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Read & Eat: Chocolate Chip Cookies & Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Who loves cookies and humor about taxidermy? I’m estimating at least 6% of the population, that’s who. Doesn’t that pique your appetite? Let’s read and eat with my all-time-favorite-and-I’ve-tried-a-lot chocolate chip cookies (they are even healthified) and Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. Both are delicious.

Read & Eat: Chocolate Chip Cookies & Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson | Painting SunnyLet’s whip up these cookies based on Bev’s Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe at Eating Well and then settle down with a good book. Maybe make some tea or grab some milk? Or tea with milk? Do people really do that still?

The only real differences between the original recipe and my version are:

  • I used quick oats instead of rolled oats, because I had some and can never tell the difference.
  • The I use whole wheat flour as the recipe calls for, but I usually use whole wheat pastry flour, or sometimes “white whole wheat”. The pastry flour makes them much more light and delicate, crispy around the edges but still substantial. Mmmmm. It isn’t always easy to find at the grocery store, though.
  • I used a bunch of random types of chocolate to use up my stash and to change it up.
  • I TRIPLE the recipe. Go big or go home – I’m not playing games here.

Read & Eat: Chocolate Chip Cookies & Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson | Painting SunnyThe first step of the recipe calls for grinding the oats in a blender or food processor.  Honestly, it’s prob not necessary to do if you don’t have one or don’t feel like it. Still, when I do I food process the oats into a course meal as shown in Exhibit A the picture above.

Read & Eat: Chocolate Chip Cookies & Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson | Painting SunnyDid I mention I used a bunch of random chocolates? Yep. Different recipes call for different things, and I end up with bits of everything. Since I tripled the recipe I needed 3 cups of chocolate. This included milk chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, another brand of semi-sweets, and chopped up baker’s semi-sweet chocolate. The melted chunks in the cookies are always so nice from the chopped stuff… mmm.

Read & Eat: Chocolate Chip Cookies & Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson | Painting SunnyIf you make an obscene amount of cookie dough (I’m pretty self-aware) there are several methods for what to do with it. Sometimes, I just spend an afternoon baking them all, cool them all thoroughly, and then freeze them in freezer bags with the air sucked out of them. Other times, I freeze the dough.

You can see above my method for what to do with the dough when freezing it. I keep in the bowl what I want to bake that day, then portion the rest into pieces of saran wrap which I wrap tight around the dough until it looks like a tube, then twist the ends. The dough-tubes can now be placed inside a quart-sized freezer bag. Just stick them in the fridge to thaw the night before you want to cookie-it-up.

BTW, I usually use a plastic straw to suck the air out of the bags. It’s high tech.

Read & Eat: Chocolate Chip Cookies & Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson | Painting Sunny

Strange bed fellows?

Yes, the above picture was posted to Twitter in May, from an airport lounge where I was waiting on a flight to take me to a job interview. I got the job – so I guess I may owe it partially to Jenny Lawson… and Junot Diaz. Probably not sharing the salary, but a sincere thanks seems to be in order.

Travel is totally exhausting, for me. I always have a hard time staying focused and energized. Usually I’m not that person who is reading several books at once, but on an airplane I like to pick two and switch between them. A combination of one book that is intense/serious and one book that is hilarious/irreverent seems balanced and provides some perspective when you’re considering a 5 dollar bagel while breathing in recycled air. Try it out sometime.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

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She is funny, and so is her book. So let’s just get that settled right at the start. Jenny Lawson is irreverent, charming, mildly concerning, and very entertaining. She makes your weird family feel at-least-normal-level-weird. Jenny somehow both self-deprecates and ego-inflates herself. It’s weird and sounds impossible, but makes for some well-rounded story-telling.

I’m not going to use the word “quirky” or say she is the “female David Sedaris” because everyone else has a million times. I will say it is just a good book, all comparisons aside. If you’re a fan of her blog (The Bloggess) you know how she works, and I honestly don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

If you aren’t a Lawsbian (the name given to her fans, though I’m not clear by who…) be honest with yourself before reading. If you like the idea of “edgy” but cringe at swear words or morbid dead-animal jokes, this is probably not your cup of tea. I don’t know why I keep talking about tea today either, let’s put that aside.

