So much life seems to happen during this hot and sticky month ... and this time around was no exception. This month was flying home for 4th of July festivities with the family, sticky hugs and kisses from nephews, wedding dress shopping with all the girls on an early Saturday morning, sitting around the family kitchen table for coffee and conversations, everyone squishing into the pew for Sunday mass, visiting the little church where we’ll get married in the spring, wiffleball tournaments, fireworks bursting overhead on the family lawn, running through O’Hare trying to catch our connecting flight, a hard goodbye and watching the fiancĂ© leave for a month-long training maneuvers, coming home from work to find Lizzie in my apartment, running down to NYC for the day,  keeping the phone close by just in case that spotty call came through, house-hunting and exploring foreclosed properties, coffee dates, spray paint and pinterest projects, battling the urge to come home and curl up on the couch to instead go for late night runs through the neighborhood, trying yet again to stay faithful to a daily prayer routine, relying on Blessed is She for daily devotions, late-night library book reading, and trying to lean into a grace a little bit more each day...


Orange Dark Chocolate Scones

Some recipes contain more than just their ingredient list. This particular one for example, not only conjures up the warm scent of citrus and dark chocolate melting together in the oven, but also sweet moments of family celebrations. My first recollection of this recipe was years ago around the holiday season when my brother and I worked at the local Christmas tree farm. My mom would stop by armed with a basket of these scones, still warm from the oven and sticky with icing, and make the two of us, along with our boss, take a break to warm our fingers and tummies. Now every I bake these up, images of freshly cut pines and the smell of balsam rush into memory and I'm whisked away to family Christmases.

Then there was the morning of my sister's wedding. We made a double batch and served them up with hot coffee as we all ran about getting ready. How we avoided getting chocolate and coffee on everyone's dresses I don't know, but these started the festival day off in a special way. And then just few short months later, we were serving them up at her baby shower!

Regardless of the occasion, this is a recipe you'll find yourself coming back to again and again.

Donna's Heavenly Orange Chip Scones

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark chocolate chunks
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into pieces and softened
1 cup buttermilk
3 large eggs, divided
1 teaspoon orange extract
1 tablespoon milk

PREHEAT oven to 350° F. Lightly grease baking sheets.

COMBINE flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add chocolate chunks and orange peel; mix well. Cut in butter with pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Combine buttermilk, 2 eggs and orange extract in small bowl. Pour buttermilk mixture into flour mixture; mix just until a sticky dough is formed. Do not overmix. Drop by 1/4 cupfuls onto prepared baking sheets. Combine remaining egg and milk in small bowl. Brush egg mixture over top of dough.

BAKE for 18 to 22 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire racks for 10 minutes. Drizzle scones with icing.

COMBINE 2 cups powdered sugar, 1/4 cup orange juice, 1 tablespoon grated orange peel and 1 teaspoon orange extract in medium bowl. Mix until smooth.


Consignment Shopping: Five Survival Tactics

I sat scrolling through the rabbit hole that is pinterest a couple months ago (as well as over lunch today), admiring breezy linen sundresses and lacy tops. I was gathering up inspiration for fresh summer outfit ideas, which were part Jackie Kennedy, and part Kate Middleton, only to find myself dismayed at the prices of the items I was finding. As anyone who is attempting to remain faithful to a budget knows, it’s impossible to justify spending $168 on one article of summer clothing. I realized that if I wanted to freshen up the wardrobe while still being able to grocery shop, I would have to be a little more creative in my hunt…

Cue one of my favorite weekend activities … rummaging through the local consignment shops! A treasure trove of possibilities, this method of shopping is not for the faint of heart. It requires a decent amount of time and a large dose of patience, but the thrill of finding quality pieces for a fraction of the cost make it easily worth the time and effort. I’ve learned, too, that there are few strategies that make the daunting task of sifting through endless racks not only easier, but also far more enjoyable. So next time you tackle your local thrift store, keep these things in mind:


Have a pear shaped figure that looks fabulous in an A-line silhouette? Or are you more rectangular and want to showcase the curves you do have? Knowing the styles that flatter your figure will naturally narrow your choices and cut down on your shopping time: you’ll spend your time trying on items that actually work with your body rather than frustratingly wading through an endless assortment of items.


