New Year Resolutions for 2021

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There has been talk that there is no need to write resolutions for 2021, and I get it. People are tired, fatigued from the pivoting we did in 2020, not to mention all the politics and the social conflict. I understand the difficulty in creating expectations that will challenge us further for the year ahead (stretch us past our limits, some will say), but I beg to differ on the writing of resolutions front.

As C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extra-ordinary destiny.”

I have found that the times in my life that have been most tough are the moments right before big change happened. Stead-fastness is what we need during this transition. We need to courage to believe that 2021 holds the potential to be the most amazing years of our lives.

Of course, every individual reacts to trauma differently. Personally, I like to face trauma head on and conquer it (case in point: My Decision to Aggressively Tackle My Student Loan Debt), but even I have challenges that I find difficult to face. However, to give up altogether?! No, that isn’t me, and I don’t think that’s you either.

If you feel like resolutions are a bit too much, just write ONE like I did in 2018, after I went through the most roller-coaster year of my life (which was also the most pivotal!). For the more motivated, try beginning with the end. And for those who really can’t bring themselves to pull out paper and pen at this time, no worries – there is always the opportunity to write resolutions in the middle of the year. Let’s not let the New Year define our opportunities to create change.

I, for one, am excited about what 2021 could bring. My gleaming eyes are looking ahead to a bright future. I’m a dreamer and an optimist, so I wrote a lengthy list of resolutions. 2020 was a year that forced me to slow down. I dissociated myself from my own identity to unearth the real me, an experience that I recently wrote about here.

Each year, I focus my resolutions around a theme. Last year was about self-care in many forms, including taking care of my surroundings and home, focusing on my health, and slowing down enough to give myself time to recharge. In the process, I discovered balance, kindness (towards myself and others), and my place in this world. All of this sets me up nicely for a wonderful 2021.

My focus for 2021 is to make it the year of my most meaningful work.

I feel more grounded in my being that I ever have, and the purpose of creating space the previous year is to fill it as intentionally as possible. This is not to be confused with more work but rather quality work. I am not only referring to professional work either, encompassing work on my relationships, on my home, on my spirituality, and on my self.

In order to set myself up for success, I paired my resolutions with actionable and measurable goals. Maybe you’ll find a few that resonate with you. However, I would highly recommend writing your own first, before allowing someone else’s (mine included) to influence your hopes for the year to come. And if I don’t get around to it, I wish you and yours love and light in the New Year!

My 2021 New Year’s Resolutions

  • Focus on Health
    • Make exercise routine. Focus on the exercises that are enjoyable, like running, swimming and yoga to make it more sustainable. Goal: Exercise 5 days a week.
    • Eat more veggies and fruit. Goal: Incorporate these into meals at least 5 days a week.
    • Eat to be satiated, abandon gluttony. Goal: Aim to only be 80% full.
    • Sleep on a consistent schedule. Goal: Try to sleep between the hours of 10pm and 6am.
    • Wake up at a consistent time. Goal: Get up when you feed the cat, instead of crawling back into bed.
  • Focus on Having Less
    • Less Instagram. Goal: Limit yourself to 15 minutes per day.
    • Less Shopping for both the self and the home. Goal: Spend only $35 on fun money each month. When you feel the need to buy something new, write the reasons why what you have is enough. Wait at least one month before buying something you want.
    • Less obligation and responsibilities. Goal: Practice responding with “Can I get back to you?” to give yourself the space for consideration.
  • Focus on Creating Your Best Work
    • Prepare each morning for the day ahead. Goal: Meditate each morning to clear the mind. Prioritize your tasks for the day ahead, and delegate or de-clutter as many as you can before beginning work. Put on an outfit and get ready as if you are going into work to create that separation between work and home.
    • Be on time to show respect for other people’s timelines. Goal: Show up to work, appointments and events at least five minutes early.
    • Study dentistry to invigorate a passion towards the profession. Goal: Complete 50 CE units this year.
    • Provide usefulness to others via the blog so that I may make a living helping people virtually. Goal: Create digital downloads, consider intentional living consultations, and work on writing a book on living intentionally.
    • Create the ideal WFH space. Goal: Carve out a dedicated area in the home for work. Make it a sanctuary.
  • Focus on Creating a Good Home
  • Focus on Spirituality
    • Meditate more often. Goal: Use the Tide App 5 times a week.
    • More outdoors time to reduce cortisol levels. Goal: Aim for at least 30 minutes of walking or hiking in nature three times a week.
    • Have more gratitude. Goal: Write the top 3 things the be grateful for each morning. Thank my food and my things for gracing my life.
    • Reflect on a quote each morning. Goal: Find a quote that speaks to where you are in life and share it each day with others.
    • Spread goodness. Goal: Volunteer once a month. Call three friends and family members each week and tell them why you are grateful for them.
  • Focus on Myself
    • Make time to read more books, which will expand your knowledge, perspective, and experience. Goal: Read two books a month.
    • Learn a language or musical instrument. Goal: Learn French enough to be able to have conversation and learn two songs on either piano or guitar each month.
    • Get into drawing again. Goal: Complete two drawings per month.
    • Reserve the evenings for relaxation and rejuvenation. Goal: Put the phone away one hour before bed.

