Originally published in May 2018 on cheri.blog:

I recently returned from a work trip. And I was reminded, once again, that I’m not a conversationalist. Those who know me well, and even those who have met me once, know this. Compared to other kids, I was quiet when I was little, but as I grew up, I came out of my shell — a cheerleader in junior high, student body secretary in high school, constant partier and socializer in college. I’ve wondered, though, if all the drugs I’d done through my late-teens, 20s, and early 30s ultimately mellowed me out, or even rewired my brain. But there was always a reservedness there, an observant nature, and a belief that I didn’t think it was necessary to speak unless I had something meaningful to say. Small talk has never been my thing.

Meeting me in person is underwhelming. A handful may not agree, as over the years I have clicked with some people on this earth. But for the majority of people I meet, especially over the past decade, I leave no real impression, except maybe for the fact that I seem more interesting on my blog or Instagram or something, and in person am incredibly disappointing. Sometimes I want to apologize to people, or warn them in advance the moment I meet them — I just want to let you know, this is all there is to me, just this moment right now, as I smile or shake your hand or give you a hug. Nothing more. I’m not witty, lovely, outgoing. So please, let’s get that out of the way so you’re not disappointed later.

I might be quiet, and it’s not that I’m shy, or bored, or angry. Oftentimes, the more articulate and affable people around me — like my husband, for one — say things that I might have said, so I don’t have to say them. And sometimes, I think my thoughts are uninteresting, so why bother saying them and calling attention to myself?

Most often, however, I’m quiet because it takes me a while to absorb information. I have a hard time shaping and articulating responses during conversation, and I think it’s gotten worse with age. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve formed a response to a question or discussion days later. My thoughts flow better on paper, but telling stories in person? I can’t. I don’t retain information and remember things I’ve read — I can’t for the life of me tell you the key points about an article I read yesterday, or the essay I edited for work recently, or share details of events or stories that have happened to me in an engaging way.

I’ve mentioned some of these challenges to my husband, but I’ve never written about them, nor admitted them to anyone, really. I’m not sure why, but I suppose it’s because I’ve succeeded so far in many aspects of my life — school, friendships, work — that these deficits haven’t seemed to hold me back or impinge on my success.

My current job allows me to work remotely full time. Teams communicate primarily via text-based communication like Slack channels and asynchronous discussions on private group blogs — and now increasingly through Zoom video meetings, which mostly make me anxious, and remind me of all the meetings I used to attend at my past jobs. But our general approach to distributed work and text-heavy communication is one of the reasons I applied to the company over five years ago — it seemed like a work environment that allowed people to communicate in different ways, and as I reflect on some of my bigger career and academic decisions — like proofreading marketing materials in solitude at a college campus, or enrolling in a low-residency writing MFA program that I completed mostly at home — I have unconsciously gravitated toward roles and settings that have made it easier for me to communicate, and thrive, in my own way.

I’m glad to have had these options. But as I get older — and the grooves in pieces of wood get smoother and deeper — it’s quite easy to stay cozy in my shell.

Creating With Less

April 18. We’ve had magnetic poetry stuck to the microwave for several years, but I’ve purged piles of magnets the last few times we’ve moved, so the selection of words is very limited — but this restriction has been freeing. And overall, during this period of isolation, I’ve surprisingly found productivity and efficiency with less. Even as I work shorter shifts each day, I seem to focus and get stuff done (and when we get to the other side of this, I will be a big proponent of shorter work weeks).

I’m reminded of Emilia’s newborn months, when she slept on my chest in between breastfeeding sessions — all day, all night — and the writer in me came alive in short spurts yet long Instagram captions, often in the middle of the night, in between the moments of my new life as a mother and milk machine.

I have not typed furiously like that since, but over the past month as we stay home, I’ve experienced wee moments of creativity from these silly word magnets and other unexpected ways, like Emilia’s coloring books and other random things around our house. I’ve also reached a point where I can now stare at the wall as she falls asleep on my arm and the circular imperfections of wood on our doors look like faces in Dr. Seuss books. So thank you for the little bits of inspiration, Day 41.

