brownie. I need to stop, because it is so not helping my fitness goals, but it’s just so good! And life is all about balance, right?
  • …Dutch Bros Coffee! Man, I was so excited to order my favorite Cocomo again when we went to Idaho. I know I’ve said this before, but can we please have a Dutch Bros in Santa Cruz?
  • …fresh summer fruit: With the recent purchase of my handy-dandy pineapple corer, I have been eating a ton of fresh pineapple because it is so juicy right now and it’s so easy to carve up at home! I have also been guilty of eating an entire large container of raspberries in one day. And the peaches are finally starting to get good… mmm… summer produce must be God’s way of making up for the blistering heat.
  • …grilled everything. Steaks, corn, pizza, peaches… summer time just begs for grill marks and a little smoke. And I have come to the conclusion that if you grill it, it will taste good. It is known.

And finally, I am looking forward to…

  • …camping! We have a campsite reserved at Lake Tahoe next month, and I am so excited! We’re going with some friends and their kids, and I think it’s going to be a blast. Plus, Lake Tahoe! OMG!

July was so good to us… I can’t wait to see what August has in store!

What inspired you this month? 

Lots of love…

…Jess

Currently: June

Hello, friends! Inspired once again by Tracy, we’re going to shift gears a little bit and talk about a some things we’re loving lately. What’s inspiring us? What are we thinking about? What can’t we get enough of right now? Let’s talk about it!

Inspired by…

  • Shutterbean: Well, I already mentioned Tracy’s blog, Shutterbean. Her posts are just so refreshing and her eye for photography and art are simply stunning. Honestly, she’s a lot of the inspiration for what I’m doing here with my own blog. So thanks, Tracy!

Listening to…

  • Music…

    • Acoustic Covers: Acoustic versions of favorite songs make for easy listening in the office when I just need some background noise. Acoustic Billy Jean? Yes, please.
    • Sugar Ray: The sweet, laid-back beats of Sugar Ray are my go-to summer soundtrack. My summer playlist also includes the Beastie Boys, Outkast, and Nelly Furtado. It always makes me want to grab an ice-cold lemonade, roll the windows down, turn the radio up, and go for a long, slow drive beside the ocean.
    • Redneck Jams: Having grown up in Idaho in a family of former cattle ranchers and rodeo queens, country music is in my blood. And while it’s not always something that I listen to on the regular anymore, every once in a while it just feels good to throw on some hard-driving Waylon Jennings or Johnny Cash and remember my roots. I’ve been feeling extra nostalgic this month, so I’ve been listening to my “redneck girl” playlists a lot.
    • Feel free to find and follow me on Spotify to check out all of my playlists!
  • Podcasts…

    • With an hour commute each way, I spend a lot of time listening to things in the car. Podcasts and audiobooks tend to keep me awake better than music sometimes.
    • The Daily: This is the short, daily podcast put out by the New York Times. I love that it gives me the opportunity to delve a little deeper into some of the relevant topics of the day without being too much of a time commitment (only about 20 minutes, usually). Most days I listen to it during the first part of my commute as a way to start the day off informed.
    • Invisibilia: Another podcast I subscribe to – the Sorta Awesome Show – turned me on to Invisibilia. I really love anything that analyzes the human experience, and this podcast does it beautifully. They offer some alternative yet very credible views about everything from the physiology of human emotion to our very perception of reality. It just gets my brain going in all the right ways, and really helps make the evening commute a lot easier.
    • Why Mommy Drinks: I’ve followed mommy blogs and podcasts for a long time, and I’ll be the first to admit that even the best ones can get a little too Stepford for my tastes. Why Mommy Drinks is the hilarious, foul-mouthed answer to that. Instead of talking about how Pinterest-perfect their lives with kids are, these amazing ladies talk about their weekly shit shows and find ways to laugh at them. Sometimes this is just what I need to not feel so alone in the craziness of my life. This is usually in my earbuds on the weekends.