The Ultimate Cleaning List

In my opinion, one of the best things 2020 did for us was turn our attention inward – on our relationships, on ourselves, and on our homes, to name a few examples. The latter, especially, has been prominent this year for me. I have spent a decent amount of time introspecting on the first two over the past few years, however, as an avid traveler, work-a-holic, and on-the-go person, the latter was neglected until the stay-at-home culture forced me to, well, stick around.

One of my goals for an intentional 2021 is to keep my living space sparkling clean. It has been transformed in the last year into an oasis from the outside world; a safe haven where we all work, rest, and rejuvenate. My best moments of 2020 have occurred under this very roof. It only seems appropriate to pay my respects in the form of diligent maintenance and care.

On that note, in the process of writing a 2021 New Year Resolution list, I side-tracked to create my own guide to keeping a dwelling spotless. I wanted to share with you guys what works for us, although depending on your home, your list of needs may differ. I separated tasks into daily, weekly, monthly, bi-annually, and annually time frames. Along the way, I added a few tips on how to make this list (which can seem overwhelming at first) a sustainable practice built out of habit. I would venture that after a bit of practice, you may find cleaning your home to be quite the opposite – relaxing and fun in nature. Enjoy!

The Ultimate Cleaning List

Every Day

TIP: I consider every day tasks as habits that are built into your normal lifestyle. At first, they may seem like just another thing to check off your list, but eventually, they should become routine movements that are done quickly and without much thought. These every day cleaning habits will ease the more long-term cleaning tasks, so definitely don’t ignore them!

It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.

John Wooden
  • Make the bed
  • Clean coffee maker
  • Wash dirty dishes
  • Wipe down kitchen counters and table
  • Wipe down bathroom surfaces
  • Sanitize kitchen and bathroom sinks
  • Squeegee shower
  • Vacuum floors (Ever since we switched to this Dyson V8 Absolute, Vacuuming has been such an extreme joy. It work great on our cement floors and the carpet attachment is perfect for rugs! I would highly recommend this product as it is one of the top five purchases we’ve ever made that improves our day to day lives.)
  • Put things away at the end of the day

Every Week

TIP: It helps to tackle these tasks throughout the week. Finding a schedule that works for you and your home is very important. For example, we do laundry, change bedding and mop floors on Saturday mornings. We toss expired food when we return from our weekly grocery shopping, as we are stowing the new groceries away. I scrub the bathroom tub during one of my showers on a weekday when I am off from dentistry. I wipe down kitchen appliances after an especially messy meal prep. I vacuum the furniture regularly and clean the vacuum whenever I notice it’s messy.

In order to avoid over-whelm or wasting away an entire weekend, use little pockets during your workday to do these tasks. While some people will scoff at the distraction this provides, my argument is that sedentary lifestyles are the bane of our existence and the general cause of our health problems. By committing to one task per work day, you are giving your eyes, mind, and body a break while providing necessary movement and blood flow to your work life. Plus, you’ll get your heart pumping, and I would argue it still makes for a productive day!

