In My Mailbox (45)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren, in which book bloggers post about the books they've bought, borrowed or received in the past week.

I just got back from Paris on Wednesday, and although I'm still really tired and jet lagged and haven't yet gotten back into the swing of things (like by putting up photos) here are the books I bought! I obviously went to Shakespeare & Company and ended up buying A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. I was reading this in Paris and haven't yet finished it due to another little book that's been taking up my time, it was really enjoyable to read it in Paris and added a lot to my experiences.

My England books! In Bath I bought Persuasion by Jane Austen, even though I own a copy already. But, you know, I was in Bath. Stacey from Pretty Books and I went to a tonne of bookstores, where I bought Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and Fire Spell by Laura May Schlitz. At the Waterloo Book Market I bought And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. At the WB Studio Tour I bought this Marauder's Map mug, copying Stacey's. I also bought The Blitz: A Very Peculiar History from The London Museum. 

I got home Wednesday night and bought The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling the next day. I'm still very jet-lagged and keep waking up at 2 in the morning, so I haven't been reading at my normal pace and am only half way through. But I really really am enjoying it. A lot. I know I'm fairly biased towards J.K. Rowling but I think it's very good so far, although not what I expected. 

That's it for me; what books did you receive this week? 

Eighty-one; homemade books

In honor of my father's birthday:


my father building 
new closet shelves,
once more rearranging
the deepening layers

Simply Haiku, Spring 2008; Take Five, Vol. 1

homemade books—
You can be a writer
my dad once said
though hoping, I suspect,
I'd do something sensible

Simply Haiku, Spring 2008

Over the past couple of years, he's spoken again of building shelves. I don't get it. And this time, I can't see him getting around to it.

Addie: Six Months Old

Grabs and licks everything in sight, particularly her toes, Mom's necklaces, and the car keys.
Sports a different-colored hair bow every day.
Can sit up by herself indefinitely--with her hands casually resting on her knees--but after about 30 minutes starts to cry because she doesn't know how to stop sitting up.
Talks and jabbers and coos and grunts and sings all day long.
Explores new textures with an open, flat palm: rough brick, bendy blinds, prickly bush, etc.
Seems to favor her right hand.
Loves to practice picking up toys, giving special attention to things that rattle or crackle.
Devours baby sweet potatoes and pumpkin--and gnaws on regular peaches and...refried beans.
Size 3 diapers. Size 6-month clothes.
Crosses her ankles in lady-like fashion.
Paws the ground with her left foot while lying down.
Laughs hardest when Dad's around.
Thinks it's funny to withhold smiles when smiles are being asked of her.
Mimics Mom and Dad's eating techniques from her high chair.
Often flips completely around in her crib while asleep.
Sleeps 12+ hours at night as long as she had two good daytime naps and went to bed before 7:00 pm.
Plays for 30 minutes at a time in her play toy; loves the monkey and the duck best.
Soothed by soft things on her face, Mom's cheek on hers, and whispers in her ear.
Recognizes Dad's voice through the phone, much to his delight.
Weighs in at 16 pounds, 12 ounces, and measures 26 1/2 inches from head to toes (she's tall!).
Measures 42.2 centimeters around the head.
Still boasts auburn locks, though the only original hair that remains is in a small tuft on top of her head.
Previous bald spots are now filling in nicely.
Still flashes stormy blue eyes.
Draws more attention from her gigantic cheeks than she does from her red hair (thighs are pretty nice, too.)

Macy's "Best Ingredient" Cookies

My mother once heard Martha Stewart say that in order to make the best food, you have to use the best ingredients. This cookie recipe was created with that idea in mind.

"Hmm...let's see," my mom said to herself. "What is the best form of flour?
"Whole wheat.
"What's the best form of chocolate?
"Nestle chips are fine, but Ghirardelli dark chocolate is better."

And so on.

Because cookies are a treat, why not make them the very best possible quality? Both my dad and my husband request these cookies when they're in the mood for something sweet on the weekend. The chopped walnuts add a satisfying crunch and the whole-wheat flour ensures extra chewiness. Add rich chunks of dark chocolate and these cookies are the perfect treat for a blustery Saturday.

Macy's "Best Ingredient" Cookies

Makes 2 dozen cookies

I like to roll the dough into balls and then freeze them in a large Ziploc bag. This way you can make a couple cookies at a time (or your husband can snack on a frozen ball of cookie dough...) instead of being tempted by two dozen warm cookies on your counter. If you increase the baking time by two minutes, you can put the cookie dough in the oven frozen.

