Auf Wiedersehen, 2014

Favorite 2014 Blog Posts

I can’t believe 2014 is already over! It’s been a year of big changes, and I’m looking forward to see what the new year will bring — hopefully lots of writing, reading, good meals, and trips to visit family and friends! I’m still mulling over my New Year’s Resolutions, so for now I thought I’d share my 10 favorite posts from 2014:

 

Jammy Dutch Baby

 

Brunch for Two

Because it’s a fun tradition that I’ve fallen out of, and would love to pick up again.

 

Treacle Tart (Attempt #1)

 

Treacle Tart and House Elves

Because I don’t track page views, but this post wins most spammy comments, hands-down. Also, I really like what I wrote, despite the funny note-to-self that slipped through the editing process. Oops!

 

Elsbeth Inspiration board

 

Sketchy: Character Development

I’m currently feeling really good about my story idea, and my Pinterest board storyboarding is still going strong. So much work ahead, but (hopefully) fun work.

 

Harry Potter

 

Dear Reader: Harry Potter Re-Read

Falling in love with Harry Potter all over again, and trying to decide how I feel about Dumbledore.

 

Apple Pie Two Ways

 

Apple Pie Two Ways

My two favorite apple pie recipes. There are no fancy lattice-tops or crimped edges, but they’re addictive.

 

30 Rock - Season 7

 

Twenty-two 

Some angsty feelings here, about being part of a generation that’s mocked pretty much incessantly for not knowing how to navigate a world that’s changing everyday.

 

 

Thankful

The counter to angsty feelings and homesickness, being thankful in a new town, in a new life.

 

Yellow Deli

 

My Writing Life

A little explanation of where I’m coming from as a writer.

 

Santa Monica

 

Pics or It Didn’t Happen: LA

My first travel post for the blog! It was a fun trip and a fun post to write, so hopefully there will be more travel posts in the coming year!

 

Food Blogger collage

 

Resources: My 10 Favorite Food Blogs

Secretly my favorite post, my oversharing tendencies are used for good here. Food blogs that are great for worldbuilding, photography practice, and recipes.

 

Auf Wiedersehen, 2014. It’s been real. Here’s to a full, happy 2015! I hope you have a Happy New Year’s Eve and relaxing New Year’s Day!

 

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Till It’s Christmas in the Room

Till it's Christmas in the Room

 

 

I made it home for Christmas! And it’s so great getting to see me family again. It definitely doesn’t hurt that my Mom is the Queen of Christmas decorating, and so just walking into the house puts you in the Christmas spirit.

 

Work has been crazy the past month, and next month will be even crazier, so I am so ready for some good rest. I read this blog post the other day, and realized that I’ve been craving the slowness of the winter season, to be able to curl up on the couch with a book, this song playing, and the candles “blazing” in the fireplace. So I’m going to take a break from blogging for the next couple of weeks so I can celebrate Christmas and New Year’s and recharge before the craziness of the new year begins. I know I’ve been posting a little more sporadically the last few weeks (instead of my regular Thursday posts), and unfortunately I can’t promise that that will change for the next few weeks, since January is the craziest month of the year for my office.

 

I hope you have a happy and relaxing holiday season, and a happy New Year! I’ll see you here in 2015!

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Pics or It Didn’t Happen: LA

I can’t believe it’s already the 12 of December. Where is December going? Christmas is my favorite time of year, so I’m trying to soak up as much of it as I can. Which is surprisingly hard as an adult… and when you’re in southern California.


I visited L.A. for the first time this past weekend, and it was such a whirlwind trip! I spent about half of the trip being an anxiety-ridden mess (don’t you love when your brain does that?), but the other half was so much fun. I did all the typical tourist things because I am a tourist, but I’m already thinking about places I’d like to go the next time I’m in L.A.- revisiting some places, and getting to try out some less touristy spots too. So here are a few scenes from my trip to L.A.:

What's Out of Frame

This was the first time I’d been to the west coast, so it was the first time I’d seen the Pacific Ocean. I’m usually not the biggest beach fan, but I loved going to Santa Monica and seeing the ocean. Maybe because it was a totally different ocean than the one I grew up visiting? I’m not sure.

This is my favorite photo I took at the beach that day, partially because of what you can’t see. Just to the right of me a girl was doing yoga poses for a photographer while getting mobbed by the BIGGEST sea gulls I’ve ever seen. They might not look big in the photo, but it’s a lie. They are massive! The model was a good sport (both for dealing with the birds and for wearing a bikini in December – I know it’s southern California, but geez!). She was braver than me, because I would have run away from those sea gulls. They were terrifying.

