Life Lately #8

[Bar Taco in Tampa left, and Sprinkles Red Velvet Ice Cream at Disney Springs right]

It feels so trite to say this, but I can’t believe that it’s mid-February.

I swear that a second ago I was celebrating the new year and now a month and a half has passed.

It boggles me.

It has been a while since my last Life Lately, and I have quite a few updates. Let’s dive in!

Very late food thoughts from Christmas

I KNOW Christmas was ages ago, but there were so many food notes I wanted to share with you from the holidays.

Once January hit, I decided it was a bit late and I should probably let it go, but I’ve had a nagging desire to share ever since.

So, I will share, one and a half months later, haha.

Christmas Eve Dinner

For Christmas Eve dinners past, I have made cioppino, but this year that felt like too much work. So I made these Coconut Green Curry Mussels instead and wowza did they hit the spot. And they’re SO easy! I think I will do this again next year.

For an appetizer earlier in the day, I made this Butternut Squash Focaccia from my archives, and my brother, Pete, and I ate the ENTIRE sheet by ourselves.

I think that statement speaks for itself.

[Whipped shortbread is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten]

Christmas Cookies

I made quite a few Christmas cookies this year, and a few were INCREDIBLE, while a few were “meh.”

Let’s start with the incredible. I decided to try out some Whipped Shortbread and used this recipe from Sprinkle Bakes.


Where have I been, and what have I been doing?

I’m already a shortbread lover, but I found Whipped Shortbread to be mind blowing.

They are the most “melt in your mouth” cookies I’ve ever eaten, and I will absolutely make these cookies every year from now on. I recommend you make a note to try them next year!

Other cookies I baked:

  • Ginger Molasses – This is one of my favorite cookies but I still haven’t found “the one.” I have a recipe on my site that I enjoy, but I want the cookie texture to be a little bit thicker and taller. I will tinker with this later.
  • Lemon Syrup Baklava – I saw this recipe in Chef Michael Solomonov’s cookbook, basically baklava made with a lemon syrup instead of honey. Though it was worth trying something new, I didn’t enjoy the bright and tangy lemon flavor here. I prefer the baklava I have on my site, even though it’s over-the-top sweet, apparently I like it that way? hah.
  • Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies – This is an old recipe of mine and I will always make these. Every Christmas!
  • Fruit Pizza – A fruit pizza is basically a gigantic sugar cookie with cream cheese marshmallow frosting and fruit on top. Because it was the winter, the fruit choices were a bit more limited, but my little brother really wanted to make this. I’m glad he prompted us because I forgot how delicious it is.
  • Pistachio Snowballs – This year I made my pistachio snowballs with walnuts instead because I was craving walnuts. These are also an “every year” cookie because I can’t resist the melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Are there any cookies that you always make every Christmas?

Christmas Dinner

I continued my yearly tradition of making Beef Wellington for dinner and HOLY MOLY I can confirm that I will make this every year until the day I leave this earth.

It is so, so, so good, every time.

I don’t remember what I made for the side dishes, which sounds about right, because compared to the beef wellington, it doesn’t really matter.

Baby James Update

Okay, so James is almost 2, so I should probably stop calling him baby James.

Life with James is really fun lately. He has built up a relatively large vocabulary of a couple hundred words, and loves to point out all the things he sees.

Until recently, I never took James to the grocery store with me because I found it to be too stressful (lots of crying, refusing to sit in the cart). I always arranged to go shopping while Pete watched him.

But I’ve started taking James to the grocery store with me because he has such a dang good time, hah!

He loves pointing out all the produce, “Apple! Banana! Potato! Broccoli!” and trying samples at the store.

I’ve always LOVED grocery shopping, and I know that’s considered a bit weird. So you can only imagine how happy it makes me that James also loves going to the store now.

James’ first trip to Disney World

Pete and I decided to book a very short trip to Florida just a couple weeks before Christmas.

We visited a few friends in Tampa, then spent a couple days in Orlando at Disney World.

Oddly enough, James didn’t enjoy it as much as we thought he would.

Which is funny because oh man, I always have a blast at Disney and already want to repeat this trip again this December.

It was crowded, but Christmas time at Disney is always so magical.

Being a Tourist in your own City

Pete and I have started to make more of an effort to explore Philly.

And it’s about time!

We recently went to the Eastern State Penitentiary after hearing so many raves about it, and WOW.

The site was incredible.

It was haunting, moving, and thought-provoking.

I highly recommend it if you’re ever in Philly.

If you’re in Philly, I also recommend going to Federal Donuts, though it’s popular enough that it’d probably be on your to-do list anyway. So good!

Food Experimentation is Done for Now

I’ve talked a lot about the Whole30 I did last September/October, and how it has changed the foods I want to eat.

But I didn’t know to what extent.

I continued testing out paleo-style eating, plus a short dabbling in low-carb, and have pondered what my food lifestyle is going forward.

All the experimentation I did has guided me back to eating more vegetables, which is a great thing.

But after dabbling in “healthier” treats like Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies, I’ve decided that I would rather just eat the real thing when it comes to indulgent cravings and dessert, and accept the consequences.

I think the most difficult challenge with all this has been finding the balance between health and joy when it comes to eating.

I want to be healthy and nourish my body, but I also derive a lot of joy from food too.

And that’s not going to change. Denying that would be denying a really big part of me.

Finding the middle ground is something I continue to pinpoint, and will probably be a never-ending journey.

And for now I’m okay with that!

Have you been eating healthier in the new year? What are you doing?


I’m not quite sure why, but this winter has been a tough one for me.

Was it particularly cold?

Sometimes, but overall I don’t think so.

So I’m not sure why it was so tough, but I found myself dreaming of escaping to Florida or California a lot more than usual.

Fortunately, the temperatures are already coming up quite a bit, and the worst of it is over for now.

It was fun to have a few snow days with James. To see the awe in his face is priceless.

2018 Check-In

Between a really bad cold and some house construction/re-doing the flooring, I took some time off in January and I’ve been thinking more about my goals for this year.

My primary focus is to post more recipes, and also update more of my older posts.

Many of my original recipes are worthwhile, solid recipes, but with dreadful photos that don’t do them justice, and many lacking any step-by-step photos altogether.

I’m really excited to bring some life back into those posts and share them with you.

Anyway, thanks for reading and I will talk to you again very soon!

XO Joanne