My 30-Day Wardrobe Challenge – Week One Recap

So far so good on the 30-Day Wardrobe Challenge front! I’m enjoying being a bit more intentional about what I’m wearing as opposed to just grabbing some go-to outfits. So far my main takeaway is that I really, really love all my Target shoes. Like, a lot. (A 30-Day Shoe Challenge is NOT in my future, to be sure!)

Here’s a recap of what I wore during the first week of the challenge. (Please excuse the fact that I look upset in some of these pics. I am SO not used to taking selfies, as I’m sure you can tell! Focus on the clothes, y’all…) :)

Day One: Monday, July 21:

dress: Asos / shoes: BCBG

Monday (day 1)

Day Two: Tuesday, July 22:

top: Anthropologie / pants: Paige Denim / shoes: Target

Tuesday (day 2)

Day Three: Wednesday, July 23:

top: Forever 21 / pants: J. Crew / sandals: Target

Wednesday (day 3)

Day Four: Thursday, July 24:

dress: Nordstrom (BP) / shoes: Target

Thursday (day 4)

Day Five: Friday, July 25: 

top: Target / pants: Just Black (thanks, Stitch Fix!) / sandals: Old Navy

Friday (day 5)

Day Six: Saturday, July 26:

top: Urban Outfitters / shorts: Hudson / sandals: Target

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Day Seven: Sunday, July 27:

dress: Target / sandals: Target)

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Here’s to Week Two of the challenge! Happy Monday, friends.

4 Great Side Dish Recipes. (Bonus: They’re All Delicious, Easy, and Fast!)

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Oh, side dishes. So often an afterthought, or a portion of the meal that’s far more time consuming than you’d like it to be. Enter a collection (four, to be exact) of my favorite crowd-pleaser side dishes. These are foolproof: easy, delicious, and fast to prep. (You’re welcome.)

These are all relatively new recipes I’ve found and loved, and so even though they’re not at all similar (aside from their classification of “side dish”), I thought it made sense to group them together and pass them along to you lovely readers. (Also, check out my collection of my favorite grilled sides if you’re interested in going that route instead of staying in the kitchen.)

1. Jicama Green Apple Slaw

Get ready for crisp, refreshing deliciousness with this side dish. It’s a bit of a different take on a traditional cole slaw, and don’t shy away if you’re not a mayo fan — you seriously cannot taste it a bit.

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Ingredients (for slaw)

  • 3 cups shredded jicama (about 1 small jicama)
  • 1 green apple, chopped
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients (for dressing)

  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 3 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Directions

  • Peel jicama (I use a vegetable peeler — it’s similar to peeling a potato). Shred jicama into a medium bowl (I use a cheese grater on one of the larger-holed sides).
  • Add apple, onion, cilantro, and sunflower seeds to the bowl and toss with jicama.
  • Whisk together dressing in a small bowl. Pour over slaw and combine completely. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • This slaw is ready to be served immediately, or can be chilled in the fridge and served later. (If refrigerated, be sure to toss slaw again before serving to be sure dressing is well distributed.)

2. Roasted Carrots with Honey Ginger Glaze

This dish is not only quick and easy — it’s also lovely (when you go the multi-colored carrot route like I typically do). It’s not an overdone dish, which is what I love about it. The carrot flavor shines through, but is enhanced and dressed up a bit by the honey and ginger.

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound of carrots, washed (but not peeled!) and cut into quarter-inch thick circles (I like to buy the colorful carrots they often sell at Trader Joe’s — so pretty!)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Sea salt to taste

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Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees an line a baking sheet with aluminum foil
  • Place carrots on the foil and drizzle with olive oil, tossing and rolling carrots to coat evenly. Place in oven and roast for 20 minutes.
  • Once the carrots have been roasting for about 15 minutes, combine the honey, butter, and ground ginger in a small sauce pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  • Remove carrots from the oven and drizzle them with the honey glaze. Add sea salt to taste, and serve immediately.

3. Leon’s Full Service Warm Chickpea Cherry Salad

I was beyond thrilled to find this recipe thanks to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s “From The Menu Of…” department. Kevin and I lived in Atlanta before moving to Winston just over three years ago, and we both worked in Decatur. My office, in fact, was right around the corner from Leon’s Full Service (which, as my Atlanta friends know, is a wonderful, wonderful place). Their cocktails are to die for. The atmosphere is delightful (there’s a bocce court in the back!). But my favorite thing about Leon’s, hands down, is this warm chickpea cherry salad. (I’ve very, very slightly modified the recipe and opted to use gruyère rather than aged provolone, and I think it turned out great.) Enjoy!

