Maple Syrup Pancake Muffins

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Remember when I told you I had a second recipe in mind for The National Maple Syrup Festival’s Sweet Victory Challenge? Yup. This is it. Pancakes in muffin form, with maple syrup both baked into the muffins and on the side as a dipping sauce. This is a new twist on pancakes that we here at the Keller house are digging.

You can make these muffins using any pancake batter recipe, but I recommend the version below. They’re light and fluffy — just like a good pancake should be — and you can customize them with any kind of topping you prefer (baked right in!).

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Topping-wise, I went with three variations of these. I just split the plain batter into three bowls and added toppings accordingly, so a single batch can make a collection of flavors. For the first, I sliced half an apple into very small pieces, then added several dashes of cinnamon to the batter. In the second bowl, I mixed a sliced banana and some walnuts into the batter. Finally, for the third kind, I topped the batter (once in the pan) with a few blueberries. I think the banana walnut is my favorite, but it really is a toss up. All of these are solid.

Without further ado, breakfast is served:

Maple Syrup Pancake Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup 100% pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • Desired toppings (I used 1.) frozen blueberries, 2.) a sliced banana and chopped walnuts, and 3.) sliced apple and cinnamon)
  • Maple syrup for dipping

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees and spray muffin tins with non-stick spray. (You can use any size muffin pan. I went with my baby bundt pan for this batch!)
  • Sift dry ingredients together and set aside.
  • Place the eggs, vanilla, whipping cream, and 1/4 cup maple syrup into the mixing bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high speed for a few minutes (until the liquid becomes frothy).
  • Turn the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixer, blending until the large lumps in the batter disappear.
  • Mix in melted butter.
  • Add in toppings as desired. (If you’re making several different flavors of muffin, as I did, first split the plain batter into separate bowls and add toppings to individual bowls.)
  • Spoon batter into prepared muffin pan, filling each muffin about 2/3 full.

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  • Baking time differs depending on what size muffin pan you used, so keep an eye on these after about 9 minutes. You want to bake until the muffins become golden brown around the edges.
  • Cool slightly, then remove from pan and serve warm, with maple syrup on the side as a dipping sauce.

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Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter Cookies

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When I was in Toronto last week for work, I ate a cookie from a dessert tray during a meeting that I was immediately determined to recreate. The concept was simple: Bake a very large peanut butter cookie, cut said cookie into quarters, and dip the pointy side of each piece in chocolate.

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Chocolate plus peanut butter, as every American knows, is just about the best flavor combination there is, and so — no surprise here — the cookie was delicious. Simple, but perfect in its simplicity.

I went with the peanut butter cookie recipe from this (also amazing) recipe, modifying it to add the chocolate-dipped component. I used semi-sweet chocolate chips, but these cookies would also be great with a less sweet, darker chocolate coating as well.

Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients 

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 12-ounce bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips (or the chocolate of your choice!)

Directions

  • Don’t preheat your oven yet! (Remember, you have to wait at least an hour after making the dough before baking.)
  • In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt, and set aside.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter and both sugars on medium speed until combined.
  • Add in the peanut butter, egg, and vanilla, then turn the mixer to high and beat until the dough becomes light in color and nice and smooth.
  • Turn the mixer speed to low and slowly incorporate the dry ingredients.
  • Mix until combined.
  • Cover the dough and chill it for at least an hour.
  • Once you’re ready to bake your cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.
  • Roll dough into large fist-sized balls, flattening each ball of dough and using a fork to place criss cross lines on top. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

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  • Bake for 11-15 minutes, or until golden brown.
  • Cool about 80% of the way, then slice each cookie into four pieces. Let cool completely.

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  • Set out a couple of pieces of parchment paper on the counter.
  • Once your cookies have cooled, melt chocolate for dipping. I’d recommend using a small ramekin-sized bowl and melting the chocolate in stages in the microwave. Nuke for 30 seconds at a time, then stir until completely melted.
  • Either dip cookies into the chocolate mixture or use a spoon or butter knife to spread the chocolate over the pointy end of the cookie (on all four sides of the cookie). After covering a cookie piece in chocolate, place it on the parchment paper to set.

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  • Store in covered container to keep fresh. Enjoy!

