# half moon bay

Earlier this month my aunt–whose birthday is TODAY–graciously asked me to be her Plus One on her work’s achievement trip to the Ritz-Carlton at Half Moon Bay, just south of San Francisco. It took this Wyoming Girl all of two seconds to scream ‘YES!’ and have her bags packed. We’ve had a lot of adventures together and we’re birds of the same {middle child} feather when it comes to enjoying vacation. The keys to our success: a lot of good food, a lot of good company, a lot of relaxing, and a lot of laughing.

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In fact, after meeting at the hotel, it took less than five minutes to be in our room with mimosas laughing.

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And unpacking the Hurts Donuts she brought with her.

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Honey, hush! Doughnuts and champagne might just be the best way to describe me.

The first jaw-dropping moment I had on this trip was the view from our room. It was phenomenal.

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That large fire pit was hardly vacant the entire time we were there, so we took the first opportunity we had to warm our feet and listen to the ocean.

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Cheers!

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That night was a meet-and-greet at a Peruvian restaurant (also right on the ocean).

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No longer being in Wyoming, I thought I could get away wearing the sundress and linen jacket I first wore in Hawaii, but, hello…that coastline of California is 200% wind. Give me everyone’s jackets.

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At least we had a front-row seat for the sunset, which was lovely.

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The next day she had a morning meeting and I had the best breakfast of my life. Seems fair, right?

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This is the Ritz’s Farmer’s Market Benedict with wild mushrooms, spinach, cheese (I think they substituted cheddar when I said I didn’t want goat), tomato hollandaise and pesto. Holy smokes. If I were in my own home, I would have licked the entire plate, but you know…manners.

Afterwards I headed out on the coastal trail.

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It was incredible, but the wind was so strong I had a massive ear ache when I returned. I realize this is a ridiculous complaint when seeing these views, but I’m keepin’ it real here.

It was sometime this afternoon, after we had been to town and back, that I was reading under the covers and Pam comes running into the room and says “Do you have pants on??”  Haha! A valid question when traveling with me. She just realized we had Club Lounge access, which was a private room with 24-hour free food and drink. Like anything you want. At any time. Including this fancy wine machine…

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…and all the club soda and gummy bears I could manage. (Spoiler: A lot)

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It was basically heaven. And we spent a good deal of our time there for the rest of the trip. (They changed the food spread every three hours, and had games and more amazing views minus the wind and crowds.) It was like a 24-hour five-star restaurant you had all to yourself. Why would anyone want to leave?

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That night we celebrated all of the participants at a fancy dinner on site. Fancy for me: pearls and contacts.

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Saturday, our last full day, was a spa day (compliments of the trip), so we started on the same coastal trail I trekked yesterday, but this time hitting up the beach at low tide.

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Half Moon Bay is the home of the famous Mavericks surfing contest. Those waves were no joke, even at low tide. But, again, gorgeous. We had the entire beach almost to ourselves.

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After our massages and a million trips to the Club Lounge, we went to dinner with Pam’s longtime friend Jane.

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This is us with our blood orange margaritas, which were to die(t) for. We also had roasted mushroom and pear salads…

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…and Pam had her first, her FIRST, bowl of homemade gnocchi. This was literally MY crowning achievement of her achievement trip.

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I had a “Highway 92” pizza with roasted butternut squash, garlic, caramelized onions, feta, parmesan, arugula and sage. Mouth is watering…

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It was a fabulous way to go out. The next morning’s fog perfectly captured how we felt about leaving — sad, gray, but also so THANKFUL.

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Good food — check!
Good company — check!
Relaxing — check!
Laughing — check!
Club Lounging — triple check!

Pam, I’d celebrate you and WITH you any time. Thanks for letting me join your adventures and recognize your hard work. Happy birthday to one of the most amazing, generous, funny and loving people I’ll ever know. All the hearts!

