Salted Caramel Sauce + Brownie Party!

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Over the weekend, I came to the conclusion that I have a brownie problem.  I think that brownies have the potential to be super delicious or super not delicious, but I seem to never turn them down either way, so who am I to judge?  It’s just really hard to avoid making brownies, when my recipe tastes like damn fudge and only takes 15 minutes to mix together.  I think the brownies themselves are really inhibiting my creativity and motivation to try new goodies on the weekend, because why try a recipe that miiiight be good when I know my brownies will turn out flawless regardless?  Also, I have a list of recipes to try, and I just get overly excited about all of them that it turns into overwhelming anxiety about all the things I want to try in the world.  Someone please tell me this also happens to them?

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Anyways, the whole reason for the brownies is that I decided this past weekend was Galentine’s weekend which means I had my friends over to eat mac n cheese, drink rosé, and of course, have a brownie party!  However, since I’m currently a single lady, this week will also be spent celebrating Galentine’s, because yay for lady love!  The Galentine’s party consisted of lots of food plus spending a solid 2+ hours talking about uteruses and weird men we meet at bars, so it was a fairly solid girls’ night if you ask me.  Also!  I made homemade caramel sauce for the first time in forever, and it didn’t even take me a million tries to get it right!  The Galentine’s goddess was looking down on me, and I’ve been blessed.

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Here’s a guide to throwing your own brownie party!

  1. Start with my homemade 15-minute brownies, because they’re just perfect.
  2. Make a few yummy fillings!  I had chocolate pudding and whipped cream.  You don’t need a ton of fillings, because it’s really all about the toppings!
  3. Lots of toppings is key.  I had animal cookies, pretzels, PB cups, mini M&Ms, chocolate kisses, and Oreos!  Oh, and salted caramel sauce!
  4. Have some cute little cups for assembly.  I used my candlewick teacups and other glass mugs I had laying around the house, but you can use anything.
  5. Have everything prepared before people come over, so you can just put everything on the table when it’s dessert time.  Otherwise, you’ll be placing pudding in bowls when you could be talking about uteruses and dumb men (aka the important stuff).

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Have a beautiful day celebrating love.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song by Jim Croce

 

Homemade Apple Cider

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Apparently at the tender age of 21, I have succumbed to the eternal tiredness accompanied with socializing until midnight and drinking 1 glass of sangria + a single gin and tonic.  This past weekend consisted of both of those events at a Friendsgiving celebration, where a few friends and I enjoyed a hodgepodge of family recipes along with a distracted game of Cards Against Humanity and a slew of various spirit glasses.  While Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday, I’m starting to realize the value of a successful Friendsgiving, which in my experience is pretty similar to regular Thanksgiving without the pressure of telling your great-aunt and four second-cousins your life plans post-college, and also, you typically don’t have to talk about the disappointing political climate (except not always, but that can be solved with a simple “Sangria anyone?!”.  I know how to please the crowd).

Typical to Sara Lynn antics, I provided the aforementioned sangria and a pumpkin pie with whipped cream, which after a few hours, turned into a weapon of mass destruction as it was flung throughout the kitchen, into hair, and onto faces while I ducked under the breakfast bar with my wine glass.  Once whipped cream starts flinging, this chick is out.  However, the pumpkin pie was amazing and enjoyed for breakfast before work the next day.  As for the sangria, a twist on the classic using apple cider for a autumnal flavor, it needs to be worked on slightly.  It was delicious, but it also reminded me of bubblegum which just isn’t really my style.  Don’t worry…I’ll keep working on it for winter holidays.

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After a weekend of socializing with friends and working, I came down with a bad chest cold that I can just tell is brewing into something horrid.  Luckily, I got my ass into the doctor ASAP, and hopefully the antibiotics they provided will knock this thing out before it even develops, because again, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday!  I want to enjoy my family time even if it does make me evaluate my life plans and strive to keep my mouth zipped when certain President-elects are brought up.  Also, I have a ton of pie dough to make before Wednesday, and this hacking out my lungs thing is making me want to do nothing but pass out in my bed with a heating pad suctioned to my chest.  Yes, I like to feel sorry for myself, but I did work today and take a test and do a presentation, so I feel like I deserve a little credit here.  I’d probably whine a little more, but I am hugging some warm apple cider and watching Full House reruns, so it can’t be all bad, right?

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And that leads to the apple cider.  As I mentioned before, my parents just moved here and have an abundance of apple trees on their property which equates to me having fresh apples in my house constantly.  Pros: beautiful, freshly picked apples all the time!!!  Cons: I will never be able to eat another apple pie with store-bought apples again.  How come homemade apples are so much sweeter and flavorful?  Anyways, I found myself with pounds on pounds of fresh apples, and that is how this apple cider recipe came to fruition.

