This past weekend

How was your weekend?  We had friends visiting and indulged in a lot of dense carbs!  Above is a shot of Nick holding baby Isla.  Isla had her first norcal visit, accompanied by her parents, Caresse and Tyler.  She also had her first introduction to Mochi the wonder Shih Tzu AND her firs pretzel party!

We were first introduced to pretzel parties by Caresse and Tyler.  They partied with the pretzels back in Michigan growing up.  When they moved to the Bay Area, they brought the tradition along with them!  We decided that their visit was the perfect excuse for a pretzel party!  We used Alton Brown’s dough recipe x4 :)   And used a “secret ingredient” for the boiling process.

Then, it was time to celebrate Malina’s 2nd birthday.  Since we live so close to costco, Nick and I were on pizza pick-up duty.  Not wanting to be without food, Brooke ordered 8 pizzas.  I told Nick he could just pull up in front and I’d run in and grab all 8 pizzas.  He looked at me, trying as hard as he could not to squash my bubble, and told me he’d park the car and help.  Well, apparently Saturday was the busiest night of the year at costco.  We’ve never parked this far away before.  And now we were running late.  So we got the 8 pizzas – each of us carrying 4 – and walked back to the car.  By the time we got to the car I was a little winded and my hamstrings were a little tight.  Nick handed me all 8 so he could get out the keys (And take a picture).  And I’m really glad I didn’t end up carrying all 8 by myself.

We capped off the weekend with an engagement shoot that involved this gigantic donut.

And since we’re headed to Hawaii in 3 weeks,  I plan on eating nothing but lettuce until then.

A few things

How was your weekend?  We ran a few errands and watched the Seahawks with friends.  All in all, quite relaxing!

  • Are you slow dancing?  We still are!  Don’t forget to tag #ayearofslowdances and follow me on instagram, brynashley
  • And did you see Nicole Kidman on Jimmy Fallon?! Jimmy just found out he went on a date with Nicole Kidman.  I love Jimmy.
  • We only have a few friends here in NorCal who will watch Seahawks games with us.  The rest hate the Seahawks.  So we invited those 2 friends over on Saturday to watch the Hawks.  Man.  Kam Chancellor.  What an athlete.
  • And for anyone interested, Nick’s TedTalk just went live on youtube.  He blogged about the experience over on his blog (he was a crazy ball of nerves for a few weeks).  #proudwife

#ayearofslowdances

You’ve probably heard that a 20 second hug is really good for you and the person you’re hugging.  It releases oxytocin (NOT oxycodone) which results in an increased bond between the 2 people hugging, likely making both parties a bit happier. (This article says even 10 sec hugs have huge benefits and WEBMD says it lowers stress).

Nick turned me onto this last year.  He’d run up and say “30-second time” and wrap his arms around me (notice how he upped it to 30, likely anticipating that I’d want to cut it a little short).  The problem?  I’m not a big hugger.  I’ll one-arm hug you til the cows come home.  But full, double armed embraces aren’t my thing.  And don’t get me started on lingering hugs.  If you’re going to double-arm-me, make it snappy.  If you linger, it just gets awkward.  I’m never getting a hug again, am I?

I have a cousin who’s the same way.  So when we see each other, we just bump shoulders, silently thanking the other with a casual nod.  It’s our thing.

Regardless, the 30 second hug always puts me in a better mood.  I just wish my initial reaction was more positive.

Fast forward to January 2nd.  I’m listening to some love song station on pandora, trying to find good wedding slideshow inspiration.  Nick and I start talking about popular first dance songs, which somehow leads us to our friend’s Kelly and Sean. We both really liked their song, True Companion by Mark Cohn.  It’s just a really good first dance song.  So we played it, and started dancing.

30 second time turned into 2 minute time and we were both in a great mood the rest of the day.  So I said, “we should do this everyday.”  Nick was all for it!  It appeals to my love of dance, and Nick still gets his “hug”.

Then we forgot.  Until Monday night :)   And I decided I’d instagram it.  This time to Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud.

I told Nick, “Guess what, the hashtag ‘a year of slow dances’ wasn’t taken!’ to which he replied, “you don’t say…..”

Then people made nice comments and it got a few likes….so I hope people don’t get sick of us.  But it will force me to get a bit more creative with the photos, I think.  In any case, if you’d like to join in, just tag it with #ayearofslowdances.

OOoh, and if you have some suggestions for a song, leave it in the comments below.

Don’t worry, we’re just waiting for the right time to bust out KC and JoJo’s All My Life.

Oh Monday

I think the first Monday of the new year is both awesome and awful.  It’s a great way to start fresh, but it’s the Monday of all Mondays.

