photo home-57.png photo meet-kelly.png photo press-16.png photo collaborate-3.png photo jane-recommends.png

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Two Thousand Fifteen

{ Photos by Jeff Clark }
This will be my last post of the year which seems crazy. As we get older everything moves faster. Normally, I post my Christmas Card and say have a great holiday everyone! The first post of a new year is then my introspective recap of the prior and a hopeful direction for the new. This year I don't want to do that. This year I want to be done with this year as soon as possible. I don't want any strings to touch 2016 lest they poison it with their bad mojo.

It hasn't been the worst year of my life by any means. Trust me, I've had much worse. But it has been one of those years where nothing seemed to go right. That starts to weigh you down and drain your battery because you never get the chance to replenish it. For the blog that has meant my creativity has suffered a bit I think. My pictures have suffered a bit. My writing, as always, has helped me through it, but I feel a bit like a broken record at this point. Did I mention that I woke up January 1, 2015 with a massive cold? 

For all of my moaning there have been some great times this year. The band has been great, I had a work project early in the year that was the best time of my professional career and I got to go to Seattle. Miss A has woken me up at 5am every day for her breakfast and in a totally unplanned development, I'm in the best shape of my life. 

For all of my declaring that no portion of this year shall touch the next, my first post of next year will be a holiday wrap up photo extravaganza! It's actually just an excuse to share pics of my ridiculously adorable niece and nephew. Surely that's alright to make the cross-over?

I do want to say a huge thank you to my readers. It just means the world to me that you've hung in there for years and enjoyed Austen Hill. I hope everyone has a restful and happy holiday. Cheers to a new year and fresh starts!


Monday, December 21, 2015

The Perfect Bite

I've been wanting to try this recipe for a while, but finding a weekend morning to do it has been challenging. I finally made it a couple weeks ago, but then couldn't find the time or the motivation to edit the photos. In fact, last week I didn't even get one post up. Boo. It really has just been one thing after another this December and I'm hoping more than anything for a resolution this week, a decision. Trying to balance on a point is not fun.

Back to my little dish.....I really love any meal that I can eat in one pot. The ingredients on their own are fine, yummy even, but together, they create something so delicious that it can only be called the perfect bite. Here's how I made this most perfect of weekend breakfasts.

I started by cooking the sausage in a small saute pan. I used a pork belly sausage from local RVA sausage maker Sausage Craft. Go big or go home I say, and OMG it was fabulous! Then I added some mushrooms just as the sausage was finishing up. Misery loves company, right? I removed the sausage and then added about a 2/3 cup baked beans and 1/2 cup diced tomatoes, some chili powder, garlic powder, red pepper flakes and pepper. Then I let everything reduce in the leftover fat from the sausage.

Once everything cooked down I placed the sausage in a small baking dish and poured the filling in as well. I made a couple of little wells and cracked two eggs in for good measure. Baked on 350 for about 10ish minutes until the eggs set. I finished it off with a sprinkle of fresh thyme and toasted up some bread to go with it.

Hoping for more mornings like this one in my future where I can relax, drink coffee and make a yummy breakfast in my kitchen......

Friday, December 11, 2015

It's Friday, Love

{ A fun keepsake from our show Tuesday night at Dover Hall for Capitol One's Holiday Party }

Crazy couple weeks as outlined in detail in yesterday's post. Oh well, there's only three weeks left in December and I for one can't wait for a new year! See ya Monday!

{ My breakfast of choice at the moment }

{ Been wearing my cowboy boots a lot lately }

{ There's three different color "white" lights on my tree and I couldn't care less }

{ A Christmas Tree-scented light in the darkness is warming up my living room }

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Oh S!&% Cookies

It must be one of God's little ironic jokes that my friend Lara's fabulous post about de-stressing during the holidays went up Monday and now I'm posting this. I swear I didn't plan it!

So anyway, I'm stressed. Like, really stressed. Thanksgiving weekend was great and I felt like for the first time in a couple years I actually enjoyed a holiday. Panic set in that Sunday night however when I sat down to look at the December calendar. In order for work (which is absolutely nuts as we get ready for upcoming session), the band (we have three shows), the blog (I don't feel like cooking, but then I don't have any content) and me to run smoothly, every single domino must fall at exactly the right moment. There is no room for error people.....

