Weekend Thoughts & Links

This is weekend is the first weekend it’s felt sort of like fall in Houston, and I’m enjoying it as long as it lasts.

Baking Day2

I baked all the fall things today: Apple Pie Biscuits, Pumpkin Pound Cake, and Boiled Cider (which I’m planning on putting on everything). Funny story about pound cake– it’s a big deal in my family . We have a top secret family recipe and I had to explain why I was yelling in the kitchen to a very confused Teddy — apparently it’s not normal to open the oven and yell at the cake so that you’ll get a sad streak (which is considered the best part of the pound cake in my family). Please tell me we’re not the only family that has a weird cooking tradition.

If yelling at pound cakes isn’t your thing, you should make these Apple Pie Biscuits! They’re really yummy, and since they happen to be part of Joy the Baker’s Baking Bootcamp, if you make them by October 11 and post a photo on Instagram you could win a year’s worth of flour and some other cool stuff from King Arthur Flour. You can find all the details and the recipe here. (For the record, I’m not affiliated with this contest and I don’t get anything for posting about it. I just think it’s super fun and wanted to let you know while you still have time to enter. Good luck!)

 

Other things I thought were cool on the Interwebs this week:

I saw my name pop a couple times this week, which always takes me by surprise because I don’t see it very often. Garance Doré wrote about Tabitha Simmons’ new line of shoes, and they are awesome and I want 200 pairs. And it took me longer than I’d care to admit to figure out who the Tabitha from this post was. Oops.

 

This is the cutest desktop background ever. I’m a sucker for schnauzers (or scottie dogs that I pretend are schnauzers).

 

I had no idea that October is National Arts and Humanities month, but I really liked the Vogue photoshoot for it. (Is it just me or is it hard to keep up with all the National ____ Days/ Months lately? I only knew about National Coffee Day and National Taco Day because everybody else was talking about it. Oops.)

 

This party happened earlier this year, but I was thinking about it again this week. Doesn’t it look fun? I really want to throw/ attend one of these this winter.

 

Speaking of parties, this one seemed really cool, and I can’t wait for her to post more about the hanging wall paper idea, because I’m definitely stealing that. Also I’m glad I’m not the only one who has to invite people over to be motivated to clean/ decorate/ do laundry.

 

These shirts are supposed to tell the story of NYC, but personally I don’t think I could wear a shirt that says “Pervasive” or “Galvanic” or “Inexhaustible.” But I could totally get behind “Elusive,” or “Spectral” for Halloween (especially if you’re not into dressing up but don’t want people to get on your case about it). I also think “Abrasive” would be great for days grumpy/ sleepy days when you don’t want to talk to anyone.

What have you been excited about this week? I hope you have a great weekend!

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Treacle Tart (and House Elves)

Treacle Tart5

Treacle tart and I are still becoming friends. The dough and I got in a fight during my second attempt (Apparently I was having an off day in the kitchen and it decided to take advantage of that. Jerk). While treacle tart seems kind of unusual to me, it’s sweet and soft and comforting and very British, so it makes sense that it’s Harry Potter’s favorite dessert.

Treacle Tart (Attempt #1)

I loved Emma Gardner’s post about treacle tart’s role in the Harry Potter series. She notes its appearance at 4 out of the 5 sorting feasts Harry attends; it definitely highlights the stark contrast between his dreary life in the Dursleys’ cupboard and his wonderful new life at Hogwarts. The Dursleys even chose his meager treats at the zoo — they bought him the cheapest lemon ice pop (and only so they weren’t embarrassed in front of the lady selling ice cream) and they let him finish the knickerbocker glory that was “too small” for Dudley.

 

After years of neglect and near-starvation, Harry is thrilled to buy treats on the Hogwarts Express and share them with his new friends, but the Sorting Feast is even more exciting. Food magically appears on the table, and he can eat to his heart’s content for the first time in his life.

The Dursleys had never exactly starved Harry, but he’d never been allowed to eat as much as he liked. Dudley had always taken anything that Harry really wanted, even if it made him sick. Harry piled his plate with a bit of everything except the peppermints and began to eat. It was all delicious…. When everyone had eaten as much as they could, the remains of the food faded from the plates, leaving them sparkling clean as before.  A moment later the desserts appeared…. As Harry helped himself to a treacle tart, the talk turned to their families (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, page 123).

