Post Vacation Shenanigans

Since arriving home from my mini trip to LA, things have been busy. The day after I came home I attended the most adorable/rustic wedding for a former coworker of mine. Total swoon city.

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The dinner tables were littered with pages from Harry Potter and large vegetables.

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The day after the wedding I had my long run for the week. I worked 5:30-2 that day which meant I had to run in the peak of the heat. I was dead, it hurt, I wanted to quit, but I slowly finished.

This is also the day I started house sitting for the honeymooners from the wedding I went to, and another lovely lady that frequents Starbucks. I was able to run in a different town because of this!

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The run was a bad idea. Well, I would have done it regardless, but it further induced a minor head cold that was brewing behind the scenes. It started with a sore throat, and progressed to full on mucus overload. I blame germ infested Disneyland and airplane travels!

I ended up skipping my run last Tuesday because I couldn’t muster the energy. Instead, I walked to a local yet new to me coffee shop, enjoyed a cup of black coffee, and proceeded to go for a walk around the water. This was a much better decision.

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One of the houses I am house sitting for is within walking distance of an adorable row of stores, coffee shops, and the water. I am in pure heaven staying here.

It seems that taking a couple days off from running and going to bed before 8 for a couple nights put me on the fast train to healthy town. I was able to run a 3 miler last Wednesday, which put me back on track for the week along with a few more 3 mile runs, and a 6 miler yesterday.

I’m much better this week, but man do I hate getting sick.

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Truth, my mom was sick, my coworkers were sick, I didn’t prepare for this!

Today I go back to school, and the adorable house I am staying in right now is giving me the motivation to power through chemistry (my third chem class, and they never get easier) with the end goal in site! I want to buy one of these tiny houses!! WEEE. OH and as promised/requested here are two lovely photos of the cat I am house sitting with, in all her (semi) lion cut glory.

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Meow.

Q: What are your remedies for a head cold? I eat oranges like they’re crack, rest like I’m a mummy, and let the bugs run their course. Thankfully it never lasts more than a few days. 

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What I Learned in LA

I’d like to dedicate this post to my homegirl Gigi, without her this post would not be possible. A fantastic host and friend, she drove me all over the place in order to satisfy my sweet tooth, and my Disney obsession. Mad love for you G. <3 <3

Here’s what I learned on this trip to LA:

1. Local coffee costs the amount of a small child’s root canal and despite being really cool, (personal pour overs that resemble a 9th grade science experiment, cool beans.) $5 for a drip coffee resulted in trips to Starbucks for the rest of my trip. $1.90 drip coffee is more like it.

In all reality though the pourover I got from Commissary in West Hollywood was fantastic.

In all reality though the pourover I got from Coffee Commissary in West Hollywood was fantastic.

2. Vegan and gluten free bakeries are just as abundant, if not more popular here than in Seattle. I felt right at home in this aspect. Breakaway Bakery takes the cake (pun very much intended) for my second favorite treats. The Bearded Lady will forever have my heart at the top.

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Java Chip Cookie, Maple Donut (OMG divine), Oatmeal Cranberry Cookie, and a Chocolate Cinnamon Cupcake. I wasn’t excited at all…

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Also delicious was Rising Hearts Bakery in Culver City. I balanced this bakery visit with a trip to Cafe Gratitude right before. I eat green so I can eat three desserts at once.

Grain and Veggie Mix, Carrot Cupcake, Chocolate Whoopie Pie (UNREAL), and a Coconut Oatmeal Chair Creme Sandwich.

Grain and Veggie Mix, Carrot Cupcake, Chocolate Whoopie Pie (UNREAL), and a Coconut Oatmeal Chai Creme Sandwich. Balance is bliss.

3. Blog friends make the BEST friends. Never have I discovered such a perfect group of people to spend my time with. Gigi and I had such a great time together, and if stripping down for a couples massage upon first “meeting” in real life doesn’t scream best friends, I don’t know what does.

Side note: my back is a wreck and I have knots for days. Help me, I pay in cookies.

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4. Starbucks green tea tastes better when consumed out of a Disney Parks cup. Real talk.

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5. The LA farmers market sells nut butters that are so good you will be willing to spend double on them in order to ship them to your house. I brought a carry on bag, and in order to avoid the possibility of the airport throwing my beloved jars away I mailed them to myself.