Loved the Let’s Pretend This Never Happened? Check our Laurie Notaro (my favorites are this one and this one). She has been a fav of mine for years, and while a little less morbid and a little more raunchy than Jenny Lawson – it’s good times, for sure.

You can find the book here, or The Bloggess at her blog and on Twitter, where she is sort of omnipresent. If you’re just starting, try with this post – it’s a quick and accurate introduction.

PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Links to products on Amazon may be affiliate links. Keepin’ it real.

PSS: If you’re interested in more Reading & Eating, check out this post.


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iPhoning It In: Embracing My Camera Daily

I’m making an effort to let go a little bit. You know – relax, and more spontaneously admire things around me.

Daily iPhone Photography Project: eight eight thirteen | Painting Sunny

I love creative forms of expression if you haven’t noticed. I can, however, get hung up on worrying about something being “ready” and “high enough quality” to be worth the effort and to share with others. Is a painting really finished? Is a photography pretty enough? Is something composed uniquely or contrasted enough? It never feels like it. So I’m about to do a little project to “let go and let blog” by each day taking up my iPhone and capturing a photo of something around me.

Above is the very first one, taken yesterday evening as flash floods came down in our area. The drainage outside of our apartment is not quite holding up to rain lately, and as I watched the water flood up over the back patio and sidewalks, I thought about how grey and drizzy the rain was as it threatened to spill over our door-frames and onto the carpet; but how cheerful the children’s toys and scooters and wagons looked sitting outside, and how grateful I am that those things are in my life.

So, here’s the gist. Every day for 30 days I’ll snap the pic, and will post it to my Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest locals. I may edit the photos a bit in trusty Photoshop (things can’t be all crooked, yo) but I promise not to Instagram it or use a filter. Nothing against Instragram – I’m just challenging myself to let things be, just a little bit.

Being a research nerd, I thought I’d round up a few inspiring iPhone photogs and websites, so why not check them out?

Brock Davis’ 2012 iPhone Photography (Yes, I also mentioned him here)

Chase Jarvis’ Photography Blog and his book about it

iPhoneography, an iPhone Photography Blog

National Geographic’s Tips For Better iPhone Photography

Y’all need to hold me accountable, so please share your own camera phone adventures, times you just throw in the towel and call it good enough, ideas for relaxing a little and enjoying the ride…

PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Links to products on Amazon may be affiliate links. Keepin’ it real.


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The Recently Rundown: Ithaca Art Market, Whirlwind Family Visits, Prepping for 1st Grade

I know, last week I was totes not around much and everyone was asking “What is up with you, giiiiirl?”

Okay, I promise if we were living in a 90’s sitcom you would have been asking like that. On a plastic neon land-line phone with one of those curly cords. Does anyone else really, really miss TGIF at the end of a long week? Or remember Must See TV? That was awesome. Sigh.

Anyway, nostalgia aside – we had a lot going on! Prep yourself for some photos. First came the Ithaca Artists Market which was my first since moving into town, and I went there solo. It’s weird being alone when you are used to having little tykes with you constantly, but kind of liberating.

The Steamboat Landing here in Ithaca is an awesome location used for the Farmer’s Market and other events. See how pretty and spacious it is?

Ithaca Art Market Summer 2013 | Painting SunnyI didn’t want to be a creeper and have to get into that whole “I totally have a blog and am legit. Really, please don’t escort me out” situation so limited my snooping around and photo taking. These are all iPhone pics, so bear with me!

There were a few local artists that, whether or not their wares were my particular style, I was seriously impressed with. Behold…

Ithaca Art Market Summer 2013 | Painting SunnyI researched them a bit (again, I promise I’m not a creeper. My argument is becoming less convincing, isn’t it?) and this artist is a local by the name of Sally Dutko who specializes in fiber arts. They were colorful, original, and whimsical. Her website is linked right here. Check her out! BTW, she has no idea who I am – I just liked her work, I’m not paid or perked or affiliated with any of the artists. Well, besides living in the same town.

