Saturday, December 31, 2011


Here's to...

... well traveled, well read
less spoken, more said

... quality over quantity

...refinement, simplicity

... nervous excitement, giddy anticipation

...dreaming bigger, going farther, 
laughing louder, working harder

... slow-cooked, home-grown

... making someone's day

...Trusting. Listening. Following wholeheartedly.  

Not a resolution, but a toast. 

Wishing you peace, love, and the greatest of joys in 2012. 

Find last year's toast here

Friday, December 30, 2011

Guilt-free Friday!

Hi cats... Happy weekend! I'm off to Salisbury to do Christmas with the Thomas family and then tomorrow Taylor and I will head to Raleigh to ring in the New Year with family and friends. Confession: I've never been a big fan of NYE. I think it's because I tend to focus on the year ending rather than the one starting, and you know I'm overly sentimental. Similarly, it signifies the end of Christmas, which makes me want to just cry. But this year, in the company of all the best, it's going to be hard not to love it. I'll be back later with a toast, but just for you... 

Hey! It's ok... 

... To love traveling but hate packing 

... If your New Year's resolutions are self-serving... More wine, more fun, better wardrobe 

... Or if you have a longstanding resolution to not resolve anything 

...If you're still listening to Christmas music. And plan to continue doing so until March. 

[my new bebe will be perfect for the werkend's festivities! Kate Spade knows festive.]

Thursday, December 29, 2011

This year I will...

Have you started making your New Year's resolutions yet? I don't usually make any, but this year I am working on absolutely, positively, never texting and driving. Or Tweeting. Or Facebooking, emailing, instagraming, bubble busting, using my iPhone to take awkward self-portraits making kissy faces, etc. It's dangerous, it's illegal, and it's a terribly difficult habit to break (especially that last one). I have already started working on it, but after December 31st I'm seriously considering locking my phone in my glove compartment before I start my engine. Whatever it takes, right?

If you're still trying to come up with a resolution and you're running low on ideas, I encourage you to check out this resolution generator. I think I spent the last 15 minutes clicking through... it is great. (My faves are "cook beef bourguignon" and "dress up," but that's probably because I already do those...)

I'd love to hear your resolutions!!

Comfort and Joy

Isn't it funny how certain things can be so very comforting? Certain sights, smells, and sounds calm our spirits and breathe peace into our souls. Some things that always comfort me are the taste of cinnamon and nutmeg, the rich aroma of browned butter, and the smooth hum of a Kitchen Aid mixer. This recipe from Smitten Kitchen promised all three, so when I saw it this morning I knew I had to try it. 
These cinnamon brown butter breakfast puffs are delicious, and will certainly leave you feeling satisfied. Moreover, spending a quiet morning in the kitchen and indulging in a few of your favorite comforts will surely impart a renewed sense of tranquility... at least it did for me. 

What comforts you? Some others of mine include: a steamy latte, warm sunshine on my skin, sheets straight out if the dryer, balmy beach air, and freshly cut grass. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


This year I realized why Christmas in our home is so special: traditions. The days leading up to Christmas are filled with a comforting rhythm of repeated activities that are nonetheless exciting year after year. As a kid, I didn't really appreciate it, but as an adult, I've become painfully nostalgic, and at times militant, about adhering to these traditions. Here are a few of my favorite traditions...
  Christmas Eve Baking (mandatory) 
Some of our favorite recipes are as old as me (and some even older!) 
 Christmas Eve post-dinner neighborhood party: We have a spread of cookies that even Santa would envy, and we always warm things up with a coffee bar stocked with Bailey's, Frangelico, Godiva, and other yummy liqueurs. (and of course, hot chocolate for the little ones)
 Christmas carols
 [not a tradition, but I ended up matching my favorite little elf. Definitely will be a future tradition though... my children will be my greatest accessories. (jk...kindof...notreally)]
 We always play pool. I usually lose.
 We always get to open one Christmas Eve gift... and it's always pajamas! 
 (acting surprised is part of the fun)
 Usually only the kids get pj's, so mom and dad were surprised when they got to join in on the fun.
 Christmas morning mimosas (which I certainly started appreciating more when I turned 21 last year... champagne undoubtedly trumps Sprite.)
 [Breakfast non-casserole. For years my mom made casserole. And for years we hated it. Now we have a spread like this, it's kind of an homage to the old casserole, just deconstructed.]
After breakfast we open sibling gifts first in the living room. Then Santa gifts in the pool house, where there is always a fire burning on Christmas morning, even when this coastal town's forecaster doesn't get the Christmas memo. 