Not my photo, because mine are still in transit from CA to WA. Patiently waiting for my fruit and nut spread AND pistachio butter. Yes..pistachio.

Not my photo, because mine are still in transit from CA to WA. Patiently waiting for my fruit and nut spread AND pistachio butter. Yes..pistachio. Click this photo to visit the website!

6. Disneyland is better when littered with pumpkins. I can’t think of anything better than combining two of my favorite things: Disneyland + fall/Halloween = pure bliss.

Disneyland photo explosion in 3…2…1…

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Starbucks Mickey Cookies!

Starbucks Mickey Cookies!

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Cliff Note version of this post – I eat a lot of sugar (currently on a week long detox because…balance?), I love exploring new places through coffee and food, I open my mouth much too wide for photos much too often, Disneyland is the happiest place on earth, I’m obsessed with pumpkins, and I have the BEST friends a girl could ask for. Life is good.

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Q: What’s your favorite ride at Disneyland? If you haven’t been, please tell me why. 

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Whirlwind

The last week has been a whirlwind. I feel like I went from 0  to 60 in 1 second flat. I’m not complaining, being busy and active is fantastic, but it leaves me EXHAUSTED. I had a mini vacation last week to California which I will blog about soon. Right now my life is back to work work work, run run run, and I am house sitting for TWO people.

One house is fully equipped with a small cat that has a lion cut.

For now, enjoy this photo of Eeyore mackin on me and Gigi.

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Take me back to Disneyland!

Q: What takes a backseat first when you’re busy? Blogging and other hobbies usually.

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10 Tips to Get Back Into Running “Longer” Distances

For the past seven weeks this has been happening…003

It took time, and the motivation of Lily coming to visit me in order for me to feel ready for another half marathon. The last two I ran were mental struggles, so I’m pleased to say that taking time (even if short) to just run for fun was enough for me to bite the bullet and sign up for my sixth half. I also ran this half last year, and it was one of my most memorable races (right up there with Disney) so I just had to run it again, and this time with Lily! I can’t wait to see her…

I hadn’t run over 4-5 milers in a good few months, so I had to come up with a few tips to mentally get myself back into running “longer” distances. I chose the above “novice” training plan because I loved it so much when I used it for my first race. Up until week five of the training plan everything was a piece of cake. Multiple runs a week felt great, and 4-5 milers were a cake walk. Once I hit the 6 mile Sunday I knew it was time to get a game plan for the next seven weeks.

I also went hiking (here) the day before the 6miler, which was brutal.

Slow and steady.

Slow and steady.

Tip #1: Switch up your route – I’ve been running the same roads over, and over, and OVER again for years now. For anything over 5 miles I know mentally it will be better for me to switch up my route. Running in new places is always a fun time.

Tip #2: Have energy bites waiting for you when you’re done – Or any food for that matter, it gives you something to envision when your stomach starts to yell at you. I also like to stuff dates in my shirt. (The edible kind, not the male variety. Those are nonexistent.)

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Tip #3: Don’t get discouraged if you need to walk – I used to think my run was a fail if I had to walk even once. Now if I need to walk I do. Sometimes I think I walk more than I should, but whatever it takes to finish the distance! It’s very mental for me.

Tip #4: End your run at the market – Similar to tip #2, knowing your car is parked waiting for you in the lot of your favorite local market gives that extra boost of motivation. The endless possibilities for a snack post run are pure adrenaline. img_2223

Tip #5: Run early – Self explanatory, the quicker you get it done the quicker it’s over.

Tip #6: Pick a place of zen to relax at when you’re done – Along with envisioning dancing cookies and piles of avocados at the market post run, knowing you have a spot to sit and zone out after destroying your miles makes the run go quicker. I choose places like quaint coffee shops.

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Tip #7: Remember why you’re running – Running 13 miles on an untrained body hurts like hell, so whenever you think about quitting at mile 6, 7, or 8 think about how it might feel to get hit by a bus if you stop. Put in the work now, and it will be easier later.

Tip #8: Drink lots of this…

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…and this…

WATER, not vodka. Vodka will not help you run instead it will help GIVE YOU the runs.

WATER, not vodka. Vodka will not help you run instead it will help GIVE YOU the runs.

Tip #9: Eat all the food the day before – Seriously, stuff your face because you’ll need it the next day. My favorites are nut butters, chips, and chocolate…all together. I’ve noticed eating MORE the day before and LESS the morning of makes for easier running (for me.)

