Relaxing Winter Tisane

Lately my sleep has been all over the place. Blame it on the craziness of 2020 or any of the other things that a normal year may bring. Up late? Yep. Asleep at 7 pm? That too. I’ve been working on other relaxation techniques, but came to the realization that I needed to cut down on coffee and not have it after noon if I wanted to get any sleep. It’s cold here in Seattle, and I still want something warm – enter my winter tisane.

Wait…I can hear you asking, “what’s a tisane”? Think tea, but without the true tea leaves – various plant components (like roots, stems, flowers, leaves of plants) steeped in hot water.

This tasty combo is earthy, chocolaty and has just a hint of orange. 3 easy to find ingredients that I now keep in my rotation to keep me warm and happy.

Relaxing Winter Tisane
Makes 3 cups

2 Tablespoons cacao husks, like the ones from the Cacao Tea Co.*
1 Tablespoon organic roasted dandelion root (it should come chopped, if not, run a sharp knife over it until it’s in small pieces)
1/8 Teaspoon dried orange peel (optional)
Cream and honey to taste

Add the cacao husks, dandelion root and orange peel to a heatproof container or coffee press, pour hot (but not boiling) water over the mixtures and let steep for 5-7 mins. Strain out the solids and pour into a cup. Add cream and honey to taste.

Easy, right? It’s easy to make it your own by add other herbs or flavors that make you happy. Enjoy!

Yours in getting a good nights sleep,
Raina

*As always, I will only recommend products I have tested and feel good about the quality of those products. The nice folks at The Cacao Tea Co were kind enough to send me a bag of their cacao husks to try out.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Hi there Dear Reader. Remember that last post when I said that this year was the year of doing more and that 2020 was already looking to be pretty dang great? Yeah…I clearly jinxed us. Or Covid-19 did. Either way, here we sit in the middle of a pandemic, playing homeschool teachers, trying to carve out a sense of normalcy, and likely (let’s face it) trying to figure out when an appropriate time to day drink actually is.

My work day is mostly the same – I wake up, pour myself a cup of coffee, walk the 20 steps to my office, shut my door and go to meetings like always. Meetings now kick off with discussions of how everyone is coping and moves back to business. I am so very lucky that my work life really hasn’t changed much and I know it’s not that way for everyone. My little family has felt the impacts of Covid as well. Nick is a chef, and the hospitality industry was hit hard and early on and he’s on leave for now. Izzy’s school is also closed. Lucky for us, those two things happened close to the same time, so they are able to play together and she can get some version of home school.

I won’t lie, It’s really hard not to grieve (for a lack of a better word) the ability to see people, and go out normally. I do find myself anxious and unsure of what to do with myself. It’s the unknown that’s the hardest – when will this end? How bad will it get? Not having answers and feeling isolated is hard for me, as I’m sure it is for all of you. At least we’re all in this together.

We fill our time with the long list of to do’s that had been piling up – rebuild and paint the chicken coop, make more beef stock, redo the garden beds – check, check, and check. The 3 camping trips I set up were cancelled with the closure of state parks, so we camped in the living room. We’re finding creative ways to stay happy, and I’ve had time to reflect on myself and this situation. Do I have a lot of answers? Oh man, no, but here’s what I have learned so far:

1. Turns out I am not a homeschooler. Nope. Not good at it. No thank you. While my kiddo is learning, I am so grateful for a partner that seems to have infinite patience and is really good at teaching. I am throwing beers at him to keep that going.
2. I need tasks and I need structure. So much of my off time was spent running errands, or going to the park, just going. Without that, I turn into a grumpy mess that no snack bar can fix. I’ve got a list of tasks to keep me from turning into a tornado of emotions.
3. I also need time to recoup. I’m still taking my PTO even though plans have cancelled. I am resting, taking baths, and trying to write.
4. I’m working on avoiding social media. This one has been hard for a social gal like myself. I crave interaction, but loathe the pettiness and misinformation on the interwebs. For every person I have to mute, I “like” a page on llamas or something fun.
5. Lastly, my kid is resilient. I asked her how she was doing with everything that’s happening and when it got to the topic of fear, she reported, “why would I be scared? I have you and Daddy.” As long as I can keep a safe place for her, I think I am doing alright.

