Posted on December 22nd, 2017
Friday before a long weekend? Yes please! I’m headed to Florida today for some Christmas R&R with my family. It will be our first time vacationing on Christmas, so I’m excited to give it a try.
Ian and I celebrated Hanukkah in Virginia with his family last weekend, and took some time to visit the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, DC with our friends while we were there. It was a great place to relish a traditional Christmas! Their Roadside Attractions holiday train show was adorable.
As much as I love the holidays, I do wonder if maybe this couple took it just a bit too far?
I have had the same one pair of jeans since 2013. It is simply time for a new pair, but shopping for jeans is right up there with shopping for a bra in terms of tasks I find intimidating, mundane, and necessary. I struck out at J. Crew and Gap– does anyone else have any favorite destinations to recommend?
This skirt was out of stock in the blink of an eye, but Mackenzie pretty much created my dream holiday outfit from head to toe.
If you’re looking for some last minute suggestions for cookie tins, these are some of my favorites from over the years: almond meltaway cookies, Christmas sugar cookie truffles, toffee pecan graham bars (add some coconut!), homemade slice n bake cookies with whipped frosting. I have a couple of recipes I want to try this weekend, including these oatmeal lace cookies.
Wishing you all cozy, calm weekends!
Posted on December 20th, 2017
My favorite part of the holidays? The abundance of baked goods shared with love! (As I write this, I’m realizing I may have more than one favorite—forgive me?)
As the Nightingale Nest renovation rages on and our old kitchen slips further and further into the realm of totally unusable, I snuck a final project in under the wire to prepare some gifts for the people who have welcomed us so warmly to Westchester this year. The prep was embarrassingly easy, but the results were undeniably festive.
I chose two recipes, one sweet and one savory, offering different things for different palettes. My sweet & spicy snack mix, the savory option, pairs perfectly with watching football bowl games and imbibing before dinner.
Snack Mix Ingredients
- 4 cups mixed nuts (unsalted)
- 1 cup mini pretzels
- 1.5 cups Goldfish or Cheezits
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/4 cup maple Syrup
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, or 1 tablespoon fresh
- 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread nuts onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast for about 10-12 minutes, until lightly toasted.
While the nuts are roasting, combine melted butter, syrup, soy sauce, brown sugar, and spices into a bowl. When the nuts are out of the oven, mix with sauce. Gently fold in pretzels and Goldfish. Return to parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and toast an additional 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before transferring.
The second recipe, a cranberry orange white chocolate fudge, was adapted from Best Friends For Frosting. I recommend cutting the pieces of this one to be quite small when you’re packaging, as the final product is totally delicious but definitely rich and sweet.
Cranberry White Chocolate Fudge Ingredients
- 1 14 oz bag + 1 10 oz bag white chocolate chips
- ¼ cup orange juice (preferably freshly squeezed!)
- Zest of two oranges
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- Teaspoon of vanilla
- Pinch of salt
- 20 oz sweetened condensed milk
Line a 9×13 pan with parchment paper. Combine white chocolate chips, orange juice, and sweetened condensed milk in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave in 20 second increments, stirring between each, until chocolate is a melted and even consistency. Be extremely careful not to overmicrowave the chocolate, which will cause it to seize and make it unusable! Stir in vanilla and salt, and fold in orange zest and cranberries.
Spread mixture evenly into prepared pan. Allow to cool completely before cutting—about 2 hours in the fridge.
Presentation continues to be my weakness, but holiday boxes and white tissue from Target helped me do a passable job. I lined the boxes with parchment paper, too, to help with grease and stickiness. These gifts are easy to throw together for all sorts of people who make your everyday better, from the doorman in your building to your therapist (guess who got treats today!). If you’re giving a gift card this holiday season (sometimes you just have to give people what they really want, y’all), homemade treats are also a fabulous way to add a personal touch.
PS Don’t forget to save little (or not so little) snack-size portions for yourself!
Posted on December 1st, 2017
Rabbit Rabbit! The Thanksgiving/early December feels kind of like the Friday of the calendar year. Still have work to do, but the anticipation is mounting. I love it!
Construction is well underway back at the Nightingale Nest. Since we both commute into the city and are gone from 7:30-7:30 every day, we haven’t actually seen any workmen, but rush home every evening to examine their progress. It’s like my personal team of elves who are bringing me all I want for Christmas. This weekend, we have our final meeting for kitchen layouts and cabinets before we place our order. It feels more and more real with each passing day!
I was relatively tame with my Cyber Monday purchases. I had gotten this sweater during the Anniversary Sale in the summer, so scooped up another color (pink!), and also got these shoes for commuting/Disney World next month. I’m also still trying to overcome my aversion to pants, so I’m looking forward to trying this middle ground option.
As excited as the royal engagement is, I’m probably even more excited about this meme. Love is actually all around!
