Back From Abroad!

Back From Abroad!

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We’re home!! And it was wonderful, magical, challenging, expensive, enchanting, familiar, exotic, and as always, life-changing and perspective-changing. It was a terrific adventure.

But first things first, my apologies for being extremely quiet over the last two months. The updates dwindled because of extremely challenging, very precarious events taking place at work which came to a head, spilling fourth drama the likes of which I have never seen in my professional life before. It caused anxiety and stress that I also have never experienced in my professional life, and a lot of uncertainty regarding the future. HOWEVER. It seems the storm is passing and things are really looking up, so now that the flurry of crazy has died down, I’m looking forward to directing my mental energy back to the things that make me really happy, this blog being one of them!

OK. With that out of the way…

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It was marvelous, guys. I could write about the wicked financial hangover we’re nursing (…we knew it was coming, and feel it was worth it, but it still hurts!), or the inevitable let-down of returning to every day life (not as bad as last time!), or the very real challenges that the three of us encountered that make up the experience of travel…but I won’t bother, because all of those things pale in comparison to the graces upon grace that we were given daily, and the seeds that have been planted in our souls from these experiences, preparing to bloom and ripen over the coming months and years. I sincerely hope you don’t get terribly bored of seeing travel pictures and hearing travel stories, because that’s going to be a major theme of my blog for a long time to come!

We started our trip in London, staying in a beautiful apartment in an award-winning, eco-friendly building in Elephant and Castle, a vibrant and diverse neighborhood that won our hearts immediately. This was the view from our bedroom:

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We stayed in London for four days, and it was fantastic! We did a lot of sightseeing, catching up on sleep, walking, riding the busses and the underground…but the downside was that London was in the middle of the the worst heatwave they’ve ever had and we were hot as HELL. Poor London just doesn’t have the infrastructure to deal with heat like that, and our apartment, the busses, the tube, basically everywhere, didn’t have adequate air conditioning. We were sweating buckets and remained sticky the entire time. Still, we did the best we could and saw some glorious sights:

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Possibly our favorite London experience was getting to eat at St. John, a Michelin-starred restaurant owned by renowned chef Fergus Henderson. Who I met. Who I got to thank. Who I kind of fangirl-fawned over as I gushed to him, and who graciously thanked me and told me he hoped we enjoyed our lunch. Guys…it was basically the highlight of the entire trip. I almost cried several times after returning to my table, but forced myself to hold back the tears remembering I was wearing mascara. Oh, the food was outstanding, by the way! I’m planning to do a second food retrospective post for this trip, so you’ll get to see what we ate!

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We visited Stonehenge and Bath:

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Both were lovely. This was the most touristy thing we did, and it was fun but I wouldn’t do them again (at least not by chartered tour bus). This was a challenging day because we were all very tired and Sister was worn thin, but we still got many fun memories out of it and I will definitely remember it fondly.

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Husband and I got to do a day exploring London on our own while Sister rested, and we had the best time! We visited ancient tea shops and ancient perfume shops (surprise, surprise, Husband bought his very first grown-up cologne and it’s MAGICAL). We visited the London Transport Museum, to Husband’s delight, and we visited my beloved Twining’s tea shop, to my delight.

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Then in the evening we ate at this lovely place, a beautiful pub. There is so much beauty in the U.K., it’s almost unbelievable. Everywhere you look there is something ancient, eternal and charming looking back at you. The details make all the difference, and we were constantly looking at each other and saying things like “This is REAL! It isn’t Disneyland…it’s REAL!” It sounds so silly, but the beauty, the details…they fed us. They fed us right up, filling starving parts of our souls that we didn’t even know needed nourishment.

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After London we took the train to Holyhead (home of the Holyhead Harpies, for you Harry Potter fans!) and stayed in a lovely B&B. I took an evening stroll by myself and was rewarded with these vistas.

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The next day we took a ferry to Dublin and, after a near-disaster regarding return-ferry scheduling that Husband heroically solved, we spent seven hours in this remarkably and stunningly beautiful city.

