Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Things I Love Thursday // NYE 2020

Merry New Year's Eve, Friends! May 2021 bring you health, light, and happiness! Here are the Things I Love right now.

My Teens Humoring Me (with genuine love)

They humor me with lots of things: tucking me in at night, holding my hand occasionally, laughing at my "rad" jokes, greeting me each morning with a hug... I'm grateful that we not only love each other fiercely, we still really like each other as well. I think that's pretty big and I never want to take it for granted.

Geneva's Annual Yule Log

I certainly love the cake. It's rich and creamy --but not too heavy at all. Everything about her version of this treat is whipped and light and decadent. I love that she wraps on her great-grandmother's apron and tackles the project all on her own. Then, she lets us have some!

Unpretentious Palate's "8 Best Old Fashioneds"

I bought this gift for Greg knowing I would benefit from the gesture as well. Charlotte's Unpretentious Palate teamed up with Basil Hayden's and asked 8 of Charlotte's bartenders to join on the project. The gift contained a beautiful glass mixing vessel plus recipes, garnishes, and ingredients (minus the booze --which I gifted separately) for 8 different versions of the classic Old Fashioned. So far, we have had 2 versions: one spicy and one with figs. Both were incredible! 

Piper's (continued success with her) Service Project 

As I mentioned last week, every 8th grader at our middle school plans, executes, and reflects on a service project of their choosing. Piper and her girlfriend teamed up this year to collect gently-used books for Promising Pages, a local nonprofit that distributes books to homes where there are few, if any. Given the circumstances around COVID, their collection efforts were somewhat thwarted. However, through the generosity of friends, neighbors, and classmates, she has amassed a huge number of books to donate!

Le Labo (Rose 31)

A few years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to a company that makes incredible fragrances. If you're interested in reading more about the company, use this link. The website is gorgeous. The text is super-dramatic and they really could not take themselves more seriously... but the product is worth the hype (IMO). I bought a small "discovery set" of their classic/most popular scents and picked my favorite (hard to do) from among those. If you like a more robust offering of choices, you can order a sampling of all 17 signature fragrances to make sure you don't miss one. A small sample of each one can be ordered individually. Or, if you live close to a brick and mortar establishment, your selection will be far more robust. I also love that the packaging can be customized (see below). Do you have a signature scent?

Cards Against Humanity (Family Edition)

Thanks to my friend, Amy, we have enjoyed at least one round of this hilarious game every night since opening her gift (a few days before Christmas). The set is played the same way as the original game but far less offensive --and so "appropriate" for you to play with your kids. The box says 8 years and up and I think that's fair. Both my teens enjoy the game. We can play while we eat dinner, as there is no board  or pieces to the game. It would be easy to pack on a trip or take/play in the car on a long journey. You must enjoy potty humor to enjoy this game. Obviously, it's just right for us! If you think it might be right for you too, use this link to check it out. What is your family's favorite game?

"Keto" Chicken Taco Soup

This is far and away the BEST chicken taco soup I've ever had (and I've had a lot). You all loved when I shared the Tuscan Sausage soup a few weeks ago. We make that sausage soup and this taco soup almost every single week now that the weather has turned chilly and we always love it. As with the other "keto" recipe, I adjust the ingredients for the family and everyone is happy. I've only ever made the recipe using the InstantPot method; however, there are instruction for a crock pot version too (though, I'm not putting the same stamp of approval on that version, as I've never tried it --and I can't imagine the chicken would get as tender without also taking on the "chewy crock pot chicken" texture I've come to expect from the crock pot). Though not in the recipe, always add the following garnishes: shredded cheese, diced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, fresh cilantro, a few dashes of Tapatio. For the non-keto version, add a few spoonfuls of rinsed black beans and whole kernel corn to the bowl, ladle the hot soup over. Garnish as listed above and add a handful of crumbled tortilla chips. YUM.

