I’m still getting the hang of baking–in that, I can follow a recipe pretty well, but haven’t been brave enough to branch out on my own and try crazy inventions yet (unless you count adding cranberries and pecans to French bread). But I have ventured far enough down my Baking Bucket List to have a few favorites…
Favorite to photograph: Challah
The braided design and glossy, egg-wash finish makes this one a no-brainer. Definitely the most Instagrammable of my baked goods, even when it’s a little wonky or lop-sided. I’ve tried different styles–a spiral and a braided coil–but the 6-strand, braided log is my favorite.
Favorite to bake: French Bread
It’s a pretty straight-forward recipe, and I love the way the entire apartment smells like bread. I bake it in my beautiful Le Cruset Dutch (French?) oven, and it leaves us a versatile bread that’s tasty morning, noon, and night.
Favorite to eat: Red Wine Chocolate Cake
What’s better than red wine or chocolate? Combining them into a decadent cake topped with a layer of dark chocolate ganache (or cream cheese frosting, your choice!). This photo is of a similar recipe for chocolate sour cream cake, which is nearly as delish.
Favorite surprise/transformation: Chocolate Babka
I just had to include this one because it looks absolutely terrifying before going into the oven, but it comes out completely gorgeous and so scrumptious. There’s definitely an ugly-duckling-metaphor in here somewhere. 😉
I plan on sharing my recipes for each of these (and more!) soon–is there one in particular you’d like to see first? What’s your favorite baked good, to bake and/or eat? Let me know in the comments!
Holy crap you guys, I just found this lovely little post sitting in my drafts as I went to write my first 2020 Reading Challenge post. SMH! Welp, enjoy this super better-late-than-never recap, and look forward to hearing my first 10 books of 2020, coming soon!
In 2019 I set a goal of reading 40 new books, and ended up reading 64! Here’s the final list:
If I can only recommend one book from this long list, it’s A Very Large Expanse of Sea. It follows a teenage Muslim girl in the wake of 9/11. It’s nuanced and rich and I sobbed, laughed, and was completely engrossed–I read it in about two days, sneaking open my kindle app at work and cooking dinner with one eye glued to Shirin’s story.
One of Us is Lying is an excellent murder-mystery-meets-the-Breakfast-Club. I love a good unreliable narrator, and the fact that there are 4 different points of view telling the reader about a death only they witnessed (and are, therefore, the only suspected murderers) keeps things very interesting.
Matchmaking for Beginners surprised me the most. It was available for free through Amazon Prime, and I’m not really sure what led me to open it–maybe the pale blue cover and a desire for something lighthearted. This book definitely delivered, while also having a thread of deep emotions throughout.
I really enjoyed expanding out of my YA-comfort-zone and reading books in so many different genres. Do you recognize any books on my list as favorites of yours? Have any recommendations for 2020? I’m already building my “to-be-read” list–there are so many great stories out there!
In case you were wondering, in no particular order, and by no means complete, here is a list of the items I plan to try my hand at in my lifetime:
Buche de Noel (Yule Log)
Swedish Tea Ring
It seems like each episode of the Great British Baking Show inspires another addition to the list, and with this newfound hobby, I’ve started checking out more baking blogs for tips (and even more inspiration). Let me know if there’s anything you’d like to see me try–I’m game to post about all my baking triumphs and failures!
I already wrote my post reflecting on 2019, so this post is about my hopes for 2020 and beyond. Last year, I said I don’t like resolutions because they’re broken so easily, but I did keep to my 2019 goal of reading 40+ books (the grand total is over 60 and I promise I’ll post the entire list and highlight my favorites). I also sent queries to over 20 agents, so I kept to my goal of pursuing publishing in 2019. I *didn’t* do so hot at keeping up bi-weekly manicures (and my hands are still a mess most of the time) BUT I was getting a little better at “treating” myself more frequently–then we moved and I’ve yet to find a nail salon I love as much as the one in the Central West End (but one goal for 2020 is to stop being passive-aggressively-bitter about no longer living in St. Louis).
Riding on last year’s coattails, my goals for 2020 are similar. This year, my goal is 50 books. I’m not anticipating the downtime of a move between jobs, so most of my reading will be squeezed into the in-between-life moments: brushing my teeth, waiting for elevators, steeping my tea in the mornings.