This also leaves more room for post run snacks.

Tip #10: If all else fails, find a nice spot to sit -Like a random couch on the side of the road…

….or here.

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Sunday I ran my first 7 miler in a while, and it was fueled by two cups of Anniversary Blend, chocolate banana bread for dinner the night before, 120 oz of H2O the previous day (and more that morning), a sweet potato medley for breakfast, and a stellar mindset.

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Ohh it’s so good to be back.

Q: What tips or tricks do you follow for longer runs (or other workouts) after being away for a while? 

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Random Things

What happens when I have random pictures/things to talk about, but haven’t blogged in a week? You get random pictures tied to random things to talk about. What can I say, I’m living life. I’m also going to Disneyland with this babe in less than a week and about split my pants I’m so excited. Or maybe that’s from the cookies…but I digress.

Anniversary Blend has officially been released at Starbucks. Fall is coming, & I am so ready.

All you haters can just stuff it because summer is done in my book, DONE! Bring on the crunchy leaves, apple pies, Halloween Joe-Joe’s, pumpkin patches, windy runs, and enough squash to fill a dump truck. Which is what I assume my backside will look like from all the Joe-Joe’s and pie I plan to consume. Winter hibernation starts now.

I'm legit obsessed with this blend. Buy some NOW.

I’m legit obsessed with this blend. Buy some NOW.

Remember that summer biology class I took?

It left me with a bizarre obsession for any and all species of lichen. Now whenever I spot some on a hike I become entranced as if they have some kind of mind altering properties.

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Usnea – used for antibiotic and anti-fungal treatments.

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I’m ready for fall, but still soaking up tank top hikes.

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Marmot Pass – 10.6 round trip miles, 6000ft elevation.

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"Does this look as awkward as if feel?" "yes."

“Does this look as awkward as if feels?”
“yes.”

I don’t know who Levi is, but he’s got some pretty sweet wheels. I want to go for a ride.

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I’ve been sitting on a secret for about 7 weeks now.

More on this later...

More on this later…

I made this bread, and it basically ruined my life. So good.

Not my photo, I was much too busy stuffing my suck to take my own.

Not my photo, I was much too busy stuffing my suck to take my own.

I apparently didn’t have as much to share as I thought. On that note I’m off to run/eat more bread.

Q: Who wants to sit on top of a mountain eating chocolate bread and drinking Anniversary Blend with me? Bueller….Bueller…

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Walk the Katwalk

On Wednesday I walked the Katwalk, not to be confused with the catwalk, you won’t find me strutting my stuff on one of those anytime soon. The Kendall Katwalk is a man made narrow pathway that was blasted out of a steep sloped rock face. Sounds pretty wild right?

I strut my stuff on the katwalk, katwalk.

I strut my stuff on the katwalk, katwalk.

Fellow hikers on the katwalk to the right.

Fellow hikers on the katwalk to the right.

The blasted path was meant to allow the Pacific Crest Trail to continue north towards Canada (it starts down at the border of Mexico.) I long to thru-hike this trail someday, but in the meantime it was fun to bite off a chunk of it. I managed 15 miles round trip, which is like a penny into a dollar for the overall trail. Not much, but it’s a start!

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The trail leading to the Katwalk was lovely, as all Washington trails are.

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I took note of a cluster of berries, determined to discover what they were.

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These tiny plumcot looking berries are called “False Lily of the Valley Berries.” Interesting.

While the trail itself was nice, the Alpine Lakes I discovered stole my heart once again.

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Be still my heart.

It’s a good thing I had to open at work the next morning, because every fiber in my body told me to keep going. I hope to soon return to this section of the PCT and hike the 75 miles from Snoqualmie pass to Stevens pass. At 15 miles a day it could be done in 5 days.

Ohhh how I wanderlust for backpacking. If anyone wants to join me I’m accepting applications.

Q: Would you ever hike for multiple weeks (or days) at a time? 

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Early Morning Confessions

1. I have fallen in love with smoothie bowls. Can’t stop, won’t stop.

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2. One of my regular customers came in without his wallet last week. I told him breakfast was on me and not to worry about it (the perks of being a regular.) He insisted he would come back to pay, and sure enough he did.  Along with paying for his coffee and lemon loaf he proceeded to buy a $20 gift card, and then gifted it to me. Humanity can be wonderful.