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed and patted dry
  • 3/4 cup dried cherries
  • 1 Tablespoon plus one teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup gruyère, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced basil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

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 Directions

  • In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until just smoking. Carefully add chickpeas and saute until they begin to brown (about five minutes).
  • Stir in cherries and sauté until just warm (about one minute).
  • Add vinegar and continue cooking until vinegar is reduced and pan is almost dry.
  • Remove from heat and add cheese cubes.
  • When cheese is nearly melted, toss in basil.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

4. Honey Mustard Brussels Sprouts Slaw

I leave you with one more slaw recipe — this time using brussels sprouts rather than the traditional cabbage as a base. (I’m a big fan of this switch, and highly recommend this other shredded sprouts based salads for the winter season.)

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Ingredients (for slaw)

  • 1 pound shredded brussels sprouts (I highly recommend saving yourself some time by buying the pre-shredded sprouts TJ’s sells)
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 2/3 cup tart dried cherries
  • 1/3 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Ingredients (for dressing)

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Directions

  • To toast your almonds, place in a sauce pan over medium heat and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are fragrant and turning golden on the edges.
  • Whisk together olive oil, vinegar, honey, mustard, and garlic until well combined.
  • In a medium serving bowl, toss the shredded sprouts with the almonds, cherries, Parmesan cheese, and dressing.
  • Serve and ENJOY!

 

Saltine Cracker Crust Lime Pie (a.k.a. Atlantic Beach Pie)

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There’s a recipe that’s been floating among my Facebook friend group this week that I found intriguing: a light, summer-y pie made with a surprising crust ingredient — saltine crackers. Apparently this recipe is somewhat of a staple on the North Carolina coast, but I certainly wasn’t familiar with it. I knew I had to try it, though. I’m always down for a solid sweet and salty combo, and plus, this sounded like a quick, easy recipe. And the fact that it includes lots o’ fresh squeezed lime juice sealed the deal. (I have quite a love for limes, as my friends know all too well.)

This recipe was everything I hoped it would be, and I’m so glad I gave it a go. I’ll be making this dessert many times!

Keep reading to find out how these…

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…turned into this loveliness:

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Ingredients (for the crust)

  • 1 1/2 sleeves of saltine crackers
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 Tablespoons white sugar

Ingredients (for the filling)

  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • Fresh whipped cream, for garnish
  • Sea salt to taste (garnish)

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Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • While you’re waiting for the oven to preheat, crush the crackers finely, but not to dust, in a large mixing bowl. (You can use a food processor, but your hands work just as well!)
  • Add the sugar, then knead in the softened butter until an almost dough-like consistency forms.
  • Press “dough” into an 8-inch pie pan.
  • Chill for 15 minutes, then bake for 18 minutes, or until the crust is just golden brown.
  • Once you’ve removed the crust from the oven, start mixing your filling by whisking together the condensed milk, egg yolks, and lime juice until completely combined.
  • Pour filling into the crust (the crust doesn’t have to be cool) and bake for 16 minutes to set the filling.

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  • Be sure the pie is completely cool before slicing (you can put it in the fridge to speed up this process), and then slice and serve topped with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkle of sea salt, if desired*. (*If desired = if you love delicious things in your life. Seriously — be sure to add the whipped cream and sea salt!)

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Share The Sunshine (A Delightfully Fresh Take On An Energy Drink)

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This post is dedicated to energy drinks. But not just ANY energy drink. An energy drink in a class all its own: Buck O’Hairen’s Legendary Sunshine.

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It looks a little different than the rest of the energy drink options out there, wouldn’t you say?

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And those differences are more than just packaging deep.

You see, Sunshine was born out of the realization that though there were a ton of energy drinks in the market, they all had the same juvenile look and appeal. After all, not all of us need to amp up to, you know, throw cars around and jump over canyons on a bike, but lots of us would still like a little boost now and again. Enter Sunshine.

Sunshine is powered by 50 milligrams of caffeine (about as much as you’d find in a small cup of coffee) plus electrolytes and vitamin B12. Its zingy ginger berry flavor helps keep your stomach settled as well, and it only contains 60 calories.

