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Friday, December 30, 2011
And although I am VERY excited for everything that 2012 is going to bring, I'm not quite ready to shut the door on 2011 just yet. Anyone want to take a trip down memory lane with me?
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
The first part of our Christmas vacation was in Prague in the Czech Republic. As I previously mentioned, we went to Prague on our first European trip together and we were excited to go back. Just as the first time, Prague was as beautiful as ever. The architecture and the way the light hits the buildings is just breath-taking.
We spent a few days wandering the streets, visiting the sites. We went to the Prague Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral, we walked over the Charles Bridge, through the Old Town Square and we even climbed the Town Hall Tower (Ok, maybe we didn't climb it exactly. There happened to be an elevator. Whatevs)
*disclaimer - most of the photos in this post were taken by Brian, he did a great job!*
Thursday, December 15, 2011
"Peace and joy and love are everywhere
You can feel the magic in the air
Let the spirit of the season carry us away
Hip, Hip Hooray for Christmas Vacation
~Mavis Staples "Christmas Vacation
As you might have gathered by now - it's Christmas vacation time! By the time you read this I will be done (hopefully) with work for the week and getting ready for our Christmas vacation. We are doing it right this year and celebrating Christmas to the max. And who knows how to do Christmas the best??
And the Czech...
And the Italians...
That's right, we're going on a full Christmas market tour and we're hitting up the big guys - Prague and Munich. We are starting off our super Christmas vacation with a few days in Prague to hit up the Christmas markets and have a few potato dumplings while we're at it. Prague was the first European trip that Brian and I went on together over FIVE YEARS AGO!
Good god, did I just type that correctly??
Since we have been there already it will be nice to revisit our favorite places, check out the Christmas markets and tuck in to some goulash and potato dumplings (and a pint or two of Pilsner for Brian). I can't think of anything better to keep me warm!
|Prague Christmas market|
Next up we are off to Munich! The last time I went to Munich was *gulp* eight years ago when I was studying abroad. Pretty much all I remember is spending a lot of time at the Hofbrauhaus and spending the night in the hallway of our hostel due to a very LOUD, snoring guy in one of the bunks in our room. Worst.Guy.EVER.
So, needless to say, I am excited to go back and see some more of the city. And check out their many Christmas markets of course! I might even pick up a cuckoo clock or seven.
|Munich Christmas market|
When we were thinking about where we wanted to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas day we didn't have to think long. We tried to convince ourselves to go somewhere new and see another city. But in the end, Italy pulled at our heart strings and won (as usual).
What? It's been two months since we were last there...clearly it's time to go back! So, we are headed back to our favorite spot in the Dolomites - Castelrotto. We first visited this cute town in October, 2010 during our two week trip around Italy. We fell in love with Hotel Mayr and their delicious dinners that we decided to go back last Christmas. This year we decided to do it once again - maybe this will be a new tradition?! What we love about staying at Hotel Mayr is that you really feel like you are at home and with family (even though really, you are with a bunch of strangers). The family that owns and runs the restaurant are so warm and welcoming and really make you feel like part of the family. There are very few things that I look back at with such fondness as I do when I think of sitting with my husband in the hotel living room by the roaring fire, with a glass of red wine in my hand and a plate of homemade Italian Christmas cookies in front of me.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
To be honest, I haven't really don't that much baking this year for Christmas. Usually I do loads of baking to give away as gifts, to bring to work and to serve at our holiday party. But this year I haven't really had the chance to do any of that. Things have been so crazy around here with my new job, my weekend "job" taking children's photos, being pregnant (oh yeah, that little thing) and a slew of other things going on that I'm not quite ready to tell you about (check back after the New Year though!).
We are leaving this weekend for an extended Christmas vacation (more on that later this week), so my holiday baking time is being cut even shorter. A few weeks ago I ordered a few things from Lakeland.com - including a brand new cupcake carrying case (SO excited!! Seriously, what a huge nerd I am). I was getting ready to check out when what to my wandering eyes should appear?
|photo from Wilton.com|
Well, something similar to this, just not Wilton brand (Lakeland must have sold out of their version because I can't find a photo on their website!)
A Christmas tree made out of stacked star cookies?!?! SOLD! In my basket it went.
Over the weekend I finally had a chance to try this puppy out. I have my moms sugar cookie recipe that I usually use for the holidays, but since I didn't know exactly how much dough I would need I decided to go with the recipe on the box. It made just the perfect amount of dough to make two of each stars. I made an extra one for me to snack on and it tasted great!
After all of the stars were baked I took a day off (well, not really, I was taking more children's photos, but more on that later!) and spent all afternoon on Sunday frosting these guys up. It was my first time using Royal Icing and I have to say, I was a little intimidated. I didn't have any quick access to meringue powder, so I found a recipe that used powdered egg whites (can't use raw egg whites now that I'm prego!) and it worked like a charm! I even had a bunch left over thanks to the majority of my frosting being one solid color.
