Gift Guide: For the Wanna-be Chef

While picking out gifts for a knitter took a little guesswork, coming up with gift ideas for the cook/ baker in your life was really fun. Food gifts are my favorite gifts to give, because there’s something for everyone and it can fit whatever budget you have. You can go super fancy schmancy, or do something DIY. Whichever way you go, you’ll be able to find something fun for the cook or baker in your life.

Cookbook Gifts

Favorite Cookbooks:

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook: It’s no secret that I love the Smitten Kitchen blog, but I also love Deb Perelman’s cookbook (when she announced she was writing another I could barely contain the excitement). So many of my go-to recipes come from this cookbook– pie crust, flat-roasted chicken with tiny potatoes, margarita pizza, and tiny but intense chocolate cake, just to name a few. There are also some really tempting recipes that I have on my to-cook list: chocolate raspberry rugelach, apple cider caramels, vermouth mussels with oven fries, leek fritters… my mouth is watering just thinking about them.

Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book: This is my Mom’s go-to gift for bridal showers, weddings, going-away-to-college parties, you name it. She likes to say that it’ll teach you how to boil an egg or how to cook up something really fancy, so it’s great for both a newbie or a more experienced cook. I can’t even tell you how many of my Mom’s go-to recipes come from this book, so it’s always a solid cookbook choice.

The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book: I’ve had my eye on this book for a while– I haven’t been able to visit the Four & Twenty Blackbirds pie shop in Brooklyn, but I like to imagine that I could bring a little bit of Brooklyn to my Houston kitchen with these pies. Plus pies are one of my favorite things to bake, and I secretly want to learn all the pie-making secrets so I can be the Grandma with pies that will make you weep. That’s a totally normal goal, right?

A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in my Farmhouse: I love Mimi Thorisson’s blog Manger, and I’m crossing my fingers that this will be under the tree for me on Christmas morning. The photos are gorgeous, and the recipes look delicious- although they’re definitely more suited for a Saturday night dinner party instead of a week night dinner (but I don’t think anyone plans to “whip up” a French recipe for a weeknight… do you?) Luxurious, fun, and fancy– perfect for dinner parties when you want to feel French without buying a plane ticket.

 

 DIY food gifts

Favorite DIY Foodie Gifts:

DIY Glittered Wooden Spoon: This tutorial for a wooden spoon with a DIY glittery handle is adorable. You can make a few in different colors, and I think they’d be great as a stocking stuffer. They’re girly and fun, and I don’t think anyone would dislike these (unless they don’t like glitter… or happiness. Just kidding, it’s ok if you don’t like glitter. We’ll just have to agree to disagree on that one).

Spiced Maple Glazed Pecans: This recipe from Honey & Jam is great for stocking stuffers or coworker gifts (I’m planning on making these and taking them to work with me). They’re spicy, sweet, and salty, and gluten free, so they’re perfect for group gifts. (Note: I would check with your coworkers to see if anyone has a nut allergy before you bring them in!)

Printable Cheesy Gift Wrap: I love picking out little food gifts like cheese, condiments, spice mixes, flavored coffee, or beer in different flavors and making little “kits” — for example, since  my dad loves grilling, I might pick European beers, a marinade, and a spice rub for a grilling kit. (If you’re too rushed/ nervous to pick out your own kit, Eat Boutique! has some great gift boxes, although they can be a little pricey. But still a great option.) These cheese wrap templates would be adorable to wrap up any cheeses you get for your kit, and I think it’d be really fun to wrap up each part of your kit so they have little pieces to unwrap.

Herb Honey:  I love the idea of infusing honey with herbs and packing it up in cute jars and giving it out as gifts. I know honey can be a little expensive (especially if you’re buying raw or local honey), but depending on the size of your jars I think you could definitely get a lot of bang for your buck. Plus I think herb honey would be fun for mixing into tea or baked goods, since the herbs would add a whole other layer of flavor.

 

Baking Accessories

Favorite Bakeware Gifts:

Disclaimer: buying someone cookware or bakeware can be tricky, because they might end up with duplicates (or triplicates). Or if it’s something really big they might have a hard time finding a spot for it in their kitchen storage (especially if they live in an apartment with a tiny kitchen). So I would definitely ask if they have any specific cookware needs before buying anything really nice or that would take up lots of space. That being said, here are some of my picks for bakeware that would be really fun and (fairly) space efficient.

