Los Angeles in the Summertime



I've only been to LA two times in my life, but both visits have made their way onto my list of favorite travels.

The first time Michael and I ever experienced Los Angeles, it was May of 2015 and we had just finished our longest & most expansive tour yet. We drove from our little house in Athens, GA all the way to San Francisco to begin the tour, and over the next 2 months we somehow made our way around the whole country twice to play the last show in LA. We had been away from home, living out of suitcases & learning more about ourselves than we ever had. We invited my sisters to come explore the city with us and celebrate the end of the tour, so they flew out to spend a few days with us before we made the long trek back to Georgia.

If you want to see a recap of that tour + the trip to LA, check out the MUSIC VIDEO I made with our GoPro footage for my song "Thank God You're Holding Me"



Our second trip to LA was in July of this year. The story came full circle, because we had been invited to sing in the wedding of a sweet couple who had actually seen us perform at our last show in LA (they were so adorable).

The wedding was in Malibu, so we decided to extend our trip and visit LA for a few days before the wedding. It was so lovely. We ate the best Mexican food we'd ever had, stuck our toes in the Pacific, and did some pretty exciting people-watching, all while being surrounded by some of the most beautiful ocean views of all time. 

I'm excited to share with you (based on limited knowledge, but very good experiences) my list of LA must-see's and must-do's, so that next time you find yourself there you might fall in love with it like I have.


 

1. Eat In-N-Out Burger

 

My personal favorite fast food burger of all time. Michael and I usually order two "double doubles" and one order of fries to split. SO. GOOD.

Whether you drive thru or sit in you're going to feel ever so slightly greasy. BUT just keep reminding yourself that fresh, never frozen hamburger patties and hand cut fries has to mean healthy...right?

2. DIP YOUR TOES IN THE PACIFIC

It's a little chilly year round, but you have to dip your toes in at the very least.

3. Ride the Pacific wheel on Santa Monica Pier

The Santa Monica Pier is definitely a special place. It always smells like this weird combo of axe body spray and weed, but it's a place you just have to see. I like the pier best at night. Jump on the Pacific Wheel with some friends, take a selfie, and just enjoy it, despite the crowds and all the other people with selfie sticks doing the same thing. Afterwards, make your way up to Third Street Promenade for some good food, and you can probably catch a street performer or two.

4. See the Hollywood Sign from Griffith Park

There are lots of spots to see & snap classic photos of the Hollywood Sign in LA. But my favorite type of morning in the city is to grab a juice or a bagel to-go and drive to Griffith Park for a hike. There will be spots along the way that you can stop and take photos, plus Griffith Park is actually home to the hollywood sign, so you might be able to hike pretty close to it...hiking maps & guides HERE --p.s. Griffith Observatory is in the park, and is an amazing spot to overlook all of LA (and at night a great spot to see the stars). Beware of traffic, especially on the weekends. I'd get there early. 

5. Explore Abbot Kinney BLVD

Screen-Shot-2014-06-23-at-3.53.01-PM1-1020x510.png

Not that many streets have their own website...Abbot Kinney is pretty cool (check it out). Everything from shopping in the stores to their food truck event on the First Friday of every month, you gotta go explore there.

6. Eat Mexican Food

Pretty much all the food in LA is delicious (and expensive...), but they really have the most incredible Mexican Food. On both trips to LA, I couldn't stay away from MERCADO in Santa Monica. Amazing drinks, AMAZING tacos and the special is always fantastic. They even have a cheese dip that is to die for if you are in the mood for a Mexican food binge. Make reservations because they are very popular.

7. Ride the bike path on Venice Beach

People watching at its prime, plus a great way to get some exercise and balance out all the delicious food :) You can rent a bike (some hotels offer rentals or complimentary bike service) and ride it down to the beach. There is actually a bike path connecting several of the beaches, so no matter where you start, you can find your way there with some google maps research.

8. Get Sidecar Doughnuts

As you may know, Michael and I are donut enthusiasts. We spent 5 years touring together with a mission to taste the best donuts in the country. We had lots of great ones, but nothing compared to Sidecar Doughnuts + Coffee. Just wow. The original location is in Costa Mesa (about an hour outside the city) but I'd try out the new location in Santa Monica because it's close and its cute. Butter and Salt is my #1 flavor...just throwing that out there.

9. Drive HWY 1 to Malibu

The scenic drive up HWY 1 to Malibu is absolutely gorgeous. Get ready for some potential traffic if you choose the wrong time of day, but you may not even care (because it's that pretty). Once you get to Malibu I highly suggest the wine safari at Saddlerock Ranch. Michael and I sang at a wedding there and not only was their wine fantastic, but the animals were pretty darn amazing.

10. BRUNCH (!!)

LA, like a lot of other cities, is big into brunch. Saturday or Sunday mornings all the most amazing restaurants are slammed full with people drinking Mimosas and being fabulous. Honestly, its so much fun. My 2 favorite brunch spots hands down are The Rose (pictured to the left) and Huckleberry . The only rules of brunch are: 1. get a mimosa, 2. get there early to avoid the lines. The Rose has a Mexican flair (order Chilaquiles!!) and Huckleberry is more of a bakery. Embrace the wait of weekend mornings and don't let the crowds harsh your vibe.


