The Monday Mix

Here’s The Monday Mix for this week! To visit past mixes, click here.



1) Apple picking season is among us! If you’re looking for ideas for what to do with those apples, check out all of my apple recipes here. I have over 20 apple recipes in all kinds of variations – sweet, savory, desserts, main courses, appetizers, beverages, etc!

2) Fall means football season and football season means awesome viral videos of marching bands doing covers of pop songs. Check out the Temple University Diamond Marching Band covering Ain’t it Fun by Paramore. I especially love how the formation they start in is Paramore’s three bars logo.


Loving this weirdly bizarre, yet poignant, article: 7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose.


Welcome to the future of book books! (Genius, IKEA.)

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Home Project: Bedroom Makeover, Finally!

We bought our condo in 2011 and did a lot of work right away to make the place feel like a sophisticated grown up home. We took a long time to put the living room together exactly how we wanted it, painted the bathroom and installed a backsplash in there, did a lot of yard work, and added a bunch of fun touches to the guest room.

Our bedroom, however, remained mostly untouched for the better part of the last three years. Instead, we focused our attention, creativity, and funds elsewhere in the house (as you can see from the links above). We’ve been updating a few small things here and there but decided this summer to transform the bedroom, finally!

Here is a recap of all of the big and little changes we’ve made to this room, capturing its’ evolution over the last three years to what it looks like now.

In September 2012 we made our first bedroom purchase – winter bedding! We bought the following at IKEA: the Mysa Ronn down comforter and the Malin Rund duvet cover set. This purchase was a small one (under $100) but it made a huge difference – it brought color and life to a room that was really boring.


We installed lovely faux-wood blinds in the bedroom right when we moved in and left the windows as is until January 2013. I don’t remember now what inspired us then but in January we bought blackout curtains (plus curtain rod) from IKEA. All they needed was a slight hem but otherwise, installation was a breeze.


Kind of a silly picture but here’s the effect of the blackout curtains, open then closed.


Other than those two small updates, the room remained like this for the better part of three years:


Finally in late June 2014 we decided it was time to buy an all matching, grown up bedroom set. Neither of us had ever had one before so this was really exciting! We found exactly what we were looking for at Boston Interiors and walked out feeling confident about our choices – one queen bed frame with storage drawers and two matching dressers. Delivery was going to take two weeks which actually ended up being a good thing since we had some work to do in the room.


The following weekend we ordered a brand new mattress (a Stearns and Foster Cora plush pillow top mattress) from Sleepy’s. We ordered it on June 28, 2014 and had it by June 30, 2014! Super happy with that entire experience.

The delivery guys hauled away our old mattress (which was close to 10 years old!) but since we didn’t have our new bed frame yet, we had to hang on to the box spring for another week. The new bed frame is a platform and doesn’t need a box spring. More on that later.


A new bed called for new bedding, naturally! We went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and picked up four new pillows, new deep pocket Wamsutta sheets, and extra Wamsutta pillowcases.


Our next step was to paint an accent wall in the bedroom. This year July 4th weekend ended up being rainy and crappy outside – the perfect time to paint! A good call since we’d be cooped up inside anyway and we’d wanted to paint before our new furniture was delivered.

Before getting started with painting we thoroughly read these two articles which were super helpful: This Old House’s How To Paint A Room article and the Young House Love video and guide to cutting in.

We organized our supplies from Home Depot and got to work!


We had already taken everything down off the walls in the room so the first step was to fill all of the nail holes with spackle. We gave it several hours to dry and set which was easy since we bought the kind of spackle that goes on purple and dries white.


Next we used a pole sander to sand down the spackle so the wall was smooth and flat.


The next step was to use a big sponge and a bucket of warm water to wipe down the wall. That way, the wall is clean and smooth, and ready for paint. We let the wall dry overnight and continued the next day.


To prep for painting we put a big plastic drop cloth over the furniture and staged our paint tray and brushes nearby.


As I mentioned, we watched the Young House Love video about cutting in to get the technique down so we didn’t have to tape the wall. I did all of the cutting in and managed to get the outline of the wall done in a little over an hour. John then took over and painted the rest of the wall. The paint color we used was Behr’s Chocolate Coco.


We painted two full coats, letting the paint dry in between, which took 2-3 hours. Here is a view of the paint wet and dry:


When the paint was completely dry we cleaned up and put all of the furniture back. It came out so nice! I had no hesitations about such a dark color but when we saw it all done and dried, we really fell in love with it. It looks so rich and beautiful.


