Skinny Vanilla

Antibes

Antibes was my favorite town along the coast. It was so picturesque and everything about the day was just perfect! We took an Uber (which is WAY cheaper than taxis there, btw–like 8 times cheaper) to Antibes as the bus can take quite some time to get there with all of its stops. The thirty minute ride was gorgeous, with views of Mediterranean style homes buried in the hillsides, lined with tall Cypress trees. We had the driver drop us off at a beach club where we intended to rent chairs and spend the rest of the day. Imagine our surprise when we walked to the entrance to see that it was closed for construction!

We did a quick search and found another beach on the other side of Antibes. By this point, all of the Ubers were too far away and to not waste any more time, we decided we’d walk. Walking ended up being the best idea, as we both said it was our favorite part of the day! Instead of cutting through town, we walked along the water and tried to figure out a feasible way to move into one of the villas overlooking the vast blue. We made it to Plage Keller, booked a couple of chairs on the pier and didn’t move again for hours. We read our books, napped, sipped on champagne and just enjoyed our day.

We eventually made our way back into town, and roamed the streets up to the Picasso Museum. The museum is located in the Chateau Grimaldi, where Picasso himself once lived. He donated all of the works to the museum (which is quite different than the Picasso Museum in Paris, where the works were donated by family members to pay off taxes). It’s a fairly small collection, but the building, dating back to 1608, is a work of art itself.

I loved all the narrow streets filled with specialty shops– There was an olive oil shop with an Absinthe bar in the basement! (<Being pregnant and all, I had to miss out on partaking of the absinthe.) Antibes also had a covered market that had everything from antique lace to works by local painters. I’ll spare you from my poor attempt to describe Antibes, so here are some photos instead!

SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC
SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC 4.1-Antibes SONY DSC 21-Antibes 22-Antibes 23-Antibes SONY DSC SONY DSC 9.1-Antibes 24-Antibes SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC

Nice, France

As promised! I’m finally here to share our photos from France! The South of France was utterly amazing. If I were a doctor, I would prescribe a week there to cure any ailment. Every time you step foot outside, it’s like looking at a painting–sailboats in the distance, bright blue, crystal clear water, beautiful, old homes stacked up on the hillsides. It’s really a sight to see.

We stayed at the Hotel Negresco–I’d read such fun things about it online I couldn’t resist. Each floor was decorated differently, filled with art and interesting antiques–and each room decorated in some done up fashion. It certainly was a fun place to stay!

My favorite things we did in Nice were climbing Castle Hill, wandering around Old Town and generally staring at the coast. Le Jardin de Albert 1er is quite beautiful too. They have some interesting installations–my favorite were the men sitting on pillars–at night they glow different colors.  The views on Castle Hill were incredible–you can see in every direction and there’s a lovely little park. There are about a billion steps to get to the top, but they also have an elevator. For hunger reasons (we’d just picked up sandwiches from a nearby shop, which were calling our names) we took the elevator. As soon as I stepped on I realized the stairs would’ve been a safer option because there is no risk of being stuck in the stairs. But all is well that ends well and we made it to the top without a hitch!  Everyone always complains about rocky coast, but I love them… Sam taught me how to skip rocks and I couldn’t get enough of it!

Also, when in Nice, you MUST MUST MUST go to Cours Saleya! It’s the most amazing outdoor market. On Monday’s there’s an amazing flea market filled with all kinds of art, housewares and clothing. The rest of the days, the market turns into a flower lover’s dream. It becomes soaked in flowers (and fruit and veggies). I’ve never seen so many gorgeous flowers in one place before. I can’t believe Nice can sustain a flower market of that size six days a week. It’s incredible.

Here are some of my favorite snaps from Nice:

SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC

Little Catchup

Darling! It’s been ages! I’m so sorry! (This is where I usually say I’ll do better, but I’ve given up on false promises, so we’ll just see!)

So much has happened! And so little! And something quite literally little:

IMG_0246

We’re having a baby! It’ll be here in the fall. We’ve just started preparing for the little one–we have a bathroom gutted and ready to start renovations on. And I need to get on the nursery! I hear cribs can take months to come in.

I’ve felt quite normal so far, which is nice. Dressing has proven to be slightly challenging, but I guess that was to be expected when everything I wear is tailored to fit perfectly.

We’re excited though. Also scared! Have any first time baby advice?

We also went on holiday! We went to the south of France, Paris and Normandy! It was a dream. I’ll post photos so you can see what I mean! Promise, mean it!

 

Fun(-fetti) Photoshoot with L.

mj in the kitchen
About a week ago, my friend Mary and two lovely photographers, Rachel & Noah Ray, came over and we spent the afternoon doing a fun cake (un)decorating How To!