Just writing this blog makes me miss CALIFORNIA

If you find yourself there, here are a few things to remember:

1. There are a lot of people there, but thats ok. Deeeeeeeep breaths.

2. take pictures even when you feel dorky

3. eat LOTSSSS of good food. 

xo, Emily


RECIPE: BROWN BUTTER CINNAMON ROLLS



Hello + happy weekend!

I've got a fun weekend recipe for you, so if you've got a sweet tooth and you're ready to attempt your most domestic (and also epic) baking adventure of all time, continue reading..


I'm a big fan of tradition. 

In fact, I love the idea of tradition so much that when Michael and I got married we sat down and made a list of festivities and traditions from our childhood (PLUS several newly imagined ones) that we wanted to be a big part of our new lives as a married couple.

One of the things that was really important to me is that we learn to celebrate each other really well, especially on birthdays. 

One year I had the idea of a birthday brunch, and it really stuck. The menu is always different, but the one item that always makes it into one of our brunches is some sort of cinnamon-y sweet. We've experimented with cinnamon toast, cinnamon donuts, and even churros. But the ultimate winner turned out to be a homemade cinnamon roll

I started with 3 different recipes and sort of combined and tweaked until it was perfectly tasty. Now I'll whip these out for any day that needs a little pep in its step. 



 

FILLING

2 cups white sugar

2 cups brown sugar

Plenty of cinnamon

3 sticks butter, melted

 

GLAZE

2 bags powdered sugar

1 stick of butter

1 tsp vanilla

½ tsp salt

1 Tbsp light corn syrup

2 cups hot water

 

BROWN BUTTER CINNAMON ROLLS

*yields between 2-4 dozen, total time: 3-4 hours

 

DOUGH

8 cups all-purpose flour + 1 cup

2 packets dry active yeast

1 qt. whole milk

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup sugar

1 heaping tsp baking powder

¾ tsp baking soda

1 Tbsp salt

16 oz. cream cheese


DIRECTIONS


1. SCALD THE MILK

In a large stock pot, combine milk, oil & 1 cup sugar. “Scald” the milk by heating on medium-low until just below a boil, stirring frequently. This should take about 10 minutes. Remove the mixture from heat and let cool for about an hour, stirring occasionally to speed up the process.  When the milk has cooled down to lukewarm, sprinkle in the yeast evenly cover the surface and let sit there for about 2 minutes.

A very important baking note: DON'T ADD YEAST TO HOT MILK. Yeast is a living thing that needs a comfy warm environment in order to rise. If you put it into something too hot, it will die and the bread won’t rise. A good test for temperature is to stick your finger into the liquid and if you can comfortably keep your hand there, then the yeast will be fine. Make sure to touch near the bottom of the pan where a lot of the heat is held.


2. Make the dough

This is a two-step process. (step one) While the milk mixture is cooling, measure and sift out 9 cups of flourThen add 8 cups of the flour on top of the yeast and stir until combined. Cover with a kitchen towel and let the dough sit out at room temperature for an hour. (step two) Combine the baking soda, baking powder, salt and 1 cup of flour in a separate bowl, stirring together very well. After the dough has been rising for an hour at room temperature, add the remaining flour mixture, stirring well. 

Dough should be a little sticky, but should hold together well. The dough is ready to use if you'd like, but for best results cover the pot with plastic wrap and let the dough continue to rise in the refrigerator overnight. You may have to punch it down a few times as it rises above the top of the pot.



3. MAKe the brown butter for the glaze.

Place 1 stick of butter in a small saucepan and turn on med-hi. First the butter will melt, and as its cooking I usually pick up the pot and swirl it around every few minutes. Then the butter will come to a boil, then start to foam. You don’t want the it to burn, so you can swirl it a little more often while it’s boiling. Cook it on this temperature until the foam goes down and you start seeing little pieces of brown (and the butter will smell more like toasted nuts than before) and it will foam up a little bit. Pour the butter into a small bowl and set aside for later.


4. Roll out the dough

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and split it into two halves (repeat the following steps for each half). Place one half on a heavily floured surface to be rolled out. Sprinkle the top with flour and press the dough out into a rectangle shape, then roll it out to about 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick. The thinner your roll the more swirls you'll have. Take one 6 oz. bar of softened cream cheese and spread it out until its a thin layer covering all of the dough. Make sure the counter underneath the dough has plenty of flour, it tends to stick. Fold the dough in on itself 3 times -- once from each side meeting in the middle and then again where the two sides meet. The dough should now be in a smaller rectangle with the cream cheese inside. Roll it out again to 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick.


5. Add cinnamon & roll 'em up

Melt 3 sticks of butter (this will be enough for greasing both pans and for the cinnamon spread on both rolls). Pour a generous amount of melted butter on the dough, and spread it out until it covers the whole surface. Then sprinkle with a layer of cinnamon, white sugar and brown sugar, then another layer of cinnamon. Be generous with all this stuff. Then roll the dough lengthwise as tightly as you can until it forms a log. Using a bread knife or a sharp chefs knife, cut the log into individual rolls measuring about 2-3 inches thick. You may need to flour the knife.

(I rolled mine thick and cut them thick, so these turned out about the size of a Cinnabon)


6. BAKE THE ROLLS

Preheat oven to 400°. Coat the bottoms and sides of the pans with the melted butter. Place the rolls in the pans, (3 to a circular pan). It’s best to keep them farther apart to let them rise and fully cook in the oven. Give each one of them about an inch or more of space all the way around. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until they begin to brown & look like the photo below.


7. MAKE THE GLAZE (FINAL STEP!)

the first batch is in the oven, make the glaze: Add the powdered sugar, brown butter, vanilla, salt, corn syrup and 1 cup at a time of the hot water. Stir together with a whisk as you go, and once your glaze is the right consistency set it aside. I like mine somewhere between an icing and a glaze, so when I stick a spoon in it flows off easily but the spoon never gets completely clean. As each batch comes out of the oven, immediately put a giant spoonful of glaze on top of each one and let it melt over the top. Or just pour it on...

ENJOY


TIP /

You may not use all of the water, or you may feel like you need to use more. You're adding water to get the correct consistency, and that's really up to you. I like my glaze thick because it melts over the hot cinnamon rolls. But I promise this glaze will taste good no matter what consistency it is.


EAT THEM HOT + SHARE WITH SOMEONE YOU LOVE

xo, Emily



foggy London town


When I think of London this song starts playing in my head.

A few years back, Michael and I were shopping in a thrift store in Athens when we stumbled across the most fantastic old album, "Ella & Louis," just sitting there on the shelf. It was in the box with a bunch of old junk albums, and I remember they were selling this gem for only $5. That kind of a thrift store find will make you the most excited you've ever been. I bought it right away.

Now I've probably listened to it around 300 times all the way through, and have played it for every guest who has ever walked into our house in the past 3 years. Even before I learned all the words and nuances, I knew it would be my favorite album of all time.  

Track 7, "A Foggy Day," was always one that made me smile because it has this sweet, jazzy melody, plus it talks about travel and falling in love. When we were in London a few weeks ago I couldn't help myself; I walked around the streets singing this song out loud. Sometimes when you've been waiting for years to be in London, and then you finally are there walking over the Tower Bridge you just have to sing your favorite London-themed song, out loud, shamelessly.

England is the type of place that has this beautifully dreary weather. Like the feeling you get when it starts storming outside so you decide to cuddle up with a warm cup of coffee (or tea in this case) and a great book. Yes, that's just it. It makes you think of great books and Hugh Grant movies and cuddly, rainy days.

We had a beautiful two days there.

If you ever find yourself in London, I'd suggest:


The entrance to The Culpeper

The entrance to The Culpeper

1) Stay in a B&B above a pub.

We stayed at two different spots, The Fox & Anchor and The Culpeper. Both were so fantastic, they were the highlight of our trip. Even if you don't decide to stay at both, I'd suggest visiting both for a meal and a drink.
The entrance to Fox & Anchor, tucked away on a side street

The entrance to Fox & Anchor, tucked away on a side street


Michael and I completely fell in love with The Culpeper. I have this thing for rooftop bars, and theirs is the most romantic I've ever seen. The main bar downstairs is a perfect place to sit down and people watch while you sip one of their Rosemary Sazeracs or a beer from one of their local breweries (Brixton was my favorite that I tasted). The bartenders know their drinks, and we had a blast chatting with them about their favorite ones to make. Everything about this place was charming and wonderful, including their phenomenal English breakfast. We were on cloud 9 the whole time.


I'll never forget the Fox & Anchor, mostly because of the giant copper tub, the rain shower, and the balcony in their Market Suite. It was worth every penny after a long day of travel, losing our bags, and wearing the same outfit for 3 days. The staff was lovely, and the food + coffee was the best we had in London. Decompressing there with a cup of tea and a bubble bath made my trip.


2) Make an appointment for afternoon tea

Sketch tea room

Sketch tea room

There are lots of different places that you can have tea in London (The Ritz Carlton is probably the most famous for their traditional afternoon tea), but Michael and I chose to try out a newer spot called Sketch. It was incredible. If you want to do something bougie, this should be your first stop.

The Sketch Tea Room

The Sketch Tea Room

This place, and whole tradition, is a high class situation. We walked in and they made us feel like royalty, even though we were wearing backpacks and tennis shoes. The tea comes first, and for most afternoon tea appointments you can upgrade to a Champagne tea. So we did, obviously. They served us a glass of rose, a pot of tea, and a beautiful 3-tier arrangement of finger sandwiches and desserts. We were trying not to laugh because it was all so cute and teeny and ridiculous. One of our desserts had gold flakes on it. I'm assuming they were real, but I guess we'll never know.

The Champagne Afternoon Tea

The Champagne Afternoon Tea


3) Visit Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station

Kings Cross Train Station

Kings Cross Train Station

I guess those of you who aren't Harry Potter fans won't really get into this one, but you especially won't be into the long, winding line and the crazy crowds to have your picture made with the buggy, Hedwig and Platform 9 3/4. But Michael and I learned a secret: around 10-11 PM the gift shop is closed and there's no line. If you're a HP fan like me, it was worth jumping off the Underground a few stops early, walking back into Kings Cross Station, and taking a picture here. 

They actually had some really interesting art prints inside the gift shop, as well as Olivander's wand shop. You could even get your own personalized, wax sealed acceptance letter to Hogwarts. So needless to say you can go all out if you are ready to brave the crowds.

