Create / Enjoy

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Our vacation reset routine

We had an amazing mini-vacation to the Oregon coast this past weekend. It was only two days, but I'm still on vacation high!

It was only two days, but it was just what we needed and we got incredibly lucky with 75 degree weather with full sun and no wind. Husband and I have been taking little trips to the coast since we started dating almost 12 years ago... and we have a pretty good routine figured out. We've never had much money to spend (though of course our lodgings and meals have gotten a little nicer over the years), and we usually just take one or two nights, and we usually go to the same few towns (though we've now added Central Oregon to our list of options)... but I realized this time around we have the perfect formula for these great little reset trips that get us in great moods and energized for our daily lives!

Let me tell you about it--while I show you a few things from our super awesome trip!

(I even made a shirt for the occasion.)

Our mini-vacation reset routine!

Our formula for a relaxing, fun, energizing, affordable vacation almost always includes the following elements...

1. Taking a day off. We get much better deals on hotels by going sometime random, like a Sunday through Monday! And, it helps to make it feel like a vacation and be less stressful to still have a normal weekend day before or after, before going back to work.

So, on Monday morning I woke up to this view and the sound of waves crashing against the cliffs. A stark contrast to my usual rainy, dark winter morning commute.

In fact, our hotel had a tiny window next to the huge sliding doors to the patio, so we slept with it open and soft ocean sounds all night. It was bliss.

2. Go somewhere you love--but also somewhere new. Neither of us had been to Newport in our memory, so we added that destination and got to learn about some new places! For example, we walked around the funky Newport Bay area and the shops on on Bay Street, and saw tons of sea lions resting (and fighting and barking) on the docks below! We got to see the bay later in the day before eating (and watching the Super Bowl--because I accidentally planned our trip during it) at what is apparently the headquarters of Rogue Ales, and learned about its connection to Mohava Niemi, founder of Mo’s Restaurants (you know Mo's if you know the Oregon coast)!

3. Morning reading time. We loooove doing this. We bring books and have sometimes read and hung out for a couple of hours! Sometimes the hotel has a space conducive to this (like the Adrift Hotel lobby as seen here), but really also love looking up and checking out cool local coffee shops. I so rarely have time to read as much as I'd like, so a quiet vacation morning is the perfect time.

Husband does get a little embarrassed when I pull out the camera and take several pictures of him in public, though. ;)

After that we drove down the coast and stopped at this viewpoint--I wish you could hear the waves, it was amazing!

4. Find funky restaurants and bookstores. On Monday we walked around the historic Nye Beach area of Newport. Great vibe here!

We love visiting friendly used bookstores and checking out local lunch spots.

(Side note: that teal building upper left is the Sylvia Beach Hotel, where each of the rooms is decorated and named for an author. I stayed there with my parents when I was a kid a couple times, including in the Dr. Seuss room!)

We found a great lunch place with lots of gluten-free options and locally sourced, hormone free grassfed meat and fresh seafood. I had these local wild-caught albacore tacos with apple red pepper cabbage slaw and fresh guac. (I didn't eat the beans and the corn tortillas were quite the treat but this was delicious!!!)

Aah, the small town funky bookstore. Can you smell the books?

Yes, there are more books for sale in what used to be a kitchen for whatever the building was many, many years ago. (How old is that stove??!)

5. Walk! Hike! Get tired! Thanks to the beyond gorgeous weather, we were extra motivated to get out and enjoy it for longer, but regardless--we love finding new hikes or even just taking long walks. It feels so good to move your legs after sitting in the car for a couple hours the day before, and it's a great way to relax just talking and taking a look around. (Also a good way to move--do yoga and handstands on the beach).

At the end of our trip this weekend we went to Devil's Punchbowl State Natural Area, a "punchbowl" of sea caves with no roof where waves splash at high tide and you can explore tidepools at low tide. 

We walked barefoot for an hour and a half in the heat and sun on this gorgeous afternoon, just listening to the waves, observing the patterns in the sand, and talking about things. (Barefoot walking is so fun for me! And Katy Bowman would approve if my feet are strong enough.)