 

Nature Dessert Plates: I can’t get over how cute these dessert plates are, and I think they’d be really fun gifts for any bakers you know (or to add to your own list). It can’t hurt to have a cute plate for your favorite baked goods, right?

Scone Pan: Scones are a big deal in my family. My Dad makes scones for Mother’s Day and Christmas morning brunch every year and I “borrowed” my parents’ scone pan as a sophomore in college, until they eventually bought me one for Christmas. This is the scone pan we use, and the scones come out perfectly every time. (I’m sure this pan would be great for cornbread or tea cakes too.) Perfect for tea parties, brunch, and Sunday breakfasts.

Pride and Prejudice Cookie Cutters: These Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy cookie cutters are obviously perfect for book lovers and anglophiles, but the Printmeneer shop has lots of adorable cookie cutters. These are great if you’re looking for some unique cookie cutters, and they’re affordable too!

Mini Madeleine Pan: I haven’t made a madeleine before, but they seem like the perfect treat for brunch or a tea party (along with the scones of course). I’ve been dropping hints to Teddy about this pan, so maybe I’ll making mini madeleines soon!

 

I tried to include a little bit of everything on this list, but the possibilities really are endless. I hope this gives you some fun holiday gift ideas!

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Gift Guide: For Your Knitter Friends

Knitter Gifts

 

 

When I started thinking about gifts for people I know, I realized that my Mom, Grandma and almost all of my friends knit or crochet (or both). So here’s some ideas for the knitter in your life, whether they just started or they’re an advanced knitter.

 

Winter is Coming Knitting Bag– This is especially great if your knitting friend is a Game of Thrones fan, but even if they’re not, they’ll love this funny, motivational bag.

 

Crochet with One Sheepish Girl– I’ve been following Meredith’s blog, One Sheepish Girl, for a while now, and she has the cutest crochet designs. Her book of original crochet patterns came out recently, and I think it’d be perfect for a beginner or expert. Her designs are cute and quirky, and definitely unique.

 

Bluth’s Original Frozen Banana Pin– This isn’t exactly knitting-related, but I love this pin. I think it’d be great to pin on a knitting bag, or on your favorite handmade sweater. After all, there’s always money in the banana stand.

 

Ceramic Yarn Bowl– I can’t be the only knitter who’s accidentally sent a ball of yarn spinning across the room. These little bowls are specifically made so you can pull your yarn out as you work, without having to chase your yarn around the room.

 

Custom Knitting Labels- You can choose your own super cute graphic, font, and text, so you can make custom labels for that special knitter in your life. Who knows, maybe you’ll get one in a scarf or sweater knitted for you.

 

You could also pick out some hand-dyed yarn in their favorite color (there are tons of sellers with really pretty yarn on Etsy, like Dyeabolical Yarns or Knit Stitch), or a cool mug for tea or coffee to fuel their knitting projects (plus a mug to fit their hand-knitted mug cozy, obviously).

 

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the most experienced knitter, but I think there’s something on this list for the knitters on your list, whether they’re really experienced or not. What about you? Do you have any knitter-friendly gift ideas?

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Thankful

Thankful for weekend naps with this dumb butt.

 

This is the first Thanksgiving I won’t be in Virginia, but unlike Halloween, I’m refusing to be bummed about it. Teddy and I are going to a big group Thanksgiving where I will know approximately 6 people there, so that’s a little intimidating. But I read this list of things to do for your First Thanksgiving in a New Place, and it gave me some ideas of ways to follow my family’s Thanksgiving traditions, while making some new ones too. Every Thanksgiving morning my Mom wakes up and watches the Macy’s Day Parade, and then the National Dog Show while she starts prepping the Turkey. I usually wake up a little later (sorry Mom!) and join in, and it’s always really fun to root for our favorite dog breeds (always schnauzers) and get ready for dinner in our pjs. This year I’ll definitely be tuning in and introducing Teddy to the National Dog Show- he’s never seen one before, so let’s hope he’s a fan too! And then in the early afternoon we’ll probably get dressed up and head over for Thanksgiving dinner.

