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.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Peanut Butter Snickers Cookies

Last month I shared with you a new found recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies that I fell in love with.  Well, the other day I got this fun idea to chop up Snickers and use those in the cookies instead of chocolate chips.  The thought of the melted chocolate and caramel with the crunchy nuts got me excited...then I went to the store and came across these Peanut Butter Snickers Squares!
These might be some of the best cookies I've ever made.  When they came out of the oven they were soft and gooey and oozing with caramel.  And couple day's later they are still soft and chewy.  But beware, they are very rich.  (That's a good thing right?)  This was a successful experiment! 

Now I'm thinking about what other candy I can chop up and try next...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Two Ingredients

I've been eyeing many canned pumpkin recipes, as it is one of the most popular flavors of the season.  But I was most intrigued with the claims of combining a boxed cake mix with a can of pumpkin.  No eggs, no oil, nothing else.  I had to try it for myself.

Libby's 100% Pure Canned Pumpkin is low in fat and high in fiber.  According to a recipe on Hungry Girl's website 1/12 of the recipe, I'd recommend making a dozen muffins, 183 calories, 3.5g fat, 301mg sodium, 37g carbs, 1.25g fiber, 20.5g sugars, 2g protein -- PointsPlus® value 5.

As I combined the two ingredients, I was skeptical as to how the batter would turn out.  After a few minutes of mixing, a thick, creamy batter appeared.  I scooped the batter into individual muffin tins and baked them at 350 for almost 30 minutes.  Every 10 minutes I checked the progress of the muffins with a toothpick.  When the toothpick came out clean I knew that they were done.

I will admit I was impressed at how well they turned out.  Baking at altitude can be daunting and I didn't know if these muffins would fall like some cakes tend to do when they come out of the oven.

The pumpkin flavor is definitely prominent and the cake mix has just the right spices.  This is definitely a dense cake, full of moisture.  I find it best to describe the flavor and texture of these muffins to the filling of a pumpkin pie.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Let it Begin
Today is opening day at Winter Park!  I can't beleive they are actually opening 4 days EARLY this year.  I've lived here for 7 years and this is the earliest I've seen the mountain open.  Just a few years ago I remember that you had to walk on grass at the base because there wasn't enought snow.

But last year was a record year for snowfall and it looks like we're in for the same this season.  So though I do get tired of all the white stuff come spring, I'm excited for this season!

Unfortunately I'll miss opening day this year, I'll be working, but I plan on getting out later this week.  After all, I need to see how well our Ski Conditioning Class has paid off.  Hopefully the weather will be nice and the snow will be good.
Isn't this a great picture!  I found it searching Google Images.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Awesome Clouds

On my drive home from work this evening I was in awe of the clouds.  I pulled over and tried my best to capture them.  These beautiful sunset drives full of alpenglow vistas are one of the benefits to daylight savings time.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Not Just for Cowboys

My fall boot obsession continues.  Lately I'm back on my cowboy boot kick again.  I currently wear a vintage pair of boots that are well worn and are in need of the heels being repaired.  I really need to get into stores and try some on, but for now I'm filling my time drooling over these. Not Just for Cowboys

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

H&M in Denver

I am so excited because I just heard on the news that H&M on 16th Street Mall in Denver is opening tomorrow!

Of course, I will not be one of the hundreds lining up to get in to the store on opening day.  I'll be at work.  But I will definitely be heading down to the 16th Street Mall on my next trip to Denver to check out the store.

This will be the perfect place to find classic and trendy items with an affordable price tag.  I am also excited to find great Christmas Gifts that my sisters will love.

A few weeks ago I spent two whole days in and out of stores in Cherry Creek trying to find a great dress for a wedding.  If only H&M had opened a little sooner, I would have been excited about that cute orange number below!

I've spent a little time on their website browsing looks and here are just a few that I'm excited about...