{Friday Favorites} – REI Rocks

Today I’m reviewing some of my favorite things from this week. First up:

REI to Close on Black Friday & Give Employees a Paid Day Off
REI Logo

How awesome is this?! If flies in the face of our frenzied consumerism and encourages people to #OptOutside on Black Friday rather than buy more crap. I attend a lot of conferences for work with a lot of large (Fortune 500) companies that are trying to move the needle on sustainability, but I often leave the conferences wishing they had more jueves, or executive/board leadership. REI just stepped it up and joined Patagonia who ran the storied “Don’t Buy this Jacket” campaign. Nice work REI!


The Freezer is Full of Good Soup
Cauliflower Fennel Soup

I love looking in the freezer to see that we’re making progress on stocking up for winter. In case you missed the soup production drama from last weekend, you can find it here. I’ll be making two more types of soup this weekend to freeze and applesauce. #itsfall

Mountain Mama Jody’s Dolls

One of my oldest friends has a sweet Etsy shop, Mountain Mama Jody, where she sells the goods she knits/sews. I’m always in awe of people who can actually finish a knitting project – I still have a half knitted scarf from college I gave my stepmom for Christmas saying I’d finish it soon…who does that?? Me, apparently. Sorry Maria! Anyway, Jody has these sweet sweet dolls which would be fabulous Christmas gift this year, particularly if you’re looking to buck the Black Friday chaos!


NBBB&JI attended the launch party for the New Belgium Brewery-Ben & Jerry’s collaboration beer and ice cream in DC last week which was a fundraiser for Protect Our Winters. We heard from awesome climate advocates, watched a video on the recent victory in the arctic, jammed to Galactic and Dr. Dog, and got awesome swag! Flying completing counter to my comment about consumerism, I am a sucker for sweet swag. They gave out ice cream scoop bottle openers, super cool scarves (which I may use on the foot of a bed), and a collaboration beer glass.

Sunsets from my New Kitchen


Now that all the leaves have fallen (sad face), it turns out we get some awesome sunsets from our kitchen! We’re looking west across the Hudson Valley and while it’s no Rocky Mountain sunset, it’s pretty spectacular.

Happy Weekend Y’all!


{Living Room} – Accent Walls Solve All the Problems

We are still buried in boxes around here and it turns out my natural response to needing to unpack is to decorate #obviously. Right now our living room (I think that’s what you call an awkward room that serves as your main entry and primary living space??) is primarily serving as a staging area for decor, which may or may not be driving TimTheFarmer crazy. Honeeyyyy, I can’t hang the pictures until you tear down that wall and I paint all the other walls and I find the perfect wingback chairs at the flea market. 


I We have plans to tear down the wall between the living room and the kitchen to create one open and flowing space that will function as a living room, dining and entertaining room, and kitchen. I’m super excited about this, but it also seems to mean that I can’t decorate a space we’re going to destroy. So, for now, the room is a staging area. But I put some pumpkins out, which means my Halloween decor is totally taken care of, right??

Like my first vignette, I like small wins that make me feel like we’re making progress. No, unpacking doesn’t give me the same feeling (reference the first paragraph). There might actually be something to this…I never unpack after trips either. If I had a therapist, I would probably ask him what that means. #butIdont. Aaannnnywayy, during that quick stop at home a couple weeks ago where I dominated entered that pie competition and my FIL’s dog ran away, I quickly painted the guest bath and an accent wall in the living room – because that absolutely makes the rest of the chaos less noticeable.

Picking a Paint

I take picking a paint color very seriously. I go to every hardware store and grab every.single.paint-chip in my desired shad and have no brand loyalty when it comes to paint. I narrow it down (t00 brown, too blue etc.) and then hmm and haw a bit longer and then ask designers on Instagram and then I jump in with both feet. This time was especially challenging because in my head I was picking the entire palette for the whole house #nopressure. Once the first coat goes on, I doubt my choice and decide how I’m going to have the store adjust it; then I do the second coat (because let’s be honest, one coat NEVER cuts it, no matter what the can says) and think it might be ok. Then I sleep on it and realize it was the right choice.