# homemade lofthouse cookies

I’m pretty confident that the things I bake in my own kitchen taste better than the items withering away in plastic containers around grocery store bakery counters. All except Lofthouse Cookies.

What IS IT about these cookies? They are so soft and sugary — in a “this makes my teeth hurt, but I’m okay with it” kind of way.  They are also so full of weird crap. Not that these babies would be considered healthy without it, but, you know. Baby steps.

I’ve been on the Lofthouse Wagon since late high school, which is why I had a high-school-worthy freak out when I saw that a homemade version was included in Dessert for Two’s new Sweet & Simple cookbook! (If yesterday’s post didn’t convince you to nab it, perhaps this will!)

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Like the originals, these are pillow-like soft topped with a generous cloud of frosting and a more-generous handful of sprinkles.

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I think the most redeeming quality of Lofthouse cookies is the melt-in-your-mouth texture of both frosting and cookie. These did a good job of replicating that without all those weird-named chemicals Lofthouse has up its sleeve.

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There are tons of copycat recipes for these, but this one only makes six cookies and doesn’t require a stand mixer. Perfect for anyone battling wars on moderation and laziness. *cough*

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Any other Lofthouse Enthusiasts Addicts out there? Come out from the shadows!

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Homemade Lofthouse Cookies

source: Sweet & Simple 

Cookies:

3 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
4 Tbs. heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. fine sea salt

Frosting:

5 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. heavy cream
Sprinkles (all of them)

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, beat the butter on medium speed for about 10 seconds. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Next, add the egg yolk, heavy cream and vanilla. Beat until just combined.

Evenly sprinkle the flour, baking powder and salt over the batter and beat until just combined.

Press the dough into the bottom of the bowl and score it in half. From each half, you should get three balls of dough. Roll each dough ball and place on the baking sheet, flattening them slightly with your fingers.

Bake for 14-15 minutes. The tops will appear slightly dry. Let cookies cool on baking sheet for 1 minute before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Mix together frosting ingredients (minus sprinkles) using an electric mixer on medium-high speed. Frost the cookies once they are completely cool, and decorate with sprinkles.

# doughnut gooey butter cake

Joe’s performing in Cheyenne this week, so I’m going to take the quiet time to catch up on some posts from the last three months. So even though yesterday was Easter, we’re going to swing the holiday clock back all the way to Valentine’s Day so I can tell you about the cake that stole my heart.

But first…the pizza of my dreams.

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This last Christmas brought a beautiful Baking Steel into my life. I’ve wanted one since Chris and Chilali would host pizza parties at their house. This is the one I have, but check out their other offerings (like griddles!) too. The steel is heavy, but worth its weight in gold when it produces this in less than five minutes.

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Look at that bubbly crust! I used their 72-hour Dough recipe, which isn’t as labor intensive as it sounds and absolutely delicious. Here’s my dough ball after fermenting for three days.

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We topped this one with a Gorgonzola cream (melt 4 oz. Gorgonzola and 2 Tbs. heavy cream over low heat until melted and thick), caramelized Bosc pears and toasted walnuts. It was sublime!

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What could top that?

….

Cake.

Not just any cake, but a Doughnut Gooey Butter Cake.

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If you follow me on Instagram, you know I can’t shut up about Dessert for Two’s new cookbook Sweet & Simple. I love both of her cookbooks, but this one is the most-used book in my kitchen these days. The recipes are perfect, portion-controlled and delicious.

This cake is like my favorite childhood cake, which was called Chewy Pound Cake, but with a thick crusty lid that “shatters like the first bite of a glazed doughnut” and doesn’t use a cake mix. Signed, sealed, delivered, baby!

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This cake did not sit long on my counter, which is why I’m glad it only make an 8-inch square cake! This is how we Valentine around here.

