Dimanche (That Means Sunday)

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Welcome to this edition of Dimanche (That Means Sunday), a roundup of things that caught my eye this past week.

This edition of Dimanche comes a day late on Lundi, the French Monday, because I decided to take a much needed day off yesterday. I met my friend for coffee in the morning and then we made an impromptu trip to the Missouri Botanical Garden (see above photo). One of my favorite parts of the Botanical Garden is the Climatron, especially the room in this photo. I love the colored tile, bright flowers, and eternal summer vibe. If I tried really hard, I could almost believe that it was already spring.

As winter rages on in most places, it’s important to remember that most things in life are temporary. I keep reminding myself that when I look at the weather when I wake up and see more ice storms or snow in the forecast. Even though it feels like winter will never end, eventually, spring will come. Until then, I’m going to distract myself with more trips to the garden, lots of coffee and hot chocolate, and big cooking projects including Samin Nosrat‘s chicken pot pie (more on that later).

Without further ado, here is Dimanche:

I’m loving this editorial about motherhood in the U.S. Dr. Caitlyn Collins, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, makes the case that work-family conflict is a political issue and one that’s rarely addressed in this country. I hardly ever read an opinion piece that I agree with word for word, but in this case, I do. How can we live in a country that doesn’t mandate paid maternity leave? The answer to that is both simple and complex, but the bottom line is, it’s unacceptable. Read the editorial in the New York Times.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m *slightly* obsessed with Jeff Goldblum. I knew that Goldblum was a musician but I didn’t realize that he had a debut jazz album. He recently played in Chicago and sat down with the Chicago Sun Times to talk about his music. Read the story in the Sun Times.

Balkan Treat Box opened this week in Webster Groves and I stopped by Friday to visit. If you’re in or around St. Louis, you should definitely head to the shop for lunch. I’m always impressed by Balkan Treat Box‘s food after following their food truck for a couple years, but their restaurant takes dishes to the next level. Make sure you go early, though, because it gets crowded quickly. IMG_8405

I came across a tweet with the link to this old Jonathan Gold interview and I was very nostalgic. Gold, the former food critic for the LA Times who passed away last year, sat down with a class of USC students in 2015 to discuss food writing. The interview is a must-read if you’re a food writer or an aspiring food writer. Check out the full transcript on Foodaism.

You’ll want to buy a ticket to Chicago after watching this video about Katherine Anne Confections. Katherine Anne is one of my favorite chocolate shops in the world and they have some of the best sipping chocolate and marshmallows I’ve ever tried. Watch this video from Chicago Magazine to learn more about the sipping chocolates. Be prepared to cry.

As I mentioned earlier, I made chicken pot pie for dinner last night and it was delicious. I used Samin Nosrat’s recipe from her “Salt Fat Acid Heat” cookbook, which my friend loaned me last week. It took a few hours to make but it was so worth it. I can’t wait to have leftovers tonight. Stay tuned for the recipe on the blog later this week!

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Chef Jessica Koslow is joining a new restaurant project in Santa Monica. I’m a big fan of Koslow’s food after visiting her LA bakery and cafe, Sqirl. This new project in a hotel will “draw from California and Mexican flavors, techniques and ingredients,” Eater reports. Read more about it in this Eater Los Angeles piece.

Last but certainly not least, I love this interview with the star of “Roma.” The movie is one of my favorites from 2017 and I was blown away by lead actress Yalitza Aparicio’s performance. Read more about Aparicio’s path to starring in the film in this Los Angeles Times story.

Enjoy your week! Here’s a song to get you started.

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Lemon Cornmeal Muffins

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A few weeks ago I was digging through a box of books in my apartment and I came across my Huckleberry cookbook. I bought the cookbook a a few years ago when I was living in D.C. but dreaming of visiting Southern California, where Huckleberry bakery is located.

Flash forward a couple years to me walking down the streets of Santa Monica, getting more and more excited as I approached Huckleberry bakery. It really was a dream come true, as were many parts of that extended Southern California trip in Fall 2017. I spent an hour at Huckleberry eating pastries, drinking tea, and feeling pretty invincible.

Flash forward to this month, when I’m mostly hibernating inside as winter rages on in St. Louis. Today it’s snowing AGAIN, and I’m back to my usual place on the couch with a big flannel blanket over me, contemplating making another cup of chamomile tea.

It’s moments like this when I start dreaming of Southern California, so it’s probably no accident that I found my Huckleberry cookbook earlier this month. When I opened it, the first recipe I saw was one for lemon cornmeal muffins with lemon glaze. Done, I thought. If I can’t bring myself to Santa Monica, I can bring Santa Monica to me.

