Soups for Slow Living

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

the colder months, I imagine that something happens to our energies. I can’t quite say whether they are lower in availability or simply hankering for a slower kind of work, but the things that our souls yearn for are markedly different from that in the summer. In the Fall and Winter, I like to slow things down. More than usual, anyway.

In an effort to budget my time in a way that allows me to do more meaningful work, I have recently been trying harder to practice Essentialism when it comes to household chores. And while I thoroughly enjoy cooking and baking (especially when new recipes are in tow), I also like to minimize the cooking and cleaning when the goal is to keep our bellies satiated rather than to experience a new culinary feat.

So with the Fall and Winter season upon us, I’d like to turn your attention to a solution that generations before us frequently exercised but our youth has forgotten about: Soup.

A simple word, and not by any means pretty. Soup is the savior from the holiday rush that befalls all. Soup is the reliable companion ready to comfort you after a long day’s work. Soup is the nutritious meal that you need without the high price. Soup is readily available with a few basic ingredients in the kitchen, stocked. Pun intended.

There are many ways that soup alleviates stress in our lives.

It accepts our rummaging through the kitchen cabinets to collect what we have at hand and eliminates the need to run to the market for that one rare ingredient crucial to its being. It’s forgiving in preparation, usually welcoming a haphazard throwing into the pot. It requires little time (on our end). We usually take a few minutes to prep and let the simmering do all the work. I am the first to say that we put our Crockpot to good use during these short days and long nights. Big batches of stuff, frozen for later and rationed throughout the week, sometimes as appetizer and sometimes the main course, makes soup a practical solution. Cleanup is facilitated by the need to only have one pot.

I don’t know what else to say.

With all the excesses of today, the youth views soup as an add-on. An appetizer and nothing more. An introduction to the meal. Another excess to add to the bill when we are too tired to cook from home.

But may I remind that soup can stand on its own. And it’ll cook on its own while you’re off at work. It’ll let you live your life, however slow or fast that may be, without so much as a fuss.

Soups, therefore, are essential weapons to carry around in the backs of our pockets … and at the forefront of our minds.

Without further ado, a soup recipe for you:

Ciabbotola

(adapted from Kinfolk Table)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 yellow onions, cut into 1/4-in pieces
  • 3 green bell peppers, cut into 1/4-in pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-in pieces
  • 2 pds zucchini, chopped into 1/4-in pieces
  • 1 eggplant, chopped into 1/4-in pieces
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • Fresh basil, sliced
  • Parmesan cheese, finely grated

The Process:

  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat before adding the onions and green and red bell peppers. Cook until the onions have softened and are translucent, approximately 10 minutes.
  2. Add the zucchini, eggplant, tomato, and salt.
  3. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Let simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs and stir gently and constantly until cooked through, approximately six minutes.
  5. Sprinkle with basil and cheese.
  6. Serve with fresh sourdough (optional).

For those looking for soup of a different kind, here are a few favorites:

I’m sure many more soup recipes are to come. How about yours? Would you care to share your favorite soup recipes?

 

Autumnal Adaptations

Autumn has finally arrived, brought on by a time change this Sunday past. “Brisk” mornings, as defined by Californians, was noted upon the recent week’s bread deliveries and dog-sitting duties. Like most wintry things, Fall crept into our lives quite subtly. Just when we thought the Indian summer would last longer than it was welcome, it was gone and replaced by cozy mornings, warm beds, and more frequent occasions for pet snuggling.

To reflect the transition, our home has also undergone its own changes. We’ve created tight reading nooks by the window, encased by bookshelves on either side to instill that cozy feel. The large plush chairs facilitate sinking as the dweller welcomes the early morning light with coffee that wakes, and later in the day, gleans as much evening light with every fervent turn of a book’s page.

DSC06087.JPG

The removal of the sectional chairs from the living room has created more space, which allows for higher awareness of the passing of time. Most notably, the way the light streams into our abode as the sun sets and lands on cleared cement floors, or sets shadows against white walls outlining the few furnishings we own, brings into clearer focus this autumnal transition. Herein lies an opportunity to be mindful of the continual shifts in nature, and to practice gratitude in the present state of our home and the time we spend in them.

