Here, there, everywhere

Why hello!

It turns out leaving a great job, starting a new one, taking a pre-marital class, planning a wedding, joining a new Bible study group, getting another exhaustive round of health tests, having a health “scare,” traveling for two weeks and keeping up a blog (technically two) is very hard to do. This all seems perfectly obvious here on screen but somehow in my head seems like what we optimists call “a challenge.” I like challenges. I guess you could consider it my outlet for any and all of my competitiveness, because it sure isn’t making an appearance on a field or court any time soon. But at some point my realistic side goes, “Enough is enough. Why can’t I just go galavant around Italy again??”

Okay, so maybe not so realistic.

Not Italy, but I did manage to squeeze in some adventures…Here’s a peek into my impromptu blogging hiatus in LA and then Austin for SXSW:

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Picture perfect weekend

Today is beautiful. Inspiring colors, textures and buildings were everywhere I looked.

The day started with some cozy mist and fog:

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Then turned into this:20140208-232612.jpg20140208-232703.jpg20140208-232712.jpg
Now, stop reading about my beautiful day and go make one of your own!

A good day for donuts

gluten free vegan donuts

My ultimate zen is a Songza playlist of the “sunshine indie” variety and a mid-morning baking session, which is also when the natural light is best for capturing photographs along the way.

Luckily, I never face a shortage of baked goods I want to try for the first or fortieth time. Ever since I tried Babycakes’ unbelievable gluten-free, soy-free, vegan donuts in New York, I have had a major craving. And is it just me or is there an unusually high number of donut recipes floating around Pinterest lately?

So this Saturday I took a short, relaxing break from what is shaping up to be a jam-packed January to try out this recipe I found from Bubble Girl Bakes.

The perfect playlist blasted, the sunlight hit just right and these guys turned out delicious. It’s been a good day.

gingerbread cake donut holes - gf vegan

Here’s her recipe, with my notes in parentheses.

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons flaxseed, finely ground
½ cup warm water
¼ cup light extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup maple syrup (All I had on hand was the corn syrup variety…)
¼ cup molasses (I happened to have some gingerbread flavored syrup I used in its place)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup + 2 tablespoons bg bakes gluten free all-purpose flour mix (I used a store-bought GF flour mix)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda

1. Whisk the flaxseed and water well; let sit for minimum of 5 minutes.
2. Mix all liquids including flaxseed mixture on high.
3. Sift dry ingredients in until just combined, each in order of how listed above.
4. Pour into a greased donut pan, roll on a pan for donut holes, whatever! I put the gingerbread ones in a cupcake pan I had, then finally had the bright idea to put the chocolate batter into an icing piping bag to shape into the traditional donut shape on a pan.
5. Bake at 375 F for ten minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
6. Enjoy!

chocolate donuts - gf and vegan

I also tried her chocolate donut recipe, which was good (although the gingerbread ones win my vote). It was actually my first flaxseed baking experience, and I have to say, it went well! The donuts came out moist and not crumbly at all, which can sometimes be a problem with gluten-free baking.

Next up, jelly donuts!

Finding creativity

inspiring photographs

Creativity is like luck.

It’s always a bit of a gamble when – or you fear, if – inspiration will strike. You hope. You have your go-to tactics to encourage it, not unlike a superstitious tick…a certain playlist, position or activities.

And just like actually saying you’re lucky seems like a bad idea (wouldn’t want to jinx it!), it seems rather presumptuous to call oneself creative.

But here I sorta go.

I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t call myself an exceptionally creative person. I constantly see seemingly effortless but flawless and original writing and Instagram photos and think, “Why didn’t I think of that?” 

I do think and hope I lean more that way on the scale than anywhere else, though, and I try to feed my creativity as much as possible through browsing design pins, trying my own hand at photography and reading about others’ inspired ideas, blogs and entrepreneurial spirit.

Receiving anonymous “snaps” from all my colleagues (an agency annual tradition) citing my creativity came just in time. I’ve been feeling less than inspired so far in 2014, and it has helped to have the external reinforcement. After a week of brainstorms and ideas I’m truly excited about, though, I feel like I’m emerging from the professional portion of my creativity slump.

The personal side, on the other hand, could use some of your help. What sources do you turn to for inspiration?

