I’m Not Afraid to Play (Or Fearless Creativity Forever)

This morning the dogs and I went on our old Hollywood Hills hike. It has been a long time since we set foot on those familiar trails, but it felt like time today. After our jaunt, we walked over to my favorite rock in the park. I’ve had many epiphanies while sitting in silence there, and it’s a comforting ritual.

While we sat listening to the rustling sounds of nature, a Native American man began singing tribal chants from a nearby hilltop. What his voice lacked in pure melodic beauty, he certainly made up for in fearlessness and passion, and that’s what drew me in.

Dogs on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Albus was super into the Native American singing. Woodley was super into her stick. #typical

I was a little lost in thought when our hiking buddy Bradley and his dog Romeo approached us.

“How are you?” I asked, finally looking over at them.

“Well, I’m not singing from a mountaintop this morning, but I’m alright,” he replied.

We both laughed for a moment before I said, “We probably should sing from mountaintops. I bet it would be good for us.”

“Probably,” Bradley said nodding in agreement.

We listened for a little longer before I let Albus off his leash so he could run around with Romeo. The boys took off after one another at breakneck speed, and we laughed again while we watched our pups run, punch, and play with joyous abandon. (Unaffected by it all, Woodley continued to covetously gnaw on her stick.)

After our friends went home, the dogs and I stayed longer to listen to the chanting. (Still, Woodley chewed.)

Stick Chewing Spaniel on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Get that stick, Woods. Just get it.

As the man sang, I thought about my late stepbrother, Noah. He had a deep and abiding love for Native American culture and attended many tribal gatherings over the years.

When we lose people we love, I think we look for signs they still exist somewhere else. We want to feel like they’re with us even though they’re not physically standing by our sides. I felt a little of that this morning as the man sang. I felt a little like Noah was out there somewhere, listening with me.

It felt nice.

I think it’s good to focus on those comforting feelings and not just the feelings of loss. Sometimes, though, I’m like Woodley and I get so intent on my stick (read: accomplishing goals/crossing items off my to-do list) that I fail to notice the joy around me. I get so wrapped up in perfection or what’s missing that I don’t see the good in my life. This sort of focus on lack makes me more fearful, less open, and less loving.

Losing Noah has somehow unlocked something in me that makes me want to shed the tyranny of fear. It makes me want to seek love.

It makes me want to dwell less on what I’ve lost and more on the joy that love brings instead.

I mean, just look at Noah and Grandpa:

Noah and Bumpa on Dogs Dishes and Decor

I want to dwell on the joy they brought while they were here. Also? I like to imagine them drag racing angels in some treelined corner of heaven ‘cuz that image makes me happy.

So anyway, what all of this has led me to believe is this: People really need to let go of fear and just love more, play more, and create more.

And by people, I mean adults.

As kids we loved more easily, played more freely, and we created without fear.

Like the playful pups and the man this morning with the less than perfect pitch, we were unfraid. We didn’t care if our art was bad. We made it anyway. Even if it was only a macaroni necklace for our mom, we proudly presented it like it was a Paloma Picasso. Somewhere along the way, though, we started to believe our art didn’t measure up. We started to believe WE didn’t measure up. We got fearful about our creations, about our feelings, about ourselves, and about life.

Everyone has their own story, but the underlying, unifying truth is that many of us lost our carefree creativity and our playfulness somewhere along the way. Maybe it happened at puberty when everything got tangled up and confusing — when all of our “creative” energy was directed at fighting the urge to make babies instead of art. Maybe it happened long before. It doesn’t matter when it happened. It doesn’t matter why. It just matters that we get it back.

So today I’m creating… without judgment, without fear… and with Legos.

See?

Legos and the Importance of Playing: Dogs Dishes and Decor

A large dog may have gone Godzilla on this situation once or twice today, but I’m not mad about it.

That’s my today: Legos. I’ll get to “I love you,” later.

May my creativity (and yours) come from a fearless place forevermore. And may my life (and yours) be lived lovingly and fearlessly… forevermore.

There’s no fear in love, folks.

None.

John Lennon said so… and so did that one Apostle guy.