DSC06061.JPG

We’ve re-oriented the dining table to resemble a square, for more communal gatherings in the near future. It sits centered in the entire space, facilitated by the lack of walls thereby allowing the freedom to create rooms where there was once none. I felt that creating a square table for twelve was more conducive for conversation and the sharing of plates than a long apostles table where one can converse with four people, at most. Plus, cooking is at the heart of our home, so it suits to have the sharing of that cooking in the center of our space.

DSC06090.JPG

Whereas most people prepare their homes with more stuff in the wintry months (the laying down of rugs on bare floors, the draping of woolen blankets over armchairs, the hanging of tinsel on trees), I don’t really have that luxury. I say this with irony, because I really do think that in having less of this stuff, we have it better. Time, after all, is the ultimate definition of luxury. We simply prep in different ways.

Stripping down rooms to their bare necessities reduces the distractions that would typically pull one OUT OF bed. Having less areas to mingle and less separation between spaces allow for more human connection. Whereas the cement floors kept this loft cool in the summer months, so, too, does the smallness of space keep it warm on colder days.

Meanwhile, the surfaces of tables and our rooms have been emptied of summer’s clutter. It’s a clean slate for all. I’ve been put-putting around the ovens, baking more than usual and dabbling in pies and desserts. Fatty things to keep our bellies warm. Where I was dreading turning on the ovens in the summer’s heat, I am now grateful for the warmth it lends to the home, along with the beautiful scents wafting through the kitchen.

DSC06062.JPG

It’s funny how our household has adapted to autumn. It’s nice to notice the changes. Suddenly, you take note of where to find the sun light during certain times of the day. You know when to keep the windows shut, and where you can find a brisk draft.

I like to think of our homes as sentient organisms, and as such, it requires us, its keepers, to be attuned to nature’s quarterly changes. Our homes are individualized spaces, and each has its needs and quirks. The door jams in a certain way with the changing of temperatures, the floor creaks here and there, and the stove creates too much steam when kept on too long thereby setting off the fire alarm. These are the things that indicate a symbiosis between home owner and dwelling, and it is environment creation at its best – past the beauty and function – a relationship between living and non-living thing.

Getting to Know: Marie Miao of Irro Irro

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

The founder of Irro Irro, Marie Miao, is a kindred spirit of sorts, balancing a career in the medical field with an entrepreneurial creative endeavor. Her company was born out of the recognition that the fashion industry was lacking in their inclusiveness of people with medical disabilities. Her experience with cancer patients has given her a unique perspective and her dedication to making a difference in the lives of those affected is very inspirational. Her efforts in creating an eco-lifestyle brand inclusive of adaptive lives is apparent in Irro Irro’s minimalist yet functional designs. More wondrous is her determination to create social change and her brazen advice for others who wish to do the same through creative work. 


LRG_DSC00945

Hi Marie! Before we begin talking about Irro Irro, can you let our readers know a little bit about yourself?

Hi! Thank you for having me.

Outside of Irro Irro, I wear a few hats as a mother, wife, and oncology social worker. I am Japanese, but much of my early childhood was spent in Hong Kong, so I identify with Chinese culture as well. I am a total extroverted introvert. I push the extrovert out during pop-markets and social gatherings, but love and crave complete solace to rejuvenate.

I, too, am an extroverted introvert! Sometimes this polarity helps to grow a person and stretches their ability to fill in different roles. For example, I heard that your career as a social worker in the medical field inspired the creation of Irro Irro. How did that inspiration come about?

The inspiration came when I started making my own clothing for work. I have never been a slacks person, and find tight clothing uncomfortable (except during hot yoga), so I made a similar version of the current Chloe dress in our soft double gauze. When I wore the dress to work, I started receiving comments from my patients stating, “I wish I had something like this to wear during treatment.” That was my “AHA” moment … the moment when both of my passions (fashion and helping others) aligned.

From there, I altered the pattern knowing the physical ailments and side effects that can come from treatment. I also interviewed physical and occupational therapists and individuals that encounter daily hurdles with dressing.  Simple tasks like putting clothes on/off can be the biggest frustration for someone’s morning, and if I can ease some of that, I think it’s a start. There are very few modern adaptive clothing lines, and I’m hoping I can make a difference for a community that is often overlooked.

irro irro
The Chloe Dress

I think it’s wonderful that you’ve made medical inclusivity a pillar of your branding. It doesn’t cross the minds of most, and I feel that it is important to bring this awareness into the fashion industry. The ability to dress yourself, among other tasks, is a very powerful, albeit simple, affirmation for medically compromised patients.

