2018: MumMum

Bear MountainI just reread my last NYE post like I always do before settling in to recap my year and I can’t believe that I was pregnant! Because… I’m feeling very pregnant right now, and it couldn’t have been just last year that the giggling, always on, loving girl always running to me to give me a leg hug was in my belly. Right? Madison and I figured we’re so tired (and happy) — why not continue the feeling and add another little one to the mix!? For those of you who haven’t heard yet — baby boy will be making his debut in May. 🙂

At first when I started drafting my top memories this year, they were all about Alice. I had to step back and remind myself that although there was so much joy from watching her grow, that I also had an incredible year full of travel, kickass work successes and many more moments of pride and love. You’ll see a lot of Alice here, but also a lot of the events that helped shape me into the (still struggling but making it work) balancing act I’ve found between being a “MumMum”, a present wife/friend/sister/daughter, and boss lady at Anchor.

And in no particular order, here are my highlights & random memories from 2018:

  • Baked 14 cakes + countless cookies and breakfast goodies. Poor Madison had to sign up for a half marathon this coming March to counteract all my time spent in the kitchen.
  • I became an auntie!! Alice loves her cousin, she calls her “Belle.”
  • My first day back to work after maternity leave included hosting influencers for a meetup in SF. Go big or go home!
  • Alice calls me MumMum like she’s from England or something.
  • Lived in SF and for 6 weeks was all about the sourdough bread, composting, coffee from Sightglass, dumplings from It’s Dumpling Time, pastries from The Mission, hot chocolate from Dandelion, day trips to Napa and hiking along the Pacific coast & Redwoods.
  • Started a book club for moms on the Upper West Side. There’s 18 members and we usually get about 5 moms for each meetup (#momlife). We read 5 books and by far my favorite was the Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. Planning an Alaskan cruise in the near(ish) future.
  • Read 26 books in 2018 and did not love most of them… I don’t know when I got so picky but my favorites: Little Fires Everywhere, The Alice Network, City of Brass, & From the Corner of the Oval.
  • Had a lovely date night in August with flowing natural wine and almost bought a house in our giddiness. It was a beautiful home in Larchmont but we decided the NY area is most likely not for us and definitely #blessed they did not accept our offer! 🙂
  • Madison perfected his homemade pizza crust this year and it was a game changer.
  • Yoga with baby was very short-lived (two classes) and concluded with one swift exit as we were abruptly excused from class, wailing and overtired Alice in arms.
  • Avocados were just too basic for our baby for her first few months of eating real food. One visit to Brooklyn fixed that!
  • Our first time flying with Alice, Madison got frisked because of the milk we forgot in his backpack. Good thing we gave ourselves about 5 hours at the airport for any “unknowns in traveling with a lap child!”
  • We traveled (with baby) to SF, Chicago, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Atlanta, South Carolina and RI this year and saw so much of our country. We loved hiking as a family of three with Alice in the pack, exploring national parks (Yellowstone — with bear mace!!), Grand Tetons, Rocky Mountain and forests (Muir Woods) and mountains (Beaver Creek, Bear Mountain) and lakes (Finger Lakes) and wine country (Napa, Sonoma, Finger Lakes).
  • When we weren’t traveling we had so many visitors!! Thanks to Gabriella, Meme & Poppie, Uncle Steve & Aunt Kelly, Grandma & Papa, Allison & Cory, Emily, Megan, Jessi, Ryan & Sara for coming to NY to say hi to the gang!
  • Listened to Cocody Rock on repeat most days, especially whenever we were in a moving vehicle and now get sleepy when we hear the soothing reggae sounds hit the speaker.
  • I pumped on a plane. Mid-flight. Next to two unsuspecting (and sleeping) Irish newlyweds. #IMomsoHard
  • The days of snacking without sharing with a hungry little bird at my feet begging for a bite are over.
  • Got a passport for Alice and even though we didn’t travel internationally this year it was worth it because now her passport for the next five years has her 5 month old chubby cheeks immortalized.
  • Lived next to a perfectly decent bagel shop but instead would walk 10 blocks for the “absolute” best bagel in the city.
  • Went to PT diligently to mend my left shoulder for weeks and weeks. Stopped going and it’s never felt better.
  • Got tired of asking “What?” and sucked it up and now have hearing aids. Their app is on my phone but I think I wore them all of 5x. Hmm?
  • Missed September and October which were not only a work blur but I spent the rest of the time between bed and chasing Alice around in a haze thanks to weeks 6-13 of my first trimester.
  • Lost our living space and TV room in March due to poor apt configuration and Alice growing up and into her own room. Basically didn’t watch any TV this year which was quite refreshing. We did watch Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Prime after we saw them filming a few streets way. And Salt Fat Acid Heat, which led to much midnight snacking.
  • Madison and Alice saw a moose with her calf on our Western trip — not during the early rides we took which is “when you will see wildlife” but in the middle of the day when I was back at the hotel on a conference call.
  • Alice said “Dada” for the first time… on Mother’s Day.
  • Celebrated our 4 year anniversary at Per Se, and they gave us a tour of the kitchen (we said hi to the staff in Napa at the French Laundry).
  • Traveled with an expired drivers license to California — and realized this was the reason I was oddly rejected after submitting my voter registration (the helpful explanation letter came back saying #other as the reason why I couldn’t vote in the midterms). Super upset I didn’t get to vote but at least I know now it was actually my fault. Also very relieved they still let me hop the plane home!
  • Celebrated Allison and Cory’s wedding in Logan Square (Chicago) and loved getting all dressed up to cheers some wonderful people. Plus, some auntie time that weekend was just what Alice needed.
  • Got a stomach bug on Christmas, and then passed it around to the family (thank goodness no babies were sick). But — have to say food poisoning earlier in the year was actually even worse.  #whyme
  • Hosted our first annual Calvert Christmas Cookie Swap holiday party and currently accepting applications for invites for 2019. In case you missed it, cookies are the new ice cream around these parts.
  • Spent the most perfect evening in Jackson Hole as a family – picnicking unexpectedly with bbq, Oregon Pinot Noir, huckleberry ice cream, live music, a little brook next to our picnic blanket, and a happy baby crawling all around and saying hi to neighboring families well past her bedtime.
  • So proud of all my work this year. Anchor added two new clients, Gordon Ramsay and The Property Brothers posted to Instagram exactly like I told them to, I met 9 incredible new influencers who joined the YouTube Parent Panel, I was on a 20 min call with Justin Baldoni (from Jane the Virgin) and he told me to keep his number, & designed custom Converse sneakers that a lot of people are now wearing.