A few things for share-sy, because it’s about all I can muster today :)

  • We listened to the Serial Podcast on our drive from Seattle back to Livermore.  Probably a little late to the game, but the time flew by!  Unfortunately, my prosecutor friend has not listened to it, so I was unable to discuss the details with him!
  • If you’ve already listened, there are interviews with Jay and Deirdre as well – but you’ll have to actually read these :P
  • We’ve been watching a few movies over the break and have enjoyed Chef (itunes) and The Battered Bastards of Baseball (netflix)
  • Sriracha mayo can be made by combining the following: 2 Tbs mayo, 1 Tbs sriracha, ~1/4 tsp honey, ~1/4 tsp sesame oil, squeeze of lemon.  This really upped my sushi game.
  • Want to bulk download your instagrams?  Try instaport!  You can even sort by a hashtag.  i.e. we can download only our #bryckabroad images.  I think I’ll come up with a 2015 hashtag for my “money” instagrams, to make next years’ sorting a bit easier….a girl can dream.

Have you listened to Serial?  Thoughts?  Any good Netflix recommendations?

2015, seriously!?

As Nick put it, “I really thought we would have flying cars by now.”

New Year’s Eve was pretty chill, as I continued nursing a lovely cold I caught while in Seattle.

New Year’s Day was spent eating, mostly.  Continuing the Japanese tradition, we ate our good luck mochi soup and made sushi with a few friends.  Well, I made sushi, they ate it.  I was particularly pleased with my sushi-fixing-station and proceeded to mentally pat myself on the back each time I looked at it.

Looking back at 2014

  • I started a digital gratitude journal and I honestly think it has improved my happiness. I get a bit more “snippy” when I’ve missed a few days.  I’ll be continuing this in 2015.
  • In an effort to help revive the US Postal Service, I sent out over a dozen hand written notes – most with a little treat.  It was a lot of fun “surprising” random friends with something so simple.  A handwritten note is exponentially more awesome than an email.
  • Alas, the splits remain elusive.  I caught this on camera last week….close, but no cigar.

With regard to the biz, Brooke and I had a pretty awesome year.  I decided to make a slideshow, highlighting pictures from each wedding we shot.  This ended up taking WAY longer than I expected, but watching the video brings such a huge smile to my face.  Can’t wait to see what 2015 brings!

Nick and I had a great year, “celebrating” 15 years of togetherness.  And by “celebrating” – we basically hugged it out, said nice things, and went about our day.

I often give him a hard time – on the blog, on instagram, in real life.  But I’m truly thankful to have such a patient and caring partner crime.

I can only hope 2015 brings even more awesomeness (no pressure)!  Happy New Year!

 

“How do you have so much time?!”

After the epic space needle ginger bread post from last week, people were curious.

“How do you find the time to do things like that?”

People ask me that a lot.  And I’ve never really stopped to think about.  If I decide I really want to do something, I make the time.

Recently, I’ve heard a lot of, “oh, she doesn’t have kids!”  Which I have mixed feelings about.  Sure, kids take up a lot of time.  A lot.  But there are still things anyone can do to steal back a few minutes a day.  Nick had a timely (haha, no pun intended!) post on ways to save time.  So I thought I’d take a look and reflect a little on his a few of Nick’s methods for gaining back 14 hours a week (a bit ambitious, Nick).

Getting Ready

Ha!  This is one of my faves.  I’ve optimized my morning routine and can go from bed to car in 30 minutes.

  • Don’t wash your hair everyday.  I still shower, but I don’t always wash my hair.  Yes, it takes time to “train” your scalp and hair, but it sure does save time once you can eliminate that from your daily routine. Nick, unfortunately (or fortunately), has already optimized his hair washing routine :)
  • Simplify the makeup.  Here’s what I do: curl the eyelashes, eye liner, a swipe of shadow, bronzer, and mascara.  Usually in that order.
  • Have a quick breakfast or prep it the night before.  We have protein shakes.
  • Prep a quick, grab and go lunch.  It could be leftovers or a weeks worth of lunches prepared on Sunday.

Yes, I do work with engineers, and I can’t imagine many would notice if my hair was a little dirtier than normal or if my outfit wasn’t on par.  So I suppose I get a small pass on some of those things.  But unless you’re working at Vogue or are really concerned about what your coworkers think, see if you can knock a few things off that morning routine!

TV

We just don’t watch it.  I spend a ton of time on my laptop (editing pictures blogging….and also getting sucked int facebook, trying to cut back) but almost zero time watching “programs” – as we like to call them.  We have a few faves, but lately, it’s a weekend treat.

