The Changes They are A-Comin’ {New Blog Launch Date!}

As my regular readers may remember, I announced several weeks ago that there would be changes to this blog. Among other things, I said I’d be blogging with greater frequency. The weeks have passed and this is my first post since.

I’m here to announce that I didn’t lie. Making certain changes has taken longer than expected. I’ll be launching my new blog in just over a week on Monday, February 3rd! I’ll be coming back full force with lots of fun tutorials, pictures, recipes, philosophizing, and more.

Closer to that date, I’ll post a link to my new blog here. Until then, enjoy some of my favorite reads right now.

What to Expect in 2014

New Year’s was pretty low key for us. I spent the evening at a friend’s party while the hubby worked. Then, I headed home at 1030 to watch the New Year in with him. We discussed goals and desires for the New Year. I don’t like to call them resolutions. That sounds like a death sentence. Who actually accomplishes their resolutions? Instead I’ll just say that we talked over what we’d like to see happen in our lives in 2014.

While we talked about a lot of things from getting healthier and losing weight to reading more books to achieving a couple of very important financial goals to growing spiritually, I’d like to share some of the goals that directly effect this blog.

Growth

I want to see this blog grow in 2014. That will mean a lot of changes and a lot of sitting back and evaluating what works and doesn’t work. Things to look for include a new design and domain, more frequent posts, and more DIY posts. I’d especially like to journal about my pattern drafting and sewing adventures. It takes time and discipline to pull together a project enough to blog about and write a tutorial for it, but I’d like to do more of that in the time to come.

Simplicity

I’m actively seeking simplicity in our chaotic lives this year. To me, simplicity means paring down and getting back to basics, whether that’s owning less stuff or (paradoxically) doing things the hard way sometimes. I’d like to blog more about this journey.

Health

The hubby and I are both finding ourselves in a bit of health rut. Tiredness and aches and pains are an everyday thing. We’re seeking solutions. As we eat better and get back to basics, I may write a bit about our search. Expect yummy but healthier recipes.

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Number 1 Resolution? More Cuddles!

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In the theme of growth for this blog, I’d love some feedback. I want to write posts that help or delight others. What would you like to see more of here?

2013: Thankfulness in Review

I’m not usually one for New Year’s Resolutions. I figure, if you can’t resolve to do something any other day of the year, what difference does January 1 make? That said, this year, the New Year has coincided with some changes I’d like to make in my life. Before writing those resolutions, though, I thought I’d stop and reflect on 10 things I’m thankful for in 2013. Some are profound. Some are a bit silly. So without further ado, here they are (in no particular order).

1) My new boots. I live in a snowy, cold city with lots of walking required. Boots are a must. This December, my husband was able to score 3 pairs of LL Bean boots for $21. Yup. My feet are very warm and blessed.

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2) My new nephew. Normally, my nephew would rank higher than shoes, but, as I said, this is in no particular order!

The little guy loves my hair!

3) My Apartment. Beautiful old brick building. Beautiful arched windows. A handsome husband to share it with. Need I say more?

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4) My cat. Until this June, I’d been catless since college. As a lifelong cat owner, this was torture.

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5) Happy Best Friends. In September, one of my best friends got married. The other one got engaged on Christmas Eve. She’s marrying one of my brother’s closest friends.

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6) The view from my living room window. It’s the little things, right?

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7) The view from my bedroom window after a fresh snow. Sadly, I don’t have a picture of this, but I love looking over snow covered roofs toward that little hint of restless blue which is the Back Bay.

8) My dear, sweet, handsome husband. It would take more space than I have to even try to encompass how thankful I am for this man. Instead of boring you with sappiness, though, I’ll just leave it at that.

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9) My family. I’m thankful that the hubby and I both have close, loyal, and ever-growing families.

10) My faith. I serve a risen Savior. For that, I am most thankful.

What about you? What have you learned to be more thankful for in 2013?

My New Specs: A Rivet & Sway Review

I’m not usually one for wearing glasses as an everyday thing. My vision is bad enough that I need some sort of eye correction, but I usually go the contacts route. That, however, has now changed.

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Earlier this month, after a prolonged search for new glasses (mine were old, unflattering, and scratched up), I discovered Rivet & Sway, a great new online startup company offering specs tailor made for women.

I  loved ordering from Rivet & Sway. Their customer service was excellent. For example, I contacted them several times throughout my order with questions. They were always quick to respond and provided helpful solutions, even going the extra mile to help me work through some pricing concerns.

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Like many online eyeglass companies, Rivet & Sway offers free home try-ons to help you decide which frames to order. They allow 3 frames for 3 days. Mine arrived within a couple days of my order by free two-day Fedex shipping. To return, you simply repack the frames in their original box, stick on the provided return label, and ship them out. Return shipping is also free.

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When you place an order, the frames are shipped out in small, cute, brown boxes. Inside is yet another small, cute brown box. And inside of that, in a soft glasses pouch, are your glasses. All glasses cost $199 for both the frames and lenses. If you decide the glasses don’t work for you, Rivet & Sway even offers a 60-day, no questions asked return policy.