Originally published in May 2020 on Instagram.

Back to Blogging

Hi. It’s been a while.

But I’m here. I’ve always been here, but haven’t said anything. I didn’t feel the need; I didn’t have anything to say. Lately, though, I miss just blogging. Typing. Not for readers, not for followers, not for anyone. Just writing for me.

I was sifting through old posts on cheri.blog and rediscovered a 2018 post by Tom Critchlow on “small b blogging.” Some bits really spoke to me then, and they still do today.

But what is lost by following big B blogging? By chasing audience we lose the ability to be ourselves. By writing for everyone we write for no one. Too often I read things otherwise smart people have written for places like Fast Company and my eyes glaze over. Personal identity is necessarily watered down. Yes those places have large audiences but they’re shallow audiences. They don’t care about you at all. Your writing washes through their feeds like water.

Instead – I think most people would be better served by subscribing to small b blogging. What you want is something with YOUR personality. . . . Writing that can live and breathe in small networks. Scale be damned.

When I read Tom’s post two years ago, I’d stopped blogging here completely. I’d been focused on writing and editing, but instead for a massive audience for work. On a personal level, the writer in me was dormant. I wrote:

Still, Tom’s post reminded me of what I used to enjoy about blogging — there was a period of time, about five or so years ago, when I was really engaged and connected to my network, especially on Twitter, and got my work noticed and featured in the Atlantic, the New York Times, and other big outlets. While I’d always written online with an audience in mind, my favorite part about blogging was ultimately writing for myself, reading and learning and deepening my knowledge of things along the way, and documenting a wider web of ideas in my very own online space. I remember doing all of this because I truly enjoyed it — my site was an extension of me. Publishing on it made me feel more complete. And it still exists, but now mainly as a relic. I just don’t need it as I once did.

But anyway, I like what he says about “forgetting the big B blogging model” and not chasing an audience, or scale, or page views. It’s such a simple thing, but somewhere along the way, I completely forgot how to write for myself, how to face inward, how to be me.

I’m allowing myself to post here, and giving myself permission to think out loud again, but I’m not going to make it A Thing. Because if I make it A Thing, I’ll build it up too much, I’ll expect the words to come and the thoughts to flow, and then I’ll become paralyzed and disappear again, not resurfacing here for another several years.

So, hi.

A List of Things I Like, Revisited

I bought myself a One List a Day journal.

I used to buy pretty Moleskines and cute notebooks, but they would accumulate on my bookshelf, never opened or used. I’d always think, yes, this is the year that I’ll scribble in a journal again, this is the year that I’ll sit down and write every day, and this time it’ll feel different and I’ll be inspired and blah blah blah. Year after year, I set myself up for failure.

So when I saw this little book at Copperfield’s bookstore several months ago, I thought that the daily effort required would be minimal, so I bought it. The prompt for January 1st, for example, was “Top Goals For This Year.” And yesterday, I was asked to list “Words That Capture Who I Am.”

One prompt a day. One list. Three things. I can do this.

This new daily exercise for 2019 reminded me of a list I wrote back in 2015 called “Things I Like.” That was four years ago — pre-tiny house, pre-country home on a half-acre, pre-baby — so a lot has changed since then. I’ve compiled a new list below, and while I could keep adding to it, it’d get way too long, so I’ve stopped for now.

If you’ve never compiled such a list, I recommend it. It’s very satisfying. I’m reminded of the big things, the little things, and everything else in between that I’m grateful for. This list is truly a snapshot of my life and my priorities at this moment (thus different from the one four years ago, with the exception of some things that won’t ever change, like my lip balm obsession or preference for Chardonnay). It turns out I really adore my cats, Kaia and Ashira, and continue to discover more things I love about Emilia each day. The items aren’t listed in any particular order — just the order in which I thought of them.

Happy 2019!

