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A different take on bruschetta

Sunday, July 30, 2017
Bruschetta is one of my very favorite foods. I love late July and August because my basil soaks up the hot sunshine and goes crazy this time of year. Which means I can eat a lot of bruschetta. Nothing says late summer like the taste of basil and tomatoes.

Mike and I recently ate at Free State Brewery, one of our favorite Lawrence restaurants, and their special appetizer that evening was bruschetta. I enthusiastically ordered it; Mike who doesn't really like appetizers graciously gave in. We were so glad we ordered it though - it was delicious. Free State's version featured a mixture of tomatoes, garlic and basil marinated in some kind of amazing balsamic blend. I immediately knew I wanted to try to replicate it at home.

My usual bruschetta recipe is pretty simple. I toast slices of French bread, rub garlic cloves on the bread, top with parmesan and pesto, toast it in the oven a little more, and then finish it with a tomato slice, olive oil, and a dash of sea salt.  This time though, I wanted the tangy balsamic goodness of Free State's bruschetta.

So, I started with a bunch of basil. I wish you could smell this photo! I just love the smell of basil...

I wanted to slice the basil into thin strips, because as much as I love basil, I don't always enjoy munching on entire leaves. The best way to get perfectly thin slices is to stack a bunch of your leaves, roll them up, and then slice thinly through your basil roll-up. So easy! 

Gather a bunch of basil leaves...

Roll it up like a little basil sushi....

Start slicing! You'll have perfect, fragrant basil strips...

I diced up a bunch of tomatoes, threw in my sliced basil, added finely chopped garlic and tossed it all in balsamic, olive oil, pepper, and sea salt. Then I let it hang out in the fridge all day.

The result? Absolutely delicious! I think I'm hooked on this version. I love that the balsamic soaks into the bread and it has so much more flavor after marinating all day. I still toasted my bread and rubbed it with a garlic clove, and I also decided to still top each slice with a small amount of parmesan and pesto as a base. It turned out really well and made the perfect summer dinner. Served with Rosé, of course.

Summer Reading

Sunday, July 9, 2017
My summer reading has been minimal at best but I’ve tried to squeeze in a few books on road trips and trips to the lake. This summer has been busy for both Mike and I. He’s on a new program with mandatory thirty percent overtime and I’m freelancing more than ever for four different places (which I love!) so when I’m not at my day job, I’m writing through the night. Busy, but a great busy, right?

I started the summer with a full reading list and lofty goals, so we’ll see how I do. Here’s to finishing strong.

What I’ve read so far –

Settle For More by Megyn Kelly

Whether you like her or not, I think most would agree Megyn Kelly is one hardworking, smart gal. This was the best book I’ve read this year so far. I took it with me on a long road trip and couldn’t put it down. Megyn’s story is really inspiring. She grew up in a middle class family in Albany, New York, and at just fifteen she experienced the traumatic loss of her father (that’s a tough chapter to read).  Her upbringing and experience of losing her father gave her a strong combination of ambition, drive and just a little bit of a chip on her shoulder to “settle for more” from the get go. After being declined from Syracuse’s school of journalism (who’s laughing now?) she majored in political science and then decided to earn her law degree from Albany Law School. She goes on to be a powerful corporate defense lawyer in Chicago, when suddenly in her early thirties she decides her true love is journalism. To the dismay of almost everyone, she quits her job as an attorney (and gives up a very nice salary) and starts working toward broadcast journalism from the ground-up (she started in an unpaid, intern-like role).

Megyn provides a lot of insight on what it means to be a successful woman in today’s workplace and world. She shares the highs and lows of her career, how she fought stereotypes, faced workplace sexual harassment head on, and deals with the struggles of being a working mom. The chapters detailing the infamous and very public feud with Trump after the debate are fascinating and will make you respect her for how she survived such an ugly time full of personal attacks and threats to her family.

I remember always being so struck by Megyn Kelly when I was working as an intern at Fox years ago. She exuded beauty, smarts, and confidence when she entered the room, and I always admired her. For me it was awesome to see such a kick-butt blonde in the newsroom.
 I really loved this book, and learned the importance of settling for more in life. 

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler 

Sweetbitter was an incredibly well-written book, but for me it was a bit unsettling to read. Sweetbitter made me realize I’ve lived a sheltered, Midwestern life. The book follows Tess, a twenty-something who comes to New York City in a search to find herself and/or reinvent herself. She scores a job as a backwaitress at the city’s most celebrated, fine dining restaurant, but life for Tess and other restaurant staff is far from glamorous. You follow Tess through the grueling “training” (almost hazing?) of being the new girl at the restaurant, nights of drugs and drinking, starving from not being able to afford to eat, and living in a basically uninhabitable New York City apartment.  Oh, and there’s a frustrating love triangle, too. I was hoping for a happy ending with that but….again naïve Midwestern gal here. #spoileralert

The writing is absolutely fantastic, and it’s obvious Danler experienced this world first hand. Her years as a waitress in the city give the book it’s truthful and eye-opening edge. I flew through it but it didn't leave me with a feel-good feeling, which is fine. I finished the book feeling a bit how Tess often felt throughout the book – exhausted, empty, used, and jaded.