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I had a very specific idea in mind for my new glasses. I wanted round, tortoise shell frames. Everything I found, though, was either too big for my thin face or looked like a toddler’s frames. Enter Rivet & Sway’s Poetic License. They were an obvious choice for me. The Poetic License frames were made for narrow faces and therefore don’t drown out my small features. Plus, because Rivet and Sway designs specifically for women, all the glasses are delicate and feminine without being fragile.

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I love my new specs. They’re designer quality and design without the designer price tag. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’m typically more of a contacts girl. Since I got my new glasses a week ago, though, I’ve worn them everyday. I’m definitely a new longterm customer of Rivet & Sway.

After having such a great experience with this company, I’m ecstatic to announce Rivet & Sway as my first blog sponsor! I’m proud to promote this awesome company, and I hope other bespectacled women have just as a great an experience as I did!

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Disclaimer: This post was written in partnership with Rivet & Sway. All opinions, however, are my own.

Holiday Prettiness and Birthday Celebrations

This week was all about getting ready for Christmas and celebrating my little bro’s 24th.

Tuesday, we took a trip out to a local Christmas Tree Farm. Many pics were snapped but, due to my cheapskate nature, no trees were purchased. I opted to wait and cut our tree in my parents’ woods this Saturday. Somehow, I ended up with two trees Saturday, but that’s another story for another time (when I have pictures). For now, enjoy our trip to the tree farm!

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As usual, the hubby pointed his camera at me. Somehow, we have way more picture of me than him . . . .

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After our unsuccessful Christmas tree jaunt, I was awfully bummed (even though I was the one who couldn’t stomach a $35 tree), so the hubby graciously agreed that we could pick up some white pine garlands from Trader Jo’s. Kitty joined in and we had a lovely time decking the windows.

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Finally, I ended the week with a belated birthday party for my brother. We had tacos (made by my mum) and a Blueberry Pancake Cake (made by yours truly), recipe courtesy of Your Cup of Cake. I have some blackmail photos from the evening, but for the sake of my little bro and his friends, we’ll stick with pictures of the cake.

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Yes. I did color code the candles. Who wouldn't?

Yes. I did color code the candles. Who wouldn’t?

What about you? What did you do last week?

Graze Subscription Boxes: A Review and a Few Referral Codes

Sometimes, I signup to try new things and then forget about them. Graze is one of those things. An advertisement for a free Graze box popped up in my Facebook newsfeed last month. I signed up and then went on my merry way, completely forgetting about it till the box came through my mail slot early last week.

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What is Graze?

Graze is a subscription box service for healthy snackers. According to their website, they started as a collaboration between seven friends tired of eating junk food. You sign up for biweekly or monthly deliveries, and your subscription can be canceled at anytime. You can choose between a Nibble Box or a Light Box with lower calorie options. Pricing is a bit difficult to find on their website, but I believe each box costs $6.

My Experience with Graze

Graze stresses that their boxes can fit in most mailboxes. I was glad to see that it even fit through my tiny slot since package drop-offs can be a tricky thing in our building.

Anyway, the package had a label instructing me to turn it over in order to open it, or else I would “make a mess.” I appreciated these instructions since I would definitely be the type to open from the wrong side and send trail mix flying. Once I opened it, I found four individually wrapped snacks inside: Pomodoro Rustichella, Chocolate Orange, Banoffee Pie, and Fruit and Seed Flapjack (snacks vary from box to box).

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The chocolate orange snack was delicious. It included orange flavored cranberries, disks of dark (but not too dark) chocolate, and hazelnuts. All the flavors blended beautifully.

My husband ate most of the Pomodoro before I got to it, but what I had was good, salty but not enough to drown out the flavor. According to the label, it included cheese croutons, tomato baguettes, and tomato and herb almonds.

I’m not a huge fan of dried bananas, but I even enjoyed the Banoffee Pie. But perhaps that’s because it included banana fudge. I’m not sure how that’s healthy (!), but the fudge didn’t taste overly sweet. It was more fudgy in texture than in sugar content. The Banoffee Pie also included dried bananas, almonds, and pecans.

Finally, the fruit and seed flapjack. It was really a fruit and nut bar. It had a light and airy texture rather than the hurts-your-teeth-over-sugared-gooey mess of many commercial fruit and nut bars. It contained rolled oats, mixed seeds, and dried fruit and had a nice mix of sweet and salty, although I could’ve leaned more toward the salty side.

Out of the 4 snacks, my favorites were the Chocolate Orange for sweet and the Pomodoro Rustichella for savory.

Is Graze Worth It?

It depends on how you judge worth. If you’re buying a lot of expensive snacks already, it might be a no-brainer option for you. We don’t buy snacks a whole lot ourselves. When we do, it’s usually a bag of tortilla chips on sale and cheap or homemade salsa.

