Friday Favorites: Trader Joe's

Friday, November 30, 2012

If you're lucky enough to live next to a Trader Joe's* you, like me, probably already have your favorite go-to products. If you aren't that lucky, well, you should move. Joking/not joking. Today—in celebration of Utah getting its very own Trader Joe's— here's a list of my favorite items that perpetually fill my grocery cart with happiness. 
1. Ginger Almond & Cashew Cereal. Generally speaking I'm not a cold cereal person, but this crunchy goodness changed my mind. Spicy cereal might just be my new favorite. Besides, who says cereal is just for breakfast?

2. Roasted Garlic Marinara. This is our go-to pasta sauce. Affordable and flavorful. I generally have a couple bottles on hand. 

3. Thai Red Curry Sauce. Shut up! This stuff is addicting. Dinner has never been easier. Saute your choice of meat/tofu and set aside. Next saute a few veggies (we like zucchini, red bell peppers, carrots, and onions), then add your meat back to the pot. Pour the thai red curry sauce over everything and serve warm over quinoa or couscous. Simple and delicious.

4. Chocolate European Style Yogurt. This yogurt has a fascinating flavor combination that reminds me of thin chocolate mousse with a hint of zingy lemon. And it doesn't produce nearly as much food-guilt as a decadent piece of chocolate cake.  

Know what else I LOVE about this neighborhood market? I like that the store has a no-questions-asked return policy. Buy a cereal that tastes like wallpaper? Return it. No judgement. No questions. And frankly that's kind of awesome. 

*Hope this doesn't sound like a product placement advertisement, rest assured I have received no compensation for the contents of this post.

Starships Were Meant to Fly

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Blast! Somehow I managed to press the wrong button and a draft post just went live. Lovely. Hopefully I've fixed all that nonsense and you'll just have to wait to read the real post later this weekend. Oh I love technology, but not as much as you, you see. Please pardon my faux pas. 

Meanwhile, I'll distract you with this weird but fairly amusing music video. You're welcome.  

Reading Lately

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

In the past month two different people have recommended a book to me. So today I walked over to the stacks and pulled it off the shelf. (That's one of the benefits of working in a library). The book is MWF seeking BFF and is about how the author, newly married, leaves her network of friends on the east coast, moves to the Midwest, and decides to go on 52 friend-dates in search of finding a new Best Friend Forever. She even places a classified ad! Admittedly, the plot already sounds all too familiar and a little depressing. My gut response was why would I want to read about something like that when I'm already living it? Sigh. Here's hoping I glean some wisdom out of this little volume and heck, maybe some tips on how to land a new brunch companion.

A Borrowed Quote & Making Bad Days Better

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I actually attack the concept of happiness. I don’t mind people being happy - but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying 'write down 3 things that made you happy today before you go to sleep', and 'cheer up' and 'happiness is our birthright' and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position - it’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say 'Quick! Move on! Cheer up!' I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word 'happiness' and to replace it with the word 'wholeness'. Ask yourself 'is this contributing to my wholeness?' and if you’re having a bad day, it is.

--Hugh Mackay

I know it's completely cliché to have a bad day on a Monday, but that's how yesterday turned out. It was just one of those days. A day that made me feel small and blue. A day that could only be made slightly better by coming home, lighting candles, putting on Miles Davis, and baking a cake (this ridiculously delicious cake to be precise). And last but not least, a day that ended with GH reading the final chapter of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire aloud to me. And that's where I was at last night. Today is better. And as I continue to recover from the malaise of a lingering sinus infection I imagine each day will only add to my wholeness; to learning to be where I am at. To understand that I am still adjusting to so much change and that the process of being alive simply involves, if not requires, this polarity of being. 

Dancing to the Music of Life: {Guest Post by Valerie}

Valerie is a misplaced urban girl who recently moved from DC to Utah. She loves good food, thoughtful conversation, and all things tropical. Belize is calling her name in January and she hopes the world will still be around even if the Mayan Calendar isn't.

Please forgive me for the bit of self-reflection that I'm about to indulge in. This post was influenced by the recent opportunity I've had to ponder my blessings. I credit my thoughts to the life altering experiences that have been thrown in my path when I tried to resist change.

