Portland of the east

Portland Maine Harbor

If you’re anything like me, you’re already planning your travel for the year. And if you are, better add Portland, Maine, to your list.

I picked Portland because it seemed to have the best of both worlds – idyllic, water-front lighthouses and small town vibes + culture like art galleries, live music and top notch food. When I learned my mom had always wanted to go to Maine, too, it was settled!

Before we had even booked plane tickets (fyi flying to Maine is crazy expensive; Boston is way cheaper and just an hour and a half drive away!), I locked down our stay at The Mercury Inn. I fell in love with the mid-century modern and cozy place while researching, and in person the beautiful rooms, charming neighborhood, amazing hosts, and delicious food did not disappoint. The location was also amazing – one direction and we’re at a farmer’s market, the other and walking around downtown Portland. All of these superlatives do not even do it justice; just go there.

One thing that surprised me was how artsy the town was. I had pictured Maine to be a Life-Size Ralph Lauren catalogue, but it turns out Portland is home to art and film schools…so creativity abounds! Definitely nothing cookie cutter or preppy about the places and people, which I loved. Everywhere we went, friendly locals like a neurosurgeon on a Tinder date and a bartender who skis to work in the winter openly chatted with us about their lives and favorite places. Here’s what we did, with my favorites linked below!

Mercury Inn Bed and Breakfast Portland Maine

Stay.

 

Eventide Portland Maine Seafood Restaurant

Lobster Roll Maine Food Truck

Eat.

  • Oysters, Tuna Tartare and Cucumber Gimlet at Eventide
  • Fish tacos at El Rayo – I was suspicious about their “authentic Mexican” claim, but these are now my #2 favorite fish tacos (#1 goes to Duke’s in Malibu).
  • Gluten-free, dairy-free pizza at Otto (Yes, my mom is quite the trooper.)
  • Lobster Roll at the Bite Into Maine food truck – with gluten-free buns!
  • Bam Bam Bakery for Earl Grey Cake. Gluten-free and vegan, of course.
  • Duckfat for…duckfat fries.
  • Holy Donut

 

Tandem Coffee Portland Maine

Caffeinate.

  • Bard Coffee. My favorite! Seriously regretting not buying their beans.
  • Tandem Coffee. Cool space; acidic coffee, though – not my thing.

 

Maine Craft Distilling Portland Liquor

Fizz House Portland Maine

Portland Maine Breweries Bayside

Rising Tide Brewery Portland Maine

Drink.

  • Vena’s Fizz House (non-alcoholic)
  • Bearded Lady’s Jewel Box. As recommended by Otto’s bartender. Really cool, slightly hidden space with speakeasy vibes (you have to be looking for it, or, like my mom, curiously peering inside every dark door with music playing inside). Here we met another loverly bartender who was actually Zach Galifianakis. I swear.
  • Breweries. Maine Craft Distilling (the best!), Rising Tide (Maine’s beers have a grassy taste, if you’re into that sort of thing), and Urban Farm Fermentary are all within walking distance of each other.

 

Imagine Maine Portland Shopping

Shop.

 

Portland Maine Sailing

Sailing Portland Maine

Paddleboarding Portland Maine Beach

Do.

  • Walk around Downtown Portland
  • Ride bikes (from Gorham Bike & Ski) around Back Cove, stopping at the beach for reading and shell picking in the sand.
  • Portland Museum of Art – Free Admission Friday!
  • Farmer’s Market
  • Explore lighthouses in South Portland
  • Sailing at sunset. Freezing and worth it! If you can book one of the yoga or live music sails, too, do it.

 

thank you maine portland documentary school poster

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Easy allergy-friendly cooking tips [dairy & gluten free!]

new years eve dinner party invitationsCoworker 1: “So, my dinner party has turned into a birthday party for my friend’s son…who apparently is allergic to gluten, dairy and chicken.”
Coworker 2: “What?! Who is allergic to chicken? Like, what food groups does that even leave?”
Coworker 1: “Right? I have no idea.”
Coworker 2: “What kind of world do we live in, that people get to make demands about major food groups? If you’re not going to die, just eat it.”
Coworker 1: [laughs] “Seriously.”

This is a true rendition of a conversation overheard in my company’s open-concept office, and the resulting fear that I make people in my own life feel the same way brought up a lot emotions. Hurt because I can’t help it. Embarrassment because I feel guilty every time someone goes out of their way or I have to voice an inconvenient need. Frustration because of the lack of compassion or – in actuality – knowledge about how people can truly suffer from food issues and how to help them.

