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?
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