Top 10 Blogs

Ali asked me to give her a list of my top 10 blogs right now, and I realized that instead of emailing her the annotated list, I’d put it up here for all to see.

frappucino cupcake

(Frappuccino cupcake designed by a super-cool 5th grader)

What I’m finding right now is that I’m not as interested in the “big” bloggers.  Meaning, I’m truly sorry, but I don’t want to hear about your line for Target.  I’ll see it next time I’m there.  I don’t want to read about your latest sponsorship or enter your giveaway.  I want to see posts about your life.  That’s why blogs are so great.  They give you a peek into another regular person’s world.  And we know I’m too nosy not to care.  Here’s what I love right now:

Emily Henderson – She’s almost like a more-approachable GOOP.  Her posts are a healthy mix of everyday life, and beautiful home design.  As I start to consider the possibility of walls existing in our #AndThenWeBoughtAHouse house, I am taking notes as I read.

Smitten Kitchen – #alwaysandforever

Enjoy It – I have read Elise’s blog daily for at least the past 5 years.  She’s consistent, she’s honest, and she’s one of my all time favorites.  Even her posts about business (and her business is nothing like my business) fascinate me.

Shutterbean – Much like Elise, Tracy is someone who speaks my language.  Her “I Love Lists Friday” posts are the best link-filled posts in town.  And I pin her stuff again and again.  (more recently, this)

Inslee – Inslee is a most-talented artist, who chronicles her work, and her most-glamorous New York life online so the rest of us can stare in awe and wonder.  I love her sketches, and her story-telling is unrivaled.  Her Impossible Story is not to be missed, nor are the tales of her 2015 calendar girls.  And on my next trip to the Big Apple, I’m keeping my eyes peeled for Daphne.

Dinner, A Love Story – Jenny and Andy write beautifully about food, life, and books.  I want to be their family when I grow up.

Tara Whitney – it’s been said on this blog before, but someday, I’ll have an army of children, and Tara will come take our pictures, and it will make me weep.

How Sweet It Is – Jessica is my best friend from middle school.  I mean, not really, duh, I had SCL, but she fulfills this role beautifully in blog world.  She goes big or she doesn’t go at all.  And her recent baby posts couldn’t be cuter.

Whatever – I also want to be Meg when I grow up.  She blogs about things like staying in her PJs all day and watching TV, and the realities of teaching 5 kids to do their own laundry.

Cup of Jo – Yes, she’s a biggie, but she keeps her posts short and sweet, while managing to seem (and I hope that means she truly is) incredibly down to earth.

And a bonus blog, from The (Not So) New Girl:  Magnolia Homes – the blog of Joanna Gaines, host of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper.”

February Reads [+ one little word – february]

february reads.

It’s only fitting that this picture has a book that appeared in my November reads post in my February reads post too.  I didn’t read it then.  I didn’t read it this month either.  And I’m rolling two monthly blog installments into one because I have a question.

So, my word of the year is choose.  And I vowed I would pop on this space once a month and tell you about how I’m, well, I don’t know, choosing stuff?  But instead I’m going to ask you why I’m struggling so much with the stuff I choose.

Here’s the deal with reading.  I need a lot of headspace to read.  I need to not be thinking about work, I need to not be up against eating/making/cleaning up dinner, and I need to not have my phone anywhere within a 5 foot radius of me.  I need to be able to get sucked into a good book and forget all else.  And I don’t know if I haven’t been making that happen lately because I haven’t picked the right books, or because I am making other choices.

Namely, watching TV.  When I get to my third episode of Veronica Mars in one night, I start kicking myself and feel intense guilt setting in over my choices.  But here’s the thing.  Does TV get a bad rap?  Is there something inherently wrong with choosing to plunk down in front of a bright screen instead of choosing to plunk down with a book?  Is the problem that in February, I’ve chosen TV over books way more than I’d like? I said I had one question for you, and that was an all-out interrogation.  I take it all back.

The real question is this: Why am I beating myself up over my choices?

The only book I have finished this month is not worthy of mentioning here, so instead, you get two books I’m about two-thirds through, coupled with hope for future reads.

