Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hurdle Jumped.

I did it.  I said goodbye. 

I posted notice on my website.  I put Etsy in permanent vacation mode.  I've officially closed up shop.  And while I'm still feeling a bit antsy about all of this, I know that given a couple of days, I'll feel calmer and calmer and begin to enjoy my newly reclaimed freedom.

Already, I can feel my face more relaxed and less pinched.  And, I'm not feeling as frantic as I go through the steps of each day.  I've had two friends interrupt me to say that I look happier and healthy.  My mental to-do list has dwindled from a thousand entries to somewhere near twenty-five.

Ahhh.  I just can't begin to put a price on that.  Sometimes, I forget how much my well-being is worth.  I hope you'll jump in and remind me from time to time.  I certainly need a nudge every now and then when it comes to considering myself a priority. 

This feels good.  Great, even.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cooking with Sara: A Toast to You, and A Toast to Me

That part about feeling as if I'm on vacation?  It's translated over to the things I'm whipping up in the kitchen.  Specifically, pink fruity drinks to be enjoyed out on a sunshiney patio.  Next thing you know, I'll be crafting itty bitty cocktail umbrellas by hand.  Watch out, folks.  The girl's got time on her hands.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Dragging My Feet. Or Maybe Just My Toes, A Little.

It's getting to be that time.  That time where I need to make a definite, written-in-unbleached flour decision about the future of Sarandipity.  I'm 99.5% sure of my answer.  But I'm dreading the notification and general alerting portion of my steps ahead.  I was hoping to ride out this little break until cooler weather, but I'm already being bombarded by requests for October orders, and I just can't put off replying to these people.  Sigh.

But on a completely lighter note, I'm thoroughly enjoying all this "time off."  It's pretty telling that having paused Sarandipity feels like being on vacation when I'm still putting in my 8 to 5 somewhere else.  I feel as if I have room to breathe and the space to pause and look around at the world.  It feels as if my eyes are looking upward instead of assuming a head-down, completely focused approach to each day.

Because when I have more time to relax and breathe and feel comfortable in my skin, I do highly important things like this:

{ yawn.}  Time for us to go relax some more.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sugar Substitutes

Want to hear something mildly shocking?  I've cut nearly all the sugar from my diet.

For the average person, this might be no feat worth bragging about, but for me?  Well.  It's life-changing.  I may as well have decided to start speaking in Pig Latin all day, it's that big a deal.  Not eating sugar is a conscious choice that I must make throughout my entire day.  "No sugar, Sara.  Choose something else."

Why put myself through the agony of finding other ways to quiet my grumbling stomach?  Another bit you may not know about me is that I've got a stubborn case of acne.  I've been battling it for six years since my body was mucked up by taking (and then quitting) The Pill.  I've tried all the popular cleansers, drinking lots of water, taking vitamins, using no fabric softeners, using "free & clear" laundry detergents, changing my pillowcases twice a week, and on and on.  I did discover, a few years ago, that eliminating dairy from my diet cleared up all the breakouts on my forehead.  It was a huge breakthrough moment for me, because you cannot put a price on feeling even a tiny bit less embarrassed.  

But, my skin took a turn for the worse last December.  I began battling painful acne on my neck and jawline, and each new spot took a month to heal.  And it kept getting worse and kept leaving marks and kept making me sad.  Because I agree with everything I've read that says acne is the outward evidence of a hormonal imbalance, I've started giving more thought to what I eat.  And, it's no surprise that I eat quite a bit of sugar.  Quite a bit.  Having Sarandipity orders in front of me three nights a week is an obvious source of sugar.  But, I also turn to baking sugary treats as a means to relieve stress.  Which, of course, I eat.  Every last crumb is devoured, because, seriously, I bake delicious things.  