  • Laundry
  • Mop Floors
  • Change Bedding
  • Toss expired food from the fridge
  • Scrub bathroom tub
  • Wipe down kitchen appliances
  • Clean microwave
  • Sanitize sponges
  • Dust and vacuum furniture
  • Clean vacuum

Every Month

TIP: Just like the weekly tasks, I would disperse these cleaning items throughout the month rather than wait until the last weekend. Of course, that is just my personal preference. I know a few people who find greater success in procrastination and monthly deep cleanings. I can only imagine how cathartic that must feel!

  • Wash car
  • Wash vacuum filters
  • Vacuum vents and woodwork such as base boards
  • Dust and clean light fixtures
  • Wipe down inside of fridge
  • Wash shower curtain liner
  • Clean patio surfaces
  • Wash comforter
  • Clean range hood
  • Clean washing machine using a cleaner cycle
  • Clean dishwasher
  • Sweep the garage every month

Every 6 months

TIP: Unlike the weekly and monthly tasks, I do recommend doing these things at the same time. It is most efficient to pick two months out of the year to tackle these tasks. For some, that may be spring cleaning season and right before the holidays. For me, I like mid-year in June and at the end of the year in December. June is my birthday month and December is right before the new year. Both months symbolize a new beginning for me, so I like to start my beginnings fresh.

  • Deep clean windows
  • Wash couch covers
  • Vacuum mattress
  • Wash pillows
  • Clean inside of oven
  • Clean drapes

Every Year

TIP: We only have a few yearly tasks in our household. These are easy to plan ahead for. I simply add a reminder in my planner regarding these tasks and then order the parts when I come to that month. Once the parts arrive, it is only a matter of doing the task right away instead of waiting for dust to collect.

  • Change AC filter
  • Change Water Filter

If you happened to like this list of mine, please check out my Weekly Cleaning List Download which I created to help stream-line cleaning tasks around the home. If your resolution is to maintain a clean home in the New Year, this checklist may facilitate that by simplifying and organizing those tasks. Simply print and stick on a fridge or kitchen cabinet, tuck inside a planner, or lay by your nightstand as a daily reminder. Share it with your loved ones, I won’t mind! This is a way for you to support this space and the content you find here in an intentional way, while allowing me to continue making a living without resorting to advertising. I thank you for being in this space and hope that this list provides useful.

Happy Cleaning!

Oatmeal Rye Chocolate Chip Walnut Everything Bagel Mix Cookie

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

We were traveling up the coast of California in early December when I had a lightbulb cookie recipe idea. It was a Thursday morning and we were leaving Los Osos, CA heading to Big Sur National Park. Before our departure, we decided to stop by a bakery to pick up croissants. We came across a house in the middle of a residential neighborhood with two parking spots in the driveway. There was a sign that read, “Pagnol Baywood at 3rd Street Bakery”.

Immediately, I had an affinity for the spot. It was a home whose downstairs floor was completely transformed to a tiny bakery. The owner lived upstairs. It was exactly what I had envisioned for us when I opened my bakery a year and a half ago. Plus, the name of the bakery was creepily very similar to what I almost named Aero Bakery. We live on 3rd St., in downtown Santa Ana and a runner-up name was 3rd Street Bakery. To have come across Pagnol was like seeing a mirror of the life I had dreamt up a year ago.

It was a dewy, foggy morning and the outdoor bistro tables were drenched so we decided to get our croissants to go. We had made coffee earlier that morning in the AirBNB (yes, we travel with our own pour over set-up and here’s a good one we tried recently and liked), so sitting in the car would put us close to our liquid gold. I walked up to the window (a half-opened wooden door to the front of the house) and asked for the menu. And that’s when I heard, for the first time ever, a croissant dipped in everything bagel mix on a baker’s menu. As Mike and I sat in the car and ate our croissants, we could not deny that it defeats our favorite croissant to date (La Lune’s in Melbourne, Australia). But this post isn’t about the croissant. I thought to myself, “What if I incorporated Everything Bagel Mix into a earthy dark chocolate cookie?!?!”

It sounds like madness, but I am a huge lover of adding sea salt to every baked good I make. If you’ve been reading my posts awhile, you may recall that I prefer savory breakfast items over sweet ones anyway. But even a dessert cookie could do with a bit of umami.

