Sunday, 28 August 2011

Fallow blog

I've been pretty poor at tending my blog this summer.  Even after all the excitement over the new title, I just deflated. I used to be incredibly consistent, staying up late to post at least once per week. I knew that consistency is key and I knew that I needed to be building my platform if I ever want to get published. I knew that sometimes you have to work through a lack of inspiration and get 'er done.

But in this season, despite all these things about blogging that I know, it's felt right to let it go a bit.

At first I thought I was simply being unmotivated, but recently a word came to me for how I feel: fallow. 

Fallow means left unsown for a season in order to restore fertility.

My e-creativity needs that, no matter how many rules of blogging this fallowness breaks. I'm such a rebel.

I'm not sure how long this fallow thing will last, I just thought I'd put it out there so you'd know that I'm not being lazy, just seasonal. See you whenever the sowing season starts up next!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

10 on 10 Photo Project:: August

A staff picnic at Lake Wilderness Park in Maple Valley meant that my day started out like this...

Fortunately, the first aid kit was unnecessary, but it was good to know the park's health and safety standards were up to scratch. Leslie Knope would be proud.

Not bad for a Wednesday morning, really.

Food was consumed.

Newborn babies were corralled around.

The view of Seattle coming from the south on 99 can sometimes be stunning. You'll have to just trust me on this. 


The first of the dahlias has bloomed. In a few weeks we'll have these bad boys coming out of our ears, and I cannot wait.

The first tomato of 2011. Woo hoo. A real week of firsts in the garden.

I have been on an absolute tahini rampage recently. This is the dressing I've been using from Mayumi's Kitchen (Mayumi was Madonna's personal chef for years) and it's been treating me well so far. If you have any good tahini tips or recipes, do share!

Ten on ten is a monthly photo project started by Rebekah at a bit of sunshine. If you want to play next time, just take ten photos on the 10th of the month and post them on your blog. Check out other people's days here

Monday, 8 August 2011

Don't Think, Just Jump

Well, I'm back from my first Writer's Conference, which was equal parts amazing, stimulating and exhausting! My goal was to learn as much as possible about the craft of writing and the industry of publishing and to pitch my project to  agents and editors. This pitching business, as you may imagine, is kind of nerve-wracking. Cold-selling is never fun, but it's even harder when you are so intimately involved in the product. When pitching memoir you are not only pitching your voice and storytelling skills, but also, as the main character, your life. No pressure or anything.

My philosophy on doing frightening tasks is to jump right in without thinking too much. Which is how I ended up in an Albanian refugee camp when I was 19 or in central England with no job, money, friends or family (barring my new husband) when I was 25. These are two decisions I'm very glad I made, though if I would have thought too hard about what I was getting myself into I may not have made those jumps. Thinking -- though not without its merits -- can be an incredibly dangerous procrastination tool.

One tidbit I took away this weekend was that, over his typewriter, Ray Bradbury posted the words "Don't think." From Bob Mayer's excellent talk, I was also encouraged to lean into fear, because action is the only way to grow courage.

So, this weekend I leaned right in and approached as many people as possible to tell them about my book. I submitted my synopsis to a synopsis boot camp to be torn apart, America's Got Talent-style. I put myself out there. Though it was scary at first, it certainly became much easier by the end. And I was really encouraged by response, the crazy reality that my book just may be interesting to other people.

The pro-activity also introduced me to some new writer friends, such as the lovely Alexis, a Young Adult paranormal fiction writer also living in Seattle, and Heidi, an inspirational girl from B.C. who is writing a memoir about a car accident that killed her best friend, burned 52% of her body and required the amputation of both her legs below the knee. But you'd never know it from Heidi's bubbly personality that she'd gone through all this. I just watched a video that tells her story and definitely encourage you to do the same.

Sometimes jumping right in without thinking isn't always the best tact, but this weekend it was well worth it.

What about you? When it comes to approaching something outside your comfort (something you know you need to do), do you generally think first or just jump right in?

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The importance of having purpose

One of my favorite book genres is memoir. I love knowing that a story is based on real life and that I can go on wikipedia and google images and stalk the author after I finish reading the book, gathering as much behind-the-scenes information as possible. Another reason I read memoir is that I'm writing a memoir, and it's important to read in the genre you work in.

