Why I Took a Break From Blogging

January 31, 2019

If you've been following me for a while, then you most likely remember that I blogged over at Pictures & Paragraphs for years. (And if you're completely new to this space and to me, then Welcome! I'm so happy you're here!) I took an unofficial break from blogging halfway through 2017, popped back in for one day to announce our impending move to the PNW in early 2018, and then kept to Instagram for the rest of the year. In fact, if you've been following me this long, you probably deserve some kind of award! We've certainly been through some things together, haven't we? I love you all.

See, here's the thing though. I never intended to take a break... it just kinda happened that way. 2017 was a really weird year for me. I finished up my yoga teacher training in February and after that, pieces of my life just didn't seem to fit back into the puzzle. I tried to make them fit, but it took me a long time to realize that I was actually working on a completely different puzzle than the one those pieces were made for. I'll be completely honest with you and say that I felt pretty damn lost and dissatisfied for a while, and I couldn't find a way to put any of it into words that made any sort of sense to me, so I stopped looking for words and just did my best to work on that new puzzle. While 2017 was about looking at things from a different perspective, 2018 was the year I actually put that shift into action. And if you've been following along on Instagram for the past year or so, then you are well aware of the many changes 2018 brought about. All that crazy life stuff aside (that's a whole 'nother post in itself), blogging was one of those pieces that no longer fit; I felt as though I had lost my real motivation for it.

When I started blogging at P&P (which used to be called I'veSeenSomeThings... have you been around long enough to remember that?!) back in 2010, it was right after we moved to Philadelphia and purely a means to document our life so that our friends and family could keep up. That was back when blogs and the internet weren't overly curated - do you remember that?! Some of my posts didn't even have photos back then. And they were more like journal entries, documenting where we went, what we ate, general thoughts about our new circumstances, and simple recipes- not the endless lists, sponsored links, and pinterest-worthy photo overloads blogging seems to have morphed into since then. Somewhere along the way my focus shifted and my motivation waned. The blog became a dumping ground for cat photos, materialistic wish-lists, content for the sake of content, and the occasional but rare honest reflection. I didn't feel engaged anymore, and it showed.

So I stepped away for a bit. I soaked up the world and reflected on it, but I didn't write about it. I reevaluated my mindset about certain core values and intentions, and I shifted some things around. I paid attention to what was working and eliminated what no longer was. I focused wholeheartedly on getting back to speaking my truth, sharing it with friends, new acquaintances, and my yoga students. And somewhere along the way I rediscovered what it felt like to share myself with the world in a way that I could fully get behind. And when the time felt right, I decided to step back into the blogging space, but on my own terms.

And so here I am! It's 2019, I'm feeling good in my skin, in my thought-processes, and in my intentions. I'm also feeling really good about this new little corner of the interweb I've created for myself. P&P was a great space too, but there's a lot of history there, a lot of things that aren't relevant anymore. It was time to start fresh. I'm so excited to start sharing with you again! I can't tell you what to expect, because I'm not quite sure I know yet how this space is going to shape up... but I do know it's going to be wholeheartedly me, and I can't wait to find out where that takes us.


Brown Butter Brownies

January 22, 2019

I grew up making and eating Ghirardelli brownies... you know, the Costco-sized family-pack box? They were so easy - you just dumped the powdery stuff and chocolate chips from the bag into a big bowl, mixed in a ton of oil and an egg or two, and you were good to go. They baked in less than half an hour, and they came out of the oven looking like a quintessential brownie should - crackly thin skin on top that led way to a ridiculously fudgey interior. I was a hungry kid with a chocolate craving, and they were the perfect fix.

Years have passed since then, and I've made many different batches of brownies in probably dozens of kitchens, but my heart and my eyes have always come back to those brownies in that big brown box with the blue, gold, and white scripted writing across the top. That box is a marker of my childhood; just thinking about it now brings me back to our kitchen with the fake marbled counters framed with wood, and the awkward sink that jutted out at the end of the peninsula. That peninsula has seen two decades worth of floury messes, buttered toasts, and potato peels.