This stuff really is good. It’s really good on its own. It’s really good when used as a mixer. (Hint: try it as a substitution for ginger beer next time you make a Dark and Stormy, and you’ll have a delightful Bright and Stormy instead! Get it?)

Full disclosure: I work for the company that makes Sunshine. (We’re an ad agency, but the Sunshine team members all work here, too.) But, Kevin and I were legit Sunshine fans before I started this job. We love this stuff.

For those of you who don’t live here in Winston-Salem or any of the other places that currently sell Sunshine (full list here — it’s mostly just in North Carolina at this point), you’re in luck! Sunshine just launched a Share the Sunshine initiative where, for just $5, you can order a hand-packed can of your very own. Or, better yet, buy a can for someone else and send them a personalized message that will be included on the box the can is shipped in. A perfect way to sample something new and brighten someone’s day!

Give Sunshine a try and let me know what you think. My guess is you’ll have a new favorite pick-me-up drink. (And it’s available for purchase on Amazon now, too, so you can have this delicious stuff delivered straight to your door.)

Kicking Off My 30-Day Wardrobe Challenge!

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Remember last week when I told you about the 30-Day Wardrobe Challenge I’m starting to help me clean out my closet a bit and rediscover some lesser-worn pieces in my wardrobe? Today’s the first day in that challenge!

After some deliberation, I’ve decided to document the challenge with photos (which will mostly be selfies, because Kevin leaves for work before I do). This is counterintuitive, because typically I’m pretty anti-selfie, but I think taking photos throughout this 30-day event will help me to (A) hold myself accountable to the challenge and (B) remind myself of outfits I’ve worn so far so I don’t repeat a look. I’ll be posting these photos on my Instagram account, so feel free to come along on the journey!

For day one, I went with this look (a super comfortable and Aztec-y dress from Asos):

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Happy Monday, everyone!

3 Beautiful Commercials Selling Everyday Items

When I saw IKEA’s latest ad the other day, showcasing their bed collection as part of their “The Wonderful Everyday” campaign, I was captivated. This ad is gorgeous and in the span of 90 seconds it managed to completely immerse me in the dream scenario. This got me thinking about other ads I’ve seen recently that do an incredible job of making something relatively commonplace wholly beautiful and new yet also familiar.

Up first, IKEA’s “Beds” ad. I’d recommend watching this spot at least twice. It really is amazing (and I’d love to have been on set to see how they made this come together — check out this behind-the-scenes stunt work!) The voiceover of the excerpt from Shakespeare’s The Tempest is a perfect complement to the dreamy visual element. (Agency: Mother London):

Food porn lovers rejoice: Lurpak’s recent ad, “Adventure Awaits,” showcasing their Cook’s Range line of products (things like non-stick spray and clarified butter) takes the idea of an average weekday dinner to a whole new (and lovely) level. If this doesn’t inspire you to conquer a new recipe, I don’t know what will. (Agency: Wieden+Kennedy London):

Italian brand Sognid’oro was able to add a clever, whimsical, and all-around delightful spin to the marketing of chamomile tea in “Don’t Drink And Drive.” (Agency: DLV BBDO Milan):

About Time: A New Movie To Add To My Favorites List

While Kevin and I were at the beach last weekend with our pal Bethany, we watched lots of movies — all of which were really, really great. Austenland, with Keri Russell (Felicity, for those of you in my age group) and Bret McKenzie (of Flight of the Conchords), was delightful. This Is The End, featuring James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Emma Watson, and more (all as hilarious versions of themselves) was one we laughed our way through. And then there was About Time — a movie that appeared to be a run-of-the-mill rom com based on the cover art, but one we got on a friend of a friend’s recommendation. (I mean, come on. This SCREAMS cheesy girl movie, am I right?):

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In fact? It. Was. Awesome.

Bethany and I watched this one alone (Kevin called it a night a bit earlier than we did) and sobbed our way through it*. (*I actually did tear up at the end, and I very rarely cry during movies.)

