Sports and I don’t really go hand in hand. In high school, I played field hockey and I really enjoyed it. But I was terrible. I also tried my hand at track and field, and even basketball (and gymnastics and figure skating) when I was young. Again, terrible.
If you asked me, I’d tell you that we don’t have a dishwasher. If you asked Skyler, he’d point to me and say, “We sure do!” But the fact remains that we are dishwasher-less. While I certainly don’t mind cleaning our dishes by hand, to minimize the daily mess in our kitchen, I’ve recently been seeking out recipes that will allow me to make flavorful meals, while using as few pots and pans as possible.
Last Friday morning, Skyler’s alarm went off early. I dug deeper under the sheets and curled up tightly into the blankets. I had another hour before I even needed to think about getting out of bed. It’s Friday, finally, a day that I’ve been looking forward to since my alarm went off on Monday morning. I was not in the groove last week. I hadn’t been feeling very well, and despite it being an unseasonably warm week, I had been so chilly. And, just like every other winter, I felt so unenergized and frustrated that I rarely see the light of day. It’s usually dark when I wake up, and the sun is normally setting by the time I leave my mostly window-less office. I get into this funk every winter, it never fails.
Since buying our house, most of our spare time (and spare change) has gone into furnishing, finishing and improving our space. Skyler has been working tirelessly on finishing the basement, which will give us some much-needed additional square footage for entertaining, and I’ve been doing my best to make our house feel like a home and maximize said square footage. Say what you will, but choosing textiles and furniture and decor that will give you a beautiful and well-loved home isn’t as easy as it may seem! (If I see one more Live, Laugh, Love sign while searching for the perfect piece for an empty wall in our kitchen, I might lose my mind.)
When I think about Christmas cookies, I think of the magnificent and decorative almond-flavored cookie-press cookies my great-grandmother used to make. Shaped like trees or candy canes, in one color or many, they were tradition. Every Christmas. Cookie-press cookies. It was like clockwork. Admittedly, I’ve tried a few times over the years to recreate her infamous treats, but to no avail. I just can’t seem to mimic her recipe.
Thanksgiving is now officially behind us, and the gift-giving season of Christmas is (acceptably) in full-swing. At home, our stockings have been hung, our tree has been decorated and gifts are already wrapped and waiting patiently under the tree for Christmas morning. I’m telling you – I love this stuff. Swoon.
I’ve always been head-over-heels in love with Christmas. For me, it’s everything. The colors (white and gold), the sounds (“Last Christmas”), the scents (pine trees and baked goods), the traditions (candle carousels, Chinese food and Charlie Brown trees) and the sights (gifts under the tree and smiling faces). I believe it brings out the best in people – the spirit of Christmas is kind and giving.
But my favorite thing about Christmas is giving gifts. And not just any gift. The perfect gift.
Since we’ve moved into our new home two months ago, we’ve rarely had a moment to sit down and soak in this feeling of being homeowners. Together, we’ve traveled to Philadelphia, Nashville, Maryland and Las Vegas. Separately, we’ve covered 1500 miles across the state of Texas, and some time in State College. We’ve been busy, to say the least. Don’t get me wrong, being busy is something I love – I’m happy to see as much of this world as I can. But as someone who is innately and extraordinarily introverted, I need some time to be relaxed and unwind. Some time to be home.
From the time I was little, I’ve enjoyed being in the kitchen. I remember making cookies in various holiday shapes and dousing them in a sickeningly sweet icing. The first dish I ever really mastered was a simple salmon dinner, and I made it as often as I could. During every family gathering my family has ever held in Maryland, I’ve been recruited to add my special touch to the overflowing pot of mashed potatoes on the stove. Just a few years ago, I made one heck of a blueberry pie, and I still daydream about it sometimes.
So, when I found myself with a few plan-free hours, and after all of my cookware had finally been unpacked, I headed into the kitchen, armed with a recipe for homemade pecan sandies. (At least Facebook was good for something during this tumultuous and drama-filled election week, right?)
Ingredients: 2 c. flour / 2 sticks salted butter, room temperature / 1 egg / 1/2 c. sugar / 2 tsp. vanilla / 1 tsp. salt / 1 tsp. baking soda / 1 c. pecans, chopped (plus a few whole to top each cookie)
Directions: Preheat oven to 350˚F, and line cookie sheets with parchment paper. / Mix together sugar, egg, butter and vanilla until creamy. / Separately, combine flour, salt and baking soda. / Slowly add dry ingredients to wet mixture until combined. / Fold chopped pecans into batter. / Scoop dough onto cookie sheet, topping with a whole pecan. / Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until golden. / Serve immediately with a cup of piping hot coffee. If that’s your thing.
I’m not a politically outspoken woman. In fact, talking about politics genuinely makes me uncomfortable. It’s not because I’m uninformed or because I lack an opinion or because my belief system is weak. But the truth is much more simple: I believe that every person has the right to their own opinions, even they don’t align with mine. Some people say that’s absurd. But it’s who I am, and it’s not likely to change.
When charged with the task of choosing a restaurant for a work-related meet-and-greet dinner, I was thrilled. I love choosing restaurants, and since moving home, I had created a list that had yet to be explored. So, through a relatively uninspired process of elimination, I chose The Millworks, a restaurant in Midtown, completely sight unseen.
Skyler and I were the first to arrive, and as we stepped through the front door, I was struck by something I wasn’t expecting to find inside of a restaurant: art – and lots of it. It turns out, The Millworks is home to 31 different artists, each with an open-concept studio. Guests are able to peruse the entire 24,000 square foot space, watching artists create a variety of pieces. Some artists’ studios are even visible from your seat at the bar. Find something you like? Well, you can purchase a myriad of goods from gallery.
As the rest of the gang trickled in, we took our seats in the dining area. Our waiter came over, and launched into a brief history of The Millworks, including its steadfast focus on local and sustainable food, sourced from growers in the Central PA region. Nearly 50% of the materials required in construction were recycled or repurposed. The table we sat around was made from lumber that occupied the building at purchase; the bricks surrounding the fireplace were from an 1830s farmhouse in Perry County; few of the light fixtures were taken from Broad Street Market circa 1920s. Every part of the decor spoke to the sustainability of the building as a whole. Even our water glasses were made from recycled wine bottles!
We ordered the Urban Picnic as an appetizer – a charcuterie board filled with freshly baked bread, locally cured and smoked meats, local grass-fed dairy artisan cheeses and pickled vegetables. My winning combo? Bread, mustard, soppressata, goat cheese and pickled carrots. Sounds odd, tastes delicious.
For dinner, I ordered the House Made Pastrami Sandwich, which wasn’t a far cry from my go-to Reuben. (Not pictured, because it was ugly. Seriously – not photogenic.) Skyler went with the Crispy Fried Chicken Sandwich (look at that adorable ramekin of ketchup!), and my boss ordered the Slow Roasted Meatloaf. Everything looked/tasted uhhhhmazing.
And because no dinner is complete without dessert, we ordered two for the table: Peach Cobbler (my choice because, duh – peaches), and a Vanilla Bean Custard. The perfect end to a well-rounded dinner.
PS: Quick nod to The Millworks’ own beer offerings… I couldn’t keep my hands off of the Farmhouse IPA Skyler ordered! Delish.