But your dedication does not stop there. I heard that you also have a philanthropic pursuit that gives back to cancer patients?

You are too kind, thank you. Currently, 1% of Irro Irro proceeds goes to Children’s Lives Include Moments of Bravery (CLIMB). CLIMB provides training to clinical professionals (like myself) to incorporate CLIMB into their hospital or Cancer Center, which allows the organization to provide a support group for children ages 6-12 whose parent has been diagnosed with cancer. I run the program where I work, and I have personally seen the impact it can make on a family who is feeling lost or overwhelmed by a Cancer diagnosis.

Often the children and family members are overlooked because the main focus is, of course, the patient. But usually, the patient’s first thought is, “How do I tell my children?” or “How do I support my family?” This program provides a bridge for some of those worries, and I’m hoping as the brand grows, the percentage of proceeds will grow as well.

I am curious… what your feelings are about how the creative aspect of Irro Irrro feeds your medical profession, and vice versa? Do you feel as if the two are unrelated or work hand-in-hand?

Initially, I thought it was unrelated. As I grew more confident in the brand, I started to question “Why the divide?” Irro Irro wouldn’t be what it is without my professional background but naturally, the inner dialogue in my head kept minimizing my knowledge because I didn’t come from fashion. It’s interesting though, to be part-time corporate and part-time entrepreneurial and seeing the pros and cons to both. I’m not sure what the future will look like, but I’ve realized that this is part of my story, my unique journey, and I have to embrace each part.

Surely, working two professions requires more time and effort than working one. How do you find a balance between the two?

I’m not sure there’s a perfect balance, but I do prioritize self-care and I am an avid planner (with a color coordinated physical planner). To be honest, I am NEVER balanced in all areas of my life. Some days, I feel like an awesome mom, and some days, I’m left with guilt because I’m focusing on the business. My daughter is at an age where she loves to help, so I do try to involve her as much as possible, which helps with the guilt. And really, the mom guilt will always exist, I’m just learning to cope with it.

The biggest help for me to stay emotionally, mentally, and physically sane is hot yoga. My life has changed drastically since practicing hot yoga. It has challenged me in all aspects of my life, and I feel like I’m flushing out the toxins out of my body every time I take a class. It’s also one hour to myself to unplug, be in silence, and meditate. I make sure to add hot yoga in my calendar at least 3-4x week. It’s also helpful that I have a supportive husband who cheers me on even when I’m stuck in the office when he’d rather I be on the couch watching TV next to him. The sacrifices are real!

And vacations! Those are necessary even if it’s a stay-cation. It’s hard to shut my entrepreneurial brain off sometimes, but vacations help me feel passionate, inspired, and rejuvenated.

irroirro__12_of_46_
Olivia Top in Cloud with Wave Necklace and Pavo Minor Earrings

“Irro” is a Japanese term, isn’t it? Would you care to share what Irro Irro means?

Irro Irro together means variety. I have always been fascinated by colors and I could stare at abstract paintings for hours just enjoying the depth and uniqueness of one color. It’s funny you ask, because while I’ve been trying to add more colors, many of my customers request black (which I totally get)! I’m working on a project that involves more color, so I’m hoping I can share that next year.

I am definitely one of those guilty of requesting black (or gray or beige…)! Your brand, however, still embodies a very minimalist design. How do your roots play a factor? Have you always been attracted to neutral palettes and stream-lined shapes?

Traveling to Japan and other countries always brings me some sort of inspiration, but I have always loved my neutrals and the sense of calm, peace, and centered-ness that they bring.  I’m embarrassed to share how many white shirts I own!

I do love a good bold color and pattern though; it evokes a different type of feeling. I think the same goes for shapes. My go-to’s are usually clean shapes but once in a while I love big statement pieces, especially for outerwear. One day, I hope to incorporate that into Irro Irro, as well.

