Saturday, December 31, 2011

Twenty Twelve

As usual, I'm spending this morning thinking about 2011 and all that the past year has brought. Since I've been writing this blog, this is the fourth New Year's Eve to come and go, and with it plenty of reflection and resolution. I'm sure life will slow down and pick up, but I must say that the past four years have been filled with some of life's most enormous changes, making way for lots to consider on New Year's Eve. 2011 was one of the most exciting, and crazy, years so far. We survived and thrived through a year of long distance; I made the decision to move to Boise; I packed up my New York life and said goodbye to friends, family, a job, an apartment; Jeff and I moved in together; I started a new job; I'm making a new life for myself. When I think about 2012 and the wonderful joys of another year, I say bring it on. I love my life, and I know that this coming year will be extraordinary on many levels. There is still a lot of settling down and settling in to do, but I'm thrilled to be where I am, with love and happiness to spare, looking forward to what's to come.

Resolutions for 2012:

Exercise! I started taking hot yoga at Sumit's Yoga over a month ago and am loving it. Except for dance, this has been the best kind of exercise that I've tried so far. I see how fit, healthy, and happy this kind of yoga can make people, and it's inspiring to go to class and watch Boise's yogis kicking butt. I want to push myself to get stronger and work harder.

Make new friends! For anyone who's spoken to me in the last few months, this is clearly on my mind. I love my home, my job, my new city, and the icing on the cake will be a great group of girlfriends. This is the one piece of the puzzle that I can't control, but I strive to take the bull by the horns and put myself out there.

Try new things! I probably say this every year, but that's because it's important to me. I love the feeling of succeeding at a new achievement, and I want to give myself more time to do so. I've taken stabs at DIY projects and have been cooking and baking up a storm this year, trying new recipes and techniques. I'm proud of what I've created and I want to become more confident to take on new ideas.

Live in the moment! I mentioned this the other day, and there's a personal story behind it. A few weeks ago while attending a sporting event, my first impulse was to ask someone to take a picture of us. He who shall not be named turned to me and said something along the lines of "Let's just enjoy ourselves, in the moment." As rudimentary as that may seem, a light bulb went off in my mind. Sometimes, I want so badly for days, events, meals to go well that I spend more time trying to make them perfect than I do actually enjoying whatever messy, delightful, chaotic moment is in front of me. I have a great life - right here, right now - and it is up to me to take it all in, one moment at a time.

This practically goes without saying - to be a loving, caring person who shares that infectious positivity with everyone around me. Life is yours to love and to celebrate.

Happy New Year and lots of love!



Friday, December 30, 2011

Dress Me Up

When it comes to New Year's Eve, my first thought is always what to wear. I love a good party dress and my favorite night to don a new look is certainly when I'm ringing in a new year. I love sparkle and shine, shimmer and sequins, and anything that resembles a disco ball. This year, I've been most taken with the subdued but dramatic looks I've seen on racks and online. Here are a few of my festive favorites:

* I'm rocking this gorgeous black and gold number, and adding my Zoë twist with a black bow around the waist, fun pumps, and big hair. Can't wait to see ya, 2012!


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Back in the Saddle

Last night, I returned to Boise from a whirlwind week in Marin filled with eating, laughing, sleeping, sunning, playing, and relaxing. I enjoyed long mornings in my pajamas, lunches and glasses of wine with my closest friends, and festive dinners with family, all under a blanket of sunshine and warm temperatures. Going home as an adult is always a bit odd - you have a home that you've created for yourself, yet you're sleeping in your childhood bedroom, surrounded by a hodgepodge of memories; your time is limited so you pack in all the fun and excitement of family and friends that used to be everyday life; on some level, you look forward to returning "home," to the normal place that you spend your days, with your possibly newer friends and family. In an effort to live in the moment (it's like a baby New Year's resolution trying to creep its way into my mind), I just took it as it came. I was stressed by family overload, so I breathed deep breaths and took moments to myself. I was sad to leave my people, but treasured each moment as a memory to keep with me. When yesterday arrived, I couldn't wait to come back to Boise, to my house, my man, my dog, my job, though, probably for the hundredth time, I wished my mom could be in multiple places at once. But I learned yet again that this is the life - to have so much love and goodness around me that I wish for more time to enjoy it.