Reading:

Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande

A fascinating look at aging and dying.  I’ve brought this up with a couple of people at a couple of social events, only to realize this is an incredibly difficult book to discuss at social events.  The subject matter isn’t your typical small talk fodder.  But Dr. Gawande’s work is important, and it’s relevant to everyone.  We are all getting older.  We will all need to ask these questions at some point in our lives.

Reading:

I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson

As I move through this one, I’m having flashbacks to We Were Liars, another YA read.  And I’ll have sections where I’m racing through the book, and sections where I slow down.  It has to go back to the library, so I won’t finish it till later.

Want to Read:

Something good. Something I can’t put down.  Something that does not let me go.  What’s it going to be, dear readers?  Leave me some ideas in the comments, if you have a minute.

I have All the Light We Cannot See, Everything I Never Told You, Station Eleven, and The Girl on the Train on my radar.  Can anyone vouch for those?

January//December//November

Life is Hard [cinnamon muffins]

cinnamon muffins.

As the years tick by, I can say for certain that

People will get sick.

Stuff will go wrong.

Things will break.

Friendships will end.

Let’s not go on, because what I really want to focus on is the helping part of that.  When someone I know and love is going through something that shakes up their normal, all I want to do is help.

That’s not even specific enough, though.  What I really want to do is move in with that person and nurture them back to “normal.”

Here are some things I like to do:

Don’t wait, and don’t take no for an answer.  It’s tricky to know what to say.  “Let us know if there’s anything we can do,” feels vague, and you’re likely to get a vague response.  But offering specifics can feel weird too, because who knows what anyone needs in a time of crisis.  It is always better to ask, and soon, than to say nothing.  And if you’re met with an, “Oh we’re fine,” ignore it and do something kind anyway.

Ask again.  When someone is met with a challenge, that person often needs a hot second to wrap her head around what’s gone on.  She might not yet know what she needs.  What she needs in the moment you ask is going to be different from what she needs three weeks later.  So follow up.  See how she’s doing, and ask what you can do once more.

Be the casserole brigade.  Unless someone has explicitly told you they have all their next meals taken care of, get in the kitchen and start cooking.  I like to clear a day from my calendar and bake my face off.  Faves include recipes from the backs of pasta boxes, and chili.

Pick up medicine, fold laundry, or offer to grocery shop.  Think of little annoying things you hate doing, and do them for others who have enough else going on.

Make muffins, especially if there is any chance you can deliver them while still warm.  These are amazing right from the oven.

To make 18, you will need:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons espresso powder
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup cinnamon chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
  2. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with muffin liners.
  3. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and espresso powder in a bowl; set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the melted butter, egg, sugar and vanilla extract using a whisk. Whisk to combine throughly.
  5. Alternate adding the flour mixture and milk, stirring just to combine everything evenly.
  6. Stir in cinnamon chips.
  7. Divide the muffin batter among the muffin tins.
  8. Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until the muffins are lightly browned and cooked all the way through. Remove muffins from oven and let cool on a baking rack.

75 Parties

This weekend, I served lunch to 70 people (with a healthy does of help from caterers and friends).  And it reminded me just how much I miss serving food to other people.  It is my love language.
entertaining.

When we get our house up and running, it will come complete with an open invitation to everyone we love once a week.  My intention for this house is that it feels inviting to anyone who crosses its threshold.  Which means I’ve spent the months since I saw this dreaming about what those weekly gatherings will look like.  Of course, if they are weekly, they’ll likely be pretty low-key, since it will be another 6 days before we up and do everything all over again.  That’s kind of the point.  But I’ve had a lot of time to dream, and come up with a laundry list of entertaining possibilities.  I want to have some of these parties yesterday (oh, Oscar party, you have always eluded me).  I want to have some of these parties never (what, exactly, is a hoedown?).  But it’s fun to dream, and if we’re ever stuck for ideas for our weekly gathering, one of these might help us out.  Links are to anything I thought might help you plan a fete of your own.

