Five Favorite Things

Awhile back, in the pre-baby era, I used to write monthly update posts. Ain’t nobody got time for that no more! Ha. But I do miss having a space to share randomness, so I’m going to try to share (regularly) my favorite things. I thought about implementing a schedule and/or categories… but nahh… I’ll just keep it simple!

Chewy Peanut Butter Brownies | The Pajama Chef

ONE: I haven’t done tons of baking lately, but we hosted our church community group on Sunday so I decided to make dessert to go along with our simple dinner (baked sliders–half ham & provolone, half turkey & swiss, a big salad, and chips). I made these Chewy Peanut Butter Brownies and everybody went crazy for them. Well, almost everyone. Apparently someone doesn’t like peanut butter and chocolate together, but likes them separately? Weird! Oh well, more for me! There were only a few left and now I’m contemplating making another batch just for us.

TWO: Before our baby was born, Ben and I had lots of free time, especially on the weekends (obviously). Now we don’t have very much unstructured time (obviously), and the time we do have on the weekends is filled with all the minutiae that we didn’t get to do during the week. In an effort to incorporate more rest into our weekends, we’ve been considering what it looks like in our life right now to treat Sunday as more of a Sabbath and less of an extra day to get things done. It’s definitely a mindshift, and one we aren’t perfect at… but this article has been something I’ve been considering lately.

THREE: Running has been my thing for 19 years now (eeek I feel old). I started running in the spring of my 7th grade year, in 1998, and never really stopped. Though I’ve run many a race before, I loved running in the Rock ‘n Roll Nashville Half Marathon on Saturday. It was quite hot and humid, but I finished and I only walked at water stops. I was quite proud of myself and am anxious to sign up for more races now!

FOUR: I don’t watch much TV but lately I’ve been catching up on DVR’d episodes of Victoria, on Masterpiece. I am in love!! Anyone else??

FIVE: I’m psyched to read Becky Wade’s newest book, True to You. My copy came in the mail yesterday and it was hard to leave it at home when I went to work today! I’ve reviewed Becky’s other books on my blog so I was excited to be part of the blog tour for Becky Wade’s True to You. She’s having a Facebook party tomorrow, and everyone’s invited! Read on for more information.

Raise your hand if you’re ready for Becky Wade’s new series! Celebrate the release of book one, True to You, with Becky and other readers on Facebook on May 4th during a fun author chat party at 8:00 PM EDT (that’s 7:00 Central, 6:00 Mountain, & 5:00 Pacific)! Becky will be chatting about the book and answering your questions about the new series, and of course, there will be plenty of fun giveaways too!

Pre-order your copy of True to You so you’re ready for a fun book discussion. Find out more about the book here.

Hope to see you on May 4 for Becky’s True to You Facebook Party!

What are your favorite things lately?


What I’m Into (March and April 2016)

What’s Been Happening

March and April were ALL about getting ready for baby! I mean, I did much of the usual: work and church and seeing friends… but I took a week off work during Ben’s spring break so we could prettify the nursery! And it was so much fun. I will try to share more nursery pics later, but here are a few teasers. 🙂

#BabyVolde's nursery via

A close up of the felt animals I made for the mobile!

#BabyVolde's nursery via

#BabyVolde's nursery via

I also did a bunch of freezer cooking that week. I’m going to be so pleased with myself later in May and June! And so will Ben, I suspect.

In early April, I also had two back-to-back baby showers. My wonderful coworkers threw me a baby shower at the library, and my mom and sister were able to come for it… This baby shower was book-themed and was beautifully decorated. 🙂

Baby shower via

I can’t show more photos because we have decided–for now–to keep our son’s name private on my blog and public social media just so it’s not searchable. I don’t think my blog is popular enough by any means that I’m really afraid of stranger danger or anything like that… but I still want to error on the side of caution. So a nickname it is! For now, he’s #BabyVolde but I’m sure that will change in the future! 🙂

The next day, my sister and mom planned a baby shower that was held at my house! It’s a little stressful hosting your own baby shower [eeek] but I was glad to not have to travel for it. By the way, I was about 34 weeks in this picture.

Baby shower via

They did a great job with the food and games! It was Woodland Animal themed, which is the theme of our nursery and the food even fit in! We had seasoned pretzels aka twigs, acorns [those delectable mini Nutter Butter cookies + Hershey Kisses], trail mix, fruit, veggies, cupcakes, and meatballs. It was all SO good! Many of my Nashville friends came to celebrate with us, and my college roommate even drove down from Ohio for the weekend! It was so great to see her and she thoughtfully coordinated gathering cards, gifts, and well wishes from college friends living too far away to come for the shower. I was so surprised and felt so special. Our baby is going to be so loved!

