The Week That Was: June 26, 2015

Texas rain

Our vacation started off rainy, but luckily it ended before we hit Fort Worth. Last Friday was a long day — 12 hours in the car. Two meals at Panera. Hearing, “Grandma’s house” at least 542 times. A toddler who didn’t want to sleep in the hotel bed. And a semi-long day followed on Saturday with the first half of the day again spent in the car. But Nora was a trooper. And it was all worth it.

We’ve been having such a fun, relaxing time in Southern Illinois. I can’t believe vacation is almost over. I blinked once last weekend and here we are… We’ve been enjoying lazy days, relaxing on the patio, drinking homemade milkshakes, eating one too many homemade doughnuts, watching Nora splash in the water with her cousin and fly on an imaginary airplane, seeing a gorgeous hot pink and purple sunset (that I’m still kicking myself for not capturing) and Crossy Road, my newest vice that I might someday forgive my niece and nephew for introducing me.

Tomorrow KP and I head to Chicago to spend time with many of our friends who we miss so much. We’ll cap off our visit to the Windy City by seeing U2 on Monday night before starting the drive home.

Whatever you’re up to, have a lovely weekend!

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So proud of my country on this historic day. Love wins.

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I made my dad and KP dinner for Father’s Day. This cheesy basil stuffed chicken with tomatoes is always a hit. So good, so easy.

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Recently stumbled upon the Morning Briefing from The New York Times and am now obsessed with the daily email capsule I receive each morning.

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I’m a product junkie, so I think ipsy and I will soon become fast friends. For just $10 a month you get a bag of sample and full-size beauty products to try.

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In the vein of “it never hurts to ask,” check out these free things you can get at hotels just by asking. Westin’s Gear Lending program was probably omitted because it isn’t free, but the $5 fee is nominal considering what you get.

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I’m a huge fan of homemade ice-cream sandwiches. We’ll be making these beauties for our July 4th BBQ next weekend.

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Chills! Can’t wait to see these guys in three short days!

The Week That Was: June 19, 2015

What. A. Week. House stuff combined with a teething toddler does not a pleasant mama make. Silver lining? We leave today for a week-plus in Illinois. So looking forward to getting outta dodge for a bit, seeing family and friends and celebrating Father’s Day with my dad and KP.

Enjoy your weekend, and happy Father’s Day to all the dads!

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I’m neither here nor there when it comes to Piers Morgan, but this is so spot on.

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“Everything’s amazing now, and nobody’s happy.”

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I’d be perfectly fine with seeing Dorothy Zbornak on my $10 bills. (P.S. about time!).

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Dads… they say the darndest things.

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I’ve found the perfectly patriotic sangria for our July 4th BBQ.

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Have a lovely weekend.

The Week That Was: June 12, 2015

This was a week of firsts in our household. Nora started her first dance class. God bless those teachers. In a class of ten, 50% of the students bawled, including Nora. The only silver lining is that she was not removed from the class to take a breather like some of the other kids were, and her teacher reported that she did really well once she finally came around. Yeah, pull out that rainbow-colored parachute and you can get a kid to do just about anything!

Because I am apparently that Mom, Nora also starts soccer tomorrow. She needs a daddy/daughter activity, I decided. KP loves soccer and Nora acts as if she loves it, so they can have their “thing.” I suspect he’ll have an easier go with soccer than I did with dance.

My “first” this week was juicing. I’m working my way up to a three-day cleanse, but starting slowly. I replaced one meal per day with a juice. I was surprised at how much I liked it. We’ll see if I say the same thing after drinking nothing but juiced fruits and veggies after three days.

I’m looking forward to the weekend. KP gets home this afternoon after a week in London and he better have a stockpile of Wine Gums for me! We’re having Nora’s two-year pictures taken and celebrating Father’s Day early, because we’ll be in Illinois a week from Sunday. So yeah, I guess we’ll also be prepping for our road trip. Whatever you have on tap this weekend, enjoy!

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All hail the written word.

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Wine pairings for your backyard BBQ. Am I the only one who never thinks to chill pinot noir?

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Caprese is my summer go-to.

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Lots of talk about carry-on bags this week, from making them–gasp–smaller, to having a valet service to load them for you (yes, please… and take that, bin hogs!).

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I think we all find ourselves “so, so behind” on something at times; I know I do! Sweet anecdotes and gorgeous photos.

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Design inspiration for your master bath?

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This is why I’ve been known to belt out “Wheels on the Bus” as loudly and dramatically as humanly possible when we’re just one stop sign away from home.