The Book of Hygge by Louisa Thomsen Brits

The only good thing about this one is it reminded me that if I’m not enjoying a book I should just stop reading it and move on to something I do enjoy.  I was really excited to learn more about Hygge (which my cousin Victoria first introduced to me) but this book was super slow and repetitive for me.  If you aren’t familiar with Hygge (say it “hue-guh”), it’s the Danish word for coziness and comfort – mostly regarding the home. Hygge is difficult to describe but it’s that feeling you get when wrapped up in your blanket in front of the fire on a dark, cold winter evening, or when you enjoy your favorite meal with your favorite people. There’s really not a good word for it in the English language. I was excited to learn more about Hygge and how to bring more of it into my home, relationships and workplace, but the book didn’t do much for me. It just wandered aimlessly through various descriptions of Hygge, and I got really bored. At least I’ve got a great grasp of what it is now. Who else is ready to hygger??

What I'm reading now: 

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – I’ve seen the movie multiple times but have never read the book. I thought I should give it a read. (It’s written by a fellow Jayhawk journalist! Rock Chalk!) So far it’s supporting the old cliché, “The book is so much better than the movie.”

Flower by Elizabeth Craft and Shea Olsen – Who else listens to Gretchen Rubin’s podcast, Happier? If you do, you’ll know about this book.  Rubin’s sister and co-host, Elizabeth Craft co-wrote this young adult book. I’m excited to get into it!

A Night In With Grace Kelly by Lucy Holliday – This was one of those finds that you pick up when you go to the library for another book, but then get sidetracked once you spot another one. I love Grace Kelly so the title totally caught my eye as I walked by the ‘new book’ section.

Also on my probably-way-too-ambitious-because-summer-is-ending-soon book list:

My Southern Journey by Rick Bragg – I love Rick Bragg’s funny commentary at the back of each month’s issue of Southern Living. I’m sure this will be just as hilarious.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain – As a bonafide  introvert I’m looking forward to learning more about my “type”

Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza -  This one just sounds fun. Excited to read it!

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
– Can’t wait to check out this one by the “Girl on the Train” author

The Farthest Away Mountain by Lynne Reid Banks – A childhood favorite that I’m super excited to reread as an adult.

A Night in with Audrey Hepburn by Lucy Holliday

A Night in with Marilyn Monroe by Lucy Holliday 

We’ll see how it goes. What were your favorite summer reads?

Happy summer, friends! 

My favorite Coconut products

Saturday, April 1, 2017
An article in the Wall Street Journal recently caught my eye, because it was about the surge in popularity of coconut products. As a lifelong coconut lover (definitely in my top three favorite 'flavors'), I had to laugh because I pictured my own fridge full of coconut-flavored items.

I have always loved coconut - when I was little I used to make virgin Pina Coladas all the time in the summer. I'll never forget when I was in the fourth grade on a cruise with my family, and I was allowed to go out to a tiki bar and show with my older cousins who were in high school and college. I was given a small sip of one of their real Pina Coladas, and, oh man, I was hooked. 

Key West Pina Colada circa 2010

The largest Pina Coladas EVER at The Mirage in Vegas.
Thank goodness I married someone
 in the pro-coconut camp.

I know coconut is a divisive flavor and scent. You either love it or you hate it. I have plenty of friends who say it tastes like sunscreen or 'eating a vacation.' Fair enough, but I love it.

Here are my favorite products that I'm 'nuts about-

Noosa Coconut Yogurt

I have expressed my love for Noosa yogurt before -
but I've got to give another shout out because of this flavor. 

So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer

I love that this new surge of non-dairy milks and creamers has filled the grocery stores with so many non-dairy options. I've been a non-dairy milk drinker since 1986. When I was born I couldn't drink dairy milk so I was fed Prosobee (soy milk formula). I've dabbled with dairy milk throughout the years but I prefer the taste of non-dairy products, and feel better when drinking them. I've been using this coconut milk creamer for about three years now, and I am addicted.

Luna Bar's Chocolate Dipped Coconut

Tastes like a tropical dessert....that you can eat for breakfast! 

Coconut La Croix

I still have no idea how to pronounce the stuff, but I guzzle a TON of it. La Croix is great on evenings when we're trying to cut back on wine, and the coconut version kind of tricks my brain into thinking I'm enjoying a tropical cocktail.....kind of.

