Currently Reading

After devouring Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone in one day yesterday, I’m now onto Siege and Storm! I fell in love with Bardugo’s writing in her Six of Crows duology earlier this year and have been itching to get my hands on her first series. I was worried about reading backwards and that her first series wouldn’t have as much finesse, but I’m absolutely enamored. Bardugo creates such well rounded characters, and I love the main character Alina. Her blunt manner of speaking is so refreshing in a heroine, and I love the ordinary-ness and effortlessness in her humor. Cannot wait to dive further into this second book.

12/29/17 Week In Review

I know, I know, it’s late, but Friday isn’t over yet!!

!CD[CD] ColomeAs someone whose Fun Meter gets pegged easily, the holidays are exhausting for me both mentally and physically. I’m not going to talk about the wide array of things I drank Saturday night when we had ten friends and four dogs over at our house. I want to talk about my drink of choice for Christmas: Colome Estate Malbec. This wine was just recently named Wine Spectator‘s #18 wine for the Top 100 Wines of 2018, which is pretty cool. But the important thing to know about Colome is that it comes from Salta, not Mendoza- where about 80% of Argentina’s wine comes from. Salta is roughly two hours north of Mendoza, and the Colome estate is the highest elevation winery in the world, at 6,000-10,000ft, which is wild. For comparison, mountain appellations in Napa are about 2,500 feet. High elevation makes the grapes struggle more, which develops deeper flavor. All that to say, Colome Malbecs are darn delicious and not ridiculously expensive! (Unless you buy Altura Maxima, the 10,000ft vineyard bottling that is a treat to the taste buds but a wee bit more pricey.) But don’t just take my word for it, here’s what Wine Spectator has to say about the Estate Malbec:

Refined and rich-tasting, with effusive minerality to the red berry and cherry flavors, lathered with plenty of creamy accents. Pepper and cigar box notes show on the long and complex finish.

!CL

Okay, so this is probably one of the dorkiest things I will ever admit on the internet but one of my favorite things about the holidays is the Yule Log Channel on tv with the crackling fireplace. It’s so nostalgic for me. As a kid, even though it didn’t really ever get truly cold in Georgia, we always had a “Christmas Fire” that was started the first day of Christmas break and we didn’t allow it to go out until after Christmas. Since I don’t have a fireplace in my current home, the Yule Log just sounds like Christmas to me, more than any holiday jingles.

!CLU

I don’t know about you, but I am so ready for 2017 to be over. As someone who works in sales, while everyone else is excited about holiday parties, I’m nineteen different kinds of stressed trying to hit end of year numbers and asking for favors from everyone I know so that I can hit bonus for the year. This year, I’m happy to say I’m DONE with all of that as of today, and save for one last minute wine delivery tomorrow, I am worry free for the next two days! I’m going to celebrate by not leaving the house and talking to no one and going no where. I need to detox after all the socializing last weekend. I’m the Scrooge of New Year’s Eve. I never want to go out or do anything, I’m content to just stay in, have a drink or three, and marathon some movies. What do you guys have planned for New Year’s Eve/Day? Do you have any traditions?

2018 #Goals

2018

I’m a big believer in goals. And as a Slytherin, I’m one of the most determined people I know and will stop at nothing to achieve them.

My Goals for Living My Best Life in 2018:

