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life lately

[enjoying this || ozark brewery’s 5 year anniversary
and for giving us an excuse to drink beer before noon]

[drinking this || cappuccino in a Starbucks HOLIDAY CUP]

[loving this || last ((freezing)) tailgate of the season]

[celebrating this || beautiful lady at her bridal shower!]

[thankful for this || two amazing families to celebrate with on thanksgiving]

xo xo

[post-thanksgiving] weekend getaway

S U N D A Y   E V E N I N G
The wind wails and the fire cackles.
The garland glimmers and the poodle snores.
Thanksgiving is now behind us and the anticipation of Christmas lies ahead.

In the midst of the busy holiday season, husband and I decided to take a respite, just the two of us. We packed the makings for chili and a special Italian red, and brought only our coziest clothes. We vowed to do a phone detox, focusing on the present weekend with the presence of one another. We drove only an hour away, though we might as well have been a million miles away – with stunning lake views, great conversation and the joy of spontaneous, secluded living.

A few things I learned from this little weekend getaway of ours:

– You don’t need to keep your phone next to you at all times.
– You’re not really missing anything on social media.
– Finishing a book in a weekend is one of the best feelings.
– Sometimes all you need is abundant sunshine and the gift of time to reconnect with your significant other.
– Enjoying a leisurely cup of coffee on a patio is one of life’s little luxuries we should all take advantage of more often.
– Don’t lose sight of what’s most important this holiday season.

xo xo

30 Before 30: Q3 Progress Update

Alright, we’re getting into the final stretch, friends! Only 3 more months to go, which means the holidays are (basically) here and then it’s my birthday. I’m actually really looking forward to turning 30. Is that strange? Maybe it’s just because I love birthdays??

I’ve still got quite a few to knock out, but here’s an update on completing my list of 30 things before I turn 30 from the last few months …

    1. Start a new adventure. I’ve worked for Walmart for 6.5 years, as my first job out of college. I’ve officially accepted a position at Clorox, and couldn’t be more excited/anxious/thrilled to start this new adventure.
    2. Make a complex meal 100% from scratch. This one might have been my favorite one to check off the list thus far. I knew the meal I wanted to make was Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon and knew it would be more fun with help from my mom! It actually wasn’t as difficult as we thought it would be, just verryyy time consuming, but TOTALLY WORTH IT. Oh my gosh this was delicious. We already have a plan to make it again for the whole family for Christmas dinner!  
    3. Hike Pinnacle Mountain + eat a Hubcap burger at Cotham’s. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to eat at Cotham’s since the original location burned down last year. However, I did hike Pinnacle – and it was a doozy! The challenge was worth it, as the views were stunning, and we’re already planning another hike up in the Fall.
    4. Successfully do a one-armed push-up.
    5. See a critically acclaimed show. This one makes me so happy because I’ve been dying to see this show and Mom got me tickets for my 29th birthday for our trip to Chicago. It was AMAZING. Absolutely go see it if you get the chance.
    6. Volunteer 30 hours. (17 hours complete!) This quarter included a charity kickball game and volunteering at the Arkansas Public Theatre.
    7. Buy all my friends a round, randomly.
    8. Play video games with Husband for a night, complete with pizza + beer. This was so fun! We played Mario Kart (he schooled me), tennis (both won) and a fighting game (which we also both won, to Husband’s chagrin). I definitely need to get in Husband’s world and do this more often!
    9. Intentionally choose to stay by myself one night in a hotel. Obviously I’ve stayed by myself before, but for work or when husband was away – not intentionally.
    10. Learn a song on the guitar.
    11. Be in a play.
    12. Learn to play blackjack.
    13. Make a signature cocktail.
    14. Make a YouTube video that gets over 1k views.
    15. Start my book. Yay I’ve FINALLY started it, and no I won’t share any details yet! 🙂
    16. Win at least 1 trivia night. This one was totally out of the blue, but glad it happened the way it did. We won the poolside Hollywood Trivia on our family vacation in Mexico. Go Team Guacamole!
    17. Write 30 handwritten letters. This has also been one of my favorite ones to check off the list and I’m planning to set a goal for myself to write letters every year!
    18. Take a dance class.
    19. Go to a movie solo. I went to see Crazy, Rich Asians (which was THE BEST) and it was so liberating to go to a movie solo. I also happened to be the only person in the theater, so it was extra solo! Ha!
    20. Ride 300 miles. Maybe this one didn’t take as along as anticipated, but it’s still checked off the list and I’m proud!
    21. Dye my hair pink. Again, something I’ve always wanted to do. It could just be a few strands, and it could wash out after a day. Either way, I think 29 is the best time to do it.
    22. Do 5 things that scare me. (1. Leave my comfort zone job of 6.5 years. Trust me – it’s scary. 2. Ride a snowmobile)
    23. Give an amount of money that is significant to me and is significant to someone in need, but do it in such a way no one would ever know it was me who gave it and expect nothing in return.
    24. Travel to a state I’ve never been to.  This one actually happened without me even realizing it. I thought I’d been to North Carolina, but hadn’t – and now I’ve been twice for work this year. Check! 
    25. Take a personal day, for no reason at all. 
    26. Challenge myself with a new hobby. I didn’t realize it at first, but this is totally the Peloton! Since I didn’t grow up in sports or really sticking with an exercise routine, riding consistently has been a huge challenge for me and totally feels like a new hobby! We even chose to ride while on vacation – something I never thought I’d do, ha!
    27. See someone in concert I’ve been dying to see. Taylor Swift – check. Taking Back Sunday (our favorite band from high school) – check AND Beyonce/Jay-Z coming up next month. I think I can officially check this one off the list.
    28. Find an artist whose perspective of the world I appreciate and buy a piece of his or her work.
    29. Take a spontaneous trip. Someone could probably fight me on this, but it’s my blog so I’ll do what I want – our NYC trip was totally spontaneous for me. No, it wasn’t a pick-up-and-go trip, but our friend Mark called, said he was having his 30th birthday party in NYC and did we want to go? I never turn down a trip to New York, so we said yes, but not planning something like that several months out is my kind of spontaneity!!
    30. Plan a huge 30th birthday bash. The planning has begun for a week-long birthday celebration, obviously.