After that we had to go home and get things ready for our (now short) week. But we felt so HAPPY and refreshed from our day off--it's not so bad!

We have other coast and Oregon recommendations--see our trips to good ol' SeasideAstoria on a very cold winter weekend; Adrift Hotel here, here, and here; and recent trips to Bend and Smith Rock in Central Oregon!

Friday, February 5, 2016

12 ways to love your home (almost) just the way it is!

I've been thinking about this post for a long time!

Back last fall when we decided not to sell our home, I started giving a lot of thought to what really makes me feel good in a home. We looked at so many of houses for sale, and eventually after changing our search parameters when we couldn't find what we really wanted, we realized--our home is (or can be) just as good as or better than all these!! With a few changes, we realized we could make our home perfect for us--and we could be really grateful for what we have.

We've made some small changes around the house since then, most of them free or very affordable, and we've started taking care of a few things that we had stopped maintaining. It feels much better to be take care and pride in our home! (When we thought we were moving, we stopped doing things like organizing the garage since we figured it wouldn't matter soon!)

12 ways to love your home (almost) just the way it is! (and why?)

I realize this goal of taking good care of something that's important to me is very in-tune with my blog's new name and mission. To me, "Create/Enjoy" means enjoying my time at home and feeling relaxed in the space/with the things I've created! I've spent so much time decorating my home, now I ought to enjoy it!

This goal reminds me of another passion of mine--self-love and body acceptance. My biggest inspiration in this front is Molly Galbraith, who shared an amazing 28-day Love Your Body Challenge (do the 7-day version here!) and runs Girls Gone Strong, which is full of articles and inspiration for training and health (and attitude). Some of my favorite body/self positivity messages from Molly are here--just put "home" instead of "self" or "body" and they totally make sense for this goal!

  • "You can love your body right now, while wanting it to look or perform differently."
  • "I am perfect just as I am. And I could use a little improvement."
  • "If you don't love your body, where the heck else are you gonna live?"

They say the home reflects the self. So, since deciding to stay put, I've resolved to make my home and myself more positive! Here are 12 ways I've done it.

12 things you can do to make your home better!

  1. Clean it. I'm not the greatest at cleaning but I'm learning, and it's amazing how much better I feel when the bathroom mirror and counter are clean. Or the stove--oh, the stove. Getting into a cleaning routine and getting used to having things clean have been really nice!
  2. Clean out/up medicine cabinet. How often do people clean those out?!? I had stuff in there from, literally high school. One Saturday morning husband and I went through everything and got rid of a bunch of unused stuff, making room for some things that had been on the counters.
  3. Move art around. As I shared earlier this week, we recently swapped the living room and dining room art and curtains and it transformed the spaces! Redecorating for free!
  4. Fresh paint in a small room. I actually used a combination of grey and white paints we already had to repaint our half bath from a very dark color (to get the same color family as the other greys in our home, just a lighter/medium shade). Changing that bathroom, since it had been a very strong statement, made such a difference! Every time I walked by it I felt happy for a few weeks.
  5. Fix broken things. We lived with our freezer leaking water occasionally for way too long. Somehow finding the time to call the appliance place, schedule a time, and commit to paying the repairman felt like a huge mountain to climb. But once I did it, I felt responsible and good about myself, and of course the freezer stopped leaking. (If you're a renter, it's even easier and cheaper to get things fixed, of course!) 
  6. Have a dinner party. We feel so good about our home when we fill it with friends and conversations. Over the holidays when we had several couples over we crammed into our dining room and hung out casually in the kitchen and living room too, and it made us so grateful to have a home that could (creatively) accommodate people we want to spend time with. Great way to feel good about what you have, using it for a purpose like that!
  7. Find something new in your neighborhood. We love taking walks, but we usually go to the same places. Exploring new parks that are just a little farther away or finding a new restaurant has been really fun for us and made us glad to live where we do!
  8. Buy organizers. You can't go overboard on this one because I swear stores like The Container Store are just selling an idea of an organized life (Liz Lemon's "I'm going to become wonderful!" when she buys all those containers...)... but sometimes you actually do need some tools to keep things sorted. 
  9. Trade out small, inexpensive items. I recently traded out our nightstands, which felt a little too formal and frilly, for a tiny dresser we had in another room and a nightstand a friend had had for a while. That and trading out the blanket at the end of the bed made our bedroom feel fresh and new!
  10. Finally order the hanging file frames. Okay, maybe it's just me. We had a file cabinet with no file frames so the green file holder things just flopped around. I never knew exactly what they were called so I procrastinated... then I finally tried to find them and ordered them (less than $9 on Amazon) and then filing things instead of leaving them on the desk was so much easier. Easy fix!!
  11. Take care of the houseplants. Houseplants are great! But having sad-looking ones around the house makes me feel sad that I can't even keep plants alive and thriving. We recently added soil to some of them and staked a couple others, and they're doing better. Simple maintenance tasks like that are important!
  12. (Okay, I haven't done this one yet, it's on my list) More major improvements. I keep moving the calendar appointment with the measurements in it to next Saturday, then next Saturday, and so on... I want to buy a cabinet for above our washer and dryer. I want to find one at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, and they're only open 8-5 and Saturdays so I have to go some Saturday. But that's one of the last functional things about the house I want to change--cabinets there for storage instead of the wimpy wire shelf. It won't cost too much and is totally feasible to install ourselves, just gotta do it! 