  • Emilia’s laugh
  • Emilia’s pudgy wrists
  • Kaia’s hardcore lounging, especially under the sun
  • The way Ashira glues herself to Nick when he’s home
  • The way the cats cuddle, play-fight, and groom each other
  • When my dad talks to Emilia about random things
  • Nick’s very active role as a father
  • When Emilia wakes up from a nap in Nick’s sling and gazes up at him
  • Binge watching This Is Us and Felicity on Hulu when Emilia slept on me most of the day during her first two months
  • The Graham Norton Show
  • A really good breastfeeding latch
  • My Spectra S1 breast pump
  • Making smoothies with greens and fruits from our garden
  • Hot chocolate
  • Not drinking coffee
  • Drinking water all day long
  • Always carrying my water bottle
  • Chardonnay
  • Stout beer-as-galactagogue
  • Ginger beer
  • Sebastopol
  • Being much more productive at work because I know my time is now finite
  • The very different genres in my Spotify daily mixes
  • My detachment from Twitter the past four or so years
  • Lurking in sleep training groups on Facebook
  • Being the strongest and fittest I’ve ever been (since my marathon running years), mainly thanks to yoga
  • Progressively getting better with bind and balance work
  • My six-year-old niece Bisa’s nickname for Emilia (“Mimi”)
  • Wearing the same outfit several days in a row
  • Breastfeeding (now mainly in the evening, when Emilia is most interested in nursing)
  • Walking around the house in a nursing bra
  • Walking around the house in a robe
  • Multi-tasking while pumping milk
  • Reading lots of breastfeeding and parenting advice on kellymom.com
  • Our little homestead in the country
  • Being more confident about gardening
  • Playing taiko
  • Communicating primarily via writing/text chat at my job, which fits my personality and introverted nature
  • Silence
  • People who can sit in silence together
  • Surveying the bedroom when Nick, Emilia, Kaia, and Ashira are all asleep and snoring in their own ways
  • Regularly purging clothes and other belongings
  • When Emilia sleeps 8+ hours straight
  • When Emilia sleeps ’til 7am
  • Perfectly timed naps in the car
  • Really good fries
  • Dipping really good fries in aioli sauce
  • Perfectly toasted and buttery croutons
  • The way Kaia is super-responsive (and acts like a dog)
  • Ashira’s ultra-soft fur
  • Growing my hair long just so I can chop it off again
  • The sounds of owls, frogs, and crickets in our yard at night
  • Browsing homes for sale on the Zillow app
  • Plotting my five and ten-year plans
  • Craftsman bungalows
  • Wraparound porches
  • Hanging egg chairs
  • Our Sonoma Regional Parks pass
  • Preferring Sonoma County over Napa County
  • Los Angeles
  • Preferring Los Angeles over San Francisco
  • Nurturing just a handful of friendships (versus trying to maintain superficial connections)
  • Treating Instagram Stories as baby TV
  • Now getting excited over holidays I previously couldn’t stand (Halloween, Christmas, Easter) because of Emilia
  • Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm
  • Coconut oil as lotion
  • Hawaiian shave ice with macadamia nut ice cream
  • Eating ice cream as often as possible
  • My pizza obsession, as strong as ever
  • Alternating between two coffee shops for my workspaces
  • Working from home/anywhere and being part of a distributed company
  • Finally acting like an adult, yet still feeling like a kid at heart
  • The catio my dad built for the cats
  • The versatile handyman skills of my dad
  • The generosity of my mom with her time and new role as nanny
  • The very distinct personalities of my cats
  • The fog of Northern California
  • Exploring and hiking along the Sonoma Coast
  • Living in a small, laid-back town
  • Our yearlong experiment of living in a tiny house of wheels, and knowing when it was over
  • Taking risks
  • Adapting and evolving
  • Being a homebody, yet also active and adventurous
  • Teaching Nick the random words I know in Ilocano
  • Currently teaching Emilia how to kiss
  • Macadamia/white chocolate cookies and triple chocolate cookies from Sebastopol Cookie Company
  • My fairly new cookie obsession
  • Now preferring glazed donuts over chocolate ones as an adult
  • Eating two dozen donut holes by myself
  • Listening to house and jungle mixes on Soundcloud while working
  • Missing my previous childless life but knowing my new life will evolve and get better in time
  • Emilia’s storytime at bedtime
  • When the cats join us on the bed during Emilia’s storytime
  • Slowly accumulating more books again (after purging hundreds of books when we moved out of San Francisco)
  • Watching Emilia’s face light up when facing forward in the Ergobaby carrier
  • Being able to compile a long list of things that make me happy