Hagrid and Mrs. Weasley both made sure to provide food for him whenever he visited (although Harry much preferred Mrs. Weasley’s cooking to Hagrid’s rock cakes), but the treacle tart at Hogwarts becomes his favorite. It symbolizes being loved and cared for, which is a completely unknown feeling at the Dursleys’.

 

However, Harry, Ron, and Hermione learn in The Goblet of Fire that house elves make all the food at Hogwarts. While Harry and Ron don’t grasp the consequences of this, Hermione is horrified. The plentiful, nourishing food at Hogwarts is connected to the problematic treatment of house elves at the hands of wizards.

“Slave labor,” said Hermione, breathing hard through her nose. “That’s what made this dinner. Slave labor.” And she refused to eat another bite…. “Treacle tart, Hermione!” said Ron, deliberately wafting its smell towards her. “Spotted dick, look! Chocolate gateau!” But Hermione gave him a look so reminiscent of Professor McGonagall that he gave up (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, page 182-3).

In The Deathly Hallows, the connection between treacle tart and house elves is even stronger — the reformed Kreacher makes treacle tart especially because he knows Harry likes it so much. Treacle tart means home and love to Harry (which explains why he smells it in the Amortentia), but it also brings up uncomfortable questions about the house elves at Hogwarts, and the shaky relationships between wizards and other magical creatures. I love how complex such a seemingly small detail becomes in the context of the whole series. I can’t say that J.K. Rowling explicitly made the connection between house elves’ rights and treacle tart, but I think it adds even more depth to the series.

 

Treacle Tart4

 

If you like Harry Potter, or even just like English food, try this recipe. I’d love to know what you think. For Americans who have no idea what treacle is, here’s an explanation:

 

Embarrassingly, I thought treacle was a type of gasoline for years because the first time I heard of it was in Alice in Wonderland, and I’d only heard of water or gasoline wells. (In my defense, I was in elementary school.) Eventually I discovered that treacle is actually just a syrupy by-product of the sugar production process. Apparently there’s a long tradition of tricking people with stories about treacle mines or wells, so at least I’m in good company. It’s fairly unknown in the US, but it’s really similar to the corn syrup used for Pecan Pie in the South or the honey in a Honey Pie from up North (although I’ve never had a honey pie, so that’s just an educated guess). I would NOT suggest substituting corn syrup or honey for the golden syrup, though. I’ve been able to find golden syrup at Fresh Market and even some Krogers, but if you can’t find it near you you can order it on Amazon.

 

Baking Notes:

We used Emma’s new and improved recipe and it was delicious! I “pulled a Monica” (Friends, anyone?) the first time I made this and completely forgot to add the lemon juice to the filling. But the lemon juice totally makes this tart, so don’t make the same mistakes I did.

 

I used Challah bread for my breadcrumbs, and then store bought, but both times my crumbs were smaller than the ones Emma uses in her post. So if you want larger breadcrumbs maybe grind them a little less finely in your food processor.

 

The dough is one of the fussier pie crusts I’ve made, so I’m still deciding if I’m going to use this one next time or try another pastry recipe.

 

Definitely make sure to watch Emma’s videos about rubbing the butter into the flour, and how she mixes the wet and dry ingredients together. I’d never even heard of rubbing in butter into a pastry dough, but I think I’ll have to try it more often – it definitely mixes more evenly than with a pastry blender.

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Weekend Thoughts + Links

Tiny Red Book Brooch by Buntmal

Since I’m working full time now, I’ve realized that most of my clothes aren’t considered office appropriate. Since I don’t have the money to go out and by a whole new wardrobe (Who does? If you do, will you take me shopping?) I’ve been trying to wear pieces in different combinations, with different belts and jewelry so I don’t feel like I’m wearing the same outfit every week. I work at a realty company, so I don’t have to dress like I’m going to work at the Vogue office, but it makes me feel better about going into work every day. I’ve also been thinking about a post I read this week about growing a minimalist wardrobe from Reading My Tea Leaves, and trying to think about donating clothes I don’t wear much and slowly adding new pieces that I can mix and match for both the office and the weekend. Sabrina of afterDRK talks about her 5 piece French Wardrobe theory, which I think is really interesting too.

– My style is generally sort of menswear inspired meets elementary school teacher / librarian (if that’s even a thing), so I love the little book brooch (pictured above) I found this week from Buntmal. It’s definitely going on my Christmas wishlist.