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We decided immediately that next time, Dublin is where we’ll be coming, sorry London! We’ve had enough of you! Dublin was just…comfortable. Next to the hustle and bustle of London, Dublin was like your grandpa’s easy chair…we felt we could sink into it with a hot drink (a real Irish coffee, perhaps) and just stay indefinitely. Alas, we had to return to Holyhead…but thankfully we got a stateroom on the return journey, and one with a fantastic view:

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Mostly we slept, though. Then, of course, we got to Conwy. OH, CONWY.

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If you read my (long) post about Wales you’ll know my love for Conwy. I can’t possibly reiterate it here, but suffice it to say, Conwy is my most favorite place on earth. If any place feeds the starving parts of my soul, it is north Wales, and Conwy might as well be the capital.

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Of course, there are other stunning towns in north Wales, like the almost absurdly picturesque Llanwrst:

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We spent a few days in the north just taking in the splendor, and then said goodbye to Conwy at it’s lovely little train station:

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Now we are home, jet lagged, still needing to do laundry, unpack, prepare for the work week (I return tomorrow!). But I’m going to ease back into the grind, and I have a handful of changes that I’m going to be making to improve my quality of life. Last August I wrote a post called “First Fruits,” discussing the “fruit” that travel bears in the weeks after returning home. I’m already seeing these first fruits, but I’m looking forward to the harvest, which will come in time. Of course, it feels so good to be home. Traveling is exhausting and it’s wonderful to be in my own bed again, with my own sweet kitty curled up next to me. We are so lucky and so grateful, and we’ll definitely bask in this glow for weeks to come.

 

 

What’s In My Cup?

What’s In My Cup?

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I’m sitting in my armchair. It’s early Sunday morning, the sky is unsure of whether to be overcast or to yield to sunshine, an ancient grey kitty snoozes on the sofa, and the ticking of the clock is the only sound disturbing a peaceful silence.

It has been a while since I’ve written anything upbeat, mostly because the death of Anthony Bourdain really hit me like a ton of bricks, and I’ve been feeling quite fragile about it. My tribute to him (while written in one sitting the day-of) took a lot out of me emotionally and it just hasn’t felt right to return to mindless chatter. I wanted to sit in silence for a bit, to mourn him.

But early grey mornings demand spiced tea, and I knew I had to share mine with you– today a loose-leaf masala chai by Mighty Leaf (another tin we got for free when Husband worked at Peet’s). I’m sweetening it with sugar and coconut creamer, but going easy on them because yesterday I officially reached my half-way mark for weight loss! Yay! That’s a journey that has been transformative (literally) and I’m looking forward to writing more about it in the coming months.

Husband comes back today from a four-day camping trip in the high Sierras with his best friend. We haven’t spoken in three days because they’re beyond service range. Usually I’m a big worrier in times like these, but this time around I focused on deep cleaning our apartment and lots of self-care, and I have to say it has been a lovely, quiet weekend with Puffy. I adore these kinds of weekends. I’m so, so grateful to have them. They give me my sanity back after the worries and stressors of the week. Not specifically Husband being away. Just weekends with no obligations except to myself– to tidy, to cook, to read, to putter, as dear Mama-In-Law says. All souls need puttering!

This morning I picked up Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime memoir, and only three pages in I’m already enjoying it very much! As it’s almost true summer, I’m attempting to read more non-fiction, and less re-reads of all types. This seems like a great one!

Hoping you have a blessed Sunday. What’s in your cup this morning?

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Pools, Pies and Other Happy Things

Pools, Pies and Other Happy Things

Hi guys! Hope you had a lovely weekend. It sure did feel summery for the first time in my neck of the woods. It was hot enough to take a dip in the pool for the first time, but I contented myself with reading by the pool yesterday evening instead, lounging luxuriously in a chaise, a bag of new library books at my side.