I’ve decided to hold off querying any more agents until I’ve gotten a first draft of my sequel finished. Partially because I think this might take some pressure off, mostly because I know how the story ends but no idea how to get there, and I like the flexibility of being able to tweak book 1 if needed to make the entire story better. So my 2020 goal is to finish drafting Sticks and Stones (working title), then regroup in terms of publishing. (Of course, that goes completely out the window if an agent offers representation now) 😉
I like the idea of doing something very resolution-y and health/physical-body-related, even though my follow through is statistically horrible. I’m going to try getting up a half hour early and incorporating a quick yoga routine into my mornings. And maybe get more manicures again.
I’m also going to return to therapy in 2020. This one’s kind of cheating, because I’ve already made the appointment, but I like crossing things off lists. Look at me go, already starting 2020 ahead of the game! I want to be more honest (I know that’s a goal I’ve had in the past, but this year I’m particularly focused on no longer lying to myself), and I hope therapy will help me separate out how I actually think/feel/want to act from the ways I *think* I should think/feel/act.
And I’m totally going to bake more, because I absolutely love it. I want to master challah, and tackle at least 5 items on my baking bucket list in 2020: macarons, croissants, sandwich bread, pretzel buns, and rainbow cookies.
Because everything in life should come with a soundtrack, here’s my song for 2020: BRILLIANT by Shinedown. If I can be one thing in 2020, let it be this kind of brilliant.
I love the trend of posting your best nine pics of a given year. Not only is it a chance to revisit some excellent memories and gather them all into one collage (remember making actual collages in the 90s, pasting together photos and stickers and ticket stubs? Am I dating myself?), but pulling together nine pictures from across a year reminds you just how blessed you are.
Maybe I’ve just had an extraordinarily *good* year. Maybe I’m just getting better at seeing the positives. Either way, this year I struggled to narrow down my 2019 experiences into nine thumbnail-sized shots. So what are blogs for, if not reminiscing?
At the beginning of the year, we got a perfect snow in St. Louis–enough to disrupt work for a day, not enough to put us on lockdown. One of the neighborhood restaurants opened its patio that night and provided free spiked hot chocolate/hot toddies around fire pits. Such a midwestern thing to do, and such spontaneous, snowy fun!
We also went to our first (and only) musical at the Fox Theatre while in the Lou. Fiddler on the Roof was every bit as magical as I remember it being when I watched it on VHS in middle school (moreso, since it was live, and I was old enough to appreciate what was going on in the story–I did NOT realize how dark it gets in Act II!).
Taking advantage of our location, we did a long weekend in the other Lou–touring bourbon distilleries, appreciating the baseball history, and visiting Churchill Downs. Louisville remains one of my favorite trips we’ve taken, and I can’t wait to visit again!
2019 saw the first newborn member inducted into the Olin Boys’ Club, as well as a whole host of get-togethers and adventures with our b-school buddies. These include Olin’s formal, graduation, and a trip to the Ozarks, to feature a few. The hubs turned 30, which we celebrated with bowling followed by a rooftop bar.
We visited Chicago and continued an hour north to see Milwaukee (my favorite of the small cities we’ve visited since moving to St. Louis). We popped home in time to watch the Blues win the Stanley Cup. Then began our journey east.
After a pit stop in Indianapolis (and another, not-pictured, in Pittsburgh), we made it to our new home in DC. I worked on polishing my manuscript and query materials, and began seeking agent representation for my novel.
My brother visited during his (too) brief tour of the US before returning to Korea. I bravely (for me) explored DC on my own, between job-hunting and writing. And my in-laws (after at least 8 years of talking about it) *finally* bought a home in Old Town.
We made it out to Rehoboth Beach, where we discovered we’re no longer used to the brilliance of a sun reflecting off ocean waves.
An agent responded to one of my queries, complimenting my writing sample and requesting more. I couldn’t stop smiling the entire walk home from our new favorite pizza place. My husband bought a car (unrelated, but almost as exciting for him).
Dear friends tied the knot. Others have growing families. I turned 30.
And celebrated with a parade. Okay, that was for the Nationals, since they won the World Series and all. I started a new job with a fun group of people. I watched so much Great British Baking Show that I was inspired…
I spent time with those adorable faces (and equally adorable sister- and brother-in-law, not pictured). I baked a lot more delicious stuff. Turns out, I’m a baker! #challahatyagirl
As the year winds down, holiday parties are filling the calendar. Crazy to think there’s only a week left in 2019, and in the 2010s! What a decade it was. Here’s to the memories, friendships, and epic life changes!
Hello, friends! It’s been a little bit, and mostly that’s because I’ve been busy (but also, a little lazy).