Cream together the following ingredients:
2 sticks butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Mix these things together and then add them to the creamed mixture:
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 handfuls Ghirardelli 58% Cacao semi-sweet chocolate for baking
1 cup chopped walnuts

Scoop dough with a mini ice cream scoop. Bake at 375* for 10 minutes (12 minutes if the dough is frozen).

The oldest oak

the oldest oak
by our wet-weather creek
succumbs to drought—
with this spray from the hose
a rainbow still forms

Atlas Poetica, No. 12, Summer 2012

Sadly, that huge tree had to be removed.

Delicious Autumn

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I 
would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns." 
--George Eliot

The first weekend of fall unfolded just as it should have, slow like the breeze and cozy like the armchair.

A book about handwritten gratitude was quickly gobbled up, its pages now heavily underlined and starred. I will now forever aim for brevity in my thank-you notes. And what a revelation to put off using a gift until you've written, stamped, and mailed a note of thanks!

Little baby taste buds tried pureed pumpkin for the first time. Staring wide-eyed at the spoon all the while, Addie grabbed my hands so she could get that orange goo into her mouth as quickly as possible.

New journals were purchased and begun, along with a brown leather address book.

Cookies with chocolate and walnuts were baked and devoured with cold milk.

Neverland was discovered and explored, encouraging Chad to get lost in the original Peter Pan pages. (Have you read the book? We read the first few chapters aloud and were quickly enchanted.)

What did you do to celebrate the first weekend of fall?

Bills laid out; I contemplate

A couple of tanka-esque poems, or kyoka, from Prune Juice. Have always loved the name of that online journal.

bills laid out
for payment by phone . . .
I clear my throat
before conversing
with the automated voice

I contemplate 
buying "hotel" towels . . .
as advertised,
the comforts of home
away from home, while at home

Prune Juice, Issue 9, July 2012

Will post more from Prune Juice in the near future.

Summer Recap: Snacks


Wasa crackers
Sunrise Whole-Grain Energy Bars (Costco)

Naked juice: "green machine" (my treat at the grocery store)
Odwalla juice: "C monster" (when I feel a cold coming on)

green apple slices with almond butter
fresh berries with Greek yogurt
apricots, peaches, nectarines

string cheese
bagel and cream cheese
black beans and avocado

homemade muffins (kept in freezer)


salted, roasted almonds
tortilla chips

celery sticks
strawberries with Nutella

fruit snacks

bagel and cream cheese
Wheat Thins and cheddar
cottage cheese

What do you love to grab for a snack?

Summer Recap: Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

Find my handy "What to Eat" pad and others like it at

One of the main goals I have for this blog is to only share recipes that have become staples in my household. From now on, I won't post any recipes that I have not made multiple times, that my husband doesn't like, that do not fill me up, or that take far too much preparation to be worth it (the "Recipes" page has been condensed to fit these new standards).

According to our weekly meal plans from the past few months, these are the summer meals that we came back to week after week:


  • overnight oats with almond milk, Granny Smith apple, dried apricot, fresh blueberries, almond butter
  • Greek yogurt, fresh strawberries, oats, honey, raw almonds ("recipe" here)
  • toast (this bread is my new favorite), almond butter, sliced banana, milk
  • Cream of Wheat (made with milk); fresh peaches, bananas, pears, or applesauce, cinnamon
  • fresh peaches, cottage cheese, toast
  • muffin or two from the freezer (mixed berry is still my favorite)
  • carrot cake breakfast cookie (recipe here)
  • let's be honest...Eggo waffles, butter, syrup
  • Muscle Milk
  • eggs, hash browns, toast, bacon


  • Salad: chickpeas, cucumber, tomato, spinach, red bell pepper, couscous, feta cheese, Italian dressing
  • Wrap: WW tortilla, chive & onion cream cheese, turkey, spinach
  • Pasta Salad (recipe here)
  • Burrito Bowl: leftover brown rice, black beans, avocado, red bell pepper, cilantro, chicken
  • leftovers
  • Leftovers are the best!
  • quesadilla with avocado
  • couscous salad
  • Everything bagel, chive & onion cream cheese, turkey, tortilla chips on the side


