Friday, December 21, 2012


         When I first joined Facebook back in 2008, I joined an event.  This event was to update my status to "FAIL." on 22 December 2012.  I did it as a joke because I don't believe in all that Mayan junk.  I couldn't even think that far ahead. But here are. It's less than five hours till the 22nd.  Although I never thought the world would end, I was sure that I might not make it till 2012.  I mean, geez. I came across this blog post today, and I felt that it was definitely share-worthy.  Oh and if you don't already read The Day Book, then you should.
         Here are a few other links that are share-worthy. I can tell that's going to be a frequently used blog term.
This scarf restyle is genius. 
I am all about low-cost decorations, so when I saw this idea for wrapping presents, I was sold. 
These wedding photos are perfect.  I mean, wow. 
I am making Spiced Cranberry Spritzers this weekend when our family comes to town.  If you don't follow Lindsay Landis' blog Love and Olive Oil already, do it. 
And here is my favorite present that's under our tree. It's for me. And the bag is made out of laminated cloth, so I can keep it after the holidays and use it for whatever I want. Aweee yeahhh! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"All Christmas trees are perfect!" -Charles N. Barnard

       Christmas is in full swing.  All I listen to is Christmas music, and I am eating more than I should.  I've been gift wrapping although I've yet to finish my shopping! The house is incredibly festive with all of our decorations up.  We burn Yankee Candles all through our home, and it smells like heaven.
       We have decided that our family has the tradition of being different every year.  Meaning, we really don't have any traditions. We don't have a specific way we decorate each year.  Our decorations used to be very traditional, but they've morphed into the more aspen/woodland/Scottish styles. Here are a few snapshots from our decor this year! 

       The only semi-constant in our house is the tree. We use the same tree and ornaments each year.  We made the switch to an artificial tree several years ago. Our ceilings are 12', so buying a live Christmas tree that would fill the space was becoming very expensive. This one has been perfect.  This will, however, be its last year.  Seven years is quite impressive! Whenever I look at our tree, I think of that part in the film, You've Got Mail, where Meg Ryan is decorating her tree in the Shop Around the Corner. 
        "It’s coming on Christmas, they’re cutting down trees. Do you know that Joni Mitchell song? I wish   I had a river I could skid away on. Such a sad song. And not really about Christmas at all, but I was thinking about it tonight as I was decorating my Christmas tree; unwrapping funky ornaments made of popsicle sticks and missing my mother so much I almost couldn't breathe." 
       It's an incredibly sad passage, but I can't help but think of it when I look at our ornaments.  They are a mixture of popsicle sticks, globes from each place we've visited, and family heirlooms.

       We keep a mixture of holiday sweets on our buffet in the living room.  It's a dangerous thing to have meringues, truffles, cookies, and candies so easily available, but we balance it with oranges and other fruits.  That makes all the consumption neutral, right? These plates are a sample of our collection. The Merry Christmas plates in the bottom left corner are from this year's set of Target decorations, so if you're interested, they're probably still available! 

       These angels have long been one of my favorite decorations.  We placed them on top of the liquor cabinet this year with fresh greenery and some wooden tree figures. 
       Oh, here's a bonus picture. Probably the last year I went and saw Santa and actually looked cute while doing it. I wish I could post more/better pictures, but I just simply don't have a camera for it.  Looks like I'll be using the good ole iPhone for a little while longer! 

       Do you have any decorating traditions? 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Winter Essentials

Just five days away from the first official day of winter, I am settling into a nice, lazy routine.  I get up, drink my cup of tea on the couch or in bed while snuggled up in my favorite throw, then put on my trusty puffy vest and boots.

1. I bought my Eddie Bauer down vest four years ago for my birthday.  I wear it with skirts, jeans, leggings, and anything in between.

2. My mom purchased this blanket in Scotland last summer. It is 100% wool in the Thompson tartan.  It is the perfect blanket--light enough for summer and extremely cozy in the winter.

3.  Everyone should own a pair of LL Bean boots.  They are water, snow, and mud proof while still being surprisingly versatile.  Like my vest, I wear them with everything, including dresses.  Without a doubt, they are my most worn item in my closet.

