Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Hello my friends, this is just to tell you in advance that it's going to be rather light on updates here for the next little while. I've got a lot going on in my personal life and I'm afraid I don't currently have the time or mental energy that I normally devote to this little blog of mine. That said, rather than clutter it up with lackluster content, I'm going to take a break from posting to refocus and reorganize.

It may be a bit early, but it's time for a little "spring cleaning", shall we say. Don't worry, I'll be back before too long. In the meantime, keep your heads up and your elbows off the table. ;)

See you soon!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Anne's Kitchen: Totally Scrumptious Vegetarian Pizza

Hello friends! I know most of my readers enjoy sharing recipes and if they manage to be delicious AND healthy, it's sure to be a winner. Unfortunately for our waistlines, I think every recipe I've posted on here so far has been for desserts and baked goods. No one could ever accuse me of withholding from my sweet tooth.  As much as I love baking, I wish I were better at cooking.  I'm not talking four-course dinners with foreign sounding names but just mastering simple, healthy, and flavorful meals.

As you may or may not know, I currently live with my parents, both of whom have been eating a plant-based diet for the last year.  It is primarily vegan but as it is for health reasons and not necessarily moral ones, my mom has no problem throwing in the odd bit of cheese or eggs to make certain meals more palatable to my 10 year old brother and I. (Yes, we are on a very similar level taste-wise. No, I am not ashamed.)

After being home for the last nine months, I'm slowly coming around to this lifestyle as much as I hate to admit it.  There are still many vegan staples I just cannot get behind, for example, no mushrooms will knowingly pass these lips and the same goes for beets and tofu NO THANK YOU.  But I'm surprisingly on board with black beans and sometimes I even crave quinoa.

Although that doesn't mean I don't still weep with happiness over a perfectly barbecued piece of marinated chicken. (Seriously, Ric and Carole, last Sunday's meal was the business.)

All this is to say I'd like to encourage myself to make better choices for my health and to that end, I'm starting a new blog series spotlighting my mother and her healthy plant-based recipes. At as-yet-undecided intervals, she will be guest-posting her most successful meals under the title "Anne's Kitchen".

To start us out gently, she's starting with possibly my new favorite vegetarian meal that she's ever made: Totally Scrumptious Vegetarian Pizza. mmm....take it away Mom!
(All of the following words and photos are her own)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Food for Thought

Nothing is owed to us in life, not even the innocence of a blue sky.  Great art is the art of thankfulness for the abundance of every moment.  Writing is a Chinese variant of this thankfulness, a curtsy to life in its cloak of nothing, lined with love.- Christian Bobin, "Passing Through Images"
I stayed up way too late last night reading from a collection of essays by the French poet Christian Bobin, called I Never Dared Hope for You. The whole book is heartrendingly beautiful, but that particular passage is one of my favorites.  I came across a quote on Tumblr from the original French version, L'inespérée, and I was hooked:

Cela fait bien longtemps que je ne sors plus sans toi.
Je t’emporte dans la plus simple cachette qui soit :
je te cache dans ma joie comme une lettre en plein soleil

(It’s been a long time since I no longer go out without you.  
I carry you in the simplest hiding place possible: 
I hid you in my joy like a letter in the sunlight.)

Pure poetry.
I need more thankfulness, more joy in the simple things in life.
Sources: (1) / (2)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Monday, February 18, 2013


Today's post is in response to the weekly prompt on TwentyTwenty

(Unrelated note: Just realized that this is my 300th post! Go me!)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Lofthouse-Style Soft Sugar Cookies

When I was a kid, there was nothing more tempting on a trip to a grocery store than the bakery displays of Lofthouse cookies with their brightly colored frosting.  If we behaved, Mom would let us get a free sugar cookie from the lady behind the counter, but they were flat and hard and nothing like the pillowy-soft frosted cookies of my dreams.

