{eating} a few favorite muffins

I'm very routine oriented, and yet, paradoxically, I also need a lot of variety in my life. I wish I were one of those people who could eat the same (healthy, of course) breakfast day after day and be satisfied. But I love avocado toast and smoothie bowls as much as the next millennial, but after a week of that for breakfast I need a break.

For quite a while now, muffins have been my favorite breakfast go-to. They give me the best of both worlds: I can change up the muffin recipe each week for some variety, but I still get the quick, simple breakfast that a weekday demands.

Here are a few muffin recipes I've been loving lately:

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

{muffin round-up}

  • Power Breakfast Muffins from Life According to Steph - These are my go-to when I'm feeling stuck in a breakfast rut. My whole family loves these, although I make a few without chocolate chips to satisfy Violet (what a weirdo). 
  • Banana Maple Muffins from Boys Ahoy - These are simple and light, and the maple syrup makes them just a little different from your traditional banana muffin
  • Banana Muffins from Brown Eyed Baker - Don't let the "banana" in the name fool you, these are not the healthiest muffins. But when I'm in the mood for that classic banana bread flavor, in muffin form, these can't be beat. 
  • Make-Ahead Bran Muffins from Mel's Kitchen Cafe - These may not be the most exciting variety, but something about these bran muffins with just a hint of sweetness, topped with a little butter... yum. Also, this recipe makes a TON and the batter can hang out in the fridge for weeks. (Mel purposefully made the recipe that way.) Sometimes I make them all and freeze half, other times I just make what I need for the week and keep the batter in an airtight container in the fridge. 
  • Whole Wheat Coffee Cake Muffins from How Sweet Eats - Despite the whole wheat flour, the addition of the (delicious) cinnamon sugar streusel topping on these muffins makes them a little indulgent. But sometimes, that's just what you need. 
  • Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal Muffins from I Heart Eating - This one is the newest addition to my round-up, one I tried after seeing Anne share it. The oatmeal gives these a really dense, hearty texture, but in a delicious--not tough--way. They are sweet but not overly so, and I just love them. 

As you can tell, I'm a muffin addict, so I would love to hear some of your favorites as well. Share your favorites below! 

{reading} good on audio

I've gotten into a habit of listening to audio books in the evening while I do mindless tasks like laundry, post-shower skincare, and other non-thinking activities. I've found that memoirs are my go-to for audio books, and even more so if they're read by the author. Occasionally I'll listen to fiction, but usually only if I hear the audio version specifically recommended.

Here are a few I listened to recently that were particularly good on audio.

{Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle} Read by Glennon Doyle herself, this was like listening to a good friend. A good friend who happens to be a superb writer and can tell a story about learning to love and accept herself with raw honesty and just the right amount of emotion. My rating: 4/5 stars

{Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan} I heard excellent things about the audio version of this middle-grade novel, and it did not disappoint. It begins with a mysterious tale of a boy named Otto, three sisters, a witch, and a harmonica. Music, specifically Otto's harmonica, carries the rest of the story forward and ties the separate tales together. We meet three other children, all of whom are facing tremendous challenges, yet who discover the joy of music and share it with that same harmonica. It is a beautiful story, and the audio version captures it (and the music within it) perfectly. My rating: 4/5 stars

{Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain} I've been a fan of Bourdain's since I first saw him on the Food Network in its early years. I found his irreverence and sense of adventure so appealing--such a contrast to my planning, rule-following ways. I was heartbroken when I heard about his death, and yet I'm thankful he left behind a legacy of great work, including this honest memoir about restaurant life (that he narrates himself on the audio version). It is funny and fascinating. As someone who loves to cook but wouldn't dream of trying to hack it in a restaurant kitchen, I loved immersing myself in that life as I listened. My rating: 4/5 stars

Do you listen to audio books? Have you listened to any good ones lately? 

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links. 

{wearing} quilted vest with bold accessories

Between the time change, several neighbors with loud, annoying vehicles, and goodness knows what else, my children have decided to stop sleeping. Jona is waking up with "bad dreams" (I think lately he just feels the need to come get us when something wakes him up), and Violet will just loudly demand that Aaron or I come in her room until we do. They then wake each other up, and it's all in all a super fun time. That has nothing to do with anything, but if you see me start to slowly go crazy, you'll know why.

After a particularly rough night, I felt like keeping it pretty casual for church on Sunday morning. I usually like to dress up a little, but I'm thankful to go to a church where no one cares what you wear--you see people in dresses and ties as well as jeans and sneakers, it really doesn't matter. I wanted to dress up this casual look slightly though, so I added bold jewelry and my favorite bright pink mules. Hopefully my accessories will distract people from the circles beneath my eyes.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. 

{reading aloud} books to share

I remember when Jona got to the age where I could transition from repeating the same beloved board books over and over, to longer picture books. He always enjoyed sitting quietly and listening to stories, yet I wondered if Violet would ever get there. Sitting quietly and listening aren't exactly things she excels at. However, since she turned 3, her patience for reading has increased significantly. It makes me so glad to know that she relishes read-aloud time now and will happily sit and listen when I read aloud.

Jona will still sit down with us when I'm reading picture books, but if given the choice he'd rather listen to a chapter book or yet another Lego book (or lately, non-fiction fact books about dinosaurs with long, hard-to-pronounce names). But when I bring home a fresh stack from the library, both kids are eager to read them. Here are a few recent picks that both Jona (6) and Violet (3) have enjoyed.

{Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light} This one was Violet's favorite and we read it every night. It's a counting book that's perfect for her age. The dragon is "hiding" on every page, but he's not the greatest hider so Violet was able to find him every time (and was pretty proud of herself when she did). The illustrations are in black and white, but whatever you count on each page is in color, so it's perfect for a preschooler learning to count groups of objects.

{The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers} Henry loves books, but instead of reading them, he likes to eat them. Eating books makes Henry smart, so he tries to become the smartest person in the world by eating books at an alarming rate. It's the kind of silly concept that makes Violet laugh, but I think the clever illustrations and humor throughout are more well-suited for Jona. They both loved it. 

The Incredible Book Eating Boy

{All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold} In the classroom, everyone is welcome. This book celebrates diversity and the welcoming classroom environment where kids from around the world can be friends and learn together. I loved the message, the colorful illustrations, and the way it lead to conversations about how to welcome people in their classrooms. 

{Look by Fiona Woodcock} This bright, unique book is made up of words with "oo" in them. It was a great book to share because Violet loved looking at the pictures and talking about them, and Jona liked reading the words and learning just how many words have "oo" in them. And I loved the illustrations, they are gorgeous. 


Have you enjoyed any children's books lately? 

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links. 

{eating} comfort meals - chicken and dumplings

Now that it's getting colder, I'm craving cozy comfort meals. I was thrilled to see Chicken with Buttermilk Dumplings on my Sweet Peas Meals meal plan this week. Although I occasionally try to make my mom's chicken noodle soup recipe, with homemade noodles, I've never made homemade dumplings before.

This meal can't be classified as a 30-minute meal, but the dumplings did come together a lot more quickly than homemade noodles do. Plus, it was delicious! If you're a dumpling fan, this is for you.

Given the lack of natural light, my photos turned out terrible, and I admit my version didn't turn out quite as gorgeous as Jessica's--so full disclosure, this is her photo below.

Photo via How Sweet Eats
Chicken and dumplings are delicious, but if you don't have quite as much time and you'd still like a similar comforting meal, there are still plenty of options. 

  • If you have some prep time earlier in the day, make your soup broth by cooking bone-in, skin-on chicken in water (add seasonings and bay leaves too) for an hour or so. Skim off the foam from the top, and discard it along with the bay leaves. Then shred up your chicken when it's cool. When you're ready to eat dinner, all you have to do is heat up the broth, add the shredded chicken (and whatever veggies you like), and noodles. We like Reames frozen noodles. 

  • If you're really short on time, just buy chicken stock and a rotisserie chicken and all you have to do is shred up the chicken, heat up the stock (or broth), then add in the chicken, and noodles.
What's your favorite comfort meal? 

{reading} subtle vs bold

I read a couple of books recently that made me think about the way authors often have such power over our emotions. Specifically, one book I read was more of a slow build; I gradually grew attached to the characters and invested in their stories. The other was an emotional roller-coaster, and I was moved from the start. Reading these books back to back made me realize, while I enjoy most books that elicit an emotional response, I prefer the subtle build-up to the bold emotional drama.

{The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall} Two couples are joined together when the men are hired as co-ministers of a New York church. Nan, married to James and the daughter of a minister, is a wholly devoted and passionate minister's wife. Her warmth brings her fiery, activist husband down to earth, and yet she is no match for the depression that her infertility struggle brings. Lily is an academic and an atheist, and she and her husband Charles fall in love over intellectual conversation. He tries to understand her atheism just as she tries to understand his ardent faith, but both of their staunchly held beliefs are shattered when they have a child who is eventually diagnosed with autism, a diagnosis few understand at the time. This is a beautiful story of love, family, faith, and relationships. While a lot happens in this story, its unfolding felt quiet and gradual. Subtly my emotions and connections to these characters grew, and by the end I cried, equally saddened by the ending as by the thought of letting these four people go. My rating: 4.5/5 stars.  

{All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood} Wavy is the daughter of meth addicts, and she bounces from home to home when her mother is unable (or unwilling) to take care of her. Her aunt--her mother's sister--means well, but she has her own children to care for. While living with her parents, she develops an attachment to Kellen, a man who works for her father. Kellen takes care of Wavy in a way her parents do not, making sure she has food and clothing, and that she goes to school. Wavy's attachment grows into something more, and although he tries to resist, Kellen falls for Wavy as well. At the time, Wavy is only 14 while Kellen is in his late 20s, so their relationship is controversial at the least, and potentially illegal. This story packed a bolder punch, emotionally, and yet I find that I prefer a more subtle development. While that may be my preference, I would still recommend this one--just be prepared for a few gut-punches. My rating: 3.5/5 stars. 

Do you prefer subtle or bold choices, when it comes to emotional books? 

{wearing} casual sweater blazer

One of my "must buy" items for fall this year was a sweater blazer. I love all the ways I've seen them styled, and I like that I don't necessarily have to put it away when it's coat season. (Don't you hate how regular blazers just can't work under a coat?) Anyway, I bought this one during a recent J.Crew Factory sale and I've worn it about a million times since then.

Usually I dress it up for work, but I thought I'd try it for a really casual weekend look too. I think this proves that the sweater blazer is right up there with my jean jacket as a closet MVP, you know "most versatile piece."

What layer are you reaching for these days? 

Disclosure: this post contains an affiliate link.