Shelf Life: Fall 2014

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These are some of my most favorite posts to write. Nowhere else can I wax rhapsodic about the little bound treasures that make me so very happy. Though after a summer of two 700+-page tomes that made my arms ache, my Fall reading fell a little short. I blame the dawn of my FitBit, who stole away my lunch hours for long walks instead of long reading breaks. I also blame the library, who provided ALL of the books on this list, making me feel like a constant state of limbo. I didn’t want to pick up a book on my nightstand when a new one from the library would come in a few days and I’d be on the clock to finish it.

Book nerd problems.

We’ve also had a house full of visitors over the last month, surprises and planned, so I haven’t been “with book” like I normally am. Excuses aside, let’s talk about my favorite time of year in Utah. This was our view from the University just last weekend. I really think October is the best month for the mountains.

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This has been a weird fall for us. We had a few cold snaps in September that left the leaves just as confused as us. Especially when we’ve had a record-warm October with highs in the 70s most days. In fact, today will be beautiful and warm and snow and temps in the 20s are predicted for Sunday. Just madness and lots of sniffly sinuses.

Before we bid adieu to Fall, take a look at some of the gorgeousness that is Cache Valley.

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Doesn’t it look like I used some kind of select color photoshop trick on this? I didn’t, but I like the look.

It’s hard to beat the leaves for me, but the Fall skies have been absolutely breathtaking. I’m almost…ALMOST!…sad to set the clocks back this weekend and lose these views on my morning commute.

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And because it’s today, and—yes—I already have Christmas songs in my head, I’ll leave you with this before we hit the books.

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Happy Halloween from your resident stinker, sucker, and Princess.

1. The Vacationers, Emma Straub

I totally get sucked into the “Books of the Summer” lists each year. They are typically easy reads, something that pairs well with sand and salt water, but just as well with mountains and couches. This was one of this summer’s picks and it stayed true to my stereotype. Nothing groundbreaking. Just a funny story about a dysfunctional family’s vacation in Italy. Como si dice “spot on”?

2. The Nesting Place, Myquillyn Smith

Weird author name aside, this was an excellent reminder about loving the place you call home, whether you rent, own, or are looking to buy. She walks you through each of her houses and gives tips on how you can make a place your own, how to embrace your mess, and how a home can work for your family’s needs. A few take-aways:

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” — Epicurus

“Are you waiting on your next house? The house that will be better and newer and bigger, the house you will make into a beautiful home? Oh, the burden the next house carries, where all the living and enjoying and creating will happen. If only. Just remember: compared with your last house, this IS your next house.”

USE YOUR GOOD STUFF! (I’m guilty of this. What am I saving it for?!)

3. Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty

Last summer, Liane wrote one of the best-selling books—a #1 New York Times bestseller—called The Husband’s Secret (see below). While on the wait list for that at the library, I managed to lead the list for her 2014 summer release. I instantly loved her writing and stayed up way too late most nights because I just couldn’t put it down. The material is unsettling, especially so for any parental types. It deals with bullying, single-parenting, domestic violence, infidelity, helicopter parents, mommy wars, etc. etc. etc. Heavy subject matter for sure, but written in a way that bordered both humor and empathy. A narrow path that Moriarty treads perfectly. I can’t wait to read her other novels and I highly recommend this one.

4. The Silkworm, Robert Galbraith

J.K. ‘strikes’ again! This is her second Cormoran Strike novel, a series she recently announced will include more books than her Harry Potter series. Cormoran is a great character, so I don’t mind. This one took me a while to get into, but I blame my late-night, sleepy reading than the actual plot. Once I got into it, I didn’t want to put it down, which explains why I hastily read the last few pages at my desk early one morning than saving it for my lunch break. I felt like I had hit pause on the most exciting part of the book–waiting five hours just wasn’t going to happen for 10 pages! Ah, the power of Ms. Rowling.

5. The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd

From the power of J.K. Rowling to the power of Oprah, this book literally had wings the second she endorsed it for her book club. I typically don’t buy into her hype as a rule, but so many of my friends were blasting out their love of this book that I couldn’t stay away. And I’m glad I didn’t.