Holiday Bling

My family hit it out of the park this Christmas. No robe for me. My stocking was stuffed and my gifts were thoughtful, lovely, and right up my alley! Thanks to my sister in law, I received my favorite calendar. (May this tradition never end.) I got ALL the books on my list (from our favorite local bookstore) --but if you're in immediate need: Obama, Glennon (which I listened to recently and decided I wanted to own so I could revisit it every January), and Rupi (now I want her newest). Normally, I just check my books out from the library's e-catalog; however, these were books I felt like I needed to own. I already mentioned my scent. Another favorite was the letter pressed fern postcard set --printed on the yummiest paper. I also received these amazing baubles! Anyhoo... Thanks, SNL. I think you made an impact. ;)

This post may contain affiliate links and I may make a HUGE commission (j/k it's literally pennies) when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. You should know (and I'm legally required to tell you) that as an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Feel free to make me RICH. lol ;)

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Things I Love Thursday // Christmas Eve 2020

One more sleep 'til Christmas! Happiest holiday wishes from our family to yours!

Christmas Jammies

One of my very favorite traditions is getting the girls matching pajamas for Christmas morning. This is usually the first "advent gift" of the season on December 1st. That way, they can get the most enjoyment/use out of them for the season. Thankfully, they still seem to enjoy the tradition as well!

How It Started / How It's Going

Better late, then never? Here's my late contribution to the "how it started/how it's going" trend. Definitely best with Mr. Handsome Fatty Fluffpants, Richard Parker. Our fuzzy son joined the family nine Christmas Eve's ago. We love him so!


Another Christmas tradition I love is gifting the girls a nutcracker during the month of December (another "advent gift" that gets sprinkled in). Someday, when they move out on their own, they'll each have a box of nutcrackers to decorate their homes for the holidays. I like knowing that the sisters will have nearly-matching-pairs as they start their own traditions through the years. 

The Support and Success of Piper's Book Drive

Every 8th grader at our IB middle school plans, executes, and reflects on a service project of their choosing. Piper and her girlfriend teamed up this year to collect gently-used books for Promising Pages, a local nonprofit that distributes books to homes where there are few, if any. As the kids have not been on campus all year to collect donations from classmate's households, the girls were worried that their book collection efforts would not amount to very many titles. Amazingly, through the love and support of friends and neighbors, they collected hundreds of books to give away! (Storing them until donation day has been a worthy challenge: Greg's trunk is full, my cargo area is full, the back hallway and the study are full. It's the best *problem*!)

The Return of "Hunter"

Did you notice our observer in the pic above? We choose to believe that this is the same barred owl that has been visiting us over the past few years. The ivy "jungle" that lines our long driveway seems to be prime hunting grounds during this season and full of the tastiest owl treats: squirrels and chipmunks. 

Volleyball Season

Cheers to this girl and her teammates for heading into the holidays with an 11-0 record. We have a couple games left in the abbreviated season and we are so thankful to have had that many! The coaches are fantastic, the girls are improving every week, and the camaraderie has been priceless during this time of heightened social isolation. Go Mustangs!

A Good Crumb

Still baking the sourdough over here and still enjoying when a loaf comes out particularly well. This one went fast. Did you know that the inside of the loaf where the air pockets are is called "the crumb"? Weird right? Shouldn't the crumb have something to do with the crust?? It's just not so. In any event, I'll be baking again on Christmas morning --adding fresh rosemary and lemon-infused olive oil to the dough to enjoy with our (mostly) traditional Christmas Dinner: prime rib, baked potatoes, corn pudding, and green salad. Typically, I'd make a big pan of roasted root veggies (with goat cheese and honey) but this year, opted for a simpler vegetable side: roasted brussels sprouts. Despite the woes of 2020, I hope your table is full of good food and your heart is full of good cheer!

This post may contain affiliate links and I may make a HUGE commission (j/k it's literally pennies) when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. You should know (and I'm legally required to tell you) that as an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Feel free to make me RICH. lol ;)

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Homemade Giving | Rosemary Shortbread

Savory, sweet, buttery perfection: 

Rosemary Shortbread is the perfect homemade holiday treat!

