May 2015 archive

pretzel crusted caramel cookie bars

I’m so excited to tell you about caramel!

These pretzel crusted caramel cookie bars are ooey, gooey, chewy and divine!

I went to a pastry making class a few weeks ago with my mom where we learned how to make Gateau St. Honoré, a cake named for the French patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs.  Only the French would have a patron saint dedicated to making sure their croissants and baguettes were created by blessed people.

These pretzel crusted caramel cookie bars are ooey, gooey, chewy and divine!

The St. Honoré cake is made of puff pastry, choux pastry and cream puffs, pastry cream and caramelized sugar.  All of the best aspects of a pastries combined for this special patron saint.  Ever since that class I have had the urge to make caramel and pastry cream.  This hits one of those desires.  While we don’t have any pastry cream, a ribbon of homemade caramel runs though these gooey pretzel crusted caramel cookie bars, deliciously joining the pretzel layer to the chocolate chip cookie layer. (more…)

link love

It’s peony season!

Link love 5-29-15

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Sorry I’ve been MIA this week!  I think the long weekend threw off my days.  I have lots of pictures to share from the hot air balloon festival I went to this weekend and from our Memorial Day brunch so I’ll do better next week, promise!

Until then, here are my lovable links for the week:

I have always loved Jessica Alba.  She will forever remind me of beautiful Invisible Woman from Fantastic Four.  She has recently risen in the ranks and become a 34-year old self-made billionaire in an industry outside of Hollywood, closing in the gap to tie Beyonce for one of the top 50 richest self-made women in the US.  She earned a lot of her money from The Honest Company, a company she co-created that creates safe, non-toxic, cute products for children and parents.  I can’t imagine being that successful and having the power to make such an impact at age 34.  You go girl.

We have all seen these people at work.  This is upsetting, discouraging and very interesting.  I am not the jerk.  I am the nice employee who brings baked goods to the office.  Can we change the jerk movement?

Mad Men is over but the advertising major in me loves to read about how Mad Men is similar (or not) to the real advertising world.

What if we didn’t have to work to get paid?  That would be awesome!  What if we could crowdfund to do what is interesting, fulfilling and helpful to society?  Read all about it.

Are you more like Ina or her husband, Jeffrey?  I got Ina.  Surprised?

These paper flowers amazing.  So great.

Last one.  Even if you aren’t an a cappella fan, listen to this.  Woah.

Happy Friday.  I hope it’s a great one!

watermelon lime mint popsicles

It’s almost summer!  Kind of.  I know Memorial Day marks the weekend when all of the pools open and people take off to the lake and to the beach, but I don’t like to let go of spring quite this early.  I love spending time in the warm weather, but the cool mornings and evenings this time of year are so wonderful, I’m not ready to let go of them!  I’m definitely loving the three day weekend though – paid holidays are underrated.

In my mind, Memorial Day weekend is for beautiful weather, cook-outs, lazy days, and watermelon!  The sweet, juicy pink fruit is one of my favorite summer markers.

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And what is more perfect for warm, long days than POPSICLES?!?  Delicious fruit-filled homemade pops!  Yes yes yes, we did turn that watermelon into a frozen treat and yes, you should too.  These watermelon lime mint popsicles are the perfect afternoon snack, after-dinner dessert, or pool-side treat.  So easy and so delectable.

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We added lime juice, mint leaves and a touch of mint-infused simple syrup to introduce a more complex flavor.  Sweet watermelon, tart lime and crisp mint makes for a very refreshing pop.  Also, look at that color!  I mean, who doesn’t want to eat pink desserts?  I always do.  These take about 5 minutes to make and, after a few hours of freezing time, you have seemingly impressive treats.  The best desserts are those that wow your friends but secretly require little effort.  That would be these pops.

