The Things You Keep When Clearing Out

JaiEarringsCleaning up / clearing out your space, no matter that space, challenges you to think hard about what you want to keep and what you truly don't need. We packed up most of our personal belongings when we went left for England this year. (Friends were renting and we were making space for them.) Upon our return, we pulled out the essentials from their boxes and left the other stuff to get around to.

I finally got around to a big plastic bin of random t-shirts, bathing suits, work out clothes and my jewelry. "My jewelry" sounds fancy, but really it's a bunch of cheap and cheerful bead bracelets, glass earrings, etc. Nothing upscale at all. I just hadn't wanted to take two sandwich sized bags of stuff with me. 

Since we've been back I've had only what I had in England: four pairs of earrings, five necklaces and one ring. And it's been plenty.

While unpacking yesterday, I made a pile to give away and cut down my jewelry load by 1/3 or so. That feels good.

But these. These will never go. Never ever. 

These were made by a dear friend I knew from high school. She died in a house fire with her two little children in 2003. Devastating.

You could never put Jai in a tidy box. She couldn't be defined. Quirky gets close, but is not quite enough. She was an artist and made lovely jewelry. These are the only things of hers I own and I will keep them close. 

If you've seen the tattoo on my right ankle, that's her website logo design. She's always with me. 

Cleaning out stuff always brings up memories and emotions and joy and pain. And so much to celebrate, even in grief. 


5 Things I Miss About England (An Incomplete List)

We lived in England for only four months and I miss it just about every day. Today I wanted a nice cup of strong black tea but didn't have any in the house. Plenty of Earl Grey and Jasmine green and chamomile and etc etc. But not any bog-standard* black tea. I had to order some from Amazon. Made me think of what else I've been missing! Here's a short list:

I miss the green! This was in the park behind out house and we walked there often. Soothing to the soul.

SoSoGreen

I miss Waitrose! This was my last visit to our local Waitrose and I was so sad. Not sure why I loved it so much. A bit nicer than your standard Sainsbury's or Tesco, but not crazy fancy by any means. But they had this brand of prepared foods that we fell in love with. So YUM.

IMG_4578 CharlieBingham

I miss the tea. Good strong black tea. The Tea aisle in any grocery store in the UK is much more fascinating than our "coffee and tea" aisles in the states.

YorkshireTEa

I miss the pubs - Especially ones with excellent food and lovely gardens. Like this one - The Holly Bush. (Even better - it's in Potter's Crouch!) Pubs are family friendly, dog friendly, friendly friendly. It's a different type of place that we don't have an equal to here in the US.

HollyBushPub

I miss school uniforms. I never went to a school that required uniforms, so this was a total novelty for me. They are so sweet! I know, I know, anyone who went to school in England is rolling their eyes at me. I loved shopping for these. 

Uniforms

Uniform  Uniformalt

Gawd I can't wait to go back. Until then I have to get my fill with The Crown, British Baking Show and Doctor Who.

 

 *Bog standard is a phrase I learned there and love. I use it still, and always will. 

 

Note: Affiliate links included in this post.

 

 

 


One Of My Many Side Projects

HASHTAG HOME:

Hashtag Housewarming I can't say for sure what my main project is right now. There are a lot of sides projects going - and going strong!
 I started designing some fun "merch" (as the kids say) and have it up for sale on a site called Zazzle. 
 
 I started with lots of wacky fun Halloween/Candy Corn/Sugar Skull items. And have now been updating with my Hashtag Home   line. It's all a bit of fun and I love how the items are turning out!
 
 CLICK on the images to see more in each collection. Then tell me what you think.
 
 And in the header up thereImage result for finger up emojiImage result for finger up emojiImage result for finger up emojiyou can click on "SHOP" to go to the store and see what's new anytime!
 
HALLOWEEN SHOP:
Candy Corn Halloween


Different Directions

I don't have a job at present. And by job I mean I'm not booked on a movie. But I am working my ass off.

My Menopodcast partner, Sarah, recently mentioned a book called The 12 Week Year. It sounded intriguing to imagine jamming a bunch of goals into 12 weeks instead of 12 months. I was curious (skeptical?) and had a free Audible.com credit so I got the audio book and started listening. 

And I'm in. 

I bought a hard copy so I could write notes, highlight sections, easily reread bits, and flip around for different sections. My key takeaways are to FOCUS ON ACTIONS, not results. Also to write everything out, build a schedule that works for me every day and STICK TO IT. There is an aspect of this plan that I love: Scoring. You have to score yourself each week-score yourself on tangible tactics and "to-dos" on the plan. 

You also have to stretch and sacrifice and be uncomfortable because that is what change requires. 

Some days it SUCKS. But one of the tips to get you back on track is to review your big vision. What do you want your life to look like in 3 years? I realized today I need to have that vision statement nearby my work desk so I don't forget what I'm working toward.

I'm in week 2 and have achieved a decent amount of my weekly goals set for week 1. I'm doing well so far here in week 2 (and yes, blogging is scheduled as it is part of a bigger goal.) 

