LiNo’s Libros: Matilda

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Matilda. I’ve been waiting for this moment ever since I became an aunt. It claims the top spot on my list of favorite children’s books, and even made the cut of my top ten books of all time.

Lily is going to see the musical this week, so we read it together before she saw it live.

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Booh and Tim had already read it to her a few years ago, but that didn’t deter me. Or her. Or Roald — whose name I’ve apparently been saying wrong my entire life. Don’t mind me.

We sped through this one, faster than all LiNo’s choices before it.

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I still got the funny views during our Facetime sessions. This was the first time we used the same edition, which was also fun.

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Now on to our questions — perhaps her funniest bits yet.

Lily’s Questions:

1. Do you think Mr. Wormwood even got a degree?

M: Maybe he got a degree in sales?

L: That doesn’t explain why he cheats. Remember when he said “Why would you want to go to university?” My answer is N-O. Because he just cheats.

2. If the Trunchbull was your aunt, what would her aunt name be?

M: Instead of NoNo, it might be NO NO, or Auntie Aggie.

L: I’d just call her “Aunt” when she’s around, but with my friends she’s “The Bull” (note to self, find out what she calls me to her friends)

3. If you could rename The Red House, what would it be?

L: I picked The Rose House.

M: Happy Home!

4. If you had a magic power, what would it be?

L: I’d shape shift.

M: I’d multiply myself to get more accomplished every day.

L: Oh yeah, like 1% here, 1% in Miami and 1% that’s yourself. Like you’re a holographic image with a mind of its own. Or you’d produce huge gusts of wind to play instruments.

5. If you were Matilda, what would your pranks be? Pick 3.

M: I’ll tell you three real pranks I’ve done. First is when we were younger, your mom and I convinced Ubie that to become a fairy, we had to put magic in his hair, so we put weeds, dirt and bugs all over his head. Second…I like to tell lies that are jokes. Just ask Mikey Joe. Third, one time I hid my backpack when I got home from school so your mom wouldn’t know I was there. What about you?

L: For the first prank, I’d make the house haunted with loud sounds while I’m invisible as a shape-shifter. My second one is, when my parents are asleep, I’d put glitter glue in their hair just for the fun of it. Then the last one would be pranking my parents into thinking there had been a robbery. I’d leave muddy footprints in the hall and out the front door, draw tire tracks, hide something rare, and then take the phone so they can’t call the police. Oh, I’d also take the car keys.

M: Well, that’s elaborate.

NoNo’s Questions

1. Roald Dahl plays with words when naming his characters, like Wormwood, Trunchbull and Miss Honey. Based on the names I’ve made up, how would you describe these characters?

Agnus Mudhaven

L: feisty, middle-aged, messy, a reader

Caroline Sweetwater

sweet, kind, also feisty and likes to travel

Oliver Scabby

also feisty, good moods/bad moods, mostly in-between, angers easily

Boris Bearton

into hunting and a football fan

Lily C****** (her name)

smart, nice, a bit bossy, reader and loves school

2. *Spoiler Alert* What did you think when the twist was revealed that the Trunchbull was Miss Honey’s aunt?

L: Nothing, I was calm. My mom says I don’t have a heart.

Booh: I only said that because you didn’t cry when Sirius died in Harry Potter. (okay, another spoiler alert)

3. How would you have changed the ending?

L: I would have liked an epilogue of when Matilda grows up and goes to college and becomes a famous librarian.

M: I wanted her parents to have a change of heart and not abandon her.

L: I like them without a heart, in a good kind of way.

4. Give the book a new title.

L: The Magician

M: Brains and the Boss

5. How are you like Matilda and how are you different?

L: We both like books and libraries, but my parents like me. And I don’t live in England.

Next up: Fablehaven!

Past LiNo’s Libros:

Nancy Drew and the Mystery at Lilac Inn

The BFG

The Indian in the Cupboard

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# seventh anniversary: caramelized rice krispies

Whew! Seven years. A lot has happened during that time, but I’m thankful to say there’s no itch — unless you count our mutual itch to get outta Wyoming.

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Our actual anniversary last month fell on a day when I was still reeling from a virus and drugged to the max, but it didn’t stop us. We made the most of it by once again trying to find the craziest burger in town. Last year we had burgers on doughnuts, and this year I found a veggie burger that used grilled cheese sandwiches (plural) for buns.

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It was decadent and fun and confusing and delicious. The brewery we visited also had homemade pretzel bites and Joe got to sample a few of their beers. Alas, they were all out of their peanut butter beer and I was too medicated to have any anyway.