Below are 75 ideas for entertaining.  But tell me what I left out, dear readers.  Do you have any fun party traditions?

superbowl//oscars//derby//cinco de mayo//meatballs and spaghetti//brunch//hot cocoa//chili//pulled pork//tacos//crostini//wine tasting//friendsgiving//ugly sweaters//barbecue//pajama//birthdays//half birthday//pizza//ice cream and a movie//potluck//soup//picnic//new year’s eve//cocktails//fondue//s’mores//tapas//beer tasting//game night//waffle bar//chocolate//halloween//mother’s day//father’s day//back to school//snow day//block party//easter egg hunt//clambake//hoedown//rooftop//sock hop//toga//mardi gras//cookie swap//masquerade//white//garden//fourth of july//labor day//memorial day//pool//eighties//tea//luau//bonfire//new year’s day//articles club//chinese food on christmas//state dinner//desserts//gingerbread houses//Nintendo//favorite things//comfort food//pinterest//trivia night//baked potato bar//casino night//un-birthday//spa day//cupcake decorating//mac and cheese//twenties//karaoke

p.s.  If you click on no other link, click on the one for trivia night.  :)

On Binge-Watching

Though the Washington Post’s annual list of what’s in and what’s out placed binge-listening high above binge-watching, I’m not so sure.  I’m caught up on The Joy the Baker Podcast, and I finished Serial.  So when I’m relaxing after work, dear readers, I turn to Veronica Mars.  I have a bunch of friends who watched it live, and even more who started it once it was over.  It seems like another one of those shows with a cult following; one of those shows that blew up even more once you could stream it, a la Friday Night Lights.  I’m glad I picked it up after the fact, because I get to enjoy the guest stars ten times more, knowing what the future holds for them.

https://i1.wp.com/static2.hypable.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Leighton-Meester-Veronica-Mars.png

Like Blair Waldorf.  This is just comical because Veronica introduces her by explaining, “Carrie has had a long and storied reign as the gossip queen of Neptune High.”  The gossip queen.  You can’t make this stuff up.  Her parents called a conference with her teacher at one point because she was worried that a B would keep her out of an Ivy League school.  You know you love it. (source)

Here are a couple of others:

https://i0.wp.com/latest-wrinkle.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Aaron-Paul.jpg

(source)

https://i0.wp.com/blog.dinoray.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Max-Greenfield-in-Veronica-Mars-600x290.jpg

(source)

https://i0.wp.com/media.tumblr.com/tumblr_kwkv1zaR181qzdtph.png

(source)

A Snobby Post [levain bakery chocolate chip cookies]

If you’ve been here a while, dear readers, you may already know that the day before Thanksgiving is Pie Day at my place of employment.  Some of the kindest people I know bake a zillion pies, plop them on a communal table, and each staff member gets to take one home.  I was discussing Pie Day with someone last year, and she was shocked to learn about it.  She bakes all the time, and had never contributed.  When she learned the specifics, namely, the dump and leave, she quickly dismissed Pie Day as something that wasn’t for her.  She told me she doesn’t bake pies for just anyone to grab, she bakes for the people she loves.

I totally get it.

I do that too.  When I bake, it’s typically with someone in mind.  Rare is the occasion where I place something on a communal table and walk away.

It’s decidedly snobby, but it’s the truth.

Speaking of snobby, these Levain Bakery chocolate chip cookies are supposed to be the best of the best.  I threw them together during my last snow day for our contractor, who has been working in the frigid cold to get us into our house.

levain cookies.

These are bigger and fluffier than your average chocolate chip cookie.  I’m not quite ready to commit to these over my brown butter staples, but I will tell you they’re good.  And HUGE.  The darker the chocolate chips, the better.  I used Ghirardelli discs here.

You will need:

3 cups (13½ ounces) bread flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
¾ cup + 4 teaspoons (6 ounces) light or dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, cold, lightly beaten in a separate bowl
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups dark chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (I left these out, per usual, and upped the chocolate chips about another 1/2 C)

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.

3. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until it comes together in one cohesive mass, about 1 minute. Add both sugars and continue to beat for another 1 to 2 minutes, until all of the sugar has been incorporated into the butter. Gradually add the eggs and vanilla and continue beating on medium speed until mixed, scraping the sides of bowl once (the batter will appear lumpy). Reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually add the flour mixture until just a little bit of flour still remains. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts with a rubber spatula.

4. Divide the dough into 12 even pieces, just grabbing it by the handful and roughly shaping it into a ball (it should not be smooth). Place them (evenly spaced) on the prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 18 to 24 minutes, or until light golden brown on top. Let cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Currently

Every time I post a currently list, I check back in the archives and make sure it’s been a while since I made one.  And I pray you’re not sitting at home going, Gaaaaaaah, there she goes again with another one of those fill in the blank posts.  But the thing is, I love them.  Thus, your next installment.  Enjoy!

selfie

Also, my selfie game is spot on here, IMO.