A lot of other cool things happened, but I’m sure you’re wondering how much longer this post goes on for. Wrapping up here… I don’t understand why some people are “anti-resolutions.” Is it just a wording thing? What’s so scary about setting goals for yourself? Sharing my 2019 resolutions/priorities/goals/focus/whatever-you-want-to-call-them as a way to keep myself honest:

  1. Don’t give in to the pressures of work around the clock mentality that has become our norm. Maintain my work/family balance. I haven’t been working late nights and I haven’t been working weekends and I think this is why I haven’t hit a wall. Protecting my family time and making efficient use of my working hours is 100% my top priority for the new year.
  2. Remember to live outside of to-do lists. There is always something that needs to get done – but try to take time to read, set aside time to research my future winery, go to yoga, or just relax.
  3. Go green in the kitchen. Switching to all green cleaning products (for health too), no more paper towels except for extreme messes, no plastic bags or wrap. Composting! Committed to this! And once I hit a good stride I’ll look to see what else I can do to reduce our energy and waste output.

Wishing all of you a healthy & happy new year in 2019!

Love,

V

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PS watch my Instagram 2018 highlights here for more photos of our year 🙂

Hot Cocoa Christmas Cookies

IMG_20181219_123956 (1).jpgThese will be your new favorites. I have tried a lot of new Christmas cookie recipes over the past two years and I was already starting from a very solid foundation (the Devine family takes Christmas cookies very seriously- there is even a recipe book (limited edition print)). And while I love trying new recipes, nothing ever seemed to top our family favs. Until these. They are everything I never knew I needed and I can say with almost 100% certainty that they are the best thing I have ever made.