– Have you read Noelle Stevenson’s webcomic Nimona? It’s ending next week, which seems crazy! It’s being published sometime next year, so I will definitely be buying it. In the meantime, I can’t wait to read the final page next week!

– Are you dressing up for Halloween? I don’t think Teddy and I will unless we know someone who’s having a costume party, but there are some really awesome DIY costumes over at Oh Happy Day this week. The moth costume is stinkin’ cute, but since I’m kind of terrified of moths (long story) I’d probably dress up as an adorable cupcake.

– The Easy Laminated Nutella Morning Buns have me drooling, and are definitely going on my to-bake list. They seem like a good template for other flavors too, which is really fun!

– In my quest to successfully frost a layer cake (and have it look pretty at the end), I might turn to this DIY Abstract Watercolor Painted Cake from Sugar and Cloth. Seriously pretty, and it seems accessible for either a rookie or veteran cake decorator.

– This song has been on repeat at work this week (sorry to everyone in my office!), and the video’s pretty good too.

I have a really fun post coming up this week that I’m really excited about, so come by on Thursday to see it! I hope you all have a great week!

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Office Space

The first time Teddy and I saw our apartment was the first time we walked in the door. It was stressful for both of us because we didn’t really know what we were getting into. There have definitely been some great surprises, like the built-in bookshelves and working fireplace, but there have been some not-so-fun surprises too, like the mustard-colored walls, the (literally) temperamental shower, and a mini-me washer and dryer. Our apartment is definitely still coming together (read: most of the walls are bare and there is a massive pile of dishes in the sink). Teddy and I are having a little too much fun planning what our next apartment will look like (I’m voting for white walls. A girl can hope, right?) One of the things that I’ve been really dreaming about is a work space for both me and Teddy. I even have a Pinterest board for it.

Teddy's Desk

This picture of Teddy working on his computer is a little moody– I promise I was just experimenting with my VSCO CAM app and not trying to drop a hint! His computer set-up is huge and takes up the whole desk (I guess it comes with the territory of marrying a techie person), so I usually end up writing on the couch while he’s using his desktop. And while we don’t really have space to change up the current desk situation, I’m hoping to have a shared office space when we move into our next apartment. It’ll be an interesting task to make a space that appeals to both a writer and a computer guy. (Who also doesn’t want everything floral. Weird, right?)

Here’s what I would currently put in my dream office:

PicMonkey Collage2

Here are some offices that I’m going to copy be inspired by whenever I’m able to decorate my own mini-office.

Emily A. Clarke's office

Emily A. Clarke’s whole house tour is beautiful, but her office is literally my dream office. I love the big bookcase and the farmhouse table. One girl in my SIP class wrote about Madeleine L’Engle’s writing process, and I have a fantasy of having an office in the living or dining area so I can be around my family/ keep my future kids from climbing up the curtains. I’m sure I’ll look back at this and laugh when I actually have kids, but it sounds great right now.

Mandi Johnson desk

I love this custom built-in desk, and the fact that it’s in the living room. I won’t be able to make custom furniture as long as we’re in a rental, but maybe Teddy will like flexing his carpenter skills someday if we have a house.

LA Shop

This mini-desk from Victoria’s trip to LA is so cute! I’m really into the “Love Rules Forever” sign and the bunny figurine.

window seat desk

I love this little desk by the window from Lark & Linen– it’s actually part of a library-turned-house, which I think is really cool!

Apartment Apothecary office makeover

This is such a cute and simple shared-office makeover from Apartment Apothecary.

What about you guys? What would your dream office look like?

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Coffee Shop Eats: Crumb Cake

Have you heard the saying not to “eat your feelings?”

I’ve had my fair share of nights with girlfriends passing around a jar of Nutella and a spoon after a breakup (don’t pretend you’ve never done it), but one of the most important food rituals I started in college was my pre-paper coffee.

I actually didn’t really drink coffee until around my sophomore year of college, which is especially odd since I come from a family of coffee addicts. But the bigger my workload became, the more often I would leave campus for a caffeinated pick-me-up, and by my senior year I could drink a latte (without syrup!) instead of the frappuccinos I ordered as a freshman. My friends and I had our favorite spots, from the Starbucks 10 minutes from campus to the more hipster places at least 20 minutes away (an occupational hazard of going to school on a mountain). I loved studying there, both for the change of scenery and the chance to pick up a muffin or scone if I needed an extra boost. (I mentioned before that I’ll take what I can get when it comes to writing inspiration.)