So, after reading comment after comment written by acne sufferers who cleared up after cleaning out the sugar, I decided to step up and try it myself.  And then, I bumped into this article, detailing how both dairy and sugar throw insulin and hormones out of balance, and it sealed the deal for me.  I've long had issues with sudden drops in my blood sugar, so I'm now thinking in terms of the things I can do to keep it even, eliminating the steep peaks and drops.  

And, here we are.  Seven treat-less days under my belt.  The only place where sweet has maintained its stronghold is in my coffee.  I've cut out the Splenda, but I haven't yet managed to cut out the flavored creamer.  I'm weaning myself off it; my coffee is looking more and more like a sad watery brown instead of a lovely, cozy, and delicious shade of tan.  But I'm content making baby steps there right now.

I've dropped the treats, the sugar, and I've quit serving starchy carbs with dinner.  It sounds like a lot, and it has been a huge transition.  But, I'm feeling extremely proud of myself for sticking to this.  And, I'm finding joy in new foods - The crunch of a roasted almond.  The variety of fruits I had previously bypassed when grocery shopping.  The versatility of quinoa.  The way a delicious sauce completely changes the taste of an entire dish.  The rainbow of color I put into every meal.

I'm learning new ways to love food.  And there are still so many foods I can love.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cooking with Sara: Salmon Patties with Lemon Sauce

Salmon Patties with Lemon Sauce on From Blah to Ta-Daa

Yep.  I cooked again.  I kinda have a habit of doing that regularly.  Every oh, say, day.  But, this week, my meal plan contains five new recipes, so I'll be doing tons of experimenting and note-taking in the kitchen over the next few days.  Do you jot notes down while you cook?  I only do for new recipes, but I find it really helps later, when I want to remember what changes I made to a recipe - because I'm forever making changes!  So, I'll be cooking and jotting and cooking and jotting every night this week.  Do you have any interesting plans for the week?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cooking with Sara: (Vegan) Pesto Sauce

I put Bo's bumper crop of basil to good use, and oh my, is it tasty!

I also tested out a funky magic hippie dust and was pleasantly pleased with the results :)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Weekend Scrapbook 6

We pretty much stayed at home this weekend.  Which, honestly, is something I always welcome.  The more I'm home, the more I'm available to tackle all the things in my house that scream at me for my attention.  And while this blazing heat is blessing me with some time off from Sarandipity, I'm feeling more and more able to conquer my house, instead of being swallowed up by it.  So, this weekend, I scrubbed half our house.  It's utterly boring and tedious to talk about, and I'm certainly not going to post before and after photos (the horrors!), but it was more necessary than I realized.  

I was trying to explain to Bo last night why I'm feeling so averse to watching tv or movies that are anything but Girly.  I said that not only am I living in a masculine world with my 8-5 job and with my running on fumes, but that our house was in such disarray, that it didn't feel like my own.  I quickly lost his attention while I tried to explain that a sense of home is so important to feeling feminine and that I'd lost it somewhere in all the clutter and dusty baseboards.  But, as I spoke, I really took to heart the words I was saying.  I hadn't actually realized until that moment that having a home I am proud of is one more piece of the femininity puzzle.  

With my struggles with balance and a penchant for over-committing, I've noticed that my femininity is one of the first things to go out the window.  I figure it's off traipsing through our mini-forest with my patience, leaving dark eye circles in exchange.  My friends always describe me as a girly-girl, and I think it's so funny.  I was brought up to be a tomboy, and for a while my favorite pre-date screening question was to see if I owned more power tools than the boy asking me out.  (Usually?  Yes.)  So, while I do wear makeup and girly clothes and sparkly accessories, it doesn't often reflect how I feel.

But this weekend, I cleaned and I baked.  Sans ruffly apron, but still.  If you came over to my house right now, you'd find clean shiny surfaces, chocolate truffle cakes, scented candles, and most importantly - a contented me.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Squirrel Wars

There was a 3-week span of time where I'd always come home to Bo staring out our kitchen window. Staring at the bird house. You see, he's been deeply engaged in a battle with a squirrel who's got a taste for the bird seed in the fancy bird feeder that Bo built.