Ithaca Art Market Summer 2013 | Painting SunnyThese pieces by Spirit And Kitsch also caught my eye as being fun and fresh and something unique in the crowd of stalls. Her website is linked right here, and her name is Alice Muhlback.

The one that took serious restraint not to go on a spending spree was this one…

Ithaca Art Market Summer 2013 | Painting SunnyI thought of Sherry at YHL and her ceramic houses. I think these trees and delicate vases are equally awesome, and love that they are made by a local artist too. I did some digging and believe the artist is named Matthew Glaysher, although he doesn’t appear to have a website. Matthew, if you are out there – you blew my mind.

What else has been going on? Well, prepping this kiddo for her 1st grade!

Prepping for 1st grade | Painting SunnyThe summer can fly by, and I don’t want her getting too rusty with her academics. So, when I spotted these worksheet books at Dollar Tree, I nabbed one subtraction, one addition, and one language arts book for $1 each. Obviously, since it’s Dollar Tree. All three of them are First Grade level, and I’m tearing out one sheet from each, which makes three per day, for her to do. And they are double-sided… so she has her work cut out for her.

Prepping for 1st grade | Painting SunnyEven if they aren’t chosen by her actual teacher and may not be perfect, I think it is helping her get back into the habit of sitting, focusing, and thinking about these topics. She has surprised me a couple times with what she can do, and a couple other times I realized how much a kid can forget over the summer! It’s a long three months, yo.

Next up was a whirlwind family visit with Grandma June and Aunt Norma! The kids were beyond excited. The delight when they saw their Grandma and Aunt was evident. These are some of their fav people in the world!

Family Visit Summer 2013 | Painting SunnyIt was quite the visit. Above you can see the crew at the Syracuse Zoo, and they had a blast!

Family Visit Summer 2013 | Painting SunnyThey also hit up the Sciencenter here in town, which I don’t have a convenient pic of but they reported was spectacular. They also spent an afternoon at the Taughannock State Park at the beach, and apparently never tired of filling and emptying their little pails. So glad the weather was warm enough!

Family Visit Summer 2013 | Painting SunnyFood is always a big deal with kids and whenever fam is in town, right? I’m pretty sure the above pic was taken at Ithaca Bakery, but I wasn’t there so could be wrong!

Family Visit Summer 2013 | Painting SunnyWe all got together for dinner at a local restaurant called The Nines and it was so pretty out we ate out on the patio. It used to be a firehouse and now is literally next door to the firehouse, so it is a great location for a 3 year old to hang out just in case something exciting happens! We didn’t catch a glimpse of any firefighters or big red trucks, but might head back sometime during lunch on a weekday, just in case. The pizza was awesome. We are in New York, though… so shouldn’t expect any less.Family Visit Summer 2013 | Painting SunnyThese kids know how to eat.

Anyone else showing off local restaurants to family? Wishing they could fill their whole house with local ceramics? Just love pizza?

PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Keepin’ it real.


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Canvassing The Area (and Painting Big)

Yeah, it has been a minute since I painted big. For the record, I do have my BFA from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (that is a real place, I swear) so did my requisite large-scale drawings and oil paintings, but time flies and I’ve turned to more convenient, portable, and economical mediums. But then… we  got big walls.

Our new apartment isn’t grandly spacious, but it does have comfortable-sized rooms and that includes comfortable-sized walls. The layout of our last home meant the sofa was oriented in the middle of the broad living room, making it a space-divider. This home puts the sofa against the wall, and that big old blank beige area was glaring me down.

So, I did something about it.

Painting Big | Painting Sunny

FYI, that watermark is a watermark and not there in real life. There is also a bit of a glare in the photography I couldn’t figure out how to get rid of, so just went with it. Yes, I spent this weekend covered in glorious paint! I may be a little rusty, so it may not be perfect, but I enjoyed myself and the living room is a little brighter and bolder now.

Would you like to see that in situ?

Painting Big | Painting SunnyTo start, I gathered by trusty stash of supplies. Let’s pretend it isn’t a hot mess, alright? I once worked with someone who said “hot mess” about fifty times a day, and it sounds like it would be annoying but I actually really enjoyed it, and every once in a while I like to find a way to work it into conversation. Like now.

