Hi, friends. Let’s catch up. 2017 was a YEAR, am I right? As we neared the end of 2016 and I was doing my super-planning for the blog, I made a conscious decision to slow down in 2017. It turns out that maintaining an illustrated food blog as a “side hustle” while being employed full time, having a social life, keeping up with family time and friendships, traveling, taking care of myself and allowing for some time to relax, etc. is HARD. I don’t know why it took 3-4 years of blogging to figure this out, but it did. I made a point to cut down on the number of posts I was doing in an attempt to make a blogging schedule I could actually keep. (Spoiler alert: I failed.) It turns out I had to slow down EVEN MORE for various reasons. I was planning to do these “Things I’m Loving” posts seasonally, but I haven’t done one since March 2017. A handful of recipes didn’t make it to the blog this year either. But don’t fret – all that and more should hopefully be comin at ya in 2018 (but still at a pretty slow pace because #life).
So, as I’ve alluded to, the blog took a real back seat in 2017. To be honest, I started the year in a major funk. After the November 2016 election I fell into a bit of a depression and let’s be real – keeping up with a food blog felt like literally the least important thing in the world. While I never stopped working on it, I let myself take more days off and I didn’t have a huge urge to be cooking for a while. While I still wanted to EAT (mainly comfort food, especially at first), the creative part of my brain just wasn’t firing with new recipes and other ideas for the blog. So I listened to my brain and let that part rest for a while. I made a point to stay active and tried to eat healthy foods and generally do some self-care in order to stay centered. Eventually my desire to cook and flip through my cookbooks for new ideas came back, slowly but surely.
And then … we suddenly and very unexpectedly bought a house. As some of you may know, Robert and I used to live in an apartment above the studio where he works. The business went through some structural changes at the beginning of the year and the building we lived in was being sold, so it became necessary for us to find a new living arrangement. We found out on a Tuesday that we should look into our options, by Wednesday we had decided to look for a house because that made the most economic sense for us, and by that Friday (3 days later), we had an offer on what is now our house. I think we set a world record for house-buying.
If you know me well, you probably know that I don’t make big decisions lightly, especially when they involve finances. We weren’t planning to buy a house for another 3-5 years or so, making this a HUGE change of plans. I’ve learned over the years that I don’t take big life changes very well. I had a mild panic attack while sitting on stage during my high school graduation, I fell into a funk after graduating college and moving back home, I was nauseous for 36 hours after Robert proposed, I was a hot mess the whole year leading up to our wedding (mainly due to planning-related stress) … you get the picture. Now imagine how I felt about deciding to move and buying a house in about 48 hours’ time. Yikes.
The next several weeks were a whirlwind of learning about mortgages and PMI, inspections, meeting with different banks, talking to the realtor, signing contracts, etc. We settled about 6 weeks after signing the contract, my in-laws (a group of 5) came to visit a week before we moved in (a visit that had been planned months before and ended up being a nice farewell to our apartment), and then we moved into our house the first free weekend we had since putting an offer on it. I was the dictionary definition of a basket case throughout this process.
The thing that surprised me the most was the multitude of emotions I felt about leaving our apartment. Robert and I were so OVER that place but had been keeping our feelings in check since we didn’t think we’d be leaving anytime soon. But once we knew we were moving and getting a house we were like, “OH THANK GOD LET’S GET OUT OF HERE.” Our house has so many upgrades – a dishwasher (I have reclaimed so much time thanks to that contraption), a real shower (instead of a clawfoot tub fashioned into one), a double sink bathroom situation with single faucets (instead of separate hot and cold faucets in a small sink from the 1940s), a washer and dryer (!!!!), a backyard, a larger kitchen with great natural light, etc. When it first hit me that we were moving I had this moment of crazy joy where I started crying happy tears while dancing around the apartment kitchen with Gilmour. But eventually, after a week or two, I started crying tears of sadness. I couldn’t believe it – I would just be driving home from work and start sobbing. (Like I said, #basketcase.) This whole process made me realize how we are entirely capable of feeling two completely opposite and equally strong emotions about the SAME THING: sorrow and joy. I was thrilled to have a home of my own, but so incredibly sad to leave the memories of our apartment behind. I guess I’m pretty sentimental.
