Laura Rennie

Cooking, reading, and watching, lately (v.3)

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Why hellooooo! Look at me, blogging! Popping back in to share a few things I've been up to lately. 



Do you ever drive to a destination and once you reach it, wonder how you got there? That's how I feel about cooking lately. I know we eat, but I can never seem to remember *what* we eat. (Which is why I started this post right after trying a new recipe!)

Copycat Panda Express Black Pepper Chicken - this was delicious and really easy! I recommend reading the recipe through at least twice before starting, because you have to make the chili vinegar first, then put the marinade together and wait 30 minutes before cooking. BUT, even with all of that, it was only an hour start to finish and the actual time spent chopping/cooking was less than 15 minutes. It has a slight kick to it from the chili vinegar and pepper, but I would still describe this dish as mild.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup - another yummy, easy dish. I did a few things differently (feel free to ask if you're curious) — the main thing being that I only used ONE large chicken breast. It was more than enough. Overall I stayed true to the recipe and we both liked it a lot!

Mocha Cheesecake Brownies - I lied, I haven't actually baked these lately. BUT they've been on my mind! I made them for the Super Bowl earlier this year and they were a huge hit. If you need something to take to a holiday party, take these! 


I few months ago I went through Instagram, unfollowed a TON of home decor accounts and then began following several accounts encouraging reading (@the_book_darling, @alltheradreads, @anniebjones05 and @diversebooksclub). I use the the little save flag option to save posts that feature books I want to read. (I also have Instagram "boards" for places I want to go, outfits/jewelry I like and recipes I want to try.) 

Books I've read lately: Little Fires Everywhere, At Home in the World and Good Morning, Midnight. I'm almost finished with The Ninth Hour


Now that we have Hulu again, I can finally finish The Mindy Project! I have been straight up guffawing throughout the episodes lately (the Meryl Streep costume party was delightful). It makes me sad that I don't have anyone to talk to about it! What should be my next "girly" show? Felicity? Dawson's Creek? I've never seen a full episode of either!


What are you cooking, reading and watching lately? I'd love to know!

v.1 here // v.2 here

photo by Mary Brunst

Cooking, reading, and watching, lately (v.2)

Laura RennieComment

I hope your (almost) summer is off to a great start! After a weird stretch of cold and rainy days, we're finally experiencing sun and OH HEY 98 DEGREE WEATHER. One of my favorite things about summer is how my body craves movement and fresh fruits and veggies. I'm going to barre classes 2-3x a week and I feel like a superhero every time I leave class.

Here's a bit of what I've been up to lately...


I've been mostly sticking to quick meals or even throwing random things together and calling it dinner. (Naan pizzas for the win!) We've been eating a lot of salad — this one is our current favorite. It's easy to put together and perfect for serving friends, especially if you're serving someone who doesn't eat meat. You can keep it simple and serve it as a side dish or add protein to turn it into a meal.

Apple, Feta & Pecan Salad
Butter lettuce (or a Spring mix)
Crumbled feta cheese
Diced apple (use 1/2 for two people, a whole apple for 4)
Chopped pecans (or walnuts)
Balsamic dressing (our favorite)
Optional add-ins: dried cherries or cranberries, crumbled bacon, chopped chicken breast

A friend posted about this Korean Beef Bowl and I knew we had to try it. (Plus, I'm a big fan of Chungah's recipes.) IT WAS SOOO GOOD! And she's right — it takes all of 15 minutes to make, if that! 

I also gave this Maple-Glazed Skillet Chicken Breasts With Sweet Potato Hash a try, and despite the fact that I burned the maple glaze so much the smoke alarm went off and I had to throw it out, it was delicious! (I remade the glaze, but with much less syrup since I ran out, and I drizzled it over the chicken and sweet potatoes without reducing it down.) I chopped some of the leftovers up for Chloe and she loved it.


I've been doing a rather fabulous job of setting my laptop aside at night and sinking into the tub with a book. I leave my phone in another room and pour in my favorite bubble bath. It's a much healthier form of "me time" than binging Netflix on the couch with a plate of cookies in my lap (though I do that now and then, too).

I got on the Liane Moriarty train a few months ago, and I'm not getting off anytime soon! I read "Big Little Lies," "What Alice Forgot" and "The Husband's Secret" and I have "Truly, Madly, Deeply" next on my list. Moriarty's books are fun and easy reads, but they're cleverly written. She does a great job of creating a variety of complex female characters and captures the female brain PERFECTLY. (If you're wondering about the content, I'd rate it PG-13.)

Another book I recently finished: "God and Jetfire" by Amy Seek. It's a memoir about a birth mother's experience with open adoption and both regretting her choice while knowing it was the right one. I listened to Seek's essay on the Modern Love podcast last month, bawled the whole way through and immediately checked her book out at the library.