  1. Be Kind. This is an Always Goal, but I don’t think kindness can ever be overrated. Kindness to others, and  kindness to yourself. You get back what you put out into the world. I’m highly critical, and while it’s important to be critical of the world around you, it’s important not to let that hinder your enjoyment of it. I’m watching the way I speak about things, what details I focus on. I want to remember the good in the world, in my world, and that doesn’t mean ignoring the bad or brushing it under the rug. Acknowledge it, but don’t let it steal your joy or your kindness. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, 2017 was a dumpster fire. And so much of it could be fixed, be healed if only we showed more kindness and understanding to those around us.
  2. Oregon. As I mentioned in my 2017 recap, our lease is up next fall, and we’re ready to go. There are so many goals tied into this one. We’re looking to buy our first house and stop throwing our money away renting. We want to spend more time outdoors and nature is so accessible in Oregon. We want to save money and getting out of Illinois will help with that. I’ve lived in three states since graduating high school, and I’m reading to find the one that feels like home, feels like forever, and I think Oregon is a big step in the right direction for us.
  3. Begin the publishing journey. This one puts butterflies in my stomach, makes me want to run around the house in euphoria and puke all at once. I’ve always loved writing, but it wasn’t until after I completed a major in culinary arts that I realized I need to write. I need to share my stories with the world. And I want to give it my all, which is why I’ve spent so much time editing DB, researching agents, and antagonizing over queries. This was a 2017 goal of mine, but one made out of ignorance. I wasn’t ready in 2017. It’s hard for me to prolong pursuing a goal, but I know I’ll be more prepared in 2018. Not only to actually achieve this goal, but to deliver at a calibre I can look back upon in the future and be proud of, rather than the rushed product I had in 2017.
  4. Travel. Even with moving across the country on the docket, I need to travel. As Alisa calls it, I’ve got the “go bug”. Lucas & I are making our yearly visit to Minnesota to see his brother and best friend who live there, and I’m going to meet up with Brenna! My best friend Karrie is coming into town for One Chicago in March, the #bifflesquad has a Nashville trip in the works, and I’m going to Spain and Portugal via work in April. And if that’s not enough, I’m seriously hoping I can squeeze in time to scuba in Key Largo with the parents. I’ve only missed a year of diving once so far in my life, and not to be dramatic, but I might shrivel up without my yearly dose.
    Travel is one of the few things in life I allow myself to splurge on. It’s so important to remember that the world is so much bigger than your town, your state, your country. It’s easy to forget that. We get so immeshed in our daily lives that we forget to open our eyes and really see. That’s what travel is to me. It’s not about flashy vacations, it’s about staying in touch with the world around me, remembering my own insignificance. The world is big and it is beautiful and for my small time on it, I want to see and experience as much of it as I can, in the way that those who live there experience it.
  5. Read more. My GoodReads “to read” list is getting out of control. I’ve been so wrapped up with DB edits that I didn’t do as much reading as I would’ve liked in 2017, so I’m hoping to change that in 2018 and knock a few books off my list.

 

Do you have any goals for 2018? Anything you’re looking forward to?

Week in Review 12/22/17

Currently Listening:
This week I discovered the band Transviolet, and have been jamming to Night Vision, Bruises, and The Hamptons. Night Vision gives me all the Death Becoming vibes and is a great song to write to.

when the night gets heavy / lay your heaven on me / sparks illuminate us / i’ll find you in the dark // when the sky is falling / i’ll be your atlas holding / the world on my shoulders / i’ll find you in the dark

Currently Drinking:
To be honest, this weekly segment makes me feel like an alcoholic. But in my defense, I do this for a living, okay?! This week I got into the Christmas spirit with some help from Ayala Brut Majeur, which I lovingly refer to as Bollinger’s baby sister. 40% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, 20% Pinot Meunier, Ayala is considered the “sleeping beauty of champagne”. It’s minerally and chalky with honey and biscuit notes, and one of my favorite bubbles to sip. Go getcha some.

[CLU] christmas

#TBT to Basil and Paprika’s first Christmas in 2015 💕

Current Life Update:
Things are ramping up for Christmas! This week I finally broke out my Christmas decorations. We didn’t do a tree this year. Instead, we decorated our seven foot tall rubber plant. I pulled out a few sentimental ornaments and scattered them around the house, and I’m definitely getting into the Christmas spirit. I spent three hours on Sunday writing Christmas cards while drinking tea and listening to the Yule Log on tv. (Yeah, I’m that person. No shame in my Christmas game.) I’ve also had Christmas cards and packages arriving in the mail for the past two weeks, which is super exciting. As per usual, I have disguised all of Lucas’s gifts in mysteriously sized and shaped boxes to keep him from guessing. My mother taught me the art of Christmas deception from an early age. She used to write my name on all my brother’s gifts and vice versa to keep us guessing.
PS: If you’ve sent me a gift or letter, I’m saving them all for Christmas day.

Do you have any favorite holiday traditions? What are you most looking forward to as 2017 comes to a close?

