So I hear there’s a football game happening around here this weekend? Terrific. Can someone come get me when all the sports-ing stops interrupting the Katy Perry Show? Thanks.
I realize it makes me totally un-American and very unpopular, but I really don’t understand the excitement of the Super Bowl, no matter how hard I try. But I can get behind the thrill of Big Game Day snacks. Particularly snacks that involve cheese, are terrific with booze, and offer something beyond a bag of chips.
In my childhood, my mom was The Queen of Garage Sales. For a certain number of years, I spent many a summer afternoon “going sale-ing” (get it?), treasure hunting in the more affluent Chicago suburbs. Sometimes we’d go with friends, making a day of it, a bunch of kids crammed into a van, driving to the North Shore, as our mothers drank Tab and gossiped and squealed and high fived over their finds. Other times it was just my mom and sister and I, and I’d bring a handful of small change and singles hoarded from found stray money around the house and playing mother’s helper for the family across the street for three dollars an hour–just in case I found something that I thought was interesting, then I wouldn’t have to beg for it.
In case you’re wondering how weird of a little kid I was, one of my favorite finds was an old Heloise Hints paperback, thin and worn with a yellowed, curled cover, for a mere ten cents. But I found the contents absolutely fascinating–basically a MacGyvering guide for the modern housewife (or enterprising 10-year-old girl, as the case was). I skimmed the bullet points daily, and spent the rest of the summer dropping knowledge wherever I could, telling my Gramma to boil a cup of vinegar on the stove after she stunk up the place making corned beef and cabbage, and advising mothers of friends to light a birthday cake’s candles with a long piece of dried spaghetti at parties. I’m sure this wasn’t annoying at all.
My love of “why didn’t I think of that?” tips continues to this day. Anything that makes life in the kitchen a little snappier and re-purposes what’s already around gets bonus points, in my book. In fact, I’ve bookmarked some for years. And then I thought, why am I not spreading this goodness? So now I’ll be doing just that occasionally from here on out. Here’s a round-up of some of my favorite culinary tricks.
Happy New Year, darling readers! I hope your holiday season wrapped up with a bang, whatever that means to you. Over the years, ringing in the New Year right has meant a variety of scenarios around here, everything from couching it with yoga pants, cookies, and Champers, to the sort of crazy, whoop-filled party that requires a sequined somesuch and trying in vain to hail taxis (admittedly, it’s been a while since I’ve experienced the latter). This time around, though, we struck a nice balance with a lively nearby party thrown by new friends, and as every person there had wacky little kids, the festivities were designed to ring in 2015 on east coast time. Which, in a glorious turn of events, meant I was back at home, full of good cheer, in my pajamas and both kids in bed by 9:30 p.m. PST. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. How has this not always been our thing? I think I’ll be celebrating on New Year’s Eve like this for the rest of my days. So great.
Now that we’re solidly settling into 2015, anyone with an internet connection and half an ear tuned into the rest of the universe can’t escape all the talk of turning over a new leaf. Is it just me, or does it seem like all the chatter about resolutions is particularly intense this year? Hmmm. I wonder what that’s all about. Anyway, although I am all for using a brand new year as an excellent excuse to attack life goals and start fresh, I’m also excited to bring some bits and pieces of 2014 with me for inspiration.
So many websites love to do a year-end round-up of the best fall cookbooks sometime in December, and while that makes perfect (possibly better) sense, I often find that it’s not until January that I can actually take a breath and page through all the beauties that collected on my desk throughout the previous season. Since we’ll be in a bit of a cookbook releasing lull for the time being (which picks back up right about the time my third cookbook Real Sweet hits shelves, what whaaaatttt #shameless), these are the still-new-to-me books that I’ll be hitting up for fresh ideas throughout 2015.
This past Spring marked my 11th year as a California resident. 11 years, people! Unreal. The Illinois blood runs deep–real deep–but no doubt, after that stretch of time lived in one part of the country, things are bound to change within a person, at least a little bit. There are a few things with which the Midwestern gal inside of me will never fall out of love (read: white Christmases, the unbeatable kindness of strangers, Pabst Blue Ribbon, an inexplicable fondness for Cool Whip). But over the years I’ve become very fond of my life in California, whether that be the years spent as a childless newlywed galavanting at the beach in Santa Monica, or the decidedly more grown-up years in San Francisco, where we’ve started our family and become hopelessly snobby about wine and the best artisan breads.
Regardless of what part of California we’ve called home over the past 11 years, one thing has not changed: I still catch myself, every couple of days at least, looking around, taking a deep breath and thinking to myself, I GET TO LIVE HERE. Dang, it feels good to be a Californian.