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Things I’ve Been Loving Lately

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I’ve been making a list of some things I’ve discovered — and loved — recently with the intent of rounding them all up and sharing them in one convenient post. So — voila! You’re reading that very post. Ready, set, GO!:

  • All things Brené Brown. A friend recently told me about Brené and her work on vulnerability and, since being vulnerable is NOT something that comes easily to me (I tend to fight it whenever possible, in fact, often without realizing I’m doing so), the two TED talks my friend shared really resonated with me. For any of you who also struggle with how to integrate vulnerability into your life to make your relationships stronger and your life more full of joy overall, I strongly recommend you take a few minutes (40 — each video is 20 minutes long) to listen to what Brené has to say. This talk (which you should watch first) is about vulnerability, while this one deals with shame. (After watching those TED talks, I look forward to reading some of Brené’s books as well.)

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  • Invisibilia podcast. Ever since Serial ended, I’ve been on the hunt for podcasts to help fill the void it left in my life. (Sounds dramatic, but I really did love that show and can’t wait until Season Two.). Luckily, I’ve found an incredible podcast that just launched this month that’s right up my alley. Invisibilia — an NPR podcast — is a show that delves into the unseen things that shape us as humans (ideas, beliefs, assumptions, and emotions), bringing those forces to light in a captivating way. I’d recommend first listening to the episode called “How To Become Batman.” Then just try to tell me you won’t come back for more.

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  • Peaky Blinders on Netflix. Though this show launched in 2013, Kevin and I only started watching it a couple of weeks ago, and we are thoroughly hooked. It’s so well-written, the music is awesome, the casting is impeccable, and you’ll quickly get hooked on the storyline. In short, Netflix has done it again. Definitely start watching this if you haven’t already. (Oh, and a tip: Be sure to turn subtitles on for this one. Those Birmingham English accents can be tricky!)

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  • Jemaine Clement’s Kickstarter project. If you’re not a Flight of the Conchords fan, this news probably won’t excite you as much as it does me, but I needed to share anyway. Jemaine Clement (half of the FOTC duo) teamed up with Taika Waititi to write and direct a movie called What We Do In The Shadows. I don’t know much about the storyline except that it’s about vampires and it’s listed on IMDB as both “comedy” and “horror.” Anyway, Jemaine and Taika have set up a Kickstarter fund to bring the film to American theaters, and — in true Kickstarter fashion — you get rewarded for your donation at various levels. The video is awesome. The rewards are awesome. It’s all awesome. I just have to figure out how much money to give!

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  • black-ish on ABC. We started watching this show with Susan, Marty, and Bethany while we were at the beach over New Year’s because Susan had heard good things about it from a couple of friends. I went into the show with zero expectations and am now a huge fan. We laugh as much watching this show as when Modern Family is on, if not more. The casting is spot-on, and the writing is just so good. I highly recommend this one. (I’m also looking forward to the launch of ABC’s Fresh Off The Boat, which begins on February 10 and has gotten some really solid press.)

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My 30-Day Winter Wardrobe Challenge: Week 3 Recap

Whoa — I’m more than two-thirds done with this wardrobe challenge! Time has flown which means, as I already knew, I have quite enough clothing for this season, just as I do for summertime.

This past week, I think my favorite outfit was my Day 17 one, because I just love that World Market scarf. The sweater I wore yesterday (Day 21) was also a favorite. It’s lightweight and I love the color. Perfect for a relaxing weekend outfit!

Day Fifteen: Monday, January 19

(sweater: 4Hawthorne – via Stitch Fix / skirt: Free People / tights: HUE/ boots: Dolce Vita / nail polish: Madison Ave-hue by Essie)

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Day Sixteen: Tuesday, January 20

(sweater: Target / leggings: BP by Nordstrom / cowboy boots: Justin Boots / nail polish: Madison Ave-hue by Essie)

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Day Seventeen: Wednesday, January 21

(top: BP by Nordstrom / leggings: BP by Nordstrom / scarf: World Market / boots: Dolce Vita / nail polish: Toff by Butter)

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Day Eighteen: Thursday, January 22

(dress: H&M / tights: HUE / boots: Dolce Vita / nail polish: Toff by Butter)

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Day Nineteen: Friday, January 23

(sweater: Target / pants: Paige Denim / boots: Dolce Vita / nail polish: Rich Raspberry by Revlon)

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Day Twenty: Saturday, January 24