Its story follows the Grimké sisters—real-life abolitionist legends from South Carolina. Though very real, Sue’s account is largely fictional and chronicles their time as children through their later lives. You know I love those kinds of stories. It’s a dual coming-of-age tale of one of the sisters (Sarah) and the slave that was given to her as a birthday present, and how their bond and a promise keeps pulling them together. This is beautiful writing for an even more beautiful story. Don’t let Oprah’s seal on the cover throw you off.

6. The Husband’s Secret, Liane Moriarty

This was the Summer 2013 hit that I finally got from the library wait list. After reading two of Liane’s books in a short amount of time, I realized that I take for granted that most of the books I read are written by American authors. Both stories are set in Liane’s native Australia, so getting used to their summer vacations over the Christmas break took a little rewiring on my part. But, for the book itself, it didn’t disappoint. It’s a heavy book disguised as a summer chick-flick, something magazines and newspapers mentioned quite a bit due to its frilly cover art. It chronicles the lives of three families all forever changed by one person’s decision decades ago. It really makes you wonder about the small choices/decisions we make every day without worrying about who they might affect, even years later. “The choices you make dictate the life you lead.” Choose wisely.

7. Not That Kind of Girl, Lena Dunham

I’ve never seen an episode of Girls, but I do know Lena Dunham is loved by women of my generation for her feminist ideals and her sassy screw-you attitude. She exudes confidence, something lacking in so many young women, and is a younger voice to balance those of Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, and Amy Poehler. I had no idea what to expect from her book, but I was pleasantly surprised in every page. Sure, she’s snarky and crude and has had WAY too much casual sex, but she’s also incredibly insightful and touching. She perfectly captures what it’s like to be a confused, hurt, yet resilient 20-something. ….Maybe I should give her show a try.

A favorite passage on dating the wrong guy:

When someone shows you how little you mean to them and you keep coming back for more, before you know it you start to mean less to yourself. Being treated like shit is not an amusing game…It’s something you accept, condone, and learn to believe you deserve. This is so simple. But I tried so hard to make it complicated.

Smart girl.

Next up in the overly-ambitious queue:

The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters (currently reading)
The Goldfinch
 – Donna Tartt
A Dance with Dragons – George R. R. Martin (this is a MUST before the next season starts!)
Freedom – Jonathan Franzen
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Running to Normal – Sandra Clark
Orange is the New Black – Piper Kerman
Food: A Love Story – Jim Gaffigan
Yes Please – Amy Poehler
Us – David Nicholls
Belzhar – Meg Wolitzer

# homecoming 2014

Man, do I get behind with these posts! Let’s rewind things back to almost THREE weeks ago. *hanging head in shame*

Just like last year, my mom and Mike made the trek to Logan for Homecoming. This is turning out to be a really fun tradition. You’d think they were USU grads themselves, the way they embrace all the chaos and excitement.

Homecoming weekend for us is always a busy one. There’s the parade, the game, the events and this year….a concert. The night before the game Joe and I played a concert dedicated to the 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz. It was mostly a family concert, so lots of kids dressed as Elsa and Darth Vadar, but it was a fun time and I’m glad it gave my mom an opportunity to wear her infamous Concert Sweater.

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She’s worn this sweater to every concert of mine for the last 18 years. Isn’t that incredible? It makes me laugh and we always joke about it, but really I find it very touching and sentimental. She knows that’s my jam.

The next day started early with the parade. Sorry for blinding you guys!

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Another gorgeous day, just like last year. The band led the way:


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We stood on the last block of the parade, so we saw a lot of tired performances from the kids, but here are some highlights from those still giving it their all:

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Those crazy gymnasts doing flips and trampoline work were back. I swear, there are broken necks just waiting to happen here. MOVING vehicles, people! MOVING!

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This dance team was especially fun:

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I caught her at a weird moment. Speaking of weird, this guy was great. The kids were totally perplexed.

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I can’t tell you how much I love that kid’s face in the background. hahahhahahah

I was also a big fan of the reindeer:

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Oh, hey there Cowboy…

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Here are a few of the international students I work with at the school:

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Last, but not least, your future Aggie:

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The game was a late one…kick-off at 8:15 Mountain Time…which is just plain crazy. We managed to stay up and enjoy the game, keeping each other warm:

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Decked out in our gear. This was before the coats came out.

The band’s show was the music of Daft Punk — loooooved it. (The first two shots are from pre-game.)