  • Grilled chicken burritos/nachos, brown rice, black beans, homemade guacamole, red bell pepper, Monterey Jack cheese, fruit on the side
  • OMG Chicken (made with full-fat yogurt; recipe here), roasted green veggie, brown/wild rice
  • Mighty Bowl of Goodness: 1/3 grain, 1/3 protein, 1/3 greens (read about it here and here; favorite rendition: beet greens, broccoli, brown rice, black beans, grilled chicken)
  • Edamame and Kale Stir Fry with Peanut Sauce
  • These veggie burgers
  • Chicken Cilantro Burritos (recipe here)
  • Pasta with Broccoli and Goat Cheese (recipe here)
  • Spaghetti with homemade focaccia breadsticks (recipe here)
  • Spinach-and-cheese ravioli, olive oil, fresh tomatoes, parmesan, Italian breadcrumbs 
  • Grilled hot dogs/bratwursts/turkey sausage, chips and salsa, fresh fruit
  • Chicken and chickpea salad with feta and whole-wheat naan (recipe here)

What were your staple meals over the summer?

A Polite Nod to Summer

This coming Saturday marks two very important occasions in my life:
Addie will be six months old (say what?)
and autumn officially begins.

I absolutely cannot wait to share my favorite season with my favorite little person.
My mind is boggled by the idea that Addie has never witnessed cold weather before.
She's a t-shirt and stretch pants girl through and through.
But not for long.
Thanks to a handful of aunts and friends with nimble fingers, Addie has an entire shelf devoted to chunky sweaters eager to wrap themselves around her little self.

But before the air turns crisp--as I'm so longing for it to do--summer must be recognized.
Stay tuned this week for a recap of my summer favorites
including no-cook dinner recipes, notable cookbooks, and snack ideas that got me through the heat.
Because the so-sweaty-your-shirt-sticks-to-your-body days will surely return in another year
and I might as well be ahead of the game when it does.

I hand water

I hand water
a beautyberry— 
differing views
my neighbor and I
on what a weed is

Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry)

Southeastern United States, including pinewoods of east Texas
—"From Lime Trees to Eucalypts: A Botany of Tanka," an Atlas Poetica special feature, August 2011
Now that so much vegetation has been cleared from our lot, including a number of tall, struggling pines, the resultant brightness has enabled the beautyberry plants to thrive. Though they're close to invasive around here and in dry spells can look pretty scraggly, I've chosen to keep many of them. First, in early summer, the delicate flowers are unveiled, then before summer's end, there are those berries that resemble no other berries I've ever seen.

Note: I very much enjoy reading the Atlas Poetica special features, where 25 poems on a given theme are selected. I'm especially looking forward to the next feature, on ekphrastic tanka, which should be published sometime this fall.

A Last-Minute Dessert

My good friend recently had a birthday and, at the last minute, we changed plans from throwing her a birthday dinner party to hosting a dessert night instead. Her request for a birthday treat? Something fresh.
I racked my brain for ideas. Whatever I made had to be really quick and simple, but I didn't want to just pick up a box of Chips Ahoy and call it good.
So I compromised: I bought half of it at the store and made the other half from scratch (with inspiration from here). The result? Absolute bliss--for the taste buds and the slightly frazzled hostess.

I posted a picture to Instagram before lighting the birthday candles,
and you beautiful people gave quite the response!

So here you are, my friends. The recipe for the easiest dessert you could possibly call homemade.
Eat your hearts out.
(And don't blame me if you make a batch of this whipped cream in the middle of the night and eat it all yourself.)

Chocolate Whipped Cream
recipe from here

2 cups (1 pint) whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and beat with electric mixer until soft peaks form (about five minutes). Slightly harder peaks are better if you'll be using the cream to frost a cake.

Brooke's Birthday Dessert

one recipe chocolate whipped cream (see above)
one store-bought angel food cake
one pint raspberries, washed

Place angel food cake on a large plate or cake stand. Spread whipped cream on top of cake (the messier the better), filling in the center of the cake with whipped cream, too.

Top with raspberries and serve.

Happy weekend!

Months later; nonstop footage

Time to pull these poems out again while it's still the peak of the season here on the Gulf coast. Not counting the recent rage of Isaac, the 2012 season has been on the quiet side. Seven years ago, deadly Katrina missed us in the Houston area. But three years later, Ike pretty much came right for us; interesting times.

months later
he still clutches
the bowling ball—
all he could salvage
after Katrina

Hurricane Katrina, late Aug. 2005
—Wisteria, July 2006Haiku News, Oct. 2009; Take Five, Vol 2

nonstop footage
of surge-battered homes
.....near our back door
.....a small displaced turtle
.....retreats into its shell

Hurricane Ike, Sept. 13, 2008
—Moonset, Spring-Summer 2009; Haiku News, Oct. 2009; Take Five, Vol 2

Am happy I came across my photos of the actual little turtle I describe here—and hope it found its way.

