Where'd You Go, Sondra Ann?


Miss me?

Because I've missed you.

While I personally have only been blogging for the last 18 months or so, I've been following a myriad of blogs for several years, and I've seen it happen before. Posts get fewer and fewer, and then infrequent posts becomes the norm. Then, there are weeks of silence followed by a breathless apology post, only for it all to repeat again, until it culminates in a slow death for the blog. Sadly, I've seen many of my favorite blogs go this route, and I feel myself in that same predictable spiral!

After being on the road so much this summer, and then a tremendously busy Fall, I've had a hard time finding the space in my life to create posts here. Now that we're over a year into living in Seattle, we've created a really nice life for ourselves with jobs, friends, and a community we love. So while I haven't had a lack of things to post about, I've neglected to make time to keep this space up the way I'd like to.

But don't fret too much, my pet. At least not yet (Dr. Seuss, anyone?). I very much would like to re-cultivate this little blog of mine, and it is one of my New Year's resolutions to make that happen. This place is my creative outlet, and I sorely feel its absence in my life. I am thinking about the ways I would like for it to maybe change or evolve, whether that be in content, a little facelift, or both (or neither!), but I am excited about a little tune-up and getting back into the swing of things.

Standing between me and the New Year though is a two week trip to Minnesota for the holidays, so I won't do anything as foolish as think I'll post anything before I get back in early January.  But BE IT RESOLVED that I'll be back in action then! In the meantime, I'll leave you with you few of my favorite photos from a long weekend we took to Oregon last month. From top to bottom we have Mt. Bachelor with a fresh coat of powder, ready for the ski season (you can see two little dots in the snow; those are skiiers), the middle two are from a lovely late Fall walk along the Deschutes River where we had the most magical light, and the last are the mountains near Crater Lake, where we spent a chilly afternoon near the lakeshore.

I hope you all have lovely holidays over the next few weeks! See you in January (or on Instagram if you can't wait that long!) ;)
p.s. Title of this post is inspired by a very sweet book that you should read.



Movies for >> Hallo-Weenies

images via 1 // 2 // 3 // 4

True story: I don't like scary movies. As a natural worry-wart with an active imagination, I don't need new stimuli introduced. However, I do like fun+creepy movies. Since most parties were last weekend or are this weekend, a lot of us will be home tonight passing out candy. Here are four of my favorites to suggest! 

shanti >> sondra



Warm Soup >> For Cold Days

Top three reasons why soup is awesome:

> It is a vehicle for the wonder of all wonders - a loaf of good, crusty bread.
> You can hide endless amounts of vegetables in it and be none the wiser.

I love soup all-the-year-round, but when it gets colder and drearier, I definitely ramp up both production and consumption. This Fall and Winter, I'm going to try and make a big pot of soup once a week-ish. It's just such an easy way to warm up and enjoy a big bowl of comfort during the darker days we have coming. I'll share the good ones here with you all. :) First up: this delicata squash and pear version. 
I made this a few times last winter, and when a couple of delicata squash came in our last CSA box, I remembered this recipe from last year. I think I had gotten some delicata squash last year about this time, and I just googled recipes and came across this one. I am not a huge lover of squash in its plain form, but I LOVE it in soups. The best part about this recipe is that it's super simple - two cups of each of the main ingredients.
Here's how you do it >

Delicata Squash and Pear Soup (from Saveur)

2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups delicata squash (about 1lb, or 1 medium sized squash. Peeled, seeded, and diced)
2 cups shallots (about 4 medium, peeled and sliced)
2 cups pears (about 1lb; I used 3. Cored and diced. Pick firm ones.)
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
4 cups veggie or chicken stock
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
crème fraîche (I subbed sour cream)
maple syrup (you know, the real kind)
s+p to taste

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the shallots, cook 4-5 minutes until softened. Add the squash and pears and cook until they start to soften, about 7 minutes. Add the thyme and let cook another minute or so for the thyme to get fragrant. Then, add the stock and vinegar. Let simmer until everything is nice and soft, 15-20 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender, taste, and add salt and pepper to your liking. DONE!

