Feeling Fall

When I lived in Virginia for grad school, my first October there was cold. I remember the air having a bit of sting as the temperature during the day dropped to about 50 degrees. As a SoCal native, this was definitely an adjustment but also really neat to watch the seasons actually turn. It’s been 10 years now since I’ve been back in CA, and I still enjoy the much more mild fall that we experience. The summer heat finally becomes less intense, the days get shorter and the nights are chilly. Here are a few ways I plan to celebrate this season.

First, it’s all about the pumpkin, apples and yummy treats. This pomegranate cider punch looks perfect for Thanksgiving. I don’t have a ton of time to assemble a pie, but I really want to give this caramel apple streusel version a try, and I’m pretty sure this everything bagel cheese dip will make an appearance somewhere. I also can’t let these months pass without trying this pumpkin sheet cake with brown butter frosting. All the yum! You can see all the fall recipes I’ve pinned here.

Besides getting my house in a cozier mode with added blankets and some fall smelling candles, I don’t really decorate until the end of November. Christmas is more my jam especially if I’m going to store it all year long. This year I’ve done more of a “fall cleanout” to get rid of unneeded items and donate to goodwill. It feels great to have a cleaner closet that’s no longer weighed down by added junk.

Since the foliage where I live is pretty non-existent, I love taking a trip up to Oak Glen in the San Bernardino mountains. My grandma lives close by and it’s always so fun to take in the trees and grab some apple pie or cider donuts. In fact, the photo above is at an apple orchard from one of my visits in recent years. I can’t wait to feel the crisp air, leaves crunching beneath my feet and a warm scarf around my neck.

So Happy Fall to you! How do you plan to enjoy this season?

How to Start Writing – Part 1

Do you find yourself wanting to write, but don’t know where to start? To many, writing seems like an intimidating process and something uncomfortable to jump into. Although I write materials for businesses and organizations, I’ve had a similar journey for many years when it comes to personal creative writing.

One of the most helpful things I’ve been told that has changed my perspective, is that if you write, you’re a writer. You don’t have to wait to call yourself one once you’re a published author.  I love to help other aspiring writers get in that mindset.

If you desire to write but you aren’t sure how to dive in, keep reading as I’ll share some helpful tips to get you started in this three-post series.

Be Open & Get Prepared

Writing is so easy when you have something to say. Perhaps a situation has irked you, or a thought has sparked passion in your soul that you must share with the world. The hard part on the other hand, is when you want to write but you can’t pinpoint exactly what to talk about.

I have found when this is the case, it’s best to release any pressure on yourself. When you just live life, the ideas will come to you. The key is to be open and looking, knowing that the right idea will come at the right time. So be proactive and on the lookout. For me ideas arrive while I’m working, sleeping, walking, reading, talking to a friend, listening to a podcast, or singing to music. Creative thoughts generally appear in the middle of life, when you aren’t pressuring yourself.

I know it’s an idea I want to run with when it stays on my mind and I have a yearning explore it through words. I know I won’t be satisfied until I’ve at least tried to write about it. Sometimes it’s for a blog post, sometimes for a book chapter, or something I’ll use later. So give it a try: release yourself from the pressure, be open, and be prepared to write those ideas down when they arrive. Once you do sit down to write, having a list creates an exciting starting point, and something to look forward to.

Takeaway: How can you be ready to write your ideas down? Find a dedicated notebook, or use the notepad on your phone to jot down the thoughts you want to return to. Need some further suggestions to spark your creativity? Check out my list of ideas here.

Summer Highlights

Every time a new season begins, it seems like everyone says “where did the time go?” I would certainly say the same about this summer. I really didn’t have much planned aside from a few weekend trips and outings with friends. As I wrote about in June, these months were spent finding a good balance as I introduced a large freelance project into my schedule.

Just about every other weekend was dedicated to working on the project, so although I didn’t get out and adventure as much, it’s felt great to work toward the goal of completing the work. Aside from this new routine, here are some favorite standout memories.

Just a couple weeks ago, I turned the big #35! How did that happen?! Wasn’t I just 25? At least that’s how it feels. I had a fun weekend of celebrating with various friends and family, and hit up some of my favorite restaurants. One stop was at True Food Kitchen in San Diego during a shopping trip with my mom. Pictured on the top left is the most refreshing drink– made of coconut water, OJ, pineapple juice and honey.

This summer I benefited from my dad’s recent move to a small mountain town, about an hour away from me. He lives right next to a pretty lake and I ventured up there a few times for a small get-away (seen from top and bottom photos on the right). We’ve walked around the lake, rented a row boat, and grilled burgers on his deck. His home is surrounded by trees and silence; basically a little slice of heaven.

Another dreamy locale was the site of a friend’s wedding in Dana Point. She and her husband reserved a public park that perfectly overlooked the water as the ceremony backdrop. The park is located in a neighborhood (shown in second photo on the left, with my friend Jess) and parking was surprisingly a breeze. The reception afterward was held in her parent’s beautiful backyard where they served delicious tacos and cake.

For most of the summer we were blessed with very mild weather, so several evenings a week I would walk my surrounding neighborhood. I love being able to regroup on a walk and enjoy the longer days. Catching a sunset is always the crowning event, and I try to capture them as much as possible (third photo on the left). They always help me take pause, and enjoy the moment I’m in.