These muffins are a joy to make and even more fun to eat. They come together quickly and bake up beautifully, so when you take them out of the oven, they’re like little beacons of sunshine. The lemon glaze on top adds some sweetness. The lemon garnish is just a recommended touch, so if you’re not a fan, leave them off. I think they look cute on top though.

A key to making these muffins is not overmixing. If you overmix muffin batter, it will result in muffins that are dryer and harder. Even though the muffins are light and fluffy as a result of the ricotta in the batter, they could become waaay worse if you overmix. A good rule of thumb is to mix until the batter just comes together and then stop.

I brought these into the office earlier this week and they were a big hit. Everyone had a couple, including me, and the first thing that my coworkers noticed besides the bright lemon flavor was the cornmeal. It’s a nice change of pace to have a corn muffins as opposed to a regular muffin. The lemon and corn flavors go well together and the cornmeal balances the acidity of the lemon.

Make these muffins as soon as possible. They’re perfect for snowy winter days when you’re dreaming of sunshine but all you get is snow. They’re also a good reminder that even though winter can be brutal, eventually spring will come.

Here’s a song to get you started on your lemon cornmeal muffin journey.

Lemon Cornmeal Muffins with Lemon Glaze (from Huckleberry

Ingredients

for the muffins:
3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp/190 g unsalted, cubed butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp/190 g granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
zest of 4 lemons, plus 2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 eggs
4 1/2 tbsp/70 ml canola oil
3 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups/215 g all-purpose flour
3/4 cup/120 g cornmeal
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 3/4 cup/400 g ricotta

for the glaze:
1 cup/120 g powdered sugar
2 tbsp plus 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp heavy cream

lemon wheels for garnish

Directions

To make the muffins: Position a rack near the top of your oven and preheat to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C. Line two 12-cup muffins pans with 18 paper liners, spacing them out evenly between the two pans.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, granulated sugar, salt, and zest on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes, until the butter looks nice and fluffy. Incorporate the eggs slowly, one at a time, beating well after each addition on medium speed. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl well.

Slowly pour in the canola oil, maple syrup, lemon juice, and vanilla. Scrape the sides again. Add the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and ricotta. Mix cautiously, just until incorporated. Please don’t overmix!

Fill the muffin cups three-quarters full. Bake for about 18 minutes, until the muffins just barely spring back to the touch.

When you take the muffins out of the oven, begin to make your glaze: Sift the powdered sugar into a medium mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice and whisk until free of lumps. Add the cream and whisk until incorporated.

Spread the glaze on each muffin with an offset spatula or butter knife. This is best to do when they muffin is still warm. Garnish each with a lemon wheel, if desired.

These keep beautifully, wrapped tightly, at room temperature, for up to 2 days.

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Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I’ve been craving chocolate chip cookies this week so last night, I decided to make some. I knew I wanted them to be extra salty so I used my last stick of salted butter. Then, I decided to take it up a level and sprinkle some sea salt on top.

My official verdict on these cookies is, they’re better than standard chocolate chip cookies. I know I might annoy a lot of people by saying that, but it’s true. Don’t get me wrong: Regular chocolate chip cookies are delicious. There’s nothing wrong with them. But they go to the next level with extra salt. The salt enhances the chocolate and balances the sweet.

I was going to just make the cookies with salted butter and forget the sea salt on top because I was out of Maldon sea salt flakes. If you’re not familiar with Maldon, think of the big, flaky pieces of salt that you’ll occasionally see sprinkled on baked goods or fish dishes. They’re more like salt sprinkles than grains of salt.

Then I found an almost unused container of fleur de sel de Guérande in my cupboard. Fleur de sel de Guérande is a very specific kind of French salt that’s hand harvested in Brittany, a coastal region in northwest France. One time I got scolded by a French woman for not realizing that the salt was only used in specific dishes. French people are very particular about their salt.

I bought the salt a couple years ago when I found it at World Market, used some for chocolate brownies, and then forgot about it until last night. I felt a little weird sprinkling some on top of my cookies because I felt like a Frenchman/woman would not approve. But then again, the French are always up for food that tastes delicious, so this was a step in that direction.

These cookies are ones to love. They’re crispy around the edges, soft and chewy in the middle, and even more delicious when paired with a cold glass of milk. I’d highly recommend eating one straight off of the baking sheet.