You don't choose the wand, the wand chooses YOU

You don't choose the wand, the wand chooses YOU


4) Walk Brick Lane & Eat lots of Curry

The Thai restaurant in the back of Churchill Arms is a must-see, must-taste.

The Thai restaurant in the back of Churchill Arms is a must-see, must-taste.

Brick Lane is a famous street in London that's overflowing with vintage stores and delicious Curry Houses. We were staying walking-distance from that area at The Culpeper, and Michael and I LOVE curry dishes. So we decided to wander the street until we saw something tasty that we wanted to try. Our first stop was an Indian place called Sheba. You can't miss it with its neon sign and banners, and it's so delicious!

Ps, the guy in the picture below was our waiter and he was very knowledgable. He helped us find some traditional and delicious chicken dish to share (I don't remember what it was called, but it was #45...)

We also stumbled into a few adorable vintage stores and Kahaila Coffee for a pick-me-up. They were serving some incredible cakes, gorgeous homemade sandwiches, teas and coffee. Give yourself some time to explore this eclectic part of the city, we had a blast.

Kahaila Coffee

Kahaila Coffee

We took a little excursion away from Brick Lane to try another recommended curry house, Churchill Arms over in Notting Hill. The restaurant is hidden in the back of the bar, and they serve the best Thai food I've ever tasted. This was probably the highlight of our day in London, you have to go! Even if you're not into Thai food, the pub itself is one of the most charming places that you'll find in London. Walk all the way through to the back on the right side and you'll see the restaurant, or grab a seat in the front and get a full pour of Guinness. Michael and I split the Green Curry and the Panang Chicken Curry (YUM), followed by a few local beers. 

A little perk to being in this part of town is the fact that you're walking distance to Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, and Notting Hill. Spend the afternoon and night in this area for a lovely day. 

Churchill Arms

Churchill Arms


5) Ride the Underground AND THE Overground

The underground system in London is so helpful & convenient. I would definitely suggest getting an Oyster card and using it to get around the city. One perk is that the Oyster card will get you access to the London Underground as well as the London Overground. Be sure to pick a scenic route and take the overground at least once, because it's a red double decker bus. Michael and I jumped on near Harrods and took it all the way to Notting Hill before we ate at Churchill Arms. I'd go all the way up the stairs and sit up top.


6) Go to Harrods

Harrods is a famous London department store with multiple floors of everything you can imagine. It looks like a palace, and once you walk in the doors, you could probably spend 4 hours in there without even blinking. They have everything from a tea room to an ice cream parlor and several restaurants (plus a market that reminds me of a Whole Foods), to a wine cellar and a fine jewelry store, and your typical shopping for clothes, etc. So needless to say, if you like to shop, set aside an entire afternoon to spend in Harrods. But even if you don't like to shop I'd suggest at least going to see it. 


7) Go to Borough Market + Take the Jubilee Walkway

Michael and I only had a day and a half to see London, so as an alternative to spending several hours touring the historical sights, we decided to take the Jubilee Walkway around the city. It is about a 15 mile path that takes you right by a lot of the famous sights in London.  I think we wound up walking about 10-11 of those, so it was a long day but it was definitely worth it.

We started at Borough Market, which was one of my favorite places we went in London. It's an open air market full of interesting booths, all different types of food, and it's brimming with art. You really need to go here for a meal and shopping, it's fantastic.

flower booth in Borough Market

flower booth in Borough Market

Then we moved on to the rest of the walkway, which included famous favorites like The Tower of London, Tower Bridge, a walk along the Thames River, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, Tate Modern, the London Eye, Big Ben & the Houses of Parliament. There were lots of photo ops, and selfies along the way. Then we walked through the beautiful, lush-green St. James Park, and we ended our tour at Buckingham Palace.

The London Eye

The London Eye

The Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge

Be sure to check the forecast before you leave for the day because London tends to be rainy. It sprinkled on and off during our day there, so I kept my raincoat handy. 

Swan in St. James Park

Swan in St. James Park


8) Order a cask ale & talk to people

(Preferably in the outfits shown below)

Michael and I both love beer, so we had a blast tasting the different varieties. In the US we are very used to "iced cold beer", but the Brits like it room temperature from the cask. We tried a little bit of everything from their famous cask ales, to cold IPAs, to Guinness on draft. We found that we still prefer a cold IPA, but maybe we're biased.

One of my favorite things about traveling is meeting new people and getting a chance to hear bits and pieces of their life story. The adorable men in the picture above were a couple of old friends who were sitting next to me for breakfast (11am) at the Fox & Anchor. I was eating eggs and they were having a pint. I fell in love with them for wearing plaid and drinking a mug of beer at 11 am, so I started chatting with them and before long we became friends.

I learned that they lived next door in a restored historical building called The Charter House, which is a community for older men, but has previously been all sorts of different, interesting things (a monastery, a church, a school, an almshouse). They were wonderful and offered to give us a guided tour of the place. It's the little things like this that make me love the world and forget for a moment that bad things happen. The house and the tour were lovely.

The oldest section of the Charter House

The oldest section of the Charter House


I fell in love with London after only a few hours, but my first moments there were a bit emotional.

It is the kind of city that will swallow you whole if you aren't prepared. Michael and I traveled from quaint and charming Edinburgh straight to bustling, impersonal-seeming London. There's a New York-ish hustle to it that can create a stress attack in someone like me. But there's a special duality about London that will continue to bring me back for years to come. 

