The Short List: February

Eli versus the stairs

This is how February feels to me: so close to spring, and yet I’m not sure I can make it. We had temperatures in the 60s this past weekend and it was glorious. I sat outside and read, and was thrilled to see a few of the bulbs I planted last fall beginning to peek out of the soil. Now we’re looking at a forecast of snow by the end of the week. So close, and yet so far. The only way to get around to spring is to get through February, though. In addition to the things that are saving me right now, here’s what else is getting me through until March.

Disclosure: This post contains a few affiliate links.


The Great British Baking Show (streaming on Netflix): The kids are I are hooked! When I first suggested it, they both balked. We never watch cooking or baking shows, and neither of them really have an interest in baking. I’d heard good things, though, and urged them to give it one episode. By the end of the first episode they were ready to binge watch, and every day they wanted to know if we had time to watch another. We fell in love with all the contestants (although we were pulling for the youngest baker: year-old Martha), and we marveled at all the fantastic treats (many of which we’d never even heard of). The best part is just the pure British-ness of it. Everyone is so nice to each other – such a delight compared to the cut-throat, drama-filled American reality television shows. We need more seasons STAT!


I’m listening to A Man Called Ove and I absolutely adore it. I’m so glad, too. The last two audio books I listened to were somewhat disappointing, and it was starting to bum me out. Leave it to a grumpy old man to cheer me up!

On my nightstand I’ve got my pick for “A book you own but have never read” in the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge. I chose Imaginary Thingsby Andrea Lochen. It was sent to me by the publisher last year and I never got around to it. It’s kind of far-fetched: a single mom realizes she can see her son’s imaginary friends, which just happens to be a pair of baby dinosaurs. While I’m not tearing through it, it’s holding my attention. We’ll see!

I’ve got two non-fiction books going: 10% Happier by Dan Harris and Love the House You’re In by Paige Rien (available March 8). I’m enjoying both so far, but they’re best consumed a few pages at a time.

Eli and I started The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. I read it aloud to Elena years ago, and it’s every bit as wonderful as I remember.


Numi Emperor's Puerh Tea

Have you ever tried Pu ·erh tea? It’s the oldest known variety of tea, picked from 500-year-old trees and then fermented. I was sent a couple of samples of this tea by Numi and I really like it. I don’t normally buy any kind of special tea, but now that I’ve tried these I’m reconsidering. They’re so beautifully flavored, rich and smooth and not at all bitter, something I struggle with in other teas I’ve brewed before. I love brewing a cup and relaxing with a book for a few minutes before the kids get home from school and the craziness of the after school routine begins. My favorite flavors so far are the Emperor’s blend and the Ginger. I want to try the Cardamom as well as the Chocolate.


By the time you get to adulthood, your days are already numbered. A visual look at the tail end of life that will make you think twice about your time and priorities.

I don’t have much trouble falling asleep, but that didn’t keep me from trying this breathing trick to fall asleep faster. I’m not sure if it makes me fall asleep more quickly, but it seems to lull me into a deeper, more restful sleep.

These photos of Misty Copeland posing in recreations of Degas masterpieces are breathtaking.

What’s on your short list of favorite things right now?


Better Bakery Handcrafted Sandwiches (With a Side of Sunshine)

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Better Bakery. While I have been compensated for my work, all thoughts and opinions expressed below are mine.

Clementines with Spiced Syrup Recipe and Better Bakery Handcrafted Artisan Melts

It’s no secret that I don’t have the most adventurous eaters in my family. I wouldn’t classify them as picky (although each individual member has their quirks), but I certainly don’t have free reign in the kitchen to serve whatever I want. At least, not if I want everyone to eat a square meal with minimal complaining. So, let’s not call them picky. Let’s call them challenging.

Clementines with Spiced Syrup Recipe

Most of the time I’m up for the challenge. I enjoy cooking, and I love trying to expand their boundaries little by little. Family dinner is very important to me. I’ve learned over the years how to do this without freaking anyone out (for the most part) by following a few rules:

1. Mix tried and true classics (like my most-requested tacos) with a new dish in the weekly menu plan. If the new recipe is a bomb, tacos (or whatever other beloved meal) is on deck for another day.