2018 in Photographs

I posted here twice in 2018. Twice. First in January, when I finished my sabbatical from work and emerged just long enough from blogging silence to post a list of what I did. At the end of that list, I casually slipped in that I was pregnant. That led to the second and only other post from this year, published in the summer, about the birth of my baby.

Since things often come in threes, here’s a third and final post for 2018. I’ve compiled photos taken in the second half of this year, from July to December, during my six-month maternity leave. As you might imagine, the beginning of this period was spent hibernating at home with the little one. But as the months have passed, we’ve spent a lot of time out and about, exploring around Sonoma County where we live. Being busy with the new arrival, sadly there wasn’t much activity in the vegetable garden this year, with the exception of kale, strawberries, and bush beans (which fortunately all produced quite well). We also got to enjoy several of our fruit trees this year, mainly our apples and pears. In the past, my blog has focused on my travels abroad, but as you can see, we’ve stayed close to home this year — and I expect more of the same for much of 2019.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with this site in the new year, so in the meantime, you can follow me on Instagram (@cherilucasrowlands), where I post often, or on my other blogs (Notebook, Where the Gravensteins Are), where I post occasionally. Wishing you well in 2019!

Here’s Emilia at six weeks, when she slept soundly between 6 and 10 am in the mornings. That didn’t last long!

Our tiny homestead in the middle of summer, with lots of empty raised beds this season.

Even with the inactivity in the garden, we still had lots of beans, kale, and strawberries; basil; carrots; and fruits to harvest.

Another shot of our strawberries: sweet, delicious, and great for all the smoothies I made.

My life now revolves around breastfeeding and pumping milk. Before I became a mother, I had no idea how time-consuming it’d be. I generally enjoy it, but lately it’s been challenging with Emilia’s nursing strikes, teething, and with me going back to work.

I tend to put Emilia in onesies, which I find much easier and comfier, so this is a rare moment of her in proper clothes.

A very fitting fortune to receive this year.

In late summer and early fall, our fence was covered in lovely vines.

We’ve spent a lot of time exploring outside, especially around West Sonoma County where we live. Here’s a moment on a stroller walk in the shade of giants at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve in nearby Guerneville.

While on maternity leave, it was important for me to get away from the baby during the week. Sometimes, I escaped to a nearby tasting room for wine and laptop time. (My other blog, Where the Gravensteins Are, is on screen.)

I love escaping to the coast. This was a sunny afternoon at Goat Rock State Beach — Emilia’s first time seeing the Pacific Ocean.

Hot chocolate and a selfie during breakfast at Willow Wood, one of the restaurants in Graton, near where we live.

During my maternity leave, I tried numerous times to sit and write. I failed. But I’ll keep trying.

Despite not tending the garden as much this year, it was lush and green in October. Hooray for low-maintenance landscapes! (Minus the falling leaves, of course.)

In mid-November, I began to mentally prepare to go back to work. I didn’t return until mid-December, but it honestly took a while to get excited about it.

Here’s what our house looks like on a typical day, with cats and baby toys and all.

We’ve been making use of our Sonoma Regional Parks pass lately. This is from an afternoon at Steelhead Beach, along the Russian River, in nearby Forestville.

Kaia, one of our cats, has made it known to Emilia that she has claimed the warmest spots in the house.

We spent Thanksgiving this year in Lake Tahoe with my brother’s family — and saw the first snow of the season.

Going back to work this month ended up being smoother than I expected. Having to pump milk every 3-4 hours still keeps me on a leash, though, so sometimes I work in our garden shed, which I’ve set up as an office of sorts. Ideally, I’d work in the tiny house, but our wifi doesn’t reach (yet).

