All I want for Christmas is…

This is my wish list, but maybe some of you guys will also enjoy these things. Husbands, take note… 🙂

I saw this bag on A Cup of Jo (click through for a 25% coupon through December; $120 regular price). This bag is called The Catalina and it’s made by a company called Lo & Sons (family owned and run I believe).

catalina

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I am leaning towards the dark grey one but they also have a light grey, a yellow/green, and a purple/grey (“thistle”).

Anyone who has known me for more than an hour knows that I love hoodies. I will wear dress pants or a dress/skirt and “ruin” the outfit with one of my favorite comfy grey hoodies. This is the latest hoodie that I’ve been eyeing:

and-then-i-woke-up-hoodie

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It might be a mens but I don’t care! Grey hoodies for the win. Two of my current faves (that I already own) are…

1) Spiritual Gangster (yup it’s also a mens):

hoodie-back-spiritual-gangster hoodie-front-spiritual-ganster

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2) And a sweatshirt from Mantralogy (a record label) with a huge Ananda on the back:

ananda-hoodie

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But anyway, back to that wish list.

I am terrified of getting bunions though I think it might be too late. In any case, for those of us who wear (uncomfortable and/or cute) shoes too often, I found this simple sock solution made by Happy Feet:

happy-feet

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These socks supposedly realign your toes to make up for the scrunching that happens all day long when you wear your shoes. Good reviews on Amazon.

And lastly, I want something comfy. Don’t we all this time of year?

I’ve been staring at these Madewell lounging leggings for a while…

madewell-leggings

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But I can’t really bring myself to spend $60 on pajama pants.

So I tried to find some alternatives. Uniqlo has one that is similar and that I was able to find on my lunch break (I got the last pair):

uniqlo-leggings

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They’re called Women’s Lounge Bottoms (Rib) in Flower Print ($12.90).

While I was there I grabbed a pair of Women’s Drape Bottoms ($14.90) because why not – they looked comfy!

uniqlo-drape

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Another good holiday gift idea is a restaurant gift card… I’ve been meaning to try this kind of interesting place in Brooklyn: Eat (in Greenpoint). They serve local organic food. They also have “silent dinners” occasionally where you eat a 4-course meal in silence. Sounds very zen.

What do you want this holiday season? Or if you already celebrated, what did you get?

Merry Christmas! (Yes, I’m late)

Happy Boxing Day!

I’m still in Miami and loving this gorgeous “winter” weather. Bobby’s family has been amazing and we’ve been having a really fantastic time.

I’m actually home alone right now; I feel kind of sick so I’m missing out on dinner plans. I just had Christmas leftovers (turkey, mashed potatoes, and some veggies) and they were just as delicious today as they were yesterday. The recap is coming soon. In the meantime, check out these gorgeous pictures my dad sent me…

01 bouche

My mom makes Bûche de Noël every few years. Bûche de Noël is a traditional European dessert that’s served during the Christmas season. It’s also called a Yule Log. It’s mostly a French thing – the countries/provinces that make it (France, Belgium, Quebec, Lebanon, and more) are all francophone.

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My mom usually uses 3 different recipes to make the 3 parts of the Yule Log: the cake part (sponge cake), the inside buttercream icing, and the chocolate outside icing (possibly buttercream as well? I forget).

This year she made a slug to be more realistic:

03 bouche slug

Reminds me of the banana slug that my dad and I saw in the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.

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Anyway.

My sister made Springerles, which are German cookies (biscuits?) that are made during the holidays. My Grammie always used to make them so I guess Julia took over that tradition this year. My dad said they were soft and flavorful. Definitely a success – Springerles are hard to get right.

04 springerles

To make the Springerles, you use a Springerle rolling pin to press the design onto a slab of dough; then you cut the slab into squares. This one is from Wikipedia:

Springerle_roller

Julia is a great baker, so she also made these loaves of Hungarian Bread for Grammie, Aunt Mattie, and Uncle Rudy.

05 hungarian bread

I love baking presents. It’s such a nice way to show that you care. You guys all know how much I loved making those gingerbread houses

I am going to go watch some TV (Glee, perhaps?) with a nice mug of tea. Want to be rested for tomorrow’s flight.

Merry (late) Christmas again, and enjoy your weekend. I’ll try to get up the many many recaps that I have for you this week!

How To Make Gingerbread Houses

Yesterday I gave you a teaser about my gingerbread house adventure – you get the full story today!

A week ago (last Sunday – when I blogged about exercise) I took the subway out to Flushing to visit my (Bobby’s) aunt and uncle. Auntie Jo had offered a while ago to teach me how to make real gingerbread houses – the recipe was from her German housekeeper (I think she said it’s from 45 years ago). I jumped at the opportunity – Auntie Jo is so sweet and I love learning new things about baking.

When I got there we got breakfast (see this post for my New York bagel). Auntie Jo had made the dough the night before (you have to chill it) so when we got back, we started with the baking process. Here is the recipe (hand-typed from Auntie Jo’s recipe book):

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It says…

GINGERBREAD HOUSES (from Cookie Cookery)

Mix together until smooth:

  • 1 cup shortening (2 bars)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup molasses

Stir into above and mix well:

  • 1/2 cup hot water

Beat 2 eggs and stir into the sugar mix.

