Last-Minute Party Food for the #POWAW Book Release Party!

This past weekend, my friend Emily and I co-hosted a book release party for our friend Rachel Haas.  And somehow I thought my role as co-host meant I would show up early to help out and bring a platter of bacon-wrapped dates.  And Emily thought it meant she would host and handle drinks and I would bring all the food.  We laughed about it all weekend because for two professional writers, we absolutely failed on the communication front!

I figured out what was going on Thursday afternoon, the day before the party.  I was on a conference call and I saw a text message pop up saying something like:  We have 20 people coming tomorrow night and I’ve got all the drinks covered — can’t wait to eat your delicious food!  (This is a paraphrase.  It actually took me a few messages to catch on because (a) sometimes I’m kind of dense and (b) my brain was focused on some awesome spreadsheets.)

If I’d realized what was going on a little earlier, I would have spent a lot of time planning an awesome menu for Rachel’s party — because she wrote an entire book and we are totally psyched for her huge accomplishment — but since I only had from 6 p.m. Thursday to when I went to sleep and from 5:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. Friday when I had to leave for the party, we had to focus on easy, fast, tried-and-true favorites to get the party started.  Emily created the most beautiful party environment, and I think the food turned out pretty great too.

blog photo 2

Here’s what I did:

  1. Alton Brown’s Baked Macaroni and Cheese.  I doubled the version and when it was going into the oven it looked too soupy, but when it came out of the oven it was golden and delicious.  Macaroni and Cheese is vegetarian-friendly, super filling, and not too expensive on your party budget, so it’s a go-to for me when I need to feed a crowd.  I made and baked this Thursday night, and then reheated in the oven at Emily’s on Friday night.
  2. Bacon-wrapped Goat Cheese Dates.  You just put the tiniest bit of goat cheese inside the dates, wrap them up with raw bacon, skewer with a toothpick and bake at 375 until the bacon is crispy.  Super easy.  We prepped these on Thursday night and then baked them at Emily’s house while the party was getting started.  Bacon smells great while cooking, so it’s a win-win for everyone there.
  3. Barbecue Meatballs.  Grab freezer meatballs and throw them into the your crock pot with barbecue sauce.  I used a combination of Sweet Baby Ray’s, peach jam, apple cider vinegar, maybe a little Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and water.  I kept adding stuff until it tasted good to me.  Follow your heart here.
  4. Hummus Platter with Vegetables.  I used Sabra hummus but transferred it into a fancy container and topped it with a drizzle of olive oil and freshly cracked black pepper.  I hate how raw broccoli feels dry and scratchy in your throat at parties, so I skipped it and went with baby carrots and sliced red and green bell peppers instead.  Since the mac-and-cheese and meatballs were a bit heavy, the lighter hummus and vegetables offered a healthier option.
  5. Peanut Butter Fudge and Chocolate Fudge.  Cupcakes, cookies, cakes — I would usually bake something lovely for such a huge moment in a friend’s life, but since time was limited (and honestly, so was our fridge space!) I went with an easy, quick dessert:  fudge.  I’m sure there are really delicious ways to make fudge that are not easy, but for both of my efforts, it involved pouring things into a bowl, microwaving that bowl, stirring the contents of the bowl, pouring the melted contents into another container, chilling, and chopping.  So easy!  The small bites are party-friendly.  But, since some have peanut allergies I’m really careful to keep the peanut butter fudge separate so if needed, it can be swept away and the party can be allergy-free.

And the reason for the party:  Rachel’s New Book!

If you’re interested in fairy-tales, new fiction writers, or just making someone feel awesome, click through here to purchase Rachel L. Haas’s new book, Portals of Water and Wine.  I’m so impressed with Rachel’s tenacity to get this book written and out into the world — I think we could all learn a lot from her commitment to her art.  Here she is on Friday night, talking about her writing process and reading a selection from her new release!


Catching you Up: What I’m Into November 2014


I’ve started this post a number of times, but I haven’t been able to finish.  Maybe this time.

It’s been rough.  I am sad.  And angry.

