Pumpkin Bread Pudding French Toast (& true friendship)

A lot can happen in a year. 365 short days of learning, loving, and, yes, sometimes, leaving.

As you’re aware, dates are significant to me. Parks and Rec is also significant to me. And when I start thinking back in time in terms of years, I think of a scene in season five where Leslie asks, “are you better off now than you were a year ago?” She’s presiding over a town hall meeting into the first year of holding a seat on city council. To Leslie, life has certainly improved – she’s accomplished goals and made strides in her personal and professional life. Despite what anyone else says, Leslie feels accomplished (at least at the start of the meeting, what the townspeople do is a whole other story).

Pumpkin Bread Pudding French Toast | via Midwest Nice Blog

And today, I had to ask myself, “Am I better off now than I was a year ago?”

Because today is Danielle’s birthday. And, much like dates and Parks and Rec, she is important to me. She is largely part of the reason that I am better off today than I was a year ago.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding French Toast | via Midwest Nice Blog

Danielle is supportive of her friends – really and truly. She’s also unflinchingly honest and unfailingly hilarious. She is one of the few people I have encountered who puts forth actual effort into her friendships, they are important to her and she makes it known. I was lucky enough to experience this while living in Greenville, and even luckier that she’s continued to consider me worth the effort after my move. We communicate in memes and 90-minute phone calls, discussing everything from celebrity pregnancies to international travel plans.

Honestly, I’m thankful that “the breakup” happened – because if it hadn’t, Danielle and I would not be as close as we are now. She had gone through a similar experience the year before me, walking the path ahead. She was able to ask the right questions (even the uncomfortable ones) and listen intently, offering help and advice, wise and insightful. Her queries led me to discover more of who I was outside of someone else – a mirror whose reflection I couldn’t look away from. This experience, her comfort and friendship before, during, and after it, have guaranteed that I am better off.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding French Toast | via Midwest Nice Blog

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Thursday Things

  1. Yesterday morning I woke up to a miniature donkey outside my door. His name is Marvin. He had gotten out of his enclosure and was in search of greener pastures. Cut to me chasing him around the yard in my jammies, trying to coax him back into the pen with apples while Edgar ran circles around us.
  2. Now that I finally finished this book I’m rereading Harry Potter. I haven’t done it in years and it’s most definitely time.
  3. I’m so far behind on This Is Us that I’ve almost just given up hope of ever catching up. I’m keeping up to date on the new Will & Grace, though! And Crazy Ex-Girlfriend! I was so elated when it premiered this past Friday.
  4. It finally felt like fall this weekend and I was able to break out a vintage trench and dress for my nieces’ baptism. Edgar wore his best, too.
  5. How many times do you think the sentence “Finally feels like fall…” has been written/said?
  6. It doesn’t feel like fall right now – it was over 70 yesterday – but I made soup for dinner last night anyway. Loaded potato with fresh croutons, crispy bacon, and cheddar cheese. I’m not very good at making soup so I’m very proud of myself!
  7. I’m still sore from my workout Monday morning! And Edgar’s bark box might still be horse. He had a very unpleasant reaction to seeing me kickbox with my friend, Tori. He must’ve been in Fight Club or something – because he doesn’t like to talk about it. But he did bark about it. A lot.
  8. Did y’all see, I updated my about page!

A visit home (& taking my time)

I’ve never not had a job. Since I was 14 and joined the workforce, I have always had a job (if not two). I’ve never left a job without having another one lined up, I’ve never left a job without working a two week notice, I’ve never been unemployed.

Until now.

And it’s been hard. To allow myself this time – to process, to plan. I’m lucky that I’ve had family to offer their homes and their hearts to me, that are far more understanding of my current situation than I’m willing to be to myself (after all, aren’t we always our harshest critics?).

had  a job. I chased it down before I even moved back. Calling, emailing, interviewing. I was going to be a big girl, with a big girl job. Turns out, I was the big girl, with the big girl tears. I cried in the conference room on my first day. Twice. In the same way I knew it was time for me to return to Wisconsin, I knew that job wasn’t for me. In my bones.

I didn’t move thousands of miles from a place of unhappiness to end up in another unhappy situation.

So I quit. After my first day. And I’ve been taking the time since to figure out what I want to do and where I want to be. I’m nearly there.

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Easy Apple Pie (& new memories)

My memory is better than most. I have regulars’ orders remembered from four years ago. The amount of brain space used to store old cheerleading routines is astonishing (and a complete waste of real estate considering my lack of rhythm). My childhood phone number, which has been disconnected for the better part of a decade, is still one of the first my thumbs dial of their own accord when I hold a phone.

Easy Apple Pie | via Midwest Nice

So, it was nothing short of a miracle when I bought tickets to see Jason Isbell in Chicago last month and the date didn’t register. At least, not right away. There were no bells, no whistles, nothing to indicate what the day was…what the day had been.

It was my ex’s birthday. For the last two years that day had been reserved for celebrating him – exclusively. Emphatically. One way I did that was baking an apple pie – his favorite – with the numbers of his age emblazoned on the top.

This year, that wouldn’t be happening. Obviously.

Easy Apple Pie | via Midwest Nice

This year, instead, I would be reclaiming one of my favorite singers in one of my favorite cities. It was actually kind of perfect, really. For so long Isbell’s songs were tied to someone else, a different time, a different place. Blaring “Codeine” throughout the house while cleaning on a rare day off together. Learning the words to “Alabama Pines” as we wound along mountain roads coming back from a day in Asheville. Swaying to the rhythm of “Cover Me Up” at a sold out show the same day I closed on my house.

Those memories are all that filled my mind whenever I heard his slow, southern lilt flow through my speakers. Painful, unavoidable.

But not anymore.

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Thursday Things

  1. I had a real life run-in with Good Samaritans earlier this week. My car decided to die in a shopping center parking lot and I spent about 45 minutes attempting to get it started. Two guys stopped to offer assistance and boy did they ever! Within five minutes they were able to assess that my battery was kaput – luckily, they had the exact size and shape battery I needed in their car, having just bought it to fix one of their own vehicles. They let me borrow it to run and get my own replacement and waited for me to return so they could switch all the batteries around again and send me on my way (but not before I bought them lunch)! It was a complete convergence of serendipity, luck, and good karma.
  2. That’s a big story for me; I wish I could tell it better.
  3. PSA for everyone – the entire series of Will & Grace is available on Hulu. You’re welcome.
  4. Also on Hulu? The final season of The Mindy Project. Last week’s episode featured a Meryl Streep costume party and seeing Mindy Kaling dressed as Julia Child made my heart sing. Two of my idols combined!
  5. Grandparents in Halloween Costumes gave my heart equal joy.
  6. So far this week I’ve made three batches of this caramel corn, which I found on Baking Bites yeeeeeeears ago. I make it every.single.fall. And never grow tired of it. However, I do always double to caramel sauce, leaving the popcorn amount the same.
  7. The temptation to listen to Christmas music is nearly over powering. Haaaaaalp me.