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When I was growing up my family used to sit on the steps of the front porch and eat popsicles after dinner on summer nights.  We usually had a choice between grape, raspberry and orange, with the occasional strawberry or honeydew, depending on the variety in the current pack.  It was a great night when there were fudgesicles in the freezer.  My mom would bite her popsicles all the way down, finishing her treat in a matter of minutes.  That didn’t fly with us kids.  We wanted our dessert to last as long as possible, so we would lick it until the melted pop dripped down our arms.  I’m sure our parents loved our sticky fingers and hands those nights.

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Given the choice between these watermelon popsicles and a fudgesicle now, I would absolutely grab this fresh fruity treat.  You could make it even more grown-up by adding a little white rum.  Watermelon mojito, anyone?  Be careful not to add too much though or you will have some liquid pops!

Bring these simple, fresh pops to your cook-out, make everyone think you are fancy and enjoy your long weekend!  Let the warm weather ensue!

Watermelon Lime Mint Popsicles
makes about 6 pops

4 cups watermelon, cubed
3 tablespoons mint simple syrup (recipe below)
juice of 1 lime

Mint Simple Syrup
2 teaspoons mint leaves
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar

To make the mint simple syrup
In a small saucepan combine the water and sugar over medium heat and stir constantly until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the mint leaves and heat the mixture for 1-2 more minutes. Set aside.

To make the popsicles
Place the cubed watermelon, lime juice and 3 tablespoons of the simple syrup (including some of the mint leaves) in a blender and mix until all of the ingredients are combined and no chunks remain. Pour the liquid mixture into a popsicle mold and freeze until set (about 4-8 hours, depending on the size of your mold). If you don’t have a popsicle mold you could also use ice cube trays, Dixie cups, drinking glasses, etc. Get creative!

*If you want to make the adult version of these, add your alcohol of choice (white rum for a watermelon mojito!) but remember that alcohol has a lower freezing point and will interfere with how your pops freeze.  Aim for no more than 1 1/2 ounces per 1 cup of fruit juice – it will make your pops nice and soft but not slushy.

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link love

link love 5-22-15

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Happy Memorial Day weekend!  Yay for holidays!  Monday is my first paid holiday and I am stoked about it.  Also, I have been in training sessions all week so every day has felt like Monday, which isn’t fun but it is great because when you think it’s Monday and it’s Thursday everything feels like a party.

Here are your links to love this week!

I love maps and these maps are funny.

Pinterest has gotten a bit out of hand lately.  I used to love looking at the beautiful pictures that I had specifically cultivated to fit my style, but now that every other pin is a suggestion from the site of something I might like (which I typically do not like) or a promoted picture, I just get frustrated and close the site.  Sometimes I do still spend too much time browsing than I’d like to admit though.  This excerpt on “A Day in the Life of Pinterest” is spot on and hilarious.

I didn’t realize bone broth was on the rise, or that people didn’t know that they can easily make it themselves.  Aparently there is a debate about whether selling bone-broth based soups is a scam.  Why wasn’t there an uproar when establishments started overcharging for popsicles or smoothies?  Wanna know a secret?  You can make those too.

On the subject of food, have you ever noticed that many delicious meals on instagram are shot from an aerial viewpoint?  This explains why and what restaurants are doing to improve the way your photos look.

Sticking to our food theme, do you know how to coffee nap?  Yes, you read that correctly.  coffee + nap = non-drowsy productivity.  Sounds like an awesome but infeasible-in-the-workplace idea.

And I shall leave you with a story of Memorial Day.  Have a great one!

a friday with friends

I spent this past Friday evening with some wonderful friends.  Avery was in town for work and it was the most beautiful day.  Warm but not too hot, low humidity – I’ll take that weather any day.  We met up and enjoyed the evening outside under the umbrellas of some wonderful Chapel Hill establishments.