As usual, we didn’t do much holiday shopping this year — just picked up a few presents for gift exchanges.

Emilia loves reading books at bedtime. Here’s a recent favorite, Feminist Baby.

A late December morning at home, quiet and foggy.

A Tiny Human

So here’s an update on this neglected blog of mine: last month, I had a baby. My daughter — Emilia — is healthy, super chill, and incredibly beautiful. I haven’t posted here since January; I’m happy to say I had the most positive, pleasant, and active pregnancy. Maintaining my workout routine was really important to me, and doing power vinyasa yoga almost daily to my 38th week kept me mentally and physically healthy, happy, and sane.

I looked forward to labor and the experience of childbirth, but unexpectedly, I ended up scheduling a cesarean birth, as she was breech for over a month and, despite the things I tried to get her to flip around — acupuncture, chiropractic care, moxibustion, headstands at the pool, breech tilt exercises, hypnotherapy, and an unsuccessful ECV (external cephalic version) — she didn’t budge. While it was not the birth experience I’d originally envisioned, I was totally at peace with everything in the end. Ultimately, I just wanted her to be safe and healthy — it really didn’t matter how she got here.

Five weeks later, I’m recovering well and making more trips out of the house — even if it’s simply taking a walk around the garden — and Nick and I are slowly adjusting to our new roles as mother and father. It’s been weird, challenging, and life-changing: new parts of me have emerged, while others are no more. I’m grateful for this gorgeous little human, but also find myself mourning the life I had. I’m off from work until the end of the year to adjust and focus on her, myself, and to settle into this next chapter of life. I’m not sure what the next months (and years) will bring, but I already sense a shift in my priorities and goals.

Surprisingly, I’ve also felt more of an urge to write, in small bursts and Instagram captions typed out in the middle of the night after a 3am feed — but that’s much more than I’ve expressed as of late. So, perhaps that’s a sign of more musings to come.

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Enjoying this book so far, from the blogger at The Ugly Volvo. Nick has read a few hilarious bits aloud, and I love the way Emilia’s head feels against my chest when I laugh, even though it hurts as my incision heals. As we enter week 3, I’m tired, emotional (omg, do NOT binge-watch This Is Us after you’ve just had a baby), and physically limited to our small house, with short strolls in the garden. I’ve left the house twice since coming home from the hospital—for pediatrician visits—and was exhausted after both trips. Not surprisingly, I miss yoga and working out, and realize that where I’m sitting—on my sofa surrounded by a gazillion pillows—is the center of my universe right now, as my body recovers and we find our rhythm. In moments I sit quietly, I’ve been thinking about a lot of things. I think back to when I first met Nick: how young we were, at least compared to now, and how we bonded over traveling, writing, and so many other things. I remember the epic night we met, first drinking and smoking at an empty Zeitgeist, then at the Toronado, talking about how I didn’t want to have children (I’m not sure how we ended up talking about this, but we did, amongst everything else). I’ve thought about how our paths first crossed on the internet (thanks to travel blogging), the thousands of miles between us in the beginning, our shared trajectory, and our evolution as individuals and as a couple. I think of how we now have a daughter, who looks like him when she’s wide awake, and who looks like me when she’s asleep. I think of his Twitter avatar from years ago, when I knew of him only through his travel writing from Egypt; in the photo, his face was covered with a blue head scarf, and all I could see was his big blue eyes. I remembered this photo the day Emilia was born—Nick came into the operating room before my surgery, and I looked up and saw him, his beard and part of his face covered with a sterile mask in the same shade of blue he wore in that profile pic. Once again, I saw his eyes—and the face I first encountered and fell for years ago. It was a weird, special moment, as if the past 8 years flickered before me in the minutes before we met our baby.

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Sabbatical Checklist: What I Did

A view of the Big Sur coast from New Camaldoli Hermitage, a monastery in the Santa Lucia Mountains.

