Well, I (sort of) made it: 30 posts in 30 days (well, more like 27 posts in 30 days, but who’s counting???)
So on this very last day, I leave you with a summary of the month, that didn’t make the blog.
The Elf Is Back on the Shelf
He arrived the Sunday after Thanksgiving and has already been into lots of mischief. I have a love/hate relationship with this Elf. I love being creative and making him do fun things every day, however, I hate when my “Move Elf” alarm goes off every night (and occasionally after I’ve fallen asleep on the couch!). One BIG benefit of the Elf is that Little Mister pops out of bed each morning to look for him (instead of waxing on each morning for 20 minutes how it’s not fair that he has to get up and go to school), and is dressed, fed, and teeth brushed 20 minutes before we need to leave for school.
I leave with this Elf Inspo from years past (our elf was masked in 2020 because, well, COVID):
We Decorated for Christmas
In lieu of sharing my entire living room Winter Wonderland, I leave you with one of my favorite nooks: My Ode to Boston.
I Have Completely Abandoned Any Thoughts of Eating Healthy
Who wants salad when it gets cold? Not this girl. And who can stay on track with so many reasons to have a cocktail, the multitude of cheeseboards I’ll encounter, and the ease of ordering take out instead of cooking because truly, online shopping is exhausting.
This is my favorite fried chicken sandwich from Mikro Depot, who also happens to have the very best french fries in the universe.
We Have Officially Become a White Board Family
I never imagined I’d succumb to the white board, let alone hang it on my refrigerator; but, here we are. Even with one kid and barely any type of sports or extra curricular activities, our white board is filled with appointments, reminders to return library books, and notes when we are eating the school lunch (LOVE the days I don’t have to make a lunch). My favorite part of the white board is when it’s gleaming – all empty and clean – and awaiting it’s monthly mark up.
I’m the Note in the Lunchbox Mom
It’s me, the Mom putting notes in his lunchbox or snack bag every day. Sometimes I wish him a good day, sometimes I draw a silly picture, and other times, I make Mom jokes:
I Tried to Enjoy the Small Things
Whether it was reading an extra book in bed with Little Mister (and not writing a blog post for the night), or keeping the dogs outside a little extra on the morning walk to enjoy the sunrise, I tried to be present and in the moment. I think that’s my New Year’s resolution this year: be more present. Make more time for what’s important. And to clean out the hall closet.
If you read even one of these posts this month, I hope you laughed a little, found a new favorite thing for yourself, or maybe tried a new recipe. Cheers to the end of blog month – and best wishes for a happy holiday season!
In years past, my Favorite Things list was sparkly, colorful and fun! After the last two years of working at home, entertaining ourselves at home and not really leaving home, my Favorite Things have become a little more…practical for life at home.
It seems I could also call this edition of Favorite Things: “L.L. Bean, Take all My Money” or “Cozy Clothes That Hide Muffin Tops”.
This Sweater Fleece Coat may look familiar as being on last year’s list because it WAS. And I LOVE IT SO MUCH that I want another one, this time in gray. It is warm, the perfect length to wear with leggings, and doubles as a coat on not-too-freezing days or afternoons by the fire pit. BONUS: it comes in Petite!
This is the type of jacket I’m always looking to put on, but I don’t yet own. Lightweight yet warm, and easy jacket to wear walking the dogs or running errands. I love this Foggy Blue color – and so does everyone else, apparently – since it’s backordered until February!
Is there anything worse than climbing into a bed with cold sheets in the winter??? I LOVE flannel sheets. Pair them with my electric blanket and I am in heaven. I have a problem with buying only gray clothing, so of course I love this gray plaid pattern. Bonus: these sheets are crazy on sale with Black Friday deals this weekend.
The other day I went to put on a sweater and I realized that I only have like 2 sweaters. It’s hard to find a warm sweater that isn’t so thick it makes you look like the Michelin Man. This sweater is thin enough to not add bulk, and loose enough to wear something underneath if it’s really cold. I love the soft blue color.