So here I am reporting to you from my office, still in my pajamas at 12:30, because, well, I don’t have any place to be and frankly these sweat pants are dang comfy.

Here’s to all of us getting through this together – how are you taking care in this crazy time?

Oh, and Dear Reader – the answer to your earlier question about when an acceptable time to start drinking actually is? Yeah, about 2 weeks ago, when all this crap started. God speed.

Yours in isolation,
Raina

Getting to more

Man. 2019 was an odd year. Anyone else feel that way and ready for all that 2020 has to offer? I started 2019 neck-deep in a project at work, launching a new program and coordinating background checks and technology access for over a dozen people, while supporting my other teams. While that program required long hours, creative problem solving and a lot of training needs, it was the highlight of my professional career and I was happy to give it my all. 8 months into the year, I would eventually hand it off, and prep for the next projects, and of course breathe. If you were wondering where I’d been on the blog the past year, that’d mostly be why – if it wasn’t work or family, it took a back seat.

2019 wasn’t just about work, it also became the year of travel. We camped in tiny cabins in the woods, sitting close to fires, chasing salmon runs, and watching herds of elk make their way slowly into clearings. We stomped through puddles in the woods on the hunt for nettles and miners lettuce, and we sat in hot tubs for hours on the San Juan Islands. We celebrated my 41st year of life in Canada, exploring every area we could. We flew to Kansas to visit family, riding on tractors and spotting cows, taking in time with Izzy’s Great Grandparent’s in what would likely be our last trip to see them. We experienced the Midwest’s storms and watched lightning strike while listening to family stories well into the night. We headed to Disneyland for the first time as a family and I was able to watch the excitement of my favorite place through the eyes of my fast-growing kiddo. So many adventures squeezed into the year, and so many good memories.

If you know me in real life, or followed on the blog – it was quiet in 2019, more so than my normal adventure packed years. I wasn’t feeling the desire or ability to write. I would start posts and then park them. Start, and then park. The ideas were there, but the energy wasn’t, so those posts, along with a few craft projects and friendships went to the way-side, the passion to do all the things tempered with the reality that I couldn’t (and at the end of the day didn’t want to) do it all.

Slowly, the creative urge started to return. I worked on crafts, teaching myself how to spin fiber into yarn and how to dye fabric with natural dyes. I took classes on crafting and herbalism and continued to focus on making salves and tinctures. I even started dipping my toes back into teaching crafting classes one on one.

Oh dear reader, there was food; always food. So many nights spent cooking, curing, fermenting and canning. There was the epic weekend of 50 lbs of tomatoes, the week of all things peaches, and the pickled fiddle head ferns, the nettle pesto, or that smoked brisket. When stressed, or just needing a break, I’ve always taken to the kitchen and this last year was no different. The gardens produced more flowers and tomatoes than any other vegetables, and we ended up adopting out the rabbits that had turned into pets rather than meals.

So here we are, already 2 months into 2020 and it’s already feeling different than last year. While 2019 was the year of hunkering down and saying no, 2020 is already the year of more. More time with friends, more long chats and reconnecting. More trips away planned, more house projects completed already with a to do list a mile long (dang old houses). The year of more is just that and it feels good.

So dear reader, while I’ve not been around as much as I have, I’m changing that and hope to hear more from you all too. Here’s to one heck of a 2020 and to more of all of the good.

Raina

Summer Cocktails with Moscow Muled

Hello dear reader! I hope the summer has been treating you well. Here in Seattle, the summer has gone way too fast, but we’ve been enjoying every moment as much as we can. Hikes, road trips, tons of great meals and of course, cocktails with friends. I’ll post more about our adventures soon, but wanted to share an easy cocktail recipe for you to enjoy in the last few weeks of summer, which is only made more beautiful by these copper mugs from my friends over at Moscow Muled!

See? SO beautiful, right? I know, I can hear you now, but that’s not a Moscow Mule in that mug! And you’d be right – these strawberry-lime margaritas just pop when poured into these babies.

These aren’t your Dad’s Moscow Mule mugs, they are hand forged, lined with food grade nickel (none of the leaching from standard copper), with welded handles, so they last. They also keep your drinks colder, longer. Function and form? Yes, please. They hold 16 ounces each, which is just perfect for this late summer and sitting in the hammock. Ready to give this a try? Read on!

