Sunday, September 30, 2012

A few notes about my body

Why did I post these self-portraits?
Just like most stories, the answer lies in the last paragraph.

My butt jiggles when I walk. And I like it. It adds character to my strut. I'm healthy, I exercise, I do my squats, but I'm a jiggler. When I leave a room, Mr. Branflake tells me I have it going on. I thank the jiggle.

My thighs have always touched. I never knew people cared about thigh touching until Pinterest made it seem wrong with all their inner thigh exercise tutorials being pinned every minute. I'm okay with my thighs touching- it's how I'm made. They're muscular and they can withstand the rigors of dance life. Thigh touching is the least of my worries.

I don't understand why God gives His children stretch marks. Much like spiders, I personally think He could have done without. But I have them. I don't love them, nor will I ever look at them and think, "Those are beautiful," but they're a part of me forever and, much like spiders, I have to learn how to live with them.

But if there were the off chance I could kill every spider in the world, I would do it.

My ankles are gorgeous. They're thin and muscular. They also have cellulite. "How is that possible?" you ask. I don't know, but when I do my stretches in the morning, I look down and see puckers of fat along my Achilles tendon.

Not even my tiny ankles could escape the curse of tapioca skin.

My skin is so smooth sometimes it freaks me out, like when Tom on Parks and Rec over-exfoliates and says they feel like raw chicken. Okay, now I'm exaggerating. Because I actually love my skin's softness. Blame it on the massive amounts of olive oil in my diet or perhaps the fact that water is the only beverage I drink, my skin rivals the softest petals and smoothest velvet.

I literally gasped when I saw myself naked in the mirror after Mr. Branflake put in a higher watt light bulb in our bathroom light. I looked so much... better. Unflattering lighting needs to leave every woman's home this second. Spend an extra five dollars and give yourself a better reality.

Speaking of a better reality, I took the photos above and realized how much I look like my mom. So I posted them because I like my mom and I want to remember this moment- the moment I was grateful for looking like her.

What's your body's reality?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Apple Pie Crescent Rolls

I'm pretty much a crescent roll convert. They're pretty, they taste delicious, and you can fill them with just about anything. Remember these ham and cheese crescent rolls? Yep, Anna pinned them from this blog and they got repinned 289 times overnight. Such is the power of the crescent roll.

I usually make my own dough, but when in a pinch (or a very lazy mood) the Pillsbury ones from a can are pretty darn good. As long as you don't mind the sheer moment of terror when you have to pop it open. For the love, I freak out every time.

 How to:
Place dough triangles on a large baking sheet
Slice a peeled apple into one inch wedges
Melt half a cube of butter.
Mix in one tablespoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, dash of nutmeg to the butter
Toss apple wedges in butter mixture
Roll one apple wedge in a crescent triangle
Coat top of roll with some butter from the mixture
Bake in 375 F oven for 12 minutes.

I love that this is the first "Fall food" I made this year. I used the apples I picked from Apple Hill, which made it even more special. And since these babies aren't too sweet, they'd go great with a cup of cocoa or hot apple cider.

As my friend Lizzie would say: "It's like having Fall in your mouth."

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What's your favorite name?

I'm starting a new story and I feel as if I've exhausted all the good literary names.
You know, the names that look good in print, indicate a solid personality, and isn't so generic it's forgotten by the second page.

I know naming characters is like naming your baby; you don't know if a name fits until it's born. 
But still, I'd love to have your help as I brainstorm.

Ironically, ones that are off the table are those I'm reserving for my own children. 
For some reason, it just feels creepy to use their names in a story, as if I'm writing their fate for them, even though I'm totally not.
So Jameson, Isaac, and Watson are off the table.

Yeah, that's right. I want to name my boy Watson. As in Sherlock Holmes's bestie.
Judge away...

What's a good name?
What's your favorite name?
What's your made-up name that you've been saving for your own kids?
(cough. Charlotte's Shayla. cough)

*Book image by Dancing Branflake

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

We went up to the mountains, well... a hill. Apple Hill.

Yesterday, we headed up to Apple Hill, a charming eight mile stretch of apple stands, restaurants, and shops in Northern California. I was craving some hot apple donuts, apple picking, and the peace of the mountains.

My apples and me! And don't you love this sweet swing at Abel Acres?

Those California trees get me every time.
A sweet little pond at High Hill where you can also fish. The trout were biting that day!

Yumm.... Fudge. Yummm.... Apple pies. Yummm.... Donuts.

Apple are everywhere! As are caramel apples. So good!

Loved these chairs at Boa Vista. It's on the back patio so you can sit, eat an apple dumpling, and gaze out across acres of apple orchards.

All from Denver Dan's. Word on the street is this place sells an amazing sour cream apple pie.
Will have to try it next time.

I picked apples off those trees!