A perk of writing memoir is the wealth of primary material from which to draw on. I've got so many stories from my four years in the UK that I'll never be able to use them all. Like the time I was walking home one summer evening from a friend's house in Fulham and totally slipped on what I quickly realized was human vomit. It was quite unpleasant, seeing as I was wearing flip flops and a skirt and had to ride the bus home with the remnant barf caked to my shin. When writing a book about your life you get to relive your stories again and again as you brainstorm, write and rewrite and rewrite some more.

Until there comes a point after you've spent a year and a half rehashing your stories ad nauseum when you get so sick of reliving the same four years and want to just move on with your life and not have to think about England every single day.

It's easy, when you are the topic of your writing project, to become jaded and dismissive -- who would want to read about little old me slipping on human vomit in West London? It's times like these when I need an author statement to bring me back to the purpose behind why I write.

I was inspired about this the other month while reading the memoir This is Not The Story You Think It Is. The author, Laura Munson, was certainly correct about the title -- even though I'd read the synopsis there was still way more too this my-husband-is-leaving-me-but-I-don't-buy-it play-by-play than I expected. Ms. Munson had 14 novels rejected by publishers before getting this memoir about the intense summer of marital strife published and she has a lot to say about contentment, intentionality, success and living the creative life.

She must have gone back to her author statement many times throughout the years of writing and rejection, trying to see in the dark what the point of writing more words even was.

I've written statements like an author statement in the past, but after I read hers I decided to whip one up again. Here's what I came up with: "I write to bring truth, encouragement, clarification, simplicity and life where it's needed. To bring order out of chaos and wholeness out of confusion. To help people, rich and poor, live to their full potential and to thrive."

It may not mean much to someone else, but for me it's important to come back to my purpose as often as necessary. I've been loving the following quote recently, which pretty much sums up the importance of vigilant purpose-honing:  

"People don't leave because things are hard. They leave because it's no longer worth it."

Creating something from scratch is exhausting work, but when you have purpose, it's completely worth it. It reminds me that my story is about much more than slipping on vomit (that anecdote's probably not going to make it in the book, sadly), it's about sharing a journey and encouraging people on similar journey's along the way.

Do you have a purpose statement? I won't ask you to share it but encourage you to think about what it would look like.

OK, now back to writing that book of mine... :)

Saturday, 30 July 2011

My first fashion fashion show

Despite that fact that recent blog posting frequency may suggest otherwise, I've actually been quite active in the last few weeks. On Tuesday night I even attended my first fashion show! The aLIVE event in South Lake Union was fantastic -- turn-of-the-century vintage meets locally-designed jewelry meets multi-cultural celebration inspiration. So much was happening.

The best part for me was that half the proceeds of the evening are going to benefit the wonderful refugee resettlement work World Relief Seattle does around the Puget Sound area. It's not only because I work there that I say this of course. I truly believe in what World Relief does helping refugees plug into the community and connect with the people and resources they need to become sustainable.

The other half of the proceeds will go to the YWCA's Dress for Success program. I don't work for them (a girl can only have so many jobs) but I'm a fan. Through personal shopping for professional attire and career development services they are empowering disadvantaged women to thrive in work and life. What's not to love there?

Several refugees displayed their artwork (above) and I really enjoyed hearing from a women who is a refugee from Iran. She was incredibly positive and a great speaker, but said that one of the hardest things about her new life here is that it's difficult for her and her husband to find time to be together. He works the graveyard shift and she works mornings. I think carving out time for relationships is something a lot of us can relate to.

I LOVED these sewn brown paper goodie bags and took quite a few photos for inspiration for when I one day learn to sew properly. The postcard on the left features two refugee sisters from Iraq who are now working at my friend's Feather Hair Extension Company, Plume. It's been a great set-up for the sisters and the business. If you're in the position, hiring refugees to work for you is really a fantastic way to contribute to local resettlement efforts.

The whole she-bang was put on by the multi-talented Carly Holtzinger, a recent graduate of Seattle Pacific University who did the whole thing on a volunteer basis. This girl's got some serious talent and drive and World Relief was incredibly honored to benefit from her vision.

I'm planning to jump back on the blog wagon, so expect some more from me in the coming weeks! I'm headed to a Writing Conference next week and will have plenty to share I'm sure.