Now that I’m all mature (questionable) and grown up (true), I can eat Lofthouse cookies until I’m lying on the floor in a sugar coma if I want.  Fortunately we grow out of our childish urges (mostly) and the few times I’ve had a store-bought Lofthouse cookie at a party or whatever, I find them to be a little dry and far too sweet.  But that nostalgic factor is still there, which is why I keep trying them. So all that is to say, I was a little excited when I came upon a recipe for them. And heart-shaped? Well, it’s perfect for the belated V-Day celebration I’m having with friends this weekend.

Since it's not my creation, I won't post the recipe here but you can find it on Two Peas and Their Pod.

The positive side of a recipe that requires refrigeration is that it cuts a little time out of the process when you’re ready to cut, bake, and frost.  By that I mean I made the dough on Wednesday night, which only took about 25 minutes, and then it was ready to roll out on Thursday.  This recipe makes a large amount of cookies, so I left 1/3 of the dough in the refrigerator in case my little brother & his friend want to make and decorate cookies this weekend. 

Spencer leaned over his homework to make the first cut. And that was the end of his helpfulness, until it came time to taste test.

My mom has a set of heart-shaped cutters with fluted edges but because the cookies rise so much while they’re baking, the pretty shape gets lost in the oven.

Mmm...heart sprinkles.....

My biggest critique of this recipe is the texture of the dough. It was in the refrigerator for 24 hours and it was still SO STICKY.  I didn’t add any extra flour to the recipe and if I made it again, I still wouldn’t because they would probably taste like biscuits. But flour the counter top. And flour your rolling pin. And flour your hands. And sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough just to be safe. And then when that’s all done, throw a little flour over your left shoulder and say a little prayer to the deities of baked goods for good measure. Ok don’t do that.
Also, only roll out a quarter of the dough at a time, keeping the rest in the refrigerator. The colder it is, the easier it is to work with.

So that may seem like extra work but it is worth it. These are amazing. Soft and cakey and the perfect vehicle for the fluffy buttercream.  Somewhere, 7 year old Ellie is laughing and crying and clapping her hands.  Well done, me, well done.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Inspired By: Valentine's Day

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable.” - C.S. Lewis

IT'S VALENTINE'S DAAAAAAY and I'm so excited! *insert jazz hands* 
It's a little weird how much I love it. And yet every year, I just have a blast.

I wake up and say, "Ellie. You're in love today. With YOU! Get out there and treat yo self! " 
And I do. I buy myself flowers. I make myself cookies. I put on my favorite shoes & walk around with a goofy smile on my face because of how awesome I am.

That sounds so incredibly narcissistic. Bordering on drastically pathetic.
But it's my thing

In fact, I'm not really sure how to share this day with anyone. I mean, aside from letting you have a cookie. But I'll try...so here's all the things that inspire me about this pretend holiday.
Valentine's Day is dark chocolate and tart berries and if you're not indulging in a bit of sugar on this of all days then I have nothing more to say to you.



Don't worry, no romance novels here, just some real letters from real people.

Love Letters of Great Men & Women by C.H. Charles
+ This incredibly sweet letter from John Steinbeck to his son


Sweet and simple illustrations are the loveliest of all:


Nothing inspires my imagination more than classical music. Here are a couple of sweeping scores from movie soundtracks that fit the mood perfectly. Excuse me while I replay dramatic moments from my love life to these songs.

Leaving Home, Comming Home by Dario Marianelli on Grooveshark

Stillness of the Mind by Abel Korzeniowski on Grooveshark


When giving or buying flowers, it's important to consider the meaning behind them, and not just how pretty they are.  The language of flowers is real, you guys. So real that if you show up with an armful of yellow roses, I'm never speaking to you again.  In Victorian times, you could have a whole conversation in a bouquet of flowers. They practically invented passive-aggresion: my mouth is saying, "here, I got these hydrangea for you" but my heart is saying "you're frigid and heartless." On the other hand, show up with a few stems of ranunculus and it's a swoon-fest.

Whether you're happily in love, bitterly single, or completely ambivalent, I hope this Valentine's Day was worth your while. If it wasn't, leave me your number in the comments below & I'll sing off-key beautiful songs to your voicemail to cheer you up.