On one hand, you can simply sit like a fly on the wall and observe the madness over some coffee. But on the other hand there's an opportunity to strike up genuine conversations with the most charming people. 

It's little things, like the conversation on the bus that led us to an interesting new dinner spot, or the stories from the taxi driver who had lived in London for over 20 years. I love seeing the personal little stories unfold within the grand scheme of the city.

I realized quickly that London is one of the most lovable places I've been, and it is so personal with all its quirks. But sometimes you won't end up discovering that side of it until you're sitting with a new friend over a pint or a cup of tea.

SPRING


This month has been so beautiful & inspiring.

But even with all the inspiration, I've been ignoring my blog for a little while now. Because I guess in my mind there's pressure to write something helpful or beautiful (and time-consuming). But lately I've been more drawn to pictures than words. I wander around taking photographs of the things I see, and while I usually have a lot to say about it, this season seems to be a little more about beauty, mystery, and leaving some things unsaid. So this may be a brain dump, but here are snippets of the moments from the past month that have been making my heart feel full.


taking photos of spring coming to life


turning 26 on the beach


MAKING this PLAYLIST (CLICK HERE) THAT CAN BRING ME TO TEARS


LEARNING TO MAKE REAL HOMEMADE CINNAMON ROLLS


hitting 7 clays my first time shooting


running 6 miles in under an hour


getting flowers from the first farmers market of the season


buying our first grown up piece of furniture + finishing the studio


shucking + grilling fresh oysters


listening to our favorite records on vinyl


xo, Emily

A DAY IN D.C.


Washington D.C. is such a beautiful city.

I've always been captivated by it because if its poise. If any city were to be called 'proper' or 'classy' I think that D.C. fits the bill perfectly. It has the breathtaking monuments, it's shockingly clean subway system, and is it just me or is literally everyone wearing a suit? I have to admit that I always picture Olivia Pope and her gladiators behind the scenes fixing the scandals and accidental (or not so accidental...) murders that always seem to happen. 

Side note / she is so awesome. Is it bad to say that I secretly hope D.C. is really like that behind the scenes? (... oh and New York, it would be nice if you were just like you were in Gossip Girl...)


Michael and I have played a lot of concerts in the D.C. area, but for whatever reason we've never really explored until this weekend, and it was a blast.

We were passing through the city after picking up our newly repaired car... 

(we had wrecked it on tour in Connecticut at the end of last year... not the best feeling at 3am in the 20 degree weather to realize your car is smashed and un-drivable)

...so we decided to make this trip fun and stop in D.C. before we drove the rest of the way home. We spent the day on a mission to find the best food, drinks and sights that we could get to in one day, and I had the time of my life. 


If you find yourself with a good excuse to stop through D.C. for a day, try out a few of these spots /


 

COFFEE + BREAKFAST / THE LITTLE RED FOX

 

Amazing coffee and food. They have a rotating daily menu and always have several of their favorite coffees available. Try this place out, it's adorable.


lunch / founding farmers

Probably D.C.'s most popular restaurant right now. It's always packed, its menu is farm-to-table style, and everything they make is absolutely delicious. One of my favorite restaurants I've ever been to. If you want to avoid the hour-long wait you might want to try it for lunch. Michael and I didn't make it in time for lunch, so we wound up waiting at the bar for an hour before dinner, but that wasn't half bad because their bartenders are some of the best in the city. I ordered the salmon, and Michael had the pot roast. YUM.


drinks + small plates / copycat co.

This place absolutely blew me away. It's in a really cute, up-and-coming part of town and the bar is tucked away upstairs. Walk up and order at the bar. Their specialty is the "Dealer's Choice" for your drink. Tell them a favorite drink of yours and they'll whip you up something sort of like it especially for you. It's so fun. But this place is definitely not just a bar -- this was some of the best Asian food I've ever had. The plates are small so we tried a little of everything from the buns to the pot stickers and skewers. You have to try this place.


 

DESSERT / ICE CREAM JUBILEE

 

For those of you who have heard of Jeni's Ice Cream - it's amazing. But Michael and I realized that Jeni had met her match when we had the caramel popcorn and the cookies + cookie dough from Ice Cream Jubilee. This was literally the best ice cream I've ever had. They have homemade crumbly waffle cones that are to die for and will whip you up some homemade european style hot chocolate if you request it. Woooooow, so good.


sights / the national mall

I had walked through parts of the National Mall before, but while I was walking through with my camera on this trip I noticed so much more detail. The monuments, the layout-- it's all so incredible and majestic. If you've never been, you should go walk the mall, see all of the exhibits and even go to all the museums (they're free). Next on my bucket list is to go to the National Zoo (which is also free!)


XO & I hope you find a fun adventure this WKND!

Emily

Winter, resolutions + body image


I'm starting to feel like Winter will never end this year.

Every time Spring has peeked it's gorgeous head out for a weekend in Georgia, the next day is inevitably freezing, rainy & miserable.

But I actually love winter for a lot of reasons

Winter is the perfect time to start binge-watching new shows (and re-watching all the seasons of FRIENDS, Gossip Girl, and Grey's Anatomy...), it's the perfect time to snuggle up with a blanket and an entire pot of coffee while you read a great book. It's a perfect time to blog, or for me, write songs. Winter defines the word cozy in such a magical way.


