Banana Leaf

It may be due to my intense wanderlust, or maybe I’m just sick sick sick of this Seattle rain, but I’ve become slightly obsessed with tropical prints! Most especially palm and banana leaf prints. A couple months ago I was determined to find a similar print to line my work cubicle with and after searching high and low for weeks online and in stores, I gave up completely. Short of tacking some Tommy Bahama shirts on my walls, there weren’t a lot of options out there. Luckily, I’m seeing more and more of my weird obsession in stores and there may be hope for me yet!

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Anxiety

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I think when most people think of anxiety, they think of anxiety attacks. For me, anxiety is my constant state of being. I am by nature a very anxious person and I always have been, but there have been points in my life when my anxiety has reach unhealthy levels.

A few years ago I went to a doctor, thinking that I needed medication for what was wrong with me. Instead, she took a long look at me and calmly asked me questions. Rather than taking pills, she prescribed some lifestyle changes that she wanted me to try first. Needless to say, I never went on the medication and these lifestyle changes made a huge impact on my life. I wanted to share them with you today in case they might help you too.

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My first life change happened slightly before I went to the doctor… I started taking “warm yoga” classes at CorePower Yoga. I loved the classes and even though yoga is supposed to be super relaxing, it was enough of a challenge that I pushed myself harder every week. But yoga also taught me to be gentle with myself too. Teachers will usually say “You did the hardest part. You made it to your mat.” They ask you to set an intention at the start of each class, anything of your choosing. Breathe, Calm, Presence are all “yoga-like” intentions that I’ve done, but I’ve also dedicated my practice to work, to my family and even to my cat. Though I probably don’t look it, I’m insanely strong from the classes and I leave feeling weightless. When you spend an hour focusing on not falling, not sweating on your neighbor and trying to breathe… your mind just tunes out everything else in the world. It’s an amazing feeling.

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My second change happened when my doctor looked at me like I was a crazy person when I told her how many cups of coffee I drank a day. She suggested that I cold-turkey cut back to 1 cup a day and to really savor that one cup. Coffee is apparently really, really bad for people with anxiety. I still abhor tea, but I do my best to savor my one (large) cup of coffee every morning. I’ve even created a little morning coffee ritual with my tea kettle and Chemex. It’s time just for me in the day.

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My third change was something I laughed at… at first. My doctor recommended that I meditate. I’d tried meditating once before and found myself pondering the premise of the M Night Shamalan movie, The Happening. Needless to say, I felt like an epic failure at it. She encouraged me to try guided meditations, and pointed me toward a site that “wasn’t cheesy”. I figured I’d try my first one that night, and I passed out. I become so incredibly relaxed when I meditate that I almost always fall asleep. It’s so powerful for me that I still don’t try myself to practice meditation at any time that wouldn’t be appropriate for a nap!

I use: Calm.com, Headspace and free UCLA guided meditations.

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My fourth change was when the doctor asked me if I felt stressed at work. After a resounding YES, she recommended that I focus on my breathing while I’m working by joining a breathing room. Basically if I’m having a stressful day, I just put on my headphones and go to a website. I click a button and I hear people breathing slowly and steadily. You can help but join them and slow your breathing too!

PDX

John and I have this terrible habit when we are traveling: We arrive, set our bags down somewhere and get so tangled up in exploration and adventures that we realize, when it’s far too late, that we are famished. I should also mention, he and I both become cranky toddlers when we are starved.  We also become incredibly indecisive. In a new place, any restaurant can be ok, or even good, but is it the BEST? Case in point: we once drove around Denver for 2 hours trying to find something, ANYTHING to eat, and ended up eating Little Cesar’s in our hotel room because we gave up. Now that we’ve traveled a few times together now, we know that we get like this, we can anticipate it.

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We arrived in Portland hungry. So… not a great start. Our first priority was to find the block of food trucks in downtown. The only problem? John thought it was this way and I thought it was that way (Ps: I was right) We wandered for about 15-20 minutes, which isn’t so bad for normal people (but not two adults acting like cranky toddlers) and finally I spotted the trucks off in the distance, hoping it wasn’t a mirage from hunger. I helped myself to banh mi and hawaiian BBQ while John was the last customer of the day for a Carolina BBQ truck. That’s more like it! We found a little park (well, really more of a bricked area) and sat down to enjoy our food, happily munching in silence.

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To make a long story short, we were finishing up our lunch when a heavily intoxicated homeless man came up to us, threatening us if we didn’t give him money for “booze and a blunt”. He mostly left me alone, and chose to scream just a few inches from John’s face. Another Santa Clause-looking homeless man disrupted the other man’s rant and asked him to leave. Once the angry man stormed away, the Santa Clause-looking man assured us that we would have been safe and moved his jacket. Both John and I didn’t catch a look, but I’m pretty like 90% sure he was trying to show us his gun. A GUN. Did I mention that this all took place within the first hour of being in Portland?