Coola Pina Colada Sunscreen Spray

This sunscreen is definitely a splurge. Google it and you'll see what I mean. But! I think it's so worth it if you spend a lot of time in the sun during the summer. It's easy to spray on, it's SPF 30, it leaves a slight shimmer, and it smells ABSOLUTELY heavenly. I often gift it to friends who have summer birthdays. It feels a little luxurious when you spray some on by the pool or on the boat. If you are not on team coconut, they have other delicious flavors like mimosa, cucumber, and guava mango. 

 Also, this is best Pina Colada recipe I've found out there. I like to add in frozen pineapple sometimes for a smooth, icy consistency though. I'm VERY picky about my Pina Coladas. I get super annoyed if they're too melted. I don't enjoy lapping up warm coconut juice. I prefer a really icy, creamy version that almost has a milkshake consistency.

I've tried the 'skinny' versions with coconut water, etc. They're really not worth it. I say if you're going to have a Pina Colada you're probably in a vacation mood, and you really just need to go all in. After all coconut is a good fat, right?

Gold stars and a James Bond movie update

Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Happy Wednesday! In true "Happier" fashion, here's a few gold stars for the week....and finally, a James Bond movie update! (Cue theme music)

Ok, so gold stars....

Missing Richard Simmons
Is anyone else OBSESSED with this podcast? I became immediately hooked on this, called my mom to recommend it, and listened to the next three episodes. It is FASCINATING. I find it particularly interesting having grown up knowing and loving Richard Simmons. I spent many a summer evening doing jazz hands to 'Sweatin' with the Oldies' with my mom, and my Nana went on a Richard Simmons cruise one year. Give it a listen - I promise you too will want to know the answer to the question, "What happened to Richard Simmons?"

This book
The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck is everything I've needed to hear lately. I've been feeling stressed and overwhelmed, and this book provided a great reality check delivered in a humorous way. I listened to the author talk about this book on a Real Simple podcast, and finally got my hands on a copy. If the title sounds familiar, it's a parody of "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo. (The author read this book and became inspired by it, too.)

Author Sarah Knight's story is pretty interesting - not sure we could all do what she did (quit job, move to the Caribbean) but her book provides a lot of great food for thought if you're tired of going 90 mph all the time. It definitely will help you prioritize and take care of you.

Almond butter and frozen blueberries
These have been staples in my smoothies lately. I went on this no processed food kick for a bit (let's be honest I lasted three days) The only thing that really stuck was almond butter - I am now in love with the stuff. Almond butter and the frozen blueberries give smoothies a milkshake-like texture that Kelis would be proud of, and a really pretty, bright purple tint.

My childhood!

In my second grade school photo I'm rocking an awesome black choker and floral spaghetti strap dress over a white tee. (So 1994) Well, my second grade self would be so proud to see that I've jumped on the choker trend again. I didn't think I would, but I gave in and it's been so much fun. If you're nervous about diving into this trend, give this Wall Street Journal article a read.

New episodes of The Mindy Project
I have faithfully been watching and loving The Mindy Project since its debut in 2012 and I look forward to every new episode. I think its even better now that its on episodes are out...and I couldn't be happier! And Jeremy made an appearance...even better.

Wichita Brewing Co. Marathon

Team Orange Mocha Frappuccinos participated in the second annual Wichita Brewing Co. marathon this past weekend. Multiple gold stars go to this event - it's so well-run and so much fun. We were a bit slower (we must be thirty) this year and didn't win (WOMP WOMP) but we placed 10th overall so we were pretty happy. And, to be honest, we love just hanging out together, and running towards our beer and pizza reward at the end.

Instead of pouring rain this year, we were treated to freezing cold weather. Still can't decided which I prefer....

Team Orange Mocha Frappuccino!

Last year we got a lot of laughs out of Eric eating a Braum's breakfast burrito RIGHT before his leg of the relay. We decided it was only appropriate to buy him a burrito and surprise him with it at the end of his leg this year. This may have to become a tradition.

A Braums burrito/baton hand off....

And last but not least, a long-awaited James Bond movie update! Mike and I are on #15 of 25 James Bond films. Some weeks we've been really good about watching them, and some weeks we've been so busy that it just hasn't happened...and some of them, well, We've arrived in the '80s and the films definitely reflect that. I'm convinced  women in the '80s did not do squats and couldn't ever find a clean bra to wear. I may have been born in the decade, but I don't know if I'll ever understand it. Also, if you watch 1985's "A View to a Kill," the theme song, "Dance into the Fire," by Duran, Duran, will be in your head for the next seven days.