 

P.S. I highly recommend the Stars Pandora station for your next writing playlist. It’s inspired.

Photos (clockwise from left): 1 / 2 / 3 / 4

Hand-Holding Couple

As a member of the tourism marketing industry, I love travel photos. Especially those of someone traveling the world so I can live vicariously through it. These photos of the famous hand-holding couple of instagram is seriously cool. They travel all over the world and take the same shot at all the different and new places they visit. Always with the girlfriend looking out in some fashion onto the beauty that they are visiting and reaching back to hold her boyfriend’s (the photographer) hand. Like she’s leading him into this new world they are visiting. One thing I love is her wardrobe choices. They are all very different, but always fit in with the photo and the location. I wish I had seen this before going to Europe! I think it would’ve been so fun to strike the same pose or similar shot in all the different locations I visited. It makes for an amazing photo series that I can’t get over. (shout out to Elite Daily for this one, my love/hate relationship with you rages on)

PS. follow them on Instagram immediately.

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Ballet Dancers in Everyday Life

Like pretty much every girl, I love the ballet. The seemingly effortless gracefulness that glides across the stage is just gorgeous. My impression of most ballet dancers is that they are meticulous, OCD, competitive, and perfectionists to the point of an almost unhealthy lifestyle. But for some reason, this adds to the beauty of the art. Because when you see them on stage, they have such passion and the blood, sweat and tears that went into the production of the show isn’t visible.

So these photos of ballet dancers, that I found on the MTL blog, in everyday situations has to be one of my favorite photo series ever. It brings some fun, romance and silliness to an otherwise very intense dance. The dancers just look so full of love for living. Take a look below!

You can also by the book of these photos: Dancers Among Us: A Celebration of Joy in the Everyday.

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http://www.mtlblog.com/2013/09/ballet-dancers-in-everyday-situations/

Oprisco Photography

This series of photographs are from Oprisco Photography, brought to my attention by This is Colossal. I just think they are stunning. Kind of mythical, stunning and elegant. Just a little Sunday prettiness to get through this gloomy day (if you’re having the winter weather like we’re having in Dallas!)

Plus, if you’re looking to do some Christmas shopping, you can purchase all of these prints! Sign me up!

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Side effects of engagement

Appreciating the city from Central Park...
Appreciating the city from Central Park…
Fantastic espresso followed by Central Park...a brisk (ha) 65 degree day in November!
Fantastic espresso followed by Central Park…a brisk (ha) 65 degree day in November!
First broadway show for the boyfriend, first together.
First broadway show for the boyfriend, first together.
The view from our friends' apartment...no kidding.
The view from our friends’ apartment…no kidding.
I'm saying it...Best bakery in NYC!
I’m saying it…Best bakery in NYC!
Apparently this is the 'temporary' ring and I get a new one next week...do I also get flown to New York again next week? Just asking.
Apparently this is the ‘temporary’ ring and I get a new one next week…do I also get flown to New York again next week? Just asking.
Post-engagement tapas with sweet friends.
Post-engagement tapas with sweet friends.
Homecoming surprise with dear friends, my madre, prosecco and Sprinkles gluten free cupcakes of course!
Homecoming surprise with dear friends, my madre, prosecco and Sprinkles gluten free cupcakes of course!
Banksy? Or just a look-alike? Either way, it is true.
Banksy? Or just a look-alike? Either way, it is true.

Last week I found myself in an unexpected but all-consuming state of crazy. Somewhere between fearing discussing marriage with the boyfriend, rolling my eyes at yet another engagement announcement on Facebook and scoffing at friends’ complaints about how frustrating the post-talk, pre-engagement phase is, I had the overwhelming realization: I need a wedding Pinterest board. Like now.

Within a few hours I was right beside those friends, pinning all the things and moaning, “Why doesn’t he just do it already so I don’t have to be stuck waiting around? I don’t even know if it will really happen! Not to mention waiting for my fate to be instigated by a man is decidedly insulting for my feminist sensibilities…but there’s still no chance I’m the one proposing.”

Crazy.