Sift together, adding slowly:

  • 5.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon

Place dough in containers and freeze or chill. Roll to 1/8 – 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out with a pointed knife following a cardboard patter: 2 each of front, side, and roof. Chimney is optional.

Warm oven to 350. Bake 10-15 minutes. Let cool. Put together with Royal Icing. Decorate.

ROYAL ICING

Add 2.5 cups of sifted confectioner’s sugar and 1/4 teaspoons cream of tartar to 2 egg whites.

Heat, stirring, in the top of a double boiler until warm and smooth. Remove from heat, beat in electric mixer at highest speed for 5-6 minutes, until icing stands in peaks. Cover bowl with damp towel and put into refrigerator. Can tint with food color, or may squeeze through a pastry tube with decorating tip.

Use to cement house together. When sides are secure, use to place ornament candies on house.

<—End Recipes—>

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This was the baking station: a beautiful recipe book (handmade), a cutting board, cardboard cutouts (for making the house shapes), flour, a rolling pin. The dough is in that metal bowl.

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First, you flour the cutting board. Then you roll out the dough (with a rolling pin) until it’s about 1/4 – 1/8 inches thick. Use the cardboard shapes to cut out the pieces for the house.

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Auntie Jo showed me how to scoop under the dough before cutting it out so that it comes off the cutting board more easily.

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I had fun cutting out the pieces! Mine were not as nicely shaped as Auntie Jo’s, but she has more practice than I do (I’ll keep trying).

Duke (Ellington) kept us company:

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(He didn’t get any gingerbread.)

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After we did the houses, we still had dough left, so we did some cutouts – that’s a carrot cookie cutter. It is so cute. The house pieces came out and we put them in the garage to cool:

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While they cooled, we took a break…

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…To eat cinnamon toast with butter and hot tea with milk and sugar.

me morris jo

Uncle Morris DJ’d and played us some lovely jazz music while we baked that afternoon.

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Then it was time to make the icing. We didn’t use a double boiler; we just boiled water in a pan and put the metal bowl with the icing batter inside.

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And we beat the icing in the mixer – beautiful. We used a pastry tube thing to squeeze the icing (like glue) and put the houses together.

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The roofs go on last. We actually ended up with an extra base, so I put a heart on it and gave it to Bobby.

After I put on the roofs, I packed up the houses and took them home to finish decorating (it was late). I just decorated them yesterday (Saturday), and this is how they came out:

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I used gummy bears and chocolate chips.

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I’m giving them to my coworkers and my cousin (in-law-to-be). I think they make great gifts – I’ll definitely be making them next year too.

Thank you Auntie Jo for teaching me! And to Uncle Morris for great company 🙂

I’m actually on my own now… Bobby is en route to Miami (should touch down in about 25 minutes) and I miss him. But I’ll see him on Wednesday. I’m still missing the cats, too.

Have you ever made gingerbread houses? Do you give baked goods as presents? What are your favorite things to make?

Blogger Love and Review: Peace Food Cafe (New York City)

Last week on Tuesday night I met up with one of my favorite bloggers… Dori! She took us to a great vegan place on the upper west side called Peace Food Cafe. It’s completely vegan and they also have a lot of raw options.

Unfortunately neither of us had working cameras so I don’t have a picture of us together… but I did manage to take (crappy) pictures of the food with Bobby’s Droid. Bobby and I split 2 dishes – the kabocha sandwich ($9) and the mushroom duxelle pizza ($9.95). Dori got the kabocha sandwich too.

08 kabocha sandwich

Did you really think I wouldn’t get the kabocha sandwich? It’s actually listed as roasted japanese pumpkin sandwich on the menu. It came with some kind of pickled veggie and sprouts. It was really good, but the bread was a little bit dense for my tastes. I loved the caramelized onions and mashed squash in the sandwich. The vegan cheese and walnuts didn’t sit too well in my stomach either.

09 pizza

The pizza was amazing. The mushrooms were so good – they almost tasted meaty. I wasn’t really a fan of the roasted veggies on top but Bobby happily ate them up for me.

We couldn’t skip dessert – we got a HUGE piece of chocolate peanut butter swirl cake and devoured it.

10 dessert

This was so rich but so delicious.

And now I have to be honest… while the meal was delicious, it was not very filling. Bobby stopped at Grey’s Papaya for a hot dog on the way home and I stopped at Whole Foods for some cornbread. And this is probably why all of my pants are too tight (well, not just this one time, but in general I have been eating a lot more than I usually do). Might be time to reign it in.

More blogger love – Bekah sent me a holiday care package! These almonds and granola are wonderful. She’s a talented girl.

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Thanks, Bekah!

Today’s question gets us into the holiday spirit… What is your favorite holiday gift (either to give or receive)? When I was little I loved big gifts, but now I actually like things that are homemade and thoughtful. I’m pretty easy to please. A fresh batch of Christmas cookies or a knitted scarf both sound perfect to me.