Some things to do:
~ Go to Denver Dan's and pick some of your own apples. They have thirty types of apple trees out there!
~ Go to High Hill and sit next to the pond, fish, or eat some of their yummy goods from the bake shop.
~Rainbow Orchards has amazing hot apple cider donuts dipped in sugar. Yum!
~ Go to Abel's Acres and have their garlic fries (freshly chopped garlic, people!). I also hear their apple butter is the best.
~ There's a sweet fudge factory near High Hill with a popcorn maker in the shop. Yum!
~I call Boa Vista the Walmart of Apple Hill because if you can't find something you're looking for on the other parts of the hill, Boa Vista probably has it. I recommend you go there last.
~ We ate some schnitzel at Bavarian Fall Orchards. It was okay, a bit pricey for what you get, but it had a fun German atmosphere with some delicious hot German potato salad and soft pretzels.
~ There are incredible vista almost everywhere you turn. My camera had no juice left, so I had to resort to my phone. Never again! There's too much beauty up there for a camera phone (well, my camera phone at least. Grrr.)
~ I'm definitely going back in a few weeks when the leaves are orange and red and there are more apples to be picked.

Are you excited for apple season?
What should I make with my hand picked apples?!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Blackberry Winter, Scones, and Sarah Jio

I have always admired Sarah Jio. We 'met' a few years back when I started my Love Our Bodies series and she featured me on her column, Vitamin G. Shortly thereafter, she contacted me about doing a review on her debut novel, The Violets of Marchto which I basically stumbled over myself when the advance copy came in the mail a few weeks later.

It was so good I read it in a day. I also predicted she'd be famous. With three novels under her belt in just over two years and a fantastic book signing tour ahead, I was totally right.

When I received my advance copy of her latest, novel, Blackberry Winter, I was surprised with a beautiful bookmark tucked inside with a lovely blackberry scone recipe on the back. As my kitchen was filled with the comforting smell of baked goods in the oven, I sat down and began the journey of Claire and Vera, two women who's lives are dramatically changed when freak snow storms occur in Seattle in May. Although the storms happen two hundred years apart, Claire discovers a connection between them she never anticipated.

Sarah wove these two women together so seamlessly and with such an interesting plot, I couldn't put the book down. I read it in four hours. Not only that, but her characters were so visceral, I dreamed about Claire and Vera that night. Talk about a gifted storyteller!

And the scones? Amazing. Moist, light, and easy to make. Also quite photogenic, if I do say so myself.

Thank you, Sarah, for gracing the world with another beautiful story.
Blackberry Winter comes out Tuesday, September 25th.
Get it at your local bookstores before they sell out!
Visit Sarah Jio's website.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Edinburgh Castle Part II: The Exterior (and how I almost lost it)

Note: Last summer I took a solo journey to the UK and fell in love with Scotland. I am (ahem) slowly posting the photos from that fabulous country.

Yesterday I took you on a tour of some of the interiors of Edinburgh Castle and today we're headed outside. To make a long story short: Edinburgh Castle is quite photogenic with picture perfect moments wherever you go. Buckle up for a lot of photos and a story about why you need to bring tissues if you visit.

Photo taken inside the castle. The rock the castle sits on was created by volcanic activity, making the grass exceptionally green and lush.

Signs like these are all over the place to help you navigate the huge structure.

The most memorable part of Edinburgh Castle was the war memorial, a building dedicated to the Scots fallen during times of war. There are books of names of soldiers killed in combat organized by war, service, and name. Then there's the other side- the civilian side.

In World War II, as blitzes and raids were all too common in the United Kingdom, thousands of men, women, and children were killed in their homes and on the streets. There's a section of the war memorial dedicated to those civilians with books of their names and where they died. It was heartbreaking and a bit overwhelming. So much so that I had to leave before I completely lost it.

You can't take pictures inside the war memorial, but I took a few shots of the exterior so I could remember it.

To end, I shall leave you with the words of the Scottish poet Robert Burns:

'From scenes like these old Scotia's grandeur springs, 
That makes her loved at home, revered abroad; 
Princes and lords are but the breath of kings, 
"An honest man's the noblest work of God!"

~from The Cotter's Saturday Nigh

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Edinburgh Castle Part 1: Interior

Real talk: If you're ever in Edinburgh, you have to go to Edinburgh Castle- there's no avoiding it. If you're wondering if it's worth the entrance fee and crowds, I will tell you it is. It's beautiful. It's awe inspiring. It's freakin huge. 

Given its size, the castle can be a little overwhelming, so I recommend taking one of their free tours. They leave every half hour near the main entrance. The guides are personable, knowledgeable, and don't mind if you're the straggler taking fifty pictures of one thing (heh).

Also because Edinburgh Castle is so huge, I'm splitting the photos up into two posts: interior and exterior. Today's the interior shots and I hope you can get a feel of why I thought it was one of the coolest places I had ever been.


