Change. Orange Bran Muffins.

Change tends to come quickly. Maybe it takes you by surprise. Lately change has been sneaking up on me.

Two weeks ago I was running in full winter gear as snow flurries fell onto my tongue. This week I’m wearing shorts and tank tops. Not together. Let’s not get too crazy. Two and a half months ago I had my heart broken. Talk about chaos. A week and a half ago I remembered why I loved the mountains and a barn filled with horses—peace. And five days ago I crossed the finish line of the Shamrock Shuffle with a new personal record and the Chicago skyline rising in front of me. I felt this overwhelming sense of luck and joy, and that feeling just hasn’t gone away yet. Change is sticking.

I once thought bran muffins were ridiculous. I worked at a coffee shop in Raleigh and we sold muffins. The bran were always left at the end of the day, and honestly I didn’t blame our customers. Why would you opt for healthy, tasteless bran when you could go the blueberry or carrot?

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Here and Now. Buttermilk Skillet Cake with Praline Topping.

This weekend I am focusing hard on the here and now, not on the what I wish and what should have been. Because in reality what should have been is right where I am here and now.

Here is a snoring pup and a snoozing cat. A gin, tonic, and mango juice beverage. One pound of bacon vs. one girl. The Rhythm Center with one of my favorite almost-four-year-olds. March Madness. And cake, because as Julia Child said,

I have a cake recipe for you to, you know, help you avoid meetings. It comes to you from the Joy the Baker Cookbook. I’ve passed the recipe over many a time, probably because it looks so simple. I’ve passed it up for the fancier carrot cakes, avocado cupcakes, brown butter chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chocolate muffins … uh, maybe I just passed it up for chocolate.

You should probably bring this cake to your next meeting at work, because every office could use a midday party. And it is the perfect cake for a spontaneous meeting-gone-party. So simple and unassuming in its cast-iron skillet (though you can make it in a cake pan, too). It most importantly is easier to make than going to the grocery to buy a cake. If you bake or want to start baking, the ingredients in this recipe are ones you either always have in your kitchen or ones you should buy, because you will use them in any other recipe you’ll make. It smells just like a simple, perfect cake should—buttery, warm, vanilla-y. Buttermilk is key here, making the cake lovely and tender.

And the praline topping? It looks like caramel, but it’s so much easier. Trust me. Caramel and me do not have a good relationship.

But as this topping boils on the stove, your kitchen starts to smell like a candy store. I may have stood over the pot just breathing in the sweet scent.

Sweet and simple cake like this is perfect with a cup of coffee after family dinner on Sunday night. I guess that makes family dinner a party.

Here and now is pretty good.

Recipe after the jump!

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Cranberry Pear Pie

Do you ever feel like you’re going to lose it? If the dog puts her head sweetly on my leg one more time and looks at me with those puppy dog eyes. If the cat utters another single meow as she begs me to toss her duck tape football toy. If one more car drives by my house TOO LOUDLY. If one more part of my body, my leg, ear, arm, anything, itches. If one more insignificant item drops to the ground, and I am forced to bend down and pick it up. I swear to God I will explode.

I may or may not be on my period.

I may or may not be perpetuating that stereotype that women go crazy on their periods.

Dudes, this does not give you the green light to throw a girl’s period/pms in her face when she’s being “weird.” This is called a double standard. It’s cool.

It’s days like this that I should not have jars of Nutella in my house. Or half of a pie. But I’m so glad I have half of a pie in my house for two reasons. One, it’s a damn good pie, and I love a damn good pie. Two, it was a result of a damn good weekend.

My trips this fall seem to be coming at just the right times, just when I need distraction the most, when I’m getting too caught up in my own weird head. This past weekend I drove up to Milwaukee with the dog to do the Lakefront Discovery 15K with my friend Heather. More on the race in a later post.

Car rides with Mir.

Before my arrival in Milwaukee, Heather alerted me of a pie crust she had made that was waiting for me in her freezer. We had plans to fill it with nutella (that pesky condiment again), apples, and cherries, but somewhere between the free post-race beers, the dude in pink and purple spandex, the guy painted blue, and lunch at a lovely local restaurant called Cafe Benelux we changed our minds…cranberry pear would be a much better filling.

We didn’t start the pie until around 9 p.m., and if you know a thing or two about pie making, you know a pie takes about an hour to cook, and then has to cool. Completely. Like it’ll tempt you on the counter for another hour as the filling continues to thicken. So we didn’t actually eat any until breakfast the next morning. But let me just say that when we did….mmmmm.