Think oversized cotton tops, chic button downs, pencil skirts, jeans, and oversized sweaters.  Buying these staples second-hand means you’ll have basic pieces at a fraction of the cost and you’ll have a little wiggle room to splurge on the cute pair of fall booties.


Hidden in the racks you are guaranteed to find the Madewell, Nordstrom, Anthro, and J. Crew, tags that will wear well and stay stylish season after season. Holding out for the higher-end items might mean it takes a little longer to build your wardrobe, but you’ll be happier with the result rather than settling on the cheaper pieces that need to be quickly replaced.


Consignment shops are usually small and want to move inventory. I have seen shops mark their summer items down to a $1 just for the sake of making room for a fresh season. Again, if you are looking for staples pieces, end of the season is the perfect time to stock up since those items will not go out of style.


If you don’t absolutely fall in love with it, and you are only buying it because it’s a good deal, put it back! It will sit in the back of your closet and will never be the item that you find yourself constantly wearing. Only bring home the items that you love, and you’ll never find yourself standing in front of your closet exclaiming, “I have nothing to wear!”

Happy thrifting! What are some of your favorite tricks for savvy shopping?


Summer Cold Brew

There are few recipes that I find myself reaching for again and again, and this cold brew is one of them. Perfect for the hot and sticky months of summer, I brew a batch of this over the weekend and keep in the fridge when I'm running out the door for work. Add a little sweet cream and sugar, and you're all set!

Cold Brew Coffee

6 – 8 ounces of coarsely ground coffee beans of choice
6 cups of cold water
Sweet cream, half and half, or milk to taste
Place coffee grounds in a glass pitcher or a large French press. Pour the cold water over them, making sure all grounds come into contact with water. Cover and leave at room temperature for at least 8+ hours depending on your preferences in strength. Using the the French press, coffee filter or a cheesecloth, strain the grounds from the coffee. Store the coffee in sealable glass container (i.e. a large mason jar) and chill in fridge until needed.
Add ice, cream of choice, and enjoy!


Train to NYC

One of the hardest parts about beginning life in a new place was the heart-wrenching question of "What happens to all the relationships that I've invested so deeply in?" It was terrifying to think that this beautiful new life was going to cost the friendships that walked with me through awkward teen years, college decisions, relationships and heartbreak, and striking out into the world to pursue dreams and goals. How could I let go of the people who had seen me through so much? Those fears caused more than a few late night tossing and turnings.

It was foolish, really. If those friendships had taught me anything, it should have been to trust in the depth of love that these women are capable of giving. While it's true that our relationships look a little different now (our chats with glass of red wine in hand now include a phone), the heart to hearts, encouragement, love, and laughter, haven't changed. I've been learning that if a someone wants to genuinely invest in your relationship, distance and time don't stand a chance of deterring them.

This was never more evident than when Lizzie arrived at the Greyhound bus station in Albany. This woman has taught me so much about pursuing the desires of your heart and never letting fear detract you from boldly pursuing your life. It was pure joy to find ourselves once again curled up on the couch, our conversations peppered with "Do you remember walking through the worst parts of Barcelona at 2:00 a.m. to catch our bus?" or "Remember dancing in Paris at midnight in an Irish pub, with a Frenchman and a German?" It didn't matter that it had been eight months since we had seen each other; the place that we'd kept for each other in our lives allowed us to step right back into our friendship with even more depth and heart, completely laying all those old fears to rest.

(Now, true to the spirit of our friendship, we woke up at 4:00 a.m. to catch a train down to NYC to rush tickets to Les Mis, though we both had a different cough bug and packed enough suppressants to stock a drug-store. You should have seen the amount of Nyquil and chicken soup we bought on the following day!)

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