“It is always the simple things that change our lives. And these
things never happen when you are looking for them to happen. Life will
reveal answers at the pace life wishes to do so. You feel like running, but
life is on a stroll. This is how God does things.”
                                                                                                        Donald Miller

This quote perfectly sums up the past four months of my life. I've recently transplanted myself from the hectic, ever changing lifestyle of a working professional in the Washington, DC metro area to the quiet, slower paced life of living in Utah. I'll admit the decision to move back to Utah wasn't one I desired, but rather a sense of duty to be closer to an ailing mother. I was uncertain of the lifestyle adjustment and yearned to stay in the bustling metropolis of the city. Fortunately, the timing to move was perfect! 
Driving through Alta, UT
Since moving to Utah, my world has been enriched by mountain drives to soak in fall foliage (where I even saw a moose!), hiking in the tops of birch-filled forests, spending time with family whom I haven't lived near for years, rekindling old friendships and opening doors to new friendships. Opportunities have a strange way of coming into your life when you aren't expecting them. I've learned that it is key to accept life's circumstances and dance to the beat of the music. (Even if you think the music should be a fast-paced samba when you're dancing to the methodic rhythm of a slower-paced waltz.) I often wonder if this change was selfishly put in my life to shape my future and help me reflect on the simple things that transform our lives.

Reflecting at Silver Lake

Music Monday: Sharon Van Etten

Monday, November 26, 2012

Apparently the ladies are getting a lot of attention on this here Music Monday feature for any of you keeping track. In reality, it takes loads of talented individuals to make music. Sound checks, instrument makers, lighting specialists, band members, and lead soloists are just part of the mix. Throw in thousands of worldwide listening ears and it breaks down to this: the universal language requires a global musical village if you will. Which is part of the reason I started this feature. 

Sharon Van Etten's songs are astutely described by NPR this way "heartfelt without being overly earnest; her poetry is plainspoken but not overt, and her elegant voice is wrapped in enough rasp and sorrow to keep from sounding too pure or confident." Already hailed as one of the best albums of the year, Tramp, was released this past spring and features an impressive lineup of neofolk tunes. Here's hoping Ms. Van Etten will return to her home turf soon and start touring in my backyard. Meanwhile, take a listen and be amazed. 

Friday Favorites: Links to Love

Friday, November 23, 2012

I hope your Thanksgiving was lovely and stress-free. Full of delicious food and plenty of leftovers. I had a post all written for today but decided the timing was off. Instead, I'll mention that I boycott Black Friday on principle. But will, however, happily support Small Business Saturday. Since my shopping is done for the year, maybe this little list will help you find something special for someone on your list.  

1. Enchanted Succulents require no water and are simple yet elegant. Wouldn't you love to gift this as a hostess gift? Or maybe just treat yourself to something pretty. 

2. Stickygrams turn your Instagrams into magnets. How clever is that!?

3. Kid's alter-ego hats. I know, if you were a knitter, unlike myself, you could probably whip this up in your sleep.

4. A new book of collected poems by one talented writer.

5. Pretty painted postcards and pop-out surprises. Perfect for sending handwritten notes to faraway loved ones.

A Poultry Poem

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"The turkey shot out of the oven and rocketed into the air,
it knocked every plate off the table and partly demolished a chair. 
It ricocheted into a corner and burst with a deafening boom, 
then splattered all over the kitchen, completely obscuring the room. 
It stuck to the walls and the windows, it totally coated the floor, 
there was turkey attached to the ceiling, where there’d never been turkey before.
It blanketed every appliance, it smeared every saucer and bowl, 
there wasn’t a way I could stop it, that turkey was out of control. 
I scraped and I scrubbed with displeasure, and thought with chagrin as
I mopped, that I’d never again stuff a turkey with popcorn that hadn’t been popped." 

                                                                                              Jack Prelutsky

Have a great holiday weekend everyone!

Thanksgiving Eve

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

When I was a girl I often spent Thanksgiving Eve at my grandparent's house. Grandma would bring out a giant bowl and we'd begin the task of breaking up loaves of Wonder Bread into small little pieces. The bowl would fill with a snowy mound and I knew this was the beginning stage of Thanksgiving stuffing. Soon the downstairs tables would burst with 30 or so family members, each bringing dishes to celebrate the abundance of the season. Grandpa would break out his electric carving knife and station himself in the corner seeing to the giant bird. Hand-painted little wooden turkey place card holders would be set out and swapped half a dozen times before we finally settled in. Invariably, after the meal was over, the living room would swell to accommodate relaxed football watchers and the pies would be set out downstairs with a bowl of homemade whipped cream. But for that one night, before the house expanded with warm smiles, I got grandma all to myself. Those simple moments created special memories that linger with me today. Her hands, hands that have lived a lifetime, held new babies, created meals and offered hugs, snapped images on dozens of cameras and always made certain the cookie jar was full, reflect a life of service. And so today, on Thanksgiving Eve, I'm beyond grateful for hands that took the time to break bread with one little girl so long ago.   