Sleep

Unfortunately, I LOVE sleep.  I ADORE sleep.  It’s wonderful and I need at least a solid 6, ok fine, 7 hours to be a happy camper.  So I’m not planning on cutting back anytime soon.  I’m intrigued by the idea of less sleep, but we have a really comfortable bed.

After reading his list, I realized that I already do a lot of these things without thinking.  I cannot stand inefficiency and strive to do everything as efficient as I possibly can.  Perhaps it’s why I loved Japan so much – everything was amazingly fast and efficient.

One example from last week.  I had 2 sets of photos to edit but REALLY wanted to make my gingerbread space needle.  Priorities, I know.  So I decided that I’d frost all the pieces and then edit photos while the frosting dried.  Logic would have said to do the photos first, but I was able to use the drying time to my advantage and get both things done!  I actually thought about this on the car ride home from work.  I’m not trying to brag, I’m trying to explain how it is that I seem to have more time than the average person.  I WISH I had a time turner, but those aren’t for real.  Instead, I just try and think/plan ahead to make the best use of my time.

I also do a handful of other things really fast.  These include: going to the bathroom (yes, I wash my hands….with soap), talking, and walking (just try and keep up with me, I dare you!).

However, I’m so addicted to efficiency, I can be known to take it too far.  I’m terrible at “wandering.”  This is one of Nick’s favorite things to do while on travel.  And walking around without a plan gives me hives.  You’re talking to the girl who knocked out St Chapelle, Notre Dame, the Louve, the Champ Elysse, and the Eiffel Tower in less than 9 hours – and boy was I proud.  But I’m getting better.  And occasionally I even enjoy it :)

So there’s balance.  But there’s always a way to earn a few more minutes back in your day!  Check out Nick’s blog for a few more ideas!  Or leave your faves here so others can learn from your hacks!

My Epic Gingerbread Space Needle

I’m an engineer who loves to bake and take pictures.  And last night, my 3 worlds collided.

Last week, I was perusing one of my favorite blogs, Not Martha, and noticed her adorable mini gingerbread houses!  So I went to the store after work and bought the supplies – mostly molasses and flour.  I sat down that evening and just couldn’t get motivated, so I asked Nick what he thought I should make.  After brainstorming a bit, we decided the house from Up would be “fun.”  After looking up pictures and sketching a few things out, I decided the house from Up would be WAY too much trouble.  And by the end of the night, I decided the Seattle Space Needle made WAY more sense.

So I sketched, and did math, and sketched, and did more math, and finally had a decent plan of attack.  I even busted out an arctan or 2!  Kids, stay in school and learn math.  It’ll come in handy one day, I promise.

I’ll spare you the details, but it involved a lot of gingerbread, royal icing, and sprinkles.  And Nick added in the 12th man flag for the added Seahawks touch.  We just happened to have the right color post-its.

There were a few tense moments, but it came together quite well!  The main support is solid gingerbread and icing.  A lot of icing.  And I guess the rest is also gingerbread and icing as well.  It’s technically all “edible” – less Emmett (anyone?).  But I wouldn’t eat it.  It’s structural gingerbread and flavorless icing.  Nick was a little disappointed.  BUT was quite impressed by the finished product.  Definitely a team effort, I needed all 4 hands in the house – and 3 cans of beans – to help put it all together.  I think Mochi was bummed I didn’t drop much on the floor :) Ready?!

seattle space needle made out of gingerbread seahawks Seattle space needle made from gingerbread seahawks seattle space needle gingerbread seahawks Happy Tuesday!

Thanksgiving 2014

2014-Thanksgiving How was your Thanksgiving?  Ours was perfect!  We headed down to Anaheim to spend our 8th Thanksgiving with Caresse and Tyler (and new addition, Isla).  I clearly didn’t get the plaid/flannel message!  We feasted on our usual spread of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, rice, gravy, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, corn bread muffins, and mac & cheese – and don’t forget our 3 pies :)

We shopping big and local and even snuck in a little Disney.  On the plane ride home, we were able to stream the Apple Cup and spent a Sunday getting the house back together – shopping, laundry, and decorating!  Talk about a great week/weekend!  What a way to kick off December!

Portugal and the rest of the cities we visited

Lisbon, Belem, Sintra and Cascais

We spent the last 5 days in Lisbon, with day trips to some of the nearby cities.  On our first day, we just wandered the city.  In an amazing race fail, we ran up a decent hill only to find the castle had closed 5 minutes prior.  Sad day, as the epic sunset from the castle grounds was probably pretty fantastic.  The fail can be largely attributed to the fact that Lisbon is quite hilly and while the castle was only 3 blocks from our apartment, it was also +600ft up.  We used it as a good excuse for exercise.

