For a long time, I actually really liked New Year's. My job sucked, I was lonely, and each new calendar year that passed was an opportunity for things to get better.
But then in 2011, I met this guy. And in 2013, he asked me to be his wife. And that New Year's Eve was the first time I had a little bit of dread on December 31st. Even though we were to be married the following April, it was hard to let go of that wonderful year in which we got engaged (and adopted our sweet Luna).
Last year's New Year's Eve, 2014, was even harder, though at the time we had a little secret: we knew, at that point, that we would be moving to France sometime this year, even though we hadn't told anyone except our parents yet because the details were still so tentative. But it still hurt to let go of our wedding year.
And now, somehow, impossibly, the time has come to say goodbye to 2015, with no international (mis)adventures or upcoming nuptials to look forward to.
I'm a little sad. But I'm also a lot excited. We've had a lot of high expectations for the past two years, and it's almost a relief to head into January with no big plans or stressors. Instead of the big wedding day or moving day to look forward to, we can instead anticipate a quiet weeknight, cooking dinner together and then maybe playing the train game before snuggling on the couch with the dog. It's a blank slate, and we can do with it what we want - even if all we want this year is our small, quiet, happy life together here in Greenville.
I don't do New Year's resolutions because I think they're stupid, but someone once suggested having a "word of the year," such as peace, or joy, or harmony. For 2016, I think my word is going to be small. Small moments, small gifts, small days...which we will eventually look back on and realize were the big, important moments, gifts, and days (for further reading on this, check out Emily P. Freeman's Simply Tuesday). Small isn't negative. Small is good. Small is going to be my word.
Whatever you've lost or are letting go of with 2015, whatever word of hope you choose for 2016, may it be a beautiful and blessed one. Love to you all.
E, B, & Luna
After my cousin-in-law made this pie for Thanksgiving, I immediately knew I would be making it for my family's Christmas Eve dinner (Southern Living for the win again). There is absolutely nothing healthy about it, but it's delicious. It disappeared at Thanksgiving, and it disappeared again at Christmas. It's especially delicious heated with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.
The only thing is, it comes out really goopy. When it did it at Thanksgiving, we thought perhaps it was problems with the oven. When it did it at Christmas, we realized maybe it's the recipe because I know my parents' oven works. So either eat a really gooey pie, or bake it longer than it calls for - your choice. It doesn't affect the taste whatsoever.
So forget your New Year's resolutions for a day (or maybe a weekend). Make this pie and cheer up your January. I promise, you'll love it.
Disappearing salted caramel chocolate pecan pie
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 up cacao unsweetened cocoa
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 cup toasted chopped pecans
1 (9-inch) unbaked deep-dish piecrust shell
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 cups toasted pecan halves
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Preheat oven to 350.
Stir together first six ingredients in a large bowl. Add eggs, stirring until well-blended.
Fold in chopped pecans.
Pour mixture into pie shell, and bake at 350 for 35 minutes. Remove from oven to a wire rack to cool.
For the topping, bring 3/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice to boil over high heat.
Boil (do NOT stir), swirling occasionally after sugar begins to change color, 8 minutes or until dark amber.
Keep a close eye on the pan, as the sugar will burn quickly once it starts to change color.
Remove from heat; add heavy cream and 4 tablespoons butter.
Stir constantly until bubbling stops and butter is well-mixed (about 1 minute). Stir in table salt.
Arrange pecan halves on top of the pie in concentric circles.
Top with warm caramel sauce.
Cool 15 minutes, then sprinkle with sea salt.
Nutrition: Are you kidding me right now?
My dad is one of those extremely lovable people that others are always drawn to. It's why he's so great at sales. But like most lovable people, he has a couple of, ah...fun quirks. One of them is his dire need for two creams with his coffee from McDonald's, and God help you if you're in the car with him and the cashier only gives him one (Don't ask. Just don't ask).
The other is his need to add a disclaimer to Christmas.