4.  The first thing I do in the morning is head to the kitchen to turn on the kettle.  I have gotten to the point that I must have a cup in the morning.  Tetley is the best British tea. I prefer mine steeped for 3 minutes with a little milk stirred in.

5. And finally this is my favorite mug.  A cuppa tea cannot be enjoyed in just any mug.  This one speaks volume about me as a person.  From the moment I first stepped into Glasgow, I knew it had stolen my heart forever.  The caption on mine reads, "You can take the girl out of Glasgow, but you can't take Glasgow out of the girl." It's true.  My mom bought this for me at the Kelvingrove Museum last year, and it quickly became my favorite.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


     This is a new series that I'll be writing (hopefully) once a week. Who likes music? Everyone. Everyone likes music. I love the way certain songs can transport me to a different place and time.  In this series, I will give you an insight into what goes on in my head when I listen to music. (eek!) Also, I get to exercise my creative writing skills!
     I've been listening to my Scottish music playlist on my iPhone.  Even though I'm in Florida and island dreaming, I always find it appropriate to fill my head with the Scottish dreams I know so well.  One song that I can't get out of my head is "Highland Cathedral" performed for Amy Grant's Christmas CD. Surprisingly, it is, in my opinion, the best version of the song.  The pipes, drums, strings, and brass arrangement is incomparable.  
     When the music soars and reaches its climax, I imagine myself sitting in the temporary stadium that is built for the sole purpose of housing the tattoo just outside Edinburgh Castle.  Appropriately known as the expat to my friends, I realize that my eyes are welling with tears at the Scottish allegiance evoked by this ballad.  I can imagine the orderly rows of kilted pipers and drummers.  The steady rhythm of the snares with the majestic pipes fill the stone city.  Proud Scots, curious travelers, and Scottish in spirit, such as myself, are entranced by the pomp of the ceremony and the Saltier waving and snapping in the cool July winds.
     This song takes me to a celebration of the place I love most.  The showcase of the legacy that the Scots are known for is unbeatable.  Their strength, determination, and hospitality are characteristics passed down through the centuries. I dream of these people at night.  When I listen to Highland Cathedral, I am whisked away to a world of patriotism, highlands, and let's not forget, pipes and drums.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Recipe Monday: Pumpkin Mousse

     Fall has officially started in Memphis! The cool weather has arrived, and I am going all out on the autumnal recipes.  Although Florida was great fun, but by the end of the week, I was ready to ditch the shorts, stop shaving my legs every three days, and bring out the puffy vest.
     My mom and I went on our daily three-mile walk this morning, and I snapped a couple of pictures along the way.
See all those pretty yellow leaves?

 Thankfully, the air was quite brisk this morning. I think it might be time to put the short Nike shorts away for the season...or maybe just add leggings when I go out to exercise! 

Isn't that view gorgeous? Props to my mad photo skills for taking this picture while walking at a 14 minute pace :)

     Now for the real reason you've come. Pumpkin mousse. The whole reason behind this recipe is that when autumn comes, I want to eat every pumpkin chip muffin, cookie, candy, butter-filled food I set my eyes on.  In my efforts to eat healthy (and as gluten and lactose free as I can), I feel very guilty craving all this deliciousness. For my usual Monday night contribution to the pot-luck Downton Abbey dinner at my house, I needed something laden with autumnal goodness without all the carbs.
     Behold, pumpkin mousse. 
     Now I know what you're thinking. Mousse? Isn't cream (aka-lactose) the most important ingredient in mousse? Well the answer is yes. Sometimes, I have to just pop a 24-hour heartburn relief tablet and know that I am not eating something made with butter and flour. That's good enough, right? 
     This recipe gave me a bit of heartache. Since I was making the recipe up on my own, I wasn't entirely sure how much of egg whites and cream needed to go per serving. I started out with one whole batch, dished it into glasses and realized that I had five skimpy portions when I need seven normal sized ones. So I separated a few more eggs and started up my hand mixer. After five minutes on high, they were watery and nasty. So I had a mini meltdown, trashed the soupy whites, and brought out the Kitchenaid. I repeated all the steps and came up with perfect mousse. 

Pumpkin Mousse 
serves 6

6 egg whites
4 1/2 c. heavy cream
1 can pumpkin
4 tsp. cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
3 tbsp. honey

1. Use a hand mixer or Kitchenaid to beat the egg white to stiff peaks. Transfer the whites to another large bowl.
2. Rinse the beaters, and whip the cream until very stiff. Fold into the egg whites.
3. Add the pumpkin, spices, and honey. Fold in gently.
4. Portion out mousse into individual bowls. Chill for at least 3 hours prior to serving.

The mousse is great by itself, but is even better when you make a crumble topping. Combine 2 tbsp. melted butter, 3/4 c. oats, 2 tbsp. brown sugar, a handful of minced almonds if desires. Mix and spread on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil for 2-3 minutes or until crispy. Sprinkle on top of mousse. 


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Hello from Paradise!!!

Here's just a snippet of the things I'm enjoying right now...
This beach photo was posted on Instagram (follow me! melyarbrough295) I'm working on that Chaco tan!!
Driving to Tampa, my hometown, today! It's so beautiful.
I am also enjoying loads of Plant City strawberries, shrimp pasta, fresh orange juice, and a healthy dose of vitamin D!

I'll hopefully post some more pictures later this week. I just installed the Blogger app, so I'm not sure what this post will look like. If need be, I'll start up my computer later and fix it.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Three Days Till Florida: Wear

     Well it's that time to get out the luggage, do all the laundry, and decide what to wear while on vacation! Generally, I stick with a color scheme when packing for a trip, so there will be lots of mixing and matching. I wasn't totally feeling the color combination that I picked because of my swimsuit collection. Teal, black, white, and gray weren't screaming Florida to me, so I decided to mix it up a little bit!
I purchased bottoms similar to these at Target a couple of days ago. If you can find swimwear in your size at Target this time of year, buy it! Most items are 70% off, so you can get great deals!This print is fantastic, and for $5.99, you really can't go wrong. I have turquoise and gray bikini and tankini tops that I'll be wearing with these to mix it up a little!  

These are my beloved Gap white trousers. They're from the Perfect Khakis collection. They fit in the waist and hips then flare in the leg to give the illusion of a perfectly curvy body. I love them to death. I scored them right before Labor Day, so I didn't get a chance to wear them a ton this year. They are certainly going to be a staple in my Florida wardrobe. 
No suitcase would ever be complete without at least four pairs of Nike shorts. Both myself and any other girl you happen to meet will swear by these things. They never fade, stain, rip, tear, or become inadequate. They are perfect for working out, running, long car rides, running errands, and slipping on and off at the pool. I'll probably end up wearing them to kayak at Wekiwa Springs! The only downside to these is that there are so many pretty colors, and after you have x amount of pairs, you can't really find a reason to get rid of the ones you have to make room for new ones. Such a first world problem...

I just realized that I haven't posted anything about tops yet! Let's start with a dress. 

So there's a story behind this photo. This is one of my all-time favorite dresses. I bought it at Target two or three years ago. Well, I knew that I had to feature it on my packing for Florida post. Guess what. No pictures of it online. Anywhere. So, I had to take a picture of myself wearing it, so I could have a picture just for you! See, I love you. Anyways, this dress is so flattering, and the halter top and ikat print are right on style. Because the colors are both bright and dark at the same time, I can wear it with sandals and bangles during the summer, and with a denim jacket and boots in the fall. It really is perfect. That is why I spent so much time getting a picture :)
And last but certainly not least, I feel this top really conveys the look that I'm going for. It's sweet, bohemian, and chic all at once. You can find it here at Anthropologie. For $29.95, it is a complete steal! 