(sweatshirt: Splits59 / leggings: C9 / shoes: Nike / nail polish: Cafe Pink by Revlon)

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Day Twenty-One: Sunday, January 25

(sweater: BP by Nordstrom / jeans: DL 1961 / shoes: TOMS / nail polish: Cafe Pink by Revlon)

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Maple Syrup Rice Crispy Treats

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Well, guys, after a short break over the holidays, I’m back on my recipe contest game. I feel like these contests are helping me grow as a cook/baker, and so I plan to continue entering contests that inspire me over the coming months. (If you’d like to read more about what I’ve learned from this hobby, you can check out the piece I wrote about my newly forged recipe contest fixation for Paste Magazine’s just-launched Food department.)

First up for 2015? An entry into The National Maple Syrup Festival’s Sweet Victory Challenge. You can enter as many recipes as you like (I have one other entry in mind in addition to this one) for a chance to win a bit of prize money ($200).

I’d been wanting to try a variation of Rice Crispy Treats for a while now, and felt like this was a good opportunity to mix up that traditional recipe a bit. I kept the marshmallow element in (after trying a batch without, I realized I definitely needed them to bind the treats together properly), but instead of butter used a combination of maple syrup and coconut oil.

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The oil and syrup create a wonderfully nuanced flavor that adds a bit of sophistication to this dessert. I mixed half the batch with dried blueberries and the other half with Health bar pieces, and each were equally delicious (though different). Kevin preferred the blueberry version while my fave was the Heath bar.

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Maple Syrup Rice Crispy Treats

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup 100% pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 2 7-ounce jars of marshmallow fluff
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 12-ounce box of crisped rice cereal (I used Target’s Market Pantry Toasted Rice cereal)
  • Desired toppings

Directions

  • Prepare a 9″ x 13″ brownie pan by cutting two pieces of parchment paper to cover the inside of the pan. Place one piece of parchment paper in the pan and put the other to the side.
  • Place the syrup, coconut oil, and marshmallow fluff in a medium saucepan and combine over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for one minute.
  • Remove boiled mixture from heat and stir in the vanilla and salt.
  • Pour the cereal into a large mixing bowl and cover with the syrup mixture. Stir to coat fully.
  • Stir in toppings as desired. I tried both crushed Heath bar pieces (1 8-ounce bag) and dried blueberries (6 ounces), and would recommend either one.
  • Spoon cereal mixture into the prepared pan, distributing evenly throughout the pan.
  • Take the second piece of parchment paper and place it on top of the cereal mixture, then press down firmly to pack down the cereal as tightly as possible. (Be sure to be thorough about this. The more firmly the bars are packed at this stage, the better they’ll hold together when done.)
  • Place pan in the freezer for 45 minutes, then slice and enjoy. (Store remaining bars sealed in the fridge.)

(I hope to finalize my second entry into this contest in the next few days, and I’m excited to share that recipe with y’all as well! If all goes as planned, I think it will be a keeper.)

Favorite Internet Videos From The Past Few Days

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Sometimes you just need a few good Internet videos to get you through the day, you know? Over the past few days, I’ve been squirreling away some good ones, and now — lucky you! — you get the pleasure of checking them out, if you’d like. Some of these you may have seen by now, but hopefully some are new to you:

  • Let’s start strong. I know most of you have probably seen Jenny Slate’s wonderfully lovable Marcel the Shell. However, I shared it with some co-workers this week who were unfamiliar with it, so in the off-chance you haven’t seen this yet, you’re welcome. (And, let’s be honest, if you HAVE already seen it, you should probably watch it again. You know you won’t regret it.).

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  • Have you guys seen this yet? This story about the dog who regularly rides public buses in Seattle to get to and from the dog park? She’s adorable. Enjoy.

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Enjoy your Tuesday!

 

My 30-Day Winter Wardrobe Challenge: Week 2 Recap

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This week’s goal was to integrate a bit more color into my life. In recent years, I’ve started making black and gray my go-to colors for many pieces of clothing and, while I love so many of those pieces, realized it was time to rotate in some of the more, well, upbeat pieces in my closet.

I also wore my new Lululemon Vinyasa Scarf that I got for Christmas this week, and wanted to call out its amazingness. It has snaps so it can be made into a wrap, a blanket, etc. I can’t wait to travel with it. I have a feeling it will be a game changer on planes.