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A year after graduation I feel like I’m finally getting into the groove of post-grad life.  Living in the same town where I spent my undergraduate years, I have sometimes felt like it has been hard to get away from the nostalgia and memories of college.  Being in such close proximity, I am constantly on campus for work or just because it is a nearby pretty place.  For the past year, my college memories were so fresh in my mind, and elicited by all parts of campus, that it was sometimes hard not to dwell on them.  In addition, being a new grad in a college town feels a bit strange.  You are seen as the baby of the working world and the office, but feel much older than your college counterparts who are still attending classes.  After seeing this year’s graduating seniors taking pictures in their light blue caps and gowns, questioning each other about what they are going to be doing and where they will be next year, I definitely felt nostalgic, but I also felt like it was a huge release.  I realized that I am in a good place in my life, young but seemingly far removed from this time one year ago when I was in their shoes.  I may not have a set plan for the far future, but I have a job, a loving hard-working husband at a great medical school, wonderful friends and so many opportunities.  I have figured out how to balance work, hobbies, friends, family and life a little better than when I first started working, and I have learned how to be more flexible if my week doesn’t necessarily go according to the many lists and plans I make.

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I have grown a lot in the last year, and these wonderful friends have been there by my side, supporting and growing alongside each other.  We might not quite have it all together all the time, but we are getting there, and we can always lean on each other on days when we feel dejected or thrilled, discouraged or excited.

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Life moves quickly – it is great to have these hours and evenings to slow down and spend with friends chatting the night away and catching up on everyone’s lives.  I love these moments.  We have gotten to the point where we are no longer living in our past and in our college memories, but in the present, planning for and excited about what the future brings for each of us.

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We topped off the beautiful evening with a jaunt down the street to a delicious open-air local eatery, accompanied by happy chatter and a little bluegrass music.  I am so lucky to have these friends in my life and wonderful, fun nights like these.  Cheers to friends, Fridays, fun and the future.

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chocolate pound cake with chocolate glaze

Some foods are so nostalgic.

Bring back nostalgic memories with this rich chocolate pound cake with creamy chocolate glaze.

For me, chocolate glazed cake is one of them.  This recipe is slightly adapted from my grandmother’s chocolate pound cake recipe that has been passed down through the generations.  I don’t recall having this particular cake much when I was growing up, but I do remember a similar cake my mom used to make.   The cake of my childhood was a chocolate sheet cake and had a can of Hershey’s syrup in the icing.  That’s right, I said a CAN, not a bottle.  Old school.

Bring back nostalgic memories with this rich chocolate pound cake with creamy chocolate glaze.Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, there is no syrup in sight for this cake.  There is, however, a dreamy chocolate glaze that drizzles down the sides of the cake.  Don’t neglect the glaze.  It is delicious and kind of makes the cake look like a giant chocolate cruller.  Never a bad sight.

Bring back nostalgic memories with this rich chocolate pound cake with creamy chocolate glaze.

I like to dust the pan with cocoa powder instead of flour when making chocolate cakes.  It prevents those white powdery patches on your cake when you release it from the pan.  Little tricks like these are my favorite; they are like secrets that stay safe between you and your kitchen.

Unless of course you announce them on the internet.

Oh well, all in the name of good baking.

Bring back nostalgic memories with this rich chocolate pound cake with creamy chocolate glaze.

Usually I’m a big dark chocolate fan – the darker the better – but this cake has a great richness without adding any dark chocolate.  We stick with the basics for this classic treat.  A little coffee enhances the chocolate flavor without making the whole cake taste like an espresso.

We then have the pour and drizzle.  Yum.  See what I’m talking about with the cruller action going on?

Bring back nostalgic memories with this rich chocolate pound cake with creamy chocolate glaze.

The cake has a perfect crumb, slightly dense but not heavy, and the creamy glaze adds another layer of chocolaty deliciousness.  The edges of the cake are the best.  The sides are coated in chocolate glaze, the bottom sticks to the serving plate and is slightly brownie-like, especially if served warm.  Scrape up every last bit of the goodness and let the nostalgia and memories flood your thoughts.

Bring back nostalgic memories with this rich chocolate pound cake with creamy chocolate glaze.