Little did I know I wouldn’t have to wait more than a few days, as I was whisked off to New York City for the weekend with loverly friends, front mezzanine Broadway musical seats, a leisurely Central Park stroll, gluten/dairy/soy-free baked deliciousness from Babycakes and finally, a candlelit rooftop proposal overlooking the New Yorker and Empire State buildings. (Yeah, he might be a keeper.)

It turns out, though, getting engaged only exponentially increases the amount of uncertainty. Not only are there actual wedding plans to make (blagh), but we’re going to have to broach everything from worrying about people’s feelings to wondering where we’re going to live to actually figuring out this whole getting my own medical insurance thing.

And then there’s the questions. So many questions. I realize it’s only been a week so everyone’s just really excited for us (and truthfully, rant aside, I am too), but it worries me. I’m still the exact same person. Same goals, dreams, struggles and passions. For some reason, when a girl gets engaged, everyone seems to forget about this. Suddenly, wedding planning is all anyone thinks to ask about. I’ve seen it happen (and been guilty of perpetuating this myself), and it just makes me want to yell, I’m a whole person!

This is one reason I’m super grateful for my awesome friends, in addition to a whole lot of support and surprise celebrations, they just…talk. I had dinner with one such friend this week. After spending an hour and a half sharing work stories and life updates, we finally got around to talking about The Engagement. But you know what she was more interested in than the proposal story? Talking about how she’s seen us grow in our relationship over the past two years of our friendship and how neat it has been to see us appreciate each other the more we understand each other. Love her.

All that said, it has been quite fun typing this whole thing with a shiny diamond on my finger. 😉

Hello, Turkey

Finally! After severely underestimating the amount of photos I took in Istanbul (and Pamukkale), I now have something to show for it. Can you really blame me that every seaside walk provided the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen or the best [wrap, meatball, pudding, etc.] I’ve ever tasted? Okay, so maybe not everything was 100% superlative, but the whole Turkish thing added a few points to the grading curve.

And without further ado, Istanbul.

One overnight bus later...Pamukkale.
One overnight bus later…Pamukkale.
Nope, not ice! Just a white stone mountain with a constant stream of mineral water and sparkling pools. Also known as the warmest we would be the whole time in Turkey.
Nope, not ice! Just a white stone mountain with a constant stream of mineral water and sparkling pools. Also known as the warmest we would be the whole time in Turkey.
This is real. And we swam in it.
This is real. And we swam in it.
Another overnight bus later...we made it! Considering our complete disorientation and lack of Turkish this is a miracle in and of itself.
Another overnight bus later…we made it! Considering our complete disorientation and lack of Turkish this is a miracle in and of itself.
Our first cafe complete with hot Turkish tea and jazz. Both hugely popular in Istanbul it turns out.
Our first cafe complete with hot Turkish tea and jazz. Both hugely popular in Istanbul it turns out.
Oh you know...just a jaunt along the Bosphorous fishing villages.
Oh you know…just a jaunt along the Bosphorous fishing villages.
Seafood seaside.
Seafood seaside.
Drinking like the locals. Raki, liquid (alcoholic) licorice.
Drinking like the locals. Raki, liquid (alcoholic) licorice.
Started our 'Old City' day with the view from the Sultans' Palace.
Started our ‘Old City’ day with the view from the Sultans’ Palace.
Inside the Hagia Sophia, my favorite of the Old City.
Inside the Hagia Sophia, my favorite of the Old City.
Sultanahmet, aka the 'Blue' Mosque.
Sultanahmet, aka the ‘Blue’ Mosque.
A look back...the path between Hagia Sophia and Sultanahmet.
A look back…the path between Hagia Sophia and Sultanahmet.
Fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice street-side. Cheers.
Fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice street-side. Cheers.
The locals literally line the street for this Turkish coffee shop. Souvenirs? Check.
The locals literally line the street for this Turkish coffee shop. Souvenirs? Check.
Nobody does brunching like Turkey. Plate after plate of delicious dips, fruit, cheese and bread with - what else? - cup after cup of hot tea.
Nobody does brunching like Turkey. Plate after plate of delicious dips, fruit, cheese and bread with – what else? – cup after cup of hot tea.
Holy Coffee - Home to Berk, Turkish hipster/drummer for SXSW bands, and traditional Turkish drink, Salep. Not only did they buy the ingredients fresh for us, Berk invited us to a coffeeshop dance party and brought us along to a Turkish "home party."
Holy Coffee – Home to Berk, Turkish hipster/drummer for SXSW bands, and traditional Turkish drink, Salep. Not only did they buy the ingredients fresh for us, Berk invited us to a coffeeshop dance party and brought us along to a Turkish “home party.”
Taking a break from vintage shopping to appreciate the architecture...one of far too many photos.
Taking a break from vintage shopping to appreciate the architecture…one of far too many photos.
Welcome to our day of epic eating. Best of the best? This spicy meat wrap, courtesy of this guy.
Welcome to our day of epic eating. Best of the best? This spicy meat wrap, courtesy of this guy.
Finding our way to "hipster bar" Peyote for some live music and dancing. "You're going to a-love this place" - our friend Berk.
Finding our way to “hipster bar” Peyote for some live music and dancing. “You’re going to a-love this place” – our friend Berk.
The top of Galata Tower...Hello, Istanbul.
The top of Galata Tower…Hello, Istanbul.
Istanbul has islands, who knew? Enjoying a ferry on our way.
Istanbul has islands, who knew? Enjoying a ferry on our way.
Dodging sea gulls on the boat.
Dodging sea gulls on the boat.
Checking out the fish market before awkwardly crashing a way too nice restaurant just for their special fish soup. Worth it.
Checking out the fish market before awkwardly crashing a way too nice restaurant just for their special fish soup. Worth it.
We found the best Turkish coffee in Istanbul, a little hideaway in an alley. Still not sure if you're supposed to drink the grounds in the cup...
We found the best Turkish coffee in Istanbul, a little hideaway in an alley. Still not sure if you’re supposed to drink the grounds in the cup…
Goodbye for now, Istanbul! You were all I had hoped, and I would love to return.
Goodbye for now, Istanbul! You were all I had hoped, and I would love to return.