I love how you mentioned centered-ness. I believe that simplicity helps to create space for a meaningful lifestyle. What are your thoughts on how minimalism (both in fashion and in the everyday) can foster an intentional life? 

I do believe a minimalist lifestyle brings forth intention, challenging you to only purchase what you need, and purchasing items that will bring long-term value into your life. Since fostering a minimalist wardrobe and lifestyle, I don’t press the “purchase” button so quickly, and scouring secondhand gems have been a fun challenge. It’s also challenged me to be creative, styling what I already have differently, and shopping around the home when re-decorating. I’ve always related a clutter-free home to a clutter-free mind. Simplifying all parts of my life, not over-extending myself (although I’m still working on that one!), and keeping routines as simple as possible has improved my overall mental health.

In this space, I try to highlight not only small businesses, but more specifically, people trying to create environmentally conscious products in socially responsible ways. Would you mind sharing with our readers ways in which you are trying to ethically produce your products, source materials that are eco-friendly, and reduce the amount of waste from your production line?

Of course! All of our textiles are 100% cotton or organic cotton and we are newly launching an up-cycled home line with the left over scraps from our production! I am also conscious about how our items are packaged, minimizing the amount of labels, using recycled wrapping paper, and bio-degradable mailers. I produce in small batches, so once the items are sold out, the color or style may never come back, making it more unique. Some other eco-friendly options I have been looking into are other textiles such as hemp, linen, recycled cotton, up-cycled denim, and incorporating more pieces made out of deadstock. I think there’s always room for improvement in this area, and I’m constantly thinking of ways to be better.

DSC04102-2
Hand-dyed 100% cotton bag and Olivia Top paired with the Kiho Trousers in Terra Cotta

How would you advise others wishing to leverage creativity for social change?

What I love about creativity is that there is no right or wrong, and the sky is the limit. You could specialize in the most logical or scientific field and still be creative. I think if you’re passionate about bringing change into the world, just go for it! You are your own best advocate, and no one will have the passion and tenacity like you would about a fight you believe in. If you’re angry or frustrated about something, use that anger to bring positive change.

I have been told numerous times that Irro Irro wouldn’t succeed, but that has pushed me to prove them wrong. It’s helpful to have clear goals about the change you’d like to see, then start planning from there. Bringing social change can be uncomfortable for some people, so while it may take a bit longer, keep up the perseverance. It has been a roller coaster since the beginning, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You’ve already accomplished so much with Irro Irro, having launched a mommy and baby line, as well as a number of accessories. How will Irro Irro grow from here?

Thank you.  There is so much I want to do with the brand, with some bigger projects that has been in the works behind the scenes. But for now, my goal is an eco-lifestyle brand inclusive of adaptive lives – adding in more modern adaptive styles for adults and children. I am self-funded, so the growth is taking longer than I’d like. But, I also believe good things take time, and I’m enjoying the journey for what it is.

irro irro
Aries Himalayan Salt Earrings and Olivia Top in Terra Cotta

Lastly, would you care to share some of your favorite socially and environmentally conscious brands?

There are so many that I love and admire, but a few that I personally love because of the people behind the brand are Hey Moon Designs, Two Days Off, and Selah Collection.

That’s awesome! I have already interviewed Gina Stovall of Two Days Off and am actually in the process of interviewing the founder of Selah Collection! What a small world.

If you would care to see what Marie has in store, check out Irro Irro and support local small business owners trying to create a positive impact in their community.

Recent Reads: The Creative Habit

Twyla Tharp’s guide to The Creative Habit has got me analyzing everything about the way I process the world and my art. The book details steps in which we can unravel our creative intricacies and understand the ways in which we work best. It also provides exercises that hope to unlock even more of our potential, as well as unnerve some of our fears. Below, I discuss some of my most recent thoughts as to how I live a creative life under the guidance of well-formed habits, and I study my own battle between being an artist and honing in that artistic quality into something more productive.


My whole life, I’ve struggled with choosing between following good habits for structured creativity and the transience of going with the flow. I  lean towards following the former although my natural tendency is the latter. The dichotomy is what makes my life so productive and my art good but internally, it’s chaos.