Chocolate Pound Cake with Chocolate Glaze

1 ½ cups butter, softened
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
3 cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup cocoa powder, plus more for pan
1 ¼ cups milk or half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ teaspoons brewed coffee

Chocolate Glaze
2 ¼ cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
¼ cup butter, softened
4 tablespoons milk

To make the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray and shake cocoa powder around the pan until fully coated (as you would usually do with flour).

Cream the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Gradually add in the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Add the vanilla and coffee to the batter and mix until combined.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 10-15 minutes then invert onto a serving plate (not onto a cooling rack as shown. It looks good, but it is very difficult to move the cake from the rack).

To make the glaze:
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the powdered sugar and the cocoa powder.  Add the butter and milk and beat until smooth.

Spoon the chocolate glaze over the warm cake, letting it drizzle down the sides.  This cake is great served warm, cool, or chilled.

Bring back nostalgic memories with this rich chocolate pound cake with creamy chocolate glaze.

link love

Link Love 5-15-15via

Dear Friday,

We are so glad you are here.  We have awaited your coming all week and we look forward to what you and your followers bring.  Honestly, we might like your successors better than you sometimes, but don’t take it personally.  You still bring us joy, happiness and relaxation.  Thank you for visiting, Friday.  As a token of my appreciation, I bring this weeks internet offerings.  Just like you, the good ol’ internet didn’t let us down.

In extremely expensive NYC, skyscraper shadows are starting to overtake the free public spaces.  The interesting effect of building more and more skyscrapers on sunlight and shadows.

Hey, what’s that thing on your wrist?  Yes, the one that communicates with the thing you talk into.  Is it impressive?  Is it obnoxious?  I wonder.

In case you find yourself at a high tea anytime soon, or just with me and my family members, here is your guide to tea lingo.  Didn’t realize there was so much to know about leaves and water, did you?

Where are you traveling this summer?  Moleskine notebooks has a collection of pictures from the notebooks of traveling artists.  To avoid embarrassment, I won’t be submitting anything, but I can’t wait to watch the gallery grow with neat artwork as the season continues.

Are you keeping up with the nail trends in NYC?  Yikes.  When this article about exploitation made headlines the governor issued a set of immediate rules and emergency investigations.  It is scary to know that situations like this are in other job fields in other areas of the country too.  How long will it take before workers in those jobs are treated ethically?

Also, have you heard about Whole Foods’ plans to launch a new set of stores with lower prices?  Good news!  Maybe these stores will only eat half of your paycheck instead of all of it.  Woo hoo!

Happy weekending, friends!

 

a reading list

I love to read a good book.  In college I was constantly reading textbooks and didn’t have much time to read books for pleasure.  My roommates and I always talked about summer days and post-graduation days when we would have more time to read what we wanted just for fun.  Turns out, I don’t actually have as much time to do that as I thought.  Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy my evenings, but I tend to spend time making dinner, puttering around the internet, visiting friends or family, doing chores around the house (etc, etc) and don’t leave enough time before bed to get a good chunk of reading done, if any.  I’m working on that and have been loving my current reads, which motivates me to set aside enough time to finish the next chapter, but it is still a struggle to prioritize those moments.

Here is a compilation of books I am reading or would like to read in the coming months, in no particular order.  Let’s get reading!

Reading Books

1/ How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are by Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline De Maigret and Sophie Mas.  This looks like a great light, funny read for the summer.  And who doesn’t want to be Parisienne?  Well, except the smoking.  Fashion, culture and food though, please.  I imagine this read will make me want to polish my broken French.

2/ Yes Please by Amy Poehler.  Hilarious.  I am about halfway through this book and I can assure you, comedian Leslie Knope – I mean, Amy Poehler – doesn’t let you down.  The book is a collection of stories and essays about her life, advice and laughter.