A Rustic and Bright Breakfast

I have a special treat for you today: A collection of breakfast-related recipes that I made for a styled shoot with Brooke Schultz Photography back in June (go here to read about how I procrastinated all the prep work until the day of).

Since the actual shoot, Brooke's photography has been featured on some happenin' blogs.
How cool is it to see pictures of your cake and doughnut concoctions popping up around the web?
And then to see your name written next to "Wedding Cake and Food Styling"?
Pretty dang cool.
Take a peek at Style Me Pretty and Sweet Violet Bride.

And now, we have a lot of recipes to get through, so I'm going to jump right in.
Everything I made for the styled shoot was quick and easy, though I wouldn't recommend making an actual breakfast out of cake, doughnuts, pancakes, and granola.
Can you say carb overload?
At least we had some succulent berries and apricots to balance things out a little bit.

Whole-Wheat Pancakes
adapted from Sheena's recipe

Makes 12 - 14 pancakes

These pancakes are to die for. When have I ever said that about pancakes? The cornmeal lends a crispy texture to these cakes that are so unlike the floppy, tasteless pancakes most of us are used to. These are hearty, chewy, and so tasty with melted butter in the batter. Make the cakes small for best results; otherwise they're extremely hard to flip, especially when loaded with fruit, which in my opinion, is the only way to go.

1 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/8 cup ground flaxseed
1 T agave nectar (or 2 T sugar)
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp coarse salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 3/4 cup milk
3 T butter, melted and cooled, plus more for the griddle
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 cups (1 pint) berries: I like raspberries or blueberries best; both fresh and frozen work great

Pure maple syrup, for serving

Whisk together flour, cornmeal, flax seed, sugar (if using), baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In a glass measuring cup or a small bowl, whisk together milk, butter, egg, and agave (if using). Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined. Mixture will be lumpy.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Heat a griddle or large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Brush griddle with melted butter. Spoon batter onto griddle 1/3 cup at a time (batter triples in size by the time it’s ready to flip; use an actual measuring cup vs. pouring it from the bowl). Sprinkle with berries, about 2 tablespoons per pancake. Cook until edges are set, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip, and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter and blueberries, adding more butter to griddle and keeping prepared pancakes warm on a baking sheet in the oven. 

Ginger-Almond Granola
adapted from Jacqui's recipe

The ginger in this granola plays beautifully with the sweet honey, and the almond butter and raw almonds add my favorite nutty flavor. I love the way the granola clumps together in spots. However, the texture is yucky when eaten with milk (at least after being baked); go for the with-yogurt or as-a-snack options instead. The pumpkin seeds and blueberries make for a lovely color palette, but I think I would like this granola with a more tart kind of dried fruit like cranberries, cherries, or even apricots. 

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups whole raw almonds
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds (a.k.a. pepitas)
1 cup wheat bran
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger

1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup natural almond butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup dried fruit (try cranberries, cherries, or apricots), roughly chopped

In a large bowl, combine oats, almonds, pumpkin seeds, wheat bran, salt, cinnamon, and ginger.

In a small saucepan, warm the honey on low until very runny (only takes a couple minutes). Turn off the heat, stir in the almond butter and vanilla, and stir until smooth.

Pour honey mixture over oat mixture. Add the oil and dried fruit, and stir thoroughly so everything gets wet.

Store in the fridge for up to two weeks, or you can bake it for 40 minutes at 325°F, stirring twice while baking. Don't add the dried fruit until after you've baked the granola. Baked granola will keep fine if stored at room temperature.

Cinnamon Doughnut Holes

There aren't many things that say "autumn" better than fresh, warm doughnuts with a delicate dusting of cinnamon sugar. Sit yourself down next to a pumpkin, grab a glass of apple cider, and you'll be set to go!

Makes 20 doughnut holes

1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
canola oil, for frying
10 frozen roll dough, thawed (Rhodes dinner rolls work well)

In a shallow bowl (I used a pie dish), mix cinnamon and sugar together. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Set both aside.