3. I also channeled my inner Pocahontas last week and canoed myself just around the river bend.

Or Lake Washington, same thing.

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This is what I look like getting blown away.

4. I’m done with school for one month. I walked away from my summer biology class with a 4.0.

5. On Saturday I hiked Mailbox Peak again. I didn’t even wait a full 30 days before going back. It was even more brutal the second time. I won’t be hiking this one again for a while.

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6. The day after the hike (yesterday) I had a Sunday long run. Ouch.

7. Roasted cabbage….that is all.

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8. Looking for a good energy bite recipe? My coffee bites along with ten other recipes have been featured on Daily Burns “11 No-Bake Energy Bites” article!! So many good looking balls.

9. Speaking of balls…I’ve become obsessed with coffee tastings and parings. Like, it’s all I think about when I’m not thinking about running, eating, or breathing. Nothing says fall like Starbucks annual Anniversary Blend. I wanted to do a tasting to highlight the spice notes along with some maple and pumpkin oat flavors. So I made some Maple Pumpkin Pie Oat Bites.IMG_2190

Maple Pumpkin Pie Oat Bites

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup + 1 heaping tblsp uncooked oats
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed
  • 1 tblsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup creamy almond butter
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • heaping tblsp raw pumpkin seeds

Directions

  1. In a medium sized bowl combine oats, ground flax, and cinnamon. Mix well.
  2. Stir in your remaining ingredients until well combined.
  3. Place the mixture in the fridge for 15 minutes.
  4. Roll the mixture into approximately 1 inch sized balls. Makes 10-12 bites.
  5. Store in air tight container.

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10. I then proceeded to bring these to work to have a coffee tasting with some of my coworkers.

It was a fun time.

Q: What’s your confession?

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An Alpine Lake Stole My Heart

All of the hikes I’ve done lately have been similar. I start at the bottom, and I go to the peak – very straight forward. Or “up” forward?

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When I got a text from my friend about doing an Alpine Lake hike I knew it was time I checked one of these off my list, and man am I glad I did. Lake hikes are a bit different because instead of going from bottom to top, there’s lots of winding and up and down and up and down.

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An Alpine Lake is considered any lake or reservoir at a high altitude. Alpine lakes are usually clearer than lakes at lower elevations due to the colder water which decreases the amount of algae and moss growth in the water. Often these lakes are surrounded by varieties of pine trees, aspens, and other high altitude trees. <–Thanks Wikipedia.

My first Alpine Lake hike was to Snow Lake, and then I carried on to Gem Lake. Two birds with one stone, because why not? Ten miles total with an ending elevation of 4857 ft.

It was the perfect balance of a climb.

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My compadre was a better man than I, and actually jumped crawled into both lakes. Me? Not so much, I observed just in case a wild animal came. Someone had to take care of the serious stuff.

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One thing on this hike that really captured my interest was this.

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There are camp spots all throughout these mountains, so someone built totally legit wooden toilets around them. Lucky for me, because my bladder is the size of a peanut.

What can I say, I am easily amused.

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Forget a pool, I want an Alpine Lake in my backyard. With cookies, always with cookies.

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I’ll be back to uphill climbing this week, but these lakes will soon see my face again.

Q: Do you prefer long and gradual hikes, or shorter and steeper climbs? Definitely both, depending on my mood. It’s all about the balance! 

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Coffee Master Certification: My Coffee Tasting/Pairings

If you follow me on Instagram you probably saw this photo.

IMG_2139After months of reading, tasting, talking, exploring, and learning all I can about coffee (alone, and also coffee and Starbucks together) I am finally a certified Coffee Master. This journey focused on coffee history, geographic origins, coffee agriculture, sourcing and buying, green coffee quality, the art of roasting and blending, and my favorite part:

-coffee parings/tastings/flavors/notes.

One of my new aprons.

One of my new aprons.

Coffee, like wine grapes, gets much of its flavor from the specific growing conditions and processing methods of whatever region it was produced in. Three of the main coffee producing regions are: Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Each of these regions have specific flavor characteristics that give each coffee blend its distinct coffee “notes.”

What’s a coffee note you ask? Certain flavors are detected in coffee’s that allow them to harmonize well with certain foods. Have you ever had a cup of Joe that just didn’t mesh well with your blueberry muffin? This is due to the specific notes present with each blend. Alone this coffee may be just what you’re looking for, but when shared alongside a meal you’ll want to be a bit more particular.