Our entire house is currently a yellowy off-white with wood trim. It’s not pretty wood trim; it’s wood trim that they put some weird orangey stain on. My plan is to paint all the walls and ceilings a light grey, paint all the trim and bead board white, and paint a couple accent walls and the kitchen cabinets a dark grey. I should be done with this project in…2020? See why I can’t hang the pictures yet?

Accent Wall with “Wallpaper”

I love all the funky wallpaper out there these days, but having suffered through more wallpaper removal than I care to remember, I knew I wouldn’t do that here. Although, I hear there are peel and stick wallpapers these days…hmm, tempted. I randomly checked HauteLook the day we moved in and found these amazing wall decals and planned to put them on the wall under the stairs. Actually, first I wanted to put them in the guest bath, but the kiddo vetoed that.


The final paint choice was Smooth Slate by Clark + Kensington. After painting the bathroom, I quickly threw a coat of the same paint on the wall under the stairs and finished painting it the next day while the pie was cooking and the dog was running away.

That night, I stuck all the fabulous feather decals on the wall in a repeating pattern. I absolutely did not plan out the widths or lines or draw a grid. I am the opposite of OCD – it would make me crazy to try to plan out a grid. I went the technical route of using my hand for a ruler. Halfway through hanging them, the kiddo asked if there’d be extras for his room…ummmm. Anyway, here it is!


The stair risers and trim will be white, so this is just a first step. But, the living room is totally pulled together now. Have you used wall decals anywhere in your house?


Yes, that is butter and a hand blender in my bag – Traveling with Bulletproof Coffee

Have you tried Bulletproof Coffee yet? And by tried it, I mean not just had a sip, but substituted it for your regular coffee for a few days? If you haven’t, you’re missing out. It’s life changing. It literally changed how TimTheFarmer and I eat and alleviated the morning fatigue I’ve struggled with from fibromyalgia for almost 15 years. The combination of high quality fats from grassfed butter and MCT oil (fancy coconut oil) with coffee from clean beans acts as sort of a jump start (or rocket fuel) to your morning. You can read more about it here**.


Anyway, once you try it fo’ reelz (and thank me) and it becomes a crucial part of your morning routine, you have to figure out how to travel with it. The free breakfasts at Hampton Inn are great, but their butter isn’t from grassfed cows, their coffee’s moldy, and blenders are curiously missing from the buffet line. Here’s how I do it:

1. Plan your butter and oil portions

I know I need 2 tbsp each of butter and coconut/MCT oil per day, so there’s some basic multiplication involved. Tip: don’t start cooking with your butter/oil like we did on our honeymoon in Puerto Rico…when you run out of Kerrygold butter on Vieques, your SOOL. When we finally found the butter when we got back to San Juan, we did a victory dance in the local supermercado #itsthatgood.

2. Bring coffee too.

At home, we buy low mycotoxin coffee and even though I knew it was better, it was until a recent business trip where I relied on hotel coffee that I could really see the difference. I was getting headaches within an hour of drinking hotel coffee. Now, I bring good coffee with me and swap it out for coffee in the hotel coffee makers. It’s kind of a James Bond move; you’d be impressed.

3. Pack a hand blender, knife/spoon, and mixing cup.

The key to Bulletproof Coffee is blending it. Because I tend to jump the gun—after hearing rave reviews from Critter and E—I looked up the ingredients and threw butter and coconut oil in our coffee for the first week without blending it…imagine coffee with floating butter…it was a little greasy. Once I realized you had to blend it, it took it to a whole new level. Now I travel with our Cuisnart hand blender at all times. I would love an actual blender that’s light and suitcase sized, but haven’t found one. Most hotel rooms don’t have cutlery, so bring something to get the butter and oil into your cup. And don’t forget a large cup (I use a quart soup container that I pack the oil and butter in) to blend your coffee in, otherwise, you’ll be blending your coffee in an ice bucket, which I may or may not have experience with.