I should have known this movie had potential, though. After all, it’s from the director of one of my faves, Love Actually, and stars Rachel McAdams, who I tend to love (she gets a pass for The Time Traveler’s Wife — it was just a poorly executed film version of an incredible book!). Domhnall Gleeson (who Harry Potter fans will recognize as Bill Weasley) plays Tim, the male lead, and Bill Nighy shines as his father. What I learned (thanks to IMDB’s fun facts) after watching the movie was that originally Zooey Deschanel was slated to play the female lead. Thank GOODNESS Rachel ended up as Mary, because I know I wouldn’t have liked it nearly as much had Zooey’s grating wide-eyed quirkiness been front and center throughout the film.

So that’s how I feel about Zooey Deschanel — yes, even in the New Girl era, although I do love me some Schmidt. (Focus on About Time, Anna.)

It’s a movie about time travel. But wait! Even if you’re typically not into the fantastical I think you’ll like this. Because, ultimately, this is a movie about family. About love. About learning to savor the seemingly everyday-ness of our lives — no matter how many times we get to experience each day.

The story is beautiful, the soundtrack is spot-on, and the cast is captivating. It’s all-around lovely, and the fact that it’s set in England doesn’t hurt, as far as I’m concerned.

When I say I’ve added this film to my favorite movie list, I mean that it’s one I’d like to watch a couple of times a year. It’s one of those movies with such a good message that after you’ve watched it you feel motivated to be aware of the beauty that is life — even when it’s a typical Tuesday. To me, movies like this are like chiropractic adjustments in that sometimes you didn’t know you were misaligned until you realize how much straighter you’re standing and how great you feel afterward.

This movie came at a good time for me, because I’ve found myself frustrated with the mundane lately. I’ve been worried about whether I’ll ever achieve something especially memorable or big, and this film was a perfect reminder that my life — just as it is — is so very good. It may not be noteworthy in many ways, but it’s also packed full of incredible people and experiences and opportunities. As Walt Whitman said, “I have learned that to be with those I love is enough.” About Time reminded me of how very true that is.

Who should watch About Time? It’s a movie for just about anyone, I’d say. If you’re someone who enjoyed Love Actually, give this one a shot, and let me know what you think! (NOTE: Kevin and I watched it last night — his first time seeing it — and it’s now Kevin Keller endorsed as well. His comment: “Yet another example of how the British are killing it at making awesome and meaningful romantic comedies.” My thoughts exactly. Keep it up, Britain.)

My 30-Day Wardrobe Challenge

Guys, I have so many clothes. (Kevin Keller’s reading this and saying, “I’ve been telling her that for years!”) But it’s true. And recently moving my large inventory of clothing into our new house reminded me of just how much is in my closet. In our house, I don’t just have a closet — I have a CLOSET ROOM. That’s right. A whole room dedicated to clothes, shoes, and accessories. It’s pretty awesome, and I’m a fan. However, as I was setting up said closet room, I kind of got embarrassed by how many clothes I have.

And the worst part is, even though I have such a variety of clothing options, I find myself wearing the same outfits again and again. This realization planted the seed for my 30-Day Wardrobe Challenge.

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The concept is a simple one: For a 30-day period, I have to wear a different outfit every single day. (Things like workout clothes and PJs are exempt, for obvious reasons. Although I do have a scary amount of workout clothes…but we’ll save that for another challenge. Also, I can wear a pair of jeans or pants more than once, but not the same top more than a single time.) I am also not allowed to purchase any new articles of clothing during the 30-day challenge. (Things like workout clothes and PJs DO apply to this part.) At the end of the 30-day period, I will have re-discovered clothes I haven’t worn in a while (yay!), but I’m also committing to identifying at least 15 items that I don’t wear any more to donate to Goodwill or sell for consignment.

I’m so excited about this challenge, and think it will be fun finding love for old pieces and being real about some items I’ve hung onto for far too long and need to pass along.

I’ve decided to kick off my 30-Day Wardrobe Challenge on Monday, July 21, and am posting this a few days in advance in case anyone else wants to do it with me. Do any of you lovely readers find yourselves in a similar apparel-related predicament? If so, be a part of the challenge with me. Come on — it will be fun!

A Peek Into My Writing Process

I’ve been asked to take part in a writing process blog tour, and so that’s what you’re in the midst of right now. Welcome to the tour! It’s a pretty simple concept: Each participating blogger just answers four questions about his or her writing process (blog and otherwise, if applicable), and then passes the tour baton off to another blogger to continue the journey.