So we *moved*. The Navy Yard area of DC is so fun and surprisingly pretty (I’ll admit, I was expecting a lot more concrete, but there are parks and tree-lined streets not far in the beautiful Capitol Hill neighborhood). I will definitely need to post about the great food and drinks we’ve experienced thus far!
I also started a new job! It happened a lot faster than I expected, which is mostly good because I was already starting to get a little stir-crazy–though a little extra time between jobs may have provided more writing opportunities.
Who am I kidding? I started the querying process shortly after the move, so rather than putting pen to paper, I was crafting letters and cramming the happenings of my story into a single page (double-spaced). This process gave me terrible writer’s block, because my brain was so focused on the nittiest, grittiest of details rather than letting my imagination roam free.
So my lack of creativity mingled with my lack of hearing back from agents I queried, sprinkled with stress over starting a new job in a new city with a new, hellish commute has had me bouncing from high to low and back again. The best way to explain how I’ve felt this past month would be to say I vacillate between “High Hopes” by Panic! At The Disco and “Special” by Shinedown with very little neutral ground. Though, I’m pleased to report things just might be looking up for me in the writing world. To be continued…
That’s all I’ve got for right now, I’ll try to get back to semi-regular posting once I’m more settled into a routine. I’ve definitely got the commute for composing rambles!
Maybe it’s all this free time on my hands (definitely that) but I blew through 40 books this year. I’m also the sort of person who crams entertainment into every few minutes she can (reading for the 2 minutes it takes to brush my teeth, listening to podcasts while I get ready for the day, driving or cooking to Spotify playlists…) and I need at least an hour of unwind-reading-time before I fall asleep. I’ve made my stretch goal 65 books…let’s see what I can do to read 25 more books before New Year’s Eve!
Mirage – Somaiya Daud (A young woman is taken from her family to be the stand-in for an enemy princess–who just so happens to be her doppelgänger. Once at the palace, though, she learns things aren’t what they’d appeared)
Queen of Ruin – Tracy Banghart (excellent sequel to Grace and Fury, all about girl power, sisterhood, and trust)
Captivate: The Science of Succeeding With People – Vanessa Van Edwards (ever see the show Lie to Me? She discusses micro-expressions and how to read people quickly to overcome social anxiety and awkward interactions…I’m still pretty socially anxious, but I learned a lot of interesting things reading this!)
Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo (A girl discovers she has a great power that’s been repressed her entire life, but could be the key to saving her people from the monsters who lurk in the darkness)
Yes, Please – Amy Poehler (as funny and heart-warming as she is, Amy Poehler’s memoir is full of interesting life advice, anecdotes about Parks and Rec, and features a stellar cast of voices if you listed to the audio book)
The Ladies’ Guide to Petticoats and Piracy – Mackenzie Lee (sequel to The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue and just as charming and witty. Featuring an asexual leading lady who just wants to be a doctor and/or go on an adventure–and ends up getting much more than she bargained for)
The Lost Girls – Heather Young (told from two POV, that of the sister to a young girl who went missing in 1930s Minnesota, and her great-niece trying to start a new life for her family. Family secrets are uncovered, long buried mysteries are solved, and a family finally finds peace)
Wicked Saints – Emily A. Duncan (a girl is hunted for her ability to commune with the gods and combat the blood magic used by the heretics of an enemy country. She places her trust in one such enemy, with their joint goal of ending the war between their countries. But when she arrives at the enemy king’s court, she isn’t sure who she can trust)
Mistress of the Ritz – Melanie Benjamin (told through competing POVs–that of Blanche and her husband Claude–we see the Nazi occupation of Paris during WWII and the lengths people go to in order to protect everything they love–including a glamorous hotel)
Broken Things – Lauren Oliver (this was very much along the lines of Sharp Objects, Gone Girl, and Girl on the Train. Friends are accused of murdering their best friend when they were 13. Five years later, they’re thrown back together with a new clue to finding the actual murderer. Everyone’s a suspect, and everyone has something to hide. I’m usually good at figuring out these twists, but I didn’t realize who the murderer was until shortly before it was revealed, despite the well-laid clues.)
There you have it, 40 new books in 2019! My bookshelf is full in the Libby app, and I have four unread books in my den just waiting for me, so I’m looking forward to seeing how many books I can experience before the year is out!