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Happy weekend!

Girlfriend Getaway in Los Angeles

California Dreamin'

After I gave birth to Nora, KP suggested that I sign up for this motherhood class offered by the hospital. It sounded like an awful idea to me. I have no idea why I thought that — maybe the hormones? I was certain it was going to be some stereotypical new-mom gathering where we held hands and sang “Kumbaya,” and/or a husband-bashing session. Begrudgingly, I signed up for it.

I think it was called Transition to Motherhood, and it was specifically for first-time moms. And yeah, there were some Kumbaya-ish moments, but not many. There were more husband-bashing moments (see above regarding hormones). It was more so about connecting new moms who were going through this new journey in their lives and giving them a sounding board. We were all hormonal. And we did our fair share of bitching. And maybe even a little crying.

After only a few weeks, I had to do what I hate doing — admit KP was right about something. The group was awesome. But more so, the little group that I kept in touch with after the class ended now consists of three dear girlfriends that I’m so lucky to have in my life. I can’t imagine going through Nora’s first (or second) year of life without them. Their kids are all the same age as Nora so we’ve all gone through a lot of the same things — often at the same time. Now I’m the stereotypical mom, but they seriously are my mama tribe — and then some.

Post-motherhood class, the tribe and I got together on a regular basis and our mom talk turned into more just regular friend talk. Of course we talked about our kids a ton, but these ladies went from being my “mom friends” to just being my friends. It wasn’t long before two of us left Chicago, though, breaking up the tribe. Shortly before I moved to Austin, another friend moved to Los Angeles.

Sure, we’re all still just a text or email away, but it just isn’t the same. So we’ve vowed to get together in person as much as possible, and our first trip was to Los Angeles in March. Two and a half baby-free and husband-free days, and three wild and crazy nights. Ha! Who am I kidding? “Wild and crazy” barely fit into my vocabulary anymore. Now it’s all about being home by 11 and in comfy pants!

It’s funny how my priorities have changed since having a child. Girlfriend getaways used to mean lots of booze, late nights and sleeping in, then rehashing it all the next day over brunch. Now I’m too tired for that! And I wasn’t alone. I feel confident speaking for all of us by saying that we mostly wanted to relax, soak up some California sunshine and eat some yummy food. And that’s exactly what we did on this blissful girlfriend getaway in sunny Los Angeles.

Where I Ate, Drank and Slept in Los Angeles

Pump

Vander Pump Restaurant (or simply, Pump)

Touristy, yes. But with three of the four of us being fans of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, we felt obligated to at least have a cocktail at Pump. Plus, I love Lisa’s decorating style and wanted to see one of her places in person! It’s as gorgeous as it looks on TV. Loved these chandeliers over the bar on the lush patio. Pump was just a quick stop for a cocktail before dinner, but we were all a bit nippish so we ordered the hummus and pita. And then we laughed. The dish consisted of a normal portion of hummus, but with just four sad looking pieces of hummus. And this is how Hollywood stays thin. We had our first celebrity sighting, although we debated if we should even count it since we were in his restaurant… but Ken was there with Giggy. I gave him a little pet on the head (Giggy, not Ken), which Ken didn’t seem to appreciate.

The Church Key

The Church Key was on Bravo’s Best New Restaurant, a show that I somehow missed entirely, which is surprising given the amount of Bravo that I watch. That said, I don’t know if they won or lost, but I felt like a very hip mama hanging out there. Lots of pretty, edgy people. And while Pump left us hungry, The Church Key did not. They have these dim sum-style carts that came around very sporadically, but we fared better with the regular menu. My favorites were the Jidori chicken “tikka massala” and the brioche doughnuts for dessert. A perfect ending to the meal — and I’m not even a big dessert person.

Gjelina

More pretty, edgy people at Gjelina. Noticing a trend here? It’s LA, after all! Don’t ask how, but we managed to score patio seating for our big group (we had some more friends join our four-some) on a busy Saturday night. Even though it was so dark I could barely read the menu, I loved sitting outside. Our table ordered lots and lots of dishes to share. If memory serves, I glanced at the menu (squinted, rather), and decided to leave the ordering in the hands of my talented friends, all of whom have good taste buds.

