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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Mele Kalikimaki

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!


I am making the rounds this year from Cincinnati to Cleveland to New Mexico and finally on to Florida. I have been very excited about seeing family and friends this season and am so thankful for the chance to do travel! I wish everyone Happy Holidays to you and yours.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Eggnog Frosted Nutmeg Sugar Cookies


I wanted to share this fun festive recipe that I found. The cookies bake up nicely and you can really taste the nutmeg and vanilla but they aren’t sweet. The icing makes the cookie though! I’m not usually much of an icing person but I have to admit these cookies are vastly improved upon by the addition of the eggnog icing with a sprinkling of coarse sugar. You can really taste the eggnog flavor and it also adds just the right amount of sweetness. They aren’t too rich, but quite lovely especially with coffee or tea (or eggnog if you’re feeling indulgent).

For some reason my hyperlinks won't work so please click for a link to the recipe:
http://www.recipe.com/eggnog-frosted-nutmeg-sugar-cookies/

For reference, I used vanilla bourbon extract instead of real vanilla bean and Horizon reduced fat eggnog. I bet adding some rum, whiskey or brandy to the icing would be delicious!

I hope everyone is getting ready for the holidays, I know I can’t wait!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Botanical Facial Treatment


It’s almost time for the holidays! If your schedule is anything like mine you have one more week of work to get through before the true celebrating can occur. Even though this is a short week for me, it seems like I’m struggling to get to the holiday finish line. How about a little DIY home-spa treatment to pamper and treat yourself? Not only is it a fun activity but it will be relaxing and help to give your skin a radiant glow for your friends and family this Christmas.
Using ingredients from your kitchen is cheap and easy. The combinations are endless and I’ve only just started experimenting with botanicals that I know are mild and helpful for dry skin. I will share one or two of my favorites with you but don’t forget that you should cater to your skin needs. My skin was getting very dry and flakey from the cold weather so I focused on moisturizing ingredients but there are also facial masks and exfoliants that are targeted for oily or acne prone skin.



Simple exfoliant: I have started using dried oatmeal as an exfoliating agent. By just adding a pinch (approx ¼ teaspoon) to your regular face wash, the oatmeal will gently exfoliate and moisturize. Your face will feel softer and smoother immediately. To apply, mix up in your hands and gently apply to face using slow circular motions then rinse off with luke warm water. I have been doing this maybe 2 to 3 times per week and it feels wonderful. People with oily skin would probably benefit from exfoliating more regularly and with a stronger exfoliant. I have read that crushed almond works wonderfully but to be careful with the jagged edges of the nuts.



Facial Mask: After spending money on product after product, trying new moisturizers, new foundations, new primers… everything… I was tired of buying new things that didn’t work but I needed something to help with my dry flaking skin around my T-zone. I thought I should at least try this all natural and FREE facial before buying anything else. I have to admit I was scared to try this… but I knew I had no allergies to any of the ingredients so I figured the worst thing that could happen would be a break out. Well after using ONCE I couldn’t believe the difference in made within minutes. Not only did it pretty much completely take care of my dry skin, it also had some wonderful effects that I was not expecting. The mask helped to reduce the redness around my nose and also to reduce or even eliminate some small blemishes around my T-zone! Who would have thought?!? Anyway, here is the recipe:
- ½ teaspoon Honey
- ¼ teaspoon Olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Dried oatmeal (I just used instant)
- 1 egg yolk



To apply: Before using the mask I washed my face using the oatmeal exfoliant, then pat face lightly with towel. Mix together the ingredients into a paste (mine was a bit wet) and apply to the face and neck. Leave on for 10-15 minutes…. It looks funny but smells great! Go ahead and throw two cold cucumber slices on your eyes and lay down while you’re waiting for the true spa experience. Then rinse off thoroughly with luke warm water. I followed by applying my regular moisturizer.




Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chocolate Almond Cookies

I had good intentions of making festive gingerbread cookies for our work holiday party last week. However, after mixing all of the dry ingredients and proceeding to cream the butter with the brown sugar, I realized that we were out of brown sugar! Although I was disappointed, there was a recipe for chocolate roll-out cookies I had been meaning to try for a while.



The recipe was very basic (and looked a bit boring to be honest) so I added in some vanilla extract and crushed raw almonds for excitement. I loved the way these turned out, they were so rich but not too sugary, they really reminded me of a nice Dutch Chocolate Cookie. I sprinkled the raw almonds on about half of the cookies and left the others as simple chocolate cookies that were tasty as well. The shapes I used were: Rocking horse, winter mitten, candy cane, Christmas tree, and little men.

Ingredients:

- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (this ingredient really makes or breaks the cookie, I always use a nice and rich cocoa powder)
- 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, softened (I never said they were good for you…)
- 1 ¼ cups white sugar (I think I used more like 1 1/8 cup actually)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract (I use a bourbon vanilla ext!)
- Optional: crushed almonds ( I just grab about 2 handfuls of raw unsalted almonds and grind in a food processor)


Instructions:

- Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt and set aside. Cream together the sugar and butter until smooth then beat in the egg and vanilla extract. Slowly incorporate the dry mixture making sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl frequently. Once a soft dough is formed, separate into 2 sections, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 375 deg F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thick and have fun with your cookie cutters!!
- Place them on a cookie sheet (I always use parchment paper on the sheet to prevent burning the bottoms of the cookies). At this point you can add the crushed almonds if desired (just sprinkle on top of each cookie). Cook for 8-10 minutes.


As a side note, I also had raw hazelnuts and pecans which would have been good on top of the cookie for something different!

What’s on your baking agenda this holiday season? I’ve already gotten to make about 6 pumpkin pies (my favorite), gingerbread men, muffins of all sorts and Christmas cookies. I would still like to attempt to whip up some eggnog and some hot buttered rum..


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Hopefully everyone is enjoying the holiday season as much as I have been! Due to computer issues I haven’t been able to post very much but hopefully that will be resolved shortly.

This year I am lucky enough to enjoy TWO Christmas trees!

This lovely white tree was left behind by my sister upon her move to Chicago. You can’t really tell in the picture but the lights include blue and pink and match the vintage ornaments from my recent antiques trip! I love the way this tree looks in our living room.







And this classic Douglas Fir was cut down by my very own fiancé on a trip out to a tree nursery that had hot chocolate, wreaths, and even goats! Our good friends, Jordan and Amber of Shiny and the Spoon went out with us and got a lovely tree and wreath of their own. A stop at the Dilly Deli for lunch on our way home completed the trip and to our delight they had Great Lakes Christmas Ale on tap!







And this gorgeous wreath was MADE for us by my soon-to-be mother-in-law who is so thoughtful and amazing! There are even little Stockings for the doggies.




We are also excited for Little C.B. to experience his first Christmas with us! He is such a good boy and has been doing wonderfully adjusting to his new home. After a bit of training he has learned how to walk on a leash. I truly enjoy taking long walks with Pierre and C.B., they both seem to really enjoy it as well!

The holidays are fast approaching! Enjoy this magical time of the year.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Antiques

Last weekend, the fiance and I scooped up the poodles and took a mini road trip up to Sunbury, Oh to meet his family (it's exactly halfway between Cleveland and Cincinnati!). It's always a blast spending time with them and this trip was certainly no exception. Among the fantastic food and catching up, we also got to spend some time looking at the antiques in the area (so much fun).

Here is a peak of what I brought home:

There are 2 sets of clip-on earrings (0.50 cents each) and a clock brooch


The clock booch was especially beautiful to me. It was in such wonderful condition and seems very sturdy. The face looks like mother of pearl but it was only a few dollars.


This beautiful maroon purse called my name from behind the glass counter. It is from the 1940s and in near-perfect condition. I love the scalloped edging on the bottom and the gold clasp.


I adore vintage purses but more often than not they aren't practical for everyday use. Many of them are very small or don't have any pockets for organization. This purse had bunches of little places to store my things and has quickly become my everyday hand bag.


And my fantastic mother-in-law-to-be was nice enough to buy these beautiful ornaments that I had my eye on!

Aren't they pretty? When my sister moved up to Chicago she left her white Christmas tree behind for me and I couldn't be more excited to decorate it this year. These jewel-toned glass ornaments are going to look smashing!



Well half of the fun of shopping has to daydreaming about future purchases right? Here are some of the fun finds that will have to wait for another time:

This pair of pink lamps is so fun! They wouldn't go with the "decor" of my apartment (I use the term loosely) but maybe someday they will.



Jadeite dishware!! Love it! I'm not really sure why it is so appealing but I will one day have a whole set of these treasures.


Here you can see the sapphire blue fireking dishes as well. Perhaps it's just the way the fireking dishes feel and they way it sounds when you put the cup on the saucer but they are just fantastic.



Here are a few more vintage Christmas finds. It was a challenge not to just buy them all!




Quack Quack! These little darling duckling salt and pepper shakers are so sweet.




This is an old Disneyland "value book". Prior to 1982, Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom had a low admission price and then a pay-per-ride system. The rides were priced on a system from A to C with "A" tickets being the least popular and smallest up to "C" being the big attractions. In 1956 they introduced the "D" ticket attraction designation. And finally in 1959 they added the final "E" ticket attraction. Though the use of this graded system is gone today and you are able to ride whatever you want with the price of admission, the term "E ticket attraction" is still used to describe a very popular and exciting ride. You can tell that the booklet in the photo is from some time between 1956 to 1959 as the tickets only go up to "D".





And last but not least is Fifi the Begging Poodle. I pulled her out of the box and she was... well... a little creepy but it was fun nonetheless!

I hope everyone is enjoying the weekend, it is lovely weather here in Cincinnati. I am taking it easy this weekend with a bit of knitting and walking the poodles!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Chicago Street Style

A few weeks ago while visiting Chicago, I was doing a bit of shopping at Zara. We don’t have these stores in Cincinnati so I was excited to pick up a few basics. After trying on about 4 turtle necks with incredibly tight necks and COMPLETELY messing up my hair, I was stopped by Amy Creyer of the Chicago Street Style Blog.


She was incredibly nice and took a few shots of me on the street. She posted this a few days ago and I feel incredibly flattered to be mentioned on her wonderful blog! I really love Street Style blogs and Amy does such a great job of capturing personal style.

As a disclaimer, I AM a scientist but I do NOT actually work in a lab - slight miscommunication there:)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Trip to Chicago

A few weeks ago, Brent, Pierre and I took a road trip up to Chicago to see Kelly, Nic and Stacey. It was such a blast and fantastic to see my closest friends and family.

It was a late night upon our arrival on Friday but we stayed up most of the night catching up. Here is me, Kelly, and Nic in their darling apartment in Greektown.


I believe in this picture, we are looking through a Walt Disney World Souvenir Book. From our expressions I have concluded that I am delving into some random and useless factoid and Kelly is deeply contemplating the new information.


The next day we took the metro down town and made a stop in the Hershey Store...
Because there is nothing for comparison in this picture, you might not be able to tell that these are GIGANTIC Reese's Peanut Butter cups. Check out the lower right hand corner "2-8oz cups"!



More of the HUGE-sized candy... yum!




We then got to meet up with STACEY whom I miss so much and every time I see her I feel like I can't get out all of the exciting things that I want to say before it's time to leave again. Nic's mother and brother also met up with us and it is always a pleasure to see Nic's wonderful family! We all had some delicious tapas at this restaurant which I sadly do not remember the name of!
Though I don't remember the name, the food and sangria was fantastic. I think I was enjoying a stimulus overload with such a fun group of people.


Nic, Brent, and Stacey. Stacey looks really happy... must have been that darn tricky bathroom door!


After lunch, a few of us took a trip to the huge Disney store. Awesome.



And for dinner we decided on this cheesy deep dish pizza. Chicago has ruined me when it comes to pizza... deep dish is ridiculously good.




Somehow I managed to get myself to a ballet class at the Joffrey Ballet Studio downtown on Sunday morning. It was a great class and the studios were all windows looking out onto the city.



To top it off, on the ride home we hit the 140,000 mile mark!

In other news, I survived a camping trip this past weekend (pictures hopefully to come later). C.B. had his first vet visit today and seems to be doing just fine. And my parents are coming in less that THREE DAYS!! So excited to see them:)

Hope everyone is having a delightful week!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Say Hello to C.B.


C.B. (Chocolate Bear) is the newest addition to the family and he couldn't be more darling! I saw a picture of C.B. on PetFinder.com and there was something special in his big brown eyes, it reminded me of how I felt when I first saw Pierre - I just knew.

On Saturday, I packed up some supplies and Pierre and I took a road trip out to Clinton County Human Society to meet the little guy. The kind volunteers there took be back to a private room where C.B. was playing. He was dirty. He smelled like a garbage can. He was missing most of his front teeth. It was love at first site! After getting acquainted, I took Pierre inside to make sure the boys got along and the rest is history.

C.B. was especially fond of a little skunk squeaky toy and kept falling asleep on it!

C.B. is a 6 year old Toy Poodle weighing in at a whopping 5 pounds. He was rescued from a puppy mill where they used him as a breeder for most of his life. I don't know exactly what conditions were like for C.B. (he didn't even have a name when the shelter rescued him) and I frankly would rather not know.

Despite his horrific past, he is the sweetest and most well behaved little guy. He hasn't had a single accident, can you believe it?! I don't know if he can bark or make noise, I haven't heard a peep yet. He has never been on a leash before but has already made so much progress.




And of course, Pierre was a bit jealous in the beginning but he has been such a wonderful buddy to C.B. by engaging him and encouraging him to play. The two of them are ADORABLE when they play fight.... it looks like teddy bears hugging each other. Surprisingly, it isn't much more work to have 2 dogs... though it will cost more when it comes to grooming every once in a while.

Click Here for a link to a youtube video of Pierre and CB playing

Anyway, I was nervous to adopt on older dog but I am so happy I decided to open my heart to C.B. If you are thinking about getting a pet of any kind, I cannot recommend PetFinder.com enough. The site allows you to pull from all shelters/rescues in the area but you can refine the search to find a pet that will work for you and your family. Not only does it help the person doing the searching but it helps the animal in finding its forever home by ensuring that certain needs are met (example: if a pet can't live with small children/other dogs/ other cats, etc).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A few things to look forward to:

Aside from the usual autumn-time excitement that I enjoy every year (fall foliage, pumpkin everything, approaching holidays, etc..) there are a few items that I'm patiently awaiting this season:

A Very She and Him Christmas Album
You can preview the first track (Christmas Waltz) on the website. I have already pre-ordered the CD and I am really looking forward to hearing M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel cover my favorite holiday songs.

She and Him Volume I and II are a music necessity for me. These albums are the perfect solution when I'm feeling down and need a pick me up. Zooey's voice is enchanting and there is a genuine honesty about the presentation of the songs.


The Nerdist Way by Chris Hardwick

I have such a blast listening to the Nerdist Podcast and often find myself laughing out loud in the middle of a quiet office at work... embarassing but fun. Not only do they manage to interview ALL of my favorites (some examples: Joel McHale and Community et al, Rob Zombie, THE MUPPETS!, Zooey Deschanel, Tom Lennon, MST3K/Rifftrax guys, John Hamm... the list goes on) but the episodes with only the hosts are fantastic as well.

The show keeps me interested for a couple of different reasons. First and foremost, the hosts (Chris, Jonah and Matt) are hilarious but they are down to earth and listening to them chat is like sitting in on a conversation with some good friends. Secondly, their guests are usually really amazing and have so many wonderful things to say. Not only is it funny but there are also some truly inspirational episodes (Tom Wilson and Rainn Wilson episodes for me in particular... weird... same last name - never noticed that before).

All that being said, I am planning on pre-ordering this book (out on November 1). Sometimes I have too many projects, thoughts, inspirations, and ideas but I don't know how to harness them into a finished thing. From what I've read, this book focuses on just that - using your inner nerd qualities to funnel your energy into something positive.


A visit from my parents!!


I am lucky enough to get an early holiday visit from my mom and dad all the way from New Mexico!! They will only be here for 3 days but I couldn't be more excited to see them. They will be staying at the lovely Clifton House which is always stocked with Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate brownies and wine:)



Well, wish me luck, I'm off an a camping adventure for the weekend at the Red River Gorge. I'm a bit nervous as I am NOT the camping type. I'm giving it a try though... my fiance loves the wilderness and all:) Despite my lack camping skills, it should be a fun time. Brent and I and the doggies (yes... there are two now... expect a post on that later) are meeting some friends and the weather should be a tad chilly but sunny and dry. We checked the fall foliage maps and right now eastern Kentucky is "near peak" which means the autumn colors should be brilliant:

... I've never been to the gorge before. Brent claims it's absolutely gorge-ous though:) Personally I'm looking forward to some relaxation by the fire and some nice long hikes (also smores...)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Home Brew - Honey Brown Ale

I've finally gotten to brew my own beer! My partner in crime, Rob has brewed a few batches of different beers including an Oktoberfest that I had the privilege of trying and was delicious. This batch is a Honey Brown Ale, a first for us both.

Warning: this is NOT a how-to.... this process was complicated and I am by no means an expert (Rob was definitely running the show). I just wanted to share some pictures and part of the process - enjoy!


Honey mixture

Grains, spices, flavorings, and whatnots.

The above spices plopped into a huge bucket of water.

The same water after simmering for a few minutes... mmm beer tea

After boiling for quite a while, you have to rapidly cool the mixture.

Rob doing a fine job of transferring the mixture into the clear glass container. By this point the yeast has been added.


Here it is fully transferred where it will sit for about 2 weeks before you can bottle.


The next day, look at all of the activity!


The yeasties are doing their little jobs. A few days later Rob transferred the bath to a similar glass container for a cleaner brew.





And the finished product...
About 2 weeks later we finished up the process and bottled! I wasn't able to get many pictures of this process because I was knee deep in beer while working away - it was blast! After bottling, it is recommended to wait an additional two weeks before drinking... stay tuned:)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

First Pumpkin Pie of the Season!

I've been looking for canned pumpkin at the grocery for the past month or so and finally found some and snatched up 3 cans on Saturday! I made my first pumpkin pie of the year and just in time for Oktoberfest.

I put little cats around the edges for decoration... I may already be excited about Halloween:)
This weekend is Cincinnati's annual Oktoberfest and we took a stroll down town yesterday to enjoy the festivities. Before we made our way down to the festival, we stopped by our friend's party to enjoy some traditional German food.


Here is Jordan entertaining with some fun German songs:



I hope everyone is enjoying the weekend!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Perfectly Delightful Saturday

Last weekend's weather was too perfect to miss, so the fiance and I took off for one of the best Saturdays I have ever had:

We took the convertible and rode with the top down to enjoy the sunshine. In Kentucky, we stopped at a local farmer's market and admired their beautiful produce and jams.

Brent picked us out some tomatoes, peaches, apples, and green beans. I was holding Pierre back from devouring all of the food.


We drove on to Devou Park and settled in for a picnic where we enjoyed our fresh fruit in the grass.

The view of the city was wonderful, I had never been to this park before, what a surprise!

It was nice to lay back and look up at the blue sky.


Pierre got to come along too!

He's getting quite fuzzy... time for grooming soon!


I'm trying to get in one last wear of all my tropical clothing before autumn :)


After a delicious dinner at the Dilly Cafe and a walk around charming Mariemont, we drove out to the Starlite Drive-in to watch "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" and "Crazy, Stupid Love". Both good.

I spent a little extra time on my hair in anticipation for our day and was happy with the way it came out. A simple french twist with the top curled into a mini bun at the top. Garnished with a fake orchid.

View from the front.

This weekend is a luxurious 3 days long! We have some friends visiting and are enjoying the last lazy days of summer with lots of walks with Pierre.