Is anyone else feeling like a total Grown Up Cliche this holiday season? I don’t know if it’s because I’m actually older, or that I have two kids now and they’ve sucked everything from me including my brain cells and my metabolism or WHAT, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt the craziness of the holidays quite like this year. Oof. And who has two thumbs and hasn’t even started thinking about shopping for gifts? This lady. Fa-la-la-la-la!!!
Top of the Grown Up Cliche list is three holiday parties in the same weekend, and no idea how we’re going to fit them all in. You too? Excellent. So let’s talk hostess gifts. Maybe my Midwestern-ness is showing, but I do think it’s nice to show up with a little something for folks insane enough to throw a big holiday gathering, especially considering how much effort that entails–shopping, running, organizing, obsessing, cleaning, and then re-cleaning once its all over. I’d say that kind of effort calls something thoughtful, festive, and preferably edible, so that the host/hostess doesn’t have to find a place to put another freaking scented candle that they’ll probably never use, in addition to having to re-scrub the bathroom once all the guests leave. So how about a big bag of Gingerbread Caramel Corn? Oh, and bourbon. Lots.
Ohhh, the food hangover. I’m writing this from my hometown of Chicago, which is basically the best place in the entire universe to celebrate Thanksgiving (I may be a bit biased). We’ve had fantastic late fall weather (very cold for these now-Californian bones, but very little wind, which really is what kills ya out here), great food, and lots of much-needed family time. I hope wherever you are, even if you’re not in a Thanksgiving-celebrating place, you’re doing the same.
But let’s get real.
Now that November is on its way out, we’re about to get into some hardcore crazy holiday times. Shopping and decorating and baking and holding empty threats over our children’s heads so they’ll behave or finish their dinners, lest they get nothing but coal. Fun times! Might I suggest a little something to kickstart your holiday shopping?
Quirk Books, the wonderful publisher of my first two books, knows how to get folks into a holiday gift-giving frenzy. Through their Quirk DIY Book Club, they offer all kinds of creative titles that are perfect for the crafty types on your holiday shopping list. This month, their featured title is Pure Vanilla, woo-hoo! What this means is that for the month of December you can buy the eBook of PV for a mere $3.99. Hot! And because the Quirk people love my people (read: you), they’re offering up TEN free copies for me to give away. Heck yes!
To win one, just enter below using the Rafflecopter (note that you’ll get extra entries for following on Twitter, Facebook, etc.). Winners will be notified by e-mail after December 8th!
Ooh-whee, are you feelin’ the Fall, people? We are, even in San Francisco. As per usual, the sunshine and blue skies have finally joined us just in time for temperature to drop, which I can never quite get used to. You know what else I can’t get used to? Daylight savings time. Before children, this used to mean an extra hour of sleep, and feeling even cozier in the late afternoon as the sun dropped out of the sky earlier and earlier. Kind of dreamy. But all this means now is that my kids’ sleeping schedules are even more terrible than usual, and I have less hours in the day to try and get a decent photograph of some really great hot chocolate for you (I give up; see above). Bah. Luckily I’ve had a few fun things going on that have buoyed my mood and kept me from jumping off the roof in a premature Seasonal Affective Disorder tirade:
1. Our big Kindergarten girl has really started reading and writing and generally blowing us away with her hilarity. She’s started lamenting the fact that she can’t walk to and from school alone like all the “collegers”. “Collegers” meaning the older kids in her school. Invented, earnestly delivered words are the best words.
2. My baby boy is still very much a baby, but is now eight (!) months old. Which means that we are officially in the Very Best Stage with him, the stage that makes people have babies in the first place: squidgy, babbling, present, funny, lovable, crawling, sitting up, and getting into things that I didn’t even know were in my house. Never mind that I still haven’t had a full night’s sleep since February, right?
3. Honeyed Hot Chocolate, which I will get to in a bit.
4. I’m actually back to work–teaching a class here and there, doing all kinds of recipe development with exciting new ingredients (more on that soon), and realizing that the importance of having some kind of creative project going can’t be overstated, especially for moms. Even within the madness of mothering two small people, making my own creative life a priority has supercharged me in a whole new way. I feel like a better version of myself, a better mother, generally just more excited to be in the world. I can’t help but wonder what the world might be like if every mother took the time to nuture her creative self as much as she does her children. With the way we mothers can multitask, can you imagine the results? We could start a revolution! And here is where I get a little Oprah on you for a sec.
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