I tried not to take that experience to heart, but it definitely upset John a lot. In order to put ourselves in a better place, we headed to our Mecca, Powell’s. After about an hour of wandering on our own, John managed to find 6 books that he’d been searching for for years and I came up empty handed and frustrated. Though it didn’t occur to me at the time, I kept getting overwhelmed and then really tired. I ended up grabbing 4 magazines and a random book, just to feel like I’d accomplished SOMEthing, but left pretty bummed. John and I both used some downtime in the hotel room to decompress.

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Being pragmatic, I decided that we should walk around until we found something good to eat. Being us, we walked for at least 3 miles before we almost gave up. (I should note here that we passed several perfectly decent restaurants, but we wanted something quiet and something “our style”, aka: no chains). We even stopped back at the hotel restaurant, but it was roaring and packed to the brim with people. Finally, we headed in the opposite direction of the hubbub. At this point we were both officially hungry and I told John that we could walk for 10 more minutes before we should give up and just order room service.

IMG_0477Then, we saw it. Hamlet: super cute sign outside of a super cute bar. We treated ourselves to a baguette slathered in butter and a plate of super tasty applewood smoked prosciutto. And some wine! Needless to say we were happy, a little tipsy and very satisfied with finally having found someplace that fit exactly what we were looking for.

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The next morning I woke up on a mission, a Google mission. I searched for the BEST Portland breakfast within walking distance and didn’t find many restaurants that were open that early on a Friday. I finally came across the Original Dinerant which definitely fit the bill for diner-breakfast foods that John and I love. While my food wasn’t “the best” that I’ve had, it definitely wasn’t bad and for what the food lacked, it made up for in the most attentive service and adorable retro decor. Plus, John LOVED his Monte Cristo sandwich.

IMG_0494 After breakfast, we walked to Billy Galaxy, a super kitschy vintage toy store. John walked through and pointed out all the GI Joe’s he played with, and how many Star Wars figurines he had. I wasn’t really into a lot of toys as a kid, but it was fun to see him so excited about it! I should also mention that we went back to Powell’s (I know, I know) and I managed to pick up 2 more books and a tote.

DSC00274 It was about time to check out of our hotel, which was a bummer since now we had to lug our luggage and our gatrillion books around with us for the next 4 hours. (We obviously did not think this through) We started off our trek with doughnuts at Blue Star because it was recommended to us by pretty much everyone we knew. I can’t say much about my doughnut (ahem, Top Pot is way better, ahem), but it was a really beautiful space and it was fascinating to see how they rolled out the dough right behind the counter with their whole forearm!

IMG_0505 We wandered for a pretty long time and my back kind of felt like it was being stabbed by my backpack. It was pretty cool to see so many beautiful buildings and signage across the city, but John and I kept noticing just how many homeless people were around. We saw people defecating on the wall of the Chinese garden, we saw newspaper blowing across the sidewalk that had been used as toilet paper, we saw people screaming at each other on street corners and others staring with blank expressions at the puddles on the ground. I’ve been to Portland about a dozen times now, but I’d never seen it like this. I’m sure a large part of it had to do with the weather (the sun peeked out about 5 minutes the entire time we were there) but I also have a feeling that something has fundamentally changed. There was no construction going on. Buildings lay empty. And there were just SO many homeless people around. I feel snobby for saying this, but it was tough to see the beauty around us and I think in a lot of ways, we missed home. DSC00262DSC00264DSC00279DSC00284DSC00285DSC00297DSC00300DSC00302 After walking another 3 miles or so, searching for just a nice quiet park to sit in (spoiler, there aren’t any!) we decided to stop in the bustling Sushiland for some cheap sushi and a break from walking. I helped myself to a ton of their salmon nigiri because I’m pretty certain it was the best sushi I’ve ever had. Finally, we hobbled back over to the train station and immersed ourselves in our books and magazines until our train arrived. DSC00304DSC00308 I’ve traveled by train before, but this was John’s first time ever! He was much more patient than I with the dozen stops were had to make and the handful of delays that the trains put us through, but the trains were actually really well maintained and our first train actually had comfortable seats! If you hate driving, taking the train really didn’t take that much longer (especially with the traffic we saw on the 5 outside our window!) but for what you get in ease, you lack in control. Both of our rides took longer than expected and it was tough for me to deal with the other passengers loud conversations. It was a cool experience, but not one that I’m looking forward to experiencing anytime soon.

Aced It

I’ve wanted to stay in an Ace Hotel for years… probably close to 6-7 years. All my favorite bloggers and instagrammers (yes, that’s a thing) have been and it seemed like such a cool place. So why wait 6-7 years? Well, they’re a pretty pricey place to stay, plus I was always worried that I wouldn’t look “cool” enough as soon as I stepped foot in. That was 100% not the case at the Ace Hotel in Portland!