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But, the best part of any anniversary is the dessert. I didn’t find any inspiration from our anniversary-year gift themes (cooper and wool), but did find incredible inspiration from a new cookbook my aunt had sent me the week before: Hello, My Name is Ice Cream.

One look at Blue Ribbon Chocolate with Peanut Butter Ribbon, Brownie Bites and Caramelized Rice Krispies and I was completely and utterly sold. Aren’t you?

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Lucky for me/you/us, you can make all of the mix-ins in advance and just assemble when you churn the ice cream. Perfect for any sickly wife trying to make it happen. First, a little layer of your extras…

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…until you have everything together. (With a little of everything left over to use as toppings.)

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It was pure magic. I always, always say this, but one of my favorite ice creams I’ve ever made.

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Here’s what it looks like on day three, when you scoop it right out of the container without any toppings.

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It was so full of flavor.

I’m a sucker for brownie bites in my ice cream, but these rice krispies stole the show. They are completely transformed by just a little sugar and salt. I couldn’t believe how easy they were to make and how much they added to the dish. They are like the world’s best ice cream croutons.

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Joe and I both agreed that we loved them more as toppings instead of folded into the ice cream. The longer they sit enveloped by the cream, the softer they become. They still taste good, but lose the edge of that crunch you covet. What’s awesome, is that you keep them in the freezer for a month, so they are ready whenever you need them.  And, believe me, you need them.

Bonus: Getting featured on the author’s What’s Your Flavor site!

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Caramelized Rice Krispies

Source: Hello, My Name is Ice Cream

1/2 c. sugar
2 Tbs. water
1 tsp. salt
3 1/4 c. Rice Krispies

Place the sugar, water and salt in a large saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar crystals dissolve.

As soon as the bubbles slow down in the syrup and it reaches 240-degrees on a kitchen thermometer, remove it from heat and add the Rice Krispies all at once. Stir gently to coat with the syrup. Remove the pan from the heat and continue stirring until the syrup around the cereal pieces begins to turn white and crystallize.

Pour the krispies out onto a sheet pan and spread gently with a spatula. Let cool enough to handle, about 2 minutes, and then gently start tossing them with your hands to break up any large clumps.

Allow them to cool completely, then gather them into an airtight container and store them in the freezer for up to one month.

# tulsa trip – swim day

After Memaw’s party, I had fun-filled sleepover with Superman and his sister…

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…before we had a swim day at my Dad’s.

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Rowan is no stranger to his dad being funny…

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…but he finally witnessed one of our Les Mis sing-a-longs. I think the nose squeeze means stop singing.

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While my dad prepared the massive, delicious feast…

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…we had music lessons around the piano.

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And then it was time to eat and swim!  I let Lily, the family fish, play with the GoPro.

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Linc’s a little guppy.

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Sisters from other misters.

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Loved my quick trip all of the family I got to see. Heart is full!

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# tulsa trip – memaw’s birthday

Last month I made a quick 48-hour trip to Tulsa to celebrate my Memaw’s 86th birthday. All she wanted was family and the best BBQ in Tulsa. Wish granted!

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That morning, Bryan and I made hummingbird cupcakes decorated like roses (her favorite flower) while having a major dance-off to entertain Rowan.

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When you haven’t seen the littles in a few months, you get attacked at the door.

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A happy birthday girl…

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…and a happy YaYa with all her grands.

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Before we ate, Bryan and Robbi gave Memaw the best gift she could have asked for and then we dug in. Didn’t take long to clear the decks.

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Here’s the hostest with the mostest.

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Love these ladies…

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…and LOVE going through old photos and hearing stories.

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It was so much fun just all being together. Lots of hugs from my favorite littles…

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…Rowan with his aunts sporting his Amber Alert face…

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…how is this one so grown up??

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Sibling love with a side of Aunt love.

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Happy cousins.

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Team Cupcake.

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A few group shots. We were missing some, but so happy to be together. Oh, the laughter when this group converges.

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Happy birthday to our matriarch, our rock. We love you!

Shelf Life: Spring 2017

Everyone indulge me for a second and make some air quotes with your fingers. Now, do this every time I use the word “Spring.” Because that’s what Spring (“Spring”) is in Wyoming — fake. We encountered some promise when our Aspen trees started showing these little furry blooms in March. Of course, they were covered in snow/ice most of the time. Notice the branch-cicles behind it.

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Then those grew into weird prickly, fuzzies…

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…that ended up blanketing our yard when they weren’t buried in snow.