To avoid all these feelings, I used to take on 100% of the responsibility for said food issues, not expecting or even attempting to communicate anything. Reading Shauna Niequist’s Bread and Wine changed my perspective a little though:

The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It’s about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment. Part of that, then, is honoring the way God made our bodies, and feeding them in the ways they need to be fed. So this is the dance, it seems to me: to be the kind of host who honors the needs of the people who gather around his or her table, and to be the kind of guest who comes to the table to learn, not to demand.”

I love this because it helped me see the beauty in shared food experiences and realize that a lot of people truly want to care for others this way. And while I think it’s very important not to demand that, I now see the value in at least being honest and communicative with people in advance.

dinner party

So in the interest of providing some of that knowledge and bringing people together, I’ve compiled a few tips that I promise are easy to incorporate in most recipes. This is perfect if you’re one of those lucky omnivores at a loss for how to feed your friend or family member, as well as if you’re one of us unlucky allergy-prone people at a loss for how to feed yourself.

  1. Butter – Olive oil is a wonderful and healthy alternative. I hear coconut oil is as well, but I’ve never tried it. For baking, you can also do an equal parts replacement with vegan butter (I prefer this Earth Balance red box that is soy free, too).
  1. Milk – Coconut milk has the most neutral taste, in my opinion. You can replace equal parts in recipes, and you can simply squeeze in some lemon juice to create buttermilk. I prefer canned coconut milk (Native Forest, Whole Foods, or Thai Coconut) to the boxed versions.

–>Easy, dairy-free whipped cream: Stick a can of regular or full-fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight. The next day, keeping the can the same side up and not shaking it, take off the lid. Scoop out the thickened white portion from the top (leave the clear bottom portion for some other use or toss it), and whip it with vanilla and sugar to taste. Viola, delicious whipped cream. Tip: Best made when you actually want to use it, as it will harden in the fridge after a few hours.

  1. Flour – The lovely folks at Bob’s Red Mill have this down to a science. Literally. Simply buy a bag of gluten free all purpose flour (the red bag – great for breads, fried chicken coatings, pies, etc) or gluten free baking flour (the light blue bag – great for cakes, muffins, donuts, whatever baked good your heart desires) and use as you normally would for flour. Many gluten free recipes also say to add xanthum gum, but I never have, and everything still turns out just as I intended. The only thing I can’t figure out is cookies because they usually turn out best with Almond Flour (which is expensive), so I usually just don’t.
  1. Just ask! I don’t mind making something myself, offering tips for easy substitutions, or even just saying “yes, I can eat it” or “no, I’ll just avoid it.” I also get that sometimes it’s just not possible to make every dish allergy-free. And that’s ok, because you gave me a heads up, so I know you care and are looking out for me. I imagine and hope your other friends or family with food issues would feel similarly.
hydrangeas dinner party
What allergy-friendly food tricks or recipe go-to’s do you have? I’d love to add more to my repertoire!

If you didn’t change this year, would you still like yourself?

My penchant for self-improvement goes as far back as middle school, when I got it in my head that reading the whole dictionary would be a great way to enhance my vocabulary. I figured one page a day for a couple of years was all it took, so I dutifully sat on my floor and opened my dictionary every day – no one made me or probably even knew about it before now. And there I sat, a 12-year-old girl reading the dictionary for fun (I was obviously very cool).

Eventually I lost my place in the dictionary, but the combination of being an introspective, goal-oriented learner / dreamer means I’m constantly thinking and reading of things I want to do, learn or improve. The new year is usually no exception (see 2015, 2014)!

After a lot of life changes and challenges though, I spent the last year asking a lot of questions about myself – how I think and am made, what my skills and talents are, what my purpose and passion is, how all this looks professionally. While all this was incredibly helpful at the time (Clarity on Fire!), I now feel like I’m at a point where more self-analysis really isn’t going to get me anywhere new…except maybe a little crazy.

I was driving one day, listening to the Jess Lively Show as always, and out of nowhere, something inside me very clearly asked, “If you never changed again, would you be happy with yourself?” My initial response was resistance, with excuses like “well, if I never changed again literally, I’d eventually be a pretty bad wife and employee.” And “that’s ridiculous, life always changes so I couldn’t help but change with it at some point.” But this clear thought pushed back against the discomfort, until I had to admit that my answer right now was really, NO. I don’t really ever like myself right now, I like the future version.

So this year, instead of goals, I have a word: Acceptance.

I want to accept myself so I can just be me instead of obsessing about what the best version of me looks like. I want to accept myself so I can be confident in my worth personally and professionally, which I think will take care of the wife and employee bit. I want to accept situations I’m in, instead of feeling like I’m constantly fighting everything around me – myself, time, traffic, other people, my own expectations. So it feels like the world isn’t ending every time something doesn’t go perfectly, because it never will. 

And that’s it. No list of goals, no calendarized steps. Just being, accepting, appreciating.

Here’s to 2016!

prosecco celebration

What’s right, what’s not and what would Giuliana Rancic do?

giuliana rancic modern mom
Source: Modern Mom

So often we hear about the overnight success stories – a fluke discovery, a social post gone viral, a casual blog turned industry mogul, a first time audition turned major motion picture star.

Now, I don’t want to be famous, but I do want to make an impact in my sphere of influence. I do want to be recognized in my field as someone who does great work and inspires someone else to do the same.

Sometimes the constant striving and hard-to-see progress makes me wonder about the nots and the rights. If I’m not in the right place at the right time. If I don’t have the right skills or enough of them. If I’m not going in the right direction.

Enter Giuliana Rancic.

I’ve watched her reality show and thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to randomly land a fun, glamorous job talking about the entertainment industry and fashion on tv that happens to lead to meeting a successful, handsome husband that leads to having tons of resources and opportunities that make it easy and possible to start other successful, fun, interesting businesses?”

Of course, and thankfully, that’s just not the case. Giuliana recently did an interview with The Everygirl, where she talked about submitting her reel to E! at least 20 times before getting a shot. She had to face rejection and apply over and over again until finally one day, she got the call.

For all my wondering about what’s just right, I’ve never been so encouraged by being just plain wrong. Just because something is hard work and not happening right away doesn’t mean it’s never going to happen. More people than you might think get where they are because they work hard and relentlessly.

So in case you need to hear it, and I know I do:

There’s still time. Keep working.

 

Source: Society 6 - Get it here from A+Y Paper Goods!
Source: Society 6 – Get it here from A+Y Paper Goods!

 

My definitive guide to movies from 2014

obvious child and disappearance of eleanor rigby

Another year of movies has come and gone. My husband refers to the Oscars as my Super Bowl, and I can only take that as a compliment as I clap and toast winners with champagne alone from my couch. I might even maybe tear up a little for some winners. This behavior is in no way related to my champagne consumption, of course.

Aside from loving any time we celebrate people who do what they do well, the movie business is hard and nuanced work. And since after the Oscars comes conversations about what should have won and what people should see or not see, I’ve decided to list all my most notable movies of the year. If you didn’t like them, then you’re wrong. Just kidding.

Mostly.

I’ve also thrown in my least favorite movies (garnering strong reactions like, “This was a complete waste of time,” and “Do we have to finish this?”),  great movies I saw in 2014 from previous years, and ones still on my watch list. You might notice a few key players this year aren’t listed…mostly this means I’m glad I saw them, but I wouldn’t re-watch and just wasn’t blown away.

Best:

whiplash-poster

  1. Whiplash
  2. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
  3. Birdman
  4. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  5. Obvious Child
  6. Bad Words
  7. Palo Alto
  8. They Came Together
  9. Edge of Tomorrow

 Worst:

joe-movie-poster

  1. Joe
  2. Out of the Furnace
  3. This is Where I Leave You
  4. Non-Stop

Prior Year Goodness:

Frances Ha_Poster

  1. Frances Ha
  2. Beginners
  3. Your Sister’s Sister

Still On My List:

rudderless_xlg

  • Rudderless
  • Still Alice
  • Cake
  • Girl on a Bicycle
  • About Alex
  • Ida

Do you agree, disagree or have other recommendations? I’d love to hear them!

Top of mind

Free People Blog - How To Intensify Your Yoga

 

Do what you can. Do it well. Be nice to people. Leave the rest.

 

I’m all about mantras.

Ohms aren’t really my thing outside of a yoga class where at least three other people need to be chanting louder than me, but keeping a specific phrase in mind helps my incredibly forgetful self remember the important things. How forgetful? Literally I’ve looked at my gas light, said aloud I need to get gas as soon as I get back in the car, run in a store for maybe 5 minutes, get back in my car and keep on driving…until I run out of gas on the side of some road. This has happened more than once.

But right now I have a full tank of gas and those important things are battling work stress and career questions. Stress and questions that aren’t exactly helped by my often negative, perfectionist inner dialogue. Repeating this to myself every day last week helped me feel more relaxed, more forgiving of myself and more energetic to spread that positivity to other people. In other words, I was a lot more fun to be around (I hope).

And if that doesn’t work, I dare you to look up smile on Pinterest and not smile back.

Currently listening: Little May

Little May - Band

When it comes to music, I’m one of those ‘I like it so I listen to it non-stop’ people. And for the past month or so, Little May’s EP has been on back-to-back rotation. At first I was like, This is a great subtle soundtrack for an introspective January!  Then when Texas decided it was a good time to throw in some 65 degree days (people are literally drinking frozen margaritas on outdoor patios), I thought, What great sunny-breezy-perfect-day music!

Their song ‘Hide’ sucked me in, but my current favorite is ‘Bones.’

Good intentions for 2015

About those New Year’s resolutions I promised…

Finding Tiffanys_2015 Resolutions_Sarah

The detailed list below might seem a bit ambitious, but every item really comes down to one (or more) of these three things: I want to get back to my healthy lifestyle values, invest in relationships and use my time wisely.

Last year was a whirlwind and mostly not a fun one. While some good things happened, every area of my life experienced upheaval – leaving me perpetually overwhelmed, exhausted and questioning everything. It seems the quarter-life crisis is real, and I’m feeling those mean reds.

But 2015 has me feeling hopeful. In 2014 it felt like I was constantly drowning, and recently I’ve felt like I’m mentally and emotionally starting to slowly rise to the surface. So without further ado, here’s some steps I’d like to take in the coming year (or at least the next 11 months):

Workout. I’ve missed my weekly yoga classes and the ability to run (or even taking the stairs) without dying. I’ve since been making a concerted effort to schedule in workouts, ideally hitting Flybarre, yoga and a run outside once a week.

Food. Tackle the elimination diet in February. Say no to spontaneous sugar – baking and event indulgences are A-OK…the morning commute pit-stop to eat an entire chocolate bar at Whole Foods, not so much. Stop wasting food. Host dinner parties.

People. Write (and remember to mail) a card to someone once a week. Stay in touch. Make plans.

God. Start with a morning devotional or Bible reading sesh. Commit to pursuing God more as a couple (and figuring out what that looks like).

Travel. Go to New Orleans, Marfa, Maine and Sweden. It’s all happening.

Creative. Blog again. Actually use our social networks. Take the A Beautiful Mess photography and editing class. Start (and finish) a Pinterest art project.

Time. Give meditation a try. Schedule and don’t cancel me-time. Allocate cushion time in my daily plans.

Work. Meet deadlines. Arrive and leave ‘on time’ (office hours are a gray area, so I need to set myself some). Plan ahead. Be nice and patient.

 

So there you go! How are your resolutions coming?

 

To set or not to set…New Year’s resolutions

Target party banner for New Year's Eve decorations

I used to not be a fan of New Year’s resolutions. They seemed gimmicky and definitely not effective. Luckily, my “I-like-to-think-I’m-hipster” side had a solution for this and decided to start making goals instead. “Goals” seemed actionable and just sound smart. (And are essentially the exact same thing as resolutions, I know.)

But lately I’ve found myself referring to resolutions a lot. Talking with my husband about how we should really start to workout again… “Now I see why people always make these healthy New Year’s resolutions. Maybe ours should be, too.” Opening the fridge to find that all our holiday party and birthday leftovers have gone bad in the week we were away for Christmas… “Our New Year’s resolution should be to stop wasting food.”

It seems I’ve subconsciously come around to this whole resolution thing.

In setting resolutions (or goals), finding the balance between self-berating perfectionism and self-improving optimism is always a struggle. But I’ve realized, for me at least, the point isn’t necessarily to either complete everything or resign to failure. I just like the spirit of the thing – taking time to reflect, to think about what my priorities are and where I’m, and now, we are going.

So what are my resolutions for 2015? I’ll be thinking through that tomorrow and will hopefully write about it here. Procrastination strikes again.

Maybe I’ll resolve to procrastinate less, too?

Facebook year in review_finding tiffany's_sarah

A tradition-worthy holiday

I’m a big fan of holidays in general, mainly because I love a good tradition and tend to surround myself with people who feel the same. In college, every time our group of friends did something we liked, one of us would exclaim, “A tradition!” And so it would be. This led to weekly cafeteria group dinners, Thirsty Thursdays (non-alcoholic at first, because we were cool kids), One Tree Hill nights, potluck dinners, brunches, swinging (on actual swings, like I said, cool kids) and more.

So with all of the tradition-packed potential of Christmas Eve and Christmas, it’s no wonder that it’s one of my favorite holidays. My family traditions include chili, driving to see Christmas lights and cheese & crackers by the fire.

This year also brought what is hopefully not going to be a tradition – sickness. It’s day 6, and I’m still heavily medicated so I can’t promise any lucid or particularly inspiring thoughts.

I just wanted to take this moment to say Happy (late) Christmas!