This pie should probably end up on your Thanksgiving table. Who wants traditional apple or pumpkin anyway? Or it could just end up on your Wednesday night table. But you should really make it ASAP while the pears are in season. And, lucky you, fresh cranberries should be appearing in groceries soon in preparation for the holidays. If they aren’t freshly around though, just check your freezer section.

This pie is sweet and fresh from the pears and perfectly tart from the cranberries with just a touch of spice from the cinnamon. It’s this perfect combination. If, however, you do not like a tart pie, you can add more sugar. I just happen to like my pies kind of slutty.

You have all sorts of crust options! It’s really exciting. You have my personal favorite, a vodka lard/butter pie crust, a non-vodka butter and crisco crust, or an all butter vodka crust. Feel free to use all butter in that non-vodka crust if that’s your thing. Just sub the crisco with the same amount of ice cold cubed butter. Heather and I made this pie with a crumble topping. It’s way yummy. You can totes make this a double crust pie if you heart desires though.

So let’s make a pie, bitches, and get out of our heads!

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The End of Creativity

Um, I know. June ended like a week ago.

I have the last two days of creativity for you. 30 Days of Creativity challenged me more than I’d expected, especially after Michael pointed out that I cook every day anyway, so using that as the majority of my creativities was kind of cheating. The point of a challenge is to stretch yourself, right? Coming up with ideas wasn’t the hard part. It was finding the time to create after a long day of work and the budget to create. I am more excited about the ease of DIY projects, and I’ve found lots of inspiration on Pinterest.

So maybe this isn’t the end of creativity as we know it. I certainly feel fine.

Day 29

I revisited the coconut peach cookies, now renamed peachy colada cuffins (that’s cookie + muffin). Peaches have been added and pureed.

Day 30

Vegan raspberry muffins from ReadyMade. I love one thing about these muffins – they’re vegan. No butter and no milk. All whole-wheat flour. But I’ve made healthy, whole-wheat muffins before! The addition of silken tofu and the lack of sugar got my interest. I don’t know that I’d make them again considering they require buying tofu, but I have been enjoying them.

Lots of Days

The above muffin recipe makes 15 muffins. I cannot eat muffins that fast, so after three days I packed them into a large ziplock bag and stashed them in the freezer. Now, most mornings, I take one out, defrost it in the microwave, and make a smoothie (that’s 1 banana + handful of berries or peaches + spoonful of peanut butter + 4 spoonfuls of Greek yogurt/soy milk halfway up the fruit blended in blender). Perfect breakfast! Quick and easy, and can be eaten on the go.

I have lots of music posts coming up now that creativity has ended. Summertime music is here!

Days 24 – 28 – Photo time!

I was out of town this past weekend. We drove to St. Louis to visit some of Michael’s family. No time to update the blog. Had to get creative with being creative! Oh my goodness do I love Instagram. If you have an iPhone, download this app. Between discussing Dick’s (and what it’s like to be inside one) with Michael’s aunt, uncle, and cousins, eating ice cream, playing kickball, and meeting grandparents, I was happy to have an easy way to be creative with my phone.

Day 24


Ted Drewes in St. Louis – delicious and apparently highly sought considering the lines custard.

Day 25 

I was missing my girls on Saturday. I took this picture just with my regular phone camera last week. On Saturday I played around with the various lenses on Instagram.

Day 26

We may have gotten a little turned around trying to leave St. Louis on Sunday, but I’m glad we did, because our detour took us right by the Arch!

Day 27 I made a pair of sandals, but I’m not satisfied with them just yet so no picture to show.

Day 28 I did some creative writing type work for the magazine. Yay work creativity!

And now you must do something for me. Go to HomeFries and download the Joy the Baker podcast. Do you know who Joy the Baker is? She lives in California and has a website where she writes about food she makes, her cat, boys, flashing people, and all kinds of other hilarious and awesome topics. HomeFries a project she’s started with a friend. The site has four podcasts, one of which is Joy’s. She’s joined by Tracey of Shutterbean, whose blog I only started reading recently. Anyway, Joy and Tracey talk about blogging, baking, and other random stuff like Pinterest (did you know I’m obsessed with Pinterest these days?) and work pool parties (a terrible idea!). Check out their podcast. It’s LOL good.

Day 7 – Peachy Coconut Cookies

Just looking at the name of these cookies makes me think SUMMER SUMMER SUMMER! I almost cried when I spotted peaches on the list of produce I could get in my grocery bin last week. Peaches mean summer is here! Another hint may be the 90+ degree weather we’re having.

Anyway, my first instinct was to make a blueberry-peach pie. But Michael is out of town this week and I didn’t want him to miss out on one of my favorite pies. Plus the blueberries may have jumped into a few breakfast smoothies. It’s like they wanted me to do something healthy with them, the buggers.

