remembering 2016

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These were our little housewarming gifts to each other on April 22, 2016 on closing of our first home. This pot holder from me signifies a time of growth, as individuals and as a couple. Leo got this card for us, as a daily reminder to be brave and excited about life as we start a new chapter together.

 

Another year gone, a new year begins. As 2017 is already underway, I want to close the year 2016 differently than in the past. It’s easy to start fresh and I love that feeling, but in order to truly go forth with arms outstretched, I think I need to put 2016 to rest with much gratitude- not only in my thoughts, but on paper, making it permanent of all the great things that DID happen.

Year 2016 Gratitudes: 

  1. April 22, 2016- we became first time homeowners to a charming 1915 bungalow in a cozy neighborhood in Ypsilanti. Buying in Ann Arbor didn’t work for us financially and we were really sad at first. But, we absolutely love our neighborhood and couldn’t have asked for a better place to start this phase of our lives.
  2. Labors of love- painting, building, installing, taking down, making it our own…etc.
  3. Sue. friend and unofficial mentor.
  4. Friends who helped our move so painless.
  5. Hosting Thanksgiving: first time both set of parents celebrate holiday together.
  6. Hosting many dinner parties with friends. Good food, good people, usually involving games.
  7. Special farewell dinner party for our friend, Grace. Cooking together a mediterranean meal.
  8. Women’s book study
  9. Friendships- old and new, far and near
  10. Retreat Getaway to Traverse City/Old Mission. Much needed time of refreshment
  11. Leo’s health improving so much in the past few months. What a miracle.
  12. Spending time with my nephew, August. Seeing him grow up into a beautiful, happy, loving boy is a miracle unfolding before my eyes.
  13. Christmas/New Years with family. Thankful for a sister who traveled all the way from California to be with us.
  14. Finding a yoga studio that feels so natural to me- my love for the practice continues to grow. Diving deeper into yoga feels like me and I am thankful for it.
  15. Starting this personal blog and writing freely.
  16. Taking a chance at Yoga Teacher Training Scholarship, although I didn’t get chosen
  17. New Years Eve at our home. First time parents sleeping over and us hosting them.
  18. Professionally: contacting a few people whom I admire and asking for help/advice. This was scary. Vulnerability is hard.
  19. Attending an adoption conference (Lives Rewritten), with open heart.
  20. A new start to Leo’s career
  21. Found my way back to journaling – feels so good.
  22. Marriage is getting stronger, learning to love, listen, forgive
  23. Sharing our failed IVF story with other couples. Amazing how you don’t realize how your story can be a source of comfort for others.
  24. The year I really appreciated desserts: homemade earl grey lavender bday cake, dark chocolate/peanut butter cookies, lemon polenta cake (all made by Leo)
  25. The day we had a family snowball fight…just over this Christmas. I don’t recall ever seeing my parents play with snow.

Making this list was eye-opening and I realized that I have much to be thankful for. I believe that’s always the case and gratitude is practice, time and time again, day after day. Even if things like traveling more (outside of MI), redoing the kitchen, find my dream career was on my “list to do” for 2016 and did not make it, other great things happened and they are not any less.

Thanks 2016 for all the big, little, and in-between things that happened, and even for the things that didn’t. There is always something to be thankful for.

unnamedApril 22, 2016. Sunny skies, all smiles – 100% happy and 100% scared.

best nut mix ever-rosemary, chipotle

img_2777We discovered this Ina Garten nut recipe about 3 years ago when I really really wanted to make candied nuts, but have it taste better with better ingredients and less sweet. Well, we have been making these during the holidays ever since. It is no exaggeration when I say it tastes like Christmas in a single bite. You get the sweetness from the honey and brown sugar, roasted aroma from the nuts, spice from the chipotle powder, and to me no herb resembles all the delicious dishes that are made during this season other than rosemary.

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As you know from our cooking, our recipes are either original or tweaked from someone else’s. Here are our thoughts about what to keep in mind with this recipe:

  • Get an orange and squeeze the juice out of it yourself. We made it three times already this season, twice with an actual orange and once from “freshly squeezed” juice. You really can taste the difference. The actual orange will give you more of a zesty flavor that is worth it.
  • We added 1/3 of more nuts than what the recipe called for, making it less sweet.
  • Get whatever nuts are on sale and what you will actually eat. We skipped the cashews (also because we are not a fan) and added regular peanuts to the mix.
  • A little chipotle powder goes a long way. We like it spicy, but we wouldn’t go more than what the recipe calls for.
  • Go crazy with rosemary. We probably doubled the amount – we sprinkled a lot at the end so you have that fresh rosemary flavor as well.
  • Do not skip the part about about stirring it at mid point. If you don’t do this, the nuts will stick to the pan.  Also stir when they are finished until it has cooled a bit.