With only two days away until Christmas Eve, I am posting this Rye Chocolate Chip Walnut Oatmeal Cookie with Everything Bagel Seasoning for all the parents out there looking for a simple, quick, and delicious recipe to fuel Santa on his merry way.

Important note: These cookies need to be hand-mixed. As much as I love my Kitchen Aid Mixer, I have found that using one whips the dough too much, resulting in a more runny and less “full” cookie. I know that throwing it into the electric mixing stand makes it easier, but I would highly recommend putting in the effort to hand mix with a fork.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 large eggs, beaten and at room temperature
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup rye flour
  • 3 cups whole rolled oats
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
  • Everything Bagel Seasoning Mix
  • Chopped Walnuts

The Process:

  1. Combine the first three ingredients in a bowl and mix until creaming.
  2. Add the next four ingredients and mix until just combined.
  3. Stir in the flour, oats, and chocolate chips.
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or until the dough is chilled and firm. (I make this recipe in large batches and store cookie dough in the fridge, making cookies as needed throughout the week. If you are busy on Christmas Eve, you can always prepare this dough a day ahead and bake them off in the evening).
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius).
  6. Line baking sheets with parchment paper
  7. Use a 2 tbsp ice cream scoop and scoop out balls of cookie dough, placing them 1 inch apart. Press the dough down gently with the palm of your hand.
  8. Sprinkle the tops of the dough with Everything Bagel Seasoning Mix.
  9. Take walnut pieces (I like to use walnut halves) and press them gently into the tops of the cookies. I typically use 2 walnuts per cookie, because I love them so.
  10. Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating and alternating the sheets halfway through baking time.
  11. Remove the baking sheets from the oven when the edges of the cookie start to brown. Rap the sheet trays sharply on the counter, to help flatten the cookie a bit more. I learned this trick working as the midnight baker for Rye Goods.
  12. Cool the cookies for 5 minutes.
  13. Use a spatula to transfer the cookies to the rack and cool completely for 30 minutes.
  14. Serve or store in an air-tight container (a tupperware would do) for up to a few days.

I make these cookies a day ahead all the time! I love to eat them fresh, so I will bake 4 each day for the house. Also, this recipe makes about 36 cookies, so don’t be afraid to cut it in half, which we also do.

I know it sounds like a lot going on, but in my opinion, it’s a well balanced cookie. You can always substitute walnuts with pumpkin seeds, sliced almonds, or pistachios. If you want to make it extremely festive, why not through all of them on there! Santa won’t mind.

Body Love with Sugar Scrubs

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

In my home, I try to surround myself with objects that act as reminders of care. A candle sitting on the kitchen shelf, a blanket strewn on the couch, hand lotion in my clutch … all of these things add value to my day to day and are strategically placed so that I have a visual aide reminding me to slow down from my over-zealous lifestyle. I am innately bad at making time for myself, which is probably why I spend so much time talking about its importance. But I have found that the system that works for me requires adding small doses of magic in forgotten corners so that I come upon them in my living and am prompted to make use of said magic.

One of the tiny overindulgences that I’ve been obsessed about this holiday season is a jar of bathroom goodness – a new exfoliating sugar body scrub made by True Botanicals. They have outdone themselves with this one! It delivers all the necessary ingredients for everything nice. A blend of natural, nourishing elements – organic sugar, sandalwood, rich camellia, jojoba oils, and kaolin clay – come together in this masque for the limbs. I absolutely relish the stuff, especially after an especially trying yoga workout, or a long day at the bakery or dental office. It provides just the right amount of body love.

The sugar’s roughness sloughs away all that dry, winter skin cells, leaving behind a velvety smooth complexion. I take a handful of the stuff and massage it straight onto the skin in slow circles. The scrub is enriched with emollient essential fatty acids, which nourishes and supports the skin barrier function. Plus, my skin never feels stripped after a shower. When I rinse off with warm water, the scrub simply melts away as a warm and woodsy scent wafts upwards.

Using True Botanical’s sugar scrub is like having a spa day, in the comforts of my own home. I keep the glass jar on the tub sill of my bathroom. I’m not one to have many products in the shower, typically keeping only a bottle of shampoo and a bar of soap. However, the addition of this small simple amber reminder has made all the difference to the quality of my baths. I had originally meant to keep it there for special occasions but have found myself reaching for it daily. Honestly, prior this, my showers were quite rushed, just another task that I needed to check off on my to-do list. However, since placing the scrub in the tub, I have been taking longer baths, slower, and with more intention.