BONUS: Read 30 books. (24 complete!)

xo xo

life lately

[enjoying this || much needed girls night]


[feeling proud about this || hit my 100 peloton rides!
next goal: 150 for my live ride in NYC in Dec.]

[loving this || lots of cozy reading by the fire with poodle snuggles]

[laughing at this || gridiron show with the family
also, eating this amazing smokey and the (gouda) bandit pizza before starting my no-cheese 30 day challenge]

[watching this || adorable show at the Walton Arts Center with the best people]

[dressing up for this || H A L L O W E E N  P A R T Y !
post malone + the Gump family]

xo xo

Book Reviews: Sweet Lies, Sweet Love + Sweet Lights

Sweet Little Lies – Caz Frear: This felt like a typical English detective novel, which if you’re into those, great. If you’re not, it might take you a while to get into, like me. The writing was different, more harsh perhaps? and hard to follow some of the dialect. The characters were not instantly relatable, but at about the 50 page mark (where I determine if I’m going to keep reading or not) there was a big enough twist that kept me intrigued.
Grade: B-

Party Girl – Rachel Hollis: We know I’m a Rachel Hollis fan girl so obviously I had to read her first novel. It was a little rough at first with fairly elementary writing, but you grow to love the main character so much and enjoy the fun, lush details surrounding party planning in LA. The book is also semi-autobiographical, so again, if you’re a Rachel Hollis fan girl, it’s pretty interesting. Very The Devil Wears Prada-esque, this is an easy, beach read.
Grade: B+

Winter in Paradise – Elin Hilderbrand: I fell in love with Elin after my first read of hers The Identicals, which I wrote about in my last book review. This book starts with the main character’s husband dying a suspicious death in a helicopter over St. John. When the entire family travels to the island to find answers, they find so much more than they bargained for – love triangles, tropical adventures and definitely more questions than answers. The first in a series of 3 books, I can’t wait to read the next one!
Grade: A

The Light of Paris – Eleanor Brown: As a $5 bargain-bin book, I didn’t have high expectations going in, but I DEVOURED this book in a matter of days. The sweetest parallel stories about a woman and her young, late grandmother, both trying to find themselves through art – one story is set in Paris and one in Magnolia, Arkansas (what?!). It will make you long for Parisian nights and to re-discover your own passions.
Grade: A+

xo xo

You can read all my book reviews here.

The Perfect Cookies + The Famous Banana Bread [recipes]

One of my favorite things about Fall is settling into the therapeutic routine of baking. I’ve always loved the art of perfecting the chocolate chip cookie or the challenge of trying an ambitious, new recipe. Though, while I bake year-round, it never feels quite right until the brisk air seeps breezily through the open windows or the pumpkin vanilla candle burns to wick’s end.