Pricewise, Graze isn’t spendy, but it isn’t cheap either. For the same money I’d spend on two boxes a month, I could get quite a lot more tortilla chips! I did, however, appreciate the quality of Graze’s snacks. They tasted fresh and quality-crafted despite having been shipped to me. I can definitely see us trying a few more boxes and maybe getting a treat once a month.

If you’re interested in trying Graze, I have 3 referral codes I can share. They’ll get you your first and fifth box free (remember, you can cancel at anytime). Because these codes are limited, I’m not sharing it on my blog, but the first 3 people who comment on this post to let me know they want one will get a private message with the code from me.

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An Almost Birthday Cake (or Wild Blueberry Cake)

Today was my brother’s birthday. To celebrate, I made him a blueberry cake. He’s very passionate about his food and LOVES Wild Maine Blueberries. Thankfully, I still had a gallon frozen in the fridge.

Through a series of unfortunate events, however, he was unable to make it to my house. So what did I do? Ate it myself, of course! Don’t worry, I have plans for another cake in the very near future.

The recipe was a bit of an experimentation. It’s not your typical birthday cake but instead has a sort of deep, chewy flavor punctured by bursts of bright blueberry.

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Blueberry Cake

ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour (plus a little extra for later)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups blueberries (wild Maine blueberries (such as Wyman’s), if possible.)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • powdered sugar

directions

1) Preheat oven to 350. Light butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.

2) Combine 1 cup flour with the baking powder and salt. Whisk together.

3) Beat the yogurt and brown sugar together by hand or in a mixer. Beat until the brown sugar is completely mixed in. Add the vanilla. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Slowly add in the flour, beating until smooth.

4) Pour batter into prepared cake pan.

5) Mix the berries with a teaspoon of flour and the lemon juice. Scatter blueberries over the top of the cake.

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6) Bake cake for one hour or until middle is set and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 10-15 minutes. Then carefully remove it from the pan. Let finish cooling on a platter, berry side up.

7) Using a fine mesh sieve, dust the cake with the powdered sugar.

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All About Accessories

I’m obsessed with head accessories. By that statement, I mean anything relating to the head, whether it’s a hat, a hair clip, a head band, a hair doughnut, or a random scrap of fabric I tie around my head and call good.

With this obsession of mine, what I wore as a veil/headdress on my wedding day was incredibly important. It couldn’t be just anything. I’m incredibly picky, which can be good but can also mean everything I like lies well outside my budget. 

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To make matters worse, I have a very  thick head of hair. It makes wearing women’s hats nearly impossible. For instance, my husband brought home an adorable XL men’s hat the other day. Pretty sure I kissed him in excitement. The hat fit perfectly. Yup. I have that much hair.

So for my wedding, my fate was pretty much determined the day I inherited my dad’s thick hair. If I wanted a fitted 20s style headdress (which I did) that I could afford, then I needed to make it myself.

Please ignore the hubby's facial hair here. I promise he isn't as creepy as he looks!

Please ignore the hubby’s facial hair here. I promise he isn’t as creepy as he looks!

Thus, began the journey. I made my veil, then made a fun black headdress for a special event months later, and made my best friend’s veil last September.

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Now, I’m feeling the head accessory itch again (and no, I don’t have lice). I’m feeling something fun . . . for everyday . . . with feathers. What do you think?

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Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pumpkin Coffeecake

A few weeks ago we had some extra pumpkin puree sitting in the fridge, just waiting to be used. For some reason, I had a craving for a whole wheat pumpkin coffeecake. So began my usual google recipe search. I found several recipes and then combined ideas to create my own. This recipe is based off one by Two Peas and Their Pod and a few other recipes I chanced upon.

The trick to cooking with whole wheat is extra moistness. Add-ins like pumpkin make that job just a little bit easier. A little secret? If you’re cooking with pumpkin and whole wheat, double the pumpkin. Here, I use a whole cup instead of the 1/2 cup recommended in most recipes. It allows the pumpkin to shine instead of being drowned out by the stronger wheat flavor.

Another secret? Buttermilk makes everything taste better!

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Ingredients:

streusel

  • 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 6 TB unsalted butter, cold

cake

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, very cold
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree, homemade or store bought
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

glaze

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

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Directions

to make the streusel

Whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Cut the butter in till mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside

to make the coffeecake

1) Preheat oven to 35o and butter a 9 inch cake pan.

2) Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt). Cut in butter till mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

3) In a stand mixer, beat together the eggs, vanilla extract, pumpkin puree, and buttermilk. Add in the dry mixture. Be careful not to overmix.

4) Add batter to prepared pan. Top with prepared streusel. Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

5) Allow cake to cool in pan for 10-15 minutes. Then, remove cake from pan and transfer to a cooling rack.

to make the glaze

Sift powdered sugar to remove any lumps. Whisk together all ingredients. While coffeecake is still warm but not hot, drizzle glaze over it. Enjoy!

Don’t forget to enjoy any leftovers for breakfast throughout the week.

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