#love

My Interior Design Soulmate (Or I LOVE Liz Caan)

Guys, I’m in love. I found my interior design soulmate. Her name is Liz Caan, and she’s UH-MAZING. Her style is preppy with pops of feisty color and wacky flair. She relies heavily on my favorite things: monograms and animals.

She even used my infamous deer head in one of her rooms.

See?

Liz Caan on Dogs Dishes and Decor

We are so in sync, Liz.

When I found her on Pinterest, it was love at first sight and I absolutely had to see more of her work. My research led me straight to her website where I fell deeper in love. Clicking through her portfolio was making my day, and I just had to know: From whence does this divine creature come?

Massachusetts, folks. Liz hails from Newton, Mass.

My reaction?

Of course she’s from New England… so are like half of my friends.

When the Tigers blew a 5-1 run lead and lost game two at Fenway last night, it was a stark reminder that there are a lot of Red Sox fans in my life. Reading my Facebook newsfeed after the game basically gave me emotional whiplash. My Michigan contingency was cursing the Tigers’ relief pitching, while my New England crew could hardly contain their excitement over the Red Sox comeback.

That got me thinking: maybe I gravitate toward east coasters because I belong in New England myself. Let’s think about it for a minute: I love lobster, sports… and Top Siders. I’m super good at suppressing my feelings, I adore pearls, and I think Tom Brady walks on water.

Hmm… something to think about while I bask in the California sunshine….

ANYWAY, back to Liz.

I’m just going to bathe myself in her talent and forget everything that makes me sad about Michigan sports… like the good old fashioned New Englander WASP I am….

Liz Caan bedroom on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Monograms, nautical knots, AND animal legs on an end table? Liz, you get me.

Liz Caan wet bar on Dogs Dishes and Decor

The world is YOUR oyster, Liz. Let’s have clam chowder together.

Liz Caan on Dogs Dishes and Decor

How can you go wrong with chevron and the Union Jack? I mean…

Liz Caan on Dogs Dishes and Decor

This more subdued room soothes me. Plus it’s maize and blue.

Liz Caan on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Again with the animal table legs. LOVE them. They remind me of Fawn Tumnus from Narnia… if Narnia were in a slightly psychedelic corner of New England.

Liz Caan on Dogs Dishes and Decor

I’d almost be too mesmerized by that wall to play pool here, but I could probably power through long enough to put the eight ball in the corner pocket.

Liz Caan on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Look at that happy giraffe peering over the perfectly monogramed pillows! Just LOOK at him! He probably loves monograms as much as Liz and I do.

Liz Caan on Dogs Dishes and Decor

I could host a lively cocktail party in this colorful corner of heaven, complete with daring drinks and brave appetizer pairings.

Liz Caan on Dogs Dishes and Decor

This is the sort of chic, sophisticated place I’d like to retreat to while serving tea sandwiches and supressing my feelings about blown leads in baseball. It’s heavenly.

So that’s Liz. All of the images are from her website.

Do you have a design crush?

Do tell.

#love

Friday is College Football Eve (Or Bacon and Blue Cheese Potato Salad Bliss)

It’s Friday! And back in my Academy Awards days that meant blasting that Rebecca Black song on repeat until all of the other site producers had no choice but to sing along with it. (I had NO shame about hazing them.) These days, though, Friday is most notable for being college football eve.

It’s the day when I’m filled with anticipation… and absolute dread about my alma mater’s impending match up.

See, I went to Michigan, and I was there when we won the National Champion in 1997. So that means I have HIGH expectations. Those high expectations lead to devastation when we lose… and a laundry list of criticisms even when we win. Our season started off promising with decisive wins over Central Michigan and Notre Dame… then the Akron atrocity happened.

Now I’m basically rocking back and forth in a corner trying to tell myself it’s okay that we’re THE WORST 5-0 team in college football.

Instead of going on a tirade about Devin Gardner’s interception to touchdown pass ratio, I’m going to go to my happy place instead.

My happy place involves bacon.

Lots and lots of bacon….

Before our season hit the skids, I went back to Ann Arbor for the final meeting of the Wolverines and the Fighting Irish in the Big House, and I made bacon and blue cheese potato salad for the tailgate festivities. Because #duh.

The tailgate was all kinds of fabulous.

See?

IMG_8631

Even our photographer was having fun. #blurry

We kicked it with our old crew — our old crew with National Championship rings.