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Mom and Mike, thank you for coming to visit us! We love having you here. You put the Home in Homecoming. (#awww)

Friday Five: Another Surprise!

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

Have I missed a Friday Five yet? I can’t remember. It certainly didn’t slip my mind. I was talking about it all yesterday — “what should I write about? someone give me a theme!,” but things got crazy and I crashed in bed without flossing, so you know that means I was tired. For shame!

But, I have the best of excuses. On Thursday my Dad was coming to visit and as I met him before I left work it was the surprise of surprises to see Bryan and Robbi with him. A wonderful surprise since we hadn’t seen them since their big day. I can’t wait to write about what we’ve been doing, but until then, here’s what you can expect to do if you show up at our door unannounced:

5. 10 minutes of hugs, including the elusive dead-weight variety.

4. A meal at Herm’s that includes ALL THE THINGS.

3. Post-Herms hiking that will leave you winded and sore.

2. Fly-fishing on the Logan River.

1. Aggie football. (Aggies are Aggies, right Robbi?)

Sorry for the teaser, but that’s all I got for now! Pics of all of our recent visitors will be up this week.

# football 2014

We’re halfway through USU’s home games for the season and I haven’t written one word about it! It’s either a massive miracle or a massive failure. The hoards of photos have sat untouched on my computer…until now.

Here are some highlights from the first two games. (Homecoming will get its own post soon.)

First game: USU v. Idaho State

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I forgot how gorgeous the stadium views are from the top. I sat near the press box, waiting for pre-game to start while soaking up the beautiful sunshine and mountains. Click on the pic to see its full glory.

Everyone was elated to have our star quarterback, Chuckie Keeton, back on the field after being injured last year. This poster said it all.

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Sitting near the band has its action-shot perks:

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I took this picture because the night before the game Joe and I watched “Dear Mr. Watterson” and relived our childhood obsession with Calvin and Hobbes. Seeing this kid reading it rather than (mostly) watching the game made my day.

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The Scotsman!

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First game’s half-time show: Music from Harry Potter (hence the scar below), Game of Thrones, and Gladiator

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The second game: USU v. Wakeforest

Here’s lookin’ at you, Big Blue.

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The team was led out onto the field by USU’s youngest fans. So hilarious to watch.

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Did I mention it was a White-Out game and I wore black? Yeah.

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And I sat in the student section and had to stand the entire game? Where’s my Old Lady Card?

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Coaches and their funny business:

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Second game’s half-time show: Music by Macklemore

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Performing with the Aggiettes:

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When we were at CCM, we had to perform in these “distraction classes” to test our focus. I consider this Joe’s new distraction class:

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Funny side story: Joe was always a champ at those classes, but guess who got him to break?…. Me…with a blood-curling scream during his quiet excerpt. It was epic.

GoPro is not just for zip-lining it seems:

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Friday Five: Cookbook Invasion

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

You know how I can go on and on about books? Well, I can talk even more about cookbooks.

Lucky you, right?

I have a serious obsession that stems from my childhood. It really deserves its own post that will undoubtedly start with:

Hi. I’m Marci. And I’m a cookbook-aholic.

After moving so many times I’ve stopped buying books and become a library whore. The only exceptions to the rule are cookbooks. I need them. I want to mark-up their glossy pages with dates, notes, suggestions and splatters of sauce and butter spots. I want to dog-ear pages and wear down the dust jacket. I need to live in those books. Flipping through their pages gives me such a tangible joy that Pinterest’s convenience can’t match.

Remember how I turned down a book club with friends? I have a dream of starting a Cookbook Book Club, where we pick one cookbook a month and everyone makes different recipes for a big pot-luck meal. Our own Moveable Feast. Who’s with me?

There’s nothing better to me than curling up on the couch with a pile of cookbooks, menu planning and dreaming with my mouth watering and my ideas spinning. When I first get a new cookbook I immediately plow through every page, creating a roadmap and planning my attack.

I have acquired five…FIVE…new cookbooks in the last month. It’s a new record. (Think my friends and family know the way to my birthday-girl heart?!) I wanted to share with you the top-five-recipes-I-can’t-wait-to-make for each book. It’s a special Friday Five-by-Five!