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Doughnut Gooey Butter Cake

source: Sweet & Simple

Bottom Layer:

6 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted (optional: try browning it first – YUM)
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder

Top Layer:

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
6 Tbs. brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
3 1/2 c. powdered sugar, plus extra for serving

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees and line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper so it hangs over edges on two sides. Lightly spray the exposed sides of the pan with cooking spray.

Bottom Layer: In a medium bowl, whisk melted butter and sugars. Add the eggs and salt. Whisk well to combine and then gently fold in the flour and baking powder. Scoop the mixture into the prepared pan and press flat with your hands.

Top Layer: Beat cream cheese and brown sugar together with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the eggs and vanilla. Beat until combined, then add the powdered sugar and beat until well mixed and smooth. Pour top layer over the bottom layer.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, until center only has a slight jiggle. Don’t overbake it! Let cool completely, then refrigerate until firm enough to cut.

Optional: Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

# miami trip (February 2017)

A few weeks after we got back to Wyoming, I was off again for sun and smiles in Miami! It never gets old.

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I was there for the launch of a year-long project, so my first day on site was spent places around town, including the zoo.

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Otters!

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I feel like all of my Miami trip posts start to look and sound the same, because I’m a creature of habit once I get there. I had dinner and drinks (with popsicles) with two of my favorite girls, Michelle and Julisa…(this drink was called the Adios Felicia and was pretty much the best drink I’ve ever had)

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…and I always have multiple coffee runs with the A Team…

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…and you know I’m going to hit up Big Pink for this…

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…and some beach time to let myself forget about the snow back home.

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I also contribute on a really high, serious level in our department meetings. Clearly.

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Winter trips always provide the best sightings for these guys, too. My friendly faces as I walk to work.

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Just look at how many there were!

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A serious highlight was meeting Sarah Willis–Fourth Horn of the Berlin Philharmonic and hornist extraordinaire!

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She was there to work with Fellows and film an episode of her popular series Sarah’s Music. Don’t miss MTT taking on her horn challenge!

She was beyond fabulous and kind. Loved getting to see her in action.

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I flew home (a 17-hour trip) on Superbowl Sunday — through Houston no less. This is what the Denver airport looks like when the game was in overtime and every person was packed into the bars to watch. Well, everyone except me. Ah, bliss.

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Since I missed our Superbowl Food tradition, Joe made Coca-Cola Pot Roast (Atlanta) and I made him a Boston Cream Poke Cake (New England). I love that he took this picture so I could mention it here. Love him.

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Thanks, Miami, for the Vitamin D! Until next time…when I do it all again.

# Christmas 2016 in Oklahoma

It’s almost April, so I guess that means it’s time to blog about Christmas.

#LIFE

We spent a wonderful few weeks with my family in Oklahoma for the holidays. It was a much-needed escape from life and weather in Wyoming. And because we can get from Point A to Point B in 12 hours, we took a chance by driving (more on that later). Joe accompanied his band to their Bowl Game, got back after midnight on Christmas Eve and then we were in the car by 6am high-tailing it south before a snow storm hit.

*Disclaimer: I only used my phone to document the trip. Time off= Lazy!*

First stop on Christmas Day…Aunt Pam’s cookie extravaganza!

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Memaw showing off the goods.

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This is how you can normally find us — laughing.

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We made double batches of four different cookies. It smelled delicious!

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Joe was half-horrified, half-impressed that these cookies are older than him. #freezermagic (We’re weird.)

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Love these two and my new Honey Hush shirt (thanks, Hotrod and Sugar Bear!).

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Next day was Christmas at my Mom’s, where I caught this cute picture with a few of my favorite boys.

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Bryan, Robbi and Rowan had a Texas holiday. How cute is this little one for his first Christmas?

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Next day was Christmas at my Dad’s with Lily modeling her new bike helmet.

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We only had a few bucket list items for our trip, but my #1 was visiting the Pioneer Woman’s new Mercantile store.