Some more photos from the art and curtain redecorating swap. A different space!

What are some simple ways you make your home feel more personalized and special, or to feel grateful for it?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Rich, cakey Paleo beet brownies

Aren't brownies the best? I sure think they are, and when I shared this recipe with my mom she said pretty much the exact same thing as soon as I said the word "brownies." I know it's not just us. Brownies are soooooo good.

I've played around with several grain-free brownie recipes and combinations, and my chunky, fudgy brownies from last summer turned out so great! But, somehow I got it in my head to celebrate winter veggies with a BEET brownie to add moisture and richness for a very different texture brownie. You know, like applesauce cake, zucchini bread, and the like? Except with beets!

Whole Foods Market is also excited for winter veggies and provided me with the ingredients to make this grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free (optional), real food Paleo beet brownie recipe! Check out your local Whole Foods for seasonal produce items from sources local to you. (Read about their quality standards here.)

Rich & cakey Paleo beet brownies


  • 1-2 beets, depending on size (will be about 1/2 cup once chopped)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 c. coconut oil, unsalted butter, or ghee, softened
  • 1/2 c. nut butter of choice (you could even use my homemade cashew/sunflower butter!)
  • 1/2 c. maple syrup
  • 1/2 c. cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 c. high quality dark chocolate pieces (Enjoy Life chocolate chips or chunks of dark chocolate)


    1. Coarsely chop the beets and boil until soft.
    2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a glass baking pan (8" square or rectangular) with coconut oil or unsalted butter. (I find a chunk of cold coconut oil works great for this.) 
    3. While beets are boiling, combine all other ingredients except chocolate chips in a food processor. Pulse until smooth.
    4. When beets have boiled, run under cold water until cooled. (Optional: Peel skins off.)
    5. Add beets to food processor mixture process until smooth.
    6. Add chocolate chips to the mixer bowl but stir with spoon or spatula. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish.
    7. Bake 30-35 minutes or until a fork in the center comes out clean. 

    You could also add walnuts if you like your brownies even chunkier! They are so rich and satisfying just like this, though, and I love the dark chocolate chips mixed into bites!

    Thanks to Whole Foods Market for providing me the ingredients for this recipe!

    Thursday, January 28, 2016

    Living and dining room makeovers! And the curtain swap.

    I put so much thought into decorating our home for after we first moved in. We went without a couch and dining room curtains for ages while I waited to find the right things. Some trial and error went into the dining room curtains, then I found some I liked... I played around with the gallery wall in the dining room, but it was always a little too dark... all in all, we loved our home but we learned a lot in having free reign to decorate it--and I finally decided to do something with that knowledge!

