Shelf Life: Summer 2016


This summer I’ve kept myself busy with our move and work rather than books–isn’t that the definition of sad? Maybe a reason I’ve been so on-edge all summer is that I’m missing my normal routine. I plan to read more as it gets colder (always my MO), but before we dig in to my lackluster list this quarter, check out these flowers. Don’t they just scream “summer in the mountains”?









I found this amazing garden one day while walking Bella and came right back the next day armed with my camera. My neighbors are talented when it comes to keeping things alive in this dry environment. So impressed.

On to the books…

1 The Nest, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

The story of four adult siblings grappling with their impending inheritance seems like a perfect hot bed for drama and hilarity. Sweeney creates characters that are raw and unfiltered to the point it feels like real life. This book has been all over must-read lists and I liked it for the summer read that it was, but didn’t find it profound or among any of my favorites. Just an easy read that will remind you how different siblings can be despite having the same-ish upbringing.

2. Reader, I Married Him: Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre, Tracy Chevalier

Tracy Chevalier is one of my top-five authors of all time, so when I saw she was going to release a collection of stories based on Jane Eyre, I was so excited. Good thing I finally read it! Taking Charlotte’s famous line, authors let their imagination wander from stories of today’s troubled youth to a version of that famous scene told from Rochester’s point of view. Some were so creative, others not so much, but I especially enjoyed Chevalier’s intro…

“Always, always in these stories there is love–whether it is the first spark or the last dying embers–in its many heart-breaking, life-affirming forms. All of these stories have their own memorable lines, their own truths, their own happy or wry or devastating endings, but each is one of the ripples that finds its center in Jane and Charlotte’s decisive clarion call: Reader, I married him.”

3. Jane SteeleLyndsay Faye

Now that I read Jane Eyre, I can’t seem to get enough. This is a sharp reimagining of Jane as a serial killer, a la Dexter. I loved this. Totally fierce and badass, Faye’s Jane is not too far off (minus the killing) from Charlotte’s. If you’re a fan of the original, check this out for sure.

4. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson

After reading Lawson’s second book first, I thought I should probably check this out. But, upon reflection, reading a book about a woman who has constant, crushing anxiety is not the book one should read when getting ready for a big move and feeling her own brand of anxiety. I just couldn’t take someone else’s madness on top of my own, so I was more than happy to finish this and move on. Sorry, Jenny, it’s not you, it’s me.

5. The Girls, Emma Cline

Another from the summer’s must-read list. And another that didn’t impress. What’s wrong with me? Was my summer too stressful to enjoy book like I normally do? Maybe. I usually jump all over the best seller lists and so far I’m still 0 for 2. The story of Evie–a young inductee to a violent cult–is told through both a series of flashbacks and the present day, so you know what’s coming, but there are still many a surprise within its pages. I’d still recommend it, but I’m (obviously) not gushing about it.

6. A Cruel and Shocking Act, Philip Shenon

Just like I didn’t want to read about anxiety while facing my own demons, reading a 540-page book about the birth of the Warren Commission’s report was probably not the best thing to read while I’m authoring my own company’s Annual Report. Ha! I know how to pick ’em! Seriously, though, I love all things Kennedy, and had been meaning to read this tome since it came out. It was interesting to explore the behind-the-scenes investigation and how so many members of the Commission (including its junior lawyers) agreed that Oswald hadn’t acted alone, despite what was published. I also find myself with both feet in the conspiracy camp after reading everything. This might forever be history’s greatest secret, but Shenon’s book places us a few steps closer to the truth and, in true Kennedy-era form, brings up a million new questions. This book is only for the true Kennedy devotees.

7. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany

Finally! A book I loved; a book I read in a few hours; a book I’d recommend! This is it — but that shouldn’t be such a surprise to you, knowing how much I love the world of Harry Potter. I thought Rowling and Thorne did an amazing job revisiting our favorite (and not-so-favorite) characters 19 years later. Harry’s now an adult and imperfect father, navigating his role in the spotlight and at home with differing degrees of finesse. It’s amazing how easily I can slip into this world and block out my own. This really was the perfect anecdote to my summer-reading blues. Highly recommend it, as well as anything Rowling touches. (Except The Casual Vacancy, sorry.) Hoping to see this in London with Bobbie.

And hoping for more time to read this Fall.