Prepare to salivate in 3…2…

5. Joy the Baker

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Even though my favorite design bloggers have called it quits, my favorite food bloggers are kill-ing it right now. Almost all of them have released a cookbook in the last year, which makes me one happy girl. Joy and her blog are at the top of that list. This is her first cookbook (from 2012), but it’s full of awesome tips and basics (like how to make the perfect cup of hot chocolate). Her writing is down-to-earth and sarcastic, so basically she’s my foodie-soulmate.

Recipes I need to try:
Black Pepper Waffles – breakfast for dinner just got elevated! (I’d top with eggs and dill hollandaise sauce – WHAT?)
Sweet Potato Pie – how her baking obsession all began. It’s her favorite recipe and comes from her dad.
Baked Chili Cheese Fries – god, yes
Peanut Butter Birthday Cake – glorious
Strawberry Cookie Dough Ice Cream – dreamy

4. Homemade Decadence

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Joy’s second cookbook just came out this week! It’s even more amazing than the first. Her photos are gorgeous and the recipes look incredible. Here’s hoping she makes a book tour stop in Utah.

Recipes I need to try:
Breakfast Nachos – shut the front door
Oatmeal Cookie Sandwiches with Peanut Butter Filling – calling my name
Peach, Brie, and Dark Chocolate S’mores – a s’more Joe and I can both get behind
Confetti Cookies — a party in your mouth
Ice Cream Social – an entire section on fun flavors and toppings, yes!

3. Seriously Delish

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Another food blogger! This one I’ve also been following for years. Hers is the only cookbook on this list that isn’t strictly a dessert cookbook. Yes, I love to bake, but it can sometimes seem impractical for me to own a cookbook that’s 85% meat recipes. So that’s why I lean towards the sweeter side when it comes to cookbooks. But this collection is fantastically full of non-meat dishes, or dishes that are easily adaptable for a vegetarian lifestyle. Bonus: It also has an incredible drink section.

Recipes I need to try:
BBQ Roasted Chickpeas – wowza
Oatmeal Cookie Granola – Joe would love this
Breakfast Cookies – sustenance on the go
Roasted Blueberry Basil Brie – I want all the brie things
Roasted Vegetable Queso Frittata – this is happening soon

2. Sally’s Baking Addiction

Sallys Baking Addiction

Yep, you guessed it, another blogger! Sally is a pinterest sensation, mostly for her ridiculous flavors of Puppy Chow, like pumpkin spice, butterscotch peanut butter, cookies-n-cream, cupcake, red velvet, s’mores, and on and on and on. She is a true recipe developer, so everything she makes is spot-on. There’s no guess work, which is invaluable to home bakers like myself.

Recipes I need to try:
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread – busted! I made this this week and it was superb. It definitely rivals my favorite muffin recipe. I blame the orange juice in the batter.
Cinnamon Roll Blondies – gah!
Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookies – the recipe she claims made her famous (shown on the cover)
Monster Munch – a new binge-watching TV snack?
Butterscotch Streusel Banana Bread – is it dessert? is it breakfast? does it matter?

1. Baked Occasions

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I recently waxed rhapsodic about my love for the Baked Boys’ cookbooks. Their Oopsy Daisy Cake was the perfect birthday treat. This is their fourth cookbook and it’s for a year of celebrations. Each recipe is themed with a particular landmark date or holiday. So fun and the recipes are what you’d expect from them: perfection. In the words of my wise friend William…”Every day’s a holiday.” It certainly is with this book.

Recipes I need to try:
Texas Sheet Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting – my Texas roots marry my Peanut Butter heart
Pink Peppermint Ice Cream with Hot Fudge – droooooooling for the holidays
Hippie Cake – vegan cake with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (I’d use THIS balsamic vinegar!)
Chocolate Pop Tarts with Peanut Butter Filling – put the box down and walk away
Orange Pancakes with Honey Butter – honey hush!

And here are more cookbooks I’m already eyeing (Can’t stop, won’t stop!):

Aarti Paarti: An American Kitchen with an Indian Soul – Love me some Indian Food! I want to make and eat all of the paneer tikka masala and naan, please! Bonus: Learning all about Indian spices.

Brunch at Bobby’s – I think I just want to have brunch at Bobby’s. You understand, I’m sure.