Day Eight: Monday, January 12

(sweater: Forever 21 / pants: Paige Denim / booties: BP by Nordstrom / nail polish: Tobey by Zoya)

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Day Nine: Tuesday, January 13

(sweater: Kut From the Kloth / faux leather leggings: Asos / booties: BP by Nordstrom / nail polish: Tobey by Zoya)

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Day Ten: Wednesday, January 14

(sweater: TJ Maxx / jeans: J Brand / boots: Dolce Vita / nail polish: Up the Ante by Revlon)

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Day Eleven: Thursday, January 15

(top: BP by Nordstrom / pants: Paige Denim / booties: BP by Nordstrom / scarf: Lululemon / nail polish: Up the Ante by Revlon)

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Day Twelve: Friday, January 16

(sweater: Kenzie Girl / leggings: BP by Nordstrom / boots: Dolce Vita / nail polish: Merino Cool by Essie)

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Day Thirteen: Saturday, January 17

(sweatshirt: Forever 21 / leggings: Zella / hat: J. Crew / nail polish: Merino Cool by Essie)

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Day Fourteen: Sunday, January 18

(sweatshirt: Target / leggings: Zella / nail polish: Merino Cool by Essie)

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Baby Steps In Meal Planning

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Despite my possession of a strong love for both organization and cooking, I’ve never been good at meal planning. I’ve been terrible at it, really.

The type of people who can plan their meals for the coming week, shop for the necessary ingredients on Sunday, and then pull it all off astonish me. I’m going to blame it on our schedules, but I really do think that’s a big contributing factor. We often don’t know our weeknight schedules for a given week on the Sunday before. He spends lots of time working on Fulton & Roark stuff after work, and I keep busy with freelance interviews and writing, which take place after hours. This means that most weeknights Kevin and I are in “fend for yourself mode.” We don’t eat together, much less eat the same meal.

But I want to get better about cooking on weeknights, and being thoughtful about it while also efficient. (I should have made that a New Year’s resolution! Consider it officially added to the list.) And so I decided to start planning some meals for the week, knowing that some nights we’d be able to eat together and some we wouldn’t. I want to pick recipes that work well as leftovers, so in case neither of us end up being home for dinner we can enjoy the meal the next day for lunch.

So far, I’m enjoying this change-up in my weeknight cooking routine! I hunted down some tasty, healthy, and quick-to-prepare (which is a must) recipes from sources like Better Homes & Gardens, Cooking Light, and Real Simple, and we’ve loved everything so far. I wanted to share a handful or recipes with you readers in case you’re looking for some new options to enjoy for dinner. (I know I always love hearing about recipes others have approved!)

Orange and Tomato Simmered Chicken with Couscous (via Cooking Light)

I modified this recipe a bit from the Cooking Light version, subbing out the cous cous for brown rice (because that’s what we had in our pantry), and opted for boneless chicken rather than bone-in. I also doubled the amount of carrots and olives they recommended. I’d never used fresh fennel before, and am now a huge fan. It worked SO well in this dish (both the bulb, which you cook for this dish, and the fronds, which are used as a delicious garnish). Now I’m on the hunt for more fennel recipes. (Got any good ones to send my way?)

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Greens, Cannellini Beans, And Andouille Sausage Pan Stew (via Better Homes and Gardens)

If there’s one thing Kevin and I can’t get enough of, it’s leafy greens, so this hearty stew — made with the chicken sausage of your choice — was right up our alley. We LOVED this dish (didn’t have any leftovers — oops), and I loved the fact that it contained so few ingredients. I used the garlic chicken sausage Trader Joe’s sells and also added an extra clove of garlic and topped this dish with hot sauce (because that’s how the Kellers roll).

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Maple Glazed Salmon (via Real Simple) paired with Caribbean-Style Roast Cabbage with Carrots (Cooking Light)

Kevin talks about how he used to think he didn’t like cabbage, because he’d only ever had it boiled and bland tasting as a kid. But, as it turns out, cabbage is DELICIOUS — and this side dish is a perfect representation of its great taste potential. I found this cabbage recipe over the holidays and immediately knew it was something we’d like. I just had to find something to pair it with, and then when I saw this maple glazed salmon recipe from Real Simple, I knew we had a winner. (I was right.) We will definitely be making this meal again — so easy and incredibly delicious. (I mean, come on. The salmon glaze has a whopping total of four ingredients, including salt and pepper! That’s my kind of recipe.)