Momma’s Strawberry-Lime Margarita
Serves two, nicely
The key is to freeze your strawberries in advance, which avoids ice and in turn a watered down cocktail (who wants that??)

For the margarita:
.5 lbs Strawberries, fresh
1.5 lbs Strawberries, frozen in advance
1/4 cup lime simple syrup (See below)
2-3 ounces tequila

For the lime simple syrup:
Simple syrup is your easiest cocktail addition – it’s always 1 to 1 (1 part sugar to the same amount of liquid).
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup lime juice
Heat the lime juice on low heat until hot, add sugar and stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Cool completely before using, and store in your refrigerator until used.

Put it all together:
Add the fresh strawberries, the lime simple syrup and tequila into the pitcher of a blender and blitz until the strawberries are blended up. Add the frozen berries and pulse until smooth. Pour evenly among your mugs and enjoy!

Simple, right? I’m telling you guys, this is the easiest drink you’ll have this summer. Not a tequila person? No worries!! This is also REALLY good with rum or whiskey, or without alcohol for those who just want a refreshing mocktail!

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave your comments below.

Yours in strawberry bliss,
Raina

PS-while this is a sponsored post, I do fully support this local company and have enjoyed these mugs thoroughly. As always, I’ll never share any product with you that I do not fully support and have tested myself. Cheers!

So full and grateful

Initially, I started this post to share my yearly menu and a cocktail recipe with all of you, but as we near Thanksgiving, I can’t help but think about how grateful I am this year. Mom is doing well with her cancer treatments, Izzy is thriving in school, work is busy and I have a roof over my head. I am healthy, happy and loved. There is just so much to celebrate and to be thankful for. I hope all of you are doing well, and are finding moments to be grateful!

This year, I am hosting Thanksgiving at my house, and while it’s just a small gathering, I’m going all out! I may be an overachiever, and diet be damned, it’s going to be good. Here’s the line up and a couple recipes for you as well, should you need ideas!

Thanksgiving 2018 Menu:

Breakfast:

Wild mushroom, leek and ham quiche
Coffee and a lot of it to get me through this cooking

The Main Event:

A 22 lb turkey – I’ll be slathering a butter/dried wild mushroom mixture all over this beast, as well as under the skin directly on the meat
Chanterelle mushroom dressing
Candied yams – none of that canned stuff, oh no – actual yams, coated in butter and brown sugar
Green beans with bacon
Mashed potatoes
This amazing cranberry sauce, which combines fruit and booze – you can’t go wrong.
Rolls
Deviled eggs
All coated in a gravy made from those delicious turkey drippings.

Dessert:

Golden Delicious heirloom pumpkin pie
Irish apple tart

On Tap:

Ledger David’s Savignon Blanc
Wind Gap’s old vine Grenache
Sidonio D Sousa’s Espumante Brut Nature Special Cuvee, because you always need something bubbly
And lastly, my new favorite, what we’re calling The Fall Fling – read on for the recipe!

The Fall Fling
1/2 ounce of St Elizabeth Allspice Dram (or other allspice liquor)
1/2-1 ounce of bourbon
1 cup apple cider
1 squeeze of lemon
Ice

Combine all ingredients, shake and pour through a strainer, easy right? I garnished mine with cherries that have been soaking in bourbon (which are technically for Christmas, but REALLY freaking good), but you can pick any garnish you want.

cocktail

Mmmm…..This holiday is looking to be delicious! What are you all cooking and eating this year and what are you most grateful for?

All my best to you and yours,

Raina

 

The C Word

I’ve been absent lately. That’s the funny thing about life, days go by like normal and then one day it just gets busy. That’s where it’s been the past few months and if it hasn’t involved work or family, then it’s taken a back seat. There just hasn’t been room or energy for anything else.  What could be so big that it could slow me down from writing? The C word. No, not that one; the other one.  Cancer.

Recently I received an email from a family member encouraging my mom and I to go in for cancer testing.  She had tested positive for the BRCA mutation and was about to go through a hysterectomy and a double mastectomy. It wasn’t her first round with cancer, and after losing my maternal grandmother to breast cancer, it was time for me to go in.

I’ll say it now, I’m horrible at self-care. Do I do my monthly breast exams? No. When was my last pap?? Ummm…well. My last mammogram? 10 years, but you know…life. I was out of excuses.