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I want to share what I’ve been up to lately, which isn’t terribly much, but even so makes me feel like life is moving a light-speed these days! It’s nuts. I remember the heavy, dragging, almost hopeless feeling of slogging through the winter months (reflected in many of my January, February and March posts), feeling like they would simply NEVER end. Now, the days are flying by and I’m trying to keep up with it all!

The main item on our plates at the moment is health and weight (I know, SNORE). I have good news on this score, finally! I know you have patiently read through many posts of mine where I complain about food, cooking, wanting to get fit and lose weight, and all kinds of thoughts on that topic. As it turns out, I’ve finally developed a food routine that works for me, and I’ve lost nine pounds in the last five weeks, just from altering my eating habits. Husband and I are both adding in regular exercise starting this week (expensive gym membership is cancelled and use of the free gym in our complex is being embraced!). This is a fun and gratifying journey, and I hope to continue until I hit my goal. I’ll share more about what I’ve been doing food-wise in a future post. 🙂

As you know, I have a weakness for things from the 1970s. I also have a weakness for embroidery, which I used to do often for fun while watching T.V. with Grandma, or listening to an audiobook. I’ve been wanting to start embroidering again, and happened to stumble upon the greatest find ever while browsing e-Bay last week: Jiffy Stitchery Crewel Embroidery Kits from the 1970s, unopened, listed by the hundreds online for delighted embroiderers/mid-century fanatics like me to purchase!

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Some designs are more complicated than others, some are PAINFULLY iconic of the ’70s vibe (brown and orange owls, anyone?) and most are just adorable. Because they’re very small designs (they all end up fitting into a 5”x7” frame when completed), they can be done in an evening or two. I ordered myself one for around $8 and completed it over two evenings:

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Oh! It makes me so happy! I can’t justify buying up a whole bunch of these at once, but as they’re inexpensive, I’m definitely going to be getting more here and there to do in the evenings. It’s so nice to have a fun craft to do while watching a movie or listening to music. It makes you feel like you’re accomplishing something while relaxing at the same time!

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After all those months of saying I was going to make a pie, I FINALLY did! I made the strawberry balsamic pie from the Four and Twenty Blackbirds cookbook. Husband generously said it was the best pie he’s ever eaten. As all I did was copy a recipe, I can’t take credit for that but it WAS unbelievably scrumptious and even amid this weight loss journey, I was happy to make room in my daily calories for a few pieces.

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Saturday I made homemade Thai iced tea with coconut milk, and visited two different libraries for all kinds of wonderful books and DVDs. While my stack of books is too huge to share in its entirety, these are two books I’m really looking forward to. I began The First Muslim this weekend and am finding it fascinating. I picked it up because I realized that I know almost nothing about Muhammad or the history of Islam, so I think it’ll make me a more educated person. So far, it’s beautifully written. I haven’t started The Year Without A Purchase yet, but it looks so promising!

The next four weekends are filled with get-togethers, camping trips (for Husband), friends, and summery activities of all sorts and I’m reveling in it. I feel more invigorated and motivated than I have in a long time, and so thankful for that. Husband and I have many other things going on behind-the-scenes that are strengthening our relationship, and it feels good to be in the midst of what feels like a renewal, of sorts.

What do you have going on these days? What are some things currently bringing you joy? Take care, all! ❤

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A Few of My Favorite Things: May Edition!

A Few of My Favorite Things: May Edition!

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Hey world! Here are a few of my favorite things right now:

1. My oldest friend M’s Harry Potter-themed bedroom:

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Yep, that case is way bigger than the picture shows, and it is 100% chockablock full of Harry Potter swag. This is the bedroom of dear friend M who is having her first baby in September. I couldn’t believe this room when I walked in– every detail is Potter-themed. I couldn’t photograph all of it, but a few highlights:

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A mirror of Erised mirror!!

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The wands!! My jaw actually dropped when I first walked in and saw all of the collectible HP stuff. It’s so, so neat.

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Also, she has an adorable kitty who I had to share.