We're also super excited to add to our Bond-a-thon by going to Bond and Beyond at the KC Symphony with family Easter weekend. Maybe we can have all our James Bond movies watched by April 15!

Have a great rest of your week, friends!

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

I've always relied on quotes to make me laugh, calm me down, and reassure me when I'm feeling any emotion from #blessed to stressed.

Quotes have always been a great source of comfort to me - I guess it's just a nice reminder that I'm not the only one who's ever felt that way. Growing up I had quotes taped up everywhere - on my mirror, in my notebooks, on my piano music, etc. Today it's really not much different. When I need a pick-me-up, or simply a daily reminder to be thankful or laugh, I look to my quotations around my house, on my phone and yes, I even have one in my car. Here's just a sample of my favorites around the house -

Love these quotation magnets - 
I always seem to find them in bookstores and at the airport. 

A little more fridge-spiration... not brought to you by Whirlpool.

This fun basket holds bath and beauty items by my sink in our master bath.
 It's a great way to start and end each day. 


These are posted by my side of the bathroom mirror. The top quote was from an interior designer in a Better Homes & Garden magazine - never would have guessed that, huh?! As a chronic worrier and overthinker, it's a good one for me. The list on the bottom is from none other than the amazing Gretchen Rubin. (insert praise hands emoji)

Mindy knows best...

 And, another Mindy from my office bulletin board.

A good reminder to make time for other things besides work in life.

I've always loved this one from author Stephen Covey.
 Looks like Mike is trying to sneak into this blog, too. 

So true.

Simple yet powerful one. Good goals to set each day.

Wall of quotes in my office. 

Love, love, love this book!
 Full of short and sweet pieces of 'karma' for your day. 

Never at a loss for quotes...

Of course I have the Secrets of Adulthood on my fridge. These run through my brain daily. 

What are your favorite quotes, or words of wisdom that help you get through the day? As you can see, I'm always on the look out for more inspiration. 

Happy Wednesday friends! 

Hilton Garden Inn - Milwaukee

Monday, January 30, 2017
Earlier this month I traveled to Milwaukee for work. Isn't Milwaukee the tropical destination we all dream of being sent to in early January?

The trip overall was one to forget. Anything that could go wrong on my flight to Milwaukee did, and being completely, miserably sick didn't help either. Nothing like being wrapped up in a blanket with a 100 degree plus temperature on a plane, right?

I arrived in Milwaukee cold, sick, and really just wanting the plane to send me straight back home, but there was definitely one shining moment of the trip that I must rave about - the hotel!

I booked the Hilton Garden Inn downtown because it was super close to the event I was working on Saturday evening, and I've always enjoyed Hilton Garden Inn hotels. This hotel was definitely not your typical Hilton Garden Inn though. It was one of the prettiest hotels I've stayed in.

The hotel is in the historic Loyalty Building in downtown Milwaukee. The Loyalty Building was built in 1886 for Northwestern Mutual Insurance by architect Solon Beman, who also built several well-known buildings in Chicago. It's Romanesque style is so ornate and beautiful. Inside the building has a huge, gorgeous marble staircase, old cage elevators, and lovely tile floors.

When I walked in the lobby I literally gasped at its beauty. As I walked up the stairs to my room, I was blown away by the most incredible part - the atrium roof- which filled the stairwell with bright light.

One of the neatest hotels I've stayed in - so much history and beauty!

Isn't this atrium incredible? Photo doesn't even do it justice! 

I seriously couldn't get over these floors - aren't they gorgeous?
 Think of the shoes who've walked over these tiles...

The building is on the National Historic Registry and is one of four important 19th Century commercial structures in Milwaukee today. It's quite the building. My room was just as gorgeous with ornate features, and a floor to ceiling window. They just don't design buildings like they used to. (Old person comment?)

 The hotel also had beautiful photographs on the walls, and really interesting, art gallery-like descriptions to accompany the photos. Any history nerds like myself, would enjoy how much you could learn just by walking through the floors of the hotel. Here's another great post (in much more detail) about how amazing this hotel is.

If Milwaukee is a part of your travel plans anytime soon, I recommend checking this hotel out. And, preferably going when you're not sick and during the summer.

Happy travels, friends!

Cheers to Friday!

Friday, January 20, 2017
Happy Friday all! We've almost made it through cold, dreary cheers to that!

This is a fun, fizzy drink Mike and I've enjoyed lately. It's kind of a tangy version of a mimosa, and it's such a bright, jewel tone ruby red. We found it in a Dr. Oz magazine this winter, and it's a really delicious weekend cocktail. Pderfect for a brunch!

It's a quarter cup pomegranate juice, then a splash of orange juice, and a splash of cranberry juice, topped off with champagne or prosecco. Not a bad way to get your daily dose of Vitamin C during cold season either.

Happy weekend!

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