Cheers,
Erin

2017 In Review

2017 was a hot mess, I think we can all agree. But when I look back on it, I don’t want to think about all the ways 2017 was a dumpster fire. I want to look back on all the great things that happened. So here’s my highlights:

The Top 10 of 2017:

  1. After 4 years of annoying the crap out of each other, Lucas and I are engaged! I almost ruined my own proposal by being overzealous about how many miles we could hike in one day, and almost gave up before getting to the top of Lost Lake Butte, which overlooks the beautiful Mt. Hood. Thankfully, we persevered and it was absolutely worth it. (Pro Tip: don’t do two hikes in one day involving steep inclines and declines totaling over six miles the day after touring wineries.)
  2. Tying into #1, we went to Oregon this year! We’ve been wanting to go for the past two years, and with our lease being up for renewal next fall, we knew we had to go and scope it out before considering moving there. And we absolutely fell in love. We only had five days there, but we spent them wisely. We spent an afternoon in the city, where I was in heaven at Powell’s Books. We spent a day in wine country at Domaine Serene and Bethel Heights, where the winemaker, Ben Casteel, gave us a vineyard tour and way too many barrel samples and we loved every minute of it. We spent a day hiking Multnomah Falls and Lost Lake Butte (see #1), with a pitstop in Hood River at Pfriem Brewery (hello, kumquat saison). For our last day we recovered from all our adventuring at Cannon Beach. And it goes unsaid but we ate and drank our faces off while we were there. This Southern girl was in heaven with all the barbecue and chicken & biscuits offered everywhere. Oregon stole our hearts and we cannot contain our excitement to soon call it home.
  3. I’m fortunate to work for one of the best wine distributors in Illinois, and every three years they do a company trip out to California. We visited over 20 wineries in Napa & Sonoma in five days, and it was absolutely a trip of a lifetime. Verticals of Cabernet at Chateau Montelena, single vineyard soil comparisons at Diamond Creek, blending competitions at Hess, meeting Steve Kistler and his daughters at Occidental and drinking the Pinot Noirs named after his daughters and having his daughters pour it for you?? Having your mind blown by Jason Jardine from Hanzell and drinking mags of 1996 Chardonnay, meeting Randy Dunn and previewing the 2014 vintage before its release, the views at Chappellet?? This is something I would have never been able to experience as an average consumer, and I’ll never forget the hospitality shown to us by so many wineries.
  4. Any year I get to escape the dreary midwest weather and melt in the Florida heat for a week is a good year. This year, we dragged two of Lucas’s friends down to Key Largo, my home away from home. I’ve been going there my entire life, my parents investing in a timeshare there when they first got married. It’s one of the only vacations I go on where I actually feel relaxed after coming back. It’s like a second home, and I need the annual visit to keep my mermaid gills wet. The weather wasn’t the best this year for scuba diving, but we still managed to make six great dives. We ate tons of food, ate even more ice cream from Mr. C’s, and I’m already itching to go back.
  5. Have you noticed a trend yet? All my most important items involve travel, my parents instilling wanderlust into my brother and I from a young age. And this year, I got to take Lucas back to where it all started, my hometown: Albany, Georgia. It’s small, and the tour of the town takes less than fifteen minutes, but nonetheless, it holds a special place in my heart. The coordinates tattooed on my right forearm will lead you right to my parent’s house, which my father designed and built right before I was born. (The vision of my incredibly pregnant mother overseeing construction and bossing around all the workers while my father was traveling for work is one of my favorites.) It’s the only home I’ve ever lived in, and I was glad to get to share it with Lucas. We went kayaking on the Flint River–Lucas getting an up-close-and-personal experience with it by falling in–attended my father’s dive shop social, ate at my favorite Mexican restaurant which I haven’t had in four years, and got to see my grandfather, grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins who I haven’t seen since graduating college.
  6. I attended my first live hockey game this year! Being a Georgia native, hockey isn’t a big deal down south. But ever since moving north, I’ve been dying to go. And I’ve been spoiled silly by getting to go twice this year–for free. Once, with friends of Lucas’s who had two extra tickets with killer seats. Second, with Lucas’s cousin who is friends with the Blackhawks’ CEO and got us catered box seats after someone else cancelled last minute. Talk about luck. I’ll likely never attend a game in such style ever again but it was nice to see how the other half lives for a night.
  7. I got to see my best friend Alisa twice. She went on an epic cross-country road trip and stopped through Chicago twice, and I got to be a bum on the couch with my best friend and drink coffee and drink wine and margaritas and be obnoxious with her TWICE, you guys. That’s a big deal. Outside of that, we continued our tradition of (somewhat) weekly FaceTime DrinkTime dates, which is really just a weekly catchup on everything happening in our lives and sending each other stupid memes and laughing our asses off. And she listens to me ramble about writing. Good times.
  8. On that note, 2017 was a great year for friendships. I became friends with Kristine, who I’ve followed on tumblr for years now, and she introduced me her friends: Solange, Brenna, and Claire, and it’s been so great to have more fandom friends. I’m no stranger to internet friendships. In fact, I highly recommend them. I met Karrie via LiveJournal and we hit a milestone of eleven years of friendship this year! Sadly, we procrastinated too long and didn’t get to have an epic long weekend together this year, but we’ve already got trips on the books for next year. The #bifflesquad is still going strong, and the group chat is as strong as ever, if not stronger due to all of us getting on SnapChat this year, thus allowing us to rant verbally whilst using cute filters, which is much more effective and entertaining than texting angrily. So bless up for that.
  9. I also got to see my mom twice this year! In addition to seeing her when I went home (#5), she was kind enough to fly all the way up to Chicago to house sit for Lucas & I while we were in Oregon. With a large dog and two cats, it’s hard for us to find pet sitters and boarding is expensive, so she did us a major favor. But I also think she just wanted some good ole peace and quiet for a week. She spoiled Freya silly with morning walks and afternoon trips to the dog park, and put the cats on a much-needed diet, ha! But mostly, I was just happy to see her before and after our trip, which was especially sweet since I got to see her in person just days after getting engaged.
  10. And lastly, because I can’t go a whole post without talking about it: Death Becoming. This book has a piece of my soul in it. I finished writing it in early 2017, and immediately started writing the sequel because I was so excited. But I quickly realized I wasn’t done with DB, and went back and began editing. I’ve never undertaken such serious edits for one of my projects before, and I think that’s what makes DB so special to me. I knew I was onto something from the first dream I had about it that set me on the path to writing this story, but even with all the frustrations and writer’s block and countless edits and subplot tweaking, I’m still in love with it. This world is so real to me and the characters never cease to surprise me. But I also cannot wait to be done with it and begin my publishing journey. 2017 may have been a roller coaster, but it will always go down as a huge year for me as a writer. And for that, I’m so grateful.