I sat in my doctors office in that sassy yet breezy paper gown thing and listed my family history of cancer. I listed my own health concerns, including the small lump that’s been there long enough that I named him, my history of breast feeding, my eating and drinking habits (sigh),  and my overall concerns about leaving my family before my time. The doc agreed that we needed to get in some additional testing, including a mammogram, skin cancer testing and even genetic assessment to figure out whether I was a carrier of the mutation. Basically, I had the “welcome to 40, you’re somewhat old, but let’s get a full work up” battery of tests.

One by one, the tests were done. I repeated the same history, the same concerns from doctor to doctor. More people saw me in that damn paper gown, my boobs were pancaked into a machine and I even awkwardly announced to my dermatologist and his assistant I wore my best granny panties. Then, I waited.

There’s this feeling when you’re waiting for big test results, it’s hard to describe. It’s consuming and you worry; what if the results come back and it’s bad? What if, what if… Life drags on slower than it should and it feels like everything is on hold, because it kind of is. There’s that moment of panic when the phone rings and the relief when you hear the good news. Normally, I’m optimistic, but I couldn’t get past the negatives. I have good health insurance, I live in a great city that is known for good medical care. I have life insurance like no one’s business if things go south. I was feeling prepared for the business of it all, but it makes you pause and think of all the things you have left to do, the emotional side, the things you want to be around for and the years you want to spend with your loved ones.

Happily my tests all came back healthy. After weeks of waiting, I felt like I could breathe, like I could sleep and I could start doing more than waiting. I’m lucky, but due to my family history, I’ll go in for a mammogram yearly as well as an ultrasound 6 months later; a rotation every 6 months for the rest of my life. It’s worth it.

But this story doesn’t end with me – because life usually isn’t that simple. My mom also went in for testing and much like my story, she had put off testing. She went in for a mammogram as well, where a spot was detected.  Both our hearts sank; we had been so excited for my clean bill of health and I’ll admit, I had figured she’d be fine too. She went in for a biopsy and again we waited.

We agreed that as soon as the results came in that she would call or text – I’d keep my cell with me during the work day, just to be available.

And we waited. When the call came that the doctor wanted to see her, we knew it wasn’t likely to be good news, but we stayed hopeful.

The next day, the text I had hoped I’d never get came in, “I’m so sorry sweetie. It’s cancer”. I felt like wind had been kicked out of me. I had already lost my dad, Izzy had a rough start to her life, couldn’t we catch a damn break? My mom in true amazing spirit was positive and ready for a fight, albeit scared about what that could entail and I was too. If this life has taught me anything, it’s this: Life isn’t always easy, it surely isn’t always fair, but if you have good support and love, you can get through the tough so much better.

So here were are now, getting through the tough and looking for the positive. Mom’s genetic testing came back great, which means that we don’t move towards radical surgery. While her tumor is an aggressive form of breast cancer, it’s small, and this is her first incidence of cancer which also is a tick mark in her favor. We’ll take the positives where we can.  We learn next steps this week and then we’ll go through the lumpectomy and lymph biopsy together. We’ll continue treatment until we’re in the clear. We’re still scared, and realistic about the challenges, but we have each other and an amazing medical team her too.

So there you go, why I’ve been MIA and one hell of a good reminder to keep up with your medical tests. Here’s to healthier, happier days and getting back to normal.  Here’s a tiny feisty me, with an equally feisty mom.

mother

Yours in kicking cancer’s ass,

Raina

 

 

 

Spice and Happiness With Demitri’s

There are a few things that I know-

  1. There’s nothing better than a sunny day in Seattle
  2. Happiness is a house full of friends gathering to cook, drink and chat while a herd of small children occupy themselves.
  3. A Bloody Mary and Margarita bar makes the first two things, well, even more perfect.

Recently, I had this trifecta come together perfectly when I gathered a few of my chef friends together. Our kids were antsy from all the rain and being cooped up indoors for way longer than any parent can handle. We had been craving a chance to get together with the need to celebrate the sunshine with a good cocktail (or two). I sent the solution in text form: “Come over to my house. Margaritas, Bloody Mary’s and steak tacos. I’ve got you covered”.