2. Always balance new foods with foods I know everyone likes. If it’s a new main dish, I make sure all the sides are pleasers. If it’s a new side, I pair it with a familiar protein, bread and fruit.

3. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to try it. If you try it and don’t like it, thanks to Rule #2 you’ll still have plenty to eat.

4. There is no backup meal. I’m not a short order cook, so what you see is what you get. Again, thanks to Rule #2 you won’t starve. And thanks to Rule #1, something you like better will make an appearance another night.

5. If at first you don’t succeed (and it’s not a dry-heaving failure like the Brussels Sprout Incident of 2009), try again. And again. And about twenty more times. One day you’ll serve cucumbers for the twenty-first time and they will like them.

Clementines with Spiced Syrup Recipe

Side dishes probably give me more grief than any other cooking I do. It’s so easy to get into a rut, especially when the people you cook for aren’t very adventurous in the fruit and vegetable department. If I’m not careful, we’ll end up eating the same rotation of green beans-corn-carrots-apple slices every week. Reminding myself of Rule #5 has helped expand our side dish repertoire to include many dishes I never thought we’d all happily eat (though not, sadly, Brussels sprouts).

These Spiced Clementines are just one example. For years I only bought canned mandarin oranges. We’d all eat them half-heartedly, but we weren’t excited about them. They just kind of took up space on the table and filled in for our daily fruit requirement. I love buying clementines during the winter, when they’re in season and so reasonably priced. Tossing a clementine in a lunch box is fine, but for sit-down meals I like to serve my sides with a little more flair.

Spiced Clementines have flair alright – they’re like a side of sunshine. Not only are they easy to make ahead of time, they’re pretty to serve and delicious to eat. Taking a food your kids already like and preparing it in a slightly different way shows them that familiar ingredients can be enjoyable in a variety of ways. Playing with new flavorings and spices, such as cloves and star anise, opens them up to trying new flavors. Eventually that can open picky palates up to entire new foods and flavor profiles.

Clementines with Spiced Syrup Recipe and Better Bakery Handcrafted Artisan Melts

I paired these Spiced Clementines with Better Bakery Handcrafted Melts. These tasty hand-rolled sandwiches go from freezer to the table in twenty-two minutes or less. I love the Chicken & Bacon Club, while the rest of my family reaches for the Cheese & Pepperoni Pizza. With a batch of Spiced Clementines in the fridge and a stash of Better Bakery sandwiches in the freezer, we’re never more than a few minutes away from one of those mythical square meals with no complaining!

Clementines with Spiced Syrup Recipe and Better Bakery Handcrafted Artisan Melts

Spiced Clementines

This dish is a great way to use up those last few sad, slightly shriveled clementines you might normally throw away. Even the driest and saddest of clementines will perk up in the spiced syrup and taste fantastic! Bonus: when the clementines are gone the leftover spiced syrup makes an excellent sweetener stirred into coffee or tea. You can substitute tangerines or mandarin oranges for the clementines. Serves 4.


1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
3 cloves (whole)
1 star anise pod
8 clementines, peeled and sliced


Bring water, sugar and spices to a simmer over medium-high heat. Allow to simmer until sugar is completely dissolved. Place clementines in a heat-safe bowl and pour hot spiced syrup over them. Let clementines rest for at least 30 minutes before serving. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Better Bakery Handcrafted Artisan Melts at Walmart

Made by hand in small batches, Better Bakery sandwiches are a tasty, easy and kid-friendly meal option you can feel good about serving. Look for Better Bakery Handcrafted Melts, including Cheese & Pepperoni Pizza and the Chicken & Bacon Club, in the frozen aisle at Walmart, Kroger, Meijer, HEB and Harris Teeter. While checking out all the offerings online, be sure to print out a coupon to save $1.50!

 Clementines with Spiced Syrup: a bright and cheery winter side dish recipe that uses cinnamon, cloves and star anise to spice up the clementine. Makes a delicious kid-friendly fruit side dish for lunch, dinner or snack time.


The Short List: November/December

Sunset Rainbow

Disclosure: This post contains a few affiliate links.

Weekday late afternoons often find us scattered. After the kids and I check in and have our afternoon snack and a cup of tea, they wander off to their own corners of the house. Elena likes to do homework up in her room with her music. Eli likes to chill in the basement, either by himself or with the various neighborhood boys that find their way to our home many afternoons. If Mike is home, he’s often in the office finishing up a few things. You can find me in the kitchen, making dinner. We’re all here, but we’re in our own little worlds.