You're welcome, world.
Top image (sans text) by Geronimo Balloons
Cherry Syrup Waffles by Helena Jungren
Vegan Berry Tart by Have Cake Will Travel
Swedish Chocolate Cake by Top With Cinnamon
Dancing illustration via Pinterest (could not find OP)
Cherry illustration by miss Capricho
Ranunculus 1 via Tumblr
Ranunculus 2 via Kiss the Groom

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Love Notes

Hello my dears! Valentine's Day is just around the corner and as you may or may not know, it is absolutely my favorite holiday-that's-not-really-a-holiday.

I just love love and I don't care who knows.

I decided to use that as the theme for my first gift in the 2013 Pay it Forward Creative Challenge.
At the top of my list of things I love is, of course, writing. I am partial to Moleskine for jotting down notes, so I picked up a package of plain softbound journals and decided to decorate them in a Valentine-y fashion.

Here is the result:

Ha! Just kidding. As usual, I got busy with a paint brush before figuring out what I was going to do and things got weird from there. Obviously I thought glitter would make it better. It did not.

After reevaluating my skills, I decided the simpler, the better.  With a thin coat of glue, I made a little glitter heart on the second notebook (as pictured at the top of the post).

The third notebook, inspired by Cupid's arrows (so cheesy!) I painted on a big red chevron, using a bit of washi tape as guidelines.  Don't scold me for wasting pretty washi tape, it was the perfect width for my needs.

Et voila! Two simple but pretty notebooks.

So watch your mailboxes, Challenge winners, someone will be receiving these shortly.
(As for the first attempt, I am keeping it on top of my desk, as a glittery reminder that less is always more. )

Now get out of here and go write someone (or something) a love note.

I'll start:

Dear Gruyère Cheese,
You complete me.
All my love,

Supply List:
-Moleskine Cahier Pocket Ruled Notebook (Set of 3) in Kraft Brown
-Washi tape
-Martha Stewart Multi-Surface Satin Acrylic Craft Paint in Tartan Red and Wedding Cake
-Martha Stewart Fine Glitter in Smoky Quartz

Friday, February 8, 2013

Happy Weekend

Wow the weekend couldn't come soon enough! For the last two weeks I feel like all I've had time to do at home is sleep so I am looking forward to staying in and getting caught up on projects and also do some much needed cleaning and organizing. I probably shouldn’t share this but this morning as I was getting ready for work, I noticed a pungently sweet odor coming from my closet. On the floor in a purse I forgot to clean out, I found a clementine that had shall we say, given up the ghost. I know, that’s atrocious and why would I even tell you that but friends, this is real life and sometimes we let citrus rot in our closets because we are terrible at prioritizing in our free time and “do it later” turns into “do it never”.  My point here is I really need to stop ferreting away fruit in my bags like I’m some sort of hoarder.
And also clean the floor of my closet more often.

Anyway, my deplorable habits aside, after the cleaning frenzy, I’m excited to get my crafting on in preparation for Valentine’s Day and sending out the first round of Creative Challenge gifts! What are your plans, friends?

In the meantime, here are some links I liked this week:

+ A simple but yummy recipe for homemade pop tarts inspired by our favorite pies (via A Beautiful Mess)

+ Anytime I was feeling blue this week, I just looked at this photo with the caption "Who am I?" and couldn't stop laughing. I don't know why it's so funny to me.

+ Add this to your list of places to visit: a glass beach in California (via Colossal)

+ A 23 year game of tag. The commitment in their friendship is amazing.

+ Loving the beautiful simplicity in this collection of prints. (via Note to Self)
Also, have you entered to win a 16x20 canvas from The Canvas Tree yet? I've got my eye on this one!

+ "Riverside" by Agnes Obel
AGNES OBEL - Riverside by Pias France

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Chocolate Mint Sandwich Cookies

Hello from the middle of the week! We all need a little pick me up on Wednesdays, right? Well here’s a pile of freshly chopped chocolate for your viewing pleasure:

mmm…you can almost feel the endorphin rush...