I have spent the past three months off from work. One of the great benefits my company Automattic offers is a sabbatical at your five-year anniversary (and every five years thereafter). Despite my tendencies, traveling was not high on my to do list—I got on a plane just once. Instead, I surprised myself, as I really felt like soaking in routine, in familiarity, during this time off. I wanted to experience the true quiet and comfort of home. To just be. And to be able to wake up most days and ask myself, well, what would I like to do today? and be content if sometimes the answer was nothing. As I compile this list, I realize I didn’t do as much as I expected. Here are some highlights:

  • Visited New York City and spent time with friends. This was the first item I checked off on my to do list. I booked a flight with some of my last United miles (I’m trying to get rid of them and sever ties with this airline) and hung out with two good friends and their adorable toddler daughters for a week.
  • Went to the gym nearly every day. The past three months, I focused less on circuit training (bootcamp) and free weights (P90x) and more on power vinyasa yoga, TRX, and occasionally PiYo.
  • Watched seasons one and two of Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. It took decades, but I finally watched the series, which I binged on while Nick was in England. The first season blew my mind. I enjoyed the second season, though not as much, and I watched the movie because I felt I needed to in preparation for season three, which I have yet to watch.
  • Finished posting photos from my travels in 2017. While I avoided anything work- and WordPress.com-related, I logged on several times to post the remainder of my photos from Europe as well as pictures from Kauai. I’m now also up to date on my photo gallery.
  • Planted and worked in our vegetable garden. Our first fall harvest party was a success, and the garden was lush and bountiful through October. I planted again in very late fall—red and tendersweet cabbage, brussels sprouts, California early garlic, Chinese broccoli, snap peas, and lacinto kale. Some of the cabbage and kale are doing well, but I’m not sure what exactly will survive the winter.
  • Performed taiko at multiple events. I love my beginning taiko class, which I’ve been taking for nine months. I performed with our group at two festivals during Halloween weekend—one in Occidental and the other in Windsor, both towns in Sonoma County—and also the Sonoma Strong festival, held in downtown Santa Rosa after the firestorms in Northern California.
  • Took a pastel class. I pondered taking a watercolor class since I enjoyed it so much in middle school, but decided to try pastels instead. My class was full of friendly retired women, and I worked with hard and soft pastels.
  • Went on a silent retreat at a mountaintop monastery in Big Sur (pictured above). I’d reserved a spot on a meditation retreat at a Buddhist monastery in Mount Shasta, but cancelled and ended up instead at New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur—maintained by Camaldolese Benedictine monks—after reading good things about it. I had unstructured solitary and silent time and stayed in one of the simple rooms in the retreat house overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Each room has a private garden with an incredible view. I read, went on walks, meditated, did yoga, and went to a few services in the chapel.
  •  Spent quality time with my aunt. On my way back from Big Sur, I stopped and stayed in Carmel with my aunt Julie and her partner Fran. My aunt lived with us when I was little and was a big influence then (and still is). I am grateful for any one-on-one time I spend with her these days.
  • Started Tagalog lessons. Nick bought me Pimsleur language lessons so I could learn basic phrases and expressions in Tagalog. My family primarily speaks Ilocano, but I suppose I’d start with Tagalog first. I got through half of the lessons he bought me, which I mainly listened to when tending our raised vegetable beds. It became mentally draining as I progressed, so I took a break halfway through my sabbatical, and now I’ve waited too long and probably have to restart from the first lesson.
  • Did a sleep study, was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, and now snooze with a CPAP machine. Nick had suspected for some time that I have sleep apnea—when I snored, he says I sounded like a big happy bear. I now sleep with a full-face mask, and my cats were initially freaked out and scared to sleep next to me. They’re used to it now, but they still stare curiously at my face when the mask is on, and the plastic tube connected to a black machine.
  • Kept my laptop shut more than opened. Not having to work meant not being in front of my computer for most of the day, which was bliss. I continued to question and reevaluate my relationship to this screen—and to the internet.
  • Got pregnant. I left this nugget of information for last, perhaps as a little surprise for those of you who’ve read this silly list to the end. I got pregnant the first week of my sabbatical! Experiencing fatigue and nausea, I didn’t do as much during this time as I’d planned (I wasn’t able to get another tattoo, didn’t go to surf camp, didn’t restring my violin and take lessons, and chose not to join Nick in England in November even though I’d booked a flight). But I’d still say it’s been an eventful, productive three months—just not in the way I thought it’d be. I’ve been reading a lot about pregnancy and childbirth, have made frequent visits to the hospital, have entered my second trimester, and am now thinking about the year ahead—and beyond. It’s still sinking in, but I’m already eager and excited for this next step in my life.