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And, oh, the icicles. We had two hanging on either side of our front door — both over 5 feet in length — for weeks. Here’s part of one. It made our entrance look very menacing. I wish I had something for scale in this pic, because it’s actually two pictures stitched together and it’s not even showing the whole thing.

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And they took FOR-EV-ER to melt. One single drop at a time…which I tried to capture because we literally just heard that tap-tap-tap non-stop for weeks.

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But here are the April pictures, and probably the most realistic of what we’re experiencing this Spring. There are no flowers here, but we do have these cute little blooms on one of our other trees. Blooms and snow, people.

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And here’s the crazy storm we had last week for reference. Sorry for the quick cell phone pics. Normally you’d be able to see Joe’s car from our front door, but the trees on either side of the sidewalk were leaning close to the ground from the wet snow.

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And here are more branches leaning on the brand new windshield I had installed the week before from, what else, snow.

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Everyone says it’ll be better by the end of May. Until then….

Let’s talk books! Not the best quarter for quantity, but I was happy with the quality and the fact that I’m knocking out my goal of reading all the books of my shelf I’ve never read. It feels so. good. Especially when Joe and I are totally embracing this minimalism lifestyle. We are on quite a roll right now tackling clutter (what I actually gave up for Lent this year) of all kinds — physical, digital, emotional. You name it. We’re an army of two right now and it feels amazing. Here are the books that have helped keep me sane this Spring:

1. The Fate of the Tearling, Erika Johansen

I’ve been waiting for this book–the final installment of the Tearling Trilogy–for a very long time. I read the first two books (here and here) almost back to back in late 2015 (and LOVED them), and then I had to wait over a year to see how it all ended. Early reviews were tepid. No one really liked how she handled the ending, and it made me nervous/sad to actually dig in. But, I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t really have any expectations of what should happen and I certainly couldn’t predict the direction she went, but that was fine with me. I was just glad to have some peace with it and I still think it’s a fantastic series.

2. The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty

I don’t even know if I should add this here, but I did read a few from The Wide Net series so I guess it counts. Nothing blew me away and I actually had to put it down because the one I was reading last was so slow. I still have quite a few to get through, so maybe I should just give myself permission to skip any that spark little to no interest after a few pages. To be continued with this massive book.

3. Catch-22, Joseph Heller

I’ve heard there are two kinds of people: those two think Catch-22 is a genius masterpiece and those who abhor it. I’ve been moving my parents’ old copy for years and never cracked its cover, so I was excited to see which pole claimed my name. Love or hate? Genius or ridiculous? Good news, everyone. I’m in the genius category! (*wink*) It does take a certain kind of mindset to read it, but wow is it funny and so relatable too. I think the madness experienced by those soldiers is similar to the madness one can feel working in non-profit or even academia. Things we know a little about. But I found it genius to the core. Those who have read it, tell me what you thought!

4. Closing Time, Joseph Heller

And because I just couldn’t stop, I also read Catch-22‘s sequel right after — it’s been sitting on my shelf as long as its predecessor. This was written 30-plus years after Catch-22 and finds characters at the end of their lives–at a similar point for Joseph Heller, too, who died less than five years after it was released. I didn’t love this. There were funny parts, yes, and the same satirical mania still coursed through its pages, but it didn’t have the same spark. Some character’s story lines were better than others, but overall I wouldn’t recommend it. Leave the characters in the war and just imagine what happens next. It’ll save you almost 500 pages.

5. Nancy Drew and The Mystery at Lilac Inn, Carolyn Keene

LiNo’s Libros strikes again! Click here to read all about it. 

6. Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child, Bob Spitz

Oh, Julia. Queen of my world these days. I really love digging into anything I can about her–much like my obsession with Jackie Kennedy, which began when I was in middle school. This was the most in-depth account of her life I’ve read thus far and even though I really enjoyed it, it did take quite a while for me to get through it. Maybe I was savoring it like the last bites of a big meal? I was surprised at her early life through college, how she never found her stride and wasn’t confident in the least. There were so many similarities between her and Paul and me and Joe, too. When they were in their mid-thirties, they had just finished working for the war effort and found themselves feeling a little lost trying to find their footing and next steps. (#usinwyoming) For them, the next steps were Paris and the rest is history. Hands down, I’m completely smitten and inspired with Julia. She’s a bulldog, she’s hilarious, she’s compassionate and she changed our country’s food culture more than anyone. Ever. There were a few moments that made me sad, especially Paul’s gradual decline and how she reacted to it, as well as her own final days, but overall I loved every moment learning more about this incredible icon. Highly recommend this for any food lovers or non-fiction lovers.