 

I’ve been thinking about what I’m thankful for this year, and I thought I’d write some things down here so I can look back next year and remember:

 

  • I graduated! My college experience definitely had some ups and downs, but I’m so thankful that I graduated on time. It still feels a little surreal sometimes, but for the most part I like this whole being adult thing so far (we’ll see how I feel during tax season!).
  • I have a job– that allows me to write and work on side projects. I felt a lot of pressure to get a job that would “use” (aka justify) my English major, but I bumped into a couple of my high school teachers at church over the summer, and they gave me the best advice – protect your writing. So I might not have an “English major” job – I’m not an editor, or a bookstore owner (You’ve Got Mail, anyone?), or on my way to being a college professor. But I have a job with nice people that pays the bills (which is already something to be thankful for by itself!) and gives me the freedom and time to work on my own creative projects during my off hours. And I’m so thankful for that, even on days when I feel like I’ll never learn Yardi and Quickbooks.
  • I got married! We’re going on five months now, and honestly marriage is one of the hardest things for me to write about, because it defies definition. It’s fun and freeing and fulfilling, but at the same time it’s hard and messy. It isn’t hard in the 90’s sitcom way, with the nagging wife and her dopey husband. It’s hard in the “I still have all the baggage I had before, and I can’t make decisions for just me anymore, and I’m more selfish than I thought I was” way. It’s hard in the “We’re both hungry and grumpy and stubborn” way — true story, our first fight as a married couple was about what to do for dinner. It was the one night of our honeymoon we didn’t have dinner plans and accidentally waited until all the restaurants were closed to decide what to eat. We ended up going to Kroger and picking up microwaveable soup and a salad and eating it in our hotel room with plastic silverware. I’m 100% serious. But it’s great having your best friend to bounce ideas off of, to heat up the “hot thing” for you when your back hurts, to try new things with. It’s so great getting to be in cahoots with your own partner in crime (we wish “in cahoots with” was a relationship option on Facebook, just because it’s so funny). And it might be hard to admit you’re wrong, or find out that you’re more selfish than you realized, or that staying emotionally connected doesn’t happen automatically, but it’s totally worth it.
  • For my funny, cuddly, pain-in-the-butt kitty. I’m quickly becoming a stereotypical cat lady, and I’m totally embracing it. (See above photo and 9 thousand other photos hiding on my phone. It’s a little frightening how many pictures I have of this cat!)
  • I’m flying back home a few days before Christmas, and I’m so excited to get to spend time with family and join in all of our Christmas traditions. I can’t wait! Christmas is hands-down my favorite holiday, and has always been a big to-do in my family, so I’m especially thankful that I can start decorating and baking all the Christmas goodies as soon as Friday hits (because no way am I going out shopping on Friday).
  • I have great friends to Skype/ FaceTime with. I sometimes struggle with intentionally keeping in touch with far-away friends, but I’ve been trying really hard to put myself out there and meet new people and keep up with my east coast friends. It’s not a perfect system, but I’ve been catching up with a friend roughly two to four times a month and trying to talk to my Mom once a week, and I’m really enjoying it.
  • I’m also thankful for this space. Having a place for my writing and a self-imposed weekly deadline has been really beneficial for making sure I don’t slack off on the writing front. I’m still figuring out a process for my fiction writing, but I’m thinking about setting up a weekly word count goal. We’ll see what happens with that, but I just want you to know that I really appreciate every single reader. (I don’t track visitors or page views so I don’t psych myself out, but I still appreciate you!) I’m really excited about this blog, and I can’t wait to see what comes up in 2015! Thanks for hanging out with me, friends!

 

P.S. Instead of my usual Weekend Thoughts & Links, I’m going to be posting Gift Guides every weekend from now until the weekend before Christmas. I thought it’d be fun because I love Holiday Gift Guides, but sometimes they seem a little “These are gifts for your Super Model BFF who also hosts Gatsby-esque parties once a month.” And I don’t know any Super Models, so I thought some more toned down gift guides might be nice (plus if it helps me pick out gifts this Christmas, I won’t complain).


I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving full of parades, food, hugs, and naps!

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Resources: My 10 Favorite Food Blogs

Food Blogger collage

If you’re anything like me (aka the type of person who starts looking for gift and party food ideas weeks in advance), you’ve been paying close attention to all the Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes popping up all over the internet lately. Food blogs are my not-so-secret trick up my sleeve when I want to try something new in the kitchen or try out a new technique. But they aren’t just for helping you cook better (although they definitely do). If you’re a writer trying to do some world building, or an artist trying to set up a still life or create atmosphere for an illustration,  or a photographer looking for new styling ideas – food blogs can help you out with that, even if you don’t cook. So you can get inspiration for that dessert you’re bringing to the holiday party and your creative projects at the same time. (So you’re basically cheating, but in the best way.)