Huckleberry – LA’s famous brunch spot and bakery divulges its favorites. Gorgeous, but not sure how much I’d actually cook from its pages. Unless I wanted to learn how to make my own (high-altitude) bagels. ….tempting.

Dominique Ansel – The master behind the famous/infamous Cronut shares his secrets? Maybe not to own, but definitely would love to browse.

And, in upcoming Friday Five lists: Favorite Exercises at the Gym! How to not bake anything for more than five days! Kale Chips and Other Meals!

# a year later

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A year ago today I said goodbye to my Pops. In many ways it was my first goodbye–my first brush with death. I didn’t know how I should or would feel at the time, but I knew it was a game changer. 365 days later, I’m still not sure how I’m supposed to feel. Everyone deals with it in their own way, which can also be hard. There’s no Death for Dummies handbook.

As I sit here watching baseball, I realize there are so many things that make me think of and wish for him. But if there’s anything I’ve taken away from the last year it’s a feeling of utter thankfulness. To have had the time we had, to have been able to say all of our goodbyes, to have been there to let him go. What a gift. Most people are not that lucky.

So on my walk today I looked up to the beautiful sky and thanked Pops. For this year of strength and learning, and 32 wonderful years of love.

“I love you every day. And now I will miss you every day.” ~Albom

“The anniversary date of a loved one’s death is particularly significant. You will have done something you thought was impossible a few months earlier. You will have survived an entire year without someone who was as important to you as life itself.” ~Diets

 

Friday Five: Young House Love

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

Time for me to get emotional about imaginary friends. Hold on to your hat.

Yesterday, my favorite DIY/design bloggers announced they were hanging up their bloggin’ hats and moving on to new adventures. It’s hard to explain how empty it made me feel without sounding totally ridiculous. I’ve been checking in with John and Sherry every single day for the better part of six years—almost the entire life of their blog, Young House Love. I have laughed at their jokes and wit; I have cried with them over their struggles and triumphs, but most importantly I’ve been inspired. Inspired to create, to take risks, to be bold. There’s a void and I feel as though I’ve been sucker-punched by the abrupt news. Like a break-up you didn’t see coming.

For those not acquainted with YHL, John and Sherry are a young couple made famous by their Do-It-Yourself gumption and enthusiasm. Over the last seven years, they have lived in (and, in most cases, completely rehauled and revamped) three houses and one show house. They have walked their readers through every step of every project—some big, some small—with self-deprecating humor and invaluable tips.

Each of their three houses continued to get bigger and their projects became more elaborate, but I have to say that their first house was my favorite. I loved how cozy it was and though the second house was definitely more colorful, their posts from that first house make me the happiest. I wanted an old ranch house for myself to call home.

Their announcement yesterday came after J&S took a month-long break to clear their heads, but I figured they’d jump back into the blog after charging their power tool batteries. Readers had recently criticized them over losing their spark after they started pursuing larger projects and after the birth of their second child in April, even though J&S were upfront with their desire to scale back and make their family a priority.

I got to meet them once in DC. I asked them to do the Home Alone Face with me and it was awesome.

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I have since emailed Sherry back and forth a few times after they had Teddy, mostly because I sent them a Custom Alphabet Print for his room. She said they were putting it up, but I never got to see it. I hope they do and enjoy it.

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It seems silly, but I’m so going to miss them and I wonder how long it takes for my fingers not to automatically type younghouselove.com after checking my email first thing in the morning.

In honor of DIY-geniuses John and Sherry, this Friday Five is dedicated to some of my favorite projects of theirs over the years.

5. Clothespin Chandelier

YHL Clothespin Off

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Sherry and a few of her blogger friends started Pinterest Challenges a few years ago and this was by far my favorite result. How amazing is this?! So creative and such a great focal point to what could otherwise be a very boring space.

4. Happy Holidays

YHL Christmas

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From gift-giving to decorating to tablescapes, they had the holidays down. I loved to see what their Christmas tree theme would be each year and their fun DIY ornament ideas. For someone who loves decorating for Christmas as much as I do, their money-saving ideas always made me giddy.