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She’s like Oklahoma royalty, but we had no idea how popular until we got there and found ourselves in a four-plus hour line for L U N C H with people from around the world. Yeah, waiting outside, standing on pavement, in December for over four hours. It was insane, but worth it. (I think. I hope!)

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It was a Girl’s Trip with Joe!

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While waiting in line, we got to review the menus…

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…and I jumped at the chance to play a humiliating game for the masses that won me a bowl.

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Oh, my sister’s face when she saw me wearing a pair of pantyhose on my head. Priceless.

We had plenty of time for selfies with the best of backgrounds…

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…and got to meet a lot of the Pioneer Woman crew, like her husband Ladd…

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…her father-in-law Chuck…

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…and her boys, Bryce and Todd, with Cowboy Josh.

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The food was fabulous and plentiful. We were star-ving by then.

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Joe was thrilled with his blanket of gravy.

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The store was also a ton of fun and full of whimsy.

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Back at the homesteads, Bella, who rarely gets to see all of her favorite family members, was thrilled to be with everyone. She showed her appreciation by claiming her spot on the couch…

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…as well as Lincoln’s little arm chair. Come on! Awwwww!

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We spent over three weeks there (thanks to an ice storm), and here are some of the non-work (for me) highlights:

Movies! We watched a ton at my Dad’s, and I visited the old Circle Cinema to see La La Land and Jackie.

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Sunny days with Lily and Linc, riding bikes and getting creative with spelling. What does your name start with?? O! What does it end with?? S! …okay.

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We also played basketball with our favorite girl…

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…and enjoyed her new Chewbacca mask.

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We hit up Joe’s all-time favorite place to eat, Shiloh’s–home of the desserts for side dishes!

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I went back to work right after New Year’s, so our weekends were spent enjoying slumber parties with the littles. We played Clue…

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…I visited Lily’s Salon…

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…and we celebrated Bella’s 12th (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) birthday!

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We also played old-school Nintendo with them, which basically made me melt into a puddle of nostalgic bliss.

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This might as well be Booh and Bryan.

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Omg, how cute is he?!

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We also had a LiNo’s Libros movie night with homemade snacks to watch The BFG

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…and watched Lily’s team play some mean bball.

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We were also so thankful to spend special time with sweet Molly, who we miss dearly.

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We had a slim window of driving time after the big ice storm hit to get back to Wyoming before another snow storm invaded. But, I’m glad we waited, because check out these huge trees brought down from the ice, with it still clinging to their branches. Ei yei yei.

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That’s a wrap on a wonderful holiday season!

# molly

Earlier this month my family of dog-lovers said goodbye to our canine matriarch, Molly. After almost 15 years of supplying nothing but joy, comfort and love, Molly left behind a lot of grieving hearts, mine included.

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My sister Booh and her husband Tim got her a year after I left home, and a year after I lost my own childhood dog, Samps, so I latched on to Molly’s sweet face like it was a lifeline of love, because it was. Every trip home for me since has included suffocating her with snuggles and kisses. I loved her like she was my own.

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In her very long life she wore many hats. She was their first baby and my first niece…

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…she was Bella’s sister and roomie while Joe and I lived overseas…

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…she was Lily’s first best friend….

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…and she was a lap snuggler supreme.

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Spend five minutes with my family and we’ll give you a nickname, even if you’re a dog. “Molly” morphed into many iterations over the years, but the one that’s held true is “Molly Booh Muggle,” or (because we even give nicknames their own nicknames) “Molly Booh Muggs.” It fit her playful personality perfectly.

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In looking through old photographs, I noticed that Molly was literally in the background of every moment. It’s fitting, because that’s how I’ll remember her – as always being there. Never one to miss out on any action, she was the sweetest shadow to all of our shenanigans and the gentlest “Sissy” to Booh and Tim’s littles.

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I am so thankful Joe and I spent time with Molly a month before her passing, to say our goodbyes, but also to reunite Bella and Molly once more – sisters forever, these two.