The first time I tasted this amazing shortbread (enormous gratitude to Michelle and Ella) I knew immediately that I wanted to make it in batches and gift it to our friends and neighbors this holiday season. There is something so insanely satisfying about a perfectly balanced bite: sweet, salty, creamy, and crunchy --that's exactly what you'll get with these cookies. I'm flummoxed over the fact that it's taken nearly 47 years for me to "discover" them. Know this: I will not be wasting the next 47 years without them. Please make these and when you do, let me know what you think!

This recipe is for everyone. It's very easy to make; however, you do need a food processor. My food processor is an attachment on my blender. Perhaps it's not ideal --but it works just fine! The "dough" comes together very easily and after many batches this week, I can tell you that there's nothing tricky or fussy about this. The cookies turned out great every time. 

The recipe comes from NYT Cooking. If you have a subscription, you can access the original recipe through this link. You'll see that suggested add-ins to this basic recipe include nuts, seeds, citrus zest, spices, vanilla, or minced dried fruit. The rosemary by itself is stunningly delicious. I might consider the addition of some lemon zest at some point because I love those flavors together (and this is SOURjones --we have a whole "lemon" vibe going on around here). 

For gifts, a few extra touches always go a long way. Festive twine, ribbon, fresh rosemary sprigs, or this amazing Christmas-themed masking tape from SubstationPaperie. Too late to get your hands on this before Christmas --but I encourage you to grab some now and pack it away for next season. It's delightful!

Rosemary Shortbread

What you need:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon, plus a pinch kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted cold butter, cut into 1-inch chunks
1-2 tablespoons rosemary, chestnut or other dar, full-flavored honey (I do NOT use any honey!)
What to do:
  1. Heat oven to 325º. In a food processor, pulse together four, sugar, rosemary, and salt. Add butter, and honey if desired (not desired on my part), and pulse into fine crumbs. Pulse a few more times until some crumbs start to come together, but don't overprices. Dough should not be smooth.
  2. Press dough into an ungreased 8- or 9-inch-square baking pan or (what I find perfect) an 11 x 7 brownie pan. Bake until golden brown, 35-40 minutes for 9-inch pan, 45-50 minutes for 8-inch. (Again, I use an 11x7 brownie pan and bake for 40 minutes every time.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool. (Do this as soon as it comes out of the oven.) Cut into squares, bars, or wedges while still warm (Depending on my schedule, I waited 5-15 minutes to cut.)
You can be as creative as you like with packaging. For simplicity and cost, I choose mini-loaf foil containers with domed plastic lids (from the baking aisle in my grocer store) and lined them with strips of parchment paper. Each holds a dozen cookie bars. 

Collect ingredients; finely chop fresh rosemary; add dry ingredients to the food processor and pulse to mix

Add cubed/chunked butter to the dry ingredients

Pulse in food processor to fine crumbs; pulse a few more times until crumbs start to come together; do not over-process

Turn out and press into your selected baking dish

Bake at 325º according to pan size until golden brown

Turn out onto cooling racks for about 15 minutes

While still warm, transfer to cutting board; cut into desired portions; continue to fully cool

Prepare you packaging if using as gifts; if not, DIG IN!

~ Pin for Later ~

This post may contain affiliate links and I may make a HUGE commission (j/k it's literally pennies) when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. You should know (and I'm legally required to tell you) that as an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Feel free to make me RICH. lol ;)

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Things I Love Thursday // 12.17.20

Eight sleeps 'til Christmas... I hope you feel like you're doing enough. I'm certain you are. Cheers to these extra minutes of goodness and this week's edition of TILT.

My Grandpa's Sugar Cookies

Several weeks ago we miraculously "recovered" 2+ years of lost photos in our storage cloud. All of a sudden late-2009 through 2011 were visible in our Apple photo albums (still no sign of 2012). It has been delightful (and a complete time-suck) to go back through these pictures that I haven't seen in close to 8 years. One series of photos is from a visit to my grandparents' house in the winter of 2011. I have a few shots of my grandpa making his "famous" sugar cookies. One of them is a partial photo of his recipe, written out in his scratchy handwriting --no doubt with the oddly-shaped carpenter's pencil he always kept handy in the front pocket of his scratchy flannel shirt, just under the leather vest he wore when the weather was chilly. The picture showed the ingredient list but not the oven temperature or baking time. To my sweet delight, Geneva decided this week that she wanted to tackle the recipe and give these cookies to some of her girlfriends for Christmas. {heart melts along with the butter} After much trial and error --she crushed it!