Not pictured:
1. Christmas Eve Dinner: Lasagna (a tradition that started in the Johns family when my dad was a kid, but we certainly don't mind keeping it up)
2. Christmas Dinner: Beef tenderloin. And my mom's sister and her family always make the trip from Raleigh to join us.
3. Tree-trimming music: Randy Travis- Old Time Christmas.
4. Scrabble. It's kind of like homemade Chex mix. My mom makes it, and it is pretty much snack crack.  So addicting. 

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


One day last summer I asked my parents what the key to their marriage was. My mom was first to answer, and as tears welled up in her eyes she explained that she still feels the same way about my dad as she did on the day she married him. She said her heart still flutters when she sees him, even if he's only been gone for the day. 

My dad's answer was simple: Christ. Jesus Christ is the center of their marriage, the foundation upon which their relationship rests. They both find their identity in Him first, and then in each other. As a result, my dad loves my mom like Christ loves the church, even willing to lay down his life for her. And my mom is secure in this, so she is able to submit to him in love and trust, just as the church submits to Christ.*
Cheers to my wonderful parents as they celebrate 25 years of marriage today! Thank you for your example of love, friendship, and, above all else, a focus on Christ. 

*For further reading on what a Christian marriage looks like, I encourage you to read Ephesians 5:21-33

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Blonde Ambition

My hair is brown. I dye it darker. Not gothic darker. My stylist adds low-lights a few times a year to give my color some dimension. And I love it. Not in a "look at me, I'm so pretty" kind of way, more like a "the woman who crafts this hair is an absolute artist/shear genius" kind of thing. On its own, my hair tends to be dull, mousy, and boring. But thanks to Brenda, it is healthy and shiny.

But sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I could be blonde. Only for a day or two, then I want my hair back. 
I went in for a hair appointment Saturday afternoon and showed Brenda this picture. Of course I cannot pull off this pretty shade of platinum like Reese can, and I'm not ready to take the plunge and bid my long locks goodbye just yet, but I was craving a change. 
[shoes: minnetonka, jeans: seven for all mankind, sweater: h&m, necklace: vintage, furry friend: Christmas present 2007]
Brenda had just the solution to my restless hair syndrome: a few inches shorter & new bangs. I am absolutely loving it. I still feel like I have "long hair," but I can blow dry it in half the time and it has 100x the body and volume. It doesn't look so hippie-amish-granola anymore and I feel like a new woman. Oh, and she didn't even have to touch my color. Whoever said blondes have more fun... was wrong.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Puppy Love

how to make animated gif

I can't decide if Taylor loves me or Yoshi more... I'm leaning toward the latter.

Candied Spiced Pecans

A great, big pecan tree towers tall in front of the house where I grew up. Most years, hurricanes rolled in off the Atlantic and wiped out the crop before it was mature. But one, magical year the tree weathered the storms and we were able to reap the bounty of its branches. We ended up with bushels and barrels of the things, and never, ever got sick of them. There's something to be said for enjoying food right where it was harvested. And to me, pecans will always say home.

Roasting the pecans brings out their rich, nutty flavor. And roasting them with the most perfect blend of sugar and spices? You'll think you've died and gone to heaven. I have made 2 batches in the past 2 days in hopes that my younger brother, who shares both my sentiments regarding pecans and my affinity for the candied variety, will pack his bags and head north.

Candied Spiced Pecans:*
1 large egg white
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon allspice
about 1 lb. pecans

1. Preheat oven to 300
2. Beat egg white until stiff
3. Mix together sugar and spices
4. Stir sugar mixture into egg white
5. Gradually stir in pecans, coating liberally.
6. Spread out on parchment-lined baking sheet
7. Bake at 300 for 45 minutes, stirring every 15. 
*I'd say this is more of a recommendation than a recipe. If you love ginger, add some ginger. Vanilla? I'm sure that would be lovely too.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hanging with the Boys

I know I'll always be a red wine lover, but a little variety in a girl's beverage repertoire never hurt anyone. I concocted this bourbon drink last night, and I must say I was pretty pleased. As opposed to vodka or rum, there's just something about drinking bourbon or whiskey that makes me feel like I can hang with the boys* (Even if my mixers are pink and Italian... about as girly as it gets.) 
2 oz. bourbon
2 oz. cranberry juice
top with San Pellegrino Aranciata (orange)
& serve over ice

I'm still working on a name for this lovely libation, but at the moment I'm thinking something along the lines of "Winter Sunset." Truth be told, I'm still wrapped up in the scene that unfolded before me as we sipped on the front porch...
[you can't even make up stuff like this]

*No need to worry, you'll never catch this girl guzzling beer with the boys. 
("Because I'm a lady, that's why!")