4. Pack Dr. Bronner’s.

In addition to being a great non-toxic face, hand, and body soap, this is great to use to cleanse your hand blender, knife, and cup.

Since November, I’ve traveled with Bulletproof Coffee fixin’s to Arizona, California (3x), Puerto Rico, Colorado (2x), Texas, Oregon, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., and Connecticut. This system works, but I’d love your tips if you travel with it too!

**Just an FYI, this is not an endorsement of Dave Asprey or his products…I’m skeptical of his entrepreneurial intentions and have never purchased his coffee or MCT oil. I have read his book, and his coffee recipe works for me, that’s it. If you’re curious about how I find good, affordable substitutions to Bulletproof products, post a comment below.

Freezing Fall’s Flavors: Cauliflower Fennel Soup

One of the perks of having a husband who works on a farm is the access to fresh, local, organic produce. We can, in general, harvest extras from the farm and each season, I make it my mission to put up as much of this bounty for the winter so that we can eat awesome veggies long after the fields are covered in snow. Freezing is one of my favorite preservation methods.

Cauliflower Fennel Soup

Fennel and cauliflower peak now (and late spring) and we love those flavors! My brother gave me this awesome cookbook a few years ago with recipes from farmers who work on farms like Hearty Roots and it’s fantastic because not only are the recipes great, it features seasonal recipes with ingredients that are fresh at the same time. I’ve modified its Creamy Cauliflower and Fennel soup the tiniest bit to make it paleo. I make huge batches of it with seconds from the farm and freeze the soup in family-size portions for great soup all winter. It’s also pretty nifty when I’ve been on top of my bone broth game which I make from chickens TimTheFarmer raises because this entire recipe comes from the farm (except for the fennel seeds and S&P #obviously)!

The recipe below is for a single batch – I just finished a batch 14x this size and froze 10 quarts of soup and 2 quarts of broth. Also, make sure to check out the end of the recipe for a big ol’ what not to do.

Cauliflower Fennel Soup + Broth

3 tbsp grassfed butter
1/2 large yellow onion
1 small fennel bulb
1/2 large cauliflower
4 thyme sprigs
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth/stock (if canned, use parts broth/stock and water)
1 tsp fennel seed, crushed
Salt and freshly ground pepper (I use pink Himalayan sea salt)

Chop all your ingredients (slice onions and fennel and cut cauliflower into florets).Cauliflower Fennel SoupMelt butter in a large pot and add onions. Cook onions until starting to brown and then add your cauliflower, fennel, and thyme sprigs (or dried thyme if you don’t have fresh…which I didn’t, because TimTheFarmer didn’t have time to grab…#hethinkshesfunny). Stir around to coat in the onions and butter.

Pour in your stock/broth/water combo. Bring to a simmer and cook until cauliflower is soft (20 min to an hour depending on your stove and size of batch).

When the cauliflower is cooked, use a strainer and large bowl OR a glass measuring cup to pull out most of the cooking liquid. Set the liquid aside (DON’T THROW OUT THAT LIQUID GOLD!). Add the crushed fennel seed to the solids and use a hand blender to blend the solids into a puree. You can also use a blender or food processor, but I prefer the hand blender as it keeps the dishes to a minimum.

Cauliflower Fennel Soup Steps

Once you’ve pureed the solids, add enough of the liquid gold back in to get the soup consistency you like. Return soup to the heat and add S&P to taste. Depending on how many times you increase this recipe, this could become quite a bit of salt #dontbescared #dontundersalt.

Now you’re ready to serve dinner up or freeze your soup for later! I buy these freezer quart containers.