About a month ago I marked a peach sugar cookie recipe on A Beautiful Mess. The cookies photographed were decorated so gorgeously with pastel-colored coconut that I couldn’t resist. But alas, no peaches yet for me. Until day 7 of Creative Fun Month!

Conveniently enough, today is a co-worker’s birthday. So I settled into the kitchen last night with Joy the Baker’s latest podcast and a beer. And so a mouthful of summertime prettiness was created!

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Muffins, Races, and BFFs galore!

I got an iPhone about a month ago. God it’s worlds better than the LG Ally I had. And universes better than the HTC Eris before that. I can confidently say that I am an Apple girl all the way! I’ve been snapping lots of pictures with my iPhone. It’s not the world’s greatest quality (like I won’t be taking tons of pictures with it when we go to SPAIN! More later.), but it’s so nice to take photos when I’m out and about.

So here is a brief tour of the last week in my life via photos.

Two weekends ago we went to Chicago for the Shamrock Shuffle, an 8K that starts and ends in Grant Park. This was my first race since I’ve gotten serious about running. Marnie and her boyfriend Jannson have done it the past two years I believe. The weather was perfect on race day. I ran the 5 miles in 44 minutes. So proud of myself!

The 717 totally tore it up!

Coffee always tastes better with two of your best friends. Especially after steak dinner at 11pm the night before! This was one of my favorite trips to Chicago yet.

One of my visiting people rules is Never Show Up to a Friend’s House Without a Baked Good in Hand. This weekend we were runners, so I picked a healthful baked good that would give us fuel.

These ginger-cranberry oatmeal muffins from Everybody Likes Sandwiches were perfect. Made with only whole-wheat flour, oats, and no butter or oil, I really felt OK about eating these muffins. And they were not heavy or dense. Nicely the opposite in fact. I think my favorite part was the chewy candied ginger bits and tangy cranberries. Click over to Jeanette’s blog for the recipe. The only thing I did different was replace the oil/melted butter with a mashed up and very ripe banana, per Jeanette’s suggestion.

This past weekend my bff Bette came up from Charlotte to visit. Bette and I have been friends for 16 years. I have been down to North Carolina to visit her (in a non-working-at-camp visit) about five times in the last three years. Oh and plenty of times before that too. Bette, on the other hand, had visited me in Indiana twice in the past 16 years. Granted, North Carolina is like 20 times cooler than Indiana. But I was ecstatic when she finally bought a plane ticket to see my city.

We ate crepes, drank local beer,  went to Luna Music for National Record Day (OMG The Head and the Heart album is to die for!), hung out in Zionsville, and ate cupcakes, despite less than ideal weather on Friday and Saturday.

We even found some sunshine time to take Mira to 100 Acres at the Indianapolis Art Museum.

I hope she comes back sooner than 11 years from now!! I do love the girl.

And in news that I cannot yet document in photographs, Michael and I are going to Spain for 10 days in May. In fact, we leave in 2 1/2 weeks!! We’ll be staying six days in Granada and two days in Madrid. Hopefully there will be some site seeing, beach going, hiking in the Sierra Nevadas, lots of delicious food and wine consuming, and merriment!

Have you been to Spain? I’d love to hear favorite places, recommendations, and general input.

A Lemony White Chocolate Birthday Cake

When one of your best friends turns 27, you throw down in the cake department. At least that’s what my friends and I do.

So I started planning for Samantha’s birthday cake weeks in advance. Sam’s birthday is in the beginning of April, right when Spring starts to tease you with a few warm, sunny days. So a cake that says Spring! She doesn’t really like chocolate in an obsessive way, which is OK because in my book this time of year rings in the beginning of fruit-baking season.

So when I saw a white chocolate cake filled with lemon curd, I figured I’d found my cake. I like white chocolate in certain situations, where you don’t want a chocolate flavor perse, but you want a nice, sweet cake. I looooove lemon curd. Have you ever had it? Seriously, it’s worthy of eating all by itself with a spoon. Creamy, tangy, delicious. Balances out the white chocolate perfectly. I was completely inspired by the original cake’s pretty pastel-colored frosting and polka dots, but not so much the fact that it was cream cheese based. Too heavy. So I opted for whipped cream. I felt really good about giving this cake to Sam to celebrate her life.

Also, a note. I’m normally terrible at assembling layer cakes. As in they end up lopsided, the icing melting down the sides, and the layers sliding apart. This cake was supposed to be four layers (bake two layers, slice each in half). The idea of four layers scared the shit out of me. I went with two. I also think the whipped cream as icing really helped. It slathered on easily and I didn’t have to do a lot of smoothing. The pink and yellow really helped the whole thing look nice, too I think. Sam said the yellow dots looked like popcorn. I’ll let you decide!

