Shot of Joy 14

Prettiest tart at the market and the perfect thing after a rushed lap session. (Or so I am telling myself today.)
– strawberries showing up at the market – the slowly warming weather – spending Saturday swimming laps then perusing the market at PSU – the lap pool at PSU Rec Center – learning to swim correctly – prescription goggles – actually seeing in the pool –
Loving my new gym bag. All packed and ready for the am. Now hopefully the Rec Center pool won't have an unexpected closure.
– starting up my yoga practice again – working out before work, even when that means getting up before 6am – mostly having a flexible schedule to allow me to do things like attend a yoga class – lemongrass tea –
Stamps for invitations? ??
– my new essential oil diffuser – filling my place with calming and relaxing essential oil mixes – not making a bunch of weekend plans to recharge – my car, it’s perfect for our needs – not having a bunch of stress from wedding planning – feeling better overall, even with a recent anxiety episode – the sun that’s outside right now –

Sunny Day in May

Moody Sea
May is always one of my favorite months. In California the weather was warm again, everything was blooming, and when I was younger it meant that school was almost over for the year. Now that I live in the Pacific Northwest that isn’t always the case. It’s warm and then it’s not, the sky is grey and rainy and you are left wondering why you didn’t wear socks with your shoes. But it’s nice today, the sky is mostly blue, the sun is out, and I’m in a really good place.

I’ve been at this new job for a few months now. I’m still learning things but I feel like I mostly have the day-to-day minutiae of my job down. This summer is a first for business travel and that’s an interesting position to be in. I’ve slowly been accumulating small things to keep that are specifically for travel so I can cut down on the unpack/repack for the few busy months ahead.

I have a handful of half-started ideas I thought I would end up fleshing out sooner. Blog posts, writing ideas, other assorted creative starts are sprinkled everywhere I look. I meant to come here sooner, I always do, but it’s been hard lately.

February ended in a big upheaval, starting a new job, dealing with a car accident, getting a new car, and jumping into everything. I’ve had some other difficult decisions to make and have been processing the result of those decisions for a while now. This all coincided with one of the worst anxiety episodes I’ve had in years. I spent all of April constantly feeling anxious. I couldn’t catch my breath and I felt like I was trying to navigate my life behind warped glass. Everything felt distorted. I feel like I’m finally finding my way out of this anxiety bubble. Things aren’t feeling so impossible anymore. So I’m here because at the moment writing this doesn’t feel just so hard.

I went to San Diego for work at the end of April. Spent my six year anniversary on the beach with my feet in the water and even though I ended up bright red, it’s one of my favorite anniversaries to date. I’m still working through my pictures of San Diego, I just simply haven’t had the desire to upload them and do some editing. But I’m slowly itching to start doing things like that again. With the bursts of nice weather I think about going out adventuring with my camera, which makes me happy.

I’ve started swimming laps this month as well. I have prescription goggles which are amazing inventions and I can’t tell you how good it is to see in the water, really see, not just seeing blurs and not knowing if it was a person or a marking on the side of the wall. Vahid is teaching me to freestyle swim and it’s difficult. Or rather coordinating myself is difficult, but I’m learning. I’ve never been a great swimmer. I would drown in the water but I was only ever a master of a hybrid doggy paddle and underwater swim that barely kept me afloat. I’m managing about 300 meters a session and slowly building up from there.

May always ends up being a big month of change for me. It could be the first signs of spring bring an unconscious want to change. It could be because it’s my birthday month and as such I find myself naturally reflecting back on the previous year and looking forward to the new one. Perhaps it’s nothing to do with anything and it simply takes me five months to start a change. No matter what it feels good to move again, to be hopeful again, and to know that I’m exactly where I should be in this moment.

Shot of Joy 13

Winter hiking!

-having a lot of energy in the mornings – walking to work, even in the rain – the crispness of the air after a rain – the bright sunny days – the weather in general has been quite nice – savoring a warm drink on a chilly morning –

-ginger – visiting the Japanese Gardens for free thanks to my Lan Su Membership – getting my library card – using the library app to read several e-books – all the comics I’ve been reading lately – the Birds of Prey series – Friday morning reading dates –

Spent the afternoon reading and drinking a chai with hemp milk. Nice way to spend a Friday.

-really focusing on my health – learning how certain foods affect me – still going strong on vastly limiting the amount of sugar I’m eating – not feeling tempted by all the treats at work anymore – keeping up with consistent workouts – feeling stronger –

-feeling really positive about some things that are happening, even if it means I’m in a difficult situation now – feeling like the universe is pointing me a really great direction –

Had a rough day today so I bought myself a little treat. #treatyoself #notcake

What things are giving you joy right now? How’s your week been going?

