It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted on this blog, and honestly I’m okay with that. I initially intended this to be more of a travel and adventure blog, but as I’ve really settled into my life in Portland it’s been difficult to maintain that travel energy. Looking back, 2019 was packed full of action- holidays, weddings, work trips, hikes, weekend getaways, festivals, visits from friends and family, etc. In many ways it was great, and I’m thankful that my life is so full of good things.
But burnout is real, and I think I hit my personal breaking point last fall. I had been planning a dream California trip: I was going to visit a friend in San Francisco then drive down the coast to LA. This epic road trip had been on my bucket list for years, and over the summer I was intoxicated with the idea of it. But as the trip crept closer and closer I found myself hesitant and unwilling to research, plan, or book anything. It hit me that maybe instead of a dreamy, Instagram-worthy vacation I just needed a break. I ended up canceling most of the trip and only followed through on visiting my friend. Over the next few weeks I made few plans and spent most of my free time going on long walks, reading, and just relaxing at home. Now I joke that I spent that month in hibernation; after those weeks of relative quiet I began to creep back into society and started to spend more time out and about again.
In the months since my “hibernation” I’ve been working to establish a better balance in my life so I don’t hit that breaking point again. I’m shifting my priorities to really focus on the things that matter to me: reading, friends, cooking, outdoor activities, and writing. I miss writing. It used to be one of the most important things in my life but somehow I allowed a million little things to get between my pen and a page (or my fingers and a keyboard in this case). I want to get back into writing, and part of that means returning to this blog. This time, though, instead of worrying about keeping to a certain theme I just want to write about whatever feels good. So to kick off this new phase I’m sharing a collection of random things that I’m loving right now.
In my last post I wrote about how I listened to my first podcast on a trip to Toronto with a friend. This interest has carried into the present; I listen to podcasts almost daily now. Girls Gotta Eat and True Crime Obsessed are still favorites, but I’ve added a few more to my listening cycle. I enjoy Potterless, ESPN’s 30 for 30, and Imagined Life but my all-time favorite is My Dad Wrote a Porno. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve literally cried laughing while listening. I binged every episode, then went back and listened to some of them again. I renewed my HBO subscription when their special came out, and I bought tickets to their live show in Portland hours after the link was available (and about nine months before the event itself, it’s not until March of this year!). I follow all of the hosts on Instagram and I would love to meet Rocky Flintstone himself. This podcast is simply the most hilarious, raunchy, and ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard and I absolutely love it.
My journey with food and cooking for myself has been a difficult one. I remember when I first finished school I used to get excited about cooking my own meals every night. Granted, they were simple meals usually consisting of a meat with some variation of a boxed rice or pasta side dish, but I enjoyed the self-sufficiency. Eventually I acquired supplies like crock-pots and oven-safe pans and my meals grew a little more complex. There were a few years where I cooked every day without fail, and I regularly consulted cookbooks and food blogs for inspiration. (My favorite cookbook from that time is the Best Simple Recipes from America’s Test Kitchen). But then life got away from me and I started cooking less and less; I was either socializing with friends over a meal or I was “too busy” to cook much. Recently, though, I’m happy to say I’ve fallen back in love with cooking. For the month of January I’ve challenged myself to cook all my meals- no going out for lunch or dinner and definitely no takeout. The first week was a little tough, but now I’ve mostly adjusted to the new normal. I’m back to being excited about new recipes and am meal-planning more than a week ahead so I can fit everything in. I don’t even complain about washing so many dishes, which was one of my reasons why I stopped cooking as much. Since I’m having so much fun cooking I’m even thinking of extending the challenge into February.
Since I’m on the subject of food I might as well talk about baking too. I’ve always considered myself a decent baker even though it’s not something I do often. People always love my sugar cookies (thanks to my mom for the recipe), friends raved over my made-from-scratch apple pie a few Friendsgivings ago, and one of my proudest accomplishments in any kitchen was my hot-cocoa-cookie-cups that I baked and brought to work two years ago. Then over the past year I started watching the Great British Bake-Off and I’m realizing there’s so much more I can do. Not including the latest season, I’ve watched every season at least twice. I’m obsessed. Not only do they bake miracles in the tent, but I love the competitors, hosts, and judges. It’s such a wholesome show and genuinely makes me happy. I know now that my “decent” baking skills are woefully subpar compared to anyone that’s been on the show, but I always feel inspired when I watch it. I’ve been thinking about giving breadmaking a go soon, and if that works out then maybe a triple layer sponge with meringue and mirror glaze will be on the table someday…
I’ve always been strangely fascinated with Russia. I think this can mostly be attributed to the animated movie Anastasia that came out when I was a child, and more specifically the beautiful, haunting song “Once Upon a December” and the real-life mystery of Anastasia Romanov’s debated death. I remember being so excited in high school to finally learn about the Romanovs and the Russian revolution, but then my AP Euro history teacher turned out to be a joke and we didn’t cover any of that in class. Now I realize how childish those initial impressions were, but my interest is still there even though it’s evolved a bit over time. So much has changed in the country in the last century, and now I’m more interested in the political, sociological, and cultural impacts of recent history rather than myths and legends of lost princesses. Someday I would love to travel to Russia in person but considering the current political climate I recognize that it’s probably wiser for me to “explore” the country as much as I can from home. Last year I read a couple of books that are either written by Russian authors or take place in the country: A Gentleman in Moscow, Red Notice, and Anna Karenina. A Gentleman in Moscow is probably the best book that I’ve read in a long time, and Red Notice is now one of my favorite nonfiction books (though disturbing in its content). A few more books are lined up in my reading list and I’m looking forward to learning more.
I started indoor rock climbing in late 2018. I enjoyed it, but after a couple of months I put my membership on hold to take full advantage of the Oregon summer weather. In the fall I reinstated my membership, and lately I’ve gone from simply enjoying climbing to loving it. I’ve experienced a personal breakthrough in the last few weeks; I can climb more challenging routes than I used to and I’m so much more confident about attempting new ones. I feel more at home in the gym than I did when I first started, which is an especially good thing because I’ve never felt very comfortable in a gym before. I spent the past two Friday nights climbing, something I wouldn’t have dreamed of only a few years ago, but now I would be happy if that trend continues. I’m hoping to climb outdoors this summer so I can’t wait to continue to improve until I get to that point.
And just for fun, here are my favorite and/or memorable books and movies that I experienced in the past few months, summarized in haiku form.
Man lives in hotel
Politics and pain surround
Life happens inside
Fear, courage, and truth
They all say #MeToo
Four adult daughters
Years of family drama
But so much love, too
Jellicle Cats sing
Songs live in your memory
Bad CGI cats
From clown to killer
Mental health is a problem
Ha ha ha ha ha