Mindfulness muffins & the Holidays

On the drive back up north, this little blurb from KQED made me smile. Like a lot of us, the writer felt depressed post-election and took to making mindfulness muffins as a meditative practice. She gave baking her full, mindful attention and writes about the zenful act of cooking:

 ” ‘When you wash the rice, wash the rice; when you cut the carrots, cut the carrots; when you stir the soup, stir the soup.’ So when I line the muffin tin, I concentrate on lining the muffin tin. Ditto for when I measure the flour and melt the butter.”

Physicially focusing on each act and detail brings calm. A few years ago, in a period of life change and anxiety, a therapist recommended a similar mindfulness practice while washing dishes: “feel the soap, the water, the temperature,” she said, advising me to use that time as a way to zone out and focus.

Trying to keep all this in mind during this season. The holidays alone can initiate a major stress charge. Throw in  national distress over our new leadership-AND the constant media onslaught of his daily (hourly?) bizarre decisions-and it’s a wild time. Personally, trying to tune a lot of it out. Gotta keep calm, carry on and grow this baby. It’s a lot!

Wish I could say I’ve taken to baking for respite-I’m sure David would love that-but I’ve never really had the patience for baking. For now, trying to stay mindful through long walks, baths, deep breaths, and less screen time. Thanksgiving break was super helpful for cutting back screen time.  Trying to hold on to that good behavior with slightly less social media.

Also, looking forward to enjoying the holidays. Excited to take a full week off between Christmas and New Years. We don’t have any major travel plans and our holiday party dance card is fairly empty. Grateful for that! Feeling pretty pregnant and the second trimester energy surge is starting to slow down.

So, in an effort to mindfully enjoy this holiday season, planning to keep it simple, relish the quiet time, and not get wrapped up in stressful holiday expectations. Will not be turning to Pinterest for inspiration on any of the following: holiday decorating, holiday gathering, holiday baking, holiday anything. I’m sorry-but those pins are just bananas! A few weeks ago, I scrolled through, curious to see what holiday activities were pinned. A few of the the nuttier ones:

Rules on exact Christmas tree ornament-light ratios:

Ornament shaming:

Exhausting (and expensive!) holiday to-do lists:

(Favorite Are You Kidding Me ?? ideas: #15, #23)

Trash can decorations:

(Because can you imagine having an ugly cardboard box-or worse…a trash bag-in the background of your Christmas morning photos? )

And this:

Maybe I’m a total Grinch, but nothing about this is logical. The mess and effort aside-the premise that “kids will never stop believing in Santa…again” makes no sense.

Of course, I am excited about happy holiday moments and am giddy about the chance to see friends and family. This weekend we’re going to a holiday market and I’m looking forward to reading by the Christmas tree. Just trying to keep it all mindful and balanced, merry and bright, the whole thing.

Happy December and happy weekend!

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Thanksgiving 2016

Greetings from the Monday morning BART train! After several days of total relaxation and quiet, trying to mentally prep myself to get back into gear. Excited that there’s only four more weeks until Christmas but ever aware of all the work that needs to get done before the end of year…Before totally jumping into reality, wanted to jot down a few happy moments from a beautiful Thanksgiving.

We drove to Irvine and arrived in the early afternoon. Throughout the weekend, I read Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth (SO good book) and had to smile when I noticed the stunning book cover matched my mom’s beautiful tablescape.

Janou and Mom went all out with incredible food. Before driving down, David asked, “so, what’s a Gordon Thanksgiving like?”  I realized I wasn’t totally sure-it had been a solid decade since we were all together for the holiday.  I’m SO grateful we were together this year-and it was all delicious. Especially the turkey-perfect that night, perfect for sandwiches the next day.

The next morning, we relaxed at home and I went for a nice walk with my dad. That afternoon, David and I drove to my favorite beach. It was warm enough to lay out in the sand and David and I promptly fell asleep.

Loved waking up from a late afternoon nap to this view.  An afternoon at Crystal Cove is one of the places I try to mentally travel to when totally frustrated with the world.  When the commute home is long and horrible and I wonder-why do I do this? Why do we live in a state that is so expensive that I have to endure this long commute? I think of the beach, the warmth, the weather, and the gorgeous natural beauty throughout the state, and remember why it’s worth it.

After a relaxing afternoon, we eventually made our way home. Everyone was gathered around the living room, drinking wine and relishing leftovers before the fire.  It was so cozy! We talked a lot about politics and the concerning state of the world. No answers to any of it, but it felt good to vent and laugh and be together.

Pretty soon it was Saturday morning and time to begin the drive back up north. I met up with Natalie for brunch at Plums (omgoodness, their hazelnut pancakes) and then we began loading the car.