It is now obvious to me that I was born with a creative soul to a mother who preferred a rigid structure. Growing up, I must have not been very good with a linear way  of thinking, which explains why so much of my mother’s energy was spent on teaching me focus. My sister, to whom all subjects came naturally,  was allowed to run more wild as reward for finishing her tasks efficiently. I was the child who was not allowed to get up from my chair until my work was done (and re-done) to standard, until all the food was eaten from my plate, until all the boxes were checked off of the list. My daydreaming always got the better of me, and I would watch my sister run off to play while I soured in acknowledging that it was my own darn fault  for letting my imagination take the best of my precious time. My observant mother saw that my tendency to dawdle and dwell would hinder my ability to get anything done. At a very young age, she taught me some of my best habits for a productive life.

  • Sit down and focus.
  • Mute all distractions.
  • Create a plan at the very beginning of your day.
  • Make a strict timeline for all tasks.
  • Aim for improving your efficiency.
  • Figure out your weaknesses, and tackle those first.
  • Do one thing at a time.
  • Record every step.
  • Re-assess (for improvement, always).

Eventually, I learned how to follow the lines, I learned how to ignore all distractions, and I learned to reject play. I was taught that if I just focused hard enough, I could finish sooner and would therefore have more time to do what I wanted. Ironically, once I developed these habits and became efficient, what I wanted to do started to embody exactly what I have been doing to be free. In other words, I spent my free time following the steps I was taught, making plans and listing improvements, and it was my sister who ended up having bad focus and less discipline (she’s still efficient though!).

Yet I see that structure is not my most natural way of unfolding. It’s evidenced by the fact that I am always late (to work, social obligations, class, et cetera). I tend to want to do things sporadically, out of order, based on emotion – so it’s great that my mother taught me how to prioritize and make lists, otherwise I would never even make it to work. Real work to me is not a job. It is the work inside of me. I see it in the tornado I leave behind on my days off when creativity strikes. I hear it when my excitability gets the best of me and my conversations jump from thought to thought. Sometimes it drives my husband bonkers, because I’ve asked seven questions before he can even get a word in. Structure is no good to me and I don’t like people telling me what to do or having society define my life. I know this is true when my math always requires a paper and pen. Don’t get me wrong, I was the best at it when I did it, but without every step written out, numbers got lost and left behind unlike words which I could always keep track of even if they’re left floating in my head, even when the sentence runs on and on. Most of all, I know it is so when I explain emotion with color, when I feel a connection with dough, when I empathize with a wilting flower or a forgotten pen.

Because of this dichotomy, I am constantly at war with myself. I wish to write, but I have a million ideas. I’ll want to pull out pen and paper, type on my phone, grab my camera, pull up social media, and soon enough, I’ve got a “text cursor” blinking forgotten and every art supply laid on my desk because somehow what I was typing about gave me an idea that I jotted down on paper which reminded me to take note of it on my phone but upon getting up to grab my phone from the sill I saw something that I wanted to photograph and put up on social media where the first image on my feed called for inspiration to pull out a pencil and draw. Such is life.

Or, I’ll pick up a book to relax but read a line that touched me enough to draw my head up to ponder and then see a bird outside my window that reminded me of a time when we were in New Zealand which made me feel like being an expat and now I am drafting a new plan to make my loans paid off faster to pursue the expat life – and how can I get my baking gig to take off to supplement this dream? And so you see the way my heart works.

Now imagine my mind trying to wrangle all that in. I pull myself from my drawing to relocate myself to my desk where the blinking cursor awaits. But now there’s a mess on the kitchen table and I cannot focus so I get up to clean the mess so that I get rid of the distraction even though the getting rid of  distraction is distraction itself. I make a strict timeline for the writing to be done but because of all the creative interruptions, I am missing my marks. And because of all the structure, I am impeding my creative flow. So I try to chase my thoughts but it hinders efficiency thus in order to be efficient I force myself to do one thing at a time. Somehow between all this warring, some things get done. It’s a crazy back-and-forth process, but I do believe that this defines efficiency for a creative life.

I know people who are creative at their core, but unproductive in the real world. I know of people who have brilliant ideas, but also brilliant fear – without the structure to dismantle that fear. I know people who get bogged down by emotion but cannot find a release. It’s a shame when that energy burns a person from the inside. And so it goes that a creative person will not create without having the habit of creating, which is, simply put, good habits.