– – –

Apparently people write things on the internet when they see bad things all around them.  A lot of people write mean things or stupid things or racist things or angry things — but I don’t really know how to do that. Right now I can only feel the feelings and ask the questions and read the books.

I don’t think the solutions to systemic injustices in our world are so straightforward that random people on the internet know what they are talking about.  I want to hear the real-life stories of pain and injustice from those who are experiencing it.  I want to hear about ways to fix our world or seek justice or reconcile communities from the people who actually study this kind of thing and work toward it regularly. And if you aren’t one of those people then I don’t really want to hear from you.  Instead, I’d like for you to stop talking, sit with me, and listen.  Then maybe you’ll feel sad and angry too, and we can learn about how to make things better without making them worse.

That’s not really a good thing for a blogger to say, is it?  Unfortunately it’s true right now.  I find Facebook incredibly depressing.

– – –

But this past month wasn’t all bad.  Even when the world is dark and sad, I strongly believe that being alive is baller.  Here’s a rundown of what I was up to last month:

What I’m Reading:

This month I’ve been reading about hopelessness and war and death and racism and American criminal law.  I’m three classes into this open course about American literature after World War I.  I’m three chapters into this book on race and American criminal law. I’m also reading Amy Poehler’s hilarious book Yes Please. Which I enjoy, but wish was more vulnerable and revealing.  It’s a bit of a shallow read.

What I’m Watching:

This month I’ve been watching all the television shows.  I don’t like the trend of shows taking winter breaks, not coming back with new episodes until January.  Do you guys remember back in the “good ole days” when Alias had 22 episodes per season?  We need to get that back.  What is up with HBO’s last season of The Newsroom having only seven episodes?  Not cool.

I still enjoy Madam Secretary the most of this year’s new shows, but State of Affairs has captured my interest — although it is too early to tell if it will be keeper.  It’s nice having Katherine Heigl back! Parenthood continues to be awesome, and I’m secretly loving Agents of Shield.  I’m not sure it’s cool to say that on the internet but it is true.

What I’m Listening To:

This month I’ve started listening to podcasts, and now I love them.  For blogging I like the How They Blog podcast.  For road trips I like Serial and This American Life.  What are your favorite podcasts?  Hook me up!

I’m also looking for some new music.  Do you have any favorite current bands or artists?  I haven’t bought a new album in probably a year.  I tend to forget that I’m allowed to do things like purchasing new music, and go for months at a time without even thinking “Hey, I’m allowed to choose music that I like and to listen to it just because I want to!”  And then I remember, but I don’t know what’s cool because my favorite band is still CAKE and I think they stopped being a band about ten years ago.  Help me out!

What I’ve Been Doing:

Voting.  This month I voted as a Chicago resident for the first time.  While the lines were honestly shorter than I expected, there was only one voting machine per precinct!  Each voter had to wait in line to vote electronically or vote on a paper ballot.  I used the electronic voting machine because there wasn’t a line when I arrived.

Getting a massage.  This month I had my first massage in two years, and it was fantastic!  I think it was perhaps the best massage I had in my entire life.  Thanks Shaney!

Painting.  My friend Lindsay and I wanted to try a painting night so we scheduled the November KD event at a nearby Bottle and Bottega location and — true story — it was so fun! Following instructions while painting and talking to friends is a little stressful, but if you try to stay loose you can make something really beautiful! (No photos here because I’m totally gifting my painting creation to my mom for Christmas.  Because there’s nothing more appreciated than hand-made crafts by your 28-year-old daughter.)

Working.  A lot.  I spent the week before Thanksgiving working in DC, and it was a great week.  My team was very productive and while I didn’t get the friend time I can normally squeeze into my evenings while there, I had a few professional firsts and headed home feeling great.  My work continues to be challenging and full of surprises and I absolutely love it. Most of the time.  :)

Hanging out with Accidental Devotional’s Abby Norman!  The weekend before Thanksgiving (and right after my work trip), Abby Norman and her husband showed up to spend the weekend hanging in my Chicago condo and attending a communications conference downtown.  It was so lovely to spend some time having awesome conversations with my friend. Our oven was broken all weekend so I didn’t do a lot of cooking for the Normans (sorry!), but we made up for it with a deep dish pizza taste-off.