I'm just thinking now that this time in four days, I'll be sitting by the pool, wearing a bikini, sipping on a fruity drink, and reading a book. For now, I'll settle for sitting at the kitchen table with a computer, wearing a Snuggie, and drinking a cappuccino while staring at my translucent skin. Just three days now!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Four Days Till Florida--Read

     I know I promised a fashion post today, but my day got away from me, and I didn't have time to fulfill the ideas I had for that particular post. However, I do have another for you!
     One thing I plan on doing a lot of while in Florida is read. I used to go through books like air when I was a kid. Once middle and high school kicked in, I lost all time for the devouring of books. But what better time to plow through a few stories than vacation time? I visited the Goodwill Used Book Store here in Memphis today, and picked up a book for myself and one for my brother. Here's my list of reads for my trip to Florida!
I snatched this book at Goodwill today for $2.99! I absolutely loved the film, and can't wait to see how the book is compared to the movie. One of the authors, Mark Logue, is the grandson of Lionel Logue, King George's speech therapist. I don't know if it is going to be more of a biography of sorts or the telling of the story. The suspense is killing me! Here is the description via "It's the eve of World War II, and King Edward VIII has abdicated the throne of England to marry the woman he loves. Never has the nation needed a leader more. But the new monarch, George VI--father of today's Queen Elizabeth II--is painfully shy and cursed with a terrible stammer. How can he inspire confidence in his countrymen when he cannot even speak to them? Help arrives in speech therapist Logue, who not only is a commoner, but Australian to boot. Will he be able to give King George his voice?"

Here is one book I am not too excited about finishing. I purchased this back in December to read while on the way to Colorado. Personally, I couldn't get through it. It is so different from the movie. I know that generally, the book is always better than the movie, but I adored the film, Julie & Julia. I'm not entirely sure how they got what they did out of the book to make the film, but maybe it's just because I haven't finished the book. I do want to finish it, so I am bringing it along. 
And last, but certainly not least, Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion, and Truth in the Immigration Debate. As many of you know, I teach English as a Second Language (ESL) at a Hispanic church here in Memphis. This book was given to me by the pastor of this church as a way to help reach out to our students. It is written from a Christian perspective, and focuses on being fair and loving to our immigrants while still maintaining laws and justice in our country. Here is the description via "Immigration is one of the most complicated issues of our time. Voices on all sides argue strongly for action and change. Christians find themselves torn between the desire to uphold laws and the call to minister to the vulnerable. In this book World Relief staffers Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang move beyond the rhetoric to offer a Christian response to immigration. They put a human face on the issue and tell stories of immigrants' experiences in and out of the system. With careful historical understanding and thoughtful policy analysis, they debunk myths and misconceptions about immigration and show the limitations of the current immigration system. Ultimately they point toward immigration reform that is compassionate, sensible and just, as they offer concrete ways for you and your church to welcome and minister to your immigrant neighbors."

All of these books can be found on if you are interested. 

Oh, I also bought this book for my brother, Willis. He really doesn't like to read, but enjoys these hilarious comics beyond belief. For $2.99 I really couldn't pass this up. I felt like maybe I could get major sister brownie points from my 14 year old brother by giving him a gift. What? Sometimes a little bribery is necessary ;)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Five Days Till Florida!

     With fall break just five (eep!) days away, I am dreaming of all the things I am planning on doing, wearing, and cooking while I'm there.  It's no secret that temperatures in the low 50s with steady rain is my favorite kind of weather, but when the opportunity to head to sunny Florida comes around, I can't help but get excited about wearing shorts and sandals one more time. October in Orlando is wonderful. It's sunny and warm during the day, but at night, the weather turns mild, and I can bring out the trousers.  The wonderful thing is that in Florida, you can wear linen and white pants all year round. I am super psyched because I snagged a pair of white trouser-style pants at Gap last month for $14. Alas, it was past Labor Day and couldn't wear them in Memphis any longer.
I am so excited to visit here. This is Clearwater Beach, Florida. It is a little over an hour and a half from Orlando, and a couple of minutes from Tampa, my hometown.  I lived in Tampa from birth till I was about two. My grandma owned a beach house in Panama City, so we used to go all the time. When she sold her house, we stopped going. Until April of this year, I hadn't been to the beach for four years. Now, this'll be my third time this year, and I am beside myself. 

There will be tons of laying beside the pool at our condo. How awesome does this pool look?!  I can't tell from the picture, but I'm hoping there will be an opportunity to jump off that waterfall! I cannot wait to spend a lot of time getting as tan as my little white body will allow. 