Hope you all have a great weekend.

{Top Photo by Mike Fiechtner and the rest ala my iphone}

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Which business card design do you prefer?

I'm getting business cards made up for the Writing Conference I'm attending in August and am having a hard time choosing the look. Any thoughts on these options?

Front A

Back A (possibly with the gray crown that's below as my inserted logo)

Front B
Back B, centered, could be in a different color

I'm decisive about most things, but not things as important as paper products!

Also, if you're on Pinterest check out my business cards board -- there are some great ideas out there. And if you're not on Pinterest, get on, it may change your life. Or at least your on-line habits. :)

Thanks for your thoughts on these options!

Friday, 24 June 2011

This American Wife: Building Life Across the Pond

So, a few updates are in order. As you can tell I've been playing around with my header and have a new blog name for the time being. Also, if you've read my little bio on the right, you may notice that I have a new working title for my memoir about life in the UK.

This American Wife: Building Life Across the Pond

I am, of course, a sucker for a good pun. But I'm not sure if this crosses some respectability line, or even some copyright line. I hope not, because I think it works in a lot of ways. A huge theme of the book is being an American abroad. And though I'm not focusing on my marriage in the book, the fact remains that we moved to England three weeks after the wedding and my wife status is what got me through immigration.

Part of the fun (and frustration!) in the creative process is following along in the wild goose chase of where your project is heading. This is where I'm at right now, but who knows what the final book will be called.

For the blog direction, I am planning to hone in on my niche as This American Wife. Meaning, I'm going to focus on topics including, but not limited to:

    •    Life in England (but sometimes New Zealand and Japan sneak in too)
    •    Moving back home to the States with my British husband, Dan
    •    Cross-cultural shenanigan, joys and mishaps
    •    The Writing Life and the creative process

Faith is always at the center of who I am and what I do, so you may find that seeping in as well.

Well, enough of the introductions. I hope you like where I'm going. If you think my new title is awful please let me know sooner rather than later to save me the embarrassment. Any encouragement also taken.

Here's to a great weekend!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

The Civil Wars at the Triple Door

For a girl who sometimes wonders if she's indifferent to live music, I've sure been to a lot of gigs. Life just seems to really think that free concerts are what I need, so free concerts are what I get. Take, for example, spending my first two years in England working in events management, attending 10 summer music festivals, including the world-famous-in-the-UK Glastonbury, going on now to kick off the British summer. I saw every possible band and singer-songwriter and Korean lutist and drum and bass dj possible. Bringing my husband along to the festivals as lead volunteer worked well -- it was the perfect job for Dan. I would, however, be muddy and tired in the middle of a field listening to Arcade Fire or We Are Scientists thinking wouldn't it be nice if I were curled up, warm and indoors, with a thick book.

I exaggerate to prove a point, but the truth is that for me, the perfect concert is indoors, seated and drowning in bluegrass, folk-inspired harmonies. The perfect concert is The Civil Wars at the Triple Door.

Dan, in his love for live music, reviews gigs for various publications in Seattle. Sometimes I go along because I don't really hate concerts and because I do love hanging out with my husband. But though I will attend  a dubstep or broken beat night at Dan's suggestion, sometimes I can't help myself and suggest a band for Dan to review that will be perfect for me.

Last night was my night.

I won't even try to do a proper review since the main detail that sticks out to me is Joy Williams' amazing black dress with thin brown belt (and the fact that that lady can sing, of course). But do check out Dan's review for City Arts magazine for a run-down of the evening.

And then, go check out The Civil Wars beautiful Poison and Wine video and their amazing support act, live from Dublin, James Vincent McMorrow, who reminded me a bit of Damien Rice and not just because they're both Irish.

That we were home by 10.30pm was not the best part of the evening, but it certainly was ideal. Can you believe that I'm going to be 31 next month? Yes? I'm thinking this is going to be a great decade.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Happy Father's Day

Do you know who my number one fan is? It's my dad. That's why today I want to do a little post in honor of John Griffith.

Dad, you really are the best and I'm so lucky to be your daughter. I hope this picture of baby Alisha brings back some good (or tired?) memories of the early years. 

Speaking of good memories, I couldn't resist sharing this video. It was only fitting. So, if you had a Seattle childhood or love baseball or if this 1989 Upper Deck rookie card means anything to you..