You can adjust baking time depending on your oven but it should take the cookies about 12 minutes to bake. If you roll the dough into bigger balls, the cookies will take longer to bake.

Another good rule is to take the cookies out of the oven when they look slightly underdone. They finish baking on the sheets. When the edges look golden brown and crispy and the centers are pretty much set, you can take them out.

Here’s a song to get you started on your sea salt chocolate chip cookie journey.

Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup salted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup plus 2 tsp granulated sugar
1 large egg at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
sea salt flakes for sprinkling

Directions

Whisk the flour and baking soda in a mixing bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars together for about two minutes on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the egg and vanilla extract. Then beat in the flour, half the mixture at a time. Beat after each addition until the dough just comes together. DO NOT over mix. Your cookies will be rock hard if you do this.

Cover the bowl and place it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. When you’re ready to bake your cookies, line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Scoop the dough using a 1/4 cup measuring cup and roll it into balls. Place the balls about two inches apart on a baking sheet. I put six balls on each sheet.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes in the oven. Start checking at 10 minutes to make sure your cookies don’t burn or over bake. Take them out of the oven when the middles are set but still a little underdone and the edges are golden brown and crispy. Allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the sheet and then let them cool the rest of the way on a wire rack. Enjoy!

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Orecchiette Vegetable Bean Soup

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Yesterday there was an ice storm in St. Louis so I hibernated all day and made lemon cornmeal muffins and orecchiette vegetable bean soup. I’ll tell you about the lemon muffins later this week, but first, I’ll give you the recipe for the vegetable soup.

Soup is my go-to during the winter because it’s quick, easy, and it lasts a while. I like to make a big batch and put half in the freezer and half in the fridge, so I can eat it throughout the week.

This orecchiette vegetable bean soup deserves a permanent place in my fridge/freezer. It’s warming, healthy, flavorful, and light enough that I can eat two bowls back to back. I had some extra farro in the fridge last night so I mixed it in. If you have extra cooked grains on hand, you can always add them to this soup. Just make sure you let them sit in the warm broth long enough to heat up.

My favorite part about the soup is the orecchiette. Orecchiette means “little ears” in Italian and the pasta shape reflects its name. I like how they become little saucers in the soup. If you don’t have orecchiette or you can’t find it at the grocery store, you could always choose a different small noodle and adjust the cooking time.

This soup is great on its own but it’s also delicious with some good, crusty bread. It comes together in one pot, which saves you cooking time and cleanup. The hardest part about making the soup is dicing vegetables, which, if you’re like me, can feel like torture. Embrace the journey because you will be rewarded with a great cold-weather meal.

Here’s a song to get you started on your orecchiette vegetable soup journey.

Orecchiette Vegetable Bean Soup

Ingredients

1 Tbsp canola oil
1 yellow onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 celery stalks, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 tsp salt, divided
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
6 cups vegetable stock
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups dry orecchiette pasta
1 can pinto beans, rinsed & strained
1 bunch lacinato kale, sliced into ribbons
2 lemons, halved
black pepper for serving

Directions

Heat the canola oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for about four minutes. Add the garlic, diced celery and carrots, give the mixture a stir, and cook for another six minutes. Add 1/2 tsp salt, red pepper flakes, vegetable stock, thyme, and bay leaves. Stir and then cover the pot with a lid and turn the heat up to high. Bring the mixture to a boil.

Once the mixture is boiling, add the pasta. Cook uncovered for about eight minutes and then add the beans, and cook for another five minutes. Remove the bay leaves and thyme. Stir in the kale and right at it starts to wilt, remove the pot from the heat.

Squeeze in the juice of two lemons and sprinkle in black pepper to taste. You can also add more salt if you’d like. Enjoy!

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Dimanche (That Means Sunday)

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Welcome to this edition of Dimanche (That Means Sunday), a roundup of things that caught my eye this past week.

The last week in St. Louis was challenging weather-wise. We enjoyed beautiful, spring-like temperatures last Sunday and now, there’s an ice storm raging. Winter is always a tough time for me because I hate the cold, but it gets even worse when there’s a spring weather tease and then the next day I’m back to wearing 80 layers and hibernating in my apartment.

Still, there was a glimmer of nice weather yesterday and I took advantage of it by meeting my friend for coffee. We basically did a food crawl of Watson Road, a street in South City that has a lot of good food and drink options. We started at Pint Size Bakery (pictured above) and made our way to Blueprint Coffee, my favorite place to get a cup of coffee in St. Louis. We sat near the window, basked in the sunshine, and enjoyed pastries and coffee.

