A Year in Pictures

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[Cheers!]

I can’t believe 2012 is coming to an end. This has been an amazing year and I can’t wait to see what 2013 brings. Meanwhile, here are some of my favorite moments of 2012. Have a happy and healthy new year!

dcsandpizzapalm treesmuseumbarbadosgrafittiSSsparklerspumpkinssummerfloridabeachlightsbeachgeorgetownhollywooddisneySignature-05

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Christmas

Christmas Tree[Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree]

Christmas is one of my favorite holidays of the year. It isn’t just about the day, it’s about the entire atmosphere. This year, I went to my parents house and we had an extremely relaxing day… I couldn’t have asked for anything more. My parents handled all of the appetizers and entrees, and naturally, I was in charge of dessert [minus the store-bought yule log cake — I will throw a tantrum if my parents don’t buy it for us]. I made cheesecake, Oreo truffles, and almond caramel swirls.   I spent the day cuddling up with the pup, eating enough food to almost instantly put me into a food coma, and enjoying some of my favorite family traditions.

puppy[My little Christmas pup]Bading[Me and my Santa // BaDing]pinecones[One of my favorite ornaments]Yule Log[My favorite cake of all time, the yule log cake!]Presents[A few of the gifts starting to pile up.. before Santa came, of course]Yule Log[Finishing the night with the Yule Log, on demand]

How did you spend your Christmas?

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My [new] Favorite Christmas Cookie

cookieAfter spending the day baking cookies with my moms friends last weekend, [and naturally trying at least one of each kind they made] I found my favorite cookie of the bunch. Almond Caramel Swirls are definitely making an appearance at our Christmas feast dessert table. I can’t stop eating them.. I will be lucky if I have enough to bring to my parents house on Tuesday!
almond mealcookiecaramelcaramelrollerscookiecookiecookiecookieSignature-05

Santa’s Little Elves

Cookies[The supply table]

Every year my mom and her friends bake thousands of Christmas cookies to give as little gifts. Last year I stopped by for a few minutes and felt like I walked into the Keebler Elf Tree. This year I was lucky enough to get an invitation to join them. This was so up my alley –  from biscotti, to anisette, to classic gingerbread cookies… and that was just a jumping off point to the day. After a full day of baking, decorating and lots of taste testing, I definitely picked the recipes to bring out for our Christmas day feast :).  It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

IMG_8611 IMG_8612 IMG_8616 [My moms friends festive Christmas nails]IMG_8617 IMG_8640 IMG_8624IMG_8641 IMG_8638 IMG_8643IMG_8615IMG_8613IMG_8618IMG_8632IMG_8645 IMG_8647Signature-05

Five Tips for your First Trip Abroad

5TipsHeaderHi friends, this is Rachel from How Bout Some Cake. Jordan has invited me to take over her blog today and share some tips about international travel.

If you’ve never traveled abroad before, it can be a little intimidating. It usually involves a really long flight, jet lag, a foreign language, currency exchange, and unfamiliar foods. But, in my opinion, it’s all totally worth it for one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. Here are five tips that will help you prepare for and get the most out of your first international trip.

Tip1

I’m a huge fan of travel books (I wrote a whole post about them here) and I truly believe they are a tourist’s saving grace in an unfamiliar city. They offer everything from restaurant reviews and sample itineraries to history and cultural etiquette tips. Nobody wants to be a sophomoric traveler, and these guide books can really help in teaching you things you didn’t even know to ask. For example, how else would you know that gratuities in Spain should be a fraction of what you’d leave here in the States?!

Tip2

I recommend making copies of all your important documents and keeping them with you all the time. When I say this, I’m including your passport, license, credit cards, insurance information, and any other documents you can’t live without. Of course, you have to keep your credit cards with you to use them, but everything else is better off back in the hotel safe. Pick-pocketing is rampant in many foreign countries, especially European ones, and you really don’t want some stranger running off with your passport. Similarly, if they do get away with your credit card, you want the card number and company phone number handy so you can call and report it immediately. Trust me, as someone who has been the victim of purse-snatching, these photocopies/scans can be invaluable.

Tip3

First, find out their foreign transaction policies and second, apprise them of your trip. Your credit card companies may freeze your accounts when they see foreign spending, thinking it’s fraudulent activity. I’ve never had any trouble using my credit/debit cards abroad, but it is good to know how they’ll handle the currency conversion. Also devise a plan for cash- if you’re not comfortable carrying a lot when you travel, you will probably be able to withdraw from ATMs at your destination, but expect hefty fees with each transaction.

Tip4

This is a good tip no matter where you’re going, but especially when you’re going somewhere vastly different than home. Bags do get lost, and you don’t want to be stranded without medications, a clean pair of undies, and anything else you would need within 24-48 hours of landing. Pharmacies work differently in other countries, so if you regularly take any medication (even something like Tylenol) you should bring it with you.

Tip5

You never know what you’re going to encounter when traveling abroad. That’s the fun of it: encountering exotic and unfamiliar tastes, sights, and experiences. Don’t expect every experience to be good. You’re not going to like every dish you order, every hotel you stay in, every cultural experience. Conversely, you’ll probably enjoy some experiences more than you thought. View it as an adventure and keep a positive attitude to get the most enjoyment out of your trip. I think that, as Americans, we often think that our way is the best way, but I’d encourage any tourist to reserve judgment and appreciate every place for its own unique qualities.

Hope these tips help you when planning for your next big adventure!

Peachwave

IMG_8433 Peachwave is a delicious self-serve frozen yogurt spot. My first time there was this past weekend, and I was like a kid in a candy shop. Once you choose your serving size, you are faced with the difficult task of choosing from a wall of original flavors — but it doesn’t have to be too difficult because you have the freedom to pick as many or as little flavors as you please. You are then greeted by a “toppings bar” that has everything from fresh fruit, bits of cake, cereal, and of course, classic frozen yogurt toppings like sprinkles and chocolate syrup. I love that it’s however you want it. This really is my kind of place – too bad there are no locations anywhere near me! [Who am I kidding, if it was near me I would be there way too often, lets hope they don’t start popping up around here!]IMG_8435 IMG_8437 IMG_8438 IMG_8440 I topped mine off with chocolate chip cookie dough, cheesecake bites, mini reese’s peanut butter cups, marshmallows, hot fudge, and whipped cream.
IMG_8441 IMG_8443What’s your favorite frozen yogurt spot?
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Checkerboard Cake

IMG_8426If you’re having trouble deciding between vanilla and chocolate, this is the way to go. The checkerboard cake isn’t as complicated as it looks and tends to impress people. Here is how it’s made.
IMG_8407Make 4 round cakes, 2 vanilla / 2 chocolate.IMG_8408Using various items in the kitchen, [I used a shot glass, a drinking glass, and bowl] cut out 3 circles into each of the cakes.  IMG_8409 Separate all of the pieces and put them back to together, making each piece look like a target.
IMG_8410 Stack them on top of each other, inverting the colors on the outside for each layer.
IMG_8411 Decorate the cake.
IMG_8414 checkerboard Cut it opened, and be impressed with yourself!
IMG_8427Enjoy. 🙂Signature-05

Gingerbread House Party

GBHEvery year, we attend a gingerbread house building and decorating party. There is something about this tradition that makes me feel like a kid again. We crowd around the table and build away, before decorating our houses with our favorite treats. Eating just as much as what ended up on our masterpieces, it was a perfect day ending in a serious food coma.

GBHGBHGBHGBHGBHGBH[mine]GBH[BaDing’s and his niece’s // my favorite]GBH[the hurricane rescue gingerbread house // aka a house that broke in the box :(]Signature-05