To serve: drizzle a spoonful of crème fraîche and a bit of maple syrup on each. It will look fancy and will impress people for no good reason, but also tastes good, so win-win.

// This does not make a huge pot of soup, probably about 4 good sized bowls.
// Have everything chopped and ready to go before you even start heating the oil. I am terrible at taking this advice, and think I am a faster chopper than I am and always inevitably almost burn things. Don't be like me.
// If like me you cannot find crème fraîche at your grocery store (really Safeway? This is 'MERICA!), do not fret, you can sub in sour cream. It will not swirl as prettily (compare my photo to Saveur's), but it will still taste pretty good. A bit of heavy cream or greek yogurt would work, too.

In related news, does this photo gross you out? You're not alone.
Happy eating!

shanti >> sondra



If the Path be Beautiful >>

The other morning in my yoga class, my teacher was talking about finding that place of calm that exists in all of us. Granted, for some us it might be harder to find than for others, but I do believe that it is always there. She then went on to talk about "strengthening the neural pathways" to those calm places, rather than beating down the same old pathways that are tried to true and are often the paths to obsessing, listing, and letting your thoughts jump all over wildly. This concept has really stuck with me the last couple of days, I think because it's something proactive that we can all do to make actual, physical changes in our brains and thought-patterns.

Allow me put on my Modern Jackass hat for a moment.

When we have thoughts, there is actually something happening in our brains at a chemical and biological level. Neurons communicate with other neurons - each has about 10,000 connections with its neighbors- and when you have the same old thoughts the same connections happen over and over again, making it easier to have those same thoughts over and over again, often putting us into a cycle of thinking that's hard to get out of. But when we try to change those patterns, and make a point of repeating the new patterns, we actually create new pathways. And the more we explore the new pathways, the easier those become. Here is a nice analogy if you'd like to explore this more.

Last night I woke up around 3am and found myself trying to get back to sleep, and this thought about neural pathways crept into my brain. I realized that even by just literally imaging and focusing on these pathways changing and leading me to a place of calm, that I was making new pathways. Focusing on a single thought is also known as dharana in yoga, and is one of the 8 limbs and a precursor to meditation. So, as I see it....win win! Building new pathways, finding that calm center, and using single-pointed focus to get there. Trippy. Oh, and I only had to think about all of this for about 60 seconds, because soon I was fast asleep and not obsessively trying to think of all the emails I needed to send or the things I should do when I get to work.

Something to think about at least. :)

shanti >> sondra



Happiest Place on Earth >>

These pictures are all from the beginning of last week when we took a little trip out to the Olympic Peninsula. A friend of mine is house sitting the most perfect cabin with two adorable kitties for the Fall and Winter, and she was generous enough to have us out. Guys, this place was all of my daydreams come to life. It's perched on a steep hill overlooking a bay off of Puget Sound. It is bright, and light, and cozy all at once. It has a guest cottage that my friend decorated in Moonrise Kingdom theme, which is where we slept. I could sleep all the rest of my sleeps there and be happy, methinks.

Oh, did I mention my friend loves to cook? She spent the summer as a personal cook (she prefers that term, since she's not a professional chef) for a family in Seattle. Fresh baked cookies, homemade pizzas, and roasted chicken with foraged mushrooms. Good company, good food, good place. :) Sorry, there is no way for this to not sound braggy, but seriously, the 30 hours we spent there as an overnight where some of my favorite in the last year.