On Day 2, we took another New Europe tour.  Lots of good information, with an overly confident tour guide who was way too cool for us….just ask him.  To his credit, we went inside a pretty cool church – that was quite plain from the outside but awesome on the inside (Church of Sao Roque).  There are 8 chapels in this church, and 1 of them cost upwards of $3 trillion dollars.  The cost includes the cost of materials – solid gold – and the additional cost to disassemble the chapel, get it to Rome, reassemble, get it blessed by the pope, disassemble, get it back to Lisbon, then reassemble 1 last time.  Which apparently cost less than just getting the pope to Lisbon.  Go figure.

Day 3 was wet.  Like really really wet.  Soaked shoes, unhappy campers etc.  But we pushed on.  Belem is a quick tram ride from Lisbon and home to the Jeronimo Monastery and Pasteis de Belem.  Basically a church and a bakery, among other things.

We visited the Jeronimo Monastery first. And to be honest, we were “churched-out” at that point.  The church is free, but the cloisters cost €10 each.  They were maybe worth €5 (and I’m being generous).  A cloister is basically an open space/courtyard surrounded by a covered walkway.  All the ones we visited were square-ish shaped.  This was one of the few times Rick Steves let us down.  I’m not sure how cloisters can be amazing…..but these were not amazing.

I just saved you €10.

Nick had read about a maritime museum not far from the monastery.  This was an adventure.  Between the puddle and downpour, we were pretty much soaked.  And in an attempt to jump over a puddle, I smacked my knee against a road sign….don’t ask.  Large purple bruise followed.  We arrived at the museum, only to find out it’s shaped like a “U” and we had passed the entrance….we were at the exit.  Back across the puddle landmines and we were finally at the maritime museum.  And Nick was in heaven.  The kid loves maps, and the first thing we saw was a gigantic map.

The rest of the museum was filled with more maps and model ships.  They also had original quarters from a fancy-person yacht.  It reminded me of the rooms in Titanic.

After leaving the museum, we headed for Pasteis de Belem, the home of the original Portuguese custard tart.  We’d already had our fair share of these tarts, but these were definitely the best.  Quite possibly a result of the tarts being served warm.  10 times better than a cold tart.  A few tarts, hot chocolate, and chicken pockets later we were ready to face the elements one more time.

Nick said it best, “From this spot some of the world’s greatest explorers set sail into the unknown in the 15th and 16th centuries. And to think sometimes the idea of finding a parking space in San Francisco stresses me out.”

And by this time, we were thoroughly soaked and cold and ready to head back to our apartment.

Day 4 was another rainy-ish day spent in Sintra.  But on this day, we sucked up our Seattle-pride and brought the umbrella (to be fair, we didn’t notice the umbrella until we returned from our previous rainy day outing).

There are a handful of cool things in Sintra, a few more famous than others.  We started out at Quinta da Regaleira.  A super cool estate with underground caves and grottoes.

Caves are a wonderful thing when it’s raining :)

We then headed to the more famous Moores Castle and Pena Palace.

A number of times I commented that this was way better than the cloisters from the previous day, so just keep that in mind if you’re on a budget or short on time :)

We ended the day with a bus ride south to Cascais, to have dinner with a friend from high school!  Would have loved to explore Cascais a bit longer, but will have to make another trip out to Portugal for that!

It was another great trip abroad!  Where to next?!

Portugal and my new favorite tiny town

After Nazare, Coimbra, and Obidos, we headed to Evora, about 1.5 hours east of Lisbon.  It’s a fascinating little town, with a walled in city center.  It’s got a lot of history and culture, but is predominately comprised of older folks (60+) and college age students, thanks to the towns university.  To say I was the only 30 something Asian in the town would not be an exaggeration.

But I still loved it!  It reminded me of Oxford – my other favorite small European town.  Cobblestone streets and tiny mom and pops shops.

And did I mention the roman forum?

Yeah, that was unexpected (except it was….since I’d read about it before coming).  And the church that lets you walk on its roof.

Or the warm chestnuts!  We’d never had them but were hungry.  And since every single person in the town square was eating them, we got a bag.  Kinda tasty!  Not as good as a cashew, but they did the trick and were an excellent source of protein!

Turns out almost everything in Evora is closed on Sundays, so we did a lot of walking and exploring.  We ended the night at one of only 3 (or so) restaurants open on Sunday.  And ate a bowl of rice stew that could have easily fed a family of 4.  The diet starts Monday (After thanksgiving:))!