3/ Hey Natalie Jean: Advice, Musings, and Inspiration on Marriage, Motherhood, and Style by Natalie Holbrook.  I’m a few chapters into this one too and I love it so much!  As the title suggests, this book, written by one of my favorite bloggers, is filled with advice, stories about NYC family living, marriage, motherhood, fashion style and home style.  It is down-to-earth and relatable but funny and encouraging too.

4/ Emma by Jane Austen.  I know I probably should have read this classic by now, but shamefully, I haven’t.  I love Pride and Prejudice and have been told a few times that I look a bit like Gwyneth Paltrow, who plays Emma in the film version of this book (I don’t see it).  Now that I share the main character’s last name, I feel like I need to read this book, if only so I know what people are talking about when they accidently call me Emma.  And just think about how pretty that cover would look on a bookshelf when I’m done reading it.

5/ This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett.  Apparently I’m in a biography mood these days.  I haven’t read this one but I have heard that this story of Ann Patchett’s life, writing career and relationships is another good read.

6/ #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso.  This is one of the next books on my reading list.  Sophia Amoruso discusses how she became a successful girl boss and advice from her observations throughout her journey to the top.  You go girl.

7/ The New York Times: 36 Hours 150 Weekends in the USA & Canada edited by Barbara Ireland.  Summer is for travel!  This one isn’t as much of a read as it is a guide book to weekend trips in the US and Canada.  Let’s pick a few and get on the road!

8/ All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.  I am a sucker for historical fiction.  I love history and the riveting stories that authors create in these fascinating historical periods.  I know a lot of people reading this book right now and I think the topic is so interesting.  The story is about a blind French girl and a German boy trying to survive in occupied France during World War II.  Maybe not a light read (unintentional pun, sorry), but so intriguing.

9/ Is Everyone Hanging Out with Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling.  This is another book that I have heard raves about from friends and family.  Another bio, another comedian, so obviously I’m in.

What are you reading?  Any suggestions for the summer?

vanilla and cinnamon coffee syrups

Happy Mother’s Day!

Homemade Vanilla Coffee Syrup-super easy and perfect for your iced coffee or tea lattes

My mom loves tea.  Our whole family does, really.  My brother and Will are the two main coffee drinkers, and sometimes I will join them, but tea is the overwhelming favorite among the group.  We have local tea/coffee shops that we frequent and are proud when the owner and workers recognize us as regulars.

Homemade Cinnamon Coffee Syrup-super easy and perfect for your iced coffee or tea lattes

Our most common order at a regular coffee shop is a London Fog.  This warm treat is made by adding vanilla syrup to an Earl Grey tea latte.  It is smooth, soothing and divine.  Try one next time you go to your coffee shop of choice, it won’t let you down.

Homemade Vanilla and Cinnamon Coffee Syrups-super easy and perfect for your iced coffee or tea lattes

Vanilla syrup is not an ingredient most people keep on hand, but it is delicious in tea lattes and adds a great flavor and sweetness to hot or iced coffee.

I’m always inspired by all of the new drink flavors Starbucks develops.  There are the ever popular seasonal classics like pumpkin spice latte, peppermint mocha and white chocolate mocha, the new limited edition drinks like birthday cake frappuccino, tiramisu latte, caramel flan latte and s’mores frappuccino, and the classics like vanilla latte, caramel macchiato and cinnamon dolce latte.  So many flavors, so many different ingredient combinations that all pretty much hinge on different syrups.  What will they come up with next?! The possibilities are endless!

Homemade Vanilla and Cinnamon Coffee Syrups-super easy and perfect for your iced coffee or tea lattes

This vanilla syrup is a delicious addition to any tea lattes, hot coffee drinks, or iced, cold-brewed coffee.  It is sweet and smooth with real vanilla bean flecks sprinkled throughout.  The cinnamon syrup gives a spiced flavor, reminiscent of a cinnamon dolce latte or a spiced chai tea, depending on your base drink.  Even better, these syrups are so easy and quick to make!  They transform your everyday caffeine kick something special.  Perfect for a day when we are celebrating some of the most special people in our lives :)