Hi guys! We are all settled in to our new apartment in the Navy Yard area of D.C.–and I’m loving it so far! Our neighborhood is nicely walkable (even in this heat!) and really close to other fun neighborhoods like Capitol Hill and Eastern Market. Plus, our building has a pool, so I’ve been spending a little time up there, feeling like I’m on a true vacation (rather than technically unemployed).
Rooftop pool aside, I *love* my new kitchen. We’ve got almost double the counter space compared to our St. Louis apartment.
I’m excited to start trying a bunch of new recipes and old favorites, but unpacking, applying for jobs, and exploring the new location has left me pooped most nights. The recipe I’m sharing today (based on this one) is a *lifesaver* for those days when you’re just too tired to get creative in the kitchen. All you have to do is chop up some veggies and sausage, toss it all with olive oil and spices, and pop it in the oven for a half hour. Presto, easy peasy, delicious dinner!
Sheet Pan Sausage and Veggies
about 8 small potatoes, cut into small cubes (I used small white, red, and purple potatoes)
1 red bell pepper, cut into squares
a handful of green beans (sorry it’s not more scientific, I literally grabbed a hearty handful from the bag)
1 medium head of broccoli, cut into florets
2 andouille sausage links, sliced into thick coins
6 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs oregano
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes (up to 1/4 tsp if you prefer more heat)
Preheat the oven to 400ºF
Wash and prep the veggies and sausage. Cover baking sheet in foil and spray with cooking oil.
Spread prepped veggies and sausage on the baking sheet in a thin layer.
Whisk the olive oil with the spices, then drizzle over the veggies and sausage. Toss gently to thoroughly coat.
Roast 30 minutes, stirring/tossing once about halfway through.
Notes: We enjoyed them over spiced rice (rice seasoned with a dash of ginger, turmeric, and season salt). This could be just as good on its own, or over a bed of quinoa, barley, or other grain of choice.
You can use any veggies you prefer–asparagus would probably be really good, a little onion, maybe some spinach added immediately after removing to wilt it just a bit.
The original recipe suggested garnishing with Parmesan cheese, which I *so* wish I’d remembered to do–it was amazing without it, but come on, everything is better with cheese!
This also reheated really well the next day–I popped a plate in the microwave for a minute, which was all it needed to warm through. The sausage was a *little* dry, but not inedibly so.
Enjoy! Let me know in the comments if you give this recipe a try 🙂
I’ve hit 30 books read, with 5 1/2 months left to go in 2019. I think it’s safe to make a stretch-goal of 60 books. Especially since I’ve pre-ordered a few books by authors I love, and I *just* downloaded the Libby app (which gives me access to e-books through libraries) so I don’t need to be as choosy about which books get my dollars.
The Firethorn Crown – Lea Doué (12 sisters become cursed to dance each night in an enchanted garden until the eldest agrees to release the cursed prince by marrying him–and forfeiting her own crown, and chance at happiness)
Shatter Me – Tahereh Mafi (SO GOOD. A girl who can kill with merely a touch is kidnapped to become a weapon, but escapes with a boy she remembers from her childhood. The villain is really well written, and the language is poetic without being too flowery/overdone)
Girl, Stop Apologizing – Rachel Hollis (I thought Girl, Wash Your Face was good, but this one was even more empowering for me. Highly recommend!)
Legacy of Kings – Eleanor Herman (plops Alexander the great into a fantasy world)
Girls of Glass – Brianna Labuskes (A detective whose young daughter was kidnapped and murdered now works a very similar case for a high-profile judge and a family with a lot to hide…)
Nine Perfect Strangers – Liane Moriarty (I was expecting an And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie type murder-mystery, but this took me by surprise. Nine people check into a health retreat for various reasons, only to find out things are not what they seem)
Dance of Thieves – Mary E. Pearson (super sexy male MC and badass-yet-relatable female MC, a queen’s soldier is sent to find a traitor amongst an outlaw family’s kingdom, but a joint kidnapping throws her together with the leader of the outlaws, joined in their goal to survive and maintain order and peace)
Any suggestions for the last 10 books to round out my 2019 reading list? Have you read any of the same books? I’d love to hear what you thought!
Someone to Rely On – John Allred (from the first strum, this song *feels* as reliable as the title implies. Definitely a song for every couple I’ve ever written, but especially fits for my future piratey story)
Play That Song – Train (so the melody of this song is totally “borrowed” from Heart and Soul by Hoagie Carmichael, which is my #1 song for my WWII series I’ve been working on, which immediately made me love it. That it’s so peppy and fun only makes it better)