California palm tree as seen through my window


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thursday 13

My co-worker and fellow blogger Annelise started a new series today called Thursday 13. Each Thursday, we'll get to learn a little something about what she's doing, where she's going, and what Simply Aunie thoughts she's having that day. See below as I take a stab at my first Thursday 13:

1. Wearing: Grey cardigan with faux diamond buttons, black lace eyelet pencil skirt, black flats, and my newest addition - Bonnie & Clyde glasses. Call it geek chic ;)
2. Doing: Working, eating all of the chocolate in the office, enjoying the sunshine through my windows.
3. Drinking: Martinelli's Sparkling Cider from our staff meeting, cheers!
4. Music in the background: The Christmas tunes from the next office over, fa la la la la la la la la.
5. Plans for the evening: Pack and fly to California! Home for the holidays commences.
6. Hairstyle of the day: Flat iron curled waves
7. Nail design: Forever 21 Safari Elephant polish
8. Eating for lunch: Whatever speaks to me at the hospital cafeteria, which usually translates into a salad and iced tea.
9. Positive for the day: No work tomorrow, which means today is Friday!
10. Negative for the day: My flight home is delayed :(
11. Lusting after: Every coat on the Tulle website.
12. Looking forward to: Seeing my family and spending Christmas with my niece and nephew. The holidays are so much fun with a couple rug rats around the tree.
13. Thinking: About my favorite pair of weekend and after work shoes at the moment. Can't wait to wear these with skinnies all vacation long.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gifting Gingerbread

I'm sure you haven't noticed, but it's been a long time since I did a foodie post! Trust me that it's not because I haven't been eating great things, it's more that I have been devouring them before I have the notion to record and publish. Last night, I got back on track. I'd been thinking for a while about what I wanted to bake for my co-workers as holiday gifts. My original thought was whoopie pies - ginger cookies with lemon filling and pumpkin cookies with cream cheese filling, to be exact. I did my research, found my recipes, and then realized that I have 10 co-workers, to whom I would want to give three whoopie pies apiece, meaning that I'd be making 60 cookies and filling. Achieving this after work one night the week before I leave town seemed like a recipe for disaster, so back to the drawing board I went. I was committed to something gingerbread and when I stumbled upon Martha's Chewy Chocolate-Gingerbread Cookies, I knew it would be love at first bite. Blessed with a free night and leftovers for dinner, I set to work to make a double batch.

Batter and chocolate madness

Sugary dough balls with ginger garnish
Sampling the first batch
Gifts for the office

Recipe, *adapted from Martha:
(Single batch, as seen below, makes 30 cookies)

7 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup granulated sugar
30 pieces of crystallized ginger

- Grease two baking sheets. Chop chocolate into 1/4-inch chunks; set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
- Beat butter until soft. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Add molasses; beat until combined.
- In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in 1 1/2 teaspoons boiling water. Beat half of flour mixture into butter mixture. Beat in baking-soda mixture, then remaining half of flour mixture. Mix in chocolate; turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap.
- Pat dough out to about 1 inch thick; seal with wrap; refrigerate until firm, 2 hours or more.
- Heat oven to 325 degrees. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and flatten, roll in granulated sugar, add crystallized ginger pieces, place 2 inches apart on baking sheets.
- Bake until the surfaces crack slightly, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

*I omitted the fresh grated ginger and cocoa that the original recipe calls for, and added crystallized ginger pieces to the top of each cookie before baking.

When I first looked at this recipe and its accompanying comments, I was a little intimidated. Being a novice myself, the idea of experienced bakers considering this to be a difficult recipe made me think that it would be a circus for me. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by how manageable the recipe was, and how delicious the cookies turned out. You can quote me on this - they were some of the best cookies I've ever had. Insanely sweet and ridiculously chocolaty, I would probably cut down on the sugar and even some of the chocolate to let the ginger sing a little more. That being said, chocolate chunks are far superior to chocolate chips, and despite the extra effort in chopping them up, I would choose them again and again. In other words, get out your supplies and make these cookies! Your taste buds and tummy with thank you.

P.S. Remember how I was trying to avoid making 60 cookies by skipping the whoopie pies? I made 59 chewy chocolate-gingerbread cookies last night. I guess it was meant to be.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Home for the Holidays

Driving north on the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin Headlands on the left

When I was four, my parents made the extraordinary wise decision to move from Montclair, New Jersey to Mill Valley, California. I will always love NJ and my family who lives there, but I believe that I was born to be a Bay Area girl. I feel so lucky to have grown up around the most liberal, loving, open minded, intelligent community in the world, not to mention that every angle looks like a postcard. This place has completely shaped the person I am and the beliefs I have and I couldn't be more pleased. On Thursday, I'll be heading home to the suburbs of the City by the Bay to envelope myself in family, friends, food, and sunshine. See you soon, California!


Friday, December 16, 2011

Fill in the Blank Friday: Today

I've been thinking about writing some sort of weekly post, and then I stumbled upon the little things we do and Fill in the Blank Friday. Yet another reason to just love Fridays!

1. My most favorite "little thing" is morning coffee. Whatever beans are on sale, a generous splash of nonfat milk, and I'm happy as a clam. Aside from omitting sugar a few years ago, I've been enjoying this ritual since I was about 13.

I give anything to be curled up on the couch simultaneously sleeping, finishing my book, and watching Bravo marathons.

I can't believe that I'm going home to Marin for Christmas in a week! It's been too, too long and I cannot wait.

The one thing I'd like to achieve today is to be fully invested in each moment as it comes, to not focus on the future, but to enjoy the present.

The last thing I want to do today is lay around knowing that the weekend has arrived!