Homemade Vanilla and Cinnamon Coffee Syrups-super easy and perfect for your iced coffee or tea lattes

My mom, Will’s mom and all of our grandmothers have set such amazing examples for us and our siblings.  As I grow up, I realize more and more how much they have done for us and how much they sacrificed to ensure that we had wonderful childhoods.  Now that I am juggling work, activities, my relationship with my husband and my friends, not to mention trying to make lunches and get dinner on the table at a reasonable time, I appreciate all of their hard work so much more.  Even with the great help that my dad provided growing up, as Will does for me now, I don’t know how my mom managed all of those daily tasks, and got us to our music lessons, sports practices and church activities every day after coming home from a tiring day of work.  I have so much gratitude for all that she did and still continues to do for us.  She is an amazing role model and has become a wonderful friend and confidante.  I hope to someday be as great of a mom as she is, but I have a long way to go and a lot to learn from her until then.  

Homemade Vanilla and Cinnamon Coffee Syrups-super easy and perfect for your iced coffee or tea lattes

Here’s to all of the mothers and mother-figures in our lives.  We will never be able give you the amount of celebration you deserve, but maybe a little caffeine kick will help make the day a little easier?

Vanilla Syrup Pour

I’m usually a hot tea person all-the-way, but on an 82 degree day with 92 percent humidity, iced coffee was more enticing.  So that’s exactly what I made, added some vanilla syrup and some almond milk, then got a little carried away with the gifs.  And yes, I spilled the almond milk.  It’s okay, Mum would still be proud.

Creamer Pour

I love you, Mum! I’m so glad to be your daughter!  Enjoy your favorite London Fog with this vanilla syrup on your much-deserved special day.

Vanilla Bean Coffee and Tea Syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cinnamon Coffee Syrup
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup water
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

To make the vanilla bean syrup
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar, water, vanilla bean seeds and whole vanilla bean. Whisk constantly until the sugar dissolves and the syrup begins to bubble. Reduce the heat to low and let the mixture continue to heat for 1-2 more minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla extract. Remove the vanilla bean and let cool completely before storing in a jar.

To make the cinnamon syrup
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine brown sugar, water and cinnamon. Whisk constantly until the brown sugar dissolves and the syrup begins to bubble. Reduce the heat to low and let the mixture continue to heat for 1-2 more minutes. Let cool completely before storing in a jar.

link love

Welcome, Friday.  Welcome, warm weather.  Lets be friends.

Mapvia

Hello friends, here is your weekly dose of lovely links!

Unless you are living under a rock, you have probably heard that royal couple Will and Kate had their second child, a daughter, this past Saturday.  Breaking the months of suspense, they announced the new princess’s name: Charlotte Elizabeth Diana.  I have to say, I’m a sucker for anything pertaining to Kate Middleton and I’m so excited to see the adorable British outfits her mini-me will sport.

Today President Obama will visit South Dakota, the last of the 50 states he will have visited while in office.  I find it funny that he has traveled to Alaska and Hawaii, but not South Dakota.  Kind of a slap in the face to South Dakota, but can we really blame him for holding out so long?  Throughout the week, White House photographer Pete Souza has been posting pictures of the president in each of the states he has visited.  The Washington Post’s political blog ranks them, objectively.

These illustrations of flower ladies are fun.

A couple from Charlotte, NC initiated a kickstarter to travel the state and compile a comprehensive guide and roadmap of North Carolina barbeque.  They visited and interviewed workers at 434 barbeque restaurants in the state and created an infographic map with icons that illustrate what parts of the pig are used, the type of sauce and how the food is cooked.  I think it is awesome.

Oh how times change.  It is crazy to think back to just a few years ago when smartphones were only for early adopters and innovators and Facebook had restricted audiences.  As technology and products evolve, so do jobs.  These are ten jobs that did not exist ten years ago.

And since tonight begins the weekend, I leave you with this poem about the ever-wonderful Netflix subscription.

Happy weekending!

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