And last but not least, this is Wekiwa Springs.  Google it. Seriously. It is gorgeous. The water is translucent.  You can rent kayaks and canoes, swim, picnic, and much more. Kayaking is one of my all-time favorite things. Plus, it doesn't cost a whole lot. Woohoo!  

When we head over to Wekiwa Springs, we will be taking a picnic. These caprese sandwiches look so perfect for a day spent outside in the fresh air. 

A trip to Florida wouldn't be right unless you downed more than a few fruity drinks.  I am a sucker for drinks with complex flavors.  This toasted coconut limeade makes my mouth water just looking at it. 

One other thing about having a condo in Florida is that one doesn't want to slave away in the kitchen day after day. For me, I don't think that spending hours and hours preparing food after a fourteen-hour drive is a great way to spend my vacation.  Plus, I would rather be outside enjoying Florida. Something that fits this description is the salad. Whether it be an orzo or quinoa salad, the combination of grains, fruit, veggies, and dressings can't be beat.  These can be made in excess and can be grabbed whenever you're hungry. 
And finally, the quintessential Florida food (in my humble opinion) is a good fish taco. The unmistakably fresh taste of the grilled fish on a corn tortilla with corn, avocado, cabbage, etc. is my absolute favorite vacation food. When I go on vacation, I tend to focus on one food item and eat it wherever I go. My mouth is literally watering thinking about sinking my teeth into the first fish taco (or taco pescado for those of you who speak Spanish--sorry, linguist nerd moment). 

     Tomorrow, I'll be sharing my favorite way to style in Florida. It'll get the creative juices flowing so I can start packing! Yay!!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Recipe Monday: Baked Oatmeal

     Well, blogging isn't as easy as I thought. No, scratch that. Blogging is easy. Remembering to sit down every day and write a post is the hard part.
      I am going to pretend that I have good reasons though. I had the flu about two weeks ago, and was sick for a good 8 days. That was awful. What was even more awful was the catching up after having the flu. Homework piles up. My room could have been mistaken for a war zone.  Blogging gets pushed aside. On top of that, my dad has been out of town on business for awhile. In the past three weeks, he's been home about four days. We are just thankful he has a job :) While I was in bed with the flu, my fourteen year old brother, Willis, got his third football concussion. My poor mother was all by herself with two convalescent children.  Well if you want to believe that we had our fill of sickness and injury in our household, think again. After taking my dad to the airport on Tuesday to leave on business, she came home with a kidney stone, and was out of commission for a couple of days.
     In the words of my dad, "I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I don't think it's the headlight of an incoming train." Ha! I am ready to get into cooking, blogging, teaching, and the various other things that make me happy.
     How's that for a happy blog post? Well, it's about to get much better. With the temperatures in the low 60s during the day, changing colors of the leaves, and the bringing out of scarves and boots, I have been craving all things warm and delicious.
     Here is something that fills all the aforementioned criteria. Baked oatmeal.  I got the basic idea and proportions of this recipe from the fabulous Moroccan food blog Dinners and Dreams.  I made a few modifications based on what I had in my pantry. The original recipe called for raspberries and apples. I (shamefully) didn't have either, so I used plums instead. I didn't go to culinary school, but to me, plums taste like the children of an apple and a raspberry. They are sweet and tart and meaty and delicious.
     As much as I would love to believe that I am, in fact, an excellent photographer, I'm not. It also didn't help that my camera wasn't working, I don't know how to properly take pictures of food, and I couldn't find my tripod that I usually use for stuff like this. Oh and I had troubles with my cappuccino. A half-charged milk frother doesn't do much.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Mid-week Musings: Chances and Ceilidhs