Also 60% of this list is related to television.  Just so you know where I’m coming from right now.

Making: serious decisions when it comes to our soon-to-be kitchen.  I gave a lovely woman named Kellie this pin, and told her to go crazy.
Cooking: nothing; but I’m baking up a storm.  Stay tuned right here, dear readers.
Drinking: champagne sangria soon, I hope
Reading: Being Mortal, because Elise and Joanna told me to.
Wanting: to spend some time beating butter, flour, sugar, and eggs together tomorrow.
Looking: into heading up to NYC for a summer class with a coworker.  Any excuse to live there for the week…
Playing: with a new toy I got for work.
Deciding: whether or not to invest in new jeans
Wishing: I could snap my fingers and clean my room, a la my hero.
Enjoying:  my simple weeknight routine: barre, dinner, TV, bed.
Waiting: a couple more weeks for SCL’s birthday extravaganza.  She wants me to make something with cream cheese frosting.  Any ideas, dear readers?
Liking: The amount of (kitchen-related) storage space our new house will have.  Is it possible that there will be a home for all of my…ahem…things?
Wondering: whether this snow will be plowed in time for me to sneak off to a movie (who wants to guess which one?).
Loving:  Pure Barre.  I go three or four times a week, and I can do push ups for real (for probably the first time ever), and it’s amazing.
Pondering: the amount of brain space I need to read.  I have a much harder time sticking with a book when I have a swirl of other events going on in my life.  But in the summer I can put one away each day.  Go figure.
Considering: staying in bed all day.
Watching : Jane the Virgin, which my friend Kristen and I got into after Gina Rodriguez won the Golden Globe a couple of weeks ago.  Also Mozart in the Jungle, John Adams, and New Girl.
Hoping:  for snow days, while at the same time, not wanting snow to hold up our construction
Marveling: at my zen-like state over this renovation (she said as it had only just begun).  I know deadlines will get pushed back.  I know the weather will thwart our plans.  And I know there is nothing I can do about it.
Needing: I can’t think of anything I need right now.  What a fabulous feeling.
Smelling: Snow.  It’s colder than cold, but I cracked the window to breathe in the snow anyway.
Wearing : all the new Beyond Yoga pants (which is such a surprising color choice for me) and my grey Anthro cardigan.  I can’t get enough of them.
Following : I Have This Thing With Floors, We Never Met, and Reese Witherspoon on Instagram
Noticing: that it’s a rare morning when I wake up and don’t feel the need for coffee.  I’m officially addicted.
Knowing: that belting out some of the world’s best ballads at the top of my lungs while driving up and down 95 is good for my health.
Thinking: about how much clutter I’ve amassed in this small space in which we’re currently entrenched.
Feeling: excited about the snow day ahead!
Admiring: people who enter into social settings with nothing but enthusiasm.  Trying to be those people.
Sorting: Laundry.  Always.
Buying : nothing!  Trying super-hard not to spend anything right now.
Getting:  a ton of books in on hold at the library.  This one and this one, in particular.
Bookmarking: kitchens!  Lots of them.  On Houzz.  Which I don’t find as fun as Pinterest.
Disliking: that I completely forgot to tune into Gone With the Wind during TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar.  Praying I don’t make the same mistake with To Kill a Mockingbird on the 18th.
Opening: valentines from all the little people in my life
Giggling: over SNL40.  I know there are a lot of haters, but it had its moments!
Snacking: on conversation hearts – but only the green and orange ones.
Coveting :  cookbooks.  I haven’t bought one since at least last May and there are so many I’m waiting to click purchase on as soon as our kitchen island becomes a reality (which will likely be this May).
Wishing: for a magical, and perhaps nonexistant amount of snow, that lets me off work for two days, but still allows me time to work out and drive around town.
Helping: plan a lunch for 80 this weekend.  Wish me luck?
Hearing:  The Simpsons on in the background here, while my husband gets ready for Better Call Saul.  I’d tell you I watch it, but I really just glance up from the laptop in between violent scenes.