And with that, I wish you all the best in this new year!

Kauai, My Happy Place

Ke’e Beach on Kauai’s north shore.

I love Kauai. It’s become familiar, and now feels more like a version of home that I come back to rather than a place I visit on vacation. I’d love to own a home on the island someday—even if (or especially if?) it’s a tiny shack that runs on solar panels—where I could spend a few months at a time.

My parents spent some time there this summer, and since I’m able to work remotely, I decided to tag along for a week, sans husband. I didn’t let the time change affect me—I basically woke up at 4:30am Hawaii time, still aligned with my teammates on the West Coast at least, and worked a half-shift. Then, on a midday break, we ate lunch, or ate shave ice, or went to the beach, or tried another shave ice truck, or took a drive along the coast—and often did a mix of all of these. We then returned in the late afternoon so I could finish my workday and eat dinner.

Over the past five years at my current job, I’ve actually grown to dislike this sort of arrangement—working while on a trip—and these days prefer to just take time completely off from work. But in Kauai, it’s easier for me to relax, to just be. I know the island, so I don’t feel the need to follow an itinerary, and whenever I’m in Hawaii in general, I immediately shift into island mode: I live in my swimsuit, I get sand in my hair on the first day that never washes out, and I become so incredibly dark and aware of how brown I really am—and I love it and feel completely in my element. For me, it’s truly one of the most pleasant places to be.

On this trip in July, we stayed near Poipu Beach. We tend to spend time either here in the south or north near Hanalei and Princeville. I love both areas—both have lovely beaches and shave ice stands, which pretty much make up my time in Hawaii. But I do favor Kauai’s north shore because I love the little town of Hanalei and the beach at the end of the road, Ke’e Beach, from where you can set off onto Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coast.

I’m not sure when I’ll visit Kauai again, so in the meantime, I’ll daydream as I look at these photos.

Photos taken with an iPhone 7.

Looking down at Wailua Falls from the side of the road.

The rocky border separating the lagoon and sea at Lydgate Beach Park, on the east side of the island.

The shores of Lydgate Beach, beyond the sheltered lagoon.

A post-beach meal in a restaurant in Kapaa (I apologize—I don’t remember which one, and no restaurant names on Yelp ring a bell…)

A section of the Wailua River, from the lookout point over lush Wailua River Valley.

A colorful sign in the seating area at Wishing Well Shave Ice in Hanalei, on the north shore of the island.

Shave ice at Wishing Well in Hanalei.

Ke’e Beach at the end of the road, where the Kalalau Trail begins on the Na Pali Coast.

The Loco Coco Shave Ice micro trailer in a parking lot in Koloa, on the south shore.

The most magnificent tree I’ve ever seen, above the Art House gallery in Koloa. We stayed and looked up at this tree for quite a while. So beautiful.

The door to order at Koloa Shave Ice, not far from that grand tree.

Another shot of the tree, from along the sidewalk.

The Fresh Shave trailer, in the parking lot of Warehouse 3540 in Lawai, between Koloa and Kalaheo.

The mustache-inspired menu at The Fresh Shave in Lawai.

I ended up getting the special that day: the (Salvador) Dali, with coconut and Ghirardelli chocolate topped with macadamia nuts.

The interior of cute shops at Warehouse 3540 in Lawai.

The galbi dish at Roots in Culture, the food truck next to The Fresh Shave at Warehouse 3540.

