Fall Favorite: Dark Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies

 

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Nothing screams autumn quite like a house full of baked goods, so today I’m sharing my favorite fall recipe (besides Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie) – Dark Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies.

Thanks to my ever annoying Celiac Disease, this recipe has been modified to be gluten free, and can easily become dairy free as well if need be.

Dark Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies

Ingredients
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cups all purpose gluten free flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup dark chocolate chips
Parchment Paper

Directions
Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. With a mixer, beat eggs until smooth then beat in white and brown sugars a little at a time, until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in egg, vanilla, and pumpkin puree. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves until combined. In thirds, slowly beat the dry mixture into the batter mixture. Gently fold in the chocolate chips. Scoop large spoonfuls of dough onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper, and then bake for 15-20 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Remove from oven and let cookies stand for 2 minutes, and then remove from sheet and place onto wire racks to cool.

Enjoy!

What are your favorite fall treats to bake?

NaNoWriMo: Yes or No?

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Fall is here, bringing with it cooler temperatures, pumpkin spice everything, and most importantly, NaNoWriMo.

For those of you who aren’t nearly as nerdy as me, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and takes place every November. Participants pledge to write an entire novel in just one month, and yes, it is as crazy as it sounds. Each novel has to be at least 50,000 words, which averages out to be about 1,666 words per day. NaNoWriMo is a huge commitment, but it serves as a great push to get you closer to your creative writing goals.

With November just around the corner, now is the time when NaNoWriMo prep is in full force. People are more excited now than ever to give up a month to writing, and the tension will only grow as October comes and goes.

Do you have a great idea for a novel and feeling up to the challenge? Consider these few things before starting:

Do You Have the Time?
Writing 1,666 words per day may seem easy at first, but just wait until it’s November 5th and you’re already several hundred words behind simply due to your busy schedule. Before signing up, evaluate what your time commitments really look like for the month. Make a realistic plan as to when you will write each day, and have a strategy in place (like writing more on weekends) in case you do happen to fall behind – and chances are, you will.

Do You Have a Plan?
It is enticing to dive into November with a blank slate and say you will make it up as you go, but this almost never works. The best way to stay on track and not hit any dead ends that just lead to failure is to have a clear outline of what you want your novel to be about. Take the month of October to really dig into character analysis, plot, and research. You can always change direction as your novel grows, but a solid outline to start with will give your novel the foundation that it needs to get off of the ground.

Do You Really Want to?
NaNoWriMo is no joke, and is not for the faint of heart. If you don’t go into November giving your novel your absolute all, there’s a good likelihood you will run out of steam around week two and give up. NaNoWriMo means a month focused entirely around writing, and if that doesn’t excite you, then this challenge might not be the right choice. However, if you are passionate about your novel idea and are looking forward to late night edits, there is nothing more satisfying than reaching November 30th and 50,000 words.

For a look into the day to day life of a NaNoWriMo author, check out Kristina Horner’s vlog encompassing all of the 2013 challenge.

Get Creative with Your Commute

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If you’re like me and millions of other Americans, you have a commute each day that takes up a lot more time than you would like. Sitting in traffic can be a headache, especially on days when all you want is to get home and tackle your massive to-do list, but chances are, your commute isn’t getting any shorter any time soon.

On average, I spend just under 2 hours in my car each work day. Don’t get me wrong – it still frustrates me to no end, but I have found a few ways to make that time feel a bit more productive.

Good Tunes
This goes without saying, but find music that you enjoy listening to, and then blast those tunes to your heart’s desire. Whether it be Charlie Worsham or the Cast Recording of Hamilton, find music that will hold your attention for the whole ride to and from work to avoid the distraction of looking at your phone to change what’s playing. Pro Tip: Preset a handful of radio stations that you love into your console, and then only listen to those channels. Not only will you get a good variety of music, but you will also get constant weather and traffic updates from the on-air hosts.

Good Laughs
Tired of music? Try listening to an audiobook or podcast. It’s hard for me to get into audiobooks – I am too partial to reading printed words – but podcasts have been a great way for me to stay informed and entertained while behind the wheel. For a good laugh, check out Grace Helbig’s Not Too Deep, and for something with a bit more substance, I suggest Dear Hank and John by the ever popular vlogbrothers duo.