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Shameless Saturday

Hi cupcakes! Happy Saturday! After a bit of a whirlwind week, I am so looking forward to relaxing this weekend. Taylor is visiting and I think I've roped him into spending a majority of our time baking cookies. (It doesn't take much convincing as long as peanut butter and chocolate are involved.) I hope you're having a sweet weekend too! Until next time...

Hey! It's ok...

...if the bulk of your Christmas shopping takes place on Christmas Eve believe that ordering a side salad somehow counteracts the buffalo wings/potato skins/cheeseburger & fries. (Somehow it always seems to settle the score.)

...if Christmas turns you into an absolute Cookie Monster.  [Seriously guys, I made 5 batches Thursday night. (recipes to come!)]
[C is for Cookie. Or Caitlin.]

Thursday, December 15, 2011


I walked in the kitchen this morning to find the littlest one's Christmas list suggestions. It made me laugh, (let's be honest, that's my response to most anything he does...) In case you can't read it, the explanation at the bottom says:

"The hilighted are "big" gifts that are pricier than others. They are also desired the most. (5,6, and 7 are interchangeable) 9-10 are cheapest and really wanted. Money is also acceptable."

He has a habit of leaving funny little notes, which is perfectly fine with me. They always bring a smile to my face.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Crock Pot Candy

Hi love doves... Are you having a happy day? It is a beautiful (albeit chilly) morning here in the Bluegrass State! The weekend has been loads of fun, and I plan on soaking up the rest of this precious time with my sweet grandparents. Speaking of sweet, yesterday we made a sweet little treat that I couldn't resist passing along. Usually making candy is so labor-intensive, but this crock pot candy is anything but that. "Just set it, and forget it!" (infomercial reference? Duh) Helpful hint: make sure your crock pot is big enough! As you can see, ours was a tight squeeze!!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Guilt-free Friday!

Happy Friday, mes amis! I'm finally feeling better and just in time... this afternoon I'm off to Kentucky for a few days to visit my grandparents! (And there's nothing worse than being sick on a plane) It is my last "big" trip of 2011, and it is so hard for me to believe that this year is coming to a close! But for now, I will enjoy this weekend... dinners at the country club and countless hours of baking. It's the life. Hope your weekend is delightful, and if you haven't talked to your grandparents in a while, give them a call. I'm sure they would be thrilled to hear from you. Until next time...

Hey! It's ok...

... if your dash is lit up like a Christmas tree... maintenance required light, low fuel light, etc. (Oh Daddy...)

... if you're not really into sports. But competitive cooking shows? It's on... (Current fave: Next Iron Chef, but Chopped and Top Chef are perennial favorites.)

... if you can use every holiday to justify the consumption of red wine. Christmas? Festive. Valentines Day? Romantic. Independence Day? Patriotic.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Hi kittens... how are you today? I seem to have come down with a bit of a cold. It has left me feeling overwhelmingly lethargic these past few days, wanting to spend every free minute lounging around in my comfies, catching up on Mad Men and watching competitive cooking shows on demand [thug life.] Whenever I have a cold, I feel like Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail. My brain just seems so fuzzy...
You know what I really want? New pajamas. Which is handy because we always get to open some on Christmas Eve. I usually opt for festive pants and a comfy tee, but this year I'm all about pajama sets (I'm blaming Mad Men... those men have the best pajamas. Or Meg, she rocks a pajama set in Y.G.M. Yes, I just abbrev'd.) Here are a few favorites, and adding a monogram is a must. (I much prefer a diamond monogram, that curly, girly one is too cliche for my taste.)
If you're married and you really want to be cute, you should scoop up some of these mens-inspired pajamas and get them monogrammed with your husband's initials... How romantic dreamy. :)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Elf Day

Hello little elves, did you have a festive weekend? I most certainly did. Saturday afternoon I dashed off to Wilmington so Taylor and I could celebrate the 3rd annual Elf Day!* We attended a handmade holiday craft show, picked out a tree, and grabbed dinner with Taylor's brother & his girlfriend at a new restaurant in town. It was so much fun! 
The remainder of the evening was spent with friends baking homemade ornaments and trimming the tree, making Oreo bark and listening to all the best Christmas music. It was absolute perfection...
The ornaments were made by mixing cinnamon and applesauce, and then baking the cut-outs for 2 hours. [i.e. olfactory heaven, seriously, the whole house smelled like cinnamon-Christmas-wonderland] I love how rustic and old-fashioned they look, so I plan on making a batch for my tree this afternoon.

The bark was ridiculously easy (only 2 ingredients!) and absolutely delicious.

*Elf Day is day each year dedicated to doing all things Christmas. The first Elf Day we bought presents, wrapped gifts, and ate ice cream for dinner. Last year, I made a roasted tomato tart and attended a festive party with my girlfriends.  
[Elf Day 2009]


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