Grandma's Coffee Dispenser

Quite in-line with the warm feelings brought on by Grandpa's Sugar Cookies, I was moved to bring Grandma's well-loved coffee dispenser up from the basement this week. I had a friend over on a wet day, and as we were meeting outside for tea, I needed something to keep the hot water hot as we visited. Surely the occasion for this has presented itself before --but for some reason, this week was the first time I recalled the device (that I've had ownership of for almost a decade). It had been carefully boxed up and was easy to clean up. I was shocked to find that by the end of the day and well into the evening, the water inside was still piping hot! As big tea sippers, our family has decided to keep the vessel on the counter this winter, always filled with hot water for an easy cup of tea. Such happiness. I doubt they "make 'em like they used to" but this is the brand in an updated look.

Mom's Fuzzy Socks

One of the things that my Dad was sure to give to my girls after my mom passed was a pair of her fuzzy socks. Mom spent most of her early mornings sipping coffee in her loud tie-dyed nightgown, colorful terrycloth robe, and a pair of funny fuzzy socks. It was a guaranteed "hit" to give her a pair for her birthday or Mother's Day. I can't tell you how much it lightens my heart to see my girls pad around the house in a pair of their grandma's beloved socks. We miss her.

New House Plants

My sweet girlfriend, Laura, via text this week: "Get your tushy to Lowe's... Epic plant shipment just arrived... Unique stuff... Philodendron Birkin." Me 30 minutes later:

"Keto" Tuscan Sausage Soup

I first saw this recipe on Pinterest. Are you on Pinterest? Care to follow me? Link HERE. In any event, I made this soup for the first time a couple months ago. Since then, I have made it nearly every week. I'm not exaggerating. Y'all already know how much I love my InstaPot (+air fryer)... I think you can make this recipe on the stovetop as well (just add extra time for simmering so the flavors meld together). I won't type out the entire recipe here... you can find the link to it here --> EatWell101. You'll need to wade through all the ads and pop-ups (which are especially bad if you're on your phone) --but it will be worth it. Just get to the "print this recipe" part of the post. Also: I always boil a pound of pasta on the side. When serving, I scoop a ladle of noodles into the bowl and then several ladles of soup on top. We sometimes add a dollop of creamy ricotta as well. It's SO good! Of course, if you are watching the carbs --it's excellent without the noodles as well. Make it! And when you do, let me know what your family thought!

Thai-Inspired Spicy Salad

This isn't so much a recipe as it is an appeal for you to try our new favorite dinner salad. It's so good that I pretend it "goes with" everything. For example, if I make it on the same night as the Tuscan Soup, then suddenly it's "International Dinner" at the Jones household. See how I did that? Anyhoo... it's just a box or bag of fresh greens, diced avocado, green onions, and crumbled goat cheese tossed with Trader Joe's Spicy Cashew Butter dressing and topped with Trader Joe's Thai Lime & Chili Cashews. So yum. 

Even tastier from Grandma's Pyrex with my MIL's vintage Gotham Hacienda servers.

This post may contain affiliate links and I may make a HUGE commission (j/k it's literally pennies) when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. You should know (and I'm legally required to tell you) that as an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Feel free to make me RICH. lol ;)

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Things I Love Thursday // 12.10.20

Here we are again, taking a few moments to escape the harsh reality of our times and think about some small pleasures. I hope you enjoy this week's list of the Things I Love...

zoom happy hour with "professor baker"