The following weekend, on July 12, 2014, our new bedroom furniture was delivered! Before it arrived though we had to clear out all of the old furniture. The tall dresser went out on the sidewalk, the wide dresser was picked up by my coworker, and the box spring was hurled off the front porch because we couldn’t get it down the front stairs. Amazingly it didn’t break and so we put it in the freecycle pile on the curb along with the dresser and a few other things – and someone took it! (Ew/yay?)


We then put all of our clothes and everything else from the bedroom into the guest room.


We did some last minute cleaning and sweeping before the furniture was delivered.


The delivery guys brought in all of the pieces, set up all of the furniture for us, and even put the mattress on the bed frame.


The rest of the afternoon was spent plugging the TV/cable back in, loading our new dressers with all of our clothes, and putting the new bedding on our bed.


Another great feature of our bed is the two extra cedar storage drawers at the front of the bed frame. It was a little hard to take a picture of but they are quite awesome.


The room is finally done! The rich brown accent wall really brings out the color and texture of our dressers, the platform bed frame takes up so much less space, and moving the dressers to the same wall freed up so much space in the entryway of the room. Overall, the room feels bigger, airier, and so much more luxurious. Having a fully matching bedroom set makes me feel like I’m in an upscale hotel! Kinda sad but really just awesome.


To save you from scrolling, here is the before and after. We are so thrilled with how it turned out. We need to hang some new art eventually and maybe add a sitting chair near the door, but we’re in no rush. The room finally feels complete!


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Recipe: Hot Fudge Sauce

One of my favorite childhood memories is going to Friendly’s and getting an ice cream sundae with thick, delicious hot fudge all over it (with whipped cream ears, a cone hat, and Reese’s Pieces eyes too). Whenever I would have a sundae at home or birthday party it just wasn’t the same. Because I was a dumb kid I never realized why but I know now: it was all about the hot fudge. Friendly’s did it right with their homemade hot fudge sauce, the rest of the time I was getting “chocolate syrup” instead.

“Chocolate syrup” is the worst. It’s watery, overly sugary, and the chocolate flavor is completely flat. The classic Hershey’s syrup is terrible but even the fancy all natural, fair trade stuff is not good (which I buy now since I am a responsible and sophisticated lady).

I was inspired to make this hot fudge a few weeks back after eating my millionth bowl of summer ice cream and longing for those Friendly’s memories. A few minor adjustments to the Smitten Kitchen recipe and I had a complete winner/spot on Friendly’s flashback.

Hot Fudge Sauce (original recipe by Smitten Kitchen here)
2/3 cup heavy cream (whipping cream works too)
1/2 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup (light corn syrup works too)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 tsp. salt
6 oz. (1 cup) chocolate (your preference, I used Guittard semisweet chocolate chips)
2 tbsp. unsalted butter

This recipe calls for Lyle’s Golden Syrup, which may be new to some folks. I have used Lyle’s before and really loved it as a corn syrup alternative. It’s rich, sweet, and perfectly glossy. You can get it at Whole Foods and most chain grocery stores.


The best thing about this recipe (other than the outcome, of course) is that it’s a one pot wonder. So easy! In a sauce pot, bring the cream, golden syrup, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and half of the chocolate to a boil. Once it begins to boil, reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.


After five minutes, turn off the heat and stir in the rest of the chocolate and the butter.


Cool to room temperature before serving so the molten hot fudge doesn’t just melt your ice cream into a puddle.


This hot fudge will keep in the fridge for 1-2 weeks in an airtight container (if it lasts that long, I have been known to eat it straight out of the jar with a spoon). Make sure to warm it up (20-30 seconds in the microwave) before using for the full hot fudge effect – thick and fudgey but loose enough to pour.


This is a must-make recipe! It may be the best hot fudge I’ve had since my Friendly’s days – thick, chocolately, but not overly sweet. This recipe is also really easy too. It’ll totally transform your ice cream sundae game. Trust me.


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The Monday Mix

I’ve updated the format for The Monday Mix to add a little variety to what gets posted here, though I’ll probably switch back and forth between formats occasionally. Here’s The Monday Mix for this week! To visit past mixes, click here.



August was a fabulous month, as always: my cat-child turned 13, we marked 3 years as homeowners, and John and I celebrated 7 years together. Life is good!