This mix has become our go-to for any time of the day snack, snacks when we have guests over, and this year we are giving them as gifts in lovely mason jars. Everyone loves them!

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Oh- and Leo discovered that these also make awesome ice cream toppings! The ice cream pictured is from our local ice cream store, Go Ice Cream. With our roasted nuts, we tried the Single Malt Butterscotch. OH MY.

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ode to our vintage kitchen, a thanksgiving lesson

img_2647When we moved into our home in May, one of the renovations we wanted to get started right away was this kitchen. Everything about it is old, small, and seemingly nonfunctional for people who love to cook, eat, and gather. Granted we bought a 1915 bungalow and we absolutely adore the charm, character, and the bone of an older home. But, that doesn’t mean I wanted everything to stay in the 1900s. When it comes to a kitchen, we prefer new and sparkly.

Well, very soon after we moved in, we realized renovation of any kind is not in the budget. We ended up painting all the cabinets white, spray painted the hardware gold and recently Leo built a kitchen island for much needed counter space. Still, it leaves us with a vintage stove and oven. To be honest, we were apprehensive about its function! The thing is though, this old(er) stove and oven has not compromised our love for good food. I’m sure the fact that Leo is an amazing cook has something to do with the magic. Regardless, it’s pretty incredible. Even our friend Brian mentioned this at Thanksgiving – the contrast between the stove and fast-forwardness of the meal that was produced. I was reminded yet again the gift of what we have and appreciating the now for what it is.

There is magic beyond what one can imagine if you let yourself see it. I so need this reminder. Thank you for letting us see your beauty, our humble vintage kitchen.

 

spanish tortilla, an egg dish I like

It’s funny how this dish is so unlike us. We will occasionally have eggs for breakfast although we really should do more of it because Leo makes an amazing herb omelette. As for potatoes, unless it’s oven baked japanese yam (that I can literally can have every winter night as a snack), it’s not something we crave. When we do, it’s sweet potato fries or truffle fries from our favorite places in town. But again, we don’t normal cook with potatoes.

So,  I’m not really sure how we ended up making this spanish tortilla dish 3 times in the course of 2 weeks when I don’t like any sort of egg heavy dishes like frittata. But, it happened. That’s a lot of potatoes and eggs – a combination that is unfamiliar in our home.

It all started when we randomly found this food show that I can’t seem to remember the name of right now. It’s about a chef who travels the world and takes an ingredient that is local there and makes a beautiful, simple, delicious dish. The first episode we watched he made this dish that looked like an omelette, but it was so much more. That’s when we learned of the spanish tortilla. Spanish Tortilla is a Spanish omelette consisting of potatoes and eggs. It is fried over oil and usually served at room temperature as an appetizer. It just looked really hearty, perfect for a cold day, and simple.

We followed this bon appetite recipe here because it was the simplest that we found and we had many successes with their recipes. We followed the recipe and added tons of fresh rosemary and thyme. We also ate it hot, and for dinner- all 3 times.

So, there is an egg dish I like, I learned. img_2485

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retreat, a new way to vacation

I remember going on retreats in middle and high school with my church youth group. This was a devoted time where we left our daily lives to recharge and spend time with God. I loved these times. Believer, religious, or not, I think we can all benefit from retreating. Whether it’s to seek clarity in the direction of your life or to find rest, we all need times in our lives where we need to LET GO and RECONNECT. I’m here to share with you how we retreated from our daily life to reset.

When we were planning our vacation to Northern Michigan, we knew we were looking for something that will have us truly get away. Both of us have been worn down from our jobs and we just needed to refresh and reset. We are pretty adventurous when we do travel and like to pack our schedules to make the most it. This time though, we wanted to plan intentionally for a retreat vacation. This is fortunately easy to achieve in Northern Michigan.

img_8261img_8274How we planned our retreat:

  1. Purpose– The purpose of a retreat vacation is to find balance, clarity, refreshment, and/or rest. This changes everything when thinking how our days will look and how I wanted to feel at the end of each day on our vacation.
  2. Where/When – Once we knew the purpose of the trip, we could start thinking about where. We knew it was Northern Michigan. The vibe there is so chill and you can’t beat the scenery. We have never been to Northern Michigan in the autumn and have always wanted to go back during a different season. We were also limited to time (days off from work) and finances.
  3. Activities– We made sure of two things when it came to how we wanted to spend our time. First, less booking/reservations – in short, less schedule. Second, we carefully choose activities that we find relaxing.

