New Year Link Love

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Wrigley building

{image taken New Years Day evening}

12 days into the New Year and the only assessment I have is that it’s a whole lot colder in 2016 than in 2015- where did this sub-20 degree and snow business that eluded us all of December come from?! I’m freezing. I rarely go into January 1st with a list of resolutions but I do usually feel a sense of nostalgia over the year past combined with a clean-slate sort of feeling regarding the calendar changing.

This year? Not so much. And I’m okay with that. Despite all of the “New Year, New You” noise, to me the new year simply means more time to do my best and love my people and create things that matter.

Some things on my radar lately:

New restaurants opening in Chicago this Winter. I super love La Sirena Clandestina so El Che Bar has my attention…and it’s not like anything from Grant Achatz will suck so I’m excited for Roister too.

When I am spinning my wheels trying to [fill in the blank], I need to remember I just need to do the thing I have been created to do and be something that I already am. This post from Shauna Niequist over at felt like a big, reassuring hug.

I have been obsessively learning about the things I am interested in lately so this article listing 9 things to learn in Chicago in 2016 was timely.  Just reading about the adult drop-in classes at the Joffrey Ballet gave me butterflies…will report back if I get the nerve to take a class.

Speaking of things I love learning about, The Music Box Theatre is showing “Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict” right now. I spent an oddly long time discussing art with a colleague of my husband’s at their holiday party and he raved about the film so I am excited to check it out and learn more about the woman who seriously owned one of those insane palazzos in Venice and stuffed it full of even more insane art.

Double speaking of things I love learning about…wine. I finally watched Somm on Netflix and I was a nervous wreck waiting for them to find out of they passed their Master Sommelier examination. I can’t wait for Somm: Into The Bottle to come out on February 3rd.

Puppies. More specifically, should we get a puppy?

Happy (very belated) 2016, friends… and stay warm out there! xo


5 Questions With…Shauna Niequist

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I met Shauna Niequist entirely by complete happenstance in 2007 at a local bookstore in Grand Rapids, MI. Her first book Cold Tangerines had just come out and I spotted it leaving the bookstore after a particularly bad law school studying day. This bright orange book about celebrating the every day seemed like something I should buy and as I paid, the clerk told me that Shauna was actually doing a reading…in 5 minutes. So I sat in the back as Shauna shared what inspired Cold Tangerines while her friends and family cheered her on and I was near tears the entire time. Never have I felt such a “Me too!” feeling than when I listened to Shauna that night and over the years as I have read her books, the overwhelming feeling of connection and relatability she conveys in her writing instantly makes you feel…heard. Welcomed. Home.

In this world of picture perfect Instagram feeds and messages of “how-tos” that insinuate that you are the only person on the planet who doesn’t have it together, Shauna has created a space through her storytelling that leaves room for the shiny celebratory moments in life to co-exist with the days you are in your pajamas past noon. That a life walking in faith is worth it and possible. That a amazing dinner parties can consist of elaborate recipes or chinese takeout…and that good champagne should be popped on any night of the week because celebration, big or small, matters.

Long story short: I adore Shauna.

Without further adieu, 5 Questions With…Shauna Niequist.

1. What is your favorite thing about where you live? We are, quite literally, surrounded by family. My brother lives on our street, and all four of our kids’ grandparents are within 15 minutes. Aunts, uncles, cousins—all part of our daily life, around our table, shooting baskets in our driveway. I’m so very very thankful to live in a place where we have deep roots and relationships.
2. Here’s $50- what are you going to do with it? Straight to Whole Foods, or any gourmet grocery. Champagne or prosecco, cheese, jam, blackberries, crusty bread, maybe a bouquet of flowers—peonies or ranunculus. I don’t buy expensive jewelry or whatever, but I love to buy food!
3. What is your favorite holiday and why? Memorial Day, because it’s the beginning of summer, my favorite season. I’m crazy about flip-flops, ponytails, boat rides, ice cream for dinner, sandy feet, pink noses, strawberries, tomato sandwiches.
4. What is the best trip or vacation you have ever been on? My all-time favorite city is Paris, and the last time we were there, on the last night of our trip, Aaron and I sat on the banks of the Seine for hours, across from Notre Dame, watching people and holding hands, watching the light fade on Pont Neuf, and it’s one of my most precious memories.
5. What would you do if you knew you could not fail? Write a novel. I probably will anyway, even though I have no idea how, because the older I get, the less afraid I am of failure. 🙂


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Living abundantly where you are, as you are.

Living. Abundantly. Where you are. As you are.

When I received Shauna Niequist’s new book in the mail last week, I was delighted. I adore Shauna and her words and when I found out she was writing a devotional, I hit pre-order on Amazon before I had a chance to blink. And, in all irony of irony, it arrived, I admired it…and it went in the cupboard in my mad dash to clean my house for a dinner party.

Even though I know Shauna is an avid supporter of dinner parties, for a book called “Savor”…come on, right? Terrible move, Nina.

I’ve had a hard time finding my voice lately. Past fears, opportunities, future that’s here but not quite yet, everything has seemed to quite literally come to a head at the same time. So I’ve gotten quiet, just trying to get through whatever this weird season is. Make it through, just let the time pass.

The opposite of savoring anything.

In sending an email to an old friend today, I realized how badly I was craving the connection that comes from when we tell the truth and are heard. It breeds more truth telling and more connection.

I knew immediately that I needed more of this so I pulled Savor down from in between my salad bowl and dessert plates and the words below the title nearly knocked me over.

Living abundantly where you are, as you are.

In other words: today is enough. You are enough. There is no lack. Be here. Now.