RIP Joan Rivers. I wanted to write a whole blog on how it seems to hurt more when funny people leave the world since they worked so hard to make it brighter despite all the darkness. I’m not sure if that’s 100% true though; losing anyone who meant something to you hurts. Joan Rivers left an indelible mark on comedy, women, and anyone who is hard working and career driven. So for me, it hurt from many angles. But despite how tragic this all seems, I think of the alternative (Joan living out the rest of her years brain damaged or paralyzed) and know for certain that that’s not the way she was supposed to go. Watching the coverage has actually helped – to see an outpouring of love, respect, and remembrance. In this case, it feels good to remember Joan’s legacy and relive her finest moments as a way to process this sudden tragedy.


Despite not planning to expand our family anytime soon, I’ve definitely taken an interest in current research exploring what makes a happy family and happy kids. This article is extremely interesting, using business theory, negotiation techniques, goal setting, and shared communication to create a happy family balance. All practical things, yes, but the article provides the actual steps to achieve these things in a dynamic family environment – with links to videos and lots of extra reading.

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Restaurant Recreation: Starbucks’ Iced Chai Tea Latte

Last winter I successfully recreated Starbucks’ Chocolate Chai Latte so I thought I’d try a summer beverage. Just so happens it’s also chai! This is my take on the iced chai tea latte and I’m pretty excited about the outcome. Oh, and also for not having to shell out $4.50 for Starbucks’ (mostly ice) version.

Domestocrat’s Starbucks’ Iced Chai Tea Latte (makes 2 servings but can easily be doubled, tripled, etc.)
2 cups water
2 chai tea bags of your choice (I like Bigelow’s Spiced Chai)
1-2 tsp. agave syrup (or any sweetener of your choice – sugar, honey, Splenda, etc.)
1/2 cup milk (I like unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
10 ice cubes
Optional: whipped cream and cinnamon

Start by brewing the chai – pour two cups of boiling water over two chai tea bags. I do this in my Pyrex measuring cup so I can stay precise. Add in the sweetener and stir to dissolve. I prefer to cool the tea to room temperature or chill in the fridge before using (a total make ahead). You can use it hot, but you’re going to melt all your ice really quick and possibility dilute the latte.


Now, let’s talk ice. Yup, frozen water requires a preamble. You can use plain old regular ice in this recipe, totally fine. Or you could make tea ice and not dilute your latte as the ice melts. One extra step, yes – but totally worth it in terms of quality and finished product. Just brew a cup of chai tea in advance, cool to room temperature, pour into an ice cube tray, and freeze until set (I give them 12 hours just to be sure). I recently bought this OXO No Spill Ice Cube Tray from Amazon and used it here. It worked great!


The silicone lid prevents spills in the freezer. Our freezer is small and always packed so I am happy to finally have an ice cube tray I can stash at an angle.


Chai ice!


On to the latte! To make one serving start by putting 5 chai ice cubes in a glass. Pour in one cup of brewed chai tea and then about 1/4 cup of milk. Feel free to use your own preferred ratios here – this is what I like for a slightly sweet, slightly light latte that is still strong on tea flavor.


You can go right ahead and drink this as is, or…


…Starbucksify it with a little whipped cream and cinnamon!


Super tasty, cool, and refreshing. Enjoy this restaurant recreation, totally a lifehack!


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Lena Dunham: Body Shaming Poster Girl

I will be the first to admit that when I saw this hot mess at The Emmy’s, I cringed a little.

I couldn’t help but think: why can’t she ever just be normal? The hair is juvenile, the makeup is heavy handed, the dress is unflattering and needs to be tailored. John drew the comparison that she looked like The Albino from The Princess Bride (which I will admit made me laugh). But for Lena, this is her normal.

She doesn’t look like a “Hollywood woman” – bronze tan, slim, tall, statuesque – so why on earth would we expect her to dress like one? If she wore a couture gown like the women pictured below we’d still be belittling her style choices, calling her an impostor, a fake, and out of her league for even trying.


So because she looks different, and doesn’t fit the mold of what Hollywood says a woman on the red carpet should look like, we shame her body – saying it’s unattractive, boyish, dumpy, too fat. It’s because she isn’t curvy like Sophia Vergara or pencil thin like Heidi Klum or flawless like Beyonce that we feel the need to attack her appearance and call her out on how much she doesn’t not belong.

Thing is, Lena Dunham doesn’t give a shit if you shame her body. In fact, she doesn’t even care if everyone in the world sees it naked. (When asked why her character Hannah Horvath is naked so often, Lena said “for no reason.” And followed with “It’s because it’s a realistic expression of what it’s like to be alive, I think. And I totally get it if you’re not into me. That’s your problem.”)