Now, you can make this apple cider recipe on the stove which will take a couple of hours.  I chose to prepare it in a slow cooker so I could pop it on before class and come home to a cinnamony-appley-smelling goodness when I came home.  Either way, this recipe is fool-proof and will taste absolutely delicious.

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*If you are using orchard apples, you may notice that the cores look a little funky every once in a while – yay organic!!  I chose to cut these parts off, but if the cores look okay, don’t worry about removing them.  You can even leave the seeds in – they’ll all get strained out in the end.

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Flightless Bird, American Mouth by Iron & Wine

Braised Short Ribs with Cheddar Grits

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I am so, so excited to announce that the people at Serendipity by Sara Lynn (me) will be working with Sanford Ranch Beef, which sells local, steroid-free beef to the Northern Nevada area.  This is my first partnership, and I’m absolutely thrilled to be working with such a great company!  I first want to start off by promising that I only endorse businesses that I believe are wholesome and provide good quality products that I already use sans-partnership.  I do not believe in advocating products that I do not use regularly; therefore, I can assure you that all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.  I also want to let it be known that I am not being paid to post about Sanford Ranch Beef, although they did give me some all-natural, hormone-free steak, which let’s be real, is better than money anyhow.

And if you didn’t read that long ass paragraph, here’s a summary: I’m not a sellout.  Cool?  Cool!

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Sanford Ranch Beef is a local cattle ranch owned by my cousin, his wife, and their family.  They do not believe in using hormones, steroids, or fillers in their beef, so the product is completely farm-to-mouth.  Their cattle is grass-fed and finished with mash (grain) from a local brewery in town – that means that the beef tastes slightly of hops, but not overwhelmingly so.  They sell boxes of beef to people in the Northern Nevada area – if you live in Reno, Fallon, or other areas of N. Nevada and you like all-natural, ethical food, and supporting local business, visit their Facebook or website and give them a call!

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Even if you do not live in Northern Nevada, I urge you to support local farmers and ranchers that live near you.  By buying local food, you support families in your state and get healthier products (and you know where they’re coming from).  When you buy from a store, you don’t know the distribution process – when you buy local, you can ask the owner yourself!  By visiting farmer’s markets, you can find local produce, dairy, meat, bakers, and the like so you’re always getting the freshest ingredients!  For a list of local farmers in your area, click here.

P.S. Since farmer’s market season is almost over, I recommend looking up local farmers/ranchers on Google or asking people in your community!  Local food is easier to get than you think!

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Over the weekend, I used some short ribs from my box of beef to make braised short ribs with cheddar grits and roasted brussels sprouts.  It’s definitely a Sunday meal, because the braising takes a few hours, but this meal is so easy and impressive if you’re having guests over!

Both recipes are courtesy of Food Network.

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Stay tuned for more beef recipes!

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Morning Dew by The National (cover)

 

BLT Salad with Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

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Clearly, I’ve been having a moment with BLTs lately.  This is the second BLT-related post in the past month, which some may claim is incredulous, but I think is completely justified since bacon + bread + in-season tomatoes = heaven.  Also, can we take a moment to literally laugh out loud, because in that same Basic BLT post, I went on and on and on about how there are just some foods, such as BLTs, that should be left alone (I believe the direct quote was “BLTs should be BLTs and nothing more”) and then I turn around and turn a classic into a salad.  Blasphemy.  Who gave me this kind of power?

To make up for my intense hypocrisy, I may even forgive you if you decide to say, put something like turkey on your BLT, which I still believe is just a club sandwich, so if you’re going to get that far, you might as well add some good swiss to the mix.  However, I do ask that you maintain your dignity while doing so.  If I happen to come across a BLT utilizing ridiculous ingredients such curry powder or sauerkraut as an act of outright defiance against my Rule of Simplicity, we’ll have a problem here, people.

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Since it’s Labor Day weekend a.k.a. probably the last BBQ weekend of the year (at least for us colder cities), I thought I’d share this salad recipe, which goes perfectly with Tri-tip and grilled corn, burgers, or brats.  It only takes about 15 minutes to mix up, which leaves you plenty of time to enjoy your last late-night patio session of the summer before the fall creeps in.  I’m already starting to miss summer and the fresh food that comes along with it, but I can’t wait to share some wonderful fall-inspired recipes that I’ve been testing lately.  I hope you love pie, spices, and savory food straight out of the oven, because there’s plenty of that making its way to my little corner of the internet.  Also, probably some good sweater and Tahoe pics, since you know I love sharing my fun trips and outfits with you all ♥  Stay tuned for more!