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My 30-Day Winter Wardrobe Challenge: Week 1 Recap

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Well, I sure picked a cold week to start my wardrobe challenge! Weather like this makes me glad I don’t live in the Midwest anymore. I’m such a wimp when it comes to the cold!

Despite the chilly temps, I enjoyed this first week of the challenge. Then again, the first week is always easy, since I have my pick of anything from my closet. As always, lots of Stitch Fix finds made their way into my outfit choices (I find that so many of their pieces become my go-tos!), as did lots of Nordstrom items (I’m a creature of habit). I also added a nail color call-out each day this time around (something I didn’t do during my initial summertime Wardrobe Challenge), since I tend to change my polish color so often. (A note on nail polish: My friend Bethany — who is a wonderful gift giver in addition to being an even more wonderful friend — gave me a bottle of Smith & Cult nail polish for Christmas. It was a brand I wasn’t familiar with, but she’d heard about it from Mindy Kaling’s Instagram. Check out how cool these bottles are! And each color has a fun, bite-sized description/story about it. Love.)

Don’t forget that you can follow me on Instagram (@annaskeller1) for daily outfit updates if you’d like to join in that way.

Day One: Monday, January 5

(sweater: Renee C – via Stitch Fix / pants: Paige Denim / booties: BP by Nordstrom / nail polish: Rooney by Zoya)

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Day Two: Tuesday, January 6

(top: BP by Nordstrom / scarf: Forever 21 / leggings: BP by Nordstrom / boots: Dolce Vita / nail polish: Rooney by Zoya)

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Day Three: Wednesday, January 7

(shirt: Thread & Supply / jeans: Lou & Grey by LOFT / moccasins: Minnetonka / nail polish: Wednesday by Zoya)

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Day Four: Thursday, January 8

(sweater: LOFT / pants: Kut From The Kloth – via Stitch Fix / boots: DSW / nail polish: She Said Yeah by Smith & Cult)

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Day Five: Friday, January 9

(top: BP by Nordstrom / scarf: Nordstrom / leggings: BP by Nordstrom / boots: Dolce Vita / nail polish: She Said Yeah by Smith & Cult)

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Day Six: Saturday, January 10

(sweater: Olive & Oak – via Stitch Fix / jeans: Level 99 – via Stitch Fix / booties: BP by Nordstrom / nail polish: Kelly by Zoya)

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Day Seven: Sunday, January 11

(sweatshirt: Lou & Grey by LOFT  / leggings: Zella by Nordstrom / shoes: TOMS / nail polish: Tobey by Zoya)

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Some Of The Best Movies/TV/Books I Watched/Read Last Year

January is the month of reflection, and as I look back over 2014, something that comes to mind quickly are the movies, books, and TV shows that filled so many hours of my life last year. Some of these were released in 2014 while others are older, but their common theme is that they were all new to me as of this past year*. I’ve listed them in no particular order, and am 100% certain I’ve left some great ones off the list, but at any rate, here you go!

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(*The caveat there are TV shows, as some of these are ones I’ve been enjoying since before 2014, but continued to love last year, too.)

MOVIES:

  • Chef
  • Men, Women, and Children
  • Interstellar
  • Shadow of the Vampire
  • This is the End
  • About Time
  • Frank
  • Austenland
  • Nebraska
  • Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Birdcage
  • Gone Girl
  • This Is Where I Leave You
  • Jeff Who Lives At Home
  • The Obvious Child
  • Road to Paloma
  • Land Ho!

TV SHOWS

  • Parenthood
  • Modern Family
  • Friday Night Lights
  • The Following
  • Downton Abbey
  • The Killing
  • Bojack Horseman
  • Jane the Virgin
  • The Mindy Project
  • Nashville
  • SNL
  • The Good Wife
  • Inside Amy Schumer
  • Drunk History
  • 30 Rock

BOOKS:

  • Yes, Please!
  • Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
  • Burial Rites
  • The Bed Wetter
  • One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories
  • Rework
  • Unbroken
  • Brain On Fire
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks 

Overall takeaway? I need to watch fewer movies/TV and read more books — ha! (Also, shout-out to Serial, which I was completely obsessed with during its 12-episode podcast run. Can’t wait for Season Two!)

What TV/movies/books did you love last year?

 

 

 

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