Painting Big | Painting Sunny

You will notice a can of latex house-paint in that pile of stuff. Yes, the darker areas of the final painting are from this nice muted navy blue paint I already had on hand (more on that project coming someday soonish) and it was an affordable way to cover some of the canvas and create a nice dark base, so I began the painting by shading in some areas with it in a way that felt composed, to me.

Of course, I needed a big #%$ canvas. To the other art school brats professionals out there, I do understand that the proper way to go is purchasing the canvas and quality stretcher bars separately, stretching it, and applying the layers of gesso myself. However, I was just looking to get my feet wet and warm up a bit. I wanted a gallery-wrap canvas (it is deeper so looks better without a frame and sits a little more nicely against the way, in my opinion) so I headed to my local Micheal’s armed with a 40% off coupon and left with this canvas for about 50 bones. Yes, that is a lot of cash to me too, but for a large canvas I’d consider it reasonable. The quality felt alright too for a pre-streched canvas, so I was on my way!

Painting Big | Painting SunnyOh Paloma, why do you crave attention this way?

For those of you curious about what the back of a gallery-wrap canvas looks like (as opposed to a traditional back-stapled canvas) here is a quick shot of it:

Painting Big | Painting SunnyThere are two new supplies I also grabbed at Michaels, and one was a bit of a splurge for me. Spoiler alert, the splurge was the paintbrush. I didn’t have a big enough brush to comfortable work on this size of canvas, and I also didn’t have a nice filbert. It was a perfect storm, and I bought this baby. Isn’t she pretty? Don’t worry, those clean white bristles didn’t stay that way long. The paint was due to my craving for a gold, and my dislike of my current gold acrylics.

Painting Big | Painting Sunny

Did I say acrylics? Yes, I did. I’ve painted with watercolor, acrylics, oils, egg tempera, milk paints, and probably other mediums I’m forgetting. At this point, I don’t have a studio area and am using my kitchen table. With small children around. It is a challenge, people. So, I choose to use something that dries quickly (so my kitchen table can go back to being a kitchen table), is non-toxic for the kids and pets around, and is easy to clean up. I’m a bit messy. I do hope to get back to other mediums someday, but right now I’m happy to work with what works for me.

Want to see some detail shots?

Painting Big | Painting Sunny

I didn’t mean for it to be quite so red-white-and-blue but I’m cool with it.

Painting Big | Painting Sunny

 It isn’t perfect, but it was fun and got my feet wet. I’m hoping to do another one soon for the bedroom wall and am thinking of trying a bit more bold of a color statement. Get excited, people!

With our current rental having all-beige walls, I’m hoping to frame out this canvas and some other ones with some natural wood frames at some point, but as framing costs some serious mullah it will either have to wait or I have to DIY it.

Anyone have some awesome DIY-canvas-frame tips? Want to loan me a circular saw in case I ever get around to it? Itching to paint on as big a surface as they can find? Say “hot mess” a lot?

PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Keepin’ it real.


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Let’s Do Lunch Again Sometime

Like, today. Or even better, every day this week!

Consider this the third installment of my learning-to-pack-school-lunches trilogy. Kind of like Mockingjay is to the Hunger Games, or Breaking Dawn is to Twilight. Let’s not even get into Harry Potter, those things go on and on. Didn’t their high school last 8 years or something? Can you imagine basically living through high school twice?

Okay, let’s put that nightmare aside and get back to business. When I realized I was about to begin packing lunches for the kids for the first time ever, I did my research and planned compulsively accordingly, then I went ahead and jumped right into it with my first full week. Since then, I’ve tried a couple things again, found some things that didn’t work and a few that were quite successful, and remembered to a few photos along the way. I think it’s best if we start with the successes. Let’s the games begin!