Sometimes you find a place where you can feel your whole body relax, and your spirit just sighs. This is one of those places. And in just a little over two weeks, I'll be there again! I have definitely been scanning my calendar for any and all opportunities to sneak across the water and go back.

p.s. Speaking of Wes Anderson films, have you seen the new trailer yet?

shanti >> sondra



Soon it Will Be Cold Enough >>

I thought I'd do a little "currently" post. This photo is almost current, since I took it yesterday while I took the dog out to pee in the morning. The last few posts have been pretty photo-heavy, and I have one more of those to share, but I thought I'd break it up a bit with a little of what the day-to-day has looked like around these parts.

so, without further adieu, currently -->

drinking // This instant, a chai tea latte. BUT.  Not the good stuff. I ruined our last batch by leaving it out on the counter too long and it went bad. So...lesson learned. This time of year, I pretty much drink hot beverages all throughout the day... chai in the mornings, and then mostly herbal tea and mugs of hot apple cider steeped with fresh ginger in the afternoons and evenings.

watching // Definitely the most interesting thing we've been watching lately is Terry Jones' Medieval Lives, which are all up on You Tube. If there are any Monty Python fans out there, you'll definitely recognize some of the same hallmarks of the show's style, but it's actually a really informative and interesting documentary series about what life was like in the Medieval world. There are 8 episodes, all about 30 minutes long; I highly recommend them!

reading // Sadly, nothing. I have a whole stack of books and magazines that I'd like to get to, but it just keeps not happening. WHY AREN'T THERE MORE HOURS IN THE DAY?! First up when I find those missing hours, is a book a friend lent me, Where'd You Go, Bernadette? Have any of you read it?

listening // You know how sometimes you come across an album and you listen to it on repeat, and then forevermore that album will take you back to that time and place in your life? Yeah, I've found that album for this Fall. Emancipator's Soon it Will Be Cold Enough. The title is oh-so-perfect, and the music is just right for snuggling in blankets and woolen socks. I'm especially fond of the haunting vocals on When I Go.

anticipating // This is a big one for me, but I ordered an iPhone. I have been an Android girl since waaaaaaaay back. I even had a G1 back in the day, and in general, I have been totally happy with Android as an OS. HOWEVER. I think I'm just at a point where I'm tired of waiting for app developers to develop at the same speed and at the same quality level for Android as they do for the iPhone. And, after reading Kayla's post a few months ago, I think the seed was planted that it was okay to jump ship; my loyalty is pretty meaningless if it's making me unhappy. So when I got a little bonus check from work, I put it towards ordering a shiny (gold!) new phone. It's backordered, so it'll still be a couple of weeks (hopefully sooner!), but I'm excited to get it and play with it. True story: I have never owned an Apple device (and we use Linux at home). I don't even have an iTunes account. There will definitely be a learning curve. :)

today // Today is for catching up a bit, and doing the things I didn't get a chance to do this week. Like blogging. :) After sleeping in I went to yoga, and then came home and now I'm typing away with a cat on my lap. The sun keeps poking through the clouds momentarily, but then retreating. I hope it comes out properly so we can get out and take Piko on a nice walk this afternoon! After this, I'm going to heat up some leftover pumpkin and kale lasagna from last night, and proofread a grant proposal that Andy's working on. This evening we're heading to a friend's house for a dinner party. Busy!

So that's what my world has looked like this last week. Well, the fun parts of it anyway. There was also going to work, and paying bills, and running errands, and blahblahblahgrownuplifestuff. Have you done a "currently" post lately? Post a link in the comments and we can compare notes!

shanti >> sondra



Impossible to Say >> Even Harder to Feel

Just when you think you're caught up with this blogging thing, you're behind again.

