Jun 29, 2016

More Summer Reading

I just got a new look for the blog, and I'm digging it. Now, I've been instructed to get in gear and get the recipe section together. Sigh. Work and hobby time management is always such a struggle for me during the summer. One of the few downsides to being a work at home mom.

Also? I just want to take a nap.

All the time.

Reading (in between the napping):

I love all of Rebecca Harrington's essays/articles/what have you, especially her adventures in following celebrity diets for New York Magazine's The Cut.  Wry and hilarious, the book is a compilation of those essays.  Highly recommend for a quick, fun read.
I'm currently enjoying Picnic in Provence, Elizabeth's Baird's follow up to Lunch in Paris.  It makes me want to go play at the farmer's market and put down the potato chips.  Always a good thing, ha!  It's the perfect thing to read before bed, too- nice and restful- beautifully written but not too taxing.

Now, for some serious history. . . ha! Please.  Not while I'm reading while watching the kids do bubbles and chalk in the driveway.  Instead it's a typical Kitty Kelley unauthorized gossip-sesh with a touch of fact and a lot of alleged.  Thoroughly entertaining.

After tearing through Curtis Sittenfeld's Eligible, I decided to give the other offerings from The Austen Project a try.  Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope was good, although probably a bit too on the nose.  It was like re-reading the original but the author used the modern-reinterpretation thesaurus.

Next up was Alexander McCall Smith's rendition of Emma.  And. . . I can't finish it.  I'm bored out of my gourd.   The characters are not likable.  I have no investment in their lives.  To be noted, however, I often have attempted to get through the original Emma, and have the same lackluster reaction.  I love some Clueless, but the actual book has never spoken to me.  

So that's about it- I'm headed to the library this afternoon as a treat if and when I get all my actual work done during babysitter time.  I'll have some more recs next week hopefully! 

 Anything I should be on the lookout for?

Jun 23, 2016

Coconut Cream Cake

Since we were in Asheville last weekend with friends, we celebrated Morgan's Father's Day Monday evening.  Dell Harper has been on quite the baking kick lately, and wanted to make "that coconut cake that we made Daddy last year.  I already asked him, and he said yes!"

Whelp, there you go.

So Coconut Cream Cake- delightfully easy, preschooler friendly, and delicious.

This was a fan favorite growing up- my brother especially. I think Deeds agrees, ha!

Excuse the pictures- I hurriedly tried to snap some before the mob fully descended.  I was rather unsuccessful.


  • 1  package yellow cake mix
  • 1 14-15 oz can cream of coconut
  • 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

  • 1 16 ounce whipping cream
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 8 oz package flaked coconut


  • Prepare and bake cake mix according to package directions in a 13x9 pan.
  • Remove cake from oven. While still hot, using a utility fork, poke holes all over the top of the cake.
  • Mix cream of coconut and sweetened condensed milk together. Pour over the top of the still hot cake. 
  • Let cake cool completely.
  • While it's cooling, make your whipped cream- beat with electric mixer or hand mixer until peaks form, adding sugar to taste.  The cake itself is really sweet, so I like to keep my whipped cream not so sugary. 
  • After the cake is cool, frost with the whipped cream and top with the flaked coconut. Keep cake refrigerated.
Now, don't go all out with a homemade yellow cake here.  Cake mix is fine for this purpose.  However, make your own whipped cream.  It takes five minutes and the rewards are exponential.

As the kiddos say "Soooooooo GOOOOOOD".  This is drawn out to the nth degree, and takes them about five minutes to say.

We had Morgan's faves of Beyonce Love Chicken, steamed broccoli, and wild rice.  Sooooooo gooooooood, indeed.

Jun 17, 2016

Five on Friday

1) VBS

This post was originally planned for last Friday, but didn't happen.  We had VBS at church last week- super fun, but super exhausting.  My body rebelled at the end by lapsing back into morning sickness mode.  I must admit, I am sick of throwing up this go around.

Enjoying the amazing Kona Ice Truck at the VBS celebration carnival.

2) Cheap Summer Activity

I picked up a couple of squirt bottles for the kiddos at the dollar store.  It has given me hours!  Hours that I should be weeding, but have instead sat in my chair and read my book while they play.
 Squirting each other, squirting bugs, squirting chalk to make paint, and squirting dirt to make mud.

Don't squirt Mama!

3)  Redemption Road

Have y'all read anything by John Hart?  Southern, literary, thrillers.  YES, PLEASE!  His latest does not disappoint- set in a small North Carolina city (which, IMHO, more closely resembled my own small East Tennessee city), it follows a young cop as she recovers from a traumatic ending of a controversial case, while delving into her complicated relationship with her pastor father, and the release of another cop from jail for a murder he may (or may not) have committed.