Baby shower via thepajamachef.comOther than that, Ben and I have been trying to soak up as much time together as we can. My birthday was last week and we grilled out for the first time. Yum! It’s hard since it’s the end of the school year, but he will actually be taking 4 weeks’ of paternity leave from his school which leads right up to summer break. The timing couldn’t have been better! I’ll be home with the baby until I go back to work in September. Now it’s just a waiting game for baby to make his appearance! Yay!

What I’m Reading

April & May 2016 Reads via

So far in 2016 I’ve read 33 books, with a goal of 75. You can follow my progress on Goodreads. If I had to choose two books to HIGHLY recommend to you out of those I read in March and April… and I just realized my graphic says April and May, but let’s be real–I’m too lazy to fix it, lol… they would be Glory Over Everything and The Charm Bracelet. The first book is a sequel of sorts [though it totally stands alone] to The Kitchen House. It came out recently and is a captivating story uniting slaves, freedom, and race in the years leading up to the Civil War. It was incredible! And The Charm Bracelet was just a sweet story of mothers and daughters and family relationships. Plus it is loosely based off the author’s grandmothers/family traditions. Love it!

Some great articles I’ve read online this month include:

What I’ve Been Cooking

Quite honestly…not many new recipes. We’ve been eating lots of tacos, burrito bowls, and black beans & rice. I always love Mexican food so it’s not necessarily a pregnancy craving, but it IS easy and doesn’t require much of a recipe except for my taco seasoning [that I’m trying to memorize!] so it’s great to make after a busy day. We also were eating from our freezer quite a bit because I did a bunch of freezer cooking in March during “spring break.” [Ben’s, not mine, but I took the week off work to work on projects at home with him.] Here’s my freezer cooking recap, with recipes, if you missed it! I’ve tried some new muffin recipes to varying degrees of success but haven’t found anything new and spectacular lately. We also had a few leftover bags of berries from last summer so I’ve made blueberry pancakes using my simple and always fantastic go-to pancake batter recipe. So good! Can’t wait to take the baby berry picking this summer. 🙂

What’s on the Blog

My most new popular recipe in March was Coffee Chocolate Chip Streusel Muffins.

Coffee Chocolate Chip Streusel Muffins #bookclubcookbookCC - these chocolate & coffee filled muffins are SUCH a treat!

Most popular recipes from the archive for March included: Cinnamon Sugar Apple Cake, Sausage, Apple, & Egg Casserole, and Buffalo Pretzels.

My most new popular recipe in April was: Puffed Blackberry Pancake with Cinnamon-Maple Syrup.

This sweet, eggy puffed pancake is stuffed full of yummy blackberries and topped off with a sweet cinnamon-maple syrup. It is the best breakfast treat! #secretrecipeclub

Most popular recipes from the archive for April included: Cinnamon Sugar Apple Cake, Buffalo Pretzels, and Funfetti Cookies.

What were you into in March and April?

Linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into lately. 


What I’m Into (January and February 2016)

What’s Been Happening

This year has gone by SO fast! I can’t believe it’s already March and our baby will be here in about two months. Crazy. We’ve had lots of lazy weekends at home with our kitties when it was cold and snowy and we didn’t want to go out.

We’ve also been trying to go out to fun restaurants that might not be quite so baby-friendly, like The Cheesecake Factory as well as other local Nashville favorites.

One of the highlights of February was an epic snowstorm we had… we got about 8 inches at our house. It was a magical wonderland, but really did derail my running routine which has been hard to get back into. But when it snowed, it was beautiful and it was fun to have a few days off and be truly snowed in. Never in my life have I been “snowed in” with 8 inches of snow, but that’s Nashville for ya! We built a [tiny] snowman. 🙂

Last but not least, during the final weekend in February we headed up to Indiana to see my family. We purchased 1/8 of a cow from my brother-in-law’s parents [and the meat is SOOO good btw] so we had to pick that up, as well as some baby stuff that my sister is generously lending us. Our nephew is so big he doesn’t need it anymore! Isn’t he precious??! The cousins will have so much fun together in the future. I can’t wait!!

