The Busy Girl’s Guide to the Ultimate Staycation

Ladies and gentlemen, you are talking to the queen of staycations; I never go anywhere and I never do anything interesting (except writing this blog, of course). Before you start pitying me though, I’ll let you in on a little secret: staycations save you time, money and aggravation and if done correctly can actually end up being incredibly healing.

So what is a staycation anyway? When I talk about taking one, I’m referring to any stretch of time during which you are free from any work-related responsibilities. This is not your average afternoon off, and it’s definitely not working from home. Instead, your staycation is your chance to restore and recharge in whatever way that means to you. It might be an opportunity to catch-up on household chores, personal projects, and tying up other loose ends. Or, it might involve ditching all obligations and doing whatever the $%?! you want.

Whatever your staycation style, I’ve brainstormed some options to help start things off right:

  • clean/organize a neglected drawer, closet or room in your home
  • organize family photos and/or home movies (here’s some tips for digital photos)
  • go for a long walk/hike/bike ride/rollerblade (and leave your cell phone at home!)
  • explore an unfamiliar part of your city, town or neighborhood
  • catch up on your sleep (it’s actually really important)
  • cook or bake your favorite dish, or a recipe you’ve been meaning to try
  • catch up on your reading (here are some simple ways how)
  • paint, doodle, draw or color
  • practice meditation, yoga or just deep breathing
  • call up an old friend you haven’t seen in a while (Facebook doesn’t count)
  • garden or clean your yard (one of my many hobbies)
  • make your own rock garden or terrarium
  • camp out in your own yard
  • practice yoga or pilates
  • spend an afternoon browsing your local library or bookstore (take a buddy!)
  • try a new hobby on for size
  • volunteer
  • make something for your home, or for a friend who deserves something special
  • send a friend or relative some actual snail mail
  • attend a free show or event in your area
  • practice self-care: get a massage, manicure, pedicure or facial
  • research your family tree
  • decorate your reading nook/sanctuary/man cave
  • actually play with your pets (or children)
  • rediscover childhood activities like skipping, sidewalk chalk, or Frisbee
  • have a bubble bath
  • coordinate a new exercise routine
  • teach yourself the latest dance craze, or come up with a routine with some friends
  • practice the art of doing nothing.

Happy staycation!

I want to hear all about your staycation rituals. Share them below or email them to me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com. For more ways to kill time, check out my suggestions for when you’re stuck inside here and here.

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Baking with B: Cherry Vanilla Cake

It’s been quite some time since I’ve written a post about something I’ve made- and the truth is, I haven’t really been baking as much as I used to. Seeing all the fresh fruit around at this time of year, however, sparked my interest again. That, and having a friend who has a cherry pitter gave me a great deal of encouragement. (Don’t have one? I suggest you befriend someone who does, immediately.)

Cherry Vanilla Cake (serves 8-12)

2/3 c. butter, softened

4 eggs

1 1/2 c. sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

4 tsp baking powder

1 c. milk

2 c. fresh cherries, pitted and chopped

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

1 1/2 c. butter, softened

2 c. icing sugar, sifted

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

 

Preheat the oven to 350F. Melt butter, set aside. In a bowl, beat eggs and sugar until light yellow and very thick (use a mixer if you’re not brave enough to do it by hand). Stir in the vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to the egg mixture a little bit at a time, alternating with the butter and milk. Stir until thoroughly combined. Gently stir in 1 1/2 cups of the cherries, reserving the remainder. Grease and flour two round (6-cup) cake pan. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake on low oven rack for 40-50 minutes. Let cakes rest in pan 10-15 minutes before turning them out on racks to cool.

Next, place the remaining cherries in a small saucepan and cook on low heat, 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally until mixture resembles thick liquid (you may have to add a pinch of water or two to get the consistency needed). Remove from heat and cool.

To make buttercream frosting, beat butter until creamy and add sugar 1/2 c. at a time, until well combined. Add vanilla extract and beat until smooth.

Slice the top off of your first cake. Spread with buttercream frosting, and spoon over half of the cherry mixture. Place second cake on top and layer with the remaining frosting and cherries. Top with additional fresh cherries, if desired.

I love the combination of vanilla and cherry flavors, and using fresh cherries gives it a sweet-tart flavor instead of using something from a can. There’s so many fresh, local fruits in season though that you could swap the cherries out with virtually anything your little heart desires- this cake recipe is simple enough to support a dazzling array of flavors. This cake would be awesome served warm and as-is, but sometimes it’s nice to go the extra step.

Man, that felt good to share another baking post again. Hopefully I won’t be as long in sharing the next one!

Happy baking!

B

Baking with B appears  (usually) every other Monday on the Keeping Busy with B Blog. Find out why I like baking so much here. For more of my baking, click here. And for even more recipe inspiration, check out my Pinterest full of food eye candy that will have you licking your computer. Promise.

Pride and Prejudice and Endless Possibilities

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As voracious a reader as I am, I don’t often re-read books because I’m always onto the next thing. This has changed mostly since I’ve gotten busier (and older); I don’t have the luxury of revisiting my favorites the way I used to when I was a kid. Hanging out with those books was like hanging out with old friends- they brought me joy and were always a constant, even during the moments when my life was changing very rapidly around me.

In that sense, picking my favorite book is kind of like picking my favorite friend. If I had to choose one, though, it would be Pride and Prejudice. It’s certainly one of my oldest friends- I first read it when I was a whopping eleven years of age. I loved it so much that it was enough to turn me into a full-fledged Austenite. I read all of her books, and then I read P&P again. I’ve read it three more times since then, making it the book I have re-read those most out of all of the ones I have read.

You may think my choice is cliché, or that Austen herself is, but I hate to break it to you- she’s pretty unavoidable. P&P (as well as all of her other work) has been re-published, re-packaged and re-purposed hundreds of times over. Her writing is cliché because she’s the one who wrote it to begin with.

Here are some recent examples: ever heard of Bridget Jones’s Diary? Author Helen Fielding didn’t even bother to disguise the allegory and kept the name Mr. Darcy for one of the main characters in her popular series. And Curtis Sittenfeld’s latest, Eligible, is openly marketed as a modern day re-telling of the classic novel.

Seth Grahame-Smith actually cut and pasted from the actual text of P&P to create his own horror story, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, featuring the Bennett sisters as a troupe of corset-wearing, weapon-slinging zombie hunters trying to balance romance and saving the world. You know, the usual girl stuff. I got kind of a kick out of watching the female characters kick some serious zombie butt, but some of the original storyline gets lost in translation- for example, Elizabeth Bennett’s social status (or lack thereof) hardly seems to be an issue because she’s such a badass- but it was still a lot of fun to read. Apparently others thought so as well- the book’s rise to fame brought a slew of other copycat titles along with it, including another adaptation of Austen’s work, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

If your weapons of choice are more of whip and handcuff variety, you might enjoy Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife, author Linda Berdoll’s erotic envisioning of what happens after the original Pride and Prejudice ends. He’s not Christian Grey, exactly, but this version of Mr. Darcy seems a lot less uptight than Austen’s version and Elizabeth Bennett is a lot more…shall we say submissive? Drama, babies, battles, heaving bosoms- this version has it all, and is perfect for die-hard romance fans.

More recently, I picked up a copy of Longbourn by Jo Baker, a re-telling of Pride and Prejudice through the eyes of the servants who scurry the halls of the Bennett family house.

 

KBwB-BFlower-50Psst- wanna see which books have previously graced my bookshelves? Click here. Want even more fun reading recommendations? I’ve got some for you here. Don’t forget to find me on Goodreads so we can snoop each other’s bookshelves and dish about our favourites.