My skills have since much improved and I haven't made brownies from a box in, well, it's been so damn long I honestly can't remember. I haven't needed to, because I have this recipe. It's a bit more involved than stirring oil and eggs into a powdery mix, but the concept is the same and the flavor is ten times better than boxed brownie mix, even the kind that tastes like childhood. Cause, you know, we're adults now. Taking the time to brown the butter adds depth and nuttiness while the espresso really brings out the richness of the cocoa. Sure, you could add chocolate chips to the batter, but you don't need to. Trust me, these are plenty delicious on their own.

Brown Butter Brownies

  • 10 tablespoons (142 grams) unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup (75 grams) cocoa powder
  • 1¼ cups (280 grams) white sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons fresh espresso or strong coffee
  • 2 large eggs
  • ⅓ cup (40 grams) all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit.
Prepare an 8x8" square pan by lining it with foil.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan, stirring on occasion. The butter will begin to boil- once this happens keep an eye on it and stir more frequently. The bubbles will get very big and then start to shrink back down and you'll start to see brown specks making their way up to the top. Once the brown specks appear start to scrape the bottom of the pan. When the butter is a light golden brown color and you smell a nutty aroma, (this shouldn't take more than a minute or two) take the saucepan off the heat.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the cocoa powder, sugar, and salt with a whisk.
Stir in the browned butter, making sure to scrape all the brown speckled goodness out from the bottom of the pan as well.
Stir in the the vanilla extract and espresso.
Add in the eggs and stir well to combine.
Stir the flour in until fully incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until the top starts to crack slightly.
Allow the brownies to cool completely before cutting them into squares.
Brownies will keep for a few days in an airtight container; they'll keep even longer in the refrigerator.
What food brings back childhood memories for you?


My Favorite Podcasts

January 09, 2019

I don't remember when I listened to my first podcast, but I do remember hating the experience. I'm a reader, always have been, and listening to someone talk my ear off sounded like a waste of time that could be better spent seated comfortably with a book. At the time my brain equated that experience to meaning "all podcasts are terrible and not worth my time"... but I'm happy to say that I have since found some podcasts that really capture my interest, and I really look forward to listening to them each week. I usually will put one on when I'm cooking or doing the dishes; I love being able to stay occupied with a task that still leaves me the ability to take in the podcast- multitasking! Sometimes, if they're really thought-provoking, I'll actually sit down and take notes. Here are some of my favorites:

Mysterious Universe

This is my favorite podcast ever and the only one I've actually considered paying for to get the extra content. It's about all the weird and crazy things that happen in our world... it doesn't provide any answers, but merely shares the stories and synchronicities that happen in our vast universe. If you're into unusual or supernatural phenomena, then you should give this podcast a listen.

Young House Love

My guilty pleasure podcast. I've been following John and Sherry since their early blogging days, and this was the first podcast I ever got into. The episodes are only about 30-minutes long, and they're always lighthearted and hilarious. If you're into DIY home improvement, celebrity impersonations, and laughs, then you might enjoy this podcast too.

Beautiful Anonymous

I haven't been listening to this one as much lately, but it's still one of my favorites. Chris talks to an anonymous caller for an hour and during that hour, they reveal all sorts of things about them self and their life. It often helps put my own life into perspective, and it gives me confidence that there are still decent and amazing humans in the world.

Stuff to Blow Your Mind

Still pretty new to me but I was hooked from the first episode... I think the best explanation of what to expect with STBYM is most accurately described in their own words: "STBYM examines neurological quandaries, cosmic mysteries, evolutionary marvels and the technological underpinnings of our transhuman future." So... yeah. Kinda like Mysterious Universe, but with less supernatural stuff and more science!

99% Invisible

I actually haven't listened to much of this podcast, but they did a fantastic 6-part series called Articles of Interest that I highly recommend listening to if you enjoy learning about the history of clothes and their societal impact, as well as society's impact on clothes.

The Minimalists

They can get a little repetitive at times, but I still love hearing what Josh and Ryan have to say on the topic of minimalism and intentional living in general. They often have fun guest speakers, and I love the audience questions they feature in every episode. This is one of the podcasts I'll frequently pause and jot down or reflect on something that was said.

Are you a podcast subscriber? What are some of your favorites?