Hosting Pie Day

Monday, November 19, 2012

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, no? I attended my first Pie Day in 2006. The new-girl-on-the-block had invited us all over to her home for pie. The premise being this: you are generally too full to truly enjoy pie on Thanksgiving Day, so why not give pie a day all its own? An entire DAY. Dedicated to pie. (That's probably when I knew we would be friends.) Pie Day is generally held the Sunday before Thanksgiving. I remember my first Pie Day because it involved a ridiculous game of Would you Rather in a bright yellow kitchen. Hilarity ensued and since then I've had the privileged to attend other wonderful gatherings that involved sweet slices of everyone's favorite dessert (no math required).

Since moving away and leaving the original Pie Day hostess I figured it was time to carry on a good tradition. Spread the pie gospel and make new friends in the process. What could be better? This year's gathering was hampered by my getting a nasty cold the day before. Awesome. But the show must go on, and so I persevered. Fortunately, I had only invited five ladies and cheated by ordering some pies from my new favorite shop. I also added a chocolate selection because hello, it's chocolate. Overall it turned out to be a success and a tradition I definitely plan on repeating.

For tips on hosting your own Pie Day check out Katie's blog.

Music Monday: Della Mae

I was first introduced to folk music in the mountains of Cache Valley, Utah in my late teens. I didn't know music could sound like that. Earthy and wholesome mixed with a touch of happy sorrow. Everyday people with regular jobs making music on the side. While folk music may have American root, I believe every country has some variety of this style of music. Often you'll hear themes of home and God threaded throughout the lyrics, but I think folk music needs some genuine clappin', foot stompin' and audience participation to truly be authentic. In other words, it needs the folk. 

Della Mae, a group consisting of five women that hail from all parts of the United States, were recently selected to be America's cultural ambassadors to Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. One group member explained their experience abroad as "musical diplomacy in action; it's us getting to meet people on the most basic level." To which I say preach on! 

Read more about the group on their homepage

My Week in France

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Lately, I've been missing France. In the past week I have watched Amelie and The Red Balloon in hopes of an antidote and still my gypsy soul aches for adventure. Or maybe it's because I have two close friends traveling abroad right now (one in Italy and one in Germany), whatever the case may be, and forgive me for being nostalgic, today we're going to rewind to exactly one year ago. A place that now resides pocketed away as a beautiful cherished memory.  

It started the summer of 2011, when I decided to gather a band of traveling companions to visit the South of France for an extended Thanksgiving holiday. True, when you find a place as lovely as La Maisonette du Coteau, owned by Stephanie of stephmodo, it's hard to resist the urge to drop everything and pack your bags. Which is pretty much exactly what I did.

But life happens and a few months later I was engaged. Consternation ensued and I felt uncertain about taking such a big international trip with other things on the horizon. I hummed and hawed about being practical, at the same time knowing that France would likely be my last single-gal-hurrah. In the end, I made the decision to go. A wise one. (To this day I am profoundly grateful for the support I received from GH. He never pressured me one way or the other and I think that made the experience all the more enjoyable.)

Going to France was a dream. We left with stacks of tourist books, but a nearly nonexistent itinerary. Which was perfect. I was there to relax. To soak in the countryside and indulge in afternoon naps. To savor food that danced in my mouth and spend time in the fine art of doing absolutely nothing. Soon enough though, as foreign places tend to do, France bewitched me, and I discovered something I'd never anticipated. The light. It was unlike anything I've ever experienced. I kept thinking the light in France is so different. I remember asking my fellow travelers Have you noticed how the light in France is so different? Indescribable really. I tried to capture it with long walks and a fancy camera, but those warm tones, hues that enveloped my entire being and heighten my other senses, couldn't be contained. Beauty that brought tears to my eyes and left me speechless on numerous occasions. 

