Unplugged Beach Weekend

23 February 2014

This weekend, I took a girls getaway to the Oregon Coast. The plans were to shop, relax, drink wine, and play games. Not in the plan: being disconnected without a phone. Despite my best-laid plans, I managed to leave my phone charging cord in my car in Portland, meaning that as soon as my phone died, I was no longer connected to the outside world (which was Friday afternoon, because the iPhone 5 with ios 7 has such a great battery life).

Being disconnected was actually really nice. While everyone else was updating and checking facebook, I was forced to be a bit more present. A lot of the time, that just meant spending time in my own mind (once upon a time, I was big on daydreaming). It also meant spending time with a book, and listening to and observing the waves, which made up our entire view all weekend (seriously, renting a house right on the beach is so worth it).

How was it being unplugged for the weekend? Beautiful. As it turns out, everything really can wait. It would have been unfortunate to miss out on enjoying the constant rolling waves due to be wrapped up in the views on Instagram. I spend so much time dreaming of the ocean during the year, it was wonderful to get to truly enjoy it (from indoors- let's be real, it was awful cold for this frostie). Maybe I should take an unplugged weekend more often.

How was your weekend? Have you ever taken time unplugged from everything? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!
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Fabulous Fridays: February 21

21 February 2014

Hey hey hey and TGIF! I'm gonna keep it short and snappy today because I'm tired and I need to finish packing for my little weekend getaway. That's right- I'm taking a 3-day weekend to head out with some girlfriends for the coast. We're renting a house right on the beach, so I'm going to get plenty of salty ocean air.

Highlights of my week:

I started reading The Goldfinch, and so far, so good. Also, I need to go back to New York. And I need to hang out in an art museum.

I feel like I deserve major points for being able to calm down my nephew in less than 5 minutes after his parents left for the gym Wednesday night. He was screaming his head off, upset he'd been left behind, and I tried various tactics- "do you want to watch Nemo?" uh uh, "do you want num-nums?" uh uh, "do you want to wash your hands?" yeah. This kid loves washing his hands and brushing his teeth.

I had a final dinner and the soon-to-be-shuttered Portland institution that is Wildwood. And it was one of the best dinners I've ever had. You see, so many restaurants don't put too much thought into their vegetarian entrees, like they really don't care to impress people of my ilk. But the caramelized pear and gorgonzola ravioli with brussels sprouts and pistachios was one of the most thoughtful vegetarian entrees I've ever eaten. It was so complex- sweet, sour, salty, deep. Dessert was equally fabulous- caramelized white chocolate panna cotta with ginger, shortbread, and bruleed bananas. No element outshined another- each flavor worked in unison to create a delicious masterpiece.

That's the best of my week (the worst: oh you know, fillings and temporary crowns at the dentist- wah wah). Tell me, how was your week? Do you have any grand plans for the weekend? 

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6 Steps to an Awesome (Productive) Day

17 February 2014

If you're anything like me and have a seemingly endless to-do list that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and unsure of how to tackle your day, then I have something special for you. Today I am going to share with you how to break up your tasks so that you can end your day feeling happy and productive.

How am I doing this? 6 words. Think about your to-do list; it could probably be broken into categories, right? By breaking your to-do list down, it will automatically feel that much more doable.

Even if you don't have a to-do list, but you like feeling productive on a daily basis, these tips help you narrow your focus and do things!

So, what are my 6 steps to an awesome (productive) day?
  1. Learn something every day. Read about new concepts, research something you've been curious about, or brush up on rusty skills.
  2. Create something every day. Write an article, take a photograph, paint a picture, knit a hat, bake a cake, or fix up a salad from scratch.
  3. Maintain your body and your home. Take a shower, clean the toilet, clip your toenails, vacuum, wash the dishes, or get your car's oil changed.
  4. Move your body. Do 1-minute planks, do 20 squats, go for a run, take a dance class, or do yoga.
  5. Connect with someone. Call your mom, email a friend, text your brother, or have coffee with a colleague.
  6. Treat yo'self. Eat a cookie, take a bath, read for leisure, watch a movie, or buy yourself flowers.
I recommend writing each of these words on a post-it and keeping it in your workspace, or any place you spend a lot of time, as a reminder to keep you on track. At the end of the day, grab a journal and write down something you did for each of these categories. 

The best thing about these steps is how easy they are to incorporate into your day. There is no time-frame for these, so even if you only spend one minute on one of these words, one is better than none. If you've done at least one thing from each of these categories, you can end your day knowing that you accomplished something. And even if you only hit 4 out of the 6 categories, it's still better than not doing anything at all.

What do you think- is this doable? What are your tips for making yourself feel accomplished at the end of the day? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

Cultivating Self-Love

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Fabulous Fridays: It's Valentine's Day

14 February 2014

Happy Valentine's Day! I've had that book up there since I was a little kid, and used to read it every year on Valentine's Day. It has all kinds of cute poems, and reminds me of the simplicity of being a kid on this holiday.

I'm going to get straight to it today! It's been an intense week, so I'm looking forward to some R&R this evening. Nothing sounds better than chocolate ice cream and doggy cuddles.