2. Packages from foreign lands!

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My dear French friend G sent me another care-package. Oh my gosh. I documented last year’s haul for you guys, but this one is (if possible) even more awesome. She sent TONS of amazing-scented body products (shower gels, hair oil, perfume!!), pastries, cookies, tea…I’m spoiled. Extremely spoiled. Check out the beautiful perfume!

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A nod to both France and my beloved England. ❤ Husband and I ate TONS of treats the day before yesterday when this arrived, and will continue to do so happily until we run out. Speaking of eating too much…

4. Getting tea at a real tea shop!

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For my birthday I decided I wanted to try a little tea shop in our neck of the woods and Husband was cheerfully game, so we made reservations for the closest Saturday…which turned out to be the day of the royal wedding! That made it even more fun! This place was ADORABLE!

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That’s a view of the table behind us. The tea was delicious, the food was generous and scrumptious, and we joked about making a permanent standing reservation for every Saturday morning. It was such a treat!

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Though you can’t tell from the picture, the scones were warm, and the butteriest, flakiest, most amazing scones I’ve ever tasted in either America or England. We took some leftovers home and I finished them on the couch, re-watching the wedding of the year. It was heaven!

4. Books outside of my usual genres:

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I’m really trying to expand my mind, folks. I have a hard time not exclusively re-reading books I’ve already read 1,000 times. If it weren’t for fear of judgment by my Goodreads friends, I probably wouldn’t read anything new ever again. But even I know that’s silly. So I’ve started two books Husband grabbed at the gigantic book sale last September that have really piqued my interest– ‘The Crisis of Zionism,” by Peter Beinart and “Under the Banner of Heaven,” by Jon Krakauer. So far they’re both very easy page-turners. We’ll see if I actually finish them both, but I’m giving them a try!

And that’s that! A little snippet of what I’m loving today. What do you love these days?

 

What’s In My Cup?

What’s In My Cup?

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Today, a lovely loose-leaf genmai cha from Mighty Leaf Tea. I’ve just finished a treat of a dinner (a poke bowl from the Poke One in my neighborhood), and I’m sipping this after a busy but productive day while the first Harry Potter film plays in the background.

I’m currently doing my annual re-read of the entire Narnia series, and I’m on the third book (in original publication order– ahem, the CORRECT order!), “Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” which is my favorite of them all. Another book I’m having fun with right now is “The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain,” by the hysterically funny Bill Bryson. I’ve been reading it aloud to Husband and we’ve been in stitches! Bryson is a favorite author of ours, and it’s a great book to get us in the mood for the upcoming trip. Twelve weeks away this week!

A quote that resonates this week:

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them — every day begin the task anew.” ~St. Francis de Sales

What’s in your cup this week? Love to you all!

Things I Love Right Now: April Edition!

Things I Love Right Now: April Edition!

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Hello all! I honestly can’t believe it is now April 22nd. Work has been crazy busy, Husband is just beginning to breathe again after weeks of non-stop homework, and I’m finally getting around to posting again! I think time flying is great, because it just means we’re closer and closer to leaving for England!! The trip is still ages away, but all the finishing touches are almost completed, and mostly we are left to dreaming about all the fun things we’ll do and see, which is really getting me through any troubles at work or other places. 🙂 Not that there are too many of those, just the normal amount, for which I am grateful. Onto some things I currently love…

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1. The spring weather! Oh my gosh, it has been so gorgeous lately! Today was warm and almost summery, but the last few weeks have seen on-again off-again showers, and double rainbows like this one have been popping up all over the Bay Area. It’s really fun to see them! This is the second pair I’ve seen in the last month or so, and they’re just so magical.