Now, in the interest of full disclosure,  I’m currently following 18 food blogs through my Feedly account (and those are only the blogs that are exclusively food-related, but that’s beside the point), and my friends tease me for following “too many” food blogs. But even if you don’t have a list of favorite food blogs, they can still be good resources. And here’s why:

Besides the obvious variety of photography and styling techniques that can help out the artists out there, it can also help out any writers with any researching questions they have. You can learn about a culture’s traditions, religious beliefs, cultural norms, economy, holidays, important historical events, etc. — all through food. This is really helpful if you’re trying to learn about a specific historical era or a culture you’re not familiar with. And even if you’re writing sci-fi or fantasy, there are plenty “unusual” (to you) recipes (plus modern cooking techniques) that can give you ideas even if your setting is in a galaxy far, far away.

So, here are my 10 favorite food blogs for inspiration:

Valerie's French Chocolate Cake... via Deb Perelman
Valerie’s French Chocolate Cake… via Deb Perelman
  1. Smitten Kitchen: Deb Perelman’s blog is the first place I go when I’m looking for a specific recipe. She’s been blogging for 8 years, so there’s a broad spectrum of  recipes, covering everything from Italian pizza, the best Gingerbread cookies, traditional Hannukah desserts, and Moroccan stew. Her recipes are somehow detailed without being finicky, so you get maximum deliciousness with as few unnecessary steps and dirty dishes as possible. Plus she’s funny  and the writing is great. I’d honestly be surprised if you hadn’t heard of her, but she definitely deserves this spot.

    Mimi Thorisson's Kitchen in France
    Mimi Thorisson’s Kitchen in France
  2. Manger: I adore Mimi Thorisson’s blog. Her writing about life in the rural Médoc region of France is wonderful, and her husband Oddur’s photography is just gorgeous. I love that she writes about a part of France that isn’t Paris or Provence (I’m sure both are wonderful, but it’s nice to get a different perspective of France). The story I’m working on is set in Alsace, and Manger has been a huge source of inspiration and information about French traditions and cooking. I can’t recommend it enough. Her book A Kitchen in France just came out, and I’m definitely adding it to my Christmas list!

    Cara's Coconut Cake for Emily Dickinson
    Cara’s Coconut Cake for Emily Dickinson
  3. Yummy Books: Cara Nicoletti cooks up recipe pairings for a wide variety of books- she cooked her way through The Goldfinch, cured her own ham for Emma, and even baked some walnut brownies for Stacey’s Emergency from the Babysitter’s Club series. She’s well-read and knowledgeable about food, especially meat, since she grew up in a family of butchers and works at The Meat Hook. She takes a really creative approach to her food and book pairings (see her Brooklyn Restaurant & Book Pairings for a great example), and I love her writing. Her book Voracious is coming out next year, and I’m so excited!

    Ivan Day's Victorian Tablescape
    Ivan Day’s Victorian Tablescape
  4. Food History Jottings: Ivan Day is a British food historian. He has written books, taught classes, and worked on movies and TV shows. He is a stickler for historical accuracy, so if you’re trying to learn more about European food, he’s a great place to start. He’s particularly helpful if you’re hoping for a reliable historical source for a research paper (like my bachelor’s thesis on food in Jane Austen’s novels) or historical fiction.

    Emma's Sticky Toffee Pudding
    Emma’s Sticky Toffee Pudding
  5. Poires au Chocolat: Emma Gardner also pays careful attention to historical accuracy, but she’s less of a stickler than Ivan Day. Her recipes are very British, but not in a stodgy way. They’re great for learning more about British traditions (which can be helpful when reading British lit. or Harry Potter). She also has really interesting photography and videos to show you her processes, and she has a really helpful Foundations series to help you learn some basic techniques. (Also, her recipe for That Chocolate Cake is to die for. You should make that first.) Poires has been one of my favorite food blogs for a long time, so I was sad to read her retirement announcement. But she’s studying to be a doctor, so she understandably doesn’t have lots of free time. I’m really glad that she plans on turning her site into a digital cookbook of sorts, so we don’t have to worry about losing any of her wonderful recipes.