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I hope you have an amazing Labor Day weekend with your friends and family!

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Life Itself by Glass Animals

Chocolate & Butterscotch Chip Cookies

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I’ve spent the last couple of days not even realizing that it’s September.  Mentally, I have been completely checked out, which has been rudely unhelpful considering I just started my senior year of college this past Monday.  The most surprising aspect of this scenario is that a mere 2 1/2ish months ago, I was in complete denial that I was almost done with the college portion of my life.  Where did the time go?!  Wasn’t I supposed to cherish this more?  Get more involved?  How are my 20s going this fast?  SOS.

However, the closer I get to graduation, the more I realize the wonderful things ahead of me.  Traveling around Europe.  Getting a dog.  Interviewing for my first big girl job.  Getting said big girl job.  Buying my first house.  Opening up my coffee shop.  Hopefully eventually getting married, which I’ve heard can sometimes be fun.  Putting things into those perspectives can be really enlightening, especially when they’re looked at from a broad, futuristic viewpoint.  It’s not that I necessarily expect every single one of those things to happen (or at least when I expect them to), but I love having future accomplishments or events to look forward to.  Because, as far as I’m concerned, every Millennials’ goal should be to plan, plan, plan – but also, be flexible.  Plan that trip to Thailand!  Take that class on how to make perfect bread!  Finish writing all those songs you’ve been stumbling over for months!  And yes, while these are things that I would like to do, everyone should have their own goals, and hopefully with time, everything uncontrollable will fall into place.

And if I am totally wrong about all of this, please do not tell me, because I like to be unrealistic idealistic.

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If I have not yet mentioned this a thousand times in the past, baking is one of many outlets I use to help relieve stress when I’m in the midst of school and work busyness.  Along with playing instruments, I’m usually baking if I have a day off on the weekend.  Sometimes, I tackle more difficult or time consuming projects like cinnamon rolls or strawberry galettes with homemade crust, but other times, I like to stick to something that can be made super easily!  Usually in those times, I make my favorite 15 minute brownie recipe or chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate chip cookies are one of my favorites, which is pretty much a given, because they’re essentially everyones’ favorite.  Since they’re everyones’ favorite, everyone also has their favorite recipe.  If you scour the internet, it’s filled to the brim with a million “Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Ever” recipes.  That market is saturated, folks.  However, this recipe is one that I have adapted from the original Nestle Tollhouse recipe, and I think it’s absolutely perfect.  If you watch Friends, you know what I mean.

As for the butterscotch chips, I’m not sure when I really became obsessed.  I don’t know that I’ve necessarily had anything that was true “butterscotch” flavor, but one time I had some butterscotch chip cookies, and I thought they were amazing.  With that said, I always love classic chocolate chip cookies the best.  Sometimes, I just want a little bit more fun, and that’s when butterscotch gets added to the mix (literally).  As for my recipe, I have made slight adjustments that fit with my taste preferences over the years , but you can use the original Nestle recipe if you prefer.  You can also use all chocolate chips in my adjusted recipe if you like that better than butterscotch!

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*Recipe Notes:  1. I live at a higher altitude, so I use 2 1/2 c. of flour to stabilize the cookie dough a little more.  If you live at sea-level, you can use 2 1/4 c. like the original recipe, or you can use 2 1/2 for a little bit of a thicker, chewier cookie.  The rest of the ingredients will work at both sea-level and high-altitude.  2.  I add the cornstarch, which makes the cookies a little bit softer, but it is not necessary if you do not have it at home.

Have a beautiful weekend ♥

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Will I Come by King Krule

Blackberry + Mint Limeade

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Summer has now officially approached in Reno.  In my Vegas-days, I used to loathe summer and its dry heat that would exceed far past the low hundreds.  Now living in Reno, the weather is a gamble, meaning I can be a little more friendly towards the summer months depending on the day.  For instance, yesterday the high was 75*F, but tomorrow could be 105*.  Luckily, I’m not too far from SF, which pretty much always has a low chill and Tahoe, which may be warm, but at least you can cool off in the melted-snow water.  However, I’m a huge fan of BBQs, as I’ve mentioned in the past, and even though I’m working as both a marketing intern and barista, I’m taking this summer as an opportunity to eat plenty of good food, explore new Northern Nevada attractions, and not be in school for the first time in 3 years.  Plus, my birthday is in July, so that’s always something I look forward to!  I’m also stoked to try out some new BBQ recipes, starting off with a twist on classic summer Lemonade.  Hello blackberry-mint limeade!