Here’s where we get to what not to do. Do not, under any circumstances, set the soup on an unbalanced sheet tray on the counter, because it will fall and you will end up scalding your leg through your pants and you will do a striptease in the kitchen (luckily no one was home) to get out of your burning pants, and you will still be cleaning up soup from EVERYWHERE in your kitchen days later. Seriously. It splashed onto my computer and wallet and walls more than ten feet away. Update: I just discovered it on the ceiling.


Aaanywaaay, to freeze the soup, fill up your quart containers (freezer baggies work too) and leave an inch of head space (the empty space in your baggie or container that allows the expansion of liquids when freezing). Cover and let cool.

Cauliflower Fennel Soup

Once cool, label your lids – I use permeant marker on the lids, which should come off when you wash them. If it doesn’t, something oil-based (cooking oils or sunscreen, obviously) will get it off (everything I need to know, I learned in ski school). Put in the freezer. Defrost and reheat to enjoy!

Broth: remember that unused liquid gold? Make sure to freeze that too! It’s a great, flavorful chicken/vegetable broth that works well as a basic broth, or in your next batch of this soup.

This is normal, right?

I have replaced my windshield at least 8 times since I started driving…that’s normal, right? No? Hmm. For some reason I have angered the windshield gods. More than one windshield was broken in the normal way (being too eager to get to the ski mountain on a powder day and following too close behind the plow truck), but far too many others have been totally random (hitting a speed bump (at the appropriate speed, I promise!) or sitting in a parking lot with no one near by). This time, however, takes the cake.

After one of my many road trips this month (and a six hour train ride, with Jim Gaffigan), I arrived back to my car to discover my rearview mirror hanging(?!?) from the roof of my car.

Subaru Windshield

Are you kidding me??? Not only was the mirror hanging there, there was a big chunk of glass attached to the mirror and not to my windshield.

Subaru Windshield

I quickly surveyed the outside of the car assuming something must have hit the windshield (which would mean I could sue the driveway parking lot owner i.e. my coworker), but there was no exterior damage or baseball bat or brick in sight. My best guess is that there must have been a sudden temperature change which shattered the glass. Buuuut, thermodynamics (is that the right field?) aren’t really my thing, so I have NO idea what happened. Nor does Subaru or Safelite.

Silver lining? When I switched insurance the last time, I finally wised up and got windshield protection, so I didn’t have to pay out of pocket like I usually do. Does anyone else out this have really bad luck with windshields? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Also, here is the proof I was sitting behind Gaffigan. Is it weird to take a picture of a celebrity’s bald spot? Probably. This picture totally proves it though. And to add to the effect, TimTheFarmer was texting me Gaffigan quotes the whole ride home:

“Chopstick?!?! Can I have a fork? I’m trying to eat, not play Operation.”


First Vignette

This move was a first for me. It was the first time I moved a family, a home, a life, and a chicken coop, but that’s another story. All my other moves had been by myself, usually didn’t involve much furniture, and did not require continuing family routines like cooking meals, catching the bus, or finding printer paper to print the homework that may or may not have been forgotten. Needless to say, my life is currently one giant exploded moving box.

I can’t wait to start painting and tearing down walls (and heart cutout coat racks) and decorating, but for right now, we just have to focus on finding a place for everything. This means my living room and loft are piled high will all the pictures I want to hang and boxes full of decor.

You should know something about me: I love a vignette. I also love a gallery wall, but I don’t have one yet, since, as I mentioned, all my pictures are on the floor and decor is in boxes. I also love a vignette combined with a gallery wall. Here are the gallery wall-vignette combos from our last house. My best friend Jesse, who is an accountant, ended up having a secret talent for creating gallery walls, so she must be given credit for the arrangement (and straight lines) of the first wall. I mention she’s an accountant because in my head, accountants could not possibly be able to deal with all the mismatchiness that goes along with a gallery wall #falseassumptions #offtopic.