True Botanical’s Exfoliating Sugar Scrub sells for only $38, and it has been three weeks and I am about halfway done with the jar. It is vegan, cruelty free, certified non-toxic and sustainably made. It is packaged in a beautiful amber glass jar which can be reused as a container for cotton balls and the like once the scrub runs out, which I’ll pretend to be never.

This post was sponsored by True Botanicals, and any purchase you make using my links above could result in a commission for TheDebtist. Rest assured that all thoughts and opinions are my own. And once again, I thank you for supporting the companies that support this space.

Getting Back to Okay

We inhabit a world built around a fallacy: that the more we have, the happier we will be. For the fortunate, they reach the “place-of-more” earlier than others, only to realize that they aren’t any happier than when they were ten years old. I am one of those unfortunate fortunates.

I understand that being exposed to this knowledge is a privilege that very few in today’s world experience. People spend entire lives getting to where they want to be. I spent twenty six years, and then decided, it was time to turn back. I graduated from dental school and landed a dream job with my esteemed dream title hand-in-hand with my dream husband and I felt miserable. Every day was a battle, and I knew that I was happier when I was fifteen and didn’t have a dollar to my name. So, I set out to undo the damage, in reverse.

I read books on happiness and living with less, learning about American consumerism and global waste, searched for alternative lifestyles with better environmental and social impact, while also searching for myself daily. I read up on how the mind works, how we process information, how we organize our lives, and most importantly, how to find joy – all with the hope of making sense of things and finding direction. I was lost somewhere underneath the possessions I owned (and thus owned me), the expectations people had, and the norms that wrap our society like a safety blanket. A mountain of more made and meant to keep me (the real me) buried and confused.

The undoing of it all was quite a process. Not only did I have to unwrite the narrative that I told myself, I had to do it while the world repeated that narrative and threw it at my face. I found that the path to what I call “getting back to okay” required one tiny step at a time. Ironically, it was much the same process as having more, but repeated with the thought of having less. I re-programed my mind around ideas and notions that I learned in my youth, in the exact same order that I learned them.

For example, I first learned of materialism when I was a child, watching television commercials for the latest toys or by playing the comparisons game with classmates, who arrived at school with new clothes, notebooks and backpacks. Those were my first exposures to wanting more of material things, and I spent many years trying to collect more stuff. So of course, this was the first thing I got rid of. Decluttering was my process of learning how to live with less.

The second thing I learned to seek is the approval of others. As a child, I tried my best to be agreeable, with my parents, teachers, friends … even people I just met. This turned into a desire for networking in my late teens and early twenties. I spent years trying to make connections and being a yes-woman. That was the second thing I rejected. I decluttered my relationships, almost in a non-conventional way, and kept only close family and a few friends. Rejecting my relationships meant freeing myself from the ties that would have the strongest pull on how I lived my life.

Looking back on it, I had to declutter my relationships in order to negate social norms. It was in high school that I learned the “ideal” progression of college, a profession, a marriage, a home, a family and finally, a good retirement. The thing with norms is that there are always people around you trying to put you in a box. Of course, with the best of intentions, but without really any thought as to what individual wants and needs you may have. I truly believe that if I hadn’t closed myself off from most of my relationships, like a hermit who retreats into the woods, I would not have unlocked the alternative lifestyles that I did. It is difficult to live differently when whispering “wisdoms” turn into urgent persuasions to stick to the status quo. I loved my friends and fam, but self-discovery was something best done on my own.

The last and final thing I decluttered was my achievements and accolades. This was the most difficult for me because I so closely tied what I did to who I was, which are not the same thing. Letting go of my notions of myself felt a lot like losing my identity. It was one of those weird paradoxes: you must lose your identity in order to find yourself.

I spent the last few years discovering what I wanted to do in life, taking up odd jobs as a baker, writer, dog walker, and dentist. Early 2020 slowed me down enough to realize I was approaching this self-discovery with the idea of more, more, more again. Unwriting narratives is hard work!