So, before you press Play in the following video, here are some things that have gone down in this ongoing war:

- Bo moved the bird house off the platform in a tree to the middle of our little clearing, because the squirrel kept packing off all the birdseed before the birds could get to it.

- In its new location, the bird house is perched on a metal pole.

- After Bo caught the squirrel climbing the metal pole, he greased it.  Yes.  He greased the bird house pole.  With my fancy shea butter and lavender massage bar, in fact.

- Then the squirrel began climbing the surrounding trees and kamikaze-style throwing himself in the air and landing on the bird house roof.

- So, Bo cut back all the trees.

- And then put together the following video:

- Not two days ago, Bo saw the squirrel poke his head out of the bird house door.  There will be new tactics employed, mark my words.

(If video doesn't display, you can watch it here.)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Lifestyle Choices

If someone were to ask you what your ideal lifestyle looks like, how would you answer?  I'm not talking pie-in-the-sky descriptions involving winning the lottery or inheriting piles of money from a deranged great aunt.  No.  What I mean is this - Realizing that most of us must work at some kind of job, how would that fit into your life and how would your life fit around it?

I've been doing some deep thinking about what my life looks like right now and how I'm spending my time.  As one might guess, I'm plain burnt out.  And while a tiny part of me feels like a failure for having hit this point, a very large part of me thinks, "How could I not be burnt out by now?"  I'm putting in 6-day work weeks that include 60-70 hours of work.  Which, of course, requires that everything else get pinched back to almost nothing.  When I'm working 6 days a week, there isn't a lot of time leftover for:  Laundry, cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping, running, sleeping, friendship, reading, writing, playing piano, and sitting still.  You get the picture.  It's certainly not rocket science here.

So, I'm reevaluating my goals and plans for my life.  Up until this point, I'd been filled to the brim with "baking, treats, company-building, one day gonna have my own bakery" talk and intent.  But now?  Now, I'm not quite so sure that I want all of that.  The baking and the treats, absolutely.  Those will always be as much a part of my identity as my curly hair.  But the rest is seeming to come at a cost that I'm not so comfortable paying anymore.  And when I think forward to how I want my life to look in a year or two years or five years, I'm feeling a lot of discomfort about the fit.

How can I possibly maintain this schedule while planning for children?  While having children?  This kind of workload doesn't fit with how I picture that phase of my life.  It doesn't fit in at all with the lifestyle that I have in mind.

The quick answer would be for me to cut back.  That's always been the answer - Quit taking on so many orders.  But if I'm doing honest math, I can only take on one client per week in order to achieve a semblance of balance.  Which requires a whole lot of telling people "no."  With my current workload, I'm already turning away an average of two orders per week.  So, hmm.  Giving myself rules in order to cut back could work for the short term.  Would it work for the long term?  Will that help me create the lifestyle I want?

I don't have any answers, and I'm not allowing myself to make any definitive choices just yet.  I'm still trying to evaluate how and why I got to this place and what a long term solution might look like. What I do know is that this place I'm in isn't where I want to be.  I need to make some changes in order to fit work in with life.  And, after all, there's nobody in charge of my life but me.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Happy Farmers Market Week!

Bo and I visited an enormous, indoor farmers market over the weekend, and it was bananas.  (Literally, of course.)  It was like walking through Costco, but with fresh and organic everything, and there were even stations with samples.  Ba-na-nas!

I posted more about it and a ton of (illegal) photos over on the food blog, so grab a cuppa 'jo and scoot on over!

Rory was scared of the enormous collards we brought home.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Secret Hideaways

While I was in San Diego a few weeks ago, Bo did some tricky and fancy carpentry for me.  As a total surprise!  Yes, he's really that thoughtful and sweet to me.  Gush, gush, gush, swoon.

This is what our kitchen island looks like as you walk in our front door.  Nothing crazy, just a regular counter with stools.

 Except for this.  This!