The cookies are fudgey and the tops look almost like the top of a macaron and the frosting is sweet with a blast of mint at the end of the bite. I can’t say enough good things about them and they aren’t tricky at all to make!

Makes about 20 sandwich cookies.

HOT CHOCOLATE COOKIES

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 oz dark chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 2 large eggs, room temp
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 5 large candy canes, crushed

PEPPERMINT WHITE CHOCOLATE FROSTING

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 oz of white chocolate chips, melted
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of finely crushed peppermint candies (I put mine in the food processor so they were super fine)
  • 1 tablespoon milk

 

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat butter over very low heat. Add chocolate, and melt together, stirring frequently to prevent chocolate from scorching. Cook until mixture is warm to the touch but not hot. Add in cocoa, and whisk until combined. Remove from heat and keep warm.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat eggs and sugar on high speed until very light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.
  4. With mixer on low speed, add oil and vanilla, beating until just combined. Add warm chocolate mixture, beating until combined.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. Gradually add flour mixture to egg mixture, beating until combined. Using a spatula, finish stirring batter. Let stand until batter firms to the consistency of a thick brownie batter, about 5 min. Drop batter by heaping 2 tablespoonfuls at least 2 inches apart onto prepared pan.
  6. Bake one batch at  time, until puffed and cracked an edges are set, 8 to 12 minutes (mine took 9 1/2 min).
  7. While the cookies are baking, whip up your frosting! All ingredients can go straight into the bowl of your stand mixer with whisk attachment. Beat until smooth and creamy on low speed for about 2 minutes.
  8. Group cookies in pairs of almost equal sizes (if you’re like me your cookies won’t all be the same exact size!) and spoon frosting onto flat side of one of the pairs. Gently press together and then roll the edges in crushed candy canes.

These are best right out of the oven or still warm, but I froze mine and defrosted a few at a time throughout the holiday season and they still tasted amazing.

YOU ARE WELCOME. Happy Holidays all!

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Adapted from Sarah Kieffer’s recipe in Bake from Scratch Magazine – I substituted my own frosting recipe instead of the suggested mint meringue filling.

 

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A Pregnant Lady’s Guide to the Best Ice Cream in New York City

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Is there a better judge of ice cream than a pregnant lady? I had my fair share of pickles and Shake Shack when baby Alice was still in my belly, but ice cream was a constant. I made my own, stocked up at Whole Foods (there was always a min. of 3 flavors in my freezer), made time to try new places when traveling and became an expert on the scoop shops available in grand ol’ New York City. I ate so much ice cream that there is no possible way this little baby girl will ever have a dairy intolerance.

I’ll get right to it! Because why waste your time, when you could be well on your way over to Morgensterns? But there are a few parameters I structured my search with that you should know before you read on:

  1. Manhattan only. I did not want to sit in a hot subway car for longer than necessary so Brooklyn ice cream visits will have to wait – I know! – a bummer! There are some good ones, but you have to draw lines in the sand somewhere.
  2. I was in search of homemade ice cream only – no major chains, and no Instagram hot spots famous for piling as much sugar on a cone as possible.
  3. My rating system is completely made up based on how I felt after that first taste of ice cream. The most unscientific rating system you’ll ever see, but one you should trust with all your gut.

THE BEST ICE CREAM SHOPS IN NYC:

Morgensterns Ice Cream NYC1. Morgensterns (SoHo/Bowery): One word of caution – go during the day to avoid to 45 min line! (I normally do not do lines. But for Morgensterns… yes.) But besides that — AMAZING ice cream. So many flavors and love how they are organized by ice cream base on their menu. It’s a cute shop (you will need to ignore some disgruntled employees) and they only let you have one taste. Don’t let that get you down! I had the caramel tahini pretzel with hot fudge and oh boy did it hit the spot. I also tried the black coconut ash (so much sweeter than you’d imagine) and the cardamom lemon jam was also amazing. I also loved the perfect scoops on their cones, perfect for sharing to social. This is my all time favorite spot in NYC. They keep all their ice cream in containers so it’s not icy. It does slow down the line, but #worthit.