More School Lunches:  PBJ on whole wheat English muffin, string cheese, diced watermelon, and cinnamon Chex cereal | Painting Sunny

PBJ on whole wheat English muffin, string cheese, diced watermelon, and cinnamon Chex cereal

More School Lunches: Blueberry oatmeal muffin, cubed cheese, wheat crackers, baby carrots, diced cucumbers, and ranch dip | Painting SunnyBlueberry oatmeal muffin, cubed cheese, wheat crackers, carrots, cucumbers, and ranch dip

More School Lunches: Cheese quesadilla, salsa, sliced grapes, and cinnamon Chex cereal | Painting SunnyCheese quesadilla, salsa, sliced grapes, and cinnamon Chex cereal

More School Lunches: Bagel sliced with butter and jam, blueberry oatmeal muffin, Greek yogurt tube, diced watermelon, and baby carrots | Painting SunnyBagel sliced with butter and jam, blueberry oatmeal muffin, Greek yogurt tube, diced watermelon, and baby carrots  More School Lunches: Naan bread slices, vegetable hummus, baby carrots, string cheese, and sliced grapes | Painting Sunny

Naan bread slices, vegetable hummus, baby carrots, string cheese, and sliced grapes

Yes, one of the challenges is keeping the kids hands out of the lunch boxes the night before. Those grapes go missing so easily…More School Lunches:  | Painting Sunny

Those blueberry oatmeal muffins have been a hit. Remember when I baked them? I froze about half of them still in the silicone baking cups, and when I’m packing lunches in the evening (to be eaten the next day) I just pop them into the lunch box and they have thawed the next morning. Voila!

I almost always accidentally write viola and then have to correct it to voila. It would make no sense to be talking about violas right now.

As always, these lunches were made with EasyLunchboxes and the Mini-Dippers containers by the same brand (those are Amazon affiliate links). I’m not paid or perked to mention any brands, I just really have loved using them! They work out perfectly for our family. Check out their blog for a mega-ton of ideas, too.

Another success has been the No-Nut Pea Butter – the boy totally eats it! So far as I know he hasn’t noticed it’s not real peanut butter. When it runs out, I am totally trying out a few other things, though… thank you all for the awesome suggestions! You are my mentors on this journey.

What has not panned out the way I hoped? Just one thing that was so overwhelming disdained by the children it shall never be repeated. Cold macaroni and cheese. You would have thought I’d sent lumps of charcoal and stewed spinach by their reactions. In my defense, it was homemade delicious mac and cheese and personally I like cold mac and cheese. That, apparently, is not a hereditary trait.

Someone asked me what lunch bags I use. Good question, my friend! There is a link to a similar one to the type I picked up at Target right here. Ours looks a bit different (the front pocket Velcros rather than zips). I bought three of them, two blue and one black so we would have a spare in case a grown-up in the household wanted to pack a lunch or if one didn’t make it home. It’s worked out awesomely. Like, the boxes fit easily but snugly inside, nothing shifts around, the front pocket holds snacks and the top mesh compartment fits an ice pack. It’s like I designed a cooler bag just for my purposes, which never happens for me!

Anyone else tried to feed their kids cold mac and cheese? Others weirdos like me who prefer their pasta or pizza less-than-hot?

PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Keepin’ it real.


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Tenacious Tenant: Renter-Friendly DIY

I love to write about my DIY adventures, many of which focus on the home and how to make it just a little bit prettier. But you know what is different about this blog and many of the others like it?

I rent.

Having just relocated, renting a home while we get settled and learn about the community makes sense for us. Renting can pose some challenges when it comes to DIY adventures for the home. After 10 years of renting everything from a 525 sq. foot apartment in grad school to a spacious HOA-controlled three-story townhouse, I’ve learned a lot about what was worth it and what wasn’t when it came to beautifying my spaces. I’m also not the only one.

Recently, I spied this article from Dwell in the Twittersphere, it made me think about how far some people stretch to make a rental fit for them, and how a little creativity can go a long way. If you can minimize your life a little, all the better. I’ve been inspired by the whimsical beauty of Oh Happy Day’s 500 square foot rented apartment, a rental bedroom upgrade by JWK Style (featured on Little Green Notebook), and pretty much everything pretty on Apartment Therapy’s website. See, renters, we are not alone! It’s time to unite!