Ending in England

And finally, the last set of photographs from my trip to Europe earlier this year…

After Barcelona, we flew to Heathrow and spent the first few days with my husband’s family in Kent. We kept busy and moved around for the remainder of the trip, showing my parents as much as possible: Bath, Stonehenge, the Cotswolds, Oxford, and London.

All photos: iPhone 7

Dylan, my mother-in-law’s dog, in the fields of Trottiscliffe, a village several miles from West Malling, Kent.

The gardens of Leeds Castle, five miles from Maidstone, Kent.

The lush grounds of Leeds Castle in Kent.

Overlooking the maze at Leeds Castle.

Looking out of a window from inside Leeds Castle.

The Pulteney Bridge, crossing the River Avon, in central Bath.

A shot of the Great Bath at the Roman Baths, taken from the upper level. Bath Abbey stands in the background.

A statue’s perspective of the Great Bath.

The grand ceiling of Bath Abbey.

Our unexpected, innovative dishes at Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen in the center of Bath. I highly recommend this restaurant, even if you’re not vegetarian.

Just a bunch of old rocks, aka Stonehenge.

A horse along a road near Avebury.

Part of Avebury henge and stone circles. (Or, another monument of prehistoric rocks.)

An area of Castle Combe, one of the twee villages we passed through in the Cotswolds.

The Bridge of Sighs (Hertford Bridge), which connects two parts of a college over New College Lane in central Oxford.

Overlooking a canal in Oxford.

Tom Quad in Christ Church, the largest college quad in Oxford.

Looking up at the ceiling while queueing to visit the Hall in Christ Church.

A powder blue door on a quiet road in Oxford.

Colorful Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden in London.

The Great Court of the British Museum in London.

The London Eye from afar, seen from the gardens of Buckingham Palace.

Posters of Goldie’s new album on a phone booth in Covent Garden in London.

Fancy porridge at 26 Grains in Covent Garden in London.

Follow me on Instagram @cherilucasrowlands.

Exploring Barcelona

Casa Batlló, a remodel of a previously built house, designed by Antoni Gaudí.

Each time I visit Barcelona, I discover new neighborhoods, cafes and restaurants, and alleyways of colorful street art. And then there are the iconic sites I must see again because they’re just so magnificent and exploring them never gets old, like all of Gaudí’s architectural masterpieces. I don’t quite remember what the ever-changing Sagrada Familia looked like in 2000, on my first visit, or in 2010, when I returned for several days after week on Ibiza. On my most recent trip, the Sagrada Familia seemed taller on the outside, with more details finished on its facade, while parts of the interior had evolved, and sections once inaccessible were now open.

Exploring Barcelona with my parents, who had never been, meant I could revisit many sites with fresh eyes. I also treated them to their first Airbnb stay while in the city — I booked a huge, beautifully restored apartment in the Dreta de l’Eixample with gorgeous tiled floors, antiques, creaky doors, and high ceilings. The location was a bit further from where I wanted to base ourselves, but the apartment was unique and worth the extra few minutes of walking.

Until next visit . . .

Gaudi’s Gingerbread House at Park Guell.

Tile-shard mosaic details along the staircase, and the Gingerbread House in the background, at Parc Guell.

At one of the entrances of Parc Guell.

Walking down an alleyway in El Born, en route to the Picasso Museum.

Door art in the El Born neighborhood.

Street art by Crisp in El Born.

The interior ceiling of the Sagrada Familia.

One of the many details on the exterior of the Sagrada Familia.

One of the doors of the Sagrada Familia. I’ve taken this same exact photo on each visit.

A colorful door in El Born.

Social media street art by Crisp, found in El Born.

Churros con chocolate at Petritxol Cafe.

Arches on the museum level of La Pedrera.

One of the “chimneys” on the roof of La Pedrera.

Art in the Gothic Quarter.

A copy of Airbnb magazine on a table in our Airbnb.

One of several tile patterns in our Airbnb.

All photos taken with an iPhone 7 — some originally posted on Instagram @cherilucasrowlands.