Today, Mary announced the launch of her new site– L. –which I love!! Her very first post is from our shoot–I hope you enjoy reading it as much as we had fun shooting it! Click on over to Mary’s new site to learn how easy it is to put together a modern, undressed cake!

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cordial Cookies

Like many things I do, Chocolate Covered Cherry Cordial Cookies were created out of necessity–ie having multiple boxes of cordials lying around after Christmas and not knowing what to do with them. So I did what I always do with leftover candy–chop it up and put it in cookies. They’re kind of perfect actually. It’s basically what would happen if Cherry Garcia and cookie dough had a baby. They’re chocolate-y, creamy and they kind of caramelize. It’s a great alternative to the typical chocolate chip cookie. SONY DSC

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 boxes of chocolate covered cherry cordials

Directions

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl.

Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture.

Chop cherry cordials. (It’s going to make a sticky mess, but that’s what you want.) Add them to the dough–be sure you scrape in all the yummy stickiness. Mix to combine. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. All done!

SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC

 

 

Happy New Year!

We’ve barely talked in months! I’m sorry! A lot has happened–if you follow me on Instagram, you’re probably up to date on all things MJ.
SONY DSC

We bought this really amazing old house. It’s over 80 years old and it’s pretty dreamy. The kitchen and the bathrooms all needed to be updated and the downstairs bathroom is allllllmost finished now. I can’t wait to show you the before and after; You’ll nearly faint. I’m obsessed with the way it turned out. I’ve loved piddling in the gardens and can’t wait to get my landscaping started!

I started a(nother) new job. I’m doing marketing for a potato chip company and it’s basically my dream job. No really–if you’d have asked me five years ago what I wanted to do when I grow up, I would’ve told you I wanted to do marketing for a company that works in makeup, toys or food products. (If I wasn’t worried about sounding cliché, I’d tell you that everything always works out and to always keep your chin up because there is something perfect for you out there. But I won’t because I wouldn’t want to sound cliché.)

We celebrated Christmas in Sylacauga with all my brothers and their wives and children. It’s not often we are all in the same place at the same time. And we rang in the new year with the sweetest, bestest friends. Now it’s just winter and my SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) has fully set in! There are no holidays in the foreseeable future, it rained for days, and it’s so cold and it’s dark when I get off work. I’m ready for some sunshine and walks in the park.

This weather has been good for helping me keep up with one of my resolutions though–reading! Last year I resolved to read more. And I did, but this year, I resolved to read 30 books. I’ve started out with The Life Changing Magic of Tidying and it has me so excited to do a major cleanout! If you have any book recommendations, do let me know. My other two resolutions were actually resolutions from last year too, but I’m going to alter them and use them again because I think they are good: Go to church every Sunday we’re in town and work on my friendships.

And my unspoken resolution is to POST MORE!! Time to pull that camera back out. See you soon! xx

Desoto State Park

For most of my adult life, we’ve made a camping trip once in the fall and spring. There’s something about the smell of campfire and breathing in the cold air while you are snuggled up tight in your sleeping bag. Sure, you can roast marshmallows in a fire pit in your backyard, but where is the fun in that? (Okay–there is a little fun in that too, but that’s not the point.)

The last two years, we’ve struggled to get our schedules aligned, what with the engagements and marriages and jobs and all. We were determined to get together for a weekend in the woods this fall. We created a calendar and added our availability and we couldn’t have gotten luckier. The weather was perfect.

It was my first trip to Desoto State Park, which is nestled in North Alabama! The funny thing is that Sam used to go to a boy’s camp that was located about 2 miles away! We celebrated Danielle’s birthday over mimosas.  Another thing worth celebrating? It was actually Christine’s first time camping ever! She promised she enjoyed it, although, admittedly, got a kick out of how much we wanted to make as much as possible have the comforts of home. Although Coco loved the hike, she kind of hated camping this time around. I’m not sure why–maybe it was the campfire smoke in her eyes or the cold weather. I’m totally buying her a Barbour jacket for our next trip–I think that would make her enjoy camping more next time. Like–I hate the cold, so I buy myself cute coats and it makes me kind of like it. I think the same efforts would work on her.

We had a blast putting on our camping gear and and knocking around the campsite.  I love cooking on a camp stove and sipping hot chocolate on cold mornings and the sound of leaves crunching under your steps. It’s all so romantic and it’s nice to get away from all the distractions every once and a while. I even learned a few tips–like how to make the best chili cheese dogs (wrap tight in tin foil and put face down on the grill)!! Food styling isn’t really a priority in the woods, but if you need any tips for good camping food, just let me know! We completely wore ourselves out and even Coco was exhausted by the end of the weekend.

SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC

I super promise to start posting regularly again!!
xx

Breakup Cookies

I once read that Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar fame said that she didn’t attempt to do a regular ole chocolate chip cookie because everyone already had a favorite recipe. I always found this to be so true, that is, until my friend Rebecca texted me, “I’m craving a Breakup Cookie. Want to meet me at Church Street Coffee?” I’d never heard of this Breakup Cookie that she texted of, but obviously I was in. Fast forward a hour and I’d officially become a full out Breakup Cookie Addict. One text to my friend Kelly and I’d secured the recipe–it was none other than the Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe that was featured in the New York Times a few years ago. I’ve made several batches of these since, each time swearing to myself, mouth full of freshly baked cookie, “I promise I’ll blog these next time.”
SONY DSC
Ingredients

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content*
Sea salt (I prefer Maldon)

*Church Street’s Breakup Cookies are made with half Ghirardelli chocolate and half Nestle. But Ina always told me to buy the best ingredients I could afford, so I’ve been loading mine up with a box of 60% E. Guittard discs and a one pound bar of 70% Valrhona chocolate, both available at Sur la Table. This is a little pricier, but I promise you won’t care when you bite into them.

Directions

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.
SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC
*Brownie points for baking these cookies in a bathing suit. It’s an effective way to remind yourself not to eat too much cookie dough.

A Paris/London Video and A Birthday

photo

You sound old and wise.

I feel old. But not very wise.

-An Education

I don’t feel old, or wise really, but I did just have another birthday and blew out a whopping 27 candles on my cake. My sweet mom made me two cakes over the course of the weekend actually. But only one came with candles and song. I celebrated Friday through Sunday and it was so lovely. Sam had never seen An Education, which is one of my favorite movies, so we watched it one night and I thought the quote was fitting for turning another year older. I love the costumes and the story is sad but shows the strength of a young woman and the whole excitement of it all is very dreamy.

There were several surprises over the weekend, but one of my favorites was this video from Sam. He secretly finished up our video from Paris and London when we were there for my birthday (talk about best birthday ever!!) last year. (In his defense, there was a LOT of video footage–daunting to sort through, I’m sure.) But I love it. I think it’s perfection! I hope you enjoy too!

Paris to London and Back from MaryJane Carney McAllister on Vimeo.

A Much Needed Break and Vanilla Ice Cream

Happy Friday! I swear there’s THE BEST Vanilla Bean Ice Cream recipe buried in this post, just stick with me while I jabber on for a few minutes. It’s worth it, I promise.

Life update? I got laid off last week. (It’s a good thing, I promise.) I mentioned several months ago that my company had been purchased and things had been weird ever since. So long story short, it wasn’t a surprise and it actually worked out perfectly because I was offered a new job three days later. It was basically my best case scenario. I’ve got a few other crazy things going on right now too, but I don’t want to jinx it, so mums the word for now.

I’m excited to start my new job (ON MONDAY !!) and I’ve just been enjoying my short, but much needed funemployment. One of my favorite people in the entire world (Nikki) came to stay with me this past weekend and we went to see our old roommate get married in a sweet ceremony and super fun reception.
photo 3 photo 4 photo 2 photo 1

Now, I just want to make the most of my week off. I’ve had fun playing housewife–making lattes in the morning, lunching with friends, reading and having dinner ready when my husband gets home from work… It’s all very fun and it’s nice to have time to myself. It’s also given me time to play in the kitchen! I’ve made the Momofuku Birthday Cake (to die for!), smash burgers, plenty of cocktails, Asian food (enough rice to drown in), and ice cream! Lots of ice cream! I was searching my archives (I promise I’m going to make it easier to search as soon as my husband can get around to it) and was shocked to see that I’ve never posted a basic vanilla bean ice cream! Vanilla Bean is perfect–it’s delicious on its own, of course, but it’s also the perfect base for all sorts of add-ins. So enough chit chat, here’s the perfect recipe.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Ingredients

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 whole vanilla beans, split length wise

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally. Remove from heat just before it begins to boil. Fish out the vanilla bean pods and using a knife, scrape the seeds into the pot. Stir to combine. Pour mixture into shallow pan and chill for 1-2 hours.

When mixture is cool, discard the vanilla bean pods and discard. Pour mixture into ice cream maker and process according manufacturer’s directions. If you want to add in any cookies or brownies or anything like that, add them in during the last five minutes of processing! Pour into a container and freeze until firm.

SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC
Enjoy! xx