    After 3+ years of our home looking like this, I wanted big change, but didn't know what that would be. So I found a totally risk-free, literally free solution. I switched the curtains from the living room (the pink lined ones I made) with the light tan Ikea ones I had hemmed to our 107" length for both rooms. Of course the ikat look zigzag pink/red/turquoise painting had to go with the pink curtains, so we put it in the dining room and were left with a blank wall in the living room.

    These simple changes totally transformed the look of the dining room, and gave it a light pink rosy glow and simplicity that feels really calming for eating.

    Another change we made in the dining room was I sold the grey nailhead chairs I recovered. It's sad to get rid of something you've made and put time into, but they were just too big for the space with our big table! To replace them, at least temporarily, I found some classic 90's honey oak chairs for $6.99 each at Goodwill--they are totally plain and dated but I actually really like them. The color is actually nice, and the style really is functional for, you know, a chair.

    For the living room... putting the tan curtains up on the big window immediately made the room feel calmer and more grown-up. Grey, white, and tan--what's not to like? For above the couch, we hung some special charcoal drawings done by husband's grandpa, who was an art teacher and still is quite the artist.

    I really love the calm neutrals in this room now. But I think we might want to add a few colors! Maybe with spring I'll add some bright pillows. (The home body pillow is not going anywhere, though. I love it.) Any other suggestions?

    I did bring down the vintage turquoise lamp, which is pretty cool. I'm not sure it really matches, but we wanted a lamp there. I also played around with moving the Louis XV chair I recovered and painted to a more prominent, use-able spot.

    Now that the Christmas tree is gone I love the bright, smaller plants around the room!

    It's amazing how small, cheap (well, free) changes updated our living space and made such a big difference in how we feel about the space. Those pink curtains were feeling stale in the living room, but now I love them in the dining room! And the living room feels more elegant and relaxed without that painting, but I really like it above the dining room table. Here's to redecorating and doing more with what you have!!

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016

    Shimmery blue sort of retro party dress!

    A party is a reason for a new dress, right??

    This year my company's winter party was WWII USO-themed, held at a very cool old building at Fort Vancouver, complete with cake walk, air raid sirens (you know, before announcements), and swing dancing. (We even held a bake sale at the office a couple weeks before and raised a ton of money for some local veterans' organizations!)

    Now, I'm not going to lie--yes, I was on the winter party committee and yes, I may have suggested the retro theme because it's fun to dress for it. Last year we had a ski theme which everyone got really into and was super fun, but I didn't get a chance to wear a pretty dress!

    This year almost everyone got into it again, with lots of red lipstick and several people (me included) attepting victory rolls (see how I actually looked at the party here). I wanted to make a dress that would fit with the theme, but also be something I could wear again later.

    Not a lot of careful planning went into the dress--I looked at my fabric stash and found a shimmery blue-purple changeable poly that was actually a massive curtain swag I got at a secondhand shop. Tons of yardage. I had been picturing it as an overlapping bodice, full skirt--I pulled out Butterick B5319 and planned to lengthen the bodice pieces a ton and make the midriff panel into just a waistband.

    For the skirt, I wanted something really full and had enough fabric for a circle skirt, so I used the skirt from Butterick B4792, a 50's vintage reprint with the circle skirt with front and back concentrated gather areas. So cute. In the shimmery drapey poly, the skirt doesn't look like the ones on the pattern cover but is still super fun to wear and dance in!! I tried a puffy petticoat underneath but it was too long and too full for my taste. Would have made it more 50's New Look, anyway.

    The circle skirt took absolutely forever to hem, but is so fun!!

    I realize now that it's done that it doesn't look 40's retro at all, but it doesn't matter. It was pretty and fun to wear. Of course I dressed it up with pearls, red lipstick, a vintage fur shrug, and my attempt at victory rolls in my hair! (See here.) It was perfect for the party!

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