For our retreat vacation, we stayed at a lovely farmhouse through airbnb. It was in Cedar, which is in between Suttons Bay and Traverse City. We knew we wanted somewhere remote, quiet, and in nature.

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On our 3 nights/ 4 days in the Traverse City area, we did the following:

Old Mission Peninsula: Mission Point Lighthouse and searching for Petoskey stones.

There is something about searching for hidden treasures in the water that is meditative. The colors of the water, ripples, sound of the waves, feel of the gritty sand… it was so refreshing to explore the waters this time of the year. And when it’s only 50 degrees, there aren’t many people in the water, which makes it all that much more of a calming experience. Leo found not one, but two petoskey stones!

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Wine and Cider. Our favorites are Tandeum Ciders and Big Little Wines 

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Of course food was involved.

Inspirational meal at Trattoria Stella (only reservation we made). Amazing, farm to table, seasonal foods. Food always awakens our souls. img_2169

img_2171Farmer’s Market on a rainy morning.

Farmer’s Markets are a place of inspiration and joy for us- especially Leo. He would walk around to all the vendors, see the amazing produce that’s in season and think about the dishes he would create. There was a slow pace to the Traverse City Farmer’s Market compared to the Ann Arbor one, which was to be expected and refreshing to experience.

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Bon Fires/Smores/Sunsets… more reasons we loved our airbnb.

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To end our retreat vacation, we finished our “40 before 40” list that we (individually) started months (I mean months) ago, but never finished writing. This was inspired by our friend, Grace, who made a “30 before 30” list. It was a list of things she dedicated herself to do/make/accomplish before she turned 30. This made us think about how intentional this was and we wanted to do the same! We are 4 years away from 40 so we decided to make a list of 40 things we individually wanted to do before we turn 40 years old. It was so meditative to journal and reflect over a fire, sunset, and some hot tea.

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Sunrise on our last morning that I almost missed! 

I was my usual self –  packing to go home, making sure we had gathered everything. As Leo was loading up the car, it’s so like him to wander off. 🙂 He took notice of the sunrise and literally called me out. I’m so thankful for this partner of mine who pushes me to slow down and BE PRESENT. This was the first vacation we took where we came back truly refreshed, rested, and energized. Most of the times I am seeking a vacation FROM my vacation. We plan to make it a tradition of ours to take a retreat at least once a year.

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The busier life gets, the more I need to take a moment. This is one of the biggest lessons in my life right now.

It’s in these moments I have to slow down , instead of working faster and harder. I am so not good at this, but I want to make more of an intention to practice it. Whether it is a retreat with my husband, a solitude time with God, or a quiet walk alone, I am convinced more than ever before the value of TIME AWAY (even if it’s in my own home!) IN THE MOST BUSY TIMES. It refuels my spirit.

How do you refresh or reset?

3 favorite fall teas, and it’s not caffeinated

img_2444I drink tea like it’s water. I start my morning with a cup of green tea and herbal throughout the day and evening. I enjoy the fact that you can find one that suits your taste and mood, like the changing seasons. I love many, but these are my favorite herbal teas that are perfect for the fall:

Rishi Turmeric Ginger: It has a strong turmeric taste so you have to like that. Ginger is great for digestion and turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory effects. I find myself reaching for this one, especially when I am under the weather or need to relax from stress. This also comes in tea bags, but you get most out of the ingredients through loose leaf.

Rooibos (from Teahaus): Rooibos is South Africa’s drink and it translated into “Red Bush”. It is a red tea. The flavor is slightly woodsy, sweet, and creamy. The woodsy-ness reminds me of the cooler seasons and the creaminess warms you up. I probably drink this one the most. Such a good daily tea for any time of the day. Benefits of rooibos include: headache, eczema, insomnia, allergies, bone weaknesses, and more.

Kapha Tea (from Teahaus): Kapha tea is a great alternative to coffee. It is herbal, but due to spices that are in it like chili, it will wake you up. Kapha is something we just discovered last weekend and we got hooked. It is relaxing and calming with ginger and lemon, but it has a kick to it with cardamon and chili that has alertness to it. This is our first spicy tea and we just can’t get enough! I also think spicy foods and drinks keep you warm in the cooler days. This is so good for both mornings and evenings. Best health benefit is balance.

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