Tenacious Tenant: Renter-Friendly DIY | by Painting Sunny

Seriously hard to believe this is in a rental, but I believe her… Source: JWK Style via Little Green Notebook

Tenacious Tenant: Renter-Friendly DIY | by Painting Sunny

Okay, so her landlord sounds ultra-cool, but this is a good example of the power of negotiation. Source: Oh Happy Day

So, those other people’s pics are gorgeous, but what’s actually worked for me?

Yes, you can take it with you. Some stuff, at least. I try to focus on things that can follow me to my next home and which are versatile enough to fit be useful in case my next place has a very different layout or amenities.What’s some stuff I’ve made that changed the look of my home, without being bolted in place? DIY mercury-glass lamps, sewn pretty pillow covers, colorful artwork for the walls, hand-painted paper lanterns, a little red occasional table… the possibilities are endless, and you don’t have to walk away from like you would re-painted kitchen cabinets or built-in shelving.

Illicit spray-painting. In the dark. Sometimes. When you rent, especially in a multi-unit place, it can be hard to find somewhere you can paint stuff without worrying about upsetting the neighbors. I mean, I get it – why should they have to smell the painty-fumes while they’re enjoying dinner just so I can have a coral-colored ceramic hippo? But it can def cramp my style. So, what are your options?

  • It isn’t necessarily a cool move, but you could find a little spot away from other people’s homes and just try to spray paint really quickly at dusk, hoping your landlord doesn’t notice. Honestly, I’ve been there.
  • Find a friend with a big yard who will let you come over and paint in a corner of it. Don’t forget to bring a drop cloth so you don’t color her grass purple. Probably a bottle of wine is a good idea, too, since you’ll be hanging out while the paint dries.
  • See if there is a vented spray-booth in your area. Many fine art studios and art schools have ventilated spray-booths for using paints and adhesives. For a fee, or just out of the goodness of their hearts, they might let you use one.
  • Again, if you have more money than time or ventilated-space of your own, try asking an automotive shop if they will spray it for you. My mother once had an auto-shop use their car-painting equipment to spray a locker for me and it worked out awesomely! They probably have some cool colors, too.
  • Switch to a brush-on paint and use a good drop-cloth. If you choose a low or no VOC option like milk-paint or good latex paints, you can use your kitchen as a studio with no worries! It doesn’t have quite the same effect as spray-paint and can be a longer process but can achieve some even more unique special affects.

Bold and bright distractions! Pop some bright wrapping paper in a frame and make a new focal point in your space. Some quirky kitchen utensils on a counter, a colorful accessory in the living room, a wall full of books you love… these are the things your visitors will remember. A modern and cool environment is great, but I’ve always felt like rented homes need a little extra personality to feel like you put your stamp on them.

Bring it to life. I just posted about my new and lovely little houseplants, and since they found a new home here it’s felt more like one to me, too. I’m not saying you have to live in a jungle or invest stock in Miracle Grow, but having a little something green, leafy, and alive can make the space feel loved and show everyone your nurturing side. Check out this awesome post from A Cup Of Jo on how to buy houseplants “once and for all.”

Tenacious Tenant: Renter-Friendly DIY | by Painting Sunny

Yes, my cat photo-bombs.

What is just not my rented-cup-of-tea?

Really sticky stuff. I haven’t tried out this temporary wallpaper. Or these removable sticky tiles. Yeah, I’m just not sure about that. I need to see someone remove them in real-life before I’ll stop being a scarety-cat. Oh Happy Day tried some out, though, and the removal seemed to have some pros and cons. Maybe see what she thinks?

Taking the kitchen cabinet doors off. I’ve removed closet doors and put them back up, but kitchen’s just have… so many cabinets. When I’m in the process of moving to a new place, getting cabinets back up without dents just doesn’t sound stress-reducing.

Swapping out the wired-lighting.  I love a good spray-paint session with a lamp, so customized lighting is totally my scene. Figuring out how to turn off the electrical, finding a ladder, and getting a chandelier over the dining room table is not. Most overhead lighting in places I’ve rented has been alright and fairly basic looking, so it hasn’t ever been worth it to mess with. I can just turn the lights off, switch on a lamp, and try to ignore that light-fixture-that-looks-like-a-boob. BHG had some good suggestions on lighting in rentals, though.