But winter is a difficult time for motivation and healthy habits. I always end up feeling a little fat, unmotivated and insecure around this time of year.  Because by mid-winter I have fallen off any wagon I tried to get on, I've eaten every casserole, cake and cookie I saw at Christmas, my body is like "work out...what's that?", I've had too much coffee, too much wine,

and I'm thinking to myself "why would I eat my veggies when Chinese Food pairs so well with my couch and all of my layers, boots and sweaters?"

And then right after all the regrettable holiday food decisions and the unfinished projects comes the New Year, when we start thinking back on all the mistakes we made and begin making promises to be better than we were last year.


Personally, I've always liked New Years Resolutions because I'm a dreamer. My ideal day consists of listing out all my hopes and dreams and the path to get there. But man, I always let myself down. And when I'm off the wagon I'm OFF THE WAGON.  So I've noticed over the past several years that I'm constantly disappointed in myself, and it has a profound affect on my life.

It makes me feel judgmental of myself, which turns into judgment towards other people. It makes me smile less, have less joy. It makes me feel less adventurous, less interesting, always striving - and all because I'm not perfect yet. 


But here's the thing:

I will never be perfect.

and you will never be perfect.

So why are we trying so hard to get there?


This year i made different resolutions.

Because I can't be perfect,  but I could be interesting. I could be kind. I could make people feel amazing about themselves. I could have fun. I could be balanced

I could simply be proud of the way I live my life.


One of my never ending resolutions

from the past was to lose weight. This year I decided that instead I should stay off the scale and simply improve my health. I started eating at home more and going on long walks every day instead of putting pressure on myself to starve and do intense workouts. Nothing against intense workouts if you like them, but that's just not my cup of tea every day. 

Interestingly enough, the walks made me happy and I didn't dread them. And when they became a part of my routine, I actually started craving a more intense workout every now and then. So I decided to do what I call a "real workout, like with my muscles" about once a week. They range from 20-40 minutes and they make me feel like I'm accomplishing that goal of being balanced.

The crazy thing is that I went to the doctor last week and when I got on the scale I realized I had lost 20 pounds since the last time I weighed myself 4 months ago. Whaaaat.

That may not be your goal, and accomplishing your goals may not always be as easy as you'd like. But just changing your mindset from achieving the perfect body to achieving health (having a little grace with yourself) is the only way to really be happy. 

I'm pretty sure I'm also happier because I'm not so hangry (hungry + angry) anymore...

Don't sit out on your life. You're already worthy, fun, beautiful (or handsome), and capable of smiling and making the day brighter. 


A small step today is just getting your walk in

or maybe just scheduling one of the two workouts below for your weekend.

But keep it fun.

Because even if you get superskinny & superfit, but you don't treat your body with respect and seek out balance (plus you're always hangry), you won't be as happy (or nice) as you hope to be. 


two workout options /

One (CLICK HERE) is a treadmill workout that I came up with when I hated working out. I knew I should do at least 20 minutes of cardio 6 days a week to be considered a "healthy" person (based on the statistic that people need at least 120 active minutes each week). This one is a shout out to you folks who still hate working out and you're counting down the minutes until you can be done. I'm still there most days.

The other (CLICK HERE) is a workout that I made up when I was in better shape than I am now, for you work out-ers. So even though it says to do 2 reps of each round, feel free to modify and only do 1 rep per round. Or heck, if you're feeling amazing try 3 reps per round. Go get 'em.


xo, & have a happy weekend!

Emily

RECIPE: HOMEMADE CORN DOGS


Happy Tuesday from chilly Michigan!

Michael and I are headed to Adrian, MI to play a show tonight. I've been feeling a little drained today and I thought we all might could use some Tuesday inspiration.

So you've come face to face with the realization that you're already exhausted and Friday is so far away (sigh). Here's a little something easy and fun for you to look forward to this week.

It always energizes me to get creative in the kitchen, this will be a good excuse to have some friends over and plan a themed movie night or play board games while you munch on warm homemade corn dogs. Or if you want to go all out, you could always plan a whole carnival themed date night…just saying...

Happy cooking!


HOMEMADE CORN DOGS

(makes about 20 minis)

1 cup self-rising flour

1 cup corn meal

1  1/4 cups buttermilk

2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

3 Tbs sugar

2 Tbs honey


You'll also need...

corn starch for dredging

10 hot dogs, cut in half

20 wooden sticks (chopsticks, skewers, or lollipop sticks)

candy thermometer


Mix the cornmeal, flour, buttermilk, sugar, salt, pepper and honey together until blended well. Pour into a tall cup for dipping

Cut the hot dogs in half, and insert the wooden sticks

Heat oil in a cast iron skillet or a fryer to 375 degrees

Cover one of the mini corn dogs in corn starch, then dip it in the mixture

Drop the whole thing into the oil and let cook for about 3 minutes, or until it reaches the color and consistency that you like

Fry up to 4 at a time, depending on the capacity of your fryer. The more you put in there, the harder it will be to maintain the proper temperature

Cool on a plate with a paper towel to absorb the oil for at least 3 minutes before serving


Date Night Idea /

One of my favorite scenes from the Notebook is Noah and Allie's date to the fair. It would be a romantic movie night to cook dinner together with fair-themed food (think corn dogs, funnel cakes, caramel apples or ice cream cones…you've got lots of unhealthy options here so go big or go home). Then move all of the furniture in your living room to make space for an air mattress picnic and watch The Notebook together with your carnival feast. Don't forget candles and tissues.