My wonderful friend Gwynne invited me to take part in this blog tour, and you should definitely check out her yummy blog, The Crafty Cook Nook, for some inspiring recipes and all-around great writing. G and I became forever friends when we were roommates for eight sweaty months while teaching English in rural Malaysia. Gwynne is a remarkably talented writer (she’s not just a blogger — she’s working on a novel!), and I’ve always been such an admirer of her ability to carve out time specifically for writing. I’d like to add some similar discipline to my approach!

So with that, here’s a glimpse into how I approach writing:

1. What are you working on?

I have a blog about, well, lots of things. And that’s kind of the point. I’d thought about starting a blog years before I actually pulled the trigger, but had been wrestling with what theme I’d adopt. Best blog practices state, after all, that in general blogs should have a “thing” — something like gluten-free cooking or DIY crafts or fashion. Unfortunately (fortunately?) my interests are far too broad for me to feel okay about tying myself to a single topic. The result? I write about everything from baking to advertising (the industry I work in) to fashion to traveling. I’m also trained in journalism and, even though I don’t currently work in that field, I try to keep my journalism muscles in shape by freelancing a bit (roughly 4-6 articles per month).

2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I try to bring a good mix of whimsy and reality to my writing, as I feel like that’s who I am. I’m Type A but also creative (which can be really annoying sometimes) and the things I’m interested in span a weird spectrum. I guess I try to make my blog sound as much like me as possible. Writing for my blog makes it easier to convey who I am than my journalistic endeavors, and I’ve enjoyed the outlet far more than I thought I would.

3. Why do you write what you do?

I’ve loved making the transition from journalism to advertising, but I realized I was missing writing as regularly as I’d been doing. Starting a blog, for me, felt pretty natural, as I’ve been writing my whole life. And the things I write about, by and large, are the things I think about. The things I’d discuss with a friend. A way to document memorable parts of my life. I try to write about things I’d also be interested to read. I’ve also learned to be okay with the organic evolution of my blog. I’d love for it to be more widely read, but also don’t want to kill myself to stick to a schedule, worry if my photos aren’t professional quality, etc. I already have a lot going on in my life, and I want my blog to continue to be a happy outlet rather than a burden.

4. How does your writing process work?

Though I don’t post on a regular schedule (I should, I know!), I do always have a handful of post ideas or even partially written posts saved as drafts. One big benefit to the themelessness I’ve created is that virtually anything goes. At any given point, I’ll have a list of ideas ranging from cocktail recipes I’ve just tried to my new favorite nail polish colors to an overview of a party we just hosted. It’s been fun to have a blog as a way to document and channel some of my thinking. If I read an interesting article or something, I’ve noticed that I’ve started to think about ways to build on that idea in order to create a blog post. I end up learning more about the things I’m interested in than I likely would otherwise and forcing myself to organize my thoughts as I’m researching and crafting my posts.

Step one complete — now it’s time to introduce my friend Bethany, witty author of My Fake Food Blog, who will be taking it from here to talk about HER writing process. (She’ll be publishing a post in the next few days.) Bethany and I met when we worked together at Mullen Advertising and we both live in Winston-Salem and hang out as much as possible. Photographic proof that we’re the best of friends:

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If you’re not a My Fake Food Blog reader yet, I know you’ll enjoy Bethany’s writing as much as I do. (And I can vouch for her cooking skills. SOLID.)

4th of July Happiness + A Giveaway Winner!

What an awesome 4th of July! Kevin and I spent the holiday weekend at the beach with his parents and our 9-year-old nephew, Isaiah (who lives in California and who we don’t get to see nearly enough). Even with a day-long visit from Hurricane Arthur, the weekend was pretty close to perfection. We kicked things off with our third anniversary on July 3, and then spent the rest of the weekend soaking up lots of beach/pool time and enjoying movies, meals, and laughter. Oh, and Kevin whipped up an amazing watermelon basil margarita one night that I’ll be posting the recipe for soon, so get pumped for that.

I’ll let a few photos illustrate what a great holiday we Kellers had, but first wanted to announce the winner of my Em Dash Paper Co. giveaway: Theresa Hoffmeister! Congrats, Theresa, and please shoot me an email at annaskeller@gmail.com so we can talk details and get you your 5″x7″ print of choice from Emily’s collection.

Okay — picture time. Hope everyone else had a wonderful 4th, too!:

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