Last week we took a day trip out to see a bit of fall color, stretch our legs a bit, and eat delicious Mexican food. To do these things, we headed up and over the mountains, where it was snowing higher up and the temps were a tad chilly.
We hiked along the Icicle River near Leavenworth, WA. It was an easy walk, but it was nice to get out and see the pops of color. Things were just starting to change, so just tips of red and orange here and there. Since these were taken (only a week ago yesterday), it seems that Fall has exploded here in Western Washington. Seemingly overnight the trees have all burst into color, and it's been downright cold here in the mornings. Seasons changing so suddenly  is one of my very favorite things in the whole world. Magic!
There were tons of mushrooms all along the trail. Mushroom foraging is big here, although I know nothing about wild mushrooms. I know enough to know that I shouldn't do it unless I know what I'm doing! Nonetheless, I find them exotic. All of the color and sizes are so fascinating to me as a Midwestern girl, where such things don't grow.
Afterwards, we headed into the town of Leavenworth, which is built to look like a Bavarian village. It's pretty kitschy, but it's cute. We walked around looking for a place to get a chai, but after striking out wound up stopping for a beer at the Icicle Brewing Co. Well, beer for the mister and a local wine for me. From there, we headed to a place we like for cheap and delicious Mexican food.
Getting out of town for a day trip is so awesome. The formula for a good day trip for us is as follows: drive far enough away that it feels like you "went somewhere;" get out for a hike, a walk, or do something touristy; treat yourself to something you don't do everyday, like a nice dinner or impromptu cocktails; get home just in time for bed. You can really pack a lot into a day and make it feel like a mini vacation! Leavenworth is supposed to be really pretty at Christmastime, and the whole town gets decorated and cutsey. I hope we're able to make it back in December!

shanti >> sondra



A Beautiful Sunset >> That Was Mistaken for a Dawn

I have a few more pictures to share from our whale watching day. On the ferry ride back, we happened to catch a gorgeous sunset over the Sound.  (Title quote from Claude Debussy).

shanti >> sondra



Whale Watching >> San Juan Islands

The highlight of my little blogging hiatus was definitely the trip we took out to the San Juan Islands a few weeks back. I had gotten a gift certificate for my birthday from my sister in law that needed using, so even though it wasn't the most ideal time calendar-wise, we got up at the craaaaaack of dawn and headed up to Anacortes to catch the ferry. This was the ferry terminal as the sun was coming up. It was SUPER foggy as we drove north and west from Seattle, but we got lucky and had postcard-perfect weather all day after the fog cleared.
We had a couple of hours to kill before our tour, so we spent it in the town of Friday Harbor, which is right where the ferry drops you off. I kind of thought there'd be more to do there than there was, so it was actually a little boring. Although, we did stop at an awesome gem for lunch, a cheese and wine shop that also did small plates and paninis. They had a beautiful little back patio where we enjoyed a glass of wine and some food before we headed down to the boat (I didn't get any pics so you'll have to use your imagination).

We got on the boat, which had super knowledgeable guides, and headed out.

Although it was bordering on hot on land, once we were on the moving boat it was pretty chilly. I was glad I had brought a hat and a couple of sweaters! The tour company had lots of blankets on board that you could use, as well as binoculars. After about an hour of cruising and spotting lots of seals and birds, we came upon a huge pod of Orcas.

You can see the tips of their fins in the pic above. I didn't really take any pictures while we watched the Orcas, because the guides had huge telephoto lenses that they were taking photos with, and they said they would email us the pics after our trip so we could focus on just watching. Although, I'm still waiting on that email...

The whales were "resting" here, so we didn't see much more than you can see in the photo, but they moved up and down a lot. I cannot begin to express just how beautiful and awe-inspiring being out there was. Seeing these amazing creatures out in the wild was a truly special experience. We saw Blackfish a couple of months ago, and it really brought close to home the stories of the Orcas that were taken from this area in the 1970s, and how unbelievable it is that we keep them in captivity. Have any of you seen this movie? I really recommend it.

I thought this last picture was pretty funny. It's another boat out watching the whales, and you can see how lopsided it is from everyone standing on one side to see them. I'm sure ours looked the same!

On the way back, the sun was setting as we took the ferry back to the mainland, and I took about a bajillion photos which I'll share in another post. The whole day was just about as good as it gets, and was so very "PNW." We're hoping to head back up to the San Juans and do more exploring soon. Ah, so much fun looking back at this! Especially since it's cold and rainy here today. It feels like we skipped Fall and headed straight for winter here in Seattle. Hopefully we get a few more days of sunshine and crunchy leaves before the gloom settles in for good! I'm trying not to fight it though, and I'm making a big pot of veggie chili this afternoon.

shanti >> sondra



Crickets >> And Other Noises of Silence

Crickets. You hear 'em, too?