Check out my Renting It! Pinterest Board for more inspiration, or one of these awesome-possum places:

My Little Apartment

The Borrowed Abode

Better Homes & Garden’s idea round-up

Apartment Therapy

The Handmade Home’s colorful rental ideas

Anyone else renting and still DIYing? Not willing to mess with electrical stuff? Strangely obsessed with houseplants lately?

PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Keepin’ it real.


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Read & Eat: Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins & The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner

I really love to read. I also really, really love to eat and the two end up coinciding frequently. I believe I obsessed over The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon while cuddling one of those giant cardboard boxes of Goldfish Crackers. I pretty much devoured both.

Considering a book can be paired with a snack like you can pair a wine with a fancy cheese, I thought it would be fun to try something new over here. I’ve done food recipe reviews and I’ve done book reviews, but never at the same time. So, let’s read and eat.

Read & Eat: Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins & The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner | Painting Sunny

For me, Jennifer Weiner novels are a comfort food and a sweet indulgence, all at once. They are the quintessential beach reads, but also perfect for a cozy night in with a cup of tea and some sort of baked good. I think The Next Best Thing pairs very nicely with these warm, blueberry oatmeal muffins that are also indulgent, but from the Cooking Light website aren’t quite a guilty-pleasure. The paperback copy of The Next Best Thing was part of my Mother’s Day gift from Mr. Sunny – thanks babe, love you!

The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner

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I’ve long been a Jennifer Weiner fan, and my bookshelf serves nicely as evidence. Any time I read multiple books by an author, over time, I always connect more with some books than others. Among an author’s complete works, some books just feel fresher, sweeter, and more true to the writer as well as the topic. This is one of those books. Not since Little Earthquakes Everywhere (yes, my all-time favorite by Weiner) have I enjoyed one of her novels so much.

Ruth provides a new perspective, with a new set of challenges than the usual characters within Weiner’s books, or the genre for that matter. Like Little Earthquakes, it had light and funny moments and yet still retained a poignancy and insight into some very real hardships for women in our lives. The one note that fell a little funny for me were the antagonist supporting-characters. While Ruth is easy to love and can be the underdog you truly hope to see succeed, the starlets felt hollow and very much like the Hollywood stereotypes I’m accustomed to. Then again, Jennifer has been in real Hollywood and I haven’t – so maybe those stereotypes are more tackily true that I want to believe.

Speaking of Hollywood, when I read the Q&A and made the connection between Jennifer Weiner’s similar experience and the novel, I almost wished I had stayed in the dark. The storyline felt so original and effortless to sink into, I wanted to preserve it that way in my mind and not begin comparing it to any real-life drama. So, don’t Google it too fast, okay? The novel’s insight into the television-pitch process is fascinating enough, I promise.

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins by Cooking Light


The original draw of this recipe was to find a healthy-ish addition to my kid’s school lunches and snacks that they would still find tasty. You know, they made a pretty tasty snack for myself as well! Warm out of the oven, the blueberries work well with the heartier density of the oatmeal and wheat flour, so don’t skimp on the berries. I make it a point to follow a recipe to a T the first time I make it, and tried to do the same here. The only change is that where the original recipe recommends using all-purpose flour and wheat flour separately, I went ahead and used “white wheat flour” for both amounts – it’s what I had on hand and I was in a bit of a hurry.

The batter comes out thin, but the muffins come out surprisingly springy and filling. The lemon zest was pretty crucial, I found – it added a fresher taste that kept the muffins from feeling too heavy, and made them smell divine.  They don’t have the lightness and sweet bliss of more indulgent, bakery-style muffins so keep in mind that to add that healthy quality, sometimes you have to adjust your expectations a bit. Still, I’ll be making them again.

Read & Eat: Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins & The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner | Painting Sunny

Anyone else believe that zest can be like the glue that holds the recipe together? Read Jennifer Weiner’s latest release? Eat those goldfish crackers shamelessly straight out of the giant box?

PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Links to products on Amazon may be affiliate links. Keepin’ it real.