Next up in the queue:

The Queen of the Night — Alexander Chee (over halfway through this)
The Fate of the Tearling — Erika Johansen (coming end of November now?!)
The Lost Art of Mixing — Erica Bauermeister
Bread and Wine — Shauna Niequist
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn — Betty Smith
Illustrated Edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets — J.K. Rowling/Jim Kay
Alexander Hamilton — Ron Chernow
Everyone Behaves Badly — Lesley M. M. Blume


# the days of {a wyoming} summer

Bella and I had about five weeks in Wyoming to ourselves this summer. Here’s how we spent the time avoiding unpacking boxes:

We took lots of walks in our new neighborhood, which is shady, dog-friendly and beautiful. Wyoming: 3, Utah: 0.


Since that first week was so rough, Joe surprised me the next weekend by driving back to help. She doesn’t look it here, but Bella was more thrilled than me…if that was possible.


We tried out a few different places to eat, including a down-home joint that has Joe’s name written all over it. More gravy!



The first week I was here, I realized there was a nest in our backyard that had the tiniest baby birds. I quickly became obsessed documenting their growth. Here’s one on the first day I found them…


They grew so fast!



This was probably my favorite stage. They looked ridiculously cute.


Eyes open…


The nest getting a little crowded…that’s one the babies sitting on the other two, not the mama.


…and then by later that day:


They were testing their wings and sitting in bushes before they all three flew away. I was a little sad, I’ll admit.



It was fun to check on them every day, but man if those robin parents weren’t sick of me. By the end the male was dive-bombing my head every time I got close.

In other animal news, Bella has taken to a certain upstairs perch that allows her to creep on our neighbors. Totally my dog.


Since I few solo for the Fourth, I made yogurt and blueberry popsicles to celebrate.



Then I got a call to play one of the festival’s concerts back in Utah, so I jumped at the chance, loading up Bella early Sunday morning for the long drive back.


I spent my days working and our nights hanging with Sean and Wallis–this was the only week they were going to be in Utah for the festival, so it couldn’t have worked out more perfectly.

We made runs to Cosco to try Chris’ obsession with their berry sundae…


…and we hit up a massive surplus store Joe and I had always wanted to visit.


We were quite impressed with their Zombie Apocalypse section.





Joe and I had one last Utah date night for crepes…


…and then we played the concert that weekend.




(Not pictured: Pool time earlier that day.)

By the next afternoon Bella and I were back in Wyoming, getting ready for a trip to Colorado, which I’ll tell you about next. Whew — glad those weeks alone surrounded by boxes are O-V-E-R.

(But damn if I don’t miss those birds!)

# kentucky butter cake…at 7200 feet

Wyoming didn’t really feel like home until I was reunited with my stand mixer. Since we only seem to move in the summer, it’s convenient that I’m {insert air quotes} *forced* to try my hand at high- and higher-altitude baking for Joe’s July  birthday. First it was this coconut wonder at 4500 feet and, now, this beauty at 7200:


Luckily Joe and I were able to be together for his birthday weekend thanks to a camp taking place at his new school. Hurray for small summer victories!

Speaking of victories…


…this cake was everything.

And it couldn’t have been easier. You start by dumping every single ingredient in one bowl at the same time. Everyone in the pool!


Then you mix…


…and ta-daah! All you have to do after it bakes is drench it in a decadent butter sauce that will make you forget your first name. Extra glaze! {Next time I’m totally replacing the water in the glaze with bourbon. Who’s with me? It’ll just make it even more Kentucky.}


It looks a little bare when you remove the cake from the pan, but that’s nothing a little sugar dust won’t fix. Ready…aim…


*sprinkle, sprinkle, sprinkle* Make it rain!


And you’re left with this perfection. See that butter glaze that’s seeped into the cake’s core? Gah!


It wouldn’t be a birthday if these Bavarian Inn friends didn’t make an appearance. (They get around: Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C…)


Make a wish, my love. So happy to have another year and new adventures with you.



Kentucky Butter Cake

Source: Cookies & Cups


1 cup butter, cubed and brought to room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk

Butter Glaze

⅓ cup butter
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water (or bourbon…just sayin’)
2 teaspoons vanilla


Preheat the oven to 325°F

Grease a 10″ bundt pan with butter or shortening very liberally. Dust the pan with flour and set aside.

Place all the cake ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low for 30 seconds and then increase the speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 65-­75 minutes until a toothpick entered into the center comes out clean.

When the cake is done, make the glaze. Combine all ingredients into a small saucepan over medium­-low heat. Stir continuously until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Do not bring to a boil.

Poke holes all over the warm cake using a knife (or a chopstick) and pour the glaze evenly on the cake while still in the pan.

Allow the cake to cool completely in the pan and then invert the cake onto a serving plate. Make this cake a day in advance–it’s more m-word and flavorful when it rests overnight.