Thank you to everyone who helped me make it through 2017, and to everyone who brought love and light into it. I’m incredibly lucky in this life, not in material possessions, but in the true wealth: the quality of the people who surround me and create priceless experiences and moments that cannot be bought. Thank you for being you, because you help make me a better me.

Also thanks for reading my blog.

UP NEXT: My goals for 2018.

Week In Review 12/15/17

[CD] whiskey hot chocolate

(image credit: my dish is bomb)

Currently Drinking:

Repeat after me: Whiskey, Hot Chocolate, Caramel, and Vanilla Bean. Hello, winter! I was craving both whiskey and chocolate the other night, but alas I don’t keep sweets in the house. (But we always keep whiskey stocked, never fear.) So naturally, I did a Google and discovered that whiskey hot chocolate was, indeed, a thing.  I found this lovely article which has 17 different boozy hot chocolate recipes no matter your booze base preference. In true Erin fashion, I never follow a recipe. I prefer to read 2-3 different recipes and then wing it. (I referenced these: [1] [2] [3]) I didn’t have marshmallows and was too lazy to make whipped cream, so I just made a caramel sauce, mixed in some whiskey and vanilla beans, frothed some milk, added cocoa powder and bam! whiskey hot chocolate deliciousness. Trust me, you gotta get in on this.

Current Life Update:

So, if you know me, you know I love Harry Potter. This week, a new chapter was making the rounds. A new chapter? What?! A new chapter called Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash, written by a predictive keyboard taught all seven books. It’s utter nonsense and I haven’t stopped laughing for the past few days. And in true Potter fandom fashion, there is already fan art for it. Thank Merlin. You can read the chapter here, and then immediately go here to see all of Megan Nicole Dong’s comics for it. You’re welcome.

Currently Listening:

I’m super late to the game but I’ve been jamming to LANY lately, particularly ILYSB. Other than that I’ve been in a major music funk lately. I just can’t figure out what I’m in the mood for. I think all this end of the year craziness is driving me up the wall so much I can’t even focus on music right now. I also listened to recordings of Leviosa’s Harry Potter and Young Adult Literature Convention from July 2016 just to keep my brain in writing mode. There are interviews with agents and authors, and they tackle topics like researching, editing, querying, and world building.

Currently Editing:

Still in the editing trenches with Death Becoming. I’ve edited all the way through my Big Finale™️ and due to the immense amount of changes made thus far and in previous edits, the last three chapters have to be scrapped and rewritten, but I’m excited to tackle it over the weekend. Alas, I have a free weekend and I’m going to spend it writing DB and finishing up my Christmas cards!