Blueberry Crumb Cake

To this day, drinking a latte immediately gets me in the mood to get to work, which makes me wonder if this is one of the secrets to bribing your muse, or as Anne Lamott puts it, the Dr. Seuss creature working away in your subconscious. But the rub is that I haven’t found a favorite coffee shop in Houston yet, and Starbucks gets pricey after a while. So I thought, why not make my own creativity fuel?

I have yet to make the perfect latte, but a crumb cake, that I can do. I made the Blueberry Crumb Cake from Smitten Kitchen (embarrassingly in a tart pan, since I didn’t have a deep enough round pan) and The Black Thyme Muffins from The FauxMartha (in a loaf pan, because my muffin tin went missing since the move to Houston… luckily she gives directions for that as well!).

Blackberry Crumb Cake

Both are completely delicious; the hit of lemon in the blueberry cake recipe is ridiculously addictive, and I’m the biggest sucker for thyme, so I knew I would be making Melissa’s recipe as soon as I could get my hands on some on-sale blackberries. (Tricky in the summer, but I’m excited for more berries this fall. Just look how pretty they are…)

Blackberries

Baking notes:
Don’t get too overzealous when mixing up the crumble toppings. If you mix the sugar and butter and maple syrup (for the FauxMartha recipe) too enthusiastically, it won’t end up as crumbly once it’s baked. It’s still delicious, but it does affect the texture slightly.

Melissa’s note about the “whole milk” yogurt threw me off, so I used some Greek yogurt that we had in the fridge. I later read this article from The Kitchn that explained that the Greek yogurt is simply strained a third time, so it’s extra thick compared to regular yogurt. This made the final cake a little dense (but still moist, so we didn’t mind too much). So I would advise you to use “full fat,” regular yogurt for the moistness and lack of density.

Do you guys have any go-to rituals for getting in the mood to write, run, or do laundry? (Please let me know if you have a ritual that makes laundry more fun. I would love you forever.)

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Back to School

By this time in August I’m usually in Georgia with my college roommate, going to Target for school supply shopping, and wearing sweaters in anticipation of September. But since I walked across a big stage in May, I’m not going back to school for the first time in my life, and it’s a weird feeling. My sense of time is pretty wonky at the best of times, but it’s especially bad this year. I moved in with a new (and permanent) roommate in July and the heat index has been 100+ for most of this week, I keep forgetting that the first of September is next Monday. When did that happen? Where did summer go?

Technically summer will still be with me for a while—at least if melting whenever you walk outside counts as summer. But while my new driver’s license might say “Texas,” my brain still says “Virginia and Georgia,” so I’m craving the hints that fall is coming. The chilly evenings, new notebooks, new class schedule, the very first Pumpkin spice latte of the year, and maybe a new sweater because it’s almost September, and September means sweater weather.

I could get away with wearing a sweater in August in Georgia (I’m perpetually cold, so that usually saves me from getting heat stroke), but Texas heat is not so forgiving, making sweater shopping pretty unappealing. But I’d been on the lookout for a cognac bag since I saw the Madewell Tote on Kendi Everyday. I was looking for something roomy with a crossbody strap but didn’t have any luck until a random trip to Target— and at roughly 1/5 the price of the Madewell tote I couldn’t say no. It doesn’t hurt that it feels “writerly” to me. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who needs a little help to get in the writing mood?)

Bags collage1

Now that I have my “writing” bag, I’m all set to “go back to school” – or at least start writing regularly again. I’ve been on a semi-planned hiatus this summer since I finished up my senior thesis in May, but now I’m itching to get writing again. I can pick what I read and write about now, which is exhilarating and daunting at the same time. So let’s go out there and study (or write, or paint, etc). But let me grab my purse first.

Note about the product photos: I’m not sure why, but the lighting for the Target product photo is just awful. Don’t be scared– in person it’s not shiny at all and is a nice brown cognac color.

Madewell Transport Tote
Madewell Mini Transport Crossbody
Merona Tote in Cognac

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Brunch for Two

Breakfast might be the most important meal of the day, but brunch is quickly becoming my favorite. Since moving to Houston a few weeks ago I’ve made brunch almost every Saturday morning. What started as a thank you to Teddy for making breakfast on weekday mornings (which helps ensure that I’m fully dressed when I run out the door) has now become a weekly brunch for two.

