The Empty Shelf Challenge

Friday, December 27, 2013

Earlier this week Jon Acuff issued a challenge to empty a shelf in your house and to fill it with the books you read from now until December 31st, 2014. Now, I love this for several reasons. One, I love the idea of not waiting for the new year. I get so caught up in setting arbitrary regulations on myself that I often forget that any given moment can be the start of a new adventure. Also, as someone with a penchant for purchasing (and checking out) new books faster than I can read them I'm hoping that the visual reminder of the empty shelf will encourage me to catch up.

That said, I didn't realize quite how much my bookshelf needed reorganizing until I knuckled down and went to clear off the top shelf this afternoon. I repainted my room earlier this year and my books never did get put away properly. There is still work to be done, but at least now they're in neat stacks. Being that one of my life list goals is to curate my book collection my fingers are crossed that this challenge is a solid jumping off point.

I've been wanting to start incorporating books into my posts here so you can definitely expect to hear more about this challenge throughout the year. Will you be participating? Link me below, I would love to follow along with your progress!

Easy Hazelnut Bread Pudding

Thursday, December 26, 2013

It's funny how freeing yourself from the pressure to create actually frees up more time to be creative. Writing last night's post was therapeutic. To admit that I barely know where I'm going day-by-day, and that it's okay to still be figuring things out. After resolving to be more gentle with myself today I've already seen a turn around. After months of wrestling with an idea I've had for my soon to be opening web store I finally had the breakthrough I needed. I've had to keep a notepad document open to keep up with the ideas that have been flowing since this morning. What's that saying about needing to empty your cup in order to fill it again? It turns out I was holding on to more stress than I'd realized.

To capitalize on my ambitions I turned to the kitchen. In the aftermath of Christmas I had a leftover loaf of once glorious French bread from my favorite bakery sitting on my counter as hard as a rock. I couldn't bear to part with it, so I took to the internet. My cupboards in need of some serious restocking I was at a loss. I have a recipe for my all time favorite bread pudding, but that calls for some heavy duty amounts of cream and eggs. In a pinch, I stumbled on this recipe from Paula Deen. After some mild adapting I gave it a shot and it was just the thing for a chilly afternoon. While not as decadent as a typical bread pudding, this recipe is significantly faster to pull together and is a lot more flexible for what you may have on hand.

Easy Hazelnut Bread Pudding
(Adapted from this recipe from Paula Deen.)

2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs
2 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 loaf leftover crusty bread; cubed
1/2 cup brown sugar; lightly packed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter; softened
1 cup hazelnuts; coarsely chopped

Preheat your oven to 350°F and grease a 9x13" baking dish.

In a large bowl combine granulated sugar, beaten eggs, milk, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Add bread cubes and mix until evenly coated. Set aside to soak for 15 minutes. While the bread is soaking combine brown sugar, butter, and hazelnuts in a small bowl. This will be your crumble topping.

With the bread soaked, pour into your prepared baking dish and spread evenly. Sprinkle crumble topping over the bread and place in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the custard has set and the top is a lovely golden brown. Serve either warm or chilled as desired and store covered leftovers in the fridge.

When gathering ingredients for this recipe substitute what you have on hand! The only milk I had left was 2% and that worked beautifully. Don't have any hazelnuts? Pecans, walnuts, or sliced almonds would also be delicious. I served this with some spiced whipped cream, but you could also add half a teaspoon of cinnamon to the crumble topping.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Despite the relative silence over the past month I wanted to pop in to wish you all a very Merry Christmas before the day has slipped away entirely. It's been a low-key holiday, which suits me perfectly. A languid morning spent opening gifts and making chocolate chip bacon pancakes. Afternoon naps. A whirlwind cleaning marathon that has left me with a much more organized media cabinet. Bliss.

This has been a hard year, hard like nothing I have ever faced before. So much of that has hit home over the past month that I have been left reeling into survival mode. Getting through each day has become the sought victory. I'm trying. And it's by the grace of God that I am still so very blessed despite feeling so very broken. I didn't intend to be vulnerable tonight, but then it hit me that I not alone in my struggle. To put a shiny wrapped bow on things tonight would do a disservice to those of you that need to be reminded that even in hurt there is hope.

As I pray and ponder over what the future holds for 2014 I am struck with a simple word. Gentleness. The past few years I've enjoyed choosing a word to embody the coming year. It helps me to find my focus. What does gentleness mean for 2014? Being kinder to myself. Being more mindful of those dear to me. More letters and spontaneous gifts. More words of affirmation. Taking better care of myself and taking the time I need to recharge. As with each of the years passed, I'm looking forward to seeing how this word comes to evolve and sharing that with you. Because we could all use a little gentleness, I think.

I hope that your holiday has been filled with joy and merriment. I know this has been a tough year for many, and I pray that the light of hope pierces through even the darkest of your circumstances. Merry Christmas and here's to a brighter 2014!

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