Next up in the queue:

I’ll split these into two lists since I may go back and forth from here on out. Up first, the books still left on my shelf:

Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig (timing is everything)
Hemingway Collection: A lot I still haven’t read… The Sun Also Rises, In Our Time, Green Hills of Africa

Now, for the books I don’t own, but can’t wait to find. Thanks to many of you for the recs! Someday I hope to tackle them all.

A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman
My Brilliant FriendElena Ferrante
Moonglow, Michael Chabon
Everyone Behaves Badly, Lesley M. M. Blume
The Lost Art of Mixing, Erica Bauermeister
Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders
Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance
The Kind Worth Killing, Peter Swanson

# LiNo’s Libros: Nancy Drew and The Mystery at Lilac Inn

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When Lily and I created our book club, LiNo’s Libros, I immediately started a list of all the books I’d love to read with her. I wanted to share all my favorite characters, like Ramona, Harry Potter and Matilda. Also up on the list was Nancy Drew, who was the star of some of my very favorite reading experiences growing up.

Serendipitously, Memaw gave Lily the first four Nancy Drew books for her birthday last year (Memaw loved Nancy Drew, too!) and I’ve been itching to share the sleuth world with her. So we picked Book 4: The Mystery at Lilac Inn.

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Because I have all my old books (and some from when my mom was a child), the first order of business for any LiNo’s session is to compare covers. Here’s mine in all its vintage glory:

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And here’s Lily posing with her cover and magnifying glass, haha.

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Love, love, love reading with her.

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Of course, it’s also hilarious to read together this way. Typically, I can’t see her that much on the screen or I might have a bare foot dangling in my face the entire time.

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I snapped this one while she was listening to me read, but happened to capture the character’s name I loved hearing her say the most because she’d pronounce it Chief McGiggins. So precious.

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Overall, it was an interesting read. It definitely shows its age, but we still enjoyed it. Here is our final round of questions (Spoiler Alert!):

NoNo’s Questions:

1. In the book, blue lilacs are called Blue Pipes. Let’s make up some nicknames for other flowers.

Tulips
L: Spring Flowers
N: Petal Crowns

Red Roses
L: <exhales> Ruby Flowers
N: Sweet Swirls

Daffodils
L: Daffy or Taffy, or Daffy Taffy
N: Sunshine Bells

2. Nancy has help from her friends Helen and Emily. Who would you depend on for sleuth backup?

L: My friends Ashlyn and Lakshmi. Did you know I have friends from all over the world? And I’m British, Texan, Wyomian. Oh, I’m Scottish and Virginian. I’m just around the United States. Oh, I’m also Oklahoman.

N: I’d choose your mom (because she’s smart), Joe (for protection) and you (because you’re sneaky).

L: Yeah, I could fit into cracks you can’t really fit in and I’m a better actress because I’m a kid. I can walk into a room and make excuses. (HA!)

3. This story was written a long time ago and things have changed. How would the story be different if written today?

L: Instead of a convertible, Nancy would drive a Tesla or a Nissan or a Ford. And instead of rowing a boat, they’d have motorboats.

N: What about cell phones? Those would’ve helped. And what would they call skin diving now?

L: Scuba, or scuba diving.

4. My favorite creative question for any pick: What would you have called the book?

L: The Letter, or The Impersonator, or maybe The Blue Pipes. That’s not giving anything away, but it’s also not hiding it.

N: I’d pick The Two Nancys

5. Nancy was very brave and persisted to uncover the mystery, even when people were repeatedly trying to hurt her. How do you think you would have reacted? Would you have stayed at the inn, or gone home?

L: I would have stayed at the inn for like seven weeks and if it kept going I would have gone home.

N: Seven, huh?

L: I just like seven. Seven days of the week and seven parts of the brain. I just like it.

N: Totally logical. I think I would’ve been too scared if someone tried to bomb my bedroom, so I would’ve gone home pretty quickly.

 

Lily’s Questions:

1. What would you have the cover look like?

L: I would want it set back with lilac trees all over with a convertible holding Nancy.

N: When we started reading, I couldn’t remember what lilacs looked like, so I’d want it covered with blooms as a pretty reminder.

2. Do you think all covers should be the same?

N: That’s a very good question. I love when old classics are re-imagined with a new cover, but I also hate it when books have covers that reflect their movie versions.

L: I think all covers should be the same so people know what to look at. They shouldn’t have to question; they just should all be the same.