Just before I sat down to share this recipe I was reminding myself that every single day I have the option to make my life joyful, or to let everyday stress seep in and dull the things that could've been great. So I'm going to smile more today, and remember why The Notebook is such an incredible movie, and enjoy the people in my life, and plan ahead to make some corn dogs.

I hope you do too!

xo, Emily

RECIPE: CHOCOLATE CHIP BANANA BREAD


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I have the best memories of rotten banana days in my house growing up.

You know what I mean... you were at the grocery store and decided to buy bananas. But you don't really like bananas that much. So they end up sitting there for a week (or two or three...) and they start to get too gross, even for a smoothie.

But the best thing about almost-rotten bananas is that they're great to bake with. My mom used to make this DELICIOUS banana bread on those rotten banana days, and I remember the smell of fresh baked bread filling the house.

Banana bread is really good the first day when it comes out of the oven warm, but its REALLY GREAT for the next several days when you cut yourself a slice or two, spread a little butter on it and throw it in the toaster oven.


Well, yesterday was rotten banana day in my house

and a dear friend of mine just did me a huge favor, so I was thinking about writing her a thank you card. But what's better than a thank you card?

A thank you card and banana bread.


I used a recipe for "Whole Wheat Banana Walnut Bread" in the Williams-Sonoma "Cooking At Home" book. It called for whole wheat flour and walnuts, but I (obviously) substituted chocolate chips for the nuts. I also decided to try out a local flour that I found at the Farmers market. If you frequent the farmers market you may find that there are some really cool vendors there that you never noticed before. It happened to me last time, and I've got to say that using the fresh, local flour made the whole baking experience a little more fun.


This is for you, person who accidentally let your bananas rot.

And for you, person who has a thank you card they need to send.

Give it a try...


HOMEMADE CHOCOLATE CHIP BANANA BREAD

( M A K E S   1   L O A F )

1 1/4 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 stick of butter

1 cup sugar

2  mashed, very ripe bananas

2 eggs

1/2 cup chocolate chips



COMBINE flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl

WHIP the butter (room temperature) and the sugar in an electric mixer 

BEAT in the eggs and the banana until completely mixed. It’s ok if it’s lumpy.

STIR in the chocolate chips, then the flour mixture until just combined

POUR into greased loaf pan + BAKE for 1 hour at 350 degrees



When I took the loaf out of the oven I put it straight onto a cooling rack. When it felt cool enough to touch I wrapped it in clear plastic wrap and cut a piece of butcher paper to wrap around the middle. I wrote a little note on it for my friend, but if you're interested in sharing the recipe click HERE for a printable version that you can hole-punch and tie onto your loaf.

I hope you enjoy your baking day!


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Because it's on you to make life interesting.

xo, EM


Why you should try something new...


I want to start off by telling you that I stepped out of my comfort zone this week.

It was my turn to plan date night, and even though I absolutely adore a good air mattress movie night, I wanted to plan something that would make Michael smile. I found a Groupon in my inbox for unlimited range time at the Athens Gun Club and I just decided it was date-night fate. 

I'm not the shooting type, I get nervous and my palms get a little sweaty when I even think about guns. But Michael (like most boys) has always been intrigued, so I decided that I'd let him show me the ropes. 

We shot 10 rounds at a time, and we would use the little electronic target-mover to bring in our targets after each turn and tally up points. It was very James Bond, although I'm sure we weren't playing it cool. We decided to make it a competition, just for fun. 

I need to tell anyone who is feeling nervous about this date-night idea that if I can do it, you can do it. I've never felt more like Angelina Jolie in my life. I shot at my pink target and Michael shot at his blue target, it was cute, and at the end of an hour [wait for it...]

I beat him. 

Just barely, but still. I attributed it to his incredible teaching skills, and he gave me a giant hug.  I could tell he was torn between majorly-proud and a little competitive. But we had such a blast, we actually vowed to make it a tradition of ours.

So why a post about date night?

Because this is one of those areas that I haven't always chosen to make fun in the past.


I realized last summer that I don't like trying new things.

There, I said it. 


You know how it is, you spend a lot of time telling yourself,  "I don't have the time," or "I really need sleep this week," or "I'd really rather have a 'casual' night."

But really you look back on your weekends and all those "date nights" where you fell asleep on the couch in your sweatpants and no make up watching "one more episode" of Friday Night Lights and start to feel bummed that your life isn't exciting.

Because, if we're being honest we all want to go on a really fun date. Interesting conversation, laughing at each others jokes, drinking a glass of good red wine for once, and eating something other than the cardboard stuff you bought on your health-kick at the grocery store.

For awhile I had convinced myself that I preferred movie night over planning an new type of date. Michael would come up with these cute ideas, and early in the day it would sound fun, but by the time it was date-time I didn't want to go. Looking back (and Michael can confirm this) I actually regretted most of our chill dates and wish that we spent more time pursuing each other. Which was obviously my own fault.