I won't review my goals with you now. I would much rather review what I accomplished at the end of 12 weeks. And even if it's not 100% - even if it's only 65%? I will be proud. Proud because I started now and will have accomplished something. 

Stay tuned for the review of my first 12 week year. Coincidentally it ends on December 29.

Give it a shot! 

 

 

 

Note: My links (and/or images) often connect you with Amazon Affiliates products. I write about things I love and use. I don't get compensated to write about them. (I'll tell you if I do.) However, if you do decide to click through and end up buy something, I'll get a little bit from that sale.

 


New Favorite Breakfast-Overnight Oats

Preamble: I'm not really a food blogger. But I do like food very much!

My breakfast routine is pretty routine. Usually nonfat greek yogurt with fruit or berries and sliced almonds on top. Occasionally I'll have cereal, but that's kinda more like dessert in a way. (Even if it is made up of high fiber twigs and flakes.) I love oatmeal, but it's not cold enough for a big bowl of hot breakfast yet (I live in Los Angeles - go Dodgers!)

Overnight Oats have been on my radar for a while, but I didn't pay attention, thinking they were too prep heavy. Turns out I have idiotic thoughts and in fact they are SUPER EASY!

  • 1/2 cup rolled/old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup milk (of whatever kind of milk you like)
  • 1Tbs chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried fruit
  • Put all that in a mason jar, stir well and refrigerate 5 hours or up to 5 days. When you go to eat it, stir well and add honey or syrup or fresh fruit or nuts. 

That's it! Here's my before/after shots. I like using frozen cherries in oatmeal or the yogurt/fruit combo. And almonds. Lots of almonds! PS - also kinda healthy for you.

  IMG_5664  IMG_5670

Note: Many of my links (and/or images below) connect you with Amazon Affiliates products. I write about things I love and use. I don't get compensated to write about them. (I'll tell you if I do.) However, if you do decide to click through and end up buy something, I'll get a little bit from that sale.

Mason Jars: 

 

Quaker Old Fashioned Oats:


Improv Cooking - New To Me

IMG_5663
Building an Improv Lasagna

I love to cook. I try new recipes, I buy cookbooks, I subscribe to emails for recipes. The food comes out well, I think, at least 9 times out of 10.

One thing I'm not great at is improv cooking - looking into the cupboards or fridge to see what's there and then whip something up. Following rules is something I'm better at. And one of my current goals is to be better at improv cooking!

Last night I took the leftover squash (butternut and zucchini) in the fridge and decided I could make a veggie lasagna. In my cupboard were boxes of whole wheat lasagna sheets (no boil style) I'd bought a while back but hadn't used. (I just looked at my amazon history and see that I bought the lasagna noodles in, ahem, 2015! Luckily the expiration is Dec. 2018. Guess who is going to be eating LOTS of lasagna before the end of the year??!)

Glancing at a few basic veggie lasagna recipes, I made a bechamel sauce (I did look at a recipe for that!) and built a decent lasagna. There was also mozzarella and parmesan in my fridge.

IMG_5666
Finished product

These days, with a shift in life and work priorities, I'm working harder than ever to save money and not just buy whatever I need the moment I think of something. Therefore, the improv cooking. Or better to call it the "USE WHAT YOU HAVE!!" method of cooking. In our pasta/rice drawer, there is a lot of both that need to be used. (Hint: Rice casseroles coming soon!)

The pasta sheets I bought were whole wheat and organic. (See images below to click on the affiliate link and try some for yourself.) Nobody really seems to notice the difference between regular and whole wheat these days, so I usually opt for whole wheat. 

As for the finished product? Not bad! I had sauteed the butternut and zucchini but the butternut squash went weirdly dark brown after the baking. Tasted fine, just looked, um, odd. Also, I think there needed to be more filling. It all went very flat. I'm still pleased with myself and I'll do it again. 

I used my trusty pyrex baking dish. I swear I used to have two of these, but can only find one....hmmmm. Maybe in a frenzy of "clean out all the crap!" I did away with one. Or maybe it lives at someone else's house now because I made something and took it for a potluck. Maybe I need to put this on my Christmas wish list. I like the glass better than a metal pan. I like seeing the layers cooking. 

I will continue to practice my Improv Cooking skills. Stay tuned for my next adventure, probably rice related!

P.S. Many of my links (and/or images below) connect you with Amazon Affiliates products. I write about things I love and use. I don't get compensated to write about them. (I'll tell you if I do.) However, if you do decide to click through and end up buy something, I'll get a little bit from that sale.

Click the image for Pryex dishes: 

 Click the image for Whole Wheat Lasagna (set of 6):


Homemade Kefir and Smoothies and Blenders

IMG_5455Whilst we were in England, I had three lovely visits with a friend I've known since high school. She taught me about making your own kefir for all that probiotic goodness and I've tried it now that I'm home. I had heard interesting stories on the BBC about how our microbiome may affect our physical and mental health. Fascinating stuff. Why not add it to a healthy diet? (Which I'm working on to make better habits!)