What I’m Reading

What I'm Into (January and February 2016) via

So far in 2016 I’ve read 17 books. For my Goodreads challenge, I decided to try to read 75 books this year. That’s wayyy less than last year but I don’t know how my reading time will be after baby comes in May. 🙂 You can read my review for Undaunted Hope here on the blog, and the rest on Goodreads. As you can see, this year I’ve gotten really into a couple of mystery series that I highly recommend: the oh-so-cheesy Her Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen and the gritty Dublin Murder Squad series by Tana French. I’ve been taking a break with both series so I don’t end up reading all the books before the next ones come out [I hate when I do that!].

Some great articles I’ve read online this month include:

  • Why Americans should be upfront with our kids—and ourselves—about how power and privilege shaped our backgrounds.
  • Social media – the good and the bad.
  • What a great WWII survival story, from a non-Jewish perspective.
  • A pro-life case for paid maternity leave. Yes to this! For me, and for so many others in this country.
  • An honest thief, and a funny note he gave to the man whose wallet he found.
  • You’ve probably already seen this, but a study showed that alot of parmesan cheese actually contains wood?!? Yikes!
  • Language warning, but [yet another] article about why having it all for moms is impossible… and kinda sucks. Reading articles like this is something I try to not do very often because it freaks me out for the future, but I am grateful that my husband is present, helpful, and will continue to be that way in the future.
  • Great tips here about non-meat sources of protein… for kids and everyone else!
  • I really want to read this book about baby’s first bite and influencing their food tastes early!
  • Positive thoughts about Barbie, even before her size change. I have to say that I personally haven’t had a problem with Barbie. I know she’s unrealistic, but she’s just. a. toy. Maybe things have changed body-image-wise since I was a kid, but I don’t think a toy influenced me that much, and I was a HUGE Barbie lover.
  • On one family’s food journey…. ‘One way the book suggests we can minimize our environmental impact is through our diets, and this reminded me of the journey my family has been on food-wise since 2009. In 2009, I read an article in National Geographic magazine that started me thinking that my diet was incompatible with some of my deepest concerns for the poor and the environment. As I wrote then, “According to Bourne, 35% of the world’s grain is used to feed livestock instead of people.  Think about that.  I’ve read that it takes 16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat, and more and more, that bothers me.  It gets to me to see photographs of starving babies and know that the tasty meat I eat is contributing to the food scarcity that is killing children all over the world.”’
  • Trader Joe’s is busy and annoying. So don’t shop there. – I have to say, that since moving to Nashville where we DO have a Trader Joe’s, we probably go there less than we did when we lived in Bloomington, a city without one. The parking lot and traffic in the area are a strong deterrent for us, and many others.
  • Valentine’s Day has passed, but keep these literary cards in mind for next year!
  • On anticipation of popular show reboots…. 
    “The anticipation may be much greater than the actual product. Remember how excited everyone was for “Arrested Development” Season 4? The entire cast was back and it seemed like it would be the greatest conclusion ever for a show that was unfairly canceled by Fox many years ago. It premiered on Netflix to much fanfare in 2013.…and then the buzz died. Almost immediately. Some fans didn’t even make it through all the episodes. Count on the same thing to happen when “Fuller House” premieres in a few weeks. Generally, the anticipation is a lot more fun than the actual show, because ultimately it probably won’t be everything you hoped for.”
  • Gender problems in Disney princess movies. How sad… men talk more than women in most of these movies. Crazy!
  • More veggie tips! Why you shouldn’t peel your veggies. YES! I say this to Ben allll the time.
  • Have you ever struggled with believing in God, even if you have all your life? If so, this advice from Addie Zierman is spot on. I’ve definitely had conversations with friends about this very subject.
  • I’ll have to come back to this post on how to eat more veggies – especially when things get busy this summer with our baby boy 🙂
  • This scientific look at pregnancy’s effect on the body and making room for baby is pretty interesting… and freaky haha
  • I never knew that string cheese is actually made differently than regular mozzarella cheese! How fun!
  • Tips on bettering your commute – love some of these!
  • An interesting take on digital books/music/media versus print… and the impact on ourselves and our discovery of the new

What I’ve Been Cooking

Lots of crockpot meals on the weekend! We got a new crockpot because our old one’s lid was in very sorry shape [and couldn’t be replaced] so I’ve felt the need to use it alot, haha. I’ve brought back some old favorites like Hawaiian BBQ Pulled Chicken and Carnitas and Minestrone Soup. Can’t go wrong there! In February, I also participated in #FreshTastyValentines so I was cooking up a storm in experimental recipes. 🙂 Otherwise, we’ve been eating lots of easy meals… tacos, spaghetti, breakfast for dinner… ya know, the usual. Also, a steady amount of iced coffee and doughnuts from Dunkin. Dangerous…very dangerous!