Literally the next day a domino did not fall as I had planned and it's been ridiculous ever since. Just feel like I can't catch up, can't catch my breath, can't stop thinking about something that's diverting much needed brain power. In fact, if you tell me you've finished all of your Christmas shopping I'll probably punch you. In a nice way, but punch you I will.

It should come as no surprise then that a couple days ago I remembered an hour before I was supposed to be somewhere that I said I'd bring desert. OH S!&%! In these circumstances I usually just pick something up on the way, but I'm trying to save a bit of money right now, so I quickly scanned my pantry (a bit lean at the moment) and then googled the couple ingredients I had on hand.


I'm calling these my Oh S!&% Cookies! They actually turned out great. I mean how can anything with Nutella in it be bad? They're fudgy on the inside, crispy on the edges and only took 30 minutes to make start to finish. Just mix everything in a bowl and then freeze the dough for 10 minutes. Roll out 1 inch balls and and flatten them with a spatula on the baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes on 350 degree and enjoy! Oh, and don't forget to sprinkle the sea salt on top at the end, that's the best part. Next time I might try drizzling some caramel on top or adding some chili pepper for a bit of spice. Can't wait!

Kelly's Oh S!%$ Cookies

1 cup Nutella
1/2 cup flour + 1 teaspoon
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 egg
Coarse Sea Salt for sprinkling

I'm going to try and take Lara's advice to de-stress this weekend. Hoping to get back in the holiday spirit and stop worrying so much.......about everything. I know it will all work out in the end and things will get back to normal. It's hard though when you're in the moment and upset to remember that. Maybe the three cookies I ate the other night will help?:)

Monday, December 7, 2015

Your Own Terroir

I'm extremely excited to be able to introduce you to Lara Heacock, a fabulous fellow blogger that I met this summer through a mutual friend. We bonded quickly over cocktails and I've become a huge fan of her blog. As a Life Coach, she helps clients sort through the chaotic noise of life and find their own path. I knew immediately I wanted her to share her wisdom and life philosophy on Austen Hill. Take it away Lara!

3 ways to get unstressed fast

Because although stressed grapes makes the best wine….the same is not true for people

In 2008, my husband and I ended up in Sedona, AZ for vacation. I say ended up because I wanted to go to Sonoma, but we own a timeshare and there were no properties available in that area when we wanted to travel.  So, knowing very little, we took a chance on Sedona.  I’d heard it was magical and kind of woo-woo, so I was in!  We’ve now been there 5 times and have come to regard it as a second home.  

When we were planning that 2008 vacation, I really wanted wine country, but we landed in the desert.  It’s a beautiful, fun, red-rock-filled, magical desert, but the desert nonetheless.  Surely there would be no wine tasting, vineyard walks or winery tours.  Oh how wrong I was…

Hubs knew I wanted wine tours, and he’s not one to turn down a fermented grape, so he did what he does best – he Googled!  Lo and behold, there is a blossoming wine community in the Sedona, AZ area.  Soon, hubs had created a self-guided Sedona wine tour for us.

The wine tour is a staple of our trips to Sedona.  Typically we go ourselves, take some snacks and make a day of it, but this past September, we decided to get fancy and take an official tour.  Bonus: hubs didn’t have to drive, so he could really enjoy all the wine!  The tour included several wineries, a tour of each and of course, tastings.  

At each winery, we learned something different and at one winery, we learned something that really stuck with me: stressed grapes make the best wine.  Apparently, the more difficult their terroir (the soil and climate that affect the taste of wine), the better they are.  Wine makers will often restrict water, crowd vines together and over prune to ensure that all of the vines’ energy is focused on growing the grape.  Scientifically, what the vine is doing, is putting all of its energy into reproducing so that it can escape the stress of its existing environment.  

Interesting.  Considering that study after study shows that stress negatively impacts our mood, outlook and health and that stress in humans has been linked to heart disease, blood pressure and even obesity, I think we can safely say that the exact opposite is true for people.

Like grape vines, humans also have terroir.  Unlike grapes, when our soil is devoid of nutrients and our climate is aggressive, we do not thrive.  While grapes become sweeter under stress, humans become bitter.  Humans also have choice.  We are not grapes and we do not have to stay where we are planted.  You can change your terroir.  You have choices, you can move freely about the world, and you can create a healthy terroir in which you will flourish.  

We often forget this in times of stress.  The times when the to-do list is a mile long, deadlines are looming and the laundry is out of control.  You feel stuck.  After all, you can’t just up and quit your job, so you have to muddle through, right?  