LOFT Stitchy Scarf
Yes, I am going to knit my own scarf; however, in the meantime, I need to keep my neck warm! I already have this scarf in the light pink color and it is so soft and warm that I put it on to go out and ended up wearing it inside and all day. You will not be disappointed.
Spanx has the best leggings. I love my camo pair. These velvet leggings are a little dressier. They used to come in a beautiful cranberry color but it has already sold out! But you can’t go wrong with classic black. These tend to run small, I usually size up!
I have two pairs of Rothy’s (both sneakers) and I am in love with them. You will not find a more comfortable shoe, especially one you can wear without any socks. The loafer is a little dressier, and not only am I a sucker for camo, but check out that orange stripe on the back. Perfect all around.
I already have this sweater in 2 colors, but honestly, I love it so much I’d take a third! It’s lightweight and you could wear it anywhere. It’s great for traveling because it comfortable and roomy. And today (Saturday) is the last day of the Black Friday sale where it’s 30% off! Only time a year it goes on sale!
No matter how you shop – in person or online – be safe and have fun! It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Well, in true KK fashion, things could NOT go smoothly. We started the morning with a non-working oven, but at 11am Mr. KK pulled through and replaced the lighter so we were back in business!
Did anyone else wake up at 5:13am and plan out the timing of the day? And then follow that up with timers set as reminders? No? Just me?
Welcome to Crazy Town, folks. Population: 1.
So once the oven was fixed we could get this day started! Not pictured below are the 1,000,000 cocktails I had.
My dad – MY DAD – made stuffed artichokes this year. They were delicious! He’s hired!
This year we once again decided to fry a turkey. Oh, except the pan we fry in had holes in it (which we discovered once Mr. KK put the oil in it). And we didn’t have another pan big enough to hold the oil and the turkey so we had to improvise. Broken-down fried turkey parts it is! And they were delicious!
We added a few new dishes to our repertoire this year:
It’s been over 4 years since we lost Vito the Wonder Dog, but we talk about him often. He was our first “child”, our fur baby, and he was spoiled and a (mostly) perfect dog.
We love both of our dogs, but they are VERY different. However, if we could take the best qualities from one and the redeeming qualities for the other, we would have the perfect dog.
Rocco is our little do-gooder, the perfect size to sit on your lap and keep you warm. He loves the big bed, belly rubs and hogging my chair while I’m trying to work. He also gives out open mouth kisses and enjoys licking your teeth and slurping your nostrils.
Rocco is really good at:
Snuggling up on your lap
Going into his crate when asked
Going into his crate when not asked
Giving sad eyes
Being left out of his crate when we go out
Not chewing anything in the house
Peeing immediately when you bring him out
Rocco is NOT good at:
Riding in the car (he barks at every leaf, person, truck, cloud)
Walking on a leash
Not wanting to chase trucks and cars
Leaving Bruno alone when he doesn’t want to be bothered
Oh, Bruno. You were a tough puppy. You grew bigger than we thought you would, so we were used to little dogs who were couch potatoes, not medium sized dogs who needed to run and exert so much energy. But you weaseled your way into our hearts and we love you despite your naughty tendencies!
Bruno is really good at:
Riding in the car (he is the perfect passenger)
Walking on a leash (except when we see another dog…)
Cuddling (he is like a big body pillow!)
Sitting for a treat
Being my walk buddy
Meeting and playing with other dogs
Going to doggy daycare
Sleeping in his crate at night
Playing with Little Mister (and being so patient with him)
Bruno is NOT good at:
Leaving Little Mister’s stuffed animals alone
Going in the crate when asked
Going in the crate when not asked
Being left alone and trusted not to do anything naughty
Not jumping on people
Hiding his beagle howl, especially when people come in our house
Oh these boys! How they wind their way into our hearts!