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2. Veterinary medicine…and veterinary miracles! Puffy is doing so remarkably well, and we couldn’t be happier. Whatever was ailing her has stayed away, thank goodness, and we hope that it will continue to stay away for as long as possible. Her reprieve was so unexpected that her lovely vet was delighted but flummoxed as well, and all we can do is give her lots of pettings and cuddles and love, and continue to care for her in the time we have left. She is taking daily high blood pressure medicine, and we have her on a special renal diet to support her kidneys, which thankfully she seems to love. How lucky the three of us are that this little miracle was granted her. We do not take her for granted, and have been telling her non-stop how much we love her, and what a good cat she is. She respond with totally uncharacteristic licks, nuzzles and purrs…so really, she must have used up one of those nine lives, and clearly knows it! ❤

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3. New luggage! Yesterday I went to Marshall’s with the express purpose of obtaining two cabin-approved size suitcases for our trip. I found these beauties and couldn’t be happier. They had big “cabin-approved” tags on them, though when I measured they were one inch bigger than United Airline’s stated carry-on dimensions in the width…so, we’re going to try to bring them on and see what happens! If they make us check them, so be it. They looked like all the other suitcases marked “cabin-approved,” so hopefully they’ll be allowed. They’re really nice, good quality and can hold a TON. I pretend packed (yes…I really did) and I can easily fit everything I need into that left zippered side, leaving the right side empty for souvenirs…which of course, are going to be the priority! At $60 a pop, I’m quite satisfied. If you ever need luggage, definitely check out Marshall’s or Ross first! They have such a great selection and the prices are so reasonable!

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4. Healthy cooking! With the weather warming up, I’m getting a renewed resolve to cook (I had really been falling down on it in the last few weeks). Pictured is today’s breakfast and lunch/dinner: toast with avocado, greens and tomato and a salmon poke bowl with salad greens, rice and diced veggies. Both were just delicious! Additionally, I bought two of those big fat, flat bowls at the thrift store today. They were a bit steep in price at $2.99 each, but they are HUGE. You can’t really tell from the picture, but they are just perfect for making these kinds of “Buddha bowls,” as we call them. They’re wide and shallow (rather than deep like the noodle bowls we already have), just perfect for displaying a variety of toppings, so I know they will see a ton of use.

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5. Tea. I mean, it’s me, guys. Tea is always on my list of favorite things. This one is Twinings’ loose leaf Earl Grey tea in a teapot that my Uncle M bought for Grandma quite a long time ago, in the very late ’70s or very early ’80s. I just love it. The teacup flips over and lives upside-down on top of the pot when not in use. I don’t use it often, but I got it out today, gave it bath, and enjoyed three cups of tea while sitting outside on my deck, which brings me to #6….

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6. Sitting on my deck in the lovely weather, reading a great book. I know it’s not winter, but I’m four months into the year and haven’t done a proper re-read of C.S. Lewis yet. I think I’m averaging a re-read of Narnia about every six months! I should really branch out more, but if you saw my Goodreads list you’d know that I have in fact read many books for the first time this year, so I feel I’m entitled to a re-read or two (or…six).

Well, that’s all for now! Hope you’re all enjoying your April. May is right around the corner and May is both my birthday month and always feels like almost-summer to me, so I’m really looking forward to it. How is your April shaping up? Take care!

 

A Few of My Favorite Things…

A Few of My Favorite Things…

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This blog is always a work in progress, and I recently had the idea to combine some of my more random posts into a single “favorite things” post to make it all more interesting…at least, I hope so! So here you have it! These are a few of my favorite things these days.

1.Thrift store shopping. Obviously. Here is the latest haul from this weekend:

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J. Crew, Old Navy, and Tranquility&Mayhem shirts for Husband that fit him perfectly for $4.99 each. They need a quick bath and nice iron, but I am so glad we found these! Good quality and he will get lots of wear out of them.

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I picked up this “Jack” label light coat for $7.99 and just love it. It’s well-worn and a bit pilly, but I really don’t mind. It is good quality, looks great on and I’ll be living in it until the weather warms up.

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About a month ago, Husband saw this standing globe at Goodwill priced at $125. He has a thing for maps and globes, and he really wanted it as it was in good condition, but passed on it due to the high price. We went back today and it was still there, only this time the price tag had been removed! As his birthday is right around the corner, I asked if he wanted me to give it to him as a birthday present and he said maybe depending on the price. So, I casually asked how much it was going for and the lady, after checking with someone in the back said, “$60?” Done! Husband LOVES it, and I think it’s pretty enough, so it was a good deal for a nice birthday gift even if it was on the pricey side for a thrifted item.