Like a moth to a flame (or an over tired parent to a chance at a break), my friends flocked. We laughed, as we ate salsa and guac – “Do you remember the days we used to hit Capitol Hill, and get a proper drink?” We all nodded, recalling our days at any of the local dive bars, before kids, long hours and the gentrification of our favorite haunts changed our social calendars. We paused, and before any of us could get out a grumble or mutter something that made us sound like one of our parents, I came to the rescue. Well, me and Demitri’s, and I started mixing up a storm.

Who is this Demitri’s and why should you stop what you’re doing and seek them out?  Demitri’s is a Seattle based purveyor of gourmet cocktail mixers founded by Demitri Pallis, who like most of us, was tired of inconsistent cocktails, so much so that he started making his own mixers. That’s right folks – when you can’t get what you want, you do it yourself. What started as a need 30 years ago, turned into a hail mary for those of us who just want a good cocktail without leaving home.

Why else? They aren’t just local, but actually in my neighborhood – I see them hiring my neighbors. That kind of community approach is important to me. Plus, they use ingredients I can actual pronounce, with organic options and for those of you in the need – there’s gluten-free options, too. Also, since I can never commit to one flavor of anything, they have me covered with a variety of mixers like original, chilies & peppers, extra horseradish, and chipotle habanero. Still not convinced? Two words: Pepperoni. Straws. YES – a meat straw, It’s perfect! Lastly, you can find them almost everywhere, and if you can’t locate them close by, Amazon carries them too!

mixer

I put together my garnish skewers in advance – combining olives, pepperoncini’s, pickled cauliflower, and pickled okra. I’ve added blocks of cheese in between the pickles – it’s up to you, although a cube of blue cheese goes SO well with the extra horseradish mixer.  I also coated my glasses in advance with Bacon Salt Rimshot – their rim salt, to cut down the amount of waiting we’d need before enjoying.

pickled vegetables

 

Momma’s Bloody Mary
We made ours to order, so this recipe makes 1

8 ounces tomato or vegetable juice
1 teaspoon Demitri’s mixer (more if you like a stronger flavor)
1-2 ounces vodka (or an equal amount of tequila for a Bloody Maria)
Juice of a quarter of a lime
A few cubes of ice

The key to this is make sure your ingredients are all chilled in advance, there’s nothing worse than a warm cocktail. Mix all ingredients up, and pour into your glass, add in the pepperoni straw and your garnish. Stir, sip, nibble. It’s super simple!

cocktail guacamole salsa bloody mary

Since I know that once the Mary’s are gone, you’ll need something a little sweet, I have you covered there too.

Tangerine Dream Margaritas
Makes 4

2 cups fresh squeezed tangerine juice (approximately 8 tangerines)
6-8 ounces tequila
16 ounces of Demitri’s Organic Traditional Margarita Mixer
Juice of 2 limes
4 glasses, rims coated with Demitri’s Pomegranate Pineapple Lime Margarita Rim Shot (y’all need this stuff)
Garnish with tequila and chili powder marinated pineapple chunks (see below).

Spicy, Boozy Pineapple.
My pal Lauren came waltzing into my kitchen, eyes sparkling, like they do when she’s done something amazing. She held up a jar of something swimming in clear liquid and spices. “Here”, she said, “Smell!”. It was sweet, spicy, pungent and just what our cocktails needed. She had cored and diced a small pineapple, popped the pieces into a mason jar, added a 1/4 tsp of Tajin (a spice blend of salt, chili powder and dehydrated lime that you often find on grilled street corn), topped that whole thing with tequila and let it marinate. When you’re ready to use it, pull out a piece of pineapple and skewer it.

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher, pour equally into the 4 glasses. For your lushier pals, you can float some of that spicy tequila you used to marinate those pineapple pieces on top for an extra kick. Go on, we won’t judge you.

Sit back, sip and smile – You’re welcome.

cocktailtequila

 

So there you go! Easy, right? The great thing about those mixers? You don’t need to use them solely for cocktails. The chipotle habanero was an awesome addition to a marinade for the asada I used for my tacos. Two teaspoons of mixer, a 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar, a drizzle of oil a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of cumin and I was good to go. It’s truly versatile.

Of course, the disclaimer! I did receive compensation for this post – that being said, I will never recommend any product that I do not wholeheartedly trust and enjoy. Additionally, I may receive compensation through affiliate links, which keeps me in bacon and happiness.