The Dordogne region of south-west France is a five hour drive from Paris. It is a small hilly community that thrives in the summer and becomes curiously quiet during the off-season. Which meant, apart from the locals, we had free reign of this charming town. Our cottage was located at the top of the hill next door to a 12th century castle. Many afternoons were spent exploring the grounds and inventing stories about the people that once walked those halls. We also spend a fair amount of time at local markets; gathering fresh produce, bread, and meat for our evening meals. Since the area specializes in walnuts and foie gras we incorporated that whenever possible. And somehow I became the house chef. Which, of course, delighted me to no end. If Audrey Hepburn can commend that Paris is always a good idea, I'd amend that to unequivocally say France is always a good idea. 

From the opening scene of the movie Chocolat. Our little village. 

Market lunch complete with varieties of fromage. 

At the top of the hill and next to the church sits this vibrant cemetery. 

The Dordogne River. 

Picnicking along the river. 
Entrance to the castle grounds. 

Peeping through keyholes. 

All images by me. 

Friday Favorites: {Guest Post by Jocelyn}

Friday, November 16, 2012

Joc-e-lyn /ˈdʒɒs ə lɪn/ n. 1 a woman, of the latter-day saint variety, having wavy blonde hair and azure eyes; adventurer; seeker of beauty 2 a school-based speech language pathologist, characterized by a love for reenacting stories and an obvious disdain for bureaucratic paperwork 3 a fiercely competitive word game junkie. She blogs over at There I was minding my own business.

With Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings around the corner you may find yourself interacting with some of my favorite storytellers: children. Children tell stories from their hearts about hope and love and learning. Some children explode with words while other children need coaxing.

While you may feel the pressure of impressing a significant other, a mother-in-law, or a boss with your Level 10 Child Skills, please remember that you’re connecting with a young person who has a story to share. Treat him/her with respect and dignity and you will soon have a new friend.

When I stop to take the time to listen to my friends’ children, my heart is touched by their individuality, sincerity and humor. As a speech language pathologist, here are some tips I’ve learned over the years for coaxing stories from youngsters who have communication deficits.

There are some pretty intense people out there, and children are quite aware that they need to steer clear of the high-pitched aunt who has to pinch their adorable cheeks. Spend some time connecting with their parents and occasionally make brief eye contact and smiling before looking away. In order for your future friend to feel comfortable sharing stories with you, he/she needs to: see that his/her parents enjoy your company, realize that you noticed him/her as an individual, and decide that you’re friendly without being intimidating

Get down on the child’s eye level. Connecting with someone eye-to-eye is more natural than craning your neck to talk to someone twice your height. Remember that even Jehovah spoke to Moses face-to-face (Exodus 33:11). Children are still learning language and may need the extra visual cues from seeing the way your mouth moves in order to increase their comprehension. To visualize the importance of body position, check out this blog post.

Children meet a lot of adults throughout their day. Telling them who you are helps them organize their world. Using their name lets them know that you are tuned in to them and care about getting to know them.

Comment on something the child is looking at, something they have, or something you already know about this child. You’ll want to adjust based on age and maturity. Then make a personal connection related to your comment. This helps the child understand your shared interest. Then you get a chance to try your hand as a fortune teller. Make a bet about the child. Children who carry toys with them or wear distinct clothing make this part easier, but you can almost always find something that will hook this story teller. Even if you’re wrong, you give the child a chance to correct your error.

Here are some sample starting conversations:

You’re wearing Bob the Builder.
Wow, those are some sparkly shoes!
Your mom told me that you are taking piano lessons.

I love Bob the Builder.
My shoes are just brown.
I like your pink sparkles.
When I’m stressed, I’m so glad that I can sit down at the piano and make music.

I bet you like building things with Legos™.
I bet your favorite color is pink or maybe silver.
I bet you feel satisfied when you practice a piece of music so you can play it with ease.

Notice the lack of questions in this approach? Your goal is to create a low-pressure situation where the child feels safe to share their story with you. Now you have some tools for collecting stories from your younger peers. Guaranteed you’ll be surprised with what you hear. And please remember that you are having a conversation, not hosting an inquisition.

Lean forward. Smile. Raise your eyebrows. Wait twice as long as you’d normally wait. If they engage, you’re golden! If not, no stress; just smile, rinse and repeat. Resume talking with the parents and try again in a few minutes with a new comment, connection and bet.

