Wins of the Month – October, 2016

  • Finished a house project I’d been wanting to for over a year (see above)
  • Ordered a ton of new photos for Gooplet’s scrapbook, and a couple prints for our walls
  • Let go of some (physical) stuff
  • Went back to barre – for real this time
  • Took Gooplet trick or treating!
  • Unfollowed over 50 Instagram accounts, because #simplify
  • Got into some cleaning routines (this is totally major for me)

September wins

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Card Round Up

November 1 does not mean it’s time to start celebrating Christmas.

Persian Green (Square) - Paperless Post:

But. (I’m sorry.)

Favorites - Paperless Post:

There are a couple things that I do early in November to help make Christmas a little easier, and one is order Christmas cards as soon as possible*.

Perfect Package - Red - Paperless Post

This is the time of year when lots of sales are running, which I’m sure helps alleviate last minute stress for stationery companies.  My problem this year is I have this adorable child, whose photo must grace our card, and this opens up a pretty much infinite number of possibilities.

Persian Green (Square) - Paperless Post:

So I decided I’m getting a card from Paperless Post.  I have used Minted, Rifle Paper, Pinhole Press, and Paperless Post over the years, and there is not one company I prefer over another.  I choose my cards based solely on design.  But I knew that if I didn’t narrow down to just one website, I’d be lost in a sea of great cards, and 85 tabs open on my computer, until I found the right one.  Which I would then second guess after clicking order.  You do what you gotta do.

Heart Be Light (Photo) - Paperless Post

Besides nothing beats the crisp, white and gold box from Paperless Post.  When it arrives, my heart does this warm, fuzzy, jumpy thing, I get so excited to open it.

Lights Twisted on Dasher's Paw - Paperless Post:
(I really want this photo to be black and white)

So all my favorites are from their site, but you can find great cards just about anywhere.

Birch Monarch (Multi-Photo) - Blue - Paperless Post:

*This is also the time to order those Peanuts stamps you had to run to 5 post offices to find last year, just saying.

(Making Spirits Bright//The Year in Review//Red Bow//2016 in Review//Let Your Heart Be Light//Christmas Lights//Warmest Wishes)

A New Favorite Sprout [brussels sprouts with bacon and raisins]

For three years, I’ve been devouring Ina’s roasted brussels sprouts about as fast as I can make them.  But when my favorite foodie friend sent me this recipe from Jenny Rosenstrach (of Dinner, a Love Story fame), I knew there could be room in my heart for another sprouts dish.

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They’re similar enough that I don’t feel the need to declare a favorite, but I will tell you that the raisins in this add an amazing, unexpected twist.  Ina’s are a throw them in the oven and forget about them for almost an hour kind of dish, whereas these come together quickly, but require some hands-on, skillet time.  You can pick which ones you want to eat depending on what you’ve got time to make.

To make sprouts for 4, you will need:

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 thick slices bacon
  • 4 cups brussels sprouts (about 1 pound), trimmed, halved
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, turning occasionally, until crisp, about 5 minutes. Using tongs, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Let cool. Coarsely crumble. (Make sure crumbled bacon is unreachable by children, or it will disappear before you need it again.)

While bacon cools, add brussels sprouts to drippings in skillet; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until well browned in spots and beginning to soften, 5–7 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add raisins, shallot, and butter; cook, stirring often, until shallot is soft, about 3 minutes. Add broth to skillet; increase heat and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until broth has evaporated, 1–2 minutes. Stir in vinegar and crumbled bacon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

October Reads

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Just Read:

Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance – As a rule, I do not discuss politics.  Ever.  So all I’ll say is Appalachia, and the people who live there, have gotten a lot of attention lately, for reasons both political and not.  This book was fascinating.  A look into a culture that has been around for quite some time, and is often misrepresented and misunderstood.  I love the way Vance writes honestly about his family and his hometown.  He doesn’t apologize for his family, nor does he try to sugar-coat them.  It’s his story, so of course, I can’t paint broad strokes and say I now understand all about the hillbillies of Appalachia, but Vance’s story is a great one.

Someone Could Get Hurt, by Drew Magary – If you haven’t read Magary’s annotated guide to the Williams Sonoma catalog (it comes out every holiday season), you are missing out.  Magary is hysterical.  He says the things we’re all thinking, excessive expletives included, and wouldn’t dare say out loud.  Thank goodness someone is speaking these truths.  I attacked this one, a couple chapters at a time, before bed over about a week.  And there were multiple times I feared I would wake my husband because I was laughing so loud.