In my last weekend links post, I shared a link to a Martha Stewart recipe for chocolate mint sandwiches. They are dark chocolate cookie wafers with a mint-infused ganache, enrobed in dark chocolate. Sort of like if a Thin Mint left the Girl Scouts, went to college and got a job working for a fashion magazine. Fancy.

Anyway, I couldn’t get them out of my mind, so I tried it. I’m not going to post the recipe (you can get it here) but here are some more photos from afternoon in the kitchen. Thank you Jami for taking these for me!

After you chill the dough, the recipe calls for rolling it out to 1/8” thickness and then using a cookie cutter to make perfectly round wafers but this is real life and ain’t nobody got time for that so instead I made two (mostly) even logs and then thinly sliced them into (mostly) even cookies. 

In my kitchen, taste trumps appearance so things like "evenly shaped" and "pretty" don't carry much weight.

While the cookies were cooling, it was time to make the ganache in the double boiler. Oh ganache, you wonderfully indulgent creature. Chocolate, heavy cream, and peppermint extract. Like, we're not even going to pretend there's anything healthy about that.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Canvas Tree

Hello my dears! I'm so excited to talk to you about something that has been a long time in the works. My genius brother-in-law has officially launched a website called The Canvas Tree. It's a way to connect artists and graphic designers with the art-loving masses.  If you've ever shopped for affordable art on Etsy, 20x200, or Society6 you may or may not have noticed that most of it comes printed on heavy duty paper or card stock. If you want to hang it, you need a frame.  But what about wrapped canvases? You get museum-quality, ready to hang prints without the extra hassle or cost of a frame.  Society6 has a limited selection but they usually start around $85 for the smallest size.

That's where The Canvas Tree comes in. They have combed the web for great artists and graphic designers and proudly features their work on custom wrapped canvases in various sizes, starting at just $39 for an 11x14 canvas. The good part? Everything is made here in the U.S.

Here are a few of my favorite prints, from a test photo shoot I did while I was in San Antonio:

Are you ready for the BEST part? For the grand opening, The Canvas Tree is giving away a 16x20 canvas of your choice to one lucky winner. Click here to enter. You can also like their page on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

Got empty wall space to fill? Need a gift for someone? Head over to The Canvas Tree. And tell all your friends!

And before you ask, no, this post was not sponsored. I'm just so proud of my bro-in-law and his entrepreneurial spirit. The website looks awesome and I'm excited to see it grow!

Friday, February 1, 2013


February, month of despair,
with a skewered heart in the centre.
I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries  
with a splash of vinegar.
-an excerpt from “February” by Margaret Atwood

Oh February, how I dread seeing your face each year. This is always a hard month for me to get through.  It’s a lonely, long-dead leaf skittering across an empty sidewalk.  The charm of winter has worn off, and it’s so cold the clouds are holding onto the snow to keep themselves warm.  

February is a grey lady who keeps me inside my house and inside my head for far too long.  She holds no joy of holiday and no glimmer of spring.  She is a month of struggling to keep resolutions, of grim realities and uncomfortable crossroads. No one has a picnic in February, our eyes are too heavy and our fingers too numb.

But life isn’t supposed to be one jolly picnic, is it? We need Februaries to appreciate December and May and September and all the other pleasant months in between. So that’s the last you’ll hear me complain about her. I’ll square my shoulders, set my eyes on the horizon, and keep walking until March.

To this end, my February resolution focuses on mental balance by increasing my physical activity. Nothing shakes the dust and cobwebs out of your head like a little blood flow. Or so my mother tells me. I’m not going to give you any specifics because I’m not interested in keeping an exercise diary but there will be a conscious effort on my part to be less of a lazy slug in my free time this month.  I will probably complain the whole time, so you don’t want to hear about it anyway.

Power through, friends.

Image Sources: (1) / (2) / (3)

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