Cheers,
Erin

Week In Review 12/08/17

Current Life Update:
Remember Claire Laminen, whose book I read & posted about a few weeks back? Well, she’s not only an amazing author, but a dear friend of mine. She lives in Ventura with her husband, and I’m sure you’ve all heard of the fires currently ravaging California. They had enough of a heads up to get out safely, but their house was lost to the fire. You may or may not know Claire, but if you have the means, we’ve set up a youcaring for donations to help them restart and rebuild their life. They’re absolutely wonderful people, and I’m completely devastated that this has happened to them, especially so close to the holidays, Claire’s favorite time of the year. Also, there is a gofundme for the town of Ventura and helping the citizens rebuild after the fires, if you’d feel more comfortable donating to that. If you aren’t able to donate, please keep the people of California in your thoughts and prayers. I know this is a heavy way to start off the post, but sometimes life is heavy and this is an issue very near and dear to my heart. Mother Nature has not been kind in 2017, and those of us who have been fortunate enough to make it through unscathed should give thanks and lend a helping hand to those in need in whatever capacity we can.

Currently Editing:
I’m still deep in the trenches with my DB edits, but I’m happy to say I’m two-thirds of the way through my edits. I’ve hit a snag on a bit of foreshadowing, but I think I’ve solved it. Work (and life in general) has been crazy busy so I haven’t had time to sit down and work on it, but I’m excited to get back to it.

Currently Listening:
Lucas was fortunate enough to get free tickets to the WKQX The Nights We Stole Christmas concert last Friday, where we got to see Sir Sly, Cold War Kids, and Foster The People. So I’ve been jamming to FtP’s new album Sacred Hearts Club. All three bands were fantastic live, and Sir Sly has a serious showman for a lead singer.

Currently Drinking:
Now that it’s cold at last, I’ve been sipping on my fave: Bourbon. More specifically, an Old Fashioned. I finally got my hands on a jar of Copper & Kings Cocktail Cherries and they are delicious. Copper & Kings are primarily known for their brandy, but what you need to know about them is their love of music, and how they use subwoofers in their cellars to age their spirits via pulses from the jams they jam down there. And if that’s not cool as hell, I don’t know what is. (“Ah, yes, this brandy has subtle notes of DaRude’s Sandstorm, do you get that on the mid-palate as well, good sir?”)

Week In Review 11/24/17 & 12/01/17

Okay, I have to come clean. I meant to update last week, honest! But in the excitement of the holiday I completely forgot to sit down and queue anything up, so I’m going to combine highlights from the last two weeks, and boy were they fun.

Currently Reading/Writing EDITING:

IMG_6205

Overhauling these two categories this week as I took the plunge and printed out the behemoth that is Death Becoming. I’m *loosely* following Susan Dennard’s editing process I mentioned in my earlier post, and I’m loving it. Color coordination galore which pleases my OCD tendencies, and forcing myself to sit down and read DB from front to back has made me feel more in control of the manuscript than I’ve felt in a long time. Feels good, guys, feels real good.

Currently Listening:

HP Symphony

Fangirl Time: I attended the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s production of Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone and I’ve had the score stuck in my head since last Saturday. It was absolutely phenomenal. I knew John Willams (Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, the list goes on…) was an amazing composer, but hearing it live took my breath away and gave me chills on numerous occasions. Who knew quidditch could be so intense? Also, whoever plays the xylophone must have thought Christmas had come early when they announced this project. The amount of times the iconic Harry Potter jingle is interwoven throughout the film kept them very busy, haha.

[CD] JG Bluegray

Currently Drinking:

Juan Gil Estates Orowines, 2014 BlueGray: Named for the color of the slate soils, this Priorat is 45% Garnacha, 30% Carinena, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 12mo in French Oak. Medium body, firm tannins, lots of bright red fruit on the front followed by ample amounts of yummy autumnal spice and chew. I recommend anything from the Juan Gil portfolio, always. Go to your local Spanish wine section and look for anything with “gfe: gil family estates” on the back label and you’re in for a treat that overdelivers for the price.

Current Life Update:

The past two weeks have been full of family & friends, editing, and LOTS of jasmine tea. My obsession with tea is making its yearly revival, and it’s safe to say I’m roughly 50% tea at all times. Except for on Thanksgiving, when I was 50% mashed potatoes. No shame.

Thanks to Cyber Monday, all my holiday shopping is complete, and I’m excited to sit down with a mug of tea and write out my cards. I have a tendency to get way too into it and make numerous terrible puns that I know will elicit groans from the recipients, but hey, it’s me: What do you expect?

What is your favorite holiday tradition? What are you looking forward to the most in the coming weeks?