five things · Food · joy

Five Things

Hello! Happy Friday!

How’s your week been? It’s been good here, but honestly, I was kind of done by Tuesday. Not sure why, but it felt like a very long week. It’s a 3-day weekend for the kids, and Husband is making it a 3-day weekend for himself, too, so we’re looking forward to some fun and downtime.

Also, thank you so much for all the kind, fun, inspiring comments this week here and on Facebook. I’m enjoying posting here more regularly, and your comments are a large part of that joy. So, thanks.

Here are a few things on my mind this week:

finger food friday

1. Finger Food Friday. I love meal planning. And I REALLY love having a go-to meal for Friday nights – a little family tradition, if you will. And we’ve had a variety of them. Pizza Friday. Nacho Friday. Now we do Finger Food Friday (FFF for short), where I pick up a variety of fun, appetizer-type foods at Trader Joe’s that morning and assemble it on a platter when we get home that night. (Friday afternoons tend to be busy for us, so trying to cook dinner cuts into precious Family Movie Night time. Assembling the platter takes less than 10 minutes.) We take the platter to the den coffee table, pile up with blankets on the sectional, and find a new (to us) movie to watch. It’s one of my favorite rituals of the week, and it always ends the week on a high note.

The FFF menu changes week to week (there are always new cheeses to try!), but some of my favorites are Turkey Summer Sausage, Norwegian Flatbread, Tomato Basil Hummus, and Dolmas. A few raw veggies are a must, and a handful of dates are the kids’ favorites.

PS – Any good family movies you’ve watched recently? Our favorites tend to be older releases and something with a little grown-up appeal. We’ve loved Cheaper by the Dozen (1 AND 2), Beethoven, Home Alone, The Incredibles, and, of course, now and forever, Harry Potter (the first 3). I’d love to hear your recommendations.

trader joe's flowers

2. Flowers. About a month ago, I read an article (cannot remember where or what context) by a man who wrote of his awe at his friend’s beautiful home – it always looked  ready for a design magazine photo shoot. After several visits, he realized that what made it feel so pretty, so “polished”, was that she always had fresh flowers in the rooms. Then, a week later, I read this article about simple abundance and the author’s decision to buy flowers at Trader Joe’s every week. Then, I went to my friend’s house for book group, and she had a flower arrangement on each table, and it looked fantastic. So last Friday, for “Big Shopping of the Week,” as BG and BB call it, I grabbed a $6.99 bouquet of hydrangeas (at Trader Joe’s, of course – I promise every thing on my list today isn’t about TJ’s) and plunked them in a simple vase on the den coffee table. I cannot begin to tell you the beauty and happiness this simple change has brought this week. Every time I pass through, I see the flowers and smile. They catch my eye, they make the den look “polished”, and they even keep me from making big piles of books on the coffee table. It DOES look more like a design magazine, and it’s a simple thing that brings so much JOY.

rick steves

3. Rick Steves. With our crazy school schedule this year (very different drop-off times and different pick up times), I have struggled to create a “schedule” for myself. Some days I work out before the kids get up, some days I do it in the middle of the morning (or not at all). Some days I run errands, some days I play cards and read books with BG. Some days I don’t shower until 1:00pm. (Don’t judge.)

But every Wednesday – and only on Wednesdays – I eat lunch alone. At first, I grabbed slices of ham or a frozen dinner or whatever I could scrounge in the fridge, but after some thought, I realized this was a great opportunity to treat myself.  After a really long walk (I can only do this on Wednesdays, too), I come home, make a REAL lunch (a big salad with poached egg or soup from scratch or a “gourmet” sandwich with herbed mayo, a stack of veggies, white truffle potato chips and a dill pickle spear), and settle in for a show. (I almost never turn the TV on during the day, so this also feels like a treat.) My favorite? Rick Steves’ Europe. I KNOW! But hear me out: First off, it’s beautiful – the sweeping landscapes, the architecture, the gardens, the cobblestone streets, the little shops. The mix of history and modern life. The art and food and wine. And, let’s be honest, Rick Steves is bit dorky but in a charming way. There’s always a moment where you chuckle and sort of roll your eyes. But in the end, you’ve learned something new and possibly added a destination to your future travel plans.

(Note: The photo above is a scene from last night just before dinner. I’ve gotten Husband on the Rick Steves’ bandwagon, so while dinner finished up and the kids did their screen time, we relaxed and talked and got caught up on the day and watched a little Rick Steves. Like my Wednesday lunches, it’s just a little slice of joy.)

the first step in crafting the life you want is getting rid of everything you don'tthe first step in crafting the life you want is getting rid of everything you don't

4. This quote.

5. This video. Wow. And JOY! That’s all I can say.

What are you up to this weekend? I’m having coffee with a friend I haven’t seen in years, and I’m taking dinner to another friend who’s been sidelined by the flu, and we’re planning a hike along the coast. (Side note: How’s the flu in your area? I know a handful of people who’ve had it, and it’s been AWFUL. My friend has been down for 5 weeks now! So scary.) Whatever your plans, I hope you have a delicious weekend full of beauty, inspiration, and joy. Thanks so much for reading!

five things · Food

Five Things

Hello! Happy Friday! Once again illness has struck our house. I’m beginning to wonder if BG has in fact had 3 colds in 3 weeks or if it’s the same lingering virus or if it’s allergies or if she just really likes staying home from school. (My money is on option 4.) But, as always, it’s nice to take a day and be home in the midst of a really busy season on our calendar. Here are a few things on my mind this (busy) week:

1. The Roaring 20s. A few weeks ago, I started watching Z: The Beginning of Everything, and then I got a virus and spent a couple of days in bed and binge-watched the rest of Season 1. And now, this weekend is Bunco, and it’s Gatsby themed. I dug through my closet to find all things that might work. (There was more than I thought. I can’t say no to vintage sequins.) I’ve started searching Pinterest for all things Gatsby. And requesting Fitzgerald books at the library. I might be a little obsessed.