Watching…

  • Outlander: After hearing really great things about this series I decided to finally check it out. It’s one of those shows that I actually want to pay attention to, so I’ve been taking it slow and am only like 4 episodes in, but damn, it is right up my alley! If you’re into loosely historical drama with a side of romance, you should check it out, too!
  • American Gods: As a longtime fan of Neil Gaiman, I was really looking forward to the television adaptation of his book. I have to say, though, I have mixed feelings about it. The good: the cinematography and attention to visual detail are phenomenal. The bad: I’m not impressed with the way they fundamentally changed the story. I know, I know… that’s everyone’s complaint about a book that’s been put to screen. But those of you who’ve read the book will likely agree. However, one thing I can definitely recommend is the Audible recording of the book, featuring a full cast. It’s been, by far, my favorite medium for consuming this story.
  • Genius: This is the NatGeo miniseries about Albert Einstein. It’s been fascinating to learn things about him as a person and not just the physics he’s famous for. Plus, it’s a really well-produced show.
  • Big Little Lies: I know I am probably the last person on Earth to jump on the Big Little Lies bandwagon, but HOLY HELL this was an amazing miniseries. We recently resubscribed to HBO, and I spent a good portion of one weekend this month binge-watching this. Crazy good. Kinda sad there won’t be a season two.

Reading…

  • I’ll admit, I don’t read nearly as much as I should. I could make time for it, but I just have other priorities. However…
  • At Home in the World: This is the latest book out by Tsh Oxenreider, who has been a favorite blogger and podcaster of mine for many years now. It’s a sweet, inspiring memoir about her months-long, around-the-world trip with her husband and young children. I have been slowly taking this one in, in chapters here and there, and it has been a pure delight.
  • Audible: Born to Run: Does it count as reading if I listen to someone else read it? I’m gonna vote that it does. Memoir is one of my favorite genres… I love hearing real stories told by real people. Bonus if the audiobook is read by the author, because then you really get the inflection they were going for when they wrote it! I’ve never been a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen’s music, but his memoir is fascinating. And hearing it read in his iconic, burned-out voice is just icing on the cake.

Thinking about…

  • Creative Endeavors: Now that I’ve finally found my footing after the birth of Jack, I feel a serious urge to be creative again. I need something fun and stimulating to do, as a break from all of my ever-growing responsibilities. Some things on brain lately have been…
    • Blog Goals: What do I want from this blog? The weekly In Real Life photo series has been really fun, but are there other things I feel inspired to do? I think this type of post (Currently) is one I could feasibly do every month. Plus, it’s fun to reflect on the month and what I was into. Perhaps commit to sharing one or two recipes per month? Maybe. I want to be careful not to get too ambitious and stress myself out with too many plans.
    • Recipes: I find myself wanting to cook and bake again. Things on the short list are ice cream, summer berry pie, banana bread, and more fresh things on the grill.
    • Photography Class? I’ve been tossing around the idea of taking a photography class to finally learn how to actually use my nice DSLR camera. I love the idea, but I don’t know how often I’d actually put that info to use… the DSLR is so big, and my iPhone takes good enough pictures for what I like to do most of the time. So I dunno. We’ll see.
    • Skillshare Classes? Have you heard of Skillshare? I hadn’t either until recently. It’s apparently a website you can subscribe to and take all kinds of online seminars for a huge range of topics. I have always been a studious one, and the idea of taking a class at my own pace on a topic of my own choosing wherever I want sounds super appealing. Coffee shop + laptop + notebook? Sign me up.
  • Idaho Trip! I’ve got a short trip to Idaho planned in July to go home and visit my family, and I am super excited! My brain is starting to swirl with lists of people I want to see, things I want to do, things I’ll need to pack… sometimes anticipation is half the fun.
  • Tattoo: Getting a tattoo has been on my mind for a long time, but Robbie is really encouraging me to to pursue it. I think I have a pretty good idea for what I want to get, now I just need to do the work of finding a good artist and book an appointment.

Eating & Drinking

  • Mojitos! Ok, maybe what I make is not actually a mojito so much as just limeaid with mint, white rum, and a splash of lime Perrier. But whatever. I’ve officially declared it my summer drink.
  • Thinking about going low-carb again. It’s so hard to maintain with a busy lifestyle, though! Maybe I can at least commit to the 80/20 rule?
  • I can’t stop thinking about those Totchos we had at 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco. Definitely not low-carb. Definitely don’t care.
  • Cold brew coffee has been in my regular rotation lately. It’s super easy to make at home, especially if you have a French press. Just put your grounds in the bottom, fill with water, and refrigerate for 24 hours or so. Voila! I’ve been mostly drinking mine with a splash of milk and one packet of Stevia… mmm.

What inspired you this month? I’d love to hear!