Michigan Wolverines on Dogs Dishes and Decor

They took the field when we didn’t seriously suck.

I may have even stolen the baby belonging to one of those guys.

Baby at a tailgate on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Because honestly? Who could blame me? #lookathim!

Babies are awesome, but I had to give that one back because I’m not a felon.

I digress….

Back to bacon, which may be my only reason for living if we lose tomorrow.

Bacon and Blue Cheese Potato Salad from Dogs Dishes and Decor #bacon #football #tailgate

Behold the life saving goodness.

Basically all of our apps were wrapped in bacon because we’re beasts… and because Jesus died so I can eat pigs.

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This is how Victors eat. #baconforever

If you want to make the potato salad yourself, here’s my recipe.

Bacon and Blue Cheese Potato Salad
(Adapted from Bon Appetit)

1/4 C apple cider vinegar
2 tsp dijon mustard
2/3 C olive oil
1/4 C minced shallots
2 T fresh, minced parsley
4 lbs of small red potatoes (unpeeled)
4 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 C crumbled blue cheese
1/2 C whipping cream
12 slices of bacon
3 T fresh, minced chives
Cracked pepper, to taste
Mix vinegar, mustard, and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk in olive oil in a thin stream. Whisk in shallot and minced parsley.
Steam or boil potatoes until just tender. Cool slightly. Cut potatoes into 1/4″ slices. Place potatoes in a large bowl. Gently mix a 1/2 C of dressing into the potatoes.
Cook bacon in a frying pan until crispy. Crumble bacon and set aside.
In a separate bowl, mix together the whipping cream and the blue cheese. Mix the cheese and cream mixture into the remaining dressing. Spoon over potatoes. Add chopped celery. Top the salad with crumbled bacon and chives.

Go blue and stuff.

 

Blast the Billy Ocean and Create (Or Carrot Cupcakes for Noah)

Guys, it’s time for my Billy Ocean Pandora station. I can’t wallow anymore. I’m no good to anyone — particularly myself — if I’m wallowing.

Sure it’s important to feel your feelings. And yeah we need to acknowledge loss and embrace the sadness, but we also have to pick ourselves up and do our damn dishes… get off our couches and dance in our kitchens.

Tuesday and Wednesday seriously sucked. I’m not going to lie. I cried. So much. I still made myself go to yoga, church, business meetings and whatnot. But between those things? I cried. So much, in fact, that I could hardly wear my contacts because I screwed up the ph of my eyes. So I decided to start Thursday by hiking with my long lost Suzie who is finally back from Iran. Determined to stay in a good place, I’m now blasting Billy Ocean and blogging.

See, Billy Ocean makes me smile — and Suzie inspired me to create. Because she’s brilliant, she pointed out the importance of creating instead of consuming. (Creating has transformative potential for our souls and stuff.) So I’m doing that. I’m creating… this blog post.

Ta da!

And in this blog post? I’m giving you the inspiration to create carrot cupcakes. I made them for Noah’s memorial because my mom couldn’t find cupcakes she liked anywhere in East Lansing.

People loved them and stuff.

Carrot cupcakes from Dogs Dishes and Decor #carrot #cupcakes #fall

Oh, and for further inspiration, here’s the Billy Ocean song that’s making me smile today.

Crank it up and bake yourself some carrot cupcakes. Put frosting all over the pain and then give it all away. And by “all” I mean the pain and the baked goods; there’s no sense in getting fat because bad things are happening.

Just saying…

Noah’s Carrot Cupcakes

2 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
2 C sugar
1 1/2 C vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 C crushed pineapple, drained
2 C finely grated carrots
1 C shredded coconut
1 C chopped walnuts
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350.

Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a mixing bowl. Set aside. Beat the sugar, oil, and eggs together in a mixing bowl. Gradually add the flour mixture. Fold in the pineapple, carrots, coconut, and walnuts. Stir in the vanilla.  Bake for 18-20 minutes.

Allow the cupcakes to cool completely and top them with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8-oz package of cream cheese, softened
1/2 C butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 C confectioners’ sugar (or to desired consistency)

Beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, beating until smooth.

The recipe makes about 24 cupcakes, so you’ll have a lot to give away.