     I had an idea of what I was going to write today, but when I started fleshing it out, I quickly realized that it was spiraling into something quite boring and depressing. Not good.
     But here's a new idea. It's something better and (hopefully) much more inspiring and happy.
     I've been listening to a podcast called Desert Island Discs that is put on by BBC Radio 4. It is a radio program that interviews famous people and has them play the eight songs they would want if they were stranded on a desert island. It is essentially an autobiography with a musical accompaniment.  Yesterday, on my happy drive to class on twisty roads, I was listening to one about Margaret Rhodes. Her life is completely fascinating. If I could choose to be one person, it would probably be her. She had so many nuggets of good advice, and her view on life and struggles were completely awe-inspiring.
     One bit that really struck home to me was something that her father told her. "The only things to be regretted in life are the things you don't do." How golden is that? I adopted a version of this phrase last year. Mine, of course, is quite elementary in wording. "If you have the chance to do something that isn't illegal or immoral, do it." That was the only New Years' resolution that I made last year. None of that "I'm going to lose weight or devote more time to charity" stuff. I figured that I might possibly make this one last.
     And let me tell you, I had the best year ever.
     The idea that I had was to reach outside of my comfort zone. There have been so many things in life that I have decided not to do because I was too shy or too unwilling to do. I regret those things. But last year, I was able to do so many things that ended up being the best experiences of my life.
     One thing that really sticks out to me is when our church had a missions conference focusing on Great Britian in February 2011.  On a Wednesday night, we had a ceilidh dance. They asked the people who had been to Scotland before to get up there first and show everyone how much fun it is and to demonstrate. Well, I scoffed at the idea. I don't really dance well, and with all the twisting and spinning and exchanging partners that you go through during a Strip the Willow, I declined. It wasn't until they needed another person, and someone literally dragged me out there, did I realize what I needed to do about my life. Oh, did I have fun dancing. There is something about the lively music, accidental missteps, repetitive spins, and bruises that you get in the bend of your arms that make for the best time.
     That is one of my fondest memories because in that moment, I realized how I needed to live. Take chances, and step outside of your comfort zone. It's so cliche, but I honestly believe that my life wouldn't be near as exciting as is it if I hadn't realized that.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Recipe Monday: Cranachan

     Well, it's Monday. In fact, it's Labor Day. It is nice to have the family together for some fun time. My mom, dad, and I went for a 3 mile sunrise walk before it heated up outside.  As a family, we went and did the monumentally fun thing that all families do when they're together. Kidding. We went to Walmart and then to Baskin Robbins for ice-cream.
     Back on topic, every Monday, my good friend, Kathleen, comes over for dinner and British TV.  She bought a British IP address, so we get to watch all the good shows (Downton Abbey!) in September rather than January.
     Spend five minutes with me, and you will find out that I am head over heels in love with Scotland. I've been three times, and it is my goal to be living there in the next five years.  I will need to write an entire post dedicated just to my favorite place in the whole world.
     Since, I can't go back at this time, I will have to settle on Scottish desserts. This, my friends, is cranachan.  If you're from the South like me, you pronounce it kran-ah-kin. If you're from the Scottish Highlands, it is pronounced cran-ah-chahn (cran=short a as in bath, ah=long a as in car, chahn= ch as in Bach, ah as in car). Make sense?  In my brief study of the Gaelic language, I've learned that you need to use your throat. 
     Enough chit chat, here is how to make cranachan. 

     I got my recipe from Claire Macdonald's Scottish Cookery. These are all the ingredients that you will need. I'm no Scotch connoisseur, but thankfully, my dad is. When I told him what I was cooking, he went into his cabinet and came back with this lovely bottle. The book I got the recipe from said that her personal favorite was Highland Park, but since we are out of that, I used The Antiquary instead. I would imagine that you don't want anything too peaty for cranachan. It is a dessert after all :) 

     This is one of the simplest desserts I've ever made, but believe me when I tell you, it is so delicious. There isn't a ton of alcohol in it, so don't worry about that.  All you do is whip the cream and throw it all together. It is definitely great for a last-minute resort. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Oh Yay!

Hey look!
I have a blog! I'm sorry, what? I have a blog?
Wow. This is big. As I type this, I am thinking mainly of that scene from Tangled when Rapunzel has locked Flynn in her closet. "I have a person in my closet. I. Have. A. Person. In. My. Closet!" This first post is just to say that I have indeed posted something, and so I can get all the formatting right. Basically, I'm posting so that I can get all my pretty colors in line, and make it look like I actually know what I'm doing.
I have exciting things planned for tomorrow and for the rest of the week!