Gallery Wall Vignette


Anywaaaay, the point of all this, is that amid trying to get our kitchen unpacked (because for some reason we thought we should be hosting people for dinner on moving day?!? (which, of course, turned out fine because they were family and would love us no matter what state our house was in)), I decided I needed a vignette, just so I could start to feel like I was getting to decorate a teeny, tiny bit AND that our life wasn’t complete chaos. So, here it is!



I learned from Hi Sugarplum and Our Fifth House that vignettes work well when you mix heights and textures. I like to pick a few colors and try to keep the vignette in that palette. I LOVE the old scale which I picked up at a flea market after serious bargaining asking once for a price reduction. I’m very proud of talking the lady down $9 on this and getting it for $15. I tell everyone who sees it. #justsoyaknow I picked up the straws, pumpkin, and bottles in The One Spot section at Target which is always kryptonite to my plans of sticking to my shopping list. PSA: the straws are not SustyParty quality and get soggy within 5 minutes of being in a beverage…but they’re cute. The pork cut sheet poster plays off the blue in the bottles and straws well and the green from the aloe pulls in the curtain color. Finally, I love to use books as decor. I use my cookbooks all.the.time, so it’s great to have them serving dual decor-food purposes.


Be jealous of our microwave. It’s giant, old, and multiple shades of faded white. I’ve got grand plans for where a new microwave will go, but again, we’re still looking for the printer paper.

Recipe Review: Apple Pie Competition … and a runaway dog

I had 4 days home during the first 23 days of October, so I thought it’d be a good idea to paint the guest bathroom and an accent wall AND enter an apple pie competition #NBD #whynot.

I don’t actually like apple pie, or most pies for that matter, but when you enter the Montgomery Place Orchards (MPO) apple pie competition you get a free 1/2 peck of apples…soooo this is my second year entering. Last year I was in NYC for work, so I left Sarah’s apple crisp recipe (which is AMAZING when properly executed) in the hands of a 12 year old and hoped for the best. While I’m sure it was delicious, we didn’t win. This year I thought I’d do what I do best when facing a competition or hosting a houseful of dinner guests: try a new recipe #duh.

Pioneer Woman is my hero when it comes to classic americana dishes, particularly pie crusts, so I broke out my A Year of Holidays cookbook for a recipe and found my kind of recipe: crumb topped apple pie. Here’s how it went down:

Friday after work I stopped by the MPO farm stand to pick up my apples. I went with Jonacrisps, Stayman Winesaps, and Swiss Goumets because the Internet said to I’m an apple expert.


Saturday was a whirlwind of making pie crust, peeling apples (my new peeler/corer/slicer is AMAZING (we struggled with a PIA one for the last 4 years)), making topping and filling, and assembling the pies. ApplePie1

**Because we’ve been eating paleo, I haven’t cooked with flour, sugar, or brown sugar in a year, so my supplies were low. I had to make my own brown sugar by combining sugar and molasses and was low on pecans. At this point, you’re thinking “you don’t like pies and you don’t eat flour or sugar or fruit, so why the hell are you entering a pie competition??” I’m still not sure, but I did.**

I threw the pie in the oven and resumed painting our accent wall. Then, my FIL’s dog got out of her harness, took herself on a jaunt down our road, across a major road, and towards the highway. With the pie in the oven and the roller thrown in the tray, I went running down the road  looking  WT-hippie-chic in my white tank top, Carhartt overalls, Birkenstock clogs, and crazy hair. Sadie has a mind of her own and gleefully looked back at me chasing her as she ran into a busy intersection. It.was.terrifying. Finally, a friendly driver helped me catch her and I CARRIED her a 1/4 mile down the road back to our house, just in time to get the pie out of the oven and finish painting before dropping the pie off at noon #wheresthewine. This is the look of a dog who knows she’s in the proverbial doghouse.


After standing around for 2 hours in the cold, the winners were revealed!

Aaaand, I wasn’t one of them. But, on closer review, I came in 4th place! Which, I am totally satisfied with. I ranked at, or near, the top in taste and crust, so just need to work on my appearance (see that runny topping below?) for next year and I will totally be bringing home the bacon. I’m sure of it.