As a particularly rainy and dreary day drifted into evening, which thanks to Daylight Savings Time means 5 p.m. or so, the house was suddenly filled with a warm, golden glow. Every room of the house was suffused with the most beautiful light. It was so unusual, and almost magical, that it drew us outside. Once we stepped out, we were rewarded with a gorgeous sunset to the west and a full rainbow to the east. What a lovely reminder that even on the busiest and dreariest of days, there is always a reason to pause and look up.

I really love writing these monthly short lists, but I’m going to change the format up just a smidgen. In the past I’ve included a section of what I’m watching. It was initially a convenient way to fit in my Netflix movies and shows into regular content. While we’re still big fans of Netflix, my time with the Stream Team is up. Also, I’m just not an exciting person when it comes to television. I watch football and a handful of other things, and I’m pretty awful about adopting new shows. For those reasons, I’m letting the “Watching” portion of the Short List go. If I come across any new shows or documentaries that we really love I’ll definitely share, it just won’t be on a regular basis. Enough about what isn’t in the Short List this month, let’s get on to what is featured!


Did you catch my most recent reading update? It was a doozy, but there was lots of good stuff in there. Sadly, I’m in a bit of a slump right now. I’m still reading Shelly Turkle’s book about reclaiming conversation. It’s thought-provoking, and full of great information, but it’s not the easiest read. I’m determined to get through it, though, because I think the information is so valuable. I’m also about a third of the way through my selection for “A Book Your Mom Loves” in the 2015 Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge. My mom may have loved The Marranos by Liliane Webb, but I am struggling. If it were any other book I’d move on (life’s too short and so on and so forth), but #momguilt. I’m also reading Middle School Makeover by Michelle Icard. This book is a treasure trove of helpful nuggets about making the middle school years bearable, but again … it’s a book about middle school. Hence the slump.

On the bright side, I’m listening to Deep Down Dark by Héctor Tobar, the true account of the 33 Chilean miners that were trapped underground (and now a movie). It’s riveting! I highly recommend it. Eli and I just finished up Wildwood by Colin Meloy. He really enjoyed it, and it was a good choice for a read aloud – great illustrations, good dialogue, and writing that paints a vivid story for the reader and listener. We’re about to start The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. I’ve never read it, but I hear it’s a classic.

Look for my final 2015 reading update to come at the end of December, along with my picks for the best books of the year!


Bombas socks

I have strong feelings about socks, and have discarded many a pair that didn’t make the cut. One of the only things that gets me through the winter months is a strong sock game. I got my first pair of Bombas over the summer, and now I’m hooked. I was so excited to find them on sale at the Gap, so I ordered another pair for myself and a pair for Eli. For every pair of socks you buy, the company donates a pair to someone in need. I’m telling you, these socks are The Bomb(as). Use my Bombas link to get 25% off your first pair.

Now that my toes are covered, let’s move to the neck. Last year I made a blanket scarf for super cheap using this fantastic tutorial from MomAdvice. Even though this isn’t how I normally wear it (I like it wrapped around my neck kerchief-style), you can see it in this photo:

Peter King and Angie Six 2015 NFL Combine Tweetup

I love how warm it keeps me all winter long, and how it takes a ho-hum outfit and instantly makes it cuter. I picked another one up at the aforementioned Gap sale, and it will take much will-power not to keep buying  or making more.

Tulip Tree Creamery Market District Carmel

Feet? Check. Neck? Check. Belly? Yes! If you live in Indiana or the parts of the Midwest, you must seek out any of the cheeses from Tulip Tree Creamery. Made in Indy by Netherlands transplant Fons Smits, it’s the most delicious form of dairy you can put in your mouth besides ice cream. I’m particularly fond of the Trillium, but I’ve yet to try a Tulip Tree product I haven’t loved.


I’ve always loved the New Yorker cartoons, and this collection of their cartoons about children’s books is such a treat.

Do you have a thing about visiting grocery stores when you travel too?

Get your cocoa and couches ready: the best holiday TV specials of 2015.

I’m obsessed with hygge this winter. This should help.

What’s on your short list of favorite things right now?

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