Dutch Baby with Jam

While I would never say no to brunch with friends and a mimosa (or two), when I’m cooking on a Saturday morning I want it to be simple… but just a tiny bit fancy. It is brunch, after all. I had seen a recipe for a Dutch Baby by Emma Gardner of Poires au Chocolat , and it seemed much more appealing than flipping pancakes all morning. Trust me, this will make all your brunch dreams come true.

First Dutch baby

Light and puffy and golden, it was the most perfect pancake I’d ever made. I could hardly believe that I made something that pretty in my pajamas and bathrobe. The best part: if you have a kitchen scale you can make it in one bowl and one cast iron pan. If this hasn’t convinced you to make a Dutch baby this weekend, just go check out the original post here. If you do decide to make it this weekend, will you invite me over?

Some cooking notes:
-As you can see in the photo above, I used a little too much butter for the pan the first time I tried this, so when I poured in the batter the extra butter settled on top and made it shiny and a little extra buttery. Not the worst thing in the world, but I would recommend only using a tsp or two of butter, and swirling it around the pan right before you pour the batter in.
-Last weekend I switched out the all purpose flour for white whole wheat flour, which didn’t let the pancake puff as much as I would like (as you can see in the first photo). Next time I’ll try to only switch out 1/4 or 1/2 of the flour instead.
-Emma has some really yummy sounding pancake topping ideas, but my favorite way to eat it so far has been with raspberry jam and maple syrup. I read about Phyllis Grant swirling jam through her batter before baking it, and it’s a game-changer. (You can see some jam mixed into the Dutch Baby in the first photo.)
-The best part of this recipe? Once the batter’s in the pan, you are DONE. (Try that with traditional pancakes.) What you do with the 20-25 minutes it’s doing its thing in the oven is up to you. Cuddle your cat, curl up on the couch with a book, maybe take a quick nap (not exactly recommended, but I’ve definitely thought about it before). Maybe if you want to get crazy you could sip a mimosa and do your nails.
-Want some more Dutch Baby Ideas? Check out Joy the Baker’s Triple Berry Dutch Baby and Smitten Kitchen’s Cherry Almond Dutch Baby. Both sound amazing!

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Literary Bucket List

I recently found out about I Believe in Story, by Maria Vicente, and it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs. I read her Literary Bucket List, and it got me thinking about what would be on my literary bucket list.

my bookshelf2

Join a Book Club. This was on Maria’s bucket list as well, but I’ve been wishing I could join a book club for a while now. I never had time during school (although I went to a few writing club meetings my senior year), but I think it’d be so fun to meet up with friends for drinks and snacks and books. I heard that a local bookstore holds a monthly book club, so I might pop into a meeting or two and see how it goes.

Write a novel. This has been on my bucket list since sixth grade, and it’s probably the most intimidating item on my bucket list. Luckily middle-school-me was smart enough not to demand it be the next Great American novel. I’m actually leaning toward children’s literature, since it makes up a good chunk of what I read on a regular basis (I’m on a Harry Potter kick at the moment).

Be a guest on a late-night talk show. This is mostly a goofy goal (especially since I rarely actually watch late night talk shows), but I always thought it would be really fun to get dolled up and go joke around and tell funny stories. Jimmy Fallon would probably be my top pick for this, especially after reading this article. I’d love to do a lip sync battle too, but I could never top Emma Stone.

Write a cookbook. This is actually even more intimidating than writing a novel in some ways. I tweak recipes from time to time, but I’ve never developed a recipe from scratch before. So this is definitely a maybe-sometime goal.

Have my own library. I’m pretty sure I’ve had this dream since I first saw Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Have you seen Jenny Komenda’s bookshelves from Little Green Notebook? They are beautiful, and I love the rolling ladder. These work spaces are pretty inspiring too, although some of them are so messy that I get stressed out just imagining trying to find anything. I tend to be a messy person, but I have nothing on Alexander Calder.

The most feasible item on my literary bucket list is also fairly challenging- write (at least a little bit) every day. It really is all about keeping up the momentum, and I’m doing my best to turn off my editor’s brain and just write. The editing can come later, but for now, I’m trying to just write as much as possible.

So what about you? Do you have a bucket list? I’ve been thinking about all the recipes/ cooking techniques I want to try, so I may have to write out a Culinary Bucket List soon.

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