“One afternoon we sat together on my futon and cried, knowing we were crying for our own exclusive concerns, and out of compassion for each other. We were tragically enmeshed; each the source of the other's pain, each the threshold of the other's future. We stood like tired boxers, clinging to each other to stop the beating. I could end her suffering, some of it, but only at my own expense. She was the only one who could see the magnitude of what was happening. She wasn't telling me it was somehow good for me. She knew what was at stake; she was weighing it every moment. We were two pieces in a puzzle that were negotiating the exact shape of the cut that would at once connect and divide us. We were pressing at each other through a curtain to establish the precise profile of our grief.” 

It wasn't an easy book to read, and I found myself torn between being annoyed/frustrated with Amy and feeling sorrow and compassion towards her. Let me know if you read it!

Also, I somehow missed this post on passion when it was published back in February, and I'm so glad I came across it the other day! This is another thing I'd love to discuss with someone... hint hint!


I'm reading more than I'm watching TV these days (ahhhh, it feels good to say that and mean it), but my "me" show of choice right now is Top Chef. I'm re-watching past seasons and loving it just as much as the first time around. I can watch five minutes of it at a time and not feel torn about pausing it.

I'm also watching "The Handmaid's Tale" because the book took my breath away as a teenager and remains one of my favorites of all time, but GUYS. This show is rough. It's a little too much for me to handle — thank goodness for fast-forward. It's not a feel-good show in any way shape or form, but I think it's an important story, now more than ever. The show is really well done, but I'd much prefer to recommend you read the book. (Seriously, read it.)

As a couple, we're watching "Better Call Saul" on TV and "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" on Netflix. Titus Andromedon is my spirit animal. Kimberly! Use your key! I'm Lemonade-ing!


What are you cooking, reading and watching lately? I'd love to know!

Dear Chloe, On Your First Birthday

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Dear Chloe,

You are 12 months old! 52 weeks! 365 days! Over 8,000 hours!

With each turn of the clock, my heart has beat with love for you. You fill me with wonder and joy. Before you, there was a time I was a shell of myself. I felt hollow and disengaged. I missed the "real" me.

You brought me back, Chloe Mae. Now my eyes are filled with sparkles and happy tears. My bitter cup was made sweet.

My prayer when I was pregnant with your sister Jane was that it would be God's pleasure to bless us with a healthy child. That He would find joy in giving us something we desired so greatly. I don't know why He allowed us to experience her loss, but I do know one thing for sure: the heavens rejoice over you, and we do, too.

The first time I met your birth mom I made a joke to my family members that I was going to ask her for her baby. We all laughed, but God knew I wasn't really joking. God knew that a thread had been woven, a connection had been made, and five months later you would be in my arms.

I can only imagine the delight God must have in giving you to us. I think of how your father and I call each other our "puzzle piece" because we fit together so well, and how you are another perfect fit in our family puzzle. He knew you would look like your daddy with your blue eyes and that you'd have long fingers like me. He knew you would love to laugh and snuggle and read.

I marvel at you, Chloe. You are sweet, smart, beautiful and funny. I am honored and proud to call you my daughter.

Happy birthday, precious one.

Your mama

Mother's Day Gift Ideas

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Mother's Day is a month away — do you know what you're getting the mamas in your life? Whether you're looking for your wife, mom or close friend, I've got you covered. Here are my top picks:

For the grieving mama (who finds this holiday particularly painful)

  • even if you can't afford a gift, send a card. It will mean a lot.
  • a Laurelbox — with this free download for a card (or, create your own package — I suggest a magazine, chocolate, and a face mask or bubble bath)
  • flowers or a plant
  • a gift card to the movies, spa or coffee shop

For moms of all ages

  • a gift card to Target that's ALL FOR HER
  • the insistence (not just offer) of your service: I'm going to watch the baby/kids so you can nap, I'm vacuuming the house, I'm bringing dinner, etc. — and get it on the calendar asap!
  • anything from The Jones Market (their gorgeous teething jewelry is a great gift for mamas of young babes, and the print shown above is just the sweetest thing ever. I bought it for myself!)
  • pretty or fun pajamas (I like this set and this fun top)
  • a fun photo-related gift (that isn't a mug), such as a set of magnetic prints or a bookmark (I use photographs as bookmarks all the time)
  • a neck wrap she can microwave (like this) — often available at stores like TJ Maxx or Marshalls
  • an experience you can share together — tickets to see her that musician she loves but you've never heard of, coffee and treats at her favorite bakery, or even simply a walk around the park just the two of you
  • fancy chocolate — World Market, Trader Joe's and Wegmans are all good places to look
  • wine ;)


While all these gifts are lovely, there is one thing moms want most: Sleep. Haha. OK that's true, but what I really think is the most precious thing is to tell them they're doing a fabulous job. 