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And then it was Molly’s time. She had lived a full and wonderful life, but the quality of it was beginning to wane. And, as heart-wrenching as it is, this is the promise we make to our furry babies. A promise of no suffering and a promise of compassion, when their pain can end and become our own.

Some say that losing a dog is so difficult because it triggers a tremendous shift in our daily routines. While that’s true, it’s the loss of their love that makes it feel so crushingly unbearable to me. And Molly was all love. One-hundred percent unconditional, all-encompassing, unwavering, life-changing love. And we will miss her tremendously.

Please enjoy this tribute video to sweet Molly Booh Muggs.

Shelf Life: Winter 2016-17

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We are in the throes of winter. Everything is snow- and ice-covered. It’s seldom above zero, much less above freezing. #Wyoming.

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I hope these guys are somewhere safe and warm.

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No matter how many times we shovel and salt our steps, they remain covered in ice.

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And this would be our street/yard/curb, well, everything. You can’t find any point of delineation, so everyone just drives down the middle and parks on the sides. The street is also a solid sheet of ice under that snow.

No surprise — I haven’t driven my car in a month. (Yes, parents, I’ve started it and it still runs.)

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On the bright side, this is Bella’s prime time. So much of the snow is packed solid, so she can walk on top without falling to her armpits, which she does *not* enjoy. Hard to tell here, but she’s prancing on about 8+ inches of snow.

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Sweet Snow ‘Stache.

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This is a pretty meager book list for my usual Winter quarter. We’ve been busy and ended up spending close to a month in Oklahoma over the holidays, where I maybe gained 30 pages in my book. I’m slowly getting through the books on my shelves, though, so I’m feeling pretty good about it.

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

1. Garlic and Sapphires, Ruth Reichl

Ruth Reichl is my spirit animal. Her love of food. Her jobs. The way she writes. It’s all glorious and I connect with it on a very deep level. I think the only one of her books I hadn’t yet read was this — her chronicle of being The New York Times‘ restaurant critic. Once she moved back to NYC from LA, Ruth quickly realizes that her picture is hanging in every kitchen; many wait staff, cooks, hosts, and dishwashers were told to keep their eyes out in case she came in. Some even were paid for information on where Ruth would dine. A Times review could make or break you. So Ruth did what she had to do: dine incognito, creating no less than six different characters that frequented all of NYC’s most-famous and most-expensive haunts. Her tales of both harsh and red-carpet treatment and mind-blowing and forgetful meals flow off the page. And the stories are peppered with recipes, because…it’s Ruth, who says “This book is going to have recipes instead of pictures because I want you to be able to taste what I am talking about.” At one point, Ruth’s husband is reminding her why she does this, and it perfectly sums up why I love her and why I connect with everything she says: “I remembered when you got into this it was almost a spiritual thing with you. You love to eat, you love to write, you love the generosity of cooks and what happens around the table when a great meal is served.” More than once (okay, maybe once a page) I thought how wonderful it would be to get paid to eat and write about it. But something tells me vegetarian food critics are not that desirable. Either way — Ruth is inspiring, hilarious, honest and her life exciting. I devoured every page and give it four stars.

2. The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty

I’ve loved Eudora Welty since high school–her characters and vivid descriptions of southern life leaping off the page and speaking to my Oklahoma heart. I have kept a beautiful copy of her collected stories on display in my living room for years. But I bet I haven’t read 75% of them! I’ve decided to plow through all 41 of them (totaling over 600 pages), one collection at a time. Arranged in chronological order, the first set is A Curtain of Green and Other Stories–a 17-story collection from 1941 that runs the gamut from the poignant to the profane. My favorites included Why I Live at the P.O. (which I had read before, but still love), A Memory, A Curtain of Green and Death of a Traveling Salesman. It might have been a little tough to stomach stories about the south written in the ’40s when watching the election coverage pour in, but still worth a dive into this unique perspective.