This post is in honor of Finley, whom my friend had to say goodbye to this week.
If you don’t like Aperol, you might want to skip this blog post. Because today’s post is an ode to the orangey bitter yumminess of Aperol. Oh Aperol, I love you in a spritz in the summer, and I love you in this deliciously amazing cocktail that goes down like water (like WATER, people! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!)
Intro to Aperol Cocktail
2 ounces Aperol
1 ounce gin
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 ounce simple syrup (see NOTE)
1 dash Angostura bitters
Twist of orange peel, for garnish
Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add the Aperol, gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and bitters. Shake well, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass (I prefer a coupe glass). Twist the orange peel over the drink to release its oils, then drop it into the glass. (Full disclosure, I never garnish with an orange peel).
I started blogging everyday for 30 days during the month of November a bunch of years ago. There was a real thing called “NaBloPoMo” (in case you see me mention it), which is short for “National Blog Posting Month”. They have since done away with this, but I kept up the tradition because 1. I love to write and 2. Having a goal made me accountable.
Every year I stressed myself out to meet the goal of writing a blog post every single day. Weekends we were busy? Check. Days when I was consumed with work and wanted to go to sleep at 8pm? Check. Nights when we’d go out and not get home until after 10pm? Check.
It was exhausting. But I did, because I held myself to the high standards and expectations that I HAD to do it, because I said I would do it. Even when Little Mister was just 3 weeks old, I blogged every night. There a photo of me in his nursery, typing away on my computer while Mr. KK rocked him to sleep.
I don’t know if its the residual pandemic effect, or that I’m just plain tired, but this is the first year I’ve ever missed a day blogging. In fact, I’ve missed TWO days so far this month, which is unheard of.
But last night, I just didn’t have it in me. I had a jam-packed day that started with waking at 5:30am, showering and getting dressed, sneaking in Christmas shopping at Target before picking Little Mister up from his sleepover at my parents’ house, then off to his first COVID vaccine, back home to fold laundry, then lunch and shopping with a friend, then back home for dinner and a movie – our first official viewing of The Grinch (my favorite!) this holiday season – before heading off to bed.
Last year me would NOT be cool, but 2021 me wanted to be present, watch a movie with Little Mister, and not stress herself out. And you know what? I’m okay with it.
I write these blog posts for myself; and while I hope someone reads them and maybe gets a chuckle, I want to capture these moments. Because who knows…maybe I will write that novel one day and these blog posts will prove to be very beneficial in remembering my life (since I may be in my eighties by the time I get my act together).
My early New Year’s resolution is: to be more present, and let things go. Focus on the things I want to do, that make me happy; and not stress about the things I can’t do, or can’t control.
This has proven to be especially hard when it comes to work. I am used to a life of working and working until all hours to get things finished, so much so, that it would take over my life. I have made a conscious effort to “shut down” at dinnertime, to spend time with my family, help Little Mister with homework, read together and get myself ready for the day ahead. My boss suggested that I remove my work email from my phone, but I’m not quite ready to get that crazy. I still need to know what’s going on.
This time of year, especially, requires all sorts of attention. From scouting Black Friday deals, planning out holiday meals, mentally listing out everyone’s gifts (and then shopping for them) and making sure we remember to participate in pajama day at school, bring in canned goods for the food drive and do my “Room Parent” duties and organize a class gift for the teacher – all while making sure we have our favorite sweatshirt clean for school, a little note goes into the lunch box every day and the dog gets a walk at least once a day.
I have 9 days left of blogging every day, and I plan to do my best. I have a few blog topics brewing and hope to be able to share them all. And if I can’t, I’m okay with that (and hopefully you are, too).
One of the best things about fall – besides dry and crisp weather for amazing hair days – is the comfort food.
When the leaves start changing, so do my cravings. After six months of salad, I’m ready for warm comforting meals.