In a large pot, heat two inches of canola oil on medium-low heat until small bubbles are coming to the surface. If you have a food thermometer, you want the oil to stay right at 350°F. (Be very careful with the hot oil; we don't want any splatters of oil hitting your skin.)

Divide each thawed ball of dough in half and roll into balls. It's okay if they aren't perfectly round; just call them "rustic." When oil is warm, add a ball of dough to the pot and let cook until brown. (This first doughnut hole will help you know how to adjust the heat of your oil.) Flip the doughnut over with a fork so the other side cooks.

Gently remove the doughnut hole with a pair of tongs (don't crush the doughnut), give it a roll in the cinnamon sugar, and let cool on the paper-towel-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

These doughnuts are best when eaten within a few hours of preparation.

Classic Yogurt Cake
adapted from the kitchn's recipe

Serves 8 - 10

You'd never guess that this elegant cake is literally as easy as 1, 2, 3. All you need is a swift stir, a smooth pour, and a warm bake, and you have a delicious cake to wow your guests...or yourself. With fresh whipped cream and sliced berries, this cake works great as an after-dinner dessert. After your guests have gone, cover the leftover cake tightly with plastic wrap and it will make for a delectable breakfast the next day.

1 1/2 cups full-fat yogurt
2/3 cup olive oil
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
pinch ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan lightly with baking spray or oil.
Whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Add the flours, baking powder, soda, salt, and nutmeg right into the liquids and stir just until no lumps remain.
Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, covering with foil at the end if the top is browning. When a tester comes out clean, transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let it cool for 10 minutes before removing it from the pan.
Serve the cake warm or at room temperature. The middle of the cake may sink a little bit when it cools. Don't be dismayed! Just fill the dip with a big handful of berries.
When well-wrapped, this keeps very well for several days.
See the full rustic + bright styled shoot here.
See our inspiration Pinterest board here.

September 11th: Pushing Forward with Resilience

Beyond 911: Portraits of Resilience (TIME)

I'm embarrassed to say that the historical significance of today did not cross my mind until I had been awake for a few hours, gotten ready, eaten breakfast, and put Addie down for her morning nap.
Then it hit me: Today is the eleventh day of September.
It's been eleven years since the September 11th.

I was in middle school then and remember coming downstairs for breakfast like it was any other school day. My dad had the news on, leaning forward and intently listening to what the reporters were saying.
Something was wrong.
I could feel it from the moment I came into the family room.
When he told me that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers, I didn't get it. My seventh-grade mind hadn't even heard of the Twin Towers before. Crazy that a plane had crashed into a big building, but what did it mean?
I didn't know how many thousands of people worked in those buildings or that multiple planes had been hijacked that day. I didn't know that both towers would crumble to the ground in a horrific way.
I didn't know that our country would be affected forever.

I remember sitting in my language arts class later that morning, the room silent of the usual chatter, everyone's eyes glued to the television. We didn't quite understand the effects of what was happening, but we knew that it was big.

My memory only holds a few short snippets of that day.
But what I remember best is how our country pulled together in patriotism and respect on the days following.
Judgmental barriers went down for a while and we all just repeated "God Bless America" over and over.
We were united. We could get through it. We were strong.

TIME put together an exquisite ten-year commemoration last year. (Find it here.)
I love that it's entitled "Portraits of Resilience."
I encourage you to take some time today and listen to a few of the stories expressed in the videos.
Those people have endured a lot of heartache, but they have pressed on, finding strength in their anguish.

Whatever may be weighing us down today, let us choose to resiliently push forward like these people did, like our country did, that we may learn from our trials, hold onto each other in charity and respect, and become better human beings.

Best-Ever Focaccia Breadsticks

I'm about to go sink into my fluffy bed after my first ever booty-shakin' Zumba experience.
My worn-out yoga pants and bright blue t-shirt were soaked through by the end of our hour of cardio, fifteen minutes of which included using weights while we high-kicked, squatted, and square-stepped.

Lessons learned:
If I thought I had any rhythm, any rhythm at all, tonight's class taught me that I do not.
My face did not flush from embarrassment, though, as I half expected it to. I just laughed while my clumsy feet tried to lightly tap the floor (instead of stomp) and my arms tried to gracefully sway (instead of jerkily jabbing the air).
Zumba-ing at the front of a gym filled with women is not as humiliating as I expected it to be.
Having a friend next to me makes all the difference (love you, Em!).
Buckets of raindrops soaking my already sweaty body have never felt better than they did as we dashed through the parking lot to our car.