What’s on the Blog

My most new popular recipe in January was Copycat Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls. NOM. I wish I had one now!

Tender, soft, and sweet cinnamon rolls... these basically taste like the famous mall food court treat of my childhood, but they are homemade and actually, pretty easy! #bookclubcookbookCC

Most popular recipes from the archive for January included: Cinnamon Sugar Apple Cake, Buffalo Pretzels, and Crockpot Saucy Italian Chicken.

My most new popular recipe in February was Grapefruit-Walnut Sheet Cake.

Brighten up your Valentine's Day celebration with this refreshing Grapefruit-Walnut Sheet Cake! You won't want to miss the grapefruit cream cheese frosting! :) #FreshTastyValentines

Most popular recipes from the archive for February included: Cinnamon Sugar Apple Cake, Buffalo Pretzels, and Funfetti Cookies. Old favorites, as usual!

What were you into in January and February?

Linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into lately. 


The Making of an UncommonGoods Nursery #FreshTastyValentines

With each week that passes, baby day [May 10, not that babies are punctual] comes a little bit closer! Exciting, and a little bit scary. Ben and I have been busy getting Baby Volde’s nursery ready… at least in our heads–and on Pinterest. 🙂 [And to clear up any questions… our nickname for our baby boy has been “Volde,” as in Voldemort, since Ben loves Harry Potter and there’s no chance in the world I would ever agree to a Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings/video games/insert other pop culture icon name. So that’s baby’s nickname for now… and will probably be how I refer to him on the blog too. :)] But back to the nursery, and our lack of actual preparation in getting the nursery ready, save the purchase of a crib and the cleaning out of a dresser. Baby steps, right? In my mind, preparation=decoration, especially for a baby. So that’s why I was so excited to hear from my friends at UncommonGoods. They emailed me to share their new Valentine’s Day collection, available here, as well as some fun Host and Hostess gifts that you can see here. You may be wondering what Valentine’s Day has to do with a nursery for a baby boy… and the answer is: everything!

The Making of an UncommonGoods Nursery #FreshTastyValentines

Well, maybe not everything, but everything uncommon. 🙂 Ben and I haven’t ever been huge Valentine’s gift givers so it was a treat to have UncommonGoods offer to send me a Valentine’s Day gift! Awww! I was so pleasantly surprised by their generosity. I shouldn’t be, because this Brooklyn-based company is the epitome of generous. Aside from a crazy-great Better to Give program that has donated over one million dollars since 2001, they share their generosity with their employees and suppliers. Their lowest-paid seasonal worker starts at 50% above the minimum wage, and they strive to feature unique designs and handcrafted gifts created in harmony with the environment and without harm to animals or people. Most products are made in the USA, and many are made by hand and/or with recycled/upcycled materials. What a great company! Psstt… UncommonGoods wants to be YOUR valentine too! They’re offering a $150 gift certificate as part of our #FreshTastyValentines giveaway, ending today, so be sure to enter now!

Though I was impressed by so much in their Valentine’s Day collections, as well as their Kitchen and Bar collection, like this Personalized Cutting Board [how fun!], my eye was immediately drawn to the Kids portion of their website. What better Valentine for a new mama-t0-be than gifts for her baby? 🙂

The Making of an UncommonGoods Nursery #FreshTastyValentines

Ben and I knew from the beginning that we wanted the nursery to be decorated in some sort of animal theme, but the question was: what types of animals? Safari, farm, woodland…? When I saw this Fox Clock, I knew we had to go with a woodland animal theme. I mean, how cute is this clock?!? So now, thanks in part to UncommonGoods, we know our nursery will be filled with cute ‘lil woodland critters like foxes, raccoons, rabbits, owls, and wolves. Awww! I can’t wait to show you the finished product. And I’d like to see it myself. Ha!

The Making of an UncommonGoods Nursery #FreshTastyValentines

Once the baby arrives to fill that woodland nursery, we will be keeping track of all the key moments in this baby book! If you’re on the market for a unique baby book, this Baby Journal fits the bill! It has space for anything you want to document about your baby’s first year of life… and the illustrations are darling. 🙂 It also has spaces for friends and family to contribute, so it’ll be fun to pull out at my baby shower for people to write in.