In March, I stopped dog-sitting to prevent social contact. I closed the bakery that I spent all of 2019 building. I reduced my dentistry hours. And each time I chose less, I got closer to becoming who I was. After all my experiences, I had enough confidence to take one giant leap of faith. In November, I quit my dental job altogether and really let go of everything I associated myself with.

I cannot put into words how it felt. Like a giant weight was lifted and I was unearthed from all that darkness. It was the first time since graduating dental school that I saw light.

Life isn’t perfect, I’ll tell you that. It never is, which is what makes it beautiful. But I’ve gotten to a place where I feel okay. There is peace that comes with that. I want to stay in this space. I fear that getting to a place of “great” is just another way of getting “more” out of life. Perhaps we all need to aim for some middle ground in this already tumultuous world we’re been born into. Perhaps our new marker for success should be getting back to being okay.

Cheddar and Herb Scones

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

When it comes to breakfast items, I am one who favors savory treats over sweets. That is why these Cheddar and Herb Scones are a staple in our household! I am already a big fan of scones in general for their simple and quick process. As much as I love my Kitchen Aid Mixer, scones are one of the few baked goods that I make by hand, without any electric gadgets. There is something very meditative about the sifting of flours, the pinching of cold butter bits in between my fingers, and the kneading of shaggy dough with my hands.

My favorite time to whip up these beauties is in the early morning hours, between rising and making coffee. It helps ease me into my day. Rote motions work subconsciously as my body wakes with every memorized movement. The oven pre-heats, warming the cold kitchen cement floors while I prepare the dough. The scones bake for 18 minutes exactly while I wash the dishes I used and boil water in my Fellow kettle. I make my pour-over coffee with my Chemex, the sound of coffee drips melding in with the smell of cheese. I pour my coffee into my favorite East Fork mug just as the oven beeps. It is a routine that I have mastered and re-mastered.

Scones also get bonus points for their versatility. I like to play with different types of flours as well as toppings. I had previously published my favorite Rye Strawberry and Thyme Scone recipe here. Alternative additions in our household include Blueberry and Lemon, or Caramelized Onion and Bacon. This Cheddar and Herb Scone Recipe is a modification of all those recipes. Once you have a good scone recipe down, you can’t really go wrong with the experimentation.

I hope you enjoy this as much as me and the housemates do!

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup dark rye flour
  • 1/3 cup spelt flour
  • 1/3 cup einkorn flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
  • 3 tbsp. sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbs unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
  • 1/2 cup fresh herbs (I like a mix of chives, thyme, and rosemary).
  • 1.5 cups Mexican cheese, shredded
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream plus additional for brushing
  • Smoked Maldon sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

The Process:

  1.  Preheat the oven to 400 F with a rack in the center.
  2. Sift the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Add the butter pieces and with thumb and pointy finger, flatten the butter, pinching floury bits into it, Tara Jensen style. Alternatively, you can use two knives to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles small peas.
  4. Stir in the cheese and herbs.
  5.  Whisk the eggs together in a separate bowl. Add heavy cream and vanilla to the egg mixture and whisk again until well mixed.
  6. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture with a fork, mixing until just combined. I l liken the end result to one big, shaggy mess.
  7. Lightly dust a clean work surface (I use my marble pastry slab from Crate and Barrel which I use for all my baking needs, but a wooden surface works well too), with flour. Turn the dough onto this surface and knead until just combined.
  8. Shape the dough into a square (6 inch x 6 inch). Cut the dough into four 3-inch squares using a bench scraper (my favorite is by Ateco but something like this would do, too), then cut the smaller squares into triangles.
  9. Arrange the scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the tops with heavy cream using a pastry brush. Sprinkle the tops generously with Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Depending on the flavor profile you are aiming for, you can favor one topping over another.
  10. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Transfer the scones to a rack and cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

This recipe was modified from Kinfolk Table, by far my favorite published recipe book for its unassuming simplicity and charm. If you can, support local and small bookstores such as Lido Village Bookstore, one of my SoCal faves.

Minimalist Holiday Decor with The Sill

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

When it comes to holiday decor, I stray not far from my minimalist tendencies. In much the same way that I favor living plant life for my everyday house decor, I celebrate the holidays in good cheer by littering Norfolk Island Pine on every available surface. Under the impression that “plants make people merry”, I truly feel that there is no better way to deck the halls than placing greenery in nook and cranny.