Even though the royal icing process was relatively painless, it did take a while! First you have to outline each cookie with slightly thicker royal icing to create a border. Once that dries (I found that by the time I was done with the last cookie the first few were already dry) you have to thin down the rest of your icing and flood the cookies. And then you have to wait for them to dry before you can stack them. And then...ok never mind, that was the last step.
I put a circle of icing in the middle of each cookie before stacking the next smallest one on top. The only thing that I would change is that next time I will add the lights on after all the layers are stacked. Some of the lights got in the way, especially on the smaller ones towards the top, and the cookies didn't want to lay quite flat. But all in all it was a success! I can't wait to make a gingerbread version with all white icing, how pretty will that look?! Brian took the cookie tree to work today, fingers crossed his coworkers liked my tree as much as I did!
Sunday, December 11, 2011
In case you missed it, here's what I've been up to!
Winter Warming Drink - Irish Coffee
For those cold winter days when regular coffee just isn't enough! This is guaranteed to warm you up from the inside!
Look at my belly!
Week 17 - my belly have officially popped! I say that now...I'm sure I'll be saying it again as I get bigger and bigger! Also, check out my NEW Week by Week page to see my belly grow from 15 to 40 weeks!
I made these awesome Gingerbread Cupcakes by La Casa De Sweets after I saw her post on Twitter. Every Christmas season I become obsessed with all things gingerbread, and have had an even stronger obsession with them this year (maybe the baby loves all those yummy spices!). I brought them to work this week and they all disappeared!
Cute Kid Alert!
I am continuing my photo project that I started back in September of exploring childrens and baby photography. I have had a blast so far and I am learning A LOT! I had a photo session a couple of weeks ago with these two cuties - and the sun actually came out for once! Which means we were able to get some great shots. How much cuter could they get?!
Sure, you read and hear about all the normal aches and pains that are associated with pregnancy, but what about those that you DON'T hear about?? Check out what pain in the...belly...threw me for a loop! While you're there, share you own weird pregnancy pain story with us!
Oh yeah...you read that right! I wanted to make an extra special birthday gift for one of my closest friends here in London, Adrienne, and I knew these would do the trick! Chewy, sweet caramel married with crispy, salty bacon. How could it get any better?! A big thanks to Not without Salt for the recipe - go on over to her site and check it out!
I hope you all had a great week and are gearing up for the holidays! In one week we will be off on our Christmas market adventure (more details on that coming up this week). What do you have planned for the holidays?
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
Monday, December 05, 2011
I don't know about you, but around these parts winter has landed. Sure, we will have the odd day here and there where it gets up to 50*F (for ten minutes at 2pm in the afternoon, if the sun is out). But mostly the temperatures are hovering in the single digits (Celsius that is) during the morning and evening commutes, and the wind has reared its ugly head knocking those temps even further down.
What better way to warm up from the cold than a classic winter warmer. Some of my favorites include hot cider, mulled wine and even classic hot chocolate (with as many marshmallows as I can fit in that glass). But for today, I thought I would kick it up a notch and share a boozy winter warmer - Irish Coffee.
I have had my fair share of Irish Coffees (some better than others), but the best one that I have ever had was in the mother land herself - Ireland - at the Jameson Distillery. Last February when we went to Dublin for Brians birthday the girls ordered hot chocolate with Jameson and the boys ordered Irish Coffees. Lets just say the boys won big time.
The taste of Jameson is front and center but manages not to be overpowering. And this is coming from a girl who does NOT like Jameson at all. Like, not even a little bit. But this, this was pure heaven. The rich, bitter coffee was perfectly balanced by the spicy Jameson and topped with thick layer of cream.
We were recently back in Dublin and made another trip to the distillery to share the joy of Jameson Irish Coffee with our friends who were in town. Although I had to sit this round out (that's twice now that I haven't had my own mug of this amazing drink!) I managed to steal a drink from Brians mug. I'm sure this baby will have a taste for Irish Coffee when he/she grows up ;)
Jameson Distillery Irish Coffee
This drinks works best if you have a glass Irish Coffee mug, but if you don't have those hanging about then feel free to use another favorite mug or heat proof glass (for the best results use a glass so you can see the pretty layers). These measurements are straight from the distillery but can be adjusted to suit your taste!
2 oz Jameson Irish Whiskey
2 tsp brown sugar
Fresh brewed strong black coffee
Heavy whipping cream
- In a warm mug add 2 tsp brown sugar (one heaping teaspoon will be fine, no need to measure exactly). Add a measure (2 ounces) of Jameson Irish Whisky and stir briefly to melt the sugar. Fill the mug 3/4 of the way full with hot, black coffee.
- Carefully pour a thick layer of heavy whipping cream on top of the coffee. You will have to pour this slowly to make sure that the coffee and the cream don't mix together. To get the best tasting Irish Coffee the coffee and whisky mixture should pass through the cream layer on the way into your belly - so don't even think about taking a spoon and mixing everything together!
Drink and watch the cold melt away!