Yours in your momma happiness, fueled by some pretty darned amazing cocktails,

Raina

 

 

Momma needs a date night

I love my baby girl, I really do. Sometimes though, I need a night away from her and be with adults.  You know, with adult conversations and adult drinks, and food that isn’t whatever kiddo didn’t eat of her dinosaur nuggets or whatever food she’s into that night. A night where I put on the strappy heels, some lipstick and even a dress.

Momma needs a date night.

After a long few weeks of work I needed that date night more than ever.  I texted my guy and said, “I want good food and a cocktail. Let’s go check out Raccolto”.  The stars aligned and we got to go out after work and it was good, dear reader, so good. This post isn’t for the faint of heart-I ate my way through that menu, and you should too.

Raccolto opened in late 2016 in West Seattle and I am kicking myself for waiting so long. It’s light, spacious and family friendly and let’s face it, Brian Clevenger is a really nice guy with great ideas around food and drinks. The food is simple, delicious and while it’s overall falling into the Italian realm, it’s also a Northwest restaurant.  You’ll see things like local oysters and dungeness crab. The menu is seasonal and changes on the regular, so you can try a few new items each time you go.

Round one was welcome cocktails-the Scarponi, a slightly sweet, slightly tangy mix of rum and amaro with a dash of orgeat-a syrup made from almonds as well as the de Medici a fun twist on the French 75, with a slightly more floral note from the lavender. We were brought plates of bread with oil and vinegar. Knowing that I wanted to work my way through quite a few things, I didn’t spend much time on eating right away.  Quickly,  the appetizers came out to kick off round 2. We started off with the oysters, slurping our way through them quickly with a sprinkle of horseradish and a splash of lemon. They were cool, salty and delicious. We moved on to the figs, with basil, foie gras and balsamic vinegar, a creamy change from the briney-ness of the oysters. The thick flesh and sweetness of the figs a perfect contrast to the richness of the foie gras. This was probably my favorite appetizer we had.

The third course was the smoked fish and steak tartare, both served with toast. In retrospect, I wish I would have skipped the smoked fish and gone with the albacore crudo. It’s not that the smoked fish wasn’t good, it just wasn’t the caliber of the other dishes, and was too rich paired with the creaminess of the steak. I will say that the pickled onions were a nice bite and crunch to the fish, before hitting the bread.  We took a cocktail pause here while we waited on our pasta. I opted for the Otra Vez, a foamy and earthy concoction of tequila, citrus, thyme and egg white. Nick opted for the El Casino, a smoky and spicy cocktail with mezcal and blackberry and bitters. Both cocktails, while unique, I wouldn’t have again. While I normally like mezcal, having it paired with the Firewater Bitters felt like I was drinking boozy liquid smoke.  The Otra Vez had the right taste, but the texture of the egg white foam just didn’t lay well in my mouth. I’ll stick with my standard pisco sour in the future.

The fourth course we opted to split a full portion of of the rigatoni with pork sugo and broccolini. It was simple, but so comforting. The pork was tender and went really well with the still firm broccolini. I could eat this every day and be a happy gal. I had the 2015 iLauri “Nora” Chardonnay which was perfect for a warm day and a rich dish. 

Course 5 was all about the sweets. We had a cocktail with amaretto and orange and coffee liquers. We paired it with the flourless chocolate torte topped with poached peaches and vanilla gelato. It was definitely enough for two and wasn’t sweet, instead letting the slight bitterness of the chocolate shine while the fruit provided the sweetness you’d want from a dessert. 

Final price for 2 and more food than we could eat? Just around $200. Did we need to order all those rounds of drinks? No, and that is what ate up some of the cost. Was it worth it? Absolutely. When you think about eating for a few hours, kidless, with multiple courses and drink pairings, it’s a pretty darn good value.

Did I mention being kidless for a few hours? When momma needs a date night, there’s no putting a price on that happiness.

Well, dear reader, there you have it-a delicious recap of Raccolto! Where should I eat next?

Yours in all the food,
Raina

 

**I did not receive any perks for writing this post. 🙂 I just really enjoyed eating here and getting a break from my kiddo. **

On to a New Year

It’s New Years Day, I am sitting in bed with my lap top, covered in quilts, squeezing the last few free moments of my night before heading back to work after being gone for a week. Just like every year, I look back on what I have done, and where I want to go and want to do in the year ahead. 2017 wasn’t bad, it wasn’t great, and I don’t know about you dear reader, I am ready to be on to a new year.