Repeat their response, nod, and wait for more. Remember that children communicate with eye gaze and body language. (Cue Ursula: And don't underestimate the importance of body language!) Honor their communicative intent. If they don’t want to share their story with you, perhaps they’ll share with you later or another day.

I hope you have a beautiful December filled with stories and connections. And feel free to share some of your stories in the comments.

For additional ideas on how to engage children who aren't quite verbal yet, I’d suggest perusing Weatherby and Prizant’s communication temptations document. You’ll be amazed what happens with a container of bubbles and an expectant look.

35 Things I'm Thankful For

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

1. Sweet potatoes
2. Smiles from strangers.
3. A nephew and niece coming in 2013.
4. Live music (Crooked Fingers and Shovels & Rope specifically).
5. Long and frequent embraces.
6. Pretty jars of jam, residing neatly in my pantry.
7. Creating new traditions.
8. Rediscovering the brilliant arrangement of Mary Oliver’s words, again and again.
9. Access to an abundance of antique and thrift stores.
10. Spontaneous arts & crafts nights.
11. Yoga.
12. Being read to. Especially when character voices are involved.
13. Burnt orange I win.
14. Working in a profession that lauds free speech and advocates information access.
15. Non-addictive sleep aids (Melatonin, I’m looking at you).
16. Colleen’s chocolate cupcake recipe.
17. Finding treasures in coat pockets.
18. Weekend hikes.
19. Closure in the form of a settlement.
20. Paying off three credit cards with said settlement.
21. Red velvet cake in adorable Mason jars.
22. Modern Family’s laugh-out-loud moments.
23. Cozy slippers.
24. Ginger tea.
25. Unexpected tears.
26. Choosing to open my heart, no matter the vulnerability.
27. Podcasts.
28. Brisk morning walks before the sun comes up.
29. Film festivals.
30. Brunch.
31. Letterpress cards with gorgeous typography.
32. Grandpa’s hats.
33. Pen pals.
34. Guest bloggers.
35. The family I come from and the family I'm/we're creating.

Music Monday: Crooked Fingers

Monday, November 12, 2012

This song, or rather, this group comes courtesy of cousin Dainon. He introduced me to this North Carolina band and I owe him a shout-out. When I saw they'd be touring in my new backyard I figured catching their show live was a good idea. Sometimes opening bands are a dud and don't deserve much of a mention. Translation: Please don't talk for an hour and only play three songs. We came for the music, not your bad storytelling. 

But back to Crooked Fingers. First, this band has one of the best all time breakup songs ever. (Full disclosure, I probably listened to it on repeat the duration of 2008-2009.)  One of their other songs, Heavy Hours, recently received a national audience since airing on the television show How I Met Your Mother.  Finally, I'm really happy they played Doctors of Deliverance in the setlist last night. That made the entire night worth it. 

Crooked Fingers / Off Broadway / St. Louis, MO / 11 November 2012. 

Learning to Run {Guest Post by Justine}

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Justine, a natural-born California girl lives on the East Coast. She yearns for the ocean but makes do with the Potomac: she loves her friends, good food and books, and of course, running. She blogs over at A Drop in the Pail of Life
During the Presidential Fitness Challenge in high school, I perfected what I called the running-shuffle. As a fat high school student I dreaded P.E.; I was always the last one to be chosen for the team and failed miserably at sports (I got a black eye standing in the middle of the outfield). I rarely met the physical fitness standards: a mile run needed to be completed in less than 13 minutes or you had to do it over. I think I came in at 12:58. I didn’t sign up for weight training for fear I would have to run the three miles around the Ag barn, which seemed a lot harder than repeating the freshman all-girls P.E. class my sophomore year.

Yet, two weeks ago, I completed my second marathon. 

I used to think that running a marathon simply meant the person went out and ran 26.2 miles. Apparently I didn’t factor in the fact that the average person doesn’t simply go out and run it but rather needs to train in order to compete and complete. Long before you actually run a 26.2 race, you must run many, many more miles in order to build up to it.

I never set out to be a runner. I ran a half-marathon for the heck of it one year, poorly trained and probably having only done six miles at the most in terms of training. I was so sore the next day I could barely move. I was running because I was trying to get through it – I was doing everything I could to avoid the very act of running while running. I would run to music, I would think about failed relationships and the things I thought I could control. I would think about everything except what I was doing in that very moment. My way of running has changed dramatically since that fateful year, and for the better. My focus now takes a more Zen-like approach, “Where are my feet? Where do they need to be? What am I doing now?” These three questions help bring me back to the present and keep me focused.