Good Ideas
Sometimes, when the drive has taken longer than usual and you aren’t even halfway to work or home, all you need is a little silence to help clear your head. For me, turning off the radio or any podcast that I am listening to has helped me to come up with countless song ideas and blog topics. Brainstorming while driving also serves as a pretty interesting game – trying to remember what you came up with until you finally get to your destination and can write it down.

Do you have a long commute? How do you keep it interesting?

5 Must Reads This Fall

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Nothing says fall quite like snuggling up with a book on a chilly day. While the temperature may be nearing the 100’s still in the Southern part of the country, here are 5 books that are sure to put you into the seasonal spirit, and keep you entertained well into cooler days.

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The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

This thriller set to hit theaters in October has been winning critical acclaim left and right ever since the book was released in early 2015. Telling the story of a confused young woman and her journey to the truth, Hawkins tells a gripping story that will keep you guessing up until the very last page.

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Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

A classic tale for the young and young at heart, this novel shows, that even in our broken world, there is magic where you least expect it. A short story that you can read in one sitting, this book is a must for anyone wanting to hold on to the last little bits of summer.

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Another book set to be released in theaters this coming season, Miss Peregrine is a fascinating look into the lives of those that are, well, peculiar. Inspired by old timey photographs, Riggs crafts a fantasy that will have you believing you can fly or become invisible at the drop of a hat.

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Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Fall is a joyful season, so fill it with even more laughter by picking up Kaling’s latest tell-all. Spanning the course of a number of years, this memoir dives deep into Kaling’s life as a Hollywood star, writer, and all around funny girl. Full of anecdotes and thoughtful questions, this book will be your very best friend.

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Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

The perfect creepy read for Halloween, Gone Girl exceeds all of the hype that surrounds it. Hauntingly comical, this bestseller shows the dark side of marriage and what it means to not truly know your better half.

Have you read any of these books? Which are you looking forward to diving into this season?

Wheels Up: Songs About Traveling

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Everyone knows that the best part about a flight or long road trip is the music you listen to during the journey. Not only is it a good distraction and way to pass what seems like endless amounts of time, but music can set the mood for any occasion – even those dreadful moments of avoiding eye contact with strangers boarding a Southwest flight in hopes of no one sitting next to you.

Music is the ultimate travel companion, whether in the air or on the interstate. Heading out on a trip soon or wishing you were? Check out five of the best songs about traveling:

The HighwayHolly Williams
This haunting melody is all about Williams wishing for the simple things in life and to get back out on the road. She sings of late night memories, guitars, and that hypnotizing beat of tires against the road that we all find comfort in.

Airstream SongMiranda Lambert
Free-spirited and contagious, this Lambert song brings you on the journey of a gypsy who never stops roaming the world. Take caution – this catchy tune will have you trading in your apartment for an airstream by the end of the second verse.

Walking in MemphisMarc Cohn
A classic song for all ages, Cohn brings listeners on a flight to Memphis with a protagonist set out to find his way. Full of charm and Southern references, “Walking in Memphis” will have you sprinting toward your next adventure.

TalladegaEric Church
The story of a group of friends craving youth, Church paints the picture of anticipation of hitting the road, and the utter euphoria that comes when dreams of a seemingly far off land become a reality.

Leaving on a Jet PlaneJohn Denver
This iconic anthem is easily Denver’s most recognized song, and is beloved by millions who sit in airports after leaving loved ones at home every single day. Telling a different side to the story, Denver talks about travel as though it is a hassle, and addresses the honest heartbreak that can sometimes accompany setting out on a new horizon.

Make the Most of Time Outside Your 9-5

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If you’re like millions of other Americans, chances are you feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Between hobbies, sleep, family, friends, and not to mention work, balancing your time wisely can be challenging. Throw in any freelance projects, and you might as well be thinking free time is just some sick illusion.

Finding the right schedule that helps you enjoy your time outside of work can seem impossible, but in fact, making the most outside of those 9-5 hours can be easy.

Write Everything Down
It may go without saying, but you need to invest in a quality calendar that helps you keep track of all the things going on in your life. Whether it be work, freelance projects, soccer games, flights, or grocery lists, having everything written down in one place will help you see the big picture and stay on top of what matters.

Prioritize
Speaking of what matters, make sure you know what your real priorities are, and tackle those in a way that helps maximize your free time. Are you craving a relaxing weekend with family? Plan ahead and get your other not-so-fun projects done first so you have nothing to worry about other than enjoying yourself. When you aren’t worrying about deadlines, you will be able to appreciate the free time you do have, no matter how long or short.