I apologize for the radio silence these past few weeks. It wasn't planned, and I don't have much to account for it. It's kind of like when you haven't talked to an old friend for awhile, and then you start to feel guilty, and then more time passes, and by that time it feels like too much time has passed for it not to be awkward.
But then eventually you pick up the phone or make a coffee date and when you get together it seems silly that you ever felt that way, because everything is just the same as it always is. So, yeah...like that.

Anyhow, I guess my quietude here is a reflection of a general un-inspired-ness, and un-focused-ness that has been prevailing my world since the end of Summer. No worries, it happens to us all, but the effect here is evident. I've also been settling back into a regular work week again, plus I've also started working a few hours a week at the yoga studio I practice at.

Other than that, life has actually been quite busy, with lots of fun little excursions and nights out. One of the highlights was a day trip out to the San Juan Islands to go whale watching, which was super amazing, and I'll share more from that adventure in a day or so here (maybe don't hold your breath? ha. :)). I also went to Vancouver, BC for a little overnight, harvested wine grapes out on Whidbey Island, went to a wine tasting party with friends, learned how to can and made my own jam, and have had more cups of tea in the last month than in the last six. The cool, rainy days have descended upon us here in the PNW. I've already made homemade soup a couple of times and right now I'm nursing a hot mug of apple cider.
Aren't these embroidered postcards the bomb dot com? They're by artist Shaun Kardinal, and they're another thing that's been rocking my world lately. Check out his website for more like this, plus lots of other cool embroidery art.

shanti >> sondra



What to Wear >> To a Baby Shower

It's been awhile since I posted an outfit around these parts! And posting two days in a row, what am I, trying to win an award or something? But when I got an email with a gentle nudge from Nicole to get back in the game so to speak, I couldn't help but oblige. I meant to do more What to Wear posts, but haven't for whatever reason, so it was just the push I needed. Anyway, I got this rad dress recently and I wanted to show it off to the internets. :)
 You might be thinking, "well that's a nice abstract print." GET CLOSER.
BAM. Upside down cats. Why are they upside down? I don't know. Maybe because I found this at the Salvation Army for $10 as part of Target's sample cast off lot? Maybe. But it kinda just makes me heart it even more.
So would I wear this to a baby shower? Yes, yes I would. Although I actually wore this to work yesterday. I thought a good dose of black would be good to keep the super sweet feel of the dress down, and also because, ahem, I am a 30 year old woman in a dress covered in cats. So on went the cardigan, leggings, and my new favorite boots. Oh, and can we talk about these boots from Teva for a minute? They're rad. Real rad. I know I didn't really take a pic of them here, but they look like this up close. Cute, right? Plus, besides looking good, they're secretly waterproof (perfect for Fall/winter) without looking like they are, and are all ergonomic and what not...cuz they're Tevas. I looked at a LOT of lack booties before settling on these, and am so happy with my purchase.

This is a link up with Gypsy in Jasper, so you should head over there to see what she's going to wear to a baby shower...it's um, unconventional to say the least. ;) Get ready!

shanti >> sondra



Exxopolis >> A Luminarium

Happy Wednesday! Today I thought I'd share a few pictures from something that is kind of hard to describe. One of my favorite summer things to do is to visit the Minnesota State Fair, which is always in late August/early September and ends on Labor Day. We made the usual rounds this year, but one thing that I had never seen or even heard of was this thing called Exxopolis.

My sister had seen a picture on Facebook and insisted we go. I was only half listening as she said something about colors and light, but she said she'd buy my ticket and that we were going. I didn't get a pic from the outside, but you can see it set up somewhere else above. Essentially it looks like a bouncy house for kids (which I would have been pretty stoked for, too!). But, as the guide firmly pointed out before we entered, NO BOUNCING.