 

Blue Bottle Cappucino

 

The next day we drove back through Santa Monica and went to Blue Bottle Coffee (aka the most hipster coffee place ever). And I took an obligatory photo of my latte art. Not even sorry. Random fact, I always order lattes if I’m a Starbucks or another coffee chain, but if I’m at a fancy coffee shop I always get a cappuccino. So I definitely got a cappuccino this time around, and it was the foamiest cappuccino I’ve ever had. So good!

Santa Monica

 

After coffee we drove up to Pepperdine trying to find the highest point we could get to (and maybe trespassed a little… oops!). After an impromptu hike, we got to this point. This is one of my favorite photos from the trip, and it’s so pretty you wouldn’t know I was almost hyperventilating the whole time. Apparently my fear of heights is getting worse as I get older. So that wasn’t exactly my favorite part of the trip, but at least I got a good photo, right?

Kiss Wannabes

 

And then, after our crazy hike, we got to go see Watsky, and it was really fun! In case you haven’t heard, Watsky started out in spoken word and then started rapping. His songs are funny, smart, and irreverent, which might sound like English major-speak, but what else would you call a song about gentrification called Kill a Hipster? If you get the chance to see him live, do it. (Just as a PSA, pretty much every song is NSFW, so I wouldn’t listen to it around your Grandma or your 5 year old niece.)

Santa Recon

 

The next day we went to the L.A. Farmer’s Market, and got to walk around a cute little shopping area called The Grove where they had the BIGGEST Christmas tree I’ve ever seen. I loved all the Christmas decorations I saw around the city; since I moved to the Southwest, I’ve noticed that they go big with the Christmas decorations, because you wouldn’t know it was Christmas without them. So I really appreciate the Christmas trees and fly-by’s from Santa.

There was one more day of our trip, but I’m waiting to get some other photos. It’s totally worth it, I promise!

I was the unofficial restaurant chooser for the weekend, and the LA City Guides from Cupcakes & Cashmere and Eat This Poem were really helpful for finding really fun restaurants. Next time I’m in L.A., I’m hoping to visit some of the bookstores, coffee shops, and restaurants from Nicole’s Literary City Guide that I missed the first time. Have you been to L.A.? Do you have any go-to spots?

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Gift Guide: For Your Outdoorsy Brother

Gifts for your Outdoorsy Bro

 

Boys are notoriously hard to buy for. There are plenty of luxe products out there for guys, but just thinking about what my brothers would do to a cashmere scarf is enough to make me not want to buy anything that doesn’t come with a lifetime warranty. Many of these gift ideas are things that my family has actually owned and used for years, and if it can survive my Dad and brothers, it can probably survive anything you can throw at it. I tried to pick things that are useful and fun, so that hopefully they’ll find a spot on your family’s must-have list for camping trips.

Eno hammock – While this Tauntaun sleeping bag would definitely win you awesome points, unfortunately it isn’t made for going outside. Sad, I know. But Eno hammocks were HUGE when I was at Covenant, and if the weather was nice you could almost always see one or two hammocks hung up in the trees by the chapel lawn. One guy would bring his Eno on caving trips (I’m not sure where he would hang his Eno, but anyway), so if it works for him, I figure it’s good.

Roasting Forks – Who doesn’t love roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over the campfire? If you don’t want to use random sticks from your campsite (not that I’ve done that before…), these roasting sticks are perfect. You can get the perfect toastiness on your marshmallow without getting too close to the flames.

Popcorn Popper – Popping your own popcorn always seems so rustic and homey. This popcorn popper would be great for popping popcorn over a campfire or in a fireplace. Even if you don’t have your own fireplace or back yard, this would be a great excuse to borrow a friend’s. And then invite me over.

Kershaw Clash Drop Point Knife – A Swiss Army Knife is also a great classic option, but if you’re looking for something different, this Kershaw knife would be a great pick. My brother collects pocket knives, and he loves the Kershaw brand. He says that they come in a wide range of prices, but are always really good quality. So no matter which one you pick, you know it’ll be a good knife. Which is great if you’re as clueless about pocket knives as me (luckily you don’t have to take my word on this one).

 Campware Nonstick Pan – I always picture cowboys cooking chili in a cast iron Dutch Oven, but if that’s too big and clunky, this nonstick pan would be great. The handle is detachable so you can save space when you’re packing (always a plus when you’re camping) and it weighs 4 pounds less than a cast iron pan. You can’t argue with that.

SmartWool Tech-Compatible Gloves – If your brothers lose gloves as often as mine do, you don’t want to spend tons of money on fancy ones. These look nice and warm and are Tech-Compatible too, which is especially great for the price.