This morning I made a muffin recipe from the Huckleberry cookbook. I visited Huckleberry, a cafe and bakery in Santa Monica, a couple years ago when I went to Los Angeles for the first time. In the cookbook, the owner of the cafe talks about how enjoying a pastry and a drink is good for your health. I couldn’t agree more.

Sometimes I get frustrated that we live in a culture that shames people for enjoying these simple pleasures. Yeah, you probably shouldn’t eat a whole tin of muffins in one sitting, but there’s something to be said for taking a half an hour or an hour out of your day, eating something sweet and delicious, and savoring every bite. I think if more people did this, the world would be a better place.

Anyway, before I get too carried away, I’ll get to the links. Without further ado, here is Dimanche:

As I mentioned before, I made some lemon cornmeal muffins with lemon glaze from the Huckleberry cookbook and they are out of this world. I found the cookbook last week as I was digging through old books and these muffins immediately caught my eye. Sweet, tart, and fluffy, they’re the perfect distraction from terrible winter weather. Stay tuned for the recipe on the blog later this week!

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A popular gelato shop in Chicago is expanding to the West Loop. Black Dog Gelato, one of my favorite gelato shops in the world, is adding a new location downtown. I’d highly recommend checking it out if you’re in the Windy City. Read more about it in this Eater story.

Samin Nosrat can do no wrong. Every time I watch the author and star of the TV series “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” make something in the kitchen, I immediately want to make it, too. My friend sent me this video of her making grilled artichokes and they looked so delicious. You can watch the full clip on YouTube.

I’m really into this story about niche pasta in the U.S. A lot of restaurants are adopting more out-of-the-box pasta shapes into their menus, partly due to a rise in YouTube videos showing cooks how to make the shapes from scratch. The noodles are fun to look at and even more fun to eat. Read more about the different pasta shapes in this Grub Street piece.

Have I mentioned how much I love Cardi B? I’m a big fan of her music and I’ve been enjoying her impromptu confessional videos on Twitter. My sister showed me this video of her participating in “Carpool Karaoke” and I can’t stop watching it. Watch the full clip on YouTube.

One of my favorite politicians passed away last week and I was very sad to hear about it. John Dingell, the longest-serving congressman and a native of Michigan, was popular on Twitter, where he didn’t hold back giving his opinion on current events and politics. Read some of Dingell’s best tweets in this Detroit Free Press article.

Speaking of politics… I really enjoyed this piece about Beto O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman who is weighing a run for president. I didn’t realize that O’Rourke had such a bohemian lifestyle in his early years. Read more about him in this New York Times story.

The cast of “My Best Friend’s Wedding” had a reunion and I love the interview. The film is one of my favorites and it was fun to see what cast members including Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney, Rupert Everett, and Cameron Diaz had to say about the movie. Read the full interview and watch clips in this Entertainment Weekly piece.

I had dinner at Barg Continental earlier this week and I enjoyed every dish. I’d highly recommend checking out the restaurant if you’re in or around St. Louis Hills. Make sure to order the fried potato cakes and the mantu, or steamed beef dumplings. IMG_8339

Last but certainly not least, I bookmarked this article about tips for traveling cheaply in any city. Even though I’m not sure how I feel about booking hostels for every trip, I definitely agreed with what the writer said about packing less and avoiding tourist traps. Check out the tips in this New York Times piece.

Enjoy your week! Here’s a song to get you started.

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Sweet Potato Risotto

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Cooking risotto is a cathartic experience. Some people might say that it’s a tear-your-hair-out experience because of how much work it involves, but I’d argue that it’s more healing than it is enraging.

I usually make risotto when it’s cold outside and I need some comfort food. It was warmer this weekend but I decided to make it anyway. I had an idea for mixing sweet potato in and I was eager to try it out.

When you cook risotto, it’s kind of like making the perfect roast chicken. You can’t walk away. You have to stir the rice more or less continuously for more than 30 minutes, which might sound like torture to some of you but I promise that it isn’t. In fact, if you’re upset about something or you have some anger you need to work out, risotto is the perfect dish to make. It’s great for pent up hostility.

This risotto gets a lift from a roasted sweet potato. You can boil the potato instead but I’d urge you to roast it. The smoky flavor adds another level to the dish. It enhances the sweetness of the potato and pairs well with the salty cheese and the white wine.

If you’re not a fan of sweet potato, you can always sub in a roasted butternut squash. Keep in mind though that butternut squash is more difficult to cut, so if you’re looking for an easier recipe, you should stick with the sweet potato.