Eating turkey and relaxing in Tennessee.  After just one workday and a day of medical appointments, H and I drove down to Tennessee (with Winston!) to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday.  Our Thanksgiving was wonderful and I hope yours was too!  I loved seeing my family and friends and I also loved sitting by the fire and reading.  A lot.  It’s my favorite way to relax.  (Maybe if I had a yard with a fire pit I would watch less television and read more books?  Maybe we should just buy a house already so I can find out?  Great idea!)

I’m linking up today with Leigh Kramer to share What I’m Into.  It’s a great way to find shows to watch, bands to follow, books to read — all of the cool things that cool people are into right now.  Click through here to see all of the posts!


Thanks for sticking with me here during a month of very little posting.  Sorry about that.  Here’s to an excellent December.  Happy Holidays.  

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 11.15.2014

Five Things New

One day late but still just as awesome.  

Five Awesome Links

1. Kelley Nikondeha with The Rebel for Justice.  MUST READ.

2. Elizabeth of Ellie’s Aviary guest posting for Accidental Devotional with Learning to Swear: A Spiritual Discipline.

3. The $9 Billion Witness: Meet JPMorgan Chase’s Worst Nightmare, by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

4. Jonathon from Ponder Anew with 15 Reasons Why We Should Still Be Using Hymnals.  (This is an older article but I just stumbled across it this week and found the tone and discussion interesting and polite.  Rare, I know.)

5. Charles Barnitz, a historical fiction writer enjoyed by the writers of The Volokh Conspiracy (a law blog), provided a series of posts on writing historical fiction there which are interesting and educational.  If you’re a historical fiction fan like I am, or if you are considering writing historical fiction in the future, check them out: Choosing a Historical Period // Inventing a Plot // Creating a Character // Doing the Research // Platitudes and Problems.


That’s it!  What awesome things did you read this week?  

Fall Makeup Basics

It’s been a while since we talked about makeup, so I wanted to share a few items I’ve been using lately.


Drugstore Makeup Finds


Drugstore Makeup Finds



After a year or more of using Laura Gellar’s baked foundation, it started looking a little orange.  Perhaps I was using the wrong kind of brush, or should have tried a lighter color, but I got tired of looking orange and randomly grabbed Revlon’s ColorStay Makeup hoping it would do the job while I searched out a new favorite foundation to wear.  I was surprised when I liked it so much!  It does require sponge application — which I basically hate, because it’s so hard to keep a clean sponge on-hand — but it is smooth and it definitely lasts all day.  I’m wearing number 180 – Sand Beige.


Maybelline Instant Age Rewind is a modern classic, and I highly recommend it.  It feels nice going under your eyes and the bottle lasts for ages.  Jessica from How Sweet Eats also sings its praises, but I was wearing it even before she was!  (It makes me feel cool to say that.)  I’m wearing Fair — I typically purchase a shade lighter for under-eye concealer.


I’ve always used CoverGirl’s perfect point plus eyeliner, and I’ve always hated how easily it breaks and how rough it can feel along your eyelid.  Maybelline’s masterDRAMA eyeliner is fantastic.  It is smooth and soft. I’m wearing the slate gray color called “coal commander” and it is lovely.


My eyes are dry and a little sensitive, and I’m always rubbing them — which leaves mascara everywhere! Dry and flaky mascaras make this worse, leaving me itchy and uncomfortable. The Maybelline Full ‘N Soft mascara has been lovely.  I feel comfortable all day and much less itchy.  I’m wearing Very Black and I like how it looks with the dark gray eyeliner.

I have such a hard time choosing which products to purchase, finding the right shades for my skin tone — it always feels like it’s so easy for everyone else, but I’m sure that isn’t actually true.  If you’ve found some awesome products — drugstore or otherwise — I’d love to hear about them.  Share the wealth!