Last summer Michael and I started reading a book that I highly recommend, because it changed how we do our marriage. In this book it suggests that every month you should plan a date for your spouse, and they should plan one for you. Yes, thats TWO date nights per month.  But it's been such a good thing because it gives us equal responsibility for the growth of our marriage (instead of waiting around for him to plan a special date, only for me to turn around and suggest that we stay in).

It's like a commitment to dating each other. We put our dates on the calendar each month, and therefore we would be breaking our commitment if we decided to cancel it.


Just a tip ... If you don't plan ahead for it, your date night probably won't happen.

(this rule goes for you single folks too, because planning a regular girls night, starting a book club, or trying something new that you've always wanted to do doesn't just happen on its own)

Go ahead and take the pressure off, because it doesn't have to be perfect. Knowing that you will have a chance to redeem your last date night when you plan the new one each month can help you relax into the fun of what date night is really supposed to be. Just get it on the calendar and commit to spending that one day getting to know your person a little better than you did the day before. If you don't know the things that make them smile yet, this is such a fun way to learn.

If you need some suggestions, I designed a DATE NIGHT CALENDAR (click HERE to find it) for 2016. It starts in February, and you'll need to fill in the numbers by hand. Then fill in your date nights and make a commitment to try something you wouldn't normally try. TRUST ME, it'll be fun.


Because it's on you to make life interesting

xo, EM


"It's on you to make life interesting…"


Hello, for the very first time ...

My name is Emily Hearn Harrison and I'm a singer/songwriter currently living in Athens, GA, and the creator of WKNDS. I'm really excited to introduce you to this new project I've been working on slowly for the past year.

For starters, I'm reading a book that you should read called "Where'd You Go, Bernadette?" I love Bernadette, and she is inspiring for so many reasons, but my favorite quote so far comes at a time in the book when her daughter, Bee, has decided that life is boring (and haven't we all felt that way). 

Bernadette looks at Bee and says, 

"I'm going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it's boring now? Well it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn that it's on you to make life interesting, the better off you'll be."

So yesterday, after months of stalling, I decided to finally launch WKNDS.
 


WKNDS is all about learning that it's on us to make life interesting.

I'm going to be trying new recipes, taking more photos, exploring new places, trying harder workouts, taking advantage of any cities I get to see, really going the extra mile planning awesome date nights & doing holidays the fun, festive way. I know that at some point over the past two months we've all talked about how amazing we want 2016 to be. So follow along with me if you're interested.

Explore the tabs at top right to see the different facets of the site. I'll be posting blogs on a weekly basis that will be focused on ways to make daily life a little more magical (think new recipes, interesting places to see, foodie fun, harder workouts, cool date nights, festive ways to celebrate the holidays + more), plus the thing that I'm most excited about--WKNDS City Guides. I'll be posting these monthly, and January's guide for NYC is currently up under the City Guides tab! Also, check out WKNDS on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

This site is meant to be a celebration of trying new things and learning how to make life a little more creative and wonderful, so be sure to EMAIL US with your experiences! We want to hear your story.



Because it's on you to make life interesting.

xo, Emily


RECIPE: Lavender Gin & TONIC


I remember when I first read The Great Gatsby.

It's one of those books that you have to read for school, so you assume that you won't like it. But I loved The Great Gatsby. I was so intrigued by the Roaring 20's and the way of life for people like Daisy Buchanan. There was a social event every night where women went out in their most elegant dress and sipped cocktails and danced all night. Then I started watching old Audrey Hepburn movies (in an attempt to catch up on the classics I'd missed when I was a little too interested in the Mary Kate an Ashley movies…). Then MadMen became an obsession for all of my roommates in college. I think we watched the whole first season in 2 days. To me there is something so alluring about the way things were in those days.  It's funny, because in most ways I don't like fancy things. My little house isn't perfect or impressive. It's cozy and represents little pieces of who I am, like the paint colors I chose on a whim or the furniture I picked up for $20 from an estate sale. So I'm not fancy, and I turned down my own chance to be a debutant. But I've think my fascination with elegance comes more from my desire for things to feel magical.

One magical, Roaring 20s-esque thing that has become a hobby of mine is making traditional cocktails. It adds a hint of creativity and sparkle to a regular night. Next time you have friends over, I have an easy (and impressive) recipe for you to try for my very favorite cocktail.

One day we'll tackle fancier drinks (like the Martini) but until then, enjoy the Lavender Gin + Tonic. Your guests will think you're a cocktail whiz. Scroll down for the recipe & a print out to stash on your fridge or in your go-to recipe book if you like the recipe.

xo, EM

CLICK + DRAG THE IMAGE TO YOUR DESKTOP

CLICK + DRAG THE IMAGE TO YOUR DESKTOP

INGREDIENTS /

Gin / St. Germain Elderflower liqueur / 1 lemon / culinary lavender / sugar / club soda

Directions /

    Combine the lavender, lemon juice + sugar cubes. Use the muddler to dissolve the sugar cubes in the liquid. Add the St. Germain, gin + 6 cubes of ice. Securely close the shaker and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Strain into a coupe glass, filling about 3/4 of the way full. Top off with about 1 oz. of club soda (I recommend Fever Tree).

PRO TIP / you can make this recipe with any clear liquor (rum, vodka, etc)

Because it's on you to make life interesting.

xo, Em