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I know I’m insane. But you guys know how much I love 1970s housewares. These two-tone terrycloth towels are so iconic of 1970s bathrooms that high-end stores like Anthropologie have been reintroducing the style. Well, I don’t care enough about them to buy from Anthropologie, but I’ve had a really soft spot in my heart for these things that seemingly every grandma had in her bathroom at one point or another. It’s hard to tell from this picture, but these are cherry red, with a lighter red contrast. I got a set of four for…I don’t even know how much because I didn’t care! They need a good bath by nature of being from a thrift store, but otherwise are in great condition for originals!

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Again, I know I’m crazy. The first thing Husband said when he saw these was “Wow, those are really ugly.” I know. But I love them! They’re for the collection!! As I’ve mentioned before, I have an extensive collection of late mid-century stoneware and glazeware mugs and dishes…and while these are objectively strange by themselves, they will look delightful in the collection. And they’re handmade!

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Speaking of stoneware, these aren’t vintage, but I was really charmed by them. They’re really solid, well-made stoneware bowls that to me look both vintage and futuristic– like bowls that Luke Skywalker would eat out of at his Aunt and Uncle’s house…well, before the…you know, the incident. 0_o. $1.99 each wasn’t a waste!

2. Eating healthy! I’ve been on an at-home, whole-foods-vegan kick for a few weeks now, and I’m really loving it. Yes, I have days where I still eat out (SIGH despite my best Lenten intentions), but I’ve been really conscientious about what I’m consuming and I’m finding that as the days get lighter, the easier it is for me to embrace food that’s good for me, and say no to foods that I just don’t need in my life every day (looking at you, cake).

On that note, I made the BEST OATMEAL OF MY LIFE last week, and brought it to work every morning:

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Oh man. So, I discovered that if you cook oats as a ratio of 1:1:1 oats, rice milk and water, they become incredibly creamy and slightly sweet. The rice milk gives it this rich creaminess that you’d swear was from milk of the bovine persuasion, but it isn’t! I topped it with this delightful mix of stewed fruit that I also can’t get enough of:

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I took prunes, dried apricots, raisins and sultanas and put them in a pot with some water, cinnamon and two star anise pods and then let them simmer until everything was nice and soft and jammy. Then I removed the star anise, added a small drizzle of maple syrup and ta-da! All done. Just scrumptious!! I can’t recommend this combo enough, especially with a sprinkle of coconut sugar on top.

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I also cleaned out my fridge, which is now cleaner and emptier than it has been in a very, very long time. Yes, this is empty for me! But it’s full of healthy snacks, Husband’s homemade kombucha, and the makings of many healthy meals, so I have to keep this good thing going.

3. Teatime. As always. As usual.

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Last weekend I checked out Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi from the library and read in a few hours. It’s a graphic novel about a young girl’s experience of the Iranian revolution. It’s beautiful, but heartbreaking in many ways. I’m glad I read it, it reminded me of Marzi, another graphic novel that I love love love and have mentioned before in one of my book list posts.

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Of course, I read it while enjoying some “Earl Grey de la Creme” tea that’s new in at Trader Joe’s. I’ve had another version of this made by a different company which was unfortunately named “Creme de la Earl Grey” (unfortunate because I think the French grammar there is atrocious, but what do I know, I don’t speak French) which was SO INSANELY delicious. It had a very sugary-sweet, creme brûlée aroma while not having detectable sweetness on the tongue. Just delightful tea, scrumptious with a little maple syrup and milk. I was excited to try this version, and it wasn’t quite as delightful. TJ’s blend is much heavier on the bergamot, so it tastes more like a mildly vanilla-scented Earl Grey. Still, I liked it a lot. Also, I used Grandma’s Blue Onion teapot for the first time in years.