6. If I were writing my own blank today, it would say My favorite Friday indulgence is...

7. My favorite candle scent is anything ocean or linen, nice and clean.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sun Valley is for Lovers

As aforementioned, Jeff and I had a fabulous Thanksgiving weekend nestled among the mountains of the Wood River Valley, eating, drinking, and enjoying all that Sun Valley and Ketchum had to offer. Like many getaway destinations, this one was like a breath of fresh air that forced us to relax, unplug, and take in our surroundings. It never ceases to amaze me how easily I can transition from the hectic life of busy work weeks and errand packed weekends to being completely at peace with rest and rejuvenation. Of course, it is always fleeting - as soon as I get my dose of calm, I'm ready to get back to the routine and schedule of an on-the-go gal. No matter what, the opportunity to escape with my favorite boys is one I'll never pass up. Just thinking about it gets me excited for our next mini vacation. Here are a few highlights from our wonderful weekend:


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ice Ice Baby

Aside from the cinematic triumph, The Mighty Ducks, I have very little experience with ice hockey. So when my hospital gift shop advertised discounted tickets to the Idaho Steelheads, Boise's minor league hockey team, I jumped at the chance to try something new. I picked out seats near the ice so we could take in the whole experience, but definitely didn't know just what I was signing up for. We arrived partway through the first period after a delicious dinner at Mai Thai, grabbed a couple beers, and found our seats in the first row on the glass, right behind one of the goals. About 30 seconds passed before a league of enormous, padded men on skates came racing down the ice towards us. In the fight for the puck, they collided with each other and the glass, causing me to literally leap out of my seat. I knew I was protected, but man, you can't help your instincts! Over the course of the game, we saw three fights, countless collisions and pucks flying in the air, and heard from some die hard fans. My next seat neighbor has been a season ticket holder since the team's fruition in 1997, and from the way he talked to the rest of the people in our section, it was clear that he wasn't alone in his dedication. It felt great to be surrounded by so many intense fans who have been with this team through its ups and downs, and it's nice to know that being a spectator of the Steelheads is accessible for everyone. Tickets, drinks, and food are inexpensive, and the games are conveniently located in the heart of Boise. Not to mention, this is an incredibly exciting sport to watch! The Steelheads have certainly found their next fan.

Our view for the evening


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fa La La

O, Christmas Tree! O, Christmas Tree! We picked up these lovely branches, along with some delicious apple cider, from a local farm stand today. We spotted the little guy right when we walked onto the lot - just perfect for our first Christmas with lots of room to grow. Bear is a bit unsure of the shimmery foliage taking up roaming space in the living room, but I think he'll come around with a little more sniffing and inspection. The ornaments are a mixed bag of something old, something new, something borrowed, and a whole lot of glitter, collected from Jeff's parents' house and stores in town. I can't wait to build our own collection over the years, as well as bring my favorites back from my mom's house in Marin. The tree is the icing on the holiday cake, and I'm excited to enjoy its quirky glow every evening for the next few weeks.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

In the Holiday Spirit

Little by little, our house is filling up with festive bits and pieces of holiday cheer. There are some things that will forever remind me of this time of year - delicious treats to share with family and friends, Christmas music in every store, the shrinking numbers on the thermometer - and I am always happy when the familiar sights, smells, and sounds begin to tell us that the season has arrived and Christmas is right around the corner. Here's what I'm loving right now, as captured by my iPhone:

Yummy, and flattering, citrus
Pre-loved decorations from the thrift store
Dressing up bouquets with holiday flair
The cutest pup with his new plaything


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Deck the Doors

To celebrate life in a house with doors, I couldn't wait to make wreaths for the holidays. I set out to Michael's with no plan other than the hope to be inspired and was greeted with the most festive display of red, green, and sparkle. I wandered the aisles, scooping up sleigh bells, pine cones, and ornaments to adorn my greenery. Having never made a wreath before, I didn't know how much loot I needed, but it's better to be safe than sorry so I brought home quite the collection.

This was a really fun project, one that I recommend to anyone with a creative bone but without a real green thumb. You can't really make a mistake and nothing's permanent. Even better? All of the supplies cost only $30, a steal compared to the less personal wreaths you can find at department and grocery stores. Now our doors are decorated, with sleigh bells giving a little jingle every time they open and close. I would say that the holiday season has officially arrived in our house. Next up - Christmas tree!

2 faux wreaths
2 big bows
1 package of small multi colored ornaments
1 package of small gold sleigh bells
1 package of small gold pine cones
1 branch of gold leaf
1 branch of faux cranberries
1 branch of gold baubles
1 branch of red fabric flowers
2 wooden letters
1 container of gold shimmer spray paint

Wreaths and decorations
A little glitter gold spray paint for our letters
I used green wire to attach the goodies to the wreaths
Wrapped for extra strength
I started with my big red bow
And added pieces as evenly and somewhat strategically as possible
Finished product #1!
Decorating the front door
And a little guy for the back door
Welcome to our home :)