Chicago, finally

I know you’ve all been doing absolutely nothing besides wait for me to post the long-promised pictures from Chicago, so I’m happy to tell you…the wait is over.

In all seriousness, I do feel badly for leading you on for so long. I also hope you do have many better things to do, but if you’re looking to escape from a particularly stressful work day or kill time waiting in line or traffic, I’m happy to oblige with the below stream of photos. (Except the traffic part. Do what I don’t and put. down. the phone.)

My week off work for the Wisconsin wedding and Chicago visit was 100% the re-energizing, fulfilling, fun, relaxing and all those other awesome adjectives that vacations are supposed to be. One major takeaway was the revelation that Madison, WI is quite the cool city with a Portland/Austin vibe: adorable painted houses, two lakes, bike-friendly, focus on local food and businesses, lots of live music and probably more. Who knew? I would completely go back, if only to participate in the (genius) Brunch & Bike event.

As for Chicago, we didn’t make it to a Cubs game, but we did do everything else I hoped for and more including a sunset architecture boat tour through the city, Second City improv show, Hot Doug’s for a real Chicago hot dog, drinking coffee and checking out record shops and bookstores through Wicker Park / Bucktown (the “hipster” neighborhoods, can’t you tell?), a leisurely walk through Lincoln Park and the beach and rooftop swims at our downtown place.

I also found my favorite place in all of Chicago, a cafe called Fabcakes where I enjoyed the most delicious lavendar latte and vegan and gluten-free oatmeal cookies. It wasn’t until after making insta-friends with the lovely people behind the counter and going back for seconds that I saw it – the neighboring restaurant’s hugely printed name next to the cafe’s shaded outdoor patio, “Prosecco.” If that’s not a sign of perfection, I don’t know what is.

school grounds coffee WIwisconsin flowerswisconsin school grounds coffeemadison sourdough bakerymadison sourdough bakery breadWicker Park Bucktown ChicagoView from our downtown Chicago apartmentDowntown Chicago BuildingsLake Street Chicago RiverChicago River architecture boat tourChicago architecture boat tourChicago Skyline at NightSprinkles ATM Chicago - My first dessert of 2013!Chicago BeanWrigley Field and Chicago CubsFabcakes Chicago PatioProsecco Chicago RestaurantChicago Beach and BikesChicago - Lake Michigan