19 for 2019

January 07, 2019

I felt inspired when I saw this similar list over at Conscious by Chloe, and I wanted to ruminate and come up with my own to share here. Though I'm not a fan of traditional resolutions, I do believe it's important that we set intentions for ourselves as a way of constantly striving to be a better version of our self but also as a means of taking note of what is important to us in this life, in this moment. And although our hopes and dreams do change over time, I believe that we inherently know what we need and what we want to put our energy into. On that note, it was initially difficult for me to come up with 19 things for this list. I wanted to make sure I set goals I have every intention of working towards, so I put some thought into this. I feel pretty damn good about this list!

1. Take more day trips & long weekends

Soon Shawn and I will have the same days off each week, and we'll be able to leave the apartment together for more than a few hours at a time. I'm looking forward to more coastal trips, mountain hikes, and waterfalls! Spending time outdoors together is a huge reason why we moved to Oregon, but life got in the way last year. This year, I'm not going to let it.

2. Keep a food journal

I'm keeping a daily log of what I'm putting into my body, hoping to learn how the foods I eat affect my body and well-being, and which specific foods leave me feeling less-than-stellar on a regular basis. For the month of January I'm also cutting beer and dairy out of my diet.

3. Financial freedom

Big goal for this year is to be completely debt-free going into 2020... I believe I can do it! #15 and #8 should help me achieve this.

4. Read more

I'm ashamed to tell you the last time I finished a book... This year I've signed up for Book of the Month to give myself a little nudge. I've also acquired a library card (woot!) and have been indulging in Portland's quirky weekly newspapers.

5. Sort and organize my recipe pile

The way I store my recipes is atrocious. It's a few fat notebooks stuffed with handwritten recipes (half of them with no title or instructions) written on assorted papers and envelopes. I've been meaning to tackle the pile for months, I'm just not sure how I want to store them yet. The task also seems incredibly daunting, but I need to get organized.

6. Make more food from scratch

I cook lunch and dinner at home almost daily, but there are a few things that I buy pretty regularly that could easily be made at home. Specifically flour tortillas, bread, corn chips. I want to pickle more things and make some jams as well.

7. Reduce the amount of trash we produce

Shawn and I have been talking about how unhappy we are with how many bags of trash we seem produce on a weekly basis. Despite our best efforts to recycle as much as we can, we still end up taking about 2 regular-sized kitchen bags of trash out per week- that's way too many for a household of 2! I've noticed that we throw away a lot of takeout containers from when Shawn brings leftover food home from the hot bar at work, so he's going to make more of an effort to bring reusable containers to work instead. And I'm going to try my darndest to remember to bring my mesh produce bags when I go grocery shopping. I'm also looking into reusable/washable cotton rounds because I use those daily and that creates a lot of waste. Now if only I could figure out a better way to dispose of dirty cat litter...

8. Keep groceries down to $75 a week

For the past two years I've kept our grocery costs at about $100/week, which isn't bad considering the two of us eat enough for three, I eat a giant breakfast burrito almost daily, and we cook from home 6-7 nights of the week. But Shawn often brings home free produce from work, and we're both trying to eat more simply and mindfully, which means we should be able to get away with a slightly smaller grocery bill. This should really help with #3!

9. Make yoga & meditation part of my daily routine

At the end of November I started setting time aside to meditate every morning, and I've kept up this daily practice since then, with only a day lapse every now and then. That said, it's still very difficult for me and I want to keep working at it with intention. I'm slowly setting up my little zen/yoga corner at home and I want to build towards a daily yoga practice as well.

10. Add functional fitness to my routine

On top of committing to a daily yoga practice, I'd also love to add some functional fitness into my routine. Other than yoga and walking, I don't stretch my muscles much. Adding new movement and some small weights can't hurt.

11. Learn to play the ukulele

I bought a ukulele with my Christmas money. It's something I've been talking about doing for years, and I finally got tired of just talking about it. But now I actually have to teach myself how to play - I haven't played an instrument in 15 years! The task is daunting but also incredibly rewarding.

12. Write more snail mail

The amount of stationary I have is almost akin to the amount of recipes I have piled up... but at least the stationary is organized neatly. Keeping it organized doesn't do anyone any good though, so I resolve to send more letters!