3. Do you think Nancy should say “awfully <something>” so much? Like “awfully tired” or “awfully scared” or “awfully excited.” It’s so weird.

N: Interesting observation, Lil! It’s British sounding to me.

L: Yeah! Do you think River Heights is British?

N: I’ll have to look it up.

L: They still say “awfully …..” in England, so that may be it.

4. How would you feel if you were mobbed? (mugged + robbed?)

N: violated, scared, angry

L: I’d feel depressed, nervous, angry, tearful and sarcastic.

N: Why sarcastic?

L: Because she says she’s tired of being blonde. (…?)

5. Do you think you could change a part of the story?

N: I would have made Maud bad, because there was so much valid suspicion around her.

L: I’d have capsized the boat sooner, rather than have that long conversation.

N: How would you have the background of the story then?

L: It’s kinda long, so I’d make it brief. <fakes quick conversation to replace final scene>

N: You’d make a good book editor.

 

Next up: …..my absolute #1 favorite…..Matilda!

Past LiNo’s Libros reads:  The Indian in the Cupboard and The BFG

# easter brunch 2017

I love whipping up a good holiday brunch for just me and Joe (Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C, Exhibit D, Exhibit E, Exhibit F…), but having company is even better. Last week my mom and Mike were visiting over Easter and we were able to enjoy a lovely brunch with dishes from all my foodie faves: Ina, Ree and Joy. Instead of breaking out each dish in a separate post, you get the whole experience here. Let’s check out all the details:

I knew I had to upgrade last year’s Maleficent-looking napkin folds, so this year I tried out roses.

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There were nestled in everyone’s bowl, which helped them keep their shape. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to make them.

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I’ve said this before, but when hosting big (or small) gatherings, make things 250% times easier by setting out all of the plates, silverware, serving dishes, glasses, etc the night before. Everything out and ready to go!

My mom and I made four dishes, which was plenty for us. Let’s start with the sweets, my favorites.

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My brunch table will always, ALWAYS have Reese’s Eggs. I don’t know why they taste better as eggs than cups (which are still good!), but these babies make Easter for me.

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This year we displayed them and our baked goods on a sweet floral tiered stand that Bobbie gave me for Christmas. I love it. So perfect for Easter!

On the bottom of the stand are the Barefoot Contessa’s Easy Sticky Buns, which were a hit.

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Very easy to make, and to devour.

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For our fruit option, we made the Pioneer Woman’s Champagne Oranges instead of a traditional fruit salad.

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I was surprised how much I loved them. The syrupy sauce packs quite a punch, and bonus: you can make it the night before!

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For the savory, we made Joy the Baker’s Spinach and Artichoke Strata from her new cookbook Over Easy.

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Egg dishes will never be my favorite, but I did love the flavors and crusty bread around the edges. Also the bonus that you prep it the night before and just throw it in the oven the next morning.

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By far the standout dish for all of us was the Barefoot Contessa’s Maple-Roasted Carrot Salad.

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The FLAVOR of this dish is incredible. I want to make this every week for dinner.

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It was the last thing to the table, so not easy to get a great shot of it, but it’s bursting with caramelized carrots, almonds, cheese and dried cranberries reconstituted in orange juice. Just ridiculous.

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Then we were ready to get to it!

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Thankful for the great company and help in the kitchen. Wishing we could spend all holidays with family!

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The recipes:

Barefoot Contessa’s Easy Sticky Buns

The Pioneer Woman’s Champagne Oranges

Barefoot Contessa’s Maple-Roasted Carrot Salad

And because Over Easy is hot off the press…

Spinach and Artichoke Strata

source: Over Easy

2 Tbs. unsalted butter (plus more for prepping dish)
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 (10 oz.) package frozen spinach, thawed, excess liquid removed, and chopped
1 (15 oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
8 c. sourdough bread cubes
2 c. grated Gruyere cheese
2 c. whole milk
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 Tbs. whole-grain mustard (I omitted)
8 large eggs
pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Generously butter a 3-quart casserole dish and set aside.

In a medium skillet set over medium heat, combine the butter and oil. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the spinach and artichoke, stirring well to heat through.

Place one-third of the bread cubes in the prepared dish. Top with one-third of the spinach-artichoke mixture and one-third of the cheese. Repeat the layering, finishing with cheese.

In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, cream, mustard (if using), eggs, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Pour over the casserole, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, though overnight is best.

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Let strata sit on counter for at least 20 minutes to remove some of the chill.

Bake until golden brown and cooked through–45-55 mintues. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Served best slightly warm or at room temperature.