3. The Sweet Life in Paris, David Lebovitz

A few years ago, when I realized I only wanted to write about food (ha!), my aunt sent me a box of books from her shelves. Some were fiction, some were non-fiction, but all of them were about food. Garlic and Sapphires (see above) was one of them, and this was the last. I’m no stranger to David Lebovitz. I’ve read his stuff for years, which is why I saved this until all the other books from the box were gone. He wrote the bible on homemade ice cream, and everything he writes is educational and witty, and I eat it up. Sweet Life came out in 2009 and chronicles David’s move to France, where he still resides. I found his stories of cultural missteps so relatable to our own move to China in 2006. Except replace his croissants with chicken feet, and bad coffee with bad snakes. Other than that, it’s pretty much the same story of a fish out of water, desperately trying to find the way and not getting much help from the locals. He peppers his stories with recipes (which I always love), and, on a political note, had this to say about running into then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy on the street. Sound familiar?

“Although Sarkozy was accused of a number of things, from being anti-Semitic and a racist, to having a violent temper and a penchant for serial monogamy, he had one addiction that no one seemed to want to talk about: tanning. His face had a glowing orange tint, the exact same shade as the flesh of a lush, ripe cantaloupe.”

4. Downsizing the Family Home, Marni Jameson

You’re probably thinking this is an odd choice, but hear me out. For the past few years, my family has been working on cleaning out the home of my late great-aunt, who basically saved everything from her childhood through her 80s. And my mother’s house is filled not only with her and her husband’s own belongings, but boxes from her parent’s house in Houston and boxes from my childhood home. It fills me with a certain anxiety when I see it. Something she knows. And since I wasn’t there when we moved from my childhood home, or the home we lived in for four years before she remarried, I feel a very strong need to go through everything with her. I desperately want to sit down and open boxes sealed long ago and tell stories and laugh and maybe cry. But mostly, I want to clear it out and let her live in peace knowing she isn’t needing to protect every item from several people’s memories/childhoods. As the Baby Boomers age, this is going to a problem for many. And this book, to me, was very helpful and convincing on why downsizing should happen sooner than later. I wish I could gift everyone in my life with this book. It’s something everyone should read and consider, no matter your age.

5. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, Kim Edwards

When we were in Colorado this summer, our cabin had a bookshelf in one of the bedrooms with the invitation to take a book, leave a book. This book caught my eye. I had remembered hearing it was good when it came out years ago, but had never cracked it open. The story immediately begins with a doctor/father delivering his wife’s twins only to discover his daughter has down’s syndrome. In a split-second decision, he hands her to the nurse, instructs her to institutionalize the baby and, when his wife wakes up, tells her the baby girl has died. The rest is what spins from that fateful decision. While written beautifully, this story weighed on my heart. The character’s grief and torment was palpable and I was glad to see it end. It made for quite a downer during my Thanksgiving break!

6. Blu’s Hanging, Lois-Ann Yamanaka

I participated in a book exchange this summer where you send your favorite book to one person, and you would–ideally–get 36 sent to you, depending on the chain. I received a few, but all but one I had already read. This was the unknown title, sent to me without a note so I don’t even know who dubs this their *favorite* book, but…wow. No. I was very upset through its entire 260 pages. I hated almost everything about it, to the point that I thought maybe someone sent this as a joke. I’ve read plenty of depressing tales, but the blatant racism and stereotypes and graphic abuse against children proved to be too much. I recommend a hard pass on this one. For the record, my favorite book I sent was A Thousand Splendid Suns, which I wish I had just read again instead of picking this up.

7. The BFG, Roald Dahl

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

8. Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck

Steinbeck wrote one of my #1 books of all time. I love his style and perception, but I’ve only read a handful of his collected works. My brother wanted to read Travels with Charley, so I piggy-backed onto his idea so we could read it at the same time. And, of course, I loved it. What’s not to love about a guy jumping into a truck with his beloved dog to explore the country? It’s the ultimate road trip.