Too short of a trip! But thankful we all got to be cozy together.

We hit a lot of rain and traffic on the way, so I was extra grateful for podcasts (love The WeedsThe Axe Files, and of course, Wait Wait..). The temperature plummeted on the drive through the Grapevine-pretty wild to compare those beach views to the snow-just 24 hours later!

Even though the drive was long, it was nice to return Saturday night and have a quiet day yesterday. We caught up on house cleaning and grocery shopping (thrilling) and picked out our Christmas tree (actually thrilling!).

David made chili and cornbread and decorated the tree. I got cozy, and curled up with my new favorite afternoon drink and the first episode of the new Gilmore Girls. Emily Gilmore’s Mari Kondo moment was hilarious and heartbreaking-much like the Winter episode.

And suddenly, it’s Monday morning, back to reality. Incredibly grateful for this weekend and sending good thoughts for the week ahead :)

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Thanksgivings past

Hello, Thanksgiving week! Was reading a favorite blog this week that perfectly summed up how I feel this holiday: I’m thankful for Thanksgiving. So grateful for this time: time with family, time to getaway and reflect, time to for a break from stress. Well, to a certain degree-there’s always something :) But really trying to pause and think about gratitude.

Thinking of being thankful for Thanksgiving, been remembering the holiday from past years. Found some photos, scattered on different devices, and wanted to try to document in one place.  Some memories from the last 9 years…


Our first Thanksgiving together! I took the train from Bmore to Connecticut, and, based on these photos, made some sort of meat and potatoes dinner. I remember studying that whole weekend (1L finals were around the corner), David worked that day (lots of sports on Thanksgiving) and that was just a tough time in life. But I remember that night-sitting around those Glade candles-ha!-and just feeling grateful to be together.


2008 was like 2007-train to Connecticut, Thanksgiving together. By 2009, David was living in Baltimore. We planned a friendsgiving for the actual holiday and invited our East Coast-California friends. That weekend was a total highlight. It was first our time really hosting together and it was so comforting to celebrete with our close friends.

I remember being frustrated that I hadn’t figured out how to time out dinner prep to accommodate hair drying/straightening. This is a skill that, years later, I’m still working on…


In 2010, I had just started working at my first-ever-real-life-full-time-post-grad school-job. David was living in a much nicer home than the year before and we hosted our friends again.

I was absurdly persnickety about the table-setting and created an instruction map for David. Cringe!


In 2011, we moved in together in DC (scandal) and hosted in our little basement apartment. Look at that tiny kitchen! 

The next day, we packed up for the weekend and drove south to Charlottesville. Sadly, I seem to have lost all photos of that weekend getaway. But the happy memory of our Cville B&B-where they served ice cream during the three course breakfast-remains.


During that fall, I stumbled on a Turkish Airlines advertisement for wildly low fares from IAD to Istanbul. I was shocked when David agreed to my impulsive travel idea. We flew to Turkey the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and were back by Sunday night. It was a whirlwind and sparked a delightful tradition of Thanksgiving travel.


Tyler graciously hosted an incredible Thanksgiving dinner at his house. I remember waking up that morning, making coffee, curling up on the couch to watch the parade and thinking-hmm…no hosting, no travel, this is nice…Friday morning, after Tyler’s delicious dinner, we took an early flight to Charleston for a weekend trip.

I had been feeling pretty homesick that November (around this time we started talking about moving back to California) and the warm, coastal sunshine was exactly what I needed. Also, Charleston is gorgeous. And the food was spectacular! Example: these incredible desserts from Kaminskys.


Craving a proper breakfast tea and missing my best friend, we booked a trip to London and Dublin for Thanksgiving. Gathering with Katie’s friends for an American Thanksgiving dinner in London was a total kick and a wonderful memory.


Thanks to another excellent flight deal-and a serious pasta and red wine craving-we planned a trip to Rome and Florence for Thanksgiving. We spent the holiday cooking in Trastevere as part of an incredible Roman cooking class. It was delicious :)

And now, here we are, getting ready for Thanksgiving 2016. We’ll be much closer to home this year and I’m particularly grateful for that. Still processing the election and other frustrations while maintaining perspective and focusing on gratitude. Grateful for family and for a few days to reflect and relax together. Sending good thoughts of peace and gratitude out for this holiday season!

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36 hours in Baltimore 

Friday morning, as an icebreaker to a work meeting, we shared one favorite vacation.  “A real vacation is traveling with just my wife,” one person said.  “When our kids join us, then it’s a trip.”

Looking forward to whatever travel, trips and vacations David and I have in the future.  For now, we’re enjoying a few weekends here and there before March.  A few weeks ago, we spent the weekend in Baltimore-one of my favorite cities.  A few memories from that happy vacation.