Before we can look ahead, let’s look back:

This was the year of work. I celebrated 14 years at my job; saw my team size double and I took on managing people in a completely new role.  I gave up some responsibilities and had to learn how to say no and delegate more often and for the first time in quite a while, I was in learner role. I feel like I am slowly getting my feet back under me, and that sure feels good.

My side life as a blogger brought me to Portland again for Feast and to Vegas to cover Las Vegas Food Expo, I ate, I drank, and I even picked up some new ink. I worked with a couple new brands, and took time out to write a little more.  A goal I had set last year was to get out and attend more events. While the flu knocked out half of them, I still made some great connections (and of course, ate some awesome food!). This year, I want to keep up with that goal – continue to put myself out there and a big part of that will be writing.

2017 was the year of, “man, I hope this is good enough”. I had days were I felt successes and days where I felt like an utter failure. There were days full of tears and frustrations on not feeling settled and feeling like I wasn’t doing enough. Luckily though, those days were far and few between and at the end of the year, I like to think I left things better than they were at the start. I felt like Dory, telling myself, “just keep swimming”.

2017 wasn’t just about me though!  Nick celebrated 10 years at his job and was able to take a fair amount of time off for Kiddos wild adventures, although there were quite a few 70 hour weeks in there, too. He built hutches, and helped me shovel poop and didn’t look at me (too much) like a crazy person for all the things I wanted to do in my yard.

Also, this was Izzy’s second year of co op preschool, and the first complete year of her life without any surgeries or procedures.

I’ll let that sink in: My kiddo had her first full year of just being a kid and not requiring anything more than any other 4 year old.

Man, I can’t say enough how great that feels. She grew taller, and more brave and sings constantly. She’s quick to be the class mother yet again this year, soothing over conflicts and trying to help the teachers do things. She wears her heart on her sleeve and is so darned amazing reminding me that I am so lucky to be her momma.  

In the farm and garden department, we had some losses and had to cull a sick chicken. The chickens we fostered were sent to their new home and the bunnies grew fat and cute, while our hens started becoming free-loaders. I ripped out most of the grass in the front and back yards and replaced it all with play ground equipment, a new bunny house and tons of garden beds. Cuss words were hollered as I pulled out chunks of sod by hand (a good workout, by the way).  The corn grew tall and I planted way too many types of squash and cucumbers. So much that I ended up putting out a box for my neighbors to grab a few as they needed. I tried out quite a few new types of tomatoes, but found that I wasn’t as excited about them, and needed more soil in my beds for them to grow happily.

When we weren’t in the yard or at work, we played in the woods, in the snow, in the sea, and ate our way through the West Coast on a trip to Sonoma. We sat quietly through the loss of loved ones, but also celebrated the birth of babies, and new weddings as well. We cooked new dishes, danced to records and stayed up late into the night playing.

Looking back, it was really the year of just getting through. We had fun, and tasks were accomplished, but there were so many competing priorities, that often times it felt like a blur. No relishing in the moments, no sitting in the quiet, just a lot of go go go, but not a lot to show for it. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it left me wanting more and feeling restless.

2018….What do I expect and want as I move onto a new year?

To be.

This is my intention for the year.

To be more creative.
To be more present.
To be more grateful.
To be still.

Those two words seem to start off some pretty amazing things and hold some pretty great potential, so I’ll let them guide me for the next 12 months. No more rushing (as often as I can), more time for friends and creating. More sitting in the quiet, thinking. More of doing what I know I need to do to make my soul quiet and my heart happy. This is the year I hope to just be.

Plus, I still have that damn 40 by 40 list and 6 months to tick some things off.

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but this is the year to butcher at least one rabbit and some of the chickens. We’ll replace those with new ones and begin the cycle again. I’m also going to try my hand at growing new varieties of squash and tomatoes, with some other goodies as well. I’ll be sure to add posts of my progress (the good, the bad and the ugly) as I go.

This year, I hope, will be the year of doing and being versus just getting by. So dear reader, I hope you’ll stick by and watch me as I try to be more (or less if the situation requires).