Just try it.  It's good.

4) The Girls in the Garden- Lisa Jewell

Slightly lighter, but just as suspenseful.  I loved this book- reminiscent of Liam Moriaty, it uncovers the mystery of a 13 year old girl found beaten in the park behind her home in a lovely London Square.

5) LOFT Jewels

LOFT is having a great sale right now.  Due to my burgeoning waistline, I'm focusing on accessories. I have a bunch of necklaces from LOFT and always get so many compliments.  I could spend a fortune on all the goodies they have right now.

On a more serious note-
Addressing the recent tragedies is beyond by ability as a scribbler of our daily mundanities.  Like all of us, I am heartbroken and speechless.  The hate threatens to overwhelm us all, and I have no words or way to properly address the situation.

Now, back to the mundanities- I have to get these kiddos dressed and fed.  Some days that alone seems insurmountable!

Thanks to the Five on Friday ladies!


Jun 15, 2016

Cooking and Listening (Part 3)- Greekish Dinner and Belgravia

 First up- a bell pepper salad.  Sometimes, I like a cooked vegetable salad, even in the summertime.  And roasting your peppers always takes them to the next level.

Roasted Pepper Salad

3-4 bell peppers- I used one of each orange, yellow, red, and green
1 red onion, roughly chopped
1/2 cup feta (more to taste)
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped (optional)
2 T olive oil
kosher or sea salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Chop the bell peppers into bite size pieces.  Toss with olive oil, onion, and salt.  Spread out on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the peppers are to your desired degree of roasted-ness.
  4. Mix with feta and olives- if you do it when the vegetables are still warm the feta will melt a bit.  It's tasty.

And that's it!  Super simple and super delicious.  Serve chilled, or at room temperature.

It's the perfect accompaniment to One Pan Greek Chicken and Rice!

Here's my hasty picture before we dived in.

Here's the food blogger's picture- lovingly styled and fussed over.  Either way it tastes good.  Recipe is shamelessly cut and pasted from RecipeTinEats- find it here.  It's soon tasty, and I love anything that cooks altogether.  I brought this to some families after a baby as well- perfect comfort food yet not too detrimental for your waistline.

Chicken and Marinade
  • 5 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in (Note 1)
  • 1 - 2 lemons, zest + 4 tbsp lemon juice (Note 7)
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tsp salt (normal salt, not kosher or sea salt flakes)
  • 1½ tbsp olive oil, separated
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup long grain rice (Note
  • 1½ cups chicken broth / stock
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • ¾ tsp salt (normal table salt)
  • Black pepper
  • Finely chopped parsley or oregano (optional)
  • Fresh lemon zest (highly recommended)
  1. Combine the Chicken and Marinade ingredients in a ziplock bag and set aside for at least 20 minutes but preferably overnight.
To Cook
  1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
  2. Remove chicken from marinade, but reserve the Marinade.
  3. Heat ½ tbsp olive oil in a deep, heavy based skillet (Note 2) over medium high heat.
  4. Place the chicken in the skillet, skin side down, and cook until golden brown, then turn and cook the other side until golden brown. Remove the chicken and set aside.
  5. Pour off fat and wipe the pan with a scrunched up ball of paper towel (to remove black bits), then return to the stove.
  6. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in the skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and sauté for a few minutes until translucent. Then add the remaining Rice ingredients and reserved Marinade.
  7. Let the liquid come to a simmer and let it simmer for 30 seconds. Place the chicken on top then place a lid on the skillet (Note 3). Bake in the oven for 35 minutes. Then remove the lid and bake for a further 10 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender (so 45 minutes in total).
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving, garnished with parsley or oregano and fresh lemon zest, if desired.
1. I use bone in, skin on chicken thighs because there's more flavour. But you can use skinless, boneless chicken thigh fillets if you prefer. If you do that, place the chicken in the pan 20 minutes into the baking time because the chicken won't need as long.

For drumsticks, you won't be able to sear them as successfully, but that's ok, just sear briefly and bake for the full time (45 minutes).

This can be made with breast as well but it won't be as juicy because the meat isn't as juicy. :)

2. The fry pan I used was 26cm / 10" in diameter and 6cm/2.4" deep. It's the perfect size for this.

3. I don't have a lid for the fry pan I used but I have a lid for a larger pot which I just placed on top. Otherwise, foil works just fine, or even a baking tray.

4. I garnished this with slices of lemon which I seared in the pan after cooking the chicken.

Now for listening.  All y'all Downton fans will love this one- Belgravia by Julian Fellowes.  He's the creator of Downton Abbey, as well as an excellent author.  It's not a podcast per se, but a serialized novel.  You can find it on audible.  Each episode is just over an hour.  I'm 3 in, and HOOKED.