As I told my mother as a child, I love the way my body feels when I move it.

But moving my body sure makes me hungry!

My all-time favorite dinner is spaghetti with meat sauce (see my stab at homemade tomato sauce here), and the bread I'm about to share with you takes that old favorite up fifty notches on the delicious scale.

I've made this focaccia bread close to ten times now (and there aren't many recipes I make more than once).
It is fabulous.
Let me say this up front: There is a full stick of butter melted and poured over the bread before baking.
Healthy? Not really. Deliciously worth it? Absolutely it is.
Plus, it's just about completely whole wheat, which has to count for something!

Without further ado, the breadsticks that will have your guests enthusiastically raving and your heart melting along with that stick of butter.
Thank you, Marta, for the original recipe. I love having your name in my recipe box.

Focaccia Breadsticks
adapted from Marta's recipe

Takes two hours from start to finish.

2 cups warm water
2 tsp instant yeast
2 tsp agave nectar (feel free to use 1 T sugar instead)
1 tsp salt
2 T Italian seasonings
3 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup butter, melted
garlic powder
Parmesan cheese

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in agave nectar, if using.

In a glass measuring cup or small bowl, mix Italian seasoning, salt, and sugar, if using, into one cup of the flour. Add flour mixture to yeast mixture in large bowl. Add remaining flour in one-cup increments. Combine well. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and let dough rise for an hour (or until it has doubled).

Grease a 9x13 pan. Scoop dough into prepared pan; dough will be very sticky. You'll be tempted, but don't add any extra flour. Wet your clean hands and coax the dough into all edges of the pan.

Let dough rise again for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400*F. Before baking, poke indents in the dough with your fingers. Drizzle melted butter over the top of the bread. Sprinkle some garlic salt over the top and add a generous amount of Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes. Cool in pan for at least ten minutes before slicing into breadsticks.

I'm leaving today to spend the next two weeks travelling in London and Paris. The blog will on hiatus until the end of the month, when things will go back to normal. I will hopefully return with lots of pictures of pretty bookstores and some new books! 

A Weekend of Pictures

Before I show you pictures that I took, let it be said that we had professional photos taken on Saturday
of our mini family
in our home
by this pretty lady.
And we took some of me in the kitchen!
I cannot wait to get my hands on those photos.

When else have I had pictures of my family and me
doing the things we do every day
in the places we do them?

Never, I tell you.
(See the photo shoot here.)

Brooke at Brooke Schultz Photography takes lifestyle shots that actually reflect your lifestyle,
not the park you've never been to or the field you happened to drive by during your shoot.
The places you see every day.
Doesn't that just make more sense? (See her reasoning behind this decision here.)
Brooke has more than just talent; she has intuition, poise, and confidence.
Check her out here. The lifestyle portraits are my favorite.

And now for scenes from our weekend.

Grammy Sorensen has a monthly book club for Addie. Isn't that the best idea you've ever heard of? At the beginning of each month, Addie gets a special package addressed to her holding the newest addition to her bookshelf. I have the coolest mom.

Addie is starting to love story time with mom in the rocking chair.
Her favorite part is touching (and often licking) the colorful pages.

And, of course, an autumn weekend wouldn't be complete without some Daddy-daughter football-watching.

Good heavens. I love those two.

Having lost

having lost
some of the brightness
from my eyes
I choose a new shirt
in cloudless-sky blue

American Tanka, #21, June 2012

photo copyright of ImageANAlogy

More photos by ImageANAlogy:

11 Things I'm Loving Lately

1. 100% grape juice. The big jug from Costco. Doesn't last more than three days in our house. My dad's ideal treat is a tall glass of this deep purple stuff and a handful of cashews. "Ahhh. It's like candy," he says. He bought Chad and me our own extra-large vessel of it one time and we've been hooked ever since.

2. My new planner. Nothing better to encapsulate my daily check marks than faux snakeskin leather in a pleasant shade of turquoise. I flipped through, measured, and weighed at least a dozen daily planners at Barnes & Noble last week and finally found the ideal amount of daily writing space.

3. Daring To Be Yourself, by Alexandra Stoddard. Written by my mother's long-time idol, this book has been my sidekick during my recent obsession with personal style. My mom gave me her copy during our visit to Washington last month, and I am honored to be scribbling and underlining in the book she received for her birthday the year I was born. Perhaps she waded neck-deep in an identity crisis of her own when she was a new mama.