That’s when baking feels like home.

With a quieter pace the last few weeks, I found two new recipes to try – one for a very special occasion and one to add a little bit of special to a typical week.


B R O W N E D   B U T T E R  +  T O F F E E   C O O K I E S

Very special occasion: Fred’s 75th birthday. I think the entire family would tell you these were a hit. And we continued to eat on them all week. Also, special shoutout to Candace for finding and sharing the recipe. To me, these will always be “Candace cookies.”

 

Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
⅓ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 chocolate toffee bars, chopped into ¼-inch pieces
1½ cups dark chocolate melting wafers
Sea salt

Directions:

  1. Cook butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until it foams, then browns, 5–8 minutes. Scrape into a large bowl and let cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk flour, baking soda, and kosher salt in a medium bowl.
  3. Add brown sugar and granulated sugar to browned butter. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat until incorporated, about 1 minute. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until mixture lightens and begins to thicken, about 30 seconds. Reduce mixer speed to low; add dry ingredients and beat just to combine. Mix in toffee pieces and chocolate wafers with a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Let dough sit at room temperature at least 30 minutes to allow the flour to hydrate. Dough will look very loose at first, but will thicken as it sits.
  4. Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 375°. Form ping-pong sized balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing about 3″ apart. Do not flatten; cookies will spread as they bake. Sprinkle with sea salt.
  5. Bake cookies until edges are golden brown and firm but centers are still soft, 9–11 minutes. Let cool on baking sheets 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough and a fresh parchment-lined baking sheet to make 10 more cookies.
  6. Sprinkle more sea salt on top right out of the oven!

 

C H R I S S Y  T E I G E N  ( + T W I T T E R ‘ S )  B A N A N A   B R E A D

If you don’t know the story behind this banana bread, google it. It’s hilarious. Or buy her cookbook – I promise you it’s worth every penny. I’ve made 4 recipes so far and all have been phenomenal, this one no exception. A little chocolate chip banana bread for no reason, but to break the monotony of the week.

 

Ingredients:
2 cups mashed very ripe bananas*
4 eggs
2⁄3 cup canola oil, plus a little more to grease the pan
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus a little more for dusting the pan
2 cups sugar
1 (3.5-ounce) box vanilla instant pudding mix
1 teaspoon baking soda
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 (3.5-ounce) bar dark chocolate, chopped into chunks
Salted butter, for serving

*Get six brown bananas. Not four. Not five. Six. You will think you only need five because it looks like enough, but it will not be enough. You will get five, you will mash them, you will be about half an inch short and that makes a difference and you cannot get around it. Trust me.

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the mashed bananas, eggs, and oil. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar, pudding mix, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and combine well BUT GENTLY. I swear this came out differently when I used an aggressive electric mixer. Fold in the coconut and chocolate chunks.
  3. Grease and flour a Bundt pan (that means wipe a little grease all over the inside of the pan, dust it with flour, and tip it upside down to shake out any extra flour). Pour the batter into the pan. (This can also make two 8 × 4-inch loaves, but it’s so much more moist in one Bundt pan!)
  4. Bake until the cake springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. (Test it with a toothpick at around 50 minutes.) Let it cool slightly in the pan, then use a butter knife to gently release the cake from the sides of the pan and around the inner circle, then flip it onto a plate.
  5. Let it cool and cut it into slices. Rewarm them and serve them with salty butter!!

    What’s your favorite Fall baking recipe?
    xo xo

You might also enjoy: Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake Bars, Bourbon Apple Cake

life lately: fall party + kc weekend

3 R D   A N N U A L   F A L L   P A R T Y
[wine, appetizers + friends to celebrate the best season of all]


W E E K E N D   G E T A W A Y :   K A N S A S   C I T Y
[fun, albeit rainy, weekend getaway with friends + a concert][55 degrees and rainy shopping day on the plaza]

[KC must-eat: bbq!]

[the BEST brunch at the corner restaurant]

[WWI museum and memorial – highly recommend and beautiful views of the city]

[The National at Starlight Theatre – amazing show and we were so close to the stage!!
It did rain the entire show, but we made the best of it!]

[and THEN – Matt Berninger, lead singer of husband’s all-time FAVORITE band, came into the audience RIGHT NEXT TO US and husband sang into the mic with him. You have to trust me because I barely got a pic, but this “after” photo of husband is pretty telling. Life complete.]

xo xo