 

Ice and Vice Ice Cream NYC2. Ice & Vice (Lower East Side): AMAZING! Tried most of their flavors (thank you so much to their patient scoopers!), settled on Milk & Honey which was so refreshing after an afternoon running around town. Their 9am is very strong and had I not been pregnant I would have indulged in that as well but alas, need to monitor that caffeine intake. My husband loved the Basic B (why was I not surprised!?). We both got their homemade cones which are fun bright colors (I had the coconut almond macaron which turned out to be pink – Surprise!). Cones did break down easily so get a cup if you get a cone to go.

 

VanLeewens Ice Cream NYC

3. VanLeeuwens (West Village, UWS): Never thought you’d like vegan ice cream? Think again! Both vegan and dairy options are creamy and the perfect balance of flavor and sweet. Shared a three scooper with my husband which is a great portion for two to share: salted caramel, peanut butter marshmallow crunch and the winner of the evening: honeycomb.

AMAZING. Creamy. Totally hit the spot. I’ve never had anything like their honeycomb (which has actual chunks of honeycomb in it) – not too sweet and I don’t think I can ever order anything else there, except that I will, because they have interesting vegan flavors too which taste just as good for when I feel like being dairy free (on those rare days).

 

In total, I tried out 22 Manhattan shops and countless others along my travels those 9 months. Here is a Google doc I created with my thoughts on all NYC shops – a few notable mentions: Ample Hills, Emack and Bolio, Milk & Cookies and 10 Below. In the next tab you can see a list of other shops on my radar. Next up: The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory because I ran out of time when the baby came a week early!

I made a Google Map view here so you can see which of my fav scoop shops is closest to you as you’re exploring Manhattan. Did I forget any places that you’re shocked aren’t on my list? TELL ME! OMG PLEASE TELL ME. This new mama still loves ice cream just as much as I did pre-baby, and I don’t want to miss a thing!

Need an ice cream rec? Hit me up on IG @victoriadevine! I’m your girl!

-V

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Blueberry Muffins

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Blueberry muffins just feel right on a Saturday morning. As Alice went down for her first nap of the day, Madison joined me in the kitchen to make the french press coffee and I recruited him to mix up the dry ingredients so we could get the muffins in the oven as fast as possible. What a team! I even had time to shower while they baked! Small victories.

I don’t think I’ll ever stop trying new recipes for blueberry muffins. It’s too fun testing new combinations of flavors. Plus I never have exactly the right ingredients in the fridge and pantry when I wake up with a craving for homemade muffins.

On this particular sunny spring day (it’s hitting 60° today!!) I happened to have crème fraiche in the fridge after using some for garnish on pea soup last week & in a shallot & dijon sauce for roasted chicken last night. So into the muffins went the crème! Mostly working off Bon Appetit’s recipe, I came up with this recipe and Madison called it my “best ever” so I guess I’ll be making it again. So here we are:

INGREDIENTS

  • Butter for the pan (I was out of PAM)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup ground flax seed
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 2 large eggs beaten to blend
  • ½ cup crème fraiche (you could also use sour cream)
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons sugar mixed with 1 tsp cinnamon

DIRECTIONS

  • Preheat oven to 425°. Lightly coat cups of a standard 12-cup muffin pan with butter or nonstick spray. Whisk all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, ground flax seed, granulated sugar, baking powder, and nutmeg in a large bowl to combine. Add blueberries and gently stir until evenly distributed.

  • Whisk eggs, crème fraiche, butter, almond milk, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla in a medium bowl until combined and creamy, about 30 seconds. Gently fold egg mixture into dry ingredients just to combine (be careful not to overmix).

  • Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mix.

  • Bake muffins, rotating pan halfway through, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 25–30 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let muffins cool in pan 5 minutes. Turn out onto rack and let cool completely.

    Voilà!