The Making of an UncommonGoods Nursery #FreshTastyValentines

Despite all the fun that has gone into crafting this nursery for our new arrival, I couldn’t let the chance pass by to surprise my #1 Valentine with this gorgeous State Slate Cheeseboard! This Ohio guy can’t wait to break it with some fun appetizers. 🙂 No matter your needs for Valentine’s Day, a baby’s nursery, or that special someone’s birthday, UncommonGoods has great well-made gifts and a wonderful approach to doing business so I hope you can check them out sometime soon! I already have some gifts in mind to give in the future! 🙂

Though this is the last day of #FreshTastyValentines, you can still find some great recipes today at the link below!

Find UncommonGoods

on the web: here
on Twitter: here
on Facebook: here
on Pinterest: here
on Instagram: here
on Google+: here
Disclosure: I received complimentary products from UncommonGoods for my participation in #FreshTastyValentines. However, I was not required to write a positive review and I was not otherwise compensated for this post. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to UncommonGoods for their sponsorship of this event!

Round Up: Peace Like a River-Inspired Culinary Creations for #bookclubcookbookCC

This month I invited #bookclubcookbookCC members to join me in reading Peace Like a River and making Mrs. Enger’s Cinnamon Rolls with Coffee Frosting. Here’s my invitation post! For more info on this project, please check out this post by our fearless leader, Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla.

Peace Like a River #bookclubcookbookCC

Since cinnamon rolls were the recipe of the month, I have to highlight those submissions first. 🙂 My Cinnabon Copycat Cinnamon Rolls are obviously my fave but we also had some other cinnamon rolls this month that I’d love to try too! 🙂

Tender, soft, and sweet cinnamon rolls... these basically taste like the famous mall food court treat of my childhood, but they are homemade and actually, pretty easy! #bookclubcookbookCC

First up, we have Emily at Life on Food. She made the suggested recipe from the cookbook–Mrs. Enger’s Cinnamon Rolls with Coffee Frosting. Don’t they look so good? I wish I could have one right now! I will definitely have make this recipe one day!

Emily - Cinnamon Rolls

Next, we have a twist on cinnamon rolls from Andrea at Adventures in All Things Food. She made a Cinnabun Coffee Cake! All the flavors of a cinnamon roll, sans the work. Great choice!

Andrea - Cinnabun Coffee Cake

Erin from The Spiffy Cookie chose to combine the two main sweets of the book into one tasty treat! Her Peach Cinnamon Rolls look like a fabulous treat to have for breakfast or dessert. I love how she used jam to get that great peach flavor in the winter! Mmm.

Erin - Peach Cinnamon Rolls

Now that I’ve talked about peaches, I should share the peach pies of the group! Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm made a fantastic-looking Spiced Peach Pie! She even used peaches she canned herself. YUM. I wish I knew how to can! Wendy, want to come visit Tennessee this summer?!

Wendy - Spiced Peach Pie

Renee from Tortillas and Honey also made a peach pie. Her Old Fashioned Peach Pie just sounds like a dream! And I love that she used her mom’s recipe, from an old Betty Crocker cookbook. Since the book takes place in the 60s, that is so fitting. Great idea, Renee!

Renee - Peach Pie

Since pancakes were mentioned a few times in the story, Sarah from Things I Make (for Dinner) chose to make Gingerbread Pancakes. They sound so festive and filling! I’m impressed with her creativity–it didn’t even occur to me to make pancakes, even though they’re one of my favorite foods. 🙂

Sarah - Gingerbread Pancakes

After all that sweet, we need a little savory, right?! Thankfully two of our fabulous blogging crew complied! We have two versions of the potato and fish chowder the Land family enjoys for a birthday dinner. Yay! Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla decided to go the savory route. She drew her inspiration from one of the more mystical [yet sad] scenes in the book, where a pot of potato and fish chowder never seemed to run out. Though I’m not much of a fish person, her King of Soups sounds delicious!

Camilla - King of Soups

Last, but not least is another version of this soup. Ashley from Cheese Curd in Paradise made a Red Potato Chowder with White Fish. Her Minnesota family loved this soup, and usually she would make it with fish her husband caught himself, but this time she was out and used cod instead. Impressive!

Ashley - Red Potato Chowder with White Fish

I wanted to share Ashley’s recipe last so I could also mention that she is the hostess next month, so stay tuned to Cheese Curd in Paradise to see what book/recipe she chooses for us in February! Thanks for following along with #bookclubcookbookCC!