In 1960 Steinbeck was 58 and wanting to see the country he called home and the country of which he wrote so eloquently, though maybe not so confidently. You can see rough maps of his blazed trail that took him from his home in New York through New England, winter nipping at his wheels. Then through his awe-inspiring Montana, his childhood home in Salinas, California, the confusing land of Texas and the racially-charged South. When he set off, the country was divided in facing that year’s election between Nixon and Kennedy. Not too different than what a road trip through America this summer would have produced.

Here are some of my favorite observations–all sharp as a knife:

* On regional language changes: “I did not hear a truly local speech until I reached Montana. … The West Coast went back to packaged English. The Southwest kept a grasp but a slipping grasp on localness. Of course the deep south holds on by main strength of its regional expressions…but no region can hold out for long against the highway, the high-tension line, and the national television. What I’m mourning is perhaps not worth saving, but I regret its loss nonetheless.”

* Discussing scapegoats with a fellow traveler: “Those Russians got quite a load to carry. Man has a fight with this wife, he belts the Russians. ‘Maybe everybody needs Russians. I’ll bet even in Russia they need Russians. Maybe they call it Americans.'”

9. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

I would guess that 90% of high-school students read Great Expectations. I am part of the elite 10% who had never cracked its cover and only knew random character names to spurt off when cornered. But I should have known. I should have known I’d love it just as much as I did Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities (which I *did* read in high school), Miss Havisham replacing Madame Defarge as the crazy, creepy character I love to hate. I loved poor Pip, his adventures…his misadventures, and all the twists and turns. No surprise, but when all of your friends/family read this at least 15+ years ago, you don’t have a lot of people you can call when you get to a big twist and want to talk about the details. This has probably been sitting neglected on my shelf for as long as I’ve been out of high school and I’m happy to have finally immersed myself in its pages and now I pass it on to the next lucky person. Bonus: I’m 3 down, 2 to go on my Classics-I-Have-To-Read list! Now to watch Helena Bonham Carter transform herself into a wilted, jilted, haunted woman…

10. Scrappy Little Nobody, Anna Kendrick

I broke my no-library rule *JUST ONCE* this quarter to read this autobiography from my favorite Pitch Perfect star. Granted, we’ve been hashtag-blessed by hilarious leading ladies’ autobiographies, so maybe the bar is already to high, but this fell flat for me. You know how she plays a ragtag, jaded, sarcastic B in PP? Well, I think that’s just who she is. Which is fine, but I was hoping for a little more honesty or vulnerability in these pages. Or even humor. I’m not sure I even cracked a smile while reading. But you better believe I’ll be seeing Pitch Perfect 3 as soon as it comes out. Aca-disappointing, Beca!

11. Simplify, Joshua Becker

I read this 42-pager today on one of three planes to Miami. A minimalist life is really calling my name these days…expect my kitchen where I will swear up and down I need every tool, bowl, gadget and appliance. (Note to self: Read This.) You might remember that I mentioned Becker’s blog in my last Shelf Life. I’ve been following it ever since and bought this e-book over the Thanksgiving break when it was on sale for 50-cents or something. Well worth the pocket change and my time. Here are a few highlights:

* Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.

* “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris

* We were never meant to live life accumulating stuff. We were meant to live simply enjoying the experiences of life, the people of life and the journey of life—not the things of life.

* There is a life of simplicity that is calling out to you. It is inviting you to live the life you were born to live, not the life your neighbor is trying to achieve. It is inviting you to value the things that you want to value, not the values of billboards and advertisements. It is inviting you to remove the distractions in your life that are keeping you from truly living.

Next up in the queue:

The Fate of the Tearling, Erika Johansen (finally! reading this now)
Catch-22, Joseph Heller
Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child, Bob Spitz
Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (keep reading)
The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway (reread before reading Everyone Behaves Badly)