Start on the right note.

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OK, 2019, let’s go.

Hoppin’ John and greens (and a spicy bloody Mary)? Check.

New calendars up? Check.

Christmas tree down? Not quite; but today (January 5th) is the last day of Christmas, so I’ve got a few more hours.

BONUS? A surprise New Year’s Day visit from a pal who brought her daughter to town for a college visit, stayed for a cheese souffle dinner (but of course), and left us with a carafe of delicious boozy eggnog, that warm fuzzy feeling of kinship, and the lingering sense of that change is a-comin’.

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DOUBLE BONUS? Kicked off the new year at work with an all-staff retreat at the Dixon Gallery & Gardens, where we spent the morning diving into Strengths, which most of the folks had never done before, and the afternoon immersed in art at a gallery most of them had never visited. I’m 12 years invested in StrengthsFinder, and it’s as powerful now as ever, I promise. I’m a good deal more than 12 years invested in art, and it’s more powerful than ever – just ask my friends who’ve taken the whole #artharder mantra to heart. I’m telling you, Art might still save the world, the ultra-depressing climate reports notwithstanding.

And that’s just the first part of the first week of the new year.

Yes, 2019: you feel like change, and a breath of fresh air.

It’s time to look ahead.

In the blur of the holidays I carved out time to work through the terrific year-end review/year-ahead planning sheets from ink+volt, starting with a look at what worked and didn’t in 2018 (here’s the link to the introductory post and first worksheet). It’s a bit more disciplined than happy things free-write I did for a few years, and working methodically through the 4 worksheets felt both comforting and grown-up.

Theme for this year? Fruition.

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It’s time for the ideas that have been incubating over the past couple of years to bear fruit (or get pruned).

Some things that might take shape in the year ahead are rooted in past success.

In my work-work, at Kindred Place, we’ll be rolling out new marketing efforts that include – wait for it – a quarterly, printed (on paper) newsletter that’s delivered by mail. More on all of this another day (and probably originating on the Kindred Place blog).

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At Larksome Goods, I have, as we Southerners like to say, a gracious plenty of ideas for new products (hello, grown-up crafting & note-writing kits). But first I want to focus on the surprising (to me) success of the custom stationery wardrobe. I had more fun taking ideas (“she likes bluebonnets” and “here are some pictures from her favorite place on the river”) and turning them into illustrations that became the featured images on cards. A few were private commissions, meaning you won’t see them available in the Larksome Goods store; but most went right into the line-up.

And right here at home, the year ahead holds the usual: reading, writing, and cooking – more of that last one in the coming year than in the past. Why? Because my teenage daughter said to me, over the holiday break, “Here’s the thing, Mama; we didn’t always like what you made, but we liked it when you cooked dinner more often.” Then she added that she thought a weekly plan was a good idea, and that I should start doing it again.

And I think she’s right. In a blink my son will head to college, and his sister will be right behind him. The time spent together at our kitchen table has been the anchor and glue of our family, the place of roots and wings.

We sat at that kitchen table New Year’s night with my friend and her daughter. “This must be where you sat,” my friend’s daughter said to mine, pointing to the bloom of now-faded Hello Kitty and Incredibles stickers. She knew because she, too, had put stickers on her own kitchen table years ago, as she began to make her mark on the world. And now she’s heading to college.

Change is a-comin’. Bring it on.

Food | Week of January 6, 2019

Let’s start gently, yes? Meaning, let’s start with something tried and true. This one’s from January 2015, and it was an across-the-board winner, as I recall.

Tomato-Basil Bisque | Grilled CheesePurple tomatoes August 2014

Once upon a time, I was on a hunt for the perfect beef stew recipe. Since then, I’ve been on a hunt for tomato-basil bisque. I tried this recipe and frankly can’t remember what it was like. Ditto this one from Midwest Living. I might ditch the whole tomato-basil idea (it is winter, for heaven’s sake) and make Jane Grigson’s celery soup again, because we all really like that. For the grilled cheese I’m going to use leftover brioche (a Christmas indulgence) with either horseradish cheddar or smoked Gouda.

Coconut Chicken with Broccoli Slaw

As I’ve become overly reliant on Ina Garten’s baked Parmesan chicken, I’m going to try adding this coconut version to the family rotation and serve with tangy Asian-style slaw. If you want to go the super-easy route, buy packaged broccoli slaw and bottled dressing (I like the Makoto ginger dressing). If you’re up for a bit of kitchen therapy, try this recipe (with the bonus of a link to coconut shrimp, if you want an alternative to chicken).

grapefruitAvocado & Grapefruit Salad | Smoked Salmon

This salad from bon appétit is hearty enough on its own for a light dinner; add some smoked salmon other other flaky, smoked fish if you want to give it an extra boost. If you can’t find watercress, substitute baby arugula.

Red Lentil Soup | Naan

Once I conquer the basil-tomato bisque quest, I’m going on a search for the perfect red lentil stew. Until then, this recipe from Gourmet will do. Or this new recipe from NYT Cooking (probably requires a paid subscription; sorry about that). Vary the spices to taste; make a double batch and freeze leftovers for another cold day. If you’re feeling up to it, try making some naan at home with this step-by-step guide from Saveur.

Dbaby lettuceave T.’s Spinach Cake | Herb Salad

Yep, just like the baked egg concept, this is a recipe I’m (STILL – 4 years later!) going to keep pushing until you try it (and to keep making until my family relents and agrees to eat it). Just try it once, and you’ll never buy Stouffer’s Spinach Soufflé again, I promise.




  1. Thanks for the inspiration, Jennifer! I have been looking at planners and seem to find them a bit intimidating, so I printed out the Ink+Volt’s “Looking Back at 2018” – just 2 pages. I think I can manage just 2 pages and that will kick me into knowing what type of planner to use. I am going to work on the 2 sheets during our trip which is a huge kickoff to 2019.
    When we get back, may we chat about StrengthsFinder? Have a great January!

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  2. OMG!! New recipes!! YES! Thank you!! Oh and love, love, love the stationary with the bluebonnets.. because where do I live?? 😉 Yep! State flower of Texas! And they are everywhere in March/April thanks to Mrs. Ladybird Johnson. Happy New Year Jenny! 🍻


  3. Haven’t used Strength Finder but think I’m going to check it out. Is it something that you can teach yourself about or have you taken seminars? God knows, I need some affirmation that I actually have strengths some days 🙂


  4. That sounded so bright and shiny I can’t stand it. Are you still that bright and shiny 5 days later? Lordy, I’m not.
    But I’m glad if you are. Because it gives me hope and inspiration, as you so often do. Tonight I made biscuits from scratch and crockpot 15 bean soup with the ham bone leftover from Christmas dinner. Which is also I start, I guess. xo


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