    Nicole's Flourless Chocolate Cake
    Nicole’s Flourless Chocolate Cake
  6. Eat this Poem: Nicole Gulotta’s literary food blog focuses on poetry and food, and the way they remind us of each other. She also has a Literary City Guides series where locals give you tips for the best restaurants, cafes, book stores, libraries, and other attractions for various cities. She recently wrote one for Houston, and it made my day. I love her thoughtful writing, and it’s always a refreshing read.

    Molly Yeh's Funfetti Biscotti
    Molly Yeh’s Funfetti Biscotti
  7. My Name is Yeh: Molly Yeh is wacky, adorable, and something of a mad scientist. Her recipes are heavily influenced by her Jewish and Chinese heritage, but she isn’t afraid to put her own twist on things– Halva Popsicles, Shawarma Nachos,  and Funfetti Biscotti. She’s done the research so that we can all know which sprinkles will be the most festive in our baked goods, and that imitation vanilla is the secret to the birthday cake of our elementary school dreams. Her plan to have her own cake house is making me all kinds of jealous.

    Mandy's Taiwan Beer-House Woked Clams
    Mandy’s Taiwan Beer-House Woked Clams
  8. Lady and Pups: Mandy writes “An Angry Food Blog- Homecooking with Extreme Prejudice,” and if that tagline doesn’t make you want to read her blog, I don’t know what will. After she moved to Beijing she started cooking up American classics she missed, as well as traditional Asian recipes (not just Chinese recipes- she has Thai, Japanese, Korean, you name it). But all come with her own “angry” twist, and they are so fun. The writing and photography are killer, and if you’re curious about Asian food, she’s a good place to go.

    Stephanie's Dissertation Vice
    Stephanie’s “Dissertation Vice” Dessert
  9. Desserts for Breakfast: Stephanie Shih’s photography is AMAZING. Her recipes are inventive, and she also talks about her work as a linguist, which is a really interesting combination with the food blogging. Her Dessertation (or dessert party for all her professors and friends after she successfully defended her dissertation) was such an interesting idea, and now I want to throw a fancy dessert party. Who knew linguistics and desserts could go together so well?

    Shanna's Kale and Eggs
    Shanna’s Kale and Eggs
  10. Food Loves Writing: and last but not least, Shanna and Tim Mallon’s blog is one of my favorites, but it’s on this list for a slightly different reason than the others. Shanna and Tim focus on whole foods, and while I’ve loved all their recipes I’ve tried (their cookbook was also released recently Oops, The Einkorn Cookbook is being released on December 1. My mistake!), the thing I love most is reading Shanna’s thoughts about creativity and writing and life. I read her post Kale and Eggs (Or Why You Should Start a Food Blog) whenever I’m feeling discouraged, and it is so, so good. Shanna is open, honest, and encouraging, and in a lot of ways, she’s exactly what I want to be as a writer.

This was such a fun post to write! I hope you’ve found some new food blogs to check out, whether it’s for photography ideas, world building, or recipe ideas. Honestly, I’m a little sad that some of my other favorite food blogs didn’t make it to this list- it seems unfair to ignore them because I “just” read them for the recipes. Someday I might have to remedy that situation, but today is not that day. I hope you have a relaxing weekend before the hubbub of the holidays begins.

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Weekend Thoughts & Links

Links Collage

 

I loved this post about How to stay motivated and achieve your goals from A Beautiful Mess! I’m not the biggest DIY person, but I love their writing and how their brand is developing. I think they’re super savvy, and maybe I’ll catch some of the savviness through osmosis? One can dream!

 

How to not be late… which I need since I’m perpetually late. It’s a problem.

 

This is the cutest outfit, and I’m pretty sure Kendi is the only person who can make a tulle skirt not too fussy for everyday. Plus I love the poppy red shoes (apparently I’m really into red lately).

 

Is it bad that this Flaming Cheetos Grilled Cheese sounds really good right now? Although Teddy is a little afraid, so I might have to whip this equally delicious looking Buffalo Wing Popcorn. Apparently I’m on a spicy food bender– please send help!

 

I’m looking at clutches to add to my Christmas list since I’m a menace with my huge tote bag. (I’ve already claimed a bottle of beer from a Central Market display as a victim, but I really don’t want to make that a trend.) I’m really liking this color-blocked clutch, and this tri-color clutch too.