Greg's team from across the country "met" last night in zoom for a virtual gathering to celebrate the season. We all wore ridiculous holiday sweaters and accessories and learned to make two themed cocktails with Professor Baker who was warm, funny, and knowledgable. The drinks were festive and as we consumed them, the gathering became more and more festive as well ;). Featured here is the "Christmas Morning Old Fashioned" and if I ever actually drink one of these in the morning, you can rest assured that I will accomplish absolutely zero for the rest of the day. This recipe makes one cocktail: 1/2 oz real maple syrup, 3-4 dashes of bitters, 1 tsp vanilla extract (I know, but it's so good!), 2.5 oz Cognac. Build in a glass and stir. Add ice and stir for another 15 seconds. Garnish with a rosemary sprig and a candy cane.

lap warmers

Listen, it's chilly outside.  It's also chilly inside. Our house still boasts original windows in many of the rooms --so it's fairly drafty. This is a great reason to celebrate lap warmers. The two best lap warmers in our house are Richard Parker and Avery Piper, but I won't rank them because I don't want to hurt Piper's feelings.

camellia cream

There's a reason why this item was featured in my Holiday Gift Guide post! With the chillier weather, comes dry skin for me. While I do use this amazing body cream year-round, I am especially grateful for it in the winter months. It's texture cannot be beat. It glides on in a velvety finish that is not "wet" or sticky feeling. I'm not exaggerating when I say that this is the ONLY lotion I can apply and NOT feel like I have to wash my hands immediately. Plus, it smells insanely good. Get you some: Japanese Camellia Cream from The Body Shop (not to be confused with bathandbodyworks). 

"the amazon coat"

People have strong feelings about this zippered coat. I feel strongly that it's very cute, has held up incredibly well, and keeps me toasty all winter long. This year, it comes with a faux fur collar option and I recently found out that it now comes in kid sizes too! Just look how adorable my friends are on the soccer sidelines!

holiday treats

My favorite treats, of course, are the ones that friends and family make for ME. The very best of all-time has always been my mom's homemade peanut brittle. Many of you know that we lost my mom this fall in a swift and brutal battle with cancer. She has passed the recipe and the skills to my sister, Felicity, so there's still hope. If you have some littles around, these reindeer cookies are fun to assemble. (Even if you're not planning to make them, you should visit that link and check out the Jonesies when they were wee.) Santa Hat Brownie Bites are a fun treat for all the holiday parties we won't be hosting or going to this year too! No recipe needed: Add a dollop of stiff whipped cream or white frosting to a pre-made brownie bite, top with a trimmed strawberry. Add a small "topper" of cream for the pom. Know that if you try to use "loose" whipped cream, that wet strawberry is going to slide right off!

advent calendars

I mentioned my love for advent calendars last week. The 99¢ ones from Trader Joe's that feature small pieces of milk chocolate are a yearly tradition. (I'm also very happy to be indulging in the Godiva one that my friend, Tracie, gifted me this year.) Tracie also found one from Aldi that features CHEESE. Can't wait to get my hands on one of those next year. When the girls were tiny, I found a great wooden advent calendar in the shape of a house. As with all advent calendars, this one has doors and cubbies. For most of the days, I put two pieces of candy inside; however, I will also scatter about 5-8 clues (in the form of very poorly written poem/riddles) behind some doors that point the girls in the direction of a small gift hidden in the house (chapstick, ornaments, their annual nutcracker, etc.). I think I might love this tradition more than they do. Advent "calendars" like our house can be found it lots of places. Try Marshalls, TJ Max, or Home Goods for a deal. Amazon has some great options too. I LOVE this white house one with tiny drawers! It comes in two sizes. The same (highly rated) company makes one that looks like a gingerbread house too. This ornate, light-up option has amazing reviews! The drawers appear to be on the small side --but the sweet details might make up for that! AND in case you're still considering getting the "12 Days of Beauty" installment from Trader Joe's, you have until this weekend to gift it in the hopes of starting on time for an accurate countdown.

this makes me laugh

Thank you to my friend, Brad, for sending me this funny. I laughed out loud. It's completely accurate. I do love my air fryer!

This post may contain affiliate links and I may make a HUGE commission (j/k it's literally pennies) when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. You should know (and I'm legally required to tell you) that as an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Feel free to make me RICH. lol ;)