Unfortunately Lena being Lena doesn’t shine a light on how far we’ve taken body shaming though, it just shines a brighter light on her own flaws. The tables never turn; no one talks about how unattainable the “Hollywood woman” look is or how physically unhealthy some of these women are. It’s just one more reason, on top of a pile of reasons, why beauty standards in our country are fragmented, unrealistic, and biased.

But this is also why Lena is the perfect body shaming poster girl. She will force you to look at her normal, real, imperfect body every single time she is photographed or filmed without apology. She represents a real twenty-something young woman who has something to say about her generation in a thoughtful and deep way. She will not conform her looks or her style to what Hollywood demands. She refuses to let superficial red carpet walks become bigger than what is truly important, the reason she is at the Emmy’s in the first place: her unique and incredible creation, Girls. You can shame her left, right, and center and she will never care. And that’s why she is the perfect representative for all of us real women, with real bodies, who have been shamed for looking “different.”

Lena wore this cray cray pink dress to the Emmy’s because no matter what she does or wears, people will talk shit about it because it’s not “normal,” it’s “quirky,” she’s “offbeat.” She might as well take a risk, wear something ridiculously fun, and make herself happy, right?

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The Burden of Blog Burnout

I have to admit something I don’t really want to admit – I’m burnt out on blogging.

I’m burnt out on writing and reading blogs actually. Lately I’ve been questioning how and why we bloggers put so much work in and what we truly get out of it.

As a reader, I am so tired of blog posts apologizing for the authors’ lack of blogging. I’m tired of blog posts where the author justifies scaling back their blog to, you know, focus of real life. I’m tired of bloggers making excuses as to why they succumb to paid aids and sponsored posts. There are several blogs in my RSS feed that I love so deeply that I don’t even notice if they are on a blog schedule. I see that they have a new post and light up inside, eager to devour whatever they’ve written (Daily Garnish, The Everywherist, Back To Her Roots) – and yet all three lately have made posts about the aforementioned topics. It makes me sad. These women are so engaging, real, and unique – why do they have to justify their shortcomings as the focus of an entire blog post?!

Blogging has become such a scrutinized thing. It’s like, if you don’t blog for internet fame, money, or so you can become a full-time blogger and quit your day job, then you’re doing it wrong. But we created this pressure. It’s completely unrealistic to be a full time blogger and full time authentic person. I still can’t believe how much time it takes to be a blogger – thinking up original content, taking and editing photos, writing the posts, tweaking and editing, and lining everything up on a schedule. It’s another dark side of blogging: it’s back breaking work and no one ever talks about how hard it is. So ultimately it ends up looking easy and effortless, but it’s not.

As a writer, blogging is recreational but it’s a love/hate recreation. I feel a tremendous amount of pressure to keep it up and to keep my posts relevant, timely, and on a set schedule. But then I resent it because it takes me away from living and keeps me constantly focused on content.

I found myself stressing a few weekends back (after 48 hours completely unplugged due to camping in the woods) that I should have snapped some pictures, I should have written down something about it to share, I should have planned a blog in advance about camping – I should have, could have, didn’t. And then I realized that none of that matters – I was surrounded by dear friends, out in nature, playing board games. Living life and filling the well. And then I realized that the things that have made me the happiest this summer I haven’t taken pictures of or blogged about. Things like reading, hot yoga, camping, napping with my cat, working on me, journaling.

Someone recently asked me – What hobbies do you have that you do just for you? Just for the pure joy of doing them? – and do you know I couldn’t think of one thing. I feel like so much of what I do is out of obligation – to work, to this blog, to this mythical idea of perfection I seem to stupidly strive toward. It feels really inauthentic lately. I want to live my life for me and do things just to do them and not experience them through some lens of obligation or social media hits and likes and retweets and recognition.

In many ways I have changed a lot this year. Actively and with purpose. And I’ve learned a lot about habits and beliefs that have been ingrained in my brain for my whole life. Stuff that is misplaced or just plain wrong. Stuff like only doing things if I can get credit, upholding some unbreakable image of perfection, living in a world of unrealistic ‘I should’ statements, creating the look of a life I want to live rather than just living in what is real (and flawed and not picture worthy and not Pinterest-perfect). How can it be healthy to live my life around this blog and not the other way around?

This is not to say that I don’t appreciate readers. I do, I so do. You guys are the only reason I’ve kept this up for so long and I’m still amazed you are all here. And I want to continue to blog – just in a happier and healthier way for me.

So what does this all mean? It means I want to feel good about what I write here; I want to  really be proud of it. I don’t want to churn out fluff just to get hits or to adhere to a schedule. I want the posts I write to mean something. So things around here may start to look different but I hope they will look better, with the real me fully behind them.

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