Not quite.  Remember, you are not a grape.  Even when stress comes from places you can’t control, you can still take steps to improve your terroir.   

Here are 3 of my favorite ways to get out of grape mentality and reduce stress fast:

Get curious.  This is my favorite place to start.  When we’re stuck, we can’t see outside our circumstances.  When we engage our curiosity, things start to shift.  Maybe a deadline can be moved.  Maybe you can delegate some things on the list.  Maybe you have a girls’ night in, so you can get the laundry done and still see the ladies.  When we get curious, suddenly options appear.  

Give yourself a time out.  We live in a go-go-go world.  We multitask; our phones are almost always in our hand and busy has become a status symbol.  Take a break.  Take a walk…outside…without your phone.  Listen to a feel good song.  Take a power nap.  Go out for lunch with a friend.  Taking a time out and changing your environment will shift your mindset.  

Be grateful.  Practicing gratitude is about the last thing we want to do when we’re feeling stressed, yet it’s one of the most powerful ways to change how you’re feeling.  When you feel like you’re about to explode, take a deep breath and come up with 3 things for which you are grateful.  Are you grateful for the comfortable shoes you’re wearing?  Are you having a good hair day?  Did you have a delicious cappuccino this morning?  The smaller and easier to connect to, the better.  

The next time you find yourself feeling stuck or overwhelmed, remember the stressed grapes…and that you are not one of them.  Get yourself out of grape mentality and try some gratitude; engage your curiosity and a give yourself a time out.  Even one little shift can dramatically impact your terroir and get you unstressed fast!  

Lara Heacock is a Life Coach specializing in confidence and balance.  She helps her clients live a life that feels good on the inside, not just one that looks good on the outside. You can find her online at life gets better when you're kind to yourself. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

It's Friday, Love

{ Hoping that last of the leaves have fallen }

It's been a fast, crazy week for me. I had a really wonderful Thanksgiving break, but Monday got off to a rocky start, I hardly slept at all and then I never could quite catch up. The next two weeks are packed as well so I'm trying to hold on and be as prepared as I can. I have a sneaking suspicion though that Christmas Eve will be here before I know it. Hope everyone has a great weekend! Monday I'm very excited to have a guest on the blog so stay tuned!!!!

{ Holiday pics with these cuties }

{ Dreaming of somewhere fun and warm for summer vacation }

{ The cutest bottle ever }

{ A magical evening at Keswick Hall in Charlottesville }

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A Cuppa

{ My fancy dancy espresso cups }

I remember going over to my best friend Miranda's house in high school and always seeing her mother with a cup of tea. I'll be honest, I didn't get it. You should be drinking coffee, hello?! It's way cooler. Thinking about how much coffee I drank back then is actually concerning to me, so let's forget I brought that up. Not sure when it happened, but now in my old age, I love me a cuppa. That's what the British call it and you know I love any excuse to pretend that I'm worldly. 

Don't worry friends, I haven't abandoned my dear cup of joe, far from it. I love a strong brew in the am, it lets me know my day is starting. And around 3:30pm I will never turn down an espresso. But I have come to enjoy and understand the loveliness a steaming mug of tea. If I've had a hard day, if I need to take a minute to center myself, if I need something warm to help me always does the trick.

I have a new table in the living room that I'm using as a bar, but it doesn't have room for my glasses, so I needed to rearrange a few things in the kitchen so I could store them. Outdated coffee mugs didn't make the cut and so a few of them found their way to Goodwill. There were a few I could never part with though. They are each special in their own way and make me smile each time I use them.

Gotta go.....kettle is ready.....

I got my coffee talk mug for my sixteenth birthday. I was really into Saturday Night Live at the time and I still do a mean Linda Richmond impression. It has a chip in it from an unfortunate fall some years back, and one year I left it at the beach condo we rent only to find it still there a year later and eager to come back home with me.

I bought this mug at the Dean and Deluca in Rockefeller Center on a trip to NYC in my early twenties. I thought it was very chic at the time. 

I bought this mug the first weekend I moved into Church Hill. Special for obvious reasons....

These are my nice ones I break out when company comes over. Company to me means people I clean the bathroom for. 

Last, but not least, my favorite mug. I love coffee in it. I love tea in it. I love soup in it. It's the prefect weight and shape and it keeps things warm forever. LOVE.