When the Girl Scouts cookies are gone

It is October and my freezer is officially void of Girl Scouts Thin Mints. After trembling in fear, with a death grip on the empty box and a glazed look in my eyes, it hit me.

I have a recipe to make these cookies myself!

The winter months will indeed be heavenly, but this knowledge comes with heavy responsibility. Raise your right hand and repeat after me: “I understand that by using this recipe, it doesn’t absolve me of my duty to buy cookies from the neighborhood Girl Scouts in the spring.”

Because there is something magical about a little girl in pigtails and a sash that makes it perfectly reasonable to fork over $4 per box.

P.S. Do we get a  baking badge for this?


Homemade Thin Mints


2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/3 cup milk (any kind)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp peppermint extract


In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, cocoa powder and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. With the mixer on low speed, add in the milk and the extracts. Mixture will look curdled. Gradually, add in the flour mixture until fully incorporated.
Shape dough into two logs, about 1 1/2 inches (or about 4 cm) in diameter, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 1-2 hours, until dough is very firm.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Slice dough into rounds not more than 1/4 inch thick – if they are too thick, they will not be as crisp – and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cookies will not spread very much, so you can put them quite close together.
Bake for 13-15 minutes, until cookies are firm at the edges. Cool cookies completely on a wire rack before dipping in chocolate.

Dark Chocolate Coating
10-oz dark or semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup butter, room temperature

In a microwave safe bowl, combine chocolate and butter. Melt on high power in the microwave, stirring every 45-60 seconds, until chocolate is smooth. Chocolate should have a consistency somewhere between chocolate syrup and fudge for a thin coating.
Dip each cookie in melted chocolate, turn with a fork to coat, then transfer to a piece of parchment paper or wax paper to set up for at least 30 minutes, or until chocolate is cool and firm.
Reheat chocolate as needed to keep it smooth and easy to dip into.

Makes 3 1/2-4 dozen cookies.

I’m just a closet freak

Yep. Right there. In the closet. As I’m thinking about how I have absolutely nothing to wear to a wedding next month, Mariah Carey’s shoe closet is floating through my mind. I mean, what would I do with that many shoes?

I’ll tell you what I’d do… every day, I’d carry along two extra pair, and I’d rotate them on my feet every four hours.

Not sure if you noticed or not, but the photo only shows the neutral shoes. I am positive there are six other identical areas for reds, greens, blues. It is mind-boggling to even think about.

As “famous” closets go, besides the one to the right, one of my favorites is the most practical. Sure, it was fictional and crammed full of Prada, but on Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw knew where to find a bargain. And that makes me feel some sort of a kinship with her (or with the writers of the show, I’m not sure which).

Of course, my closet isn’t stacked with Prada and Manolos, but I have had a few Carrie moments in my life. If there is a clearance sale, I’m going to find it. I have supersonic ears for those markdown guns. Although, when living in Chicago after college, I did buy a couture suede purse that cost nearly three-quarters of my rent. And rent in that city isn’t cheap, kids. Like, take a normal city’s rent and multiply times three. I learned my lesson afterward, because I had to eat peanut butter sandwiches for two months to make up for it (I think that also might have been be a “Carrie” moment.)

Here’s a look at some more celebrity closets. It will make you a little jealous, but look at it this way: you may not have all of their clothes or their money or their fame, but you don’t have all of their crazy problems either.

{Top right, Mariah’s shoes. Above, the second “wing” of her closet. (photos from InStyle unless noted)}

{Carrie’s SATC  closet. Surely you knew that before I told you. Isn’t it one of the most recognizable closets on the planet? (photo: HBO)}

{Oprah’s closet in one of her many homes. LA or Chicago? I dunno. I do know, however, that the great Nate Berkus designed it for her. (photo: O Magazine)}

{Olivia Wilde’s closet… the cedar-lined walls and big window bring a bit of nature to an otherwise edgy and elegant space. The wood against the black chandelier and silver mirror is surprisingly inviting. P.S. Maybe I could wear her dress to the wedding? Well, maybe not to a wedding, but that dress needs to be worn by me, somewhere, somehow. Except I’m sure it is about  98,324,601,733 dollars.}

{Padma Lakshmi of the Food Network is always dressed classy, yet sexy. I also love that she has a billion pair of black pants. (photo: Harper’s)}

{Did you expect anything less from Christina Auguilera?}

{Dressing room of Aerin Lauder, Estee Lauder’s granddaughter. The blues, yellows and browns are so natural and sophisticated. With the deep purple dress as a teaser, I can only imagine what is inside that white wardrobe.}

{Love the yellow jacket Eva Longoria is wearing in this photo. You know someone is living the good life when they have two empty Tiffany’s bags on the floor of their CLOSET.}

{Nicky Hilton’s style is miles above her sister’s, and I’d die to spend an hour just looking at the clothes in that room. And touching them. Oh, how I want to touch them.}

{Dressing room of Tory Burch, purse designer extraordinaire. (photo: Vogue)}

{A little rocker, a little glam. Fergie’s closet  looks as if it’s as big as two bedrooms in my house.}

{The dressing room of the master bedroom in the East Wing of the White House, 1962. Jackie Kennedy liked it blue… (photo: Architectural Digest)}

{…and in 1981, Nancy Reagan liked it salmon. (photo: Architectural Digest)}

{My absolute dream closet? Rachel Zoe’s… but only if she comes with it. She could just pop from behind a fur coat each time I have a style question. Oh, and we’d need to do something about those size minus-9 clothes.}


Once upon a wedding

Have you ever dreamed and dreamed about something so much that you almost feel like it actually happened? I mean really imagined each and every detail down to where sighs would be placed in conversations about it?