You take off your shoes, and once you enter, it's pretty amazing and like nothing I've ever seen before.
It's basically tubes and "rooms" made of this really soft, plastic-y material of all different colors (actually, I just learned from their website that all of the colors are created from just four colors of plastic. Nuts!). It's zipped into all these crazy shapes, and then the sun shines through the outside of the plastic walls and it lights up into all of these dreamy colors. The whole thing is inflated with air to stand upright. The structures are described as interactive sculptures by the creators, Architects of Air, who describe them this way: "Each luminarium is a dazzling maze of winding paths and soaring domes where Islamic architecture, Archimedean solids and Gothic cathedrals meld into an inspiring monument to the beauty of light and colour."

The picture just above was of the "tree," which was an intricate system of branches and holes in the middle. It sort of looked like something from Avatar (which I hated, but did look pretty cool).
These last ones were of the Cupola, a room which featured stained glass-like Penrose tiling in the windows, and this crazy ceiling. Even though is was about a billion degrees out and humid the day we went, and there were tons of people inside this thing, it was still awesome. It would be a completely crazy awesome experience if you could have this thing to yourself, or at least just a few tranquil people. It was so calm and peaceful, I can imagine it would be pretty much the best place ever to meditate, get a massage, do some yoga, or just to drift away in.

Apparently the company that makes these has several, and they tour them around the world. Has anyone else ever been in one of these? If you ever see one, definitely go in! Now that I think about it, it sort of was like going to the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit that I went to last month, but if you could actually go inside the glass sculptures. Trippy!

shanti >> sondra



Lake Superior >> In Colors and Textures

Well, hello there, you. How've you been? I feel like I've fallen off the face of the earth, and am now finding my footing again. Actually, I didn't fall anywhere, I was supported quite surely by all of the ground we covered between Washington and Minnesota and back again on our visit home.

Home is a funny word. I'll say that I'm going "home" for a visit, and mean Minnesota, but I'll also use that word when I'm there, referring to "back home" and mean Seattle. But actually, we've only lived here for 1 year and 1 day, and before that, "home" was another state (California) and another life. One year ago today, I was sitting amongst boxes and trying to figure out where the nearest grocery store and gas station were; getting ready to start another new job in another new city. But it is home. I can feel my body relax when I come in the door, and the barista at our neighborhood cafe knows my by name. But the place where I spent my first 27 years, is also home, and it's so much more complicated now.

It's no longer a place where I hang my hat or kick off my shoes at the end of a long day. Going there is not relaxing in the slightest. It is trying to maintain relationships and connections, trying to make enough memories in 10 days to last 6 months. It is catching up and never quite feeling caught up. It is contentment and excitement, and also guilt and frustration. It is knowing all the backroads and shortcuts through the city like second nature, the best place to get ice cream and take a walk in the cool evening. It is gratifying and satisfying, and it is exhausting and hard. It's seeing newborns turn into little people in leaps and bounds, one visit crawling, the next walking and talking. It's a reminder of missing out while at the same time feeling distant from your actual daily life: what your commute looks like, how the afternoon sun shines through your own windows, the new friends you've made.

I don't mean to sound so melancholy, but I think that's what Labor Day does to me. It's always been a day marking transition - the end of summer and back to school. Like a lot of you probably, I still feel the tug of a new beginning around this time of year, a time to start fresh and move forward. I also go back to work tomorrow after having the summer off, and that feels right. This last visit home was kind of a hard one for no particular reason, although I saw almost all of my favorite people there and did almost all of my favorite things. Maintaining long distance relationships is hard as everyone knows, and sometimes that's just the way it is. The alternative is worse and I don't wish for it, but I think it's okay to just acknowledge hard things sometimes, without ruminating or dwelling on them too much.

The pictures with this post don't have much to do with anything, except that they are from my most favorite-ist place on the Earth, the North Shore of Lake Superior which was part of our trip. I kept finding myself drawn to the colors and textures, to the way the water met the sky way out in the horizon, seamlessly blending from liquid to ether.

shanti >> sondra