Here's the blip-

Julian Fellowes’s BELGRAVIA opens on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo, 15thJune 1815, when the Duchess of Richmond threw a magnificent ball in Brussels for the Duke of Wellington.  Just before 1am, word came that Napoleon had unexpectedly crossed the border and Wellington and his troops had to leave immediately to prepare for war.  Many of the officers died on the battlefield, still in their dress uniforms.

At the ball are James and Anne Trenchard, who have made their money in trade.  Their beautiful daughter Sophia has caught the eye of Edmund Bellasis, the son and heir of one of Britain’s most prominent families.  An event takes place at the ball that has a seismic effect on all their lives.  Twenty-five years later, when the two families are settled in the newly developed area of Belgravia, the consequences of this terrible secret still resonate.  Behind the doors of these magnificent new houses lies a web of gossip and intrigue.

Sounds amazing, huh?  

Okay- I apologize for the cut and paste blog post, but I've got a crazy week of work! Make some chicken and listen to some British aristocratic scandal. XOXO!

Jun 9, 2016

Caftan Body

Y'all know I love anything caftan-adjacent- remember this article from New York Magazine's The Cut?  It's the best.  Obviously, at five months pregnant, I'm digging the caftan especially right now.  I've had two late winter pregnancies, so this summer pregnant thing is new to me.  I've always wondered how people can wear non-maternity clothes while pregnant.  Now, I get it!  Dresses!  Summer clothing!  Anything with the word trapeze or swing in it works for me.  Hurrah!

I picked up this number for a song at The Limited- it's going to be my fancy caftan.

 Did y'all know that Cost Plus World Market has clothes?  Perfect cover ups and hippie-ish summer duds.  I nabbed this dress and a similar one that's not online for super cheap.  Perfect bump coverage, but darling without a large stomach to deal with.  Also, check out their PJ pants, chemises and robes online.  Anthro look for a tiny fraction of the cost.

 So pretty!

Finally, I have been longing for one of those beautiful Mexican embroidered dresses.  But I also don't want to spend a ton on a caftan/muumuu.   Enter Amazon. Love this Lilliana Cruz dress- it's a cotton blend, which is nice when it comes to wrinkle prevention, and is machine washable.  Check and check!  I'm going to order another, and Dell Harper some of the adorable tops.  So probably not the most authentic, but comfortable and cute.  I'll take it!

So pregnant or not, enjoy a Caftan Body Summer!

Jun 7, 2016


Oh, I was just thrilled to pieces when I came upon some fresh lady peas at the farmstand the other day.  Fresh lady peas are so hard to come by- I was tempted to buy up their whole stock.  I think Dell Harper would have approved as she keeps asking for more of "those lady beans".    I kept is simple- followed this recipe from Southern Living exactly.  Just a little ham hock was all those beauties needed.

This was the perfect meal to cook while listening to another favorite new to me podcast- Gravy, produced by the Southern Foodways Alliance.  Gravy is fascinating- an exploration of modern Southern culture through our food.  I've learned about the environmental destruction of a Louisiana community, the impact of Cracker Barrel, Christian coffee shops in my own hometown, and salt production in West Virginia.  

 To round out the lady peas, we had roasted okra, fresh tomatoes, and Nathalie Dupree's "Slow Slow Chicken", with a lemony pan gravy.  I was a bit leery of the chicken, since it uses a roasting bag, and cooks for two and a half hours.  But, I wisely decided to trust the infallible Ms. Dupree and went for it.

It kicked ass.  Crispy brown skin?  After slow and low roasting?  Unbelievable!  And so convenient- prepped and popped it in during nap, then we played outside all afternoon, coming in to this delicious supper.

Nathalie Dupree's Slow Slow Chicken

1 roasting/oven bag (found near the foil in my Kroger)
2 T all-purpose flour
1 onion, sliced
1 3 lb. roasting chicken
sea salt
1/2 lemon (if you've got one, if not don't worry!)
Fresh thyme, oregano or marjoram (optional, but delicious!)

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  • Shake the flour into the roasting bag.  
  • Put half the onion and the lemon into the chicken cavity.  Sprinkle with salt.
  • Place the bag in a roasting pan, then add the remainder of the onion in the bag.
  • Place the chicken on top of the onion in the bag.
  • Put some of the fresh herbs in the chicken cavity and sprinkle the rest on top.
  • Close the bag according to its instructions, and slit the bag in six places.
  • Place in the oven and cook 2 and 1/2 hours, or until a thermometer registers 180 degrees.
  • Carefully open bag, removing chicken and onions.
  • Pour the liquid into a saucepan and boil until reduced to a sauce consistency.
I actually made a quick base, with a couple tablespoons flour whisked into a couple tablespoons of melted butter, then slowly whisked in the hot pan juices.  It was DELICIOUS- light, lemony but creamy at the same time.