And after that stressful narrative of the inner workings of my mind and soul, I find comfort in knowing that somehow, I’ve got it right. The balance, which off course runs differently for each person. If you’ve got some creative juice in need of direction, I would highly suggest reading this book. It has a gold mine of thoughts and exercises which may change the way you pursue your most creative aspirations. If anything, I hope it brings you a closer understanding of who you are, as it did me. I highly recommend!

Words of Affirmation

Some days just don’t turn out right.
The bottom of the bread burned,
You didn’t meet the patient’s expectations,
The oat milk flowed over the latte mug,
It might as well be
The sun didn’t rise.

For a moment you feel all the disappointment,
You worry about the loss,
You apologize for the short coming,
You clean up the mess.
Then the moment passes
You’re standing on your own two feet.

It is here you see the sliver of sun.
How good is life that you can connect with bread,
Help others heal,
Make art in your drink.
How good is life that you had a choice
About how to spend it
And how to react
And who to be.

Rise my darling.
You are the sun.
You make the light.
It’ll be all right.

Intentional Living: How Minimalism Creates Happiness

I believe that many people live their lives in search of happiness. I also believe that the search for happiness is a misguided path. The way I see it, our souls are actually in search of something else. It isn’t happiness that we seek, but rather, noveltyHappiness just happens to be a by-product of a novel experience.

It is unfortunate that many companies target consumers who think that the search for happiness is what we live for. Companies sell the idea that purchasing new products will bring buyers happiness, as if somehow happiness can be found in an article of clothing, or a brand new car. We are deluged into thinking that, indeed, happiness does lie in new things because the invitation of a new thing into our homes is a novel experience, and so, for a moment, we are happy. We are confusing the two. We must stop to realize or remember that the joy we felt when trying on a new outfit at the store was quite short-lived. And the thrill we felt when driving a new car died with its first scratch. When we pause to think of these truths, it becomes easy to know that our things do not actually keep us happy. But knowing this is not enough. It is arguably more important to understand why.

When we buy something new, it is a novel experience. But once something we wanted suddenly becomes ours, it shifts our perspective. Our minds adjust and the thing that was once new immediately becomes old. For example, we forget about that new tank top we bought at the beginning of summer, and we get too lazy to wash our cars. We start to suddenly covet OTHER things. The mind is a fickle thing.

Understanding that our brains adapt to the current state (and in a rather quick manner) means that we are aware of the ways in which we can control our ability to be happy. Having more makes ourselves used to the stimuli of novelty, which decreases our perception of happiness with each additional thing. Much in the same way, having less actually returns us to a level of excitability with the smallest of stimuli. It lowers the bar that triggers our ability to have joy. In lowering this bar, we can become happy, more.

Fugio Sasaki, author of Goodbye, Things is one of the most celebrated minimalists in Japan. He has decluttered almost all of his things, living with very little. He is a great exemplar of reducing down to the bare necessities. For example, when it comes to towels, he now uses a single hand towel for drying his hands, his body, his dishes, and more. By getting rid of the fluffy towels that many homes house, he has reset his bar to just the one hand towel. His comments how quickly he adjusted to this tiny towel being the norm. Note that the mind does not perceive this towel as subpar. Our ability to adjust for variance is a gift, in that way. But, when Fugio does use a nicer towel to wipe his hands with (say, at a restaurant or at a friend’s house), that experience leads to a spark of joy. A momentary feeling of happiness. A perception of luxury, one that a person who regularly uses such towels will not experience. Therefore, by ridding ourselves of the excesses in life, by becoming minimalist, we are giving ourselves more opportunities to have novelty in our lives.

It is human for things to never feel enough, and that’s okay. In order to make life enough, we need to work at being more aware. And minimalism is the practice that attunes us to that higher awareness. Having less is a practice. It doesn’t come natural … not to me, anyway. It’s an intentionality that gives us the opportunity to live in a certain space. And that space allows for more opportunities to be happy.