Before I leave you, here are some powerful self-loving posts from some rad women:

And what would a holiday be without a playlist? I've got you covered. Be prepared to feel all the feelings.

Enjoy! And tell me-- how are you going to celebrate love for yourself today?
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Love Your Brain by Building Your Vocabulary

11 February 2014

How do you feel about your vocabulary? Do you wish it were broader? That you had more words at your disposal in order to express your thoughts, feelings, and ideas more explicitly?

For me, a wide vocabulary is like having a nice, full wardrobe. With only a few pieces in your wardrobe, you are very limited as to how you can express yourself through your styles, but the more pieces you have, the more nuanced your styles becomes. Such is the same with vocabulary.

Given that I'm a bit of a word nerd, I'm going to share with you some of my tips and tricks for learning new vocabulary so that you can get out there and express yourself with more pizzazz.

Tips and Tricks For Building Vocabulary

  • Read. A lot. Preferably something more high-brow than US Weekly. This tip is something I learned while I was in college, but not because of anything I was doing expressly for schoolwork. During those days, my favorite books to read for fun were some of the classics- think Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, and Charles Dickens, with some L.M. Montgomery and J.R.R. Tolkein thrown in. I had several of my French and Art History teachers ask me if I was a literature major because of the way that I wrote. I was always baffled, until they explained that I had a very literary style in my papers. I realized that the kind of leisure reading I pursued led to a greater vocabulary and it affected my writing. So, if you want to write better, read better!
  • When you read, take note of unfamiliar words. True story: when I read The Three Musketeers, the translation that I read had a plethora of new-to-me words. I underlined every word that I did not understand, and put tabs in the book so that when I put the book down, I could pick up a dictionary and look up the new words. That was back in the time before smartphones- now I just use the dictionary on my iPhone while I'm reading, though taking notes would help with memory.
  • Use a study guide. Yeah, it's a little nerdy, but if you make a point of building your vocabulary with purpose, then a study guide is a very useful tool. Years ago, I studied for the GRE and I went through the top 250 words that was provided in my Kaplan guide. I highlighted every word that I could not define and made flashcards. A few times each day, I reviewed my flashcards, eliminating words as I mastered their definitions. Nerdy, but incredibly effective.
  • Use smartphone Apps. There are quite a few vocabulary-building apps out there, some geared specifically towards SAT and GRE takers, and some that are games. For the cut and dry flashcard-style app, GRE Vocabulary Flashcards is a decent free app, and works a bit like my study method above. For something a bit more fun and entertaining, I like Vocabador, which is only 2 bucks. There are two aspects to Vocabador- the study portion, and the game portion. The premise here is that you are a wrestler (you get to pick a name and a mask!), and you choose your level of study- lightweight, middle weight, and heavy weight. The study guide is excellent- you get words, definitions, sentences, synonyms, and antonyms. When you're ready you can enter the ring and test your knowledge of vocabulary- and you get to choose your opponent!

Some Related Links

This article about building vocab by reading, and this article with some tips and words you should be using more often.

Do you have any vocab-building tips or tricks? I would love to hear form you in the comments below!

Cultivating Self-Love
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The Last Goodbye

09 February 2014

So, remember this post about the ending of my last relationship? Well, I finally got that goodbye. And it was nothing like what I expected, despite having given up on ever receiving it.

As it turns out, my ex was hospitalized and later diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. My feelings are shock, frustration, and pain. I wish I had known. I wish he had told me. He knows he should have told me sooner.

He called because he wanted to give me peace. It's ironic because I'm feeling anything but right now. I'm feeling hurt and sad. In the end, he did not want to burden me with his disease. He wants a better life for me than dealing with a cranky man in a wheelchair.

He assured me that nothing was my fault, that he thinks I'm beautiful, gentle, kind, and deserve someone who treats  me well. All I ever wanted was love, but maybe he's right. And maybe he knows something I don't about how far love can carry a relationship.

So here I am, experiencing the final ending of our relationship. What's funny is that earlier this week, I said a little prayer asking to have my anger taken away. This phone call was honestly what I needed to remove the anger that I felt toward my ex. The trouble with an empathetic person is they understand why someone might make the poor choices that they do, and I can't blame my ex for being angry about his diagnosis and therefore not letting me know what was going on.

It is strange how complex my feelings become with age and experience. There is no black-and-white, there are no good guys and bad guys. We are all a bit of both, however much we crave the clear vision that movies provide. When I tell the people I care about of what transpired between my ex and me, they will surely gang up against him- he was bad, he was wrong. But he wasn't bad. His behavior may have been bad, but as a person, he was not bad. He was simply (complexly) human. As we all are.

I don't really know how to process this. I am still feeling hurt, and this time at the true ending and loss of a relationship that meant a great deal to me. I hope that I can truly be at peace about this relationship now, even though I am feeling hurt and fresh pain over the loss. It will all get better with time, right?