I once read a Queen Mary biography (there are many because she was such a fascinating woman), so visiting her chamber was a special treat. I kept thinking, "I read about this place! Holy moly I can't believe I'm here!" Knowing she was in captivity for most of her life and how she struggled to produce and heir to the throne made going inside her rooms surreal. 


The Great Hall was incredible. You walk in and feel regal with the thousands of swords, guns, and armor lining the walls. And then you think to yourself, "Oh yeah. This is a castle. Legit."


St. Margaret's Chapel, although small, was my favorite place at the castle. It's the oldest building in Edinburgh and when you walk in, you feel St. Margaret's peaceful presence. Her tale is one of love, heartbreak, and countless acts of charity. I took the following excerpt from the Edinburgh Castle Website:


There are other things to do at the castle: see the crown jewel's, venture up a tower, visit the military jail, and (this was the creepiest part) go to the Prisoner of War Prison. It was like Tim Burton meets Pirate of the Caribbean with hanging ropes and beds everywhere. I'll be posting those pictures on Halloween. 

 Tomorrow's all about the castle grounds and I'll be telling you about how I nearly ran out of the castle crying. Yup.

Have you been to Edinburgh Castle?
What was your favorite part?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Being a Good Travel Blogger

To say I was overwhelmed with emotions and pictures when I got home from Scotland is like saying Nutella Donuts taste good. Read: Biggest understatement of the century. So, here I am, almost a year and a half later, and I've finally gotten around to organizing and compiling my Edinburgh photos. 

As I did this, I kept thinking: What makes a travelogue good? It's more than pretty photos and informative captions (although those are always important), but they also have a personal touch of the writer's voice and perspective. It's the reason why Samantha Brown and Rick Steves are so popular; they take you on a personal journey to where they've been, not just an informational one. 

I know my travelogues could be better (read the post about my run-in with the Loch Ness Monster and you'll see what I mean), and as I started posting about Scotland, I realized it's hard to have a balance between personal and informative. How much do you guys want to know about a place and when does it become boring? 

I personally don't need a lot of words to help me feel transported to a different place and I'm okay with a ton of beautiful photos to stare at on my computer screen. Unless I'm planning a trip there. Then I want hotel recommendations, restaurant names, and all the hidden gems the locals refuse to tell you about. Otherwise, showing me photos of those fabulous places without helping me get there is just cruel. Cruel, I tell you!

So starting tomorrow I'll be posting the rest of my photos from Scotland and London. The pictures are up and ready, but the text... well I need help with the text.

What do you look for in a travelogue? 
More pictures than words? Witty captions? Outfit posts? 

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Joys of Moving (not sarcasm)

Dear friends in Sacramento- I love you so much! Please don't hate me for this post!

As Mr. Branflake's been applying to jobs all over the country, I've been thinking a lot about the possibility of moving; not just moving but starting a new adventure. I know for many people, transplanting themselves in another part of the world is no big deal (or it's horrendous), but I get excited at the thought.

As we all know, I love a good adventure.

I love the unparalled feeling of discovering a new city, especially with a man who holds your hand when you cross the street because he wants to protect you in every way possible. And then walks by your side as you wander in and out of boutiques as if it's the most exciting thing you'll do that day.

I love seeing the world change through the seasons after moving to a new town- it's as if you see your favorite time of year with a different set of eyes.

I love getting lost in an unfamiliar area with an attitude of, "It's okay. We're not lost, we're taking our time discovering."

I love greeting a new kitchen, figuring out where things will go, and then going grocery shopping with a clean slate.

I love knowing everything we do will be a first. "This is our first time going to Target in this city." "This is the first meal we cooked in our new kitchen." "This is our first time cuddling in this bed."

I love thinking about the endless possibilities of a different skyline, new faces, and a fresh perspective.

Do you have a migrant heart or are you content with hanging up your hat forever?
I can't help but hope he gets a job on the East Coast, because then I'l be thatmuch closer to Scotland. I get giddy at the thought.

*I took the above photo at the Oakland Temple a few weeks ago. Love that place! (It's where we were married)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Marshmallow Brownies and Weekend Love

I just put in these marshmallow brownies for tonight's Girl's Night. It's an experiment because the last time I baked with marshmallows, they completely dissolved in the cupcake batter. So maybe this will be different? I don't know. I bought some cheese puffs as a back-up.

They won't be done until another 40 minutes, so if you want to see the finished product, I'll be posting the photo on Instagram. It might come out horrible, but a vintage filter will make it pretty (sarcasm).

After Monday's writing marathon, my brain has been all about the written word. Not surprisingly, I found some great links about reading, writing, and being an awesome literate.

Some links:

17 songs based on the poetry of e.e cummings. (via Brain Pickings)

7 Ways to Use Brain Science to Hook Readers and Reel Them In

JK Rowling will be doing her first televised US interview about her newest novel, Casual Vacancy. Oh yeah, it takes place in Scotland (about pee my pants about this one!)

How to read like a writer (via Brain Pickings)

Happy Weekend, friends!