I brushed the dust off my old Nikon camera and took it for a spin around the house this week. While the gear itself is probably worth very little money, my D3100 will always have sentimental value. It's the first camera that ever made me excited to take pictures, and even though it's considered ancient and inferior by today's standards, it still takes decent snaps! Granted, it does struggle with indoor lighting. Unless the sun is shining bright through the windows, the images come out grainy or blurry (or both), depending on the settings. So, out of 30 pictures, only two are worth keeping.

I think that's what's so frustrating about creative endeavors. You can work on something for hours and barely have anything to show for it, but success is still measured by the numbers. Over the years, I've had the chance to rent, buy, and otherwise fiddle with higher quality cameras, and it's humbling to see what kind of magic you can create despite the limitations. It can (surprisingly) be a solid source of inspiration.

That being said, I'm sharing some things that help me out of a creative rut:

March will mark eight whole years of blogging for me. EIGHT. YEARS.

I started The Active Spirit (TAS) as a creative outlet (more details in this post), and now it feels more like an online journal than a creative hideaway. The hobby took off as an actual career for many people in the mid-2010s, and everyone left blogger/blogspot for the likes of Wordpress and Squarespace. I'm still here hanging out on Blogger, and I have no plans to leave any time soon. Here's why:

I was doing a digital declutter of my phone files recently, and I came across my baby names list from when I was still pregnant. It was a very short list, and I deleted it without a second thought, but then I thought maybe I'd share the names we'd brainstormed before Gabriel made his grand entrance.

Oddly enough, the name Gabriel wasn't even on the list. I had thrown it out there once, but I don't think either one of us cared enough to actually write it down. I had always maintained a stance about seeing my baby before giving him/her a name. When I was holding him in the hospital, he was looking up at me with those big, wide eyes like a perfect little angel. He was my Gabriel; I just knew it, and J agreed.

Here are some other baby names we considered:

I haven't read a good book in a while. I have, however, been reading articles and think pieces left and right. It's my favorite way to find a break in the day. Instead of scrolling mindlessly, I'll grab something from my pocket queue for a quick, meaty piece of content to consume. I'm not usually a fan of non-fiction works, but thanks to so many good reads lately, I'm opening my heart for the likes of Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino (a couple of her articles are below) and To Hell with the Hustle by Jefferson Bethke.

In the past, my recently read posts were focussed on the books I've read, and the articles roundup appeared in a filter the fluff post. There's really no good reason to split the two. Whether it's a book, magazine or online article, it's all getting read! So... it's all going in one place from now on.

Okay, that's a long enough intro. Let's get to it. This one's for all my working women out there.

So before I cheers to a new year, I've got some favorites to share.


Naan pizza - I ate this stuff all the time from about 6 to 10 weeks postpartum. It was quick and easy, and when paired with a side salad, it felt heathy enough for a full meal.

Cape Cod Chicken Salad - another postpartum favorite (spoiler alert: there will be a theme here). I was literally eating this everyday throughout the summer. I absolutely couldn't get enough! It's from Costco, and there were times I made a Costco run with baby in tow just to get stock up on some more. I was buying two at a time. I was having it for lunch, dinner, snack, second dinner... did I mention I absolutely couldn't get enough? I think the reason I started craving it was because it was my first real meal postpartum in the hospital. I was looking at the menu of sad hospital food, and the chicken salad sandwich was the only thing that sounded halfway decent. I was pleasantly surprised, and I left the hospital wanting more. Then, my team at church did a mealtrain for us once I was home, and one of the lovely ladies brought a big batch of chicken salad from Chicken Salad Chick, and she paired it with...

Publix French Hamburger Buns - I had never tried these before, but once I did, I was hooked. When I re-upped on the aforementioned chicken salad, I also had to get more of these. So that meant I was going to Costco for chicken salad, and then straight to Publix for the buns. I was a fiend!

Plain Pringles - I'd also get these in bulk from Costco, and they were a great finishing touch to my favorite meal. J would make an actual dinner, with fresh-cooked food, and I'd be like "I think I just want some chicken salad," and I'd pull out the tub of chicken salad and one of the snack size pringles. It was wild for me because all throughout my pregnancy, all I had were aversions. Nothing tasted quite as good as it once did. I was cheated, bamboozled, HOODWINKED! It was nice to finally have real cravings again, so was ready to oblige.

Stella Rosa Rose - once I dropped my load in May, the first thing I was really looking forward to was a glass of wine. Unfortunately, I had so much postpartum swelling from all the fluids they pushed during labor (mentioned in this post). I didn't want to add alcohol to the mix and make things worse, so it took a good month or so until I finally felt well enough for a glass. We had gotten a bottle of Stella Rosa Rose during a Christmas gift exchange last year, and I remember having to watch J drink the whole thing on my behalf. It was a sad moment. So as soon as it was wine time, I went on the hunt for that same bottle, and it was just as good as it looked when J was drinking it. So I bought more, and sometimes I'd buy 2-3 bottles at a time. I used to be very picky about rosé. Lower ABV, more recently bottled vs. aged, etc. All I cared this year is that my rose was made by Stella Rosa. Period.

Sourdough Bread - The tangy texture of sourdough just makes every sandwich, piece of toast and cruton so. much. better. It's become a grocery list staple this year, and I buy a loaf pretty much every week.

Califia Farms Cold Brew - This one slid in last minute. I was making my own cold brew for a few months over the summer using a french press, but I got tired of the cleanup and decided to just throw some money at the problem. I've tried a handful of other brands (Chameleon, Stok, Starbucks), but none have as good a flavor as the Califia Farms.

Kale Salads - I had to have something healthy to round out this list, and kale salad is it. Anywhere we went, if there was a kale salad on the menu, I was trying it.


French Press - I never thought I'd be a french press user. I'd see people use them on Youtube when illustrating their morning routines, but it just seemed like it took too much effort. I was a fool! Thank God Meredith bought me one, because I have seen the light. I don't quite understand why, but the coffee tastes so much smoother from the french press. It's my favorite way to make coffee on the days I'm working from home. It makes my mornings feel more luxurious and intentional.

Metal Straws - I am officially a metal straw convert.

My Swing Chair - I wrote about it in this post.


Dock a Tot - Surprisingly, I don't have very many baby favorites, but this thing was an absolute must have. It's plush, portable and easy to clean, and Gabriel loved napping in it up until about 6 weeks. Then he got the itch to explore and couldn't stand lying down - pun intended.

Glass Bottles - Another easy-to-clean favorite, my mom bought a handful of glass bottles fo us to use, and even though I had a whole bunch of others, we mainly stuck with those. Gabriel likes his milk warm, not room temperature, not lukewarm, warm. The glass holds the heat well, so we didn't have to keep re-warming the bottle if he took breaks mid-feed.

Target Diapers - Before having a baby, I didn't think I'd be picky about diapers, but they are not all created equal. Pampers are the most expensive, and they keep baby's bum too dry in my opinion; they were drying out his skin. Huggies leaked like crazy, and it took me two boxes to finally realize Gabriel didn't have a super soaker bladder; it was just the diapers. The Costco brand were basically Huggies without the label, so those were also a fail. I finally tried Target's Up & Up diapers about 3 months in and loved them. They don't leak. They don't keep him too dry, they absorb the perfect amount of moisture, and they're honestly the best price around town. I'm buying a box of these for every new mom from here on out, so they can at least try them for themselves.
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