After working for the week in DC, I stayed with Janou Friday night. It was an exhausting week, so we just ordered Thai, watched the Cubs game and went to be early.  Saturday morning, I met Catherine for brunch at Lupo Verde.
With huge windows overlooking 14th street, the sun drenched the brick filled room. We started with a gorgeous fruit and Nutella sampler and I just couldn’t resist the urge to take photos.


Sensing we were celebrating something (I told Catherine the baby news and she was so sweet and excited) the restaurant surprised us with dessert! The frozen bowl was layered with more Nutella (why not?), hazelnut ice cream, and crunchy toasted walnuts. A beautiful DC fall morning.

I eventually made my way to the train, and on to Baltimore. This was my first trip back to the city since my bachelorette 2.5 years ago. And it’s been almost three years since David and I visited Baltimore together.  Jumping in the cab from the train station, I was surprised by the wave of nostalgia that washed over me.  I knew it would be great to be back, but underestimated how thrilling it would be.

After checking in to the hotel and admiring the amazing view!!) I took a long evening walk around the Harbor.

I remember doing that same loop during the fall, when I first moved to Baltimore nine years ago. During that lonely time, walking and looking at the water would often be the highlight of my day, if not my week.  Very thankful that chapter is over, but also grateful for the solace that beautiful Harbor provided at the time.

Walking back, I picked up at copy of the The Hopefuls at B&N (it was ok…entertaining, but like Girls in White Dresses, the characters were awfully whiny about not-real-problems).

David’s flight arrived that evening and we immediately made our way to my favorite Bmore restaurant: Pub Dog.  With a Mr. Green Jeans Pizza and Big Dog Salad, I was a very happy camper.

After a sentimental walk to Fed Hill park, we capped off the night with a delicious Shake Shack milkshake :)

The next morning, we made our way slightly outside the city to Woodberry Kitchen.  We first discovered Woodberry during one of my mom’s visits years ago and it became the perfect special occasion restaurant.  We celebrated my graduation and David’s there-where I tried a Moscow Mule for the first time! A year’s long love affair with WK and Mules ensued :)  The restaurant is just jaw droppingly gorgeous and brunch was superb.

We light-railed back from the restaurant, stopping in Mount Vernon to admire the pretty park near the original Washington Monument.

Later that afternoon, we took a water taxi to Fell’s Point for some Pitango gelato.

There used to be a Pitango near our DC apartment.  The night we got engaged, after walking through DC, buzzing with excitement, we ducked into Pitango for celebratory gelato. The creamy cardamom-hazelnut combo brought back happy memories.

We walked back to Fed Hill for dinner Sunday night.  David loves The Abbey burgers and I was craving a crab cake. Monday morning, we woke up before the sun, admired the view one last time, before heading back to DC.  Grateful for a quick, super nostalgic trip back to Charm City!

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Just wanted to jot down some quick memories from the weekend. Like Friday, we spent most of Saturday outside, and it helped a bit to clear the mind.

Saturday morning, we met up with the Dillons at Marina Park for a brunch picnic. I hope we go back again! It was on the water, with ample picnic tables and space. We haven’t done a picnic in a while and it was such a pleasant to start the day.

From there, we took BART to SF and met up with Rebecca and Alex in the Embarcadero.  We walked up to Coit Tower and admired the magnificent views. As glum as I’ve been, it was impossible not to feel a bit better with their comforting company and gorgeous city views.

Eventually, I needed an ice cream break (this has become a nearly daily pregnancy necessity) so we walked over to Swenson’s. A scoop of their chocolate peanut butter + the sunseting on the city made for a delightful perfect afternoon treat.

After ice cream, it was time for dinner! :) We met up with Mr. Bress for an early dinner at Leopolds. Rich, comforting Bavarian food. Around this time last year, David and I were planning our trip to Italy. We ultimately decided on Italy over Germany but we were thiiiiiiiiis close to doing a Bavarian Thanksgiving. Happy we decided on Rome, but sitting in the cozy booth, looking at the overflowing boots of beer and salty pretzels with mustard made me nostalgic for a trip we never took. Does that sound totally bizarre? Anyway, the food was delicious but man! Non-alcoholic beer is SO awful. Those pretzels were calling out for a crisp beer, and whatever I was drinking did not cut it. As always, it was a delight to see Dave and catch up on life.

After goofing off all day Friday and Saturday, we hunkered down at home on Sunday. Angelica had the family over for a delicious birthday brunch for Mia and we spent the rest of the day resting and prepping for the week. And now-only two more days until next weekend!

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