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Fabulous Fridays: Another Snow Day

07 February 2014

Happy Friday, everybody! As if the Pacific Northwest was feeling left out of all of the polar vortex action, Mother Nature has decided to give us freezing temps and a snowstorm of our own. While I understand that we don't have it as bad as other parts of the country, as an almost native to the area, and as someone who enjoys living here because of the mild winters, I'm complaining. Besides, I have Raynaud's, so anything colder than 70 degrees and sunny will have me complaining (though anything below freezing has me aching at entirely new levels). Clearly, I'm going to be that old lady that complains about her stiff achy joints and the weather.

But complaining is not why I'm here. No, I'm here to celebrate another Fabulous Friday! This week flew by and was jam-packed with dentist appointments, dance class, happy hour, and snow. Oh, and I guess there was some big sports event on Sunday, and I guess our region's team won. I don't know, I was too busy mowing on chili and watching the Puppy Bowl.

If you follow me on Instagram, then you're probably caught up with my shenanigans. In that case, I'll share with you what you didn't see: our lovely bit of snow. I was lucky enough to leave work before the snow really got going, and boy am I glad. Some people were stuck on the roads for two hours, and it sounds like my route would have been a parking lot. Instead, I made it home in time to play with one of my favorite little guys on the planet. I present to you, Fox in the snow:

How was your week? What are you doing to keep warm and pass the time? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!
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Rachel's Guide to Portland: Imperial

06 February 2014

I don't know about you, but I love me a good happy hour. What I look for in a happy hour beyond good food and good drinks are good value, a varied food menu (must have a corn-free vegetarian option), and good hours. Imperial gets points for all three.

I came in for Imperial's happy hour on a Wednesday after work. At 5pm, the bar was almost empty, so I had my choice of seats (I chose a table since I was meeting my mom). I ordered one of their two specialty cocktails, the Vieux Carre. It's a whiskey-based cocktail with a lot going on, but it is oh so delicious and refreshing in the middle of the work week. My mom ordered the top-pictured cocktail, a Black Diamond, which is the other featured happy hour cocktail. Hers had creme de menthe and chocolate bitters, and was very complex- a variety of flavors dance on your tongue as you sip.

I ordered us each a parker house roll. These are pillowy clouds of deliciousness, and possibly my favorite rolls in town. By the time we finished these, the bar was filling up with the after-work crowd.

Confession: I"m a bit of a french fry addict. I will judge a restaurant on based on their fries. I will also not stop eating fries until my stomach balloons out. So far, my favorites in town have been St. Jack and Little Big Burger (thank God for truffle fries). These fries take the cake. They are perfectly golden and crispy on the outside, and soft and fluffy on the inside. They came out piping hot and were served with a delicious special sauce. I have no idea what the special sauce is made of, but I approve.

Note: my mom and I did order the cheese plate, but I was such a little piggie that I completely forgot to take pictures. I probably love cheese as much as I love fries. Maybe a little more, given the lack of picture. But, I will say that my mom and I both enjoyed a bleu cheese for the very first time. Neither of us like bleu cheese, but I figured I give this one a shot since it was not very veiny, and I'm glad I did. Both of the other cheese were delicious, as was the little fruit and nut bar the cheese was served with.

Finally, dessert. I also judge a restaurant based on their desserts, and Imperial gets an A+ from me. I want to hug their pastry chef. This coconut honey cake was such a delight. I have never had a coconut cake so moist and so flavorful. This picture makes it look small, but it was actually big enough that my mom and I could not finish it, so my mom had leftovers to take home. Not only this, but it was actually a little difficult to choose a dessert because the menu looked so good. That, folks, is how it's done.

I highly recommend Imperial to anyone who finds themselves downtown and in need of a happy hour. Sure, you have to pay for street parking, and all the nearby meters are only 90 minutes (which isn't quite enough), but it's worth it.

Portlanders- have you been to Imperial? What is your favorite happy hour? I would love to hear form you in the comments below!
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Cultivating Self-Love: The Mind

02 February 2014


Happy February, my friends! The older I get, the faster time seems to pass, and when it comes to the winter months, that is fine by me. I'll be singing a different song come Spring.

So this month's stop on the Cultivating Self-Love tour is the mind. My spirit is strong and ready for this, and I feel that the mind is the next logical level for creating a deep foundation for loving myself. 

This month, I am looking to cultivate love for my mind. This means caring for my consciousness and intellect, as well as the organ of my brain. I believe in "mind over matter," so I need to take good care of this part of myself. 

How do I plan to do this? Well, as a rather contemplative person, I will take time to examine what my mind is to me and how it is shaped. I will pay attention to the way that I learn and why it works the way it does. I can then take what I know, and nurture my mind through mental exercises and rest, and show it grace. 

The more that I have seen and experienced, the more I realize that no two people's brains work the same. We have plenty of similarities, but we should never take for granted our differences. There is a reason why some people are scientists and others are artists: we need both in this world. Learning where I fit and appreciating that is crucial to my love for myself.

This month, my aim is to share with you the things I learn about my mind, and the mind in general this month, and share tips with you on how to cultivate love for your mind. 

So, my question for you today is this: how do you take care of your mind? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!
Cultivating Self-Love

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