The oven bag is my new BFF, because clean up was a breeze!  As always, Nathalie Dupree does not disappoint.  If you are unfamiliar with her genius, google her old cooking show, or pick up a cookbook.  You won't regret it!

*This is the title of my pretend podcast.  Perfect, no?

Jun 3, 2016

Five on Friday Favorites

1.  Awesome CHEAP Workout Tops

A friend recommended this fab comfy workout tops- each under $10!!  She wore them throughout her pregnancy in a bigger size, now wears them in her regular size.  I ordered three, and I already want more.  So soft, flowy over the tummy, and flattering!  Great colors available, too!

2.  Lace Cap Hydrangeas

I know mopheads get all the love, but I'm downright partial to the lacecaps lining the front of my house.  I kept waiting for them to fully flower, and about called the former owner of my house.  I'm so glad my neighbor came over to cut some and told me they are lace cap.  I would have felt like such a fool if I'd made that phone call!  Ha!  Last year they were burnt up by a heatwave while I was at the beach, so I am enjoying their beauty in all its glory this year.

3.  Lipton Cold Brew Iced Tea

I found a forgotten box of decaf cold brew tea bags in my pantry, and just can't get enough!  I love unsweet iced tea- I got in the habit of not sweetening it when I was pregnant with Dell Harper.  Lord knows I don't need any more sugar in my life (I'll be getting to my cake shortly).

Normally I find cold brew tea to be either weak or bitter, but this is just right.  I've been having about a pitcher a day, so I should be fully anti-oxidized here soon.

4. Chocolate Magic Cake

 My baking assistant.  This girlie loves to pour and mix.  And eat chocolate cake.  I have been CRAVING some good chocolate cake, and this recipe popped up on Pinterest.  I ran and picked up some good Cruze Farm buttermilk and was set!  Paired with this suuuuupppeeer easy chocolate ganache- TO DIE FOR.  Refrigerate the icing for a bit before you use it, BTW.

I'm serious.  I can't stop eating this chocolate cake.  It's the first words out of the kids' mouths when they wake up.  I had three (smallish) pieces throughout the day today.  Then I complain about the expansion of my thighs.  Law.

Excuse the quick iPhone blurry snap.  Each time I cut a nice, pretty piece for blog purposes, I eat it before I can even take the lens cap off my camera.

5.  Lies and Other Acts of Love

This book popped up on my Amazon recs, and I must admit, I was hesitant.  I'm not a Karen White/Erin Hildebrand/Jodi Picoult type fan, and this seemed in that wheelhouse.  Also, the author is a blogger, and I held that against her. Hypocrite?  Right here!
I was wrong!  It was a great read, smarter than most beach chick lit, and a good story.  Highly recommend for a warm, light read that has a bit of substance.  Perfect summer reading!

We had friends in town from Charleston last weekend, and enjoyed a great dinner downtown, kid party, Memorial day pool party.  I've had girls' nights last week and this one, and next weekend is full of activities.  I'm socialized out- looking forward to just chilling out tonight and the rest of the weekend.

Hope y'all have a fun and restful weekend!

Thanks to the Five on Friday ladies!

Jun 1, 2016

Cooking and Listening

Last night I was at girls' night, when a friend teased me, "Oh, Samma, she doesn't watch TV.  She just cooks away listening to her podcasts!".  I died laughing because she hit the nail on the head.

So here's what I've been cooking and listening to lately:

The West Wing Weekly podcast-
Oh, how today's politic climate has me longing for the fictional Washington of the West Wing!  I'm loving revisiting the first season of the West Wing, along with getting insider commentary in each recap.  Joshua Malina is one of the hosts, which was a bit off-putting at first, but you get used to him. And if you are a Malina fan, you will love it right off the bat!

Brown Sugar Banana Bread (with dark chocolate chips)

1 stick butter (softened)
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
2 Tablespoon vanilla
4 very ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup (heaping) dark chocolate chips

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and lightly grease a loaf pan.
2.  In large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.  Stir eggs in one at a time, beating well.  Stir in vanilla and banana.
3.  In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
4.  Blend the flour mixture into the banana mixture and stir just to combine.  Fold in the nuts and chocolate chips.  Pour into the greased loaf pan.
5.  Bake for 1 hour, until a toothpick comes out clean.

(Adapted from allrecipes.com)

Deeds and Dell Harper had a blast mixing this up with me- it was super easy and very kid friendly.  And of course, they adored the finished product!  We had breakfast for lunch, with strawberries, scrambled eggs and banana bread.  I was up for mom of the year for sure.

Another podcast and a great supper to follow!