...then you've got to watch My Oh My by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, below.

I hope fathers and daughters and mothers and sons (does that cover everyone) have a great day celebrating family.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Ambition, Contentment & Impact

There is this sweet spot of tension between what I want and what I have that I'm continually dancing around.

Right now, I have the gift of flexibility in my schedule and time. On so many drizzly 7am London bus rides into the office I salivated over this.

But because I thrive on change, there's a huge part of me that is desperate for something new, a challenge. I mean, I've lived in Seattle for one whole year already -- it almost feels like we should be thinking about moving again! (Don't worry, we're not.)  A huge part of me, instead of waking up grateful for this golden season -- this time to go to coffee shops and write my book, to meet up with friends during the middle of the day, to savor life on my own sweet time -- is ready for what's next. I don't know why I'm so quick to rush this season.  Self-sabotage? Ha!

I've had to keep myself in check lately, to remind myself not to swing too far to the ambition end of the pendulum, the what I want side. It almost feels un-American, because here, in general, we love the addiction of success. I'm certainly not immune. One of the things I LOVE about being home is that in the US, in Seattle in particular, there is this intangible drive for innovation and, well, success. I hear it in conversations and can just feel a sense of positivity and forward movement. I think it's fantastic, in moderation.

As a naturally ambitious person nurtured in a success-driven society, contentment is a skill I've had to learn. And re-learn. Right now, in the middle of this tension between what I have and what I don't, I'm practicing through the simple act of listing what I'm thankful for. Contentment takes a while to seep in and take over, but it's worth the fight.

I'm also keeping my priorities in check. What motivates me, beyond success and contentment, is impact. I've had to remember lately that what I want out of my time, my work, my creative pursuits and my relationships is to make a positive impact. It doesn't have to be earth-shattering, but in my own small way in the season I'm in, I want to make a difference. I want conversations that bring life and small acts that remind people to hope. I want to care more about stepping out of my comfort zone to encourage and love and less about what people think of me. I want prayer that moves the real mountains of confusion and isolation (among other first world mountains) that people around me face every day.

Here in this tension I want to be deliberate, and I'm starting with this post.

Does contentment come naturally for you? What are you secrets to enjoying what you have instead of always being ready for what's next? 

{photo from }

Friday, 10 June 2011

Ten on Ten Photo Project:: June 2011

I haven't participated in the 10 on 10 photo project for several months, but after the sun came out this afternoon I caught some inspiration.

Yummy lavender cupcake ala Cupcake Royale -- what a way to start a Friday!

And it's peony season! What could be better. I'm a bit of a let's-photograph-beautiful-flowers girl, so here we are, the peonies on my coffee table.

Found this card for my cousin's birthday, which is today. Sarah, if you're reading, happy birthday and, well, no surprises now on the card. {Card by Lark Press from Sip & Ship in Ballard}

Boot camp at the I-5 Colonnade Park, one of the most interesting places in Seattle in my book. The geniuses made a cement and gravel mountain bike park under the freeway overpass that includes a healthy staircase to serve as the base of my thirty minute work-out. Great use of space with a sweet view of Lake Union.

Bussin' it home, Seattle Metro style...

The fun walk home...

Never a cloudy day? In Seattle? Not completely accurate, but I'll take it.

Jenny and Jeff (mowing the lawn off to the side) caught in the act of being excellent homeowners. I love being their neighbors. :)

Juicy strawberries growing strong in the back garden, a delight to come home to.

To check out other 10 on 10 entries head to Rebekah's beautiful blog a bit of sunshine.

Here's to a lovely weekend. I'm about to cozy up with a book and hot tea and enjoy the evening. What are you up to?

Friday, 3 June 2011

Rainy Day Curry: Pass it on!

Yesterday, like so many days in Seattle, was a rainy day. And since I had just checked Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution out from the library, and since my friend Adriana was coming over for dinner, I decided  that it would the perfect occasion for a rainy day curry. There's just something so comforting about a homemade curry on a rainy day -- or at least that's what I imagined, since it's not like I'm making curries all the time around here or anything. But seize the diem and all that.