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When it comes to the lemonade-limeade debate, I wholeheartedly lean towards the limeade side.  Actually, I’m not really sure there is such a debate, but if there were I would always go Team Limeade.  Now that it’s summer, I’ve decided to try out my own variations on limeade (and maybe even lemonade, we’ll see…), and I thought the perfect way to start off the limeade experiment would be to use a berry that’s not as highly recognized as its berry counterparts.  I love how shiny and succulent blackberries are, and when they’re mixed into a limeade, it makes this beautiful fuchsia hue that would perfectly complement a BBQ.  Also, I added mint, because I was feeling fancy.

Before I share the recipe, I will first start off with a confession, because I’m not perfect, and I’ll readily admit that all the time in most circumstances, such as this one.  For this recipe, I decided to use already bottled limeade.  *gasp*, I know.  From someone who really goes out of her way to not use prepackaged stuff, this may be slightly shocking.  However, I can already find delicious, sweet, fresh-tasting limeade in the juice aisle at my local grocery, and I own no type of juicer whatsoever, so prebottled limeade it was.  On the other hand, if you are one who feels so inclined to make their own limeade, I’ve found a recipe from a trusted source with good reviews here.

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This limeade is refreshing and easily adaptable if you’d like to try another berry or herb.  I prefer my limeade sweeter, so I use more syrup, but if you like yours a little more tart, I’d use less syrup or even muddle some blackberries and mint in the bottom of your glass and just use a tiny bit of syrup.  Also, I used 3 mint leaves in my original recipe, and I found that the mint was very strong.  I’d recommend using only 2 mint leaves so the blackberry flavors are noticeable.  The mint can be very overpowering, but you can always add some straight to your drink if you want more of that flavor later!



XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: The Other Woman by Devendra Banhart

Thai Coleslaw

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A few weeks ago, my mom and grandma came into town, and we spent our days antiquing with my aunts and cousins.  Through my years of antiquing, I have become absolutely obsessed with candlewick glass (although I now lovingly referring to it as bubble glass, because it’s much cuter, and I didn’t actually know it was called ‘candlewick’ until my aunt mentioned it a couple days ago).   I have now compiled a whole china cabinet full of candlewick glass, because my aesthetic is an 80 year old in a 20-something’s body unless I’m picking out clothing, in which case I normally fit into the 60s or early 90s decades.  But I digress.  Candlewick is where it’s at, and although I’m probably too old to play tea party, I can almost guarantee that I will find an excuse to have one in the near future if only to utilize the four  eight tea cups and saucers I have accumulated over the years.  But for the time being, I’ve been using it in much more practical ways, like for Thai coleslaw for example.

You may have noticed that the theme around SSL as of late has been all-things-spring, especially if you read my post “Little White Blossoms“, which is kind of hilarious considering that today in Reno, all we had was little white snow flakes…But no matter.  I have already decided that it’s spring, and spring equals BBQs which equals coleslaw (and grilled corn and potato chips and watermelon and….stop me while you can).  I’m not quite sure why Reno is bringing back the snow and cold weather, but I do know that the spring semester is almost over and that I’m completely on board to BBQ all summer long.

 

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To be honest, I’ve never really liked coleslaw although pulled pork is one of my favorite foods, and BBQs are my favorite kind of party.  To most, coleslaw goes hand in hand…but for me?  No thanks.  I’m not necessarily interested in cabbage when it’s swimming in a pool of runny, sweet mayonnaise encased in a disposable plastic container.  Sounds appetizing, right?  I wouldn’t touch the stuff, but then I tried Thai coleslaw, and I was forever changed.

Thai coleslaw is not soggy or runny at all, but it is simple to throw together and goes perfectly with pork lettuce wraps (or anything else for that matter).  This recipe has become kind of a big deal in my house, and although I can’t claim it’s an original, I have adapted the recipe to fit my needs accordingly.  All you have to do is chop up the veggies, and you can throw the dressing on a couple hours in advance (which I prefer).  Simple, delicious, and does not require turning on the oven in the summer heat.  I would even go so far as to throw some grilled chicken or tofu in there and call it a weeknight, summery meal.  (Okay, let’s be honest, I have done that before, and I stand by that decision.  I have no shame in my game).

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Happy spring!

Xo SaraLynn

*Song of the Day: Pretty Pimpin by Kurt Vile

Deconstructed Chicken Pot Pie

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PSA: Please be nice to college students, we are in the midst of midterms and life is a lot to deal with right now!!!!!!!