I finished reading Lilac Girls on the train this week. Truthfully, while I found a lot of the plot compelling, the writing was pretty basic and it stretched on approximately 150 pages longer than it needed to. If you haven’t read The Nightingale or All the Light We Cannot See, I would still start there. Looking forward to a trip to the bookstore for a new selection this weekend!
Posted on November 29th, 2017
Truthfully, St. Louis and Nashville are not that close to one another… but that didn’t stop Ian and me from making the quickest of 300 mile roadtrips for a night when we were home for Thanksgiving! I had not been to Nashville for five years, and the city has experienced so much growth in the coolest way since then, so we were itching to get down there to explore it for ourselves.
Our time was limited, so we headed straight to the 12 South neighborhood. We had lunch at Burger Up (you know I can’t pass up fried pickles), and then walked over to Draper James! It was my first time visiting a store, and it was so fun to see the brand come to life in all its glory. The store was packed with holiday shoppers, and the sweet tea was flowing!
We also picked up snacks for the drive home from Five Daughters Bakery. Easily one of the five best doughnuts I’ve ever had! We looked in a few other shops (I loved White’s Mercantile) before heading to Cheekwood to see the holiday lights. It was a gorgeous way to kick off the holiday season.
But the most beautiful thing we saw all day? All weekend? All month? The reason we went to Nashville for 17 hours? The moment I have been waiting 7 years to witness?
We’re having a wedding!!!! Best wishes to darling Taylor and Andrew!
Posted on November 27th, 2017
Draper James declared this the Thanksgiving dress– and they were right. Velvet is certainly having a moment, I felt vaguely like a pilgrim in the best possible way, and the best feature: no waistband, no problem. Unfortunately, it sold out in a week because apparently everyone else agreed with me, too.
The bare legs were a bold choice (and one that really should have been accompanied by some self-tanner…), but with the cozy crowd and ovens going inside all day, I was
sweating plenty warm enough. And the best accessory for a holiday outfit? A homemade pie!
Shop similar styles below (click here to view in browser):
Posted on November 26th, 2017
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Our trip home was exactly as we had hoped: tons of time with family. It is risky to declare a single day your favorite of the year, but Thanksgiving 2017 lived up to the hype.
Nothing says Thanksgiving like a beautiful, giant vat of bubbling oil! We don’t deep-fry our turkey, but our family friends do, and it has become a tradition to join them in their ritual in the early afternoon. My dad leads the way in scoring hot dogs and sausages to drop in the fryer for a crispy protein snack– with all the condiments and fixings, of course!
As our Thanksgiving hostess, my grandmother is pretty set in her routine for Thanksgiving dinner preparation, but this year, I was called up to the big leagues and asked to prepare a pumpkin pie. #blessed Truthfully, I prefer fruit pies to pumpkin/custard varieties, but I had tested a few recipes during the month and had settled on this one from Half Baked Harvest. The bourbon/maple ingredients added a depth of flavor, and I really liked the crunchy texture from the pecans. (I did modify the recipe by blind baking the crust with pumpkin filling for 12 minutes before adding the pecan mixture to create distinct layers– I had found the bottom underbaked in my test runs)
Pie queen Marie Saba has been my pie muse the past few weeks– I hope I made her proud!
It was a wonderful celebration with these turkeys. Is there such a thing as TOO grateful?
Posted on November 22nd, 2017
There is so much for which I am overwhelmingly, profoundly grateful. The unconditional love of my family. The support of my friends. The partnership of my husband. My education, my job, my home. They are amazing constants in my life, a beautiful baseline I appreciate more with each passing day. Truthfully, their magnitude is hard to write about—it is something I feel, but due in large part to my limited skills as a writer have trouble expressing.
So in the season of giving thanks, I took a pass at a different exercise. I thought about the everyday joys, the little moments and feelings and everyday objects that make life feel that much more meaningful, or even just ore fun. If you’re looking for a way to feel really fantastic this weekend between leftovers, online shopping, trips to the mall, I highly suggest it.
I took this picture at the shore near our house on Saturday. At sunrise, we were 10 miles into an 18 mile run. The beauty of the moment left me speechless!
- When the first wave of caffeine washes over you
- The smell of sunscreen
- Weeknight football (and weekend football!)
- Public transit
- Notes from friends who see something and are reminded of you
- Noise cancelling headphones
- Fat free feta
- Plaid season
- Instagram communities
- The comfort of routine
- Lululemon leggings
- Mothers who always answer the phone
- Amazon Prime
- The institution of marriage
- Free Drink Days at Starbucks
- The timelessness of blue and white
- Bundled-up winter walks
- Direct flights to your hometown
- Long runs in 45 degree weather
- The power and truth of numbers
- Group text threads
- Pandora’s Christmas music
- The warm hug of a beautifully merchandised shop
- Weekends with no plans
- Support and generosity from unexpected places
- Going places without looking up directions
- Friendly cashiers, baristas, servers, etc.