In England I never actually tried any Jamie Oliver recipes, but his Food Revolution cookbook caught my eye. I love his philosophy of simple, delicious and affordable meals. I'm into good food and all, but I can't 100% say that I love spending the time necessary to cook it, so simplicity is my motto. Also, Jamie talks about the concept of passing it on, and sharing recipes and cooking skills with friends. I thought it would be fun then for Adriana and I to make the meal together so both of us would have a new recipe in our arsenal, should it go well. Skill-sharing in sweet action.

I chose his Chicken Tikka Masala recipe and tweaked it to be veggie friendly, subbing my ubiquitous chickpea and petit pois for chicken. The sauce was made using Patak's curry paste, and it turned out well. Phew! The ginger added a really nice flavor burst, in my opinion.

To really push the boat out I found a Mango Lassi recipe, the perfect compliment to a curry. I wanted to try out Jamie's Lassi recipe, to keep to his brand for the evening, but wasn't bothered to be converting from milliliters if not utterly necessary, so created my own recipe. Adding the vanilla was key for me.

Fresh-cut flowers from the garden to accent the meal.

And here we are... Overall, I was impressed with the recipe. I think adding the extra water as called for is unnecessary, but feel free to play it by ear. Hope you can try it out sometime, and let me know if you do.

Chicken Tikka Masala (From Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution)
serves 4-6

4 skinless chicken breast fillets
2 medium onions
1 red chili
a thumb-sized piece of root ginger
a small bunch of fresh cilantro (ie coriander)
peanut or vegetable oil (I just used olive oil & it was fine)
a pat of butter
1/2 cup mild curry paste such as Patak's
sea salt & freshly ground pepper
1x 14oz can of diced tomatoes
1x 14oz can of coconut milk
1 cup natural yogurt
a small handful of sliced almonds (optional)

Instructions, abridged

Cut your chicken into strips and peel and slice your veg. For the cilantro, take the leaves off and put to the side for garnish and chop the stalks for the sauce.

Put a large pot on a medium to high heat and put the oil and butter in. Add the onions, chili, ginger and coriander and cook for 10 minutes.

Add the curry paste and strips of chicken (or chickpeas!). Stir well to coat everything and season with some S&P. Add the tomatoes and coconut milk. And the controversial step: Fill one empty can with water, add to the pot and stir again. Bring to a boil and then simmer, with lid on, for 20 minutes. Check on it to make sure it doesn't burn and smoke out your kitchen (that's my addition, not Jamie's).

When the meat is tender give it a taste and season if necessary.

For the Mango Lassi recipe, I just stuck some chopped and frozen mango (thanks Trader Joe's) into the blender with 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt, 2 teaspoons of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla. Nomnomnom...

Well, I think I've certainly done my pass it on duty for the week. It looks like for the first time all year Seattle might have a weekend free of rainy days, so I'm glad I got that curry in when I did.

Do you have any recipes to pass on? What's your default meal when making dinner for friends?

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

One year ago I was...

♥ Finishing up six glorious months of summer in New Zealand. Hooray for the Southern Hemisphere, free time, coast line to run along, sea to swim in and bare feet to walk back home in. New Zealand is vitamin D therapy for a drizzly Seattleite who'd been holed up in England for four years.

♥ Exploring Auckland's best coffee shops (and there are many!) with Mel and Rachael, sipping flat whites and writing about my finds in the design*sponge city guide.

♥ Finishing up the first draft of my manuscript and realizing I still had a long way to go.

♥ Still in my twenties (!) and totally uncertain about what my next decade would look like, other than the fact that it would start in Seattle alongside one certain, nomadic Englishman I'd had the great fortune of marrying and circumnavigating the globe with.

♥ Filled with nervous excitement and bracing for change. I do love a good move across the world, but I also know how much work is involved and was psyching myself up.

 Today, I am...

♥ Grateful. Writing full-time in Auckland, ten minutes from the beach, was a difficult act to follow, but Seattle has been doing just fine. I'm thankful for the way life has pieced together, for family and friends nearby and for that long-forgotten feeling of being home. Ahh...

♥ Balancing in the constant tension between contentment with ambition. It's much easier to look ahead at what's next than to appreciate what I have now, which was what I once craved.

♥ Still reading, writing and drinking excellent coffee.

What were you doing one year ago?

{Images from traveltrailersnz, MR38 and Maptote}
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