While my pine trees are purchasable from The Sill, I am also a huge supporter of traipsing about your backyard or neighboring wood to gather acorn, cedar garland, or other berry and evergreen available to you. For city dwellers, a trip to your local farmer’s market to collect eucalyptus could substitute. Or perhaps haul in the olive tree from the patio for a month.

In my opinion, spending isn’t a pre-requisite to decorating with greenery and perhaps there is romance in the acquiring act itself. However, if you’ve found yourself mid-December with nary a moment to plan, The Sill’s holiday collection has a holiday wreath and tree that I dearly love.

I myself own two of the Norfolk Pine Trees and move them about the home regularly. Sometimes, they keep my company in the dining area and kitchen. They also look good on either side of the bed, and occasionally find themselves perched on our media console. Like all plants from The Sill, one can choose their preferred planter. I chose the Grant planter in Cream for that minimalist look, although there is a jolly Holiday Red available. There are also two limited edition colors which are equally beautiful – Forest Green and Pale Gray. The Grant planter has no saucer, unlike The Met planter that I previously wrote about here, so it takes a greener thumb to know when to water and how much. When in doubt, go with less (my running advice for everything). You can shop the rest of the holiday collection here.

My favorite The Sill Plants for the Holidays

How To Care For Norfolk Island Pine

The Norfolk Island Pine is a coniferous wood that would have been extinct if not for a few of their kind surviving the Cretaceous Extinction Event. These few are situated in Norfolk Island in the Pacific, and have evolved to prefer warmer temperatures and ocean spray. The Sill recommends watering every 1-2 weeks with plant placement near medium to bright light. I occasionally mist my two trees in order to mimic the ocean sea, which I’m sure they miss dearly.

This post was sponsored by The Sill, a company delivering joy to people’s doorsteps in the form of foliage. Think of a food delivery system, but for plants. Based in NYC and California, The Sill has a few storefronts for locals to shop at, but they mostly operate via their contact-less delivery service. All content and opinions in this post are mine own, although I do thank you for supporting the companies that support this space. Happy holidays!

Monthly Goals: December

Slightly delayed publishing of this month’s goals is due to the fact that I am trying my best to live it. I spent the rest of the year outlining tens of habits and success markers to measure my months by, but December is a bit special in that I only have a few.

  • Live every day in the present moment.
  • Practice gratitude for all that I have.
  • Be as intentional as possible for every waking decision I make.

These are my December goals. Nothing like my previous ones in that there are no markers of achievement. If you think that this list is a lame one, it’s not. It was actually made with utmost consideration. But first, a story.

When I was searching for a wedding photographer in 2015, I came across a man whose style I liked and went to his website to book a consultation only to feel my heart sink as I pulled up his calendar. All of December 2016 was booked one year ahead! I was highly confused and could not believe my eyes, until a small asterix at the bottom of the calendar caught my eye.

It said: “My family and I will be taking all of December off to focus on what’s important in life.”

I remember excitedly showing Mike the note right when he got home from work. I remember being so awed by the idea that someone could have a job that allowed him freedom to dictate how and when work influenced his life. I wanted so badly to live a life around this idea of complete freedom from the need to work. So it only made sense that financial independence found me in 2017.

Now that I’ve quit a job I disliked, I have had the space to think about why I started to dislike my work and how I could create a new work lifestyle that would give me deep joy. I have spent the last two weeks brainstorming, hemming and hawing my neurons for all the thoughts, emotions, and ideas tied to creating an intentional work lifestyle. I think I am almost there.

One of my firmest beliefs, however, is to set aside the necessary space for life itself. I fell in love with the idea of making the holiday season a time for rest and rejuvenation, as well as family and friends, ever since I laid eyes on that photographer’s calendar.

It is with this intention that I decided to make December’s goals the way it is.

If you are a person who looks forward to monthly goal ideas, I am sorry to disappoint you but I do have one suggestion.

Slow life down.

2021 is fast approaching and will come soon enough. Let’s linger here a bit in the year that helped us realize how little we needed and what we wanted.