In this book are 365 devotions, one for each day of the year. I flipped to March 9 and it was about creating space. You know what I absolutely, 1000% do not want to do when I am uncomfortable or afraid or frustrated? Create space. For anything or anybody. Shauna’s words on that page told me the truth through a beautifully selected passage and it opened up something in me that needed to tell the truth too.

I can hardly wait to start my days with Savor and, God-willing, do a little more savoring each day.

{the necklace in the photo is from The Giving Key, an organization in LA that creates these keys with the intention that you will give it away some day to someone who needs to message. They also employ people looking to transition out of homelessness. Cool, right?}


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Earlier this week, one of my favorite authors/people Shauna Niequist wrote on Facebook that “kindness as we communicate is a core value to me” and I have been thinking about it all week. Kindness is a core value of mine as well and whether it’s on the news, the internet, in person, in our community, there has been a lot of unkindness as of late. I took this photo (it is entirely made of pushpins!) in August at a restaurant in Boise, Idaho and it’s message is really all we need to carry with us throughout our days. Be kind to one another. Be kind to yourself. Lead from kindness. Nothing bad can come from being kind.



Magic and a Giveaway

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Like I said yesterday, Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table has some really wonderful recipes in it (the Gaia cookies are change-your-life good) and also, the recipe for magic. Really. Magic.

Flour plus salt plus water makes bread.

That’s right folks- the same ingredients that also make paper mâché also make fresh, crusty, fluffy bread. I took the bait a few weeks ago, mixed said ingredients in a bowl with yeast, it sat in my kitchen overnight, I mixed it with my bare hands once and after some time in the oven in my beloved blue le creuset, I had bread. Carbs, in my world, are always magic and this just proves it.

So that you can have this recipe for magic (and many others) in your hot little hands, I am doing a giveaway of Bread & Wine! Simply leave a comment below about your favorite recipe, a food you absolutely love or something you would love to learn to make and I will select a winner at random to receive a copy of the book!

The giveaway will close at noon on Saturday and the winner will be announced shortly after!

Bread & Wine: A Review

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I loved author Shauna Niequist’s Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet because reading them felt like sitting down with a girlfriend over coffee and digging into those things in life that we celebrate, those that we mourn, the lessons we’ve learned and the faith that holds it all together. In reading Shauna’s third literary gem, we’re switching from coffee to wine and shifting the conversation to the relationships that make up a life and the meals that happen along the way.

To be clear: transitioning from coffee to wine is always fine by me.

Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes explores through a collection of essays what it means to be nourished on the inside and out and how through our relationship with God, we end up nourishing those around us. They say that life is what happens while you’re making other plans and through Shauna’s incredibly relatable writing, she shares the life that happens while you’re sitting around your table. While filled with some seriously delicious recipes, this is not a cookbook. The recipes act as place markers almost- the food made meaningful by the experience surrounding it. And the experiences surrounding the food are beautiful opportunities to celebrate the way God teaches and feeds us as we, in turn, teach and feed, figuratively and otherwise, those around us.

Bread & Wine feels very full circle to me. With Cold Tangerines, I shamelessly said “Me too!” to Shauna’s quest for celebrating the joy in everyday life. By Bittersweet, I needed the voice that gently reminded me that there are two side of the joy coin and I could sit with the side that hurt without having to pretty anything up; that God’s grace was more present than ever. Bread & Wine opened me up to the possibility that simply showing up and starting where I am is exactly what God created me for and how I will best serve my community, around my table and otherwise.

So, cheers and bon appetit- Bread & Wine is sure to fill you up, in more ways than one.


Bread & Wine in 3 Parts

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I’ve been in a season of “enough”. Strong enough, good enough, enough time, enough energy, enough sleep, you name it. I travel frequently for work and when packing for a trip a few weeks ago, the idea of not having enough room in my bag was, oddly, more than I could handle and I forfeited my usual small cross-body bag for a new, much larger one. With this cavernous bag now at my disposable, I could cast off some of my “enough” worries and bring in more of what I needed. Like my advance copy of Bread & Wine..

I planned on waiting until I was situated on the balcony of my hotel room at the base of the gorgeous Catalina foothills to crack open the cover but it turns out that 3 hours on a plane sandwiched between 2 people with no regard for personal space was the perfect time to read Bread and Wine. This book would have been perfection had I read it on the moon. Peanuts for lunch was a far cry from the incredible recipes author Shauna Niequist shares in the book but what really filled me up was her words, the stories of the community she has cultivated through time around her table. She is deeply passionate about connection and the life that happens around food and around our tables. After reading the last chapter, all feelings of “enough” had disappeared and been replaced with some serious inspiration. Creating community is about showing up as you are, finding your people and nurturing those relationships. There’s no room for enough when you’re talking about love. I feel the most whole, the most at home around a table with people I love and to read a book that speaks to that made me feel deeply heard and connected to communities around tables I have never seen.

Bread & Wine comes out in a few weeks and to celebrate its release, I am doing a 3-part series this week. You’re looking at the intro, tomorrow is the review and on Wednesday, we’re making some magic happen in my kitchen (seriously, magic).

It’s worth saying that all opinions are 100% my own and my wholehearted support of Bread & Wine is just that. Shauna’s books have made a big difference in my life over the last 5 years and I am thrilled to share Bread & Wine with you!

Book Suggestions?

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I just finished Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City (I learned so much about Chicago architecture…and murder.  So creepy.) and am in need of a new great read.

What are you reading right now that I absolutely must pick up?  I would love to know your favorite summer (and non-summer) reads!

Below DITWC are some of the books that have kept me up late at night in the past several years.  I definitely recommend all of them!

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, The Awakening by Kate Chopin, The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, The Help by Kathryn Stockett and Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist.