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Monday, April 30, 2012

What I've been up to...and a cookie for you!

When we moved to Houston I was adamant that I wasn't going to let this blog fall by the wayside. I was going to have tons to write about - right?? A new city, new restaurants, a new house to cook in...the opportunities were endless! And then reality set it. As I settled in to my third trimester I saw my energy diminish by the day. Each day brought more boxes that needed to be unpacked, new fires that needed to be put out and another day without anything exciting to write about. If you have been keeping up with the mini traveling cupcake you will know that I am still alive (and still unpacking) and now that I feel like I have my head (slightly) above water I hope to make a more regular appearance here. So thanks for sticking with me all this time. That is, until this baby is born and then I will probably be on another hiatus :) Sorry folks, that's just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.

Speaking of cookies!!!

I made you some!

In one of the (many) boxes that I unpacked over the last month, I was super excited to find my new copy of the Joy the Baker Cookbook. If you don't already read this amazing blog I highly suggest you make it a part of your daily rotation. Since she's the second most popular food blogger out there though there's a good chance you already know who I'm talking about. I first found Joys blog a few years ago and she is a huge inspiration to me. She cooks and bakes just about anything - from bread to cookies to cakes - you  name it, she's baked it. She also bakes gluton free and vegan goodies just because she wants to. To me it takes a lot of courage to use a ton of ingredients you aren't used to (almond flour, what? coconut oil, who?) and her creative recipes never cease to inspire me. I am also a huge fan of her podcasts - Joy the Baker Podcast with Tracy of Shutterbean and We're About to be Friends

But this post is about her cookbook. And these awesome cookies.

When I found her cookbook stashed away in the 495083409 Tupperware bin that I had unpacked that day I was pumped. I called it a day and proceeded to read the entire cookbook in one sitting. I had pre-ordered the book months ago and couldn't wait to dive in. This cookbook has it all. Want some pancakes? Pick your poison. Coffee bacon? Comin' right up. Cakes - cookies - frosting?? Done, done and done. The cookbook gives some of Joys great tips and is written in the same style as her blog - ie friendly, warm and funny. Basically like talking to your BFF while mixing up some amazing treats.

The first recipe I decided to make was these Trail Mix Cookies. These are pretty similar to what some people call Kitchen Sink cookies because they have, well, everything but the kitchen sink in them! M&Ms, peanuts, peanut butter chips, raisins, oats - you name it, it's in there! The recipe made a huge batch, I got three dozen out of mine, so I had plenty to stash in the freezer for when the baby is here and I don't have time to brush my teeth let alone bake cookies. And since these guys are made with whole wheat flour, oats and raisins they are practically health food! Sure to keep us going through those long days and nights.

Since I followed Joy's recipe to the letter (I usually do the first time around) I don't want to publish it here. You're just going to have to go out and buy her book yourself - I promise you won't regret it!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lake Austin Spa - A Mini Getaway

To say that we have had a stressful and hectic first quarter of 2012 would be an understatement. And the rest of the year looks to be just as crazy, if not more so once the little one gets here and flips our lives upside down (in a good way, of course). We had been dying to getaway, to go on vacation. We didn't want to stare at the piles of boxes and things needing to be unpacked. We didn't want to have to go to Home Depot again. We didn't want to have to deal with buying any more baby-related thing (how much does an infant really need??)

We wanted - no, no, better yet - needed a break.

Enter Lake Austin Spa.

I often find that the best recommendations come from people you know. That's how we found this little gem. One of Brian's coworkers recommended it as a place to go "if you really want to relax and not have to worry about a thing." SOLD. Sign us up!

We spent three nights at this oasis in the Hill Country of Western Texas. I did a little bit of research before  getting there but not much - most of my research included perusing the spa menu and making our appointments! The resort has 40 cabins which means that their maximum occupancy is never more than around 80 guests. They were pretty full while we were there but you wouldn't have known it - we were always able to get a lounge chair by the pool, had a choice of tables for dinner and plenty of peace and quiet.

Perhaps the best thing about the Lake Austin Spa is that everything is included in the room rate - I mean everything. Well - everything except spa appointments. Close enough. They have a full schedule of work out classes, hikes and classes every day and you are free to enjoy as many as you like - or as many as you can pack into your day! Since I'm about to burst I wasn't able to enjoy many of the fitness classes that they had on offer but Brian was able to take a few each day. We went on boat tour of the lake on afternoon and I even went to a cooking demonstration lead by the head chef at the resort. In addition to all of the scheduled activities you also have access to kayaks, water bikes and paddle boards should you want to take to the open water on your own.

If you wanted to take a more relaxing approach to your stay you had plenty of options there too. The resort features two pools - one on the main resort and one at the spa. The spa menu includes anything and everything that you can imagine, from massages to facials to body scrubs and everything in between. There are hammocks set up by the lake, begging you to spend your afternoon in them reading a book. Or perhaps you would rather take a leisurely stroll through the resorts gardens - where fresh herbs, flowers and vegetables are all in full bloom. The garden is also the place where the chefs get most of their vegetables and herbs for the days menu. There is every kind of herb you can imagine in full bloom, vegetable plants, fruit trees and plenty more growing bountifully getting ready to be picked for that days lunch or dinner. It doesn't get much fresher than that.

Which brings me to the food. Their website mentions that the seasonal menu includes fat grams and calories posted next to each item in case you are watching your weight. Any of the dishes can be made to accommodate your dietary needs - whether it be vegan, gluten free, sugar free, nut free - or any other ailment that you might have! As much as they can the pick the herbs and produce from their own gardens, and everything else is sourced as locally as possible. It feels good knowing that what you are eating is fresh, organic and truly good for you. 

Now, I do have to mention, since this is a health spa the portions are TINY. An appetiser of fried olives included only five olives. Five. I could - and did - eat five olives in 10 seconds flat. Luckily, our super nice waitress let us know ahead of time about the teeny tiny portions and let us order as much food as we wanted. Six appetisers, two salads, three entrees and three desserts later we were happy and full. And every bite of each one of those plates was amazing. We didn't have one single complaint about the food the entire time we were there. You can have your meals in the main dining room, outside on the patio, in the Spa cafe or even brought straight to your room, should you be too tired from the days activities to venture outside (although the staff full encourages you to wear your bathrobe to the dining room whenever you like). And remember - all of the food is included in your rate, no mater where you chose to enjoy it.

We each had a massage appointment at the spa and boy did we ever need it. I was able to get a Mama-To-Be massage and it was just what the doctor ordered. My therapist was super friendly and knew all the tricks to relieving pregnancy pains. The staff encourages you to hang out in the Blue Room (where you can relax and catch up on your reading - or take a cat nap!) and to use the steam room, sauna and pools before or after your appointment. It only takes a few moments to feel the tension in your shoulders and the furrow in your brow melt away once you are here. I should mention that Lake Austin Spa has recently (and is frequently) named the #1 Destination Spa by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine amongst many other top rated awards. With accolades like this it's a good idea to book early! 

I can't wait to go back to the Lake Austin Spa after Baby C has arrived. It is an excellent place for a girlie weekend - in fact while we were there Brian was one of the only men that we saw during our whole stay. Of course that being said it is also a perfectly romantic place for couples to getaway from it all. Next time I am here I am looking forward to taking advantage of more fitness classes, a few deep tissue massages (I'll need them after lugging around a baby all the time, right?) and enjoying a glass of wine by the pool. It doesn't get much better than that.

Lake Austin Spa Resort
1705 South Quinian Park Road
Austin, Texas 78732

Monday, April 02, 2012

Introducing - Tracy Lynn Photography

As if moving to a new country/state/city, buying a house and having a baby all around the same time isn't crazy enough, I've decided to add one more big item to my "to-do" list (which is another reason why things have been so quiet around here). And that, my friends, is a new business.

After eight years of working in the corporate world I have the amazing opportunity to make my passion my business. I am nervous and scared, excited and thrilled all at the same time. It's going to be a lot of hard work and it's going to take a lot of time - but I am in it for the long haul and truly believe that this is going to be an amazing experience.

I would like to introduce you to - 

Tracy Lynn Photography specializes in Childrens and Baby photography in the Houston, TX area. I  already have a great portfolio from London and can't wait to expand my client base to Houston. 

If you would like to check out my website and get some more information on my packages and rates, you can visit me here:

Or contact me here:

I am offering a limited number of appointments from now until May 1st and then will resume a full time schedule in September (I'll need a few months off to take care of the little one!) I think the great thing about my packages, and is something different from many photographers, is that I give you the rights to the images. Every session includes a disk of edited images (30-50 images depending on the package you chose) for you to use however you like! Of course - you are welcome to order prints, albums, cards, etc from me but it's nice to have those images at home so you can order more whenever you want!

I am really excited about my new endeavor and can't wait to get the business fully up and running. For those of you that are in New York - feel free to contact me about possible sessions while I am in the area (at least a few times a year). I am happy to take on extra clients in my old home state! 

To check out some of my London sessions see here, here, here and here.