3. Charming Closets

YHL Bedroom Built-Ins

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I always felt like J&S had this innate ability to look at a room and see its potential. I struggle with this for sure. Take their first master bedroom, which needed closet space. They created IKEA-hack built-ins that provided both function and wow-factor. Totally blown away by this transformation. It looks like a completely different room! (link has before and afters)

2. Gallery Wall

YHL Gallery Wall

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This YHL project (found in their second house) inspired my own office gallery walls. Man, I love their hallway so much. I need something like this in my house someday to showcase all of the photos and prints I have collected. Am I’m usually a black frame kind of girl, but these white frames make the closed space look ethereal instead of heavy. Love that.

1. Show House

YHL Show House

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One of their most recent projects was designing a show house for Richmond’s Homearama. I will never get over this house. It’s dreamy. It’s perfect. It’s everything I would want in a house and so perfectly decorated. Take the house tour. Warning! It will make you absolutely swoon. When can I move in?

If you’re not familiar with YHL, please take their four different house tours and prepare to be amazed, awestruck, inspired….and, most of all, sad.

All photos borrowed from Young House Love. All feelings of grief and shock are my own.

# sweet goodbyes

Books…Food…Books…you guessed it!

As if making cookies, a birthday cake and birthday ice cream wasn’t enough for one week, I was back in the kitchen a mere two days later making, what else? Ice Cream and Cake.

Naturally.

I’m not usually this kitchen crazy, but when two of your favorite people at work announce their last day in the office will be the same day, well…you need to celebrate them.

And we all know how I celebrate. *reaches for butter*

Which leads me to Ben and Trent – two guys who have made me laugh non-stop since March, two guys moving on to greener work pastures, two guys who deserved a treat.

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We started the party early that week with lunch, where I delivered them (leftover) cookies. (Again…those cookies! Make them!) But, for their actual last day I told them I’d deliver their favorite dessert for our small group of confidantes to enjoy.

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Ben requested “Better than Sex Cake.” Um, what? I’ve already written about my hatred for desserts named like that, but my skepticism only increased when I looked up the actual recipe and saw that it’s made FROM A BOX MIX. I made it, because that’s the kind of friend I am, but come on… any cake that claims to be better than sex would not come out of a box. (insert joke here) Truth be told, it was actually pretty tasty.

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As for Trent, my graphic designer/marketing partner-in-crime, well, I kinda chose his favorite dessert for him. See, we have this bond over ice cream. Before we were very close, he came to my office to tell me he was traveling to Columbus to visit friends, and I immediately hijacked the conversation to tell him about Jeni’s, show him the website, pleading with him to go. Fast forward to him coming back to the office, he was effusive with his love of her ice cream. He went twice! I had totally converted him! (Or, ruined him for life. However you want to look at it.)

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This has nothing to do with ice cream, but adequately shows our typical shenanigans in the office.

I later introduced Trent to Portland’s Salt and Straw (which he also loved), and we totally spent most of our office interactions either discussing website branding or ice cream flavors. I even have emails from him that begin, “Do you have a super easy goat cheese ice cream recipe? I grabbed a box of apricots and thought a Balsamic-Glazed Apricot & Goat Cheese ice cream would be tasty.” #truth #thisiswhyilovedhim

I knew the only thing I could possibly make him would be Jeni’s ice cream. So I brought her first cookbook into the office and let him have free reign to pick a flavor. He teetered between five or six before finally placing the open book in front of me.

“Take me back to Ohio.”

A boy after my own heart! He chose “Buckeye State:” her peanut butter chocolate flavor—one I had, unbelievably, never had.

Done.

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And that is how I found myself back in the kitchen two days after a birthday-binge weekend, making yet more cake and ice cream.

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Trent was thrilled.

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Not only does this base reaffirm everything I love about peanut butter, honey and salt…and dairy…but the chocolate. Oh my, that chocolate. In the final moments of the churning process, Jeni has you drizzle thin ribbons of melted chocolate into the ice cream base. As soon as it hits the icy mixture, it hardens and cracks apart creating what Jeni calls freckles of chocolate. FRECKLES! Has there ever been a better term for little shards of chocolate—the perfect crunch in an otherwise creamy, dreamy base? Just when I didn’t think I could love Jeni more. …..freckles.

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I know I keep saying this, especially when I make a new Jeni’s recipe. But, this. THIS. It’s my favorite ice cream recipe I’ve ever made.