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been a giant ball of college-related anxiety which has led me to staying up into the early hours of the morning working on business plans and marketing research studies while living off of scrambled eggs with toast.  I’ve also been fighting the early stages of a cold by popping obscene amounts of Vitamin C and drinking Immune Boosting Tea.  The cabin fever is getting to a Jack Nicholson-level that makes me dream of hiking and Tahoe beaches and weekend roadtrips to San Fran.

In times like these, I find the only cure is to take a couple of hours to indulge comfort food, a sleeve of Milanos, and a lighthearted tween movie, normally of the Disney variety, although that is not required.  My choice of the moment is Princess Diaries.  But I digress.  What I’m really here to talk about is the comfort food component.

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Today, we have chicken pot pie that has been deconstructed, because there’s less time between preparation and consumption, and also puff pastry is the jam.  I developed the recipe randomly one weekend with ingredients I had sitting around in my fridge, and I will never look back.  As far as I’m concerned, chicken pot pie is the best food to cure sadness, and also it’s the best way to say goodbye to the winter season.  While this is not necessarily a “traditional” pot pie, it has all of the components: chicken, veggies, thyme, crust, warmth, happiness, and you’re probably eating it snuggled up in a blanket while watching a movie.  I *highly suggest* making this one last time before BBQ season officially hits.

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On another note, if you know anyone interested in funding a coffee shop/bakery or a weekend vacation, or you have some secret knowledge that I’m a princess and therefore deserve to be in the far away land of Genovia wearing pretty ballgowns and living in a castle instead of studying my brains out in college, you know where to find me.

XO SaraLynn

*Song of the Day: Maps by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Vanilla Crème Brûlée

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If you follow my Instagram, then you probably know that I promised a recipe with vanilla beans.  You also probably know that I have an obsession with vanilla beans that can only be compared to Gollum’s relationship with the ring.  *ahem* However, do not fret if you don’t have vanilla beans just laying around the house (most people don’t).  You can substitute with real vanilla extract or paste.

If you need a quick Valentine’s Day dessert that seems kind of fancy (but you don’t want to try too hard) this is it.  Crème brûlée seems daunting, but it’s actually so, so easy.  Take it from me, since this is my first attempt, and it turned out *very successfully*.  Plus, it only takes about 15 minutes to put together and uses 4 ingredients.

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Do you see the vanilla?!

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Bye.

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I hope you end your Valentine’s Day with crème brulee and your special human.

XO SaraLynn

*Song of the Day: Indian Summer by Beat Happening

M&M Cookies

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Picking a Valentine’s Day recipe was more of a debacle then I ever thought imaginable.  To a normal person that doesn’t spend their days thinking about food or clothes, this sounds absolutely crazy, but for me, that’s pretty much my life.  Valentine’s Day recipes to me is creme brulee, chocolate lava cakes, maybe macarons if you want to get cute.  Valentine’s Day to Pinterest=pink, pink, pink, sprinkles, pink.  Since I was wanting to make something for my friends, I decided creme brulee might be a little too romantic, but I also don’t want to poison my friends with 1/4 cup of pink food coloring.  Then I thought of chocolate covered strawberries, because they’re probably one of my favorite things ever, but strawberries aren’t in season yet.

Being an adult is hard )-:

All of a sudden, I realized I was completely overthinking every decision in my life (the usual), when I came across a picture of M&M cookies while paging through recipes.  And then I found a bag of V-day colored M&Ms while strolling through the grocery store.  Game over.

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I think, in the end, my ultimate goal was just to go back to elementary school V-Days, because those were fun as hell.  What happened to tissue boxes covered in crepe paper and cupid stickers that your friends would put little cards and candies in?  That was the coolest.  Since now I’m old enough to safely use an oven (debatable), I can make cute little cookies for Galentine’s Day and still celebrate the friendship aspect of the holiday.

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Valentine’s Day has always been something that I thought was incredibly over done in movies and TV shows (seriously, have you seen the movie Valentine’s Day?  I accidentally saw it last night, and it was the worst), but I love fun, laid-back, romantic V-Days with my SO ♥♥♥  I think everyone gets so busy that they sometimes forget to appreciate their loved ones, but it’s totally important to take time for a date-night (or family night, or friends night) whether it’s on Valentine’s Day or any other day of the year.

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I hope you have a super cool V-Day with your special human, family, friends, fur babies, and/or yourself.

XO SaraLynn

*Song of the Day: I’ll Try Anything Once by The Strokes*