All that said, Robert and I love our house, we are so grateful for this random turn of events, and I’ve mostly recovered from my basket case-edness. Becoming homeowners has been a real trip, but we’re slowly getting the hang of it. We totally lucked out with our house because it’s everything we wanted and more. I’m hoping to show some sneak peeks on the blog this year as it continues to come together, starting with the kitchen.
So that should kind of explain why the blog has been even more slower-paced than normal as of late. I also did some freelance jobs (like some fun greeting cards for Inspiralized), and we took an unbelievable two-week trip to Europe. (Part 1 featuring London was recently posted.) We’ve gotten more settled in the house, I’ve been cooking and baking a lot in our new kitchen, plus I’m feeling refreshed and a lot more hopeful about 2018 than I was for 2017.
As I said I meant to do more of these “Things I’m Loving” posts throughout the year, but I did keep all of my thoughts together for this one epic one to end the year (or start the new one, technically) with a bang. I’ve got a whole bunch of recipes for you down in the bucket list, and a nice handful of things I’ve been into lately. Thanks for continuing to read and follow along with this blog through the past year of craziness. I appreciate all of you. Onto the fun stuff!
SOME OF MY FAVORITE POSTS FROM 2017:
COOKBOOKS I’VE BEEN CRUSHING ON REALLY HARD LATELY:
WORKIN ON MAH FITNESS
100 push-up challenge – After I heard about this I told Robert because I knew he’d be into it, and after a few weeks I decided I wanted to do it as well. The premise is pretty simple: on Sundays, you do a test to see how many push ups you can do in a row. Then, cut that number in half. Do THAT amount four times a day throughout the rest of the week, at least one hour apart. Do the test again on Sunday and see if you improved. Then cut that new number in half, and continue with that for the following week. For example, last time I did my test I did 18 push ups, so now I do nine of them four times a day. I’m excited to see how high I can get!
Tone It Up app – As of this January I’ve been doing the Tone It Up workouts for three whole years. I still love it and their workouts just keep getting better and better. I especially love that I can do them in my living room, because it makes it that much easier for me to make working out a habit. They recently released an app and brought on a bunch of new trainers for new workout videos. Now they have barre classes, kickboxing, even more HIIT workouts, etc. I believe the app is currently on sale for only $7/month, but if you’re new to them you can get a taste with all of their free videos on YouTube. (That’s how I did their workouts for three years.) This year I want to play around with doing their #TIUcheckin where you “check in” on social media after your workout. I realized that working out is a huge part of my life but I don’t share it too often on social media, so I’m going to start “checking in” via Insta-stories. Look for those around 6:30am on weekdays. (That’s right – the Tone It Up girls will also convince you to be a morning workout person.)
pole fitness classes – Thanks to a high school friend posting about going to pole class on Facebook, I discovered there’s a really fun pole fitness class about ten minutes from my house. I started going in July (I only go a few times a month when I’m home on the weekends), and I’m absolutely loving it. There are many different styles of pole, and the one I’ve been learning looks a lot like this (<< #goals). It takes an enormous amount of strength to be able to do this stuff. It’s almost like a cross between gymnastics and dance. Even as someone who works out all the time, I was SO SORE after my first class. It makes you use muscles you didn’t know you had and the amount of core strength you need is insane. One of my favorite parts about going to this class is the feeling of sisterhood in the room. To do a lot of moves correctly you need a good amount of skin contact with the pole, so we don’t wear a ton of clothing. The women I work out with have all different body types but it feels very comfortable to all be together, and we’re always cheering each other on as we get stronger together. It’s so cooooool. If you have a place to do this near you, I’d highly suggest checking it out.
Everlane – Ever since I started reading the Unfancy fashion blog a few years ago, I’ve gotten a better grip on my personal style and I’ve made a conscious effort to buy fewer items of clothing. Instead, I’ve been attempting to invest in fewer, higher-quality (and often more expensive) pieces that will make me happy and last a long time. It’s definitely helped me to pare down my wardrobe and figure out what I truly love to wear. Along with that, I’ve also been trying to buy pieces from more ethical and sustainable brands. Everlane is one of my new favorites. I love their classic staples and they’ve been a lifesaver for me with sweaters – I can’t wear anything with wool in it (ugh), but they have some fantastic 100% cotton winter sweaters. I also recently purchased some socks from Bombas, and I have my eye on ABLE – even though I’ve had fit issues with their clothing, their crossbody circle bag is currently on my wish list. What are your favorite ethical clothing brands?
Handmaid’s Tale – OMGGGGGG. If you haven’t watched this show yet, grab a friend and watch it. (I don’t suggest watching it alone … you need someone to freak out with.) First of all, it’s one of the most gorgeous television shows I’ve ever seen. But it also has some of the most intense and admirable acting I’ve seen in a long time, the writing is incredible, and it’s one of those shows that keeps me thinking about it for months after I’m done watching it. The show did win eight Emmys, after all. When you’re done watching it and you can’t stop thinking about it, listen to the Red All Over recap podcast about it. That podcast is probably one of my favorite things that happened to me all year. The way those two women discuss this epic show while also making me laugh and talk about some of my favorite books from my childhood is everything I needed in life.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – For my fellow fans of Gilmore Girls, you need to watch this show. It’s by the creator of GG, and it’s about a 1950s housewife who becomes a stand up comedian in NYC. I could watch it for the soundtrack and costumes alone, but it also has the classic witty banter that Amy Sherman Palladino is known for. The main actress is phenomenal and gorgeous – a true delight to watch on screen. It’s available on Amazon Prime and the first season is only 8 episodes. It’s kind of the opposite of Handmaid’s Tale, so these go well together. Get on it! Perfect for bingeing during cold weather. (And it just won some Golden Globes, including best comedy tv series!)
COOKING & EATING
pizza picnics – For my birthday (in June), Robert gifted me a pizza picnic blanket (!!!) and informed me that we would do a bike ride pizza picnic together. Best present ever! There’s a rail trail that goes through our town and we have a 9-mile loop we like to do. So we did that and then on the way back we stopped off at our local park, set up for a picnic, I ordered Dominos from my phone (my fav), and then we drank wine we had stashed in our S’well bottle. (Major life hack, by the way.) Our pizza showed up in about ten minutes, we ate ALL of it, finished our wine, and then had a tipsy bike ride for the last ten minutes home. It was my favorite. Everyone should do this. We only did one this summer and I’m quite mad about it. In 2018 I want to do this at least 3 times. Let 2018 be The Year of the Pizza Picnic.
“porridge” – Over the last couple years I’ve been slowly teaching myself to like oatmeal. Like true, proper, mushy oatmeal (although preferably not too mushy). When we were in Wales in September, our friend Niall introduced us to the BEST “porridge” I’ve ever had (pictured above). I’m now officially on board. (Side note: “porridge” became my favorite word to say in a British accent during our trip, although it morphed into “powwidge” which is probably pretty offensive. I’m really bad at accents.) Anyway, now I’m on a quest to make some really good “porridge” aka oatmeal at home. I recently made a bowl with steel cut oats and then brûléed the top, which was a great choice (pictured below). I’m hoping to work on my technique even more throughout the rest of the winter.
canelés – I tried my first canelé in London and I don’t know why I waited so long. The custardy insides and the wonderfully crunchy crust? Perfection. After a little research I discovered they’re relatively easy to make at home, but if you want to do it right you need these copper molds, and they’re expensive AF. My BFF recently bought me three to start my set, so I’m going to slowly work my way up so I can try these bad boys at home.
Sarah’s ginger molasses cookies – If you haven’t tried Sarah from The Vanilla Bean Blog’s famous chocolate chip cookies, start there. Her ginger molasses cookies are a new recipe that utilizes the same infamous pan-banging technique, which is a lot of fun. These cookies were the bomb and I hope to make them every winter from now on. You should try them now before the thought of ginger molasses cookies sounds terrible and you’re ready for things like basil and fresh asparagus.