13. Attend yoga/wellness workshops

I'd love to start a 300-hr training program, but it's not in the cards financially this year, so instead I intend to attend a few workshops to help keep my yoga brain buzzing. I'm doing an accessible yoga teacher training in March, so that's a good start!

14. Grow herbs indoors

One of my penpals sent me an herb starter kit back in September, and I want to try my hand at growing some. My thumbs are not the greenest, I leave the plant-tending to Shawn... but it'd be really satisfying to grow something from scratch that I can also use in the kitchen.

15. Sell my car

Last year was an expensive year for my 10-year old Versa, which I suppose is to be expected after driving cross-country. I had planned on selling it last year, but it made more sense to fix it up a bit and hold onto it for a few more months. We'll enjoy having it over the summer when we can do more of #1, but come September/October I have every intention of putting it up for sale. No intention of buying another car, because I don't need it daily in Portland, and it's easy and ultimately cheaper to rent one when we need one. The money from the car sale will all go towards #3!

16. Visit my parents

I wasn't able to go to Spain last year and they haven't visited us here in Portland yet, so this year I'd love to take a week off and fly out to see them. If my brother and sister and I can figure it out, we'd love to visit at the same time and have the family back together for a few days!

17. Shop with intention

This is an attitude I've been cultivating for a few years; I started with clothing and have let it slowly trickle into other aspects of my shopping habits. It's a constant work in progress, though I've noticed it becoming easier over time through constant reflection and practice. The intention is to only buy things that serve a purpose in my wardrobe, our home, and our pantry. We save money this way, but also save time and mental energy by not having excess in these areas of our life.

18. Improve my posture

I have a tendency to slouch when seated and I tend towards anterior pelvic tilt. (My family actually calls it Marine Pose...) Being more aware of my posture and making active adjustments towards a neutral pelvis will help with my back pain and overall well-being. Just remember, neutral pelvis, shoulders back, ribs tucked in... I'd love to one day not even have to think about it!

19. Meet new people

Moving to a new city and making new friends is hard, especially when you're an introvert. I tend to stay on the outskirts of big groups and I hesitate to initiate conversations (not a fan of small talk over here) BUT I've met so many interesting and amazing people since moving here, and I want to meet more! Getting out of my comfort zone has yielded some pretty awesome results, so I'm going to continue to err on the side of discomfort.

What intentions are you setting for yourself for 2019? Are they things you're willing to commit to whole-heartedly?


Coconut Granola

January 06, 2019

If I told you I make my own granola from scratch, would you call me a hippie? I'll take it. Granola is one of the easiest things to make a big batch of from scratch, and it's also one of the priciest things to buy at the store... so making it at home is kind of a no-brainer. Plus, you can mix in whatever you'd like!

I used to eat granola with plain yogurt and a little bit of honey but lately I've just been pouring a little bit of almond milk on top and calling it a day. Or grabbing a handful of it plain in the middle of the day as a quick snack. It's just so freaking tasty. This recipe is super simple to make, and super easy to tweak. If you're not a fan of coconut, you can swap pretty much any oil for coconut oil, and you can replace the coconut flakes with nuts of your choosing. You can swap maple syrup or agave for honey. And as much as I played around with removing the flour from this recipe, it's just so much better with it included... though I bet you could sub gluten-free flour and it would still work well, though I haven't tried it.

The point is, granola is really simple when you get down to the core of it, and you should really make your own at home. Give this recipe a try and make it your own!

Coconut Granola

  • 5 cups (15 ounces) old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1¼ cups (3 ounces) coconut flakes
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • ½cup (4 ounces) brown sugar
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • ¾cup (6 ounces) coconut oil
  • ½cup (6 ounces) honey

Preheat the oven to 300°.
In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients.
In a small saucepan, heat the coconut oil and honey until coconut oil is fully melted.If I our the oil and honey over the dry ingredients, using a spatula to mix until dry ingredients are fully coated.
Spread the granola in one thin layer across a baking pan.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring halfway through. Granola is done when it turns a golden brown. Stir it once out of the oven, and leave on the pan to cool completely.
Store in an airtight container and enjoy at your leisure.
What's your favorite way to eat granola?