The Nanny

My lovely friend, Elizabeth Barone, asked me if I wanted to read her newest book in exchange for reviews and feedback. I jumped at the chance because I am always down to read a book and even better when it’s free. (I sound like such a miser but really I am just trying to curb my terrible habit of buying ALL THE BOOKS and then crying because I don’t have time to read them all.)

A little bit about Elizabeth’s work:

“Elizabeth Barone writes contemporary New Adult romance and suspense. Her stories focus on the gritty side of being a twenty-something, featuring characters who chose an alternative path in life. (read more on her about page).”

nannybookThe book she gave me for advance review was titled The Nanny With the Skull Tattoos. It was a romance story about a young man, Max, who is struggling to grow up while also caring for a daughter he had very young. He hires a nanny to live with him, Savannah, and romance and heartache and tense times follow.

The story flows quickly and easily. You find yourself moving from chapter to chapter without realizing that in one sitting you’ve easily burned through five or six chapters. The characters are well formed and as you read you want to know them. I found myself very frustrated by Max making stupid decisions and wanting to know how Savannah was going to react to certain things that were unfolding. I also quickly decided who I liked and who I didn’t among the other characters.

The events in the book could be seen as unbelievable if it weren’t for the fact that the characters felt real. When it comes to love everyone has their opinions of “what would actually happen” versus “what is totally unrealistic.” But no matter the situations the characters found themselves in you didn’t question the reality of it, instead you just shook your head, either yes in agreement or no in disbelief.

I found myself reading the final page with immense satisfaction. As all good stories do I couldn’t help but feel an emotional tug towards everyone in the book and hoping that their lives after the final printed words truly did pan out for the best.

I really enjoyed the story that Elizabeth crafted and look forward to reading more of her work. If you like contemporary stories about characters that could be your friends and family you should check out her body of work. I can guarantee there’s something there for just about everyone.

Read more information on The Nanny With the Skull Tattoos and preorder the book at a special price by clicking here. (Preorder is available for Amazon, iBooks, Kobo and Google Play.)

The Nanny With the Skull Tattoos will be released February 24, 2015.

Are you excited for Elizabeth’s new book? What are some books you are reading right now?

**This copy was provided in exchange for review by the author. All opinions expressed are my own.

Slow Cooker Carnitas

(Sorry there are no photos because I realized something: I suck at photographing meat. It was also so delicious that it didn’t last long.)

When I was a little kid my idea of Mexican food consisted of bean and cheese burritos and chips with bean dip. I didn’t even venture into salsa until well into my teens. I know, I was the whitest little kid ever. I remember my mom would get batches of homemade tamales from her friends and I would never eat them. They looked weird. What was with the leaves they were wrapped in? No thank you.

Now that I am well into my adulthood and also dating someone who knows his way around some good Mexican food there are now several things I love, tamales among them. Every once in a while Vahid will make wonderful frijoles from scratch and they are the best thing ever. About once a month I will make a big batch of carnitas and we eat them throughout the week. Usually I would make them on the stove cooking them for a few hours. Recently I have adapted the recipe to make them in the slow cooker which is so much more convenient. I can set it to cook overnight and wake up to wonderful delicious food in the morning.

Slow Cooker Carnitas:

  • 3 lbs pork shoulder, cut into chunks
  • 2 stips of bacon to line the bottom of the slow cooker (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 tablespoon oregano
  • ground black pepper or ground nigella seeds to taste
  • apple cider vinegar
  • (optional: ½ teaspoon ground garlic or one chopped up garlic clove; dash of onion powder, dash of cayenne pepper)
  1. Chop of your pork into about 2 inch chunks
  2. Line the slow cooker with strips of bacon if using then cover the bottom with the pork
  3. add your seasonings as evenly as you can. (Note: if using the optional seasonings you can omit the oregano. I try to limit my garlic and onion consumption due to the cognitive effects they can have and sometimes cayenne upsets my digestion so I sub oregano to add a delightful flavor)
  4. cook on low for 8-10 hours
  5. Pork should be soft and easily pulled apart when done
  6. After cooking add some apple cider vinegar to the cooked pork. It adds a delightful tartness to the meat

Now I’m sure this isn’t an authentic recipe or anything but I call it carnitas and it’s delicious in a taco or burrito or anything else you want to put it in. It has a great taste and is savory with just the right amount of flavor and is great as a base for guacamole or salsa. Sometimes I’ve even added some to my eggs to make a quick scramble in the morning.

If you try out this recipe let me know how you like it. I’d love to hear your thoughts.