- Longer battery life
- Working remotely
- When you adore your friend’s significant others
- Creative people sharing content
- Commuting shoes
- Being a restaurant regular
- Complex harmonies
- Child’s pose at the end of a barre class
- Getting to sit next to your spouse on the train
- The charm of old homes
- Husbands who laugh at your jokes
- Children’s laughter, sincerity, and wonderment
- The burning smell immediately after you light a candle
- Sharing memories with the ones with whom you lived them
- Christmas lights
- Snagging the perfect reservation
Happy Thanksgiving to you all!
Posted on November 19th, 2017
Given all that has happened in the past few years, it is amazing that there are any optimists left in the world. An increasingly rare breed, but I count myself among them. I believe in clichés like “women can have it all,” “the best is yet to come,” “every cloud has a silver lining,” etc. I also believe that every once in a while, the food you eat to nourish your body and the food you eat to nourish your soul can be the same.
Enter these muffins. They really, truly scratch the itch of a sweet and seasonal un petit quelque chose, but in a pretty reduced-guilt way. The brightness of the cranberries really pops against the pumpkin spice palette, and the oatmeal texture is comforting. Trader Joe’s had great budget friendly cranberries, and if gluten-free is your thing, this recipe could easily accommodate that. My recipe made 17 muffins, but how much you fill the tins and how much you lick the bowl is between you and your pumpkin spice god.
Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins
1 15oz can pumpkin puree
6 oz fat free Greek Yogurt
¼ cup milk
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/8 cup Stevia (can substitute sugar or brown sugar, or omit for less sweetness)
1 ½ teaspoons of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
Pinch of ginger (optional)
Pinch of allspice (optional)
Pinch of salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
3 cups rolled oats
¼ cup flour (added for texture—can substitute almond flour or omit for GF)
1 heaping cup cranberries
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Beat together wet ingredients (pumpkin, eggs, yogurt, milk, maple syrup) until thoroughly mixed. Add in spices, baking powder, and flour. Stir in oats gradually until texture is consistent. Gently fold in cranberries, taking care not to burst them.
Fill wells of a well-greased muffin tin 2/3 of the way. Bake at 375 degrees for about 15-17 minutes. Extra delicious when warm!
Posted on November 17th, 2017
6 days until my FAVORITE holiday! Thanksgiving wraps up so many of my favorite elements– food, football, family, tradition, and gratitude. We will be back in St. Louis this year, and since I haven’t been in St. Louis for the holidays since 2015 it will be particularly meaningful. But first…
Ian and I are heading to The Game (the annual Harvard/Yale football matchup) in New Haven tomorrow. Given the quality of Ivy League football, we’re really mostly in it for the reunions with friends and tailgates. It is rude to show up empty handed, so I’ll stock our car with a myriad of goodies. I just took these Caramel Apple Cheesecake bars out of the oven… they seem promising!
The article says it all: “Dog lovers, this is the moment you have been waiting for.” You can now match your loungewear with your pup. Twinning and winning. (Although the pajamas I have my eye on don’t come in doggie sizes. Sorry, Gracie)
We’re definitely pretty far from being able to furnishing/decorating our house, but we couldn’t resist picking up this print from Chasing Paper’s new collection. I love the message in a kitchen or dining room, Ian loves the Beatles, and we both love color. No matter where it ends up, it will be bringing good vibes.
I stumbled upon the most fun Instagram account this week (as pictured above). Marie combines cheeky humor, puns, and exquisite baking photos– I can’t stop scrolling!
Posted on November 10th, 2017
Fridays are my favorite days in the blogosphere. I love the roundups people post, from the products they recommend to the articles that have resonated with them. I’m religious about reading the posts of the blogs I follow in order, and with my schedule lately I’m only through October 30… but I look forward to eventually reading the Friday postings from today, too
-The Draper James blog frequently has amazingly delicious recipes, but unfortunately, taste testing is not part of the job. We’ve been drooling over this cake since the post went live, so I’m bringing it for the team for a Friday treat today. I sometimes find baking with pumpkin difficult from a texture perspective, but hopefully sticking to the advice of the professionals will lead me to success.
-I ordered these shoes the second they hit the website because I don’t think they’ll be in stock very long! I’m glad I ordered two sizes, because I noticed they’re already sold out in one of them. Plaid shoes are such a good way to make a neutral outfit feel festive.
-I’m a littttle bit compulsively proactive, so I HAD to order my Christmas cards in October to get the early bird discount. I used a new vendor this year, so I was a little unsure, but they arrived this week and definitely exceeded my expectations. The paper is excellent quality, the turnaround was fast, and there were so, so many designs I loved that it was difficult to choose a favorite. Can’t wait to share them once I get them in the mail in December!
-The ranch house is admittedly not my dream aesthetic, but the Before & After on this one in New Orleans is giving me so many good vibes. The kitchen and master bedroom are particular favorites. I’m very strongly considering this bed for our new master, and seeing the similar look here is making me feel very secure in that decision!
-Last but not least… sometimes, I see a glimpse of my future. #friesbeforeguys #friesbeforeeverything