peace + joy

I was recently watching a show when something really moving happened and I was struck by the emotions that rose to the surface as a result. The main character's best friend was dying of cancer and had reached the end of her life. She was ready to die but the friend was distraught and started listing off ways that she could fight the cancer (classic bargaining) - even though the friend had been through several rounds of various treatments. As the friend listened to her talk about eleventh-hour plans of uncharted treatment territory, the dying woman reached for her friend's face and said, "Inhale Peace, Exhale Joy".
My heart just filled with so much warmth when I heard that and I haven't been able to stop thinking about this scene, or those words, since. In the last few years, I've had a lot of ups and downs and a  LOT of change. I've grown to understand myself in a way that I never have before. I've had lots of growing pains as I've lost relationships, been unsure of where to go on my life's path and wondered if I'm doing this right. There's a lot of second guessing and heartache that comes from being a human, especially when you're dealing with depression and anxiety.

Peace is an elusive thing for most people. We may have moments of it in our lives but as experiences and situations get more complicated, the peace + joy goes with it. Even though I've been feeling so happy as a more authentic part of me has come out in the last few years, the complication of disappointing people I love has been difficult to feel at peace with.

So, how do we "inhale" peace? I have no idea... but as I've contemplated this phrase over the last few weeks, I've come to realize that for me, it's acceptance. There are many things I cannot change - mostly other people's choices are what bring me the most pain. All that I can control or change is myself. I can accept responsibility for my own actions and worry less about what other people do as a result. I don't get to choose how others react to my choices or expressions, but I believe I can feel peace by accepting and valuing my own.

As I've tried to implement this... I've failed, but I've found that the literal act of a deep "inhale of peace" helps remind me of my joyful goal and it allows me to refocus and relax - an important tool for a person with anxiety. I have been amazed at how much this has helped me and I really believe that the only way to live a happy life is to life a peaceful life.

"Peace is not something you wish for; it's something you MAKE, something you DO, something you ARE and something you GIVE away."

- John Lennon


REAL strawberry shortcake

Around this time of year, when strawberries are delicious and affordable, I get a hankering for strawberry shortcake. I used to make it as a biscuit-like "cake" because that's what I always thought of when I pictured strawberry shortcake. But it wasn't my favorite and it made no sense - it's NOT cake! A few months ago, I made a really delightful gluten-free strawberry cake for a dinner party and I loved the texture, which made me think - duh! ShortCAKE! And, this delicious beauty was born (and devoured). It's simple and perfect!
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk

3 quarts fresh strawberries
2 tablespoons sugar

2 cups (1 pint) heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (this one's my favorite)

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9x12 non-stick baking pan. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar for 2 minutes and then add eggs. Beat until smooth and add vanilla. Mix well.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking powder. Add the mixture, alternating with the milk, to the butter / egg mixture and stir until combined. Pour into the prepared baking pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Slice strawberries and combine in a bowl with the sugar. Set aside and let them mascerate while the cake cooks.

In a large bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks. Add the powdered sugar and continue to whip until stiff peaks. Stir in vanilla bean paste and set aside.

Remove the cake from the oven and let cool. Cut into squares and then slice each square in half. Layer strawberries, whipped cream between each layer and serve.


mini me

Maybe this is only funny if you know Lulu in real life but I'm going to post it anyway. I was looking at some pictures of me when I was Louisa's age the other day and was cracking up at how she is my TOTAL mini-me. The face that I'm making in the mirror reflection in the bottom picture is especially her kind of expression. It's so funny to me how our kids really do pick up on things like expressions and personality traits.
This girl kills us. David and I are always looking at each other with the goofiest grins and saying, "OMG, I love her." She's so funny and adorable and we want to devour her all the time! Never grow up, little bunny!


spring explosion

Prepare your eyes for an explosion of green! Spring in the PNW never ceases to amaze me. It is unbelievably beautiful and delightful. The weather has been gorgeous and we've been able to spend a lot of time outdoors. We've had our fair share of rain too but I honestly don't mind it and I know that the rain is what makes everything so green and beautiful here, so I appreciate it.
I love our backyard. We feel so lucky to have a lot that is protected by city water / utility lines + a city trail so no one can build on either side of us. It makes our 1/2 acre lot feel like 2 acres. We still have so much work to do on our yard but it's pretty dreamy when I see the kids running around in their forts and making up games outside with their BFF next-door neighbors.
We've also been eating outside as often as possible. The other night I made a big cold plate and took it outside and David and I sat on picnic chairs and watched the kids play while we ate and watched the sun set.
I also love the endless parks that Seattle has to offer. Every park is awesome! When we lived in San Diego, I feel like we beach hopped because there were so many great beaches to go to within a short distance. That was dreamy too and I feel so glad that we can "park hop" to all these fantastic parks and some of them are beach parks too.
Our lilac bush has exploded with purple blooms that make our whole yard smell fantastic. I cut a few stems and put them in some vases and I'm amazed at how fragrant they are! Way better than any air freshener!
We've also been doing a lot of after-dinner walks on different trails, which is always a hit with the boys because they can throw rocks in the river and race.
I know that the Pacific Northwest isn't for everyone but here's my opinion. We have all the benefits of four seasons without the frigid temperatures or the constant snow / ice in the winter. To me, it is heaven and I'm so grateful to live here.


Molly Moon: better than ice cream?

Sarah McLachlan sang truth that "Your love is better than ice cream. Better than everything else that I've tried"... but let's face it - ice cream is pretty fantastic! There's a local ice cream shop here called Molly Moon's with the cutest branding and the tastiest flavors (Balsamic Strawberry, Cannelle Vanille's Rhubarb Crumble, Cali Lime Pie) and intense toppings (like Cajeta Caramel Sauce made from goat milk and PNW honey, Balsamic Reduction with Washington Honey, and organic Italian balsamic vinegar + my favorite - Lemon Curd).
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago they opened a new location close to us in downtown Redmond and were giving away free ice cream to kids under 12. So, duh, we went and stood in line for two hours to get a few free cones. I know that sounds terrible but it was such a gorgeous day and the line was next to a huge park for the kids to run around in and I went with a friend so we stood there and talked. The kids thought it was fantastic to eat melted chocolate ice cream and play with their friends.
I want that cute little shirt for Louisa. It's too cute. I got strawberry with lemon curd and it was delightful! BTW - this isn't a sponsored post. I just love the whole concept and execution of Molly Moon's brand.
Brothers gotta hug, you know!