 

Anybody else excited for holiday baking? I am definitely looking forward to making some of Deb’s spicy gingerbread.

 

I love Cara’s restaurant-book pairings. Such a simple idea, that I can’t believe hasn’t been done before. And she does it ridiculously well, of course.


Kate Beaton has a 2015 Red Riding Hood calendar in her shop, and it is my very favorite. Ever.

 

I can’t get over how cute those Beatrix Potter-esque illustrations are at this Virginia wedding.

 

I hope you all have great weekends, and make sure you stay warm out there! (Unless you live somewhere warm, in which case I’m coming to visit, FYI.)

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Twenty-two

30 Rock - Season 7

This has been a hard week. My first college loan payment, work hiccups, a cold front that I was completely unprepared for, and the nagging feeling that I should be doing something more productive– writing or doing laundry or cleaning my kitchen or working out or going to bed 15 minutes ago– have left me  feeling emotionally drained and physically exhausted. Basically I was Liz Lemon by Wednesday.

 

It feels kind of lame to say, but I’m still adjusting to post-grad life. 2014 has been “the year” for so long– the year I would graduate college, the year I’d get my first job, the year I’d get married. The year my life would begin (cue Tangled intro). But now I’m on the other side of 2014, and 2015 is about to start and I am terrified. Instead of working toward the big events that come with big twinkly lights, my life is happening in small steps, repeated over and over and over until I reach little mini events; a paycheck, a weekend trip to California, my birthday (when Taylor Swift’s 22 will officially not apply to me anymore). I was never good at the small “busy work” projects in school, and now it seems like my life is all busy work. I’m trying to learn to embrace the process.

 

It’s weird to be part of a stereotype (millennials), and have it both fit you and not fit you at the same time (i.e. I’m feeling a little lost, but I am “responsible” according to the “grown-up’s” definition of responsibility- living on my own, having a job, etc.). And honestly the fact that I’m “responsible” and have a job doesn’t necessarily have to do much with me being actually responsible; I’m so so so lucky that Teddy and I both have jobs. I know so many people who graduated recently who are still job hunting or are stuck at totally crappy jobs. Which is really sad, cause they’re all smart, hardworking people. I wish I could give them all jobs, but Teddy always tells me I can’t adopt all the cats, and I can’t give everyone all the jobs. And that sucks. I swear if I read one more judgmental article about millennials I might find the author and punch them; I fully understand the irony of saying that while I’m talking about being a millennial. I’m sorry, but this is my ramble. Go write your own if you don’t like it.

 

Luckily there have been bright spots to this week. I started watching Arrested Development (because I’m literally the worst at keeping up with shows while they’re airing). I talked to my Mom for 2 hours on Sunday. There were blackberry morning buns for my mornings (and maybe a couple afternoons and evenings). I have food to eat and a place to sleep and a husband and cat to cuddle. I have a library card to borrow new books. I watch Top Chef on Wednesdays, just like I did in high school while I washed the dishes– that sameness is oddly comforting. Christmas is coming and I think I actually get more excited every year. Today is Friday (Thank God).

 

And even though this week has been crummy on the writing front, I’ve learned some things. I loved those blackberry morning buns I mentioned earlier, but I just couldn’t bring myself to write the recipe out for a blog post (which is why this post is coming on Friday instead of Thursday). Recipe posts are by far the hardest for me to write. For a while I was wondering if maybe I wasn’t cut out for recipe writing, but then I thought that maybe my process just needs some tweaking. So I guess we’ll see!

 

I also  realized that the story idea I’m working about right now began in my creative writing class from last fall. Which means that I’ve been working on this idea (off and on) for a whole year, which is huge considering how many times I’ve given up on my ideas before. So that makes me think that this story has something going for it, even if I sometimes worry it’s stupid and dumb and no one will like it.