(My friend, Arlene, and I wore these outfits to a Gatsby party last year. All thrifted, including the faux fur.)


2.This quote. This is why, when given a choice, you should definitely choose the sequins.


3. My new favorite treat. It tastes like dessert, but you can call it “snack.” That’s what I call it every afternoon when I have it. There’s not really a recipe – just dump and stir – but here’s my best guess at proportions:

  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • a few chocolate chips (for the kids) or little bit of chopped up baking chocolate (for me – I prefer dark chocolate and I like how it looks like sprinkles!)

Yesterday, for a snack for BG,  I mixed up a batch for dipping apples, but instead of vanilla, I added a dash of cinnamon. Also delicious.

4. I Trained Myself to be Less Busy. This was a great read, especially in a season of our lives where I feel very, very busy.

5. James Corden’s parents are adorable.

Hope you have a lovely weekend! Thanks for reading!

DIY · Food · good life

On Cinnamon Rolls and Broken Washing Machines

cinnamon rolls

I got married when I was almost 19. (For those doing math at home, yes, I was 18. EIGHTEEN! Husband was 20. Were we crazy or what?) Husband grew up knowing how to do all his own laundry by the time he was in 5th grade. I did not. Husband (who was still Boyfriend at the time) taught me how to do laundry at the laundromat my freshman year. On more than one occasion, he came over to my dorm and ironed pants for me. And he has always been a better cleaner than me.

dough and rolling pin

So it won’t surprise you that Husband did most of the cooking early on in our marriage. I called him The Chef – he could always take whatever we had on hand and turn it into something fabulous. And he’s never been afraid to try something challenging. He is still the go-to for roasting a whole bird (cooking chicken has always freaked me out), and his Osso Bucco is fantastic.


But a few years ago, something switched. Kids, his job changing a little bit, or the change in the way we eat when I went gluten free – I’m not sure what it was – but I am now Head Chef. Husband still enjoys cooking, and Sunday night dinners tend to be his time to shine, but for the day-to-day meals, I’m your gal. And I LOVE it. I love cooking now. I love the sound and feel and even the smell of chopping onions on the cutting board. I love experimenting with different oils to make the flavors just right (rice bran oil was the latest) . I love trying variations of recipes to find the best. I will often make all three meals in a day from scratch. And I’m not even afraid to cook chicken anymore!

There is something so satisfying about starting with ingredients I selected myself at the store or farmers market, prepping them and combining them in just the right way to make something delicious to feed family and friends. Cooking is now one of my favorite things to do, but if you had told me that 10 years ago – or even 5 – I would have laughed. (Did I mention I really hated cooking?)

making cinnamon rolls

I think the biggest thing that has changed is my confidence. Whereas in the past, I would eat something at a restaurant or see something in a cookbook and feel completely intimidated, I now think about how I could make it at home, how I could recreate it, how I could make it work for our family. It’s a puzzle, a project, a work of creativity all in one.


So this week, when the kids talked about how we used to have cinnamon rolls (the Pillsbury kind you buy in cans), I went in search of a recipe to make them from scratch. ME! Someone who would NEVER call herself a baker, someone who would always second guess every step in every recipe for years. And I did it!

cinnamon rolls

I think it comes down to practice. To trying and failing and trying again and knowing it’s going to be okay. To having lots of experiences with the raw materials (here, almond flour and pecans and coconut oil and honey) to sort of know what’s going to happen. And to know that even if it doesn’t happen that way, it’s not the end of the world. I learn something even when it doesn’t work.

And maybe it also comes down to age. I am turning 37 this month, and I think as I get older, I realize more that things that look “impossible” or “amazing” from the outside are often the result of lots of practice and trial and error. I realize more that most things in life are “figureoutable” – there are ways to make it work.

Husband did this over the weekend, too. For a couple of months, our washing machine has sounded like a goat. I am not even kidding. Multiple times during every load, the washer would emit an extremely loud grinding noise with an uncanny resemblance to bleating. I even googled “My washer sounds like a goat” once. Nothing. But then Husband decided to get to the bottom of it. He watched some YouTube videos until he found the exact sound (this one if you’re curious) and read up on how to fix it (basically tightening up a screw on a pulley underneath the washer). Within ten minutes, our washing machine was running with nary a goat sound to be heard. He figured it out!

Granted, there are lots of things that we won’t be able to do. Open-heart surgery comes to mind. Most automobile repairs. Root canals. But a lot of times, if it’s something that SOMEONE has figured out how to do, we might be able to figure it out, too.


Which is why if you can buy a cinnamon roll, then you can probably make a cinnamon roll. And the process of making it will probably be a whole lot of fun, too.


These cinnamon rolls were awesome, if I do say so myself. The recipe is from The Urban Poser. I topped ours with a frosting loosely based on this Creamy Cream Cheese Frosting from Elena’s Pantry. (I tweaked it to make it a little softer by adding lots more whipping cream than called for. Another trial-and-error that I was PRETTY sure would work out, and it did.)

Tell me: What’s something you figured out how to do recently? Or what’s something you can do now that the younger you would never have believed you could do? I’d love to hear.