Two years ago, a friend of mine and I got talking. She lives outside of Detroit and mentioned that she was thinking about running the Detroit Marathon. To participate in the Detroit Marathon you need a valid passport. The race course starts in downtown Detroit, takes you over the Ambassador Bridge into Windsor, Canada, and then back through the Detroit-Windsor tunnel. Initially, I thought she wanted to do the half-marathon so heck-ya, I was in.

When I asked her what she signed up for, the full or half, she remarked that she wasn’t getting any younger and wanted to do the full. Most sane people would politely decline. I accepted the challenge and invitation. In full-disclosure, I finished the marathon and said, “Wow, that was great!” My friend finished, looked at me and said “I am never doing that again”.

The thing about running is about breaking your own barriers, your barriers to pain, the mental blocks you have, and learning to be with yourself for a few miles. If you’ve never run before, I hope that my little tale of inspiration will inspire you to go out and do something you’ve never done and allow you to cross a long run or race off your bucket list!

How to get started?

1. Sign up for a local 5K race. You can make it a charity race so you have a monetary goal to work forward to and friends that encourage you with donations. I call the 5K races gateway races to larger races. It’s not about the distance, it’s about having a goal and achieving it.

2. Get new shoes. Do not go to Sports Authority or Dicks or buy them from a gum-smacking teenager who doesn’t really care about running. Go to a reputable running store and have them see how you run, try on many different pairs of shoes, and run in them at the store. Many areas have local running outfitters; I also like Road Runner Sports. Inquire if the store has a return policy, if they won’t let you return your shoes, don’t buy them. There is nothing worse than being stuck with a $120 pair of running shoes that hurt your feet/knees/back.

3. After you find the local running store, ask if they know of a local running group. Or ask if they offer store runs. Which brings me to number four...

4. Find a local running club or a running partner. I love running on my own but I have a very special group of ladies that I run with on Saturday mornings. They provide me with support and sometimes the kick in the pants that I need in order to keep going. You’ll meet friends and will be more motivated to get out and work out if you have a group of friends or partners to hold you

5. Run and repeat. There are good training plans like Couch to 5K, Hal Higdon, etc. There are even apps like MapMyRun, RunKeeper, and Nike+ which will provide you with a training plan.

6. Go to your fun-run, your race and smile. Smile because you have accomplished something. I guarantee you’ll have learned something about yourself. 

Friday Favorites: Kitchen Essentials

Friday, November 9, 2012

This is the time of year when everyone becomes an amateur chef. Whether you are cooking for a day or a lifetime, having the proper kitchen tools makes cooking more enjoyable and the food taste better. I don't know exactly how, but it just does. Building a proper kitchen has taken me years. Finally, I'm to the point where I feel like I have 90% of the essentials. Here are a few of my favorite go-to kitchen items.  

  1. Cast Iron Pot— Not only is my Le Creuset red pot aesthetically pleasing (I leave it on the stove top permanently), it makes everything heat evenly and taste delicious. Worth the cost? Absolutely!  
  2. Spatulas— I have four silicone spatulas in my utensil holder (three large and one mini). They are perfect for mixing and scraping. And since I cook with a lot of curry and turmeric, I usually reach for the orange or yellow spatula to avoid visible stains. 
  3. Food Processor— It's true, making pesto in a blender is torture. This wedding present has made life 1,000 times better. Chopping nuts? No problem. Dicing onions? Five seconds flat. Make room on your counter for this essential appliance! (Honestly, I don’t know how I lived so long without one.)  
  4. Silt Baking Mats— These rubber mats are perfect for baking and make clean up easy. I use them regularly when I whip up weekly batches of granola.  
  5. MicroplaneThis is another recent acquisition and I love how easy it is to use. Plus it's super affordable. Try adding citrus zest to desserts or poultry. You'll notice how that little extra zest adds bright fresh flavor to any dish.
  6. Chef’s Knife— There is nothing quite as nice as cutting with a sharp knife. Fortunately, Spouseman contributed this to our relationship. We have this knife, which makes slicing and dicing a cinch.  
  7. Measuring cups— I have a lot of measuring cups. Make that A LOT. Nesting measuring cups are great for baking, while Pyrex glass measuring bowls are essential for large batches of soup or jam.    
  8. Electric Stand Mixer— My red Kitchen Aid mixer was a Christmas gift long ago (thanks, Mom!). I use it constantly. The stainless steel bowl and attachments make everything from bread to whipped meringue. I suggest giving this appliance a well-deserved permanent counter spot.  
Do you cook? What’s your favorite kitchen essential?

