Sunday, December 18, 2011

Curly Girl Christmas

Just wanted to share some of my favorite Curly Girl Holiday Cards with you:
she could not but rejoice in the joy of the small things

In things such as Love, peace and Saint Nick we have the fullest confidence
Hope makes wiser hearts and a bouyancy of Spirit

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Missing Key West

We are back in Fraser, its snowing a little and of course it is cold!  So I am enjoying looking at these photos from our time in Key West last week when we were wearing shorts, sweating in the sun, and enjoying hammocks on the beach.  This was a fantastic vacation spot, I'd return anytime!

hammocks on Casa Marina's beach
private patio off our room

the best sunset we saw

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Key West Holiday

Santa being buried by an Elf
A melting Frosty the Snowman

Last week we decided to join Santa and his Elves down in Key West for a little pre-Christmas Vacation to celebrate the wedding of one of J.O.'s cousins.

The weather was perfect and we had a great time with family, enjoying the sun, and exploring this fun town!  I have to admit that it was quite humorous to hear Christmas music playing in the restaurants, stores, and hotel lobby. 

The town was decked out for Christmas and we even got to catch the annual lighted boat parade.

This Shirt from Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville sums up our  holiday vacation...

"I gotta go where it's warm!"

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Let the Season Begin!

One of my favorite ways to start the Christmas season is by listening to Christmas music!  Something about these melodies brings comfort and joy to a cold winter day.  They get me in the mood for baking holiday goodies, shopping for presents, wrapping packages, and Christmas cards!  I'm loading up my iPod with my favorite albums.  Here are my top 10 Christmas songs:

1. White Christmas, Bing Crosby
2. The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Johnny Mathis
3. The Christmas Song, Nat King Cole
4. I'll  Be Home For Christmas, Michael Buble
5. Do They Know It's Christmas, Band Aid
6. Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth, David Bowie & Bing Crosby
7. Baby It's Cold Outside, Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors
8. Carol Of The Bells, John Williams
9. O Come O Come Emmanuel, The Civil Wars
10. Silent Night, Josh Groban

Some of these songs are classics, some of these are new.  The Civil Wars version of O Come O Come Emmanuel is free on iTunes this week.  Please enjoy this video by my favorite camp musician duo, Drew and Ellie.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thinking of NYC

I'm in the mood for a trip to the city...New York City!  OK, so I was just there last January, but that feels almost too long for me.  Of course, if you know me, you know that I'm always excited about traveling!  I love the energy of New York, surrounded by tall buildings and crowded sidewalks, I feel like I'm in the center of it all. 

I've only been to NYC in January. I'm dying to experience Spring and Fall in the city and of course, I'd love to someday make it there in December to experience the holiday window displays and the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center.

For now, movies like Serendipity, Home Alone 2, The Devil Wears Prada, and of course my guilty TV show pleasure, Gossip Girl will have to do.

Here are a few picture I shot on my last trip...

Yes, Hotel Empire...the one Chuck Bass owns on Gossip Girl!

frozen lake in Central Park

boats stored for winter at Loeb Boathouse in Central Park

view of Central Park and Upper West Side from Top of the Rock

outside Grand Central Terminal

a rainy night on the steps of the Met

Pumpkin Spice Bars

Ok, so I am definitely on a baking kick lately.  I think it can be blamed on the weather turning cold, the cans of Libby's Pumpkin Puree in my pantry, and the holiday events coming up.  I must admit, I'm already in the Christmas spirit!  No I haven't loaded my favorite Christmas tunes on my iPod yet, but I have done a little early shopping!

Last week I received an early Christmas package in the mail.  My mother-in-law sent me the 2011 Southern Living Christmas Cookbook.  It is a beautiful book with pages filled with holiday recipes and decorating ideas.  As I was flipping through, I came across this recipe for Pumpkin Spice Bars.  The photo made my mouth water and I needed to make a dessert for our staff Thanksgiving lunch this week, so I thought I'd give this one a try.

Pumpkin Spice Bars
from Southern Living
Yield: 2 dozen bars

1 package spice cake mix (I used Betty Crocker, they used Duncan Hines)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (another favorite holiday ingredient!)
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 8oz package cream cheese, softened (I used 1/3 less fat cream cheese)
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup canned unsweetend pumpkin (I used Libby's)
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped white chocolate (I used Ghiradelli)
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/3 cup uncooked regular oats
Powdered sugar (optional)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine first 4 ingredients, mixing well with a fork.  Reserve 1 cup crumbs for streusel topping.  Press remaining crumbs into a lightly greased 13"x9" pan.
2.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes until puffy and set.  Cool in pan on a wire rack 20 minutes.
3. Beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer 30 seconds until creamy.  Add brown sugar, pumpkin, egg, and 1 tsp. vanilla; beat until blended.  Pour filling over baked crust.
4.  Stir white chocolate, 1 Tbsp. melted butter, and oats into reserved 1 cup streusel.  Sprinkle over filling.
5.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until edges begin to brown and center is set.  Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.  Cut into bars.  Serve at room temperature or chilled.

This recipe is easy, but I'll be honest, it is a bit time consuming.  Do not try to make this if you are in a hurry!  This is a make ahead recipe.  After getting off from work Sunday afternoon I took the time to relax and do my bible study in between the steps of baking the crust, waiting for it to cool, mixing the pumpkin cream cheese filling, and then baking and cooling again.

They turned out delicious and I had many great comments from friends at our Thanksgiving lunch!  This recipe will be tagged a keeper and will hopefully be repeated for holiday events to come.