The Secrets of Happy Families, by Bruce Feiler – This is like The Happiness Project (a favorite of mine) with a family twist.  I loved this book.  Feiler’s writing is honest, and most important for a book like this, it’s not preachy.  I guarantee if you read it, you’ll find one or two ideas you want to bring into your own family.  That said, I’m a big-picture person, and took away a couple of over-arching ideas that make me warm and fuzzy inside.  First of all, families (and the dynamics associated with them) are always changing and it’s supposed to be that way.  Move with the cheese, anyone?  And second, families should be safe spaces.  You don’t have to get everything right, you just have to be loving, and try your best.  I would put a copy of this book in just about anyone’s hands.

Reading:

The Year of Living Danishly, by Helen Russell – This title screams my name.  I’m a total sucker for books where people try things for a year, and I am absolutely taken with Scandinavian culture.

Want to Read:

Modern Love, by Aziz Ansari – I’ve started and stopped Parks and Rec about a zillion times, and that was the extent of my knowledge of Aziz Ansari for a while.  But this summer, my husband and I watched and adored Master of None, and I recently listened to his podcast on Freakonomics.  I don’t mean to sound unintelligent here, dear readers, but he’s much deeper than I gave him credit for.  (Did I think he was true to Tom Haverford?  Do I really not know how TV works?)  Excited to get my hands on this one.

 

Thursday Check In – Tidiers vs. Scrubbers

Gretchen Rubin categorizes people in the most fascinating ways.  One of her dichotomies states that people are either “tidiers” or “scrubbers,” when it comes to keeping house.  The tidiers among us go around swiping at whatever graces the horizontal surfaces of our homes, while the scrubbers get down and dirty with cleaning products.

At first, I thought I was neither.

Then I realized I am a tidier who is always tidying.  Because I amass clutter at an astonishing rate.

organize.  simplify.:

The Day Designer Instagram account posted this a few weeks ago, and dear readers, it was an aha moment for me.

I had been sitting, paralyzed, knowing that I needed to overhaul our kitchen and dining rooms, but not knowing where to begin.  When I unpacked those two rooms shortly after moving in, I threw items in the drawers and cabinets where I thought they should go, with the understanding that after working in the kitchen, I’d need to adjust.  The tricky part here is that though I know it’s time to make some changes, I can’t seem to find any clarity in terms of what those need to be.  (Too bad I can’t hire The Home Edit to come in and make sense of it all for me.)

So I’m starting with this quote.  There are some items in the kitchen and dining room that don’t serve food-related purposes, and they need find other homes.  And perhaps with that freed-up physical space, I’ll have some freed-up mental space to figure out where my 9 trillion wine glasses truly belong.

Hopefully I’ll make some good headway on this project, and we’ll see whether it’s true that outer order leads to inner calm.

The Perfect Snack [mini pizza cookies]


As easy as they look.


And they taste even better.


What are you waiting for?


To make at least 2 dozen mini pizza cookies, you will need:

  • A tube of pizza dough
  • Sauce
  • Pepperoni
  • Mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a tray with parchment paper.

Roll out the dough to a quarter inch thickness and cut in 2 inch rounds. Too with sauce, a pepperoni slice, and mozzarella. Watch these carefully as you bake. Mine took about 10 minutes until the sauce was bubbling and the cheese was browning.

Social Media [brussels sprouts gratin]

I’ve been playing around with the idea of doing something else on social media.  Snapchat?  Podcast?  Instagram stories?  I played around with stories the other day as I made this brussels sprouts gratin.  And I don’t see as many Snapchat stories these days, so maybe this is where everyone is hanging out now?

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I had never made a gratin before, which seems slightly ridiculous.  I love cheese, I love roasted veggies, and I love cream sauces.  What was I waiting for?

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I’d tell you this is amazing but I bet you already figured it out.  Oh, it has pancetta, too.  So it can’t be bad.

Since this was my first gratin, I perused a couple recipes, wanting to make sure I’d land on a good one.  I ended up going with Elise’s, because she’s a great person to turn to for classics.  Truth be told, I’d prefer it had I roasted the sprouts for about 25 minutes, and then finished them in the gratin, but boiling them was just fine.  I know a lot of people put a rich sprouts-centered dish on their Thanksgiving table, but I wouldn’t hesitate to make this again on any old evening I want.