ApplePieRecipe Review

This recipe almost won me a competition. I didn’t add the caramel because I didn’t have any, but the filling, crust, and topping were awesome! And, my internet-directed expert choice of apples turned out to be a great combination. I will definitely use this recipe next year and already have secret plans for sourcing a great local caramel.

What’s In A Name?

I grew up in Colorado where my parents both moved from out-of-state to go to college in the seventies. This meant that we only got to see our grandparents once or twice a year when we would travel to Connecticut or California to visit, or they would come see us. Every time we would see them, they would want to hear all about our lives. We recently lost my paternal grandfather—Pops—and as we remembered him, everyone reflected on how he would always say “Isn’t that grand?” in wonder and amazement when we would tell him stories. I always loved when he would react to my stories with that phrase, both because it felt like a phrase from another era and and because I felt that he was genuinely excited for me.

Grandkids & Great-grandkids
Grandkids & Great-grandkids

I’ve been kicking around the idea of starting a blog to chronicle my misadventures for a few years and was always held up on what I would name my blog. After Pops passed away, while on a flight to Puerto Rico for my honeymoon (one of my many misadventures…the honeymoon, not the marriage), I realized Pops had named it for me.

To me, Isn’t It Grand is a tribute to Pops and Happy Nana and Uncle David and Rose, all of whom always loved to hear my stories and are now watching over me and my family. It is also what I hope to be my mantra – an effort to always find the joy and awe in life, even in the small things.


Thanks to Ginny, a close family friend, I have developed a love of acronyms. The problem is, once I left Colorado and my community that spoke in acronyms regularly, people look at me like I’m crazy if I use one. Since I fully plan to use them here, I thought I’d provide you with a key to my acronym usage.

GTK: Good to know
WTF: Well, you know what this means…
TMI: Too much information
FYI BTW: For your information, by the way (a weird acronym combo TimTheFarmer and I use)
FIL: Father-in-Law
MIL: Mother-in-Law
DIY: Do it yourself (duh)
SOOL: Sh*t out of luck
NBD: No big deal
PIA: Pain in the you-know-what

Let’s Do This

After years of reading other blogs and thinking I could do that, I’m finally hitting publish. The blogs I love talk about food, family, traditions, travel, and affordable/accessible interior design…so…I think that’s what we’ll talk about here. Oh, and the absurd, which there’s plenty of in my life.

Here’s a snapshot of where we’re at right now in life when I’m starting this blog:

We just bought our first home!! We feel so grateful because this house is in amazing shape, and we know, because we looked a lot of dumps less-than-optimal options before stumbling onto our perfect home. It needs some updating (can you say heart-shaped cutouts everywhere?!) and after a month, there are still boxes everywhere, but we can’t wait to make it ours.IMG_3082

It’s fall, which means I’ll get to start my projects in my new home closer to Thanksgiving because my job requires me to be on the road in the fall. Between now and Halloween, I’ll be in 13 different cities in 7 states. It also means I’m standing over boiling pots of water to put up food for winter from the farm where TimTheFarmer, my husband, works. He’s busy busy busy with fall harvest and preparing for winter too. It also means it’s fantasy football season in my house and my husband and his son are constantly updating me on how many points so-and-so scored, which continues to mean absolutely nothing to me despite them repeatedly explaining it #notretainingthatinfo. It also means apple cider donuts. If you’ve never had them, get yourself to the Hudson Valley now.


And just to completely contradict the last sentence, TimTheFarmer and I have been eating Paleo for close to a year now. Clearly we make exceptions for apple cider donuts, which immediately give me a headache, but I do it anyway #thatgood. I have fibromyalgia and have been told to eat this way for more than ten years, but it took getting addicted to bulletproof coffee and being told it’s OK to eat fat to finally take the plunge…and we love it! More on that in future posts.

Alright, let’s do this!

p.s. #ilovehashtags #apologiesinadvance