Good Eats: Half & Half

Thursday, November 8, 2012

When you come to visit, which I have it on good authority you will, I've already got our weekend planned. Because you're a smart traveler and have done your research you'll probably have a few tourist spots you'll want to hit. Well get to that. Of course we'll put you up proper, complete with fresh towels and little mints. And you'll probably want to settle in before we rush out on the town. Please, do make yourself at home. As you know, The Show Me state has lots to offer and you'll certainly want to capture some of those moments with your digital camera. But before all that, before the Midwest mesmerizes you with train crossings and nice people, before you marvel at the low fuel prices and decide to trade in city life for a Mayberry existence, first I'll take you to brunch. 

Which is where Half & Half comes in. No sign, just hoards of hungry locals. The little shop on Maryland Ave opened a little over a year ago and is a thriving mecca for morning-goers. Boasting rustic wooden tables, cobalt blue ampersand mugs, a bustling barista, antique mirrors, and Mason jar light fixtures, I gained regular status faster than my new driver's license was printed. The menu is hearty and features rotating seasonal dishes. What do I suggest? Well, that depends. I guarantee you'll melt right into the baked oatmeal piled high with sugar coated nuts, fresh berries, and a side of, what else, half and half. (I ordered it twice in one week.) If you favor a more savory breakfast, the vegetarian skillet, served in a cast iron pan, brims with flavor. Brussels sprouts for breakfast? Yes, please. Combine all that with top-notch service and ding ding ding we have a winner!

Come, won't you? I can't wait to catch up over breakfast. 

Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Still Life

Monday, November 5, 2012

This weekend, like most, was a blur of color and activity. When I wasn't sick I went for a morning walk. These are some of the treasures I gathered along the way. November slowly wears on. And meanwhile, I'm trying to capture every little bit of my favorite season. I hope your weekend was filled with lovely things. 

Ps. Congratulations to Jade for winning November's giveaway!

Music Monday: 70s edition

It's a bit dreary round these parts this morning,
which makes this song completely appropriate for today. 

When my Evening Starts at 8:00pm

Sunday, November 4, 2012

I'm not a night person. Never have been. All-nighters, in college or grad school, were completely foreign to me. I'm like an 80-year-old. Give me comfortable shoes, a solid routine, and an early bedtime. It keeps me regular.

But when your up-on-the-music-scene-mixtape-connoisseur friend tells you about a new band that just so happens to be touring in your backyard, well, you take note. And maybe make an exception. Last night I did just that. 

Being new to the live music scene I always feel a little awkward going to shows. Especially at night. Am I suppose to stand directly in front of the stage? Is sitting allowed? How much should I sway to the beat? Eventually I grabbed a ginger ale and took a spot upstairs, where I could gaze over the mostly 30-something crowd and invent stories of how they'd heard of this band. Soon enough though the pull of the music had me downstairs and part of the action.   

Two songs in and I was hooked. (Strange how a Neil Diamond cover can do that for me.) The opening band, Shivering Timbers, had a folk rock go-go sound. Made more entertaining with the sway of suede fringe boots. Then it was on to the main act, Shovels and Rope. And HOLY WOW! Those kids can sing. Mix a bit of harmonica and bluesy tales and you've got some fine sounding tunes. Suddenly I became one of the cool kids, where staying up late made perfect sense. 

It ain't wait you got, it's what you make. 

Friday Favorites: {Guest post by Katie}

Friday, November 2, 2012

Katie listens to music, takes pictures, and explores Washington DC. [She also throws epic Pie Day parties.] She blogs at Gentlewoman of the Road.  

Favorite Ways to Find New Music.
I could talk about music all day long. But I won't today. I will, however, let you be a music snob with me.

