I decided this was the year I would do all my Christmas shopping in November so that I could enjoy December and all the hustle bustle that it brings without having to worry about ticking all the boxes off of our list of names. Well, I covered my parents and I bought two nerf guns, one for Curran and one for Hugh and I hope to end up with a third before Christmas day because I want to play too.

So clearly I'll be pouring over gift guides myself this year as the days count down and I have some tough people to buy for. If you're in any similar situation, I hope you find something here that may strike the fancy of one of your people. This list is a mish mash of items that Hugh and I think are beautiful, interesting, or useful. Hugh's are marked with an (H). A handful of these are Amazon affiliate links but all are products that we've purchased and recommend due to experience.

Sarah Kersten Ceramics - Large Nesting Bowl

I ordered this bowl because I love the natural color and texture but it's proven to be so helpful to store leftovers or bring a dish to someone's house with the handy lid. Serving, storage, pretty, handmade. I just love it. I have the Large and find it the perfect size for our everyday needs. 

Birkenstock Women's Boston Shearling Slip On Clogs

I don't actually have these but I want them. I haven't stopped thinking of them since I found them so they ended up here. I mean, they are basically a glorified slipper! I can't find my size in the color I like but if I could, these would totally be my winter 2016/17 shoe, much to my sister's chagrin. If you too believe that slippers should be left indoors, these look squishy. 

Wooden Magnetic Kid's Game

We don't have a ton of toys but I am on the hunt for things that may keep at least one child entertained for more than 2 minutes. I'm already seeing the age gap close between my kids as Cleo is nearly one so this may even work for both of them. Also helpful for it to not make noise and that all the parts fit back into itself! Sold. 

JayBird BlueBuds X Bluetooth Headphones - (H)

I literally use these all the time. I'm serious. That's not hyperbole. Ok, maybe it's hyperbole, but I have gotten a TON of usage out of these over the last year or so of owning them. I've been deep into audio books for a few years now and podcasts more recently, so I ingest a lot of information through my ear holes and the fact that these allow me to do so without a tripping, snagging, tangling hazard dangling off my head all the time is a surprisingly enjoyable benefit. If you haven't gone bluetooth with your headphones yet, I high recommend trying it, and I've found that these offer great battery life, durability, and staying power when moving around. 

Donations to International Justice Mission and International Rescue Committee

I know making donations in peoples' name is for a specific receiver on your list. One of my goals for 2017 is to be more involved in awareness, activism, and raising money for organizations working towards ending human trafficking.

IJM has a very easy to follow site to learn more about what is going on with that crisis (among others) and what they are doing about it.

The IRC has many hands helping with the refugee crisis among other things.

It's a season of a lot of stuff but also one of generosity and taking care of each other, even those outside our small circles. I'm going to make a donation and put a ticket in my kids' stockings even though it will only barely make any sense to my oldest but it's never too young to try.

Le Creuset Dutch Oven

I use this pot every day. Well, most days. I think they are so well made and beautiful sitting on the stove and clean up well and will last forever. I cook pasta and soup and caramelize onions and braise things in the oven and I just love it. I don't say that about a ton of kitchen equipment, poor things really have to work for my praise around here, but I would wish this pot for every one of you. 

Yeti Colster - (H)

Another product I use a ton. Not that I have a hard time downing my LaCroixs before they get warm, but when I do find myself in the rare sipping mood, this little guy keeps a can of whatever your wish frosty for surprisingly long. Since we picked up a soda stream, and I've been drinking sparkling water like a mad man, I've ditched the little black gasket and just gone straight sparklies and lime over ice, straight into the stainless chamber, so it's like a 2-for-1 sort of thing, as opposed to one of their tumblers (which is also on my wish list at the moment). 

I warned you this was going to be more of a function over form list from me this year. Wait 'til you see the next item...

Thera Cane Massager - (H)

Ok, just hear me out. This thing is amazing. Not only is it a conversation starter when you whip it out in front of company but it allows you to hit those nagging, hard to reach or hard to hit spots in your back, neck, legs, etc. People will laugh and then they'll want to get their hands on it. Guaranteed hit around the tree on Christmas morning for the over 30 crowd. 

If this is the sort of thing that strikes your fancy, get yourself a lacrosse ball while you're at it, and if you really want to take it to the next level: The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook

Wildfox Baggy Beach Jumper Sweatshirt

I'm generally not a shopper and my life with young kids necessitates clothes that I can move around in easily. My grandma has instilled in me a love of soft things from an early age and this Wildfox sweatshirt is my uniform along with these jeans. I can wear this out to run errands but it feels like pajamas.

Oi, I've suggested slippers and sweatshirts. Maybe don't take fashion advice from me, BUT if you want soft and comfy, I'm you're girl. I linked to this sandy colored one but they have lots of solids and zip ups too if you poke around. If you have more reasons to wear dresses than I do, this is a recent favorite from my sister's beautiful line.

It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want To Be by Paul Arden - (H)

This is a gem of a little book. Aesthetically pleasing. Creatively challenging. The sort of book you tear pages out of to tack onto the wall above your desk.

It's written from the perspective of an advertiser, but I found it directly applicable to photography, and I'd wager it would have any creative in any field dog-earing pages and scribbling little nuggets of insight on scratch paper. 

If this sounds up the right alley, take a look at:
The War of Art
Manage Your Day to Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind

Noble Tonic 01 Maple Syrup

I'm pretty tied to eggs first thing in the morning but Hugh prefers lots of waffles, both fresh and frozen. We only use this fancy maple for the fresh ones and even then, very sparingly because it just feels special. According to Hugh, Tonic 01 is as much a step up from the run of the mill Grade B maple, as that Grade B is from Log Cabin. 