Here’s a song to get you started on your sweet potato risotto experience. I heard it this weekend at a coffee shop and it’s been stuck in my head since.

Sweet Potato Risotto

Ingredients

1 sweet potato, roasted and insides scooped out and mashed
5 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice, uncooked
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 oz grated Parmesan

Directions

Place the five cups of chicken stock in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Allow it to come to a simmer but not a boil. Let it rest at a simmer while you start the other part of the risotto.

Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pot. Add the onion and stir frequently for five minutes. Add the rice and salt and stir for a minute. Then add the 1/2 cup white wine and stir until it’s mostly absorbed. Add 1/2 cup of chicken stock and stir until it’s absorbed. Keep adding 3/4 cup of stock to the pot at a time and stir until it is absorbed. Reserve 1/3 cup of stock for the end when you mix in the sweet potato. This process takes about 25-30 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the mashed sweet potato, butter, 1/3 cup reserved stock, two to three ounces of Parmesan, and pepper. Serve with more grated Parmesan cheese and pepper. Enjoy!

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Dimanche (That Means Sunday)

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Welcome to this edition of Dimanche (That Means Sunday), a roundup of things that caught my eye this past week.

This is a slightly shorter version of Dimanche because admittedly, I was not up on the news this past week. January was a rough month for a bunch of reasons and as a result, I ended up tuning out a lot toward the end.

On Friday I woke up, looked at my phone, and realized that it was February 1. I felt a wave of relief wash over me. The past month was over and a new one was beginning. Even more than at the beginning of the year, it felt like it was the perfect opportunity to start over. I vowed to take it easy this weekend and spend lots of time with people I care about.

Luckily, this weekend delivered the perfect weather to recharge my proverbial batteries. The cold front moved out temporarily and so I headed to the park yesterday to read. Today as I write this post, I’m sitting at one of my favorite coffee shops in St. Louis, Blueprint Coffee. They’ve opened all the doors to let the air in. I’m wearing flip flops, which might seem like overkill but it feels really good. If I try really hard, I can almost believe that it’s already spring.

This next month will bring its own challenges but I keep going back to the saying that you can’t take care of anyone else until you’ve taken care of yourself. If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, or even just annoyed at the extreme winter weather, I’d urge you to take a step back and do things to relax. It’s paradoxically the easiest and hardest thing to do, but if you can manage it, you’ll be happy you did.

Without further ado, here is Dimanche:

In case you missed it, the St. Louis food scene is on fire right now. I love this story in the Chicago Tribune about the city’s best restaurants and bars. Anyone who is suffering through Chicago’s polar vortex should come down to St. Louis to eat, drink, and be merry. It’s a great escape.

Speaking of great St. Louis food and drinks… Everyone should head over to Blueprint Coffee on Watson. The coffee shop is the second location in St. Louis for Blueprint. It’s my favorite place to get a cappuccino. Today I got the spiced citrus cappuccino and sat near the open doors to enjoy the beautiful weather. IMG_8322

Things are heating up with the anti-Macron French protestors. Some of the protestors, who are known as “gilets jaunes,” or yellow vests, have decided to run for public office to continue their opposition of President Macron’s policies. Now, a “a battle for the soul of the gilets jaunes is on the cards,” writes journalist Pauline Bock in this piece in The Guardian. The protestors will have to define themselves to carry their movement forward.

On a lighter note… This spiced mocha latte at Kaldi’s is one of the best coffee drinks I’ve enjoyed lately. I got it a week ago at Kayak’s, a cute coffee shop near Washington University in St. Louis, right before the cold front came through town. I’d highly recommend it as a morning coffee or anytime treat.

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If you’re look for the best brownie recipe, I have one for you. I discovered this recipe on Broma Bakery, one of my favorite new food blogs, and I’m going to keep it on permanent rotation. Thick, chewy, slightly sweet, and rich, these brownies are ones to love. Read more about them and get a link to the recipe in my latest blog post!

Even reading about the polar vortex stresses me out but I found some reprieve in this story. If I’m going to hear about arctic temperatures on repeat, cute dogs in winter gear better be involved. Check out this piece from the Chicago Tribune for your cute dog fix.

Last but certainly not least, I’ve become increasingly obsessed with the Threshold line at Target. I’m still in the process of decorating my new apartment and I always find great Threshold items. I got this bath rug yesterday and it’s so soft and pretty.

Enjoy your week! Here’s a song to get you started.

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