Coffee blends alone may survive just fine, but when you combine them with the right foods the harmony is out of this world.

This is a fantastic chart.

This is a fantastic chart.

Lets break down the top three regions by their coffee notes.

Latin America – high balanced flavors of cocoa or nuts, as well as a crisp, bright acidity.

Africa – Floral and citrus characteristics.

Asia – Full body and spicy flavors with balanced acidity and herbal notes.

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Part of my final certification was putting together a coffee tasting. As a food AND coffee lover you can imagine my excitement when the two come together. If anyone is interested in learning more about a proper coffee tasting with coffee alone, let me know in the comments.

I chose one coffee from each coffee region, plus one coffee that is multi-regional and paired each with different foods.

Kenya – An African grown coffee with complimentary flavors of grapefruit, berries, currants, raisins, and oranges.

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For this pairing I made an orange and currant quinoa salad. Sounds bizarre right? Oranges, quinoa, and coffee? This went together SO well it was almost magical. I could have cried from the joy I felt.

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Komodo Dragon – An Asia/Pacific coffee with complimentary flavors of cinnamon, maple, buttery breads, and pastries.

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For this pairing I chose almond butter stuffed dates sprinkled with cinnamon. The flavors harmonized almost perfectly. This is a common breakfast pairing for me, except I also use a rice cake for my base.

Guatemala Antigua – A Latin American grown coffee with complimentary flavors of cocoa, apples, caramel, and nuts.

Organic Yukon – A multi-regional blend with beans from both Latin American and Asia. This blend is mellow and well balanced with complimentary flavors of cinnamon, raisins, oatmeal, and chocolate.

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Due to the cocoa and chocolate notes in both of these coffee’s, they both paired well with some chocolate chip coffee cookies. I used fresh ground Yukon beans in the mix for these cookies. I also paired these two coffees with some toasted coconut cashews.

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While these all balanced well together, I found that the Yukon paired a bit better with the cookie, and the Guatemala paired a bit better with the cashews. Guatemala has more nutty notes while Yukon has more chocolate notes so this made complete sense.

To conduct a proper tasting, each coffee should be brewed with high quality water, a proper grind for your brewing method, proper ratio of water to grinds, and your coffee should be fresh. Coffee should then be tasted in it’s pure form, without the addition of milks and sugars.

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Lucky for me I am a black coffee connoisseur so conducting tastings is naturally one of my favorite things to do. Tampering (or destroying in my humble opinion) with the coffee by adding milk or sugar hinders the natural flavors from being detected. Not a fan of black coffee? That’s OK, I don’t like beer..we all have our downfalls. ;)

Q(s):

  • What’s your favorite coffee pairing?
  • Have you ever payed attention to how certain coffees can CLASH with certain foods? For example the orange quinoa salad would have been TERRIBLE with any of the other coffees I mentioned in this post.
  • Would anyone like to see a short post in more depth about how to conduct a coffee tasting? 

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Wide Open Spaces

Change is something that I’ve always struggled with. I know I’m not alone in this, and I’d bet that most of you reading this right now would agree. These days I’ve grown accustomed to change, and even sometimes welcome it. A few months ago I changed my blog layout after over TWO years of the same set up. I’m a big believer of keeping things simple, and I live my life by a, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” motto, but I wanted something new and fresh.

After settling on a new layout, I quickly discovered that although I enjoyed the sleek and clean look, the way my photos were squished just didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t get myself a dSLR to highlight tiny details in certain pictures just to have them unappreciated by a squished blog.

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I have a 70/30 approach to blogging. 70% photos, and 30% written content. After settling with the smooshed setup for a while, I made an impromptu change as you can see. No hesitation, no struggling with the change, just a click of a button and boom-wide open spaces for my photos to stretch and breath. My photos are far from perfect, but they surely benefit from a better layout.

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OK, you get the idea. Long story short I have a new layout that is very simple and clean, giving my photos a bit more wiggle room. I still use my iPhone for nearly all other photos like hiking, but even those benefit from some space. On that note go bake something tasty. Happy Sunday.

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Q: What’s most important to you about reading/writing blogs? I am a big fan of LOTS of photos. Too much text and I get bored.

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