And last, I can’t recap this season without highlighting a recipe! Back in July I made this no-bake cheesecake with berries, and it’s very much a crowd pleaser. If you’re looking for one last sweet summery patriotic treat, give this a try. So easy and fun for Labor Day, and you don’t have to fire up the oven. It’s a snap to pull together, and the perfect way to sign off summer until next Memorial Day.

10 Ways to Stay Creative

10 ways creative

1. Get outside. Take a walk at a park, get near a body of water, watch the sunset or run your feet through the grass. Go on a bike ride. Either way, being outside is a perfect, cost-free way to unwind, clear your head and regroup on ideas.

2. Partner up. A couple years back, my friend Kelly and I would meet up at least once a month for a “writing date.” This involved about an hour of catching up and eating breakfast at Panera, followed by another hour or more of writing on our laptops. This gave a tremendous sense of community and encouragement in our shared love of the craft, and a way to spur each other on and keep going.

3. Keep a list.  I love a cute journal to coral all my ideas, but the truth is, I’ll get many of them in the middle of other tasks. I’ve found the best way to keep a running list is in the notepad on my phone. It’s an easily accessible area to keep everything contained. Try a method that works best for you. The important thing is that your ideas get written down!

4. Create an adventure. Get outside your town, even if it’s just an hour away. Go see a play, check out a new coffee shop, or hit up a museum. Looking at art or just taking time to have fun with someone you love can do wonders for you soul and creativity. Don’t forget to snap some photos to document the day.

5. Revert to childhood. What are some creative things you enjoyed doing as a kid? Maybe it’s painting, drawing or playing an instrument. For me it was some kind of craft project. Even though crafting doesn’t really align with my current goals, using another part of my brain can be relaxing and spark other ideas.

6. Make a collage. Riffle through some magazines and cut out images that inspire you. Look for colors you’re drawn to, or that make you feel a certain way. Take your clippings and arrange them on a bulletin or poster board. Use it as a reminder of what sparks your imagination.

7. Mark the calendar. Just as you schedule anything else, start scheduling creative time. This can be an early morning or a certain evening each week. Maybe even a weekend day each month? It’s such a rewarding and refueling feeling to set aside specific time and work toward your creative goal. Much better than just waiting for it to come around (which is not very often).

8. Get out of your routine. Take another route to work. Go out for ice cream on a week night. Wake up early and read. Do something you would enjoy to mix up your weekly repetition by thinking out of the box. This is mostly an exercise to show that you don’t have to always abide by the rules, especially if you’ve been in a rut.

9. Use what you have. For the longest time I didn’t think I could run a blog because my laptop was old and I didn’t have a fancy camera. So I made adjustments. I use my phone for the camera and write many posts on there too. No need to wait around for the best equipment and stall your efforts. Do your best with what you have and go for it.

10. Don’t wait for perfection. Keep practicing your craft. You’ll improve as you keep going. If you wait for the perfect end product, you won’t be able to enjoy the learning that comes with the journey. Dive in and see where it takes you!

Current Rhythms

rhythms

I’ve found that with each new season certain tweaks are required in order to best use the time you have. As such, this past month I had the incredible opportunity to start some long-term freelance editing for my church. In order to make this happen with my work schedule, I’ve had to adjust some routines to give myself better structure and flexibility.

Adding a large project like this to my plate thankfully hasn’t been overwhelming and it’s made me better evaluate how I spend my time during the week. Here are a few of the rhythms I’m currently adopting so I can meet all my deadlines, avoid burnout and also enjoy these summer months!

First off, to keep my energy level up, I’m finding I have to walk at least every other night. The weather is beautiful in the evening and it’s still light out at 8:30 p.m. This is a hugely helpful way for me to clear my head, think of ideas and generally get refreshed after being inside all day.

On the nights I’m not walking, I try to cook, meet up with a friend, or catch up on to-dos. If I’m cooking, I’ll make something that will last the next two to three days. I’ve found making twice weekly trips to Trader Joes is a lifesaver. I’ll only purchase what I need for the next few days and not worry about planning too far ahead. Less stress and I don’t end up wasting groceries!

The beauty of freelance work is that you can do it anytime, anywhere that your schedule allows. After sitting at a desk all day (which is blessedly next to a large window), it’s pretty nice to sit on the couch or even in bed with a laptop once I’m at home. I was concerned that I would feel too tired at night to keep working, but having the option of lounging in my PJs makes it very doable.

A small, basic shift I’ve made is washing my face in the evening. It’s very simple, but helps me feel like I’m accomplishing something positive (I’m currently loving the Kale Detox from Pacifica). Taking the time to do this makes my skin amazingly fresh in the morning, not worn out and tired. I’m well overdue on this “grown up” habit, after using a make-up removing towelette since college 12+ years ago. Yikes!

Lastly, once a week on my way to work I stop at Starbucks for breakfast. Most mornings I have the same smoothie and oatmeal ritual, but it’s fun to break it up with a $10 treat. I’ll usually get a grande half-caf latte, a yogurt, and a bagel. The vegan sprouted bagel is insanely good! It’s the little things, right?

What about for you? Do you find certain rhythms and routines help your current schedule or season of life?