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I love this teapot, and I’ve been keeping it safe since Grandma moved out of her home and into assisted living in 2012. The last time I used it, she was alive and we were enjoying tea together. She told me that she bought this pot at Gump’s, downtown off Union Square, when she was young. She really wanted a teapot, and this one cost $8– GASP! She remembered thinking, “Eight dollars?! Yikes, how extravagant!!” She laughed about it with me, remembering. I’ve been afraid to break it. I really don’t want anything to happen to it, but I also know that she’d be sad to think it wasn’t getting any use. So I’m using it, and remembering her with every breath I take, every little special ritual, as the one year mark approaches on the 13th. “Don’t be sad for too long, Fessie,” she said. I’m trying not to be.

4. Relaxing media. Mostly of two types:

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I have no kids, and yet, “The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends” series by the BBC plays so often on my TV you’d think we had a passel of children who enjoy it. We don’t, it’s just me! Sister and I enjoyed this series so much as children, and when I moved in with Grandma at 18, we went to Costco one day and I saw they had it on DVD. “Get it!!” she insisted, and bought me the whole set. The stories are, naturally, heavenly and the artwork is beautiful, but the music! Oh, the music!! I think some of these are on YouTube if you’ve never seen them. Just give them a listen. They main reason I put them on is to have their soft chatter and gorgeous music in the background while I fold laundry, write in my journal, or read.

Another thing I’ve discovered that is meant for background ambience is a YouTube channel called ASMR Rooms: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoXQCYOw5–9PlQ74JVIEmw

Sorry, leaving the ugly link. Anyway, it’s this amazing channel of animated scenes with beautifully curated fantasy soundscapes meant to be used as white noise or just ambient sound. The girl that does them is so talented, and one the main reasons I love her is that she heavily emphasizes the world of Harry Potter in her creations– she has some scenes from Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and other fantasy worlds, but she is extremely dedicated to Harry’s magical world most of all, and has over thirty soundscapes for it alone.

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Here is a scene from the Gryffindor common room! My favorites are The Gryffindor Common Room, The Ravenclaw Common Room, Dumbledore’s Office, The Hogwarts Library, Waking Up at Shell Cottage, Waking up in Hogsmede, and Christmas at the Burrow. There are many, many more, so check them out! They are so fun to put on while reading or sipping tea.

5. My kitty.

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This old girl turns…seventeen this year? I say that with a question mark because I’m not entirely sure of her age. She was rescued by Husband’s family and lived with them for her entire life as an outdoor-sometimes-indoor kitty until a few years ago when we adopted her. She’s been enjoying her retirement in the Bay Area as far as we can tell. This little feral thing, often grumpy and unpredictable, has mellowed so much in her old age and is now very, very blind. But she’s developed a sweet, affectionate nature that I didn’t think possible a few years ago when we first took her. I’m so glad she’s come to live with us, and that I’ve been able to befriend her. While Husband is clearly her best friend in the world, she doesn’t seem to mind me as much and has recently taken to curling up next to my head at night to sleep when, for years, she wouldn’t even sleep in the same room as us. I love having her around, even when she gets a case of the grumps. Pets are so good for the soul.

6. Journaling!

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It has been YEARS since I kept a regular journal. Back in late 2014, I started writing to Grandma and we became pen pals, exchanging multiple letters a week. I still have most of the letter she wrote me, hundreds and hundreds of them. But the thing is, I stopped keeping a journal when I started writing to her because I couldn’t bring myself to document my daily life in two different ways. After she died, I had no one to write to anymore, and I’ve finally decided to start another journal. I chose this one because the cover art reminded me of the flowering English countryside, and strangely, our time in rainy Shrewsbury, which was whimsical and full of spring flowers despite the gloomy weather. I’m really loving it. It’s so satisfying, and I love having journals to look back on later in life. So that’s a fun new thing I’m really liking.

Gosh, this post got very long! But that’s it! A few of my favorite things right now. Love to you all, and hoping you are having a restful weekend.