Dear Chloe (10 months)

Motherhood, Around hereLaura RennieComment

Your first birthday is getting closer and closer, and it's really freaking me out! Realizing how quickly the time is passing has made me even more determined to enjoy slow days and appreciate every precious moment we share.

In your tenth month...

  • Your Aunt Katie did your swim class with you, and then Grandma took you a couple weeks later! You've always enjoyed being in the water, but now you no longer get upset when you go under and when your eyes get wet. 
  • I took you to story time at the library and "babies at the Bear" (interactive song and play at the toy store downtown). We hadn't gone to either activity since you were only a few months old, and you have so much fun! You explore with no fear and don't seem intimidated by the other kids.
  • You started clapping and dancing! You love "Patty Cake" and music and wobble your upper body in the goofiest way. 
  • You got two more teeth! You now have EIGHT TEETH, you little shark baby, you!
  • You started slapping me. I'm not a fan.
  • You started snuggling more. I'm a HUGE fan.
  • You learned how to go down stairs. You're still getting the hang of it, but you're coming along!
  • You know what several things are and will get them if we ask you to. This never fails to amaze me. We can say, "Where is your caterpillar book?" and you will crawl to your books and rifle through them until you find "The Very Hungry Caterpillar." You've heard us say "ball" or "caterpillar" or "blue block" so many times that I guess you've picked up on it!
  • Once you learned how to clap, you grasped the idea of asking for "more" in sign language (FINALLY). It's adorable.
  • You started pushing a walker! You took to it immediately and love dancing to the music the walker plays.
  • We can no longer keep up with you. With each month you become increasingly curious and on-the-move, but this month it went to a whole new level with getting into cabinets and drawers and pulling books off of the bookshelves. 
  • You went through a crummy phase of waking up in the night screaming like a banshee and sometimes crying for an hour or more. We play an animated version of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" on YouTube for you when you are sick or super upset. It instantly calms you and makes you smile. (Though sometimes you cry when it ends.)
  • I spent a night away from you for the first time. Both of us did well —thank God for FaceTime!

You have a big personality and an even bigger heart, baby. We love you!

Dear Chloe (9 months)

Around here, MotherhoodLaura RennieComment

I don't know how it could get any better than this. You are at such a FUN age! (Your ninth month of life was January 2017 — I'm always behind on these letters!)

Chloe Mae, you are a joy to be around. You smile, talk and laugh all day. There are only a few things that upset you, and they are: when you finish a bottle, when you're told you can't touch my laptop, when you see me eat my belVita biscuits (which I mistakingly shared with you once) and having to wait for food to be put on your tray. You also sometimes get cranky when you're put down to be changed or buckled into your carseat.

Things that make you happy: being sung to, dancing, reading books, chasing your ball (or roll of painters tape), swinging, going on walks, chasing the dog, watching the neighborhood kids play through the window, playing "peekaboo," climbing over your daddy, toys that make noise, Face-Timing and FOOD.

You are one busy girl. You crawl so fast that sometimes you trip over yourself. You go from room to room and play with everything from empty cereal boxes to a roll of painter's tape to a stray sock. You can stand up against something and bounce and talk for what seems like ages.


At your nine month appointment you weighed 19 lbs 4 oz and measured 28.94 inches long. You're super tall and everyone thinks you're older than you are and tells me you don't look like a baby anymore. (Way to depress me, people.)

One of the most exciting things that happened this month was hearing you say, "guh guh kuh" — aka "good girl, Casey." You say it over and over to the dog and it never gets old. You're such a chatterbox! You said the word "baby" perfectly for a few days and then stopped. It was adorable while it lasted!

Your favorite books right now are "Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See?" "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" and "Home Sweet Home." You turn the pages and smile and giggle and look at each picture with intense concentration. One of my tricks for calming you down when you're upset is to recite the words from "Brown Bear" — I know it by heart!

We've learned that if you crawl away and we want you to come back, we only have to start reciting a book or sing a song and you'll come barreling towards us with a huge smile on your face.

You've started understanding space better this month and will peek under, over and around things. Though it's a bit hit or miss, there are times when you'll correctly point to things I've asked you to find, or picked up a toy I've asked you to get.

One of your Christmas presents from Grandma and Grandpa was enrollment in a "Water Babies" class at Hood College, which you started this month. The indoor pool is loud and busy and a bit overwhelming for a little one, but you seem to enjoy your class. I'm not a fan of putting on a bathing suit in the winter, but seeing you in your little pink suit makes it worth it. I love the way you hold me tight in the pool and how you smile when the instructor pulls you around on a kick board! 

You FINALLY went down to two naps a day this month! Whoohoo!

We can't get enough of you, bunny.