 

A Guide to Staycations

For two and a half years since we’ve said the words “I do”, we’ve spent every holiday getting away to see the world. This Labor Day, we’ve decided to slow it down from the traveling and relish in the beauty of our home. We had just returned from three back-to-back travel destinations (Seattle, Juneau, and Santa Rosa) and I was feeling a bit like I was missing out on the joys of being home. Perhaps that’s a sign of aging? We thought it’d be great to try and re-create vacation vibes in our own city… and our own living room. While everyone is fighting for limited space on highways tonight, higher hotel and flight prices over the weekend, and surely every last little bit of summer sun, maybe you could turn your home into a vacay oasis too, without opening your wallets or car doors (too often).

We always took off whenever we had a bit of freedom from work, which was in essence every holiday that has ever been granted, because we felt that time was precious and tough to come by. So when it finally did, we seized the opportunity. But that’s exactly it! Time IS tough to come by, even in the comforts of our own home. Actually, ESPECIALLY in the comforts of my own home, where I do multiple jobs as a home baker and home writer after long shifts at the dental office. And now that we are homeowners, I have finally come to feel that there can be more time spent valuing this sanctuary, in a city that we so love.

Yet staycations are a tricky thing. The trick lies in re-creating the feeling that you are actually on vacation. There are a few things we feel when we are away – relaxed as we are freed from our daily responsibilities, excited as we explore to see something new, and warm as we connect with others whether that be friends and family that we are traveling with, newly met locals, or fellow wanderers. Sometimes, traveling is a way for us to simply escape from our norm. Whatever it is that you seek when you travel, you must also seek in a staycation. Your mind must be in its own wonderland and you must be focused on establishing that feeling of “elsewhere”, lest you return to work after the long weekend feeling like you’ve wasted your staycation cleaning up around the house.

To focus on creating a REAL staycation, you have to clearly know in your mind what you want to achieve. What is this staycation meant to be?

This is for all those times you had to spend balancing work and life, getting home after a long day only to complete a list full of chores. This is for the days you wished you could wake up late, and lounge in bed all morning long like a teenager on a Saturday, contemplating which would draw you out of bed first – the beating rays from a high sun or the smell of bacon and eggs. This is a time for sitting down and reading an entire book from beginning to end, undisturbed. This is for staring out of a window instead of at a screen, for playing with your cat and not giving up when he wins. This is for having breakfast in bed, and possibly never leaving the bed at all.

Here, a few guidelines for creating the perfect staycation.

Break Routine

The secret to feeling like you’re on vacation when you’re actually where you were yesterday is to distance yourself from as many daily occurrences as possible. Avoid doing the laundry, sweeping the floors, organizing your shelves, if only for one weekend. If anyone could understand how hard this first step is, it would be me. But it is essential to creating success. A way in which we’ve prepped for this at Casa Debtist is by doing all the laundry on the weekdays prior. Now we have a full closet, freshly steamed. We’ve cleaned our home as well, so our floors are looking polished, our bathroom sparkling. The sheets are newly washed, without any cat hair (for now) and the bed will be made when our staycation starts. I’ve finished my organizing in the kitchen, a project that I was hoping to tackle for some time, and the counters are finally bare, the appliances wiped down, and the dishware beautifully displayed behind closed cabinet doors, just the way I like them. Last week, we purchased enough groceries to last us through the holiday weekend, plus a bottle of wine, our attempt at feigning luxury for under $10. Usually, the cat wakes us up at 6am on the dot every morning and we get up and go about our day, but perhaps we’ll crawl back into bed and banish the sun for a few more hours. If you typically prefer showers, maybe soak in a bath with a bath bomb? Color the tub pink! I don’t normally have scented things around the house, but for this weekend I’ve situated PF candles of in each room, for lighting during the most mundane tasks of showering, lying in bed, and reading a book. In essence, we are trying to act as if we are waking up to a buffet breakfast on the resort of an island or awaiting a foot massage at a spa. In fact, I would be first to admit that part of the allure of travel time is the beautiful AirBNB homes that we get to live in, which goes hand-in-hand with the façade that we were living some other life. So I guess staycationing requires also that nostalgic façade, but in the comforts of our own home.