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Entrée, Gluten Free, Soup, Winter, Basics


Your day may be filled with potatoes and pecans and cranberries but dinner tonight may not have crossed your mind. And maybe this is not just a Thanksgiving eve problem, I get stuck with less than exciting options in my fridge to throw a dinner together but I usually have the staples for a simple bowl of lentil soup. I am excited to build up that "basics" section I mentioned and I absolutely believe that lentil soup has a place there. This soup builds off of a dependable mirepoix with the addition of sweet potato. I use two types of lentils for their texture differences and a gentle hand with the spices and then it's hands off while the dutch oven works it comfy, warm meal magic. There is maybe an Indian background from the turmeric and just enough spice to keep it from being bland. Add and get creative as you wish, but hope that this quick soup of pantry staples can make meal time a little easier some night soon. 

I did not use two types of lentils to make it complicated for you, I believe they add a different texture and color. The reds will break down and add some heartiness to the broth where the green will hold their individual shape. Both are lovely, but if you find this to be a hassle, go with just green. Once you blend a bit of the soup, the broth with still get some bulk to it regardless. The color will be a little more murky. If you like a bit of heat, add one chopped jalapeno to the vegetable mixture.

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion
1 large carrot, peeled
1 medium sweet potato, peeled
2 stalks of celery
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp. lemon pepper (or something similar, like Mrs. Dash)
1 tsp. Italian herbs
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, to taste
1/2 cup green or dePuy Lentils
1/2 cup split red lentils
5 cups vegetable or chicken broth*
1/2 tsp. turmeric
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter or olive oil
3 cups roughly chopped kale

squeeze of lemon, optional
1/2 cup chopped parsley, for garnish
1/2-3/4 cup grated parmesan or something similar (dry and sharp)
fresh, toasted baguette, for serving

In a large dutch oven over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Chop the onion, carrot, sweet potato and celery into roughly 1/4" pieces. Put all of the vegetables, including garlic, into the warm pot with the sea salt and saute until just softened, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in the lemon pepper, Italian herbs, red pepper and both lentils. Add the broth and stir. Turn the heat to low and cover. Cook for 30-40 minutes until everything is tender but not mushy. Using an immersion or regular blender, blend up about half of the soup just so it gets thicker but nowhere close to purees. You still want the texture of the vegetables to come through. Turn off the heat. Stir in the turmeric, butter/oil and kale and stir for the greens to just soften and marry into the soup. Taste for seasoning. 
Serve each bowl with a squeeze of lemon, parsley and generous sprinkle of parmesan. Best served with crusty baguette on the side. 

*Soup texture is a personal preference. I don't really like them stewy, but it's always easier to add liquid than go back. I found five cups to be about right after blending and letting it cool down a bit (where it thickens slightly), you may adjust to taste. 

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Dessert, Fall, Gluten Free


Well that didn't turn out how I thought it would. I was so excited yesterday - grateful that at one point in history women weren't considered important or intelligent enough to even vote and now one may be president! That is huge. But today, feeling pretty disappointed that he is the best we could come up with, and with that, the vicious comments and hate that are being tossed around far lightly. I was encouraged by Glennon Doyle's words: 

Woman Warriors have always made beautiful worlds out of nothing.

Every time a child gets sick or a man leaves or a parent dies or a community crumbles, the women are the ones who carry on, who do what must be done in the midst of their own pain. While those around them fall away, the women hold the sick and nurse the the weak, put food on the table, carry their families' sadness and anger and love and hope. They keep showing up for their lives and their people with the odds stacked against them and the weight of the world on their shoulders. They never stop singing songs of truth, love, and redemption in the face of hopelessness. They are inexhaustible, ferocious, relentless.

We've been Warriors all along, and nothing will change that.

We are not what just happened. But we might be what we do next.

The world needs our relentless, inexhaustible, fierce, boundlessness love today more than it ever has before. So let's do what we do: Let's feed some hungry babies and clothe some hurting families and get the heat turned back on for as many as possible.

- Glennon Doyle Melton

I signed up for a vegetable side and a non-pie dessert for Thanksgiving. I didn't necessarily have any dishes in mind besides not liking overcooked green beans or marshmallows on my sweet potatoes and generally not liking pie. We are having dinner with Hugh's side and there are a lot of people - three generations down from a family of five kids and it makes for a full house and a pretty random spread sometimes. So what is "of the season" but not pie? I understand the buttery crust is a vehicle for flavorful fillings and some people are all about it, but I will take most anything else before pie. The crust is a little plain and the filling usually overly sweet to compensate and I'll just take a scoop of the a la mode portion please. I tinkered with a pumpkin pie filling, cleaning it up as much as I could, and made a rough crust of dates, nuts and oats to carry it. Before the whipped topping, it resembles a breakfast good, I would suggest it for such - kind of like granola on the bottom with barely sweetened squash goodness on top. I heaped creaminess on top and sprinkled a little turbinado sugar and I'm already excited to eat this again in a couple weeks.

Remember we get to choose to be good to each other. 

* If you live in the So Cal area, come to Heritage Mercantile in Costa Mesa this Sunday, 11/13 for a small book event! There will be snacks and drinks and beautiful home and kitchen goods so come hang and maybe do a little holiday shopping. You can rsvp on their site. Hope to see you!

PUMPKIN PIE TART // Serves 8-10

The tart is both gluten and dairy free and then I leave the whipped topping decision to you. You could make a coconut cream or go straight whipping cream and both options are in the published recipe. If you are taking this somewhere to share, a hot tip I learned was to add a couple tablespoons of mascarpone or cream cheese to the whipping cream and it'll help it stay set for longer. I also love the depth of flavor. This direction does take us away from the dairy free camp but is delicious. The coconut cream should keep fine as long as it is cold. 

You can find the full recipe here. This recipe was created in partnership with Electrolux.

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