I decided to keep it simple, cheap, and cheerful to start in case I hated it. So I bought dry kefir starter and put it into milk. (The options are coconut water, juice or milk. I am not a fan of coconut water, thank you very much. With amount of coconuts I've peeled, cracked, drank and eaten as a kid in the tropics, I'm pretty much DONE with that.)(#islandgirl)

The flavor it creates is like a tart yogurt flavor in a creamy milky texture. I like it a lot. It's super easy: You put 1 quart of milk into a pitcher and one packet of dry kefir starter. Place a paper towel or coffee filter over the top, keep it in place with a rubber band and let it sit on your counter for 12-18 hours until the seeds bloom. Basically you know it's ready when the milk turns to cream and it has a lovely yogurt smell. Then you refrigerate and drink or make into smoothies or whatever you like, keeping 1/4 cup to start a new batch.

One very important step: once it's ready, blend or whisk it to smooth out the chunky bits. Because there will be chunky bits and that was an almost instant turn off when I poured out my first glass to drink. I quickly poured it back and texted my friend: What do I do with the chunks!?!?! 

Screen Shot 2018-09-18 at 1.29.32 PM

And the smoothie was good. But once I learned you can't kill the kefir with blending, I just give it a quick whisk in a glass before drinking it if I have no time for smoothies.

And putting it in smoothies is super yummy just like adding milk or yogurt. I tend to toss in whatever fruit is getting a bit too squishy plus some frozen fruit to make it cold. I also like to add shredded carrot and sometimes spinach if it's about to be past its prime. (The other morning I forgot the frozen stuff and have to say a lukewarm smoothie is not super great...lesson learned!)

IMG_5452Here is a ridiculous picture of my blender with peach, kefir, carrots, apple and banana. Crystal clear! LOL. Currently I have a GIANT Ninja blender. I was purchased in haste last year, but does come in handy for larger batches of smoothies and such. 

Oooh, random thought: I have about 1/4 cup of passion fruit juice that I squeezed myself when I made passion fruit curd a few weeks ago. (Post on that later!) I will put that in a smoothie soon! MMmmmmm. 

I'm giving it a shot, maybe it improves my mood? (Not that I need much help in that arena.) Maybe it improves my colon health? (Won't really know that until I get my next colonoscopy.) Maybe it improves my smoothy flavor? (Never a bad thing.)

No matter the result, I'll report back.

 

 

 

P.S. Many of my links connect you with Amazon Affiliates products. I write about things I love and use. I don't get compensated to write about them. (I'll tell you if I do.) However, if you do decide to click through and end up buy something, I'll get a little bit from that. 


New Starts - Watch This Space!

LifesABeachI feel like I'm in first gear. And it's good to be starting again, slowly revving up to new things. I'm learning a lot, getting into new habits, working to stay focused when my attention is scattered all over by these new shiny exciting ideas and plans.

One of the plans involves revamping this blog. It needs a redesign STAT. And I have fun plans for new content and varied story telling. I'm also going to start working with the Amazon Affiliates program so if you see me hawking some wares with amazon links, know that it's all for stuff I use and love. I'm not being paid by anyone to post about them, just looking for some revenue streams while I write about what excites me.

I hope you'll follow me on instagram too: @freyjulia as there will be a lot of new stuff happening there, plus some Harper related fun. I'll be on Facebook a lot less as I push past my regular old boundaries. 

One big goal I'm going to work toward is writing a novel in November. Did you know November is National Novel Writing Month? Truth! I know people who have done it and are honing their novels to this day. England inspired me with a notion for a novel and so I'll be blasting out ... something like a novel ... a very rough draft of a novel. But it will be something to work with and expand on. 

Season 2 of Menopodcast will be out soon and then we'll begin Season 3. I hope you are listening! 

See? So much to see and do. And I've only talked about HALF of it! Stay tuned, watch for changes, come along with me into new worlds!

Watch this space.


So That Happened

Oh Hello.

We are back from our trip to England. It went differently than planned on a couple of big levels, and it also went 1000x better than planned. 

I recapped my March Goals here just before we left. I had lost 15 pounds on my way to losing 40. Good for me. Then we moved and life got nuts. New house, new neighborhood, new driving habits, new office, new colleagues, new food. My blog post was not very forthcoming on my attitude about the move and the job at that time. I mentioned tenacity as my keyword. That was true to a point for the job and the move. 

Then it wasn't relevant anymore and my job ended and I was free. For two months I worked and Harper went to school and Kurt worked at the house and it rained. Then the job ended (for a variety of reason none of which are necessary to write about here - not yet anyway) and it stopped raining and there was this dry, hot, no-one-has-air-con-in-England summer. There was travel and adventure and family time and personal reckoning. There was also much eating and drinking and simply enjoying the hell out of life with new friends and then visitors from the US. 

I learned a lot about myself and what I want and need. But that didn't really clarify completely until two weeks after returning home. Just this last week has seen some amazing changes for me. For us. Good changes. Happy changes. Exciting changes.

It's all a bit vague, I know, but I'll do a slow retelling in the next months as I revamp this blog and my social media life and creative world in general. 

I feel so good. 

JuliaAndBirdOfPrey