cast iron skillet – My father-in-law gave us a cast iron skillet a while ago (he had an extra because he’s a chef and has this kind of thing just lying around), and then it sat on top of our fridge for about two years. After we moved into our new house this summer, I decided to bite the bullet and just try using this thing. I was a little scared of it, mainly because of all the finicky rules about “seasoning” it and how you can’t wash it with soap, etc. But I did some more reading (it’s not nearly as complicated as I thought it was), and I plopped it onto the stove to force us to use it. Well, now it lives there and we use it almost every day. WHY DID WE WAIT SO LONG?! A world of possibilities has now opened up to us. Do you know how many recipes start with “place a cast iron skillet over medium heat” ?!??!?! We’re seriously obsessed and every time Robert uses it he says something about how much he loves that pan. It makes fried eggs a breeze, we have been making the best salmon of our lives with it, we’ve grilled toast in it, I have plans for a dutch baby in my future, we made a pan pizza, and so on and so forth. It cooks everything beautifully and it’s super easy to clean, mainly because it’s so naturally non-stick. Please don’t be scared like me and just go get yourself a cast iron skillet. I think this one is basically the one we have.
RECIPE BUCKET LIST
You can find all of these recipes and the ones from past lists on my Recipe Bucket List Pinterest Board.
• Farro Risotto with Greens and Feta from Food52
• Ultimate Wild Rice Burgers from Pinch of Yum
• Tigernut Flour Snack Balls, 3 Ways from Faring Well
• Butterscotch Pie from Smitten Kitchen
• Oatmeal Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich Cookies from Bon Appetit
• Falafel Waffles from Oh, Ladycakes
• Pecan Granola Bars from Cookie and Kate
• Roasted Zucchini Pasta Bake from Sprouted Kitchen
• Corn, Cheddar and Scallion Strata from Smitten Kitchen
• Buffalo Cauliflower Salad with Tahini Ranch from The First Mess
• Lemon Thyme Raspberry Vodkas from The Fauxmartha
• Salty Vanilla Bean Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies from Dessert for Two
• Chocolate Hazelnut Tootsie Roll Bites from Faring Well
• Basil Cucumber Quinoa Salad from Heartbeet Kitchen
• Soft Olive Oil Oatmeal Raisin Cookies from Heartbeet Kitchen
• Creamy Elote (Mexican Corn) Pasta from A Cozy Kitchen
• Sheet Pan Pita Pizza with Broccolini and Lemon from My Name is Yeh
• Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies from A Cozy Kitchen
• Baked Eggplant with Orzo and Mozzarella from Smitten Kitchen
• Brown Butter Honey Graham Cake + S’mores Trifle from Wit and Vinegar
• Cocoa Coconut Granola from The Fauxmartha
• Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese from Broma Bakery
• Toffee Coffee Chocolate Chunk Cookies from Harvest and Honey (I’ve made these and they’re amazing. See photo above this list.)
• Vietnamese Iced Coffee Cake from Hummingbird High
• Two-Ingredient Pumpkin Pasta with Balsamic Sage Brown Butter Sauce from Half Baked Harvest
• Cream of Onion Soup with Caramelized Fennel from With Food and Love
• Cheesy Pumpkin Taquitos with Roasted Jalapeño Pepita Crema from Snixy Kitchen
• Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese with Spinach from Naturally Ella
• Legitimately Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Roasted Garlic Tahini Yogurt Dip from The First Mess
• Mini Meatball Pasta Bake from A Cozy Kitchen
• Caramel Budino with Salted Caramel Sauce from Bon Appetit
• Deb’s Chocolate Pecan Slab Pie from Joy the Baker
• Southwest Quinoa and Spiralized Sweet Potato Stuffed Bell Peppers from Inspiralized
• Pomegranate Tequila Coolers from With Food and Love
• Yummy Salmon Burgers with Slaw from Pinch of Yum
• One Skillet Chicken with Buttery Orzo from Bon Appetit
• Lemony Chicken and Orzo Soup from Bon Appetit (This is delicious and SO easy to make.)
• Creamy White Bean Soup with Kale, Rosemary and Lemon from The First Mess
• Maple Pecan Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies from Dolly and Oatmeal
Thanks for reading! Hopefully I’ll be checking in like this a little more often in 2018. xoxo
Illustration at top is a little pattern I made of previous illustrations from the blog. You can find this as a print and other products (along with other work of mine) in my Society6 shop.