I am a single, very independent woman who, one day, might put a ring on it and shop for china patterns. Now is not the time to skip down the aisle. Now is always the time, however, to plan it.

When I was 9, I wanted to be married on the patio next to a life-size replica of Barbie’s poolside snack shack. My groom of choice was Dan Marino on some days, Ricky Schroder on other days.

When I was 14, I wanted to be married underneath the Eiffel Tower. My groom of choice was the brown-haired boy I met when I spent the week camping with my grandparents at Skiatook Lake. He wore a cut-off muscle shirt that said “Webster High Wrestling.” He was 16. He was hunky. And he always made sure to stare when I pranced around in my swimsuit. So I pranced. And pranced. And pranced. For a week. We exchanged a total of one sentence each. From that sentence, I realized we were meant for each other and a 350+ guest wedding at the most famous spot in France.

Then I turned 17. I thought it was perfectly logical to want my daddy to add a second story to our house, solely for my bridal descension. Why my parents didn’t think of the biggest moment of my life when they decided to build a house is still lost on me.

When I was 25, I didn’t care if was married at city hall. In jeans. And a T-shirt.

I recovered at 25 years and 4 months, when the Drake Hotel in Chicago became the dreamiest, most fabulous place in the whole world. And since I was a new Chicago resident and I knew someone who knew someone who knew someone who knew someone who was the assistant to Clive Owen’s personal stock broker’s aunt, it was all but a given he and I would probably become Mr. and Mrs. at some point.

But for the last several years, any time I have ever had a fleeting thought of a wedding, it has been the most intimate, flirty, simple event ever. In a springtime garden at dusk, with 50 people who mean the most, and a big, round barn in the background. I’ll wear a simple white dress. Non-poofy and non-ruffled. I’ll carry a bouquet of random pink flowers tied with a yellow ribbon. And I’ll wear the biggest, boldest turquoise necklace you’ve ever seen.

There will be a few hand-picked flowers in mismatched vases. We’ll eat cute, little barbecue sandwiches and drink sweet tea. There will be a table full of all sorts of desserts on beautiful dessert stands. Cheesecake. Chocolate-strawberry cake. Lemon tart. Apple pie. Homemade candy. A chandelier will hang from an oak tree and candles will flicker while a bluegrass band picks and grin for hours. And under the Oklahoma stars, I’ll dance with my family, old and new, all night long.

Then I saw this photo spread. It was if my dreams came to life.


{Images: Style Me Pretty’s “Small-Town Indiana Wedding.” Design and Coordination: April Foster Events / Photography: Amanda Wilcher Photography.}

Baby Back Ribs and Texas Blackjack Sauce

I saw this recipe in Woman’s Day magazine in 2005. It immediately went in my Big Black Books and I prepared it for the first time that summer, my last in Chicago. I remember being very leery of the fact there was coffee (blech!) involved… but I quickly got over it. The unique flavor sent my palate over the top.

We fired up the grill on game day, spun the TV around so we could watch the action from outdoors, and every single Cubs fan who walked by en route to Wrigley Field made a comment about the divine smell. I joked that every game day I should sell ribs off the side of the balcony in brown lunch sacks.
Contine reading

Fighter. Champion. Ironman.

Dear Baby Brother,

You have trained for this moment for seven years. We all have loved you and believed in you for the nearly 25 years since you took your first little breath.

As you prepare this morning for the biggest challenge of your life and to reach a level only the most elite of athletes attain, know these things and meditate on them.

The nervous moments ahead of competition are normal, even for Olympians. It’s OK to have them, just don’t allow them to win over precious space your head. Nervous moments mean you understand the adversities. They mean you not only want to slay the beast, but also that you respect it.

As our man Rocky said: “That’s how winning is done.”

Because you are ready. You are prepared. Say that to yourself as you walk to check in.

“I am ready. My body is ready. My mind is ready. I am prepared. My body is prepared. My mind is prepared.”

Contine reading

Today, I want to live here: Granny’s kitchen

Even if you grew up in the city, there’s probably something familiar about a farmhouse kitchen.

I see one and am reminded of my Granny’s haven. I was only 5 years old when she died, but I still remember her kitchen. It wasn’t fancy. In fact, it was the opposite of fancy. It had an old ’50s-style table, and in my memory, there is a pie in the center of it, covered with a muslin tea-towel.
Contine reading

Berry Bliss(ful) Cake with Lemonade Glaze

It’s that time of year: Berries, berries and more berries. Farmers markets, grocery stores, roadside stands… they’re everywhere. And I love it. My favorite is raspberries, which I suppose is because they taste like candy. Good, healthy candy.

The following recipe is from Gourmet magazine. I was mesmerized with the possibilities. Raspberries. Blackberries. Blueberries. Cranberries. Even plums or peaches. I liked it so much that I clipped, um, stole it… I ripped it right from the pages of an issue in a waiting room. I know, bad girl. But because I was bad, it went into my Big Black Books and you now know about an awesome cake. This moment was worth the risk.
Contine reading

Love letters: I will take you to the Star Music Hall

As a writer, I feel that I best express myself on paper. When I start to talk about my emotions, even happy ones, I just cry. Really, I just wail when I’m put on the spot. The idea of being in vulnerable position is terrifying, even if there is a good chance my feelings will be reciprocated. I can’t explain it. I suppose my nerves just turn into a giant ball of rubber bands.

A touching love letter creates a feeling that rarely can be matched. It doesn’t need to be an award-winner. The only thing it needs to be is honest.
Contine reading