Baby Pictures

If you scroll through the pictures on my phone, they are an embarrassing smorgasboard of Gooplet photos.  Point and shoot, look at this adorable thing he just did (read: he blinked), photos.  It’s hard to take good pictures of babies.  Luckily, we have the Internet to give us some inspiration.  With great cameras no more than a phone’s reach away, I feel like some of these shots, or at least these angles, are possibilities for us.

smushy cheeks.:
(via)

perspective.:

(via)

light.:
(via)

get down.:
(via)

cozy.:
(via)

Growing up.
(via)

Other sources of inspiration:

Cup of Jo’s post, Tara Whitney (always and forever), You Are my Wild, and Best of Bookworms on Instagram

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Thursday Check In – On Birthdays

ombre.:

(via)

So I’m sitting in my Wednesday moms’ group, talking about ways we take care of ourselves, and I’m sharing what I’ve learned about Sabbath, about intentionally leaving one day free of obligations and commitments so that it can be what I want it to be instead of what it has to be (I truly think this idea is genius, and this podcast was a great listen for me).

Then another mom echoes my thoughts, and shares that for her family, that day has always been Sunday.  They go to church in the morning, and then it’s a day for family time.  She said her daughters know that if they get invited to a birthday party on a Sunday, they understand that they probably won’t be going.  That a lot of birthday parties her girls get invited to are those, “invite the whole class,” kinds of birthdays, and she feels comfortable turning those down.  I nod my head in agreement, because that makes sense to me.

And then I find this post, from one of my most favorite blogs, What Would Gwyneth Do? all about saying yes to birthdays.  Because some kids are just waiting for a classmate to say yes.  Because inviting the whole class is a display of kindness that not everyone shows.  And again, I’m nodding my head in agreement, this makes perfect sense, too.  And it sounds a lot like celebrating everything, which we know is something I’m into.

This is about the 800th reminder to me this week alone that there is no right and wrong, good and bad, black and white way to be a family.  What works for one unit doesn’t work for another.  One family has a great reason to turn down Sunday birthdays.  Another has a great reason to gratefully accept all the invitations they can.  When birthday party season hits us (preschool? kindergarten?) I don’t know where we’ll come down in terms of our RSVPs.  But I am forever grateful for the moms who share the real whys behind their choices.

Exhausted Moms Rejoice [deb’s favorite brownies]

AGOMYR touts one of Smitten’s brownie recipes as her favorite ever.  If I’m not mistaken, she calls them quiet brownies because they can be made without a noisy mixer, and all in one bowl.  But that’s not what Deb calls them, and I always have to go back to the site and remind myself which recipe she loves.  It’s this one, isn’t it, AGOMYR?  I’ve made them multiple times, and they always disappear before I can snap a photo and blog about them.

And I was going to make them (and properly blog them) for a little friend coffee date I had coming up, but then I remembered Deb also had a “favorite” brownie recipe, one she posted after her cocoa brownies.  So I clicked on that one, and I read the post.  Reread would be more accurate, because I’m sure I read it when it went up in 2012.  But oh, how I looked on it with fresh eyes.  Or tired eyes.  The eyes of a mother who also has a tricky sleeper.  One who appreciates a brownie recipe that can be started and finished within 45 minutes on an entirely new level.  I owed it to sleep-deprived mothers everywhere to try it out.

It works.

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To make 16 small squares, you will need:

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 stick unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar (I might even cut this to 1 C next time!)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
*And of course I added chocolate chips because I just don’t believe in brownies without them

Heat oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment, extending it up two sides, or foil. Butter the parchment or foil or spray it with a nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, melt chocolate and butter together until only a couple unmelted bits remain. Off the heat, stir until smooth and fully melted. You can also do this in the microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring between each. Whisk in sugar, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla and salt. Stir in flour with a spoon or flexible spatula, stir in chocolate chips, and scrape batter into prepared pan, spread until even. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out batter-free.

Let cool and cut into desired size. If you’re like me, you will prefer these and all brownies, cold or even frozen. But I bet you’re normal and will just eat them hot from the pan. If desired, dust the brownies with powdered sugar before serving.