Major thanks to Ben and Trent for making my workdays fabulous and for picking a box-mix cake and the most amazing recipe in Jeni’s arsenal. This has got be the most delicious way to ever say “I’ll miss you.”

And this has got to be the most awkward:

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Jeni’s Buckeye State Ice Cream

source: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream at Home

Makes about 1 quart

2 c. whole milk
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 oz (3 Tbs.) cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. natural peanut butter
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1 1/4 c. heavy cream
2/3 c. sugar
2 Tbs. light corn syrup
2 Tbs. honey
4 oz. chocolate (55% to 70% cocoa), chopped

Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl and make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese, peanut butter, and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, corn syrup, and honey in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese mixture until smooth. Pour the mixture into a one-gallon freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

Assemble your ice cream machine and turn it on. Slowly add the ice cream base mixture. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Remove from the heat and let cool until tepid but still fluid. When the ice cream is thick and creamy and almost finished, use a spoon to drizzle the melted chocolate slowly through the opening in the top of the ice cream machine and allow it to solidify and break up in the ice cream for about 2 minutes.

Pack the ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the back of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.

Friday Five: Big Screen Books

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

I’m not finished talking about books.

Since last week’s Friday Five I’ve been hemming and hawing about my Top Ten. Even Joe couldn’t believe The Thornbirds got cut. I feel dirty, but I’m sticking to my guns for now.

But, I did find this hilarious quiz that I think you should all take:

Is it Hemingway or a Children’s Book?

Today is the opening of Gone Girl in the theaters and I am so excited. I read the book two years ago (pre-My Shelf Life) and it remains one of the best mysteries I’ve ever read. So intense and manipulative, it definitely left me in a weird place. Had it not been a library book, I probably would have flipped right back to the beginning and re-read it as soon as I finished. That’s how mind-bogglingly amazing it was. And now it is on the big screen.

Once the director announced that he was changing the ending in the movie (no spoilers at the link), I’ve pleaded with Joe to read the book before we saw it, but no dice. I’m hoping the years since I’ve read it have softened the details so I won’t be outraged by the changes. But, seriously, this is one of those cases where I think you should read before watching.

I feel just as nervous about seeing this as I did The Book Thief? How will one of your favorite stories fare in someone else’s hands? How did they see it? I apparently have trust issues when it comes to my favorite books.

This leads me to today’s Friday Five. We all know what it’s like to see movies that don’t do their book justice, but these are my favorite book-to-film adaptations. And once again, The Thornbirds gets the short end of the stick. Its mini-series is great, but—alas—not a film. #stickler

5. The Count of Monte Cristo

This book was also on my honorary-mention-short-list from last week. It’s one of the most powerful tales of revenge and redemption that translated really well to film. But I would be lying if I didn’t mention that my infatuation with this movie may or may not also stem from my infatuation with Jim Caviezel.

4. Harry Potter / Hunger Games

Y-A-Awesome! You know I love me some Young Adult literature. The worlds created in these two series are so complex and imaginative; it was pure joy seeing them brought to life. Hunger Games’ Capital and arenas? Spot on. Harry Potter’s Hogwarts? I want to move there. I don’t always agree with every casting or cutting-floor choice, but it’s being transported to these worlds that gets me every time.

3. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

I think every kid wishes the Wonka Chocolate Factory was a real place. I know I did when reading Dahl’s classic. Let me be clear that I love Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka. NOT Johnny Depp’s. I repeat, NOT Johnny Depp’s. Gene is the perfect blend of whimsy, eccentric, and warmth that’s needed to pull off the character. It’s one of my favorite movies. (Except that tunnel scene…still freaks me out.)

2. Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Epic books deserve epic movies. As crazy as Peter Jackson seems, you have to give him props for his research, attention to detail and perseverance. I love his three films more than I enjoyed the books. That hardly happens. But there is no way I could have envisioned anything better than what Peter gave us. His Middle Earth is the only Middle Earth.

1. Julie & Julia

This film. It breaks my heart. It lifts me up. It makes me laugh. I mean, Meryl + Amy + Nora will always equal fabulous. It’s all about my favorite things—cooking and writing about cooking—mashed into two tender tales. Everything about this film is pure delight: the sets, the food, the humor, the soundtrack. Again, hard to like a movie better than the book, but this is another case for me. Which says a lot, because I absolutely loved this book.