Stanley 16 oz. Thermos – My Dad has had the 1.4 quart Stanley Thermos for years– and he can actually drink that much coffee by himself, which is kind of ridiculous. If a thermos has managed to survive a decade of camping trips, it’s definitely a good buy. Although I would definitely get the 16 oz., unless you’re making coffee for a crowd (or a caffeine addict– I’m looking at you, Dad).

Buffalo Plaid Trapper Hat – At first $88 seemed a little expensive for a hat that you’re giving to a boy who’s going to wear it out in the snow, but then I read that it has real rabbit fur. So now I’m a convert, and I would ask for it for me if I didn’t live in Texas. This might be a splurge, but I think it’d be totally worth it because I would wear it for years. Maybe you can buy this for your brother and then “borrow” it later. I won’t judge you.

 

Boys are definitely hard to shop for, but there are some things out there that can survive the most rough and tumble brothers out there, which is important if your brothers would shred up that nice sweater from J. Crew. I don’t know if mine would maul a cashmere sweater, but I’m too scared to try. I’ll stick with the non-stick pans and unbreakable thermoses, thanks!

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My Writing Life

Yellow Deli
This is a photo from the Yellow Deli, a really popular study spot in Chattanooga. I can’t tell you how many papers I wrote there.

 

I’ve been talking about writing a lot here. I didn’t exactly plan to, but whenever I would think about a blog post, I always wanted to write about the creative process, about tips and tricks I’ve picked up, about favorite authors or artists opening up their studios and giving away their secrets. I can be an oversharer of things I like (hopefully not of TMI), and I love when others share what makes them tick.

 

But I started thinking, you guys don’t necessarily know about my writing life outside of this blog (unless you happen to know me outside of the internet). You won’t find my name on the New York Times Bestseller List or my picture in the back of a book at your favorite bookstore. I haven’t won any awards or prizes or even been published (unless presenting at a conference counts? Still not sure about that one.). So if you’re wondering why I’m talking about writing all the time or if I know what I’m talking about, I get it. So I decided to share a little bit about my writing… history? Experience? Now that’s a scary word.

 

I grew up reading all the time. I was terrible at sports but good at words, so I read all the books I could get my hands on. And while I loved reading, I didn’t really think about being a writer myself until I was in 6th grade, when Miss Shoup noticed that I liked writing, and encouraged me to keep up with it. She deserves a medal for that, because I found some of my elementary and middle school writing and journals this summer and it was HORRIFYING. But she still somehow found good things to say about it. I think that’s the mark of a great teacher- encouraging you while still pushing you to be better- and I’m really lucky to have had lots of great teachers.

 

In high school I wrote mostly research papers and a terrible poem here and there, but I was excited for college because then I would finally get to write fiction! And then I went to Covenant, which has a great, academically-focused English program. Oops. So I still wrote mostly research papers (usually at the Yellow Deli or another coffee shop if I could), and even got to give presentations at two academic conferences (which still blows my mind), and took creative writing classes whenever I could. Even when I was supposed to be working on other writing projects, I was always daydreaming about characters and plotlines, but I always decided that my ideas were stupid before I got very far. (To be fair to past-me, I’ve read through some of my old character descriptions and plotlines and they are, in fact, pretty stupid. A lot of my main characters mysteriously resemble my middle/ high school crushes, so I’m ok with the fact that those stories never saw the light of day.)

 

So now that I’m out of college and working a real job, my writing life looks pretty different. I have a self-imposed deadline for blog posts, so that makes sure that I don’t completely slack off on the writing front. I’m working on a fantasy novel inspired by one of my creative writing classes from my senior year. I’m thinking it’d be for middle grades, but I’m not 100% sure about that yet. I’m still working out the kinks, figuring out what my bad habits are (procrastinating, falling down the swirling vortex that is “research,” etc.). Sometimes the mindlessness of watching TV is really appealing after a long day at work, but I really want my writing to be that fulfilling hobby to come home to everyday. I read this blog post about Erin Boyle’s writing process for her book the other day, and I think I’m going to try out a similar process. Have a little writing “nook” (ideally a cute little office space, but this is real life, so probably the dining room table or the couch). Drink hot chocolate. Write. That sounds so nice, and I’m kind of excited for it.

 

So, what do you guys think? Was this interesting? Self-indulgent? (Yes, probably, but oh well.)  I’m toying with the idea of mixing in some more fiction-process-things, along with other booky, foodie, blogger things. We’ll see. And if you’ve made it this far, thank you. I really appreciate you for reading my words.


I’m going to L.A. tomorrow for a whirlwind weekend, which is crazy and exciting because I’ve never been! I have one gift guide queued for you over the weekend, and then I’ll be back next week!

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