The Farm of Beverly Hills

We spent Saturday afternoon hiking Runyon Canyon, then cruised around Beverly Hills. Naturally the Real Housewives fans had to see the Beverly Hills sign in person. We parked ourselves at The Farm for a late lunch. I loved this place, and not just because of the life-changing tea we drank. More on that in a sec. We weren’t able to score a table outside, but the front of the restaurant was open so it was light and airy inside, too. This is just one of those comfy, casual spots to grab a leisurely lunch with the girls. Yes, comfy and casual in Beverly Hills. Or maybe I just decided it was casual since the four of us were all in our workout pants and probably a tad bit sweaty post-hike. Regardless, we all had this tea that cooled us off and was so delicious it was addicting. We even got to-go cups. And because we were so obsessed with it, we had to ask… it’s Art of Tea Passionfruit Jasmine and according to the website, it’s award-winning… so don’t just take my word for it. The food was great, too. Think wraps and salads and such.

 

Pinkberry

Pinkberry

My Pinkberry obsession began with this trip to Los Angeles. I couldn’t get enough. And, the trip just so happened to be after I saw Still Alice, so I went with Alice’s go-to every time: original with coconut and blueberries. Thank god we have Pinkberry in Austin.  And thank god they aren’t as prevalent here as they are in Los Angeles.

Hotel Wilshire

Hotel Wilshire

Since we were in LA to visit a friend, we stayed with her. She and her family live in this adorable apartment in Brentwood, and I’m so jealous because she has so many great places that she can walk to in her neighborhood, including multiple coffee shops, nail salons, the farmer’s market, Whole Foods… I could go on and on… but I digress. We slept at her place two of the three nights.

We decided to splurge and stay at a hotel on Friday night. It was our treat for our hostess. I think we were all thinking we’d sleep in, forgetting that we’re now moms who are programmed to wake up early, regardless of whether or not there’s a screaming child in the next room. (Spoiler alert: we didn’t sleep in.) We booked Hotel Wilshire, and the Pretty Woman quotes began (“Reg. Bev. Wil.”), even though that’s a different hotel… Hotel Wilshire is what you’d expect from Kimpton, which is what I love about them. Although each hotel is a little different, you know what you’re gonna get. Hotel Wilshire is modern and trendy, a little CB2-ish. Our room was big enough for four women to have a bit of space, and there was a completely separate sitting area that we didn’t even use. But the best part of the hotel was the rooftop pool and restaurant. It was so nice to soak up a little sun at breakfast before we checked out of the hotel.

Los Angeles was the perfect spot for our girlfriend getaway. It was March, so the Chicagoans in the group got a much-needed reprieve from the cold. The weather was amazingly gorgeous the entire weekend — sunny and warm. And we got to do exactly what we wanted — hang out, catch up and eat delicious food. It’s my turn to host the ladies next spring, and I hope Austin can measure up to So Cal!

Blueberry Lemon Poundcake

IMG_1724

Summer isn’t even officially here yet, but we’ve already had a few gatherings to kick off the season — Nora’s birthday, my nephew’s high school graduation and visits from family. For the latter, I always like to have some kind of dessert on-hand. I don’t normally have cakes or sweets in the house (ice-cream being the exception!), but having company is a special occasion, and a special occasion calls for special treats, in my book.

Perusing my Stressed is Dessert Spelled Backwards board on Pinterest, I came across a gorgeous lemon blueberry poundcake photo and decided I was totally capable of making the cake. Apparently the recipe originated simply as sour cream poundcake from Better Homes and Gardens, but genius Grandbaby Cakes took it up a notch by adding blueberries and lemon.

lemon blueberry poundcake

Save for zesting lemons, this recipe is seriously easy and seriously delicious. The cake comes out nice and dense as a poundcake should be, and the lemons and blueberries give the perfect balance of sweet and tart. I’ve whipped up two in the month of May alone, and I’m certain that won’t be the end of it!

Blueberry Lemon Poundcake

Original recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup butter

6 eggs

1 cup sour cream

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Zest and juice of two lemons

2 cups fresh blueberries, tossed in 1 teaspoon of all-purpose flour (to keep them for sinking to the bottom)

Glaze: 2 Tbs fresh lemon juice and 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

Allow butter, eggs, and sour cream to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Grease and lightly flour a 10-cup bundt pan; set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and baking soda; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high-speed for 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar, beating on medium speed about 10 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating on low to medium speed for 1 minute after each addition and scraping side of bowl frequently. Add lemon juice and zest and mix to combine. Alternately add flour mixture and sour cream to butter mixture, beating on low-speed after each addition just until combined. Fold in the lightly floured fresh blueberries.

Pour batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly. Bake for 75 to 85 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near center of cake comes out clean.

Cool in pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes.

Remove from pan, drizzle with glaze while warm; cool completely on rack.

Blueberry lemon poundcake