4. Writing Down the Bones, by the ever-wise and Zen-tastic Natalie Goldberg. This book is my writing bible, given to me by a dear friend on the steps of our college library. Lately I've been feeling like I've forgotten how to write well. Natalie is helping me get back on course. If you haven't read it, get your hands on a copy immediately.

5. For as long as I can remember, my mother has had a cookbook stand similar to this one beside her kitchen stove. I found this the day I was searching for my perfect planner. It was sitting at an odd angle next to the Mary Engelbreit calendars, having been absentmindedly set down by a no-longer-interested customer. I knew I had to have it. (The cookbook is Fanny at Chez Panisse, by Alice Waters.)

6. Wasa wasa wasa. I may have chosen these multi-grain crackers entirely because of their name. My freshman roommate used to eat them by the truckload, and though they were too health-nutty for me back then, I now love them spread with soft cheese (see numbers 7 and 8) or almond butter.

7. Cream cheese. Specifically, the chive and onion kind. I (literally) ate the plain stuff by the spoonful as a little girl, but have only recently discovered the pleasantly sharp taste of the chive and onion.

8. Chèvre. If colby jack is the poor man's cheese, goat cheese is for the rich man...or the wife of a college student who likes to close her eyes and imagine that she is abundantly wealthy. Toss this stuff with pasta and broccoli and you have a delicious dinner indeed.

9. Roasted red pepper hummus. I took a picture of this at the beginning of the week. At the time I was happily dunking my pita bread and cucumbers into it, but I think I overdosed. Let it be known that hummus is divine, but only when eaten sparingly.

10. Gala apples all the way from Washington! I generally don't stray from Granny Smiths when purchasing apples, but when autumn is right around the corner, I know that the Galas are crisp, crisp, crisp, and ripe for the eating. 

11. This face. Those cheeks. That mischievous smirk. Addie-girl has had me bouncing up and down, yelling the silliest cheers I can think of just to get her to crack a smile. This is the best I could get today.

Happy weekend! Bring on those thunderstorms!

Review: 13 Little Blue Envelopes

Title: 13 Little Blue Envelopes
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: August 23rd, 2005
Genre: YA, Contemporary

Ginny’s Aunt Peg was always something of a free spirit, and the two years she spent in Europe with little contact with the family weren’t really that out of character. But when she learnt that her wild and vivacious Aunt died in London, it never felt real, or even possible, to Ginny. When a package written before Aunt Peg’s death arrives in the mail, Ginny is whisked off to Europe to follow her Aunt’s last journey, lead by 13 little blue envelopes. She can only open the next envelope after she completes a task in the previous one. Lead by her Aunt’s words, Ginny travels in Peg’s footsteps, from Harrods in London to an island in Greece. With blue envelope in hand, she finds herself doing things she never imagined she would in places she only imagined visiting. In the backdrop of some of the world’s finest cities, amidst all the adventure Ginny will have to come to terms with what her Aunt really is: gone.

This was my second time reading 13 Little Blue Envelopes: the first time I was filled with envy over all the places Ginny got to visit (although not her situation) and this time I am actually about to go to Europe in less than a week. This was a good book to read to get me psyched, and I’d recommend 13 Little Blue Envelopes to anyone who has, will or is travelling throughout Europe. The plot and setting are probably the strongest aspects of this novel. The story was always interesting and full of adventure and beautiful places. Like any trip, you think you know what’s going to happen while reading this book, only to have it take you places you didn’t quite expect. It was quick paced and fun, making this a book that really takes you places. One of the biggest flaws of this book is how unrealistic it is, especially when pertaining to the parental absence. From what we know of Ginny’s parents, they do not seem the types to let their seventeen-year-old daughter go gallivanting through Europe with no set itinerary or the ability to call home. However, I was able to suspend my belief, and let myself get lost in the story. Ginny herself never felt like a fully developed character, and I wonder if I would have felt more of a connection with her if the story was told in first person. The times I felt like I knew her most were through her letters. The other characters were well written and engaging, specifically Keith and Aunt Peg. The original plotline and the excitement of fast paced travel made this book difficult to forget and fun to reread. Whether you’re travelling soon or not, 13 Little Blue Envelopes is a book that will make you want to do things you’ve never done before.