1. NPR Music. NPR Music is a daily read for me. It is a treasure trove of all types of music from classical to jazz to world to rock n' roll, to I don't even know what that is, but I love it. There are blogs, interviews, album previews, concert footage, and my favorite of all, The Tiny Desk Concert Series. Musicians come and play a couple songs at the [tiny] desk of All Songs Considered host, Bob Boilen. I've seen the actual tiny desk, and might of squealed upon it's sighting, definitely a DC bucket list highlight.  One of my life's goal is to figure out how to get bands to come and play at my work desk, I could even supply the tambourines. 

2. Daytrotter. Discovering new music is the whole point of Daytrotter. Musicians, both pretty mainstream and those that are nowhere near the stream, stop by the Daytrotter offices (based in Illinois, Heartland high fives!) to record four song sessions. And since many, if not all of these groups are in the midst of touring when they stop, there is a special rawness in the sessions, something more closer to friends jamming in your living room, than a venue show. Because even art needs funding, Daytrotter is a subscription/membership service. But don't worry, there aren't any members only jackets (not even ironic ones), and a yearly membership is only $24, and that includes the ability to download the sessions, which breaks down to 50 cents a song, (see what I just did there, it's called math), so it is beyond reasonable . I also love the daily emails they send out to members about upcoming sessions, it's pretty convenient for someone to just send you a list of bands you should be listening too. 

3. Seeing the Opening Band. Headliners usually have influence on the bands that they tour with, so opening bands at concerts are hand picked by the band you have a ticket for in your hand. In other words, always, always, always get to a show early enough to see the opening bands.  I have been going to concerts for awhile now, and have seen probably hundreds of opening acts, and not all of them of good (oh, so you're the reason why people make fun of the accordion), but I have discovered a lot of new bands and music. The opening bands are usually well aware that the audience aren't there to see them, so they will put on one hell of show, giving it every ounce of heart and soul, to be memorable. And when that formally unknown band makes it big, you can be a true hipster and say that you saw them way back when. 

Favorite Photo Apps.
I am not a phone person, or I guess, I am not a talk on the phone person. If you ever get an actual phone call from me, instead of text, email, or carrier pigeon, consider yourself a very special snowflake. But I've got sucked into the machine revolution (when people would rather look at their phones than the people seated two feet away from them, the machines have already won). I take an embarrassing amount of pictures on my phone, and I have found a couple of fun apps to edit these little snapshots of my life. (Disclaimer: I have an iPhone, so I don't how these apps work on other phones/devices)

1. Snapseed. Snapseed is by far my favorite app to edit pictures while standing on a subway platform or under a tree or eating pie (which is a little complicated, but doable).  The tools are pretty comparable to the editing tools (iPhoto) I use on my desktop.

2. Camera+.This app is all about the filters, they are plenty of them, and they all fun. 

3. VSCO Cam. I have only been playing around with this app for a little while now, but I love the softness of the filters and tools. 

Favorite Museums in DC.
Washington DC is a great town. And one of the reasons for its greatness is all of our fine and free cultural institutions. 

1. The East Wing of the National Gallery of Art. I love modern art. I really can't explain why I have more of an emotional reaction to a canvas with just red lines, than I do to a painting with a pretty landscape, but I do. The East Wing is where the National Gallery keeps all the Jackson Pollacks, and Alexander Calders and Cy Twomblys. The gallery is close enough to my job that I can walk over during the lunch hour and just set there and absorb all the art. Also, the lighted walkway connecting the two museum wings makes you feel like you are traveling through hyperspace. 

2. The Renwick Gallery. The Renwick, also known as the "Arts and Crafts" Smithsonian, is one of the lesser known of the Smithsonian museums, but it is one of my favorites. It houses, "American contemporary crafts and decorative arts from the 19th to the 21st centuries." Like I said, arts and crafts.  It's one of those places that you walk around, maybe seeing an installation made out of doll heads or a ghost clock, and say, "Huh, look at that."  The gift shop is also one of my favorite museum gift shops, I will fully admit, one of the reasons I am a Smithsonian member is so I can get a discount on their Folkway Music collections.

3. The United States Holocaust Museum. I used to volunteer at the Holocaust museum, and I can honestly say that it changed me. I have  talked to several people that are leery about visiting a museum whose subject matter is so dark, sad and uncomfortable. But genocide is uncomfortable, to say the least. It is important to acknowledge what humanity is capable of. We are capable of destroying each other, or saving each other. 

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