What are you hoping for 2018?

Raina

“Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.”
― Parker J. Palmer

 

 

 

Twenty Years

wedding dress

Today marks twenty years since I said “I do”  and 12 years since I had divorce papers served. I look at that girl, 19 and proud, round faced, wearing her grandmother’s wedding dress from 1949 and I think, “who is she?”.  I also think of that 27 year old forging a new life during the separation and think how vastly different they were.  Both proud, both resolute in the decisions being made, but more than hesitant in each life.

I look at these pictures and remember sitting in a Mormon church in Puyallup, surrounded by friends wondering what I was doing there. Let me pause here:  I was not Mormon, nor even remotely religious. I was raised by a recovering Catholic mother and a father who studied Judaism. You can maybe see where this is going, right? I’ll come back to this, don’t worry.

I was sitting in the church thinking, Was I ready?  Was he the one? Was I just doing this because it’s what’s expected? (Answer key: no, no and yes)  I remember my friend Aaron offering to drive me away if I needed. I stayed put and we exchanged vows, me in my vintage satin gown, my groom in Aaron’s borrowed and over sized suit. We were young, broke, and in retrospect, a hot mess.

I’ll say it now: I was a crap wife.

I’ll let that sink in.

Who I was at 19 was not who I was at 27, and is not the person I am today at 39, just as who I am now will not be the same version of myself in another 20 years. 19 year old me was learning, yearning for adventure and finding out who I was. I had gone from being a military brat living at home, to briefly living with roommates, to getting married.  Am I saying that 19 year old’s shouldn’t get married?

No, not at all. I am saying that I should not have.  I wanted a life outside of my small military upbringing and I thought…no, I needed, a life bigger than that.

I wanted travel, I wanted to go back to college, I wanted to experience life and as it would turn out, my expectations of what I had planned for life were vastly different from that of my new husband. Remember that difference in religion? Well, turns out when you are from very different backgrounds, it can be super hard to marry one persons beliefs with another.

We loved each other, sure, but I think he wanted a wife that stayed home and doted, and I wanted to be a provider. I was loud, independent even then. Dear reader, you’ve met me right? We fought. We struggled, it got dark and it got bad, and eventually it ended.

Working three jobs, keeping house, and managing his band wasn’t enough. Him wanting something I couldn’t be didn’t work.  So it turned into late nights arguing, and eventually me walking away, and him hating me with both of us looking back on the past annoyed instead of celebrating our happiness and our travels. But it never ends there, oh no. No matter how bad it gets though, there’s always a lesson.

So, here’s what I learned:

  1. Have conversations about expectations in career, family and life. If you want to continue your travels and your partner hasn’t left the area in which they were born, you may have issues.
  2. If you want to pursue degrees and have a career, and your partner wants you to be at home and have kids, you may have issues.
  3. Talk and don’t stop. At some point, we stopped talking, and we stopped trying. I stopped being curious and engaging with him. I stopped asking about his day, as did he and the divide grew.
  4. Make sure you’re in it for the right reasons. I wanted a change from the life I knew and thought that he could be the one to give me a life. That was a lot of pressure to have put on him.
  5. Communicate needs (see a trend here?). If you don’t advocate what you need and want, you’re not going to get it. People can’t give you what they don’t know you want and need. And if they do know and don’t give it to you….well, you’re better off without them.

Was it all me? Goodness no. He had his issues, as we all do, and had no business getting remarried. However, this isn’t his story. This is mine, and the story of that sweet, sweet dress. That being said, I do wish him well, wherever he is these days.

Am I a pro at this stuff now? HA…no. I still have so much to learn. For so long I looked back on those days, angrily. I wanted to grab that 19 year old, steal her super sweet 84 Pontiac Trans Am with that loud V-8 engine, drag her from that wedding, speed off into the sunset saving her a lot of heartache and frustration. But with time comes acceptance, and I now look back every year at where I was, and where I am going and focus on being grateful for the lessons learned, even if I don’t consistently follow them.

One last tip? Move on. When it doesn’t work, and you’ve tried, let it go. The day I had him served was the first day I felt like my life was my own and I was starting something just for me. Once those papers were handed out, I made an offer on a house, and a few years later started my own family.

Sometimes it takes finding what you don’t need, to get what you do. To who we were, and learned to grow from,

Raina