A super secret place to store Sarandipity supplies.  Gah, how awesome is that?!

Bo did such an amazing job on this cupboard, I love it.  It looks just like it was meant to be there!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Weekend Scrapbook 5

I gave Bo's basil plant a huge trim and ....

... turned it into pesto!

 We had pancakes (again).

 Rory's had a special message this time:

Yes, BB, these are just for you! :)

Yellow chin:

Bo leveled out another section of our back yard.

And Jane is thriving in her new spot.

Hibiscus flowers are so pretty!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cooking with Sara: Savory Polenta

Time for another recipe post on our food blog, From Blah to Ta-Daa!

Remember that polenta I mentioned in Monday's post?  Well, here's how it turned out!  We tried it two different ways - straight from the oven, warm and cheesey. 

Then, I sliced the leftovers and pan-fried them to golden and served with my most favorite marinara.  Both ways were super yum and super easy!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Going Back to Cali, Cali

Hotel room view.  That's Torrey Pines Golf Course in the background.  And behind that, the blue-gray is all ocean :)
My excuse for totally disappearing on you last week is that work sent me on a business trip to meet up with a client and hash out issues in person.  A client who happens to be in San Diego...!  I lived in SD for nearly 9 years, but since we moved to Atlanta a year and a half ago, I hadn't got the chance to go back and visit my dear friends and my old stomping grounds.

One of the first things I did while back in town is to go for a run with my bestie, Marnie, at my most favorite trails in all of San Diego County - Torrey Pines Reserve.

You can't beat trail running with 200 degree views of the ocean.  Seriously, it's to die for.

One portion of the trails cuts down to a sandy ledge with this view.

There are no words.  Sigh.

A trail runner's badge of honor:  Dirt lines around my ankles!

 Marnie and I, post-run:

 And then, we move on to a plethora of food photos.  I would apologize,  There are a handful of foods that you just can't find anywhere but in SoCal.
Coffee Bean is one of them.  Non-dairy, non-soy creamer?!
I've yet to find another coffee place that carries it!
Plus, Coffee Bean is freaking delicious.

Ahhhhh, Rancho's.  My most favorite Mexican food in all of San Diego.  There are only two of these restaurants in town, and they're both tricky to find unless you know your way around.
Rancho's used to have a jungle of plants outside and such a small sign that Bo lived across the street for 6 months before meeting me and learning that there was a (fabulous) Mexican restaurant inside.  But I admit that their facelift does look nice.

Shrimp & Black Bean Tostada and a (Daiya) Cheese Enchilada with Verde Sauce.  Slurpingly delicious!

While I was in town, I got ridiculously lucky to have my hair dresser fit me in for an appointment.  I've been to three highly-rated stylists in Atlanta, and none of them holds a candle to Tamara.  She's amazing, there's no getting around it.
Better photos of my new 'do to come, I promise.

 Quintessential SoCal lunch:

Marnie and I capped off the week with a run through the trail reserve near my old house.  This park has a series of trails (used by runners, walkers, bikers, and horses) that are 6 miles long, from one end to the other.  And it's smack-dab in a completely urban area, and situated between three major freeways.

Pretty beautiful for being so urban, right? 
Five points for finding Marnie in this photo :)

After our trail run on Saturday morning, we stopped at my old local "Cheapy Mexican Place."  If you haven't yet had the privilege of eating breakfast at a complete dive Mexican place, you need to add that to your list if you ever travel to SoCal.
Another 5 points for finding Marnie again :)

The breakfast burritos at these places cannot be beat.  They are enormous and generally cost right around $4 each.  My favorite is one with eggs, cheese, ham, and refried beans.
The red hot sauce is a must.

Hand-held deliciousness.  I need to figure out a viable way to ship these puppies to Atlanta.

It was such a fantastic trip of seeing dear friends, eating amazing foods, and filling my emotional buckets to overflowing.  I definitely need to make it a priority to go back and visit once every year!