The 3 Best Soups and Chilis for Cold Weather
What constitutes a good chili can spark many debates: beans or no beans, thick or juicy, and – of course – spice level.
I have made many variations of chili over the years, many times never following a recipe and just adding what feels right to the pot. And guess what? No matter what you throw in, chili usually ends up tasting halfway decent.
Last year I came across this chili recipe. It is simple, doesn’t take all day to cook, and is really, really good.
1 pound 90% lean ground beef (NOTE: I use a package of meatloaf mix here, a mix of beef, pork and veal and it adds another layer of meaty flavor)
2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1 (15 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes
1 (16 oz.) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
Add the olive oil to a large soup pot and place it over medium-high heat for two minutes. Add the onion. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the ground beef to the pot. Break it apart with a wooden spoon. Cook for 6-7 minutes, until the beef is browned, stirring occasionally.
Add the chili powder, cumin, sugar, tomato paste, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Stir until well combined.
Add the broth, diced tomatoes (with their juice), drained beans, and tomato sauce. Stir well.
Bring the liquid to a low boil. Then, reduce the heat (low to medium-low) to gently simmer the chili, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove the pot from the heat. Let the chili rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Garnish with all of your favorite chili toppings! I tend to put out cheese, sliced fresh jalapenos, avocado and sour cream.
2. Meat Soup
With a sexy name like “meat soup”, how could you not want to try this recipe? This recipe is from Mr. KK’s family, and is a staple during the winter. This soup brings Mr. KK back to his childhood, sitting at his grandmothers kitchen table, and – later in life – at home with his parents on a Sunday afternoon. His grandmother used to make it on the stove, but it is just as delicious (and easier!) in the Instant Pot.
And, being a family recipe, there are ZERO measurements for anything! The best kind of recipes!
Carrots (I use about 4-5 good sized carrots, cut into discs or half moons uniform in size)
Onion (The original stovetop recipe used just one full onion peeled and added to the pot; I chop an onion for the Instant Pot recipe)
Celery (About 2-3 stalks, diced)
Beef shank (The meatier, the better. If it has a LOT of meat on it, you can just use one; if it has too little meat on it, use multiple)
Beef stock (I use unsalted, and you use enough to cover the ingredients; you could also use a mixture of beef stock and water if regular stock is too salty)
1 small can tomato sauce (an actual measurement from the original recipe!)
“Any seasoning you may want” (I will add salt because I use unsalted stock; you can also use other dried seasonings, however, I tend to skip them and just go with gold old kosher salt)
Put carrots, onion, celery in the Instant Pot.
Put your beef shank(s) on top of the veggies.
Add about 6-8 cups of liquid: either the beef stock or beef stock/water combo to cover the veggies and meat.
Add the can of tomato sauce.
Add your seasonings (just salt for me!).
Cook on high pressure for 30 minutes.
Manually release steamer.
When it’s safe, open the lid of the pot and remove the beef shanks (be careful, they may fall apart a little bit).
Shred the meat from the shanks into bite sized pieces and put back into the Instant Pot.
Now, you can absolutely eat this soup just like this. However, being Italian (and never truly full), we add a little pasta to our soup for make it more of a meal. The preferred pasta for this soup is: Acini de Pepe, which are small little pearls of pasta. You can find it as most grocery stores or Italian food stores.
If you are using pasta, cook the pasta separately from the soup according to the package. When cooked, add the desired amount of pasta to a shallow bowl and ladle the meat soup over it.
I then add a TON of grated parmesan cheese on top, which brings a more salty and nutty flavor to the soup.
3. Ina Garten’s Italian White Beans and Escarole
Oh, Ina, how I love you. My girl crush is REAL.
My grandmother used to make escarole and beans (or, as we Italians pronounce it: sche-daul and beans). In her version, she put cut up pepperoni, which added a nice kick.
Ina’s version is meat free but full of flavor (likely from the 2 tons of cheese you put in). NOTE: this recipe is Ina Garten’s…I am not taking credit!