I did use some layer cake tricks that I’ve picked up on various blogs. I’ll bold them in the directions below. I did do the cake over two days. Actual cake (and curd if you make your own) day one, whipped cream and assemblage day two.

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Cranberry Orange Cornmeal Bread/IheartNC

Oh my goodness. I always forget how entirely exhausting the holidays are. I get excited every year for baking, presents, family, and friends being home. And then I get caught up in this whirlwind of…baking, presents, family, and friends being home. It’s not a bad whirlwind at all. I mean, who am I to complain when I get to host a sleepover for eight lovely ladies at my house and paint our nails and make friendship bracelets?

I’m awfully lucky to be friends with these beautiful girls.

And why would I complain when I got to spend Christmas with my little family? Especially when they threw down in a huge way to put this under the tree for me!

Hello lover, we will be very good friends, I just know it.

Right before the holiday rush began, I up and went to North Carolina to visit one of my best friends in the world Bette. But I may have screeched about that on here earlier…

I don’t know if you have a place like North Carolina is for me, so maybe you won’t quite get what I’m about to say. But when I go down there, it feels just like I’m home, not like I’m on vacation. It’s like I’m just picking right back up in my other life, right where I left off last time I was there. It just…fits. So it’s no wonder that’s where I ran the second I needed to clear my head. And let me tell you, North Carolina never fails. Head? Cleared.

We spent most of our time in Charlotte, and one of our good friends from Raleigh even drove down to hang out! But, we also went up to camp. Talk about places where you just fit. We had lunch with old friends who are practically family in my mind. They care so much it blew my mind. Then of course the fact that people can care so little also blows my mind.

Anyway, Bette and I met at camp in the summer of 1995.

Some of the horses that we rode that summer we met are still there. We snapped some pictures with them.

Did you survive Christmas? Are you looking forward to New Year’s Eve? Is your belly so full of holiday food you may pop? Mine is!

Meanwhile, back at the Indianapolis ranch, a good month ago, I made some kickass quick bread. Cranberry orange cornmeal bread. I am BEGGING you to run to the grocery store right now and snatch up the last bags of cranberries you can find before the disappear. Please. I’ve become obsessed with cranberries this winter. They’re so deliciously tart and brightly, festively red. And they work so well with oranges, which are also in season during the winter.

So this bread is studded with cranberries, laced with orange flavor, and sweetened with cornmeal and honey. It’s just completely amazing. All day, every day, any time of day. Sadly, I took no pictures, but if you pop over to Joy the Baker’s site (link to her recipe to follow after the jump) you’ll see her photos, and I only made a few small changes.

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Fat Witch Brownies

So, did you have a good Thanksgiving? Did you survive? Did your stomach survive? By the end of the weekend I felt slightly pregnant, but in all honesty this may have been the best Thanksgiving I’ve had in awhile. I think that’s because I had no expectations. No, that’s a lie. I expected to miss celebrating with a big family as well as my own. This year I just spent time with my family. We don’t have a huge Thanksgiving; just my mom, dad, brother, and my grandfather, and this year Ian’s girlfriend. Ian and I pulled up to my parents’ house around 1pm to start cooking…and drinking. After all, what’s Thanksgiving without some wine?

Look at my brother! He’s a cook!

A quick rundown of the really really delicious food we made.

So, now starts December. I’m very excited because this year my friends and I have decided on a no presents rule. Instead I’ve ordered two packs of really cute (and some baking-related) holiday cards. Also begins a time when I feel absolutely guilt-free about baking non-stop. Who cares about calories during the month of December? OK, actually, I’m buying a cold-weather running shirt to combat all the baking. As in, I will be running aplenty. Out-of-doors.

So, the first delicious-you-must-make holiday recipe is: brownies! Fat Witch Brownies to be exact. This recipe has been floating around the food blogosphere internet for quite awhile. I’ve just been slow to jump on the bandwagon. Fat Witch Brownies come from a bakery in New York called, yes, Fat Witch Bakery. They seem to specialize in awesome brownies. Sweet. They have a cookbook, in which the recipe for their original brownie can be found.

It’s a very different brownie from the other brownie recipe I have on here. Still gooey, but much more mellow. It’s still very obviously chocolatey, just not insanely intense, probably because it has only 1/2 cup of chocolate in it. And it’s kind of buttery. I have no other word to describe it. These are every day brownies, the kind you can snack on without feeling like you might explode. They’d probably travel really well in holiday care packages too.

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