Getting a Fresh Start

I’ve never been a fan of spring cleaning. Why spend more time cleaning indoors just as the weather is starting to change for the better? I prefer spending a good chunk of time deep cleaning the apartment in January. Starting the new year with a clean, uncluttered living space helps me focus my attention on resolutions and the year ahead.

Light Fixtures: Dusting light fixtures and changing burned out bulbs are chores I usually put off, but accomplishing these small tasks brighten living spaces in the dark, gloomy winter months. Don’t forget to replace those bulbs with energy-efficient, compact fluorescent bulbs.

Kitchen: So, I just found some dried basil that expired in 2007. What?! While it might be fun taking expiration-date-inspired trips down memory lane, no one should have spices this old. Start the new year off right by throwing out expired spices, grains, oils and condiments. If you can’t find a date, smell it – or, if you’re brave, taste it. If it doesn’t smell right, toss it. Also, wipe down refrigerator and freezer shelves and doors before restocking.

Closets and Drawers: This is the perfect time to reevaluate your wardrobe, organize closet shelves, and declutter the junk drawer. In fact, maybe it’s time to get rid of the junk drawer all together. Who needs all this junk?!

Floors and Walls: Baseboards and walls take a beating throughout the year. My favorite tool for tackling stubborn spots and stains is the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. I don’t know how this little, white sponge works, but it gets the job done. Spaghetti sauce splatter stains in the kitchen? Christmas tree stains along the entryway wall? Shoe scuffs behind the desk? This sponge wipes them out without much elbow grease.

Electronics: I’m mainly referring to my laptop, y’all. This thing grosses me out. I plan on making more money by writing in 2013, so I need my laptop in tip-top shape.

Do you save cleaning for the spring or do you prefer a fresh start to the year?

Baked Oatmeal with Blackberries and Bananas

When I was a kid, I HATED oatmeal unless it was mixed with at least a quarter cup of packed brown sugar. My mom would scold, “Eat it! It’s good for you!” as I sat staring at the brown sludge congealing before my eyes. Yuck.

Now that I’m older and a little wiser, I’m constantly realizing how right Mom was back then. Oatmeal isn’t my favorite thing, but I’m willing to eat it for its benefits, like heart and – ahem – colon health. But, hey, oatmeal doesn’t have to be that boring sludge we know so well. I found and slightly adapted a recipe for baked oatmeal. It’s a great grab-and-go breakfast, and it would be perfect for feeding a brunch crowd.

Baked Oatmeal with Blackberries and Bananas

Modified from Skinny Taste

Serves 6

2 Medium Bananas, 1/2 inch slices

1 1/2 Cups Blackberries, or other seasonal berry

1/4 Cup Agave Nectar

1 Cup Quick Cooking Oats

1/4 Cup Chopped Walnuts, or slivered almonds

1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder

3/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon

1 Pinch of Salt

1 Cup Almond Milk

1 Egg

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In the bottom of a 8×8″ pan, lightly coated with non-stick cooking spray, arrange sliced bananas in a single layer. On top of the bananas, layer 3/4 cup berries, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, and 1 tbsp agave nectar. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, place 1 cup quick cooking oats, 1/8 cup nuts, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 pinch of salt, and stir to combine. In a separate medium bowl, place 3 tbsp agave nectar, 1 cup almond milk, 1 egg, and 1 tsp vanilla extract, and whisk to combine.

Layer the mixed dry ingredients over the baked fruit mixture in the pan. Then pour the mixed wet ingredients over the dry ingredient layer, making sure the dry ingredients are coated evenly. Layer 3/4 cup berries and 1/8 cup nuts on top.

Place the pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until set and golden brown. Best served warm from the oven but reheats well.

Accordion Box Invitations

I had some down time last week, so I spent an afternoon working on bridesmaid invitations. They turned out great, and my girls loved getting the surprise in the mail.

To make these accordion-style invitations, I followed this tutorial by Jordan Ferney of Oh Happy Day. I attached charms and trinkets that I found at my favorite gift shop, Lucca.

I found a tutorial on wool pom poms and made cute box toppers with this chunky roving wool from Martha Stewart Crafts. In retrospect, I should have used a finer gauge, but the chunky stuff will do in a pinch. I also decorated the lids with silver washi tape. If you haven’t used washi tape, I highly recommend it. It’s so fun and comes in all sorts of pretty colors and patterns.

The Perfect Bridesmaid Invitation

The wedding details are starting to come together. I’ve been thinking about bridesmaids and how to ask a few extra special women in my life to stand by me on the big day.

  • I think these accordion boxes are just the thing for popping the question to my best girlfriends.
  • These confetti rings are fun and perfect for bridesmaids.
  • A simple red heart ring tucked into a bridesmaid’s invitation would be so sweet.
  • I’m a wanderer at heart, so these vintage map rings displaying the wedding destination are perfect.

To help keep me sane during the wedding planning process, I picked up A Practical Wedding by Meg Keene. I can’t recommend this book enough. Planning even the simplest wedding can be completely overwhelming at times, but this book brings you back down to earth.

The Breakfast Bowl

Besides getting engaged three weeks ago, the breakfast bowl is the best thing that’s ever happened to us. We eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner at least three times a week and never get tired of it. It is so good. The only thing I don’t like about the breakfast bowl is it isn’t bottomless.

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This meal started out as a hot cereal sweetened with dried cherries, brown sugar, and slivered almonds. But it was boring. So I overhauled the entire project to include my favorite savory breakfast items and The Breakfast Bowl was born. We buy Arrowhead Mills Hot Cereal in bulk with our Amazon Prime membership. I’m not kidding when I say we could feed an army with the hot cereal we have on hand right now. And yes, that is a value pack of MorningStar Farms Sausage Patties. You could toss any cheese you like into the mix, but to save a few calories we go for The Laughing Cow.

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The Breakfast Bowl

Yields 1 bowl

1 serving of multigrain hot cereal (like the kind from Arrowhead Mills or Bob’s Red Mill), prepared according to box instructions

1 egg, fried in a lightly oiled nonstick pan

1 veggie sausage patty, prepared according to box instructions

1 wedge of The Laughing Cow Light Queso Fresco & Chipotle or Light Creamy Swiss

Hot sauce, salt, and pepper to taste

Optional topping: sliced avocado

Combine prepared hot cereal, fried egg, cooked veggie sausage, and cheese in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add a dash of hot sauce – like my favorite, Secret Aardvark Habanero Hot Sauce - and enjoy!

Big News

If there was ever a reason to be absent for a while this is it! After nine and a half years of adventure, we decided to extend our good times indefinitely. We’ve set a date, picked a venue, put together a guest list, and now my head is spinning with wedding and honeymoon plans. I think my brain has turned into tulle and is sprouting peonies and oversized balloons. Feel free to follow along with the madness here and here.

Aside from that, I’m working on getting my freelance writing and editing business up and running. Stay tuned for more details in the near future.

Jenna’s Summer Love Soundtrack

I made a summer music mix for my sister’s birthday and wanted to share it. It’s full of happy, sweet and soulful songs, and I can’t stop playing it – at the coffee shop while I’m working, around the house while I’m cleaning, in the kitchen while I’m cooking. It may not look like summer around here – Seattleites call this Junuary – but at least I have some sunny tunes.

Enjoy!