 

So to sum up, here’s what I’ve been thinking about as 2014 winds down:

  • Learn to embrace the process.
  • Don’t compare yourself to the 30 year-old bloggers or ladies working in your office who seem to be better at everything than you. They’ve had more time to get their house decorated/ cookbooks written/ life together. It isn’t a race. (The 30-year-old part applies to me specifically, but seriously, don’t beat yourself up because someone else seems more successful. It’s no fun, and it doesn’t help you get there any faster.)
  • Stop creating the worst scenarios in your head all the time. It’s good for novel-writing… not so much for normal life. this  is good to remember.
  • Find new ways to eat your veggies, but don’t forget ice cream and cookies sometimes (like I’d forget. Ha!).
  • I started reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and I’m not really into it. I feel like I’m reading Moby Dick with Superman as the big white whale. I’m going to give it a few more chapters, but if I’m still apathetic about it, I’m putting it down. I always feel a little guilty about not finishing a book, but I’m going to chalk it up to not being what I need right now. And that’s ok. Have you read it? Does it get any better later on? Am I the only person who doesn’t like this book?
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Weekend Thoughts & Links

Flavor Bible1

 

Can I tell you a secret? Recently I haven’t been excited to cook. I always get excited when it’s time to pick out the recipes and meals I’ll eat during the week, but when it’s Wednesday night and actually time to cook… I just don’t want to. And after dinner, I really don’t want to do all those dishes. It’s annoying, because cooking and baking used to be so exciting for me. It was a creative outlet when I was stuck writing research papers my senior year- I would pick recipes that were way too ambitious to get done by 6, so I would usually eat dinner at 8 with my very hangry roommates. And I loved cooking with Teddy, because it was fun and romantic, and our skills and weaknesses balance out well. I do the taste testing and seasoning, and Teddy does most of the chopping, since I’m clumsy and sometimes reckless around kitchen knives. The one chopping exception is onions. I somehow don’t cry when I’m chopping onions, so that’s my job.

 

Once, when I was trying to make crepes to order for 10 people for my roommate’s birthday (not my best idea), Teddy came to the rescue when I was about to lose my mind. He whipped out a second pan, and soon we had a crepe competition going on. He even managed to flip one without a spatula- on tape- and you can see my shocked face in the background. It’s one of my favorite cooking memories (it doesn’t hurt that those crepes were freaking delicious, if I do say so myself).

 

But at some point after I started cooking regularly, it went from fun creative outlet to daily chore. I miss baking cookies just because some friends came over to study, or picking a really complicated recipe that promises that a whole chicken will roast in 45 minutes, even though the last 5 took at least an hour. I miss inviting people over dinner after classes were over for the day.

 

I’m tired of being in a baking slump, so this weekend I’m going to make something just for fun (and to use all the blackberries I’ve been hiding away in my freezer). If it turns out well, you might hear about it sometime soon. In the meantime, here are some links that have helped kick my cooking mojo in gear:

 

-I don’t know about the goat cheese, but I am all about this recipe for oven pear chips.

-Molly made a homemade funfetti cake (with extensive sprinkle research!) and Michelle made chocolate frosting to put on top. Together I think they make the funfetti cake 12-year-old birthday dreams are made of.

-Christmas is coming, and I’m scheming about presents to buy and goodies to bake. I think these Brioche Cinnamon Rolls with Brown! Butter! Frosting might make an appearance at my Mom’s annual Christmas morning brunch.

Sticky Toffee Pudding is another Christmas-y, wintery dessert I’ve been wanting to try. It seems like one of those British desserts that belongs in a Dickens novel, even though it was invented in the 70’s. Weird!

-Speaking of British baked goods, someday I will write a post about food in Jane Austen’s novels. But until then, these crumpets look amazing!

 

Here are some other links I liked this week:

 

-This article is about longevity in blogging, but I think it applies to my struggle with practice and being diligent in other areas too. Let’s just say I’m working on it. There’s also a recipe for roasted cauliflower “rice,” which has me intrigued.

-Really inspired by this interview, and she seems like the nicest ever

-This is a really cool apartment, even if it’s not 100% my style (read: this girl is way cooler than me)

-Whenever I see photos of Tattly tattoos, I always want them, so I may finally jump the gun and order some! These are my current favorites: Cartolina blooms, I <3 you, and thinkin’ of a master plan

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Fall/ Winter Reading List + My Writing Uniform

It’s been  rainy and dreary here in Houston the past few days, and all I want to do is curl up on the couch and read, binge-watch Gilmore Girls, and write. I finally got a Houston Public Library card yesterday, so I was able to load up on some of the books on my fall reading list, even if it’s almost too late to have a fall reading list. Here’s what I’m excited to read lately:

 Fall Reading List

{Amy Poehler: Yes, Please; Emily St. John Mandel: Station Eleven; Jeffrey Overstreet: Auralia’s Colors; M.L. Longworth: Death in the VinesMichael Chabon: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and ClayNeil Gaiman: Stardust}