Cooking Challenge Re-Make: Apple Pie Biscuits from @JoytheBaker

I spent a week with my family in Tennessee at the end of September/beginning of October.  It was my first time being there during the work-week in ages, and I worked from my childhood home about half-time and spent the other half getting in some hard-core family time.

On one of my last days there, I decided to make Joy the Baker and King Arthur Flour’s Apple Pie Biscuits from the September Baking Bootcamp.  It was so fun to have my mom and sister join me in staging food to make good-looking photos (I normally get the eye roll and “Can’t I eat this yet?” from H).  Also, since her recipe makes 12 biscuits, it was probably good that I made them for my family of four instead of just for me and H here in Chicago.

One thing that is too funny not to mention, is that when I went to the store I purchased EIGHT APPLES to use in this recipe.  Which was kind of overkill since it only requires one apple. One apple, guys.  [Pro tip: read your recipe before you go grocery shopping for ingredients!]

Bowl of Apples

Stir brown sugar and cinnamon into your apple slices. (My grandmother’s bowls.)

2skillet photo

Cook your apples in the skillet until shiny.

3howto do it

Roll out your biscuit dough and put apples on half — like this.



Fold in half, slice into squares, and place on pan. Wash with egg and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar before baking.

5all done

Golden and delicious. I mean, seriously. Yum.

I don’t like apple pie (chunky cooked apples are the worst!) but I really loved these biscuits!  I think the difference is that the apples are sliced v-e-r-y thin and they get cooked very thoroughly, almost like a warm biscuit topped with chunky apple jelly.

I had a great time following Joy the Baker’s recipe when I made these with my family, but when I wanted to recreate for H and me on Saturday morning, I took the lazy way out and they were still quite yummy.  Here’s what I did:

  • Slice and cook your apple slices in butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  (My apples were a bit thicker and so less delicious because my mom is much better at slicing than I am.  Just saying.)
  • Make biscuit dough however you normally do.  I used self-rising flour and shortening, but if you are a Bisquick person then follow your heart!  Make the amount of biscuits you need for the number of people eating breakfast with you.
  • Roll out your dough, put the apples on half of it, fold it over and pinch the edges.  Cut into squares, egg wash, sprinkle, and bake!

It’s basically the same as Joy’s recipe, but since I had done it once before and I wasn’t competing for King Arthur goodies (we are King Arthur Flour snobs in this family so we took that recipe SERIOUSLY), I didn’t stress so much about doing it perfectly.  These biscuits feel a little less high-maintenance and a bit more “me.”  And either way you decide to make them, they are delicious.

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 11.07.2014

Five Things New


Five Awesome Links

Too Much Peacemaking? Esther Emery for SheLoves Magazine.  Must Read of the Week.

Six Stretches for People who Sit at Desks from A Cup of Jo.  (Would you judge me if you saw me doing these in my office?)

What Makes a Great Book Club Novel? from Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy.  Related — do you finish books even if you don’t like them?  How far do you read before you give up?  Check out this article and tell me if you agree of disagree.  (I disagree.  As Henry David Thoreau once said, we must “[r]ead the best books first, or [we] may not have a chance to read them at all.” Or, as modern HDT would say:  “Prioritize, people.”)

My friend Elizabeth Hyndman with How to Find, Follow, and Friend People on Twitter.

And finally, this essay by Andrea Levendusky, who is one of my new favorite artists:  A Blur of Delight. (for some reason this link is showing up as spam.  try andreaglevendusky(dot)com.)



What I’m Into: October 2014

What I'm Into

Well, well, well.  October is over.  A lot of very not-fun things happened in October, but it was still a pretty great month.

What I’m Reading

Not much.  I’m still stuck in the second Outlander book and I’m not moving very fast.  I read the first 2/3 of book 1 very quickly, and told you how much I enjoyed it. And then — it just stopped.  Maybe I spoke too soon, maybe my brain just couldn’t handle the ridiculousness, maybe it was too much romance and not enough history and war to entertain me, but I’m just not making progress and I can’t decide whether to stop or to keep going and hope it gets better.  I really enjoy the parts that are about time travel and history and clans and Scotland.  I don’t really enjoy the love parts so much.