Make Cuts
When all else fails, and you find yourself drowning in a sea of busy, figure out what makes sense to get rid of. Do you have a client that doesn’t pay well and is just a hassle? End the relationship. Yes, by cutting down on some of your work you may end up losing a little cash, but the sanity and happiness that you will gain is priceless.

Summer Reading Wrap Up

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Labor Day is here, bringing with it an end to summer and long leisurely days of reading.

To me, no matter if I had vacation from school or was working full time, summer has always been the season for sneaking in a little extra reading. Something about the brutally hot days just makes one want to curl up with a novel in the A/C.

This summer, even with a new job and a long list of other things calling my name, I was able to read 23 books. Of those books, here are my favorites from the past couple of months.

(Psst – add me on Goodreads to keep up with my reading and score some awesome recommendations…)

A Monster CallsPatrick Ness
We all have our monsters, and Patrick Ness brilliantly paints the story of how one boy comes to terms with his in this novel that is soon to be released on the big screen. I loved the shaded tone of this story and how Ness doesn’t treat the main character like the young boy he is, but rather, like any one of us facing a monster – a myriad of complicated and confused.

The NightingaleKristin Hannah
A work of historical fiction, Hannah tells the story of two sisters and how each of them played intricate roles in becoming heroes of World War II. The differing dynamics of the women showcases the range of experiences in Europe during that devastating time, and flashes into the future keep the reader guessing up until the very end.

November 9Colleen Hoover
Telling the story of two people meeting every year on November 9th, Hoover crafts a heartbreaking story of friendship and loss. With alternating perspectives for each chapter, this novel is more like two books in one.

A Heart Like Ringo StarrLinda Oatman High
Written in poem form, this book follows the journey of a young girl in need of a heart transplant, and what it means when one becomes available to her. A short read, this book moves forward effortlessly, and leaves the reader wanting more.

Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in SongSara Bareilles
For anyone who isn’t aware of the ironic story behind Bareilles’ radio hit “Love Song”, this book will tell you the truth about that middle finger to the music industry, and so many other just as hilarious happenings in Bareilles’ life. Full of attitude and honesty, this memoir showcases the true story of an artist as she makes her way with some of the best wit and talent the world has to offer.

What were your favorite reads of summer 2016?

 

Myths of Freelancing

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When I first started Freelancing, I couldn’t tell truth from myth if my salary depended on it (which oftentimes, it did). I believed that my clients came before my own personal sanity (myth), and worried about the taxes someone said I needed to report quarterly (truth).

While it can seem like an easy way to make a little extra cash, Freelancing is a complex and intricate lifestyle that is home to a number of myths and misconceptions. Some of those myths that I wish I had known the truth about before starting my Freelance career include:

You Are Your Own Boss
While true that you get to choose the type of work you do, when you do it, and where you get it done, you are far from being your own boss. In fact, it can be argued that you have a number of different bosses, depending on how many clients you take on. Your clients are the ultimate judge of your work, so you must treat them like a boss that you wish to please.

You Never Stop Working
Most Freelance work done is done from home, but that doesn’t mean you should be available to your clients on a 24/7 basis. Set boundaries up front with your work, and let the people you are creating for know that you will not be checking emails after 7pm, and to not expect a response on the weekend. I learned this the hard way, after a client of mine was firing off tasks on Easter Sunday, and expecting the completed work back to them that night.

You Don’t Have to Pay Taxes
This is just a flat out lie. I’ve heard rumors of Freelancers not reporting some (or all) of their taxes, and I am here to tell you that that is just plain ridiculous. As a Freelancer, you are responsible for paying taxes on the work that you do. While it can be a bummer to hand over nearly a quarter of your earnings to Uncle Sam, the small cut now is much better than penalties later down the road. Tip: A good rule of thumb when setting prices for your work is to factor in that extra 25% so when the time your tax payments come due, you bank account doesn’t hurt so badly.

When you are a Freelancer, you are your own business. While I didn’t know much about it before diving headfirst into a pile of work, I encourage you to do your research and be prepared for the projects ahead. But don’t be too timid – say yes to the jobs you want, and go from there. Sure you will make mistakes, but what you learn from those errors will help grow your Freelance work into an even stronger business moving forward.