High-Altitude Adjustments for 7200 feet

Cut the amount of leavening in half (1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. baking soda); bake at 350° for 50 minutes

# a tale of two states

Hello, friends. I haven’t forgotten you. Despite the implication that summer has down-time, I have found myself working harder than ever and, more often than not, consumed by stress. There are some that wear their busyness like a badge of honor, but not me. I strive every day to find the work-life balance of my dreams, but certain work circumstances that prevented that lately and things that I would normally love to do in my free time, like blogging, have had to take a {very} back seat. And, oh yeah, among all that we moved to a new state. It’s been madness.


I’m determined to catch up. To tell you all about birthdays and family trips and finally having Joe in Wyoming with me and all the books that kept me company while we were apart. There’s so much. But, let’s take it back almost 10 weeks ago, when the summer was fresh and my energy level was twice what it is now. When our address still read Utah, but not for long.


We started packing about three weeks before our move, which is roughly 3 weeks later than any other move I’ve done. May was full of Miami and Tampa and friends/visitors and anniversaries. So much happy, it somehow seemed blasphemous to cloud up the fun with cardboard and tape. But when we started, there was no looking back. Thank goodness for garages to keep the growing number of boxes out of sight. This was early on in the game, when there was still room to move.


Packing makes me feel like a total mess. Even though we kondo’d our stuff, there were still a few surprises, like this Chinese bus ticket from ten years ago found tucked in a necklace box…


…and our senior pictures, which made me realize how much Joe and I look alike. Do you see it? The eyes, the blue, the non-smiles. Geez.


Side note: When we were engaged we had no less than five different people ask if we were siblings, the funniest one being the lady who processed our marriage license. ?! We didn’t see it then, but I’m seeing it now in these pics. 

Since this move was relatively easy compared to our last two in terms of distance, we decided to do it ourselves with Joe driving the truck. I wasn’t convinced everything could fit into a 22-foot truck, so we went with the 26-er. When we went to pick it up, Joe warned me it was going to be big and to “not lose your crap” when I saw it. I’m glad he gave me the disclaimer, because I did have an internal mini freak-out, followed by immediate prayers that he’d be okay behind its wheel.


We loaded it up the day before we left with the help of two “professional” movers which ended up being a guy and his 80-pound girlfriend in strappy sandals that managed to move our ginormous wooden music case. Color me impressed.



The rest of the boxes we loaded with Jason. This was at the very end. Totally didn’t need the 26-foot truck. #oops!


The next day it was Wyoming, or bust. We couldn’t have done this without our very good friend, Ben, who joined the caravan in Joe’s car so I could drive mine with Bella. Who, by the way, is the laziest co-pilot ever.


It took us around seven hours, I think, and once we did arrive it was time to unload it all again.


Every other move I’ve done has had a nice two-week window between when we packed up our stuff to when it arrived. Just enough time to forget about the hell it was to pack everything and to make it feel like Christmas when you open each box.

Not the case when you pack everything for weeks and your only day spent not packing is the day you’re driving and then, surprise, you’re unpacking items that night. UNCLE!

Speaking of that night…we took a break to grab some dinner and managed to lock ourselves out of the house thanks to me wanting to try locking the screen on the front door. Cue us having to break into our own new home and our neighbors catching us. Oh, hi, nice to meet you. Yes, we’re breaking into the house we just moved into. I promise we’re normal.


Joe managed to get the garage door open and then made me swear on Bella’s paw that I’d never lock the screen again.

The next day we piled back in our caravan to return the rental truck in Cheyenne, which is about 45 minutes away. This time I got to ride with Joe and see what it was like spinnin’ the big rigs.


I’m amazed at how well he handled it, but ohmygosh were we so excited to dump that baby and be done. This might be my very favorite picture and perfectly captures our joy.


We. did. it.


On the way back we stopped to say hi to Abe and then collapsed from exhaustion.


Joe and Ben had to leave later that day to get back to Utah, beginning our summer apart. I wish I could tell you that I put on my brave face and tackled the staggering number of boxes with grace and determination, but mostly I just sat on the couch and watched Netflix. I couldn’t bring myself to touch the boxes I had just, JUST, sealed with tape. It was far from easy to make this move and stay behind to set up house while Joe went back to Utah for his festival, but I know why we had to do it. And now we’re here, building our new home, learning how to deal with temperatures in the 30s in August and so happy to not be handling cardboard.

Upcoming posts in my quest to catch up: Everything I did to avoid unpacking, a musical week in Utah, a killer birthday cake baked at 7200 feet, a family-filled adventure in Colorado and an interview with my favorite third grader. Let’s do this.