Avoid Screens

This is a rule that was important to establish in our home. Mike is a frequent Redditor and avid gamer (especially after the release of World of Warcraft this past Monday) and I am a workaholic who types words onto a digital page all day long. But when we travel, we don’t have access to computers. My minimalist self abhors at the idea of lugging around a heavy laptop, so I never do. Which means, more times off screens and looking at each other in the eye. This weekend, we’ve decided on a zero-computer policy. I’ve got a few blog posts with publish dates on queue, and the rest can wait. Which gets doing other things, or better yet, nothing at all.

Connect with People

Traveling has always been about connecting with people. At first, we were trying to connect with locals and other expats, probing their minds for other world views. Lately though, we’ve been traveling with friends and family, and relishing in the moments that can steal from the everyday, moments that we once shared more frequently when we were young. This weekend, we wanted to re-create the Santa Rosa trip we had only two weeks ago. On Saturday, our friends are invited to our abode for a gathering of sorts. We plan to go out to dinner as a group, then come home and drink leisurely with a game of beer pong as a few Switches are streaming multi-player games on our projector screen. In essence, re-creating our college days when none of us had jobs, we were all poor still figuring things out, and life was at its prime. On Sunday, we have a gathering at an Aunt’s beach house with Mike’s whole side of the family. Lounging on their patios overlooking the ocean, eating veggies and dip and having dinner outdoors under twinkling lights as the sun sets over glasses of wine.  Lastly, Monday is dedicated to Mike and I, discovering new coffee shops and restaurants, lounging in bed and in the sand, and watching movies in the theatres regardless of whether there’s a movie worth spending our free movie tickets on.

Act Like A Tourist In Your Own City

Aside from getting away from the daily grind and connecting with people, the final perk of traveling is having excitement in discovering something new. Mike and I live in a city but due to our frugality and my love for cooking meals, we recommend the same three restaurants when friends come over to eat. This weekend, we’ve decided to get to know our neighborhood more. We wish to try a new coffee shop, dine at a new restaurant (with friends), and act like a tourist in our own town. There are so many spaces to discover yet and we want to learn everything we can about our surrounding area. Plus, part of our plan to avoid daily habits is to cook as minimally as possible, for less clean up! So, making the city our symbolic kitchen and living room will help with that.

If you’ve actually read through this whole post, I’d wager that you haven’t made plans for the holiday yet. Or perhaps you’re considering bailing on those plans. If so, I hope this helps with creating an alternative to travel. And if you ARE getting away, maybe this will inspire you to stay next time. Maybe your home (and your wallet) will thank you for it. Either way, we wish you a happy holiday.

Recent Reads: The Power of Habits

I wrote once about the word negligible, and how I refuse to allow it in my vocabulary. I believe in the power of action. I believe in our ability to change things, to move needles, to push past walls that were built. This belief itself is a habit that allows me to accomplish things which other people can only dream to. A quote from The Power of Habit sums up the importance of this belief. 

“Later, he would famously write that the will to believe is the most important ingredient in creating belief in change. And that one of the most important methods for creating that belief was habits. Habits, he noted, are what allow us to “do a thing with difficulty the first time, but soon do it more and more easily, and finally, with sufficient practice, do it semi-mechanically, or with hardly any consciousness at all.” Once we choose who we want to be, people grow “to the way in which they have been exercised, just as a sheet of paper or a coat, once creased or folded, tends to fall forever afterward in the same identical folds.”


A habit of mine growing up was to always say yes. Granted, with the advent of minimalism and slow living, I have come to realize that such action easily leads to a place of overwhelm. But within that habit was born a particularly positive outlook towards our abilities as a human being. By saying yes, I was continually telling myself and others around me, “It can be done.” And whenever I failed at something, I always thought in the back of my mind, “If only I had done this”, serving as ammo for the next attempt I make. “Impossible” was not a valid excuse. Perhaps lack of resources, lack of focus, lack of inspiration were the causes of failure, but nothing that could not be improved or fixed.

When people start to dream of the life they wish to lead, there is a tendency to immediately berate ourselves with a list of reasons why dreams are separate from reality. But the truth of the matter is that our realities are shaped by us in our own heads, in the exact same space where dreams lie. The only thing separating the two is your ability to believe in their oneness.

All I promise is this.
It gets easier, by the day,
until eventually, you realize
you’re the writer of your own story,
a magician of your making,
and the creator of your universe.