 

I’m kind of excited that I don’t have any plans for this weekend besides reading, binge-watching Gilmore Girls, Skyping a friend, and writing. I plan on wearing this pretty much all weekend:

 

My Writing Uniform

 

{Rowley Glasses + Sweater: Wit & Delight, by Melissa Oholendt, Epic sweatshirt: J. Crew, High Waisted leggings: H&M}

 

Some variation of a comfy sweater + leggings is my writing/ weekend uniform of choice. It’s comfy and cozy and perfect for when I know I’m not going to go out and see anyone, so I can wear my ugly-comfy sweater if I want to. Also, high waisted leggings because I hate when my leggings don’t stay put. But, if you want to feel a little fancier, you can wear a fancy robe like this one, or this one (despite its ridiculous name). I got one from some of my friends at my lingerie shower, and it’s one of my favorite things. I think it can give a washed up 40’s screen siren / Miss Havisham vibe, which would be fun if you want to pretend to be Zelda Fitzgerald for the day.

 

What are you reading/ writing this week? I’m excited to do some more work on my plot and characters and maybe write some more story blurbs. I started writing some this past week, but I felt overwhelmed by how much I still don’t know, so I decided to keep up with the writing while I work out some of the details. Anyone who’s doing NaNoWriMo, how’s it going? I found this article about  ways to get inspired even if you’re not joining in, and I thought it was pretty great.

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Weekend Thoughts & Links

This week was a weird one, and I’ve been kind of all over the place lately. In case you were wondering if Teddy is earning a medal for dealing with me on a daily basis, the answer is definitely yes. Since they’re out of medals (cough cough), I’ll buy him an extra big ice cream cone this weekend. I don’t know about you, but I need some time away really bad. Although I’ll miss this dumb-butt when I’m gone. (For the record that face either means “Mama, please stop singing,” or “Mama, your voice is so mesmerizing. Please don’t stop.” I’m going with the mesmerizing one, personally.)

Tonks

I love love love this Non-Career Advice series, even though there are only two entries so far. Honestly I’m ready for some advice that isn’t telling me to kill myself trying to “get ahead.” That advice is pretty self-explanatory, and honestly who needs that? Screw that.

Here’s some other good advice that (while it might apply to job stuff as well) is really just good for life in general. More of this kind of advice, please!

-This description of the foggy island of new mommy-hood really resonated with me, even if I’m not a mom yet (unless you count my cat, which is definitely stretching it). Moving to such a big city has been really lonely for me so far, but I’m hoping to feel really at home here soon.

Fear is a Liar and 4 other sayings to keep you grounded.

Advice to College Grads. So helpful, even if you’re not a recent graduate. There’s some overlap, but these 10 Dos and Don’ts for a Simpler Life are pretty great too.

How to move to a new city (and not cry in a corner from loneliness). That title says it all.

-So if you read my last Weekend Thoughts post, you’ll remember that since my big move out west I’ve been feeling really lonely, and pathetic on top of that for feeling sad and lonely in the first place. Ugh. But I read this Ask Polly article about making friends in your 20’s and it made me feel so much better because apparently I’m not the only one dealing with this. Who knew? If you are also in the lonely boat, read this article (and then comment here. I’d love to have a virtual conversation with you.)

 

These links aren’t advice related, but they’re still fun:

 

-I’ve been feeling the itch to start dancing again, but my flat feet, weak ankles, and general clumsiness make me nervous. Maybe I can watch some Youtube videos…

-These cheese straws look ridiculously delicious! Different than the ones I grew up eating from a little local shop, but I think they’d be just as addictive.

-Thinking about adding this necklace to my Christmas list… I married into a family of geo-chemists / mineral collectors, and the shiny, pretty stones have definitely made an impression… the actual science, not as much.

-This video is so funny. Poor Gail.

-Love Marion’s art blog and her new side blog for her Lost Enchantor story is ridiculously cool. You should check it out!

-I mentioned birthday parties earlier this week, and then I saw this fun 33rd birthday party. I would love to have a fancy schmancy birthday party like that someday!

-I’ve pinned some really cute and styled studio spaces, but honestly I’ve been drawn to this really simple space lately. It’s a good reminder that even if I don’t have the most “Pinterest-worthy” apartment or office, I can still get good work and good rest done in my little apartment, crappy shower and creaky bed and all.

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