2 (15.5 ounce) cans white cannellini beans
1/2 cup good olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and pepper
1 large head escarole, leaves separated, trimmed, washed and spun dry
1 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Drain the beans, rinse and drain again.
In large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat (I use my Le Creuset which works perfectly).
Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute until garlic is fragrant but not browned (SO important).
Add the chicken stock, the drained beans, red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper.
Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.
With a potato masher or large spoon, mash half of the beans in the pot and simmer uncovered another 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, stack escarole leaves on top of each other and cut them crosswise into 3-inch-wide strips.
Add the greens to the pot, cover, and steam the greens over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender, stirring the greens into the beans about halfway through.
Off the heat, stir in the pecorino and parmesan cheeses, taste for seasonings and serve warm.
I can’t tell you how creamy, garlicky and delicious this dish is. It would go well with some crusty Italian bread for sure.
Yesterday, a family member asked me what they could bring to Thanksgiving. My first thought was like, ‘I’m not even thinking about Thanksgiving yet,’ and then my second thought was, ‘Wait…Thanksgiving is next week?’
Last year at this time, the house was already decorated for Christmas, but last year was “Because, COVID” so pretty much anything was acceptable. This year, Mr. KK has given me the firm “not until after Thanksgiving” rule for Christmas decorating. So I patiently wait until Black Friday to change over our house…
Do I feel so behind this year because last year I was so ahead of the game? Did not leaving the house and having zero social life mean that I was able to kick start the holiday season? I feel like I had more gifts bought, more meals planned, more holly jolly going on.
Next weekend our little elf on a shelf arrives, his annual journey down from the North Pole, the weekend after Thanksgiving, with a box filled with goodies to kick off the holiday season: Christmas jammies, a new Christmas book, and a Christmas ornament. And, of course, the start of Elf Shenanigans for the season.
And don’t get me started on holiday shopping. I have about 3 gifts purchased, and zero ideas for everyone else.
It’s not only the feeling of being behind on the holidays, it’s the feeling of being behind on life in general. Was I always trying to juggle this much? Did I always feel this overwhelmed? Was preparing dinner every night this much of a dreaded task? (Likely, yes.) When did we start wearing all of these clothes that needed washing? How are we dirtying so many dishes? Why is the countertop constantly covered in piles of mail and ‘stuff’? And why can I never find the time to clean up/put away/wash anything?
If I was waking up early to overthink my life before, it’s in overdrive now. Mentally making lists for gifts, recipe planning for holidays, thinking through an email to send for work, remembering to send in Little Mister’s library book on Tuesdays, and his homework on Fridays.
It’s apparently time to start thinking about Thanksgiving, a mere week away; appetizers, side dishes, desserts…holiday cocktail! And right after turkey day, turn around and do it all again for Christmas…and including a mischievous elf, a man in a big red suit, and FINALLY…Christmas music.
I don’t want to take America back decades of progression, but I have to get this off my chest: my life would be so much easier if we had an Alice the housekeeper, just like the Bradys.
There. I said it. And I’m not sorry.
Now, before you get mad at me, I don’t want anyone to live with me (we don’t have room (or the patience) for that) or wear a silly outfit, but I wouldn’t mind someone stopping by every day for a few hours to care for our house in a way that it needs, with the hours I just don’t have to dedicate to it.
Those dishes that seem to always be in the sink? Taken care of!
The beds that stay rumpled? Hospital corners!
The laundry that piles up? Washed and dried and folded!
The dog hair dust bunnies? Swept!
Dinner? Prepped and cooked!
Just writing this gave me goose bumps!
I wouldn’t even mind if Alice’s boyfriend Sam came by to visit (especially if he brought some dry-aged steaks!). I would pay her well, and she’d be on the Christmas gift list!
If you ask Mr. KK, I am a horrible housekeeper. It’s just not my thing. So, really, this would be for everyone!