What I’m Watching

EVERYTHING.  I am such a television junkie and the new fall line-up is eating up a lot of my down time.  I love On Demand.  It is so great.  My favorite new show is Madam Secretary. Tim Daly and Tea Leoni are such a well matched and believable modern couple.  Plus Tim Daly is good-looking in a totally normal and not ridiculous way.  I haven’t written off HOW to Get a-WAY with MUR-der yet, but I can hardly follow the story lines so I’m usually watching it while working on something else. It’s a little over my head (that’s the nice way to say it doesn’t make any sense, right? right!).  Also, Parenthood is in its last season and it is just so wonderful.  I’ve loved every episode and I really want Joel and Julia to get back together but I also don’t want them to because her new boyfriend is adorable — I’m glad she’s not my friend in real life because I would be the worst at giving advice in this situation.

I’m also watching the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football Team.  They are not playing as well over the last month as I was hoping they would be — too many interceptions and rookie mistakes — but I love them.  The Pope loves them, President Bartlet loves them, God loves them, America loves them.  There’s still room on the bandwagon.  Go IRISH!

What I’m Eating

- 31 days --rectangle

This month has been all about cooking, and I’ve loved writing my October series #31 Days in the Pink-Briefcase Kitchen.  My favorite recipes are probably this pasta recipe, this granola recipe, and this pie recipe that inspired a hashtag!  #piemergency #emergencypie.  I’ve never inspired a hashtag before and that was wicked exciting.

I also spent a week eating brown rice, baked chicken, and steamed broccoli for all meals and to be honest — I didn’t hate it as much as I wanted to.  Deciding what to eat is such a huge time-waster.  Knowing in advance exactly what I would eat and saying no to everything else was an interesting life experiment, and reminded me how much I love meal planning.

What I’m Wearing

It’s not my usual thing, but I’m loving Tommy Hilfiger this season and have been wearing his long-sleeved tees, an awesome cardigan, and a classic striped sweater all the time.  I still need to order tights for the winter and would love your recommendations for the best name brands to avoid that terrible rolly-down thing that makes you feel like you’re being sliced in half.

I’m also wearing a coat and scarf almost every day now, so I’m trying to learn different ways to style my hair easily so it is off my shoulders for my commute.  I’m spending a lot of time watching hair tutorial videos from the small things blog.

What We’ve Been Up To


This is Winston. He is 3 years old and loves to eat. A lot.

We lost our cat Leo to kidney failure a month or so back, and after a bit of grieving we decided that we needed to rescue a shelter cat from the local animal shelter.  Our new little guy is named Winston after Churchill and he kneads dough ALL THE TIME.  He also eats like a horse and has a fake front tooth.  So, just enough issues and quirks to be absolutely hilarious.  He’s already three years old so we don’t have to go through the kitten stages again, and he has warmed up to us quickly, gotten all of his shots, and settled into our home like he’s always been here.

My husband and his brothers ran the Chicago Marathon over Columbus Day Weekend.  My inlaws were in town for the week before Columbus Day and we spent a lot of time enjoying the City.  We ate at Opart Thai (yum!) , Little Goat Diner (greatest nachos in the world!), Frontera Grill, and XOCO (for my favorite soup!).  What a delicious and exhausting week!  We also played trivia at a bar near our home, and one of the best trivia questions was:  Name three universities that were home to both a U.S. President and a Super Bowl MVP.

And, I’m still traveling a bit for work.  Hopefully that will be over soon, but as much as I loathe traveling too often, I absolutely love my job and so it works out okay.  I’m learning a ton and it’s been a fantastic opportunity, so I’m enjoying it while it lasts and taking it one day at a time.

So, what all have you been up to this month?  I’m so excited for November and for the holiday season because I finally have a lot of leave built up and can take a bit more time off and really enjoy my holiday season.  Let’s hope my workload cooperates so I’m not working non-stop in late November and December!


I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer to share What I’m Into each month.  Click through to check out tons of other monthly summaries — it’s a great way to find new books to read, recipes to try, or makeup tricks to spice up your morning routine.