I've previously talked about my love affair with Bill Bryson's snarky wit, so when this book became available to review on Blogging for Books, I jumped at the chance. It's rare that a book on my (excessive) to-read list becomes available to read for free. I was pretty excited.
A Walk in the Woods doesn't disappoint. It details Bryson's trip hiking the Appalachian Trail, a feat I absolutely, positively, under no circumstances would ever want to do myself, but it sure makes for entertaining reading. His misadventures with his friend Stephen Katz are laugh-out-loud funny, and the eccentric cast of characters he meets along the way help to flesh out the book and keep it from becoming too one-dimensional. In addition to his humor, he's also extremely reflective and contemplative, which apparently is a common phenomenon for hikers on the AT. Anyone that likes hiking, humor, or both should read this book (along with his others as well, but that's another story for another time).
My only criticism is that at times he often delves into a little too much history of the Appalachian trail, and it becomes a little dry in sections. The parts I loved were his own adventures, not the history. But it's not so bad that I don't recommend reading the book. Just be prepared, and maybe skim through those sections. Not that I would ever do that, of course (wink).
The verdict: It's a great book that you definitely should read. 4 out of 5 stars.
The disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.
Everyone reads for a reason. For instance, some people read to learn. I am not "some people."
While I have nothing against learning, reading for me has always been more about escape (and yes, I fully admit that). It's a way to be someone else and to live other, exciting lives, and experience things I will likely never experience in my real life. For better or worse, that's why I read. I like a good story and good characters who become like friends.
I've had a terrible habit since childhood of reading about something in a book and then attempting it myself: running away, having a lemonade stand, becoming a member of the press (oh, wait...). But sometimes that's okay, especially if the book you read is Shauna Niequist's "Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table With Recipes."
Just can't get enough of my sparkling wit and brilliant ideas? Head on over to Craft Beer Raleigh to check out my guest post, Gift Ideas for the Craft Beer Girl. There, I'm discussing everything you need to know about what to buy for your favorite female craft beer enthusiast. Don't have a favorite female craft beer enthusiast? Then I guess that'll have to be me by default. Now you know what to get me for Christmas (this is not at all self-serving).
I tend to read in spells, or categories. For a very, very long while, it was travel books - for obvious reasons. I wanted to live in Europe. I wanted to experience that. And lo and behold, I did. So I kind of fell off that wagon, because I didn't need to read any more books about living in Europe - I could practically write a book about living in Europe (and yes, I know several of you are urging me to do just that - patience, Grasshopper).
But now, struggling with uncertainties and insecurities about where our life is going to go now (aka are we ever going to get out of this townhouse?!), inspirational faith-based literature is my new jam. I have been devouring them - these books have each barely lasted two days. As I read, not only do I get that familiar "escape" that I love, but also a hearty dose of truth and encouragement. These writers - guys, I can only wish to one day be part of their ranks. Their humor, their wisdom, their humility and honesty, and most of all their faith...it is so encouraging and just what I need right now. Ergo you're getting a double dose of Inspiration books. Sorry 'bout that.
I know most of these are heavily female-oriented, so I apologize if I'm boring any of my manly subscribers (and yes, I do have some - much love to you all!). But these are what I'm reading, so they're what I'm sharing. I hope you enjoy!
Believe it or not, there existed a time before I had this blog. I actually cooked things back then, too. And because I get easily confused, I forget I have made some things that I haven't yet shared with you. Like this recipe.
I know, the horror. I'll try to do better.
I hadn't planned on making macarons for Thanksgiving, but my cousin-in-law begged for them, so I gave in. Who am I to let someone down like that? Besides, I wanted to try some new flavors. I have apple, rose, lavender, and orange blossom flavorings, but they weren't sufficiently Thanksgiving-y enough. Even caramel apple macarons didn't sound appetizing this time around.
But then I went to Starbucks the week before. And you know, for all the hype, I'm not really a pumpkin spice latte kind of girl. I mean, they're fine, yes, but not my favorite. My favorite Starbucks (or independent coffee shop) holiday drink is a peppermint mocha. And behold, it came to me: chocolate peppermint macarons.