Pretty much as soon as we walked in I snapped this cliche picture, because it’s just as cool in person as it looks in pictures:

IMG_0466 The guy who checked in was the epitome of super-friendly Portland person. He cracked jokes, made special accommodations for our bags and promised to call in an hour or so (he did, almost exactly). I wasn’t worried for a second that I wasn’t “cool enough”. After a few hours of exploring, John and I returned to our bags and room. John oh so nicely said “If I didn’t have a girlfriend and kids, I’d totally move in right now.” Harsh words, but it was true that it felt like home almost immediately!

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We chose one of the larger rooms with a bathroom in the back of the hotel, which was supposed to be quieter. We loved the super-urban look outside of our window and they were right, it was super quiet, minus some old-building settling noises.

DSC00216DSC00213 Each room has unique art, but I have to say that it was probably my least favorite feature because our room has these anime-looking drawings on the walls. The bed was super comfortable and really cozy. John lounged for much longer than he normally would’ve! They also hand-wrote a note to me that started with “Hi Morgan!” It was such a great, super appreciated touch.

DSC00214DSC00218DSC00219The bathroom set up was a little different because the sink was in the main room, but that left more room for…. a CLAWFOOT TUB! Basically, I’m obsessed with clawfoot tubs and this one was especially cute. I wish I had had time for a bath! The bathroom set up actually suited us better because I was able to get ready while John was showering and vice versa.

Really though, it was just all the little touches that really put us over in the moon in love with the hotel…

DSC00245DSC00250IMG_0487DSC00259 Right at the end of our stay I talked John into taking photo booth photos in the main lobby (I’m slightly obsessed with photo booth photos). It turns out that we were not prepared for the first two AT ALL (see my reaction haha)

DSC00253DSC00258but the other two turned out really cute :) IMG_0500DSC00256 It seems silly to admit, but staying in the Ace Hotel truly inspired me! It was so special and unique and all those details really got to me. For what was slightly more expensive and slightly smaller than other options, we really got a lot out of our stay!

Eat Food.

From the few people I discuss food with, I get the feeling that I’m not the only person who get overwhelmed by what the hell we should eat eat. I have a friend who is always trying some new diet whether it’s paleo, whole 30, or juicing. I have another friend who eats whatever she wants, but works out obsessively almost every day. My sister just told me that she went to a trainer who told her to eat tilapia (or a can of tuna) every morning for breakfast. There’s definitely a disconnect there, and I know I feel it too.

I know I’ve been on a Michael Pollan kick lately, and I’m way late to the party on this, but he wrote a book that specifically addressed what he thinks that we should eat. And he should probably know, since he’s incredibly interested and educated in food. And he’s donate a ton of on the ground (or factory) research on this subject. In a world where I don’t know what to trust to eat, I’m pretty certain I can trust this guy.

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In his book, Food Rules, he explains his 3 rules:

What should I eat? Eat food. 

What kind of food? Mostly plants.

How should I eat? Not too much. 

These rules are easy to remember, easy to follow and he breaks them down into simple sound bites. I wanted to share my most favorite rules with you, and I’m hoping to share them with my entire family too!

Eat Food:

-Don’t eat something your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. (So no gogurts, hot pockets, etc.)

-Avoid foods that have more than 5 ingredients (the more ingredients, the more processed it probably is)

-Avoid foods with ingredients that a 3rd grader can’t pronounce. (Don’t know what xanthan gum is? Don’t put it in your mouth!)

-Avoid foods that are pretending to be something that they aren’t. (Lite? Fake meat? Artificial sweetener?)

-Avoid foods you see advertised on TV.

-Shop around the grocery store and save the middle aisles for the end. (Most of the healthier foods are kept on the outside aisles and in the middle is the holy grail of sugar: cereal)

Mostly plants: 

-Save meat for special occasions. (A lot of Americans need meat in every meal, but not every meal needs meat as the main course.)

-Eat fermented foods. (Try adding more kimchi, pickles, yogurt, etc.)

-Eat animals that have eaten well.

-Eat food grown in healthy soil. (Not all organic farms are called “organic”, try to choose places who don’t douse their foods in pesticides)

-Eat all the junk food you want, but only if you cook it yourself. (People are lazy. If they want to eat cake, they are less likely to eat it if they have to make it.)

-Have a glass of wine with dinner. (OK!)

Not too much:

-Pay more, eat less. (It’s better to pay more in grocery bills than hospital bills)

-Stop eating before you’re full. (Think: “Is my hunger gone?” rather than: “Am I stuffed?”)

-Eat when you’re hungry, not when you’re bored.

-Eat slowly. (He actually recommends putting down your fork between bites!)

-Buy smaller glasses and plates. (One researcher found that switched a 12 inch plate to a 10 inch plate cut food consumption by 22%)

-Don’t go back for seconds.

-Eat meals.

-Do all your eating at a table.

-Try not to eat alone.

-Cook.

 

I’ll be honest, it’s tough to know what to eat. But I think these guidelines are really helpful and I hope they help you too!