Pantry Cookies

January 05, 2019

I contemplated calling this recipe Rice Krispie Treat Cookies, because that's essentially what these are. I had ingredients left over from making rice krispie treats, but not enough to make another batch, so I had to think of a way to use them up. Have you heard of Everything But the Kitchen Sink cookies? They use up whatever is in the pantry that isn't enough to use for anything else. This is my version of the EBKS cookies... but let's call them Pantry Cookies, okay? It's just easier to say and doesn't conjure up images of dirty dishes.

Mixing cereal into cookies certainly isn't a new thing in the baking world... but it is a good way to use up left over cereal! Rice Krispies mixed with mini marshmallows (which don't completely evaporate at this temperature/time combo) make for a rice krispie treat style chew, but with the bite of a cookie. The small hint of peanut butter comes through to mix things up a bit, and then there are chocolate chips added into the mix to round everything out. Shawn said "damn, these are really good cookies", and I'm inclined to agree with him.

Pantry Cookies

  • 1¼ cups (160 grams) all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (113 grams) butter
  • ½ cup (100 grams) brown sugar
  • ½ cup (100 grams) white sugar
  • ¼ cup (125 grams) smooth natural peanut butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1½ cup (38 grams) puffed rice cereal
  • ½ (90 grams) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup (50 grams) mini marshmallows

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy.
Mix in the peanut butter and egg.
Mix the dry ingredients into the wet.
In the mixer, mix in 1 cup of the puffed rice cereal, along with the chocolate chips and the marshmallows. Then, mix in 1/2 cup puffed rice cereal by hand, just until coated.
Scoop cookies and refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour.
Once firm, place cookies 3" apart onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake at 350° for 13-15 minutes.
What's sitting around in your pantry?


Chocolate Chip Cookies

January 03, 2019

Starting fresh with the blog means I get to go back through old recipes and really curate which ones I choose to post here. So when I thought about the first recipe I should post, it was a no-brainer. The one recipe in my arsenal that gets the most use in our home is this one for chocolate chip cookies. I make it at least 2-3 times a month. If I didn't have it memorized, you can be damn sure that recipe card would be creased, sticky, and smudged- proof of a recipe well-loved. I developed it myself years ago, after making an abundance of other people's satisfactory but not OMFGTHESEARETHEBOMBDOTCOM chocolate chip cookies. I wanted a cookie with a crunchy exterior, soft chewy interior, and a noticeable amount of chocolate. So I played around with ratios until I figured out exactly how to get there. I'm fairly certain these chocolate chip cookies are what made Shawn fall in love with me... at least, that's what he says!

The key to a chewy cookie lies in the brown sugar. Now, I'm a bit of a perfectionist and I like to make my own brown sugar. It's actually super duper easy and you should try it! But if you're in a pinch, any store-bought light brown sugar will do, though when I make my own I tend to make it more medium-brown. But here's the thing... you also need a little white sugar to get some of that sweet cookie crunch factor. I made these cookies with solely brown sugar for years, but they really weren't perfected until I added a little white sugar back into the recipe. Now, they're perfect. But I'll let you be the judge of that.

Hold up, we can't talk about chocolate chip cookies without mentioning the chocolate chips. The mix of milk and semisweet chocolate is key here - it's what balances it all out. My go-to chocolate chip brand is Ghirardelli, and I stock up when they're on sale. There are definitely better options out there, but those come with a higher price tag, and honestly, if I'm just going to shove a handful of warm cookies into my mouth, Ghirardelli does the trick. Use whatever brand you'd like, but definitely don't skip the milk/semisweet combo!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1½ cups (180 grams) all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (113 grams) butter
  • ¾ cup (150 grams) brown sugar
  • ¼ cup (50 grams) white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup milk chocolate chips
  • ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325°.
Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy.
Mix in the egg and vanilla extract.
Mix the dry ingredients into the wet.
Stir in the chocolate chips.
Scoop cookies and place 2" apart onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake for 12-14 minutes.
Baked cookies are best eaten fresh. Store unbaked dough scoops in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before baking.

What do you look for in a chocolate chip cookie?


Inspired by...

January 02, 2019

“The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.”
– David W. Orr


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